Newsletter: Brownies on the grill, vampiros in the truck

Welcome to the weekend, and an unreasonably hot one at that. Temperatures hit triple digits around L.A. on Friday, making it an excellent time to watch the World Cup in heavily air-conditioned environs, both then and now. At least it’s cooler in Russia. Hopefully it’s cool enough wherever you are, and you’ve postponed your summertime grilling either to later in the week or after sundown. Because we have another grilling story for you — this time not breakfast burgers, but brownies. Yep, you can grill brownies, according to this local pastry chef, which is very good news for those of us who prefer chocolate for breakfast. Clafoutis for breakfast is a pretty close second, and happily we have a recipe for how to make that on the grill as well.

If you’re doing your cooking inside, we have a cooking story about eggplant, thanks to Evan Kleiman and, by extension, Elizabeth David. And if you’d really prefer someone else to do the cooking, we have a story about a Mexicali-style taco truck where the speciality is the vampiro, a cult dish with, well, a perfect name for a cult dish. In other news, we get details on a hot sauce festival (your heat index joke here: ____ ) and what’s on the stands at farmers markets. Already too hot outside to process information? Try making some granita; it’ll probably help. Enjoy your weekend, stay safe, and remember to keep hydrated (and, sorry, extra pints at Lucky Baldwin’s do not really count).

Amy Scattergood



Valerie Gordon is now trying new things by putting her desserts on the barbecue.
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times )

Pastry chef Valerie Gordon is mostly known for her delicate petits fours and fine chocolates, so her latest obsession might seem a little incommensurate at first: live fire grilling. Food writer Heather Platt gets the back story on Gordon’s interest in the local underground barbecue scene — and how that has translated into her experiments with putting her desserts on the grill. Recipes? Of course: bread pudding, clafoutis — and brownies.


A barbacoa vampiro gets toppings at the family-owned taco truck Asadero Chikali.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times )

In his new Scouting Report, food writer Ben Mesirow checks out Asadero Chikali, a Mexicali-style, East L.A. taco truck run by the Pérez family. What the family — matriarch Rosa, her daughter Ana, her son Jose, and Jose’s wife, Melva — does well is barbacao, particularly in the form of a vampiro. For the uninitiated (or those who are not regulars at Mexicali Taco & Co.), a vampiro, a tortilla grilled and topped with melted cheese and meat, is an uncommon but utterly addictive dish, and one that, done well, is capable of haunting your dreams.


Evan Kleiman’s eggplant timbale dish, a tribute to eggplant and Elizabeth David.
(Ricardo DeAratanmha / Los Angeles Times )

In her latest Cucina Italiana column, food writer Evan Kleiman considers eggplant — specifically, two notable eggplant epiphanies she’s had over the years, the first in Sicily and the second at her own Italian restaurant. The result of all this, other than a good story, is her recipe for eggplant timbale, an impressive though easily constructed dish. “This timbale is my salute to David,” Kleiman writes, about legendary British cookbook author Elizabeth David. “Each time I make it I wonder why I don’t make it more often.”


If you prefer your heat on your plate rather than outside your window, there is the California Hot Sauce Expo, a two-day event coming in August to Anaheim (Stage of Doom, Carolina Reaper contest). As deputy Food editor Jenn Harris reports in her weekly Restaurant News column, that’s happening; also happening is Heroic Deli, a new shop from restaurateur Adam Fleischman, coming to Santa Monica this summer.


Shishito peppers for sale at the Santa Monica farmers market.
(Noelle Carter / Los Angeles Times )

A hot summer at local farmers markets means peppers, and not just the expected mounds of bright red bell peppers and smaller piles of spicy chile peppers, but brilliant green shishito peppers. These lesser-known Japanese peppers are standards at izakayas, and these days they’re often found at weekly markets as well. Test Kitchen director Noelle Carter, in her new Farmers Market column, gives a thumbnail sketch of what they are and what to do with them once you get them home.

The Taste(s): Food Bowl may be over, but our events calendar is ongoing. Next up is our annual Labor Day festival, the Taste, held over the course of that holiday weekend at Paramount. And this year we’re having two Tastes, not one, with the second happening in October in Costa Mesa. For more info and early tickets, go to

Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers featuring his 2017 Best Restaurants. If you don’t have a copy of the booklet, you can order one online here.

Check us out on Instagram at @latimesfood.

And don’t forget the thousands of recipes in our California Cookbook recipe database.

Feedback? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at