Profile: Retirees Jean Tremaine & Jim McGuire
Jean Tremaine and Jim McGuire are very good cooks. “I cook more, but Jim cooks better,” says Jean. They met in April 1975 on the boardwalk in Venice, California. “Our mutual friend and I were painting a bench there, and Jeannie stopped by,” remembers Jim.
The pair share a love for Italy, which they visit annually. They have crisscrossed the country many times, from Sicily to the Dolomites, and the regional culinary diversity inspires most of their cooking at home. “Once a month, we get together with friends and make pizza,” says Jim. “We’ll use our own sourdough starter and bake it in a special pizza oven.”
Jim has a considerable, meticulously organized library of recipe clippings collected from various sources over the years. “When I cook, I always like to make notes on the original version—how it tasted, and if I changed anything along the way,” he says. Their repertoire also includes Jean’s composed salads, barbecue and Thai food. They also enjoy cooking together with their daughter Selena.
Age both 67 — Hometown Jean: Sunset Beach, CA, Jim: San Bernardino, CA — Where do you live? Mar Vista, CA — Occupation Jean: Retired Public Health Administrator. Spent 7 years as Director of the Nutrition Program in the LA County Department of Public Health, Jim: Retired since end of February 2014. I was a psychiatric social worker for 22 years at a community mental health center. The last 20 years I worked as a program evaluator/researcher/administrator for VA's Veterans Health Administration implementing an outreach/linkage service betwen prisons, jails, and courts and VA for veterans in trouble with the law. It was a great job. — Signature dish Jean: Throw together a salad made with whatever is handy in the refrigerator. Last night it was a baby spinach salad with barbecued corn kernels, Greek olives, grilled pork slices and tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette. Jim: Tea-smoked duck — Who taught you how to cook? Jean: I just pick up things along the way. I never cooked as a child and have faked it through my adult life. Jim: Many folks along the way - my mother, my brother-in-law, housemates in my late 20s. Biggest influence/best teacher is my wife — Favorite kitchen tool Jean: Ceramic knife - great for cutting vegetables, Jim: Cuisinart — Always in your pantry Onions, coffee, anchovies, pasta, noodles, botarga — Go-to snack Jean: Almonds, Jim: Nuts — Favorite cuisine Jean: California hodge-podge, Jim: Italian - Tuscan, Sardinian, Sicilian, Neapolitan, Emilia-Romagnan — Do you diet? Jean: I watch portion size and order sensibly at restaurants. Jim: Not formally, but I try to watch portions and I listen to my wife to share dishes. And frequent exercise keeps the pounds in check. — Food addictions Jean: None, Jim: None, just a general addiction to good food, I suppose. — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve None — Who’s your sous chef? Jean: Usually no one. My meals are pretty simple. Jim: My wife, and my daughter and I'm their sous chef when they cook. — Drinking while cooking? Jean: Yes, please. Jim: Yes, wine and beer — What’s for dinner tonight? Jean: To be determined. I dream up the evening menu on the 5 p.m. dog walk. Jim: Porcini risotto — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Jean: No, it's only food. We haven't starved yet. Jim: Not usually. I just make notes about what went wrong and move on to the next try. — Best meal you ever had Jean: A beautiful 3 hour lunch in Tuscany at Poggio Antico, a slow, multi-course parade of gorgeous small dishes eaten outside on a gravel patio under a willow tree, overlooking a vineyard on a sunny day. Endless pleasure. Jim: In a restaurant in Beijing, China with Jean, our daughter Selena (who was 8 years old at the time). We were guests of a Red Army doctor, his wife and two teenage daughters. We had mostly seafood of very exotic range (sea slugs, sea cucumber) accompanied by Chinese beer, wine, and maotai.
Deconstructed Lamb Lasagna
This pasta dish is one of Jim’s top-five favorite recipes. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times, it came courtesy of Palomino, a restaurant in Westwood. It is called “deconstructed” because it uses mafalda pasta—a stamp-size version of regular lasagna noodles (available online or from specialty stores)—which is boiled and stirred into the sauces, instead of the traditional, casserole-layered way.
Making this dish requires a serious time commitment because it is composed of four different parts (buy the tomato sauce and eggplant caponata if you must), but the final result is more than worth it: a rich, complex, mouth-watering concoction of tomatoes, eggplant, fresh herbs, wine, cheese, lamb and pasta.
- Serves 4–6
- Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Eggplant Caponata
- 1 8-ounce eggplant, sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to brush eggplant slices
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to salt eggplant slices
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- ¼ cup onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ½ cup roasted red pepper, diced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Lamb Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ pound ground lamb
- ½ cup red wine
- ½ cup veal, beef or chicken demi-glace
- 1½ cups tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lasagna assembly
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- ½ cup olive oil, divided
- 10 ounces mafalda pasta
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons shallot, minced
- 2 cups lamb sauce, divided
- Eggplant caponata
- 1 cup Grana Padano, freshly grated
- 2 teaspoons vinegar
- ¼ cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- 4 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Prepare the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the basil, tomatoes with their juices, salt and pepper and cook 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. You should have about 2 cups of tomato sauce.
- Prepare the eggplant caponata. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Layer the eggplant slices on the baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and the pepper on both sides, and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the eggplant over and roast for another 15 minutes. Let cool and dice into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the herbs, tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Fold in the eggplant, salt, red pepper, vinegar and pepper flakes.
- Prepare the lamb sauce. Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the lamb and brown completely, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, scraping the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the tomato sauce and mint, and cook for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You should have about 2 cups of the lamb sauce.
- Lasagna assembly. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Layer the tomato slices on the baking sheet, brush with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes until soft and caramelized. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8–10 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil in a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in the cooked pasta, then 1½ cups of the lamb sauce. Stir in the eggplant caponata, Grana Padano and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Serve the pasta with the remaining lamb sauce spooned over. Garnish with the roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh parsley.
With small pieces of bread immersed in silky, vanilla-scented custard and scattered with crunchy, dried blueberries, this indulgent bread pudding is easy to make. “It is my favorite holiday dessert,” says Jean of this adaptation of a Williams-Sonoma recipe.
- Serves 4–6
- 3 cups white bread cubes, crust removed
- ½ cup dried blueberries
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups milk
- Whipped cream (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.
- Scatter the bread in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the blueberries on top.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Add the milk and combine. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over the bread and set aside for 20 minutes to moisten the bread. Tilt the dish occasionally to keep the bread evenly covered with the liquid.
- Place the dish in a baking pan and add hot water until it comes halfway up the sides. Bake until set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove from the baking dish and let cool. Serve chilled or at room temperature, and top with whipped cream.
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