20 January 2015

An LA Food Diary


We're a few days out of a trip to Los Angeles, the Venice/Malibu area, and with that in mind, for this post, I thought it could be fun to relate how we ate over the course of a few days. For us East coasters, the pink sunset, sunny days and spectacular Point Dume are etched in good memory. And as it goes when you visit somewhere new, you take a piece back with you. As I head back into the kitchen here, I feel a kick of the Pacific informing our cuisine. Travelers, if you're looking, bookmark some of these items I cobbled together through recommendations, a torn page from a cooking magazine, a colleague and a few LA bloggers. You'll find natural sites much prettier than your plate, but you can eat well, too. 



Our welcome to Hollywood began with, naturally, a late night drink. I'd been on a plane, Ed already there, watching business presentations all day, so we stole away via Uber to the bar with only an address, no sign. Walk through a back door, open in a vintage-inspired bar with handcrafted cocktails. My O Henry, was a delicious mix of bourbon, ginger and lime, chilled by a rectangular ice cube and my gentleman, a fine aged scotch. Next time, I'd dress the part. 

An early lunch is a delicious bet here; while the popular, thick breakfast brioche and house jam seems delicious, if a bit unbalanced on the belly, the savory items are not to be missed. The sorell pesto rice bowl topped with feta, preserved lemon, radish and a poached egg screams Welcome to CA, and is benefited by hefty avocado and marinated kale garnishes, and the scrambled egg, avocado, pancetta, arugula on baguette is indeed a man-'wich. A hipper than hip vibe, yet also reasonable on the wallet. The coffee is delicious, too, and served in a carafe. 



The food is excellent. The wine. People will be ordering lots of plates, and lots of wine. You'll order a few things and realize that they are probably spending $300. The small plates are deliciously detailed but small. There was a rustic pile of escarole, almond and parmesan salad, super-fresh, wood-fired large shell-on shrimp (3!), house-made sausage with king mushrooms and a fire-roast cauliflower. In a Seinfeldian moment, a group of four foodies beside us asked the busboy for bread, which he promptly brought. That may have been the missing link to take our meal into more substantial territory. It's there if you ask! I'm sure it wasn't free...



Chocolatier Blue
A charming handmade chocolate shop across the street on Abbott Kinney, with a laid-back vibe. We bought a few chocolates: espresso, sage-honey, 75% dark, and then, incredulously, were handed a parchment bag of three giant oatmeal raisin cookies. "We give away what didn't sell at the end of the night!" said the bright bandana-wearing employee. The giant, oaty cookies lasted three days, not losing a shred of moisture. We brought one on each outdoor excursion for fuel. Ok, maybe we split the first one for dessert right away. With tea of course.



This clean, design-forward, small shop steps from Venice beach is so charming, we forewent both the Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney altogether. They make a mean long black, have fresh beans and a kind, hip vibe. 

Probably one of my favorite finds, thanks to a coworker. A bare bones, fresh-caught fish shack. Order at the counter and you only have a few choices, which is exactly what I loved about it. Choose a fish fillet from the case for grilling, choose 2 sides. We did a halibut and an Aji tuna. Enjoy one of the many beers, sit outside or in at a checkered picnic table. We went for a late Friday lunch 4ish, and it was pleasantly occupied but with a nicely sparse crowd. A bonus for going at this time is being able to capture the sunset across the street afterwards.

The budget-answer to Gjelina. Our bill with a takeaway kale salad, burrata pizza, meatball side and store bought wine was half what it was the previous night. People stand in the alleyway and at the counter there scarfing down their hot pizza and sides but we were happy to drive peacefully around the corner into our Airbnb abode. 


Malibu Farm Cafe
Put on your sweater at sunset, walk down the pier jutting out into the pacific ocean and sit in what feels like someone's big rustic California kitchen. White-walled, oak-tabled, this quiet, romantic spot is ideal for the end of a day, and the tangy soy-mustard salmon and skirt steak are sturdy mains.  

A Friday morning market with a coffee cart, lovely citrus, avocados, fresh eggs and a seeded organic French baguette, which lasted 3 days on the counter.

Every couple blocks in this part of the country. We replenished our sundry supply with gruyere, smoked deli turkey, watercress, maple yogurt and on-sale California strawberries. Whole Foods are interesting for people watching in general and this SoCal one was no exception...

Be back soon with a new recipe xx


Photos: Malibu sunset, Point Dume I-3, Venice market, Getty Villa mosaic detail, Sqirl, Reel Inn

Martha rose shulman's marinated chicken


In an online community with so many recipes, it can be hard to know what to keep around, let alone what to jump on. What I notice is the desire to try new things competing with the familiarity of what you usually do. And the middle ground is that you don't always get to know something unless you make it a few times. It took me a while to get to this, probably because it's so basic, and that's exactly why I love it.



On the one hand, posting this re-hash of a speedy chicken cutlet recipe from Martha Rose Shulman of the Times feels, well, unoriginal, and yet this is exactly what I find myself searching for in the sea of online cooking; more hacks, techniques, concepts, things that get into your head and then can become riff-able. Practicality if you will. 


These chicken fillets, very briefly marinated, pounded, seasoned and pan fried very quickly in a hot pan, are a ticket. I've served them plain like this with just lemon and flakey salt alongside a bulked out green salad, and I've also placed fresh mozzarella on them right when they come out of the pan and tented with foil. An impromptu deglazing of the pan for a pan sauce is also nice.


Martha indicates starting with two 8 oz breasts, halving and pounding them thin, I have used tenderloins all the times I've made this. My local grocery has recently begun stocking Dartagnan tenders by the pound and they are less expensive than breasts, plus they are already small cuts. I'm happy with how tenders work in this recipe but you can also do as Martha says. 


Tender, flavorful free-range chicken, green veggies in olive oil and lemon and healthy avocado, on the table in a half hour. Hello January. I'm off to California for the first time in ages today. I'm excited for a bit higher temperatures, palm trees and the possibility of finding better avocados. If so, I'm stuffing them in my suitcase. Is that possible? I hope. We'll see! 


Lemon garlic chicken filets
Adapted from NYT

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced or puréed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each) or 1 lb chicken tenders
1 T flour (optional- I have not found it necessary!)
High heat oil for pan frying

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cut each chicken breast into 2 equal pieces and place in the bowl. Stir together and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat drya little. With a flat mallet, pound chicken breast until about evenly 1/4 inch thick between plastic wrap or a ziplock. 

Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary in a large bowl. Cut each chicken breast into 2 equal pieces, and place in the bowl. Mix together and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes. If using tenders, keep whole. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry slightly (discard marinade) and pound chicken breast with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until about 1/4 inch thick. Doing this inside a ziplock or between plastic wrap is ideal. Season the pounded chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper, dredge very lightly in the flour if using, tap to remove excess. Heat a wide, heavy skillet over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, place a few pieces of chicken in the pan – however many will fit without crowding. Cook for 1 1/2-2 minutes, until bottom is browned in spots. Turn over and brown other side, about 1 1/2 minutes. (Do not overcook or chicken will be dry.)



07 January 2015

house (turkey) meatballs




I figure waiting for the perfect time to capture sun-drenched kitchen photos for this overdue post is a game not worth playing. I've been making them all Fall and can't wait any longer. Sure I could schedule them on the lunch menu some winter Saturday but on the weekend breakfast is usually lunch and menus rarely scheduled, and that would just be keeping you further away from the point of these meatballs: winter dinner. These have become our house meatballs and I particularly love making them when it is Unacceptably. Cold. Out. They're turkey-based, lightly herbed, very tender and just warm you the heck up. Tomato sauce does that, yes? So open a bottle of red, dress greens (I love caesary baby kale with this) and warm some bread. I promise you don't need to bother with spaghetti. 



Over the summer, with zucchini and corn around, I made Ottolenghi's spiced turkey meatballs several times. After the fresh produce went away I started with this recipe from TheKitchn because the technique sounded up my alley. After being formed, the meatballs are lightly browned in olive oil and then tomato sauce is poured directly on top and the pan is covered, the heat lowered a little  and they simmer to cook through. I love this method for the same reason as the stove top to oven method with Ottolenghi's: you get them browned but not burned, and just cooked through and tender. After the meat simmers in the sauce for even the 10 minutes here, it adds such richness the sauce, too. I think the best compliment on these, besides the fact that I make them once a week, sometimes twice, was that they were mistaken for beef meatballs. We actually like them better than the ones at one of our favorite fancy pizza joints, which are beef! 



I like to take the opportunity to use up both homemade breadcrumbs and tomato sauce here, but you can use whatever sauce you have. Same goes for breadcrumbs. Making your own is as easy as forgetting about a baguette for a day, de-crusting it and whizzing in the processor. I freeze the breadcrumbs and use them when needed. They defrost in no time when left out. As for turkey, get good, humane stuff, from a good source. And if you have it, either a little torn fresh mozzarella or even more Parmesan is wonderful on top of these. When you take the pan off the heat and see they are done, the whole thing will be very hot. Throw some extra herbs and cheese on, just a little, partially cover the pan and set it on the table to rest while you get everything else ready. When you sit down, it will be melted. Bon appetite! 


Italian turkey meatballs
tweaked from thekitchn.

Notes: as you can probably guess, I usually make half of this recipe at a time, as half is hearty enough for two, about 14 meatballs, and involves no batch browning. If you make the whole thing you'll have to brown in batches before simmering. 

1 pound good quality ground turkey, 85% lean or 93% lean
1/4 cup grated onion, using large holes on a grater
1 large egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs, I used fresh from stale bread
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asagio cheese
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (I have used half fresh oregano too)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or store-bought
Shaved Parmesan or Asagio or fresh mozzarella, torn, to serve, optional
Combine the turkey, onion, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley in a large bowl. Mix gently with your hands until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. 
Roll the meat mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. You should have 26-30.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Place the meatballs in hot skillet and brown for  around 4 minutes, turning so each side hits the pan, gently rotating so they brown evenly. Brown in batches if making whole recipe.
Reduce heat to just below medium, add the tomato sauce to coat and cover pan. Simmer the meatballs and sauce for another 10 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. To test cut into one  to see no pink or use a thermometer, stacking them if necessary. 
Remove from heat, shake skillet to coat in sauce, top with additional herbs and cheese, and let rest a a few minutes on the table, the lid on but ajar. 

23 December 2014

Spicy-Sweet Ginger Cookies with Chocolate




Dark chocolate and ginger; it's a specific pairing, and sometimes a perfect one. Just the heated flavors I go for this time of year when the adrenaline is high. Like those chocolate-covered candied ginger pieces, a little of each flavor alone together goes a long way. Cookie dough, however is a welcoming template for such punchy accents to spread out and mellow themselves a tad. So if you're on the lookout for a quick and kicking addition to your holiday cookie plate, give this one a try. For ginger cookie inspiration here, I turned to none other than Alice Medrich and made a few alterations. The chocolate, however, was my idea.


I adapted these cookies from Medrich's triple-ginger cookies, which have three kinds of ginger in them: ground, crystallized and fresh. And let me tell you, my favorite part of this recipe came when I grated the fresh ginger into the bowl of warm melted butter and stirred it around. A heavenly scent emerged. But as a matter of fact, everything about this one goes into the favorite category, beginning with the fact that they come together in no time, making them the perfect thing to whip up one winter vacation afternoon.


It's a hand mixed dough and doesn't even need to chill. I did freeze some of the dough balls to bake later as Medrich herself advises in all baking when possible. And since these are quite small, you'll get a lot out of the batter. As far as substitutions, I swapped out a bit of white flour for whole grain pastry, and replaced some of the crystallized ginger for dark chocolate, as I mentioned, which I shaved with a knife.


A fabulously fragrant, chewy cookie with accent and a no-frills baking affair. Now that's what I love about Medrich: precise and definitive as she is, there is also a streamlined approach. While you could easily assume that, as author of quite a few baking books and a chocolate expert, she'd require you to double sift and knead pie dough in chilled freezer bags, it's not usually so fussy. You get the feeling that she just wants something delicious in your cookie jar as soon as possible and is also able to steer you there first class. Now that's a ticket I'll hold on to. Have a lovely holiday everyone!!
 



Triple Ginger + Chocolate Molasses Cookies

Adapted from Alice Medrich


 2cups (9 ounces)
all-purpose flour (or half all purpose/half whole wheat pastry flour)

2tsp. baking soda

2tsp. ground ginger

tsp. ground cinnamon

½tsp. ground allspice (or half and half cloves and nutmeg)

¼tsp. salt

8Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and just warm

¼cup unsulphured mild or full-flavored molasses

½cup granulated sugar

cup (2.3 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar

2Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger root

1large egg

1/2

cup (2-4 ounces) ginger chips or crystallized ginger, finely diced or, half ginger and half 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

~Turbinado sugar for rolling (optional)
  1. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for two sheets and in the center for one sheet, and preheat to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper if baking more than one sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt, and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. Combine warm butter, molasses, both sugars, fresh ginger, and the egg in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and candied ginger and chocolate if using and stir until incorporated. The dough will be soft.
  4. Form the dough into 1-inch balls (½ ounce of dough for each). Optionally roll balls in coarse sugar and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake, rotating the sheets from back to front and top to bottom about halfway through the baking, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they puff up and crack on the surface and then begin to deflate in the oven. (For chewier cookies, remove them from the oven when at least half or more of the cookies have begun to deflate; for crunchier edges with chewy centers, bake a minute or so longer.) Cool completely on racks. Store airtight. Dough balls can be frozen before rolling in sugar, and baked for a few minutes longer.