Monday, February 28

Prosciutto, Mushroom, & Fennel Pizza

Pizza is my boyfriend's favorite food, and his biggest complaint is that I don't make it often enough. It can be time-consuming to prepare, but it's a fun activity to do together and it turns out great every time. I take a shortcut by buying dough at the supermarket, but if your market doesn't sell fresh dough, you could always buy some from your local pizza place. This time we used a combination of prosciutto, sauteed onion and fennel, and thyme for my toppings, but you can re-create this using your favorite ingredients. It's also a great way to use leftovers.

Prosciutto, Mushroom, & Fennel Pizza:
  • Thinly slice one fennel bulb, one onion, and one package of crimini mushrooms.*
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet and add fennel and onion. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until vegetables begin to caramelize.
  • Add mushrooms to the pan and season mixture with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, roll out one package of store-bought pizza dough** to fit the length of a large, greased baking sheet.
  • Prick the dough all over with a fork. Spread the top with 1/2 c. tomato sauce and 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Then add the vegetable mixture, two slices of shredded prosciutto, one tsp. fresh thyme leaves, a pinch of red chili flakes, and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake the pizza at 425°F for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted.

Serves four
*Also called baby bella mushrooms.
** I like to use Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough.  

Friday, February 25

Weekend Review: Red O

Pollo en Mole Poblano, Rice, Watercress Salad

My boyfriend got a year older over the weekend and chose to have his birthday dinner at Rick Bayless's Red O. We've been wanting to try his famous Mexican cooking for years (even more so after he was named the winner of Top Chef Masters) and were thrilled when he opened a restaurant in L.A. last spring. But after hearing the odd name and some mixed reviews, we were worried it would focus more on being a celebrity hot spot than on serving great food. Boy were we wrong! Everything we ordered was fresh, authentic, and amazing. The winning dish was definitely the Tinga Poblana - you can't go wrong with pork prepared three different ways - but I still can't stop thinking about the corn and goat cheese tamale.

Fresh Corn & Goat Cheese Tamale
Tinga Poblana, Braised Pork Shoulder & Belly, Homemade Chorizo, Avocados, Queso Fresco
Queso Fundido with Bacon, Habanero & Pickled Onion
Bunuelos with Salted Caramel Ice Cream & Kahlua Chocolate Sauce

Thursday, February 24

Portabella Mushroom Tacos

A few weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite hometown restaurants (The Sea Casa) and fell in love with their new portabella mushroom tacos. I finally got around to creating my own version, which I adapted to include some of my favorite ingredients. This is definitely a healthy and vegetarian-friendly take on Mexican cuisine, but the portabellas have a nice meatiness to them that will keep carnivores happy. You can always spend the extra calories on chips and salsa or your favorite Mexican beer.

Portabella Mushroom Tacos:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large non-stick skillet.
  • Add 2 sliced onions and 2 tbsp. fajita seasoning. Cook for 5-7 minutes, adding chicken stock by the tablespoon as needed.
  • Add 1.5 lbs. sliced portabella mushroom caps and 2 sliced bell peppers. Cook until mushrooms are soft and onions are caramelized, about 7-10 more minutes.
  • Divide vegetable mixture into warm, whole wheat tortillas.
  • Top each taco with grated cheese, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.*

Serves six
*Or use whatever toppings you like best.

Wednesday, February 23

Sweet Chili Salmon

I'm a big fan of Bon Appetit recipes (as I've mentioned before), and when I saw their salmon with sweet chili glaze on the cover of their April 2010 issue I knew I had to try it at home. I've adjusted it to suit my tastes and made it a dozen or more times since. It's truly a restaurant quality dish that's equally perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or for entertaining a group of friends. I love using the fish marinade as the sauce for the vegetables on the side.

Sweet Chili Salmon with Sugar Snap Peas:
  •  Place two 6 oz. salmon fillets on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil.
  • Combine 2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce*, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, and 1/2 tbsp. grated ginger in a bowl.
  • Spoon marinade over salmon, reserving extra in the bowl. Let the salmon marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Cook salmon in the broiler for 8-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet with 1 tbsp. vegetable oil.
  • Add one package of trimmed sugar snap peas, 1 tbsp. ginger, and 1 tbsp. minced garlic.
  • Cook peas for 2-5 minutes, until almost tender.
  • Add remaining marinade and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  • Drizzle peas with 1 tsp. sesame oil.
  • Serve peas alongside cooked fish and brown rice. 

Serves two
*Found in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets. 

Tuesday, February 22

Weekend Review: Rustic Canyon

Niman Ranch Burger with Cheddar & Onion Fondue

My boyfriend's parents came to visit us over the long weekend and we decided to try out Rustic Canyon for dinner one night. We've been wanting to go there for awhile, as we love the owners' other eateries, Huckleberry and Sweet Rose Creamery. Rustic Canyon is a wine bar at heart (their wine list is absolutely huge), but their food is truly remarkable. We were underwhelmed by the menu at first - I'm skeptical of any place that claims their star dish is chicken - but their interesting flavor pairings transformed seemingly average entrees. We agreed that the chicken was probably the best we'd ever had, and my boyfriend and I can't wait to go back on a Monday for their special Burger and Beer Night.

Squid with Romesco
Half Jidori Chicken with Chickpeas and Artichoke Hearts
Branzino with Celery Root
Blueberry Muffin Sundae

Friday, February 18

Kir Royales

I've fallen into a routine after work (get home, make dinner, play with my cats, watch some television, go to bed), so I decided to surprise my boyfriend with a cocktail hour before dinner. I tried out Ina Garten's recipe for cheese straws, which were deliciously addicting, and paired them with my favorite cocktail of the moment, kir royales. It was such a nice change of pace to unwind after work with a cold drink and hors d'oeuvres, and I think my dinner tasted extra-delicious after a few cocktails.

Kir Royales:
  • Pour one tbsp. Crème de cassis* into the bottom of a champagne flute.
  • Top with Champagne.**

Makes one cocktail
*Black currant liqueur. This can be found at liquor stores and some supermarkets.
**I like to use good Prosecco instead. 

Thursday, February 17

Asian Noodles

I was running around last night after work but still wanted to make dinner for my boyfriend and a friend before we watched the new episode of Top Chef. Usually Asian food is my go-to for a quick weeknight meal, so I decided to combine some ingredients I had in the fridge with udon noodles for a fast fix. I cooked the noodles the same way I do regular pasta, and then added it to a stir-fry. I used the vegetables and chicken I had on hand, but you can re-create it with whatever ingredients you like.

Chicken & Vegetable Udon Noodles:
  • Boil one pot of water and cook one box of udon* noodles according to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 1 tbsp. vegetable oil.
  • Add one sliced chicken breast, one bunch diced asparagus, 2 tbsp. diced green onions, and one package sliced mushrooms to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. minced garlic, and Sriracha* hot sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add cooked noodles to the pan and toss with 1 tbsp. soy sauce and 1 tsp. sesame oil.
  • Serve in bowls and top with toasted almonds and 1 more tbsp. sliced green onions.
 Serves four
*Available in the Asian food aisle of most supermarkets.

P.S. How cute are these new bowls I got from Anthropologie?

Wednesday, February 16

Pork Chops & Apple-Onion Sauce

I’ve been a foodie-in-training my whole life (I’ll try to post a picture of me in my chef’s hat circa 1995), so almost all my recipes are adaptations or re-creations of food I’ve had before. Once in awhile I’ll come up with something truly unique and awesome, such as my pork chops with apple juice onions, but I can’t help staying true to classic flavor combinations. I’ve never been a fan of apple sauce with pork – something about cold mush on top of my pork turns me off – so I decided to make a hot apple-onion sauce instead. It’s a great fall or winter dish, and a drier version of the onions are a great topping for turkey burgers during the summer.

Pork Chops & Apple-Onion Sauce:
  •  Heat one tbsp. olive oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, trim excess fat off two bone-in pork chops. Season both sides with salt & pepper.
  • Add pork to the hot pan and brown for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Remove chops from the skillet and place on a roasting sheet. Cook in a 375°F oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on chops' thickness.
  • While pork is cooking, add one sliced onion to the hot, empty skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes*.
  • Add 1 c. unfiltered apple juice and 1/4 c. chicken stock to the onions, making sure to scrape the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
  • Let mixture reduce for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place chops back in skillet and turn in sauce.
  • Serve on plates and top chops with onions.

Serves two
*I also added a few sage leaves I had lying around.

    Tuesday, February 15

    Valentine's Day Dinner

    This rich and creamy pasta makes an easy and fancy dinner at home

    Since we did our big Valentine’s Day celebration the night before, we spent the actual holiday relaxing in our pajamas and watching The Sopranos on DVD. I made pasta with truffle sauce (it’s actually an adaptation from this recipe), which looks impressive but only takes minutes to make. It was a great way to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal with half the cost and a lot more comfort. The whole night was a refreshing change from the usual Valentine's Day celebrations and the perfect finale to a great weekend.

    Pappardelle with Truffle Sauce:
    • Boil a large pot of water, add salt, and cook 8 oz. pappardelle pasta according to package directions.
    • Meanwhile, heat 1/2 c. heavy cream over low heat.
    • Add a 3 oz. container of white truffle butter*, 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, and pinch of salt and pepper.
    • Add cooked pasta and toss with 1/4 c. pasta cooking liquid and 2 tbsp. minced chives.
    • Top with extra parmesan cheese and chives.
      Serves two  
      *Can be found at Italian markets and some specialty markets, such as Whole Foods.

      Monday, February 14

      Valentine's Eve Dinner

      I'm one of those girls who loves Valentine's Day. Even when I was single, I embraced it for what it was: an excuse to dress up and eat amazing food. This year, my boyfriend and I decided to stay in and cook something decadent, so we bought lobster tails at our local seafood market and opened a bottle of champagne. Lobster has always been a special-occasion meal for me, but cooking live lobsters can be messy and labor-intensive. The tails are much easier to eat and were perfect for a romantic meal. We had such a fun time together, and I loved having an excuse to dust off my Limoges plates.

      More Lobster Recipes:
      - Whole Steamed Lobsters
      - Lobster Risotto
      - Lobster, Corn, & Bacon Chowder
      - Lobster & Truffle Pasta

      Lobster Tails with Garlic Panko:
      • Split two, large lobster tails (or four small).*
      • Mix together 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp. melted butter, 1 tbsp. chopped parsley, 1 tbsp. minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
      • Place tails on a roasting tray, flesh side up, and top with breadcrumb mixture.
      • Bake in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes, until topping is golden brown and lobster is cooked through.
      • Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.

      Serves two
      *Or ask your fish monger to do this for you

      Friday, February 11

      Spaghetti with Calamari & Shrimp

      A one bowl meal of pasta, seafood, and vegetables

      I've loved food all my life, but I still had picky eating habits growing up. I refused to eat tomato sauce on my pasta for years (I'd make an exception for ravioli), so I developed a great recipe for white wine and garlic sauce. Nowadays I'll eat almost anything, but this sauce is still one of my all-time favorites. I made it last night with asparagus and calamari, but I have a scallop version that's to die for. Bonus: leftover white wine from the sauce goes great with the pasta.

      Linguine with Calamari & Shrimp:
      • Boil a large pot of water and cook 1/2 lb. pasta according to the package directions.
      • Meanwhile, peel and de-vein 1/2 lb. shrimp and slice 1/2 lb. calamari (bodies only) into rings.*
      • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saute pan. Add 1 tbsp. minced garlic and two pinches of red chili flakes.
      • Saute for 1-2 minutes; be careful to not burn the garlic.
      • Add 3/4 cup white wine and the juice of 1 lemon to the pan. Reduce sauce for 5-8 minutes.
      • Add 1 bunch of chopped asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes until almost tender.
      • Add seafood and cook another 4-6 minutes, or until opaque.
      • Turn off the heat and add cooked linguine. Toss with 1 tbsp. butter and 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid.
      • Divide onto plates and garnish with toasted breadcrumbs and minced parsley.

      Serves two - three

      *Or ask your fish monger to do this for you.

      Thursday, February 10

      Baked Turkey Meatballs

      My friends recommended I check out this amazing spice store, Savory Spice, on my recent trip to Colorado. They have hundreds of different varieties of spices and blends, and I came home with a delicious Italian Sausage Seasoning Blend. When my boyfriend tasted the seasoning at the store he said it was good enough to eat on its own, but I decided to incorporate it into turkey meatballs. Cooking meatballs on the stove can be a messy experience, so I baked them in the oven before simmering them in tomato sauce. I like to serve mine over brown rice, but you could use pasta or make meatball subs instead. The whole meal was fantastic, and I can't wait to order more of the spices online.

      More Meatball Recipes:
      - Chicken & Prosciutto Meatballs
      - Lentil "Meatballs" with Basil-Lemon-Almond Pesto
      - Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

      Baked Turkey Meatballs:

      • Combine 1/4 c. breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp. milk, one egg, 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning, 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
      • Gently mix in 1 lb. ground turkey. Shape turkey mixture into 2 inch balls.
      • Place meatballs on cookie sheets and bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, or until they are cooked through.
      • Meanwhile, gently simmer a jar of marina sauce over the stove.
      • Add cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.
      • Serve meatballs and sauce over brown rice. Sprinkle extra Parmesan on top.

      Serves four

          Wednesday, February 9

          Vegetable Stuffed Potatoes

          My fridge was full of leftovers from the Super Bowl party I had, so I decided to combined them into a filling for stuffed potatoes. I'm a big fan of transforming the ingredients I have on hand into unexpected dishes (such as a hash or fried rice), and I've made several variations of this stuffed potato recipe before. Some of my favorite fillings include shredded rotisserie chicken and bacon, but this vegetarian version is surprisingly hearty. Try it with whatever vegetables and meat you have on hand.
          Tip: it's even easier if you save leftover baked potatoes from a previous dinner.

          Vegetable Stuffed Potatoes:
          • Use a fork to prick the outside of three large, clean russet potatoes.
          • Place potatoes in a 415°F oven for 45-60 minutes or until they are tender. Remove and cool for 10 -15 minutes.
          • Meanwhile, chop one onion, one head of broccoli, and one container of brussel sprouts into bite-size pieces.
          • Place veggies on cookie sheets and toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Let cool.
          • Slice the tops of the potatoes and scoop the insides into a bowl. Reserve skins.
          • Mash potatoes with 1 tbsp. butter, 2 tbsp. creme fraiche, and 2-3 tbsp. milk.
          • Stir in roasted vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
          • Add potato mixture back to the skins and top each with 1 tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese.
          • Bake for another 10 minutes in the oven, or until cheese is melted and the filling is hot.

          Serves three

          Tuesday, February 8

          Weekend Review: Piccolo

          Ravioli del Plin: Fontina Ravioli with Parmesan Truffle Sauce

          I wanted to try out one more restaurant before DineLA ended, so I treated my boyfriend to dinner at Piccolo last weekend. It's located in a slightly sketchy area of Venice, CA, but once we stepped inside it immediately reminded us of time we spent in Venice, Italy. Everything about our experience was authentic Italian - from the servers to the wine and food. Chef Bobo even included a fourth course, gratis, so that we could enjoy a traditional pasta course between our Antipasti and Secondi. Complimentary ravioli with truffles? We'll definitely be coming back.

          Homemade Duck Prosciutto with Watercress Drizzle

          Seared Yellowtail, Mozzarella, Italian Ponzu
          Lamb Loin with Tuscan Melon Foie Gras Risotto Cake
          Bignole: Puff Pastry Filled with Chocolate Cream

          Monday, February 7

          Super Bowl Munchies

          Two years ago, I had a Super Bowl party where I literally ate over five pounds of food in a few hours. I was living in a house with nine other girls, and we each made an incredibly rich (and calorie-packed) game day snack - I think I put cheese queso on every item. This year I took a slightly more health-conscious approach, and served a few more nutritional options next to the mandatory Mac N Cheese. I hate having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I entertain, so I made a yogurt dip (inspired by tzatziki sauce) and a Mediterranean eggplant spread two days in advance.The night before the game, my boyfriend and I cooked a big batch of this chili. I kept it on low heat throughout the game, and was able to spend the party relaxing and watching the game.