Tuesday, July 9, 2013

LET ME EAT CAKE! (Citrus-Almond Cake)

(Citrus-Almond Cake)

As some of you know, after 22 years of dinner parties (many starring in this blog), annual Christmas Eve parties (yup, memorialized here), love and laughter, we’re selling our house (see “Diary of a Home Owner”).  We’ve been in escrow… out of escrow... in escrow... out of escrow... and in escrow, again (hopefully for the last time).  I’ve been euphoric… un-euphoric… euphoric… un-euphoric… and euphoric again. 

Please, let me eat cake!  And I don’t really like cake.

But, I do love citrus-almond cake…

Last night, friends came to say goodbye to our house, over dinner of course!  It was their final meal in the dining room where they’ve had so many other great Richard meals. The room will stay, but the memories will come with us to wherever Richard cooks again.  A moveable feast!

And for last nite's dessert… Let them eat cake!!!

Citrus-Almond Cake
(adapted from Molly Wizenberg)


1 small-to-medium orange
1 lemon
6 oz raw almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 eggs
½ tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup olive oil

Confectioner’s sugar


Place the orange and the lemon in a saucepan, and cover w/ water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Drain and cool.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and set a rack in the middle position.   Bake the almonds 10 to 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool completely.  When the almonds are cool, pulse them in a food processor until ground.  (TIP:  to save time, Richard uses dry-roasted and unsalted almonds from Trader Joe’s.  Saves roasting time.)

Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch springform pan.

When the citrus is cool, cut the lemon in half, and discard the pulp and seeds.  Cut the orange in half, and discard the seeds.  Put the fruits in the food processor and process almost to a paste.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder. 

Combine eggs and salt.  Beat until foamy.

Beat in the sugar. 

Fold in the flour mixture. 

Add the citrus, almonds and olive oil, and beat on low speed until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for about 1 hour. (per Richard:  Check your oven.  He bakes for only 50 minutes).

Remove and dust w/ confectioner’s sugar.

Thursday, June 13, 2013



As some of you know, I’m an ex-New Yorker (a Manhattan-ite to be more specific) translation: renter. Oh, lots of New Yorkers own glorious brownstones, large and tiny co-ops, even lofts, but most of the NYers living in the naked city rent. I had a great 2 bed/2 bath apartment between First and Sutton (for those who are City-wise) with a galley kitchen with a window (that alone made the apartment worth its weight in lox and bagels), and if I hung out that window I could see the 59th Street Bridge. 

When something broke in my apartment, the live-in super fixed it. When I left town the doormen locked my mail and packages in the “package” room. They carried my “B” bags (Bendel, Bonwit, Bergdorf and Bloomie’s) to the elevator and helped me out of cabs when I came home. When I signed a new lease, the super had my apartment painted. And no matter how late I got home, there was a doorman to welcome me. 

All these services and more were included in the rent. Granted it was a high rent (it was East Side after all), but then I had no other maintenance expenses or fees. If the air-conditioner broke and couldn’t be repaired, the building bought me a new one. If a pipe burst in a bathroom, the building hired the plumber. And, if an over-indulgent, spoiled teenage boy in the high rent high rise across the street used the hanging plant in my 8th floor living room picture window as target practice, fracturing the glass, the building replaced it (true story).

When my husband and I first moved to Los Angeles for television-movie-fame and fortune, we continued to rent. First, movie-tv star Harry Hamlin’s cottage in Laurel Canyon… then a larger rustic “cabin,” also in Laurel Canyon – all the while whistling Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies Of The Canyon” (well, I did – though my long, ironed straight hair and love beads were long gone). Who knew you could practically live in the woods and be five minutes from Hollywood? Not this Manhattan-ite.

As our fame and fortune grew (well, in our friends’ and family’s minds, anyway), the charm of the Canyon began to fade… though our “hyphenate” landlords (famous movie-tv star, then “famous adjacent” tv producer-director) paid for all home repairs and gardeners… they couldn’t fix the howling of coyotes at night or the agonizing screams of their kills… the possums and/or raccoons sleeping on top of our car or the snakes that loved living in the back stone wall of our garage dugout or on the hill behind us.  Snakes!!!  Rattlesnakes to be exact!!!  I’m sorry. I’m from New York City - we don’t do snakes… especially rattlers. I can deal with coyotes and possums, even rats… but not snakes!

It was definitely time to leave the Canyon… so, when our accountant told us we really needed to “buy” something, it was like a sign from God. We turned to the Long Island of L.A. – the Valley -  and bought our “modest,” over-priced, pre-war cottage-bungalow (even the houses in L.A. are hyphenates)

on a quaint and quiet street in the flats of Studio City… walking distance from Ventura Blvd., the Valley’s Northern Blvd (for you ex-Long Islanders).

Over the years, as our ‘hood slowly changed around us and McMansions sprouted out of the earth like poisonous mushrooms replacing those charming cottage-bungalows, we hired gardeners and pool men, learned to turn off the water to the house and found the circuit breakers. We decorated, then redecorated, then redecorated again and again (there was a reason I was an on-air HGTV design consultant).

We remodeled, built built-ins...

living room


dining room

 installed decks...

 resurfaced the pool...

bought new appliances when the old ones died ...

We were homeowners!!!

We paid property taxes, which doubled. We bought homeowners’ insurance (which also doubled), flood insurance and earthquake insurance.

We tried growing tomatoes that ivy rats feasted on, but had modest success with plants and herbs.

We hosted Christmas parties, pool parties and barbeques, and never bought a lemon as our requisite lemon tree has fruit all year round. But lemons were the only thing we didn’t have to pay for.    

Now that we’re of a certain age – that age in the tv/movie business where you become invisible (unless you’re Steven Spielberg or Meryl Streep) and work slowly disappears, it’s time to consider renting again. Maybe in Studio City. Maybe in Ojai. Maybe somewhere up north. The thought of no property tax, no homeowner insurance, no home maintenance costs (except our housekeeper) has won us over. So, of course, I redesigned and redecorated once again... this time to sell.

Now if  I could only find a house rental with a doorman.


Take a further tour of our house:

living room

living room

my office

dining room

master bedroom

master bath

guest room

guest bath

hall bath



Monday, April 22, 2013



Some people inherit vast riches while others are saddled with vast debts.  Some people inherit nothing, not even fond memories, which, sadly, is an inheritance in itself.  And some people like me inherit a burning desire to work “inheritance” into my opinion column titled “Ever-changing ‘Hood.” So let’s just count the former sentence as fulfilling that desire and go with it. Besides, an inheritance can be life changing which could then become ‘hood changing. Or not.

I was twenty-something when I got my first inheritance: a car (push-button Dodge Dart to be exact) and a small (well, it became small) trust fund.

My grandfather, who made a fortune building “estates” on Long Island, lost a fortune when the market crashed in ’29. But he didn’t lose all his fortune, so when I graduated college decades and decades and decades (is that enough decades?) later, he took me to a Dodge dealership to buy me a car. I picked out the Dart, he paid with cash and we drove it off the lot. Well, actually, he drove it off the lot after I showed him how to drive an automatic and my graduation present became his car (and only his car)… though he swore it would be mine after he died. So be it. I never expected him to buy me a graduation present, anyway. 

Fast forward a couple of years later… my grandfather died and, at the reading of his Will, my brother and I learned that we were his only heirs and that a Trust had been set up for us.  My brother was in boarding school at the time and the Will stipulated that the Trust money was to be used to continue his education for as long as he was in school, after which we would split what was left (hence the “well, it became small”). I was on my own, starting my career and could have used a few bucks. But so be it, I was getting the Dart!

Oh, not so fast, Ilona!  My grandfather’s executrix (and my great aunt) crushed my vehicular hopes by telling me that the car was part of the estate and since both my brother and I were equal heirs (well, except for that money going to his education thing), she couldn’t just hand the car over to me. Duh! Why? Well, she reasoned, my brother or his future wife could sue her for half the car’s worth. Huh?! He was still in prep school! There was no future wife!!! At least not in the immediate future.

Of course, I reminded her that the car had been my graduation present. But my not so great, great aunt still said, “No!” My brother begged her to give me the car, to no avail. (He still could have been swayed by some greedy future wife, she declared…) But she made a deal with us.  She would put the car up for sale in an ad in some obscure newspaper, hidden amid the “funnies,” and, if no one bought it, I could buy it for a buck and legally her ass would be covered. A week later, I gave her one dollar that went into the Estate (50 cents for my brother, 50 cents for me) and she gave me the title to the car. I finally got to drive my graduation present.

Needless to say, the whole experience changed my perspective as it opened my eyes to family suspicion (hers), paranoia (hers), loyalty (my brother’s), and the eccentricities of the legal system.

Moving on, I was still in my twenties when I got my second inheritance. Out of nowhere (well, “nowhere” was somewhere in Manhattan) I got a call from a mucky muck at the Finnish Embassy who had tracked me down to inform me that some relative in Finland that I never heard of died “intestate.” Therefore, the mucky muck continued, the Finnish government had to find all her living, legal heirs (of which I was one), no matter how distant, then split the money equally among all of us. It was a nice little chunk of change that changed my life in that I was able to have a glorious shopping spree at Saks, Bonwit’s and Bendel’s, while it buffeted my income (or lack, thereof) from writing. It wasn’t nearly enough, however, to allow me to quit my day job, but it was less maintenance than my push-button Dart.

After my dad died (I was thirteen) my brother and I became “latchkey kids” when our mom went back to work, eventually becoming “Peggy” in “Madmen” on Madison Avenue. This inheritance thing was apparently on my mother’s mind as well, because, as she got older, she fretted that she wouldn’t be able to leave us any money. We assured her that she had taken loving care of us – raised us in style – but now that we were on our own, it was up to us to find the riches of the world.

For years she had enriched our lives with unconditional love, laughter and flea market finds (she was a collector, something I definitely “inherited” from her), so my brother and I weren’t surprised when she died a few years ago and most of her money was gone.  We chipped in and threw her a huge farewell party. Young and old from near and far came to celebrate the joy she had brought them. Then, after they chose something from many of those flea market finds to remember her by (their “inheritance”), it was our turn.

One thing I wanted most: my mom’s spatula. Yes, a spatula! I used that spatula when I was a child and we made Christmas cookies together. When I use it now, I remember the smell of gingerbread and butter cookies. I remember the matching aprons she made for us, and I remember how safe and loved I felt helping her slide the baked cookies off the cookie sheet onto a piece of wax paper.

No, there was no money. No shopping sprees on Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive or even Ventura Blvd. But the memories that spatula brings me are worth millions. Perhaps not a life-changing inheritance, but definitely life affirming.

Now if only I still had that push-button Dart… Could probably get a bundle for it at a collector’s auction. 

** as published on Studio City Patch April, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Salmon Epinard

I love spinach!  I love walnuts!  I love roasted red bell peppers!  I’m not in love with fish. Not even salmon. I like salmon, okay, but that “like” has never turned into “love.” But…. I’d swim upstream for salmon epinard.

Richard and I first had this dish a couple of years ago when we visited my cousin Linda and her husband, John.  She loves to find new dishes to serve us… well, to serve Richard, really. They share a love for cooking.  John and I share a love for eating good cooking.

On an earlier visit Richard had made Giada’s salmon with minted pea puree in lemon broth (a salmon dish I love, I admit)…

…so Linda was thrilled when she discovered this new salmon recipe, and couldn’t wait to try it out on us.  We loved it!  So much so, Richard has added this dish to his favorite recipes “for company”… though he did make it just for me, the other night.

Whether you love salmon or like it… I soooooooo recommend you give this recipe a try.  You won’t be disappointed.



1 teaspoon olive oil
2 oz. spinach
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
¼ cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Cooking spray
4 salmon filets
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking sheet with foil, lightly spray.

Cook spinach in oil and zest, stir in roasted peppers, basil and walnuts.

Cut slit in salmon for pocket and stuff it with the cooked spinach mixture.

Baste with mustard

Stir remaining ingredients and sprinkle over fish

Lightly spray

Bake 10 – 12 minutes.

Then serve and enjoy!!!  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

FIBER... FOOD FOR THE SOUL - Fiber Art Master Pieces


Fiber Art Master Pieces

Lately the media have been filled with the latest nutritional discoveries… Wheat, not so good.  Fat, not so bad.  And fiber, a “must” for a healthy body.

Well, what about fiber for the soul?  And, no I don’t mean soul food, though many of your know how I love to write about food.

Back story: A few years ago our ‘hood changed drastically when dear friends moved to Ojai. But as the saying goes, one door closes, another opens.  And for my husband and me, the door to Ojai opened us up to a new and charming ‘hood – one that we visit frequently.

So what does that have to do with fiber? 

Well, it was on a visit to Ojai this past weekend that I discovered fiber “food” for the soul: Exciting textural, colorful fibers knitted, crocheted, appliquéd, quilted and sewn into works of art by such artists as Leslie Rinchen Wongmo, John Nava, Linda Taylor, Susie Swan and Kyle Crowner in an exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum.

The museum, housed in a former Catholic church, is a charming mission-style structure...

... with sculptural art displayed right there in its front yard, my favorite piece being a limestone fence post from Kansas which has been transformed into a sleek sculpture by artist, Fred Whitman.

Before we entered the museum, we were treated to a new twist on graffiti or street art.  In the wee hours of the morning, the entrance to the building had been anonymously fiber “bombed” with whimsical yarn hangings and wrappings by Ojai night owls… the perfect introduction to the Fiber Art Master Pieces Exhibit inside.

Once inside, the first thing you see is an exquisite appliqué quilt which anyone could own by the mere purchase of a raffle ticket and the luck of the draw. I decided to go for it. The quilt was sewn by a group of Ojai women who love quilting and enjoy putting their talents into raising money for charity. A 21st century take on the time-honored “quilting bee.”

In the alcove leading into the exhibit in the rotating gallery is a separate art display by Valerie Freeman titled, “Beatrice Wood, Duchamp & Chess.” 

This conceptual art chess installation made of raku (a type of Japanese pottery) and luster is an homage to renowned American artist, Beatrice Wood. Wood, along with lover and life-long friend, world-famous artist Marcel Duchamp, was involved in the ground-breaking Dada art movement in New York City in the early decades of the 20th century and was dubbed “Mama of Dada.”  The sensual scarlet and gold sari displayed in the fiber art exhibit once belonged to Wood.

Purportedly a partial inspiration for the character of “Rose” in James Cameron’s, “Titantic,” Wood passed away in Ojai shortly after her 105th birthday.

As you enter the rotating gallery you pass quilt hangings: “Sisters” by Susie Swan...

 and “Spirals” a 12”x12” raw-edge, reverse appliqué, then machine quilted piece by Kyle Crowner...

 followed by Ruth Marks’ colorful pancho and tunic and Lise Solvang’s knit dresses. 

On the opposite wall hung an intricately made sweater created by Fran Bulwa.

But, it’s Crowner’s faux chenille jacket that really dazzled me. The faux chenille technique involves layering fabrics (in this case 5 layers), sewing rows of stitching on the diagonal, then slitting between the rows of all but the bottom layer. When the garment is washed, the cut edges soften and blur. The jacket’s design, texture, and layers of subtle colors make it a work of wearable sculpture – not only aesthetically beautiful, but completely functional. I just wanted to slip my arms into the sleeves of this fiber sculpture and have it embrace me.

As I walked around the gallery room...

 I was treated to a patchwork of fiber design styles and techniques that included rich, vibrant crazy quilts from the 1800’s...

 “Still For A Moment” a still life by Carolyn Ryan using a quilting and fusing technique for texture...

and a vignette of dolls:  Eaton-Thacher “Toad,” “Native American Girl” by Swan, and “Sonny & Chair” by Bulwa.

Dominating the back wall was “R.E.” a huge tapestry of a woman’s face by John Nava that reminded me of the Vermeer painting, “Girl With The Pearl Earring.”  Nava, known as a figurative painter in the realistic tradition, has “translated” his portraits into jacquard tapestries. The effect is stunning.

He starts by creating a painting of his chosen image. When the painting is ready, he scans the image into a computer. He then configures the digital image for a special loom in Bruges, Belgium. The limited color palette of the loom and various textural considerations require special attention at this stage. When the specialized digital file for the loom is finished being prepared, Nava uploads the file via the internet to Belgium. A tapestry arrives several weeks later. Among Nava’s work are tapestries he created for the Cathedral of Our Lady of The Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

Another remarkable wall hanging was “Holy Thangkas” by Leslie Rinchen Wongmo.  Wongmo is one of only a few westerners trained in this rare intricate Buddhist art of silk appliqué thangkas, a technique that can be traced back to the 13th century. The effect is a lush, multi-dimensional, beautiful piece of art.

Among other fiber artworks was “Answered Prayer” a pictorial quilt by Susie Swan...

 and “Sashiko Sample” (sashiko is a form of Japanese decorative reinforcement stitching) by Lynne Wood.

And then there was the red gown by Linda Taylor made from layers of paper with recognizable sayings and pictures of the Mona Lisa and other iconic women in art incorporated onto the paper. This diaphanous, romantic dress shimmers in the light, itself so light and ethereal it could only be worn by a princess in a fairytale.


More examples of fiber art in this wonderful exhibit:

So, if you’re up for a change in the ‘hood, head for picturesque Ojai, feed your body in one of the many lovely restaurants and bistros, then feed your soul at the Fiber Art Master Pieces Exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum.

Ojai Valley Museum
130 West Ojai Avenue
Ojai, Calif.  93023
805-640-1390 x 203

Open to the public: Tues – Fri., 10:00am – 4:00pm
January 19 through March 31, 2013
$5.00 for Non-Members at the door

 (This review originally appeared in the online newspaper, Studio City Patch - March 13, 2013)