Archives for the month of: July, 2011

www.good.is has a contest to revive your leftovers, and i succumbed (succame?) to it, not only because i made a dish from my leftovers that was delicious, but also because i hate waste. a while back i made a cook’s illustrated test recipe for bolognese sauce that unfortunately i am not able to share until it is in print, but i must say it is one of the best i have had. there are 7 different kinds of meat used in the recipe…how could it be bad? well, after eating pasta a couple of nights in a row and freezing the rest, i found myself one morning with just a small amount left. i thought to myself ‘how would this be on eggs’? turns out…AMAZING! so much so, that the next time i make batch, i will reserve some just to have for breakfast.

ingredients:
(note- you’ll have to play with amounts, but this is based off a single serving)

1/2 cup bolognese sauce (even though i recommend the cook’s illustrated recipe…that i can’t provide [yet], i bet this would be almost as delicious with your own version…probably not, but you can try)
2 eggs
splash of milk (1 tbsp?)
butter (1/2 tbsp?)
parmesan cheese, grated fine, to taste
s+p, to taste

instructions:

heat the leftover bolognese sauce in a pan til hot.

in a bowl, whisk your eggs well with a little milk. meanwhile heat your pan hot enough to melt your butter til it bubbles, and then swirl it around the pan.

add your eggs and use a rubber spatula to continually mix your eggs over medium-low heat. eventually they will be fluffy, and not browned.

plate the eggs, top with the sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan, and s+p.

enjoy!

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i know it’s shocking, but i don’t actually make any money writing this blog, and there are only so many hours in the day, so i need to find out a way to continue to post things of interest regularly. i’ve decided to add guest bloggers. to no surprise i have many friends who have an interest in food, and because my hope is to expand this blog into other areas than just my experiences, i am going to integrate submissions from other people. i want this blog to be more than just recipes and restaurant reviews, so i hope this is a way to further the scope of wild, fresh + tasty. my first guest blogger is my good friend elia. she has traveled the world, lived in many places (including italy, vietnam and mexico), has a great palete, and is an amazing cook. i look forward to more from her in the future.

dinner party menu by elia (recipes by peter hoffman)

my dearest gretchen (greta to me), author of this blog, has been my friend since college. i’m not going to tell exactly how long it has been, but suffice it to say—a while. we have seen each other through cross-country moves, overseas moves, love and heartache. greta has always inspired me. she is fearless, fun, and as all you readers know a fantastic cook.

our eating days began in college when greta worked at al’s breakfast, where i was the beneficiary of her breakfast griddle skills. i’ve watched with awe as greta has developed into a true gourmand, and while i have always liked cooking, i have poor knife skills and my timing doesn’t always work out. imagine my surprise and honor when greta invited me to be a guest blogger on her site.

at the moment i live in mexico city, but for this blog however, i’ve chosen a sephardic menu, inspired by morocco. the recipes are tried and true favorites of peter hoffman, chef extraordinaire. i made his zucchini and spicy harissa, and for the first time i made the harissa at home, opposed to buying it store-bought. the zucchini was roasted, then once cooled, chopped and warmed again on the stove with the harissa. i will say it was awesome. a word of warning: it wasn’t too spicy for my mexican friends, but i would guess it would be too spicy for my minnesota friends. this is not a pejorative statement, just a statement on who is used to spice and who is not. i also made the wonderful carrot dish, the mushrooms with the walnut herb paste, and of course the most amazing chicken dish. i will say that this chicken dish is something i’m famous for making…thank you peter hoffman.

i am my mother’s daughter and my mom always set the table the night before. i didn’t do it the night before, but i did set it first thing this morning. i have to say this is a great way to get that out of the way and you start to feel like the dinner party is well in hand.

next i headed to mercado medellin. this is one of my favorite local markets, and one of the reasons is that they carry caribbean products.

carribean section

nuts + spices

pile of ancho chiles + other ingredients

squash blossom + other produce

smiling chicken man

the dishes don’t really take that much time, but there is a good amount of prep. i will say that this menu of peter hoffman’s is one my favorites. it was originally part of a food & wine passover recipe collection… and it is awesome for pesach, but i make it all the time, all year round.

roasted carrots and zucchini with spicy harissa

sautéed mushrooms with walnut herb paste

chicken with olives, raisins + onions

the only thing wrong with this meal is that i didn’t get to share it with my darling greta.  i just hope that one of these days we’ll get to cook together again.

buen provecho.

i am a snob about many things food related, but i put sushi at the top of that list. i could easily eat sushi for every meal (even breakfast), but i pass when it is offered at catering, or see it pre-packaged at grocery stores. the problem being is that i was introduced to really good sushi early on, and i can’t go back. i started eating sushi regularly when i moved to california. for the first few years i lived above a sushi place called shin. i was uber-broke, but my friend harve would treat me whenever he had the hankering. this is the first place i had uni, and fell in love with it. harve really influenced me to move beyond rolls so slathered in sauces that you couldn’t taste the fish. if the fish is good, you don’t need anything to make it taste delicious.

when i started working a lot and had money, i became addicted, and was going sometimes 2-3 times a week. this was around the time i met my friend mara, who lived near me and shared my love of sushi. we started going to tama in studio city weekly, if not more. we even became friends with our sushi chef kenji. there was a night that we got him so drunk off sake and asahi that his rainbow roll looked sad and pathetic. that is not to say he isn’t an amazing chef. some of my best meals have come from kenji. he once made a king crab roll with a grapefruit ponzu sauce that is on my ‘best dish ever’ list. sadly, kenji moved on to a place in encino and i moved downtown, so it’s not often i get to experience his talent.

thankfully, i live right next to little tokyo in downtown los angeles, so i am within blocks of some amazing sushi. r23 is my favorite.

unlike many good sushi restaurants, r23 has good art on their brick walls, chairs designed by frank gehry, and for some reason there is always a seat at the sushi bar. the first time i came to r23 was before i lived downtown. i was working around the corner, and i had given up on our caterer, so i ordered some take out. i was hooked. i often order yellowtail belly from a new place in order to judge whether or not they have good fish, and their’s was like butter.

tonight was no different. i was so excited to eat their yellowtail i forgot to take a picture before digging in, so that is why there is only one piece, and you can’t quite see it glisten, like butter does when it is warm.

yellowtail belly

albacore

anago

new zealand oysters

scallop

red snapper

red snapper

spanish mackerel

spanish mackerel

i always finish with uni, and ask them to put a little shiso leaf underneath. it’s my dessert.

uni

it was absolutely delicious. nutty and creamy with a touch of citrus. perfect.

my chef tonight was the very same when i came my first time years ago. he declined when i offered to buy him a beer, so i’m not sure we will be chums like kenji and i, but he does make beautiful works of art just the same.

my sister kate made me one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches i have ever had, and i’ve been trying to repeat it since. i have reason to believe it didn’t really have anything to do with her sandwich making skills, though they do run in our family, but more because of our dad’s toaster oven. it also helped that she used good bread, and extra sharp cheddar cheese. i found some of my dad’s hot tomato jam in the refrigerator and slathered some of that on it as well. for today’s meatless monday lunch, this was my attempt to recreate it:

good rustic sourdough bread from two bits market

sliced.

slice sharp cheddar and gruyère thin.

brush or spray a little olive oil on the outside of the bread, and layer with cheese on the inside.

carefully place on a rack in a 350º oven for 5 minutes. turn over for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

remove from the oven. open up the sandwich, and spread some tomato jam on the inside.

i like to have a little extra to dip it in too.

it was close, but still not as good at the one kate made me. damn it.

danny’s hot tomato jam:

  • x pounds of tomatoes and equal amount of sugar (out of season this may be made with large cans of plain whole tomatoes)
  • crushed red pepper flakes (to degree of hot)
  • 1-2 lemon juice and rind slivered
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 stick of cinnamon

scald the skin the tomatoes in a large heavy pan. cut tomatoes into small pieces and crush fine. cover with the sugar, stir. add 1 tsp pepper flakes (or more to taste). add cinnamon stick, zest and juice of lemon, grated ginger to taste. let stand in the fridge overnight 8-10 hours. Drain juice from pulp and cook down. add pulp and cook down until jam begins to pearl and thicken. while cooking prepare jars and lids by boiling them for 10 minutes. let jars cool. if you use paraffin, fill jars to within 1/4″ with hot jam and let cool a bit. then cover with paraffin and seal with lids. or, fill jars close to full, cover with lids and tighten slightly. when jars have cooled seal them tight.

(wf+t notes: i found a whole clove in the jar i just opened, so they may have been mistakenly omitted from his recipe. personally, i wouldn’t mind a little more heat, but because he doesn’t state the amount of tomatoes he used for the 1 tsp of red pepper flakes, that will have to be experimented with. also, even though i would have liked to talk to him about his recipe while he was still alive, because there are a few things left unclear, they will have to be left up for interpretation, which is how he liked to cook anyway, so it seems fitting.)

thanks pops! miss you + love you.

right around the time i started going to farmers markets regularly, i met my friend linda. we live in the same loft building downtown and we were both at the pool one day. we started talking about food, cooking, downtown restaurants and bars, and of course farmers markets. we even headed out to the newly opened restaurant first + hope to check out their thursday farmers market happy hour one evening. she would talk about how she didn’t really enjoy her job and wasn’t making enough money at it, and was looking to do something else. soon there after the farmers market fairy was born.

right around the same time last fall, i had a surprise appendectomy, and found myself without groceries or the energy to get myself to the market, so i used linda’s service. i simply emailed her a list of things i needed the night before, and around noon the next day she showed up with the goods. i’ve got to say, even though i love shopping for myself and enjoy shopping for food more than most things in life, it was really awesome to have fresh fruits, vegetables and meats delivered to my door.

i wanted to see what a day in the life of the farmers market fairy was like. we decided i should shadow her at the wednesday santa monica farmers market, which is not only one of the biggest, it is the market that most chefs go to. i have been to it once before, but being that it is mid-week and i am usually working, it is a hard one to get to from downtown. we left early. just after 7a linda knocked on my door.

we talked a bit on the way.

wf+t: tell me about organic certification.

fmf: organic is a term that big corporations can afford to use, and small farmers can’t. i’d say 95%, if not more [of the vendors] at this market and all the markets i go to are organic, or organically grown, they just can’t afford the certification.

wf+t: you just started doing gift bags?

fmf: i basically shop for people and put their gifts in a bag. today it’s a thank you gift…i’ve done get well, i’ve done anniversaries. i spent 40 minutes [with a client] coming up with a list that was in their budget. i put everything in a brown recycled [trader joe’s] bag…put a note in it from myself explaining that it’s not from trader joe’s, and they are items from the wednesday santa monica’s market. this particular woman i’m shopping for today mailed a card for me to include in her friend’s gift bag. how much more personal than that can you get? it’s just so thoughtful.”

(eventually she is hoping to have her gift bags delivered in canvas re-usable bags with the farmers market fairy logo on them of course.)

wf+t: why do your clients want your service?

fmf: they like good food and are often health conscious. they prefer to eat local and organic food, but just can’t get to the farmers markets themselves. it’s fun for me, but to some people it’s a real chore, can be overwhelming, or it just doesn’t fit into their work schedule. i know what’s in season and i know how to choose the best quality items. i’m also as particular when choosing their produce as i am for myself. virtually, i am their eyes, hands, and ears. i’ve had some clients who are a bit apprehensive at first, but once they realize they can trust me, it’s a really wonderful connection. quite often, a good portion of their grocery list is left up to me. this way, i’m able to expose them to the most exciting and delicious things at the markets. there is quite a bit of communication before each trip as well. i check in about likes, dislikes, and quantity. i don’t want anyone to be disappointed.

wf+t: i would think that a lot of chefs would love your service.

fmf: i’ve had a few chefs as clients. one woman wanted to follow me to make sure i knew what i was doing…and that’s cool. things can get pretty specific. some clients want 7 avocados, but don’t want them at the same ripeness.

with her signature bright red streaked hair and sundress, she hits the markets with a tricked out rolling cart, that has stacked crates inside, and is just about as big as she is. she has her system all worked out. linda has been shopping at farmers markets since she moved to los angeles about 10 years ago, so she knows the vendors and farms well. she definitely has her favorites, but as she says:

“as the seasons change, so do my favorites.”

we stopped at some of her summer ones:

harry’s berries– strawberries, tomatoes, french green beans

“i know that people do need to have strawberries from harry’s berries. they just have to have them. if they are going to give a gift, they have to have some of those berries. they are perfect every time.” -fmf

windrose farm– garlic, carrots, potatoes, herbs

“don’t even get me started on garlic…windrose has 10 different kinds of garlic right now.” -fmf

schaner family farms– herbs, shallots, unusual eggs

i am kicking myself for not taking home any of that chocolate mint. it smelled so damn delicious! i hope it’s there next week.

regier farms– peaches, nectarines, blenheim apricots

“i usually don’t buy anything without tasting it, when it comes to fruit. if they can’t give me a sample that means [the fruit] is so fucking good that they can’t give it up ’cause they don’t have a lot, but i’m pretty aware of who those vendors are. i don’t usually eat breakfast [before] because i end up sampling so many fruits.” -fmf

weiser family farms– potatoes

i picked up some ‘laker bakers’ that are a hybrid of yellow and purple potatoes.

coleman’s– lettuces

apparently i was right next to michael voltaggio while looking at their goods, but i didn’t notice him. i guess their beautiful produce was prettier than him and his tattoos…surprising, i know. linda told me later when she pointed out suzanne goin. it really is the chef’s market.

maggie’s– lettuces + herbs

i know maggie’s from the other markets i go to. i have had her herbs last 3-4 weeks. i usually use them up before that, but i have gone out of town for an extended time and come back and have been able to still use them. at $1 a bunch, for easily twice as much as you get at a grocery store in those little plastic containers, it’s a deal.

forbidden fruit orchard– blueberries, blueberry syrup with a hint of thyme

they didn’t have any of the syrup today, but would have gotten some if they did. sounds wonderful!

adams’ ranch– olives, oil, balsamic

after tasting them, i had to bring home some lemon infused extra virgin olive oil and balsamic for myself.

now on this particular day, her clients didn’t need any meats, but there are plenty of vendors with an array of choices, from chicken and ground bison to goat and rabbit. she will also make trips to specialty butchers such as mccall’s meat + fish co and lindy + grundy if needed.

once linda checked her lists, we headed to her car with all the goods.

linda always has her phone on her while at the market, so if a client forgets something and needs to add to the list, she is easily able to accommodate them. for example, we were in her car just about to leave when she got a text from a client for hot peppers, so we hopped out and quickly went to a vendor that she had seen with jalapeños, pasilla, and anaheim peppers.

it was close to noon as we headed off to deliver the gift in the pacific palisades. today’s gift included: almonds, garlic, asparagus, strawberries, sweetheart tomatoes, basil, salad greens, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and a lovely bouquet of flowers. she did another gift recently for a business man in town from nyc. his friend wanted to get him healthy breakfast things, so she got him granola, fruit, and raw milk from organic pastures. every gift is different depending on what the client wants, which also makes it that much more personal.

the last stop was her client crystal in mount washington, who was nice enough to invite me into her home as linda gave her the goods. she had a specific list for linda, but also wanted her to just pick some fruits and vegetables that looked good. crystal also likes to try new things, so linda tries to get her items that are a little different. today she brought her some of purple haricot vert and baby celery.

crystal was giddy with excitement as linda showed her items. clearly this busy mom was very appreciative of the time and thoughtfulness linda gave to her shopping. honestly, i think anyone wanting to shop at farmers markets, that may not know the farms and vendors, or simply doesn’t have the time, would love linda’s service. i think her gift bags are an extremely personal and thoughtful idea, not to mention an environmentally conscious option.

i was certainly glad that we sampled and tasted as much as we did during the morning, because it was nearly 2p by the time we got back downtown, and i was starving. i decided to try one of the tomatoes i got, and made a blt…yup, it’s definitely tomato season. happy summer!

the farmers market fairy works in the los angeles area and can be reached at: 213-304-8682 or farmersmarketfairy@gmail.com

i grew up eating mostly store bought potato salad that was basically mayo flavored light yellow mush. blech. the potatoes were overcooked and so drenched in mayonnaise, or worse… miracle whip (the horror!), that you could hardly taste any of the other ingredients. so, a few years ago for a 4th of july potluck bbq, i wanted to make a potato salad that you could actually taste the ingredients, including the potatoes, and not just the salad dressing.

weiser family farms at the farmers markets here in los angeles have great potatoes, and a wide assortment. for my patriotic potato salad i chose chilean reds, russian banana fingerlings, and all blues. i like to leave the skin on the potato, which i feel gives the salad more texture and color. i find if you simply use quality ingredients you don’t need much else to make something taste good, so i kept mine to the basics:

  • 18 small to medium potatoes: a mix of red, white and blue
  • 5-6 celery stalks, diced small (about 1 ¾ cup)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced (about  1 tbsp)
  • ½ tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup mayo, plus more to your taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • fresh chives, chopped (for garnish)

begin by cooking the potatoes, because they will take a while to cool, but just like the eggs, they can be done ahead of time and cooled in the refrigerator overnight. cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. as suggested by america’s test kitchen on their blog for week 3 of the “dish it your way” blogger challenge,

“start boiling potatoes in cold water so they come up to temperature slowly and cook evenly. don’t be tempted to start potatoes in already boiling water to speed up the process- it will damage the texture. we also found that the potatoes started in boiling water actually had a longer cooking time than those started in cold water.”

from the time i turned on the heat until they were done was about 20 minutes. to make sure not overcook them i started checking them with a fork at about 15 minutes, remembering that they will continue to cook once off the heat. strain, and let cool completely.

while they are cooling, prep your other ingredients. place the celery, onion, garlic, celery seed, and s+p in a large bowl and mix to combine.

cut up the hard boiled eggs into chunks, and mix them in with veggie mixture.

once completely cooled, cut the potatoes into bite sized chunks, and add to the bowl.

add the mustard and 1 cup of mayo. mix to combine well. add more mayo to your taste. i prefer my potato salad a little on the dryer side rather than swimming in dressing. stir in the fresh dill.

garnish with additional dill and chives.

even though there is nothing fancy about this recipe, i did have two friends remark how they didn’t even like potato salad until they had mine. i think perhaps that they were just accustomed to eating the same mushy light yellow crap i was given growing up, but i’ll take the compliment just the same. enjoy! serves 10-12. 

i love pie…which is actually a gross understatement. i have always preferred pie to other desserts, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that i decided to make my first pie with a homemade crust. it all began while working in griffith park, where there was a quaint little place across the street from where we were shooting called the trails, and it served pie. i collected some money from interested individuals, and bought one of their apple pies. the filling was good, but they chose not to peel their apples, which i personally don’t care for. what was unbelievable was the crust. it was flaky, thick, buttery and ultimately so much better than the filling, that it made me realize…it’s all about the crust. i began my mission to make a pie with the best crust…ever. i have tried a few different recipes, but the one i settled on is pretty much based on the cook’s illustrated version of basic pie dough.

shortly after making my first pie i entered the  kcrw 1st annual good food pie contest. i made a sweet potato pecan pie with jack daniels whipped cream. i didn’t even make it to the 2nd round, but it sure was a lot of fun.

photo courtesy of dennis barth jr.

since then, pies have been my contribution to many a cookout, holiday gathering, and birthday celebration. in fact, i have made several different pies over the past few years, but this is my first plum pie, and it might just be in the running for the 3rd annual good food pie contest.

ingredients

pie dough/crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cut into tablespoon sized chunks
  • 3-4 tbsp ice water
  • 3-4 tbsp cold vodka
  • 2 tbsp whole milk, or and an egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar (turbinado)

filling:

  • 5 cups pitted plums, sliced and drained
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

instructions

make your dough first, so while it chills in the fridge you can make the filling. cut up your butter and shortening, and put it in the freezer, so it is extra cold when making the dough.

while they are in the chillin’ with your frozen goods pull out your food processor. put 1 1/2 cups of the flour, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt and pulse to mix.

by this time your butter and shortening will have chilled enough.  add the shortening.

i use the crisco sticks so it is easier to cut them up into tablespoon sized chunks, but if you use the tub kind, just dollop in equal amounts, and process for about 10 seconds. it will look like coarse sand.

then add the butter pieces, scattering them over the flour mixture.

process again, about 10 1-second pulses. the butter bits should be no larger than the size of a pea. add the remaining 1 cup of flour and process about 4-6 quick pulses.

turn the mixture into medium bowl.

sprinkle in 3 tbsp of the cold water, and 3 tbsp of the cold vodka.

with a rubber spatula using a folding mixing motion, pressing down with the broad side of the spatula as you turn the dough letting it stick together. you will more than likely have to add an additional tbsp each of water and vodka if it isn’t coming together.

divide the dough into 2 flattened circular discs about 4 inches in diameter, and wrap in plastic.

refrigerate for an hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling out.

in the meantime, make your filling. pit and slice up the plums. my plums were especially ripe, so many of them didn’t need to be sliced because they basically became pulp in my hands. let them drain.

whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, cloves and allspice together in a large bowl. add the plums, lemon juice and vanilla and mix to combine.

adjust a rack to the middle position and pre-heat oven to 450º.

once you take the dough out of the refrigerator, let it sit for a few minutes, or even more if it has been in longer than an hour. flour your work space and roll out the bottom. christopher kimball, from america’s test kitchen, has an excellent video on his blog as to how to roll out dough.

pour in the filling.

re-flour your work space and roll out the top. cover the filling. trim the edges leaving about 1 1/2 inches hanging over the edge of the pie pan.

fold both layers of dough under.

using your thumb and pointer finger on one hand and your thumb on the other, crimp the edges. (i had to hold the camera, so imagine using all three digits at the same time.)

with a brush wash the top of the dough with milk or egg. cut 6 1-inch slits on the top to vent, and sprinkle with raw sugar.

place on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. reduce the temperature to 375º.

start checking on it at 45 minutes, but mine took just over an hour. the crust should be golden brown.

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