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.