Cooking For Others: Playing House

EVENT: L.A. Bon Voyage Dinner
VENUE: Amy’s House, Los Angeles
TYPE: Formal(ish) Dinner Party
MENU: Orange and Red Shrimp Curry; Arugula Salad with Ginger-Honey Vinaigrette
WINE: 2007 Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay

A few months ago, over dinner at my parents’ table in Martha’s Vineyard, my mother’s friend Amy offered up her house should I ever need a place to stay in Los Angeles. To all reading, warning: do not present me with this type of offer unless you really mean it, because I will find some way, some how to make it to your city, and then your doorstep. But I knew Amy was being genuine: she also told me my corn cakes were delicious, and then preceded to eat five more.

So a few weeks ago I went out to LA for my cousin’s wedding and, with Amy’s house in mind, decided to extend my stay for a week. She was still on Martha’s Vineyard, soaking up whatever October sun Mother Nature decided to throw her way, but she had two young independent filmmakers, whose praises she couldn’t stop singing, holding down the fort until she returned to the West.

Chris and Tianna turned out to be just as wonderful as Amy described, and they made me feel incredibly at home in their adopted home away from home. My days there began to meld with the serenity of my surroundings–a little casual reading or writing on the porch, say, while Chris grilled up the last of the garden’s zucchini, and I marveled at how anyone could get work done in a town that is always 70 degrees and sunny.

My last three days in L.A., it rained. A miserable, chilly, completely un-Californian rain. But the kind of weather that nonetheless makes me want to do little else than hole-up inside and cook. And for that purpose, Amy’s house could not have been more inviting. Her kitchen was a dream, the likes of which, I have not gotten to cook in since our pilgrimage to Cara’s mother’s house back in April.

On my last night, before catching the Red Eye back to New York, I decided to cook up a feast for my housemates and give them something to remember me by during the days that followed–the leftovers that would greet them every morning in their fridge. Since summer was apparently over in L.A. as in New York, I made a sweet and savory shrimp curry using all of the beautiful fall vegetables that were in strong display at the market (supermarket, that is, since the farmers was rained out). The bright orange butternut squash, sweet potato, and mango (had to put Cali in there somewhere) and the rich red curry base made this the perfect stew to welcome in the colors of the season.

We ate in Amy’s dining room and waved to each other across the long, formal table. It felt like some sort of last supper, and I guess, in many ways it was. I was leaving on a jet plane within hours, and soon Chris and Tianna would be returning to Silverlake to their apartment. It felt very civilized living and dining at Amy’s, and in addition to the beautiful roof over my head, it was this little taste of adulthood that I cannot thank her enough for. But until I have an actual dining room table of my own, on this coast or out West, I will longingly look forward to the next offer to come play house in hers.

From my kitchen, where I’m writing Amy the most heartfelt thank you note, to yours,



2007 Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay

We washed this meal down with a bottle of Chardonnay I brought back from my day trip to Santa Barbara. My friend Joanie works for the winery and took me through the whole process of how this particular chardonnay was made. Things always taste a little better once you understand where they came from, but regardless, this is a delicious mid-level wine, and one I will be buying again in the near future.

Orange & Red Shrimp Curry
Makes 4-6 Servings

This recipe was inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Red Shrimp & Mango Curry, but it’s really just your basic Thai Red Curry with root veggies and seafood. I used a lot more Red Curry paste than the original recipe called for, probably due to the weakness of the Thai Kitchen jar I bought at Whole Foods. If using an authentic Thai paste from a can (you can easily find this in Chinatown), you might end up putting in less. Either way, it’s best if done to taste. You can also use any variety of squash, pumpkin, or yam. I ended up adding delicata squash to the curry since I found a beautiful one at the store.


1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 tablespoons red Thai curry paste (or according to taste)
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp with the tails on
1 mango, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes
½ lime, juiced
3–4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Coat a large Dutch oven or lidded sauté pan with olive oil and sauté the onion. When translucent, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the curry paste and toss to coat the vegetables. Add the coconut milk, stock, and fish sauce and bring to a boil.

Stir in the squash and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until cooked through but not completely tender. Cook for an additional 5 minutes uncovered. When the squash is completely tender, add the shrimp. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink, and then add in the mango, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of cilantro.

Taste for seasoning, and garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve over white or brown jasmine rice with a side salad.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Jordana

    yum! If you're looking for a great Thai cookbook, checkout Quick & Easy Thai by Nancy McDermott. Don't be discouraged by her non-Thai name. The book includes street food and loads of tips/subsitutions. I wrote my first-ever guest blog about it:

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