Cooking Among the Stars

Cooking and teaching French cuisine in Los Angeles is more fun than I could have imagined!

With participants in the Arkle kitchen.
With participants in the Arkle kitchen.  photo C. Arkle

For one thing, I’m in the home of Cathy and Steve Arkle high on the hill in Studio City, and the view from the kitchen over San Fernando Valley stretches to heaven.  The mornings are overcast and cool and, surprisingly, the air is crystal clear.  In fact, everything about this visit is surprising.

Morning in the courtyard
Morning in the courtyard  photo C. Arkle

First of all, there was Johnny Depp’s office on the left and George Clooney’s  house on the right, not to mention the tall and lanky man who some said was one of the stars in Home Alone (yes, I’m fourteen when it comes to the stars, starlets, and others in Los Angeles!).

Then, there was the Studio City farmers’ market.  We were there by 8:15 Sunday morning and, hot miso drink in hand (definitely a California experience – where was the coffee?!), we did our shopping and were home by 10 a.m.  I got raw almonds and Hass avocadoes right from the producer; lemons and grapefruits picked the day before, cherry tomatoes that rival Baptiste’s back home, and perfect zucchini, new Yukon Golds, the fattest, shiniest eggplant and herbs galore.

And finally, there are the participants who always lend their special flair.  Each has come with her story and skills to share, which simply enhance the lemon meringue tart (thank you, Laura), the gorgeous mackerel with red pepper chutney (the best ever, Laure), the praline almonds (the grower did his part, Robyn, and thank you for yours!), those yummy and perfectly cooked green beans with vanilla butter (Nan, you did a great job!), that perfect soy vinaigrette (thanks to you, Linda), and all those artistic garnishing touches (your bailiwick, Cathy!).

Mackerel with Red Pepper Chutney and Vanilla Green Beans
Mackerel with Red Pepper Chutney and Vanilla Green Beans photo C. Arkle

My conclusion:  Los Angeles is simply full of stars, on screen, off screen, and in the kitchen!


Mackerel with Red Pepper Chutney

Yes, you CAN find mackerel, and very good mackerel.  Go to your Asian grocery for the best.

8 mackerel fillets, boned, rinsed and refrigerated

1 recipe for red pepper chutney

Basil or other herb leaves, for garnish

Fleur de sel

1.  Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Place the fillets on the prepared baking sheet.  Season them with piment d’Espelette, and place them in the oven to cook until they are nearly, but not quite, opaque, about 4 minutes.

3.  When the mackerel is cooked, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the fillets stay on it for several minutes, to allow them to give up their liquid and to finish cooking.  Then, carefully transfer two fillets to each plate, placing them crossed atop the pesto.  Garnish the plate with chutney, sprinkle the fillets with fleur de sel and place an herb leaf atop the fillets.  Serve immediately.

4 servings


Red Pepper Chutney

2 large red bell peppers, seeds and pith removed, diced

½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons liquid honey

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1 red onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, green germ removed, diced

1.  Place half the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the peppers and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until the peppers begin to be tender, and have black spots on the skin, which should take about 6 minutes. Season with salt, and reduce the heat to medium.

2.  Add the honey, the vinegar, the onion and the garlic to the pepper and stir. Cover and cook until the onions and peppers are tender, stirring from time to time, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining oil, and let cool to room temperature.

About 1-1/2 cups (375ml) chutney






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