The Truck Stops Here…

… but the line didn’t. On Saturday night in Downtown Los Angeles with the sky preparing its change into night we attended Dwell on Design Night at the Movies at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. For the event, Dwell magazine designed a roving food row in front of the museum. There were a few tall tables covered with white cloth facing the different food trucks in the open sun. Represented at the mobile food baazar were Let’s Be Frank (hot dogs), Barbie Q’s (bbq sandwiches and such), GreenTruck (organic healthy fare), Coolhaus (ice cream sammies), Sprinkles (cupcakes), and Icycle (gourmet popsicles).

With few options and long lines we ruminated over what to eat. For our pre-show dinner we opted for a pulled pork sandwich and a braised beef sandwich from Barbie Q’s. We accompanied this with herb-seasoned fries and a watermelon fresca from the GreenTruck. The sandwiches were basic but tasty, full of barbeque-y goodness on a french roll. The side dishes of cole slaw and baked beans were unappealing and lacking flavor, but with such a big sandwich we really didn’t need them. The fries were crisp, delightfully oily, and fragrant from the rosemary sprinkled on top. The watermelon fresca outshined the entrees. It was refreshing and lightly sweet. It had an almost-thick texture as if you were biting right into the watermelon through your straw. We finished our meal in time for the first screening – The Greening of Southie, a documentary on the construction of the first green building in Boston.

During our intermission we headed outside for a second go at the restaurant truck row, but this time for dessert. Already having been familiar with Sprinkles cupcakes I went straight for the cold stuff. I have read a lot lately about Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches and was eager to finally try one. Again there was a line. It seemed to be the theme of food truck night. Waiting patiently to order I had an opportunity to really study my ice cream and cookie pairing options. I decided on ginger cookies and strawberry ice cream, while R choose sugar cookies with cinnamon ice cream. The ice cream sandwich was so good I ate every last bite.  For the sake of research we decided to try the Icycle popsicles after our ice cream sandwich indulgence. Not quite a truck, Icycle is a guy on a bike attached to a little freezer riding around the lines of people. The no line factor of Icycle was a plus. We ordered the mojito flavor and the strawberry lemonade. Upon first glance I thought ‘why am I paying $2.25 for this small thing?’ but after one taste the reason it clear- they are amazing. Simple, flavorful, and perfect. This was the clear winner of the evening. I was now content and ready for the second screening- a documentary about the architectural photography of Julius Shulman.

All in all, it was a wonderful summer night. Only a few trucks stopped by, but they were enough to design a tasty and entertaining evening.

Mint- A Fresh Look at Summer!

So it may seem that June gloom is finally over in what used to be sunny California. This month has been nothing but gray skies so far, so when the sun finally showed it’s warm beautiful face yesterday, it began to feel like summer. Dressed in shorts with all the windows open, I wanted something fresh and light to eat. I decided that I was feeling minty! With my star ingredient in line, I thought up the perfect summer dish to cook- Ina Garten’s Chicken Tabbouleh. I often turn to one of my three Ina Garten cookbooks when I need a recipe. She is my go to, always satisfying and delicious guide. The recipe was quick and simple to prepare, with only a few ingredients and of course a hint of mint!

You can prepare your chicken breasts by baking them in the oven or – even better – by grilling them. Some diced persian cucumbers, a squeeze of lemon, a handful of fragrant parsley, some juicy cherry tomatoes, and hot diced chicken breasts all mixed together with perfectly al dente tabbouleh… Presto! Magico! Dinner/and or lunch is served! Pair it with refreshing homemade mint lemonade to tie everything together and you have a fresh and easy summer meal.

I made two versions of mint lemonade- lemonade with chopped fresh mint and Israeli mint lemonade, which is fresh lemonade blended with mint and ice. My minty chicken tabbouleh and lemonade combo was a satisfying summer meal. Don’t skimp on the mint!




INGREDIENTS

  1. 1 cup medium-grade bulgur (6 ounces)
  2. 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  3. 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  4. Kosher salt
  5. 2 chicken breast hal
    ves on the bone (about 1/2 pound each)
  6. 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  7. Freshly ground pepper
  8. 1 cup finely chopped scallions (1 bunch)
  9. 2/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
  10. 2/3 cup finely chopped mint (1 bunch)
  11. 1 European seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/3 -inch dice
  12. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the bulgur with the boiling water, lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and let stand until the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender, about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. Set the chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Rub them with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until just cooked through. Let the chicken cool slightly, then discard the skin and remove the meat from the bones. Cut the chicken into 3/4 -inch chunks.
  3. Add the scallions, parsley, mint, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bulgur and let stand for 15 minutes. Add the chicken, cucumber and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer the tabbouleh to a bowl or platter and serve at room temperature or chilled.













Holy Grace!

Doughnut tasting night at Grace… Yes, I said doughnut tasting. Three delicious courses all consisting of donuts.A total of five glorious fried carb confections in one sitting… holy Grace!

R and I went to Grace on Saturday, a day after National Doughnut day but just as special. This was my first visit to Grace and what better way to experience this famed LA spot than through its desserts. There is a wine pairing option with the doughnuts, but we opted for coffee instead – keeping it traditional with the ol’ coffee and doughnuts pair.

Course 1: Salted Caramel Doughnuts with Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream

After the first bite of this gooey salty sweet treat I had to pause. Or rather, I took a moment of silence. I was wide eyed, sugar crazed, and happy, just happy. It was heavenly. Caramel glazed over a hot doughy mouthful studded with salt crystals. Everything about this salty sweet confection was perfect. How could two more courses even compare?

Course 2: Pistachio Chocolate Buttermilk Doughnut with Marble Ice Cream and Dried Cherries

As I feared, Grace got a good start out of the pastry kitchen but quickly lost steam with course two.The chocolate buttermilk doughnut was covered in sugar and oozed a pistachio filling. It sat atop chocolate ice cream and dried cherries. The doughnut itself was thick and moist but drowned in the overpowering pistachio filling. When I happened upon a dried cherry every few bites my mouth was confused. “What are you doing here cherry? You are not helping this situation. Where is that caramel doughnut? I want that one again! Valiant effort Mr. Pistachio Chocolate Buttermilk but you are not quite as good as your predecessor.”

Course 3: Buttermilk Brown Butter Glazed Doughnuts with Warm Rum Spiced Milk


Now the buttermilk brown butter was delicious, but the warm rum spiced milk? After a twirl with my spoon and a teensy taste on the tongue I did not proceed any further with the rum spiced milk. I didn’t know whether to drink it or dip it, but it’s slimy slick texture was so unappealing I didn’t want to do either. The buttermilk brown butter was like a traditional glazed doughnut with a hint of sophistication.  However, I think I only enjoyed it so much because of its resemblance to the salted caramel in course one.

Overall the tasting menu was good, especially with a strong and memorable first course: the salted caramel doughnut. I think I will dream about that doughnut, it was so divine. In the end the doughnut tasting menu was a one trick pony but man, was that one good trick!

Special Occasion Dinner… Animal!

Day 4: (actual birthday)

Did someone say hominy? Or more accurately crispy hominy with lime. Animal had me after reading just the second starter on the menu. I mean how many places are there where one can find hominy these days? Now that I think about it, the last time I had hominy other than in a rare serving of pasole to cure a hangover, was at my childhood daycare center. I know it may sound strange that at a daycare I ate hominy but for some reason the cooks at the childrens center often created dishes I would not have found at home or else where. They made grits with cheese, chicken chalupas, and my favorite the a simple steamed hominy. Many a night I have dreamt of that fluffy sweet corn like taste.
The menu was mouthwatering. R and I ordered:
the crispy hominy with lime
lettuces with sumac vinaigrette, beets, avocado and feta pita
pork belly with kimchi, peanuts, chili soy and scallions
branzino with artichokes, leeks, potato and green garlic as our entree
… and the housemade pound cake with strawberries and cream for desert (you gotta have at least a version of cake on your birthday right!)
The hominy was devilishly simple and perfect. Lightly battered and seasoned with salt and pepper, squeeze a little lime on top and next thing you know all the hominy is gone and you are left wanting more. The pork belly was like butter. The vibrant kimchi and peanut sauce accentuated each crispy buttery bite. Even the lettuces were more than your average salad. The light sumac dressing allowed the lettuces and the beets to speak for themselves. A sprinkling of feta and a crumble of pita chips only made each bit brilliant. That was just the start and the entree proved to be just as fantastic. The branzino was crunchy, flaky and light.
The space is small, modern, and acoustically sound. Dim lighting, dark wood tables and bare light bulbs on the wall, the restaurant was as aesthetically pleasing as the food. We sipped the Hollis pinot noir, reflected on the splendor that was our meal, gazed lovingly into each others eyes and anticipated desert. We opted for the housemade poundcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. While the bacon chocolate crunch bar was tempting I thought it might be a bit too much after such a full meal. The poundcake was light and moist and the strawberries ripe. The perfect end to a perfect meal that culminated the perfect birthday weekend!

Corn dogs, churros, pineapple ice cream…Disneyland!

Day 3: (1 more day until my actual birthday!)

Part three of this birthday extravaganza was enjoyed at Disneyland. The rides were fun, especially when you are with the one you love. The weather was perfect. But honestly the best part was the amusement park food! Seriously have you ever had a corn dog at Disneyland, it is probably the best corn dog on earth. It has got a real bite to it and no mere thin layer of corn dog batter, no this precious creation must have been battered and fried at least three times. Yum! Later we enjoyed a pineapple whip from the Tiki Room, not to be overlooked. And we ended our magical visit with a sweet and crunchy churro. Food, fun and love seem to be my running birthday theme, espcially the food part.

Sausage, Beer and Cake… birthday party at my favorite Downtown spot.


Day 2: (bday party with the friends)

Saturday night. R invited my friends for dinner to celebrate who else but moi. We gathered at Wurstkuche for the best sausages, fries and beer in town. If you haven’t been here yet stop reading this post and go now! It is located in the Arts District of Downtown. Its corner location is marked by a simple sign and a red and yellow stripped door. You order in their small front room from a paper menu listing the sausages into three categories, classic, gourmet and exotic. They have two sizes of perfectly crispy and seasoned Belgian fries that come with your choice of dipping sauce. Now R and I are no strangers to this place and have tried more sausages that we care to disclose, but tonight we made sure to enjoy the Filipino in my honor! That and the buffalo,duck & pork and the Jalapeno Chicken. I washed down my savory, spicy meal with the light and crisp Belgian Floris Apple Ale and enjoyed the night. Three sausages, 2 orders of fries, 2 beers and R surprises me with 22 cupcakes! 22! (well i have a long name) Red velvet cupcakes with a perfectly fluffy cream cheese frosting from Buttercake Bakery! And it wasn’t even my birthday yet…

A Birthday Celebration!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” -Virgina Woolfe. Love well, sleep well and most importantly dine well pretty much sums up my four day birthday extravaganza this month. R planned a birthday full of fun, friends, and lots of food.

Day 1: (pre-pre bday bash)
We all adorned our finest and tackiest Hawaiian shirts (mine was courtesy of Good Will) and prepared for a night of overflowing tropical cocktail fun. To kick start our festivites we enjoyed a hawaiian pizza. It was doughy, sweet, and created a good base for our drinks. Off to Tiki Ti’s!
Tiki Ti’s is small, vibrant and bursting with energy. And it happens to be around the corner from where we live. Owned and operated by three generations of men it upholds its authenticity. Hawaiian license plates ardorn the walls and neon tropical paraphenlia line the bar. The drink menu seems to go on for days. According to the website the Ray’s Mistake is the most popular drink. It wasn’t as fruity as a lot of the other drinks but just as strong. I skipped the most popular and opted for a Blue Hawaiian. Having seen my grandma drink one in my childhood when visiting Hawaii I have for years wondered what this magical blue creation was. The Blue Hawaiian pictured below is a giant glass of fruity, refreshing, rum filled happiness, at least that is what I remember of it. I also tried the Chi Chi’s and those were by far my favorite drink of the night. Go get yourself a Chi Chi or two they are appropriately milky, creamy, coconuty goodness!

Have love will cook…

So newly in love and all consumed by it, I am trying to redirect all of this loving energy into cooking for the one I love. While food has been my first and lasting love since childhood, me and cooking have had an on and off again relationship. We have good time and we have bad times. We can never agree on how things should be, but in the end when all is said and done we remember how much we love each other. I have never loved cooking for myself, but now that I have someone to cook for I can begin my love affair again.

R left today for the weekend so I thought what better way to say I love you (*remember how much you love me*) than ricotta blueberry pancakes. Best part of the recipe was that we made them together. I never considered making pancakes from scratch, I have always been a buy the mix and throw a little something in it kinda girl.

We gathered our ingredients and began the difficult process of dividing the recipe that makes 16 pancakes in half. I mean there has got to be an easier way to divide recipes than fractions! Obviously the math section was left for R and I began the mixing. We separated, combined, folded and fluffed. We whipped our egg whites into semi-stiff peaks and R exclaimed ‘I didn’t know thats what happens to egg whites’. I smiled. The end result was perfectly delicious. We savored our breakfast and our morning together. Now I will spend the weekend thinking of what to make him next!

Recipe from BLD restaurant:

3 eggs, yolks and whites separated

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar


3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups milk

1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 pints blueberries

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and ricotta cheese so that there are no large lumps of cheese, but make sure the mixture does not become too smooth (this will make the pancakes wet and grainy). Whisk in the sugar, salt and vanilla, then the milk.



2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Fold this into the egg batter just until no lumps remain.


3. Separately,<
span class=”Apple-style-span” style=”font-size:medium;”> whip the egg whites to medium-stiff, shiny peaks, about 4 minutes. Gently fold these into the batter just until uniformly combined.


4. Ladle a generous one-fourth cup of batter onto a medium-hot, lightly greased griddle for each pancake. Place 10 to 12 blueberries on each pancake and cook, about 2 minutes per side, until the cakes are golden-brown and cooked through. Serve immediately with maple syrup on the side.


Each serving: 276 calories; 10 grams protein; 41 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 8 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 98 mg. cholesterol; 369 mg. sodium.

Dinner with a friend… an experiment in blogging.


Rather than going out to dinner at our usual valley outposts, I decided to invite my friend over for dinner. I did this in hopes of inspiring myself to not only enjoy a simple delicious meal prepared at home, but to also feel motivated to start writing about and talking about what I am most passionate about – food. I kept it easy, fun, and tasty. Returning to a reliable source, I picked a recipe from my favorite Barefoot Contessa cookbook. Ina has to date never led me astray. A few simple ingredients, 1 glass of wine, and dinner was ready.



Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, zest grated
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
  • ss=”Apple-style-span” style=”font-size: medium;”>1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Directions

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.