Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Recipes of 2011

I cooked a lot less this year than the past few years, but the food was still delicious. Here are some of my favorite recipes from the past year:

I'm not vegetarian, but I tend to gravitate towards vegetarian cooking. So many of my meals out are so heavy, that the food I eat at home has to be light to balance it out. I love this black bean and butternut squash chili because it's hearty, healthy, and warming all in one comforting dish.

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Bulgur

Sometimes I like to take on fun baking projects just for the heck of it. To break in my new kitchen, I made these gorgeous rosemary and sea salt pretzels. They tasted as good as they looked.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Soft Pretzels

For our Easter potluck, I made a bunch of things, but the highlight were these strawberry cheesecake muffins with streusel topping. Using in season strawberries in muffins is always a treat, but the cream cheese layer and streusel hits them out of the park.

Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins with Streusel Topping

I tend to choose beer and wine over mixed drinks, but an early season heat wave had me breaking out the blender to make these cucumber lemonade cocktails. These are a totally refreshing way to beat the heat.

Cucumber Mint Lemonade

It's hard to say how much money I spent on tomatoes this past summer, but I just couldn't get enough of them. I love this simple, savory pasta with bacon, rosemary and tomatoes for a quick meal any day of the week.

Pasta with Bacon, Rosemary, and Tomatoes

My other favorite way of using tomatoes is this simple pico de gallo. It's safe to say that I consumed buckets of it while tomatoes were in season.

Best Pico de Gallo

I just love baking whether I'm making scones to relieve tension, or bringing treats to friends. These salted caramel apple cheesecake bars probably got the best reaction all year, not just from my friends, but from me as well and I can be picky about dessert.

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

And there you have it. I hope you are all having a wonderful, fun, busy, and happy holiday season. Thanks for another great year of blogging, friends, laughs, and many, many glasses of wine. I once again find myself looking forward to another delicious year.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Favorite Restaurant Dishes of 2011

If you're reading this, it means the Blogger gods are cooperating and letting me get a couple posts in while I'm exploring the wilds of Namibia. This year, there were too many favorites to just do one post so without further ado, here are my favorite restaurant eats from the past year:

Piazza by Zucca Ristorante has unfortunately closed since my visit, but their luscious panna cotta is still in my mind. It was my first panna cotta experience and the one I will compare every future panna cotta I eat to.

Panna Cotta

My meal at Feng Mao was very meat-centric. To help break through the heft, we had scallion pancakes. This simple pancakes were crispy and full of onion flavor. I recently went back and they were just as good as when I first experienced them.

Scallion Pancake at Feng Mao

Earlier this year, I moved to the east side of town and I have really enjoyed getting to know my neighborhood. Sausage places are popping up in Los Angeles faster than zits on a teenager's face and so far my favorite is Berlin Currywurst. The varying levels of heat, perfectly cooked sausages, and reasonable prices are reason to go often.


There were many great bites at LA Street Food Festival, but my favorite of the day was the oyster from Mision 19. I declared it the best oyster ever and that still remains true.

Javier Plascencia / Mision 19:  Pacific Oyster Asada w/ Chicharron Short Rib, Serrano Ponzu Butter, Lemongrass Foam

As I have mentioned many times, I am a huge fan of brunch. While ricotta hotcakes are something I would never order, I am thrilled we got them at Cecconi's. My mouth just waters at the thought of the fluffy hotcakes bursting with housemade ricotta.

Ricotta Hotcakes with Blueberry Compote

One of my most epic meals this year as LudoBites 7.0. I really enjoyed most of what we had, but I am still dreaming of the epoisse risotto.Still the best risotto I have ever had.

Epoisse Cheese Risotto, Hazelnut, Egg Yolk, Herb Salad

It was really hard to pick between LudoBites 7.0 and MB Post as my favorite meal of the year, but I say MB Post wins by a hair. There was so much outstanding-ness at that dinner, it's hard to pick just one part as my favorite, but I'll give the honor to the pomegranate and melon couscous salad. It's the perfect example of how the simplest food can be the best.

Pomegranate Couscous

It's hard to imagine I'd still be hungry after all this food, but I am. Stay tuned to find out my favorite recipes of the year!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

A few months ago when I made blueberry sweet rolls, I was left with so many scraps of dough that I just couldn't bear to throw them away. I decided to turn those scraps into a new, more fall-themed cinnamon roll with excellent results. These make a really decadent Sunday breakfast and go excellently with a cup of tea. I immediately went on another hike to the Hollywood sign after devouring one of these, but it was well worth it! This is my last regular post as I prepare to take off on a long vacation for the holidays. There will be a few things popping up while I'm gone so be sure to check in. I'll be back with plenty of recipes, restaurants, photos, and musings in 2012. Happy holidays!

Leftover dough
Leftover dough (I'm so happy I think to freeze almost everything)

Filling ingredients
Filling ingredients

Melting butter
Start melting the butter

Mix the sugar and cinnamon
Mix the cinnamon and sugar

Melty butter
Butter is still melting

Peeled apples
Peeled apples

Melted butter
The butter has melted

Almost browned butter
Almost browned

Add lemon to the apples so they don't brown
Don't forget to add lemon to the apple pieces so they don't brown

Butter the dish
Butter the dish

Dough on the surface
Un-package the dough

Roll out the dough to a 12x9 rectangle
Roll out the dough to a "rustic" rectangle

Brush the dough with browned butter
Brush the dough with browned butter

Top the dough with the cinnamon sugar
Spread the cinnamon and sugar over the butter

 Add the apples
Top with the apples

Roll into a log
Roll it up

Cut into pieces
Cut into equal(ish) pieces

Place the pieces in the dish
Put them in the baking dish

Cover with a damp cloth
Cover with a damp cloth

Glaze ingredients
Glaze ingredients

Sift the sugar
Don't forget to sift the sugar

Glaze ingredients in the bowl
Mix them together

Whisked glaze
Almost ready

Baked cinnamon rolls
Practically irresistible

Apple Cinnamon Roll
So cute and little

Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
Now it's covered in glaze. Eat it.

Apple Cinnamon Rolls
(By Esi)

Makes about 5 cinnamon rolls

For the dough:
Leftover sweet roll dough

For the filling:
2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
Juice from 1 small lemon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and browned

For the glaze:
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup powered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter an 8x8 baking dish with unsalted butter.

To make the filling, mix the apples and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12x9 rectangle. Brush the entire top of the dough with the browned butter. Spread the cinnamon sugar mixture over the browned butter, and then top with the apples in a single layer.

Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a log, tucking the ends underneath the log. Cut into equal pieces and place in the prepared baking dish. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 30-35 minutes or until the dough is cooked through and lightly browned. Let the rolls cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle the cinnamon rolls with the cream cheese glaze and serve warm

Printable Recipe

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Naya Restaurant and Lounge

I have to admit, when I think of eating Indian food, I usually just think about ordering in, not going out. I was recently invited to try the menu at new-ish Indian restaurant Naya. Given it's close proximity to my house and it's promise of "new" Indian food, I just couldn't pass up this comped media dinner.

Esi 008

There is an interesting contrast at Naya. The lounge is dark and sexy while the main dining room is soft and white. I arrived too late to sample many of the appetizers that were being passed around the lounge, but the fried peanuts were enough to whet my appetite. I had a few sips of the Dancing Lotus cocktail ($12). With Belvedere, Cointreau, lychee juice, and pomegranate. I wish it had been a little heavier on the pomegranate and lighter on the Cointreau and lychee juice.

Esi 005

We soon moved to the dining room to begin the tasting. The green salad ($8) was bright and refreshing.

Green Salad

I'm not the biggest fan of regular potatoes, but the sweet and tangy dressing of the Sweet and Sour Potato salad ($8) masked the blandness of the potato without being overpowering. This is one of the lightest potato salads I've ever had.

Sweet and Sour Potato Salad

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Sprout Street salad ($7) with chickpeas, potatoes, tortilla chips, sprouts, and sweetened yogurt. It had great textures and flavors and again didn't feel too heavy.

Sprout Street

Next up was the Four Flavored Chicken ($12). The types were blackened, green, red, and malai tikka. The chicken was full of flavor, but a little dry. This was a rare instance I would have preferred something saucier.

Four Flavored Chicken

The last appetizer was the Silky Lamb Kabob ($11) with charred minced lamb and garlic mashed potatoes. Once again, the lamb had great flavor, but I would have preferred some sort of dipping sauce because it was a bit dry. The fried onion on top was a forgettable, but if you enjoy mashed potatoes (I do not), you would like this garlicky version.

Silky Lamb Kabob

For our first entree we had the Butter Chicken Masala ($16). It's actually a cornish game hen in the buttery tomato sauce, but it hit the spot. It comes with "Naya Rice" which is a lightly seasoned white rice. It comes with a lot of the entrees.

Butter Chicken Masala

The Everest Lamb ($17) is a warm and comforting dish with tender lam ossobuco, onion-tomato glaze and Naya rice.

Everest Lamb

We were next greeted with a couple of side dishes. The Yellow Lentil Stew ($8) was delicious as was the Fenugreek and Green Pea Curry ($8)

Fenugreek and Green Pea Curry

Yellow Lentil Stew

It was then time for a couple of seafood dishes. I really liked the Cognac Prawns ($20) with jumbo shrimp, onion-tomato masala, cognac and a reduced balsamic glaze served with the ever present Naya rice. Some people felt it was too sweet, but I thought it had a good balance of saltiness and spiciness to balance out the sweetness.

Cognac Prawns

The last seafood dish was the Apricot Patagonian Seabass ($26). It's Chilean seabass with apricot curry and black rice. I thought the curry was more like apricot jam and a bit too sweet, but the seabass was perfectly cooked and paired well with a slightly different kind of rice.

Apricot Patagonian Seabass

Coconut Moile Baby Eggplant with mustard chili, coconut curry sauce, Naya risotto ($15).

Coconut Moile Baby Eggplant

We were also treated to garlic and regular naan ($3 each), but by this late in the game, I was full of the meatier dishes and Naya rice to give it too much thought which is a shame since garlic naan is one of my favorite foods ever.

Garlic Naan


Coconut Moile Baby Eggplant

I really should have paid more attention to the desserts, but I was entirely too full by this point. The chocolate samosa was bursting with chocolate goodness, but I was not a huge fan of the other pastry which was a bit too soggy for my tastes.

Dessert plate

Chocolate Samosa

Naya is a beautiful restaurant. It feels like you're at a fine dining establishment, but with a very relaxed and casual vibe. Many of the dishes are vegetarian and will cater to a wide variety of tastes. This new Indian cuisine is alright with me.

One year ago: Thomas Keller Oreos
Two years ago: Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Cheesecake Layer
Three yeas ago: Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

Naya Restaurant and Lounge
3705 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90026
(323) 663-8268

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