Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holly Jolly Christmas 2010.

Christmas 2010 was definitely holly and jolly. Not only did I have four days off, but I got to spend time with family and friends, socializing, cooking, and eating - what we do best! And isn't that part of the blessing of the holiday season??? Weeks before Christmas, my dad, stepmom and stepsister started planning the Christmas meal. I offered to make dessert and my Nana's traditional stuffing. We settled on a menu and at the last minute a few additional changes were made, but here's what we ended up with:

BBQ chicken and ribs (made by Dad and served with a traditional BBQ sauce and an apricot mint spicy sauce (Bobby Flay recipe);
Potatoes Au Gratin (made by Clarissa);
Traditional Stuffing (made by yours truly);
Green Bean Casserole (made by Clarissa);
Creme Brulee (made by Uncle Stormy); and
Molten Lava Chocolate Cakes (made by Madame Munchies).

Everything turned out fantastic, each dish was flavorful and complimented one another very well. Prior to making the stuffing, I had consulted my Nana about a few steps she didn't include in her recipe and I ended up tweaking it and making it my own. There's nothing like my Nana's stuffing and I think I actually improved it.

Nana's Traditional Stuffing (adapted by Madame Munchies)
Serves 8-10

2 large white onions, chopped fine
3-4 celery stalks, chopped fine
1/2 pint of button mushrooms, chopped fine
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped fine
4 tbs. unsalted butter
3-4 tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
15 oz. seasoned croutons
1 head of roasted garlic
1 lb. turkey necks
1 lb. turkey giblets
salt and pepper

In a large stockpot, add the turkey necks and giblets, cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim the foam and reduce to a simmer for 2-3 hours. Continue to skim as it simmers. Add more water to the pot, if any of the turkey parts are no longer submerged in water. When the stock is ready, strain and save the turkey necks. Discard the giblets. When cool to the touch, pull apart meat from turkey necks and chop finely.

While the giblet broth is simmering, heat a large skillet and add the butter. After the butter has melted, add the chopped onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms. Saute until soft and add the fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl, add the seasoned croutons, sauteed veggies, turkey meat, and roasted garlic. Mix together well. With a ladle, add the giblet broth to the crouton mixture and incorporate. Add additional broth, until the mixture is moist but not super soggy. Season to taste.

Put the stuffing into a lightly greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350-375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

I failed to get a picture of the molten chocolate lava cakes, but the link above gives you the visual as well as the recipe. A super easy dessert and it's also rather impressive for entertaining. Instead of serving it with it freshly whipped cream, I bought a pint of vanilla bean ice cream. Decadent, rich and uber chocolately, it was the perfect ending to an already coma-induced meal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trip Down Mediterranean (Sorta) Lane......

Has it really been over two months since my last post? Yikes, I should be put in a corner -"bad blogger". The truth is my mind has been elsewhere and personally speaking, I've been in a major funk since October, but I'm beginning to see the light of day again and I am. I hope you'll take me back with open arms! Otherwise no holiday cookies for you!

Before I left for Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with family, I invited my dad and his wife, Clarissa, over for a Sunday supper. It's the first time I've had them both over for dinner and I was jazzed about my menu, which I faithfully planned all week long. Have you ever just been in the mood for lamb? I mean, there's something about it - delicate, fragrant, tender and if you're able to source amazing lamb, it's not gamey at all. Luckily, I've been spoiled rotten the last ten months living in Los Feliz, with McCall's Meat & Fish Co in my neighborhood. I chose to go with rack of lamb (Colorado rack of lamb to be exact) and I was a bit nervous. I've cooked many cuts of lamb before but there's something about the rack that is intimidating. Thanks to Nathan (co-owner at McCalls) for putting my worries at ease, he shared secret society tips on how to roast that rack to perfection and I'm not lying kids, it was perfection.

Seasoned with salt and pepper, I seared the lamb in a super hot pan with a swig of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then I transferred the lamb to a roasting dish and put in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes (to obtain medium rare temp). Nathan recommended checking it at around 20 minutes (which depending on your oven at home, I agree is the best policy). Not pictured above, I made an apricot chutney to accompany the lamb. It's a Mark Bittman recipe and is easy-peasy to make - sugar, vinegar, chopped dried apricots, cloves, ginger, star anise and bam, you've got magic. Dad and Clarissa really enjoyed the chutney.

I served the lamb with cinnamon scented basmati rice (all I did to achieve this was stick two cinnamon sticks in with the rice wile it cooked)- it was so fragrant, warm and inviting you to taste every morsel. I've been a big fan of Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef, and several weeks ago, she posted a warm zucchini salad with harissa dressing, kalamata olives and feta. Click here for the recipe. Instead of steaming the zucchini I opted to saute the, but I think this would be delicious if you roasted the zucchini too.

Needless to say, it was one of my finer meals that I've served and I was smiling for days. I hope during this holiday season you are finding something to smile about!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall....a misnomer in L.A.

We haven't exactly had fall weather here in Los Angeles. We experienced one of the most mild summers and by default, we've had a sizzling heat wave entering the "fall" season, however my palette is definitely yearning for some fall favorites.

I'm back on the cookbook hunt for cookbooks devoted to seasonality. I'm becoming more and more interested in cooking and eating seasonally, however it can be intimidating. I mean, where does one begin?? Sure, it's a good idea to start strolling through farmer's markets, but for some (including me), it can be slightly daunting. You will find hidden treasures, troves of hearty vegetables coming into season and you will find the last fruits of summer hanging on for dear life, but like many, one can easily become overwhelmed when it comes to preparing meals involving these beautiful ingredients.

That's where a book like Earth to Table comes into play. I recommend you curl up on your couch, accompanied by your favorite glass of wine, while perusing this well-loved cookbook. It's easy to see where and how inspirations rears its playful little head throughout this book. Seasonal cooking is about allowing the ingredients to shine, letting them take center stage and show off their best. Perhaps even allow them to take a solo or perform a classic monologue. Either way, seasonal cooking shouldn't be about racking your brain, but taking the time to step back and let the ingredients speak for themselves.

This braised short rib dish was no joke. Gently simmering in beef stock, a hearty red wine, herbs and mirepoix, these short ribs were singin' for MY supper. What's great about a dish like this is that while it takes time, it doesn't take alot of "active" time. In fact, while the short ribs were having a party in my Le Creuset dutch oven, I was busy preparing a side dish to accompany the short ribs. Trusting the authors behind Earth to Table, I made a parsnip and apple puree, which to the common eyeball looks like another mound of creamy mashed potatoes, but you would be surprised. It was a first for me and I was pleasantly surprised, the juicy apple made a handsome couple with the rooty tooty parsnip. Creamy, slightly sweet with a lil' tang, the puree complimented the braised short ribs without overpowering them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Get Your Juices Flowin.

There are moments. Moments where all is right with the world and especially moments where all is right in the kitchen. Last night was one of those precious moments (and I'm not talkin' about those cheesy figurines some of you collected back in the 80s, no offense to those who are still collecting). Most nights I have a plan for dinner and if not, I have some go-to items for those nights when cooking isn't realistic.

On Monday night, I made a pit-stop at Whole Foods to pick up a few veggies and fruits for the week. I tend to stay clear of packaged veggies but there was a pre-packaged container of stir fry veggies that caught my eye. Chunks of portabella and crimini mushrooms, leeks, napa cabbage, ginger, and bok choy. I was caught up in the "moment" and figured what the hell....I'll give it a whirl. I decided to make a stir fry of these veggies and for the main course I was going to make a piece of halibut (which I purchased from my favorite butcher/fishmonger, McCall's).

So last night was D-day. Earlier in the day, instead of working, I was day dreaming about how to prepare the halibut. I came up with a lemon panko crusted halibut. Added lemon zest, salt and pepper to some panko bread crumbs. Made a egg eash and a plate with all-purpose flour. Three steps - put fish in egg wash, then flour, then panko bread crumbs mixture. I seared the piece of fish in some olive oil before finishing it off in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

My biggest dilemma was a sauce for the stir-fried veggies. I would not be satisfied with soy sauce alone. So I made a little concoction while the veggies were cookin' and the halibut was roasting. The concoction consisted of chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili paste in soybean oil. I didn't measure, I just played around with amounts and found the perfect consistency (but if I were to guess-timate, I would say, 1 tbs. chili garlic sauce, 1/2 tsp. sesame oil, 1/2 tbs. soy sauce, 1 tbs. chili paste in soybean oil). About two mintes before I took the halibut out, I tossed this concoction with the veggies and let it simmer. Squeezed some lemon juice over the fish and the meal was complete. Sweet victory!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just Golden.

Last weekend, a bunch of friends went up to Big Bear Lake for a mini getaway. Because of work schedules and the volume of food we were bringing, we ended up taking separate cars to mountains. My pal, Richard and I, made a pit stop at Jonathan Gold's beloved Golden Deli in Alhambra. Hey, we had to kill some time avoiding nasty traffic and what better way then to have a lil' foodie adventure on the way?!?!?

Golden Deli has been on my list for quite some time now. Richard has mentioned it numerous times to all of us and Gold of the L.A. Weekly swears that Golden Deli has the best Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I'm a huge fan of pho and Vietnamese spring rolls, so I was really looking forward to trying this place out.

It's a hole-in-the-wall in a small strip mall and from what Richard was telling me, it's always packed. There's always a line, but for whatever reason we summoned the foodie gods and were able to get a table quickly. It was hustling in there, everyone was intent and focused on their menus and dishes. This isn't a place you screw around, you are there for the food and everyone knows it.

Richard suggested I try their fried pork with steamed rice and this scallion compote. I was game. The fried pork with short-grain steamed rice was tantalizing. Crispy, peppery without feeling heavy in your tummy, I could've devoured all of that pork. The perfect ratio of fat to meat, topped with a compote of scallions - it brightening the pork and your tastebuds.

I had to order a traditional bowl of pho and of course, the spring rolls. Piping hot, crunchy, delicate rolls, stuffed with pork, pepper, and julienned vegetables. One could eat the rolls all by themselves alongside that not-so-powerful fish sauce for dipping or swimming, whatever you prefer. Wrapped in a piece of lettuce with bean sprouts, cucumber, mint and basil, these rolls are worth living and dying for. If you forced me to only order one thing at Golden Deli, it would have to be the spring rolls. They are addictive in every sense of the word.

Pho is a tricky dish, you either love it or you don't. I can't use that four-letter "h" word because my feelings for pho are quiet the contrary. The beef based broth simmers with flavors of anise and other warm spices and the rice noodles swimming in this complex broth are as happy as can be. In terms of protein, your options are plentiful, however, I went a fairly traditional route and had the rare beef and tendon. Paper thin slices of beef garnish the top of your bowl of pho, immediately forcing you to swirl the meat around in the broth so that is properly cooks. A plate full of various condiments and toppings is always served with pho. Each pho joint may do things a lil' different, but the essentials include, sliced onion, jalapeno, lime, bean sprout, basil and mint. It's your choice, add a few tablespoons of hoisin or chili paste too, if you want to kick it up a notch. There isn't one way to do pho, unlike Burger King, YOU CAN HAVE IT YOUR WAY! I've been told pho is the great cure for a hangover, Lord, knows it definitely hits the spot on a rainy day or if you've got the sniffles. Pho is an ironic dish, it's simple and complex.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Portland: Pratically Perfect in Every Way.

Two weekends ago, I took a jet plane to Portland - met my mom there for a glorious and jam packed weekend and the main purpose was to attend the 2010 Zine Symposium. Portland is a hub of zinesters and aficionados when it comes to all things, zines, do-it-yourself publications and independent publishing. For more info on what a zine is, click here and for a mini tutorial, click here.

Mom and I had a grand plan from the time she picked me up at PDX until she dropped me off Sunday night. The first plan of attack was heading to Powell's Bookstore, downtown Portland. Powell's is a book lover's paradise, it covers several blocks of downtown Portland and there are color-coded rooms where various sections live. Of course, I was hunkered down in the cooking section, which was so well-stocked, it blew my mind.

My friends, Pete and Sarah, Portland ex pats (only for a temporary time though, they will return one day), recommended several restaurants, including The Farm Cafe where we dined Friday night. Farm Cafe is quaint home converted into a charming, cozy restaurant. Local, sustainable and carefully selected ingredients are worshipped and adored at this highly praised restaurant. It continues to win the hearts of locals and boasts a number of accolades. Mom had the pleasure of dining here last summer with some gal pals (thanks again to Pete and Sarah for the suggestion) and she ordered the pan crusted tofu with caramelized onions, mushrooms and mashed potatoes. As if that isn't enough to make your tummy happy, it's all surrounded by a sweet marsala sauce. We also shared an appetizer of halibut fish cakes that were served with a sundried tomato aioli. We could've eaten these alone for dinner and I would've been satisfied. I was torn between several dishes on the menu, but the call of goat cheese ravioli was too overwhelming to pass up, so I succumbed like an alcoholic. Mom and I shared the blueberry and peach cobbler for dessert, and left the Farm Cafe in quite a deliriously happy state.

Saturday marked the beginning of the Zine Symposium which was located at Portland State University (also located downtown) and lucky for us, the gym was a hop skip and a jump from the Saturday Farmer's Market which is held at the university every Saturday. Your eyes would pop out of your head at all the farmers and various of foodie vendors. Hypothetically, one could do all of their grocery shopping here at the market - flowers, cheese, bread, oils, jams, pickles, veggies, fruit, seafood, poultry...the list goes on and on. In addition, there are some amazing breakfast/lunch options while buying some groceries at the market. I had a homemade artichoke heart and cotija stuffed tamale and my mom had a savory french crepe stuffed with cheese and grilled veggies. When visiting another city, I always try to stroll through their local farmer's market, if they have one, it says so much about the city and gives me an excuse to take tons of great photos!

The Laughing Planet Cafe is a eclectic cafe that serves healthy quesadillas, burritos, tacos, bowls, other words, the works! Funky and electrically painted and decorated, this cafe automatically puts you in a good mood with their friendly staff and rockin 70s tunes. I had a yummy chicken burrito filled to the max with grilled veggies and my mom ordered a quesadilla stuffed with tons of veggies too. The trio of salsas each brought a unique aspect to each bite and neither of us felt "guilty" about eating our meals. We even sat outside on a picnic bench and enjoyed the cool weather as we dined and caught up on life and all we experienced at the first day of the Zine Symposium.

No trip to Portland would be complete without a pit stop at two of Portland's most famous places - Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Voodoo Doughnuts. Stumptown to Portland is what Intelligentsia and LA Mill is to Los Angeles, a coffee connoisseur's haven. Urban hipsters unite for good coffee, mellow vibes and hanging out at Stumptown, and of course a cup of java that will blow your mind. Now Voodoo Doughnuts is a very special place too, open 24 hours, this sugar fix joint thrives on its delicious donuts but also on its quirky menu, including donuts topped with your favorite childhood cereal and "adult themed" donuts for your wedding or bachelor parties (I kid you not). Voodoo has been featured on Man vs. Food and several other foodie t.v. programs. No wonder we waited 30 minutes for a donut, but the wait was absolutely worth it!

There were so many other wonderful memories, my mom and I shared while in Portland, this city is a very special place on so many levels and I can see why people choose it as a home base. It's beautiful with trees, trees and more trees, the river is close. Portland is a hub of culture, creativity and diversity. Magical place, it really is and I can't wait to go back someday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Party Favors.

I can't believe I haven't posted anything here in a month, bad blogger, bad blogger!!! My apologies to all of you devoted followers. It's been quite a busy month, between work, birthday parties, going away parties and this past weekend my dad got married. Several months ago my dad and his wife asked me to bake party favors for their guests. We settled on 2 cookies each of the following cookies: my famous chocolate chip cookies, lemon clove cookies (a recipe by Alice Waters) and linzer cookies (the best recipe from Martha Stewart, of course). So I decided to share these with you all, even though none of you can take a bite. I know I'm such a tease.

I decided to package them in Chinese take-out boxes and tie a bit of red tulle for some color. They turned out great and I received several compliments from guests at the reception. The chocolate chip cookies are one of my go-to recipes, it's actually a recipe from a vintage Better Crocker cookbook for kids. These cookies are ridiculously soft and the real key to doing these justice is two fold: 1. the combination of oil and butter and 2. letting the cookie dough rest overnight in the fridge.

I've been an avid fan of Alice Waters' work at Chez Panisse and came across her recipe for Lemon Clove cookies many moons ago. This citrus infused butter cookie is bright and cheery, like sunshine on a crisp morning. Accompanied by a hot cup of java or tea us the perfect accoutrement for this delicate cookie.

When I was in college, I was a devout fan of Martha Stewart and developed a deep respect for linzer cookies, especially her recipe for them. This is another butter cookie rolled in ground hazelnuts and then dolloped with a thumbprint of seedless raspberry jam in the middle. It's one of my dad's favorites and he requested it for the party favors.

I'm seriously considering offering a cookie take-out box for parties, etc. Depending on the request and number of cookies, each box will range from $4-6. If you're interested, please send me an e-mail at for more information.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Lamb Pita-wich.

I've raved and ranted about McCall's Meat and Fish, several times since it's grand opening in February of 2010. Ever since I've been a foodie, it's been one of my mini-dreams to have a local butcher in my neighborhood. Call it divine intervention, this randomly occurred when I moved to Los Feliz in February too. It was the joining of two loves and I've been devoted to this neighborhood joint ever since.

Nathan and Karen (the dynamic owners of McCalls) are passionate about what they do, both have A+ resumes in the restaurant industry, and are committed to serving only the best, primo cuts of meat, fowl, game and seafood. I kinda feel like I won the foodie lottery to be honest. Every other weekend when I make my morning grocery run, I stop by to pick up a few essentials and a few non-essentials. About two months ago, I broke down and tried their homemade lamb sausages (mind you, all of the sausages they sell are made there at the shop). It's safe to say, I've got a slight addiction, because since then, I always order 4 lamb sausages. They are made with some harissa and other spices and I've come up with this recipe, that is quick, easy and uber mouth watering.

I call it the Lamb Pita-wich. Insert laughter here. And here. And here again.

Depending on hunger factor, I cook up one or two lamb sausages in a skillet over medium-ish heat with a smidgen of olive oil. Because these sausages are skinny, they are done in about 4-5 minutes. While the sausages are cooking, I heat up my oven and throw in one piece of the Middle Eastern Flatbread from Trader Joe's (another addiction) just to warm it up (for about a minute or two). I slather the flatbread with some hummus and tahini sauce, some arugula, the sausage and a sprinkling of feta. There are infinite possibilities here, sometimes I add a layer of tapenade too. This pita-wich is fit for anyone with an appetite. So the only thing you have to do now is jump your car, head over to McCall's and TJ's, you will send me a thank you note and maybe some flowers, I promise.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Fruit Reigns Supreme!

Several years ago, I hosted a Christmas dinner party for a group of 20 people. One of my dear gal pals has pestered me several times since I've been back in LA regarding one of the desserts I made that night. I've been scratching my head over this one for months, only remembering that it was a fruit crisp and that raspberries were part of the delectable equation.

Call it a sign of age, but about a month ago I was flipping through one of Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa" cookbooks and came across a peach and raspberry crisp recipe. Immediately, I remembered, that this was it, the one my gal pal was referring to - the great dessert mystery had been solved. Without a moment of hesitation, I texted my gal pal and told I thought I had solved the great mystery and offered to make it for you her birthday (which falls on the 4th of July).
This fruit crisp stars the ever-so-loved summer berries, raspberries and summer's favorite stone fruit, peaches. What's great about this recipe is that you can easily substitute the fruit depending on personal preference as well as "what's in season". Given the fact that the farmer's markets are overflowing with berries, I decided to add a pint of blueberries to the mix. The chewy, crispy topping is made of oatmeal, flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon (I also took some liberties and added some cloves and nutmeg). The birthday girl was definitely pleased and so was everyone else. For once, there were leftovers and I have to say, this crisp gets better with age.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meatball Mania.

I have a pile of recipes (no joke) that I've been collecting for what feels like eons. Meatballs are one of those treats that you either love or hate. For me, I forgot how much I enjoyed a good homemade meatball. But thanks to Luisa Weiss, I'm once again, a believer. This isn't your typical meatball recipe, there is no marinara sauce and it's made completely with ground pork.

Mediterranean is the flavor base, this meatball recipe features two "dressings" - one with yogurt and one with mint. The yogurt dressing is spiked with cumin and a little sugar and the mint dressing is really more of a vinaigrette with shallots and red wine vinegar. Both dressings really complemented the juicy meatballs. The yogurt sauce cooled your palette and the cumin added a subtle bold hint of woodsy perfume. The mint vinaigrette was fresh and cleansing. I'm adding this one to my book, I think it will make a great appetizer for a dinner party.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Budget Bustin' Weeknight Meal.

Like the rest of the U.S. population, I too, am trying to be creative in my kitchen. Not only creative in a culinary sense, but also when it comes to my pocketbook. We all have our "go-to" recipes, a few winners that we know we could bust out at anytime. It's been quite some time since I've made this one myself, but it's one of my most favorite chicken dishes. It's great during the week or if you're planning on inviting a few friends over for a feast.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken is easily one of my kitchen hat tricks and tonight I busted it out. Chicken parts are marinated overnight in a sauce of ginger, garlic, honey and soy sauce. Could it get any simpler than that? You bake it for 30 minutes covered and then bake it for another 30 minutes uncovered. And you end up with super moist chicken. It's sweet, almost decadent and well, slightly addictive. The sauce alone is worth its weight in gold. I usually make rice to go with it since it soaks up all those yummy juices and extra sauce. And trust me there is plenty of sauce to drizzle around your plate. Bon appetit!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Say This Ten Times Fast...

Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung. Okay, you catch my drift, how did you do??? Well, perhaps you find yourself tongue-tied or maybe you drifted into a deep meditative state while saying the name of this famous dumpling house. Either way, you're setting yourself up for copious amounts of culinary pleasure, this I can promise you. Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Weekly even recommends you go to Din Tai Fung before you die and I'm jumping on this bandwagon myself after eating there last night with a bunch of friends. This place was jam-packed and apparently unless you hustle and get there right when it opens, you're likely to stand outside and wait for a table. Large round tables and a couple of booths are filled with people slurping away. It's hopping there, the servers are hard core, it's all about filling the order and clearing the tables. This isn't a restaurant to lounge around and eat your dumplings leisurely, you are in it to win it.
The dumplings were light, juicy, full-flavored bites of pork and/or shrimp goodness. Dipped in a ginger based sauce with soy and vinegar, these dumplings rival any dumpling you've had otherwise. We had juicy pork dumplings, vegetable dumplings, fish dumplings, pork and shrimp dumplings,juicy pork and crab dumplings and the list goes on. What tops the juicy dumplings above the others are pockets of juicy pork fat that has melted inside the dumpling.The fried pork chop rice was pretty ridiculous too, the perfect ratio of meat to fat. I'm already planning my next rendezvous there with another batch of friends. They also served several sweet dumplings like the red bean dumplings and the sesame buns which were filled with this black sesame paste. This dumpling gem is too good to hide from all of you. Run, don't walk to Din Tai Fung, you'll be thanking me. You may even invite me to join you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smashing, Dahling, Simply Smashing....

Have you listened to Spilled Milk podcasts yet? If you haven't, you're in for a real treat and if you have, then you already have experienced the charm and wit behind Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton's wildly fun and devout foodie podcasts. I've been catching up on past episodes while cleaning my house and when it came time for the Crispy Potato episode, I was in tater-heaven.

Featured above, is the Smashed Roasted Potatoes (adapted from a recipe featured in a 2007 issue of Fine Cooking). I just happened to have purchased a bag of teeny tiny baby potatoes on my last Trader Joe's run, so it was an easy excuse to give this recipe a try. It requires very little effort really, and the majority of the time takes place on top of your stove or inside your oven. Trust me, this recipe will make your heart sing and your tongue dance. I mean, what is more comforting, then potato in all of its form (all of its glory)?!?! I tossed these bad boys with some of that lemon basil pesto I made over the weekend too and turned out to be a smashing hit (pun intended). What's great about a recipe like this is that when you entertain and pull these out of the oven, your friends will ooh and aahh over them and you my friends will know exactly the amount of effort these root vegetable gems took!

If you don't have any pesto on hand, maybe a plentiful drizzle of chimichurri or a toss with some flavored evoo and rosemary or oregano). The world really is your potato (or oyster, whatever suits your fancy).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pass the Pesto, Please.

You have heard me rant and rave about the CSA I joined earlier this year, Silverlake Farms. This week's surprise was lemon basil. I was just tickled pink with this gem of an herb. Last night, I really thought about how to best this fragrant herb and decided to make a lemon basil pesto. As a devout foodie, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that this is only the second time I've made a pesto. I saw you roll your eyes and maybe you can hear my big sigh, but alas, it's true. I immediately ran to my cookbook library (duly located in my kitchen) and pull my trusty copy of Mark Bittman's, How to Cook Everything to locate a basic pesto recipe. Yet again, Mark does not disappoint me.
I've included the recipe below, but please note that I used walnuts and in addition to extra virgin olive oil, I included some crushed lemon olive oil I purchased from Beyond the Olive in Pasadena. The pesto turned out perfecto, if I do say so myself. Best described as fruity and mild citrus notes, this pesto would be divine tossed with pasta, or spread over a grilled piece of meat, or even best, tossed with roasted potatoes. Oh we are talking and my mouth is watering just thinking of all the possibilities.
Basic Pesto (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)
  • 2 loosely packed cups of fresh basil leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbs. pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
  • 1/2 c. evoo
  • 1/2 freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese

In a food processor combine the basil, salt, garlic, pine nuts and about half the olive oil. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and occasionally adding the rest of oil. Store in fridge for 1-2 weeks or freeze for several months.

Mark recommends that if you are going to freeze the pesto, to do it without the addition of the cheese.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Lil' Twist: Bacon N' Pea Mac N' Cheese

A couple of weeks ago while perusing the internet for new cookbook releases, I found a link for Poor Girl Gourmet, Amy McCoy's first cookbook. Of course the title drew me into its web of mystery and allure. Who could resist checking out a book for foodies on a budget? After reading the reviews, I discovered that Ms. McCoy started this venture in a blog duly named the same title - Poor Girl Gourmet. Being the lil' research girl that I am, I just had to check it out and see what her recipes entailed. I spent a significant amount of free time bookmarking several recipes, but this one is the one I made last night for dinner. The recipe is an adaptation of a Barefoot Contessa recipe and I took it a few steps further and adapted it a lil' more. My local butcher/fishmonger store, McCalls Meat & Fish Co, sells the best smoked bacon, so I substituted the pancetta for the bacon. Since the bacon included a decent amount of fat, I sauteed the peas and shallots in the bacon fat (so I skipped out on the olive oil). I also opted not to coat the panko bread crumbs in melted butter prior to topping the mac n cheese. At this point, it was a lazy issue, I didn't want to clean another stinkin' pan last night.

The bechamel sauce was studded with Gruyere, an underrated cheese in my estimation. This mac n cheese recipe has that "star quality" and could easily be adapted to one's personal preferences. As I was putting together all of the elements last night, I started to dream of other additions and combinations - caramelized onions, sausage, roasted asparagus or roasted broccoli, the list does go on and on and on. Nonetheless, I was very pleased with how the mac n cheese turned out and I'm looking forward to give some of Amy's other recipes a whirl.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 10: Optimism

Dian Reid's Authenticity Blog Challenge is winding down, can you believe it? Tomorrow is June 30th! Last night, I had this thought, actually it was more like a mental beating with a baseball bat - I realized there were still four more topics to go in the challenge and it wasn't looking like I would be able to finish all four topics. I started to talk negatively. Why can't you finish what you started? Why can't you finish what you started? Why can't you finish what you started? Why can't you finish what you started? Okay, you get the gist of where I'm headed with this.

The truth is I should feel optimistic - I actually started a challenge and I did finish it. I wrote ten entries, ten topics, ten posts all about me. I have always wanted to participate in something like this - I easily get inspired by these challenges and then I also get defeated before I've even given the challenge a chance. Thoughts like "Nobody cares what you have to write about besides food", "Nobody will read these entries", "Nobody cares" and the truth is maybe some people haven't enjoyed my participation in this challenge, but I didn't participate for anyone else, but me.

Yes, when it comes to my writing, I'm very passionate about food, the culinary arts, recipes, restaurants, etc. but I'm also beginning to get optimistic and passionate about me. There's more to this girl than a foodie blog and I guess I wanted to explore that here at Madame Munchies. This blog is much more than an extracurricular activity, it's a part of me that I share with you out there in cyberland. So instead of choosing negative thoughts, I'm choosing positive thoughts instead. I did what Dian Reid invited us to take part of:

"I’m engaging my community (that’s you!) because these thirteen topics can change the world. They can change the world, but not just if I write about them; only if we write about them."

I hope in some small way my contribution changed the world.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 9: Truth.

Continuing this week with Dian Reid's Authenticity Blog Challenge (only 4 more topics to go before the end of June) and today's topic is truth. So here's what I came up with:
Transformational: Truth can be transform you. It often can be a hard pill to swallow, some of us even turn a blind eye or deaf ear because we don't really want to hear/see the truth. If we acknowledge truth, then we can't hide from it any longer.
Reality: Truth is real. There are no half-truths and I don't buy into the "truth is relative" bit either. If truth is relative then it's easy to shrug it off and most will not take responsibility for their part.
Understanding: Truth requires understanding, it requires us taking the time and energy to assess, evaluate and reflect upon what is true.
Treasured: Often times truth can be rare and valuable jewel. It's something to be treasured.
Humbling: Truth can also be humbling, whether we are receiving it and giving it.
I want to embody truth and honesty. it's not always easy, but I would definitely like to strive for it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 8: Fairness.

For today's Authenticity Blog challenge, the topic is fairness. I've been staring at this topic and nothing has inspired me or sparked my inner writer until this morning. I visited a church in Downtown LA called New City Church. They are studying the book of Ephesians and today's, message focused on Ephesians 4:31-32; the subject - forgiveness. So you may scratching your head, sipping your second or third cup of coffee and asking, "What the heck does forgiveness have to do with fairness?".
No matter what your spiritual inclinations lean toward or away from, one of the basic tenants of Jesus' teachings was forgiveness. There's that old adage, you can forgive but you'll never forget. It's almost become "PC" to forgive but not forget. We have this built-in system that seeks justice, vengeance and fairness. But today I'm challenged. Forgiveness is an extension of grace and there isn't a prerequisite or a post-requisite for forgiveness. It's a decision first, not necessarily a feeling first. If we waited to feel like forgiving, let's be honest, it more than likely would not occur. And in all "fairness", we would all be walking around bitter, angry and probably alone. Now is that fairness???
I guess I'm evaluating where I'm at - in fact, I'll admit forgiveness is not something I extend gracefully, no pun intended. I too get sucked into the cycle of, this isn't fair! I've been wronged! It's not my fault! And in some cases, that may be true, but in most situations, I've played a part. Knowingly or unknowingly. But the truth is I'm not innocent, I''m just as screwed up as the next and as much grace as I think I deserve, so does everyone else.