A Malibu Way of Life

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    Guarantee happiness in your home during Year of the Horse-serve fruitThis is the first of contributor Jody Stump’s column, “A Malibu Way of Life,” offering tips to highlight and enhance the lifestyle we enjoy from the perspective of the things that give us Life: food, wine, “fruits” of our gardens and the oceans. The column will run bi-monthly.

    By Jody Stump

    It’s been 4,700 years since Shennung, Emperor of China, commissioned the world’s first cookbook, the Hon-zu, and set in motion the Chinese calendar. This week we can celebrate both of his achievements by celebrating the Chinese New Year with good food and a few protective spells. Tuesday, at the stroke of midnight, the world entered the “Year of the Black Horse,” a 60-year cosmic cycle so inauspicious its augury seems like the famed Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!”

    In oriental mythologies, the Black Horse is an uneasy mingling of the opposing elements of water and fire, a portent of both vibrancy and instability. Politically, it is often a time of steamy, unbridled passions and powerful men immersed in hot water-but, on a personal level, it harkens decisive action, a good year for those who have been drifting or who need a new job. A child born in a Black Horse year will be creative, generous and versatile -stand outs like Black Horse celebrities Barbra Streisand (April 24), Paul McCartney (June 18) and Jimi Hendrix (November 27). (All were born in 1942.)

    With the heavens promising a wild ride in 2002, we would be wise to play it safe and gird ourselves for the future with a lucky meal and a few tokens of good fortune. Searching for ways to placate the gods, I found that the first sage commandment is to wear red-it scares away misfortune. More importantly, do not wear white this week-the symbolic color of death is said to doom a family member. You can add a golden coin to your Valentine and slip it into a red envelope to boost your loved one’s fortunes and drink wine to preserve your love.

    In northern China, it is traditional at this time of year to serve dumplings filled with greens and chopped pork to symbolize wealth and abundance. Dim sum or Moo Shu Pork would be lucky choices. Dessert promises to sweeten the future. Serve any fruits-kumquats bring gold; melons, good health; and oranges or tangerines guarantee happiness in your home-then, be sure to finish up with ginger. Its fiery flavor echoes the spirit of this year’s commemorative animal, making it a most propitious gesture to the gods.

    This week, I offer you a simple, absolutely scrumptious, ginger dessert compliments of Granita. Chef Jennifer Naylor opens the kitchen to a cooking class every month where a dozen or more Malibu foodies learn the secrets of the restaurant’s cuisine by preparing dishes from one of its seasonal menus. You can try this yourself at home or go down to Granita and enjoy this season’s Pacific Rim specialties.

    Granita’s Upper-side Down Pear Gingerbread

    Think of this as Tarte Tatin with a Chinese accent.

    1/2 c butter

    2 c. golden brown sugar

    3 pears, peeled and quartered

    1 c. all-purpose flour

    1 t. baking soda

    1/2 t. salt (kosher or sea salt recommended)

    1 T. cinnamon

    2 t. ginger

    1/2 t. nutmeg

    1/2 t. cloves

    2 eggs, at room temperature

    6 oz. molasses

    1 c. buttermilk

    1/2 c. Crisco

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

    1. In a heavy saucepan, cook butter and 1 c. brown sugar over medium heat until bubbly. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch cake pan.

    2. Lay the pears in the caramel mixture in a single layer like a rosette, cut side up. Refrigerate.

    3. Combine remaining brown sugar and dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

    4. In another bowl, lightly beat together eggs, molasses and buttermilk. Fold into the dry mix.

    5. Melt shortening and allow to cool slightly. Add to the mixture until it is well incorporated.

    6. Bake 45 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch.

    7. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before inverting on a platter.

    Serve with whipped cream.