Monday, April 30, 2007

Spring Fever = Monday Escape

I blame my late spring restlessness on our school system. It's classical conditioning at it's harshest: the arrival of May means summer vacation and zero responsibility just around the corner, right? Well, until you grow up. And no matter how many years go by sans summer vacay, I still find myself, like today, hit with a case of near-summer wanderlust, wanting to play outside, adventure to new places, and snack on treats all day long. Which is why I love the NYT Travel section. It allows me to be an escape artist at her finest, reinventing that notion of 2 weeks paid vacation we all know never really works. Today's destination: the French Alps. Snack of the day: Tartiflette. Travel time: 15 minutes. (article here)

Anyone have a good recipe for Tartiflette?
I want to re-create this melt-in-your mouth Mac & Cheese-meets-Scalloped Potatoes casserole asap.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Operation Leftovers: Carbonara Ravioli

The pickings were depressingly slim in the refrigerator when I got home this evening. The roomies were out of town, and I wasn't feeling inspired. After working a 7-hour brunch shift and a hike with my dog, however, I was in need of comfort carbs, fast. A quick inventory (tossing out the moldy cheeses and leftovers from last week), uncovered a package of mushroom & chicken ravioli from T.J.'s, eggs, parmesean and a handful of spinach and half a package of Toll House cookie dough. Not even a can of diced tomatoes to make a little sauce. I checked the freezer and the thought of turning the TJ frozen mini pizzas into dinner actually crossed my mind. Sigh. We were out of any other pasta, and I just couldn't bring myself to make another egg sandwich, so carbonara it was...but with ravioli. I was crossing my fingers. I was too hungry to fail at an edible meal tonight, too exhausted to get in my car and go anywhere, and too attached to my tip money to order in. Once I tossed the ravioli with the sauce, I added some dried herbs, garlic salt and tons of freshly ground pepper. I put the ravioli over a bed of spinach, and it was delicious. The spinach sort of takes the heaviness factor away from the rich carbonara sauce, too. Yum. Dessert: freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. And I had just enough for lunch tomorrow. Total cost: $0. Sometimes being broke can be a delicious thing.

Carbonara Ravioli:
1 Package ravioli (any pasta will do, really)
2 Eggs
1/8 C. milk (water will do if you're desperate!)
1/4 C. parmesean cheese
Fresh or dried herbs, to taste
Garlic Salt
Salt & Pepper

In a small jar or measuring glass, beat the eggs, and mix in the cheese and milk. Add fresh garlic if you have it. If not, garlic salt at the end is delicious as well. Once the pasta is cooked, drain well, and return to pot. Quickly coat the pasta with the sauce, and toss well to coat and cook the egg. The sauce should thicken, as you toss the pasta. This usually takes about 2-3 minutes. If it's not thickening, turn on the heat to medium-low while coating the pasta. Serve over a bed of spinach, or whatever you have in the fridge, with lots of parm and freshly ground pepper on top.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Prince Charmed

Ahhh! From the NYT Food Section (article here): I love that Prince Charles has his very own line of organic products—Duchy Originals—,
is the Royal Patron of the Soil Association, and has charmed the "Slow Food principle" pants off of Ms. Alice Waters herself. I totally want to go find some of these yummy looking ginger biscuits at Whole Foods.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cocktail of the Hour: The Green Tini

Last Wednesday a bunch of friends got together for a little mid-week dinner party. It was a good old-fashioned potluck and the food was fantastic. Grill master Xan served up perfectly-cooked herbed chicken, Julia and Adam made excellent use of the cast-iron pan with a delectable dish of stuffed tomatoes over polenta, and I whipped up a cold orzo salad with feta, olives and a lemony-vinaigrette. Throw in toasted pita, hummus and tzatziki courtesy of Krissy Wall, and it was a serious Mediterranean spread.

But I think I have to hand the Luckiest Pot-of-the-Evening award to the biggest green tea enthusiast in Silver Lake: Grant Saltarelli. We all know how much he loves his green tea (some one get this kid sponsored!), but he really proved himself a mixologist-in-the-making with this brilliant signature cocktail: the Grant Green Tini. And the boy's got heart. He hand-measured, shook, and poured each one for each guest, and—after one sip—wanted to make sure it was just right. I know talent when I see it. Or something like that. So I sat him down for the full recipe and a few insider tips:

1 batch of brewed green tea (white tea also works well)
Stoli Citron Vodka
Martini Shaker

Brew the batch of green tea in advance. Brew it stronger than you would if you were just drinking it by itself, but not too long. You want the flavor to stand up against the citrus vodka, which can be overwhelming. Sweeten the tea with a little honey; let cool. In a martini shaker, mix 2 parts Citron Vodka with 1 part Cointreau. Add 60 mL of tea, and shake over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Serve immediately. If it's too strong, add some tea.

Advice for future Green Tini Makers:
"Follow these guidelines, but suit yourself," says the Boy. "Make a batch, and see where you want to take it; adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. And—most importantly—when shaking the shaker, shake it really hard and pour quickly!" As far as the type of Vodka goes...
"Stoli is great, but if you want some T & A to impress the ladies, go with Grey Goose Citron." G.S.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

South Carolina's Low Country Highs

The weekend before last, I went on my very first Southern Adventure. Well, that's not exactly true, but considering I didn't eat much besides PBJ sandos, corn dogs and french fries for the first 12 years of my life, the family Alabama trip back in '92 doesn't count. My dear friend Natalia tied the knot in the very quaint and delightful town of Charleston, and I couldn't have been more thrilled to satisfy some of my Southern food fascination. After checking into my hotel in the historic downtown area, I rented a beach cruiser, and had the entire weekend to trek around town discovering all sorts of yummy treats.
The highlights of the Low Country included:

Kitchen soap at Charleston Cooks! They call themselves the maverick kitchen store, and it really was one of the most amazing specialty cooking shops I've been too. There was a class going on as I was in there that I got to peek my head into (culinary school, ahh, so excited), and they sell a ton of unique spices geared for cooking Low Country cuisine. The oyster bar at Hank's Seafood.
The baskets
at the City Market near the waterfront
The Shrimp & Grits at Nat's wedding, yummmm... And the Citrus Mint Martini (I didn't think a mint julep could be rivaled!) at the bar at Fig

I could have stayed another week!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Killer Shrimp!

On Friday night, my best friend and I ventured out of Silver Lake to try a restaurant by the name of KILLER SHRIMP [sweet logo,right?]

I have never been so excited to try a new restaurant since my Dad visited L.A. last year and we went to A.O.C. (a meal I will never forget) We walked in, and I seriously was so excited I couldn't talk. The low-lying haunt in Studio City exudes the dark, seedy aura of a dive bar but with the lively decór of a 70's disco roller rink (yes, those are plastic beads hanging from the ceiling). They serve one thing for dinner: Shrimp. It's served Louisiana-style in a big bowl of cajun-spiced, buttery broth. A heap of crusty french bread in a paper-napkin lined metal colander arrives with the broth, along with some naked spaghetti noodles and a serving of white rice. Classy. And killer. In fact it's so good, you can only eat about 15 bites before you die. But not from the shrimp. From the let down that ensues when eating a dish you get sick of so fast [Side Note: there needs to be a phrase for that..."killer shrimped" perhaps. As in: "The pasta was good at first, but then the overpowering flavor of fennel killer shrimped it."]

Killer Shrimp promises a lot, and it does deliver—but only for about the first 10 minutes. Then it's over, and your taste buds are left, wanting, needing more. So we ordered a bottle of wine and asked for the dessert menu. We certainly weren't leaving this one-of-a-kind, killer environment just yet. And it's a good thing stayed, because the ginormous slice of chocolate cake with raspberry filling could never be killer shrimped.

Killer Shrimp, Ventura Blvd. & Colfax, Studio City, 818-508-1570

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Small Potatoes = Big Spring Salad

I did some very light grocery shopping at Gelsons last night (sometimes avoiding the disastrous Trader Joe's parking lot situation is worth the extra $10 on food) and for whatever reason the teensy fingerling potatoes, all squished together in a little package, caught my eye. But I had been craving a grilled chicken salad...Which led me to discover quite possibly my new favorite salad: Mixed baby greens, roasted fingerlings and grilled chicken tenders with sliced avocado. Toss it all together with olive oil, lemon juice, tarragon, honey and a dash of apple cider vinegar...mmmm. There's a lingering sweetness that is just wonderful with the creamy potatoes and avocado. A couple of paper-thin slices of red onion would have been nice...but it was still a lovely spring salad: fresh, light and filling...

4 C. mixed baby greens (or one pre-washed package)
1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes
1/2 lb. chicken breast tenders, washed, dried and sprinkled lightly with: salt, pepper, garlic salt & garlic powder.
1/2 ripe avocado

Dressing (amounts are estimated, play around with them to taste):
6-8 T. olive oil
2 T. Lemon Juice
1/2 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 T. Honey, plus additional to taste
1 T. chopped fresh tarragon
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the dressing: combine all the ingredients in a jar, mix well, and taste for adjustments. Set aside.

Toss potatoes lightly in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Roast until well-browned and tender in the middle, about 20-25 minutes. While potatoes are roasting, heat a grill or sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil over medium-high heat. Grill the chicken tenders for about 4 minutes a side, until well-browned. At this point, I covered the grill-pan with a loose foil lid, and moved it into the oven to finish cooking the chicken. This keeps it very tender! Once the chicken is done, allow to cool slightly.

Toss the greens with enough of the dressing to coat. Cut the fingerlings into bite-sized pieces and add to the salad. Slice in 1/2 the avocado, and top with sliced chicken breast. Lightly toss to mix the ingredients, adding more dressing if necessary. I like to mix in the avocado especially well, as it lends a subtle creaminess to the salad that is a great substitute for cheese.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bits & Bites: Bon App's Beets

I finally had the time to indulge in the entire April issue of Bon Appétit yesterday. If you don't subscribe, go get it, or find the time to browse it online, because there is truly some awesome material in this particular issue. My favorite article, though, was At the Market: Beets

Fresh ideas, creative recipes, and they highlighted my absolute favorite: The Dr. Seuss-esque Chioggia beets. I love them, even though I can never find them. I welcome any suggestions on finding these little treats.
Beautiful, just beautiful...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

M.N.M.C. Concessions Edition

Despite the fact that the Monday Night Movie Club has been on hiatus for a variety of reasons, we managed to convene this past Monday to enjoy the cinematic sampling we'll call: "Zodiac." Mmmm...Mark Ruffalo...yum.

Here's the thing...I would have liked to do dinner before hand...perhaps come up with a zodiac-appropriate (nor-cal influenced) menu...fresh, creative, organic...Is that creepy??

BUT, due to busy schedules and life in general, we had to settle for meeting at the theatre...which leads me to the theme of tonight's menu: Candy. I want to add, at this point, that this candy-centric post is officially dedicated to the one and only BEN STEIN. He's the newest member of the M.N.M.C., voted in on his unwavering stance on milk duds..always gotta have your own box, baby. always.

Top 10 Candy Accoutrement for Making the Movies THAT much better:
1. Milk Duds (own box, obvy)
2. Peanut M&M's
3. Haribo Gummy Worms
4. Violet Crumble (shot out to wallasaurus)
5. Skittles, Red pack
6. Starburst, Yellow pack (keep it real, originals...)
7. Red Vines, twists
8. Junior Mints
9. Haribo Gummy Cherries (anything Haribo, actually, is acceptable)
10. Pop Rocks. Just to be annoying.

Ben Stein, you're in.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Death By Mole (poblano)

Two words: Las Glorias.
One Special of the Day (everyday!): Mole.

"Las Glorias del Buen Comer" is the unpretentious little taco stand on Silver Lake Blvd. that may have the best mole I've ever discovered stateside. Since my first bite of their mole enchiladas, a serious addiction began developing and I'm beginning to think it may kill me. (Full disclosure: I've been there for a Mole fix 6 times in the last two weeks.) What's so different about Las Glorias' mole? For starters, it takes the form of Enchilada, Pollo, even special-order Burrito and/or Tacos. You can order Mole on everything. On anything. You can never get sick of it, because it's constantly changing form. And it's insanely affordable, making my addiction even more justifiable. Who could pass up a plate of 3 Mole enchiladas (chicken), a side of refried beans, rice and a handful of chips for $5? Exactly. And the ingredients are delicious and fresh—i'm yet to encounter a nasty piece of chicken. I've never been disappointed.

Go now. I dare you. Get your mole addiction on.

Las Glorias is located right across the street from the very baffling Silver Lake haunt: Mom's Donuts & Chinese Food To Go. There are two ways to enjoy your mole: the lovely, lush outdoor patio where the sounds of soft jazz muffle the traffic on Silver Lake Blvd., or you can get it to go and eat at home—where no one can judge you.