Tuesday, June 30, 2009

underneath it all

Matty's leaving for tour again this Thursday, and since he and Kingsize will be rocking the sold-out House of Blues Sunset with Stone Temple Pilots tomorrow, the don't-know-why-I-cook-for-you-when-you-leave-me-for-weeks-at-a-time, I mean special, dinner happened tonight.

I was kind of at a loss on dinner ideas - I think I used up all my creative baking juices this weekend. Nothing in my bookmarks sounded right. Thankfully, we chatted in the afternoon, and he mentioned he wanted pork chops. Fire up the Google!

I felt I hit the jackpot when I came across Salt-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Fingerling Potatoes. I've always been curious about the salt-roasting method, and this seemed a fun first try.

It was very easy, since there's not really a lot of hands-on time, I thought I'd add the Mushroom Bourbon Cream Sauce from another pork recipe I found. Wow. I could have called the sauce dinner, but good manners prevailed, and it was served over top the sweet, tender, juicy pork medallions. The pork looks a little pink in the photo, but I've never really been nervous about pink pork, so I ate it anyway. I don't think it will keep me from rocking out tomorrow night, but I'll keep you posted.

The potatoes are best kept thumb-sized in order to cook properly. We had some irregularly-shaped, larger potatoes, and they were edible, but still a bit firm after the allotted cooking time. No worries, though - we just picked through the smaller ones, and I'm sure the larger ones will be fine once nuked tomorow.

Monday, June 29, 2009

we go together

My sweet friend Daisy had her first solo art show at The Hive in Silverlake and asked me to cater the event. I was thrilled to. And because I'm not going to describe these gorgeous paintings any better than this, here's the blurb:

This show is a series of paintings on wood panels that explore the fleeting themes of life, beauty and the natural world. The impact that humans have had on our surrounding natural environment drives the juxtaposition between endangered and recently extinct animals with female forms, each reflecting the culture and geography that surrounds each animal.

For this show, I wanted to do a set of global tapas themed to the nationality of each painting. For the Dodo and French Woman (in the above entrance painting), I made a batch of chocolate and lemon madeleines. As I was cleaning up at the end of the night, two girls walked up to the table and sighed, "Oh, they put the cookies away!" Having overheard them, I pulled them from my car and sent them home with the leftovers - one, in the most charming French accent, said, "These are madeleines, no? My grandmother used to make [lemon ones] just like these." Perhaps one of the greatest compliments I've ever received.

Next up is a tie-in between two different paintings: the Komodo Dragon and Indonesian Woman (top), and the Snow Leopard and Mongolian Woman (bottom). To streamline the table, I made Turkey Meatballs with two dipping sauces, a Sambal Kacang, or Peanut Sauce and Mongolian Barbecue Sauce.

I know Mongolian BBQ has nothing to do with Mongolian culture, but in my research, I did read that a lot of Mongolian food is influenced by their Chinese neighbors, so I didn't feel too inauthentic. And I can't say the turkey meatballs are very Asian (especially since they came from Rachael Ray), but I thought turkey would be easier for a crowd than red meat.

For the California Condor and Esslen Indian, I had visions of corn and pumpkin, and when the Corn Macque Choux I made was such a great success, I replicated it for the show, to be served on toasted baguette slices as a sort of bruschetta.

The Tasmanian Tiger and Aboriginal Woman gave me the most trouble. Nothing I was coming across tied in well with the other dishes. I ended up with a lot of nut/berry citations, so I ended up doing a sort of trail mix with macadamia nuts, and dried peaches and berries.

The Polar Bear and Inuit Woman and Passenger Pigeon and Victorian Woman also lent themselves to a combo dish - Stuffed Baguettes with a Smoked Salmon Tartare filling for our Inuit, and a Cucumber Mint filling for our Victorian. I guess I should have made more because they were the only item that was all gone when I went to clean up. :)

Last (but definitely not least - if I had a gun to my head and was forced to choose a favorite, this would be it), I made a Marinated Bok Choy Salad for the Baiji Dolphin and Chinese Woman. I loved the dressing for this, and when I was testing the recipe last week, I was amazed to find that the dressed bok choy still was still fresh and crisp, and hadn't wilted after 2 hours in the fridge. Since I was only dropping off the food before scurrying across town for a wedding, I didn't want to push my luck with dressing the salad 6 hours before show time, but it's good to know for other occasions.

And since I wasn't there for the show, I can't take any credit for the lovely set-up, but here's a shot Daisy took of the spread. Thanks, Daisy! Like you didn't have enough to do Saturday night!

If you're in LA, do stop at The Hive to check these out in person. The pictures do not do them justice! They'll be hanging until August 5th.

The Hive
1402 Micheltorena St.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Sunday, June 28, 2009

more, more, more

Let me tell you how I came to have this delicious noodle creation (rice spaghetti with chopped bok choy added in the final minute of pasta cooking, topped with leftover turkey meatballs and the finest peanut sauce known to humans) for lunch. At 6:00p.

These cookies. Yes, the Hollywood Master Chorale had our final concert of the season tonight, and I was to bake 200 cookies for the post-show reception.

I woke up at 8:30a to get started, and I had managed to putter about and get nothing done by 9:30a, so I was frankly getting kind of anxious and even told Matty that I would be okay with stopping at a bakery somewhere and having someone else fulfill my obligation.

But Matty left for rehearsal around 10a, and I slowly but surely started going through each recipe, and things kind of just fell into place. After a while it actually got methodical and soothing - I knew I was going to get everything done and still have time to iron my concert attire. I hate ironing.

I started with Ginger Green Tea Biscotti. This actually didn't help my nerves because I hadn't fully read the instructions and didn't realize that they were going to take an hour to bake - 20 minutes in log form, and then 20 minutes per slide after slicing the logs. I consoled myself by telling myself that I could prep all the slice-and-bake cookies for the fridge/freezer while the biscotti baked.

So into the oven the biscotti went, and into the fridge went the Chocolate-Espresso Shortbread I previously tested here, the Coconut Cookies that I've made several times and were in the last concert's tray, and the Key Lime Meltaways I've had bookmarked ever since I saw them on Deb's site.

The chocolate-espresso and coconut were good as ever, and the meltaways were a complete dream. The powdered sugar is key here - the cookie itself is lovely, but it becomes transcendent (I've been using that word a lot lately) when enrobed in some powdered sugar. Swoon.

As the biscotti neared the end of their tenure in the oven, I started making the batter for the Banana Cookies and my friend Hilary's Heath Bar Cookies since they would both just be drop cookies and wouldn't require chilling. The banana cookies were definitely pale, homely wallflowers, but they definitely made up for their looks with their big hearts (and by big hearts, I mean warm, fluffy, whoopie pie-ish interiors). I considered replacing the white sugar with brown but then didn't, which I regretted. Will have to try again with brown. And speaking of whoopie pie, I would also like to try them in a sandwich around some peanut butter or dulce de leche buttercream. Have mercy.

Hilary's cookies are pure crack, says my fellow alto and good friend Jessie. She literally ran across the reception hall to me to inquire of their ingredients. You can see why she's my favorite. :)

After the drop cookies were done, the slice-and-bakes were ready to go, and then it was just a matter of tidying up in between rotating baking sheets. The cookies were well-received, and it gave me a glow of pride to see people crowding the tray and picking up the card to see which cookies they should sample. Can't wait to do it again in December!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

i'm gonna make a change

About a week or so ago, I rolled solo into a friend's rock-and-roll comedy show, and luckily found a seat with my friend Ami and her friend at a four-top. Now I knew this venue had a drink minimum, but that was just the beginning of our annoyances. We were immediately pushed into putting our first and then our second drink orders, and before we were basically kicked out of the room at the end of the show (god forbid we might actually want to say hello to another friend before we exited the establishment), our check came with gratuity included, and we weren't allowed to split the tab on two credit cards. Now, I don't recall the tip being exorbitant, and I'm an excellent tipper, but for a piss-poor martini and the bottle of water I was now taking home because the show wasn't even long enough to finish one drink, I thought I should reserve the right to tip as I wished.

Anyway, Ami graciously picked up the tab, so I promised her cookies in return since it was more likely that I was going to bake before seeing her out again. A quick Facebook exchange the next day, and I was off to veganize Deb's Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Easier than it sounds - I just subbed Earth Balance for the butter and Ener-G egg replacer for the egg. They don't spread as much as regular butter/egg cookies, in my opinion, so flatten them a bit. (And I know this because I originally forgot to veganize them and continued merrily with the recipe until a batch was already in the oven - my co-workers hate me for inundating them with sweets).

I don't even like oatmeal-raisin cookies, and I loved these. Ami allegedly ate half the bag instead of dinner tonight. I think using all brown sugar is key. I'd love to frost these babies sometime like Molly did, but I may pass out from the sheer joy of it all, and I have a lot to do this weekend.

And I feel a little weird blogging about oatmeal cookies like nothing else happened today, but I guess we must all go on. I thought I was out of my mind sad about Farrah Fawcett this morning, but I truly flipped my lid about Michael Jackson. To quote John Mayer (something I never thought I'd do), "I think we'll mourn his loss as well as the loss of ourselves as children listening to Thriller on the record player." So true. As soon as I have time, I plan on putting "Thriller" on and mourning it out.

Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen

4 oz. butter, softened
2/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

3. Scoop level Tablespoonfuls about two inches apart on your cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

4. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

no other

Yet another test for Daisy's show - this time, stuffed baguettes filled with salmon.

I did stuffed baguettes here (holy crap, almost two years ago), but thought I'd revisit these appetizers since they'd be neater to deal with and mean less clean-up post-show. Instead of full-sized baguettes, I used baby baguettes in a bag from Trader Joe's. I'm leaning towards using full-sized ones for the show, but the longer I stare at these, the cuter they get!

For the filling, it was Bon Appetit's Double-Salmon Dip (left) vs. Ina Garten's Smoked Salmon Spread (right). And the winner? The Smoked Salmon Tartare that appears over and over again on this blog.

The other two dips were just too cheesy. I wanted something to bind the salmon together, but I wanted it to be about the salmon, not the cream cheese. That's basically it. I mean, neither of the other dips were bad - just not what I was going for.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

testing 1, 2, 3

This entire weekend was devoted to testing recipes for my dear friend Daisy's EXTINCT: endanger show this weekend, and chocolate madeleines were on my list. I started out with Dorie Greenspan's Fluff-Filled Chocolate Madeleines (sans Fluff) and Carole Bloom's Dark Chocolate Madeleines. I thought I'd like the Bloom ones better because their chocolate isn't cocoa powder-based, but who am I to doubt she of the World Peace Cookies?

I have no idea what the hell happened, but the Bloom ones turned out hideously. There was no hump to speak of, and it was dense like some kind of evil brownie trying to disguise itself as a madeleine. I truly have no idea what I did wrong.

Dorie's were much better - gorgeous, humpy, light, delicate, delicious. But I still felt like I wanted more.

And more was exactly what I got. Chocolate Madeleines with Toasted Almonds and Coffee. And whiskey. The exact complex chocolate flavor I was looking for.

Except I misread the recipe and instead of the 12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) of butter called for, I used 12 oz. (3 sticks). I managed to read everything else correctly, and had an awesomely thin batter - thin enough for me to run back to the computer to see what I had done wrong.

Doh! So I scraped together enough ingredients to double the recipe and ended up with 36 regular-sized madeleines as well as 24 mini muffins. Dana in my office is going to kill me for bringing them in, but he should see what I'm sending to the boys on tour. Now I'll get the best band girlfriend award for sure!

i've had the time of my life

Here is the story in which a table full of this:

Turned into a table full of this:

Plus this:

My new friend Lisa (of the Red Velvet Cookies) invited me to join her Cooking Club on Monday, and surprised/honored/delighted, I immediately said yes, and started researching recipes for the Italian-themed dinner.

Lisa and I worked together on the Zaletti above - she loves cornmeal and doesn't bake much, so this was her challenge for herself. We doubled the recipe, leaving half raisinless. I'm not usually a fan of raisins in baked goods, but I could have eaten these wine-rehydrated ones by the bowlful. The cookies turned out great - nice and crisp, with just enough sweetness from the raisins and the sprinkled-on sugar to make us feel just a little less guilty for pairing it with a ridiculously decadent chocolate gelato (sorry, no pictures) after the massive meal we had.

Laura, another new friend that I met at Lisa's housewarming, contributed the pot roast idea and so was responsible for the delicious smell that wafted out of Gina's Le Creuset the entire afternoon. Here it is searing:

The meal also consisted of a lesson in deep-frying - first up is my suggestion for Zucchini with Ricotta, Mint and Basil. It's a little more time-consuming than it looks because of the batches required to fry up 5 zucchini, but it's just so pretty! The taste was very bright - it almost seemed citrusy even though that was not an ingredient (unless one of the girls snuck in there with a lemon).

My other suggestion of Roasted Cipollini Onions with Sherry Vinegar didn't make the close-up list, but I think you can find them in a pie plate on the table. They were quite delicious, just not very attractive. They were also a pretty mindless dish to prepare. I just wonder if it makes any difference to boil the onions outside of the skins - they're a little more resistant to being trimmed and peeled once boiled, but all in all, worth the effort.

Deep-frying experiment #2 were these gorgeous zucchini blossoms with tiny little zucchini attached that Gina found at the Farmer's Market. We were a little surprised they were still in season, but since they were, Lisa made it a point to stuff them with a salt-and-peppered 50/50 ricotta/fresh mozzarella mixture, I made tempura batter from a box, and then she was the champ who fried them:

And deep-frying experiment #3 (which was so much more than a deep-frying experiment), was the star of the evening: Gina's Timbale di San Giovannella. The lady in the video is who she learned it from when she went to Italy at the age of 18.

Basically, fry lots of eggplant. We had two skillets going, and it still took a bit of time. Then layer them into a buttered and bread-crumbed springform pan. Add partially cooked spaghetti tossed with Gina's secret family recipe bolognese sauce. Wrap and cover with more eggplant and bake. This is what it looks like before it leaves the pan:

We had a bit of trouble deciding which of Gina's platters we should invert the timbale on to, so it was absolutely necessary to take a "before" shot in case it ended up on the ground, crushing the dreams of 6 girls who had been sweating in the kitchen for the previous 4 hours. Thankfully, the gods of San Giovannella were with us, and we were all able to breathe after she successfully flipped it:

I mean, I don't even really like eggplant, and this dish was transcendent. Goes to show I've been doing it wrong the whole time - the trick is to fry and then bake! :) The eggplant completely melts in your mouth, the pasta was perfectly cooked, and Gina's sauce was just ridiculous (I don't think I mentioned that we girls ate leftover spaghetti while we waited for the final pieces of the dinner to come together. I personally don't think I chewed. It was that good).

And just because I can't stop thinking about the timbale, here's a cross-section for your drooling pleasure:

Let's see - what else am I missing? Oh! Anne's Roman Artichokes! I have no idea when those came out so I didn't get a close-up, but they are on the dining table. I know the Anne and Hilary slaved over trimming the artichokes, so I hope it was worth the effort for them - I certainly thought they were really delicious.

And how could I forget Hilary's Zuni Cafe Ricotta Gnocchi? They were a pain in our asses. I was a big fan of the rich, dreamy creamy end product, but they came very close to being chucked. For the life of us, we couldn't get the texture right. The most likely culprit was that the ricotta was still too wet. However, we were able to salvage them by adding handfuls more of Parmigiano, plenty more salt and pepper, and none of our dinner guests were any the wiser that some stupid pasta had almost made us cry.

This event was a huge learning experience for me, and for that I'm extremely grateful to the girls for letting me into their club. All of these girls are much more experienced than I am, have much more discerning palates than I do, and it's just a joy to observe them. They're also the kinds of girls who wing it when they cook, and the kinds who know just how to fix a recipe if something doesn't go according to plan, while I'm the type who curses and balls up the recipe for the round file if things don't go my way. I'm also not the kind of person who enjoys/knows how to delegate, so any team-building exercises such as this is good for me. Not that I had any of these moments in the kitchen, but I'm generally the kind of person who would prefer to just do things myself rather than teaching someone else how to take it off my plate (no pun intended) even if I have a million other things to do. It was nice to just focus on my responsibilities of the moment and know that I have 5 sous chefs (and that I'm one of 5 for any of the other girls) to bail me out.

Thanks for a great time, ladies. Looking forward to the next one! (I'll update to include recipe links as I get them in).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

too easy

I'm a girl who knows what I want (I think). And when I put my mind to something, I don't rest until I get it (sometimes). So when my brain alighted upon this idea for dinner sometime shortly after lunch, I couldn't wait for the day to end so I could go home and make it. I even reshuffled some errands to make a stop at Trader Joe's for some ingredients. Bok choy and salmon wait for no errands.

I'm a little embarrassed to be writing about something so simple. I mean, it's not even a recipe. However, I am thrilled that I have plenty of leftovers. Good for my belly and my wallet.

Salmon and Bean Salad on Baby Bok Choy Leaves
1/4 lb. salmon fillet, cooked
1/2 can of Trader Joe's Marinated Bean Salad
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
one baby bok choy, trimmed (leaves reserved for your next saute of some sort)

Trim and wash bok choy. While leaves drain, combine salmon, bean salad and bell pepper. Mix to combine. Divide among bok choy leaves. Leftovers can be eaten with a fork.

I mean, really. It should be illegal to order out if making a tasty, healthy meal is this easy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

practicing my purpose once again

It's cookie time again! My Hollywood Master Chorale is presenting our final concert of the season on Sunday, June 28th - Of Love and War. Again, I have volunteered to bake 200 cookies for the occasion because I am a person who will never learn.

The first of the batch actually don't have anything to do with the concert testing process, but I they were part of this weekend's schedule anyway - Red Velvet Half-Moon Cookies. I would normally call them black-and-whites, but upstate New Yorker boyfriend insists otherwise.

They were a housewarming gift for our friends CJ and Lisa - CJ's sister had advised that he's a fan of the red velvet, and considering that he's an upstate New Yorker as well, I figured he might have a thing for the half-moons.

They were a huge hit! I wish I had a bit of a steadier hand when it came to decorating, but I did want to leave a bit of a border so they were more obviously red velvet. They were also kind of messy once the decorating was over - even though I had let the icing set in the fridge for a couple hours, they still kind of melted into each other when I stacked them in a gift bag. I'll have to experiment with thicker icing, but it'll be an excuse to shove more cookies in my mouth in the process.

Cookie #2 is my vegan option Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles. This batch also became a birthday gift for our vegan friend Jason.

This was my first experience with Ener-G egg replacer, and I have to say I prefer it to flax seeds as an egg replacement. The cookies came out as close to "normal" as I've ever been able to make it - nice and chewy, not crumbly at all. My only gripe is that the box I got is big enough for 115 or so uses. I know it keeps well, but I should make a note of the purchase date on the box because I would love to see how long it takes before I have to buy another one.

I really enjoyed the texture of the cookie, but I think the flavors were a bit much for me. I think next time, I'll just keep it at cinnamon and ginger (and maybe add some cayenne) - I think the cardamon made it a little too crazy for my taste buds.

And lastly (for today, anyway), I'm sending along these Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Matty and the boys for their tour.

Just look at that picture. It kind of resembles me when he's gone - scattered, out of order. If you look closer, you can also see that they're slightly mopey and pretty needy. :(

I kid. A little. But anyway, these cookies are pretty amazing, and the whole rolling the dough out in a freezer bag idea is genius. These are definitely going on the concert cookie tray. Matty liked them as is, noting that they're good because they're not too sweet, but I prefer a sweeter shortbread, so I may go with a full 1 cup of sugar next time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

the sweetness

Our pre-tour ritual of romantic dinner and quiet time at home nearly got destroyed by the world-champion Los Angeles Lakers (yay!) and the sausage platter at our new favorite sports hang The Red Lion.

Luckily, we had a couple Netflix, so we popped in "Cadillac Records" and about halfway through, had finally digested enough for me to contemplate making dinner - Roasted Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce.

I'm really glad we didn't decide to skip dinner. This sauce rules the world. It's a little terrifying because of the sugar-melting/caramel-making process, but it really doesn't take much effort at all. Don't worry that the caramel seizes up when you add the pinot noir - it took me a good 7-10 minutes before it all melted back, but it really does. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't bubble over.

The sauce is pure candy. I was actually a little afraid Matty wouldn't like it because he's not a fan of the sweet stuff in savory applications so the sauce lived in a gravy boat for dressing as appropriate. We each splashed a little on our salmon and pretty much immediately added more. It works really, really well with the fish. We made the full recipe but only made ourselves 2 pieces of salmon, so there's plenty of sauce leftover. While wrapping up "Cadillac Records," I couldn't help but daydream about other uses for it - so far I've got salad dressing, maybe even added to my lentil lunch staple instead of the goat cheese.

And not to get too weird, but I think the sauce would make a great ice cream flavor, too. Add it to the long list if I ever get myself an ice cream maker.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

like you used to

I've been screwed up all day. I woke up at 4:30a with my stomach absolutely GROWLING at me - guess that's my body's way of telling me I'm entirely too old to cap off a night of 3 whiskeys with a plate of macaroni and cheese. *sigh* My best days are behind me.

I couldn't fall back to sleep until about 7:30a, woke up again around 11a, puttered about the house and didn't manage to go out and do groceries until 1p. Hence, linner at about 4p - asparagus pizza inspired by Edward Schneider.

I've never aspired to make pizza, mainly because my upstate New Yorker boyfriend is a huge snob when it comes to pizza. "How can we possibly make pizza," he asked every time I mentioned it, "when we don't have a pizza stone?"

Well, as in every other case with my woefully small and under-equipped kitchen, we make do with what we have. Plus, the idea of just throwing together a pizza without slaving over sauce, etc. seemed to be ideal today.

I cheated even further by using the pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe's. That was stretched into 2 rounds, sprinkled with a mixture of 12 oz. asparagus, 1 onion, 4 cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt/pepper and chile pepper flakes, and popped everything into a 500-degree oven for about 7 minutes. 4 oz. of delicious, delicious buratta was divided between the two pizzas and went back in for another 7 minutes or so, until the cheese was melted and the crust was sort of golden.

12 oz. of asparagus makes for entirely too much topping, so I reserved a bit to be a side with tomorrow's dinner (a special one since Matty leaves town on Monday and will be on tour for 2 weeks). The pizza itself was wonderful, and even Matty loved it. Given the pressure to make something comparable to the pizza of his youth, the sheer fear of turning my vintage oven up to the 500-degree mark, and the carb bomb of the dough, I may just prefer to roast the asparagus mixture on its own in the future, and top it with a blob of buratta. Actually, the future may be Monday night after Matty leaves. Hmm...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

when you're sure you've had enough

Not much to say tonight. Having a terrible week, and at this very moment, catching my breath after not having breathed for the final 4.6 seconds of regulation in the Lakers-Magic game.

Another yummy recipe from July's Bon Appetit - Spicy Chicken Peperonata. Not very spicy, in my opinion (and I'm not very good at spicy at all), but still lovely and flavorful.

I started prepping once the Magic went up by 10 - I just couldn't watch anymore. But because I secretly need to watch every painful moment regardless of the score, I simplified the recipe even further by cubing the chicken breast and tossing everything into a saucepan with olive oil, covering for about 5 minutes and then just stirring things around until the chicken was cooked. The pepper-slicing took more time than the actual cooking process.

I didn't want to bother with the lime dressing (and I didn't have limes) so just as everything was coming together, I squeezed the juice of half a lemon over everything and added the mint. Another quick toss, warmed up some tortillas and dinner was ready before the second half started.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

feel good hit of the summer

I am really digging the July issue of Bon Appetit. To be honest, I love my subscription, I nerdily squeal every time I see it in my mailbox, and I flip through the entire thing as soon as possible, but I don't really make anything from it. Not so with the July issue - it already has little Post-Its flagging recipes I hope to squeeze in before Matty goes out of town next week.

The first is the Linguine with Summer Succotash. Obviously, I switched out the linguine for farfalle, instead of just plain corn kernels, I used the leftover macque choux from last night's dinner, and I added the remains of a bag of frozen peas.

I love building pasta sauces from just pasta water - I really don't have the patience for slow-cooked tomato-based sauces (although I certainly appreciate it when someone else does). The water + pureed corn mixture came out just lovely, and even though I added the Parmesan, I may save the calories on the next go-around since the corn sauce seemed creamy enough. I just used regular tomatoes, but I did spy a container of mixed heirloom tomatoes at Trader Joe's that I think would really take this dish over the edge.

Matty and I both fixed ourselves two heaping servings - it's a good thing I doubled the recipe since our schedules are going to be crazy the next couple of days. It was a perfect meal for the first day LA is trying to shake out June gloom - creamy and luscious enough to make up for the breeze, but with all the lovely vegetables that signal the coming of summer. Added perk: since it was so quick to make, I only missed a couple minutes of the Laker game. ;)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

back to you

June gloom is in full effect here in Los Angeles, and this kind of weather is only good for three things - napping, crocheting and baking. Lucky me - I got to do all three today! :)

The clouds in the sky only wish they were as delicious as these ginger angel food clouds I baked up for our friend Rebecca's birthday. (Sorry, that was a little cheesy. It sounded much better in my head earlier today. And now I'm in a hurry to type before going to birthday drinks with Reebs, so I'm not going to change it).

Anyway, I used Nicole's recipe (again), swapping out a couple things to suit our girl's palate:

- she's gluten-free, so after a lot of researching and the burning desire to use some of the very expensive sweet white rice flour I bought for a previous baking extravaganza, I used 1/4 cup potato starch and 1/4 cup sweet white rice flour in place of the 1/2 cup cake flour
- she likes ginger, so I added 1 tsp. of powdered ginger in with the flour and instead of regular chocolate chips, I chopped up a bar of Chocolove Ginger Crystallized in Dark Chocolate.

I actually forgot to add the ginger in with the flour so I just folded it in separately. I also apparently had completely lost my mind while beating the egg whites and forgot to add the 1/2 cup sugar that was supposed to go in (oops), so I just folded that in after the fact as well.

The gluten-free flour mix turned out really well. I wouldn't say the cupcakes were quite as light as the cake flour version, but without that to compare to, I think the average person would still consider it an angel food cake. Win!

The morning's next project was a chile and egg strata for my darling's breakfast/lunch. He had just flown in from a short tour and didn't get any sleep last night, so he basically slept all day (again, excellent sleeping weather today). Except I didn't know if he was going to wake up mid-afternoon hungry and me not yet ready for dinner, so this strata was back-up. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, and this became my lunch, and will be his breakfast tomorrow while I'm out.

The strata was inspired by two recipes from the June issue of Bon Appetit - the Sausage, Fontina & Bell Pepper Strata, which Matty had already requested I make, and the Chile and Cheese Tart.

I really didn't have the right ingredients for either one, but I managed to cobble together the following:

Chile and Egg Strata
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 oz. mascarpone
2 large eggs
a couple dashes of Cholula
salt and pepper, to taste
2 4-oz. cans diced mild green chiles
2 slices jalapeno bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in medium skillet and add onions, sauteing until soft.

Whisk mascarpone, eggs, Cholula and salt and pepper until smooth. Add chiles and cooked onions.

Lightly grease a 6.5"x9" Pyrex dish. Trim bread to fit the bottom of the plate. Pour egg mixture over top. Bake strata until set in the center, about 40 minutes.

Seriously delicious. And bonus for me - this was all stuff I had in the house anyway, so it was almost like it was free!

And finally, dinner. The only two things we brought back from New Orleans with us (other than about 5 pounds around our midsection, each), was a bottle of Joe's Stuff and The Gumbo Shop's cookbook. So we had a little New Orleans redux: "fried" chicken (coated in Joe's Stuff and baked), corn macque choux from the cookbook and home fries, an impromptu addition because we were lacking carbs.

The chicken came out perfectly - so juicy and since Joe's Stuff isn't spicy, became the perfect foil for the slightly spicy corn. Macque choux is really the perfect way to prepare corn. Sweet, spicy, peppery - what more could anyone want? I've got an upcoming catering gig, and I think I'll be making it for topping on baguette slices.

All in all, a pretty productive day. Now for those drinks!

Friday, June 5, 2009

why don't you go down to new orleans

So Matty and I spent a lovely weekend in New Orleans for friends' wedding. (Is that the proper grammatical way of saying that when both the bride and groom are friends?) Anyway. I had never been, but Matty has in his musical travels, so he basically set the itinerary. This, my friends, is a huge step forward for me. I am effing OCD when it comes to having things planned. It was both wonderful and terrifying to spend a weekend out of town without a plan.

In New Orleans, there is apparently a local saying that goes something like, "There are two kinds of time in New Orleans. Meal time and the time in between." And to be honest, I can hardly tell you what we did for 3 days, but I can definitely tell you that it was all to get from one meal to another.

- flew in late night so went directly to sleep upon arrival at the lovely B&B

- had breakfast at the B&B
- walked around Magazine St. until it was late enough to pretend we were having lunch, but it was really a second breakfast - a crawfish etouffee omelette from Ignatius Grocery, whose shrimp po'boy, a strong second-choice contender, Serious Eats waxes poetic about, here
- continue walking down Magazine St. and use the heat/humidity as an excuse to get vanilla & bourbon pecan gelato from La Davina Gelateria - hello, pralines!
- went back to the B&B, napped, got dressed, took the streetcar out to the French Quarter for a most lovely wedding

- a late start due to aforementioned lovely wedding, but we still fit in beignets at Cafe Du Monde (the only thing I was not too wide-eyed and gape-mouthed about to photograph)...
- ...mere minutes before our friends call us to say we should meet them at Port of Call for hangover burgers - this is where everything went terribly wrong. You see, there was really no need for us to eat so soon after having ingested those beignets. However, our hosts were insistent, and they were right - nearly the damn best burgers I've ever had. It hurts my belly to think about them (even still), but if you're in NOLA, please go for a mushroom cheeseburger cooked medium rare and sour cream with a side of baked potato.
- there was also no reason to get late-night food at Coop's Place after we caught some jazz at Preservation Hall. Even if it was 8 hours later. Nothing fit. We tried - the taste plate of gumbo, shrimp creole, red beans and rice, jambalaya and fried chicken as well as the Cajun pasta. It just didn't fit.

- breakfast at Surrey's - a crabmeat/brie/avocado omelette for me, and the boudin biscuit sandwich for Matty
- the one epic fail - we went down to Central Grocery for a muffaletta, but IT'S CLOSED ON MONDAYS. You should have seen the disappointment on Matty's face. It made my heart hurt. (At least I think my heart hurt because of his face. Could have been Port of Call).
- Jacques-imo's for dinner. This could be a post unto itself, not only for the food (shrimp and alligator cheesecake, ridiculous corn muffins, a spinach salad topped with a fried oyster, BBQ shrimp for Matty and paneed duck in a shrimp sauce for me), but for the manner in which we ate. You see, Jacques-imo's opens at 5p. Our flight was at 7:30p. So thanks to Jacques and the amazing staff, we were able to fit in a full meal at the one place Matty felt I HAD to go to, and get to the airport as the previous flight was deplaning. No thanks to our cabbie, who knew we were in a rush, but still managed to never hit 40 mph the entire way. Thank goodness there wasn't any traffic.

Okay. So that takes us to the reason for my post. I have not been a good girl. I have been sleeping in every morning since we got back and skipped the gym. I did go this morning, but only for half an hour.

However, I have been trying to compensate for the lack of activity by improving my diet. At least for this week (as the week prior to our trip in order to prepare), I've been trying to go vegetarian till 6. Yes, I know Mark Bittman goes ahead and goes full vegan, but I haven't been able to give up eggs and cheese yet. One day. Maybe.

The easy part about this plan is that I'm at work all day, so I don't have to drag Matty's meals down with me if he doesn't want to go that route. The difficult thing is that because I'm at work all day, there aren't many inspired ways for me to cook veggies with nothing but a microwave at my disposal.

However, I have found my new favorite lunch "al desko" (more on that here): steamed lentils from Trader Joe's and handfuls of spinach heated in the microwave for 2 minutes until the spinach wilts, sprinkled with some crumbled goat cheese while everything is still warm so that the cheese creates a lovely creamy sauce. Heaven. That's been my lunch all this week, alternating days with Trader Joe's egg white salad with cucumber slices in lieu of crackers. On Wednesday, as my dinner before choir practice (so after 6), I tossed in a 6 oz. can of drained tuna for a little more heft.

And because I got peer-pressured into splitting chicken and carnitas quesadillas at work today (foodie be damned, Baja Fresh makes a pretty good carnitas quesadilla), I went home and recreated lentil heaven, adding roasted broccoli heaven, for dinner.

Obviously not something I can create at work, but definitely worth adding the 30 minutes of roasting time. For next week's lunches, I think I'll switch things up and add some mini squash or asparagus instead of the spinach. Might not be as fabulous as paneed duck, but at least it'll allow me to have paneed duck again in the future.