Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chef Wally’s Baked Papaya

October 10, 2010 ~ If you are here because of the 'Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices' this blog, 100 Miles, has moved to a new URL: If you would please click the link below it will take you to the blog post 'Chef Wally's Baked Papaya' (where you may also print out the recipe) at its new location:

Thank you,

Charles G Thompson

100 Miles

One of my earliest memories of a great dish -- when I first understood that food could be amazing -- took place when I was 10 years old. My mother, sister and I lived on the Central Coast of California near Hearst Castle in San Simeon. We Baked Papaya 019 lived in a trailer park across Highway 1 from the Pacific Ocean about fifteen minutes south of the castle and about twenty minutes north of Cambria. The entire area is stunningly beautiful. We spent many afternoons walking the rocky usually chilly beach five minutes from home picking up shells and rocks, and collecting driftwood.

As I remember the day, after one of our afternoon walks, we returned home and upon opening the door the most wonderful, amazing smell wafted over us. I was instantly intrigued as it smelled delicious. Like nothing I had smelled before. I went to the kitchen and looked in the oven, and inside were six papaya halves baking away. But there was no one in the trailer. Who had made this amazing dish?

It turns out that, Wally, a family friend had come down from Carmel and while we were out made one of his signature dishes: Baked Papaya. The smells of the cooking process had permeated the small trailer. He had stepped out to get something. For a 10-year old it was all very magical and mysterious and who knows how much the interceding years have affected those memories. It is still one of my earliest and strongest food memories. When Chef Wally returned we all sat down and ate the baked papayas and they were as delicious as they smelled. I asked Wally to send the recipe and he did. I have made it many times over the years.

The funny part to this story is that when I recently asked my mother about it she had to correct a few things. I thought Wally really was a chef at a restaurant in Carmel – all these years I thought that. He had signed the hand written recipe ‘Chef Wally'. Well, as my mother patiently explained, Wally was not a chef but a traveling auto parts salesman -- albeit one who liked to cook and was quite good in the kitchen. So my memory of this great chef giving me one of his coveted recipes was dashed. No matter it’s still a recipe that I cherish, and make, to this day.

This dish can be eaten alone, or can be served with pork or fish dishes -- like pork chops, roast pork, or a sturdy fish like Mahi Mahi, or red snapper, etc. A full-bodied white wine like a Chardonnay is a good wine to accompany it.



2 papayas; if green when purchased allow to ripen 1-2 days to a green-yellow color. Soft to the touch.

1/4 cup fine bread stuffing

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese – I used Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup onion, finely diced

1 tomato, skinned & chopped

2 tbsps. butter

Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the stuffing and parmesan cheese together in a bowl and set aside. Cut papayas in half length-wise, remove and throw away black seeds. Dig the meat out of each half with a spoon leaving the remaining shell intact for refilling later, chop the meat coarsely then set aside. Skin and chop the tomato and set aside. Finely dice the onion.

Heat the butter in a skillet until it bubbles then add the onions and cook until clear not brown. Add the papaya meat. Add the tomato. Stir the whole mixture together. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently from time to time. When mixture is thick, after several minutes, turn off the fire.

Place the papaya shells in a casserole dish in a half-inch of water so they won’t burn. Spoon the cooked mixture into the shells evenly. Top each off with the bread crumb-parmesan mixture. Dot each with butter.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the tops are brown.

Bon appétit.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Garden at the White House

The first day of Spring was last Friday, March 20th. It was also the day that First Lady Michelle Obama and a group of D.C. schoolchildren broke ground on the new (yet returning) White House vegetable garden or, as some have been calling it, 'America's Garden'. 3014820179_a230ae5697

I first heard mention of a garden at the White House in the Alice Waters biography 'Alice Waters And Chez Panisse' by Thomas McNamee. Apparently she and the Clintons were quite chummy -- Bill had eaten at Chez Panisse, Alice's Berkeley restaurant, a few times and was quite impressed. Based on their connection, she began a letter writing campaign trying to get the President to plant a vegetable and fruit garden on the White House lawn. Her efforts came to naught, the Bush administration came to power, and the idea sat fallow until the Obamas arrived.

My first reaction to the idea was that it was elitist and beneath the dignity of the White House, and the President, to have carrots and spinach poking out of the South Lawn. After all, less than 1oo miles away, there is surely local, organic produce that can be delivered to the White House within a few hours. But as I came to understand, the garden is not just food for the First Family; it’s a symbolic gesture, to show the rest of us that we too can be self-sustaining. And this is always a good thing, no matter what the current economic vicissitudes. Alice should be proud, her patience and doggedness finally paid off.

Gardens have a long history at the White House especially in the early days when they were planted to feed its occupants. The last vegetable garden planted at the White House was a Victory Garden that Eleanor Roosevelt planted in 1943 as part of the war effort. She planted it as an example to encourage the nation to plant their own Victory Gardens. The result worked prodigiously: In 1943 there were 20 million Victory Gardens in the country, and the produce they generated accounted for 1/3 of all vegetables eaten that year.

In my travels around the blogosphere I have read about a chef in Washington state who is turning her front yard into a garden in hopes that the neighbors will contribute to and take from it; and a man in Boulder, Colorado who convinced several neighbors that they should all plant gardens in their front yards and share the bounty. Those are two of many stories out there. There seems to be a ‘get-back-to-the-garden’ movement afoot with our new President leading the way.

Final comment: Alice wasn’t alone in persuading the Obamas to plant America’s Garden. Roger Doiron started his own campaign called Eat The View on February 6, 2008. He and his supporters had a big hand in making the First Garden happen. Michael Pollan writer of ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’ and ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’ put a call out for a White House Farmer in November 2008 by writing to President-elect Obama in a New York Times article. These are only a few. There are other heroes of the movement out there as well.

Happy Gardening!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Local Report - Locali

3.7 miles, about 8 minutes, from my home in Atwater Village.

Another ‘local’ find is Locali Conscious Convenience – a sort of ‘green,’ organic convenience store, or, as they call themselves on their website, ‘your sustainable neighborhood market’. Several blog postings and articles already written have called it ‘a 7-11 for hippies’ and ‘a small-format, hybrid grocery and Locali 001convenience store’. The reference to 7-11 was something that came to mind as Robert and I visited the store this past weekend. It felt like a ‘green’ 7-11. An idea that appeals. I immediately had visions of more of these stores on neighborhood corners around the country. I believe that is the intention of husband and wife owners, Greg Horos and Melissa Rosen.

Here is a description from Locali’s Facebook page: ‘Locali was constructed in an environmentally sound manner and serves local, organic, natural and most importantly, delicious food and beverages. The market seeks to make healthy eating and eco-friendly necessities easily accessible to those on the go. Roughly translated from Italian, locali means "community".

It’s a bold idea that I hope succeeds. The shop on Hollywood’s' Franklin Avenue is in a small strip mall, a block away from a Gelson’s grocery store. The tiny space is chock full of green, organic, sustainable items. Once inside the store the feeling I had was much like entering a 7-11 – that of sensory overload. But not in the way I experience a 7-11 which is a desire to get in and out as fast as possible. After we ordered sandwiches I perused the shelves. In the back a freezer contained pre-packaged, frozen, organic chicken and beef selections amongst other frozen grocery and food items – easy to grab on the drive home from work. Prepackaged sandwiches, salads, bottled drinks and other grab-and-go items sat in a refrigerated case along one wall. Other shelves held other convenience store standbys: energy efficient light bulbs, alternative shampoos and toothpastes, as well as energy-saver kits. Near the front window was a small collection of organic wine, beer and sake.

At the main counter you can order off a menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items including seasonal, organic tamales from La Guera Tamalera, and Haute Dogs on Multigrain Buns – grass-fed beef hotdogs from Let’s Be Frank. Other convenience store-style items include low glycemic sno-cones; slushies made from agave sweetened, ginger infused, fruit juice; fair trade, organic coffee from The Coffee Cellar; as well as natural and locally made bakery items. They will also make menu items vegan and gluten-free. The sandwich menu states that their deli meats come from Applegate Farms and are antibiotic, hormone, gluten and casein free.

When our sandwiches were done – a Franklin Phenomenon (turkey, Monterey jack, spinach, tomato, red onion, and chipotle sauce served hot on pretzel bread) for me ($8.95) and a Peaceful Warrior (turkey, red onion, arugula, red pepper, mango chutney, curry spread on pretzel bread) for Robert ($8.95) – I grabbed a bag of Boulder Canyon Kettle Cooked Potato Chips ($1.29) and went to the grab-and-go case for a bottle of water. I have to admit that I was flummoxed by the offerings. I didn’t see any plastic in the case. I had to ask the person at the counter where the water was and he pointed to a row of glass bottles. I sheepishly grabbed a bottle of Mountain Valley Spring Water – a lovely green, glass bottle ($1.59). I quickly realized that I needed to break my plastic habit while fully appreciating that there were no plastic bottles for sale. Green and sustainable just like they claim.

As I absorbed all of this I found myself wishing there was a Locali on a corner near my Atwater Village condo – if there was I’d be in it all the time. And just think how much thinner and healthier the citizens of our country might be if there was one Locali for every 7-11 type convenience store already in existence across the country. One can dream.

Follow on Twitter: locali

5825 Franklin Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Locali Conscious Convenience on Urbanspoon

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Local Report - Delilah Bakery

5.1 miles, about 10 minutes, from my home in Atwater Village.

A few weeks back Robert, in his travels on the Internet, saw a write up about cupcakes in the Los Angeles Times. In the piece it mentioned Delilah Bakery located in Echo Park – very near to us. So Robert and I along with our friend Vladimir ventured over to check it out – cupcakes being the draw. Delilah Bakery is located on Echo Park Ave. where it becomes a canyon, before leading up and over a hill towards tDelilah 008he 2 and 5 freeways. It’s a charming if slightly Bohemian neighborhood full of creative types; artists, writers, actors. Several years back a friend and I went to a gallery crawl on the block down from Delilah. The few art galleries along the block stayed open one night, offering wine, cheese and art for sale. We roamed between the galleries, drinking wine and admiring (or not) the art. A fun evening in a funky neighborhood.

Delilah offers all manner of baked goods including cupcakes, cakes, pies, cookies, bars, muffins and bread. The storefront is small and feels like a bakery more than a café although they do offer a selection of lunch items – fresh-made sandwiches, salads, quiches, homemade potato chips. There are tables outside on the sidewalk and adjacent small brick patio where you can sit and enjoy the offerings. Standing at the counter you readily see the commercial ovens, mixers and other paraphernalia of a professional bakery.

We ordered sandwiches, coffees and two cupcakes and sat outside in the sun to eat them. I was impressed with the way they made a regular coffee. It wasn't already brewed sitting in one of those large holding tanks that most coffee places use. The young woman behind the counter made each cup fresh by putting a coffee filter into a basket, adding fresh grounds and running boiling water through them. It made for a very different tasting coffee. The way coffee should taste. The way it tastes at home when properly made. Not too hot nor bitter the way Starbuck's coffee always tastes. The sandwiches, made on Delilah bread, were simple but tasty. The cupcakes – one German chocolate and one red velvet were the perfect ending to our meal.

As the Los Angeles Times piece mentions, the bakery sells to other establishments such as Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea in Silver Lake. They also offer catering. The shop’s website implies that the owner, Genevieve Ostrander, is from the South. That might explain Bundt cakes with names like Coca Cola Cake and 7-Up Cake; as well as cupcakes like Chocolate with Jack Daniel’s Frosting, and the Pecan Bourbon, and Pumpkin Bourbon pies.

Whatever the influence may be, she has a good thing going. Next time I plan to try the Chocolate with Smore Frosting cupcakes and maybe a piece of the Tollhouse Cookie pie.

Delilah Bakery
1665 Echo Park Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Photo Credit: Vladimir Ballesteros-Moreno

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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Local Report - Local

5.3 Miles, 8 minutes, from my home in Atwater Village.

After reading about it in the Los Angeles Times, and because its concept is all about staying local, Robert and I decided to check out a new restaurant this weekend. In fact it’s even called ‘Local’ and as stated on the menu it is ‘committed to using locally sourced, organic ingredients whenever possible’. In the Los Angeles Times story, chef and owner Jason Michaud said that he’s made sure the ingredients he uses are from within a 300-mile radius. Not exactly 100 miles but a good start. Michaud only uses organic meat, cage-free eggs and free-range chicken. The goal is sustainable, locally produced food and there seems to be a national movement slowly evolving with restaurants like Local leading the way.

The menu is straightforward, no high cuisine here but that’s as it should be. Our meals were uncomplicated yet flavorful. We both opted for the Mixed Greens Salad with Avocado – the treats in this dish were the roasted tomatoes and the golden beets – the beets cooked perfectly and tasting slightly of the earth the way they should. Robert ordered the Slow Roasted Heritage Pork Sloppy Joe which came with what looked like homemade pickles piled on a homemade bun. The pork was delicious and reminded me of cochinita pibil, the slow roasted Mexican pork dish that we ate on our visit to the Yucatan Peninsula. I ordered the Niman Ranch Pork Chop with Mashed Potatoes and Currants. The chop was cooked to perfection. Full of flavor, juicy, and just amazing. I was reminded why Niman meats are considered top flight. It was one of the best pork chops I’d eaten in years. The cooked currants on the side, sweetened but still nicely acidic, were the perfect complement to the pork.

The rest of the menu includes a mixture of vegetarian dishes along with pork, lamb and fish. A few I'd like to try on a next visit are the Albondigas Burger, the Braised Lamb and Greens with French Fries, the Osso Bucco Style Braised Pork Shank on Brioche. If in a vegetarian mood the Tofu Chili with Cheddar Cheese and Onions, the Vegan Tempeh Sloppy Joe with Soy Mozzarella or the Quinoa Burger might do the trick. The breakfast and lunch menus are similar and have some of the same dishes on them as the dinner menu -- one stand out on the lunch menu: Spicy Fries with Ranch – a shout out to junk food? Why not.

I’ll be going back to eat at Local again in support of what they are trying to do and because I liked the meal I had.

Bon appétit.

2943 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Photo Credit: Robert Guerrero

Local on Urbanspoon

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Surfas - Restaurant Supply

15.2 miles, about 22 minutes, from my home in Atwater Village.

I guess I must be a pseudo-foodie, or, at the very least a lapsed foodie because somehow the amazing restaurant supply store, Surfas, in Culver City, California completely passed me by before two weeks ago. Steven and Dana, two friends of ours, had mentioned in passing how wonderful it was and I realized I didn’t know what it was nor had I ever been. Some local foodie I am! The place has been in the same location since 1937 and I used to work in Los Angeles restaurants.

So a couple of Saturdays ago Robert and I made the trek (pilgrimage) across town to Culver City, the 5 south, to the 110 south, to the 10 west, off at the West Washington Blvd. exit, to see for ourselves what the fuss was all about it. And I fell in love with the place. A true restaurant supply store full of the industrial-sized equipment, mixers, ovens, ranges, dishwashers, cutlery, china and other supplies I was used to seeing in restaurant supply stores. But then there was the addition of the food items – this I hadn’t seen in most other shops. A counter for bread, cheese, charcuterie; shelves of olive oils and vinegars, all manner of spices, ingredients for world cuisines, pastas, varieties of rice, huge slabs of Callebaut baking chocolate, and other baking ingredients for the professional or serious home baker. All very high quality, amazing stuff. All open to the public, and the public was there in force. Usually a restaurant supply store is for wholesale trade; for those opening, or already owning a restaurant. Surfas is different. It also invites and sells retail to the public. Additionally, it has a café, Café Surfas, where it sells coffees, baked goods, sandwiches and salads.

We were there on one of those recent cool, rainy weekends. A perfect day for this outing. We grabbed sandwiches and coffee in the café then set off to explore the store. It was such fun poking through all of the rows and rows of supplies and gourmet food items, and it took me back to my days of cooking and working in restaurants and fancy food stores. It also made me want to add to my meager kitchen but I held back. Before we left we grabbed a hunk of Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, a fresh baguette and a jar of delicious Cajun Power Jalapeño Pepper Jelly, as well as a stove-top ring to rest my wok in. I now know where to go when I do need something for the kitchen or simply when I want a coffee, a sandwich and a gander at all the wonderful gadgets this great shop has on offer.

8777 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Photo Credit: Robert Guerrero

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