Monday, May 18, 2020

Garlic Eggplant

The first time I tasted garlic eggplant was at a vegetarian restaurant in Santa Cruz. Even though I had grown up eating Chinese food, this particular dish was never made either at my house nor in any of the places where I had eaten all over NYC. The version I tried was tasty enough that I started ordering it more often in places where it was offered, but it never had quite enough garlic for me, so I started making my own and adding a few twists :)

I start by browning on medium high heat about 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger in some oil (use a high smoke point oil use grapeseed or peanut, but olive will do if you watch the heat).
I add one whole medium sized chopped onion and one head of garlic (peeled, ends cut off and any root in the center removed). You may of course use less, but then I would just call this an eggplant recipe;)
If you want to add some heat, add in either your favorite dried chili or pepper flakes to taste at this point. 

Once the onions are translucent, add 1 large peeled and chopped eggplant. You don't have to peel your eggplant, but I find the skins can be tough unless you are using Japanese eggplants (if you are, use about 6 instead of 1 large one). Stir and lower heat to medium.
I love the organic vegetable better than Bouillon, so I add about 1 tbsp dissolved with 1/2 to 3/4 c of hot water to the cooking vegetables.
Let the vegetables cook until soft and the eggplant becomes soft, stirring and adding salt and white pepper (black is ok if you don't have white). When the eggplant is fully cooked (taste one to know for sure), add 1 tsp of premium oyster sauce and stir thoroughly.
Just before serving add in some chopped scallions or chives for color and freshness. Served with any grain like kasha, rice, or quinoa, this is a great vegetarian meal :)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Quick and Easy Blueberry Muffins

I found a simple and very tasty blueberry muffin recipe on Inspiredtaste.com that may now be my favorite variation of this classic treat. I changed it slightly (of course), but you may enjoy the original, so the link to it is here.

It really only requires the ingredients, one big bowl, a whisk, a fork, some measuring spoons and cups, and an 1 or 2 cup liquid measuring cup.

All the dry ingredients get whisked together; I adjusted the sugar down to 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup (I used my vanilla bean infused raw sugar).
 The wet ingredients go into a liquid measuring cup (I used oat milk)
 that you whisk together
 then you add the vanilla to the whisked wet ingredients and use a fork to combine with the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix.
 Fold in the blueberries, either fresh or frozen (I used ones I had frozen myself).
 The only other variation I made was I coated the blueberries with some flour so they wouldn't sink to the bottom of the muffins.
The finished product was absolutely FABULOUS! Crunchy top with the light sprinkle of sugar, and very tender crumb from the oil. Since they freeze well, I may have to make a double batch next time :)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Ratatouille

Going grocery shopping only once every 10-14 days now, so cooking up fresh vegetables that will last for a few meals has meant substituting some ingredients for classic recipes when there aren't good fresh choices. 

Cooking one big pot that lasts for several meals is also a great timesaver, especially since the flavor gets better the next day. The following recipe serves 4-6 depending on whether you are eating it as a side dish or a main course.

Ratatouille has always been a classic when tomatoes are season, but I found that using canned San Marzano tomatoes makes for a great substitute when the only fresh ones have no aroma and are as hard as a rock. All the other ingredients were available, so that was the only substitution I made :)

I always salt my cut up my eggplant in a colander in the sink for about 30 minutes before cooking to alleviate any bitterness. Always rinse thoroughly before using!

Equal amount of chopped zucchini, cut into equal sized pieces; for a large eggplant count on 2-3 large zucchini.
 Depending on your love of onions, 1-2 onions also chopped to similar size.
I always use a minimum of 4 cloves of garlic, but of course you can adjust to your preference;)
I use one red/orange/yellow bell pepper for a bit of color and slightly different texture in the finished dish. 
I add one can of San Marzano tomatoes (about 1.75 lbs) if great fresh ones are not available. I would say if your choice is mediocre fresh or San Marzano canned, go for the canned. I usually cut in half or quarters before adding to the pan.
Sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent over medium heat in a big 6-8 quart stock pot. Add in the garlic and red bell pepper, stirring until softened. 

Add your preference of 1 tb dried herbs, e.g., herbs de Provence, thyme, marjoram, and a bay leaf or two. It may seem like a lot but there are many vegetables in this dish and the tomatoes will become a tomato sauce during the cooking process to absorb the flavors.

Add the zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes, one at a time in that order, stirring and cooking a bit after each addition. Once all the vegetables are in the pot and softened, you may lower the heat to medium low or low and simmer for about 1 hour. If you have Pernod, you may add a tablespoon ;)

Add salt and pepper to taste after the hour because the acidity of the tomatoes will change as they cook down. If it is slightly too acidic, add 1/4-1/2 tsp of sugar (no sugar substitutes!) 
The bubbling pot of vegetables will make you want to eat it all at once, but it gets better the next day, and is great over pasta, rice, in an omelette, or as a side dish to any protein.

Bon Appétit!



Monday, April 27, 2020

Eric Ripert's French Toast

Learning how professional chefs make meals at home has been one of the bonuses of the California Stay Home Order. One of my favorite chefs is Eric Ripert, and one of my favorite breakfast treats is French Toast so of course I had to try his method!

I started with organic thick sliced gourmet white bread from Trader Joe's. Since it was fresh, I dried it out in a toaster oven set at 150 F for about 15 minutes, so that it wasn't toasted, buy had a slightly "dry" top texture like stale bread.

I spooned oat milk all over the slice
then I spooned a beaten egg over the milk 
(it takes about 1 beaten egg per 2 slices of bread)
 then I spooned some raw vanilla sugar over the egg.
I melted butter in a nonstick pan over medium low heat and placed the prepared bread slices face down in the pan. While you are cooking the prepared side, repeat the mild, egg, and sugar process on the exposed side. Turn over after a few minutes.There is no need for syrup since the sugar caramelizes, but you may want to add some fresh berries or a side of bacon or sausage :)

Bon appétit!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Turkey Broccoli Pasta

The Stay At Home order here in California has led me to be creative with what is in my pantry and whatever groceries are leftover at the end of the week since zipping out for a quick trip to pick up a missing ingredient is no longer a wise or feasible action. Luckily with fresh rosemary growing in the garden, basics like garlic, canned tomatoes, and pasta at hand, I found this recipe for ground turkey and broccoli pasta, so here is my variation (of course I doubled the amount of garlic in the recipe:)

Chopped garlic and fresh rosemary
organic broccoli florets
organic onion
Trader Joe's staples from the pantry
I finally used up the leftover elbow macaroni
the kosher ground turkey was my last fresh uncooked protein for the week 

This is the delicious result :)





Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday, March 30, 2020

Perspective


When you step away and see a different perspective, you understand the more complete meaning ...



May you all discover more perspectives that enhance your life :)

Monday, March 23, 2020

Rain and Fire

With the "Shelter In Place" in California, I won't be posting a regular restaurant blog post, but you can still follow my food (and life) adventures via Instagram. I may change the format a bit to be recipes that I'm making (or inventing), or take out I'm getting, or maybe a new food related inspiration will emerge.

If you would like to help your local restaurants survive, please take a look at https://www.saverestaurants.co/ , buy takeout directly from the restaurants you love, buy a gift card, or simply ask them what they would like you to do to support them.

Sending love and appreciation to all my food service friends; please DM me if you need anything and I will either help or find a resource to help.

A reminder that even while it rains, warmth can be created :)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Ramen Retrospective

With all the best practices protocols put into place for many states (CA guideline here) and cities, including Los Angeles, I am doing my part by ordering take out, delivery, or cooking until we are cleared for the health and well being of all. To help keep the restaurants you love in business, buy a gift card to use later, or take advantage of the new curbside pick up many offer now.

Unfortunately it is not only the elderly with pre-existing conditions who are at risk, many of us may seem healthy without symptoms, but may be carriers to more vulnerable people. Because I am in close proximity to several people with compromised immune systems I am wearing gloves and a face mask in any interactions outside my home.

Take out pictures not as pretty as plated dine-in pictures, so for today's post I went through some comfort food photos of ramen from other posts I took when I dined out; which one do you think was my favorite? (I won't divulge names, but it was #2).




Hopefully we will all remain healthy as we ride this wave of uncertainty, and that really is the point isn't it?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Avenue Italy

When an Italian immigrant in Los Angeles says that an Italian restaurant is good, that carries more weight for me than someone who has either never been to Italy and/or someone who has never had an Italian home made meal. Having both been to Italy (different regions) several times, and had the wonderful fortune of knowing Italians who have cooked for me in their home, I am picky, so I was nicely surprised that Avenue Italy in Palos Verdes served up some delightful bites.

I judge restaurants by their bread; if it is great, it is a portend of more great flavors to come, but if it is bad, my suspicions and doubts begin to taint my opinion of food coming out afterwards. Thankfully the focaccia was a great preview of things to come, with an olive oil and herb side that was addictive.
We decided to order the Insalata di Barbabietole from the regular menu for $15 with baby spring greens, roasted beets, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, feta, and a lovely balsamic vinaigrette.
Their calamari for $18 was perfectly executed, with a light crisp exterior and tender calamari accompanied by a lightly spicy tomato sauce that was so good we could have eaten it by the spoonful!
Even though we only really ordered two appetizers, we were too full to order anything else, so we know what that means....#ReturningSoon :)

Monday, March 2, 2020

Kogi Taqueria

Ten years ago I stood in line for an hour to get a taste of the elusive Kogi truck menu because they ran out of food! It was worth the wait as you can read from my first blog post about them. As the saying goes, things have come a long way in 10 years :) 

Kogi Taqueria is a brick and mortar that not only has (nearly) unlimited food, but also parking (which is as elusive in Los Angeles as being able to drive over 50 mph on the 405 at 5pm during the week).

Their famous calamari taco is still only $4 and as delicious as it was a decade ago.

The OG Style Burrito for $7 is the king of Korean Mexican fusion at its best with enough umami and comfort food to make either culture happy and satiated.
 The kimchi quesdilla for $7 is a nice compliment to the 
blackjack quesadilla for $8 that will have you switching bites between the two trying to decide which one you prefer.
The best part of living within driving distance of the brick and mortar kitchen is that you never have to decide between one or the other because everything on the menu is (probably) available and you can eat it all (or at least as much as you want)!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Lunch at Yabu

I used to literally live around the corner, so Yabu was always one of my go to places for lunch and dinner since it was walking distance and served very good Japanese food. Now that I live driving distance away, it is still on my restaurant rotation albeit not as much of a regular stop as it used to be. I realized it's been nearly a year since I last ate dinner there, so one afternoon, I went with a friend who had never eaten there for lunch.

I chose my usual chirashi set that includes sashimi, sushi rice, and your choice of soba or udon (hot or cold) for $17. I had not eaten breakfast, so I devoured everything you see below:) The fish was fresh and the hot udon was springy in a light flavorful broth. The portion was perfect for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with the added bites of pickle. 

I wanted more pickles, so ordered the assorted pickles side for $8 to finish my sushi rice from the chirashi. Everything on the pickle plate was perfect, and I highly recommend the side if you love pickled vegetables.
My friend wanted something lighter and ordered the Seaweed salad that includes three kinds of seaweed and mixed greens for $10. It was a big bowl of greens and any vegans or vegetarians would enjoy this green feast.
It's always heartening to find old favorites still around providing the service and quality that made them an old favorite. I may have to put this back on my revolving lunch rotation no matter the driving distance :)