OF FOOD, FILMS AND FRESHNESS

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Here reality is more exciting than fantasy. Here food, films and freshness are sparkling with high-voltage glamour. Whoa! What action there is in these immaculate kitchens of this iconic hotel which has distilled decades of Hollywood glamour! It is not only a legendary landmark but also officially on the  National Register of Historic Places of the United States. Here, the brilliant French chef Thomas Bellec conjures magic and today I have invited our very own Los Angeles based Indian cookbook author Neelam Batra. Interestingly Neelam has cooked before in the very same kitchens for Vijay Amritraj’s Foundation dinner.

CALIFORNIA INDIAN

What happens when a gifted  Indian cookbook author and a brilliant French chef cook in California?  They not only delight in the freshness of the vegetables and produce here, go shopping to Farmers markets themselves but also on request share their fabulous recipes, bursting with freshness and goodness. Having won several awards for her three cookbooks and taught cooking in Los Angeles (which she still does), Neelam Batra has been wowing Californians with her special brand of Neelams californiacuisine and raising the bar.  Happily, Neelam has also been a judge on the prestigious James Beard awards and continues to reign supreme. Having honed his skills around the world under the greatest chefs, Chef Bellec from Brittany in France is how himself on the global gourmet scene. He creates gems of wizardry for the recently introduced high tea which we feast on together with   travel and style writer founder of @stylegroove  pretty woman Carrie Mitchell.  Chef Bellec’s little jewels of savory and sweet delight dazzle as he continues to reinvent and wow.

HOLLYWOOD TO BOLLYWOOD

All this action is taking place in the historic Beverly Wilshire which has not only played host to many a high profile event but

celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen have all lived in the Hotel. And then ofcourse the  Hotel shot into global fame when 25 years ago it was the the movie Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was shot here. And so the pretty woman turns twenty five. And located on the glamour and fashion drenched Rodeo drive this Pretty woman continues to charm.   Several other movies likeClueless, Sex and the City: The Movie and Valentine’s Day   have also been shot here. I have dined here with Anil kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Gulshan Grover and many others in the Beverly Wilshire. Both Hollywood and Bollywood lives and dines here.

RECIPES FOR FRESHNESS AND GOODNESS

  • Both Chef Bellec and Neelam agree that  freshness of ingredients is the most important  key to a great dish. Author of three award winning cookbooks   1,000
    Indian Recipes ( the most-sold Indian cookbook in the US,) she shares with us her favorite, easy to make versatile recipe using tomatoes. And Chef Bellec generously shares his unique recipe for tomato soup.

 

  NEELAM’S OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES

  • 30 to 40 medium to large cherry tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic or kosher salt
  • Cut each cherry tomato into half from the stem to tip. Put in a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt. Line a tray with aluminum foil and place  each tomato half,  cut-side up and bake in an oven at 400ºF for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200ºF and let the tomatoes sit in the oven until they look shriveled and dried, 1½ to 2 hours.
  • Remove from oven and set aside.

     SERVING SUGGESTIONS

  • Allow everything to cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Serve them on the side with grilled fare or over your favorite crackers, or present them with cheddar cheese on warm toasts, make sandwiches or lightly scatter them atop a simle cumin rice pullao!

THOMAS’ TOMATOES
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb plum-Roma tomatoes
14 oz chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 large fennel bulb chopped coarse (if you don’t have fennel, use saunf)
1 large sweet onion chopped coarse
2 garlic cloves minced
2 spring fresh thyme
1 spring fresh rosemary
2 fresh leave laurel
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet onion and garlic with no color in olive oil. And fennel and tomato cook of for 5 minutes. Add stock and herbs,cook at slow heat for 30 minutes, blend in food processor strain and seasoning to taste. Enjoy!

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