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Shakshuka

In Food, Recipes on January 4, 2014 at 8:38 am

shakshuka

It’s a New Year, and we’re trying to eat clean during the week (tonight’s pork rib roast followed by steamed persimmon pudding and hard sauce will be another story). Last night I made a favorite Tunisian breakfast dish, shakshuka, for dinner. The flavors are so rich and indulgent with just a bit of heat, you’ll forget that this dish is totally guilt-free. The recipe comes from my current cookbook obsession, Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi. I modified only slightly (using canned tomatoes instead of fresh). This would serve four for breakfast, or two very hungry adults for dinner.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons harissa

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 large red peppers, diced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained

4 eggs

A couple dollops of Greek yogurt

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and  add the harissa, tomato paste, red peppers, garlic, cumin, and  1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté for 8 minutes, until the peppers soften. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.

Make four indentations in the sauce and then crack an egg into each. Use a fork to swirl around the whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks.

shakshuka

 

Simmer until the whites are gently set and the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes (you can cover pan with a lid if you want to speed things up a little, but check frequently). Spoon eggs in the sauce onto plates, and serve with a dollop of yogurt on the side.

Shrimp Roast

In Food, Recipes on December 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm

shrimp curry

About a month ago, a friend gave me a copy of Canal House Cooks Every Day and I can’t put it down! So far my favorite recipe—the one that has already become a weekly obsession—is a wonderfully complex curry that is even more wonderfully easy to prepare. This fiery  curry, which gets its heat from Kashmiri chile powder, is meant to be served over a delicious sounding curd rice, but given that we’re trying to lighten things up during the week, I just steam a small head of orange cauliflower florets and serve the curry over that.

India Spices & Groceries

For those in Los Angeles, you can find Kashmiri chile powder and fresh curry leaves at India Spices & Groceries on Pico Blvd., just west of Fairfax.

SHRIMP ROAST
Adapted from Canal House Cooks Every Day
Serves 2-3
 
For the spice blend:
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon Kerala-style garam masala
1/4 teaspoon lightly crushed fennel seeds
 
For the shrimp:
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (scant) coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tomato paste
 
For the tarka:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
10-15  fresh curry leaves

 

For the spice blend, mix together the coriander, garam masala, and fennel seeds in a bowl. Set aside.

For the shrimp, pat the shrimp dry and put them in a medium bowl. Add chile powder, pepper, turmeric, and salt and toss to coat. Set aside.

Heat scant 1/4 cup coconut oil in a large wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and fry for 1 minute. Add spice blend and fry briefly until fragrant. Increase heat to high and add shrimp, stirring constantly until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.

For the tarka, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add curry leaves and fry briefly until they crackle. Pour tarka over shrimp. Serve over steamed cauliflower or rice.

Shrimp Roast

Thanksgiving Cheats

In Food on November 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm

doris

For most of the hostesses I know there’s usually one thing about Thanksgiving that stresses a girl out. For some it’s her mother-in-law, for others it’s piecrust. For me, it’s the gravy. There, I said it. My favorite part of my favorite meal of the year is gravy, and it’s the one thing I don’t make at the Thanksgiving table. For the past few years, I’ve been dry-brining our bird and once you try the technique, you’ll never go back. The one glitch is that the drippings are too salty for pan gravy, and so I order it. There’s no shame in that, especially when the Chardonnay and thyme gravy comes from my friend Kate Paul of foodink catering—former personal chef to the Rolling Stones and a favorite with the likes of Vanity Fair, Vogue, Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld and other A-list clients around town. You can order the entire dinner from foodink, or just fill in the sides as need be.

foodink

It turns out I’m not the only of my friends sneaking in a little outside help. Sisters of Los Angeles co-founder Sara Stein is too busy making her dad’s famous Red River BBQ Sauce (I swear one day I’ll get that recipe out of her!) and grilling her turkey to bake the pies, so she turns to Los Feliz favorite House of Pies for dessert.

house_of_pies

As for my friend Alison, who recently went gluten-free, she’s ordering a classic stuffing with sage, apples and mushrooms from Clementine in Century City to serve to her 20 guests on Thursday. “If I can’t eat it, I don’t want to make it!” she says. Other childhood friends who are heading home to the Napa Valley this week, plan to order mashed potatoes from Rutherford Grill and cranberry relish with orange and cinnamon from Dean and Deluca to take the pressure off. Sometimes you have to cheat to win.

Kim’s Killer Banana Pudding

In Food, Recipes on November 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

banana pudding

You will either thank or curse me for sharing what is the ultimate in banana pudding recipes from one of the best cooks I know. I cannot overstate how mind-blowingly delicious this pudding is. A few months ago, my friend Kim brought us dinner—a comforting slow-simmered bolognese along with a Bouchon butter lettuce salad, and for dessert her banana pudding. I’m not a fan of hyperbole but this is THE BEST BANANA PUDDING I’VE EVER TASTED. EVER. I’ve since made her recipe for my own family, as well as sharing with friends and neighbors, my sister, a friend who just had a baby, and in return have received a couple of marriage proposals not to mention reignited interest from my own husband. It’s really that good. My own twist to Kim’s recipe is making vanilla wafers from scratch, though you can certainly use Nilla Wafers. The homemade wafers are super quick and easy to make, and can be done while the pudding and condensed milk are setting up.

Kim’s Killer Banana Pudding

5-ounce package instant vanilla pudding

14-ounce can condensed milk

1 1/2 cups water

3 cups heavy cream

30 vanilla wafers

3 sliced bananas

In a large bowl, mix instant pudding, condensed milk and water until blended. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whip cream until peaks form. Fold all but about 3/4 cup whipped cream into pudding until there are no streaks of pudding. Then fold in wafers and sliced bananas.

banana pudding

Spoon into individual containers and top with whipped cream. Or spread into a large baking dish and top with remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for several hours. Be sure to hide some at the back of the fridge for yourself for breakfast the following morning. Because all is fair in love and banana pudding.

homemade banana pudding

Nilla Wafers from Scratch

In Food, Recipes on November 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm

homemade nilla wafers

A couple weeks ago, my friend Kim shared her SPECTACULAR recipe for banana pudding. The recipe calls for Nilla Wafers—those classic cookies you’ll find in no-bake icebox cakes and banana cream pies or simply dipped in milk as a nostalgic treat. Since I’m on a personal challenge this month to reduce what I’m feeding my kids that’s from a box, I was curious to see how hard it was to make my own vanilla wafers. I found this recipe from Alton Brown, and it’s a snap. His recipe calls for vanilla sugar—click here for my quick vanilla sugar method—or if you don’t have any vanilla sugar on hand, use granulated sugar and slightly increase amount of vanilla extract used below. The cookies take about 10 minutes to prep, plus an additional 15 minutes to bake and are totally worth it.

Alton Brown’s Vanilla Wafers

7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

nilla wafer batter

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan.

homemade nilla wafers

Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

BN Ranch Turkey

In Food on November 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm

BN RANCH TURKEY

I’ve gotten a jump on my holiday shopping this year, namely by pre-ordering a heritage bird for Thanksgiving from Bill Niman at http://www.bnranchtotable.com. I am ridiculously excited that he’s offering heritage turkeys, and that the bird doesn’t have to travel far. Niman and his wife, Nicolette, are leaders of sustainable and humane farming—their BN Ranch is in Bolinas in Marin County, not so far from where I grew up in Northern California—so it feels right that this bird joins our Thanksgiving table.

Puppy Love in PDX

In Drink, Food, Out of Town on October 15, 2013 at 10:01 am

Brittany spaniel

For those of you over on Instagram, it’s been indulgently documented that our family brought home a new Brittany spaniel puppy a couple weeks ago. Meet Aengus, featured here with his favorite Orvis antler chew toy! I’m so in love with this little guy! Britts are a hunting breed and are more pointer than spaniel, which means they’re active and need a lot of exercise. They are also spectacular family pets, and very loving and gentle with children. Our boys could not be more smitten.

photo 5

We found Aengus through a breeder near Portland, Oregon. When the time came to bring him home, I packed a bag and boarded a flight that arrived in PDX in the evening, just in time to dump my bags at the Ace, and head out to dinner at Pok Pok.

pok pok pdx

When I was wine and spirits editor at Bon Appétit, I found myself in Portland and the Willamette Valley pretty regularly for work. Perhaps what I miss most about Portland are the bartenders. I was reminded of just how much when I cozied up to the bar at Pok Pok and ordered a Tennessee Stud cocktail with bergamot-infused bourbon, fresh lemon and Peychaud’s Bitters.

tennessee stud cocktail

It was a perfect companion to the plate of Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce fiery wings, one of Pok Pok’s signature dishes. My mom grew up in Buffalo, NY, and so when I see wings on the menu, I feel it’s my filial duty to order them. These were outstanding, tossed in Phu Quoc fish sauce,  dipped in a rice flour and tempura flour batter and fried in rice bran oil.

ike's vietnamese fish sauce wings

If you thought things couldn’t get better, think again. Enter a plate of Muu Paa Kham Waan, which was wild boar collar meat with garlic, coriander root and black pepper in a spicy chili lime sauce. It comes with a side of sticky rice, and you take a pinch of rice and then pick up the boar meet. There are no words…

muu paa kham waan

Not shockingly, I woke up the next morning in need of coffee. And even though Stumptown is in the lobby of the Ace, I knew that a superior cup could be found a short drive away at the newest location of Ristretto Roasters. I’m in love with Ristretto’s new café on NE Couch Street and loaded up with several pounds of El Paraíso beans from Colombia. For the drive, I also pocketed a fig buckwheat scone baked by former Spago and Campanile pastry chef Kim Boyce. (When I got home, I discovered that the figgy scone recipe is included in Boyce’s awesome cookbook, Good to the Grain. Yeehaw!)

ristretto roasters

The drive out to Wind Mountain Kennels from Portland, Oregon, to Carson, Washington, was pure beauty. We snaked along the Columbia River, crossing the steel truss cantilevered Bridge of the Gods as we approached state lines.

bridge of the gods

Looking over at our new sleeping puppy on the drive back to the airport, I thought how lucky we are to live on the West Coast. There is so much beauty in the world, much of it a short road trip away, and I for one need to remember that life is about finding the time to stop and smell the coffee, savor the Northern Thai street food, and cuddle up with a new friend.

brittany spaniel

Super Sonic Birthday

In Baby Love, Drink, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on August 16, 2013 at 6:03 pm

sonic birthday

Last month George (my baby!) turned five. I quickly found myself in a little over my head when he requested a Sonic the Hedgehog birthday party, and there were no easy cheats available for purchase because at this writing Sonic has not yet hit critical mass. I’m learning that five seems to be the age when kids gravitate toward single-sex parties, and since all of his girl pals from school were at a girls-only party, we decided to keep it boys and their siblings from his class, which I have to be honest, seemed a little daunting especially with water balloons involved (more on that later), but turned out to be a super sonic good time.

Sonic birthday cake

Okay, the cake was nuts. Can you believe this multi-tiered, fondant, piped-icing, chocolate insanity that my sister, Claire, produced? From scratch! She made the race track out of fondant, as well as the “golden rings,” which she then dusted with edible gold glitter. (Sonic and Tails action figures via Amazon.com.)

sonic cake topper

The day before, I ran by Blick Art on Beverly to grab a giant piece of cardboard and some tempera paints to make a five-foot-tall Dr. Eggman (old-school Sonic villain circa 1990) target for water balloons. Turns out water balloons are a HUGE hit with everyone except for the unsuspecting spouse who has to fill them up.

Dr EggmanThere was Sonic face-painting by the one and only Zayda, and a Sonic piñata from the outstanding Tony of Out Of This World Piñata on Etsy. (He was also responsible for last year’s Spiderman piñata.)

sonic piñata I also found on Etsy these adorable hedgehog party favors (filled with a single serving of hot cocoa), which I put in muslin treat bags along with Sonic tattoos, and little Sega-style race cars.

sonic gift bagsSince Sonic’s favorite food is a chili dog—and I wasn’t overly excited about the prospect of chili, water balloons and five-year-old boys—we played it safe with no-mess hot dogs, Sonic golden rings (organic onion ring chips), and hedgehog fruit salad served in a carved watermelon impaled with blueberries on toothpicks for eyes and nose.

hedgehog fruit salad

sonic golden ringsAnd just because they are the birthday boy’s favorite, there was mac n’ cheese and chocolate milk. Etsy was also the source for these mini plastic milk bottles, which I wrapped with rafia and then tied with butcher’s twine. They are reusable so I’m looking forward to serving blackberry margaritas in them at our next grown-up barbecue.

mac cheese

chocolate milk

Thanks to James Rosales and Char Langos for photos!

Pluot, Prosciutto and Arugula Salad

In Food, Recipes on August 6, 2013 at 11:20 pm

plum prosciutto salad

 

My friend Mia can always be counted upon to bring the most inspired dish to dinner and to have discovered the most awesome vintage lighting fixtures at last week’s flea market. And so it’s no accident that her food is every bit as inspired as her design aesthetic. This gorgeous salad is classic Mia. Use a handful of your favorite peppery and bitter greens, like arugula and radicchio, and slice up some stone fruit and prosciutto and toss with honey vinaigrette. The sweetness of the fruit and honey temper the bitter and spice of the lettuces, and prosciutto adds a richness that ties it all together.

Pluot, Prosciutto and Arugula Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Serves 4

4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 cup olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 small stone fruit, such as pluots, plums or nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced

8 cups mixed greens such as arugula, dandelion greens, radicchio

4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together first five ingredients. In a salad bowl, combine fruit, lettuces, prosciutto. Toss with dressing and serve.

 

Paper Fish

In Food on July 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm

papillote

Sometimes looks can be deceiving. Which is why I’ve never dared tried anything “en papillote” until now. It seemed, well, complicated, fussy—not to mention something I’d watch my husband politely push around on a plate after which he’d probably make himself a steak sandwich. You’re way ahead of me on this one, right? Baking fish in parchment paper is one of the easiest, healthiest and totally delicious ways to get a quick weeknight dinner on the table. Slice up some veggies, wrap it all up in paper and stick in the oven for 10 minutes. Done. And zero clean up. Such a great way to use your summer farmers market haul—squash, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and some shallots. I used this recipe from Bon Appétit, changing up the proportions (I doubled up on veggies) and using dry vermouth instead of white wine. Besides being TOTALLY GORGEOUS, it was really, really good. And nobody made a steak sandwich after. In fact, people requested it again the next night.

sea bass squash

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