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Cooking Food Popular

The MasterChef in My Kitchen

Have you ever watched MasterChef Junior? It’s like The Hunger Games and The Food Network put together minus the killing. Anyway, I can’t get through a MasterChef Junior episode without weeping — I just get so sad when those kids cry! Which is why I was glad that we moved on to MasterChef Season 4. And why my kids talk like Gordon Ramsay at dinner every night. I think we watched the whole season within a couple of weeks.

Several of the contestants on Season 4 were from San Diego. One day, when I was driving on the highway, I could have sworn I saw Lynn — one of the top 10 contenders — in his car. When I got home I told the kids and they squealed like little girls (ok, they are little girls) and peppered me with questions about the encounter (which, I remind you, was just me thinking I saw someone who was maybe potentially him on the highway, for which “encounter” is a strong word).

My older girl’s birthday was coming up, and I didn’t have any good ideas on what to do. She’s always been really easy and low-maintenance, and I wanted to do something special for her. So I had an idea…if she was so excited about me maybe possibly seeing Lynn on the highway, what if he showed up at our door? He always seemed super nice and level-headed on the show, and also, I wanted to eat his plates.

Leveraging the internet as the superb stalking tool it is meant to be, I found his contact information and emailed him my unusual request. I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks and figured he put me in the Scary folder of his Inbox, but one day he did respond — and he said he would do it! I emailed him pictures of the girls and we arranged for him to show up at our house for my daughter’s birthday to teach her and her sister to cook a few dishes.

A few weeks later, while we were on our spring break staycation, we went to D Bar in Hillcrest for dessert.

I had this Poco Coco Loco, which was a panna cotta topped with a layer of tapioca, with a passion fruit compote, a passion fruit cloud and a macaroon. I might have shed a joyful tear in between bites.

Now, I knew from my online (let’s call them “research”) skills that Lynn had taken some of the photos on the D Bar website, and since he was due to show up to our house in a few weeks and since it had been some time since we had finished watching Season 4, I wanted to be sure the girls remembered him when he came over. So I asked, “Do you know who took the photos for the D Bar website?…Lynn! From MasterChef!”

The girls started whispering and giggling and then my younger one said, “And he’s right over there!!!”

And he was.

Which made me look like a total stalker.

After a few false starts my older daughter finally got up the guts to go talk to him, and he recognized her from the photos and said, “Oh hiiiiii….”. He turned to me and said, “Sandi, right?” at which point I could only wave like a girl on a parade float awkwardly trying to figure out how to keep this all a surprise for a few weeks later.

“Mom, do you know him?!?” daughter #2 asked, at which point I said, “No! Of course not!”

“Oooooh, I get it,” she said, “He recognizes you from the car!”

Ri-i-i-i-i-ght, I said, from the car! Because how could you not remember me if I maybe possibly saw you on the highway, right?

As it turns out, Lynn was with Shaun, another MasterChef contestant, who also happens to be a magician (and was in town for a magic convention)! So I guess you could say it was quite a magical evening as we were regaled with wizardry and sleight of hand. Lynn was delightful and answered all our incessant questions about his MasterChef experience and gave us tips on how to make macaroons.

The next day, of course, was spent watching MasterChef Season 4 episodes all over again.

Fast forward a few weeks to the birthday weekend. 2 PM, the doorbell rings, and we ask the birthday girl to open the door.

Lynn was perfectly charming with the kids and brought some amazing ingredients from Specialty Produce, like these beautiful basil flowers:

He got them started on prepping parsnips and taught them some proper knife skills.

They made a vinaigrette:

and learned the best way to juice a lemon to prevent the seeds from falling in:

They tasted as they went along:

and plated:

Here’s what they cooked up: first, a lovely heirloom tomato salad with red onion, basil and basil flower:

A side of roasted cauliflower:

And a rack of lamb, which was seared…

…then baked and served atop a parsnip puree, garnished with chive flower, alongside the colorful cauliflower and purple carrot medley:

And let me tell you, that lamb. I would fight you for that lamb.

Dessert was a mascarpone sorbet with raspberry coulis and coconut flakes:

I’m sorry it’s not totally in focus. I was concentrating on not eating it long enough to take the picture. Can you say so creamy that you want to die (in a good way)?

And as I licked the sorbet bowl clean while nobody was looking, Lynn packed up his knives and was off to his next gig…something involving sous-vide and a beer pairing for 50 people. Like a short rib-bearing Santa Claus. Thanks Lynn!

Cooking Food

Crisp Asparagus Salad with Sesame Oil

Nowadays, we seem to find meaning in quantifying everything about people: you are your Klout score, Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, Quora answer votes. I may be proud of my eBay feedback score and might have read my eBay positive feedback once or twice to bring me up when I’m feeling down. (I said might. Though I hear that no words give your self-esteem a lift more than “A++++++ eBayer! Hope to do business again soon!”)

Yet another reason that I like food: it’s a bit escapist from all the measuring. People try to quantify the food experience — like through star ratings on Yelp — but in the end, it’s hard to have an objective measure. And perhaps we shouldn’t; maybe we should just enjoy the food experience for its own sake, if only to have a break from the endless barrage of scores and data (which I like, at work. Just not so much in my free time.).

By the way, this post features some of the worst photos that I’ve ever taken. I’d like to say that I was channeling a Siberian gulag experience when I took these, but the truth is that I was hungry and styling was lower on the priority list than eating. On the bright side, think about how good this would look to you if you were in a gulag! So just trust me that this looks much more appetizing in real life than what I’m showing you here.

I got this recipe off of Facebook, through my friend Chris Wood, who may spend as much time with bacon as I do. I haven’t seen Chris in over 20 years, but Facebook has a way of introducing you to the intricacies of people’s diets even if you no longer really know what the people actually look like anymore.

Anyway, on to this nice, easy refreshing summer salad. You’ll be shocked to know that you begin with a bunch of asparagus.

(I know, I know, the composition, the cropping, the lighting! Aargh. Go look at the pictures in another post to recover your eyesight. I’ll wait.)

Prepare an ice bath in a bowl big enough to hold the asparagus.

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water until it turns bright green, and is tender but still crisp. (Ok, this next picture is really bad — you can even see the reflection of my overhead lighting in the water! I’m going to say that my 7-year-old took it.) The time will depend on the thickness of your stalks, but for this batch of medium-sized stalks, it took about 2 minutes. Next time I’ll cut the stalks so that they’re prettier, at a nice clean 45 degree angle.

Drain the asparagus and put them into the ice bath to stop the cooking.

Prepare the dressing by combining 1/2 clove minced garlic, 2 TBSP sesame oil, 1 TBSP lemon juice, 2 tsp dijon mustard (someday I will blog on this all on its own but there is only one mustard I ever use, which I used to ask my in-laws to smuggle from France, Amora Dijon Mustard. It is far superior to anything I’ve found in the US (more flavor, less sweet, bigger kick), and I recently discovered to my delight that someone is selling it on Amazon! It makes for phenomenal vinaigrettes.), 1/2 tsp pepper and salt to taste.

Remove the asparagus from the bath and toss with the dressing. I’d recommend adding in the dressing gradually to taste. Chill in the refrigerator.

If someone makes this and sends me better pictures I will post them!!!!



  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • salt to taste
  • sesame seeds (optional)


Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water until bright green. You want them to be tender but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Immediately drain and put in ice bath to stop cooking. Remove asparagus from ice bath when chilled.
Meanwhile, whisk together all other ingredients and taste to adjust seasoning. Toss vinaigrette with asparagus and refrigerate.
(Optional) Toss with sesame seeds before serving.

Serves 1-2.