Chef Todd English knows a lot about Mediterranean cooking. But he’s going to have to learn pick his words carefully as he opens Hollywood’s Beso restaurant with celebrity friend and partner, Eva Longoria Parker.
“It’s been a long pregnancy,” says English, explaining the process of setting up a fine-dining restaurant. But when it’s pointed out that he has to watch statements like that dealing with Parker, he answers, “You’re right, I have to be careful about things like that. Sorry.” But standing behind the bar at Beso as he prepared for Thursday’s grand opening, he can’t help but go back to the baby place again. “It’s happening,” he says. “We are birthing the baby.”
While the Iron Chef competitor’s metaphors will no doubt set the tabloid world aflame, Parker and English hope to set the culinary world on fire with the Beso (Spanish for “kiss”). As employees madly placed the finishing touches to the historic Hollywood location, Parker admired the handiwork. “Everything is painted, every candle is lit, every glass has arrived,” she tells PEOPLE with a wave of her hand. “So we re not like, ‘The chairs are not in!’ So far there has not been a catastrophic emergency happening. So I am very excited.”
I’m a little nervous too, she says. “But at least I don t have to cook.” She could if she had to: Unlike spoiled Gabby on on Desperate Housewives, Longoria knows how to work a frying pan: “You get pigeonholed into your character,” says English. “She’s a great cook, it comes from her soul.” Concurs Parker: “I’ll go to a restaurant and if I have an amazing dish I’ll go to the kitchen and ask the chef how he made it. And then I’ll make him teach me. You can ask [my husband] Tony [Parker], I do it all the time. I’ll leave him at the table for like 30 minutes.”
English says the actress has been very involved in the restaurant’s creation – from the etched Spanish poetry at the restaurant’s entrance (including one poem from Eva’s sister Emily), to picking out the three chandeliers which decorate the ceilings, to adding two specialties of the house – the guacamole and the tortilla soup. “I make the best guacamole in the world,” says Parker. “And my tortilla soup for which I am renowned for.” (Can’t make it to Beso? Try out Parker’s recipes below!)
First up to the table for Thursday’s opening, thrown by Hornitos tequila, will be Parker’s Desperate Housewives castmates. “We had a table ready today and everyone was like, ‘We cannot wait,” says Parker.” Doug Savant, Felicity [Huffman] and Nicolette [Sheriden], they all live around here.
So, is Parker thinking Beso, the franchise? “Let’s tackle this one restaurant at a time,” she said.
1 medium onion, medium dice
½ bunch of celery, medium dice
¼ cup garlic, chopped
1 pasilla pepper (a dried, mild chili), medium dice
1 jalepeño pepper, diced
½ cup olive oil
6 whole Roma tomatoes
6 cups hearty chicken stock
½ cup lime juice
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips, avocado, jalepeños or sour cream to garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350º. In a bowl, toss tomatoes with half of the oil, a pinch of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Spread on a baking pan and roast until light brown, 25-30 minutes.
2. While tomatoes are roasting, in a stock pot over medium heat, sauté onion, celery, peppers and garlic in remaining oil, stirring frequently until soft and translucent.
3. Add chicken stock, cayenne, chili powder, ground cumin seed, paprika and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes.
4. When tomatoes are light brown and their skins have begun to peel back, remove from oven and add to the broth.
5. Add chicken breasts, cut into strips. Simmer 10 minutes.
6. Using an immersion hand blender, or in batches in a food processor or blender, blend soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve piping-hot in large bowl, garnished with chopped avocado, tortilla chips, chopped jalepe os and sour cream. Other suggestions for garnish include diced red onion, chopped cilantro, salsa verde, sliced radishes and cooked, diced chicken. Adjust spices and seasonings to your taste. Enjoy!
8 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
Generous handful of cilantro, stems removed and chopped
3 small serrano peppers, seeded and chopped finely
Juice of 3-9 lemons, depending on your taste
Tortilla chips (Eva’s favorite are lime-flavored)
1. In a large bowl, mash avocados
2. Mix in tomatoes, onion, cilantro and peppers
3. Add lemon juice and salt to taste
4. Serve with tortilla chips
For more on Beso, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE!