The fourth Stay-in Supper Club was the first in my new, temporary home in Laurel Canyon with my siblings as my dinner guests. Last Sunday I came to L.A. to spend the rest of quarantine with my sister and brother in L.A. We’re sheltering together to help Amanda as my brother-in-law, Nick Cordero, fights COVID in the ICU at Cedars Sinai.
Laurel Canyon definitely has some kind of magic floating in the air. The saying “the canyon is calling,” pays tribute to the creative souls that have been attracted to its hills and cottages since the ‘60s. I was here last fall visiting during the legendary “photo day” – the once a year gathering of all Canyon residents in front of the Country Store to cheeze it up for a group portrait. I ended up in the portrait as an honorary resident, and the unofficial mayor of the canyon warned me that this was a foreshadow. Quite spooky that now it is home for the foreseeable future.
Laurel Canyon is the home of the flower children who never left California, and it developed a reputation of being a rock-n-roll commune. Its’ famous residents over the years include Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, and of course – Carole King. So I decided the official album of the evening would be Tapestry. While I typically get super dressed up for supper club, you can’t really do that in the canyon. Canyon chic is a wrinkled bohemian dress, wavy hair, and sun-kissed skin. So I obliged.
We are staying in a friend’s guest house while my sister’s new house is being renovated, and they happen to have a gorgeous, enormous, garden that looks right out of page of Winnie the Pooh. It’s most handy in a time where grocery stores are potentially lethal. I decided to peruse the aisles of the garden and see what I could pick and make into a meal.
The weather has been gorgeous in L.A: sunny, the eighties, cloudless skies. After days of pasta and pizza, all of our bodies were craving greens. So I got picking. I went right for the spinach, then scooped up snap peas, and handfuls of fresh mint because it smelled so incredible. Then the enormous lemons hanging from the lemon tree caught my eye.
I had to use them; to make something good from the lemons life had thrown at us. It was too poetic not too. But lemons aren’t usually the main ingredient in main dishes, so I knew I’d have to get creative.
We had a stash of fresh parsley already, and a massive Japanese sweet potato I wanted to use. So my wheels got turning and quickly produced an idea: chimichurri.
This idea was inspired by the cruises I used to take. It was one of my favorite dishes at the casual restaurant onboard the Crystal Serenity: Flank steak with grilled sweet potatoes and chimichurri.
Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce so it’s impossible to mess up. It’s used both in cooking and as a table condiment for garnish on protein. It originated in the countryside of Argentina and it’s usually made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red wine vinegar and served with steak. But I saw an opportunity to do a few swaps with the ingredients I had on hand to make it lighter and lemon-y and serve it over fish. Think of it as an outside-the-box chimichurri for when life gives you lemons. Here’s what I came up with…
Now what to use it on…
I’ve yet to meet a fish I don’t like, but one of my favorites is cod. It has nice texture and takes on the flavor of however you cook it so nicely. I decided to cook it in parchment paper for a few reasons
1 – cod falls apart when you try to cook it in a pan
2 – I like how the parchment paper wraps steams the fish with all the flavors
3 – the little wrapped up parcels remind me of presents (or as the French say, cadeaux) – and who doesn’t like presents?
You can put whatever you want inside the parchment and have your filet flavored as you like. I used everything I already had out – lemons, parsley, sea salt, EVOO. But here is my recipe.
For the peas, I improved again. They were so tasty fresh and raw, I just decided to keep them that way and add some garnishes to make a fancy, raw, salad. I decided since we are three peas in a pod, to name this salad after my siblings.
I sauteed the spinach to make a little bed for the fish. I also made baked sweet potato wedges in the oven, and threw together bruschetta because I wanted to use the fresh sourdough our friend had dropped off that morning! This whole meal came together very quickly! Start to finish, this could be 30 minutes total.
I opened some wine and we sat down at the table – Todd, Amanda, and I, as “You’ve Got a Friend” was playing and said a prayer before digging into our meal. It was such a small moment in the grand scheme of life, but one I know will be burned into my memory forever.
This time is sad, and hard, and scary. But we are also aware of how special it is to spend it together; to have each other to keep smiles strong, and laughter loud, and hope high. When I started this supper club, I was convinced I’d be spending every Saturday dressed up and cooking alone in Ohio. But here I was, cooking for two of my best friends on a warm evening in California.The three of us together, making something good out of lemons.