The Heirloom Dilemma

IMG_3080For me, heirloom tomatoes just beg for simple treatment. I don’t like to mess with them. I just want them on a plate, displaying all their colorful juicy beauty. For me, it seems a shame to do anything other than let them be. When I do fuss with them, I feel a tinge of guilt. At the I 🍆🍅🍑 California farmer’s market, however, I got A LOT of heirlooms… and I can only consume so much salad. So, this afforded me the luxury of playing with a few of them outside of the salad bowl. Continue reading


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.

Love. Thy Neighbor.

It was February 2014, Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s day is stereotypically a day when couples head out for an overpriced pre-fix meal and compete with every other couple for the attention of wait staff. But it is tradition, so we carry on… that is, until we were invited to a neighbor’s home for dinner on Valentine’s Day.

This couple started a tradition to host a Valentine’s Day gathering for all their family and friends. Prerequisite: You must be loving, but it is not necessary to be in love. We were honored to receive an invitation… so (without hesitation) we gave up on finding that elusive reservation and headed one block north to their home for Valentine’s day festivities.

The hosts were a charming couple in a charming home. They lived in a butter yellow Tudor home the size of a postage stamp. Small in stature, it has all the amenities you could ever need. They had recently completed the expansion of the front of the house putting in a small office. The room floods with light from surrounding windows, all of them matched to the original 1929 windows, and the built in oak buffet looks like it could have been constructed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The generous sage and white kitchen is complete with a table that appears from the cabinets and a craft beer tap. It is the perfect size for a couple, and it is absolutely bursting with love.

IMG_1584When we arrived, we were greeted with a big hug, and personalized wine glasses affixed with heart studded wine charms with our names on them. In attendance were both singles and couples, all of whom shared a love of wine, cheese, food, old homes, and equality in love. They had set up stations around the living room that paired various wines with various cheeses. White wine and cheese to the right, red wine and cheese to the left. Dessert table in the middle. I don’t know where their furniture went for the night, but much of it was removed to make room for mingling. One piece remained, and it was the long antique pew from an old church. This was the spot where everyone rested for a spell between sips. In the kitchen, the hosts set out two soups, roasted tomato and veggie, with tasting cups to ladle as you saw fit. Next to the soup, they had sliced tender, delicious, bread from our local restaurant Crave to dip into the soups. They had also made an apple crisp topped with bleu cheese and walnuts, which we munched straight out of the oven. Everything was delicious, and truly heartwarming.

How to be Neighborly: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

IMG_1578That night, we sipped, we mixed and mingled, we munched and chatted, and sipped some more with new found friends. That night, I observed how love can be all accepting and all welcoming. I watched how neighbors could truly love each other, and that was far better than any pre-fix menu.

This is my tribute to that night…



Heartwarming Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomatoes:

  • 3 large tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
  • 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ÂĽ onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ÂĽ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ÂĽ tsp pepper
  • 2 c chicken broth (or veggie broth for the vegetarian)

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Coat the tomatoes, and place on a roasting pan cut side down. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

To make the soup, put 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, and add onions, pepper, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté onions until lightly translucent. Add broth, and allow to heat up.

In a blender, combine the broth mixture and tomatoes, and blend until smooth. Makes about 3 cups.

Can make ahead and reheat.  Enjoy with someone you love.