Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Great Los Angeles Walk 2010

"Well, you can always not show up and sleep in instead, or quit half way". Those were some of my thoughts as I went to bed last Friday night. Several weeks earlier I had signed up for the Great Los Angeles Walk 2010 edition. Organized by Mike of Franklin Avenue, the Great Los Angeles Walk was started to celebrate his ten year anniversary of living in Los Angeles. The first Great Walk in 2006 took them down the entire length of Wilshire (15.8 miles!) from Downtown to the sea. The second year the group walked down Santa Monica Blvd via Sunset. Last year was Washington Blvd. and this year was the triumphant return to Wilshire Blvd. I wanted to participate the first year, but couldn't find anyone to join me and then other things came up. The same thing pretty much happened the last two years, but when I learned the walk would be returning to Wilshire, I knew I wouldn't be able to pass it up. As I took the bus down to Pershing Square, my stomach was filled with butterflies. I hadn't properly "trained", it was raining, I wasn't sure which blogger friends I would see and if I would end up walking by myself.

Great LA Walk 2010 - One Wilshire

Great LA Walk 2010 - One Wilshire

It turns out, I worked myself into a tizzy for no reason. I had a great time (mostly) walking down Wilshire and learned a lot about the city in the process. The LA Conservancy and Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council had put together some handy guides of interesting points along our route. Some I was familiar with, others not so much.

Great LA Walk 2010 - Macarthur Park
Macarthur Park

There was a scheduled tour at St. Basil's church in Koreatown. We missed much of what the tour guide said, but it was a beautiful building.

Great LA Walk 2010 - St. Basil's Church

Some of my favorite sites were in Koreatown and Wilshire Center. There is some beautiful architecture in this part of town and interesting history.

Great LA Walk 2010 - The Wiltern Theater
The Wiltern Theater cheered us along

Great LA Walk 2010 - Los Altos Apartments
The beautiful courtyard at the Los Altos Apartments

Great LA Walk 2010 - Wilshire Ebell Theatre
Wilshire Ebell Theatre - home to one of LA's first women's clubs.

Great LA Walk - Wilshire Center
These gates used to be the entrance to the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Right around the Miracle Mile is where we started feeling the pain. Luckily, this was the area that lunch was supposed to happen. Unfortunately, the food trucks that had been promised had to back out because of the rain. We definitely understand why there are always food trucks in this area. The lunch options are pretty dismal.

Great LA Walk 2010 - El Rey Theater
The El Rey Theater 

Great LA Walk 2010 - Museum Square
Museum Square

After a mediocre meal, we kept on walking to Beverly Hills. By this point, exhaustion and hurting feet were getting the better of us so around La Cienega, we hopped on the 720 bus.

Great LA Walk 2010 - Beverly Hills Porsche
Beverly Hills Porsche

While we were resting our feet and being driven in style, we passed many of the walkers climbing up the non-sidewalked dangerous hills of the Wilshire corridor. Knowing my clumsiness, I would have surely been hit by a passing car. We got off the bus at Wilshire and 26th and continued on our way to the ocean. We just *had* to pop in to The Gap to check out a sale. Our last (and best) pit stop was at Huckleberry to pick up some pastries and warm ourselves up a bit. I finally got to try the salted caramel bar that everyone raves about.

Salted Caramel Bar at Huckleberry

Despite our "cheat", we were still passed by two older women who seemed to power walk the entire way. I felt a little guilty about that, but not too much. At long last we finally made it to the ocean as the sun was setting.

Great LA Walk 2010 - Santa Monica

It was a great fall day to walk along Wilshire. I'm glad that the warmer weather we had been experiencing lately was kept at bay. It really helped to have people walking with me. I think we kept each other motivated especially during those last painful steps. You can view the rest of my pictures from the day in my Flickr photo stream. There are also terrific write ups of the event at LAist and the host blog Franklin Ave. Hopefully next year, with a little more training I will walk the entire route!

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Roasted Acorn Squash

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Roasted Acorn Squash

All over America, people are eagerly planning their Thanksgiving feasts. I've lost track at the number of tweets, posts, and articles that scream "you should be thinking about Thanksgiving all the time". Well guess what...I'm not. I've never been that in to Thanksgiving food so even though I took a class dedicated to Thanksgiving decadence last weekend and my friends are hosting a pre-Thanksgiving ("Brunchgiving") this weekend. I sort of want to crawl into a dark hole and wait for New Year, but I'm not a total Scrooge. For "Brunchgiving" I'll be making this salad which is a great addition to the Thanksgiving table. With all that turkey and gravy and stuffing, you need something light to ease the guilt. I made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I reduced the pomegranate juice. I didn't want to make pomegranate molasses, but I wanted a more concentrated pomegranate flavor. I also switched out arugula for the dandelion greens because the dandelion's bitter bite may be off-putting to some. Arugula has just enough peppery freshness that a crowd can appreciate. I thought about using candied, spiced nuts in place of the pine nuts, but I actually enjoyed the melow nutty flavor the lent to the salad and of course juicy pomegranate arils always brighten things up. This is a great salad full of fall flavors and I can't wait to make it again not only this weekend, but for a dinner party I am cooking for soon. I'm sure all my friends will love it.

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Roasted Acorn Squash
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2005)

Makes 3-4 servings

For the dressing:
5 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 1/4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the squash:
1 tablespoon butter, cut in half
1 unpeeled small acorn squash, halved, seeded and cut into 12 wedges

For the salad:
8 ounces baby arugula, washed and dried
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Salt and pepper

To make the dressing:
Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the juice has reduced to two tablespoons. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the juice and vinegars in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Re-whisk before using.

To make the squash:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the squash. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the squash to a the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining butter and squash. Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper. Transfer the squash to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes until the squash is softened and cooked through.

Mix the greens with half of the dressing. Divide among plates. Top the greens with some squash, sprinkle of pomegranate seeds, and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Drizzle each plate with more dressing.

Printable Recipe

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Mixed Berry-Acai Smoothie

Mixed Berry-Acai Smoothie

When I got an email from Bossa Nova with an offer to try one of their superfruit juices, I didn't hesitate to say yes. The juices arrived in gorgeous packaging (I use the canvas bag every week at the farmer's market), I opened one, drank most of it and left it at that. I finally got around to trying a couple of the juices in a "recipe" and so glad I did. I have had smoothies nearly every day for the last couple of weeks. It's an easy way for me to get my fruit servings each day and delicious to boot. I love that the juices aren't too sweet and are only sweetened slightly with agave. The juices came with a list of great recipes so I hope to try one of those soon, if not, I'm sure they will go well in some festive holiday cocktails.

Mixed Berry-Acai Smoothie
(By Esi)

Makes 1 smoothie

1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup Bossa Nova Acai juice with blueberry
1/2 banana, sliced
1 teaspoon flax meal (optional)
1/2 teaspoon agave or to taste

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth.

Printable Recipe

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Umbrian Lentil Stew with Olive Oil Fried Eggs

Umbrian Lentil Stew with Olive Oil Fried Eggs

This fall in Los Angeles has been all over the place. I personally think we're being punished for having a not very hot summer. We have had some of the hottest days of the year in the last month or so. It's not so fun to cook on those days, but there are the days that cool down and make me want to get in the kitchen. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it ASAP. It's very similar to something I made last year, but I couldn't pass up a chance to try this version. The cooking method is very similar to risotto.  I love the instructions in the original recipe to "cook the lentils until they are tender and suspended in a creamy sauce". Sounds magical, huh? I wanted this to have some substance so I kept the vegetable amounts the same, but reduced the amount of lentils. Instead of pulverizing the vegetables in the food processor, I just chopped them pretty finely by hand. The drizzle of balsamic vinegar was a sweet and tart compliment to the savoriness of the lentils and vegetables. A hint of spice would have been pleasant, but it's certainly not necessary and the leftovers were even better. This is a great dish for not just dinner, but brunch or lunch as well! Do yourself a favor and serve it with some crusty bread to soak up any of the juices.

Umbrian Lentil Stew with Olive Oil Fried Eggs
(Adapted from Food and Wine, March 2009)

Makes 2 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
1 ounce thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 small  carrot, finely chopped
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons green lentils
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
Handful of arugula leaves
Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the prosciutto and cook until the fat has rendered.

Add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Cook for about 7 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the tomato paste and stir over medium-high heat until it coats the vegetables and is shiny, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils and 1 1/4 cup of the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until most of the broth has been absorbed, about 25 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup of the broth and continue to simmer until it has absorbed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of broth until the lentils are tender and the sauce has become a bit creamy, about 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into the skillet, season with salt and cook until the edges are golden and the whites have set, but the yolks are still runny.

Spoon the lentils onto a plate and top with the eggs and a sprinkle of arugula. Grate cheese over the eggs and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Printable Recipe

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mani's on Maple Happy Hour

Mani's On Maple Happy Hour
(Magarita that had a hint of cinnamon)

You know when you have one of those days at work and you just need a cocktail after? Well, I'm pretty sure that's why happy hour was invented. Unfortunately, with my work hours, it's hard to ever make it to most happy hours...until now.

Mani's On Maple Happy Hour
(Beef skewers with yogurt dipping sauce)

When Mani's (formerly on Fairfax) moved to my old neighborhood, they made a couple of changes. Most importantly getting a liquor license and adding a bar. Happy hour has a great selection of $6 bites and drinks. There is a great variety of food from healthy to decadent all with that market fresh flare that Mani's is known for. The best part? Happy hour runs twice a day! Mani's is offering it's "Happiest Hour" special from 3pm to 7pm AND from 9pm to 11pm Monday through Friday.

Mani's On Maple Happy Hour

Mani's On Maple Happy Hour
(Slow roasted salmon salad)

The new location is great with it's proximity to the Beverly Hills agencies. Assistants, you know you are going to need this late night fix during pilot season.

*All food and drinks were comped. Opinions are my own 

Mani's On Maple
345 N. Maple Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 247-0009

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Monday, November 8, 2010

English Muffins

English Muffins

It's been a long while since I've posted a recipe. I haven't been cooking much and the little cooking I have been doing has been some old favorites. Hardly anything worth sharing again. However, I've been holding out on you readers. I made these English muffins over a month ago and I'm just now getting around to sharing them. These should definitely be shared. They are so simple to make and it's a fun process to "fry" them up before you bake them. I didn't quite get the desired "nooks and crannies", but the flavor was spot on. It was great to change up my breakfasts for a week with the endless combinations of toppings. I can't wait to make English muffins again. Pizza muffins? Sandwich muffins? The possibilities are endless!!

English Muffins

English Muffins
(From The Bread Baker's Apprentice)

Makes 6 muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup to 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
Cornmeal for dusting

Stir the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. On low speed, using the paddle attachment add the butter and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk until the mixture forms a ball. If there is still loose flour, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of milk. The dough should be soft and pliable.

Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface. Turn the dough out to the surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Alternately, you can switch to the dough hook on the mixture and knead the dough for about 8 minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky and should pass the windowpane test. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to cover it in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
Transfer the dough to a clean counter. Divide the dough into six equal pieces, about 3 ounces each. Shape the pieces into round rolls. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and mist the parchment lightly with spray oil and dust with cornmeal. Transfer the dough balls to the pan and mist the tops of the balls with spray oil and sprinkle the tops with cornmeal. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a towel.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until the pieces double in size and swell both up and out.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Brush the pan with vegetable oil. Gently transfer the muffin rounds to the pan with a spatula. Space the rounds at least 1 inch apart. You can do this in batches, keeping the remaining rounds covered. The dough that is being cooked will flatten and spread in the pan. Cook the pieces for 5-8 minutes per side until each side is golden brown. Immediately transfer the pieces to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 5-8 minutes so that the muffins cook through. Meanwhile, cook the remaning uncooked pieces the same as the first round.

Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and cool for 30 minutes before slicing or serving.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

SugarFISH - Downtown LA

Back in my early-mid twenties, I was a girl in the know. I went to all the new clubs on the "good nights" and was really something of a girl about how things have changed. These days, my idea of a night on the town consists of a nice dinner out with friends and maybe a trip to a low-key bar after. I still love to get my dance on, but usually reserve that for my once or twice yearly trips to Popstarz with my boys (or just dancing around my apartment). A couple of weeks ago, I was a surprised and delighted to receive an invitation to try the then not opened new location of SugarFISH in downtown LA.  I took Jamie as my date and set out to try the new restaurant.

I'd heard of SugarFISH before, but I had never been to their Brentwood or Marina del Rey locations.  Last Tuesday, I ventured to downtown LA to meet Jaime and get our sushi on. I'm so glad we did!!

We were joined at dinner by one of the managers, Emanuele "Lele" Massimini. He explained to us that he used to visit Sushi Nozawa very regularly and was completely taken with their minimalist style and quality sushi that was accessible and affordable. They sought to bring something similar closer to where they lived, which they did with the Brentwood and Marina del Rey locations of SugarFISH. The fish for all of the restaurants is picked by Nozawa every day and all of the sauces are created in house. The key to the success of the restaurants is the simple preparation of the most stellar ingredients. It really showed through in each of the dishes we tried.

As instructed, all dishes that came with sauce (usually different forms of ponzu) are not to be eaten with soy sauce. Anything that was "naked", we were welcome to dip. We both had the The Nozawa which came with edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore sushi, salmon sushi, snapper sushi, yellowtail sushi, halibut sushi, toro handroll, crab handroll, and scallop sushi. I can honestly say, it was all great, but my favorites were the tuna sashimi and the crab handroll. Everything tasted exceptionally fresh and I loved the crunch of the seaweed on the handrolls. I'd never had sushi with warmed rice before which interesting in a good way, even though I'm sometimes clumsy with chopsticks and it got a little messy. Again, I love how simple everything was and the fact that the fish was able to shine through the simple preparation. Jamie mentioned several times that it could be her new sushi spot. It could definitely be mine as well, and I'm happy that once again, I'm in the know of a new gem.

*All food and drinks were comped. Opinions are my own . All photos are property of SugarFISH*
600 W. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 627-3000

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