Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

Is it just me or did this year go by at lightening speed? I feel like it was just January!! Though the year started out a bit rough, but it ended on a high and so many great things happened in the last twelve months.  Here are some of the highlights:

I attended more food themed events in the last year. The first and one of the best was Good Food Live featuring cooking demonstrations with a variety of Australian chefs and Evan Kleiman. Despite the rain, we had a great time and got to meet Curtis Stone.

LA Food Bloggers with Curtis Stone at Good Food Live

Desserts are always the most popular posts on my blog. It's not hard to see why Crack Pie and Sticky Meyer Lemon Rolls were two of the most popular posts this year. In fact, the lemon rolls were so good, I didn't share which is unusual for me when it comes to baked goods.

Momofuku's Crack Pie Bars

Sticky Meyer Lemon Rolls

I celebrated two years of food blogging with delicious cookies and an even more delicious giveaway sponsored by me, myself, and I.

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

I explored different areas of Los Angeles and found one of my favorite shops in Koreatown. I used many of the goodies I picked up to make a variety of Korean dishes like this spring-themed rice bowl.

Korean Rice Bowl with Steak, Asparagus, and Fried Egg

One of the main events in 2010 was my 30th birthday. I had a low key celebration with a fabulous cake and fried chicken and beer.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

I explored LA's food scene a lot more this year and had quite a few epic meals out (and some not so epic, but still delicious).  Restaurants like Animal and Bistro LQ tested my pickyness and I found I can be an adventurous eater when I want to be.

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

A couple of years ago a made a goal to meet at least three food bloggers in person. Well since then I have far exceeded that goal and met even more people this year.  As expected, everyone is great and it was nice to congregate at events like Blogger Prom to discuss our mutual interests (and nerdiness).

Esi at Blogger Prom

To end 2010 and hopefully start 2011, I'm finally diving into some catering which has been a long time dream of mine. I recently got started with a four course dinner for the cast of the new show "Better With You" and it was an incredible evening. This soup was one of the best courses. I hope the new year will provide many more opportunities for such events.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Farro, and Leeks

Overall this has been one of the best years in recent memory and it has me really excited for the coming year. I'm looking forward to sharing many more recipes and restaurants and perhaps delving into other categories like lifestyle, photography, and design.  I hope you all have a wonderful, fun, and most importantly safe New Year's Eve. Cheers and Happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thomas Keller Oreos

Thomas Keller Oreos

Over the last two and half years of food blogging, I've noticed that people like to posts certain recipes in waves. For instance, lately, I've been seeing a lot of homemade marshmallow posts.  I'm proud to say (brag) that I made them two years ago (and again recently for Eat My Blog). Other times, I fall way behind on the trend like with these homemade Oreos.  I've had the recipe saved for ages, but I'm not sure why I never got around to making them.  In any case, I finally got the chance to make these last week...just in time for my oven to crap out on me. It was insane. I put the cookies in and three minutes later my fire alarm was going off like crazy and I had a burnt mess instead of little flower shaped cookies.  It was not pretty. I did manage to get a couple of usable cookies, but my oven remains on the fritz. Maybe there will be a new one in my near future...and possibly a new apartment as well. The recipe below is how I made the cookies. The filling was still pretty liquid even after the 6 hour hardening time so I whipped it with a hand mixer to get a thicker consistency. I definitely want to try making these when I have a correctly functioning oven because was little I could taste around the burnt parts was absolutely delicious. The cookies are slightly salty and reminiscent of World Peace Cookies without chocolate chips and help balance the sweetness of the filling. I normally hate white chocolate, but it works well here.  Fingers crossed that I have a new oven soon!

Thomas Keller Oreos
(From Essence of Chocolate)

Makes 18-24 sandwich cookies

For the filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (I used chips and did not chop)

For the cookies:
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, at room temperature

To make the filling:
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the white chocolate, making sure it is immersed in the cream. Let stand for 1 minute, then whisk to completely melt the chocolate.

Transfer the filling to a small bowl and let it stand for 6 hours, or until it thickens enough to spread. If the filling hardens too much, it can be re-warmed in the microwave.

To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed until combined. With the mixer still on low speed, add the butter a few pieces at a time until it is all in the bowl. The dough will be sandy at first, but it will come together. When it does, stop the mixer.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into a block about 5 by 7 inches. Cut the block into two pieces. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2 or 2.5-inch round cutter, cut rounds from the dough and place them 1/2 to 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Scraps of dough can be re-rolled to cut more cookies.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool on them for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely.

To assemble the cookies, turn half of the cookies so the flat side faces up. Whisk or beat the filling until fluffy and has soft peaks. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag and cut a small hole in the tip of the bag. Pipe about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the filling on the center of each of the flipped cookies. Top with another cookie and gently press the cookie together until the filling spreads evenly to the edge. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Farro, and Leeks

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Farro, and Leeks

I've been on vacation for the last week and it's been grand! It feels luxurious to be sitting around drinking cups of tea at 3 in the afternoon without stressing about how I'm going to get my work done before the end of the day. It's also left me with some time to cook so I decided to make this soup again last week. It's the soup I served to the cast of "Better With You" and it was definitely one of the highlights of the evening. In fact, one of the guests declared it the best soup he's ever eaten!  The recipe is quite labor intensive, but most of it can be done ahead of time. I made the soup base the night before the dinner and then cooked the farro, shrimp, and leek mixture the day I served it.  There is so much flavor in this bowl of food. The roasted squash, caramelized shallots, fennel, and leeks bring a lovely sweetness while the sage adds a savory punch. There is a kick from the chili flakes and the farro and shrimp give it texture. The original recipe calls for thyme, but believe it or not, the vendor at the farmers market was sold out of thyme that day. Instead, I used savory which is kind of like a cross between thyme and rosemary. A little goes a long way with savory so you may need to adjust the amount accordingly or just use thyme leaves. This soup was so comforting to have during the crazy intense rain storms we experienced in SoCal last week.  In fact, if this soup was less work, I would be making it at least once a week, but for now, it's for special occasions. Vacation is certainly a special occasion.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Farro, and Leeks
(Adapted from Scott Conant)

Makes 12 servings

4 1/4 pound pumpkin, cut in half and seeds removed
1 pound butternut squash, cut in half and seeds removed
Olive oil as needed
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons butter
9 shallots, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch sage, chopped
1/2 bunch of savory, chopped (If you can't find savory, use thyme)
Large pinch red pepper flakes
2 whole star anise
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons farro
3 dozen shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
2 leeks, sliced about 1/4 inch thin
Chives for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with foil. Place the pumpkin and squash halves flesh side up. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Cover with more foil and roast until fork tender, 40 minutes to an hour. Set aside to cool. Scrape out the flesh with a spoon and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat. Add the shallots and slowly caramelize, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the fennel until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin and squash, caramelized shallots, sage, thyme, chili flakes, and star anise. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro and a pinch of salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any additional water and set aside.

Discard the star anise. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Pass the soup through a fine-meshed sieve. Return the soup to a clean pot and keep warm over low heat. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Saute the shrimp in batches until just opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the leeks until softened and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the farro and shrimp and toss to combine. Season with salt as needed.

Ladle the soup into bowl and top each serving with a mound of the farro, shrimp, and leek mixture. Garnish with chives.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spicy Truffle Mac and Cheese

Spicy Truffle Mac and Cheese

As part of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker program, I recently received a large package of goodies from Hickory Farms.  The smoked cheddar went quickly because I'm strangely addicted to smoked foods (cheese, salmon, etc). I wasn't a huge fan of the sweet turkey sausage, but the beef sausage was quite good with cheese and crackers. Great for a party. The spicy cheddar packed a punch and I knew it had to be put to good use. I'm sort of obsessed with the truffle cheese at Trader Joe's and have been wanting to make an interesting mac and cheese with it for a while. The combined cheeses were great and this mac and cheese is kind of addicting. Bacon would certainly make this infinitely better, but I wanted to keep it less heart attack inducing so I used nonfat milk and spray oil to grease the ramekins. The butter in the sauce and the cheese kept this rich enough for me and a decadent weekday dinner (and breakfast...shhh...don't tell anyone).

Hickory Farms Basket

Hickory Farms Basket

Merry Christmas to those that celebrate!

Spicy Truffle Mac and Cheese
(By Esi)

Makes 4 servings

Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 ounces grated truffle cheese
3 ounces grated spicy cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon truffle salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8x8 pan or 4 ramekins with butter or spray oil. If using ramekins, place them on top of a foil-lined baking tray and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a healthy pinch of salt and then the pasta. Cook for about 6 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat. Make sure the milk doesn't come to a boil. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk the heated milk into the flour and butter and cook for another 5 minutes until thickened and smooth.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cheeses and salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Add the pasta to the cheese mixture and stir to combine. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the ramekins. Top each ramekin with a tablespoon of panko and a light sprinkling of truffle salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the panko has browned and the cheese is bubbling. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Little Ethiopia

I've recently had several opportunities to dine in the neighborhood just south of where I live called Little Ethipoia. It's named this as it's the largest Ethiopian community west of Adams Morgan in DC. I've now tried three different restaurants in the area and have had a good experience at all of them. Most recently was a newer addition to the street called Addis Ethiopian. The night my group visited Addis was our lucky night. We were the only five people in the restaurant!! We ended up ordering quite a few things on the menu so we got to taste a bit of everything.

The veggie plate was varied and full of interesting flavors. I couldn't place what each item was, but everything tasted delicious.

Addis Ethiopian

Beef with jalapenos and onions (Awaze Tibbs) wasn't as saucy as I thought it would be given the description, but it added a nice heat to the meal. I wish the meat had been cooked a little bit less, but it was still good.

Addis Ethiopian

The lamb stew (Kiay Wot) was one of the favorite dishes of the evening. The sauce was subtly spicy and flavorful. I'm sure I could eat bowl after bowl-full of this over rice.

Addis Ethiopian

Assa or fried fish was good and reminded me of Ghanian cuisine. I wish it had come with a sauce, but it was light in comparison to some of the other dishes and a welcome change for our palates.

Addis Ethiopian

When we ordered the Liyu Kitfo, the waitress brought out the cook to make sure we were sure that was what we wanted. Raw beef with greens and "cottage cheese" may not be a dish for everyone, but we were all game to try it. It wasn't my favorite, but definitely interesting to try.

Addis Ethiopian

Before my trip to Addis, I visited Rahel which is completely vegan. At first I was worried about a bunch of overcooked vegetables in sauce, but I quickly realized I needn't have feared. Everything was cooked perfectly and was really flavorful. Three of us shared a veggie platter for two and it was the perfect amount of food for what we wanted that night.

Rahel Ethiopian

Even though it had a strange texture, I was sort of addicted to the vegan cheesecake. I think it had a lot to do with the strawberry topping.

Rahel Ethiopian 

These restaurants are both great. If you ever find yourself in the Little Ethiopia neighborhood, I strongly suggest checking them out.

Addis Ethiopian
1025 South Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019-4402
(323) 965-1025

Rahel Ethiopian
1047 S. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 937-8401

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potato Discs with Herbed Goat Cheese

Roasted Sweet Potato Discs with Herbed Goat Cheese

This was the second appetizer I made for the fancy-but-not-fancy dinner I cooked for the "Better with You" cast. I initially had a difficult time coming up with something and was hoping to avoid another appetizer with cheese since I knew I already wanted to make the crostini, but I could not get this out of my head. The original plan was to make baked sweet potato chips, but a few test runs at my apartment didn't get me the results I wanted. I decided to go with thicker discs that I had recently seen on Smitten Kitchen and they worked out well. Ordinarily, I shun goat cheese, but when it packs an herby punch, it is difficult to resist. I found myself sneaking tastes of goat cheese when I could and saved a little for myself to recreate the dish at home.

I made a few other dishes for the occasion, but didn't get pictures of them. Here are a couple from previous posts.

Arugula Salad with Squash and Pomegranate. This time I used delicata squash, which made for really pretty half moons on the mound of salad.

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Roasted Acorn Squash

Pumpkin Shortcakes. This time, I used regular vanilla bean ice cream and an cranberry-apple compote to balance out the sweetness of it all.

From Dishing Up Delights

I also did a rockin' squash and pumpkin soup that I will have to make again ASAP because it was so good and I didn't get a picture of it.

Roasted Sweet Potato Discs with Herbed Goat Cheese
(Sweet Potatoes adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Herbed Goat Cheese by Esi)

Makes 12 servings

3 pounds sweet potatoes, washed, scrubbed, and sliced into half-inch thick discs
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
11 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously coat the sweet potatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bottoms have browned. Flip, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are crisp on the outside, but soft on the inside. Set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the goat cheese until it is fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the herbs and beat until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon or pipe the goat cheese onto the cooled sweet potato discs.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Braised Short Ribs with Autumn Root Vegetable Puree

Braised Short Ribs with Autumn Root Vegetable Puree
This was the main course in my dinner for the "Better With You" cast. I have been wanting to make braised short ribs for ages, but most of the time I cook for just me and it seemed ridiculous to make such a large amount of food for one person. This is great for a group and another dish where the flavors get better with time so it's best to prep it early. I'm not a fan of mashed potatoes, but I wanted something interesting for the short ribs to sit on. The root vegetable puree is very simple and sort of luxurious feeling with a healthy pat of butter. The slight sweetness of the puree compliments the sauce of the short ribs well. I was especially excited about this dish because it gave me a chance to use my new dutch's really the simple things in life that bring me the most pleasure :)

Braised Short Ribs
(Adapted from Gourmet, October 1995)

Makes 12 servings

*Note, I made such a large quantity I used two dutch ovens and split the ingredients evenly between them.

7 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 1-rib pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/4 cups dry red wine
56 ounces canned whole tomatoes, including liquid, coarsely pureed in a blender
2 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Nine 3-by 1-inch strips fresh orange zest
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
15 ounces pearl onions, boiled and peeled
2 pounds baby carrots
Freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a dutch oven (or similar heavy kettle, at least 5.5 quarts) over medium heat until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Brown the short ribs in batches then transfer the ribs to a large bowl using tongs.

Add the chopped onions to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes, broth, Worcestershire sauce, orange zest, rosemary and salt and bring to a boil. Add the ribs including any juices that have accumulated in the bowl and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

Add the pearl onions, and carrots, stirring and pushing down to make sure they are covered by liquid. Simmer, covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Transfer the meat, pearl onions, and carrots to a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Discard the zest and boil the braising liquid, stirring ocassionally until it has reduced to about 5 cups. Return the meat and vegetables to the pot and cook over low heat until heated through.

Serve stew sprinkled with parsley.

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Autumn Root Vegetable Puree
(Adapted from Frank Stitt)

Makes 12 servings

6 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, combine the turnips, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes. Add a few good pinches of salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 30-40 minutes.

Drain the vegetables and return them to the pot to dry out over medium heat for 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and puree. Add the butter and salt to taste.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crostini with Poached Pears, Gorgonzola, and Honey

Crostini with Poached Pears, Gorgonzola, and Honey
This past weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to make dinner for the cast of the new ABC show "Better With You". It was a wonderful evening and I had a great time coming up with a fall harvest themed menu. I have a few recipes to share from that evening and here is the first. It's a great, easy appetizer combining sweet pears with savory blue cheese and just a hint of honey. I used a wonderful "fall rose" that I found at my favorite wine shop, domaineLA. Any light red wine will do, but I loved the deep pink color it imparted on the pears. One of the best things about the pears (and most of the other recipes I made for the evening) is that they can be done a day or two ahead of time and the flavors only get better over time. I'm going to say this many times over the next few posts, but thanks to JenFinn for letting me come over and cook for this fabulous group. It was really a blast and such a pleasure to cook for such happy, appreciative people. I'm excited to share some of the other things I made for the occasion very soon.

Better With You airs at 8:30pm on Wednesday nights on ABC. Check it out!

Crostini with Poached Pears, Gorgonzola and Honey
(Poached Pears slightly adapted from the Crostini is by Esi)

4 cups cold water
Juice of 1 lemon
6 firm, but ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears with stems intact
1 bottle light red wine (I used a 2009 Lioco Rose from Mendocino county)
1 1/4 cup sugar (depending on the wine you use, this amount can be reduced to as little as 1/2 cup. I found the pears to be a bit sweet, but the savoriness of the blue cheese balanced the flavors)
2 strips orange rind
2 star anise
1 whole clove
1 whole vanilla bean cut in half

I baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
Wildflower honey for drizzling

In a large bowl, combine the water and lemon juice. Peel the pears, keeping the stems intact. Slice a small piece from the base of each pear so it can stand without falling over. Drop each pear into the water and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the wine, sugar, orange rind, star anise, vanilla, and clove. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the pears. You can place a small plate over the pears to make sure they stay submerged or else turn the pears occasionally to make sure they get poached evenly.

Simmer the pears for 25-35 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a skewer.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the pairs cool in the poaching liquid.

Transfer the pears and the liquid to a large container. Refrigerate for at least several hours or as long as three days.

To make the crostini:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the bread slices to a baking sheet and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Flip the pieces of bread over and bake for another 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

While the bread is cooling, remove the pears from the poaching liquid and slice them thinly.

Lay slices of pear over the cooled crostini. Top with blue cheese crumbles and drizzle the top of the cheese with honey.

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