Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Divalicious Restaurant Reviews: Clementine

Hey Divas, I'm happy to report that I have some lovely halibut to make for dinner. I'm still deciding what to do with it, but I have some lovely organic peas that will most likely be incorporated, and possibly some kind of quinoa. Any ideas? Give me a shout out!

In the meantime, I had a lovely day! First, I went for a hike with my two best girlfriends in Baldwin park. We each either had a doggie or a baby in tow, so it was like a parade of cuteness. The Adorable Monster had a great time! Then, we met Kuzak for a fab lunch at Clementine, one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. They specialize in homecooked seasonal fare, always reminding me that great ingredients make for great food, no matter how simple it appears. The house cured turkey sandwich was to die for, complete with gruyere, braised cabbage and thousand island dressing. Top that with the ginger limeade and peanut butter cookies, and it's a lunch made in heaven. I also love their homemade pickles that accompany each sandwich.

Alright, hopefully I can power out some work and then get to cooking! Wish me luck...

Diva Rating: 3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

1751 Ensley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024

(310) 552-1080

"It's the Simple Things," said the Adorable Monster

The Adorable Monster wants to remind us all to appreciate the simple things in life. We bought him all these fancy dog toys, but his favorite thing in the world is a simple, plastic clothes hanger. He'll carry it around with him for hours. If something so simple can bring so much joy, then our lives will always be overflowing. So take a moment to be grateful for the small things in your life that make you happy! The Adorable Monster sure will...

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Just Another Manic Monday!

Domestic Diva's Braised Cassoulet

Happy Monday! Alright, maybe it's not happy, maybe it's manic, and what can you do except take a few minutes off to surf the internet and read my blog! Last night, I enjoyed a quiet Sunday night dinner at home with Kuzak and the Monster. We dined on Braised White Bean Cassoulet and a lovely salad of organic heirloom tomatoes and red leaf lettuce. After an indulgent weekend of eating out all over town, it was nice to decompress at home. This morning, I already hit the gym for weight training, downed a shot of wheat grass, and jetted home to appease the Monster. Time to get some writing done!

New on DD's this week, I blogged both my Friday night meals at Comme Ca and Animal and my Saturday night dinner at Sona, so enjoy reading about them! And this week I plan to get back into cooking. I'm already inspired by some of the dishes I had at Sona, so hang tight for my take on them. It promises to be a busy week, so let's hope we all find the time to do everything we want to do. Have a great week!

Click here for DD's Braised Cassoulet recipe!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Divalicious Restaurant Reviews: Sona

Monkfish with Roe & Mushrooms

Diva Rating: 4 stars (out of 5 stars)

It's Sunday and my house guests, Kuzak's brother and his Chicago Foodie Wife, have departed, bound for their separate destinations, one to Chicago, the other to a different city on a business trip. Living the lawyerly life at a big firm, Kuzak is sequestered in his office, most likely battling his adult onset ADD, hoping to write yet another big legal motion. So it's me and my puppy, the Adorable Monster, left to contain the aftermath leftover after our indulgent weekend out on the town. The Monster is splayed out on the rug sleeping, the perfect mascot for this lazy Sunday. So before I begin cleaning the kitchen and put away the pull out bed, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the wonderful meal we had last night at my favorite Los Angeles restaurant, Sona.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Diva Friday Night: Comme Ca, Animal & The Moscow Mule

The Infamous Moscow Mule Mixed Drink

Hey Divas! As promised, I'm blogging my indulgent Friday night out in LA with Kuzak's bro and his Chicago Foodie Wife! The day got off to a good start with lunch at Sushi Nozawa (see my prior review here). To get us started, the Adorable Monster decided to munch on Chicago Foodie's shoe, demolishing it. So any future house guests, be forewarned. The Monster is no joke! Needless to say, I was mortified and hoped a fun night out and some great food would erase the memory of destroyed footwear, cuz you Divas know, it's dangerous to come between a lady and her shoes!

We launched our night out at Comme Ca, David Myer's take on a French bistro - with a fab cheese bar and bonus 1920's speakeasy bar. We rolled in without a reservation, hoping for nibbles and drinks. The hostess could not have been more accommodating, whisking us over to a four top after informing us that she needed it back by 9pm - perfect since we were due over at Animal at 9pm for dinner. They make over 300 cocktails, so after much consideration we ordered drinks. Kuzak and I stuck to the Penicillin, our favorite. It's a delicious combo of scotch, ginger, lemon and honey. Trust me, this drink, true to its name, will cure anything that ails you! The Chicago Foodie, who found her way to the Windy City by way of the former Soviet Union, bravely requested the Moscow Mule. Needless to say, both booze and hilarity ensued, and Chicago Foodie earned herself a brand new nickname. The drink was tasty, a mix of vodka, ginger, lime and soda.

We topped our drinks off with oysters, escargot and a trio of cheeses. The oysters came out first, two tiers of shimmering east coast and west coast beauties. They were fresh, plump and briny, perfectly shucked to preserve the juices. The shallot vinegar brought out the flavor. Comme Ca is a real gem for their oysters alone - they're like an oyster oasis in a desert city. Next, our server informed us the Cheese Guy would be along shortly, prompting me to ask when the Escargot Guy would show up. Our (cute) server joked that he would be coming along "slowly." In reality, the snail man was speedy, showing up next with a lovely ramekin loaded with snails covered in parsley, garlic, butter, mushrooms and breadcrumbs. This is one of my favorite dishes they serve and some of the best escargot I have ever tasted. Sopping up the sauce with the warmed bagettes they bring out may be the best part. Next, the cheese guy materialized with a lovely plate of three cheeses.

Pleasantly satiated, we quickly paid our bill and hoped across town to our next stop, Animal, the restaurant started by the Food Dudes that like its name indicates is not going to be friended by PETA on Facebook anytime soon. This place is a carnivore's wet dream, showcasing a menu loaded with audacious bacon, large hunks of pork and lamb shank, and just about every kind of meat you can imagine. We sampled a variety of appetizers, including their take on high class chili cheese fries. They top their taters with Ox Tail gravy and aged cheddar cheese, indulgent and divine at the same time. I also sampled the fluke - delicately shaved slices served sashimi style with mint, jalapeƱo and citrus. Light and lovely. For my main course, I had the quail fry, one of my favorite dishes of all time. It's deep fried quail - I often joke and call it, "KFQ." Kentucky Fried Quail. It's served with bacon, grits and greens. What more can a Diva ask for? This is a dig your hands in and get them dirty kind of dish, and there's nothing more primal and enjoyable than eating meat with your hands. For dessert, our two favorites were the famous bacon chocolate bar and their donuts topped with caramel sauce. I describe the chocolate bar as a tasting like a Nestle Crunch bar, but imagine if the crunches were bacon bits. Yes, it's that amazing. After I was rolled out of the restaurant, feeling stuffed, but also pleasantly indulged, I looked at my friends and realized that good food brings good friends together like nothing else.

We arrived home, liberated the Monster from his pen, and finished the night we a bottle of Copain Syrah. As I went to bed, I reminded myself that this was all just the tailgate before the big game. Tonight we're going to Sona, my favorite restaurant in LA, where I plan to eat the 9 course tasting menu for the first time. So stay tuned here for that update coming soon!! And enjoy your Saturday nights.

Comme Ca
8479 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Diva Rating: 3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

435 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

(323) 782-9225

Diva Rating 3 1/2 stars (our of 5 stars)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Breakfast of Champions: Eggs, Spinach & Grilled Polenta

Hey Divas, continuing with the polenta theme and because you guys know I don't like to let good food go to waste, my fav breakfast this week has been an egg over sauteed spinach & grilled polenta. The flavors work beautifully together - the garlicky, lemony spinach - the creamy, crispy polenta - the rich egg yolk. It's a twist on grits, the classic southern delicacy, for breakfast. So give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

Click here for Domesitic Diva's Grilled Polenta Recipe!

Click here for Domestic Diva's Greens Recipe with garlic, chili flakes and lemon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Time to Dine Out!

Hey Divas, it's almost the weekend. My boyfriend, Kuzak, and I are hosting some very special guests: Kuzak's Bro and his Chicago Foodie Wife. They're excited to visit for two reasons (besides seeing their families): 1) to meet the Adorable Monster and 2) to dine out! We're very excited to have them and have several great meals planned, including LA Hot Spot, Animal, on Friday night and my very favorite restaurant, Sona, on Saturday night where we plane to dine on their famous improvisational tasting menu. We may even sneak in side trips to Sushi Nozawa (reviewed here) and Comme Ca for oysters and drinks. Needless to say, there won't be much cooking going down this weekend, but stay tuned for reviews and notes on our divalicious meals. It promises to be a fab weekend!

Even the Monster thinks so! He's not joining us for dinner - but I did pick him up a brand new bag of scrumptious dog food. Also, he starts puppy class on Saturday. Let's just hope he's more adorable than monstrous, or he might get doggie detention.

Do Your Leftovers Look Like This?

If you're reading my blog, you probably read my Pork Tenderloin recipe (click here if you missed it). Well, as mentioned, the one piece of pork was enough to feed four people, but we're only two in the Diva household (minus the Adorable Monster). And sadly, he only eats dog food. So needless to say, I had leftover pork. I also had leftover grits, which thinking quickly, I spread into a pan to make polenta, knowing it would be great to eat the next night. Well, tonight the leftover fairy came calling. Or maybe it was my boyfriend, Kuzak, famished from a hard day at the office. Quickly, using my cooking superpowers, I sliced up the polenta and grilled it in my cast iron pan (see my Amazon store). Then, I sauteed up some greens and sliced the leftover tenderloin, serving it over the greens and polenta. The resulting dish was ab fab! Do you leftovers look like this??

Domestic Diva's Grilled Polenta

2 cups cooked grits
2 tbsp olive oil


Take the grits and spread them evenly into the bottom of a small pyrex dish. Refrigerate for at least an hour or until the grits set. Can be kept overnight.

Remove from the fridge and cut into slices. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a cast iron or frying pan over medium high heat. Add the slices, cooking on each side until crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Serve!

Note: Grilled Polenta is a great accompaniment to fish, meat, or even for breakfast if served with eggs! It can also be a delicious appetizer topped with just about anything you can dream up (tomatoes and mozzarella, mushrooms, etc.).

Wine Pairing Notes: Tablas Creek 2005 Espirit De Beaucastel

Diva Rating: 3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

One of our favorite wines in the whole world is the famous Chateauneuf De Paup Chateau Beaucastel, an absolutely amazing wine, however little do most people know, but the famous Rhone winemakers also have a fabulous California production called Tablas Creek. Both biodynamic and solar powered, Tablas Creek produces delectable Rhone varietals at an affordable price. Kuzak and I have been buying their wines by the case for years. Tonight, we opened a bottle from our cellar - the 2005 Espirit De Beaucastel. The 2005's are drinking beautifully right now, and this wine was no exception, possessing both great fruit and great tannins. This wine, decidedly French-tasting, is mostly Mourvedre like its more famous cousin form Chateau de Beaucastel, a rarity in the wine world. I highly recommend checking out Tablas Creek for its quality, environmental soundness, and price. Even Robert Parker gave this wine 92 points, and it was only $35 on release. I can't believe these wines aren't more expensive, so look into them now while the getting is good. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Adorable Monster Gets a Haircut

"Hey Diva, why is there a Tweety Bird Bandana on my neck? Now the other dogs in my puppy class are gonna think I'm a sissy!"

Breaking news! The Adorable Monster got a haircut. Isn't he so handsome?

Roasted Beet Risotto!

Hey Divas, so I've often blogged about the wonders of risotto, a dish I love to make. I inherited this affection from my mother, the Original Diva. When I was a kid, she ventured to Italy for the first time and returned with this wondrous recipe, the likes of which I'm about to share with you. It was Roasted Beet Risotto. These potent little suckers pack a huge nutritional punch and turn the risotto an unbelievable deep purple hue that has to be seen to be believed. You can follow the basic recipe to make risotto as the beets are only added at the end. This is a dish so delicious it could even convince President Obama to eat beets! So without further ado, here's my recipe!

Roasted Beet Risotto

4 beets
1 tsp thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
2 shallots chopped
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade - click here for my crock pot chicken stock recipe)
1 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the greens off the beets and set them on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle them with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then sprinkle with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Then, fold them up in aluminum foil and roast them for 40 minutes, or until soft. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Then, remove the skins and chop them.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the shallots, sauteing until translucent, about 8 min. Then add the rice and stir for about 1 minute. Add the white wine, stirring until absorbed by the rice. Add the chicken broth 1/2 a cup at a time until fully absorbed and the rice is cooked.

Finally, when the rice is cooked al dente, add the chopped beets, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Domestic Diva's Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Greens & Grits

Ms. Piccante Dolce also published a wonderful pork tenderloin recipe! So we offer you two ways to work with the same protein. Click here for her version of his dish!

Saturday night, I finally got around to making the dinner I've been promising for a week: Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Greens & Grits. I topped the dish with blackberries and a bacon & shallot vinaigrette. I must confess that this was my first time cooking pork tenderloin. That's right - I was a pork virgin. How could this have happened you ask in Homer Simpson like horror? Well, it's quite simple. I grew up in a mostly vegetarian household with a mother who converted to Judaism for her first marriage. Just like Walter in The Big Lebowski, even though she got divorced, she held onto a few basic tenants of the faith. Namely, thou shalt not eat pork. Meanwhile, my boyfriend, Kuzak, is also Jewish, and while he doesn't go to synagogue, he too clings to a few tenants, namely thou shalt not celebrate Xmas. And, oh yeah, no pork either, unless it's bacon. Now, where in the Torah it gives the OK to bacon, but not to pork is beyond me. Perhaps, bacon gets a free pass because of it's absolute deliciousness, while pork resides lower down on the food scale, somewhere above chicken, but below beef and bacon, thus not getting the same free pass?

So for years, I resisted the temptations of pork, influenced by my mother, my boyfriend and a twinge of guilt based on the knowledge that pigs are super smart sensitive animals. Like Arnold in Green Acres (yes, I know it's a shameless Pulp Fiction reference). Or Wilbur in Charlotte's Web. But a funny thing happened - Spain! Last year, my Top Chef brother's boss took him on a Mario Batali-like tour of Spain and along the way he fell in love with pig - hard not too when you're in the country that treats this meat like it's manna from heaven. Upon his return, he began buying whole pigs, butchering them down himself (with a chainsaw no less!) and curing his own meats, and they are to die for! From Mortadella to Fat Back, they will make you a convert to pig eating in no time. He's one of the only chefs in San Francisco who makes his own charcuterie from scratch. It's available in his pizzeria along side mouthwatering pizzas and creamy soft serve ice cream (information to follow below).

Suddenly, pork was back on the menu in the Original Diva's (my mother's) household, influenced by my brother, but also by the readily available local supply of all natural pork. It was only a matter of time before I too succumbed to the lure to cook this great beast. Having read enough articles on the health benefits or pork tenderloin, plus having seen the beautiful, all natural cuts available at my Whole Foods, and finally, having pined after a few Charlie Trotter recipes for months, I finally committed to cooking it for the first time. Bravely, I requested a piece of pork tenderloin from the butcher, smiling happily when I saw the price came to only $10 for the whole piece of meat - enough to feed four people. Also, it was packaged in an air tight container and promised to keep in the fridge for a long time, an added bonus if you like to keep a stocked house like me.

Upon arriving home with my lovely piece of meat, I promptly decided to given it the true southern treatment, serving it over organic yellow corn grits, made creamy with a dusting of parmesan reggiano, and organic collard greens. For the pork itself, I rubbed it with olive oil and a three herb mixture. I opted for topping the pork with a Charlie Trotter inspired bacon, shallot & sherry vinegar mixture (and what's more decadent than pig on pig?). And, finally, some lovely organic blackberries that I sauteed in the bacon fat, knowing the acidity and fruit flavors would pair well with the meat. For wine, we settled on a Copain 2006 pinor noir, hoping the delicate fruit flavors and acidity of this mellow wine would pair well with this mild meat, and low and behold, it all worked together beautifully. So without making you wait any further, here's my recipe!

Picco Pizzeria & Wine Shop
320 Magnolia Ave.

Larkspur, CA 94939

(415) 924-0300

For great pizzas, ice cream, wine & cured meats, check this place out!!

Domestic Diva's Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Greens & Grits

1 pork tenderloin
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup thyme, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
1 cup blackberries, halved

Collard Greens
4 cups collard greens, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

2 cups grits, cooked
1/4 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
salt and pepper

4 slices bacon, julienned
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cherry wine vinegar
1 small shallot, finely diced
salt and pepper


To make the grits, combine the cooked grits with the parmesan. Then season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the collard greens, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the greens, stirring, until cooked down, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the vinaigrette, cook the bacon in a saute pan until crispy. Place the bacon in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, sherry wine vinegar, shallot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, drain the bacon fat from the pan, reserving a small amount. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add the blackberries, sauteing them until softened, about 5 minutes.

To make the pork, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rub the pork with the 2 tbsp of olive oil and coat with the herbs, salt and pepper. Place it in a hot saute pan and sear on each side for 5 minutes. Then, roast in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then cut the meat into 1/4 inch slices.

To serve, place some grits on a plate and top with some greens. Then, place some pork slices on top of the greens in a layer. Put some blackberries around the plate. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing Notes: 2006 Copain Pinot Noir Kiser "En Haut" Anderson Valley

Diva Rating: 3 stars (out of 5 stars)

We chose to go with a California pinot noir to pair with this dish, believing
that the fruit flavors, acidity and light body would go well with the pork while not overpowering its delicate flavors. We chose this 2006 Copain, a lovely wine, while not as complex and brilliant as some of their other wines and other vintages, I found that it was a lovely to drink, light and easy on the palette, with delicate berry flavors and nice acidity. It did taste a little bit tight and possibly closed down, and may give more in years to come. However, most importantly, it went brilliantly with this dinner, echoing the blackberry notes, not overpowering the pork, while standing up to the bacon and shallot vinaigrette. Again, I highly recommender checking out Copain! Wells Guthrie is one of my favorite winemakers in California. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Bazaar By Jose Andres Nominated for James Beard Award!

Hey Divas, I had to share the news that the Los Angeles eatery, The Bazaar by Jose Andres, was 1 of only 5 restaurants nominated for a prestigious James Beard award for Best New Restaurant! Congrats to them - I had a wonderful time eating there last month. To see the other nominees click here!

Also, to read my review of The Bazaar complete with original pictures please click here!

Pork Tenderloin Two Ways!

Yes, this is just a teaser, but stay tuned for tomorrow! I'm posting my recipe for Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Greens & Grits, and Piccante Dolce is also planning to post her pork tenderloin recipe. So check back in for both my posting and a link to her recipe as we offer Pork Tenderloin Two Ways!

Also, coming a little bit later this week, my instructions for making the perfect risotto accompanied by my recipe for Roasted Beet Risotto, a delicious, shockingly purple dish my mom brought back from Italy so good that it might even convince President Obama to eat beets!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

You've Pulled Them, Sniffed Them, Even Reused Them, But Have You Thought About Them?

I'm talking about corks of course! Those precious, soft lumps of tree that seal in the precious liquid gold we call wine. I know you've touched them, maybe even played with them mindlessly, flipping them on the table top after a glorious or inglorious meal, whatever the case may be. Maybe, feigning like you're a wine connoisseur, you've even sniffed them, declaring something poetic and esoteric about the wine you're about to consume. They're the gatekeepers of one of our most prized human possessions, and according to my friend and winemaker, Bill Cates, their use dates back to 500 B.C. And, once in a while, when a bottle still has some lingering treasure, you've probably stuffed the cork back into the bottle, preying it will keep your precious wine fresh a little while longer.

Well ponder them no longer, because I have a great essay on corks to share with you. On his newly launched website, my friend and a writer and winemaker at Tantara Winery in Santa Maria has posted a wonderful article on corks. Also, I highly recommend checking out his wines. I absolutely love his pinot noirs and his chardonnays and have many bottles stocked in my cellar. In fact, Tantara was one of the inspirations for Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, the book that was turned into a movie and put Santa Maria and pinot noir on the map big time. I'll be heading up to Tantara in April for their biannual open house - information should also be on their website. But in the meantime, check out Bill's essay on corks.

Click here for Bill Cates' awesome article on corks!

Divalicious Restaurant Reviews: SK's Donuts & Croissants

It all started last night. Having wolfed down a huge plate of my herb crusted pork tenderloin with grits & greens (recipe coming this week!), my boyfriend, Kuzak, began to have a massive donut craving. I'm not sure what brought it on - clearly he can't cop to PMS or pregnancy - but he began to fantasize about running out of the house at 1AM in search of the sugary little beasts. Laughingly, I dismissed his fantasy, thinking it was sure to pass. See, while I love food, I've never had a massive sugar tooth.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Organic Cauliflower Soup

The Diva coming to you with another great recipe idea! Today was a cold, cloudy California day as the marine layer shifted inland, and nothing warms me up more than a nice, simple soup. After perusing my fridge, I found that I had a lovely organic head of cauliflower. So for lunch today, I decided to make a pureed cauliflower soup. Cauliflower is a wonderful vegetable with tons of health benefits. Heralding from the same vegetable family as kale, broccoli and collard greens, it's low in fat, high in fiber, folate and vitamin C. Like other members of the brassica family, cauliflower has phytochmeicals considered to be anti-cancer compounds. It also has certain anti-estrogen cancers that protect against breast and prostate cancers. What's more, cauliflower contains gluconsinolates which may improve the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogenic substances.

Now that's a nutritional punch if I've ever seen one! I topped my soup with chopped Italian parsley, not to be dismissed as a lowly garnish. In addition to packing great flavor, parsley also is a nutritional powerhouse. My lunch was positively divalicious! I paired the soup with an open-faced tuna salad sandwich. With out further ado, here's the simple recipe.

Domestic Diva's Organic Cauliflower Soup

1 head of organic cauliflower chopped
1 yellow onion chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
1 carrot chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp Italian parsley chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp good olive oil for drizzling
1 tsp chili flakes
salt and pepper


In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery, sauteing until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the chili flakes and garlic and saute for one additional minute.

Add the cauliflower and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup in a bowl. Top with the chopped parsley and drizzle with the good olive oil. Enjoy!

The Monster & The Whale

A special Saturday morning Adorable Monster treat for all you divas! This one comes from the vault. In an epic battle between land animal and water animal, the Monster takes on that majestic ocean beast, the Killer Whale. Who will when this battle? Guess you'll have to watch and see!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Monster Attack!

The Adorable Monster on his first hike in Fryman Canyon! He had a blast, running all over the place, being a little monster. Don't you just love the little guy? Thinking he needs a haircut though - not sure how well he can see. Note to self, find groomer next week...

I'm getting excited for dinner tonight!!

Cobras & Matadors, Los Angeles, CA

The Diva Downlaod

Dave Rawlings & Gillian Welch

Hey Divas, I don't have to tell you that it's Friday! Last night, my boyfriend, Kuzak, and I went to see two of my favorite musicians, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, at a small club in LA called Largo. It was one of those special shows that happen out here sometimes when other musicians stop by to sit in on the gig, including Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek, Jon Brion (produced Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple & Eliot Smith) & Willie Watt from Old Crow Medicine Show. But the biggest surprise of the night was that EMMYLOU HARRIS showed up and sang four songs with them, including Dylan's When I Paint My Masterpiece!!! An amazing night to say the least that I had to share with you. Some favorite song choices include Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones), Cortez The Killer (Neil Young), and a final encore with everyone of The Weight. A very divalicious night to say the least!

Now on to other business! Today, I'm going to take the Adorable Monster to a nearby hiking trail to hopefully exercise the monster-ness out of him. For dinner tonight, I'm going out with a friend to one of my favorite traditional tapas bars in LA, Cobras & Matadors. Even the Diva needs a night out sometimes! We're going to the Silverlake location, a very chill place with a lentil dish that is to die for. I'll blog about my dinner tomorrow. And also tomorrow, I'm cooking pork tenderloin for the very first time ever, so wish me luck. I'm giving the southern treatment with greens and grits, so stay tuned for that recipe as well as many others coming soon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New York Times Reviews The Bazaar!

Hey Divas, thought I would post the New York Times review of The Bazaar by Jose Andres, the new Los Angeles restaurant I reviewed last month (click here to read my review). The LA Times gave it four stars, and this reviewer seems equally impressed. He cites many of the same dishes I tried and reviewed. He also mentions two of my other favorite molecular gastronomy restaurants - WD-50 in New York - and my absolute favorite - Alinea in Chicago. This is an exciting restaurant - one certainly worth trying.

Click here for the NY Times review of The Bazaar by Jose Andres!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger-Braised Leeks and Spicy Chicken Sausage

To celebrate my return to the living and as another ode to my cooking hero, Charlie Trotter, I made this delicious soup that had even the typically skeptical Kuzak singing its praises. The roasted sweet potato soup is great on its own, but the garnishes add extra flavor density to the recipe. The leeks in particular are quite divalicious, slow cooked and fabulously tender. If you ask me, this winter soup is a must try recipe sure to impress anyone who tastes it.

It's A New Day in LA!

Fresh Roses (if you look closely, you can see The Monster)

I'm happy to report that I've rejoined the living today! I hit up the grocery store and splurged on some yellow roses. There's nothing like fresh flowers to make you feel fresh, too! I also escorted the Adorable Monster to Petco where we signed up for puppy classes while the Petco employees fawned over his adorableness. So now he can wreak monster havoc on poor unsuspecting puppies in addition to his hapless owners. Upon my return home, I threw a white bean and chicken sausage cassoulet together and tossed it in the oven (recipe is here if you haven't read it yet). While it cooks, I figured I'd catch up on my blogging! Here are some updates:

-Yesterday I made an amazing soup! Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger Braised Leeks & Spicy Chicken Sausage. Recipe is forthcoming!

-Next weekend, my boyfriend, Kuzak's, brother and his wife, a big Chicago foodie, are visiting LA, so we have an indulgent dining tour of LA planned (what bad economy?). Look for reviews of Animal, Sona (my fav restaurant in LA - we plan to do the improvisational tasting menu) & Lucques' famous Sunday night prix fixe dinner.

-The first Domestic Divas Los Angeles event is in the early stages of being planned, so stay tuned for information on that!

Whew? Ever get that feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day? I know I do! The Monster thinks if he had more time, he'd just chew on things more and nap more. 'Nough said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Organic Vegetable Frittata

The Diva is back from the injured reserve list, thankfully, and practicing again for the big game. As an exercise to get back in shape and as my ode to Alice Waters, I made one of my famous breakfast dishes, my organic vegetable frittata. A frittata is a French omlette, but whereas a traditional omelet is made stovetop and served folded, a frittata is cooked stovetop and then broiled to finish it off. I love whipping these up - they're healthy, beautiful and work great for breakfast, brunch or lunch. I frequently serve my frittata with toast or a whole wheat tortilla and a mixed green salad.

Another reason this is a great recipe to have in your repertoire is because it's like learning a risotto. Once you master the basic recipe, you can make a million different variations on the dish. For today's breakfast, I nosed through my fridge and pulled out some organic vegetables I had stocked: crimini mushrooms, red bell pepper, yellow grape tomatoes and spinach. Add a little garlic, rosemary & olive oil (Alice mentions her love of olive oil paired with eggs), and you have a delectable, healthy dish. Everything I used in the dish, from the eggs to the veggies to the garlic to the rosemary was organic. Also, to make the dish slightly healthier, I use half whole eggs and half egg whites. It will still taste delicious, but with a little less fat and cholesterol.

Note: If you'd like to indulge a little more, I often top my frittatas with a dusting of shaved parmesan reggiano or crumbles of goat feta cheese.

Domestic Diva's Organic Vegetable Frittata

2 eggs
2 egg whites
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms diced
1/2 cup bell pepper diced
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp rosemary minced
salt and pepper
1 tbsp good olive oil for drizzling


In a small frying pan that can go in the oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, stirring, for about 1 minute. Then, add the mushrooms and the bell pepper (always start with the veggies that take the longest to cook first). After 2 minutes, add the rosemary. Saute until the veggies are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and saute until cooked down.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs together until frothy.

Then, pour the egg mixture over the vegetables.

Add the halved tomatoes to the top, cut sides facing up. Drizzle with the 1 tbsp good olive oil and salt and pepper.

Cook over medium heat until the frittata sets, about 10 minutes. Then, remove from the stove top and broil for a few minutes, until it's cooked.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup with Quinoa, Kale & Fresh Ginger

Everyone hates getting sick, and I'm no different, having come down with a sore throat that has progressed to a cough. Just lovely! But often, I think we get sick precisely so we can appreciate what it's like to be healthy. Like anything in life, it all depends on how you look at it, and usually, I think of sick days, the ones where you sit around in your PJ's all day watching daytime television you would usually never subject yourself to, give us a chance to take a time out from our hectic lives. Of course, it's better if we can do that without needing to be sick to take a day off work or have a night with no social commitments, but few of us would ever slow down otherwise.

So even though my boyfriend, Kuzak, and I are both on injured reserve today, much to my puppy, the Adorable Monster's, chagrin, that's no excuse to eat bad food! We all know how great a bowl of hearty soup tastes when you're under the weather. When I know I'm not feeling great, I often throw a big crock pot full of soup on first thing in the morning. That way, with minimal effort, there's something healthy to eat all day long that will help me get better faster! (At least I think it will!) This morning, I settled on making a classic lentil soup. It's fast cooking, hearty, and full of protein when paired with a grain. I also decided to add quinoa, an ancient high protein grain. To juice up the health factor, I chopped up some kale. Finally, to season the broth, I used fresh ginger, tumeric and cumin.

The resulting soup was positively divalicious, even by my standards. The flavors blended beautifully, making this a great winter soup, full of protein, fiber and vitamins. The fresh ginger infused the broth with a ton of spicy flavor, and the cumin and tumeric gave it even more character. Not to mention, using my crock pot, it was a cinch to make. I highly recommend trying this recipe. It's great for lunch, or filling enough to be eaten for dinner. So hopefully you won't have to get sick to have an excuse to try this recipe out!!

Note: If you don't own a crock pot, this could be made traditionally on the stovetop. Just begin by sauteing onions, carrots and celery in olive oil before adding the other ingredients.

"Hey Diva, if you're not gonna give me a big walk,
can I at least try some of your soup?"
-The Adorable Monster

Domestic Diva's Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup with Quinoa, Kale & Fresh Ginger

1 1/2 cups lentils
1/2 cup quinoa
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
2 cups kale chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste


Throw all the ingredients together in the crock pot. Turn it on and allow it to cook, covered, for several hours until the lentils and vegetables are cooked through.

Salt and pepper to taste. Told you it was a cinch! Enjoy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saxum is Badass! The Bone Rock has arrived...

Divas, as you know, I frequently blog about wines. Spring is rolling around, and in the Diva household, that means spring wine shipments are starting to arrive at the door. Yesterday, my boyfriend, Kuzak, carted home a special box of wine, holding two precious bottles of Saxum Bone Rock 2006. This is a wine we've been waiting to be offered, and finally this year, we leapt at the chance to try it! Saxum is one of our favorite California wineries, known for their rich Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre blends from the Templeton Gap of Paso Robles, California, and Bone Rock is their top bottling. The grapes are grown at a special site carved out of a mountain in the James Berry vineyards. Check out this description for Saxum's website:

The Bone Rock block is a steep hillside at James Berry Vineyard that in 1990 we used jackhammers to carve out a four acre, stepped terrace vineyard in the almost solid calcareous soil, unearthing fossilized whale bones in the process. Yields of 1 ton per acre produce fruit that is extremely concentrated with flavors of cassis, black pepper, and crushed stones.

Robert Parker already gave this wine a score of 94-96 points, calling it spectacular and stating that the upcoming 2007's may be Saxum's finest bottling to date. In addition to the Bone Rock, they produce several other wines we love, including their Heart Stone, Broken Stones and James Berry. Diva ratings will be forthcoming when we get around to tasting this wine, but no promises there, this one should hold up to some heavy duty cellaring.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cardamon Braised Beef Stew

Hope you enjoyed Ms. Piccante Dolce's guest blog yesterday! I know I'll be trying her recipe. And check out her site regularly for other great meal ideas and cooking tips. Now onto more divalicious business - I know you guys are craving another recipe. Last night, I was watching my Tivo'd Oprah episode (she's quite a diva!). She had on celebrity chefs to teach families how to make healthy, cost conscious meals. Can you believe they found a family that subsisted entirely on frozen dinners? Or, a family who ordered takeout six nights a week at a cost of over $50 a night? But, I suppose, the American eating problem is bigger than any of us even know. Thank god, Oprah intervened.

However, if I'm being totally truthful, I thought most of the food featured on the show either wasn't as healthy as it should have been, lacking enough vegetables, or didn't look that delicious. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who instead of making a lifestyle choice to embrace eating in a whole new way, try to make "healthier" versions of junk foods staples, like burgers and pizza. If you ask me, that's only a temporary stop gap solution before the inevitable slippery slope slide back into old habits. I also noticed that in an effort to show how "cheap" cooking for yourself could be, they avoided the "organic" issue altogether, opting for the cheapest bargains on meats they could find at the grocery store. If that's your cup of tea or if it's all you can afford, then who am I to judge, but my approach to cooking is a little bit different.

I believe that it's important to embrace a whole new way of cooking - one that gets the best out of your ingredients - and one that your whole family can share in the experience of eating. I also believe that it's worth spending a few dollars more, especially when it comes to meat and poultry, to buy "organic," or at the very least, "all natural." I won't digress into a rant about this here, but if you'd like some tips on how to shop organic affordably - and why you should be doing it - check out this blog post I wrote earlier this month (click here). Almost every ingredient I cook with on this blog is organic, especially the poultry and the meats.

In the spirit of the Oprah episode - and her challenge to those chefs to find inexpensive meals your family will love - I offer this staple from my repertoire: Domestic Diva's Cardamon Braised Beef Stew. Continuing with my Charlie Trotter cooking week, this is a dish also inspired by him, particularly the use of cardamon. In the ginger family, this is one of the most underused spices that you should always have in your cupboard. It's great for flavoring meats, or I use it when I make roast squash soup. You can buy the actual cardamon pods, which I make use of in this recipe, or you can buy it ground. If you can't find the pods, you can substitute 1/2 tsp ground cardamon into the recipe.

I also use organic stew beef in this recipe, which typically costs less than $8 a pound. It's a great way to get some organic, lean red meat into your diet without breaking the bank. Also, because this is a "one pot" meal, the prep time is minimal and the clean up is minimal as well. You can prep it, throw it in the oven, and that's it! This dish is delicious, filling, and, more importantly, it's affordable and can feed a family of four for under $20. Because this recipe doesn't use green vegetables, I always recommend pairing it with a salad, as I did, or with some steamed vegetables, such as broccoli or green beans.

Domestic Diva's Cardamon Braised Beef Stew

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 lb organic stew beef
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 small potatoes chopped (new or yukon gold work great)
3 garlic cloves
1 cup crimini mushrooms halved
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp cardamon pods in packet (directions below - you need cheesecloth and kitchen twine)
bunch of rosemary
3 cups filtered water
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a braising pan, add the olive oil over medium high heat. Then, add the onion, carrots and celery, cooking until lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, to make the cardamon packet, cut a piece of cheesecloth, about 3 inches by 3 inches. Place the cardamon pods in the center of the cloth.

Then, gather the ends, and tie the packet closed with kitchen twine.

Add the beef, stirring it around until browned, about 3 minutes.

Add the red wine and reduce it over high heat until reduced in half, about 4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, garlic cloves, potatoes, water, rosemary and cardamon packet.

Cover and place in the oven, braising for about 90 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!