Day-off Dinners.

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A typical day off for me consists of cleaning the house, doing laundry, hanging with my sister, Riva and her kids, and cooking.  On these days, I’m considered her family’s personal chef.  If I’m at her house the entire day, maybe I’ll braise some sort of meat and serve it with rice or potatoes and roasted or sauteed vegetables.  Lately, since I don’t have much time to spare, I make simple meals that consist of a fresh salad, rice, and pork chops/loin, fish, or chicken.  These are simple, fresh, and healthy meals that are quite easy to prepare.

The highlight of the meal, for me, is always the salad, and my favorite salad these days is a lentil salad.  It’s so hearty, fresh, and satisfying.  Let me share this salad with you.  In a large bowl, I combine black Beluga lentils (which I purchase precooked from Trader Joe’s ), one chopped red bell pepper, zest of 2 lemons, some chopped green onion, 2 cups of sliced green and red grapes, and coarsely chopped, toasted hazelnuts.  I toss and coat everything in a citrus vinaigrette: about 2 or more lemons, juiced, with almost equal parts of olive oil, salt and pepper.  The traditional vinaigrette is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, but I like more citrus in my salad…I do a 50:50, maybe splash in even more citrus and season with salt till it tastes just right.  It’s best served chilled.

On my dinner plate or dinner palette, I like having some basmati rice, a lot of salad, and either my serving of chicken, fish, or pork.  I cook my rice the Iranian way: Peyman’s mom’s way, where you fill a pot with water, salt it and bring it to a rolling boil, just as you would for pasta. Then throw in the rice until al dente.  Drain the rice, then place the pot back on the burner to heat up.  Add about a tablespoon or less of canola oil to coat the bottom of the pot, add 1/8″ sliced pieces of potato (or not) then add back the rice to the pot.  Wrap the lid of the pot with a dishcloth, and cover the pot with the lid.  Keep the flame on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, then bring it down to low heat so the rice cooks and reaches steamed perfection.  This takes about 10 minutes for 2 or 3 cups of rice.  The end result, if you use a nonstick pot, is a crispy rice or potato, in Farsi, “tadik” and perfectly steamed rice, fluffed nicely with a fork.  This adds texture and fun to the plate, crispy rice or potato and fluffy rice to soak up the vinaigrette from the salad.  I find this type of meal very refreshing, light, and delicious!

About an hour after dinner, I like to enjoy a bit of sweetness.  I steep a nice, hot Earl Grey tea and we drink it slowly with a lovely dessert.  My favorite after-dinner dessert is chilled almond cake with sweetened creme fraiche whip and mixed berries.  Okay, I lied, I don’t use creme fraiche, but close – I use sour cream.  I whip up about a cup or less of heavy cream with about a dollop of sour cream to medium-stiff peaks and sweeten with powdered sugar.  Peyman can eat the whip all on its own!  This dessert is so delicious and such a treat!  

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Today was my day off.  I spent the entire day looking for a second job.  Sadly, I’ve had no luck…I lack waitress experience and my schedule is limiting. No one has responded to my fruit tart business either.(waa waa waa)  As a result, I’m going to do something I should have done long ago, on the side.  Ready to hear what I’ve got?  Well here you go… I can make healthy, simple, fresh dinners as a personal chef.  

I can offer a family, single busy people, or couples my services 2 -4 times a week, as a personal chef.  Right now, I am open on Mondays and Thursdays, and I could work mornings to 2-3pm on Saturdays and mornings to 1-2pm on Sundays, depending on location.  I currently live on the border of West Torrance and South Redondo and can drive out as far as Long Beach, Pasadena, or Sherman Oaks.  

My other offerings – classes for individuals or groups, on cooking simply and deliciously on Mondays and Thursdays and the mornings/early afternoons on Saturdays and Sundays.  I specialize in Italian, Mediterranean, Filipino and Japanese food.  If interested, feel free to contact me.

When/if my schedule at Tavern changes to the 5am shift, I can work a second job more easily, by working for Lucques Catering again, which would help me out a lot financially.  I might even be able to work another shift somewhere or do personal chef-ing more easily during the day.

You know, watching the Food Network before culinary school, I thought working in the culinary world would be glamorous.  The reality is, working in a kitchen is very challenging and it’s very labor-intensive…it’s a lot different from what you see on television.  At Lucques, I’d carry heavy lexans filled with brussel sprouts and romanesco onto the top shelf (6 or more feet high), the lighting isn’t as good as it is on Giada’s show,  and if you spend all day washing and spinning greens, preparing and cooking meats and sauces, you can get a real mud treatment on your hands and face and a short rib and steak sauce facial.  I felt accomplished in the kitchen for going through all that physical pain..and I had to get down and dirty doing it.  Although I love the savory side of the business, I love that I work in pastry;  I come home smelling sweet!  The work we do in the kitchen and the pay that we get isn’t glamorous, but what is glamorous is that we’re doing what we love.

After I pay all my dues, put in all my hard work, build a business, sell it or expand it, pass it on, and reach Anthony Bourdain’s age, I would love to do what he does.  Travel and eat and drink.  He enjoys the sights, the smells, and the tastes of the world.  Now that’s what I call a glamorous life.

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