Holy crap, I LOOOOOOVE lamb!!

I do… I really really do. I didn’t for a long time growing up. Now? I crave/need it!

My fav are those little lollipop chops that are so simple and easy. Trader Joe’s, Whole Paycheck or even the meat guy at the farmers markets has them on certain days. I love them bbq’d, broiled or roasted. Simple with a little salt and pepper. Cooked just right… pink in the middle, just above bloody. My favorite way tho is inspired from a Giada recipe that is so easy and comes out perfect every time.

The other night I had picked up some spring goods at the FM and wanted to make  pasta with pork sausage, peas and pea tendrils. I had some green garlic to toss in as well. YUM!

it’s spring again!

I get a little picky when I start to make my pasta… I HATE over cooked sausage. So I do it in stages to have it cook nicely throughout the entire experience. Slightly get it going, then take it off when it’s still got some pink. Once I’m ready to add it to more ingredients I throw it back into the pan so it can soak up the red pepper infused oils and green garlic flavors.

Next I bring in the tendrils and pasta. I like to take let the pasta finish cooking in the pan with all the other ingredients. It’s all so pretty to see and even better to eat!

So what was missing on this lovely dinner I was spending time on, sipping wine and listening to music with a nice early evening breeze wafting through my place… what was it?  of course… LAMB!!!

So I take 2 little chops and get moving on that basil mint pesto cause dammit… why not! Normally, I’d sprinkle with Maldon but for xmas I got some gifts at this awesome little store in LA called Rolling Greens where they have items from plants to baby gifts to a room full of fun kitchen stuff. This is where I discovered The French Farm salts. I sprinkled that gardener salt over that little lamb chop and it was ready to go!

Dropped that in the oven for a few mins and busted out on the pesto. Basil, mint, lemon, green garlic, parm, S&P, good olive oil and a few shaved almonds (I like instead of pine nuts some times) and puree away!

isn’t it sad when some spills 😦

So now I’m all set… pasta is set and two little chops are cooked and rested to perfection. It’s all so simple! And I’ll tell ya… SUPER fantastic to eat!

Did I go a little over board with the meats in one dinner? Maybe, but seriously… wouldn’t you do the same thing if you had those ingredients at the ready? I know you would.

Posted in cooking, lamb | 1 Comment

Time flies when you’re debating “to juice or not to juice” …that is the question.

And really… it extends to ‘invest or not to invest’ is the other question.

Is anyone else having an internal debate over the ever growing fade of the juicing? Or is it just me and it’s been around forever but I’m just hearing, seeing and tasting more and more of it? It is delicious good stuff. And good for you… duh. But the INVESTMENT in a wicked juicer or the ever popular Vitamix or a super awesome blender that can do some of this too… where does one go? I decide to pull out my old trusted and true circa 1990’ish blender to see where I want to go with this whole thing.

I found some juicing recipes specific to the blender in either Bon Appétit or F&W and decided to riff a little on them. Grapes, cucumber, kale, lemon, water, and some other stuff… I hit ‘blend’. The catch… the blender doesn’t separate the pulp so you have to do this yourself.

blender pulp

So after a few minutes getting the juice separated from the pulp … and this did take a bit longer than I had hoped. I got some juice.

look at all that juice!

It tasted very good and SUPER healthy, of course. Was it worth the work? Well, I haven’t made it since and to be honest, the ‘quick’ pay off is not there. I’d rather just buy some stuff for my fridge and be able to drink it when I want. Although the end result did look picturesque!

magazine worthy?

Now I am saying this about the blender version. The massive juicer machine is cool. My dear friends Helen & Matt are gracious enough to have me over on a Saturday or Sunday for a juice fix in the afternoon but that’s a big piece of machinery to store and clean. Is that the answer for me? Still not sure. Then I have another lovely neighbor, Leslie (and super blogger), and she is practically the poster child for the Vitamix in her use of the thing and how fabu she looks. She swears by it! Again, an investment. So what do I do?! Thoughts, reco’s or just sick of hearing about juicing… let me have it!

Posted in cocktails, cooking, fruit, health, juice | 2 Comments

First Bite of Freedom

…not really.

It’s been a while and lot has been going on through the holidays and what not. But I’m back and going to try to get this kicked up again.

To my few readers, thank you for you for your patience 🙂 and happy valentine’s day!

Prison. So I’ve heard or read about 1000 (slight exaggeration) types of cleanses or detoxes that exist. Some friends have tried some and have had relatively positive things to say about how they felt after; “clean” “awesome” “light” blah blah blah… good for them.   I’m not one for a cleanse/detox or a diet because I have no willpower when it comes to delicious food!

Until…

After about 3 months of some serious alcohol, food, late night, travel, celebration, mourn, Super Bowl, and general Tuesday night happens I woke up last Monday feeling just full of yuck. I decided to try a (gasp) cleanse that my dear trustworthy takes-care-of-all-your-vanity/skin needs, Svetlana, told me about one that she does a couple times a year. the Seneca Indian cleanse. It was 4 days of my life… how can I not have ‘food willpower’ for 4 simple days?

I did it, it was fine. VERY BORING. But I did it. Not sure I’d do it again, but it felt good to get rid of the holiday toxins and a couple lbs.

What I did think about for 4 straight days? The first meal I’d have after this carnivorous prison I put myself in. So I decided to start with breakfast. I found a recipe in the F&W for a biscotti that I think I have to make again and again. Actually, a simple recipe and I can’t recommend it enough: Buttery Hazelnut-Fig Biscotti

That biscotti with the perfect cup of freshly brewed french press coffee… what else can a girl ask for on a silly day like today. Please do yourself a favor and bust this recipe out…it’s seriously fantastic.

just in case the link goes away or something, here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  1. 2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (10 ounces)
  2. 14 ounces dried Calimyrna figs
  3. 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  4. 1 3/4 cups sugar
  5. 3 large eggs
  6. 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  8. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 12 to 14 minutes, until the skins blister. Let cool, then transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel and rub off as much of the skins as possible. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
  2. Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, cover the figs with water and microwave at high power for 1 minute, just until the figs are plump. Drain well. Trim off the stem ends and slice the figs 1/8 inch thick.
  3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the eggs. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat at low speed until combined. Add the nuts and figs and beat until combined.
  4. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a work surface and roll into six 10-by-1 1/2-inch logs. Arrange the logs on the baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and firm. Let the logs cool for 15 minutes.
  5. On a work surface, using a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal 2/3 inch thick. Arrange the biscotti cut sides up on the baking sheets and bake for about 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Let the biscotti cool, then serve or store.
Make Ahead The biscotti can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
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Wine tastings are good.

This new little spot opened up near me called 320 Wine Lounge on La Brea and I can happily report that I’ve had a few lovely evenings there. They have good service and a great wine list.

This is a serve yourself tasting lounge… in other words, that means you have to work for your pours. Which, if you’re in the mood and have the energy, is great. My friend Maggie and I had zero desire after a long day to have to get up and refill our glasses every 10 seconds to try a new wine. So we opted for the bottle menu. Saves us time and well, let’s be honest, 4 glasses is just what a gal needs to gosssip about men, friends and life, catch up on work drama and just relax. The manager and I start discussing some wines and I express my interest the Jaffurs Petite Sirah (which happens to be amazing and I know from personal experience because I’m a member of their wine club 🙂 ). Of course, they’re out. Boooooo

Low and behold, he tells me about a wine tasting event they’re having a couple weeks later with the Jaffurs wine makers. “They’ll be pouring new releases and some library wines.”  Well… “where do I sign up!?” was my only response.

Starting with some white

A couple weeks later my girls Jen and Mags joined me for an evening of Jaffurs wines w/food pairings (according to the invite).  When we arrive (a couple minutes late) the lecture is still being given, but thankfully they weren’t waiting to pour until it was over.  We started with the Grenache Blanc. It’s lovely, light and crisp… perfect for a hot day. There are some crackers on the table… that’s can’t be the ‘pairings’ the invite stated.

Sipping and listening... sorta 😉

Next they bring out the Viognier and the Roussanne… both lovely, but the Grenache is my fav out of those. Next we get nice pours of a Syrah, a Petite Sirah and then a Mourvedre…and the pours kept coming!

Then the Upslope and the library wines are starting to pour… YUM!!! These were so good. I have a bottle up the Upslope that I purchased a while back… hadn’t tasted it upon purchase, but I just knew it’d amazing. Sure enough, it was just as I’d imagined. Delish!

the Upslope

Now at this point we’re on glass 203 of this tasting and I’m still looking for the food pairing part of this evening…they were great pours and they kept coming… almost too fast, but all this and no food? Can’t be. The last of the library pours are happening and we’re enjoying every sip.

Jen has a moment captured on a paper placemat

Finally we are told thanks and the tasting is over… no food. Now, I’m not saying this evening sucked by any means, but if you’re  pouring that much wine that quickly and the invite says “…and food pairings” then you better well give the food pairings!

Over all still great wines… just next time sort out the balance when an event like this happens. It’s sorta important!

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Honestly, the BEST braised short ribs I’ve ever made…it’s true.

I’m not gonna lie, I love making braised short ribs. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall… these meaty bites never fail. They make a kitchen and the entire house smell amazing. They are simple, but they MUST be bff’d with some gooooooood red wine. They’re easy, they need few dishes and last but not least, one short rib is a meal… as long as it has a very yummy little bit of (personal opinion) buttery, milky carb to present a united front.

People, braised short ribs are SOOOOOO easy. They really are. Anyone can do this. Cut up some veggies, quick browning of some meat pieces and pour some liquids into a french/dutch oven. Let it cook for hours. Voila! Like I said I’ve been making braised short ribs for years and have been following some pretty basic recipes until today.

I woke up craving the dish and wanted some amazing smashed potatoes to go with. Back story: I had recently acquired this new silly nerd gadget… the iPad.

What can this iPad do for me?

I was reading a magazine article and saw that one of my old go-to sites (on my laptop) Epicurious.com had an iPad (probably something I should get used to) app. I downloaded it and jumped right in. I was able to search by ingredients, what I have in my fridge, by course I’d like to serve, or just scroll by ‘new’. I really loved the part that set up the shopping list for me. Just so happened that I defrosted some short ribs yesterday and had decided to check out my new ‘app’ to see if I could find a new recipe. Sure enough Daniel Boulud’s Short Ribs popped up after a couple pages. Hello!!

So the braising process begins:

the veggies lightly browning

The recipe calls for the makings for 8, but I only needed the makings for 2…maybe some leftovers for lunch would be nice. I 1/3’d the recipe…sorta 😉 For the most part I followed the instructions, just the portions were changed:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stock
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves

TI used 1 bottle of red wine, 1 bay leaf and a couple thyme and parsley sprigs. Can’t argue with the delightful aromatics of reduced red wine while shallots and garlic are browning. Time to braise the short ribs

Braised meats... yum!

Next we put the meat, reduced wine, broth and veggies… bring to a boil and get ready to throw the dish in the over at 350 for 2 1/2 hours.

Let the braising begin!

Now for those who support us throughout our efforts, they should also get a small token of appreciation. It’s nice to have the line cooks happy:

Who got a yummy treat??

So the best part about cooking short ribs is planning what is going to go with it. I really want to have a salad with all this meat and richness so I turn to a fav that my fabu neighbor Kath has me hooked on. It’s a shallot dressing that will seriously change your salad making world. And, it’s EASY!

  • mince a shallot or two
  • macerate above in 2T or more white wine vinegar for at least 5 minutes
  • add: zest of a lemon juice from 1/2 – 1 lemon depending on how lemony you want
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • adjust seasonings to taste.

I tossed it w/spinach, avocado and a beautiful heirloom tomato. Then I topped it off with an amazing feta ball that sits in olive oil and spices for some time. Unreal (you can find this at the farmers market).

Starter salad w/amazing shallot dressing

The recipe paired this with a ‘celery duo’ but I didn’t feel like complicating my morning. After all, living in LA allows you to hike Runyon Canyon in the early morning and 2 hours later get in a quick game of tennis at the La Cienega Tennis Center. On my sweaty way home and quick stop off at Whole Foods I decided on something simple: small fingerling potatoes mashed with a little butter, milk and S&P.

The reduction sauce over the meat and potatoes was amazing. I will make this SO many times over. Like I said, this was one of the BEST braised short rib recipes I’ve ever had. Thanks iPat and Daniel Boulud.

Look at that reduction!!

My overall recommendation is: Braised Meat People!! Embrace It!! 🙂 Or just start to look forward to fall meals that don’t have to be left for just Fall.

Posted in cooking | 4 Comments

Heirlooms scream bruschetta in my ears

What is it about these amazing and vibrant colored tommies that hit the market this time of year? It’s like a rainbow of plump, juicy and tasty veggies that can make almost any dish just that much prettier!

Rainbow of tomatoes

And really, this image only shows 3 types, some fresh picked basil and home grown lemon from my mom and dad’s tree. That’s the beauty of making bruschetta, you only need a few ingredients.  I like to mix up my chopped tomatoes, julienned basil, diced shallots (this is my own take cause I love shallots) in a bowl. I squeeze a little fresh lemon juice, splash w/some good olive oil and S&P.

Get in the mix!

Now you might ask “Where’s the garlic?” (if you use garlic in your bruschetta). I like to do something a little different here. I like to sauté some diced garlic quickly in some olive oil and butter and then I place the fresh bought sourdough slices (I buy baguettes from the La Brea bakery when possible.) right into the pan to soak up the oil/butter infused garlic. Get both sides nice and golden and crispy then lay the mix right over it…

Soaking up the juices

Once it’s ready to eat I plate with a drizzle of really really good balsamic vinaigrette and if I have some, sprinkle some fresh feta over it.

Time to eat!

I have to say this was so dang yummy… 2 slices piled on with this mix was almost not enough. At least it’s the middle of summer and plenty more amazing veggies to be eaten!

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Do you shop the markets like me?

Meaning… do you buy stuff ‘just in case you might want to make something with it’ like that? I swear, it’s nice to have a stocked fridge, but sometimes shopping hungry or just in the mood to cook all sorts of stuff makes you buy items that you just don’t need. Well, not in this case.

Who doesn’t like cheeses and cured meats? If you’re one of those people, you might as well stop reading this blog now. They will be repeat characters.

I’m sure if it was the blogger pizza oven party, Gwyneth’s blog about her pizza oven or what, but I came home the other night and could only think of one thing to make. Brick oven pizza. One problem, no brick oven in my cute little apartment. Nor did I have pizza dough at the ready. Improvise time!

I buy the flat bread from the Greek guys at the farmer’s market every Sunday, it’s so good! I use it for sandwiches, wraps, toasted for hummus and now, another way to devour the delish item. Pizza! I had to see what ingredients I had tho. A few slices of coppa left over, some provolone, some feta and I often buy this olive/veggie marinade at the olive stand at Whole Foods. Such a yummy snack to have around so I grabbed that too. I took the flat bread, drizzled some nice olive oil, layered the provolone and then the coppa. Clearly a slice or two had to be tested … just in case 😉

yuuuuuummmmm

Let’s see, next I grabbed the whole foods veggie/olive marinade salad thing and took out all the olives and a couple of the veggies. Sliced ’em up and sprinkled them around. Last I took the fresh feta and crumbled that over the top. A certain 4 legged creature started to smell the goods coming together and had to wander over a little piece of coppa.

official food tester

ready for my 'faux brick oven'

I was hungry and wanted food fast. Decided on my little toaster oven. I swear, those things come in handy when you don’t feel like waiting for the big oven to heat up. In I throw it with just a quick drizzle of a little more olive oil. About 10 minutes later at about 400 I pulled this nugget of delicousness out.

20 minute dinner

This totally hit the spot for a quick and easy dinner. Sometimes you just gotta be a little creative in the kitchen! Obviously isn’t brain surgery to put this together, but again, it was about having random ingredients and taking a minute to see what you can put together. Try it!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments