I had my second go at biscuits for this week's Writing Pad menu but added my own touch with some gruyere and herbs de provence. Is there ever a bad time for nutty gruyere? The obvious answer is no. I had my little moment of happiness eating a little taster before grating it, completely forgetting that later I'll be left with a small ungrateable rump to sample also. The combination of the nutty mild gruyere and the floral herbiness worked well with the simple southern biscuit recipe.
To melt and ooze inside the freshly baked warm biscuits, I made roasted garlic butter with a sprinkling of lemon-thyme, salt and black pepper. I think it could have used a lot more roasted garlic, probably one bulb to one stick (1/4 lb) of butter. And also I thought the bicuits could have been fluffier. I'll have to work on my biscuit making skills. But this was only my second time so please excuse!
A simple plate of double-creme brie, toasted walnuts with orangeblossom honey, and sesame crackers accompanied the delicious biscuits. I can't believe I hated honey when I was little. It's so good! The last one I had was a wildflower honey from Italy which was so frickin good, but unfiltered so undrizzleable. So when I saw this gorgeous clear amber-tinted orangeblossom honey from Catalonia I was quite taken by it. And good thing because it's delicious, especially drizzled over warm toasted walnuts.
For dessert Marilyn made mini mile high strawberry pies. A perfect choice since berries are coming back into season. The strawberry cream was so light on the tongue and well flavored with sweet strawberry ripeness. A nice contrast with the graham cracker crust. It seems to have the same effect as pavlovas though, its lightness making people forget that it's all whipped cream and devouring it!
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
Although I haven't been to Cobras & Matadors in more than a year, I still get a craving for their socca cakes. Warm, nutty, and drizzled with honey. So delicious. I think I asked our server what socca was - garbanzo. But when I looked it up on the internet I got "chickpea/garbanzo flour." I found a plethora of socca recipes, ranging from crepe like crispy soccas to thicker heartier soccas, but never tried any out considering I've never noticed garbanzo flour while food shopping.
But I finally bought my first bag of garbanzo flour this week and gave it go with my very untraditional version, Chorizo Corn Socca Cakes. Although I've seen an abundance of Spanish chorizo, the Mexican ones which would work better in the recipe has been pretty MIA. So I had to go out of my way to get an 8 inch cut (for only $0.80) and it wasn't that great. I think next time I'll try making a batch of chorizo at home and save some grief. Now only if I could get Guelaguetza and Antequera de Oaxaca's recipe.
I sweated 1/2 onion then added the chorizo, squeezing it out of the casing and breaking it up with a spatula. I defrosted 1/2 bag of frozen sweet corn and drained any excess water. When the onion chorizo mixed cooled down I mixed it with the corn, a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper, and few stalks of sliced scallion. In a separate bowl I mixed up some garbanzo flour with water, I would say about a 2 to 3 ratio. Then poured that into the chorizo corn bowl. After a few socca cakes I thought the mixture could use a bit more batter. So in it went and the rest of the cakes came out cleaner around the edges and quite cute with its quaint size of only 3 inches.
At one point while frying these cuties in olive oil, the aroma was very reminiscent of Korean nokdoo cakes, which are made with ground mungbeans. Not surprising I guess since both use beans, chilies, scallions and pork. But I think next time I'll try making the more traditional socca with just olive oil and black pepper. (Maybe with cheese on the side.)
For the next few weeks I'll be posting a double dose of menus each week because now I am also cooking for the new 5 week Writing Pad session! These menus are actually for pick-up only and being served at a location with only a microwave. So I had to mull over potential plates that would do well with prior prepping and such. I thought doing the same menu for both Wednesday and Thursday class would be convenient but where's the fun in that?
This session's tasting plates starts off with a cute bang with the first menu featuring Truffled Cauliflower Soup Shooters. The soup by itself is rustic and simple but with the addition of white truffle oil providing a warm subtle background, the finishing drizzle of a California olive oil giving a jolt of fruitiness, the chives cutting through with its delicate oniony flavor, and the parmesan crisp with its quite necessary nuttiness and crunchy texture, it comes together nicely. And these Italian espresso cups are so adorable. Almost makes me want to drink espresso.
The greatest pleasure of eating a dish happens within the first few bites, sips, slurps. The idea of diminishing marginal returns is quite clear here, as the latter bites really provide sustenance as opposed to the sensory-filling gustatory experience of the first few (wow my economics classes finally put to use!). Which is why I was quite excited to do my first batch of soup shooters, a real "taster." Hopefully the class will enjoy these and not down the soup all at once and remember to sip and nibble!
The menu also includes Caponata, an Italian eggplant dish with tomatoes, peppers, capers, onion, vinegar, and anchovies (which I forgot to add). It was still delicious though, especially with the addition of plumped up golden raisans, diced mozzarella, and crunchy crostini. Next time for a more delicious version, I may add a sprinkle of toasted pinenuts, a pinch of pepper flakes, and actually remember to include the anchovies.
For dessert Marilyn made yummy mini-cheesecakes. Yes, the ones I couldn't resist a few classes back!
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
Ever since I first tried out Suzanne Goin's recipe for cured pork chops with sweet potatoes and romesco from the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook, romesco has become one of my favorite condiments. Fried bread, toasted nuts, smokey raisany ancho chili, garlic, rounded out with a few tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil. This has been excellent on just about everything else I've spooned or drizzled it on. Thick-cut bacon, scrambled egg and cheddar on soft white hamburger buns with a dollop of romesco. Twice-baked potatoes whose fluffy refilled center served as a bed for the blissfully melding roasted garlic butter and nutty romesco.
For this week's Writing Pad menu I served Tortilla Espagna and Roasted Eggplant Spread. Like the above dishes, I thought a dollop of romesco may give a lively dimension to the tortilla, not that it's not an excellent dish by itself. I still have to master my tortilla making skills as flipping the darn thing to cook the other side instilled in me the fear of flying potatoes and dripping oil. (And resulted in a lopsided sorta way, but luckily not witnessed by anyone).
I cut and trimmed the wedges into perfect triangles, spooned a bit of romesco at the base and sprinkled chopped parsley for garnish. I'm don't like being too heavy with the garnishing, as I may get the messy "let's get crazy" look that Emeril likes to portray on every one of his plates. Just a touch will go a long way. And no, do not bam any spices all over the plate.
I also made Roasted Eggplant Spread (Barefoot Contessa) with toasted crostinis. This dish is a great vegetable starter. Easy to make and full of flavor. Leftovers are quite versatile as demonstrated by Marilyn's husband, J, who transformed it into a delicious frittata the next day.
For dessert Marilyn made adorable Pot de Creme w/Orange Infused Whipped Cream. Quite delicious and not too sweet, as I like it. The coffee flavor came through nicely through the mellow sweetness of the chocolate. And of course whipped cream is always delicious. :)
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
Have you eaten this yet? This is the Father's Office hamburger, considered one of the best in LA. Although some would scoff at the thought of this deliciousness being a burger in the technical sense, it does deserve hamburger merit because the simplicity of a classic burger is still preserved.
All the essential parts that make up a good burger is still intact. Raw onions replaced by carmelized ones. American or cheddar cheese replaced by gruyere and Maytag blue, both very popular and widely available cheeses. Bacon strips are replaced by "applewood smoked bacon compote," fancy sounding but still bacon, right? The round bun replaced by a french roll, offering a similar soft texture of the latter. The ubiquitous flavorless iceburg replaced by peppery green arugula. And the ground beef patty replaced by dry-aged sirloin patty.
The carmelization of onions may take up a bit more time than thinly slicing a red onion, but the rest of the ingredients are as easy to find and can be stacked together equally fast as a classic burger. This is not one of those ridiculous burger that try to fancy itself up at every opportunity, overburdening itself with too many flavors... sun-dried tomatoes in the patty, blue cheese hidden in the middle, etc., etc.
The FO burger is still simple and the flavor of beef, the most important part, is excellent. But it's simple done well with really good ingredients that meld together beautifully. Add a shopping cart of sweet potato fries, four servings of the roasted garlic cabrales aioli, a cold glass of Russian River's Pliny the Elder IPA. It's hard not to be happy even among the all the weird patrons, annoying yuppies, and fratties. Too bad there isn't more bars like Father's Office in LA with excellent selection of beer and better bar food. But just to warn you, this place is pretty impossible to have a good time during peak hours. Go right when it opens between 3 to 5 to snag a table.
1018 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Once in a while when I goto the gym I take Pico back east from La Cienega. A few weeks ago I noticed La Maison du Pain on the north side of the street. It this new?! In fact it opened August of 2004. How have I missed this all the times I cruised home on Pico? Must be that post-work post-gym zoning out thing.
I stopped by one evening got the booty of breads above (plus one more danish that I devoured walking out of the store) for $10. Included are the house baguette, which looks much more like a ciabatta, peach danish, raisan pastry, and a few rolls.
The house baguette was good but super crusty which translates to even more crusty the next day as it starts to stale. I think if I got it fresh in the morning it would have been amazing, maybe with a nice slice of brie and apple. :) Always with the cheese, huh? The danishes were pretty standard but I liked the rolls better. Besides being small and adorable, it was chewy with a nice crust.
It's still a new bakery and judging from an article I read, still trying to get a firm foothold in its business. It's run by two sisters who have no previous experience in the bakery businesses and used cookbooks to make their breads! Pretty amazing. I think now they have professional baker from France in their kitchen but it definitely has a family business feel to it with a very friendly service.
I still have yet to try their croissants, brioche or the brioche-y baguettes (I couldn't quite get the name down) but they looked delicious. The pastry selection was a bit sparse not that I cared too much. Afterall I am more of a breadgirl.
5373 W Pico Blvd
LA Times Article
Polenta is such a versatile dish. It can be served soft, shaped, and with so many different variations of flavors. But I love serving it as a little hor d'oeuvre because it's pleasing to the eyes and the palate. For this week's class I made polenta cakes flavored with lemon-thyme and butter and adapted the Barefoot Contessa recipe using milk and chicken stock as the liquids. I dredged the cakes in arborio rice coating and fried it in a combination of olive oil and butter. Instead of serving the polenta with the commonly paired tomato sauce I went for something a bit more elegant and unique, truffled onion relish with finishing touches of parmigiano and lemon-thyme leaves. It was pretty yummy. I even got a "this is the best polenta."
To go with the polenta I wanted to serve a salad of watercress, persimmon and toasted almonds. Persimmon was nowhere to be found and neither was watercress! Ugh. So I got some peaches which I ended up rejecting. On the fruit prowl again... The next day I grabbed a few different types to think it over until it was time to get on the ball... pink grapefruit, valencia oranges, and red d'anjou pears. So after this whirlwind of shopping and being stumped a few times I decided on Winter Citrus Salad with Arugula, Avocado & Toasted Almonds. The segmenting bit of this job is time consuming and a bit acidic but definitely worth it for presentation and texture purposes. It turned out beautiful and refreshing, with a simple dressing of the collected citrus juices, orange blossom honey, white wine vinegar, and good olive oil.
For dessert Marilyn made these adorable yummy mini-cheesecakes. I know I decided not to eat any of the desserts anymore but I completely forgot. I promise!
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
It's hard to find good kimchi anywhere. I mean really good kimchi. Kimchi the way it's supposed to taste. Not the over seasoned, over ripened, over pungent, msg ladened one at markets and some restaurants.
Good kimchi comes from really fresh and vibrant napa cabbage and the perfect amount of red pepper seasoning. Sometimes squid, oysters, pears, red bell peppers are used to bring a certain special element to the batch. But there are so many more varieties. Seasonal ones: radish tops, daikon, white, water kimchi. And specially seasoned ones: unripened cabbage at kalgooksoo noodle houses, super ripened daikon cubes at beef soup houses, and whole cabbage oyster ones at pork specialty houses.
My family has been spoiled for the last year or so because we get ours from Grandmother Kimchi. Well that's what we all call her. She's one of my grandmother's friends who makes excellent kimchi to make a few extra change on the side. This is the best kimchi I've had in my life. We all fret because she is old and frail. Who will we get our kimchi from when she passes away?! I can't go back to my supermarket kimchi days!
Hence I feel an urgency to learn how to make kimchi. Not just spicy pickled cabbage which can be easily accomplished with few lines of direction. But real kimchi. Homemade ones that refresh the taste buds between each savory bites of rice and banchan. But who makes kimchi these days? Most of my Korean and non-Korean friends alike barely cook anything at all. Hopefully this is a project I will take on this year. Yoony - artisanal kimchi maker, part-time cook, cheese devourer. :)
Last month Grandmother Kimchi was injured, while making kimchi!! Our real Grandmother had to step in and made us a delicious batch of gut-jeoh-ri which is unripened cabbage seasoned with sesame oil and sesame seeds. To me this is more like a salad. I can eat bowlfuls of this. It's nutty, spicy, and cut into perfect sized strips.
When I saw beautiful bunches of bokchoy at the farmer's market I decided make something similar to gut-jeoh-ri, a small batch of bokchoy lightly seasoned with soy sauce, fish sauce, red pepper, sesame oil and scallions. Although this is more like a salad, you want the bokchoy to marinate in the dressing for a little bit so the salt draws some of the moisture out. A great substitution for times in need of kimchi, for asian rice, noodle, and bbq dishes. It keeps well for several days and is probably better than the stuff you're getting at the market.
Perhaps one can be both a vege person and a fruit person but I definitely lean heavier towards the vegetables. I do like fruits too... berries, seedless watermelon and mangos in the summer, and satsumas and asian pears in the winter. But if I take a look a my daily food consumption (yes I keep track of all my eatings in a spreadsheet!), for the last two weeks the only fruit, not including avocados, I've consumed is 1/2 apple and a bite of peach. Vegetables? Carnival squash (technically a fruit but ignore that), green cabbage, napa cabbage, daikon, brussel sprouts, bokchoy, red leaf lettuce and cucumbers.
But carrots... I don't know about these little suckers. There are a few occasions where baby carrots with ranch dressing is totally called for. Such as the superbowl party I attended last weekend where carrots and celery with a huge tub of ranch complemented a wide variety of chicken wings. And of course I've used it in recipes that call for a bit of chopped carrots, for a brine or soup base, or anything calling for mirepoix.
But to eat it on its own? Make it the star of its own dish? Never even thought carrots had the potential of pulling this off... until I saw them roasted on Barefoot Contessa. It looked so amazing... carmelized, browned and slightly shrunken from the high-heat roasting. When I saw beautiful carrots at the farmer's market the other week I couldn't help but get a bunch with the roasted carrots image burned into my mind.
I cut them up into 1 inch pieces and roasted them at a very high heat and then drizzled some balsamic vinegar. It was delicious and visually delicious too. Roasting is probably the best way I will ever enjoy carrots. My rule of thumb is if I am going to try something I'm not crazy about or unfamilar with whether at home or out, make sure I get the highest quality possible or try at a reputable restaurant that knows how to choose and cook it to its highest potential, so that my appreciation or disdain will be the result of the clearest critique. These carrots, I will make again. :)
What a great view from the Silverlake Hills. Especially the rows of palm trees lined up in the furthest hills - it's so LA. And in one of these hills a writing class takes place every Thursday. One called Writing Pad and one that I've joined with a friend's brilliant suggestion of the ancient system of bartering.
One distinct feature of Writing Pad is its offering of tasting plates, dessert and tea. I have taken over the savory part of this bit, while leaving the dessert up to Marilyn, the dessert-saavy class facilitator. The space is already so welcoming, relaxing, and spotlessly clean. Adding delicious food to this only furthers the pleasantries of a relaxing Thursday night.
For the third winter class and my first menu, I offered a simple rustic Italian fare:
Homemade Ricotta with Maple Syrup, Bacon & Crostini
Balsamic Roasted Onion with Toasted Pinenuts & Parmigiano
Hot Tunisian Olives
Ricotta is an Italian cheese that is made from whey. So technically it's not a cheese but a byproduct. Homemade ricotta recipes usually use milk and an acid in the form of lemon juice, vinegar or buttermilk. I never even thought of making ricotta cheese at home until I read about it on Becks & Posh. The first batch, only yielding bit over a cup, turned out really creamy and moist because I didn't let the milk curdle enough. First time jitters I guess. I cooled and saved the milk to try a second batch in my le creuset pot and it came out so much better with the normal yield amount of about a pint or 1 pound. Ricotta gnocchis to come about shortly.
I roasted red onion wedges with lemon-thyme, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Something rich, sweet, savory and nutty, thanks to roasting powers, to complement the mild milky ricotta. Originally I wanted to crumble some gorgonzola over the onions but the ricotta might have gotten a beating from it, leaving its delicate flavors unrecognized. I shaved some parmigiano reggiano for a kick of sharp nuttiness. Real parmesan is something to appreciate. Delicious. I also got some Whole Foods' Hot Tunisian Olive Mix just as a side kick.
Marilyn made Lemon Creme Brulee for dessert. So yummy. You can tell because I plundered half of it before I realized I forgot to take a picture. That happens a lot to me. Anyhow, check out the class. Maybe you can join for some delicious writings and eatings.
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
After all these years of intention I finally went to Sabor Y Cultura upon Boy's suggestion to stop by for breakfast before we head out to the Santa Monica farmer's market. It was a rainy day, one that started off with my failure to enroll for a printmaking class at the Barnsdall Art Center. Late by 2 minutes for the 8:30am lottery. Arg!
So I welcomed the warm mexican hot chocolate at Sabor while anticipating the croissant breakfast sandwich. The hot cocoa was so delicious. The perfect temperature, frothy and light, a hint of spice and cinnamon. I knew it would be good but this was really good.
Our sandwiches were finally ready. Beautifully brown and crusty croissant with a good piece of black forest ham, cheese and egg. The egg was overcooked a little bit but I guess now I'm used to that when eating out. Whether scrambled, poached, or fried, eggs get overcooked way too much. In this case it should really have been super fluffy, soft, and oozing a little bit of juice, with the cheese melted on top to hold its delicate form together. But hey, that's just me.
However, the sandwich came with a small plastic container of jam on the side. Jam on a breafast sandwich? Hmm... I skipped out on that happily enjoyed my sandwich with my choice of warm brekkie beverage. Then I started thinking, do they give this out with every order? Am I missing something?
I held the itty container up to my nose and took a sniff. Hmmm.. smells good, I'll try a little bit. Holy shit! It was soooo good! There was a hint of spice in there but with consistency and texture of a good jelly. I felt like I discovered a missing link. It was the perfect condiment for the sandwich, one that took it to another level. At this point my consumption of the sandwich accelerated.
I need to buy this or get the recipe for it, I thought. I went up to the front and asked the guy what the jelly was. Ancho jelly. Brilliant! Then he mysteriously said that they have someone who makes it for them and that it's not for sale. It's their secret family recipe and he don't even know it. Arg, thwarted for the second time in the same day. But I am still determined to find this mysteriously jelly. If you know a good recipe or know who these people are that make it for Sabor Y Cultura please tell me!
2004 Best of LA Review
5625 Hollywood Blvd