Monday, January 31, 2011

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Bulgur

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Bulgur

Since I've been eating such meat-heavy meals when I go out, the recipes I've been leaning on lately for day to day cooking are mostly vegetarian. The first thing I look for in vegetarian or vegan meals is heartiness so that you're not feeling like you want more immediately after you've just eaten. This recipe helps keep you full for a long time after you've eaten which is great for curbing cravings for not so healthy food. I just came across this recipe last week and knew I had to make it immediately. I have been making a lot of turkey black bean chili for my work lunches and knew this would be a great meat-free alternative. I had quite a few firsts with this recipe. It was my first time cooking with dried beans and my first time cooking with bulgur. It could not have been simpler and clean up is minimal. Plus, with the long cooking time, I was able to get a lot done in the, cleaning my bathroom and doing three loads of laundry. The chili base is vegan and can be done ahead of time. As with most chili recipes, it only gets better with time and the flavors intensify. The toppings are not necessary, but greatly enhance the eating experience. For example, if you add sour cream, you get the cool creaminess with the bite of the beans, heat from the chili, and sweetness of the squash. This is definitely a recipe I will be making often and perhaps next time I will play with the flavors, but for now, it is perfect the way it is.

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Bulgur
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011)

Makes 4-5 servings

2 1/4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 14-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes and their juices
8 ounces dried black beans, rinsed
1 canned chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Coarse kosher salt
1 1-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup quick cooking bulgur

Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Diced red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Pickled jalapeno rings

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and slightly brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili powder and coriander and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, chipotle, and oregano. Add 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer over low heat and cover, with the lid slightly ajar. Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until the beans are tender.Season to taste with salt

Stir in the squash and bulgur. Cook, uncovered, over low heat until the squash is tender and the bulgur is cooked through. Season again with salt as needed. Top with sour cream, cheese, pickled jalapenos, red onions, and cilantro as desired.

Printable Recipe

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Piazza by Zucca Ristorante

My friend Andrew and I try to get together every few months and have dinner together. I don't get to see him often, but when I do we're able catch up quickly and the hours seem to fly by in a matter of minutes. We used to limit our dinner excursions to one of two places: Marix (known for their amazing kick-ass margaritas) or Lala's (known for their amazing sangria). At our last dinner (at Marix, natch), we promised each other to start dining out at different places. When I got the invitation to check out Piazza by Zucca Ristorante, Andrew was the first person who came to my mind that I wanted to invite to dine with me.

Piazza is the outside patio at Zucca Ristorante in the flourishing downtown neighborhood of Los Angeles. The menu consists of antipasti, panini, salads, pizzas, and pastas. The best part? None of the food on the Piazza menu is over $12. It's a great place to go after work and share a few small plates and some pizza.

We started with a robust Chianti - the Castello Di Montasero Chianti, Italy 2007 ($47/bottle) to get us in the mood. This wine is part of the restuarant's Decade of Wine event which runs through February 6th. To start the new decade, they are offering their favorite wines at an excellent value. After the 6th, the price will go back up to $65/bottle.

Decade of Fine Wine Menu

Andrew Loves Wine

The bread basket was a delight for carb-loving Andrew. It came with everything from breadsticks to crackers and focaccia. Bread heaven.

Bread Basket

Next up was the Prosciutto Crudo, Mozzarella e Olive ($8). I'm a sucker for burratta. It paired beautifully with the salty prosciutto and was great to snack on with a breadstick. I love olives and since Andrew isn't a big fan, I got to keep the salty, marinated olives all to myself. I'm a lucky gal.

Prosciutto Crudo, Mozzarella e Olive 1/24/11

The Romana salad ($7) was romaine wedges dressed very lightly with a Caeser-style dressing. I wish there had been a touch more dressing, but I appreciated the chef's restraint. I also wish there would have been more of the wonderful polenta croutons, but it's probably a good thing that there were only two. They were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with a hint of Parmesan flavor. Outstanding.

Romana Salad

I was quite impressed with Calabrese pizza ($9) which was topped with a zesty tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, crumbled sausage, sliced red onions, and fennel. The crust was thin and crispy, just the way I like it. The perfect bite had all of the toppings in one mouthful.

Calabrese Pizza

Our last savory course was the Tagliatelle Pasticciate ($12). Normally I shy away from cream sauces, but this only has a touch of cream. The pasta was fresh and our waitress Cheryl told us there is a little woman who slaves spends her day making fresh pasta for the restaurant. This was a little heavier than what I was craving so I let Andrew have at it. He's a bit of a pasta whore.

Tagliatelle Pasticciate

Although we didn't order it, we were treated to a beautiful panna cotta with berries. The custard was smooth and light and sweet, but not too sweet. It was perfect with the berries that were slightly tart. The dessert with a glass of Dolcetto was the perfect way to end the night.  

Panna Cotta

Because of its proximity to Staples Center and the Nokia Theater, I highly recommend checking out Piazza as a great way to get your evening started!

*All food and drinks were comped. Opinions are my own
Piazza by Zucca Ristorante
801 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 614-7800

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, January 24, 2011

Carrot Soup

Carrot Soup

Despite the fact that temperatures in LA have been hovering around 80 degrees for the past two weeks, I find myself craving one thing lately...soup. Last week it was lentil soup and since I had so much success with that particular recipe from 101 Cookbooks, I decided to try another yesterday. At the farmers market I picked up some beautiful Nantes carrots from Capay Organic. I was told that these are a French heirloom variety and sweeter than many other carrots you find at the market.  After a bit of wine at DomaineLA and awesome food from the Manila Machine, this soup was the perfect way to end the weekend. The soup is sweet from the carrots and fresh tasting with a bit of lemon. It takes no time to make and gave me an excuse to use my new immersion blender (I want to blend everything now). I was actually going for a chunkier consistency, but I guess I still have to learn how powerful this blender is. I topped my soup with a few homemade croutons seasoned simply with herbes de Provence. This is a great winter soup recipe that can be changed up with different flavors to make something new and interesting every time. Perhaps next time truffle croutons?

Carrots 1/23/11

Carrot Soup
(Slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 pounds carrots, scrubbed clean and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Coarse sea salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the carrots and the water to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 25 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Stir in the lemon juice.

Remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth or until it reaches your desired consistency. Serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil or croutons is desired.

Printable Recipe

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes, Kale and Saffron Yogurt

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Kale

After hearing Diana rave about this soup for months, I finally decided that I needed to make In a cruel and unusual twist of fate, I got sick again last weekend and so I decided to make this soup for the second time to help cure me. The first time I made it, I didn't realize until I was halfway through that I was out of fire-roasted tomatoes. I decided to be crafty and use a little of the Ghanian fresh pepper I had made a few days prior. It turned out well, but it didn't quite go well with the saffron yogurt. I knew I had to try the soup again staying a bit closer to the original recipe. For being such a simple recipe, it's surprisingly full of flavor. The fire-roasted tomatoes I used also had a few jalapenos mixed in so this had a nice, gentle heat and the yogurt cooled it down. This soup is quite filling and also strangely addictive. Although, it's hard to say that being addicted to lentils, tomatoes, and kale is a bad thing. The soup is just as good with the saffron yogurt as without and I love Heidi's suggestions for changing it up by adding a poached egg, or crispy shallots, or a whole grain to the dish. The spices can also be played with as another way to change things up. Since it cooks in practically no time, this soup will definitely be on regular rotation in my winter meals.

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes, Kale, and Saffron Yogurt (aka Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup)
(Ever so slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

Makes about 4 servings

For the saffron yogurt:
Small pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
Pinch coarse sea salt
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
For the soup:
1 cup green lentils
7 cups water, divided
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cups rinsed and chopped kale
1 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
Coarse sea salt to taste

To make the yogurt:
Add the saffron threads to the boiling water in a small cup or bowl. Let the saffron steep for about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and yogurt. Set aside while making the soup.

To make the soup:
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan and add and big pinch of salt. Add the lentils and cook until tender, but still firm, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion sprinkle with a bit of salt. You want the onions to soften, but not brown. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions have softened. Add the lentils and kale to the pot. Add the water and stir to combine. Cover the pot and cook until the kale has wilted, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Taste and add salt as necessary.

Serve the soup warm with a dollop of the saffron yogurt.

Printable Recipe

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deliciously Organic Cookbook

This cookbook just came out and even though I don't have a copy in my hot little hands yet, I just know it is going to be a good one. Carrie Vitt is a friend and author of the book and blog of the same title. Carrie makes all sorts of delectable recipes using real ingredients and often makes healthy substitutes in more decadent dishes. Carrie's recipes are approachable and easy to make and she often gives tips on new ingredients.

The book is photographed by Helen of Tartlette so you know it's beautiful.  The two are also collaborating on a dessert cookbook and I can't wait to see that when it's done! The book is available on Amazon so check it out. If you're not familiar with Carrie, here are some links to some of her recipes I've been drooling over for months:

Milky Way Tart
Lentil Carrot and Kale Soup with Creme Fraiche and Dill
Bacon and Steak Bites
Gluten Free Fudgy Chocolate Tarts

(Photo from Amazon)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, January 17, 2011

Feng Mao

Chopsticks at Feng Mao

A few weeks ago I got an invite from The Minty to dine at a Chinese restaurant in Koreatown. I was mildly confused, but I do know that many other cuisines are well represented in Koreatown besides Korean so I decided to go with it. At the end of the email, Minty promised not to order the bull's penis. Of course that made me intrigued. Turns out Feng Mao specializes in Northern Chinese food, specifically kebabs and one of the more adventurous kebabs is thinly sliced bull's penis. As promised, the penis was not on our list of kebabs we ordered, but we had plenty of other options. The chopsticks that greeted us with the words "Good Luck" were a little disconcerting, but it turns out we needn't have worried.

Banchan at Feng Mao 1/10/11

Salad at Feng Mao

Egg Custard at Feng Mao

The selection of banchan was pretty standard, but I found myself strangely addicted to the boiled peanuts. In fact, we ended up getting more towards the end of the evening because they were so good.

Spice Mixture at Feng Mao

Kebabs at Feng Mao

Kebabs at Feng Mao

Kebabs at Feng Mao

There was a really flavorful dipping powder to use with all of our grilled meats. It was good, but after a while, I found it made everything taste the same. Despite our vast selection of meat options (chicken, lamb, gizzards, chicken hearts, beef belly, chicken wings, and beef), it became difficult to tell them apart after a while. We definitely had a bit too much food and I relied on the banchan to relieve my taste buds from all the meat.

Mushroom Kebabs at Feng Mao

Even though I'm not a big fan of shrooms, they provided a welcome break from all of the meat. These were some of the biggest mushrooms I'd ever seen.

Scallion Pancake at Feng Mao

My absolute favorite order of the evening was the scallion pancake. Scallion pancakes are not something I would normally order out a restaurant, but I'm so glad we did. These were crispy and full of scallion flavor. I also loved the slightly spicy dipping sauce that accompanied them.

I definitely want to try some dishes we didn't get to that evening like the spicy pork with cilantro and some of the other Northern Chinese specialties. It was a nice evening out made even nicer with soju and plenty of Hite beer. I can't wait until the next eating adventure!

Feng Mao
414 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 388-9299

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sweet Potato Hash with a Fried Egg

Sweet Potato Hash with a Fried Egg

Ok, so my last post was touting healthy eating, but hey, you have to mix it up, right?  Besides, this dish isn't totally unhealthy. It has a vegetable in it.  I recently realized that I had a sweet potato lingering in my kitchen that I needed to use sooner rather than later. After surveying the contents of my kitchen, it took approximately thirty seconds for me to come up with this hash.  Of course, like most recipes, I could not resist topping it with a fried egg. That's just the way I roll. I just wish I had more sweet potatoes and bacon laying around. This was so good. I loved the sweetness of the potato with the salty, not too fatty bacon.  The yolk from the egg gets all mixed in with those flavors and it's quite addictive.  In fact, I wanted to make this again immediately after eating it the first time, but decency...and the lack of another sweet potato in my kitchen kept me from doing that. 

Sweet Potato Hash with a Fried Egg
(By Esi)

Makes 1 serving

2 pieces bacon, sliced
1 small shallot, chopped
1 sweet potato peeled and cut into chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fried egg or poached egg

Cook in the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until desired crispiness. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain all, but two teaspoons of the fat. Add the shallots to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sweet potatoes have softened and are cooked through, about 10 minutes. The shallots will caramelize a bit during this process.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir the bacon back into the pan. Serve warm, topped with a fried or poached egg.

Printable Recipe

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, January 10, 2011

Quinoa with Shrimp and Pineapple

Quinoa with Shrimp and Pineapple

The first week of the year is presumably when one's resolutions kick into gear. We leave behind the excess of the holidays and embrace being healthier, becoming a better person, or resolving to change the world.  Gyms get crowded, trainers are booked, and spinning classes are full to capacity.  In spite of me never making resolutions, I was one of the many people hoping to hop back on the working out bandwagon. Unfortunately my body had other plans for me and I spent the better part of the week being sick in bed (although all that coughing has certainly made my abs feel tighter). I'm all better now, but thankfully, I did get a good eating start to the year. When Olga posted this recipe just after Christmas, I knew it would find it's way into my kitchen soon.  The winter months can seem dull and gray (yes, even in Southern California), but having a recipe like this will immediately perk you up. It's full of fresh colors and flavors and is a healthy and satisfying lunch. 

Quinoa with Shrimp and Pineapple

Quinoa with Shrimp and Pineapple
(Adapted from Mango & Tomato)

Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of one small lime
1 teaspoon pineapple juice
3 tablespoons cilantro, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
10 shrimp, peeled and deveined 
1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 small shallot, diced

In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil with a large pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and let it cook until the quinoa is tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain if necessary and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the honey, olive oil, lime zest and juice, and pineapple juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, add the shrimp and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss the shrimp with half of the dressing and 1 tablespoon of cilantro. Let the shrimp marinate for 10-30 minutes.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes per side or until opaque. Set the shrimp aside to cool.

Toss the cooled quinoa with the remaining dressing, pineapple, shallot, and remaining cilantro. Add the shrimp and toss to combine. Serve slightly chilled.

Printable Recipe

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spaghetti All'Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs

Spaghetti All'Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs

I mentioned in my last post that for the first time, I stayed in this past New Year's Eve and had a quiet night of movie watching.  Just because I was staying in alone didn't mean I couldn't have a great dinner. I'm not really a spaghetti and meatballs kind of girl, but when I saw this recipe back in June on Bridgett's blog, I promised to make it when the weather got a little cooler and I was in the mood to do this kind of recipe. This is a kicked up, fancier version of the classic. The meaty sauce is the perfect vehicle for the amazing, flavorful meatballs with a smoky mozzarella surprise on the inside. Bridgett warned me that the  meatballs are addictive and I could not agree more. This is a warming, comforting dish for a cold winter night, but really, you can make it anytime you get the craving for a spicy meatball. 

Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs

Spaghetti All'Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs
(Adapted from La Bella Cook)

Makes 4 servings (A note about the serving size. This post advises that 2 ounces of uncooked pasta per person is an appropriate serving size. This has varied in the past on my posts, but in the interest of being a little healthier, it's the rule I am going to go by from here on out. You will get anywhere from 16-20 meatballs with the recipe below.  Four meatballs per person is plenty. If you have leftovers, have them as a snack!)

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, crushed in a food processor or blender
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the meatballs (Makes 20 meatballs):
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish if desired
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
4 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)

8 ounces spaghetti or other long pasta

To make the sauce:
In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it is crisp and golden.

Remove the pancetta from the pan using a slotted spoon. Add the onions to the pan and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Cook the sauce uncovered over medium-low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to low, cover and set aside to keep warm.

To make the meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the onion, parsley, Parmesan, panko crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Add the turkey meat and use your hands to combine.

Use a tablespoon measure to scoop out the mixture. Form into a circle and make an indentation in the middle. Place a cube of mozzarella in the indentation. Roll into a ball, making sure the meat covers all of the mozzarella.

Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Toss the meatballs with the sauce.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Cook for 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce and meatballs. Serve topped with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley if desired.

Printable Recipe

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, January 3, 2011

Holidays 2010

During the past two weeks I visited Chaya, Salt's Cure, Soda Pops, A-Frame, Scoops Westside (twice), Black Cat Bakery, and Tavern. I also stopped at a few places between here and Aptos, CA where I spent Christmas and the Bay Area where I spent a few days after Christmas. It was a great time and I have absolutely nothing to show for it now except a few extra pounds and a bad cold.  I didn't get pictures of everything, but here is some of what I managed to capture.

Brunch at Salt's Cure. They ran out of what I really wanted so I ended up ordering the 2x2x2. Two eggs, two pieces of sausage, and two pieces of bacon. The meats are made/cured in house. I want to go back immediately.

2x2x2 from Salt's Cure

This was the view from our hotel in Seascape.  The suite was amazing and the beach was beautiful in spite of the rain and insane wind on Christmas day.

Seascape Resort

The crazy rain over the last few weeks also brought about crazy rainbows. Behold.


Upon my return to LA, I immediately visited new "hotspot" A-Frame.  It was a ridiculously good dinner, but unfortunately I got no good pictures of it because of our proximity to the horrible black light under the a-frame. These ribs were one of the highlights though.

Baby Back Ribs from A-Frame

After A-Frame, Kris and I went to the new Scoops on the Westside of LA. I had brown bread and pistachio flavors. Both so good and addicting so it wasn't a tough sell to convince me to go back a couple days later for more. This time I had the banana apple pie and honey almond cinnamon.

Scoops Westside

Partly because I wasn't feeling well and partly because I wasn't in the mood, I didn't end up going out for New Year's Eve. I think this was possibly the first time ever I didn't have plans for that night and yet I was perfectly ok with staying in. I made an amazing dinner which I will share with you soon.

I hope you're all enjoying the new year so far and when I recover from this illness, I'll have new recipes to share soon.

Stumble Upon Toolbar