Monday, September 14, 2020

Dine LA Lunetta Lunch

I look forward to Dine LA every year, and this year is no exception. Since every restaurant is now offering either pick up or delivery, an added bonus for 2020, you can literally order enough for 2 meals and eat restaurant quality food all day at home!

Lunetta now has three patios, but I am not ready to venture out to eat yet. I've become such a regular for curbside pick up that they automatically recognize the car when I call in to say I've arrived for my pick up :) 

Their Dine LA lunch, for $30 per person, includes heirloom tomato soup that is good warm or cold,

three cheese grilled cheese with more of those fantastic heirloom tomatoes,
and a choice of either the crispy chicken chopped vegetable salad (you may modify it to be grilled, but go for the fried!) with a lemon basil vinaigrette,
or local fish with vegetables and fries. You also have the option of steak as your main course, but I ordered a full brisket from Snow's BBQ that I am still savoring (post coming soon).
Of course no menu is complete without dessert, and their chocolate fudge brownie with mascarpone cream is the perfect treat to cap off the meal (and perhaps a nap)!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Stevie's Creole Cafe

Outside of N'awlins, Stevie's Creole Cafe is my favorite place to go when I crave seafood gumbo, shrimp etoufée, or jambalaya. Crazy Creole Cafe in Long Beach was wonderful until they closed, but thankfully they are now in a new location that I am eager to try. Stevie's is my OG creole spot; I used to drive to the San Fernando Valley to get my fix, but so much better to just drive down Pico now!

Their jambalaya is loaded with andouille and smoked chicken for $22 and enough to feed 2 :) 

The depth of flavor in the seafood gumbo with crab, shrimp, chicken, and sausage is not only addictive, but also astounding. Get the large for $24 and savor the complexity of the roux the next day as you confirm that you did not dream about this....
The greens for $5, were perfectly done and with a splash of Louisiana hot sauce, will round out your meal.
If you want something already spicy, get the red pepper cabbage for $5.
I've eaten the short ribs, chicken and waffles, and shrimp etoufée here when they were in the Valley and I loved everything, so whether you want some creole or soul food, Stevie has you covered. Their online ordering is in place for Covid 19, but they are a bit disorganized at the pick up, so be patient, and be kind because their food is worth the wait!

Monday, August 31, 2020


For my birthday brunch I wanted something different yet comforting, and Socalo was the perfect fit! Having been a fan of both Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger for years, their latest venture together shows how well they have both adapted and grown with the palate of their devotees. 

Their vampiro taco plate for $15 features two organic blue corn tortillas, organic rice and beans, steak, shrimp, and griddled cheese with salsa macha that will have you wanting more after tasting one bite of the contrasting fresh textures, smoky aroma, bright acid, and perfectly seasoned proteins.

Their ceviche is a bright fresh generous portion of sustainable fish, avocado, jalapeno, ginger and lime for $15.50. This was easily a complete meal for one (I ate half and added the leftovers to a salad).
After watching them make their corn esquite on Netflix, I had to try it. For $9, it is a wonderful side dish with chipotle aioli, their own spice mix, lime and cotija cheese.
It may not look like much, but order their guacamole! Just get the half order for $9.50 (it comes with fresh warm tortilla chips that are addictive) but beware the salsa that looks like tomato but actually hides some devilish pepper (I suspect habanero). Trust me this is one of the best guacamoles I've ever eaten, and I have made and eaten many great versions!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Soft Whole Wheat Bread

I've been baking so much that I've used 8 lbs of organic whole wheat flour!

I tried a new recipe for a soft whole wheat bread (watch video here) that I love, so I'm sharing this one with a few tips in case you are baking in summer temperatures which wreak a bit of havoc with proofing times and methods!

The picture below was after just 15 minutes of the first rise! I began the recipe in  humid 85 F degree heat, so if your ambient temperature is above 70 F, I would recommend that you cover in plastic wrap and proof in your refrigerator overnight or punch down when your dough has doubled, and knead vigorously before your second proof or else you will end up with over proofed dough.

I punched down my dough and kneaded vigorously before forming my loaf and allowed it to rise to double before baking.

The loaf rose well, and as you can see the crumb on top was quite loose which made for the softer texture I wanted, but it can be quite fragile, so if you want a tighter texture, bake it in a cake or pie tin for a round loaf.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Galette de Pomme et Poire

I had Gala apples that had been sitting for too long not to eat, so one night when I wanted dessert after dinner, I made an apple and pear galette. I started at 9pm and I didn't realize how much time it would take to peel, core and slice all the apples and pears, so next time I factor in an hour of prep time :) The recipe I found online needed so much tweaking that I will not link to it; so many things needed to be changed that my notes completely covered the print out!

One thing from the recipe that was good was the pastry because I could use only a fork and my fingers without hauling out a machine.

I mixed 1 1/4 C AP Flour, 1 TB Sugar, and 1/4 TSP of sea salt with a fork.
I cut up the 8 TB of chilled butter into cubes on a plate and put it in the refrigerator to make sure the butter would stay cold as I prepared the other ingredients.
After working it into the dry ingredients with a fork, it looked like small pea sized pebbles of butter throughout the flour.

Once I added 1 TB apple cider vinegar and 1/4 C of ice water, I switched from the fork to my hands to form the dough into a flattened ball, which I wrapped in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
As I was peeling, coring, and slicing 10 small apples (mine were about 3" in diameter, so if your are bigger you may use less or omit the pears) and 3 pears. I put the slices into a bowl of water with 1 TB lemon juice (1/2 a lemon) to keep them from browning as I worked. When they were all sliced (your preference for slices, I prefer thin, but no thicker than 1/4"), I drained the water from the fruit slices and placed them in a large nonstick 12" skillet for about 15 minutes to soften the fruit with 1 TB lemon juice, 1/4 TSP of ground cinnamon, 1/3 cup of sugar, and 1 TB of butter, stirring constantly. Strain the fruit in a colander and allow to cool.

Heat oven to 425 F

Sprinkle your counter or a large board with flour. Take the flattened chilled ball of dough out of plastic wrap from the refrigerator and roll into a circular shape to about 1/8" It does not have to be perfect as this is a rustic tarte. Try to handle as little as possible and move the rolled dough onto a silicone mat or parchment lined large baking sheet (I used a half sheet but it should fit on a quarter sheet pan as well).

Sprinkle the dough with some flour, then thoroughly mix about 1-2 TB of AP flour with the cooled softened fruit slices. The flour will help absorb any juices so that it doesn't run to the bottom of the pastry causing a soggy bottom.

Spoon layer of the fruit slices in the center of the pastry, lightly sprinkle some sugar (no more than 1/4 TSP), then more fruit, then more sugar, until you have used up all your fruit slices. I did about 3 layers. The sugar between the layers will help ensure an even flavor. You may sprinkle cinnamon sugar if you prefer a stronger cinnamon taste. The fruit should be about even all around with a slightly higher center like a small hill.
Gather the edges up by pinching and folding up onto the fruit mound. Mix one whole egg with a fork and brush the mixed egg on the dough. Sprinkle with about 1/4 TSP of sugar on top before baking at 425F for approximately 40 minutes (check at 30 minutes, and see if it is browning too quickly, if so, cover with foil for remaining 10 minutes.
Bake at 425 F for 40 minutes
The end result should serve 6-8, but I understand if you end up eating the whole thing yourself in a day or two ;)
Galette de Pomme et Poire

10 cups of peeled cored, sliced apples mixture of tart varietals works best
1-2 cups peeled cored, sliced pears (if you want to use only apples add 1-2 cups apples to the amount of apples)

1 1/4 Cup AP Flour (plus 1/4 cup for rolling and sprinkling)

1/3 Cup Raw Sugar + 2 TB Sugar

9 TB unsalted butter (if using salted use half of salt in recipe)

1/4 TSP sea salt (use 1/8 TSP if using salted butter)

1 TB apple cider vinegar

1/4 Cup ice water

1 egg

2 TB lemon juice 

1/4 TSP ground cinnamon 
(or more if you wish to use cinnamon sugar in between apple layers)

Monday, August 3, 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020


Years ago I used to make Challah and give it away as gifts every year around Hanukkah, but as people started eating less carbs and going gluten free, I stopped making it because no one wanted a loaf :( 

One of the strange side effects of staying home during Covid 19 times is that suddenly everyone is baking bread, eating bread, and sharing bread :) 

So after baking several other breads, like focaccia, and organic honey whole wheat, it was time to revisit my challah recipe. I've taken changed it from the recipes I followed so much that I will share my version at the end of this post. My version requires FOUR rises, so unless you start early in the morning, start your process the day before you plan to bake your loaf.

This is how the dough should look after the THIRD rise.

This is after you braid and allow to rise for the FOURTH and last time, after brushing thoroughly with the egg white wash. I chose to braid two strands and place one on top of the other for added height (using egg white wash as glue between the braids before the rise), but you can do one big braid or a round braid. Here are some braiding designs/techniques for both simple and complex designs.

 The best part is always having leftovers for french toast the next day :)

3 - 3 1/4 cups (15-16 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 envelope or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
3 large eggs
4 tbsp (2 ounces) unsalted melted butter
1/2 cup warm water

Whisk together flour, yeast, sugar and salt.

If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook,you can use that to mix the following, but you may beat by vigorously hand, 2 whole eggs and one egg yolk (reserve the extra white to use as a wash for later), melted butter, and 1/2 cup of warm water (body temperature). If using a mixer, add the flour mixture and gradually increase speed to medium, beating until dough forms on hook, then knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if dough becomes too sticky. If you are mixing by hand beat vigorously until a dough forms around whisk, then knead vigorously for 15-20 minutes, adding more flour if too sticky to knead.

Oil a large bowl and place dough in it, covered with plastic wrap for at least an hour or until doubled. Punch down, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise again for at least another hour. Punch down once more and allow to rise once more either overnight in the fridge or on a counter away from sunlight for at least an hour.

Punch down your dough once more and form into whatever shape you wish either on a silicone baking mat or in a pan. Brush generously with the reserved egg white mixed with 1 tbsp water and allow to rise one last time for at least 30 minutes - 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375, make sure your rack in in lower third of oven so center of loaf is about in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, check the top for browning and if already brown, lower the heat to 350 for another 20-40 minutes until internal temperature is 190 Fahrenheit (your loaf shape will determine the time it takes to brown and bake). 

Allow to cool on wire rack before slicing :)

Monday, July 20, 2020

Metro Mushrooms and Meat

Take out is a wonderful option during these Covid 19 times of limited contact, and sometimes eating at home is more of a treat than going through the angst of deciding whether the safety measures taken by the restaurants and patrons are strict enough for someone who is immune compromised. Thankfully every place I know has good standards in place, so I worry about the patrons dining out more than the restaurant personnel. 

I was in the mood for mushrooms, and Metro Cafe handles them with such skill that I wanted their handiwork rather than my own :) Their portabella sandwich for $14 with goat cheese and arugula on ciabatta with a side salad, is such a hearty sandwich I could only eat half at a time!
Their dinner menu offers a grilled mushroom salad for $14 that is a meal in and of itself! With a hearty medley of mushrooms, I could barely eat any of the entrees!
Their lamb osso bucco with fettuccine for $23 is an entire lamb shank! Hard to see in the picture but it is definitely enough for 2 meals! The meat is so tender you definitely do not need a knife!
One of their signature dishes is the Chevapchichi for $19 that comes with potatoes and a cucumber, onion, and tomato salad. I love the minced meat "sausage" made with nice warm Eastern European spice mixture. A tomato relish accompanied the dish but it was perfect plain.
I didn't order dessert because I had made a yogurt cake at home :)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Roasting at Home

I like to roast my proteins and vegetables because I find the flavor has more complexity and depth, especially if you follow a few key rules. The most important rule is to purchase the best quality ingredients you can find; usually that means organic, heirloom, heritage, or grass fed (for red meats). If you know your source, that is the best indicator, so if you can afford to (money and space wise) buy directly from your ranch or farm, do it and help support local businesses. Farmer's markets are great resources which offer smaller quantities.

I bought this heritage chicken and decided to roast it by first cutting out the backbone with some good shears. (You can watch a video here to see how). It takes much less time that roasting it whole and this way there is more delightfully roasted chicken skin :)

The first thing to do is to TAKE IT OUT OF THE FRIDGE FOR 30-45 MINUTES. This is key to making sure the interior and exterior are the same temperature before you put it into your oven. Pat it all over with paper towels to make sure the skin is dry to help ensure a crisp skin after roasting.

To moisten the meat, make a compound butter using about 4 ounces of good quality butter (softened butter mixture) with chopped garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, or any other favorite herb. I added the zest of 2 lemons, 3 chopped cloves of garlic, and chopped garden rosemary (about 2 tbsp). Mix all thoroughly and spread on both side of the chicken, as well as under the skin of both breasts and legs.

I put mine on a silicone mat, but you may use parchment paper or if you don't mind cleaning up, just on a sturdy baking sheet. I don't recommend aluminum foil because of the possibility of metal transfer at high heat.

DO NOT put the prepared bird into the oven until it has reached 400 degrees! 

Roast for 15 minutes skin side up, then lower the temperature to 350 until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh registers around 165 F (I would take the bird out at 160 and the carry over will bring it to 165). Depending on the size of your bird this could take another 15-30 minutes.

Let it rest for 15 minutes before carving!

Roasting a rack of lamb starts with the same first rule : the first thing to do is to TAKE IT OUT OF THE FRIDGE FOR 30-45 MINUTES. 

I sliced slivers of garlic and slipped them into slits I made throughout the lamb to infuse the meat with the garlic rather than having it coat only the outside. I liberally sprinkled salt and pepper on all sides before covering with about 2 Tbsp dijon and 2 Tbsp of chopped rosemary (you may use thyme, oregano, herbs de Provence or marjoram).

I used a nonstick ovenproof pan to sear the lamb before putting it into a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature was 140 (letting it sit before slicing will allow the carryover heat to bring it to medium rare 145F)

If you want to roast your carrots, potatoes, or brussel sprouts while you are roasting your lamb start the vegetables first at 450F for about 20 minutes, then lower the temp to 350 before you put your lamb in, otherwise you will have crunchy vegetables or overcooked dry lamb!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Whole Wheat Honey Bread

It's been years since I've baked bread. I used to love giving away challah loaves and baking sandwich loaves, but I stopped when everyone started eliminating carbs and gluten from their meals. It's hard to eat an entire loaf by myself, although I have done that with a few baguettes in France :) 

Since I'm cooking and baking more lately, my friends have sent me lots of yeast and organic whole wheat flour, so it was time to revisit breadmaking. Like an old friend, it was a sweet warm reunion!

I used the AllRecipes whole wheat bread recipe which had over 2000 positive reviews. The online recipe allows you to decide how many servings you wish to make, so I halved it to make one bigger loaf (the original recipe makes 3 loaves). I didn't modify it much so here's the pictorial process:

The recipe didn't specify, but I warmed the water to body temperature (like a baby bottle), then dissolved the honey into the water before adding the yeast, stirring until everything was dissolved.
I added the unbleached white flour and stirred with a spoon until mixed.
 After covering with a towel and letting it rest for 30 minutes, it grew into this: 
I added the melted butter (I used salted Kerry Gold), honey (I used a local artisan raw rose honey), salt (Guerande fleur de sel), organic wheat flour flour, and kneaded in the bowl adding about another 1 cup of whole wheat flour as I kneaded for about 10-15 minutes until the dough was smooth and elastic. Then I placed it in the buttered baking pan.
 until it rose over the 1" above the baking pan that the recipe suggested.
I baked for about 50 minutes, not the 25 or 30 the recipe recommended, at 350, covering the top with foil to prevent over browning. All ovens vary and I had obviously set mine on a rack that was too high and next time I may turn off the convection feature so that it browns more evenly.
 But the loaf turned out to be quite good for a first try after over a decade :)
Bit of an air bubble was good nook to nestle some extra butter :)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Maya Angelou Quote

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.

Monday, June 15, 2020

First Focaccia

Now that flour is finally back on the grocery store shelves and a friend sent me 2 lbs of yeast, my first foray was focaccia :) I followed Daniele Uditi's recipe with just two variations.

This is the active dry yeast and water dissolved and rested for 8 minutes.
 I added the flour and used a wooden spoon.
I miscalculated my start time, so after the 1st hour proofing at room temperature, I ended up letting the dough proof in the refrigerator for 24 hours (otherwise I would have had to wake up at 3 am to knead and proof for another few hours).
After taking the dough out of the fridge, I slowly added in the flour, salt, and olive oil, mixing by hand for 9 minutes. It was a work out! After proofing again, folding, and repeating 3 times, it was finally time to let it proof in the sheet pan with LOTS of olive oil!
As you can see there was a sea of olive oil in the pan which pooled a bit at the corners.
I used a spoon to scoop it up and sprinkle it over the top into my finger tip punches.
Because I had plenty of fresh rosemary from the garden, I chopped some up and sprinkled it on top along with the fleur de sel.
After all the time in preparation, the actual baking time was only 15 minutes!
My first focaccia was enough to share with two neighbors warm from the oven! It was wonderfully light, savory, and delicious!