Wednesday, August 31

Tuesday Night Food Trucks

Lobster Roll With Butter from the Lobsta Truck

Living in L.A., I'm so stranger to food trucks (a trend that's now present in almost every major city nation-wide), but it's not something I actually seek out very often. It's not that the food isn't delicious and cheap, because it is usually both, but I don't like having to search twitter every time I'm craving some truck food. Luckily, every Tuesday night a group of trucks congregate on Main Street in Santa Monica, providing ample options for delicious international cuisine. My boyfriend and I tried two trucks, the Lobsta Truck and the Ta Bom Truck (Brazilian Food), and I can't wait to go back soon and explore more options. Plus, I'm still regretting not getting a shaved ice snow cone from A Rockin Ice for dessert.

Grilled Steak Burrito from Ta Bom
Chicken & Cheese Pastel from Ta Bom

Tuesday, August 30

Lemon-Herb Roasted Salmon

I just got back from a trip to the North Carolina and Virginia, where I ate more than my fair share of traditional Southern favorites (biscuits, country ham, fried oysters, etc.). Everything was delicious, but it's safe to say that I'm going to be cooking healthy meals for the rest of the week. I was exhausted from traveling (and partying), so I made a version of this recipe for roasted salmon that comes together in under thirty minutes. It was such a fresh way to start off my week and a perfect tribute to the healthy Californian cuisine that I so enjoy cooking.

Lemon-Herb Roasted Salmon:

  • Place a 3/4 lb. skinless salmon* fillet in a ceramic baking dish and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle the salmon with a mixture of 3 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice.
  • Then crust both sides of the fish with a mixture of finely chopped herbs (2 tbsp. fresh thyme, 2 tbsp. scallions, and 2 tbsp. fresh parsley).
  • Let fish marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Pour 2-3 tbsp. white wine in the dish and place in a 425° oven for 12 minutes.
  • To serve, slice the fish in half and garnish with extra herbs and lemon slices.

Serves two
*Preferably coho salmon.

Monday, August 29

Heirloom Caprese Pasta

Favorite caprese salad ingredients are turned into this warm pasta dish

Heirloom Caprese Pasta

I spent the majority of my life avoiding raw tomatoes in my food. To this day, something still rubs me the wrong way about a bland mushy tomato, but I’ve grown to love certain varieties, such as cherry and heirlooms. I think this dish is great for someone who’s anti-tomato because the roasting brings out the sweetness and flavor of the fruit. Because there are so few ingredients to this dish, look for the freshest tomatoes you can find and purchase high-quality mozzarella. I promise it will be a winner with all of your guests.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Caprese Pasta:
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Place 2-3 pints of assorted heirloom cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil.
  • Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and bursting.
  • Meanwhile, cook 12 oz. farfalle pasta* in boiling, salted water according to package directions.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking water.
  • In a large bowl, combine pasta, tomatoes, 1/2 c. chopped fresh basil, and  8 oz. of bocconcini.**
  • Generously season with salt and pepper, adding pasta water to moisten. 
  • Divide onto plates and serve. 

Serves three - four
*Any shape of pasta works here.
**Small, bite size balls of fresh mozzarella. Or dice fresh mozzarella into bite-size cubes

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Caprese Pasta

Friday, August 26

Bagel Breakfast Sandwiches

All your favorite breakfast foods in sandwich form

Egg, Bacon, Cheese, Bagel Sandwiches

I live a few blocks away from a great bagel place and I love getting an egg, cheese, and bacon bagel sandwich on the weekends. Since the concept is pretty simple, I figured it would make sense to recreate it at home. I've started keeping a dozen bagels in the freezer, anyway, since it's much cheaper than buying singles. So, not only are these homemade bagel sandwiches more delicious - with thick-cut, premium bacon, melted jack cheese, and soft scrambled eggs - they are less expensive. Plus, it's so much more fun to lounge around in my PJ's at home rather than fight the hungry crowds.

Egg, Cheese, & Bacon Bagel Sandwiches:
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Cook 4 slices of thick-cut bacon in a large skillet until crispy, about 10 minutes.*
  • Remove bacon and wipe the pan out with a paper towel.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 4 large eggs, salt, pepper, and a dash of hot sauce.
  • Add 1/2 tbsp. butter to the pan and add the eggs.
  • Use a spatula to scramble the eggs to your desired doneness.
  • Slice 2 bagels in half and toast until golden brown.
  • To assemble sandwiches, place a handful of grated cheddar cheese on the bottom half of the bagels. Top with half of the eggs, bacon, more cheese, and the top half of the bagels.
  • Place on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Serves two
*Or try this recipe for cooking bacon, by baking it in an oven.

Wednesday, August 24

Shrimp in Creamy Shallot Sauce

This week, I’m heading to the South for the first time (well, I’ve been to New Orleans before but several Southerners told me “that doesn’t count”) and I’m so excited to try authentic Southern comfort food. I was so excited, in fact, that I couldn’t resist making a Southern-inspired dish at home with this play on shrimp and grits. I actually got the idea for this sauce from a recent episode of Barefoot Contessa (see other Barefoot dishes here and here), but kicked it up with some good old Texas Pete hot sauce and served it over polenta instead of grits. It paired nicely with the bacon-braised chard I featured yesterday.

Shrimp & Polenta with Creamy Shallot Sauce:
  • Heat a large skillet with a little olive oil over high heat.
  • Add in 1 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook until almost opaque, about 2 minutes per side.
  • Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.
  • Then add in 1/2 c. white wine, 1 large minced shallot, and the juice of 2 lemons.
  • Let sauce reduce for about 4 minutes, or until nearly 2 tbsp. remain.
  • Stir in 3 tbsp. heavy cream and several dashes of hot sauce, to taste. Season with salt, then add in the shrimp again.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 stick butter, cubed, until melted.
  • Serve over Parmesan polenta.*

Serves two - three
*Click here to see my polenta recipe.

Tuesday, August 23

Bacon-Braised Swiss Chard

I had some extra bacon in my fridge (leftover from this and this), but I wanted to find a way to use it that wasn't too rich and heavy. I decided to pair it with some braised greens (I used rainbow chard but you could also use kale or something similar) for a hearty and satisfying side dish. Just a few slices of bacon give a subtle smokey flavor to the vegetables, so it's a great way to maximize the last couple pieces in the package. I served this as a side, but it would also be delicious tossed into pasta or served over polenta (also pictured) for a light meal.

Bacon-Braised Swiss Chard:
  • Dice two strips of bacon and get them rendering in a large skillet.
  • Cook until crispy, about 4-5 minutes, then add in 1 bunch of washed and chopped rainbow chard.*
  • Let chard cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly wilted.
  • Add 3/4 c. chicken stock and braise over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.**
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.***

Serves two
*Any type of swiss chard will do.
**Add more liquid if necessary.
***The bacon will already salt the dish. Don't add too much extra.

Monday, August 22

Chicken Potstickers

My friend's mom is an excellent cook (see her recipe for butternut squash soup), and one of my favorite things she makes is her dumplings. I vividly remember the first time I ever tried one as a child, and I still get excited to eat them at our families' parties. This weekend, I traveled home to do a mother-daughter cooking day and learned how to make these amazing potstickers. They freeze really well, so we all made a bunch to store in the freezer for future uses. Stuffing and folding each dumpling is a labor of love, but the end result is so worth the effort!

Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers:
  • Pulse 1 bunch of scallions, 3 stalks of celery, and 3/4 head of green cabbage in a food processor until very finely minced.
  • In a large bowl, combine vegetables with 2 lb. ground chicken (white and dark meat), 1 bunch of minced cilantro, 2 cloves grated garlic, and 1 large knob of grated ginger.
  • Mix in 3 tbsp. soy sauce and 2 tsp. salt until very well combined.*
  • To form dumpling, place 1 tsp. of the chicken mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper.**
  • Dab your finger with water and tracer the entire rim of the wrapper.
  • Fold the wrapper in half like a taco and pinch together, then fold the outer edges up and crease the front half of both corners, leaving the back halves open.
  • Finally pinch the back halves together, forming a pleat in the back of each dumpling.***
  • To cook****, place a small amount of oil in a non-stick skillet, coating the bottom of each dumpling with oil.
  • Cook until brown on the bottom, then add in 1 c. water and cover the pan with a lid.
  • Cook until all water is evaporated, about 8-10 minutes, then add a little more oil to get the bottom crispy.
  • Remove from the pan and serve with a dipping sauce of 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1/4 chili paste or Sriracha hot sauce, and a few drops of sesame oil.

Makes 150 dumplings
*Don't add more soy sauce or the filling will have too much liquid.
**Or gyoza wrapper, preferably Hong Kong brand.
***See photos for a step-by-step tutorial on folding the dumplings.
****To freeze, place dumplings in one layer on a floured baking sheet. Freeze on the sheet, then transfer to a large, resealable plastic bag.

Step 1: Place filling in wrapper and wet the outside rim with water.
Step 2: Fold dumpling in half like a taco and pinch the top seams together.
Step 3: Fold the side's front corners together, in the opposite direction of the first fold.
Step 4: Gather the back corners in a pleat.
Step 5: Perfectly shaped dumpling.

Friday, August 19

How To: Fry An Egg

While I love to express my creativity through my food and often create or recreate gourmet dishes, you can't be a good cook without understanding the basics. This new "How To" segment aims to share tricks for perfecting certain cooking techniques that I use all the time. It amazed me to find that one of my most popular entries to date has been about roasting bacon in the oven, but it makes sense since it's a dish people cook all the time. Same thing goes with frying an egg, since it can be tricky to achieve getting a crispy bottom while keeping the yolk soft and unctuous. Serve the eggs with said bacon, or place on top of salads and sandwiches for a gourmet touch.

Crispy Fried Eggs:
  • Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Crack two eggs in the pan, spacing far enough apart so they don't stick together. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place a larger skillet upside down over the skillet with the eggs.*
  • Cook eggs for 2 minutes, then uncover the pan.
  • Use a spatula to plate eggs. Serve with hot sauce.

Makes two eggs
*The larger skillet will act as a lid, which will cause the top of the eggs to steam while the bottom gets crispy.

Thursday, August 18

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Spinach, Pine Nuts, & Brown Butter Sauce

Even though I've been out of school for a couple years, this time of year always reminds me of fall and new beginnings. So even though it's clearly still summer, I've already been thinking about colder-weather activities (like what awesome costume I'm going to be for Halloween) and of course, fall food. This butternut squash ravioli with  brown butter sauce is one of my favorite quick fall meals, and it's so delicious that there's no reason it shouldn't be enjoyed year-round. I take a lot of help from the store by purchasing fresh or frozen ravioli and the sauce only has a handful of ingredients, so the meal comes together in just minutes. Ravioli and brown butter sauce is great on its own, but I decided to jazz it up this time with some baby spinach and pine nuts I had in my fridge.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Spinach, Pine Nuts, & Brown Butter Sauce:
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook an 8 oz. package of butternut squash ravioli according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter and 1 pinch red chili flakes in a large pan until the butter just starts to brown,* about 5 minutes.
  • Add cooked ravioli to the pan, along with a little pasta cooking water, and toss to coat.
  • Stir in 2 c. baby spinach until wilted. Season ravioli with salt.
  • To serve, divide onto plates and top with toasted pine nuts and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Serves two
*Be careful, butter goes from brown to burnt very quickly.

Wednesday, August 17

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Apologies for the less-than-perfect photo on top (it was taken after several glasses of wine), but this dish was amazing. My dad's been grilling skirt steak with chimichurri sauce for years (he uses this recipe) and it's always a hit, so I decided to create my own version for an impromptu barbecue with friends. I used an adaptation of this recipe for Bobby Flay's green chimichurri, which is an Argentinian herb-based sauce, and served it over a light salad and grilled bread. Everyone raved about it, and I have been craving it ever since.

Grilled Chimichurri Flank Steak Salad & Grilled Baguette:
For Steak

  • Combine 1 1/2 c. fresh parsley leaves, 1/2 c. fresh oregano, 1/4 c. red wine vinegar, 1/2 c. olive oil, 8-10 garlic cloves, and 2 large pinches of red chili flakes in a blender.*
  • Puree until a smooth paste forms, then pour all but 3 tbsp. of the chimichurri into a resealable plastic bag.
  • Cut 2 lbs. flank steak into three equal pieces and place in the bag. Marinate steak, turning occasionally, for at least 4 hours.
  • Remove steaks from marinade, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook steaks over a medium-high grill for 4 -5 minutes per side, or until medium-rare.
  • Let steak rest for 10 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain. Drizzle reserved chimichurri on top.
  • To serve, place salad on the bottom of the plate, top with steak slices, and serve with grilled bread.
For Salad
  • Combine 4 oz. baby arugula, 1 pt. halved cherry tomatoes, 1 thinly sliced red onion, and 3 oz. crumbled goat cheese in a bowl.
  • Meanwhile, mix 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard and 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 1/8 c. extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss dressing with vegetables.
For Bread
  • Slice 1 large baguette into 1/2" thick pieces on a heavy diagonal.
  • Brush both sides of bread lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Grill bread over high heat for 1 minute per side.

Serves four - five
*Or use a food processor.

Tuesday, August 16

Arctic Char & Tomato-Corn Relish

I recently had another excellent meal at AOC (previously reviewed here), a wine bar with great small plates. There were so many delicious-sounding things on the menu that I wasn't able to order everything I wanted, although I was very happy with my final choices. I was so inspired by some of the things on the menu that I decided to create my own version of one of their dishes, arctic char with corn and tomatoes, at home. I didn't end up trying AOC's version, but I was just as happy with my at-home rendition, which was such a fresh, satisfying dinner for the summer.

Arctic Char & Tomato-Corn Relish:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet and start sweating 1/2 of a diced red onion until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add in the kernels from 2 ears of corn, 1 pt. halved cherry tomatoes, 1 minced garlic clove, salt and pepper.
  • Cook until vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes, then stir in 1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley, and cook 1 more minute.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in another skillet over high heat.
  • Season both sides of two 6 oz. pieces of artic char* with salt and pepper.
  • Place fish, skin side down, in the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Flip the fish over and cook for another 1 minute, or until fish is just cooked through.
  • To serve, divide corn-tomato relish onto plates, then top with fish and sprinkle with more fresh parsley.

Serves two
*A salmon-like fish. See another recipe for it here.

Monday, August 15

Weekend Review: Amandine

French Toast with Fresh Strawberries

I discovered Amandine Cafe a couple years ago, as it's located just a few blocks away from my old apartment in West L.A. It's an authentic French bakery that serves up amazing pastries (their croissants rival those I've had in Europe), omelettes and cappucinos. The storefront is covered in green ivy and there is ample outdoor seating in the back, which is the perfect spot to linger over your morning breakfast. When my boyfriend and I first started dating, I discovered that he also frequented Amandine, and we've been enjoying weekend brunch there ever since. We went back this Saturday and split a bunch of our favorites on the menu, including the Napa omelette and their heavenly chocolate croissant.

Coffee & Chocolate Croissant Tide Us Over While We Wait for the Rest of the Meal
Napa Egg-White Omelette - Chicken, Green Pepper, Swiss Cheese, Tomato, & Caramelized Onions