Thursday, July 30, 2009

tonight, los angeles

Ah. Full belly, full heart. I ate so much it hurt to sing/yell after, and I laughed so hard I cried on several occasions. All brought to you by Kingsize.

Allison (of the Kale Slaw) and I have been trying to plan a Kingsize family dinner for ages now. We were finally able to get together Monday night for a potluck barbecue at Andrew + Maggie's house. Let's take a trip around the plate, shall we?

- Allison contributed two delicious salads: a watercress and white bean salad in a delicious faux-Caesar-ish dressing and a corn and bean salad with bell peppers. I'm a sucker for a good salad, especially one that involves corn and beans. I've never had watercress before, and I rather liked it (although it's very similar to arugula, and I don't really care for that - maybe the extra spice factor is what's so appealing). And did I mention I loved the dressing? I believe she said it was just shallots and garlic pureed with olive oil and some salt and pepper. Just magical.

- I brought VeganDad's Mac and Cheeze, which was a hit. This time, I used regular elbow macaroni, and didn't bake it. It ended up in the car and on the counter for an hour before it was actually consumed so it had congealed a bit. I warmed it up in the oven, but it still wasn't melty - guess I'll have to make it again! To offset the sweetness of the miso (which was slightly distracting last time), I added 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I'm looking forward to the leftovers I packed for lunch today!

- Since we had a mix of vegans and omnivores, we all brought our own contribution to the grill. Mine were portobello mushrooms marinated overnight in 1/4 c. olive oil and 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar along with two smashed cloves of garlic. I layered the mushrooms on a roll with slices of avocado and Brie and was a very happy camper.

We ended the evening with a Vegan Chocolate Bundt Cake from the upcoming Kiss My Bundt cookbook. I have to say, this is my favorite of the recipes I've tested for her. I've had my share of vegan desserts (as have the rest of the dinner partiers), and this was mind-blowingly good. I ended up covering this in a vegan vanilla buttercream, but I did want to show off how it came out of the pan perfectly (even if the shot is shoddy because I was in a hurry to pack it up to leave for dinner). I guess when you use enough floured baking spray to make yourself cough uncontrollably from the fumes, you'll get a perfectly loose bundt. :)

P.S. Just went to preview my post, and now I'm wishing I had packed bundt cake for lunch, too. Sad.

Monday, July 27, 2009

it's so easy, it's so right

I love Mark Bittman. I own How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, I'm a faithful reader of Bitten, and I live for those 101 Lists that he puts out every so often. He embodies the way I like to think I eat - simply (both in terms of ingredients and preparation) and seasonally.

I love the lists because they're not full recipes, but they give enough of a baseline that someone like me, who is more or less terrified of being recipe-less, a little sense of adventure. Tonight's dinner came from the 2007 list - #3 Scallop Ceviche and #77 Corn and Black Bean Salsa. For my future reference, here's what I did, and it came out just lovely - a perfect, light summer dinner. With just enough room for Oreo Cheesecake.

Serves 2

For salsa:
half of a red bell pepper, diced
half of a green bell pepper, diced
1/2 pound of tomatoes, diced
15-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
handful of cilantro, chopped
2 T. olive oil
one onion, sliced
one jalapeno, diced
kernels from 2 ears of corn
salt and pepper to taste

For ceviche:
8 sea scallops
juice of 1 lime
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine peppers, tomatoes, black beans and cilantro in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onion and jalapeno, sauteing until onions are done to your liking. Add to beans.
3. Do not add more oil to skillet. Add all of corn and let sit for about a minute until browned. Stir quickly and let sit for another minute. Add to beans. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Slice scallops into four horizontal slices and place in a wide bowl. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with juice of one lime and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
5. Divide scallops evenly between two plates. Mound bean mixture over top and serve.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

share your love

Highlights of this evening's potluck barbecue with our friends Monique, Jeremy and Natalie included meeting Mo and Jeremy's 6-week old, marveling at his general cuteness, and fist-bumping with him for a solid minute but stopping before Dad could get the video camera out. I mean, we had two cameras on the coffee table and the video camera was within close proximity, but you would have to rig up a freaking surveillance system to capture the amount of cuteness this child had up his tiny onesie sleeve. Oh, and the food was amazing, too. :P

Jeremy grilled up some really juicy chicken and pork, Mo made a yummy pasta salad, and I contributed my friend Allison's stupendous Kale Slaw and Melissa Clark's (via The Wednesday Chef) equally stupendous Fake Baked Beans. Had we not been inhaling them, I might also have remembered to photograph Natalie's Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies. :)

To avoid waking up too early this morning, we made both dishes yesterday afternoon. Matty was completely responsible for the beans, and I made the slaw. I'm glad we started early because all of the chopping (even with a food processor) took a lot longer than I was planning on budgeting time for this morning. Both dishes keep very well, too - a huge plus. All I had to do was reheat the beans in the microwave when we were ready to eat. The slaw maintains its crunch even after being dressed and stored in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag (it makes a lot - yay!).

Allison has kindly given me permission to post her recipe here (made up from the list of ingredients on her favorite pre-made kale slaw up in Idaho). At first, I thought I would need to double the dressing (and I still may if I were to serve this same-day), but after being in the fridge for a day, the flavors had intensified and the juiciness of the veggies contributed to just the perfect amount. Because slaw conjures up terrible images of tasteless creaminess to me (and because the Veganaise in this recipe only serves to smooth out the dressing and not goop up the veggies with aforementioned tastelessness), I'd call this more of a raw kale salad with an Asian vinaigrette, but a rose by any other name...

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Kale Slaw

1 bunch of Lacinato kale
3-4 stalks of celery
3-4 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 head of purple cabbage

For dressing:
3 T. Veganaise
1/2 T. agave
1 T. sesame oil
1 1/2 - 2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 - T. Braggs
sesame seeds

1. Wash and de-stem the kale. Slice into 1/4-inch ribbons. Place into a large bowl.

2. Use food processor to slice celery and grate carrots and cabbage. Add to kale.

3. Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the veggies. Sprinkle with raw sesame seeds and toss to coat everything.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

good morning, good morning

Matty's home! This would normally mean sleeping in until the p.m. and lazing about the house, but with his touring schedule for the rest of the summer, there will be none of that this weekend. There are massages to get, engagement parties and birthday brunches to attend, shopping and cooking to do and even a new baby to meet! Our lives are so hard.

The first "errand" of the day was Pho-Siam massages, followed by brunch at The Park. However, we couldn't possibly wait until noon to eat, and truly, just to be polite and avoid growling stomachs in front of our masseuses, we whetted our appetites with vegan Savory Zucchini Muffins. Besides, I had one and a half zucchini in the fridge that had not seen any action since last Friday.

They were delicious. We each had 3 of them. I'd say they were more frittata-ish than muffin-ish. Really soft and fluffy with an addictive saltiness. It was so interesting to have a zucchini baked good in savory form. This is definitely no zucchini bread. I used basil instead of chives, but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. Glad to have this recipe on file for the next time I don't know what to do with an overload of zucchini.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

it's black, it's white

These Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes literally made me gasp out loud when I saw them. Why didn't I think of using an entire Oreo for the crust? Oh, right. Because I'm not Martha. Sometimes, you've got to hand it to the woman.

I bought a box of Joe Joe's (the TJ's equivalent of Oreo's), and it took a lot of willpower to walk by that box for 3 days before I got down to making these cheesecakes. Okay, fine. I actually caved about a day in and ate one. Magically, fatefully, I was left with 42 cookies. That one cookie was meant for my belly.

They're a snap to put together. Since I only have one 12-cup muffin pan, and didn't really feel like staying up for another hour after coming home from Room5 to bake three batches, I went ahead and bought some foil liners that claimed could just stand alone on a baking sheet. And it's somewhat true, but if you're looking for perfectly round cheesecake specimens, these aren't them. They could definitely have benefited from the structure of the muffin cups, but at that moment in time, 44 minutes of extra sleep meant more to me.

I'm pretty happy with them, and I hope my girl Julie liked them as well. I made them for her birthday, and didn't get a chance to chat with her about them due to all the side-splitting laughing we were doing between runway walk-offs and drunken reminiscing. Happy birthday Jules!

A word to the wise, though - half of one will totally do since they're dangerously sweet and heavy. I even used light cream cheese from Trader Joe's. And sidenote: I know the "healthy" versions of these things never taste like the real thing, but their light cream cheese truly has a texture issue. Sometimes I feel that if I dropped a brick on the floor, it would bounce back at me. Next time, I'll use the full-fat version and happily accept the 20 minutes it'll shave off my life.

Monday, July 20, 2009

sleep comes down

I overate. I'm parked here in front of the fan, laptop on belly in a semi-comatose state. At least I don't feel so bad when what I overate was spinach. And maybe Colby Jack.

I was running out of salad ideas for this heat, so I was really glad to have found this recipe for Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts this morning. Now, I'm a well-documented raisin-hater, but something about this recipe still called out to me. Maybe it was the fact that it mentions its Moorish origins, and if something from the first century AD (or CE or whatever) can make it to 2009, I figure I'm game enough to try it.

Two quick changes: I only used 12 oz. of spinach (which I destroyed). I thought the ratio of raisins and pine nuts to spinach was better that way. I also plumped the raisins in some leftover pinot noir, taking a cue from the zaletti the Cooking Club (we really need to come up with a name, girls :P) baked up here.

And heaven forbid I eat only vegetables for dinner - quesadillas made with corn tortillas and Spring Hill Colby Jack rounded out the eating marathon. I would totally face-plant into this keyboard if I weren't already lying down. :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

cruel summer

It has been so blasted hot this weekend. After yoga and lunch with the bestie, I've done nothing all day except try to sit still so as not to overheat. It's definitely salad weather.

I've had this Watermelon and Avocado Salad on the brain for days now, from the moment my co-worker Dana walked back into the office and announced that he had just had the greatest salad at Primo Bistro. I did a quick Google search and found that it was much more popular than I had anticipated, although I shouldn't really have been surprised because I've made a watermelon salad before.

I won't even bother with a recipe here (you can Google if you need one) - I just reconstructed what Dana described to me: chunks of watermelon with avocado in a balsamic vinaigrette. I added almonds for texture and basil because I don't know what to do with this plant I have, and threw in the other half of my heirloom tomato leftover from yesterday's salad.

This salad is the embodiment of summer - basically a deconstructed guacamole with watermelon pieces. Sadly, I oversalted the Tofu Fries I had made to give my dinner some heft, so I couldn't have more than a couple, but I am glad to be able to delete a bookmark I've had for over a year even if it meant having to turn the oven on. :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

say what you need to say

Wow - my 300th post. Who knew I had that much to say about food? Certainly not the Ngoc of 2001, when dinner every night was off the 99-cent menu at Jack in the Box (hi soon-to-college-sophomore-with-an-unpaid-summer-internship). Not even the Ngoc of 2005 who was more than a little skeptical about this crazy place called "Trader Joe's" that her new boyfriend Matt kept pushing.

But things change. I haven't had fast food in about 5 years (and ask anyone - In-N-Out does NOT count), and I don't even know what I would eat if I didn't shop at TJ's.

I think this entry is especially appropriate because it defines my cooking style over the last couple of years - a) my increasing desire to use quality products very simply and b) my absolute love for feeding crowds.

It was that love that almost derailed my lunch - a Peach and Tomato Salad with Burrata inspired by What's For Lunch, Honey?. I was trying to multi-task for a couple barbecues I was going to later in the day, and I never actually got a chance to take a bite. Luckily, this meant I made an accidental improvement - serve this salad cold for maximum flavor definition.

Not that this salad needed much help. I was armed with a lusciously dripping peach and an heirloom tomato from the farmer's market, sweet, creamy burrata, home-grown basil and my new favorite, Trader Joe's Spanish Olive Oil. Nothing else in this salad. Just layered the fruit slices, plopped down the cheese, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with basil. I think this is what the angels eat for lunch every day in heaven.

It was enough sustenance to power me through the next two projects - a Mexican Cornbread Bundt for the Kiss My Bundt cookbook, and vegan Mac and Cheeze that I've been dying to make for over a year now.

The bundt was just perfect. As you can see, I still had trouble getting it out of the pan (I'm starting to think it's my pan), but everyone at the bbq loved it. Rave, rave reviews. The jalapenos were present but not overly spicy, and the cheese melted into the dough for extra richness. I think this is the last recipe they need my help on - can't wait for the cookbook!

And finally, the mac and cheeze. Oh lord, the mac and cheeze. I am seriously contemplating making it again for dinner tomorrow. It was really all I could do to not hog my own contribution at this barbecue.

All credits to VeganDad, of course, but I'm typing out my notes here so I have a place to reference what I did (because I don't really know how to measure 1 1/2 cups of firm tofu.

Vegan Mac and Cheeze
1 pound farfalle
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 T sunflower seeds
2 T pine nuts
2 cups plain soy milk
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
7 oz. firm tofu
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 t turmeric
1 t paprika
1 t garlic powder
2 T sweet white miso
1 t salt
1 T cornstarch
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1. Cook farfalle according to package instructions. Drain and pour into 13x9 pan.
2. Combine remaining ingredients except bread crumbs in a blender and puree until smooth.
3. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
4. Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. If bread crumbs have not yet browned, pop under broiler, but keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.

Next time, I'll skip the 15 minutes in the oven and go straight to the broiler. I felt the extra baking time made the sauce a little more solid than I had hoped for. I'd also like to try it as written in the original recipe - returning pasta and sauce to the pot and cooking for an additional 5 minutes to thicken.

I would also like to try a different miso - Whole Foods only had the sweet white and brown rice options, and the sweet white may have given it too much of a sweet undertone. Subtle, but I did wonder if I had accidentally added sugar instead of salt to the sauce.

Would you look at all that - I guess I will just HAVE to make it again. Those next 300 posts need to start somewhere. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

daydream believer

Because I had bought full ingredients for these Springy Shells but ended up halving the recipe, I have loads of leftover veggies in my fridge - half a bunch of asparagus and 2 1/2 zucchini. In between daydreaming about Zucchini Cabonara, I recalled having a can of white beans bought on a whim on an evening I was too hungry to focus on my grocery list. "Hm, little daydreamer," I thought to myself. "What if I subbed in those white beans for the pasta?"

I tried Googling bean carbonara to make sure my thought wasn't too weird, but even though nothing came up, I decided to go with it anyway. It was quite tasty - the creamy beans complemented perfectly with the still-crisp veggies. (I can't believe I cooked the zucchini for 10 minutes last time). I'm really looking forward to trying this dish again with some fancy dried beans, but I've still got half a can of white beans, 1/4 bunch of asparagus and 1 1/2 zucchini, so don't hold your breath for that report. :)

White Bean Carbonara
Serves 1 "vegetarian"

half a 15-oz. can of white beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium zucchini, sliced into matchsticks
5 asparagus spears, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 egg
2 T. Parmesan

Microwave beans for 3 minutes.

In the meantime, heat olive oil in a saucepan large enough to fit zucchini and asparagus in a single layer. Saute veggies for one minute. Turn off heat.

Beat egg with Parmesan. When beans are done, add them and the veggies into the egg mixture. Stir thoroughly to coat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

get on the train

I have a confession to make. My resolve to eat vegetarian lasted exactly a week. It was cheerfully derailed with my friend Laura at Umami Burger on Monday (a little disappointed the Triple-Pork Burger wasn't on the menu, but we "made do" with the Umami Burger and Port & Stilton Burger). There was a second hiccup Tuesday night when I took my out-of-towner friends Winston and Julia to Jitlada, and we went to town on 3 Jazz-recommended fish dishes.

I'm going to get back on track, though - this is actually my second day back. I have lovely salads planned for the next couple days of 90-degree temperatures, and I've already plotted out marinated portobello burgers and vegan mac and cheese to get me through this weekend's barbecues.

Even though today was another 90-degree day, I couldn't deal with just a salad for dinner. You should have heard my stomach while I was on the table getting my physical therapy on. Clamor of that power deserves more than salad. Couple that with the fact that I was running errands all the way home, and I was starving by the time I got in front of my fridge.

Dinner then became Soft-Scrambled Eggs w/ Ricotta (and green onions, for me), and roasted broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It was all of my very favorite things on a plate. I feel today is a new beginning in the quest to maintain vegetarianism.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

i fall behind

Today was not ideal. From the moment I woke up, I felt like I was playing catch-up all day. Blogger nearly thwarted my attempts to post before heading out to yoga this morning, and even though the post did manage to go up, I was about 5 minutes late to yoga. Then my yoga instructor ran a long class, so we were let out 20 minutes late (not that I'm complaining - I needed the me time). It only took me 5 minutes to pick up the groceries I needed for lunch with my sister and her boyfriend, but for some reason, the 10-minute drive back to my house ended up taking 30. They were waiting on the doorstep when I pulled up, I apologized and hurriedly pulled together some Caramelized Tofu with Brussels sprouts and soba noodles, and then we ran out to Glendale to see "Up." Really great movie and thrilled to have been in air-conditioning, but by the time I got out, I realized I had only given myself 45 minutes before meeting Greg to head out to the Hollywood Bowl to see the incomparable Ray LaMontagne and the riveting Jenny Lewis.

And of course, I had not yet started on the pasta dish I had promised to bring to our picnic. Called Greg, told him to give me another 15 minutes and then started the chopping spree of my life.

I halved this recipe for Springy Shells because I was not going to have time to pick up another 13x9 pan (mine is still at Paul's) - split, it fit perfectly into an 8x8 pan. It was between this and some mac and cheese, but I thought since it was so hot, it would be preferable to have something a teensy bit less heavy.

I had imagined that I would would be able to fit in a nice relaxing shower while it was baking, but Greg had arrived, so I just got to work on the other pasta dish.

The soba noodles were an afterthought - I figured just in case folks were hungry and since I had halved the other dish, I should supplement. Into a big mixing bowl went about 8 oz. soba noodles, the rest of some perfect peanut sauce, half a bag of shredded carrots, one red bell pepper and one fairly large baby bok choy. I could eat this (and will have to since it only ended up being 4 of us) for days. Also thrilled to have cleaned out the fridge.

Traffic was already starting to back up when we got to the parking lot, and I was already dreading our departure because of the stacked parking, but once he trekked into the picnic area and set out all our things, it was like the entire day had melted away and time had stopped. We had parked ourselves under some lovely shade and a fairly good breeze was going. If only I could have squeezed in a nap under those trees, I would have been golden. I suppose the next best thing is to just go to bed now and dream of more summer trips to the Bowl.

we'd never lose, we could pick and choose

Another insanely busy baking day so apologies for the photo - I had to rush right out the door after hurriedly frosting this cake because I was late for Mom's birthday dinner. Thankfully, she knows me too well and made the reservation for half an hour after I said I would be able to make it. I'm such an awful daughter.

Hopefully, I made up for it with Fresh Ginger Cake with Citrus Buttercream from the upcoming cookbook from Kiss My Bundt's Chrysta Wilson.

It is a lovely, light cake with just enough ginger flavor to be pleasantly warm. The Citrus Buttercream is a total snap to put together - the hardest thing to do is to zest. I've zested my fair share of limes and lemons, but I'm not sure I've ever had to zest an orange, and let me tell you I'm pretty sure that's what heaven is going to smell like.

These trays of goodness were a contribution to my old friend Adrianne's housewarming party tonight: Cherry Brown Butter Bars, Caramel Oatmeal Brownies, and vegan Peanut Butter Chip Cookies made a la David Leite's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The cherry bars were just lovely - almost caramel-like custard surrounding wonderful, jammy fruit with a nice crunch from the shortbread base. Unfortunately, I may never be able to look a cherry in the eye again. Sans cherry pitter, I used paring knife to split a pound of cherries down the middle and manually removed the pit. I'm surprised my fingers have managed to return to their normal coloring.

The caramel oatmeal brownies were a huge hit. The brownie portion was delectably rich and moist, and the caramel oatmeal base had hardened to an almost toffee-like consistency. I'm happy to have scored a bite. Next time, I am definitely doubling the recipe to bake in a 13x9 pan. I mean, I had people searching the party to find out who made them. I definitely did a lot of blushing last night especially since they were so ridiculously easy to make.

And finally, the perfect cookies that I had heard so much about. I figured I already had chocolate covered with the brownies, so I used peanut butter chips instead. I think the whole point of refrigerating the dough overnight has to do with using regular eggs, so I feel I may have dried my dough out too much since I only had Ener-G in there. Next time, I will definitely bake the dough right away - the amount of salt in there definitely elevated it to finger-licking good status. I will definitely be trying these cookies the "normal" way on my next cookie-baking adventure.

Friday, July 10, 2009

i can't tell

Chrysta Wilson and I are mere acquaintances who used to run in the same live music circuit. I remember her as being the only other person who would bring baked goods to gigs. I also think we were briefly at a bachelorette party together. So we're not BFF's, but there was enough name recognition there to be friends on Facebook.

Which is where I saw that she needed testers for her upcoming cookbook! "Sign me up!" I said, and sign me up she did. This here is the Bourbon Pound Cake with Bourbon Glaze. A huge hit at a soiree I attended this evening. It was amazingly rich and dreamy, practically melting in your mouth. I love cooking with bourbon - it flavors without screaming that it's there. It just adds a complexity that makes you wonder how what you're eating can be so damn good.

For obvious reasons, I won't be posting the recipe, but I wanted to tell all 14 of my followers to check her out. :)

Kiss My Bundt
8104 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

shouldn't have done that

I feel so stupid. Instead of having delicious Artichoke and Hazelnut Cannelloni, I had extremely "al dente" tubes of tofu-y filling.

Some of it is my fault - that's what I get for blindly following recipes at 11:00p when I finally get home from a virtuous evening of errands, a yoga class AND a run, and so hungry that I nearly took all of Gelson's home with me when I stopped to pick up ingredients. Then again, the recipe made no mention of pre-boiling the cannelloni tubes before baking them (which is what the recipes on the back of the cannelloni box said). After the allotted 20-minute baking time, I uncovered the foil to reveal less than half-cooked pasta. I flipped them in the vegetable broth and stuck them back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Still super al dente.

The filling was very tasty straight out of the food processor. I don't know if it's the baking time that did it, but it tasted more tofu-y (there's that word again) when it came out. I wasn't about to make the bechamel sauce, so I drizzled some balsamic and olive oil over it, and topped it with chiffonaded basil from the one thing I have managed to do right this month - keep my basil plant alive in my kitchen even with my blackest of thumbs.

I really should have just gone with my (hungry) gut and stuck the filling into wonton wrappers and called them pierogi. It would have been quicker. And it would have been cooked.

That's two vegetarian FAILS in a row. I don't know - maybe this is someone's way of telling me I should just eat meat.

Monday, July 6, 2009

you live, you learn

Now that my leftovers are finally gone, I'm going to take the the opportunity of Matty being away to try to eat vegetarian for the rest of the month. It makes sense both economically and ecologically, and if nothing else, it should be fairly entertaining to see how long I last.

If tonight's dinner of Roasted Asparagus and Lentils is any indication, though, it might not last very long at all. I've had this recipe bookmarked for ages, and every time I wanted to try it, other plans got in the way. So part of the problem was that the end result didn't live up to the build-up.

The other problem is that I hate coriander. Why can't I remember that? I. Hate. Coriander. And what does this recipe have me do? Sprinkle coriander all over the lentils. I mean, I have half a mind to just throw out the coriander jar and fill it with a slip of paper that says, "You hate this so you threw it out."

But when life hands you culinary lemons, you turn around and make gourmet lemonade.

Thank goodness there's nothing a nice poached egg can't fix. While the rice/lentils went in the trash, I couldn't very well let these perfectly broiled asparagus meet the same fate. A pot of boiled water and a couple flicks of the wrist later, I had my favorite "salad" ever, and something worth being called dinner.

Friday, July 3, 2009

looking for the next best thing

Sorry the photo's not more attractive. Having a test ramekin set aside for quality control/blogging purposes meant that this Hazelnut Semifreddo was not going to be plated in lovely slices like all the pro mags/blogs. But that's why you come here, right? For the amateurish charm? :)

But it's only appropriate that it's not perfect. As soon as Greg the birthday boy unwrapped it, he took a spoon right to the loaf pan - there was never going to be slices of this. He is the biggest fan of Pazzo Gelato's hazelnut gelato (in fact, I just took him there after dinner, and he got the chocolate hazelnut). :) That, among many other reasons, is why we've dubbed him World's Worst Diabetic.

And we, his closest friends, are kind of enablers. His friend Monica and I had once talked about doing a chocolate cake bake-off for his birthday. I considered bringing it up to our friend Caroline when I heard she was baking him a chocolate cake, but I got lazy, Los Angeles got hot, and I came across not one, but two, recipes for hazelnut semifreddo.

I very nearly went with the Biba Caggiano recipe, but in the end, I was too scared of making the zabaglione, and since Greg is a fan of whole hazelnuts in his gelato, I went for Jamie Oliver's recipe because it would be nuttier.

The praline was very simple to make. I couldn't quite get it to be a flattish sheet when I poured it out, but I don't think that matters. One note, though - do not try to crush praline in your food processor in the middle of the night. That stuff gets loud. I was sure it would shatter my poor cheap plastic processor, sending shards of praline straight to my neck, but thankfully my demise was not to be that night. My hearing may have suffered, though.

For not having an ice cream maker, semifreddos (semifreddi?) are definitely the next best thing. Greg seemed thrilled with his, but if I were to make some for myself, I think I'll go with the hazelnut liquor and fewer actual nuts as in the Biba recipe. In either case, I don't think Pazzo has anything to worry about, but I'm glad to have brought a smile to Greg's face and provide him with back-up in case it's not convenient to walk down the street to pick up a couple scoops. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I like to think my blog is a little slice of reality entertainment. I'm no good at making recipes and stockpiling them for a slow spell - if I go crazy one day and spend the entire day in the kitchen, you'll hear about it. Likewise, if I'm too tired/cranky/interested in a new restaurant to bother cooking for days on end,'t hear about it.

I was really excited about these Carrot Oatmeal Cookies, and wanted to tell the whole world about them as soon as they cooled enough for me to take a taste Tuesday night, but I couldn't because their intended recipient, our good friend Allison, is a blog follower, and I couldn't ruin the surprise for the sake of keeping up with the blog.

I couldn't even post about them last night after I gave them to her because I was out. until. three. a.m. I honestly don't remember the last time I was up that late, but fueled by the high of seeing Kingsize rock so hard last night, I powered through my second wind to celebrate with Allison and the band. Needless to say, I was out like a light without even checking email or Facebook as soon as I got home.

So here you go. Belated cookies. But they're so worth the wait. Coconut oil may be my new favorite oil to play with - it just makes the cookies so rich and flavorful. I also amped up the coconut flavor by adding about 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut. I didn't use walnuts because I thought they'd detract from the warmth of the coconut and the brightness of the carrots. I used pre-shredded carrots because I was lazy, but I think I'll grate my own next time - I would prefer a more subtle-looking cookie, more carrot cake-like than something you might be able to drop in the ground and sprout a yard full of carrots.

But looks aside, these cookies were so good that my boss even asked for the recipe (the more misshapen ones were taken to the office). I figured it was in my best interest to share. ;)