Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sunday Impromptu BBQ

Yellow heirloom tomatoes were the best
After wine club on Saturday night, we had some more people over on Sunday for an impromptu bbq.  S. and I stopped by the Brentwood farmer's market to replenish our produce after a free Lululemon yoga class at the Brentwood store (where S. bought her first ever Lululemon running crops; I'm such an enabler!).  We stopped by around 1:15pm, shortly before the market closed and got all sorts of good deals with many items over 50% off.  We bought heirloom tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, figs, grapes and basil.  For dinner, we had heirloom tomatoes with burrata and basil, cheese plate, grilled portobello mushrooms burgers with caramelized onions, tomatoes, greens and blue castello cheese, salad with rosemary pecans and cranberries and the shallot champagne vinaigrette, grilled zucchini and summer squash, grilled yuzu chicken and grilled figs drizzled with agave.  We drank a nice 2007 Opolo Zinfandel from Paso Robles (thanks Sunny!), Alpine Duet IPA and Saison Dupont Farmhouse Ale.  Not a bad meal put together at the last minute!  We've been having so much fun these last few weeks, but I'm exhausted from all the entertaining.
I really like my new Lodge cast iron pan, only $15 from Amazon

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Up Dog: Just Like Riding a Bike

 I tried spinning for the first time ever today at Up Dog Fitness in West Hollywood.  Jen and I bought a 2 week unlimited pass on Bergine for $30, so we figured we should try both the yoga and cycling classes.  I've always been intimidated by spinning: the shoes, the way they are attached to the pedals, the speed at which the pedals spin, slippery handlebars and drill sergeant instructors.  I managed to avoid injury and even enjoyed the class, so it could be considered a success.  I worked up a decent sweat (from both the class and the continued heatwave outside) and it definitely was a challenging workout, although not overwhelmingly so.  I was able to keep up, although I probably cheated on some of the resistance settings.  I think I still prefer to run / bike outside for the fresh air and scenery, but I'll give spinning a few more tries to see if I get addicted.  I like the studio a lot; it's nice and clean with lots of free parking, a nice clean locker room with showers and the people are really nice.  Plus, there are actually good looking and fit boys in the classes and working the reception, though of the West Hollywood variety, if you know what I mean.  Overall, it's a little far from me (30 mins+), but a pretty nice studio overall.

Up Dog Fitness
8599 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA


"To K., Here's one of our star witnesses.  Rod Blagojevich"
Rod Blagojevich was on K's flight to Chicago today (in first class no less) and autographed K's Wall Street Journal for him.  Guy has a sense of humor at least, he signed on Rahm Emanuel's head, chief of staff to Obama, who may be a witness in Blagojevich's upcoming trial.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cold War on a Hot Day

Yesterday was ridiculously hot in LA, setting all sorts of all-time record heat around town including 113 degrees in downtown LA.  Even Santa Monica reached 106, breaking an all-time record.  We turned on the AC last night for the first time all summer, not surprisingly.  It wasn't forecasted to be so warm earlier in the day, which is why S. and I went for a hike with the dogs in the morning, which in retrospect, was a little crazy.  When we left it was only 80 degrees, but by the time we got back to our car, it was 100 degrees.

We drove up Mandeville Canyon and hiked to the missile radar platform.  It's a very cool spot with awesome views, it's near the top of the Santa Monica mountains and you have a 360 degree view of Los Angeles; you can see the Valley, the eastside, Downtown LA, all the way to the beach.  It's probably about a 2-3 mile hike roundtrip and a little steep in spots.  We brought a lots of water for us and the dogs and made many stops in the shade, but it was quite hot!  We had a nice time though, and the dogs did too; they love being off-leash and I enjoy watching them explore.  We couldn't do much afterward but lounge around and watch lots of cooking shows on tv.
Downtown LA
View of the missile radar site
Observation platform with 360 degree views of LA
My favorite part of hiking; a nice escape from civilization
View towards the Valley
View towards East Valley / Hollywood

Otis trotting off towards the next shady spot
Found it

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine Wine Club

We had wine club on Saturday night in my backyard; the theme was hot tub time machine and everyone came dressed up in their finest 80's gear and brought white wine that we blind tasted in paper bags.  In addition to an antipasti plate, I made roasted tomato, burrata, pesto crostinis, smoked salmon mousse on crackers, salad with roasted beets, roasted almonds and a shallot champagne vinaigrette dressing and a turkey kale lasagna (not pictured unfortunately).  I kept everything relatively fresh and healthy; almost everything was organic and mostly from the farmer's market and Whole Foods.  More pictures here.

Roasted Tomato, Burrata, Pesto Crostinis:
  • Wash and slice 1.5 lbs of organic roma tomatoes
  • Layout on a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in an oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes and nice and soft.  Roasting the tomatoes really brings out the sweetness in the tomatoes
  • Slice on a diagonal 1 large baguette (from Bay Cities), layout on a large sheet pan and toast in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes until the top is just crunchy
  • Spread one layer of pesto (recipe), layer on one tomato, a scoop of fresh burrata from Gioia, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve
Smoked Salmon Mousse
  • Chop up 1/2 lb of smoked salmon filet (not thinly sliced, you can find smoked salmon at both Trader Joes and Whole Foods) in a food processor
  • Add ~4-5 TBs of light soft cream cheese to the food processor and blend.  Adjust cream cheese accordingly; add cream cheese until the mixture is smooth, with no dry flakes of salmon visible
  • Add 1/2 tsp of horseradish, 1 tsp of worcestershire sauce, a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon and white pepper to taste, and blend all together (you can play around with these ingredients, you don't necessarily need all them)
  • Pipe the smoked salmon mousse onto round crackers (I cut a small hole in the corner of a ziploc bag and squeezed the salmon mousse through the hole onto the crackers)
  • Sprinkle chopped chives over the crackers and salmon mousse
Turkey and Kale Lasagna (I made two 9x13 pans, but this is a single pan recipe)
  • Over medium heat in a 5 quart Le Creuset oval french oven, heat up a couple TB of olive oil and saute 1 chopped large organic onion for 5-10 minutes until softened.  Add 4 cloves of minced garlic towards the end and saute for 1-2 minutes (one thing that I meant to do but forgot is to first saute 1/4 lb of cubed pancetta, and then cook the onion and garlic in the leftover oil)
  • Add 1 large organic orange pepper (or red or yellow) and two chopped carrots and saute until starting to soften
  • Add 1/2 lb of hot italian turkey sausage, 1/2 lb of mild italian turkey sausage (sausages removed from casings) and 1/2 lb of organic dark ground turkey meat (all from Whole Foods).  Saute until cooked, and break up the turkey as much as possible
  • Add a little milk (I used a little heavy cream since I had it in the fridge) to the turkey to tenderize it a bit
  • Add tomato paste (I used half a 6 oz can of tomato paste and a couple squeezes of san marzano tomato paste) to the meat and stir it around until the tomato paste caramelizes a bit and turns a rust color
  • Add ~1 cup of red wine and 1 28oz can of organic diced tomatoes, handful of minced parsley, a few basil leaves, 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves, 1/2 tsp of dried oregano, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for at least 1/2 hour
  • Blanch 1 bunch of kale (stems removed) and add to the pot towards the end.  The red sauce part of the lasagna is done (I made this part the night before)
  • For the white part of the lasagna: combine 1 lb of fresh ricotta from Gioia, 1/4 lb of fresh goat cheese, 1 large egg, handful of minced parsley, 1/2- 1 cup of grated parmigiana reggiano, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of ground pepper and mix it all together
  • Slice 1 lb of fresh mozzarella
  • To assemble the lasagna, in a 9x13 baking dish, layer 1 cup of red meat sauce, 3 pieces of lasagna noodle, 2 cups of red meat sauce, 1-2 cups of the ricotta mixture, slices of mozzarella cheese, 3 pieces of lasagna, 2 cups of red meat sauce, 1-2 cups of the ricotta mixture, slices of mozzarella cheese, 3 pieces of lasagna, 2 cups of red meat sauce, slices of mozzarella cheese and top with grated parmigiana reggiano
  • Baked covered in foil in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, uncover, and then bake until bubbling throughout the pan
Shallot and Champagne Vinaigrette Dressing:
  • Mince finely 1 small shallot; about 1 TB 
  • Add 1/4 - 1/3 cup of champagne vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp of dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tsp of agave nectar
  • Salt and pepper and whisk together and let sit for at least half hour to let the flavors combine 
  • Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and whisk it all together.  Taste for seasoning

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Gioia: 10 lbs Cheese Challenge

    My dad was nice enough to pick up almost 10 lbs of freshly made cheese from the Gioia factory in South El Monte, east of downtown LA.  All this delicious cheese: burrata, ricotta and mozzarella for only $24!  It's much cheaper at the factory; the burrata was only $6.99 for a pound, as compared to $12.00 the last time I bought it.  Now what to do with all this cheese...  We used some ricotta and mozzarella for pizza night on Friday night and a bunch of ricotta and mozzarella for the two pans of lasagna for wine club last night.  We actually finished all the of the fresh mozzarella, just have a little burrata left that we'll use on heirloom tomatoes and some ricotta.  Any suggestions for the ricotta?

    Gioia Cheese
    1605 Potrero Avenue
    South El Monte, CA 91733
    (626) 444-6015
    Delicious spinach pizza from friday night.  Cheese used included ricotta, mozzarella and comte.
    Lasagna in progress; I like using lots of colorful vegetables, including orange and yellow peppers, onions, and carrots. I added kale, basil and parsley later

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Bay Cities Italian Deli: The Godmother of All Sandwiches

    I got A. hooked on Bay Cities Italian Deli during one of her last trips to Cali, so we went there for lunch today.  I ordered one of my favorite Bay Cities sandwiches (tied with the Poorboy), the Godmother: genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, proscuitto and provolone with the works: hot and mild pepper salad, pickles, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, Italian dressing on top of a freshly baked crusty, chewy roll.  It's one of my favorite sandwiches in the world; a perfect combination of lots of meat, some heat and sour from the pepper salad and pickles, tangy mustard and fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  They went a little overboard today on the Italian dressing, making it a little messy and soggy, but it was still pretty darn near perfect.  Not surprisingly, Bay Cities was absolutely overflowing with people at lunch today, given that it was a beautiful sunny 75 degree day in Santa Monica, but we bypassed the huge wait by placing our order online, and had our sandwiches out on the patio with a refreshing Reed's ginger ale.

    Bay Cities Italian Deli
    1517 Lincoln Blvd
    Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Viet Noodle: Vietnamese Hangover Cure

    There's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of warm noodle soup after a big night.  We stopped by Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater Village for dinner, based on a friend's recommendation.  Atwater Village is north of Downtown LA on the 5 Freeway, a cool little place; we'd been a couple years ago to see a friend's show at an art gallery and also had a delicious dinner at Canele, all on the same strip as Viet Noodle.  The space is clean and minimalist, with no sign on the brick facade outside, and two long narrow spaces, one with long tables and one with several bar height tables.  We ordered the jicama vegetarian spring roll, fish noodle soup and organic chicken pho ga.
    Jicama Spring Rolls

    Fish Noodle Soup

    Chicken Pho Ga
    The jicama spring rolls were good, but a little small.  I really liked the dipping sauce though; it had a lot more flavor than the normal peanut sauce that accompanies spring rolls.  I loved my fish noodle soup.  The fish was incredible tender, and the broth was clear and delicious, and there was a ton of contrasting textures and flavors including the bite of fresh ginger, crunch from mung bean sprouts and freshness from the cilantro.  I particularly liked the ginger; it gave the soup a medicinal rejuvenating quality.  K. really enjoyed his chicken pho ga as well.  The flavors were simpler, but still delicious.  The broth was also clear and very comforting and there was plenty of tender chicken.  Prices are a little high for a Vietnamese place at $8-10 for the noodle soups, but it's definitely worth it with the high quality ingredients and tasty food.

    Viet Noodle Bar
    3133 Glendale Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    (323) 906-1575

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Chilaquiles: Mexican Hangover Cure

    Sunday morning, after our big BBQ and wine and beer night, I made chilaquiles for brunch.  The basic components are lefttovers from the previous night, including salsa, tortillas, black beans, cilantro, red onion so everything was already prepped and it was very quick to make, plus I got to clean out my fridge a bit.  I hate little scraps of leftovers, although I'm always loathe to throw out food.  My only deviation from most chilaquiles recipes is that I did not fry the tortillas first.  I didn't want to the extra oil, although I think by not frying them, the tortillas fell apart more easily.  It didn't really matter, while it wasn't as aesthetically pleasing, it still tasted good.  It really hit the spot after a late night: the warm tortillas soaked in spicy salsa (I used both the roasted tomatillo as well as roasted tomato salsa), with the fried egg that just oozed over everything, sharp cotija cheese, creamy beans and some freshness from cilantro and red onion.

    Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde and Salsa Rojo:
    • Fry two eggs in a separate non-stick pan
    • While the eggs are frying, heat up enough salsa in a pan to completely cover the bottom
    • When the salsa is warm, dip the tortilla in the salsa, letting it sit submerged in the salsa for a few minutes, flipping once
    • Roll up the tortilla and put it on a plate, and repeat with more tortillas
    • Pour the remaining salsa over the finished rolled up tortilla, top with the two fried eggs, rinsed black beans, crumbled cotija cheese, and minced red onion and cilantro

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Grilling with Beer and Wine

    To accompany with the copious amounts of beer and wine that we were consuming, we grilled a Mexican / Asian dinner inspired by fresh produce at the peak of its season.  I made fresh guacamole, roasted tomatillo salsa, roasted tomato salsa for both pre-dinner snacking with tortilla chips as well as for accompaniments to the grilled meat tacos.  While making your own salsa isn't necessarily cheaper than buying it at the store, I feel like you can better control the quality of your ingredients, as almost everything was organic and from the farmer's market, and avoid unnecessary preservatives.  It is quite time-consuming, but I feel like it just tastes better.
    My favorite was the tomatillo salsa with a smoky sweetness and the faintest bit of heat
    We grilled up some skirt steak, marinated overnight in some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar with lots of garlic and ginger, and some thinly sliced spicy pork.  No vegetarians were in the house, clearly.  The pork came pre-marinated from the Korean supermarket but we kicked up the heat a bit with some more sriracha sauce while sauteing it in a cast iron skillet right on the grill.  I am a big fan of skirt steak; it wasn't cheap, at $9.99 per lb from Whole Foods, but was the right balance of structured yet tender.  As accompaniments to the meat, we had the salsas mentioned above, red leaf lettuce, and store-bought kimchi and thinly sliced daikon for some acidity and crunch.  I had also bought freshly made corn tortillas from the local Mexican supermarket, Top Valu.  I really liked the tortillas and also the tortilla chips from Top Valu.  The tortilla chips tasted like real chips that you would get at a Mexican restaurant, actually made from real tortillas with a nice heartier crunch.  We'll never go back to tostitos again.
    We also grilled up some mustard potatoes with scallions (grilled potatoes are the best, crunchy and charred on the outside, and soft and delicious on the inside, and also served up a corn, black bean and pepper salad.  For dessert, we had some no-pudge brownies, Sam's delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (I need the recipe!) and vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt.  Quite a decadent meal!  Recipes to follow
    Roasted Tomatillo Salsa:
    • Remove the husks and wash 6 tomatillos
    • Remove the skin and quarter 1 white onion
    • 1 serrano chile and 1 jalapeno pepper
    • 4 cloves of garlic (you can leave the skin on)
    • Put all the vegetables on a baking sheet, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper
    • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler for another 2-4 minutes until everything starts to char
    • Remove the skin from the garlic, the stems from the pepper and chili, and the bottom of the tomatillo and put everything in a food processor with juice from 1 lime, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of salt, small drizzle of agave nectar, handful of cilantro leaves and pulse together.  Add up to 1/4 cup of water if necessary.  Let sit for a few hours to let the flavors combine
    Roasted tomato salsa:
    • Quarter and core 2.5 beefsteak tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs, I happened to have beefsteak tomatoes)
    • Remove the stem and halve 1 red pepper
    • Remove the skin and quarter 1 yellow onion
    • 1 serrano chile and 1 jalapeno pepper
    • 4 cloves of garlic (you can leave the skin on)
    • Put all the vegetables on a baking sheet, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper
    • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler for another 2-4 minutes until everything starts to char
    • Remove the skin from the garlic, the stems from the pepper and chili, and put everything in a food processor with 2 chipotles and some of the adobo sauce, small drizzle of agave nectar, juice from 2 limes, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of chili powder, 1 tsp of salt, handful of cilantro leaves and pulse together.  Let sit for a few hours to let the flavors combine
    • Scoop 3 avocados into a bowl, squeezing a little lime juice every so often (use up to 1 lime)
    • Mash up the avocado with a fork
    • Add 1 clove of finely minced garlic
    • Seed and dice 1/2 a tomato and add
    • Add 1/4 cup of finely diced red onion
    • Season with 1 tsp of cumin, salt and pepper and mix everything together with the fork
    Corn, black bean and red pepper salad:
    • Husk and then boil 3 ears of corn for 10 minutes
    • Small dice 1 orange pepper, 1/2 a red onion
    • Finely mince 1-2 cloves of garlic
    • Rinse and drain 1/2 a can of black beans
    • Shave the corn off the cob when finished boiling
    • Combine everything together in a non-reactive bowl.  Zest and juice 1 lime, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar to taste.  Let sit for a few hours to let the flavors combine.
    Grilled mustard potatoes with scallions (from Mario Batali's Italian Grill):
    • Boil 1.5 lbs of fingerling potatoes for about 6 minutes (or until you can pierce them with a fork)
    • Thinly slice 6 scallions
    • Halve the potatoes and toss into a bowl with 1/3 of the scallions, a little less than 1/4 cup of olive oil, and a handful of cumin and fennel seeds (Mario uses celery seeds, which I didn't have)
    • Thread the potatoes onto skewers and then grill, rotating occasionally, until the outsides are lightly browned
    • Toss the potatoes in a serving bowl with the remainder of the scallions, 1 3/4 TB of dijon mustard, little less than 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

    How cute, a sleeping squirrel

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    After the Aftermath

    As if we didn't drink enough fine craft beers last night, we tasted a little IPA flight at a friend's place this afternoon:
    Alpine Beer Company's Duet, Ballast Point's Sculpin and Russian River Brewing's Pliny the Elder
    My favorite, as an IPA relative newbie, was the Duet single IPA from Alpine; it had a lovely floral fruity nose and taste with just enough bitterness to be very drinkable without any lingering bitterness.  I found the Sculpin to be a little too bitter for my taste, particularly in the finish.  The Pliny, a double IPA, was the most bitter, primarily in the taste, which I prefer, rather than the finish.  I didn't recall the Pliny being so bitter, but tasting it side by side with the single IPAs really brought out the difference.

    The Aftermath

    The full line up consumed.  The scary thing is, we still have plenty of unopened bottles left in the fridge.
    Pre-dinner aperitifs: Brasserie Dieu du Ciel's Rosee d'Hibiscus, Weihenstephaner's Hefe Weissbier and Russian River's Pliny the Elder double IPA
    The Russian River Brewing Company's sours: Consecration aged in Cabernet barrels, Temptation age in Chardonnay Barrels and Supplication aged in Pinot Noir barrels. Can't say I'm a fan of the sours.
    The chocolate-y, coffee-y rich and delicious stout and porter flight (my personal favorite): Ballast Point's Victory at Sea (vanilla and coffee, perfect with the brownies and ice cream dessert), Mikkels Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (coffee beans eaten and pooped out by weasels), Founders KBS Kentucky breakfast stout (aged in bourbon barrels, one of the most expensive beer we had), Rogue's Double Mocha Porter, Dogfish Head Brewery's Miles Davis Bitches Brew (one of my favorite) and Rogue's Hazelnut brown ale
    The pumpkin / yam fall flight: The Bruery's Autumn Maple (yam on the nose, saison like finish), and Pugsley's Smashed Pumpkin
    The lambic / cherry flight: Kasteel's Rouge (so delicious, like cherry soda) and Cantillon's Lambic (top rated lambic)
    The vino: Orin Swift's The Prisoner (2007 and 2008 mini vertical), 1998 Vina Tondonia Rioja Riserve, 2006 Carlisle James Berry Syrah, 2007 Carlisle Russian River Valley Montafi Vineyard Zinfandel (my perennial favorite, amazing silky mouthful, rich and delicious fruit)
    A humongous thank you to Rich for the rare and educational beer and Mike for the fine wine, as always.


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