I’m not a techie. I’m not a follower of facebook. I’ve just learned how to use Instagram.   Thankfully, wordpress made it excruciatingly easy to create this blog. I’ll admit I am addicted to Pinterest. I’d like to think I have an eye for beauty, and I use that to add to my stories. That’s probably why I like Pinterest so much. Apparently others enjoy my photos, because I’m getting a lot of feedback on the look and feel of my blog. I’m glad my followers are liking it.

IMG_1751This resulted in my chef friend Mila asking if I could give her some tips on photos, and how to use them to post on Instagram.  She wanted to get the word out about her products. I told her we’d experiment together. So, after our neighborhood pancake breakfast, we headed to her home (Remember my favorite one? The Craftsman Masterpiece) to practice our social skills, and photography. She paints cookbooks, so those were to be the star of our shoot. Here were my tips for her:

  • Natural light
  • Interesting/natural background
  • Interesting angle
  • Interesting props
  • Shoot until you find one you like

I also use small plates if photographing food. So, shoot, and shoot, and shoot we did.  Here’s the results of our experiments:

How to be Neighborly: Experiment. Socialize. Learn.

This was our masterpiece. I love it. Don’t you?  All those colors, and the patina on her table.

Book 1

As a token of thanks, she gave me 3 jars filled with her AMAZING homemade pesto, roasted tomatoes, and chocolate sauce. All that just for socializing? What a treat!  I may not paint, but given the right ingredients, I can create something beautiful.  Here’s what I did with her gifts of gratitude:

Oven Roasted Tomato and Pesto Toast

Spread the pesto on the toast, top with tomatoes and drizzle more pesto on top. Bon Appetit is right!IMG_1752


Brazilian Hospitality

IMG_1586We are fortunate to have a couple chefs in our neighborhood. When we became Membership Directors of the neighborhood association and were responsible for creating a welcome basket for new neighbors, I wanted to create a basket of locally produced treats. I reached out to one such chef, the Brazilian wonder Chef Mila, to see if she might contribute her “Chocolate Sauce for Adults.” Kinky? No. Delicious? Yes. It’s a rich Kahlua chocolate sauce that is good on everything. She sells it in high end boutiques, and at our neighborhood events. She graciously agreed to supply the sauce, and a friendship was forged.


One night, Mila and her wine aficionado husband Richard invited us over for a dinner party with two other couples. Mila and Richard live in one of my favorite homes in the neighborhood. It’s actually the home I had always wanted, from the moment I became aware of Floral Park. Fortunately for them, they beat me to it. It is a 1920’s craftsman masterpiece that was totally restored by the couple that lived in the home before Mila and Richard. It is a 2 bedroom home with lots of built in wood cabinetry. The kitchen has generous storage and the most adorable O’Keefe & Merritt stove. Upstairs, there’s an artist’s loft with square windows on all sides that make you feel like you are in a treehouse or an old fire lookout. It’s perfect for Mila, because she is a gifted painter. Out front, Mila has created a California native garden and in back is a perfect kitchen garden with herbs, peppers, tomatoes and more. The chimney is the most striking feature of the home, with stacked limestone rising high above the second story. Perfection.

The eight of us sat down to a dinner of small plates Mila had worked on all day long. It was a typical Brazilian experience where food, wine and stories are shared over multiple courses. I can’t even remember how many dishes we had… it just kept appearing from the kitchen. Bruschetta, quiche, short ribs, and of course her famous chocolate sauce for dessert. Richard paired the chocolate with a vintage port from 1992 that was divine. He generously gave us a bottle from his collection to take home. As good as everything was (and everything was amazing), there is one item that was so simple but so divine that I HAD to have the recipe. Thankfully, she shared it and has allowed me to share it with you.

How to be Neighborly: Share your stories and recipes.

Beware- once you try this, you will NEVER look at tomatoes the same way. I always double or triple the recipe because I go through these so fast (*). Obrigado, Mila and Richard for a wonderful evening.

Chef Mila’s Oven Roasted Tomatoes

  • 4 lbs ripe roma tomatoes
  • 10 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 c olive oil
  • 5 sprigs rosemary, per pound
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Cut roma tomatoes into halves and remove all the seeds (!). Place tomatoes face up on a baking sheet. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic and drizzle oil on top of every tomato. Bake tomatoes for about 3 hours until well roasted. If you have the time, bake at 250 degrees for about 4 to 5 hours.

Reprinted courtesy of Chef Mila Payne, One of a Kind Cookbook

Delicious on sandwiches, in pasta dishes, added to salads, or as appetizers on sliced baguettes. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (*). I like to serve these on toasted bread with goat cheese.

Hint: Go with the LONG COOKING version.  You will be rewarded for you patience.

(*) You can freeze these so you always have a handy appetizer ready to serve.

(!) You can squeeze the tomato halves into a bowl and the majority of the seeds will pop out.