a big part of my philosophy on cooking and eating is of course using products and produce that are organic, sustainable and local, but also unprocessed, or what i like to think of as ‘what would laura ingalls wilder do?’ she lived in a day where everything was made from scratch, all foods were basically what we know as organic today, and definitely pre-GMO.

she also didn’t grow up with processed snacks such as cheez-its in her cupboard like i did as a young girl. granted the list of ingredients in cheez-its isn’t nearly as long as many processed chips, crackers or snacks in the same demographic, and they don’t have the evil monosodium glutamate in them, but i have definitely cut way back on my intake of these addictive lil cheesy nibbles due to their processed nature. of course, when craft services puts out the little single serving bags on the table at work, they are very hard to resist, and i usually tuck one away in my set bag to eat in guilt later when i can blame it on the ‘late hours’ or ‘i’m tired’ or ‘i don’t want another fucking piece of fruit’.

so, when my upstairs neighbor, who is a chef, posted a picture on instagram of homemade cheez-its, i about lost my shit, because i fucking love cheez-its!

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thankfully she was willing to share her recipe.

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ingredients:

  • 9 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 7.5 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 2-4 tbsp ice water
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

directions:

in the bowl of a food processor add the flour, baking powder, paprika and salt. pulse to combine. add the butter and cheese, and pulse until very well combined. add 2 tbsp of ice water and pulse until the dough is just wet enough to come together when squeezed. add up to 2 tbsp more water if necessary.

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divide the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap. press each half of dough into a flat square, wrap well, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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working with one square at a time, roll the dough out to a scant 1/8-inch thick. using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough into 3/4-inch wide strips, and then in the other direction to make 3/4-inch squares.

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use a wooden skewer, or chop stick, to poke a hole in the center of each square.

transfer squares to a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze the dough until firm, about 10-15 minutes. do the same with the other square of dough.

preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

brush the squares with the egg white and sprinkle with salt. gently break the squares apart and transfer the parchment onto a different baking sheet that hasn’t been in the freezer.

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bake until puffed, set, and browned on the bottom. make sure to bake them well, so that the finished crackers are crisp. (completely frozen dough may take extra time.) start checking them at 15 mins, but can take up to 20-30 mins.

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transfer the parchment with the crackers to a cooling rack. store cooled crackers in an airtight container.

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makes about 5 cups.

thanks to chef jamie lauren for the recipe, and my renewed addiction. 

another episode of ‘cleanin’ out my fridge’: the brussels sprouts edition.

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yesterday after my trip to the farmers market, i was putting away my veggies, and came across a bag of these cruciferous vegetables from a couple weeks ago that i needed to use.

i have a few different ways i like to prepare these wee cabbages. simply roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper is easy enough, but recently i have been slicing them thin, sautéing with olive oil, shallot, fresh lemon juice, tossing with pecorino romano, toasted sliced almonds, and finishing with a little bit of red wine vinegar. this was my inspiration for this soup.

of course, when i am cooking from the hip, i often don’t actually write down amounts as i go, or take photos, so the list of ingredients will be approximations, and you only get the one photo.

ingredients:

  • 3 cups brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 leek, white part cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced small
  • 3 celery stalks, diced small
  • 4 carrots, diced small
  • 2 tsp fresh savory, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups stock (i used homemade turkey stock)
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped coarse (optional)
  • cream, to taste
  • salt + pepper, to taste

garnish:

  • toasted sliced almonds
  • pecorino romano, grated
  • chives, minced
  • red wine vinegar, drizzle

in a large dutch oven, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. add the brussels sprouts, some salt and pepper, and cook until soft and browning. add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, savory and a little more olive oil, salt and pepper. combine and allow to cook down a bit. add the wine, and scrape off any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. add the stock, bring to a boil, and then let simmer over medium-low heat until all the veggies are soft. this is when i added the spinach. honestly, i doubt that it added much flavor wise, but i had a little bit in the fridge that was just beginning to wilt, and thought it might add a little green color back into the soup, which it did. once the spinach becomes soft, but hasn’t lost it’s color, i turned off the heat. i used a hand blender to purée the soup until creamy. (i’m sure a regular blender or food processor would do the same thing.) slowly add cream to your liking.

garnish with almonds, pecorino romano, chives and drizzle with red wine vinegar. enjoy!

serves 4.

the first corn of the season started showing up at the farmers market a couple weeks ago, which means any cookout, BBQ, or gathering that has a grill, i will be asked to make mexican grilled corn. happily i will abide, because it is so damn good. i first came across this recipe in the october 2009 issue of cook’s illustrated, and without a doubt it is the number one dish my friends ask me to make during the summer months.

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ingredients:

  • 6 ears of corn, husks + silks removed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • 1-2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 oz pecorino romano cheese, about 1/2 cup
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil for cooking grate

 

mix together the mayo, sour cream, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 tsp chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, lime juice and cheese in a bowl.

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add the remaining 1/2 tsp of chili powder and salt to the vegetable oil and whisk together. brush this oil mixture all over the corn.

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once you have heated your grill to hot, wipe the grate with a paper towel wad and tongs dipped in vegetable oil. put the corn directly on the grill and shut the lid. check after about 5 minutes, or if you start hearing it pop, and rotate so all sides get brown, about 10-15 minutes.

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transfer to a platter or dish, and slather on the sauce.

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this is a perfect side to bring to, or make for any BBQ or grilling event you might be having for this memorial day. please take note that this monday is not our national day to have a cookout, but to honor and remember the men and women who have died while serving in our armed services. peace + love.

 

 

 

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i have had this blog for 3 years now, and although julia child is a huge influence in my cooking, i started wild, fresh + tasty a few months after my dad died.

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he was an artist, writer, blogger and truly enjoyed cooking. perhaps this is sort of an homage to him? i had always loved watching him in the kitchen, but what i loved most was listening to him whistle while he worked. usually he would be playing some sort of music (coltrane, dylan, vanzandt…whatevs!), and (in my eyes) moving in the kitchen like he was gene kelly.

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i think he would have been the biggest fan of my blog, but also given me the most insight…in writing, in cooking, and…kicked me in the ass to post more. i miss him.

as winter melts into spring, i get excited when the produce at farmers markets starts changing, but here in southern california it seems as though beets and kale are here year round. that is just fine by me. this salad blends the merging seasons well with earthy wild rice, sweet golden beets, and crunchy green kale.

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ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice, cooked yielding about 3 cups, let cool
  • 3 medium golden beets, roasted, peeled, let cool and diced
  • 1 bunch of kale (i prefer lacinato for this recipe), blanched, drained fully and chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced small or minced
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions:

in a large bowl mix together the cooled wild rice and beets with the kale and onion. in a small bowl add a generous pinch of salt to the vinegar, and slowly whisk in the olive oil until it emulsifies. toss dressing into rice mixture. add salt and pepper to taste.

makes about 4-6 cups

tip: for breakfast the next morning, sauté a little and add to scrambled eggs with goat cheese.

i have become a fan of the grain salad as of late. while trying to explore new places for lunch, when working at warner brothers on ‘pretty little liars‘, and too lazy to bring my own, i discovered olive + thyme. it is just close enough to pick up an to go order, or sit and eat if i want to relax. well, one day i strayed from my usual beet and arugula salad, and chose the quinoa and corn. it was so refreshing and perfect for summer i needed to make it at home. so damn easy.

tonight i when i got home, and knew the only thing doing pretty well in our ltl community garden has been the basil, thought maybe i could do a spin off of the quinoa + corn salad?

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this is what i came up with:

  • quinoa (1 cup dry makes about 3 cups cooked)
  • basil (7-10 large leaves, 1/4 cup once minced)
  • peas (1 cup)
  • feta (1-2 ounces chopped small)
  • red onion (3 tbsp)
  • green onion (1/4 cup)
  • lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • lime juice (2 limes)
  • olive oil (1/4 cup)
  • salt (1/2 tbsp)

i did this all to taste. i started with 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked it, chilled it (or just bring it to room temp), and went from there. parenthesis are meant to be approximations. switch things up a bit. mint for basil. corn for peas. try apple cider vinegar instead of citrus? i don’t care.

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just please enjoy summer!

note: the next day, the citrus seemed to have soaked in and be a bit overpowering, so i may reduce that in the future.

this past weekend, our loft building in downtown los angeles had the first planting of our community garden. we started with a tabula rasa, added some organic soil, trellises, stepping stones, lanterns, tables and chairs.

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we all agreed we wanted it to be organic, so no gmo’s or pesticides allowed. one of our members, and original instigators, linda, also known as the farmers market fairy, was able to pick up a good portion of the seedlings at the wednesday’s santa monica farmers market, and dan, our hoa president, was able to find the remaining at armstrong’s nursery, including a dwarf meyer lemon tree he has named ‘lucy.’

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to celebrate the occasion, dan mixed up a pitcher of refreshing strawberry basil cocktails, which with all the herbs we are growing was a fitting premonition and inspiration for upcoming garden cocktail parties.

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we spread out our newly adopted wee loved ones, guided by what little knowledge we knew of what needs sun or shade, and some other random tips we had collected.

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with that…we started digging.

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once everything was planted, we did a trial watering to get the roots good and soaked.

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we are all aware that urban gardening has it’s challenges. for instance, here in skidrokyo, we find trash thrown over the fence daily, like this welcoming pile of clothing on this particular afternoon…

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…but bringing together our neighbors…

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…and seeing those vibrant green sprouts sticking out of the dark brown soil…

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…makes it all worth it.

‘when i go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, i feel such an exhilaration and health that i discover that i have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what i should have done with my own hands.’  -ralph waldo emerson

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for those interested, here is a list of the fruits, vegetables and herbs we have planted thus far:

  • arugula
  • spinach
  • mint
  • spearmint
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • mediterranean thyme
  • rosemary
  • variegated sage
  • oakleaf lettuce
  • chamomile
  • cilantro
  • lavender
  • basil
  • thai sweet basil
  • purple basil
  • oregano
  • mexican oregano
  • greek oregano
  • poblano pepper
  • fatali pepper
  • serrano pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • red bell pepper
  • yellow bell pepper
  • maui onion
  • bunching onions
  • honeydew
  • snap beans
  • appalachian pole bean
  • tsungshigo tomato
  • cherokee purple tomato
  • hawaiian pineapple tomato
  • sungold cherry tomato
  • sausage tomato
  • armenian cucumber
  • persian cucumber
  • meyer lemon

who knew that dave jr. would be the inspiration for implementing our very own community garden here at little tokyo lofts in downtown los angeles?

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for those who don’t know about dave jr., he was a tomato plant, and my first foray into gardening, but apparently our HOA president watched as i was diligently carrying water up to the top floor of the parking garage to water him, and thought he should have a proper place to live.

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i have been wanting to start a garden here for a while, but honestly, lacked the motivation, time and energy. thankfully it seems as though others in my building also wanted the same thing, and as a group we brought together enough of those key elements to make it happen. we have met once before to talk about what we needed to get the ball rolling, the HOA approved our budget, and tonight we met to discuss what we wanted to plant. oh, and we added these lovely lights and some little garden tables and chairs to enhance the area for relaxing.

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follow along as i post updates, photos, recipes, tips, and yes, most likely some failures. ultimately, hopefully we will not only see our seedlings, little green orbs, and buds grow, but our community brought together and cultivated with something as simple as growing produce, herbs and flowers.

we start planting on saturday.

little tokyo lofts • 420 s. san pedro street • los angeles • ca • 90013

ltlcommunitygarden@gmail.com

despite what kermit the frog sings to us, it’s easy being green. although this dessert has many components, it is rather easy to make, and would be perfect for a st. patrick’s day party. i used a few different green foods in this recipe: bamboo rice, cardamom, mint crystals, pistachos, and even a couple of the eggs had green shells. also, the pistachios and eggs were from local organic farms, so they were green in two ways, since buying local reduces your carbon footprint.

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ingredients:

rice

  • 1/2 cup bamboo rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 jasmine tea bag (optional)

custard

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup half + half
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom, from the seeds of 3 pods, ground with a mortar + pestle

ganache

  • 4.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half + half
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup

toppings

  • mint crystals, ground with mortar + pestle
  • pistachios, chopped small

instructions:

cook the rice (with or without the optional tea bag) until al dente. bamboo rice has a bit of a jasmine flavor and aroma to it so the tea bag just adds to it. fluff and set aside.

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whisk the eggs and sugar well in a bowl until frothy.

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heat the half + half and coconut milk until it is just boiling. lower heat to low, and slowly whisk in some (1/4 cup) of it to the egg/sugar mixture. then whisk it back into the rest of the half + half and coconut milk. add the salt and cardamom, and whisk until all is incorporated. stir in the rice making sure the rice doesn’t clump.

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grease a 13×9 baking dish with butter. place it into a larger baking dish. pour the custard into the smaller baking dish. pour hot water into the larger baking dish until it’s about half way up the side.

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bake in a 350° oven for about an hour. stir the custard 20 minutes in, and test with a toothpick if it seems to be firming up before the hour is up. if it comes out clean, it’s done.

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let it cool for 20-30 minutes. which is plenty of time to make the ganache.

put the chocolate in a bowl. heat the half + half until just boiling. whisk it into the chocolate until smooth. heat the simple syrup a bit (can be the same pot used for the half + half), and whisk into the ganache, which should make it just thin enough to drizzle.

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cut the custard into squares, sprinkle with ground mint crystals, pistachios, and top with the ganache sauce.

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you could certainly put the toppings on prior to cutting, especially if you are transporting, but esthetically it is nice to plate them individually.

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even by the end of kermit’s song he says,

but green’s the color of spring

and green can be cool and friendly-like…

i am green, and it’ll do fine

it’s beautiful, and i think it’s what i want to be.’

be green. be beautiful. happy spring!

note: this recipe was created for a food bloggers contest ‘it’s easy being green‘ by marx foods. they sent me 5 samples of these green foods: bamboo rice, cardamom, mint crystals, green eston lentils, and dill pollen. i had to make an original recipe using at least two of them, blog about it, and submit it to them. this was a lot more challenging than i thought it would be, but very fun none the less. the polls are closed. i won an honorable mention, and a mystery goodie box.

it was almost a year ago that i discovered the wonder of guisados just a couple miles away in boyle heights. they have some of the best tacos i have ever had, so when i heard that they were going to expand to echo park, and eventually downtown, i was ecstatic. the echo park location is just down the street from dodger stadium, and opened just after the new year. i actually can’t believe it took me this long to go check it out.

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to no surprise there was a line out the door. granted it was lunchtime on a friday, but it moved fairly quickly. just like their boyle heights location, the tortillas are handmade right in front of you, from masa made next door to the other location, and the menu is on a chalkboard on the wall. it seems to consist only of tacos at this time, but perhaps they will expand to tamales and ceviche like the other location in the future.

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a nice young man wearing a dodgers hat, who seemed to be running the place, answered some questions i had about the menu, and also delivered our food. i ordered their version of an arnold palmer, called an armando palmero, named after the owner, which is a lemon-lime-hibiscus tea mix.

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for tacos i ordered a mole poblano, a pescado, and a cochinita pibil.

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they have decent sized indoor eating area…

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…but, even though it was a brisk socal day in los angeles, we chose to sit outside on the lovely patio, which has a stone fountain, veladoras on the tables, and a nice view of downtown.

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as we were finishing up, a pickup truck pulled into the parking lot, and none other than armando himself jumped out with a large bag of masa in hand. we congratulated him on a job well done. he explained that his son had called needing more masa, so he rushed it over, and confirmed that the dodger hat wearing young man was indeed his son. this echo park location was opened for him to run. i asked about the future downtown location, which he said is at least six months out, and apparently will be his daughter’s venture into the family business. each of the current locations are only a few miles from where i live, but i am very much looking forward the downtown location opening up only a few blocks away. i see a lot of tacos in my future.

guisados: echo park • 1261 w. sunset blvd. la, ca 90026 • 213-250-7600

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