Curry Chicken Salad Over Baby Kale. With a Side of Politics.

A good friend from my old life popped in for a short visit this past Saturday. I was knee-deep in my family reunion and had 40 wonderful Palmers running about so she couldn’t stay long.  But today, while the kids nap a bit longer (a joy unto itself!), I find myself remembering my life before and my friendships with the amazing men and women I worked with in public service.  So instead of shaving my legs or doing the dishes, I will wax  on about food and memories and then give you an amazing recipe for lunch.

I am missing yet another reunion of the Team Hahn. I’d just love to go…  For four years (+ campaign), I worked for one of the finest elected officials in the history of all elected officials.  Jim Hahn was a one-term Mayor of the City of Los Angeles who unfortunately lost a second term to a slick suited, fast talking rat who’s since seems to have been caught with his pecker out more often then he’s been seen at his desk.  But back to Jim Hahn — it has been proven that to be a Statesman, a person of candor and caliber, to be the person making the right decisions at the right time for an old and complex City, is a tough and thankless job. But Jim did just that.  And I was proud each and every day to work for Jim Hahn.  And Doane Liu and Tim McOsker and Matt Middlebrook.  No matter what some newspaper said.  To work with men and women fighting for change and better lives in their communities like June Burlingame Smith and Greg Fitchitt and Glen Dake.  It was a heady and exhausting time.  I wore black suits and heels and the dreaded pantyhose.  Thank God for Donna Karan.  I drove three hours every day to work nonstop for 11-12 hours days.  I didn’t cook.  I didn’t garden.  Candidly, I didn’t have the spirit for long-term politics.  And I left the Mayor at a time when he needed solidarity most…I logically rationalized that I left him to work on amazing space missions at NASA but I still feel guilty sometimes.  It was one frenetic energy, power job after another.  And by the end of my decade in public service, after grad school and with no real support at home, I was burnt and exhausted and frayed.  And I flat out left it all in a frightening blaze of mid-life-crisis-at-29 glory after one weekend in Sonoma.  And never looked back.

But one thing that I did develop during this heady time, that has stayed with me, was a devoted and ardent love for lunch with friends.  Even if it was quick and only every other month or peppered with work, lunch was a highlight.  Friends keep us sane.  Real friends keep us grounded and smiling.  Lunch with Lindsay Watson was a real favorite.  The hugely busy Scheduler for Mayor Hahn, she always ate yummy looking salads and was so nice and pretty, she’d make anyone gloomy or frayed feel brighter and prettier too.  I forget the name of the place we went to every now and then but they had a golden curry chicken salad that somehow made my feet hurt less, made the horrific LA commute go smoother, made my sad first short marriage seem sort of hopeful (sort of), and gave me the strength to get back to my ardent, sincere job working for a great man and for a region I still admire.  It seems silly but I now know I am a food lover.  Always was.  That I should have been reading the signs that shouted “turn this way!” towards a more sensory-driven life with every emotional high because of a great dish or perfect pop of cheese or a fine glass of wine… even perfectly blended iced teas!  That my life was not meant to be lived out in a pair of constricting high heels or black crepe woolery or sit long in the Junior League.  I don’t want some corner office!  Even though I cherish those times and I still wear my pearls and lip gloss daily, as a rule! People… I love being a Mom first and foremost, but in those few bits of “me” time, I love working in this old Farmhouse Kitchen, in our gardens, reading cooking books, finding new recipes, sharing the joy of food and wine and art, and writing here…even if no one ever reads this.  I live a simple, luscious little life of joy.  For my family and friends. In my Frye boots.

So: This recipe is one that I’ve frankly perfected beyond that sweet little downtown bistro.  And my newfound love for baby kale is what rockets it through the roof…  Happy Eating!

Curry Chicken Salad Over Baby Kale

Curry Chicken Salad Over Baby Kale


Mix in one bowl and chill for 30 minutes at least:

  • 2 cans good quality chopped chicken — or better yet, 2 -3 cups chopped fresh chicken if you have it
  • 1-2 heaping soupspoon(s) full Mayonaise made with Olive Oil
  • 2 stalks diced celery
  • 1/2-1/3 cups chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 apple (red or green) cored and roughly diced
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic diced
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon curry — the depth of spice will depend in it’s freshness.  Season to taste
  • 3 shakes of tumeric
  • 1-2 pinches sea salt
  • ** Sometimes I add a handful of golden raisins for variety.

Mix and chill.

In a small bowl, whisk:

  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-3 glugs of fine quality Olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 glug (or 2) of Walnut or Champagne Vinaigrette or White Balsamic Vinegar

Let stand while chicken curry salad is chilling.  Stir occasionally with a fork.

Once you are ready to eat, take your pre-washed package of Baby Kale — or harvest it from your garden — and toss it with your salad dressing.  Plate it or serve both bowls (leafy greens and chicken curry salad) on the table.  Let people help themselves.  I promise, you will not have a thing left!

Once in a Great While, Your Favorite New Dessert Hugs you “Hello!”

And this is that very moment.

Crisps are long time Farmhouse favorites.  Easy to make.  Everybody loves them.  If you char it a touch? Eh, what the hell — Add great quality vanilla ice cream.

Do me a favor? Use Light Muscovado sugar.  It really is a divine supplement to traditional brown sugar…which I find too cloying.  Too sweet.  And that is what makes this crisp so perfect.  It’s a great way to use any kind of berry, any kind of stone fruit, any kind of hodgepodge of fruit left over on your windowsill and without making something saccharin, like cheap drugstore perfumes, create something heavenly that harnesses the very miracle and warmth of sunshine

Crisp in the Works

Crisp in the Works

Abi’s Farmhouse Crisp (made with plums and apricots)

Preheat your oven to 350’F and place rack in the middle of the oven.

To make the “crumb” or “crumble” or the Crisp part of the “crisp” — Melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter on the stove and let it cool for a bit while you measure out the following.  Mix the following into one bowl.  Use your clean hands:

  • 1&1/2 cups all-purpose flour (be partial to King Arthur flour)
  • 1&1/2-2 cups of Old Fashioned Oatmeal (never instant!)
  • 3/4 cups packed Light Muscovado Sugar
  • 1&1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt (look for the fancy jars) or Kosher Salt

Add in the melted butter (all of it) and mix with your hands.  If you like a bit of crushed nuts or dark raisins, add those too.  Take 1/2 of this mixture and press it into the bottom of a roughly 9″ baking pan.  I use something cute like this heart shaped pie pan but a simple square dish is good too.  Anything sturdy.

*Never feel ashamed for spending good dollars on high quality baking dishes (Emile Henry or Le Creuset come to mind).  They conduct heat most evenly, resulting in well cooked dishes versus buying trendy bake ware that murders any crust and leaves centers runny. Ick.

Assembled and ready for the oven: cue Anni's "Happy Dance."

Assembled and ready for the oven: cue Anni’s “Happy Dance.”

Back to this amazing Crisp!

For the fruit part, seriously, use any left over stone fruit or berries in your kitchen, orchard or garden. Do not be afraid to mix and mash any thinly sliced fruits.

For these pictures, I used left over apricots (that the blasted birds hadn’t gotten!) and some dark Santa Rosa Plums. But I’ve made this just as happily with yellow peaches or dark plums from the store.

Mix in one bowl:

  • 1/2 cup of white sugar (**If the fruit is a touch hard, add in +1 tblspn granulated sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (*make this a heaping tablespoon if the fruit feels hard)
  • 2 pinches fine sea salt
  • 10-11 thinly sliced stone fruit (here I used 7 apricots, a handful of small Santa Rosa Plums, and 1 yellow nectarine because I didn’t have enough for the 7 cups needed)
  • Fresh juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of vanilla extract (buy the best friends!)

Let this stand a few minutes (about 5 for ripe fruits or 10 minutes if the fruit is harder) to let the fruit macerate a bit in the sugars and cornstarch.  Pour into the dish on top of your bottom crumb and spread evenly.

Using your hands dribble the remaining half Crumb or Crisp mixture over the top.  Bake for 55-60 minutes (uncovered) or until the crisp is golden brown (I like it a touch brown-brown for crispness) and the fruit comes bubbling up.  Let this cool for at least 25 minutes before serving.  I let it cool almost completely (about 45 minutes) so the juices and fruit congeals better, like a pie.

Sure to be an absolute hit at ANY party or dinner.  ANY time of the year!

Happy eating!