Monday, May 30, 2011

Nic's Beverly Hills

Moscow Mule

I'm not sure how it started, but a few months ago, several LA bloggers, including myself started tweeting about our love of whole grains. The nickname Quinoa Club was born and every so often, we tweet random quinoa facts to each other. Recently, it was brought to our attention that Nic's in Beverly Hills was now carrying quinoa vodka. We had to check it out. A couple of Friday nights ago, I joined H.C. for a vodka and culinary journey.

It had been approximately eight years since I last visited Nic's even though I worked down the street from there for years. Since we were both running on empty, we decided to share a few appetizers before indulging in the Vodbox (more later).

I love olives, and I think I hogged most of them on the Spanish platter that also came with Pata Cabre, Manchego, and Serrano ham. The herbed bread was a perfect accompaniment.

Spain Platter: Pata Cabre, Manchego, Serrano Ham and Spanish Olives

Nic's oysters sauteed with walnuts and garlic ("very famous" according to the menu). These were indulgent and flavorful, tasting of the sea.

Nic’s Oysters, Sautéed with Walnuts and Garlic

The roasted beet salad arrived surprisingly cold, but the beets had great flavor with the tangy feta and vinaigrette.

Roasted Beets in Paupilotte with Feta + Zinfandel Vinaigrette

After we'd lined our stomachs, we were ready for the Vodbox. On the side of the restaurant is a specially designed room kept at a frigid 28 degrees for tasting all sorts of interesting vodkas. Of course you can't go into a cold room like that with whatever clothes we wear for the perpetual sunshine in southern California so Nic's kindly provides guests of the Vodbox with faux fur jackets and hats to keep you toasty inside the box.

HC in Pimp Gear at Nic's

HC and Esi inside the Vodbox at Nic's

Vodkas from all over the world.

Vodbox at Nic's

Vodbox at Nic's

I normally prefer vodka in cocktails for it's tastelessness to highlight the flavors of fresh juices that I mix it with, but my eyes were opened in this experience. Our favorite, and apparently one of the more popular offerings was the Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka. Described as "Christmas in a bottle", it had hints of cinnamon and pumpkin and made quite an elegant presentation in the bottle with a single sprig of bison grass. They were out of the quinoa vodka because it is quite popular, but Fair also makes a Goji liqueur that we were able to try. Normally, I'm not a fan of goji berries, but this was smooth and flavorful.

Fair Goji Liqueur

After the vodka we needed some food to soak it up. By this point I was ready to switch from the hard alcohol and thankfully Nic's has a good wine list. A glass of Cabernet and a glass of Riesling accompanied each of our entrees. The fillet mignon was unfortunately not my favorite dish. I found the blueberry sauce to be a bit too sweet and the crispy onion rings were pretty flavorless. I'm sure the whole dish could have been improved on with just a bit more salt.

Pan-Seared Fillet Mignon with Blueberries and Crispy Onions

Fortunately the halibut special was much better. The wasabi cream was not too overpowering and the pea shoot slaw kept things fresh.

Pan-Roasted Halibut with Wasabi Cream and Pea Shoot Slaw

After all that food and vodka, dessert was the last thing on my mind, but we managed to share a rhubarb tart. It was light and sweet with just a hint of rhubarb's signature tartness.

Rhubarb Meringue Tart

Nic's is great for a low key night out with friends. One of my friends recently celebrated her bachelorette party during one of their jazz nights on a Saturday and I'm told it was amazing (I was out of town). I'm definitely going to suggest it as an option when dining out with friends who work in the area so hopefully now I'll visit more than once every eight years.

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

Nic's Beverly Hills
453 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 550-5707

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Asparagus and Garlic Scape Stirfry

Asparagus and Garlic Scape Stirfry

A couple of weeks ago, I had a lovely Sunday afternoon wandering around the farmers market with JenFinn. I love visiting the market with her because we spend so much time there, I often find ingredients I've never used before. I've been visiting farmers markets for so long, I sort of have tunnel vision and only focus on what I need. Spending a little extra time can bring me new discoveries. In case you've never come across a garlic scape before it looks like this:

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the green stem that develop in the middle of a garlic bulb. When you cut into them they are just as fragrant as a clove of garlic, but without the sticky feeling. I wasn't quite sure about how to use them, but a fellow shopper suggested I try a stirfry. I saw many recipes for garlic scape pesto and pickled garlic scapes, but no stirfries so I had to come up with something on my own. The flavors here are simple and highlight the fresh vegetables. I prefer crisp, vibrant vegetables, but if you prefer yours softer (I'll try not to judge), try blanching the vegetables first or cooking them a little longer in the pan.

Asparagus and Garlic Scape Stirfry
(By Esi)

*Note, garlic scapes are quite fiborous in the thickest part. If you prefer a softer vegetable, try blanching them briefly before adding them to the stirfry or cooking them for a few minutes longer than the asparagus.

Makes 2 servings

1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1 small shallot, minced
20 thin asparagus spears, cut into 1-2-inch pieces on the diagonal
8 garlic scapes, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon honey
Pinch red pepper flakes
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, 1 minute.

Add the asparagus and garlic scapes to the pan. Cook, tossing frequently, until the vegetables are cooked through, but still crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Serve warm, garnished with sesame seeds if desired.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Warm Strawberry Dressing

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Warm Strawberry Dressing

Last summer was definitely a summer of luck for me. Long before Charlie Sheen made the word popular, I was "winning". I won tickets to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, I had a winning 30th birthday, I won tickets to see Rent at the Hollywood Bowl, and I won a copy of the book The Berry Bible from Lisa Is Cooking. By the time I received the book, some of the berries I love were out of season, but I would look through it every so often and bookmark recipes I wanted to make the following year. Now that berries are back in full swing, I'm finally getting around to making full use of this book. Although there are no pictures (the horror!), this book is really informative and interesting. As an added bonus, it contains some truly fantastic recipes. The balsamic vinaigrette enhances the flavor of the sweet berries, but manages to retain it's savory notes with the rosemary-garlic pork loin. I'm fairly certain I could eat this salad every day if given the option.

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Warm Strawberry Dressing
(Adapted from The Berry Bible)

*Note: The original recipe calls for sliced avocado as a garnish to this salad. I omitted because of an allergy, but it would certainly add creaminess and a nice color contrast to the greens and strawberries. 

Makes 4-5 servings

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus extra for the dressing
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of the silver skin
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 pound mixed fresh greens

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pat the meat dry with paper towels then rub with the rosemary-garlic mixture. In a large, oven proof skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the tenderloin to a plate and cover with foil to keep it warm while you cook the sauce.

Put the skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the balsamic vinegar. Use a wood spoon to loosen the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the vinegar by about half, then gently stir in most of the strawberries and the olive oil. Stir to combine and season lightly with salt.

Carve the meat into 1/2-inch slices. Pour any collected juices into the dressing and stir to blend.

Spread the greens onto a plate or platter. Arrange the pork on top of the greens. Drizzle with the warm strawberry dressing and serve immediately, garnished with fresh strawberries if desired.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Strawberry Crisp and a Blogiversary

Strawberry Crisp

A few weeks ago, I went to a wedding that was so beautiful in it's simplicity. Among the highlights were a talent show at the rehearsal dinner and the newlyweds opting for pie instead of cake at the reception. It got me thinking about celebrations and I realized my third blogiversary was creeping up on me. In the past I've made a party cake and cookies, but this year I opted for something even more simple. A gently spiced strawberry crisp with a generous scoop of pistachio ice cream signifies how I want my life to be right now. Simple and delicious. It's been another great year and I feel so fortunate. Thank you.

Strawberry Crisp with Ice Cream

Strawberry Crisp
(By Esi)

Makes 2 servings

1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons, packed, brown sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

In a small bowl, mix together the filling ingredients. Divide the mixture between two ramekins or one 5x7 oven-safe pan.

To make the filling mix together the lemon zest, flour, salt, and both sugars. Cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles peas. Stir in the oats and mix until combined.

Spread the topping evenly over the strawberry mixture. Bake the crisp for 30 minutes or until the strawberry mixture is bubbling and the topping has browned. Let the crisp cool for 5 minutes and serve warm with ice cream if desired.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Boho - Hollywood

Despite living just minutes away from the center of Hollywood, I tend to avoid the Hollywood and Highland intersection at all costs. Overrun with tourists and Spiderman impostors, it's not an area I would choose to be around. That said, there is some excellent shopping in the complex, and a few restaurants have certainly piqued my interest of late. One of the newer restaurants in the complex is Boho, which actually isn't a new restaurant at all. It used to reside next to the Arclight and was a great place to have a bite and a cocktail before seeing a movie in the plush surroundings. Now that it is just slightly further north, it would be a great place to grab a bite before heading to a show at the Hollywood Bowl.

I recently attended a dinner to try some of the restaurants offerings. While nothing was exceptionally amazing, it was a great evening made even better by the company of some fun bloggers.

There is a good mix of appetizers with everything from tuna tartare to pizza, to soup. 

Tuna Tartare, crispy rice, tuna tartare, wasabi cream, soy

Mussels, steamed mussels, white wine, garlic, shallots, grilled bread

The Greek, lamb sausage, spinach, lettuce tomatoes, red onion, garlic and kalamata olives

Almost all of the entrees were a mix of salty and sweet. I think the combination worked best with the glazed salmon. I was also partial to the brussels sprouts that overshadowed the pork chop they were paired with. Sweetbreads...yes, I had them again and they worked surprisingly well with the blue cheese bread pudding.

Pork Belly with Baked Beans

Sweetbreads with Gorgonzola Bread Pudding

Potato Gratin at Boho

Collard Greens at Boho

Fresh Scottish Salmon, brown sugar glaze, asparagus

Free-Range Roasted Chicken, mirepiox, mashed potatoes, pan gravy

Thick Cut Pork Chop, roasted brussels with lardon, mustard jus

Even though I'm usually one to turn down dessert, these were the highlight of the evening for me. The chocolate peanut butter cake, coffee panna cotta, and balsamic strawberries in the shortcake were all delicious and difficult to stop at just one bite.

Strawberry Shortcake at Boho

Coffee Panna Cotta at Boho

I definitely would return to Boho for some pizza and bottomless mimosas on their unpublished brunch menu. It's so close that a cab ride would be fairly inexpensive. I hope they grow into their new larger kitchen and return to the roots that people grew to love at the old location.

*All food and drinks were comped. Opinions are my own
Boho Restaurant
6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 465-8500

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fish with Saffron-Tomato Cous Cous

Fish with Saffron-Tomato Couscous

I'm always on the lookout for interesting, healthy dinners where the leftovers will be just as good for my work lunches. I'm not big on sandwiches (although I won't turn away a wrap). This is a super flavorful recipe that comes together in mere minutes. I tend to overcook cod but this still came out well for me.  If you desire, this can be more of a soupy dish for cooler spring nights like the evenings we've been experiencing the last few days. It is hard to keep up with our ever changing weather patterns. One day it's 90 degrees and the next day is cool and drizzly. Welcome So Cal spring!
Fish with Saffron-Tomato Cous Cous
(Adapted from Seafood alla Siciliana
as found on Serious Eats

Makes 4 servings

4 cups vegetable stock (or fish stock if you have it)
4 fillets mild white fish (I used Alaskan cod)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup Israeli cous cous
1 pinch saffron
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Salt and pepper as needed

In a pot big enough to hold all of the fish, bring the stock to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the fish and cook for 2 minutes per side. Remove the fish from the pan and transfer to a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and cous cous. Stir constantly until the cous cous is lightly toasted and the tomato paste is beginning to caramelize, about 2 minutes.

Slowly pour the fish poaching broth into the cous cous. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat. Cook until the cous cous is tender, about 12 minutes.

Divide the cous cous amongst plates or bowl. Top with the fish and garnish with the almonds and parsley.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Lamb Shawarma

Lamb Shawarma

I'm not a big meat eater, but when I indulge, it has to be good meat. I'm talking grass-fed, pasture raised, organic, etc. Imagine my excitement when I learned a butcher shop featuring meats with all of those adjectives and more would be opening up just up the street from my old apartment. Unfortunately it took a little longer than expected for them to open, but a few weeks ago, I finally got a chance to stop by and check out the store for myself. Lindy and Grundy are the nicknames of Amelia Posada (Lindy) and her wife Erika Nakamura (Grundy). Neither set out to be a butcher (Amelia was a vegetarian), but that is where their paths brought them. This store is phenomenal. It's clean and bright with a great selection if you get there early (they tend to sell out). They have various spices you can mix and match for rubs, bones for stock, and even an assortment of non-meat items like cheese, oils, and jams. Of course this meat is not cheap, nor should it be, but the quality is exceptional and since I don't cook meat often, I'm willing to spring for the best I can find.

Lamb Shawarma with Sauce

Which of course brings me to this lamb shawarma. The recipe speaks for itself. There is so much flavor going on in both the meat and the garlicky sauce. I upped the amount of garlic in the sauce (as always) and it was a bit potent, even for me, but I enjoyed it and the lamb is so tender. I'm excited to visit Lindy & Grundy again for my meaty needs.

Lindy & Grundy - Local, Pastured, and Organic Meats
801 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 951-0804

Lamb Shawarma
(Adapted from Food and Wine, May 2011)

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 pound lamb shoulder, fat trimmed, and meat thinly sliced
1 onion, halved and cut into slivers
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Hot sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers, rice, and/or warmed pita for serving

In a large bowl, mix together the cumin, oregano, half of the garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and the olive oil. Add the onions and lamb and mix well to combine. Let the lamb marinate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small food processor or blender, mix together the mayonnaise, tahini, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and the remaining garlic. Mix until smooth. Blend in 1/2 cup of water and mix until well combined and smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, cook the lamb and onions until tender and slightly charred, about 6 minutes per batch. Serve the lamb over rice with warm pitas, tomatoes, cucumber, hot sauce, and the tahini sauce if desired.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops

Chocolated Malted Whopper Drops

My birthday is more than two months away, but I'm already starting to audition birthday cakes. I haven't made an actual cake yet, but I'm thinking of what flavors I want and the chocolate malt combination has certainly been intriguing lately. I thought I would test out the flavor this past weekend, but in cookie form. These did not disappoint. These cookies are soft with bits of crispy malt balls mixed in. They are super simple to make and even easier to eat. Thank goodness for friends and coworkers! I'm going to whip up another batch of these for the Food Blogger Bake Sale happening May 14th at locations across the country. Started by Gaby, this bake sale raises funds for Share Our Strength to end childhood hunger. The Los Angeles sale is taking place at BLD Restaurant from 11:30AM-2PM. So come on out, enjoy a delicious brunch and then pick up some baked goods for a great cause!

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops
(From Baking: From My Home to Yours)

Notes: After the eggs are added, the mixture will look curdled, do not worry. It evens out when the rest of the ingredients are added. The batter is extremely thick, but it is better to mix in the chopped chocolate and malt balls by hand.  

Makes about 30 cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup malted milk powder (like Ovaltine or Horlicks)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 cups coarsely chopped Whoppers
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, malted milk powder, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer at medium speed, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg. Beat in the vanilla.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix just until they are incorporated. Add the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to mix in the malt balls and chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoon-fulls on to the sheets, leaving 2 inches between spoonfuls. Bake 11-13 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes. The cookies will be puffed and soft to the touch. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to let them cool completely.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Sausage Pizza Topped with Crispy Kale

Sausage Pizza Topped with Crispy Kale

I hopped on the kale chip bandwagon a couple of years ago and never looked back. Since then I enjoy them every so often for a healthy-ish crunchy snack. I've never thought of doing anything but eating them right off of the pan until I saw this pizza topped with kale chips on The Kitchn. It's pretty brilliant and an excellent way to enjoy kale chips. For a pizza, it's relatively healthy too especially if you use whole wheat pizza dough (store bought, because sometimes I just don't feel like making my own).

Sausage Pizza Topped with Crispy Kale

Sausage Pizza Topped with Crispy Kale
(Adapted from The Kitchn)

Makes 1 12-inch pizza

1 pound curly kale, washed, thoroughly patted dry and torn into 1-inch pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
3 links hot Italian sausage, crumbled
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the kale in an even layer over a baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes until crispy, turning once halfway through. Set the kale aside.

Pour the tomatoes into a strainer and drain until they are dry. Stir the thyme and oregano into the drained tomatoes. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a pan and set aside.

Turn the oven up to 450 degrees. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Spread the tomatoes evenly over the pizza, followed by the sausage and then the cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling. Remove the pizza from the oven and top with the crispy kale.

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