Monday, August 30, 2010

Watermelon Cucumber Cocktail

Watermelon Cucumber Cocktail

This summer in Los Angeles has been decidedly cool. In fact, despite a few days of heat last month, it was the coolest July on record. I happen to love cool weather so it's been great for me, but that all changed about two weeks ago. All of a sudden it got super hot and the heat didn't let up until this past weekend. I've been miserable with the AC cranked high and trying to avoid contact with the outside world. Luckily, there are some delicious ways to cool off in this city.  I recently discovered Pinkberry's new watermelon flavor and I'm obsessed. I also totally love the way they serve it with watermelon chunks, watermelon puree and diced cucumber. It's fresh and fantastic. The first time I tried the combination, I knew I wanted to make a drink based on it. This cocktail is so refreshing and a perfect antidote to the heat. I plan on making this often...especially when the heat gets really intense in September and October with the Santa Ana winds.

PS, If someone can help me come up with a catchy name for this drink, I will totally invite you over for a cocktail!

Watermelon Cucumber Cocktail
(By Esi)

*Note, I prefer drinks on the tart side. You'll probably get much more juice from the watermelon than the amount listed below so feel free to play around with the quantities. Also, if you're not a drinker, leave the vodka out. This drink is great even without the alcohol!

Makes 4+ drinks

1 small, seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into chunks
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
1 cup seltzer water
6 ounces vodka
Ice cubes
Diced cucumber

Place the watermelon chunks in a blender. Blitz until liquefied. Place a strainer over a bowl and add the watermelon puree. Strain the juice and reserve 2 1/2 cups of the juice.

In a large pitcher, mix the watermelon juice with the lime juice. Fill each glass with a couple of ice cubes and a small handful of cucumber pieces. Add 1/4 cup of the watermelon and lime mixture, 1/4 cup of the seltzer, and 1 1/2 ounces of vodka to each glass. Serve immediately.

Printable Recipe

Simple Syrup

Makes 1/4 cup

In a small saucepan, dissolve 1/4 cup of sugar in 1/4 cup of water over low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Technical Difficulties

As you may have noticed, I haven't been able to post lately. Hopefully regular posting will resume later this week or early next week. This is also preventing me from responding to comments and commenting on other blogs in a timely manner. Don't think I'm ignoring you. In the meantime, scroll the archives and also check out this wonderful post from Andy of Wind Attack about our fabulous (four hour!!) dinner at LudoBites last week!

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Asian Chicken-Noodle Salad with Snap Peas

Asian Chicken Salad with Noodles

Here's what happens with leftovers. They go into a work salad that is completely appropriate for work lunches. One of the most appealing things about the grilled chicken recipe is that there was a separate recipe to turn into more goodness. I didn't have udon noodles, but I had somen leftover from one of my trips to Koreatown. They were good, but I think I had a bit too much noodle action going on here and next time I would reduce the noodles by about half. That said, this is a fantastically simple recipe especially since there is minimal cooking involved since most of it has already been done ahead of time. I have to say, I'm so in love with that issue of Bon Appetit and though I miss Gourmet dearly, I'm glad I can have simple, great recipes at my fingertips all the time.

Asian Chicken-Noodle Salad with Snap Peas
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010)

Makes 2 servings

12 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed
8 ounces Japanese-style noodles (I used somen. You can also use udon or soba noodles)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 grilled chicken thighs or breast halves, cut into strips
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup mango-sesame dressing
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare and ice bath. Add the snap peas and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the snap peas from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath to cool and stop the cooking process.

Return the water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until firm, about 4 minutes or according to package instructions. Rinse the noodles under cold water until they have cooled. Transfer the noodles to a bowl. Add peas, chicken, and green onions and toss with enough dressing to coat. Serve chilled topped with toasted sesame seeds if desired.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Grilled Asian Chicken with Bok Choy and Onions and Ginger-Cilantro Rice

Grilled Asian Chicken with Bok Choy and Onion

After my great success with the shrimp and sausage skewers, I was anxious to try other recipes in the June issue of Bon Appetit. I'm embarrassed that it's taken me nearly two months to share these recipes with you because they are truly easy and outstanding, but summer isn't over so you still have time to get your grill on. 

Grilled Asian Chicken with Bok Choy and Red Onions

This was one of the rare occasions when I made the full recipe because I was eager to try the accompanying recipe for the leftovers. I promise I won't take two months to share that one with you.  I only made a few changes to the recipe. To kick up the spice factor, I used a spicy mango chutney. Also, I left out the mushrooms and peppers because those are not vegetables I consume in great (or any) quantities. Lastly, in the rice, I switched out brown rice for the white. Even with the cooking time of the rice, this is a pretty quick dinner so it's nice to have for a weeknight or a weekend get together.

Ginger-Cilantro Rice

Grilled Asian Chicken with Bok Choy and Onions
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010)

Makes 4 servings plus leftovers

8 1/2-inch thick rounds red onion
4 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
1 1/4 cups mango-sesame dressing (recipe below)
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
Nonstick vegetable spray

Arrange the vegetables on a large, foil lined baking sheet. Brush the vegetables lightly on both sides with 1/3 cup of the mango-sesame dressing and sprinkle with salt and pepper. On a separate foil lined baking sheet, arrange the chicken and brush on both sides with an additional 1/3 cup of dressing. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.

Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat and spray with a bit of cooking spray. Grill the vegetables until just tender, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes. Return the vegetables to the same baking sheet.

Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Serve the chicken on a platter with the vegetables. Serve with some of the remaining dressing.

Printable Recipe

Mango-Sesame Dressing
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010)

Makes about 2 cups of dressing

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup mango chutney (I used spicy mango chutney)
6 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
3 large garlic cloves, grated
6 3/4 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until the dressing is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dressing can be made up to a week ahead of time and kept covered and chilled in the refrigerator.

Printable Recipe

Ginger-Cilantro Rice
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010)

Makes 2 generous servings

1/2 cup brown rice
1 1-inch round peeled ginger plus 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 green onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the rice and ginger rounds in a large saucepan. Add the broth and sprinkle with salt. Bring the rice to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the chipped cilantro, green onion, grated ginger, both oils, and the rice vinegar in a small food processor. Blend until almost smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the rice to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Remove the ginger rounds. Toss the rice with the cilantro oil and serve.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dandelion Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Dandelion Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Besides extravagant dinners and teas, most of my diet this summer has been oatmeal and salads. However, once in a while I like to change it up and make the salad kind of fun. I love this take on the classic salad Lyonnaise especially since it's jam packed with flavor. Dandelion greens are very bitter and similar to arugula and the tangy, pungent dressing is a great accompaniment to the salty bacon and creaminess of the egg yolk. I could eat this salad every day if given the opportunity, but next time I will briefly saute the greens in the dressing to offset the bitterness just a bit. The deep flavor in the croutons is strangely addictive and I will make them again for future salads...and snacking. In terms of salad, this is more luxurious in taste and texture, but hopefully the health qualities of dandelion greens will make you feel less guilty in it's consumption. This is a great simple salad to go on your regular rotation.

Dandelion Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon
(Adapted from Earth to Table as found on Serious Eats)

Makes 2 servings

For the croutons:
1 cup stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (can also used minced thyme)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the salad:
2 slices center cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cups dandelion leaves, washed and patted dry

For the eggs:
2 large eggs
White vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. In a bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil, rosemary, and salt. Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the croutons are baking, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and the fat renders, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Leave about a tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add the shallots, vinegar, and Dijon vinegar to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off any bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir quickly to bring the dressing together, cover to keep warm.

Crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add a splash of vinegar. Using a spoon, create a well in the water and add the egg. Quickly cover the egg with water and cook for 2-4 minutes until the whites have set and the yolk is still runny.

In a large bowl, toss the dandelion greens with the dressing, bacon, and croutons. Arrange the salad on plates and top with the poached egg. Serve immediately.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

High Tea at Jin Patisserie

One of the best things about this summer is now that I am in my new old job, I don't have to spend hours of my weekend reading and covering scripts. This frees up a lot of time to have long, lazy lunches and I have had quite a few of those lately. Last weekend, armed with my Blackboard Eats code for 30% off, I joined Anna of Banana Wonder and Fiona of Gourmet Pigs for high tea at Jin Patisserie.

Jin is a lovely little garden spot in Venice Beach on Abbot Kinney. Parking can be a little tricky in that neighborhood, but I didn't have too much trouble finding a spot last Saturday afternoon. When you walk in to the garden, you immediately feel as if you're miles from the hectic craziness of urban life. There's a calming little fountain and people hanging out drinking pot after pot of tea as if they have all the time in the world.

Jin has an assortment of pastries, sandwiches, and salads, but it seems their most popular offering is their high tea service which comes with one pot of tea from their extensive tea menu and a variety of savories and pastries. We all chose green teas, mine being the Peche Mignon which was described as having a variety of summer fruit flavors.

Jin Patisserie

After we received the tea, it took a while for the actual food to come out, but I was so excited to receive our spread. Each of us was greeted with a plate of scones, egg sandwiches, a mini quiche, and an assortment of pastries. The scones were more like biscuits in texture, and had bits of orange zest in them. They went well with the cream and what I assumed to be blackberry jam. I'm obsessed with egg sandwiches so I quickly devoured mine and the quiche was similarly delightful with mushrooms and spinach in almost every bite.

Afternoon Tea at Jin Patisserie

Afternoon Tea at Jin Patisserie

I'm not normally a fan of eating so many desserts at once, but these were small bites and it was nice to have such a variety. My favorites were the passion fruit and little chocolate that topped the banana cake.

High Tea at Jin Patisserie

To round out our afternoon decadence, Fiona suggested we order the Spring Bouquet cake. It's a meringue wrapped around pastry cream with chopped up strawberries and mangoes. It's not too heavy and really a great fresh bite to finish out the afternoon.

Spring Bouquet Cake at Jin Patisserie

Jin only allows you to have one pot of tea during this service so if you decide to partake...sip slowly. Each of us completely finished our pots before we were even halfway through eating, but there is plenty of fruit flavored water to keep you from going thirsty. Service is a little on the slow side so expect to be there a while, but a nice afternoon in a beach town forgetting about the crazy world around you makes it all worth the wait.

Jin Patisserie
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 399-8801

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bistro LQ - Tasting Menu

"I know where I want to take you for your birthday", read the IM from my friend Kris. I thought to myself "Ok, but it's still two months away why are we even thinking about that". I tend to not think that far in advance, but as the week's passed by, I started thinking more about this dinner. I browsed the menu, and wasn't terrible excited about my options. I'm not one of those people who will eat anything and a lot of the menu didn't sound very appealing to me. I told Kris, "If you're going to make me eat brains, there better be wine".  After a pep talk from my mom, and the aforementioned wine, I was ready to start eating.

First was the sea snail amuse bouche. A little parsley butter flavored the snail nicely. It was fine, but nothing amazing.

Sea snail amuse bouche

Uni with yuzu tapicoca, lobster gelee and an oyster. The creamy uni went well with the citrus flavor of the tapicoa. The lobster gelee was a little strange, but actually did a good job of flavoring the oyster at the bottom of the mini beaker.

Uni with yuzu tapioca

Lobster gelee with oyster

One of our favorites was the smoked haddock wrapped around cream cheese, placed on a pancake and topped with arugula caviar. I loved smoked, cheese, etc so this was definitely pleasing to my palate. The fish of course is a natural pairing with the cream cheese and the arugula caviar added a welcome freshness to the dish.

Smoked haddock pancake with arugula caviar

Scallops with oatmeal, parsley grits, and cinnamon. This was one of the best scallops I've ever had. It didn't have a very strong sear, but the scallop was meaty and tasted of the sea without being too fishy. This was my first time trying savory oatmeal. The slight citrus flavor went really well with the scallops and swiping a forkful of cinnamon really enhanced the flavors.

Scallops with oatmeal, parsley grits, and cinnamon

My most favorite dish of the evening was the cod with lentils and blood sausage with pimenton wrapped octopus. Before this dinner, I probably would have said I would never try blood sausage in a million years, but a week later, I can't stop thinking about how good it was. The taste was very reminiscent of Mexican chorizo and even had a similar crumbly texture. It added great flavor to the lentils and cod.

Cod with lentils, blood sausage, and octopus wrapped in pimenton

To round out the seafood dishes, was a nice small plate. Tempura of zucchini on top of salted cod puree. Neither was especially amazing on their own, but they went nicely together,

Tempura of zucchini on salted cod puree
Our meat course was hangar steak with sesame glaze and topped with bonito flakes. The steak was cooked a little more rare than I prefer and overall the dish was slightly disappointing. I suppose I was looking for a bigger punch of flavor from the glaze and bonito flakes. The vegetables on the side were cooked perfectly and there was a nice surprise of a sweet, roasted garlic clove.

Hangar steak with sesame glaze and bonito flakes

By this point, it was hard to fathom eating any more food, but then the restaurant's famous cheese cart was rolled in our direction. We told our server we weren't picky when it came to cheese and he served us a delightful combination of cow's milk, goat's milk, and sheep's milk cheese with an array of dipping sauces and breads. My favorite "sauce" was the truffle honey which I gladly scarfed after Kris shocked me by saying he doesn't really like the taste of truffles. After that confession, I started to seriously reconsider our friendship, but lucky for Kris, we're compatible in other dining aspects.

Cheese cart
Cheese course
Cheese course condiments

At long last there was dessert. Gianduja with hazelnut ice cream and an assortment of petit four. The gianduja was a bit rich after all the food we had just consumed, but the hazelnut ice cream was a nice accompaniment. The petit four were also good with our favorite bite being the little fruit jelly that we couldn't place, but was a welcome bite on our tongues.

Gianduja with Hazelnut Ice Cream

Petit Four

After two and a half hours and countless calories, I felt like I needed to be wheeled home, but it was so worth it. The dinner was a great treat and made me realize, that I am willing to eat more adventurously than I previously imagined.

Bistro LQ
8009 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1008

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Grilled Pork and Fontina Sandwiches

Grilled Pork and Fontina Sandwiches

Last weekend was the second in a series of shows at the Hollywood Bowl that I am attending this summer. It's been so much fun to not only see a great show under the stars, but to picnic with fabulous people beforehand. Last time I made blueberry crumb bars, but this time I decided to go the savory route. I'd had this episode of open mouth chewer, Giada's show saved since last fall because I could not get these sandwiches out of my mind. They are perfect picnic food and can be made beforehand which was great for me since I had a busy day leading up to the festivities. These sandwiches are so easy and packed with flavor. The herbes de provence pork chops are a wonderful compliment to the lemon basil mayonnaise and crunchy romaine. The creamy Fontina brings it all together. I used a bit more pork than what is written below so I used the leftovers in hearty salads with spinach, sliced grape tomatoes, feta, and lemon vinaigrette. Excellent for a weekday work lunch!

Grilled Pork and Fontina Sandwiches
(From Giada De Laurentiis)

Makes 8 sandwiches

4 (8-ounce) 1-inch thick, boneless pork loin chops
Olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil leaves
4 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 (1 pound) loaves ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally
8 romaine lettuce leaves
8 ounces fontina cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the pork chops on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of herbes de Provence over each side of the pork chops. Brush the grill with oil and grill the pork chops for about 10 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Transfer the pork chops to a cutting board and let them rest for 10 minutes. Slice each chop into 1/4-inch thick slices.

In a bowl, mix the mayonnaise, basil, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

To assemble the sandwiches: Lay the bottom half of the bread on a work surface and spread with some of the mayo.  Add the lettuce leaves then arrange the cheese over the lettuce. Top the cheese with the pork slices. Spread the top half of the bread with more mayonnaise and cover the sandwiches. Slice each loaf into 4 pieces and serve.

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