L.A. Diet

Evan Kleiman Eats Six-Year-Old Birthday Cake, Makes Meatballs Out of Her Own Cow

Kleiman at Angeli Caffe
Kleiman at Angeli Caffe Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

We thought we’d have no trouble tracking down Evan Kleiman, considering she does double duty as host of KCRW’s “Good Food” and owner of the Melrose institution Angeli Caffe. But little did we know that she’d still manage to sneak out of L.A. for a bit. “I just got back from Costa Rica,” she told us. “And I was really disappointed by the food. It was like someone had taken the great food you find in Puerto Rico and then just sucked the flavor completely out of it.” No wonder she’s happy to be back home in L.A. where there’s definitely no shortage of flavor. And lucky for us, she agreed to keep track of everything she ate for the past week and tell us all about it, for the inaugural edition of the L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, December 15
Pretty much every day I start off with coffee and fruit. That day I had an apple and a banana. I usually have my coffee in the car, with whatever milky substance happens to be in the house, which ranges from heavy cream to evaporated milk, depending on who did the shopping. The funny thing about my coffee drinking is, because of “Good Food,” I’m directly sent a constant panoply of tastings. One that I’ve been loving lately is a dark roast from Stumptown. I tend to not like my coffee burnt — I tend to like more Italian coffee, dark roast, but not cremated. Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m usually at KCRW from about 9 or 9:30 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m., which is where most of my daytime eating takes place.

On Wednesday, we had Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections on the show, and she brought along two fruitcakes. One was a blanc and the other was a noir. She uses red and white wine as her inspiration. The blanc was just beautiful; it was lightly colored with dried apricots and not a ton of spices, just delicious, dense, and fruity. The noir was a darker brown crumb, with tons of Christmas spices and a lot of raisins. This was followed by caviar from Petrossian, as our next guest was Christopher Klapp, the manager. He brought along at least eight different caviars, two American and a couple imported. Just incredibly delicious. I ate some caviar there and took some home and had it for dinner with a tripel karmeliet beer. It wasn’t the best pairing, but I don’t drink wine, so this was kind of like my version of Champagne and caviar. It was delicious.

For dinner, I’ve been working on deadline on a pizza story for AOL’s Kitchen Daily, so I’ve been making dough and playing with toppings. So I had a couple of doughs, which I laid out kind of like a flatbread with olive oil and salt.

Thursday, December 16
I had to be down in City Hall for a meeting about this Hollywood Farmer’s Market crisis, so I skipped breakfast and coffee. That was hard, during a meeting no less. Since I was downtown, I drove to see my friend, Kazi (Pitelka), who has her own farm and is an amazing cook in Altadena. She’d made dosas, having started the process a day earlier by grinding the rice. She filled them with potato curry and the spicy nut and seed mixture called “gun powder.” And I chased it down with an unbelievably sweet goat’s milk from a woman named Gloria also in Altadena. It was great, totally non-goaty. To finish, I had a See’s candy chew; I think it was an almond-caramel chew.

For dinner, I drove from Alta Dena to Culver City to meet people at Sublime Food Lounge. We have a monthly “Good Food” cocktail party there, and after the long drive I had a dirty martini, and after that I had a negroni. Funnily enough, since I’ve been making so much dough, the sustenance ended up being Randall Rosa’s flatbreads. The first was squash blossom with truffle goat cheese and honey; the second was wild mushroom with tarragon and burrata; and the last was linguica with poblano chile and frisée. They were all really good.

Friday, December 17
I started the day with a moment of nostalgia, thinking back to my trip to Rome a few weeks ago, where I didn’t get my usual quantity of Italian breakfast. I wasn’t going to many cafés, as I stayed with a friend this time. So I went to Beverly Hills to Euro Caffe, this Italian soccer café with shirts, pennants, and TV screens that are always showing an Italian soccer match. It’s very authentic. I had a croissant filled with pastry cream — in Italy it’s called a “cornetto con crema” — along with my cappuccino.

For lunch, I have this new way of eating when I don’t have to eat, you know, like a “food person.” I take a head of romaine and just eat the leaves whole and I munch a bowl of fennel raw. It’s interesting, if you set these rules, you know, and say, “I’m not going to eat white flour at home,” you find that a head of romaine is just unbelievably sweet.

Dinner, it was the first time cooking my cow! A friend ranched me a cow and another friend and I went in on it halvsies. So we harvested before he was a full-fledged cow, what’s called a “vitellone”; he was about ten months. My friend John raised three steers and named them Larry, Curly, and Moe. Mine was Moe. John fondly called him “No. 3.” The cow was raised and slaughtered in Templeton and processed at White Stone in Paso Robles, and I got the meat and decided to have the butcher take all the trimmings and make ground beef. This was more like the hamburger of my childhood. It was 25 percent fat, not like the extra-lean beef you can get these days. I opened the package and just started laughing. I decided to make penne and meatballs. It was really, REALLY delicious and just great knowing that my meat had come from one cow. I like my beef coarsely ground and this seemed like it had just passed once through the grinder. It just took me back to the burger of my childhood. My 90-year-old mother lives with me and I served it with what my family calls “Big Salad,” which is romaine-based, with the dressing we use at Angeli called “forte” dressing, which is a garlic-parm vinaigrette. For dessert, I probably had a cup of frozen mango chunks, which I love.

Saturday, December 18
I spent all morning at Angeli, banging out lasagna. For some reason, Jimmy Shaw, the chef and owner of Loteria, had ordered a bunch for his staff holiday party. And he brought me fresh huitlachoche, along with some corn. So I made a Mexican-Italian lasagna, using squash blossoms, the corn, and huitlacoche. Every year during our KCRW pledge drive, we invite everyone who pledges to a dinner that we prepare. Last year, we did it at Loteria and decided to collaborate on a huitlacoche lasagna. So I just repeated it this year with the squash blossom. When you’re cooking all day, you’re just nibbling on everything. So at Angeli, I was eating chef Kathy’s biscotti, cookies, and bread, just like an all-out carb festival. So when I finally felt totally carbed out, I went into the walk-in and grabbed a sweet red pepper and ate it whole, just like an apple.

For dinner, I ate the lasagna with my mother, along with a salad and tangerines from the tree in my backyard.

Sunday, December 19
To start, I had coffee and a bagel with homemade jam. I made a lot of jam last summer and lately, I’ve been working my way through a jar of peach butter.

Then, I was tasked with taking my Mom to an 86th birthday party in Laurel Canyon for Paul Schrade, who was the original forager for Campanile. They’d asked me to bring lasagna, so I brought the Angeli lasagna, which is made with spinach, caramelized onions, and béchamel. They loved it. The hostess Monica made a cannellini bean salad recipe from Nancy Silverton’s Twist of the Wrist. I brought my laptop as I’m still working on the AOL story and set up an office and spent the day typing. For dessert, we had two cakes. The first was a chocolate cake from Sweet Lady Jane, a really delicious, dense, devil’s-food cake with chocolate butter cream. They had also saved Paul’s birthday cake from his 80th birthday, made for him by Nancy Silverton. So from the freezer came this six-year-old cake. It was actually great, with thin chocolate layers with a little bit of jam or cream.

For dinner, I made a coconut brown-rice dish with salmon. It was a brown rice pilaf and I laid the salmon on top, and took some leaves from my rang pure lime tree and also added African perennial basil to it. People at KCRW had complained that I hadn’t brought in any baked goods lately, so I made a cookie recipe from The Gourmet Cookie Book, as Sara Moulton, an editor on the book, had been in recently. It was just brown butter, flour, and sugar, no eggs. Then I took some Tahitian vanilla salt and sprinkled them on top of the cookies.

Monday, December 20
So I baked those on Sunday and, of course, I had some, and they became breakfast on Monday as well. I waited until I got to the studio to eat them, otherwise I would have had them twice.

After KCRW I went to the grocery store and bought a chicken to make chicken soup. That’s one of my mom’s favorite things. I typically make a traditional Jewish chicken soup and then as the week progresses, I change it into a Thai soup by adding coconut milk, fish sauce, a splash of soy sauce, lime, and chile, with the shredded chicken. I also had a head of romaine. I’d never tasted a cameo apple before and saw them at the grocery store. Instead of being a true red, this was more reddish brown over a buttery golden apple. It looked a little firm at the store. There’s all these new apples people are breeding to be extra crispy, and this was dense, super-juicy, and not too sweet. I’d definitely get them again, but I’d look at the farmers’ market to see who had them.

Evan Kleiman Eats Six-Year-Old Birthday Cake, Makes Meatballs Out of Her Own Cow