Friday, September 28

Black Sesame & Tofu Soba Noodles

I’ve lived in some of the most organic-loving, vegan-friendly places in the country and still never really liked tofu. It was fine in miso soup, but I had no desire to try and incorporate it into my home cooking until I saw this recipe by Heidi Swanson. I absolutely love soba noodles (see here and here), but the sweet-salty-spicy black sesame paste is what’s really special here. The extra-firm tofu has a very similar consistency to the noodles and absorbs the sesame sauce like a sponge, which even won over my meat-loving Minnesotan fiancé. It’s a great dish to try out even if you don’t think you like tofu, and I guarantee that the black sesame paste will become your new favorite condiment (it's worth a little extra effort to make, so keep some extra in your fridge).

Black Sesame Otsu:
  • Toast 1 tsp. chopped walnuts* and 1 tsp. sunflower seeds in a skillet for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add in 1/2 c. black sesame seeds** and continue to toast for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn anything.
  • Transfer the mixture to a mortar and pestle*** and pound until a sand-like consistency.
  • Stir in 1 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. mirin, 2 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 tbsp. sesame oil, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper.****
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook 12 oz. soba noodles according to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, drain, pat dry, and cut 10 oz. extra-firm tofu into matchstick-size pieces and place in a very hot pan with some canola oil.
  • Season tofu with salt and cook until lightly golden on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Drain the noodles, reserving 1/3 c. cooking liquid.
  • Mix most of the sesame paste into the cooking liquid and pour the whole thing over the noodles, along with 1/2 bunch minced green onions.
  • Toss together until well combined, then add in the tofu and gently mix again.
  • Divide into bowls and top with a small spoonful of reserved sesame paste and more minced green onions.

Serves four
*The original recipe called for pine nuts. I think any nut or more sunflower seeds would do.
**You can use regular sesame seeds if you can't find black ones.
***Or use a food processor.
****You might want to add a little more cayenne depending on how spicy you like it. The whole mixture can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge.

Thursday, September 27

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Quesadillas are a classic comfort food, but this mushroom version really takes them to a whole new level. A variety of mushrooms (I used white button, cremini, and chanterelle) get sauteed with garlic until brown and tender and then get enveloped in two kinds of cheese and crispy tortillas. Goat cheese is a really nice pairing with mushrooms and provides a nice tang to the dish, but since it doesn't melt as well as hard cheeses I used a classic Monterey Jack to help hold everything together. Cut the quesadillas into wedges for a great appetizer or serve them with salsa and guacamole for a quick meal.

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Quesadillas:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet until very hot.
  • Add in half of 3/4 lb. sliced mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring once, until golden.
  • Remove the cooked mushrooms, add a little more oil, and cook the rest of them.
  • Add 2 cloves minced garlic in the last minute and then remove the mushrooms from the pan.
  • Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. If any liquid forms at the bottom of the bowl, pour it off.
  • Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and let cool slightly. Keep the pan at about medium-high heat.
  • Melt 1 tbsp. butter in the pan and add in 1 tortilla.
  • Sprinkle 1 handful of grated Monterey Jack cheese on top of the tortilla, then sprinkle a handful of the mushrooms and a handful of crumbled goat cheese.
  • Place another tortilla on top and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese has started to melt and the bottom tortilla is golden brown.
  • Flip the quesadilla and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Repeat to make three more quesadillas.

Serves four

Wednesday, September 26

Grilled Kale, Beet, & Burrata Salad

I make kale all the time - raw in salads, quickly braised as a side dish, roasted into chips - but never grilled. I got inspired by this recipe and decided to try out my own version. Large leaves of the green get lightly tossed with olive oil and then put directly on the hot grill grates for just a few minutes, until the edges are charred and crisp. The kale takes on a really delicious meaty flavor which pairs well with the creamy burrata cheese and sweet roasted beets. It's a hearty salad that would definitely be filling enough for a vegetarian meal.

Grilled Kale, Beet, & Burrata Salad:
  • Wrap 4-5 small beets individually in tin foil, then place in a 400F oven and roast for 35-50 minutes, or until tender.
  • Remove from the oven, let cool, then use your fingers to rub off the beet skin. Cut into bite size pieces.*
  • Meanwhile, wash and dry one large bunch of kale, pull out the tough bottom stems, and toss with a little olive oil.
  • Place leaves directly on a hot grill and cook for 1-2 minutes a side, or until ends are charred and crispy.
  • Remove from the grill and season with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, break open 8 oz. burrata on the bottom of a platter.
  • Arrange the beets on top, then the kale, and then drizzle the whole things with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Serves two (main course)
Serves four - six (side dish)
*Can be done a day in advance and kept in the fridge.

Tuesday, September 25

Mustard & Lemon Grilled Strip Steaks

The Vikings had an epic win on Sunday and my fiancé was feeling celebratory all day because of it. He insisted on grilling up some steaks, which was fine with me since I’ve been wanting to try out this recipe. The mustard mixture is really more of a wet rub than a marinade and does a lot to season the meat in the a small amount of time. Citrus isn’t often paired with beef, but I find that it really brightens up the flavor and cuts through some of the richness of the steak. Grilling the lemons gives them a sweetness and added smokiness that’s really interesting and good on just about anything, too.

Mustard & Lemon Grilled Strip Steaks:
  • Generously season 3/4 lb. New York strip steak with salt and pepper.
  • Rub 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and 1 pinch of red chile flakes into each side and let sit in the fridge for a few hours.
  • Remove from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for thirty minutes while you heat a grill to high heat.
  • Cook for 5-6 minutes, then flip and cook for another 6-7 minutes for medium doneness.
  • Slice a lemon in half and grill, cut-side down, for 2 minutes.
  • Let the steak rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve with a squeeze of the grilled lemon.

Serves two

Monday, September 24

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Peanut butter and banana are a great flavor pairing but these cupcakes really take it to the next level. I made these over the weekend for my friend's birthday and they were a huge hit. The cake part is actually just an adjustment on my classic banana bread recipe, so they are actually much lighter and healthier than traditional cupcakes. The peanut butter frosting and roasted peanuts on top add a great salty-sweet element that I find really delicious in desserts. It's a nice change from the traditional chocolate or vanilla birthday cake and leftovers make a decadent breakfast.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting:
For Frosting
  • Beat together 1 stick room temperature butter and 1/2 c. salted peanut butter until well-combined.
  • Slowly beat in 1 c. sifted* powdered sugar until fully incorporated, then add in 1/8 c. milk and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
  • Beat in 1 more c. of powdered sugar and set aside.
  • Transfer to a resealable plastic bag, squeeze all of the air out of the bag and close, and then snip a small hole in one of the corners for a makeshift pastry bag before frosting the cakes.
For Cakes
  • Mash 3 very ripe bananas in a mixing bowl until liquid, then mix in 3/4 c. sugar, 1 egg, and 3 tbsp. melted butter.
  • In another bowl, sift together 2 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, and a large pinch of salt.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.
  • Evenly divide the batter into cupcake liners in a 12 c. muffin pan and place in a 350F oven.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let cakes cool completely, then frost the cakes.
  • Sprinkle a handle of roasted, salted peanuts over each cupcake before serving.

Serves twelve
*It's very important to sift the sugar to avoid any lumps in the frosting.

Friday, September 21

Garlic Soy Chinese Broccoli

There’s a great stand at our local farmers market that carries a wide variety of Asian produce that is both beautiful and intimidating. I also stop by to pick up more traditional items since they seem to have the best heirloom tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs too and mull over trying out their more exotic offerings. I finally took the plunge and picked up a few bunches of Chinese broccoli last weekend and created this quick side dish. The Chinese version is more leafy and bitter than traditional broccoli (similar to rapini), so I added a little sugar to the stir fry to mellow it out. It was a great accompaniment to the miso black cod I served with it and a nice change from my usual arugula salad or roasted asparagus veggie standbys. 

Garlic Soy Chinese Broccoli:
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in 2 bunches trimmed, washed Chinese broccoli.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until stalks are nearly tender, then drain and rinse with cold ice water until cool.
  • Heat a wok* to high heat and add in 1 tbsp. canola oil.
  • Add in 3 cloves paper-thin sliced garlic and 1 pinch red chile flakes and cook for 15-30 seconds, or until fragrant but not too brown.
  • Add in the Chinese broccoli and sprinkle with 1 tsp. brown sugar and 1-2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce.
  • Cook for a minute or two, until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has reduced and the broccoli is tender.
  • Turn off the heat and toss in 1 tsp. sesame oil.

Serves four (side dish)
*Or use a big skillet.

Thursday, September 20

Fresh Tomato & Eggplant Fettuccine

Like everyone else in L.A., my fiancé and I love Bay Cities, a landmark Italian deli in Santa Monica. They’re famous for their sandwiches (namely the Godmother, although I love the meatball sub just as much), but it’s the market full of homemade baked goods and imported cheeses, olive oils, and pastas that put this place over the top. I always take a few minutes to peruse the aisles during the invariably long wait to check out and recently bought some of their fresh fettuccine to bring home for dinner. It’s served here with a simple fresh tomato, basil, and eggplant sauce that’s simple enough to showcase the fresh noodles. I also added in some fresh ricotta to create a slightly creamy texture and to complete this one-pot dish. It’s a great quick weeknight meal that stills feels special enough to serve for company.

Fresh Tomato & Eggplant Fettuccine:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over high heat and add in 1 diced Japanese eggplant.*
  • Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until browned and softened, then remove and set aside.
  • Add another tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and add in 1 pt. grape tomatoes, 3 cloves minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • Lower the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes as the soften to form a sauce.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt.
  • Add 8 oz. fresh pasta** to the water and cook until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and reserve ½ c. pasta cooking water.
  • Add the eggplant and 1 handful of torn fresh basil to the tomatoes and check for seasoning.
  • Add in the pasta cooking water, the drained pasta, and 2 heaping tbsp. fresh ricotta cheese.
  • Toss for 1-2 minutes, or until the pasta absorbs most of the sauce.
  • Divide onto plates and top with more fresh basil.

Serves two-three
*Or regular eggplant.
**Can be found in the fridge or freezer section of most grocery stores.

Wednesday, September 19

Miso Black Cod

I go to Nobu in Malibu every year for my birthday and it’s always an incredible experience. They recently moved locations and now sit on a gorgeous beach front property that will make you feel like a celebrity (the fact that I see someone famous every single time I go also adds to that feeling), but the real star is their food. I have a few favorite dishes and like to try out their daily specials, but their miso black cod is always a must-have. I recently found the recipe online and was shocked but how simple it was to make. Usually I don’t marinade fish for a long time, but here the cod bathes in  the miso sauce for a few days which yields a super buttery, melt-in-your mouth dish. And the sauce? It looks and tastes like caramel and I’m pretty sure it would be good on just about anything.

Miso Black Cod:
  • In a small saucepan, bring 6 tbsp. sake and 6 tbsp. mirin to a boil.
  • Quickly whisk in 1 c. white miso paste* and then 1/2 c. sugar until just dissolved.
  • Turn off heat and let cool completely to room temperature.
  • Pour a little of the sauce into a small bowl and keep covered in the fridge, then pour the rest of the marinade into a resealable bag.
  • Add in four 5-6 oz. boneless black cod fillets** and keep the bag in the fridge, turning occasionally, for two-three days.***
  • Remove the fish from the bag of marinade and use your fingers to gently scrape off most of the miso.
  • Place fish in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and place under a hot broiler for 5-8 minutes, or until the top of the fish is dark and it's just cooked through.
  • Divide fish onto plates and serve with some of the reserved miso marinade.

Serves four
*All of these ingredients are available in the Asian section at most grocery stores.
**Sometimes called sablefish. I found it extremely difficult to remove the bones from this fish, so I waited until after it was cooked and they were super easy to pick out before serving.
***I found that three days was the most optimal.

Tuesday, September 18

Fig & Goat Cheese Crostini

I’m a big fan of crostini because it’s so versatile that you can slap just about anything on a piece of bread and have an instant appetizer (see here, here, and here). This version takes advantage of late-season figs – it’s amazing how short the window is on finding fresh figs at the farmer’s market around here – which get quickly warmed in a pan to soften and lightly caramelize. The goat cheese spread and peppery arugula salad work really nicely to offset the sweet jammy figs and provide a contrasting bite and tang. It’s a beautiful starting course to serve to guests (although take note: it can be messy) but a couple of the crostini are hearty enough for a light meal.

Fig, Arugula, & Goat Cheese Crostini:
  • Slice a small baguette in half, then slice into 3" lengths.
  • Brush the bread with olive oil and place cut-side down on a hot skillet until golden and crusty.
  • Remove and arrange on a plate, then add in a splash of oil and 1 pint halved fresh figs and turn off the heat.
  • Let the figs warm and caramelize for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile, stir together 2 tbsp. fresh ricotta cheese and 3-4 oz. fresh goat cheese and season with salt and pepper.*
  • Spread the cheese mixture over the warm toasts, then divide the figs on top.
  • In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 c. baby wild arugula with 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Divide arugula on top of the crositinis and serve.

Serves four (appetizer)
*The ricotta helps to make the goat cheese spreadable and mellows the flavor.

Monday, September 17

Lamb Sausage & Mixed Greens Salad

We live a block away from a great independently-owned grocery store called The Farms that makes a variety of their own sausages. It's a great last minute meal for us (usually I have some hot dog buns in the freezer), but this salad showcases them in a way I've never tasted before. The lamb ones are my favorite and are full of fresh rosemary and spices. Here they're grilled and served warm with a salad full of other local Californian ingredients: goat cheese, pistachios, heirloom tomatoes, and red onion. It's a great late summer meal and the perfect quick dish to throw together any night of the week.

Lamb Sausage & Mixed Greens Salad:
For Dressing
  • Mince 1 shallot and combine with 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  • Slowly stream in 1/4 c. olive oil and set aside.
For Salad
  • Bring a grill or grill pan to high heat and cook 1/2 lb. fresh lamb sausage for 5-6 minutes per side, or until golden and crisp outside and just cooked through.
  • Let sausage cool for 10 minutes, then cut into thick slices.
  • Meanwhile, toss together 8 oz. mixed greens, 1/4 c. roasted pistachios, 1/2 thinly sliced red onion, and 1 diced heirloom tomato.
  • Mix in the dressing until your liking and season with salt and pepper.
  • Mound salad onto a large platter, sprinkle with 4 oz. crumbled goat cheese and arrange sausage around the salad.

Serves two-three (main course)
Serves six (side dish)

Thursday, September 13

Pesto & Sundried Tomato Pasta

Pasta is such a good canvas for showcasing other ingredients and one of my favorite quick meal standbys. I always keep some homemade pesto in the freezer so that I can slap it on some noodles for a nearly instant dinner, or add in some other ingredients for something a little more exciting (seen here and here). This recipe takes advantage of the oven-roasted tomatoes I featured earlier this week, which add a nice texture and sweetness to the dish. Since I love crunch I also added in some walnuts I had lying around, but you could really incorporate any leftovers and it would be great. A little Parmesan cheese never hurts, too.

Pesto Spaghetti with Sundried Tomatoes and Walnuts:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1/2 lb. whole-wheat spaghetti* until al dente.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid, and return to the pot with the heat turned off.
  • Add in 1/2 c. fresh pesto, some of the cooking liquid, 8-10 sliced sundried tomatoes, and 1/4 c. toasted walnuts.**
  • Toss for a minute or until the pasta gets coated with the sauce, then check for seasoning.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two
*Or any type and shape of pasta you want.
**To toast nuts, add to a dry hot skillet and cook for 5 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Wednesday, September 12

Roasted Green Veggies with Crispy Shallots

I’ve always liked vegetables, even as a kid, and am a firm believer that they can be very delicious if handled properly. We’ve been eating a ton of salads this summer, since the produce is so fresh that it’s really best eaten raw (and because it’s too hot to spend any more time over the stove), but with fall approaching I need to change it up a little. These roasted green veggies with crispy shallots is a super versatile recipe that can be whipped up in just a few minutes. I love the crispy mini-onion ring shallots on top, which add a ton of flavor and flair to an otherwise normal roasted vegetable dish. I used asparagus and broccolini since that’s what looked best at the market, but the same preparation could be used with whatever is in season – just make sure to adjust the cooking time so that all the vegetables remain al dente.

Roasted Green Veggies with Crispy Shallots:

  • Heat 1/3 c. canola oil in a small skillet until very hot but not smoking.
  • Add in 3 finely sliced shallots, separated into individual rings, and fry for 2 minutes, or until golden.*
  • Remove shallots from oil and set aside. Let oil cool in the pan.**
  • Arrange 8 oz. trimmed broccolini on a large baking sheet and toss with some of the shallot-infused oil.
  • Roast in a 400F oven for 5 minutes, then remove and quickly toss in 2 bunches of trimmed asparagus, salt, pepper, and a little more oil, if necessary.
  • Place back in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp tender.
  • Remove from the oven and quickly toss in the crispy shallots and zest of one lemon.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves four (side dish)
*Don't overcrowd the pan or the shallots won't get crispy and will stick together. You might need to add and remove the shallots in a few batches.
**Whole process can be done a few hours in advance.

Tuesday, September 11

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

The tomato season is almost coming to a close, but there is a way to preserve their flavor for a little longer. This recipe for oven-dried tomatoes is a cheat on sundried but yields the same result. The tomatoes get pressed to remove some of their liquid and then get slowly dried in a low oven until their flavor concentrates and they shrivel up into bite-size morsels. They can be packed in olive oil (my preference) and kept in an air-tight container for at least a month, but I doubt they’ll last that long. A jar makes a cute gift for friends and the olive oil and can be saved and used in salad dressings or drizzled onto roasted meat or veggies. 

Oven-Dried Tomatoes:
  • Slice 1 lb. of roma tomatoes* length-wise into 1/2" thick slices.
  • Place in an even layer on a paper towel-lined cutting board, cover with another layer of paper towels, and then cover with another heavy cutting board.
  • Let sit for 20-30 minutes, then remove weights and towels and place in an even row on a baking rack over a baking sheet.**
  • Sprinkle with fresh thyme, then bake in a 200F oven for 4-5 hours, or until dried to your liking.
  • Let cool completely, then store in a jar covered with olive oil or keep in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Makes 24-36 dried tomatoes
*Roma or plum tomatoes contain less moisture and dry better than other varieties.
**The rack is necessary to drying the tomatoes on all sides, otherwise the tomatoes will bake in their own juice and never dry out.

Monday, September 10

Pork Green Chili

It still feels like summer here in L.A. (we had one of the nicest beach days of the year on Saturday) with the exception of football season starting. My fiance is obsessed with the sport and I'm starting to realize that every Sunday for the next five months is going to be dedicated to watching the Vikings. It's a good excuse to leave a pot of chili on the stove, and this recipe takes advantage of the fresh peppers that just came in season. The pork gets slow cooked until it melts in your mouth and the fresh tomatillos and chiles add a nice depth of flavor and spice. I served it with some crispy tortilla strips and grated Monterey Jack cheese, but you can personalize it with whatever toppings you like best.

Pork Green Chili:
  • Remove the husks from 1/2 lb. fresh tomatillos, rinse to remove any stickiness, cut in half and place cut-side down on a baking sheet.
  • Place the tomatillos under a broiler for 10 minutes, or until soft and black in some areas.
  • Puree the tomatillos in the blender with a splash of water and set aside.*
  • Meanwhile, cook 2 pieces of bacon in the a large dutch oven until crisp and remove, leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
  • Cube 1 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder** into bite-size pieces and lightly coat with flour.
  • Add the pork cubes to the bacon fat, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned.
  • Remove pork and add in 2 diced onions, 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin, and 3 cloves minced garlic.***
  • Cook onions for 7 minutes, or until soft, then add 1/2 c. chicken stock to the pot and scrape up and brown bits from the pan.
  • Add in 2 seeded and diced hatch chiles,**** 2 seeded and diced jalapenos, 1 seeded and diced poblano pepper, and 1 seeded and diced serrano pepper.
  • Add in the tomatillo puree, 1 large handful of minced fresh cilantro, the pork and bacon, and 2 c. chicken stock.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover with a lid.
  • Cook for 2 hours, then add in 1 tbsp. flour to the sauce and cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Ladle into bowls and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, tortillas or rice, shredded cheese, avocado, sour cream, etc.

Serves five
*Can be done one day ahead and kept in the fridge.
**Remove any large pieces of fat. Also called boston butt.
***You might need to add a little canola oil if you don't have much fat left in the pan.
****If you can't find hatch chiles you can used frozen, canned, or dried or omit and add 1 more poblano, jalapeno, and serrano.

Friday, September 7

Indian Butter Chicken

I love making exotic dishes but get turned off by having to buy a ton of ingredients for just one meal. Luckily, I’ve started to accumulate a modest spice collection, so making this recipe for butter chicken (India’s most popular chicken dish) was a breeze. Even if you don’t have some of these ingredients, it’s worth buying them because they can be used in so many other recipes (like this and this). Plus, they add a ton of authentic Indian flavor to the chicken without putting in any extra effort. It’s a great way to spice up weeknight meals and a great recipe to help you break out of your usual routine.

Indian Butter Chicken:
  • Mash together 1" fresh ginger, 3 cloves garlic, 1 pinch cayenne pepper and 1 heaping tsp. chile powder until it turns into a paste.
  • Add in 1/2 tsp. garam masala, 1 tbsp. lime juice, and salt and rub into 1 lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.
  • Let the chicken marinate for an hour or so.
  • Melt 1/2 stick butter in a small dutch oven* and add in the chicken thighs, skin-side down.
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until skin is golden and crispy.
  • Turn chicken and add in 2 sliced tomatoes and a pinch of sugar.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and lower to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken and set aside to rest.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp. heavy cream to the sauce and then pour on top of the chicken.
Serves two-three
*Or any heavy pot with high sides and a lid.

Thursday, September 6

Panko-Crusted Cod

Fish sticks are an American classic, but this version really elevates the childhood standby to something much more exciting. Fresh, meaty pieces of cod get coated in seasoned panko breadcrumbs and then shallow-fried until crispy and golden brown. It's worlds better than the frozen stuff and doesn't take much longer to make. I picked up some tartar sauce from our local seafood shop and quickly grilled some corn for an easy weeknight meal. I'd imagine this would be a great recipe for kids and picky eaters, too.

Panko-Crusted Cod:
  • Beat 2 eggs and a splash of water in a large, shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  • In another shallow bowl, combine 1 c. panko breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, cut 1 lb. of boneless, skinless cod* into 6 even slices and season with salt and pepper.
  • Dip the fish into the egg and then coat in the panko.**
  • Heat 1/2" of oil in a deep skillet until very hot but not smoking.
  • Add in the cod, a few pieces at a time, and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
  • Remove fish and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
  • Add remaining fish to the oil and repeat the process.
  • Divide fish onto plates and serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Serves two-three
*Or any firm whitefish.
**I like to really pat on the breadcrumbs so that they form a nice crust.

Wednesday, September 5

Weekend Review: California's Central Coast

Smoked Salmon & Smoked Shrimp Tacos from Ruddell's Smokehouse in Cayucos

My fiance and I just got back from a wonderful trip up California's coast for my birthday. I had wanted to keep it relaxing, so we planned a few major elements (a night in Ragged Point, a tour of Hearst Castle, and a birthday dinner at the Cass House Inn) and left the rest of our days open for whatever sounded good at the time. We took an impromptu trip to Paso Robles for lunch and wine tasting at Justin (and nearly cleared them out of their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon), watched whales breaching and elephant seals sunbathing, and sat on a cliff overlooking the ocean while the sun set. We were lucky with our meals, mostly taking restaurant suggestions from locals which led us to plenty of freshly caught seafood, homemade sweets, and locally-raised beef, but the real food highlight was at the Cass House. Located in a historic building in Cayucos, we enjoyed four courses and wine pairings of some of the best food I've had anywhere. The service, thoughtfulness, ambiance, and perfect Wagyu beef tenderloin made the meal into my top three dining experiences of all time.

Leg of Lamb & Goat Cheese French Dip from Artisan in Paso Robles

Pork Belly & Heirloom Beans - Course 2/4 at the Cass House Inn

Crab Cakes with Spicy Remoulade at Robin's in Cambria