Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dazzling food and complex business logistics at Dodger Stadium

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Once a year the Los Angeles Dodgers invite food bloggers like me to visit Dodger Stadium, sample the new menu items from the stadium's ever-improving concession stands, and take in a game. I've been lucky enough to be on the list twice now, and it's one of my favorite events of the year.

The food at Dodger Stadium, where Executive Chef Jason Tingley is in charge of all the kitchens, seems to get tastier and more interesting every season. This year we tried a hot dog Tingley created to honor Los Angeles's firefighters, topped with spicy cheese, jalapenos and Flaming Hot Cheetos; smoked chicken wings; Street Corn Nachos, topped with grilled fresh corn kernels; a really terrific pepperoni pizza. Tingley adds new items throughout the season - look out for that same pepperoni pizza with an actual Dodger Dog baked into the crust (yes, really).

But you know where my head is at these days - I'm thinking like a small business owner 24/7 because of Not Ketchup, my condiment business. So while I was tasting all this delicious food, I was thinking about bobbleheads.

And logo-imprinted barbecue tools, too.

David Siegel, the Dodgers' VP of ticket sales, showed us the many promotional items the Dodgers will give away to fans this season, including multiple bobbleheads, the barbecue tools pictured above, a pop-up laundry hamper, and several dozen more. High quality stuff, not throwaway trinkets. In all, the Dodgers will give away about 1.5 million promotional items this season.

And while he was talking, all I could think about were logistics - the same kinds of things that I have to deal (on a smaller scale) with when buying and distributing promotional items like t-shirts, hats, basting brushes, squeeze bottles and more for Not Ketchup.

For example:

  • Where do they store 1.5 million promotional giveaway items? I order a small fraction of that amount and the boxes are taking over my living room, family room, bedroom and office. Is there a cavernous warehouse under the stands near the outfield? As it turns out - no. The Dodgers work with a promotional company that warehouses the items until they're needed on game day. 
  • What happens to leftover items? The Dodgers handle this the same way I do: They give them out throughout the year for community outreach and other fan events. I stick mine randomly into online orders - one of the advantages of ordering from the Not Ketchup website instead of Amazon.
  • How many ideas do they consider before choosing the winners? I have an amazing promotional products guy, and Keith and I have looked at very long lists of possible Not Ketchup giveaways, including pens (boring), pads (maybe someday), barbecue tools (expensive), oven mitts (couldn't find good ones), wooden spoons (ditto), and more. The Dodgers marketing team says they consider more than 100 product ideas each year, ultimately choosing the things they think will resonate best with fans. (I suspect price has something to do with it as well - at least it does for me.)

The Dodgers also have to think about logistics I don't deal with. For example, they hand certain giveaway items to fans as they enter the stadium, and others on the way out. How do they decide? Items that are heavy, bulky, or could be used as a weapon wait until after the game. Safety first.

As I was leaving Dodger Stadium on a beautiful Monday night, it struck me that I may never again be able to enjoy a baseball game - or a trip to Disneyland, or a visit to the mall, or grocery shopping, or ANYTHING ELSE - without this business-oriented undercurrent of questions, ideas and analysis running through my head. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Just a different way of looking at the world.

Disclosure: The Dodgers invited my family and me as their guests for this event. All opinions and weird logistical musings are, of course, my own.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Truffled white bean puree

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Photo: Lynne Hemer, Cook and Be Merry

I'm often in need of a quick, elegant hors d'oeuvre to keep guests busy and on the other side of the counter while I'm finishing dinner preparations in the kitchen.

I like this truffled white bean puree because it's simple, I can make it ahead, and it's an unusual combination that raises the eyebrows a bit.

You could serve it with crackers or toasted pita bread triangles, but I love making tiny cups out of cucumbers. Buy small Persian cucumbers - the ones with the thin skin you don't have to peel - and hollow out a little divot with a melon baller. You can make these a few hours ahead and store them in the refrigerator in a zip-top bag, between layers of damp paper towels.

If you can't get your hands on a fresh truffle to grate on top (or the budget doesn't allow it), buy a tiny jar of truffle salt and use that instead. You'll get the same flavor, although not the same visual.

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Truffled White Bean Puree
This appetizer couldn't be easier: White beans pureed with lemon and truffle oil. Serve in tiny cucumber cups or with crackers.
  • 1 15-ounce can white cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 Persian cucumbers
  • 1 black truffle, fresh or canned
Make the bean puree: Put the beans, lemon juice, lemon zest, and truffle oil into the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to let the flavors blend. (Can be made 1 day ahead; store covered and refrigerated.)Make the cucumber cups: Wash and thoroughly dry the cucumbers. Cut off the ends, then slice the cucumbers into 1-inch rounds. Using a small melon baller or the tip of a very small spoon, hollow out one side of each cucumber slice, being careful not to cut all the way through. You'll end up with a fingertip-sized depression in each slice.Transfer the bean puree into a piping bag, or use a zip-top bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe a swirl of the truffled bean puree into each cucumber cup. Grate a little of the truffle on top of each piece. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 10 servings

Friday, April 3, 2015

5-minute cucumber salad

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Today I'm sharing with you my 5-minute cucumber salad - a side dish for days when you need to get some vegetables on the table and there's no way in hell you're actually going to have time to cook anything.

(Just to be clear, that's 5 minutes of active time. It does need to sit and marinate for at least 5 minutes at room temperature, or 20 minutes in the refrigerator.)

Peeling, seeding and chopping the cucumbers is the most time-consuming part of making this cucumber salad. You can make it a 3-minute cucumber salad if you use English cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, which need neither peeling nor seeding.

If you have 6 minutes, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet before adding them to the salad. I never seem to have that sixth minute, though. I can assure you that the sesame seeds taste fine straight from the container. If you want to be really fancy, get the shaker with the mixed black and white sesame seeds.

This is one of my favorite simple salads. Yesterday my 16-year-old son and I stood at the counter eating it with our fingers. Don't judge.

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5-Minute Cucumber Salad
A simple marinated cucumber salad with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Make it even more quickly by using Persian or English cucumbers, which need neither peeling nor seeding. That's 5 minutes of active time, by the way: You do want to let the salad sit for a few minutes to let the flavors get friendly.
  • 3 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon (optional) sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
Peel the cucumbers. Cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using a teaspoon. Cut the cucumbers into 1/2-inch slices.Put the cucumbers in a zip-top plastic bag. Add the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and sugar (if using). Close the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.Let the cucumber salad sit at room temperature for 5 minutes or in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.Sprinkle with the sesame seeds before serving. Serve chilled.NOTE: The cucumbers will get more flavorful the longer the salad marinates. Keep the cucumber salad in the refrigerator for up to three days. By the third day the cucumbers will have lost much of their crunch, but the flavor will be great.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

Monday, March 9, 2015

Deviled eggs with duck skin "cracklins"

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My younger son, a newly minted teenager, knows what he likes and wants what he wants.

And this week what he wants are deviled eggs.

I believe in turning out self-sufficient young men who can feed themselves - and a dozen of their friends, too. So I taught him how to make deviled eggs.

He has now made three batches on his own. Well, two and a half. The first time he didn't let the eggs come to a full boil and ended up with oozing yolks and wobbly whites. But the next two batches were terrific.

He's been seasoning his with herbs like chervil, chives and thyme. Truth be told, I like my deviled eggs a little more straightforward - mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. But I'll never turn down a bit of crunch on top, whether it's bacon, crushed croutons, or, as in this case, slivered duck skin baked to a crisp.

Admittedly, duck is a rare treat for us. I think the skin off chicken thighs would work - I'll try it and report back.

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Deviled eggs with duck skin "cracklins"
Simple, traditional deviled eggs topped with slivered duck skin that's been baked until crisp. A luxurious treat for a weeknight dinner at home or the fanciest of cocktail parties.
  • 2 duck breast lobes, skins only (use meat for another dish)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • green onions, chopped (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Slice the duck skins into 1/4-inch strips and spread them out on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes (start checking after 10 minutes - do not let the duck skins burn). Remove the duck "cracklins" from the oven and use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Let cool, then chop roughly.While the duck skins cook, put the eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a rolling boil, clap on the lid, turn off the flame, and leave the covered pot sitting on the stove for 25 minutes.Drain the water from the pot, add cold water, and let the eggs cool for a few minutes. Peel the eggs and cut them in half horizontally.Carefully remove the yolks from the hard-boiled eggs. Put all the yolks in a small mixing bowl and add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Mash with a fork or whisk until very smooth.Use a small spoon or a piping bag to refill the egg white halves with the yolk mixture. Sprinkle with the duck "cracklins" and the chopped green onions. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 24 pieces

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Glazed salmon fillets with Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup

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Glazed salmon fillets with Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup

When I first created my Not Ketchup fruit ketchups, I really only thought about using them on meat. Burgers, steak, chicken, sausages, lamb chops, pork chops, ribs. Meaty meat.

But after spending a lot of time at Santa Monica Seafood - the best retail seafood market, wholesale seafood distributor and seafood cafe in southern California, and an enthusiastic supporter of Not Ketchup from the very beginning - I realized that Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup, with its perfectly balanced combination of sweet, salty, tangy, and slightly spicy, would pair well with rich, buttery salmon fillets.

This recipe puts the salmon under the broiler, but you can do it on the grill as well. Just make sure you don't put the fish too close to the heat source - you want the Not Ketchup to caramelize and bubble without burning.

Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup Glazed Salmon

Erika Kerekes
Published 01/06/2015
Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup Glazed Salmon Fillets
Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup fruit ketchup sauce makes a sweet, tangy, slightly spicy glaze for oven-roasted salmon fillets. A delicious and easy gourmet dinner.



  1. Preheat the broiler until very hot, with the oven rack about 4 inches below the heat.
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a basting brush or the back of a spoon, spread each fillet generously on all sides with ⅓ of the Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup. Broil the salmon 2-3 minutes, until the Not Ketchup coating starts to brown and sizzle.
  4. Remove the baking pan from the oven. Slather the salmon with another layer of Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup. Return the baking sheet to the oven for another 3-4 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the salmon doesn’t burn. The salmon is done when the outside is browned and bubbling and the inside is cooked through.
  5. Drizzle the remaining Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup over the top of the salmon fillets and serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 05 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Total time: 15 mins.
Tags: seafood, fish, salmon, dinner, Not Ketchup, chipotle