Dr. Strangecleanse

I’m currently on a cleanse. I did one about a year ago, too - which was my first cleanse. That makes this one number two (pun intended). The first one I did with Maggie and was bookended by an alien procedure (just leave it alone). But the week in the middle, the diet, was not that strict. I believe it was no meat (but some fish or a little chicken was okay), no dairy, no caffeine (but maybe an occasional coffee, or preferably tea, was okay), no booze (but maybe one or two glasses of wine throughout the entire week were okay), and no wheat or gluten. And drink a glacier's worth of water each day. During this I was to take supplements in the mornings and evenings. This cleanse was a bust - and an expensive one at that. I did not feel different, my skin was not all glowy, I did not lose any weight (that I know of (I don’t actually own a scale)), and I don’t recall any increase in energy.

But it was entertaining. In a way. Feel free to ask Maggie about it.

As it had been about a year, and I hear its good to cleanse every so often - to detox, as it were, I convinced Fred that we should do a cleanse together. I thought the beginning of September, right after he was all, totally, completely moved in would be perfect. The end of Summer, the beginning of our official cohabitation, a brand, new day. So while I did no research at all, Fred asked his friend, Ryan, who had done a cleanse fairly recently, how he went about his process. And here’s exactly what Fred got back:

i start with three days faste. nothing but water. tonic water is really helpful because you will crave (esp day 02) crazy shit like a pregnant lady. keep activity down and focus on work. after that its simple. no meat, dairy, sugar, wheat. stick to it! you will want to stray. lentils are your best friend. small portions. the restaurant cru in silverlake is a good place to go out after your three days faste. lots of options. the largest discipline is learn ing to be ok with being hungry. questions anytime. so worth it. i can give you more extreme path if you want. any questions ask and remember its basicall y a reversion of every eating habit since childhood so its not easy. but guaranteed you will experience increased energy and focus after one week. and th en its just how long you can do it... raw veggies.

And so, beginning at Midnight - a week ago this past Monday, with this text from Ryan (mis-spellings and grammar aside (everyone knows all's fair in love and texts in that regard)), Fred and I embarked on our cleanse.

I am a little more than halfway through right now, and I will keep my opinions on it to myself until I am on the other side. I will say that I will never fast again. I am with the Chinese on this one: fasting is not good. At least not for me. Hunger was not an issue but I got really depressed. Also, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I mostly wanted to sleep until it was all over. I felt truly lost. I called it at the end of day two. I will say that the fasting part made eating the very limited diet downright exhilarating. You mean, I can really have a carrot stick? What joy!

And so what we have been eating a lot of has been water, water with lemon, quinoa (which, I’m sorry all y’all bloggers who that cannot stop professing your undying love for the stuff, but I just don't get it.), water, lentils (which Ryan is right, is my best friend - but I’ve always loved lentils.), water with lemon, almonds, fresh fruit - which I say has sugar in it (refer to Ryan’s text) and therefore should not be allowed, but Fred says it’s fine - and fresh veggies in every sort of variety: raw, yanked from my garden and popped into my mouth, grilled, pureed, roasted, in salads, soups, you name it. And water. Can we have egg whites? Fred says no, but I don’t see why not. And so we keep referring back to this cryptic text from Ryan. It says no dairy. But eggs haven’t been really considered dairy since the eighties. Some websites say yes, some say no. We never hear back from Ryan, so we err on the side of if you want it, you probably can’t have it. We also have had a lot of water.

During this cleanse, I have eaten at M Cafe, Cafe Gratitude, and even Ryan’s suggestion, Cru. While I have always been a fan of M Cafe, I have a new appreciation for Cafe Gratitude (though I have to agree with Chris in that their whole concept really sets LA back about twenty years in the stereotype department), and Cru, where I likely shan't return. But that’s just me - perhaps it's just not my cup of holistic-non-caffeinated-tea-that's-supposed-to taste-just-like-a-double-espresso.

Shockingly, I have not had that difficult of a time with wine’s absence. I crave a glass most when I’m in the kitchen preparing food and listening to music in the evening (don’t get me wrong, I have a special bottle waiting for Friday to celebrate the end of these shenanigans. And I am beyond excited about tearing the cork out of that bad boy and bottoms-ing it up.). The lack of coffee hasn’t been too bad either, as long as I can have a hot mug of something in the morning, like the stupid ginger tea I’ve been parading around as my cup o’ joe. At least that feels better.

My timing on this whole thing, by the way, was just atrocious. This is not something to embark on with your boyfriend, who pretty much JUST moved in (and the moving process was long and stressful). No more secrets or mystery here! No need to ever shut the bathroom door for privacy again. Why bother? We've been in it and through it together, now.

My dad thinks I’ve lost my mind and has practically taken my last name away from me. “No wine? That’s crazy. What sort of self-respecting Shaffner would... Why would you even do that to yourself? No cheese? Elliott, I don’t think this sounds healthy at all.” And he actually sounded very dire while he said this to me. I think my mom just thinks its boring. “Tweeters, Lordy, don’t write about your cleeeaaannsse. Write about your garden! Or, at least, something interesting or special.”

And she’s right. I write a food blog. So why am I going on about the deficit of all things delicious, decadent and downright debaucherous? Where’s the beef? When is it Wine O’Clock? Friday, my friends. Friday.

Until then I will leave you with the recipe for a mignionette Fred made to top the couple dozen oysters we ate (and the multitude of bottles of wine we drank) the night before this ten day Hell storm began. And hey, Mom, we used stuff from the garden!

Poblano-Sherry Vinegar Mignonette

Serves enough for 2 dozen oysters


1/4 cup rosé
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced poblano pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Coarse sea salt & fresh crack pepper to taste


In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate. Serve with oysters on the half shell with a wedge of lemon.

Printable recipe.

One year ago: Classic, Southern Fried Chicken
Two years ago: Wolvesmouth
Three years ago: Steak au Poivre


Buck Jumping & Having Fun.

Seven years ago at this time Katrina had just hit New Orleans and forever changed a lot of things for a lot of people. It was one of those landmark events in history that will always remind us of where we were and what we were doing when the hurricane roared through with its devastation. Not entirely unlike 9/11 in that sense. During Katrina, I was living in a different house with a different person. We were glued to the television all night in awe and shock stricken silence. I was, even then, up here in my canyon. Beso was there and so was Milo. I’m pretty sure around that time I was cooking things like braised short ribs, sausage and cheese grits, meatloaf, barbecued tri-tip, various types of fish with various types of salsas on top of them and mushroom risotto and stuff like that.

Kitchen-wise, I guess things were not so terribly different than they are now. Though the music has decidedly shifted in the tune of my world, and the orchestra of my kitchen, and, I’ve certainly advanced a great deal. I still appreciate, and crave, my foundation dishes and my staples, as well. Heck, I make the fish/salsa thing all the time. Lately I’ve been fiddling a lot more with sauces and accents - chimichurris, preserved lemons, hot sauce, mignionettes, reductions, jus, roux and the Five Mother Sauces. I’ve also been deliriously happy playing with all the wild stuff growing in my garden - some of which I have never cooked with, or heard of.

As a result of a vintage cookbook sale last Sunday at the farmers’ market, and the eve of Isaac hitting New Orleans on the almost-to-the-day anniversary of Katrina, I  read through my two new/old Louisiana cookbooks and decided to try my hand at shrimp
étouffée. That dish, of course, involves a roux. I think it turned out pretty well. Fred nearly ate his body weight in the stuff. I wasn’t the greatest judge as I’ve A) never made shrimp étouffée, or any Louisiana cuisine in my life and B) I’m, admittedly, not a huge fan of said cuisine. However, I enjoyed it. But something was missing. Some layer. Some complexity. I’m not sure what it was, but I look forward to playing a lot more with my new/old Louisiana cookbooks to figure it all out.

So no, I will not be sharing with you my shrimp étouffée recipe. Seems almost blasphemous for me to do, really. But I will get back to you on it.

Back to my garden. I have a small bush growing there, with little, lantern-like things dangling from
the small branches. My mom planted this green baby a while back, and I remember she was really excited but wasn't really familiar with the plant. We thought, maybe, tomatillos? No. Well after some research on the interwebs I came to the conclusion that I have a Cape Gooseberry bush. You know the berries are ripe when they fall off the bush. When you peel back the little lantern a smooth, yellow berry is revealed. It is about the size of a marble, and resembles a miniature spherical tomato, about one or two centimeters in diameter. Like a tomato, it contains numerous small seeds. It’s sweet when ripe, with a mildly tart flavor - kind of like a raisin married to a tomato.

I didn’t have enough to make a jam (nor would I ever want to), but that seemed to be the only application I could find. I did see a cape gooseberry and apple crumble. No thanks. And then I realized the gooseberries would probably make a beautiful reduction for duck or pork... or foie gras... sigh. And I just so happened to have a pork tenderloin in my fridge. Done and done.

I make pork tenderloin all the time. I was making it seven years ago and even long before that. I sometimes stuff the tenderloin with garlic, spinach and goat cheese and serve it over purple mashed potatoes. Or sometimes I smother the pork in herbs de provence, sear the outside and then slow roast it. Recently I’ve been barbecuing it on the grill. I always serve pork tenderloin in medallions. This time I marinated it in sweet tea for twenty-four hours - let’s just call that a brine - grilled and served it over rice, smothered in a cape gooseberry reduction with a wonderful broccoli preparation on the side. Fred, who historically, is not a fan of pork, upon eating this dish exclaimed that pork tenderloin may now just be his favorite meat.

As I said, this dish is one I would have been preparing
all those years ago, but the reduction is entirely me in 2012. As they say, accessories make the outfit. I’d even say that accessories turn an outfit into a look. And, in regards to the look, the sound, the music of my kitchen, to quote Farnand Point,  "In the orchestra of a great kitchen, the sauce chef is a soloist."

And with this meal, as we were finally able to confidently switch from watching the news to resuming our marathon of season two of Treme
we breathed a sigh of relief for New Orleans. They may have gotten bruised, but they ain’t broken. The second line buck jumps onward.

I'll keep you posted on my shrimp étouffée plight...

Cape Gooseberry Port Reduction Sauce

1 cup ruby port
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 shallot sliced thin
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup cape gooseberries
Salt and pepper to taste


To prepare the sauce, combine the port, balsamic vinegar, thyme, shallot and lemon zest in a medium sized saucepan.

Set the pan over medium heat bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and simmer.

Simmer until reduced by half. Strain the liquid using a fine mesh strainer. Save the shallots.

Add butter and the berries to the hot liquid and stir to release juices in the sauce without killing the tender berries.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, add shallots back in and reserve sauce for later.

Printable recipe.

One year ago: LQ@SK
Three years ago: Cheesy Creamed Corn with Cilantro