Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grassfed Burger with Heirloom Tomato, Wild Arugula & Jalapeno Cheese

Grassfed Burgers with Heirloom Tomato, Wild Arugula & Jalapeno Cheese

Can you believe that it's almost Memorial Day weekend?

This weekend, Kuzak and I are boarding a plane bound for Boston to celebrate my tenth college reunion. Time flies. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since I graduated from Harvard. A few things that are on my mind:

1. Which special brand of in-climate weather Boston will foist upon us this weekend? Wind? Rain? Thunder? Lightning? Humidity? Heat? All of the above?

2. How many of my classmates have taken the familial plunge? It's a much bigger lifestyle change than the matrimonial plunge.

3. What do I wear to create that I-look-fabulous-but-barely-even-tried-to-look-fabulous ensemble that can also withstand the Boston weather (see #1)?

4. Where is Stacy London when you need her?

5. I think I need a shoe intervention. Seriously. Help?

6. Finally, how smelly will The Adorable Monster be when we pick him up from doggie camp on Monday? And what shade of brown he will have turned?

However, before I take off for the weekend, I wanted to leave you with a great burger recipe for Memorial Day weekend. These burgers are made with grassfed beef that's seasoned with spices like smoked paprika, cumin, garlic, and chili flakes. I also throw a generous amount of chopped parsley, cilantro, and dill into the mix. Finishing them off, I toss in an egg and a few breadcrumbs.

Last, but certainly not least, I top them with a spicy jalapeno cheese, heirloom tomato slices, and wild arugula, and serve them on whole wheat buns.

Serve with Snap Pea & Bell Pepper Salad and/or Summer Potato Salad

Grassfed Burger with Heirloom Tomato, Wild Arugula & Jalapeno Cheese
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 25 minutes
Print Recipe
  • 1 pound ground grassfed beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, dill, cilantro)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices of jalapeno cheese
  • 1 cup wild arugula
  • 4 heirloom tomato slices
  • 4 whole wheat buns

  1. Preheat cast iron griddle or grill. 
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, egg, spices, herbs, and breadcrumbs. Add a generous pinch of salt and some pepper. Mix well.
  3. Divide the mixture into four parts and shape into patties. Brush with the olive oil.
  4. Either cook stovetop in a cast iron griddle or on the grill, flipping once, until cooked through (about 2-3 minutes per side depending on thickness).
  5. Once almost cooked through, top with the cheese and allow it to melt. Note: you may place the cast iron pan under the broiler to fully melt the cheese if needed.
  6. To serve, place each patty on a toasted bun. Top each with a tomato slice and some arugula. Garnish with ketchup and mustard, as desired. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • organic grassfed ground beef, whole wheat buns, organic breadcrumbs, and organic jalapeno yogurt cheese from Trader Joe's 
  • heirloom tomatoes, Italian parsley, cilantro, dill, and wild arugula from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • garlic powder, smoked paprika, and cumin from Whole Foods

Wine Pairing

With this meal, we drank a bottle of Carlisle's 2008 Zinfandel (Russian River Valley, Carlisle Vineyard). One of our favorite producers at a great price point for the quality, this bottle did not disappoint. Made from 87% Zinfandel and 13% mixed black varietals (Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and a few others), this is a dense, inky purple wine with great fruit and structure. Elegant on the palate, it tastes of blueberries, licorice, spices, and spring soil.

Costing only about $45 on release, Parker scored this wine 93 points. It should drink well for the next 5-7 years, per Parker's notes. It's worth getting on the Carlisle's waiting list if you can. I've loved every bottle I've tasted thus far, and it's become something of a house wine for us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meatless Monday: Blueberry Walnut Muffins

Fresh Blueberries from the Farmers Market

It's that glorious time of year: blueberries are back in season!

To say that I love blueberries would be the understatement of the century. I don't just love them -- I'm in love with them. I scoop them up at the farmers market and cradle a bag of them them like they're gold coins in a leather satchel. Blueberries are my desert island food. I can eat them by the handful, morning, noon, or night.

My mom claims that it's because when I was a wee little babe growing up in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands (it's a long story), it was one of the first foods that she introduced to me. There happened to be a surplus on the island that year. I loved them then, and my adoration for them has never waned.

Even better, they've since been proclaimed one of nature's most powerful superfoods, loaded with antioxidants and nutrients. There's only one caveat: conventionally grown blueberries have landed on the Dirty Dozen list because they test high for pesticide residue. So try to buy organic/no-spray blueberries if possible (like many of the ones sold at farmers markets).

To celebrate the coming of blueberry season, I wanted to share this recipe that was published in my "Farm to the Table" column on AOL's West Hollywood Patch for Blueberry Walnut Muffins. This healthy take on muffins contains whole grain flours, protein and healthy fats from the walnuts, natural sweeteners, and no dairy. It's the perfect way to start your morning.

Market Fresh Recipe: Blueberry Walnut Muffins

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Afternoon Tea at the London West Hollywood

Afternoon Tea at the London West Hollywood

Sometimes I want to eat a picture.

That must be why they call it food porn. The colors, the textures, the glistening fat and sugar and all the other flavor profiles, gleaming in full color.

My mouth waters as I sweep my browser across the wide scape of the Internet, engorging myself on food blogs and food porn sites. I can look, but I can't taste. Such is the agony of being a foodie with a high speed Internet connection. I can gaze upon all the meals that I'll never eat (El Bulli, I'm looking at you) and all the dishes that I'll never cook. Forget food porn -- it should be called torture porn.

And why should I be the only one to suffer?

Here's a little food porn for the day.

These are photographs taken at the London West Hollywood's Afternoon Tea. I had the honor of tasting it twice in one week. The first time was with a rowdy group of food bloggers, and the second time was on Mother's Day with my in-laws. Both meals were gloriously sinful, filled with golden flutes of champagne, flaky scones and cream, raspberry tarts, chocolate butterflies, and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

Just remember, you can look, but you can't taste.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Meatless Monday: Mushroom Cassoulet

Mushroom Cassoulet

Is your to do list as long as mine?

Lately, I feel like I wake up every morning and have to climb a mountain. It's not as high as Mount Everest (though some days it feels that way). But it's not a hobbit hill either. Between the house, cooking, cleaning, blogging, freelance writing, looking for an agent for my book, polishing my script, researching my next book, the dog, twittering, updating Facebook, the gym (somehow this always falls off my list), there's barely time to breathe, let alone get to the end of my list. And the next morning it starts all over again... sleep... repeat... sleep... repeat...

It's all I can do some days to remember to breathe.

I think God invented to do lists to torture us.

Here are a few things that I've learned over the years:

* Remembering to breathe is the most important thing on your to do list.

*A deep breath is better than Prozac most days. So is a glass of wine.

* It's not about getting to the end of your list. It's about the journey.

* If you're not enjoying the journey, then it's time to delete items off your list.

*Your Twitter followers will forgive you for not posting every second of the day, but your dog may not if you forget to feed him.

* You may not scale the mountain, but at least you tried. And you didn't get your arm trapped under a giant boulder and had to hack it off with a blunt instrument.

*There's always tomorrow.

But if I don't post this Mushroom Cassoulet recipe today, it will be Meatless Tuesday. And that doesn't have as nice of a ring to it, does it?

Also, if can take a break from your to do list, check out Meatless Monday's website this week. They're featuring two of my recipes for Slow Cooker Corn Chili and Avocado Radish Salad. Try them out, Twitter them, share them on Facebook, rate them, comment on them, whatever floats your boat. 

Mushroom Cassoulet
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: 2-3 hours
Vegan; dairy-free
Print Recipe

  • 2 cups portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup cannellini beans, soaked overnight or for six hours (to soak, cover with two inches of water in a bowl)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 5 cups water (preferably filtered)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 bouquet garni of bay leaf, thyme, and parsley tied together with kitchen twine
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a braising pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots, stirring occasionally until lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes). 
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until becoming tender, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the cannellini beans, water, tomato paste, paprika, bouquet garni, and a pinch or two of salt and some pepper. Stir to combine. 
  5. Cover with the lid and bake in the oven for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the beans are becoming tender.
  6. Meanwhile, toss the breadcrumbs with the olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  7. Remove the cassoulet from the oven and check seasoning (salt and pepper). Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Serve family style. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • portobello and shitake mushrooms, parlsey, onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and celery from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic breadcrumbs and organic tomato paste from Trader Joe's 
  • Bob's Red Mill cannellini beans and smoked paprika from Whole Foods

Friday, May 13, 2011

Salt's Cure Is a Remedy For The Restaurant Blues

Potted Pork at Salt's Cure

This is Potted Pork.

It goes by many other names. Rillette. Pork cooked in pork fat. Pate's half cousin, once removed. A gluttonous jar of gastronomic nirvana. Some may call it a heart attack on a plate... err... in a pot. But why ruin the moment?

Potted Pork also happens to be a specialty of Salt's Cure, my new restaurant obsession. I dined there last week. Twice. I told you I had a problem, didn't I?

The first time was a magical evening spent with Jen from Piccante Dolce (my guest blog goes up tomorrow for Seared Scallops with Bacon Braised Chard). We noshed on everything from the house-made charcuterie (the duck prosciutto with blueberry compote was a personal favorite) to a Flinstonian bone-in "Pork Loin Chop."

I also ran into Marcel Vingneron of Top Chef and Quantum Kitchen fame. He was dining at the bar with Chef Haru Kishi from Chaya Brasserie.

And then I had to go back.

The Potted Pork was haunting me, popping into my head at inopportune moments like during my yoga Shava-asana, and seeping into my dreams at night.

The second trip was equally dreamy and more seafood focused. We noshed on dishes like the "Potted Smoked Halibut." The fish is cooked in butter of all things, rendering it rich and creamy. Other seafood favorites included "Rock Crab Claws" and "Grilled Oysters." We also ate their version of shrimp and grits, served in a thick, dark, pungent roux-based sauce. But don't fall in love too much with any of these dishes.

The compact menu, written on a blackboard hoisted up on the back wall, changes almost every day. Their wine list is also excellent with a small selection of mostly organic and biodynamic wines. I'd share favorites, but it too will change regularly, too.

In my humble estimation, Salt's Cure is the most exciting restaurant to hit West Hollywood in a long time... and maybe even the city of LA.

You can read more about Salt's Cure in my article on Patch:

Salt's Cure Is a Remedy For The Restaurant Blues

Monday, May 9, 2011

Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I've survived my week-long eating extravaganza. Barely.

I've probably gained a few pounds. My waistline may have expanded. I don't want to look. Or try on my skinny jeans. I'll have to go on a clean-food fast this week. And hit the gym. More than once. And hike. A lot.

I'm not weighing myself this week. No way.

But it was all worth it.

Here's a quick recap of what transpired. I dined at Salt's Cure. Not once, but twice. I'm officially obsessed (thank you Joy for pushing me to go). I also headed across the 405 to Santa Monica to feast at the brand new eatery True Food Kitchen (my business cards should read, "Will Travel for Food").

That was before my in-laws arrived in LA. It gets worse. All in the span of three days, we hit Pizzeria Mozza, Hatfield's, The Lazy Ox Canteen, and Pace.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Restaurant Opening: 'True Food Kitchen' Serves Up True Food in Santa Monica

Hamachi Sashimi with Shaved Spring Vegetables

Sometimes I don't want to cook.

I know, that's a terrible, dark, and dirty secret for a food blogger to admit. But it's the truth. Maybe the pressure is getting to me. Coming up with new recipes every week. Taking magazine-quality photos of them (I'm not there yet). Writing about them in an engaging, funny, heart-warming, appetite-inspiring, you pick it manner.

Running a blog is like running a mini-magazine. Where you do everything. All the time. Even the tech support. I suck at tech support. I'm learning... but I suck.

I do it to myself being the crazy-in-the-head, over-achieving, insane person that I am.

That's why it's such a relief to dine out on the town, like I did last night at new Santa Monica eatery True Food Kitchen. They officially launch next week on May 9th, but I got a sneak preview of their innovative dinner menu last night.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meatless Monday: Rainbow Chard Omelet

Rainbow Chard Omelet
Is there anything better than coming home?

Your dog greeting you at the door, bursting with profound joy. Sleeping deeply in your own bed. I never sleep well when I'm traveling, let alone smashed into a bunk bed in a cabin more suited to eight-year-old's. Not feeling guilty about parading around in dirty sweats all day long. The warm embrace of loved ones, and that moment after having been apart, where you simply want to be together. Not worry, not bicker, not banter, not disappear into the man cave, not even talk...

Did I mention my dog? He's on my porch, rolling around on the futon, looking like a big mess of fluffiness. If that isn't happiness, then I don't know what is...

And then there's breakfast. It's my favorite meal of the day. Cooking it for myself -- just me, myself, and I -- feels like an act of extreme self-love. Eating it while perusing the New York Times (a lot of radiant news this morning) and sipping green tea. Still in my dirty sweats with my unwashed hair. Is there anything better? I challenge you to prove me wrong. Is there? Is there?

Meatless Monday has found it in their little veggie hearts to feature another of my recipes (I publish them every Monday). This little gem is a favorite of mine -- Rainbow Chard Omelet. Isn't is lovely? Try it out. I swear you'll love it.

Click here for the Rainbow Chard Omelet recipe on Meatless Monday