Under the Santa Monica Sun

The first food-oir I ever read was ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ by Frances Mayes.  I loved the book because I could live vicariously through the author.  I was transported to a land of olive scented breezes, the shade of Cypress trees and the warmth of the sun peeking over the hillside, while still in my tiny 700 sq ft apartment on the Upper West Side.  Today I am reminded of her adventures and especially the contentment she felt just living everyday full of appreciation as I prepare to leave sunny southern California for New York.  Though I lived in New York and grew up in Chicago; I have managed to avoid extended amounts of time in any wintry climate.  This has been a year of unprecedented snow storms on the east coast; the last one dumping 14” of snow on the city just a week ago.


Basil Lemon Grilled Chicken


  • 10  Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 2    Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3    Cloves of Garlic
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and Pepper


  • I blended the ingredients in my Magic Bullet to make a marinade for the chicken.
  • Pound 2 organic free range chicken breasts with a tenderizer until they are flat as pancakes (less than a 1/4” thick) and pour the marinade over the chicken.  The basil makes the marinade super fragrant–yum!

Orzo Salad

  • 1 cup of uncooked orzo
  • cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • 2   green onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup arugula (chopped)


  • Grill the chicken for 4 minutes on each side.
  • Add the asparagus to the grill when flipping the chicken.
  • Prepare the orzo as instructed (just boil for 4 minutes and then drain)
  • Toss with the tomatoes, green onion and arugula and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, if desired.

Grilled Asparagus was as simple as wrapping the asparagus (after breaking off the tough ends) placing them in a sheet of foil, drizzling lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Wrap them up, ready for the grill.

Slow Food in 15 minutes.


But what a difference a week makes, as I am being twittered by friends of the sunny, 50 degree weather out east.  I guess Spring is blooming in New York.  Something to look forward to.  But on my last weekend in LA, I wanted to celebrate everything that makes my day to day life here special, so today Ethan and I went for a hike in the Santa Monica mountains.  

The weather was sunny, but not hot–perfect for hiking.  We had quite a bit of rainfall this winter, so the rushing water of creeks and the waterfall added to the soundtrack of the hike.  Chirping birds, frogs, and cricket sounds blended together like background instruments to the running water, with an eagle soaring overhead conducting this symphony of nature.  We managed several highlights along the trails–ocean views, climbing rocks along the waterfall and hidden caves.  Because of the rains, there was a lot of new plant growth, so when we actually stopped to take time to smell the flowers, literally, it put so much in perspective.  Ethan ran through the woods with his ‘sword’ (a stick) ahead of me, making sure to protect me against dragons in the woods.  It was the Disney version of Lord of the Flies.  

When we got home, we saw that the lettuce we planted nearly 3 weeks ago from the nursery were ready to be picked and washed.  In honor of my last weekend in California for a while, we decided to make a meal, using as many ingredients from the garden as we could.  We tried to gather all the ingredients and wanted everything to be fresh–nothing processed; nothing from a box, following the principles of The Slow Food Movement, which began in Italy in 1986 in an effort to combat fast food; specifically  the first McDonald’s in Rome.  It advocates to preserve the local cultural cuisine, food, plants and seeds.  It educates consumers about the risks of fast food, lobbies against the government funding of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and also seeks to preserve culinary traditions of local regions.  What started in Italy is now a movement in over 132 countries, counting over 100,000 members.

I believe slow food is a way of life in many communities throughout the world; but it frightens me that it is threatened by agri-business and corporations.  It angers me that people now have to fight to preserve this way of life that is so natural and makes sense.  I like this idea of slow food because simply stated–it is the definition of conscious eating.  You know where everything comes from because it is local, without chemicals and it is what people are meant to eat.  I remembered a recipe Frances wrote about in ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ that involved basil, lemon, olive oil and a roasted chicken.  Simple.  While the principles of slow food are opposite to what we know as fast food; the ‘slow’ portion of the moniker doesn’t necessarily describe the amount of time to prepare.

Our Under the Santa Monica Sun meal consisted of grilled chicken, asparagus, and an Orzo salad.  Full disclosure:  the orzo did come from a box; but it was made of 100% organic durum wheat semolina from Italy.  Everything but the orzo, chicken, olive oil, parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, garlic and asparagus (all produce from the farmers market) were from the backyard.


Learn more about Eda at http://edamame2003.blogspot.com/


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