I just returned from a 2-week holiday trip to New York. One of the things that became necessary was to finally mail to Los Angeles the stack of boxes I had sitting in my old apartment. I kept my place in Queens and rented it to my friend Brian for the past couple of years because I could not break the thin tie that still connected me to the City of New York. Well, it seems that the universe took care of that for me. The building was sold recently and I am out.
I was going through the boxes as they arrived here and two of them were filled with photographs. I didn’t spend much time looking through all of them but, inevitably, a lot of them seemed to be looking through me.
I have become quite attached to the memories I have accumulated along the way. I have become dependant on them because, often, I believe that they are the reason for who I am today. Which is not entirely incorrect. It is a large reason why I began taking cooking more seriously in my life.
In my quest to become an artist, I have understood that art is an expression by any means, not simply a craft of a particular medium. In my fascination with photography and visual arts, both of which I have always felt deficient in my abilities to execute, I have looked to my culinary urges to be both painter and photographer. With food, I am a sculptor, a writer, a storyteller, an entertainer, a nurturer, a healer, a dancer, a musician.
Cooking takes the earth and creates additional beauty within it. It is an art form that is constantly being birthed from the deceased. It is worthy of the sacrifice of animals, of our mouths indulging in living plants that grow right before our eyes. It is worthy of taking control of Mother Earth’s most intense elements (fire, energy, ice, wind, blood, wood) so as to consume life in order to convert it into the food she needs to stay alive.
All that we artists do is create, with whatever we have to create with. We don’t need anything new or fancy. We just want to show that everything doesn’t have to have only one purpose, just as we do not either.
6 large lemons, cut into 1” wheels and gutted (save for a later use)
Lemon leaves (or any large, sturdy leaf will do)
1 lb ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 jar fresh anchovies, cut into 1” pieces
Green Olives, halved (for vegetarians or anchovy dislikers)
Fresh Basil, 1” pieces
Olive Oil (for garnish)
Rosemary or Basil (finely chopped for garnish)
This recipe is very simple, using as many different facets of Mother Earth. It’s so good to make for parties or just for a great lunch.
Preheat over to 375 degrees. On parchment paper (wax paper), lay a lemon leaf down and place a lemon wheel on top.
Inside the wheel, layer with a slice of mozzarella, a leaf of basil, a slice of anchovy/green olive, one tomato half and another slice of mozzarella. The filling should just reach the top of the cavity in the lemon wheel. If it doesn’t, you might need to give it a little shmoosh or slice the cheese thinner.
Do this with all the lemon wheels or as many will fit on the sheet.
Bake in over for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browning (make sure you keep an eye on it because all ovens are different).
Serve on leaf piping hot OR you could remove the leaf and place the wheel on a really good piece of grilled Italian bread. Either way, garnish with a little sprinkle of chopped fresh basil or chopped rosemary (the green on the cheese will be a nice contrast) and a few drops of Olive Oil.