Open Door Policy
For several months, my business partner Lisa van Eyssen and our wonderful videographer, Shannon Bae, have been shooting footage and assembling webisodes of me in action while also trying to conceptualize what sets me apart as a private chef in a very crowded category of very talented people.
Recently, Lisa, while shooting a quick cooking demonstration that we'll be posting soon, came up with an idea that does DEFINE me... She called it my open door policy to cooking and entertaining. I have always been a more the merrier type cook for the simple reason that I believe people are at their most convivial surrounded around a table eating great food and imbibing in good wine. My reputation as the go-to-cook really flourished in college and until this day, I cook a minimum of three nights a week/end when I'm not cooking for a client/gig.
Case in point, a client who has become a good friend, flew in to town to be a good friend to yet another friend who had been hopitalized. After a few grueling days of not knowing the fate of his friend's prognosis my only thought was: he could use a good home cooked meal and a bottle of wine. It was 4:30 on Friday afternoon, I'd had my own complicated week and yes, it would have been much easier to meet him at a restaurant where we could have gone over the grisly details ad nauseum and been waited on. Instead, my friend joined me at my home, where candles were lit and yet another rerun of "Wedding Crashers" aired (that movie cheers me up even better than an icy martini) so we could chill and eat and find the silver lining in the latest trip to the hospital. Both of us have spent way too much time losing loved ones in the last few years so we know the drill very well.
My point in sharing all of this is that's it's so much more civilized and easier than one would think to adopt an open door policy. The irony is that my front door actually is wide open when waiting for guests. I live in Pacific Palisades, one of the safest areas on the Westside on the ridge of a canyon so the only unannounced guest I could encounter would be a wayward deer, raccoon or mountain lion that have made their presence known.
After confirming our date, I ran to the market and by 5:30 was in my kitchen ready to assemble: a hummus and chips, an avocado and cherry tomato salad, pasta with crispy sage and browned butter sauce, steamed broccoli with garlic olive oil and lemon and for the main course roasted salmon with tarragon and lemon. Sliced strawberries with balsamic vinegar and sugar spooned over Vanilla ice cream served as dessert. I poured a gorgeous Sterling Cabernet as my friend doesn't drink white wine and the meal was ready to be served in under an hour.
Having an open door policy does necessitate some short cuts. Although I make the very best hummus, I buy Sabra when pushed for time. Placed in a lovely bowl, fresh squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil makes it your own. I serve with Eating Right Pita Chips. Perfect.
This is one of my most favorite pasta dishes ever: I melt an entire cube of butter and let it foam and brown over a medium heat. I add an entire package of fresh sage that's been snipped to teeny bits. The sage crackles and crsips immediately. Prepare enough pasta for four people. Toss the pasta directly into the butter when cooked turn on the heat, add generous amount of fresh pepper (no salt), parmesan and you're ready to serve.
A roasted salmon filet is easy and divine. I set the oven at 400 degrees. Drizzle with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Fresh tarragon coats the filet. Lemon slices make it presentable. In the oven for fifteen minutes and you have an elegant and delicious entree
It's rare that we don't start or end a meal with a salad. I'm in love with avocadoes and find them to be perfectly partnered with the sweet and tart cherry tomato. I tossed in a few baby bells for color and add nothing more than salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic white in this instance so the color remains fresh and pretty.
Dessert doesn't have to be fancy. Every now and then I break down and buy Vanilla ice cream or gelato and top with fresh fruit. Slice strawberries tossed with sugar and balsamic is heaven. The tartness of the vinegar marries perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberries and sugar. Allow to sit for an hour for flavors to release and blend.