Sunday, October 11, 2009

My love affair with sage continues with pork chops w/ mustard crumbs

The entrance of Fall found me craving meats and finding inspiration in sage. I hit the cookbooks, and once again, Ruth Reichl didn't disappoint. The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes delivered a pork chops recipe that I just knew I'd excel at, because of this one little phrase: "...keeps them moister than panfrying would."

You see, I tend to overcook all meats and seafood, fearing that my inexperience and lack of knowledge about foodborne illnesses will kill my family and guests. So any recipe promising a moister meat....that's good with me. The mustard and bread crumb mixture cooks the moisture in.

I made six pork chops for just two of us (and only one of us - me - is a big eater). It looked like we would have *way* too much, but this meal was so delicious we had to stop ourselves after two pork chops a piece, knowing they'd be possibly even better as leftovers. Try this, and don't skimp on the breadcrumps by buying store bought - grating your own rye bread crumbs really makes all the difference.

Pork Chops with Mustard Crumbs

olive oil
1 1/3 C fresh rye bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves
1 T sage. Calls for finely chopped, but I cut into strips instead
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
4 pork chops, not more than 1 inch thick
2 T dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Heat olive oil in skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add bread brums, garlic, sage, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, til crumbs are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Transfer to a bowl.

Pat pork dry. Heat a lil more olive oil in cleaned skillet over moderate heat til hot but not smoking again. Brown chops, two minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking sheet with sides.

Spread tops of chops with mustard and then scatter then bread crumb mixture on top. Roast about 5-7 minutes, til chops are cooked through. Transfer to platter, cover loosely with foil and let them stand 5 more minutes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When I Fell in Love with Sage: a recipe for penne with butternut squash, sage, and bresaola

Should it take me 30 minutes to peel and cube a butternut squash? Most certainly not, but once I started hacking into the squash with the dull knife (wasn't in my own own kitchen has fabulous knives, thanks to Project Kitchen Upgrade of 2009!) available to me I knew it was too late to call mom for better directions. Sometimes one just has to follow a task through to its disastrous completion.

The meal I prepared, however, was anything but disastrous.

As I've written previously, it's important to me to mark the passing seasons with the meals I cook, as in Los Angeles there aren't as many mile markers throughout the year as there are in other areas. I was craving pasta, and decided to leaf through the pages of The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta , my favorite cookbook-as-eye-candy. Since this book is divided into seasons, I went directly to the "Autumn and Winter" section, until st. stopped me on page 79, with its photo of bresaola, a salt-cured, dried beef fillet.

I'm sure I can procure bresaola here in Los Angeles with a little searching, but luckily prosciutto can be used as a substitution. As I was shopping at Vons that day, prosciutto would have to do. I love prosciutto, as does st., so this was not a painful compromise. (I say that now....perhaps you should check back with me after I try bresaola!).

I see in my spell checker that I have been spelling prosciutto wrong all this time. Fixed.

Back to my meal: penne with butternut squash, sage, and prosciutto.

Delicious. Hearty. Don't short yourself - make sure you use fresh sage for this, and do that technique where you roll the sage leaves up into a little cigar, then chop into shreds. It makes beautiful strips of sage and the aroma will infuse not only your entire dish but your kitchen as well. The sweetness of the shallots blends so nicely with the squash, it's difficult to articulate the different flavors in this dish. It's a symphony. :)

olive oil
5 shallots
1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded and diced
pinch of ground allspice
salt and pepper
3/4 cup chicken stock
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 lb penne
1/4 prosciutto or bresaola, cut into strips
grated grana padano or parmesan cheese

Start boiling the pasta water.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and add shallots until they are softened, approx 3-4 minutes. Add squash, allspice, salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another 1 or 2 minutes. Add stock, reduce heat to med/low, cover and simmer until the squash is fork tender, about 8 mins. Don't stir, or the squash will get, well, squishy. Turn off the heat and add splash of balsamic vinegar.

Cook your penne.

Drain the al dente penne, add the squash mixture. Then add the sage, prosciutto or bresaola, drizze with olive oil and toss gently.

Sprinkle with cheese.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ringing in Autumn with a crab boil

I live in Los Angeles, a city that does not experience four distinct seasons. There are, maybe, two: "hot/smoggy" and "cool enough for a sweater at night". Before Los Angeles, I lived for eight years in Austin, so it's been a good thirteen years since I've needed to own an ice scraper or an engine heater. (For my Austin and LA friends, those are, respectively, gadgets used to scrape ice off of one's car windshield, and little heaters that keep one's car engine warm so that it starts up easily in the morning).

My internal rhythms still turn with the seasons, however, and my urge to start drinking warm liquids, go to bed earlier, and have cozy meals indoors with friends kicks in, regardless of the blazing and persistent sunny weather. In the absence of colorful Fall leaves and much cooler weather, I think it's important to mark the passing of seasons with food. From a locavoric, slow food movement viewpoint, it makes sense, sure, but I'm talking from a more atavistic place. It feels good to change (our schedules, our activities, our meals) with the season, because our ancestors' survival depended upon being able to do just that.

This Autumn Equinox I was treated to something I've never had before: a crab boil!

I don't have much (ok, I don't have any) experience cooking with crab, so this was fascinating to me. It was so easy, and so delicious, and even inexpensive.

one pound of crab legs (we used snow crab)
one lemon cut up in quarters
one box of Zatarain's Crab Boil

Boil a big pot of water with the bag of Zatarain's Crab Boil spices, when it boils, toss in crab legs and lemon wedges. Let boil for five minutes, but then let stew for another 25. Delicious! st. and I enjoyed this with Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, from Blue Moon Brewery's Seasonal collection.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hot weather fare: chilled lemon soup and heirloom tomato salad

I've never been very handy at grilling (luckily I have BBQ masters in my life who can grill for me), so summer cooking is a bit of a challenge. Without air conditioning, I'm reluctant to do nearly anything in my kitchen, and I only want to eat foods that cool my body. What follows is a list of my top three hot-weather foods.

1. Cherry tomatoes with cilantro and sesame oil. When Mark Bittman published an article in the NYTimes about 101 Simple Salads, I immediately went about trying out several of them. The winner, which I have made many times since the article was published in July, is so simple. I prefer mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes - Durst Farms ( has a lovely cherry tomato mix that I was able to purchase at Vons. Heirloom cherry tomatoes are so VERY superior in flavor to the regular supermarket variety, so do yourself a favor and stop buying the regular ones....forever. I cut the cherry tomatoes in half so they can soak up the flavor...add chopped cilantro (basil will work well, too) and then drizzle sesame oil. The sesame oil adds a smoky taste to this lovely salad. Enjoy!

2. Chilled Greek Lemon Soup from Silver Palate Cookbook I love a good cold soup, but don't have a full-sized food processor so gazpacho is just not happening. Greek Lemon Soup is simple, inexpensive, and super fast. It's also good hot, but I suggest making the day before and chilling overnight. If you have a lemon tree, even better! This is a velvety, light soup. I've made it countless times over the past year.

Greek Lemon Soup

6 cups of chicken broth (I did try this with veggie broth - was very bland!)
1/2 C long grain rice
3 egg yolks (this is what makes it velvety)
1/4 C lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
sliced fresh lemon as a garnish

Bring broth to a full boil. Pour in the rice, reduce to simmer, cover. Cook for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice together in a small bowl until well combined.

When rice is done, remove soup from heat and ladle 2 cups of hot broth into egg and lemon mixture. Whisk this back into the remaining soup.

Return soup to medium heat and stir constantly, until steaming. Do not let it boil.

Season and serve immediately, or remove from heat, cool to room temp, and cover and refrigerate.

Serves 4-6

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scallops provencale with orange heirlom tomatoes

I have found, and tried, several Scallops Provencale recipes. My favorite (and this is no surprise) is from The Gourmet Cookbook . The most recent time I made it I used an orange colored heirloom (called "Dad's Sunset") tomato I already had in my kitchen, and I prepared bay scallops, because they were fresh and beautiful.

My vision of Scallops Provencale really is the green/red/white image, so I wondered how using the lovely melon-colored tomato would alter this meal. The result? As I spooned the lovely orange tomato bits onto the scallops, it looked even more summery, and I half expected it to be citrusy to the taste! But oh, no, these lovely tomatoes actually made the entire dish....light and was my favorite Scallops dish to date. What follows is my adjustment to Ruth Reichl's recipe.

Scallops Provencale

1 lb bay scallops
dash of salt
dash of pepper
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large orange colored heirloom tomato - be daring - try with whatever variety you find! Chop the tomato up into about 1/2 inch pieces.
1/4 cup shredded basil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Pat scallops dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a skillet over high heat until not, but not yet smoking. Sear the scallops, turning over once, til golden brown and cooked just through. 4 minutes tops. Transfer scallops to a platter and cover with foil, keep warm in oven.

Add a bit more olive oil to pan if needed, and lower the heat a bit, add garlic, and cook until pale (just see through). Add tomatoes, raise heat to high, cook for 2 more minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Tomato mixture goes over the scallops, top with shredded basil. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

back at it

I started this blog because it was so thrilling to me, after a few decades of being an adult who thought she couldn't cook, I found that I could. It was so thrilling and nourishing (literally and figuratively) to be able to select recipes, execute them, and have them be delicious and satisfying, that I needed a way to process this experience. My blog was born.

Several months into my blog, however, a few things happened, all of them mostly good.

1. I didn't need to rely on recipes any more in order to make a great meal. After cooking enough broccoli from recipe, eventually one can pick up some broccoli at the farmer's market and make a tasty dish without having to follow anyone's directions. This was mostly good, in that it shows that my cooking skills have evolved, and it is partly bad, because I became lazy about trying new recipes.

2. Two other cooks entered my life! Well, let's see. St. was already in my life, but when the weather heated up she took an interested in grilling....and she started making steaks on the grill that turned me into an African Tigerfish, losing all sense of decorum when confronted with these delicious slabs of brilliantly marinated meat. St. also taught herself to carmelize onions, and has perfected that art, and my molars just twitch when I smell the onions carmelizing in the pan. Then there was Kiwi, who moved in with St. I swear Kiwi was born and raised in the Bronx but channels the South in her cooking. She only knows how to cook for an entire army - nothing less - and her fried chicken, homemade mac n cheese, potato salad, and barbequed ribs I could live off of for the rest of my life. So, you see, with these two cooking for me, it seemed foolish to intervene.

In the meantime, however, St. has been replacing my older pans with beautiful Calphalon delights, improving my cooking experience tenfold. I've also learned to make seaweed salad (though mine is always mushier than I'd prefer), and I continue to be a budding foodie.

So, I decided to brush off the blog, and start posting again. Time to peruse the cookbooks, and plan a meal...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Better scallops recipe EVAH!

st. renegade photocopied a recipe from a book at work (ssssshhhhh)...I'm not sure what book it was from, but it's Rachael Ray. I LOVE scallops, but usually overcook them, or have this problem where I sear them and they get cold quickly. I found that the coating on the scallops holds the heat in, so they don't get cold quickly, and that's nice. They are FAST to make, which is also a bonus. I did make a few adjustments: I couldn't find oyster crackers at my local Ralph's (the store most convenient to me this afternoon) so I substituted with generic brand saltines. I didn't want to go out and actually purchase something like Ms Dash for the recipe, so I emulated it with a blend of dried Italian herbs.

Scallops lovers, I give you:

Crunchy lemon and herb-crusted scallops.

4 cups oyster crackers (which crunch into 1 C when they are crushed)

2 T finely chopped fresh parsley

4.5 t salt-free (very important, as remember the crackers have salt)
lemon and herb seasoning

.5 t salt

.25 t cayenne pepper

1.25 lbs sea scallops (about 12) patted dry

2 T dijon mustard

2 T olive oil

Place crackers in a large ziploc baggie and crush into fine crumbs with a rolling pin, or something like that. Add the parsley, herb seasoning, salt, and cayenne. Shake to combine.

In another baggie, combine scallops and mustard. Seal bag and squish the mustard around with the scallops to coat the scallops. Add to the cracker mixture baggie, seal the bag, and shake to coat evenly.

If you'd like, refrigerate the scallops up to 2 days.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the scallops from the bag, place in the skillet, and cook until golden brown on the outside and opaque on the inside, about 3 minutes per side.

Friday, April 17, 2009

celery unvictorious

My mom left town and in her wake was an extra club of celery (bunch of celery? whatever they are called). Not wanting to let *anything* go to waste, I consulted - yes, my usual - The Gourmet Cookbook
I learned something about myself through this process: I find celery, even cooked and slightly tender celery, very tedious to eat. I absolutely loved the dressing, and plan on making that again for a salad, but I'd eye a piece of celery and just dread how much work it was going to be to chew it. It probably could have cooked longer, but I'll never know, because I doubt I'll try it again. The dressing, however, is tangy and refreshing and delicious, so I'll mention it here:

3 T dijon mustard
1t sugar
1.5 T canola oil (I used olive oil)
3T chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1T finely chopped fresh chives

Whisk together mustard, sugar and broth in small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in chives.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

top 5 books on my kitchen bookshelf

Even though I am a book junkie, I try not to amass a huge cookbook collection, preferring to select ones that I can return to over and over again. Here is a list of my top 5.


I have often mused that I should simply rename this blog "shrine to the Gourmet Cookbook"...and with good reason. Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet Magazine, set out to make this the only cookbook one would ever need, and she succeeds. Equal to its usefulness is this book's ability to entertain; Reichl is my favorite food writer, bar none. Food becomes so interesting when put in a historical and cultural context, something she does so well she even makes a recipe for chicken tetrazzini a riveting read. This book, a gift from my friend Piper, is single-handedly responsible for turning me into a cook.


I received this book as a christmas gift from my son, and I am delighted with it. The food photography is so exquisite, it is worth purchasing just for the visuals. It's a pasta primer, including everything you need to know in an elegant, slender volume. The recipes are organized by season, something I appreciate, as a farmer's market regular. Every recipe I've tried has become an instant favorite, and I even consider myself a baked ziti expert because of this cookbook.


I actually have an older edition of this book, which is now out of print, but I wholeheartedly (whole stomachedly?) recommend the newest one as well. Mine was a gift from Jessie, my bookdealer friend who knew of my new-found fascination with cooking. The putanesca recipe has become a standby for me, and I recently made the creamy pasta sauce with fresh herbs over angel hair pasta, the first non-tomato pasta dish my son approves of. When my mom comes to town, I plan on preparing the raspberry chicken. Hello Silver Palate!


Ok...Jane Brody is a New York Times food columnist, and she has actually written a book whose subtitle is...I must repeat and italicize this for the high carbohydrate way...yes...the high carbohydrate way. My mother bought me this book back in the 80s, and I still have my original copy. This is actually a well-researched concept, and Jane writes about our diet in an anthropological light. Humans evolved on small bits of protein, when we were lucky enough to make a big kill, but it was the high quality carbs that really sustained us. This is another only-cookbook-you-need kind of book, and has many good tips on making recipes low-fat and low-sugar, if that is your thing.


Again, I have the older, pink edition of this. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 years in Seattle, and Pike Place Market is truly such a special place. I was usually too broke during my Seattle years to make much from this, but I do have some favorite recipes: the King Salmon, which we'd grill in the backyard of our apt. building overlooking Elliot Bay, and the purple potato salad. My son was born in Seattle, so it's all very special to me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's about the journey, not the end, sez my son

It's the eve before my birthday, and my son and I decided to celebrate by cooking dinner together at home. We live within a block of a grocery store, yet laziness got the best of both of us and we forged ahead on two recipes even though we were lacking essential ingredients. Now that's what I call slack!

As I was mildly fretting about the outcome, Marco said "it's about the journey, mom, not the end"...naturally he said it tongue in cheek, but it was good for a laugh and on we went about our culinary hijinks.

The entree was so delicious, and it got a thumbs up from both of us! Marco generally find my pasta favorites too bland. I contend that they are simply flavored in a more subtle way than he is accustomed to. While leafing through Silver Palate Cookbook I came across a recipe for creamy pasta sauce with fresh herbs...I had to try it! The herbs I used were basil and mint, and I substituted heavy cream for nonfat milk (!) because I didn't have any heavy cream on hand. It was delicious, but the next time I'd get my shoes on and make the trip for the heavy cream, because the sauce never thickened properly (even though I increased the butter to a whole stick!).

Without further ado, the correct way to make creamy pasta sauce with fresh herbs:

1.5 C heavy cream
4 T sweet butter
1/2t salt
1/8t nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1 C finely chopped fresh herbs (suggested: basil, mint, watercress, parsley, chives)

1. Combine cream, butter, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne in a heavy saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.

2. Whisk in parmesan and herbs and simmer for another 5 mins. Taste and correct seasoning as needed.

Serve immediately - ideal with angel hair pasta!

For dessert, we made dark chocolate brownies from a box, but we only had one egg! Now, I know enough to remember that baking has more chemistry involved than other forms of cooking, and that being off a little bit can have dramatic results, usually for the worse. Fret not, dear reader, because 55 minutes later we had the BEST brownie pudding - sure, we had to eat it with a spoon, but it was so rich and yummy...happy birthday to me!

The journey AND the end were perfect.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

sometimes pizza is really the answer...

Yes, I am a foodie, but a foodie with both high and low-brow taste. And some nights, there is only one answer. Picking up the phone and ordering pizza.

The latest find: Dino's in Burbank ( Their pepperoni looks like a double pepperoni pizza! Delicious.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scalloped Onions, leeks and shallots...or: One big knife. Two closed eyes. Enter bandaid.

The leeks were lovely at the Santa Monica Farmer's market, but I wanted to try something other than potato leek soup. I came across this scalloped onion recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook , and it had me at bread crumbs and cheddar cheese. It wasn't until I was actually shopping up three whole pounds of freaking onions that I looked at the yield on the recipe: serves eight. Eight! I wondered what exactly I was getting myself into, what with the onions, the 1/2 lb of shallots, etc, but forged ahead, for lack of a better idea.

Now, eventually I knew I'd join the ranks of injured cooks, but I am ashamed to say exactly how I did it. For the sake of entertainment, I swallow my shame and give you the short version:

- Chopping 3 lbs. of onions makes one's eyes water. A lot.
- Decided to just let my eyes tear up, thinking it might be best to rid my eyes of the irritating onion fumes.
- Thought "I can chop these with my eyes closed"...

...right...there's where it all came crashing down. My injury involved just enough blood to ensure that I don't chop onions again with my eyes closed, but was certainly mild enough to make medical attention unwarranted.

Back to the meal. This is one of those dishes where the flavors and textures blend so harmoniously the Beach Boys of cuisine. The leeks and shallots take the sharpness out of the onion, the shallots lend a sweetness to the dish, and the butter, heavy cream, cheese and bread crumbs...but wait! I don't have a calorie or fat count on this, but it really isn't as rich as one might think. I mean, three lbs of onions (plus the leeks and shallots) is a lot of veggie to soak up just a 1/4 cup of cream. The cheese melted into the bread crumbs...a dish fit for a (hungry) King.

2 lbs. leeks halved lengthwise and chopped
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
3 lbs. of onions, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 lb shallots
salt and pepper
1/4 c heavy cream
1 c coarse fresh bread crumbs (once again, I used store bought)
1 C grated extra sharp cheddar (about 4 oz)
1/4 t paprika

Preheat oven to 375.

Melt butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat. Add onions, leeks, shallots, and salt and pepper. cover and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to moderately low and cook, covered, about 10-20 minutes, until veggies are soft.

Remove lid and cook another 3-5 minutes, letting excess liquid evaporate.

Stir cream into onion mixture and put in a shallow baking dish. Toss together bread crumbs and cheese and sprinkle on top. Dust top with paprika. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

bok choy with soy sauce and least I *think* it was bok choy!

My latest trip to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market (saturday morning at the promenade, the one I prefer) yielded some lovely bok choy, but I have to admit that when I got it home it didn't look exactly like bok choy...the white parts of the stalks were a lot smaller and thinner. I proceeded with recipe anyway, for lack of a better idea, and I'm so pleased that I did. It's best served with rice or bread to soak up any extra sauce (mmmmm......). Thinking it would also be delicious with scallops. I served it with a side of roasted tomatoes with lots of garlic and parmesan cheese prepared by st. This was a taste feast! Full disclosure: I used Trader Joe's clam sauce instead of oyster sauce, having no idea what oyster sauce is like, but it came out delicious! The clam sauce and butter did not make this dish heavy, as I thought it might, but instead helped the sauce to coat the bok choy nicely. At one point I said "I have a really good feeling about this meal" and I was right!

From The Gourmet Cookbook , I give you bok choy with soy sauce and butter.

2 T water
1 T soy sauce
1 T oyseter sauce
2 T veggie oil
2 heads bok choy, trimmed and cut into slices
1/2 t salt
2 T unsalted butter

Stir together water and soy and oyster sauces in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 10-12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add bok choy and start stir frying for 2 minutes. Add soy mixture and butter and stir fry until bok choy is crisp and tender, 1-2 minutes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Steamed broccoli w/ caper brown butter, or I would rob stores for capers

Sometimes I wonder if I should just name this blog "shrine to The Gourmet Cookbook , and I may just do that someday. My latest creation from said tome was steamed broccoli with caper brown butter, and it was quite lovely.

It started, as the majority of my veggie dishes do, with a trip to the farmer's market to see what was looking good. This being California, just about everything is in season, so I never know what surprises will lurk in the stalls. I absolutely prefer the Hollywood Farmer's Market, because it draws a more diverse crowd and has a much, much better selection than the Santa Monica Farmer's Market (IMHO), but I do actually live in Santa Monica these days, so Santa Monica it was (the Sunday Santa Monica market, for those who know the different markets around here. The winners that particular day were the strawberries and the broccoli. I bought two heads of broccoli and was off and running.

I would never, left to my own devices, add capers to broccoli, as I am more inclined to experiment with diversity in color and texture. I just wouldn't add green to green, because it doesn't seem visually interesting. Of course, that's why I have cookbooks: to tell me how to do things I wouldn't do otherwise in the kitchen.

While this is a lovely, tasty dish, I have to say I had hoped the caper brown butter would have adhered to the broccoli better. The capers just rolled off of the broccoli, leaving them to be scooped up at the end. That said...I will make it again, and probably again and again. the creaminess of the melted butter and the saltiness of the capers was like crack to me. If you have PMS, it will be like crack to you, too. Salt and fat - I mean come on! Heaven!

1.5 lbs broccoli
3/4 unsalted butter
3 T drained capers, chopped up (oh, I didn't chop them! that's probably why they rolled off!)
3T flat leaf parsley (I always omit the parsley, out of general laziness)
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper

cut up the broccoli, then steam it, in a steamer rack, covered, about 6 minutes (or until tender). I couldn't find a steamer rack, so I just blanched the broccoli for about two minutes and it was cooked perfectly.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in capers and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Stir in parsley, salt, and pepper.

Toss with broccoli in a bowl.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I had no idea Pasta Caprese could be served hot!

In fact, I really had no idea there was any such caprese dish involving pasta...I had only made caprese salad (which also happens to be a favorite snack of mine). So I was perusing my latest favorite book, The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta , and was thrilled to come across this recipe. It's so easy, and so inexpensive, and is even good eaten in bed after clubbing!

Now, I do have a few notes on this one. I actually used 4 cloves of garlic, as I can never get enough garlic, and 2 just didn't seem like enough. Also...the garlic is really not cooked in this, so if you dislike raw garlic...keep that in mind; you might want to reduce the amount of the garlic. While the hot pasta is supposed to heat up the mozzarella and tomatoes, I found that it didn't heat them up enough, so I ended up nuking the meal right before serving. Those caveats aside...this will be worked in to my repertoire of favorites, for sure! Delicious, and clean!

pasta caprese

5 large tomatoes
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1 t balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
pinch of cayenne (I used a splash of tabasco)
1 lb of penne or ziti
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
about 15 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded

Peel and seed the tomatoes (this is not difficult if you blanch the tomatoes first), then cut them into small dice. Drain in colander for about 15 minutes to remove excess liquid.

In a bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cayenne. Set aside at room temp for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

Drain the pasta and put in a warmed bowl. Add the tomato mixture and toss. Add the cheese and basil and toss again. As the heat from the pasta melts the cheese, taste and adjust seasoning Serve right away.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love this blog! Picked up a recipe for pork medallions...

I stumbled across the most lovely little blog the other day - Her tagline is "how to eat ridiculously well on a miniscule budget" - in other words, this is my kind of blog!

As it turns out the blogger is the daughter of restaurant owners, and she's quite a brilliant cook, who also happens to be, well, broke.

I tried the pork medallions recipe, which was hysterical because it required several phone calls back and forth between me at st., who was purchasing the pork. We had no idea what kind of cut to get, or even what pork would look like. For those of you who are curious, she ended up getting what was a 2 lb. log of meat, and when we were messing around in the kitchen getting ready to cook, she actually hit thwacked me with it, as if it were a baseball bat. Thud. Which of course was good for many, many laughs over the next 24 hours. It's just not often that one gets thwacked with a pork log.

But I digress...

I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into cooking pork (well, with the exception of bacon, which I love) and we figured out pretty quickly that medallions are, well, little pork medals. It was such a simple recipe, and the honey balsamic glaze was delicious, too.

Here's the recipe, (cut and pasted from her blog) along with potato pancakes:

Pork Loin Medallions with Balsamic Honey Glaze over New Potato Pancakes (serves 4; Total Cost: $3/person)

1 lb lean pork loin
10-15 new potatoes (any potato will do in a pinch)
1 egg white
½ c honey
¼ c balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
½ c vegetable oil for frying
¼ t salt
1/8 t ground pepper
Extra pinches of salt & pepper (for potatoes)
Parsley or cilantro for garnish

Make the glaze by combining the balsamic vinegar and honey in a bowl and mixing together well until completely smooth. Set aside.

Peel and shred the potatoes into a large bowl. Since the shredding process will extract quite a bit of liquid from the potatoes, you may need to drain them in a colander. Some moisture is okay, but you want to make sure that they’re as dry as possible. Season with a couple pinches of salt & pepper. Lightly beat the egg white and add to the shredded potatoes, mixing together until completely coated. This will act as a binder to make sure they stay together during the frying process. In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat until it becomes iridescent. You can test the oil’s heat by flicking a couple drops of water (carefully!) and if it starts to pop, you're good to go. Take a small handful of the potato mixture and arrange into a “pancake” about 3” in diameter. Gently place the pancake into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side or until both sides are a nice golden brown (like hash browns). Once cooked, remove from oil and place on a plate with plenty of paper towels for draining excess oil. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably make 3 or 4 of these at a time.

Cut the pork loin into medallions about ¾” in size. Season both sides of each medallion lightly with salt & pepper. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When pan is heated, add a couple of pork medallions and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the meat is no longer pink on the inside. Do not overcook! When all the pork is cooked, add about half the glaze to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. If you like, you can place the pork back in the pan with hot glaze to coat lightly for extra flavor.

Arrange 3 or 4 potato pancakes on a plate. Top with 3 pork medallions, drizzle dish with remaining glaze, garnish with parsley or cilantro, and enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

you can call me "homie"...or how eating locally comforts me in this economy

I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) last year just as the news about the economy started to get really desperate. My friends were getting laid off, some twice in the same year, and the collective anxiety of the country, of the world, really, was (and still is) palpable. It was then that I clung to her words about eating simple meals that are locally grown....there is something comforting about feeding your loved ones delicious meals made from ingredients we can actually pronounce and identify, and come from farmers from our region.

Kingsolver's book, if you are unfamiliar with it, documents the first year that her family pledged to eat only locally grown foods. They each were allowed one cheat food (coffee would be mine), but otherwise sustained themselves with foods they grew in their garden, meats they harvested themselves (the chapters on the mating habits of their Kentucky Bourbon turkeys is hsyterical), and food purchased from local farmer's markets. Many don't realize that before Kingsolver was a successful novelist she was a science writer, and she could write on virtually any subject and make it riveting. She is one of the most compassionate, intelligent humans on the earth, she really must be, and she is a complete inspiration to me, not only for her writing, but mostly for the way she lives her life - so intentionally and thoughtfully.

Which was the lesson I needed, and still am holding on to, for hope during this strange and frightening period.

Now I am going type a phrase here, and I am going to cringe. Simple pleasures. God, that was so painful, I am going to type it again: simple pleasures. Sounds like the title of an Oprah magazine article, or a harlequin romance novel. But really, it's something we need to relearn in this country, and we are obviously going to have to. Enjoying our lives, and our meals, is not about expensive food trucked in from all over the country, and dining in an expensive home. Some of the best meals I had in 2008 were eaten off of plates balancing on our laps, in the modest yet terrifically bohemian and cozy apartments of my friends, made from ingredients we'd purchased that morning at the Hollywood Farmer's market.

And it was lovely.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

from the "don't try this at home, kids" file...

Every so often I try something and it just, well, tanks. Hard.

Last weekend I was geeked and inspired to try something I found on another food blog (which I will not name in this post, as it's a really good blog and I don't want to make its first mention on here a bad one!). Seared scallops, ok, fine, figured those would be great, but it was the citrus risotto that caught my eye...

I have always been adventurous with food but over the past year I have also learned that I love to prepare dishes that fuse together interesting and unexpected ingredients. So I didn't bat an eye when this recipe called for risotto cooked with chicken stock and then enhanced with citrus zest and fruit.


I had never made risotto before, had heard that it was difficult to prepare perfectly, so I was so pleased to watch my risotto cook up to a fluffy, perfect rice dish. I had a flash moment where I thought "Looks so delicious, it seems a shame to mix a bunch of citrus into it"...

Note to self: listen to those flashes.

st. and I spent nearly 30 minutes zesting 1 grapefruit, 2 limes, and an orange, then cutting each piece of fruit into sections (called "supreming" apparently) only to unceremoniously dump it into the bowl of flawless risotto.

It tasted...awkward, like mismatched clothing (if, um, you could taste mismatched clothing, or something...I am sure you get my drift). UNgood. Not terrible, mind you, or even sort of gross, just ungood. The citrus flesh did not shred up and mix in the way I was led to believe it would,
and after each bite I just had a quizzical look on my face. I threw the rest out, and I had a pretty huge pot of it made up. It's a damn shame.

The entire meal wasn't a bust, thankfully, as I made a brilliant red snapper. Red snapper, you ask? Yes, that's right. I couldn't find scallops to save my life, so red snapper it was. I baked it with garlic, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and a little red wine. Divine.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I swear I didn't get this recipe from family circle magazine...

Last night I fed two teenagers, myself, and another adult. I knew the two teenagers would be unappreciative at best, but they both actually cleaned their plates, which leads me to believe that every once in a while I do something right!

I started with one of my "go-to" recipes: jasmine rice with peanuts and cilantro, which I have blogged about elsewhere on here, and the main dish was Parmesan Chicken. Both recipes are from The Gourmet Cookbook , which is pretty much by bible these days. I make the jasmine rice dish pretty often, because now that I have my little Dualit food processor it's a snap to make. The parmesan chicken I chose because....I already had bread crumbs in my cupboard, and I remember this recipe being a cinch to make.

I have yet to use homemade bread crumbs in a recipe. In fact, I like to keep a cannister of store-bought bread crumbs because I use them in a favorite pasta recipe (pasta with bread crumbs and capers, from the same cookbook) and they seem to just nice to have on hand. I do suspect, though, that this chicken recipe would appear a little bit less Family Circle magazine-y if I used homemade ones. This recipe always comes out a tad bit salty for my taste, which perhaps comes from the dijon mustard? Don't get me wrong, I love it, and it's one of those recipes where the coating on the chicken runs off a little bit and burns into the pan - have to eat that part, too!

3 T dijon mustard
1 t white wine vinegar
dash salt
dash pepper
6 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless and cut in half

1 1/2 english muffins to turn into bread crumbs
3/4 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 T unsales butter, melted

preheat oven to 400 degrees, with the rack in the middle.

Whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper, and toss the chicken in this.

Combine bread crumbs with cheese, butter. Take the chicken and mess it around in the bread crumb mixture (latex gloves make this less messy for me; I get the willies touching raw chicken). After the crumbs adhere, move the chicken to a baking dish or sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, or 15-20 minutes.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

good to know...regarding leftover pasta

Probably the most practical thing I've learned this year (yes, I know the year is young, but still!) is how to reheat pasta in the microwave without drying it out. Here's what you do: wet a paper towel, and then cover the pasta bowl before you put it in the microwave. This keeps the moisture in!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

I left my heart and tastebuds on the streets of Santa Barbara!

This morning on NRP I listened to a story about people "vacationing" closer to home; because of the economy, Americans are staying put, but still taking their vacation time, and indulging in more modest luxuries like extra yoga classes, facials and massages, still saving lots of money by cutting out things like, say, expensive air travel and hotel accommodations. Which made me feel better, actually. For years, when I had a higher paying job and the economy didn't feel so, well, scary, I traveled as often as I could. Now, for the most part, I am always, always, always in LA, which can feel somewhat oppressive to me; staying anywhere for months on end, with no break, feels oppressive to me.

Which made my day getaway to Santa Barbara so amazes me that just a quick drive out of LA brings miles of coastline not clogged with traffic and lush, green hills. I've been pining for a trip to Italy, my new culinary fantasy land, but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards this year, so imagine my thrill at dining at Ca Dario ( , a fabulous Italian restaurant in the heart of this enchanting little town.

St., my most frequent (and definitely most appreciative and enthusiastic) dining companion, had been raving about this place that she had frequented with her family. She had not been in several years, but was pleased to find the menu still boasts her favorite dishes. I "almost" ordered everything on the menu, which is not to say I nearly ordered it all, but at one point or another I considered every single item offered. Every appetizer, every pasta, every meat dish looked so was very difficult to decide.

After hearing "I'm ordering the ciotola di mare and I'm NOT sharing" I decided that I had better order this, too, to see what it was all about. Ciotola (pronounced shee-uh-tola) means "bowl", and this "bowl of the sea" was something I will probably die trying to recreate. Our eyes were as big as anime characters as the waitress brought our ciotolas to us: a giant prawn (still in its body), mussels, jumbo shrimp and clams all in the most velvety tomato and saffron sauce. The mussels were the biggest and freshest I've ever eaten, and that broth...oh that broth...I will probably be calling its name in my sleep for years to come. velvety Italian lover! I asked st. if it would embarrass her if I got naked and just swam in the broth, but we both decided I wouldn't fit in the bowl.

I would have been content to stop after the ciotola, but oh no, that was not to be. St. ordered her favorite main course, the rack of lamb with slices of roasted garlic and sides of roasted beets and potatoes. This dish melted in my mouth and the roasted garlic still haunts me. I ordered the rib eye steak with white beans and sage, which was the most exquisitely spiced steak I've ever eaten. At one point I actually just wanted to lick the slab of meat, but decided that would look weird, though next time I am sitting with my back to the general population so if I have any more weird urges like that I can just indulge them without upsetting the other tables.

But...they would probably understand.

The wine I had was a Morellini, and I can't really tell you much about it other than a. it was great with red meat, b. it was reasonably priced, and c. I'm going to look to buy some here in LA.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

l'arte d'arrangiarsi....or the joy of a bowlful of beets

I love when I stumble upon a word or a phrase in a foreign language that perfectly describes an idea or a feeling in a way that my own language does not. I could fill an entire (long) blog post listing such words and phrases, but today I am contemplating just one of them: l'arte d'arrangiarsi.

The art of making something out of nothing.

As our nation (and world) faces economic and environmental crises, I find myself, coincidentally, serendipitously and necessarily, growing more and more fascinated with cultures that live much more simply and intentionally than we (as U.S. Citizens) tend to do. I read recently in Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia , where I also have learned literally every Italian word I know, that Americans pursue not pleasure, but entertainment.

This rings true.

So tonight, in pursuit of pleasure (while my son pursues entertainment by watching the Matrix Reloaded), I celebrate the simplicity of a bowlful of beets. For $2.49 at Whole Foods (a store that always makes me feel stylish and good looking, even when I stumble over there in my fleece jacket, sweats, and pirate boots), I purchased a bunch (3) of beets, locally (well, SoCal) and organically grown. I drizzle a little olive oil over them, stick them in the oven at 400 degrees, leave them there for, oh, an hour and a half or so, and then eat them, in their blood red, nutty glory, sans spices, sans fancy cooking technique, and loaded with iron, vitamin A, and potassium.

l'arte d'arrangiarsi...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scallops broiled with ginger is a perfectly balanced yin and yang meal- who knew?

Years ago, while on a visit back to Austin, I met this fellow who claimed he had completely reversed his cancer by transitioning to a purely macrobiotic diet (and I had no reason to disbelieve him). This fascinated me, partly because I am afraid of cancer, and partly because, well, it doesn't take much to get me intrigued by lifestyles outside of the mainstream.

And, of course, there is Casa De Luz (, a lovely, lovely macrobiotic restaurant in Austin, one of my favorite places to have brunch, and one of the many magical places I miss in Austin. But I won't digress...

Wanting to gain an introductory understanding of a macrobiotic diet, I went out and found myself a copy of The Macrobiotic Way , pretty much the undisputed bible of the macrobiotic lifestyle.

Well, if you've read any of my other posts on here, you know that the macrobiotic diet isn't something I adhere to. Not for more than one meal at a time, at least. But in theory, I can get behind it: locally grown, fresh foods are the mainstay. There was a lot on balancing yin and yang in one's diet, which I remember being completely lost of me, although re-reading this part last night it didn't seem so complicated. In fact, there is even a cheat sheet, where I learned that the meal I prepared last night, straight out of The Macrobiotic Way , is a perfect balance of yin (ginger) and yang (scallops).

My original intention was to prepare something satisfying, but light enough that st. and I could still get up and go out to a club (which, by the way, didn't happen, however I don't blame that on the meal).

I purchased the most beautiful scallops ever...ever! They were the size of golf balls, just perfect. I marinated them for 15 minutes in a tablespoon of grated ginger and a 1/4 c of soy sauce, then broiled them for 10 minutes, because they were so thick. They were tender, tender, tender, but when I re-do this recipe (and you can be sure that I will!) I will make a few changes: I will reduce the ginger to half a tablespoon, and marinate it longer. The broiled ginger almost made the scallops taste like gingersnaps, and I couldn't taste the soy sauce (can also use tamari) one bit.

Still, we loved this meal, mainly because in the past I have overcooked scallops, and these were perfectly cooked, and even with the gingersnappy taste, they had a nice, light flavor.

This was my first ever foray into macrobiotic cooking. I'm going to tell people I follow a macrobiotic meal at a time, once in a while.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

...and now I cook Asian-inspired food, too!

While shopping at Trader Joe's the other day I came across yellowfin tuna (frozen) and picked some up, thinking I'd find a recipe and cook it up. I didn't realize that yellowfin tuna is usually served rare (raw?) with a quick sear on each side. I goggled the hell out of yellowfin tuna, and searched all of my cookbooks, and finally gave in: I was going to have to prepare seared tuna.

Not sure why, but this intimidated me. All (or at least most) seafood preparation intimidates me, in fact. I fear I'll deliver some rare seafoodborne virus to my nearest and dearest.

So, seared tuna it was, and I needed to find a side dish to prepare with it, and I wanted something that wasn't going to be a lot of work, as I was starting this meal late(r) at night, after a long day of work, and didn't need to be spending three hours in the kitchen that particular evening.

Once again, my trusty Gourmet Cookbook
came through for me, with a recipe for jasmine rice with cilantro and peanuts. I found a sesame seared tuna recipe on

First, the sesame seared tuna. I neglected to get the Japanese sweet wine, but didn't miss it at all. This was a lovely sesame encrusted tuna, and it was delectable even prepared with fish that had been frozen. Virtually every seared tuna recipe insisted on the freshed tuna available. I cooked st.'s tuna a bit more than mine, ok, I cooked hers all the way through, since she doesn't eat raw fish, and hers was delicious as well. I will make this again!

The jasmine rice with cilantro and peanuts...oh, wonder of wonders! I used the boxed jasmine rice from Trader Joe's that just cooks in the microwave for a few minutes, then the rice was tossed in a mixture of chopped peanuts, cilantro, rice vinegar, peanut oil, and scallions. My variation: I used half of the called for rice vinegar, and it was just fine. This dish was simple, and the crunch with the peanuts made it terribly satisfying. I would serve this solo to myself. Interestingly, Teena from The Gourmet Project also found it needed less rice vinegar than called for.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Originally titled "God's Pharmacy"...I like to call it

This came to me as a spam(ish) email from a former co-worker of mine. I think it's so delightful...makes me want to spend the next full month in a garden, eating snap peas. The title of the email was "God's Pharmacy"...which is a little too sugary for me, but I still find this fascinating.

If I knew who had originally written this, I'd be happy to credit them, but I don't, so here goes:

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents c ervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.

Oranges, Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.