The Red Hot Chili Peoples

It’s been hot. It’s been the kind of hot we don’t get too often here in Southern California. But it’s August. The month when almost everyone in the country can experience the same thing: sweat. This particular heat wave has been a bit of a doozy. I know, compared to the heat coupled with that added bonus of humidity happening on the East Coast, we have been fortunate. But we really have had hundred degree days over the past couple of weeks.

This is the kind of hot I both loathe and love. While I am slightly miserable roaming around during the day, worrying about getting sunburned and, of course, my social curse: the sweat moustache - the cool, arid, balmy, breezy nights are just, well, sexy. Perhaps it’s even more so because of enduring the day part, but it’s so exhilarating to feel that sultry, lustful air on my skin and in my hair on these evenings. And no unsightly sweat moustache.

Since it is right at that time when the thermometer outside is stuck at the “hot and sticky” mark, Fred and I couldn’t have picked a better time to move in together.

So, to heighten the challenge of endurance, Fred and I have spent the last two months moving his stuff out of an apartment he has occupied for ten years and relocating said stuff into a house where I have been residing for four years - during weekends, right in the middle of the day. Barrels of joy and without any bickering. No-sir-ee.

Another super smart and obvious choice to make in the kitchen department would be to eat a lot of salads and make ultra use of the grill. So last night we decided to throw a pot of oil on the stove, get it up to about 350 degrees, and fry stuff. It was just about the worst idea ever: scorcher of a day, no air conditioning, tiny kitchen, bare skin, scaldingly hot oil, really messy cooking experiment.

But also really delicious.

Parts of it did make sense. We used produce from the garden. The dish felt fresh and summery. It would probably go great with a cold beer and did go really well with a crisp rosé. It was snacky.

It was zucchini fries with poblano cream. The zucchini and the poblanos came straight from my garden - which is so happy this year. I guess it was just going through puberty for the past couple of years and is finally growing up. The Meyer lemon we used to squeeze on top was from a neighbor' tree. It was all so precious. And it was very good. The zucchini kept it's textural integrity and had a light, crunchy shell. I thought the poblano cream was the most exciting part. It was cool, light, creamy with a subtle, warm, roasty heat. I plan on using it to top a chilled heirloom tomato soup this weekend, and I can only imagine it is delicious, and versatile, enough to have a myriad of other applications.

So yes, thank you Los Angeles, for pulling out all the stops where the sunshine and heat are concerned. It’s sweaty, dirty, nasty stuff, even before all the moving boxes and the bags and the dust. But last night, even though we picked a peculiar thing to get kitchen concoctery with, everything worked out. We set the table, turned on the fan, poured ourselves a couple of glasses of rosé, plated up our dish and sat down across from one another - and our burn blisters - to enjoy a peaceful evening of quiet, still, snackery. Together in our home together. 

Zucchini Fries with Poblano Cream

Serves 4

Poblano Cream

8 ounces creme fraiche
1 roasted and peeled poblano pepper
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Chopped celery leaves, to garnish


Blend creme fraiche and pepper in food processor and pulse until pepper is broken down and mixed in. Pour into small mixing bowl and fold in vinegar, salt & pepper. Stir until flavors are well integrated.

Top with chopped celery leaves.

Zucchini Fries
(Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

Olive oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into 3-inch long by 1/2-inch wide strips


Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F.
Stir salt, pepper, paprika and panko together in a medium bowl to blend. Whisk the eggs in another medium bowl to blend. Working in batches, dip the zucchini in the eggs to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the zucchini in the panko mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Place the zucchini strips on a baking sheet.
When the oil is hot, working in batches, fry the zucchini sticks until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried zucchini to paper towels and drain.
Serve with poblano cream for dipping.

Printable recipe.

One year ago: Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Banana Bread with Candied Walnuts

Two years ago: Classic Southern Deviled Eggs
Three years ago: The Lost Weekend

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