Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Walking Dead S2E10 - Blueberry Pie

The first episode of The Walking Dead after the mid-season hiatus was a bit slow, and people were disappointed. However, I don't think the show is about nothing but gore, violence, and zombie attacks ... though there are plenty of those elements as well. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the post-apocalyptic world brings out the person you really are - whether that's maternal, selfish, violent, etc. I'm sure Shane did portray himself the way he does now when he was a cop with Rick before the invasion started, but look at him now. And Andrea! Don't even get me started on that psycho, selfish, stupid bitch.

I had a lot of blueberries in the fridge so I decided to make a blueberry pie! For several different reasons: (1) blueberry filling looks pulp-y and gore-y; (2) they were on sale at the market a week or so back and I went a little overboard in "stocking up" on them; (3) I've never baked a fruit pie before and I know Boyfriend enjoys pie a lot.

Look, instead of a lattice-top pie crust, I covered it with hearts! I felt it was very creative on my part and was very pretty. I hope Boyfriend was super impressed. He ate 1/3 of the pie straight off, even though I recommended that it cool down for a few hours first. I think he waited about 45 minutes. I'm kinda proud of myself. But dinner was not just blueberry pie ... there was also ginger soy chicken thighs and cumin-scented roasted carrots.

Ginger-Soy Chicken Thighs

1 Tbps olive oil
6-8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup ginger preserves
2 Tbps low-sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken and cook 5-7 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Add preserves, soy sauce, and garlic to pan; turn off the heat. Bring to a boil (it'll only take a few seconds) and stir to combine. Return chicken to pan and turn to coat with sauce. Serve over rice, making sure to get some sauce with the chicken to mix in with the rice.

** You can find ginger preserves in the English foods section of the grocery store.

Blueberry Pie
adapted from various sources

1 9-inch pie crust
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 Tbps cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbps lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 Tbsp cream or milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Place bottom crust within the pie tin and trim to fit. Mix blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice and zest together thoroughly in a large bowl and fill in the crust. Beat together the egg and milk. Brush the sides of the crust with the egg wash.

Cut shapes out into the top crust, whether in hearts, stars, or whatever cookie cutter shape you have. Lay them over the blueberries, making sure the pieces overlap slightly (so they stick together during baking), making sure you can see bits of the blueberry filling underneath. This way the pie can steam. Cover the top with egg wash, making sure it doesn't pool into puddles.

Let pie chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes, then remove and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, to catch any fillings that may bubble over. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower heat to 350F and bake for another 35-40 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown and the filling is thick. Cool on a wire rack for 3-4 hours before cutting/eating, to let the flavors meld together.

Between the chicken, carrots, rice and blueberry pie it was a very well-rounded meal. And we watched BOTH the Oscars and the Walking Dead - thank god for having TV on Eastern time. Didn't feel like watching Comic Book Men though; I think we're over that show.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wolvesden Part III

I think I may have a problem cause I seriously can't get enough of Wolvesden. Even after Meal One here (which estalished the basis for excitement) and Meal Two (which cemented the excitement, and verified that the first-time-excitement was not a fluke). Plus, Meal Two was when I was able to bring Boyfriend and involve him in my crazy giddyiness over a 10+ course meal.

This time, there were multiple photographers at the dinner (hello Wes!) and thus, I was more comfortable walking around and getting more pictures in. Feast your eyes on some behind the scenes footage!

pots and pans bubbling away - I just want to dig into that pan of mushrooms with a spoon

slabs of pork belly from the oven

Craig is so good, he can even cook LOVE (never figured out what this was actually, or if we ate it)

And now onto the first course! This time we had ten courses (as opposed to the eleven courses I had the previous times). Not to worry, I had already prepped for this throughout the day, drinking plenty of water and eating very little food.

pork belly, celery remoulade, dried cherry, black sesame toban jan vin

trout, sweet potato, spinach

And then ... there was an interlude. Julian asked if anyone wanted to help break down the live spot prawns for the next course. There were eight of them to go around. And when I say live, I really mean LIVE. As in one of them jumped straight from the bowl onto the cutting board. Bad call, spot prawn. Bad call.

Oh man. I have never been more excited and it was a sexy good time. No one got all macho and prolonged any shrimpy deaths, and this is good food as fresh as you can get. I wanted to grab that entire plate of spot prawns and make me some sweet shrimp / amaebi sashimi. That whole tray would have been gone.

hokkaido scallop, shrimp head, squid ink ice, Maryland white shrimp, live spot prawn, avo

rabbit, cinnamon tortilla chips, mole spice, pine nut, current, tofu jalapeno mousse

gnocchi, treviso, mushrooms, romaine

snap pea, pea tendrils, carrot, salted yogurt

sweetbread, beeler gruyère fritter, bone marrow IPA, onion, pretzel, mustard, broccoli

duck, parsnip, chicory malt soil, radish, apple, beet green

french toast ice cream, butterscotch, banana

pistachio # cake, pistachio shortbread, crème fraîche, tangerine, tango orange, blood orange, cara cara orange, lime curd

What a night. Craig's dishes and attention to detail is absolutely delicious and amazing - the carrot in the snap pea dish was cooked for SIX HOURS to bring out the most intense carrot-y flavors! And just one more tidbit that put everything over the edge - Jonathan Gold was in attendance, along with his wife Laurie! Jonathan is famous for his long-running column Counter Intelligence in the LA Weekly, though he just left that position to return to the LA Times. It was such an honor to be able to talk to the Pulitzer-prize winner and hear him speak about his fooding experiences. There are times I've eaten around the SGV or LudoBites and hoped to run into him, but never have. I admit, I geeked out quite a bit and was able to get a picture with him.

You just never know who you're going to run into at a Wolvesden dinner. The first time, I was able to meet a ton of other food bloggers and forage friendships with them. The second time, we ran into former world champion MMA fighter Josh Barnett and talked to him about comic books and old cartoons all night. But, suffice to say that everyone we've met through these dinners have been ultra-cool. Wonder who we will meet at the fourth time? Because there WILL be a fourth time ...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kali Dining

There has been some epic eating in the last five days. Good thing that today is the first day of my diet. And I'm super determined this time - no excuses. I've already gone to the gym on both Saturday and Sunday, and it how hurts to cross my legs and walk in heels. Great.

On Wednesday night, my friend from ... oh elementary school, Cynthia, invited me to a belated birthday dinner on Wednesday at Kali Dining. Kali Dining is another underground supper club run by her friend Kevin Meehan, who used to be the chef at Cafe Pinot in DTLA. The dinner I went to was the last one to be held at his home in Culver City; dinners from here on out will be held in Venice in a penthouse loft with an ocean view.

When Cynthia originally emailed me details to the dinner, the directions were extremely vague. And sketchy sounding. Specifically, she told me "Enter though the back alley behind the house by the nail salon. There is a sign awaiting you with candles" ... what?!

When we got there and got ourselves situated, Chef Kevin led us on a tour of the house and to the dining setup in his guest house. He and his sous chef explained the ingredients to us, some of which was foraged only that morning. Very fresh.

bread, butter with dehydrated olive tapenade

duck egg scramble

spiny lobster crudo, miner's lettuce, orange, saffron gelee

braised wild hog, smoked potato puree, lardo crumbs, proscuitto, pea

calico bass, roasted garlic oil, stinging nettles, chanterelles

parsnip pudding, brown butter, caramel, sea salt, marcona almond, powder

raspberry pâtes de fruits

What a great night with friends. All eight people there were friends of Cynthia's that I just met that night, with the exception of Evan Gotanda, whom we had gone to high school with. Chef Meehan was charming and gracious, and talked freely about his preparations for the meal. Apparently a few days before, he had gone hunting for the first time and shot the wild boar himself! Pretty crazy, and he described the whole experience, with the help of Erik Sun, who showed up at the end of the night. Erik is an avid hunter and fisher, and was the one who had caught the spiny lobsters for our meal. I can't wait to start reading Erik's blog and see his fooding/hunting/fishing adventures all over the world. At a cursory glance, his pictures are already absolutely gorgeous.

See how beautiful and well lighted my pictures are? Chef Kevin had a lighting booth setup in this backyard so he could take pictures and upload them to the Kali Dining page on Facebook. It was so cute; he would make sure that my dish looked nice and would take me outside so we could both take pictures of the dish, before going back in to eat it. There are more spots for Kali Dining in the coming weeks, so make sure to go! You can either book an entire dinner time for yourself and friends, or you can go with one or two other people, or even just by yourself, and have a great night of eating, drinking and being merry.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Valentine's Day 2012 - A Guest Post

**Valentine's Day fell on a Tuesday this year, which made it a bit hard to plan something during the week. Last year, Boyfriend made me a very time-intensive dinner consisting of shrimp salad, bacon wrapped filet mignon, lobster cooked in butter, asparagus with parmesan and crème brûlée. I must admit I was super impressed and also managed to watch two movies (Toy Story 3 and Atonement) AND take a nap in the time it took him to prepare. This year, since we both worked on Tuesday, he scaled back a bit but nevertheless, it was still tasty and impressive. And he wrote this post about it. At my request. Another V-day present to me!**

For the record, Eleana has asked me to write this blog. Sadly (for the reader mostly) I did agree however as part of our Valentine’s Day. Apparently on V-Day, for the ladies, it is the equivalent of asking the Godfather for a favor on their daughter’s wedding day. He just can’t refuse. Crap.

That being said, when you’re halfway through this, bored out of your skull and not learning anything remotely food related on an actual food blog, please direct all your scorn at her for not thinking ahead and asking a non-”foodie” to write a freakin’ food blog entry.

For normally being sharp as a tack, she really dropped the ball on this one. See, I’ve already digressed once and that was just in the first few sentences. I can just tell this will go smashingly.

As you’ve inferred from above, for part of Valentine’s Day, I decided to make Eleana dinner. Of course, the obligatory flowers and other assorted red V-Day themed items were included. I stuck with tradition there even if the color red is not part of the spectrum that is visible to me. As I am not nearly into the foodie aspect of Eleana’s obsession and normally just a lucky and willing companion on her adventures, I’m not as thorough in my knowledge of all the types of foods she normally goes nuts over. I’m a cook with above average skills, but that’s taking into consideration a large portion of average guys microwave half of their meals and pour the other half into bowls with milk (both of which I have armed in my repertoire so no disrespect to either). However, I can work my way around a stove without typically lighting things aflame.

Still, I know my limits and so when deciding on which recipes to give a go, complexity or lack thereof…major factor. Hell, last time I went and tried to make a fancy meal which included trying to make crème brûlée, it took me roughly three hours. “Hey honey, dinner will be done soon. Why don’t you pop in a movie until it is done…like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The extended cut. Yeah…all three.”

Not wanting that, I went with some basics I knew previously. First a cheese, cracker, and fruit plate. Brie, some slices of fruit and some crackers arranged very neatly on a serving tray. Sliced fruit you say? Why yes, so fancy! Yep brie and sliced fruit just screams of “class.” Ok, not really. Yeah, this plate is what we call easy filler. To be honest, I just put this out in case the meal took another marathon to make so Eleana didn’t waste away while I kicked kitchen appliances and cursed at Top Chef for making it look easy.

Next, an Italian tomato side dish that my grandmother made for us when I was younger or when I go to visit her still. She’s a great, old fashioned cook. This means the food is amazing but the downside is trying to get the recipes from her. She couldn’t tell you a recipe she has because she just throws the ingredients by hand and never measures out anything…and it still always tastes the same and delicious. Learning a recipe from her, however, becomes like watching David Copperfield do a magic trick and trying to figure out how the fuck he just made your poodle disappear.

In the case of the Italian tomatoes, it is a little easier since it is pretty basic. Cut some tomatoes into slices, top with spices, olive oil, and vinegar. Done. Thanks Nana.

Now onto the vegetable side dish because we all know tomatoes are technically fruit, right? I’m going for asparagus (I feel like the plural of that should be asparaguses or something, but nevermind that). I chose this one since A.) Eleana likes the stuff B.) It involves cheese which is self-explanatory and C.) It wasn’t so complicated I would risk second degree burns trying to get it right while juggling three other dishes. It worked. I think. The best part, besides the parmesan cheese of course, was that I impressed myself by timing its completion along side the main dish…shrimp scampi linguini!

I actually got just a little more Italian by typing those words out. Not so Italian that I will be tempted to “GTL” or fist pump or anything else you learned from Jersey Shore, you damn stereotyping bastards.

So this entrée I decided was a good match for this. It was just a bit more adventurous than most recent things I’ve made since I’ve never done a scampi dish before, but not so daunting that I could do major damage to the dish or the kitchen if I attempted. I’m sure there are plenty of people who can do this in their sleep and while I am a modern day super-hero, I am not one them. Peeling shrimp? No problem. Making linguini? It’s water + pasta + time. Right off the bat, I’m comfortable with two of the three main steps. It was the third that I was going to have to make sure I didn’t screw up. This involves putting a buttload of butter in a skillet with other stuff and melting it and cooking it. Sounded…uhhh…I’ll be honest, I didn’t even think about it beforehand or during for that matter…which may be why I burned the butter the first attempt as I was just whistling away peeling shrimp and not paying attention. That’ Land-O-Lakes lady is one cruel mistress.

So, the second attempt nailed it and dammit, afterwards it tasted like…effin’ shrimp scampi linguini (the effin’ adjective does not denote any particular taste by the way, just the level of awesomeness, in case you were wondering).

So there you have it, a blog entry. About food. By a person who grades his food in two categories “Shit I’ll eat” and “Shit I won’t eat.” (Actual “shit” falls into the latter category by the way).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Walking Dead S2E9 - Lentil Soup

BOOM. The second episode after the midseason hiatus was a lot more exciting than the first. So many people/zombies got wasted and there was a good amount of gore. Totally sweet. Now Boyfriend and I are taking bets on who gets off-ed next. And you go, Dale - you Jeremy Lin of the zombie world.

Didn't have the time or the energy this weekend to make a huge meal, because I was sick. My nose is still scabby from being rubbed with tissues over and over and it hurts like hell. But when you have a runny nose or have to blow your nose and you don't, it's such an uncomfortable feeling that I just end up taking the pain. Now I'm scabby. It's super unattractive.

The basis of this recipe is courtesy of the lovely Amy, from The Roaming Belly. Lentil soup is something else that I never liked before, but after getting it at Corner Bakery a few times on the account of its low calorie count when I was dieting, it really grew on me. Now I can't get enough of it! However, I still dislike the other healthy grains such as bulgar, farro, quinoa, barley, etc ... ick.

Lentil Soup
adapted from The Roaming Belly

1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried basil
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dry lentils
4 cups chicken/beef/vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 bunch spinach/kale, thinly sliced
2 Tbps red wine vinegar
salt and ground black pepper
2 cups lentils

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and basil; cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in lentils, broth, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. Using an immersion blender, puree about half the soup into a brothy/chunky consistency (which took me about 15 seconds of puree-ing). Alternately, you can puree half the batch in a blender and then pour it back into the pot.

When ready to serve stir in spinach or kale, and cook until wilted. Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more vinegar if desired.

Amy simmers her soup for at least 75 minutes, but I only did mine for about 45 before the lentils were tender enough for my tastes. Damn electric stove and your unstable heat source. Also, she doesn't puree the soup so feel free to just leave it unprocessed. The recipe originally calls for 1/2 a cup of spinach but I up the ante a lot with the kale, since the leaves wilt down so much. Scale back if you so desire.

Enjoy the healthiness! Plus you can either freeze the leftovers or have it for lunch the rest of the week - it's very filling.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Winter is the time for cirtus ... oranges, lemons, meyer lemons, grapefruit, pomelos ... there are a variety of options. However, my favorite is still lemon cake. Actually lemon meringue pie (without the meringue part) is good too, but most of the time there is a TON of sugar in it and that doesn't appeal to me as much.

Strangely, I never used to like lemon desserts of any kind. They say your taste buds change every seven (or was it ten) years, and suddenly you start loving foods that you used to hate, etc. This must be true, because the past year or so I've started to dislike tomatoes in raw/salad format, when I used to really like them before. Strange.

Anyway make this cake if you have any lemons sitting around, you won't regret it. I took some over to Susie's while visiting her adorable baby and she couldn't stop eating it (Susie, not the baby). If you have some meyer lemons, definitely substitute it in! I did and it was amazing ...

Lemon Yogurt Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
Grated lemon zest from 2 lemons (regular or Meyer)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the grapeseed oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Take a fork and prick holes all over the cake and then pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in for five minutes. Invert the cake out into a plate and let it cool.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Walking Dead S2E8 - Ragu Bolognese

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax, Of cabbages, and kings" ... and the time has come for us to talk about The Walking Dead. Oh, and I'm not super well versed on the works of Lewis Carroll either; I mainly know this Walrus & the Carpenter quote from watching Alice in Wonderland. Cartoons and TV shows taught me many things, actually. Like The Animaniacs taught me E=MC2 ... or "acme" spelled backwards. Kids these days don't get taught anything in their cartoons!

Anyhow, if you had all of Sunday to devote to your television, they showed the entire previous season of the show. The first seven episodes, to be exact, all gearing up to the midseason premiere. The premiere actually shattered cable records and was watched by 10.1 million viewers, which is outstanding for cable ratings.

Since I wanted to make something good and hearty for the first episode, I browsed around for some ragu bolognese recipes, online and through my cookbooks, finally settling on Mario Batali. In all honesty, I think the guy is kind of a pompous know-it-all-show-off but there is no denying that his recipes are great and well put together.

I'm a huge fan of certain shapes of pasta, and when I saw this one at the market, I couldn't pass it up. Look how cute and unique it looks! The ragu probably would have been great with papardelle as well, but papardelle tastes best homemade and I haven't had the opportunity to get the pasta rolling attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer yet. The ragu was good and hearty, without too much fat. It was also simple to make; I thought I was going to be cooking for a long time but it required only a couple of hours and the occasional stir of the pot. But I did bust out my Le Creuset! Look at the sauce simmering in it - doesn't it look beautiful? I love my Le Creuset so much. It's like the KitchenAid ... everything made in them turn out magically delicious.

Served the pasta up with a quick salad of avocado, tomato, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. We settled down to watch the mid season premiere, totally excited. AMC has also come up with a story sync website that you can go to and get flashback photos and take polls of during the show, which is pretty cool. You get the answer questions like this:

I hope that didn't give anything away. I was totally afraid that I'd spoil something for people who haven't seen it yet but as Boyfriend says, it's been TWO MONTHS since the midseason finale. Surely they have caught up since then!

Ragu Bolognese
from Mario Batali

5 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground pork
4 ounces pancetta or bacon
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt & fresh ground black pepper

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the oil, garlic and vegetables (also known as mirepoix) and let cook until translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes or so.

Gather the veal and pork. Very finely chop the pancetta/bacon or cut it into quarters and then pulse it in a food processor until ground. Once the vegetables are translucent, add all of the meat and increase the heat to high. Let the meat brown, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes.

While the meat cooks, gather white wine, milk, tomato paste and thyme. Once the meat has browned nicely, add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Then add the white wine (I used vermouth), milk and fresh thyme (I used dried). Stir again, scraping the bottom if needed. Let everything come just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. As the ragu cooks, remember to stir it occasionally, to prevent it from sticking or scorching.

The ragu should be cooked until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, however, it should still be moist. Once it is done, season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool. Use about 3 cups sauce to every 1/2 pound of pasta.