Monday, August 29, 2011

Grilled Figs with Honey & Thyme

Grilled Figs with Honey & Thyme

Last night on CNN, I stumbled upon an hour long documentary hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta called "The Last Heart Attack." A large chunk of the documentary explores the link between diet and heart disease, and specifically, whether eating a nutrient dense, plant-based diet (essentially a "vegan" diet, however, they stray away from using that word) can not only prevent, but also reverse heart disease.

Much of this interest has been sparked by President Clinton's recent revelation that he has converted to a vegan, nutrient dense diet in order to combat his much publicized heart disease (and Dr. Gupta interviews him at length).

Now, we all know that the American diet is a heart attack waiting to happen. That's not exactly breaking news. What was most interesting to me about the documentary was the idea that heart disease is reversible through dietary changes alone.

And the key to the diet isn't just avoiding meat, dairy, and saturated fat, but also eating nutrient dense foods, which I'm a big believer in (and it's a huge part of why I write this blog).

So it's not vegan or vegetarian, but rather nutritarian. This is my new favorite word, and one that I try to apply to my lifestyle. Essentially, it's a diet rich in plants (fruits and vegetables, with a heavy emphasis on greens), beans, nuts, and whole grains. And low in meat, dairy, and unhealthy fats. This is why I venture to the farmers market every week and load my cart to the brim with every type of fruit and veggie that catches my fancy. And then I plan meals for the entire week based around these purchases.

Here's a great Huffington Post article by a doctor on the topic called, "Heart Health: How You Can Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease."

So, this isn't breaking news, right?

The real question is whether people will actually be willing to make these dietary changes. I do see a shift, but only time will tell...

On that note, here's my Meatless Monday column, where I bring you fabulous, nutrient-dense recipes every week. Oh, and Meatless Monday is featuring my recipe for Roasted Eggplant with Cilantro Yogurt on their website this week (and they have other great meatless recipes available every week).

Today, I wanted to share my latest food obsession: Grilled Figs with Thyme and Honey. Local figs have appeared at the farmers market.

The other night, I halved and grilled up a batch, and topped them with a little fresh thyme and a drizzle of organic raw honey. Then, I served them up for dessert.

When I took my first bite of fig, my brain synapses were completely overloaded by the deliciousness. The delicate flesh, sweet and tart flavors, and crunchy seeds are like nothing else in the world. The thyme added a great herbaceous flavor, and the raw honey gave the figs just a touch of decadence. There really is nothing like fresh figs.

On a health benefits notes, figs are high in potassium, fiber, and a good food source of calcium. They've also been shown to lower triglyceride levels (good for your heart) and inhibit cancer cell growth.

I bought another huge bag of figs today, which I'll be grilling over the course of the week. I can't wait...

Grilled Figs with Honey & Thyme
Serves 2 people
Cooking time: about 10 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 pint of figs (about 2 cups), stems removed and halved
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

  1. Preheat the grill.
  2. Grill the figs for a minute or two on each side over low or indirect heat.
  3. Remove to a serving platter. Carefully place a few thyme leaves on each fig.
  4. Drizzle them with the honey. Enjoy!  

Source for Ingredients
  • fresh figs and fresh thyme from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic raw honey from Whole Foods

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Restaurant Opening: Fonuts Reinvents the Doughnut

First, it was cupcakes (hello Sprinkles). Then, frozen yogurt (a Pinkberry on every corner). Are doughnuts the next big food craze to hit Los Angeles?

Fonuts, a modern take on the traditional doughnut and coffee shop, opened its doors on 3rd Street last week for the very first time.

Pastry Chef Waylynn Lucas and Nancy Truman

The brainchild of Pastry Chef Waylynn Lucas (The Bazaar by Jose Andres; Patina) and partner Nancy Truman, Fonuts features more than a dozen varieties of fonuts, which are baked, not fried like a traditional doughnut. Furthering their health consciousness, Fonuts offers gluten-free and vegan versions of this baked treat.


At the opening party, I had opportunity to sample a variety of their signature flavors (along with foodie turned blogger extraordinaire Jo of My Last Bite). We both proclaimed our preference for savory treats and honed in on the Chorizo & Chedder, Rosemary Olive Oil, and Maple Bacon flavors.

Chorizo & Cheddar

The Chorizo & Chedder reminded me of a dinner roll, crusted with tons of yellow cheese, and the inside studded with sweet-tasting chorizo.

Rosemary Olive Oil

Meanwhile, the Rosemary Olive Oil was reminiscent of the cake of the same name, with powdered olive oil coating the exterior in place of traditional powdered sugar.

Maple Bacon
The Maple Bacon seized on the classic breakfast flavors of maple syrup and bacon, with a healthy amount of crumbled bacon lodged in the icing. 

After noshing on my fill of Fonuts (it was five in the afternoon, and I'd had three at least), I tucked a few in my purse for my husband, a self-proclaimed doughnut expert. Since he prefers the sweeter side of life, I brought him a little Peanut Butter & Jelly pastry and Strawberry and Chocolate Hazelnut Fonuts.

Chocolate Hazelnut

His verdict? He scarfed them down, however, I can't be certain if he's ready to give up the deep fried version for these healthier counterparts. Yet...

In addition to their regular menu, Fonuts plans to offer limited edition, seasonal-inspired flavors. Upcoming fall and holiday selections will include Pumpkin-Squash, Ginger, and Chocolate Peppermint. Accompanying the baked goods, Fonuts also offers premium coffees from cult coffee brand LAMILL.

Only time will tell if healthier doughnuts really will be the next big food trend. However, if Fonuts is any indication, it just might be.

Fonuts, open Wednesday through Monday from 7:00am to 6:00pm, is located at 8104 West 3rd Street in Los Angeles. Call 323.592.3075 or visit

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pan-Cooked Summer Squash with Tomatoes & Kale

Pan-Cooked Summer Squash with Tomatoes & Kale

It's Monday again, and I'm off to the West Hollywood Farmers Market. That means that's it's been a week since my last visit to the market.

As many of you know, I love eating greens and savory vegetables for breakfast. I do it almost every single day--cooking up baby bok choy with sesame seeds and low sodium tamari one morning, then sauteing baby spinach with garlic and lemon the next morning.

So this morning, I was confronted with the remains of my last market visit--two lovely white summer squash, a bowl full of sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, and a few dark green fronds of kale. Inspired by this recipe for Pan-Cooked Summer Squash with Tomatoes and Basil from Martha Rose Shulman that appeared in her wonderful New York Times column, I decided to saute thinly sliced squash and kale with garlic in my cast iron skillet, and finish them off by adding the cherry tomatoes and cooking them down to a wonderful sweet tomato sauce.

The cherry tomatoes (rather than their larger counterparts) worked beautifully in this recipe. And the kale? Well, it was delicious! I love adding kale to almost anything, and perhaps it was penance for my late night vanilla shake and fries at the 101 Cafe last night, following a great show at the Hollywood Bowl of Disney's Fantasia.

I happily scarfed down this dish with eggs and toast for breakfast, and plan to finish the rest off with my farmers market purchased lunch.

Pan-Cooked Summer Squash with Tomatoes & Kale
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 4 cups summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup kale, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned (optional)

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for one minute. Then, add the squash, cooking until tender and slightly translucent.
  2. Add the kale and cherry tomatoes, and continue to saute until the tomatoes cook down and the kale becomes tender (about 5 minutes).
  3. Stir in the basil (optional). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and kale from Studio City Farmers Market
  • organic garlic and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Fave Bites: Tasca's New $8 Happy Hour

Burrata y Jamon Serrano Crostinis

Tasca has long been one of my favorite wine bars, and one of the best kept restaurant secrets in Los Angeles.

Nestled off of 3rd street behind a vine-covered trellis, you'll find this Spanish-style wine bar. On any given night, there's a good chance that you'll find me esconced at the bar, either noshing with a friend, or my wonderful husband, or simply dining alone with my Kindle. To say that I love Tasca would be a major understatement.

From their excellent selection of wines (they'll taste you on anything on the menu to help you make your choice), to the casual Spanish tapas fare, which while not flashy, is always well-executed and satisfying, to the comfortable bar that spans the entire space and lovely outdoor patio, I love everything about it. It's the kind of place where you just want to hang out for hours and hours. And trust me, I do.

While there are many things to love about Tasca, their Happy Hour has always been at the top of my list. Even better, they've just relaunched it, with a much bigger menu and bargain $8 pricing for every dish on it. You won't find better food at this price anywhere in Los Angeles. Trust me, I know.

Pizza Bianca

Just check out the pictures--the Happy Hour food offerings include Pizza Bianca; Ahi Tuna Tartare; Mussels served in Saffron Broth with their famous fries; Burrata y Jamon Serrano Crostinis; Speck-Wrapped Dates; Gambas al Ajillo; and their Baby Artichoke Salad, which is hands down one of my favorite salads in Los Angeles. Period. And maybe in the country. I'm not kidding--I love it!

Baby Artichoke Salad

And all these dishes and many more and more are only $8 each!

Drink specials include a pitcher of sangria ($20); house red or white wine ($5); sparkling wine ($7); and a variety of beers ($3-$4). Also, a bargain.

Mussels in Saffron Broth with Fries

Even better, the happy hours themselves are very generous. Stop in Monday through Tuesday from 3pm-10pm, or Wednesday through Saturday 3pm-7pm.

Butternut Squash Agnolotti

I'm sure I'll be back at Tasca again before the week is out... Seriously, I might have a problem... addiction to Spanish tapas...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Roasted Baby Eggplant with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Roasted Baby Eggplant with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Happy Monday!

It's another beautiful day in sunny California. We've had a relatively cool summer with idyllic temperatures. Clear, sunny, 70's to low 80's. Let's hope it lasts!

The highlights of my weekend (apart from getting all of my laundry done), included a fabulous dinner at Tasca Wine Bar (they're launching a new Happy Hour--I'll post on it later this week), a showing of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (my new favorite movie), and a fun dinner with friends at Hollywood gastropub Fat Dog. It was a packed weekend, full of food and friends and uber-intelligent primates.

What news do I have to share? Meatless Monday is featuring my recipe for Blackberry Walnut Muffins this week! So check it out.

In the meantime, here's my new food obsession -- Roasted Baby Eggplant. I found these beauties at the Studio City Farmers Market yesterday. Baby eggplant are delicate and tender, without any of the bitterness of their adult counterparts.

I debated how I wanted to cook them, but ultimately opted for an Indian-inspired take. I halved the baby eggplant and tossed them with olive oil, curry powder, and a little salt. Then, I roasted them in the oven, and topped them with a spicy, garlicky yogurt sauce flecked with cilantro.

The resulting dish was fabulous -- flavorful, creamy, spicy, and everything in between. I could eat a hundred of these! And before eggplant season is over, I just might...

Roasted Baby Eggplant with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: About 40-50 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • about 6 cups baby eggplant, halved
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Toss the eggplant with the olive oil, curry powder, and salt. Arrange in an ovenproof dish, cut side up. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. 
  3. Uncover the dish and roast for another 20-30 minutes, or until the eggplant are tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, place the yogurt, garlic, cilantro, lemon, and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
  5. To plate, spread the eggplant cut side up on a serving platter. Top with the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • baby eggplant and cilantro from the Studio City Farmers Market
  • hot curry powder from All Spice
  • organic plain nonfat Greek yogurt, organic lemons, organic garlic, and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Panko-Crusted Red Snapper with Avocado Cream Sauce

Panko-Crusted Red Snapper with Avocado Cream Sauce

Can you believe that it's already Thursday?

This week is flying by. Lots of social engagements, and the winding down of my awesomest birthday week ever. I've been working, working, working on the revisions (minor) to my novel, and they're going great (yay!!). Listening to a lot of bluegrass (I'm obsessed with the new Alison Krauss and Union Station album that my parents gifted me for my birthday). I need to get my tuckus to the gym today!

The Adorable Monster is continuing his life of leisure in our household. Yesterday, a great mobile groomer called Puppy Love came to the house. He got bathed, cut, and fluffed to within an inch of his life and looks soooo ridiculous. On our way back from the pet store, people keep looking at him in my car and just laughing. At least, he brings people joy! He's currently in his favorite spot on our porch, chillaxing to the max, like he does every morning.

I'll join him soon for my daily morning yoga routine, which wakes up my body and gets my mind ready to write and write and write...

But before I make myself breakfast and begin my morning contortions, I'll leave you with a lovely late summer recipe for Panko-Crusted Red Snapper with Avocado Cream. Now, there's no actual cream in the sauce--rather, avocados contain so much glorious, healthy fat that they become like a cream when transformed into a sauce, with lemon and cilantro.

Red Snapper, one of my favorite fish, is crusted with Japanese breadcrumbs called panko (though normal breadcrumbs would work, too). This gives the fish great texture. I served the whole dish over a bit of my homemade gazpacho (it's a nifty trick that it works great as a sauce with fish), but this step is optional.

This is a lovely, delicious late summer dish that you'll want to make again and again. The flavors are reminiscent of south of the border. Enjoy!

Panko-Crusted Red Snapper with Avocado Cream
Serves 2 people
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Print Recipe

  • 2 fillets of Red Snapper (about 4-6 oz. each)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, packed
  • 1/2 cup homemade gazpacho (optional)

  1. Heat the grapeseed oil in a saute or frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Rinse the snapper fillets and pat dry. Season them with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Working with one fillet at a time, coat the tenders with flour, shaking off any excess. Then, dip it in the egg mixture, also shaking off the excess. Finally, coat the fillet with the panko breadcrumbs. Repeat with the other fillet.
  4. Place the snapper in the pan, cooking for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. 
  5. Meanwhile, to make the avocado cream, place the avocado, cumin, lemon juice, cilantro, a pinch of salt, and about 2 tablespoons of water in a food processor or blender. Puree the ingredients together, adding more water as needed for desired consistency.
  6. To serve, ladle a little gazpacho onto the bottom of a bowl (this step is optional). Top with a fillet and spoon some of the avocado cream on top. Finish with a little chopped cilantro and freshly ground pepper if desired. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • red snapper, avocado, cilantro, lemons, eggs, and gazpacho ingredients from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic ground cumin from Whole Foods
  • grapeseed oil, flour, and panko breadcrumbs from Trader Joe's 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blackberry Walnut Muffins

Blackberry Walnut Muffins

What a whirlwind of a week!

My birthday was on Wednesday (which now feels like a lifetime ago), and it was one of the best of my life. Why, you may wonder? I've already had 32 of them after all, and let's be frank, 32 isn't exactly considered a milestone (unless you're worried about the steady downgrading of your fertility).

Well, firstly, my husband could not have been more lovely--treating me to diamond earrings and an omakase dinner at Asenabo, one of the few Michelin rated restaurants in Los Angeles. For a few hours, I felt like I was back in Tokyo again, even though I was sitting in a strip mall in the Valley. But the giant plate of grilled king crab wasn't even the highlight of the day, if you can believe it!

For the past two years, I've been hard at work on a novel, and on my birthday of all days, an agent contacted me. And not just any agent. An agent that I thought was so storied, so fabulous, with such great taste, that she'd never even read my work.

Even better? She loves the manuscript and wants to work with me! As a first time novelist, this is a major milestone. It's still sinking in...

Now, there's still a long road ahead. Publishing is in turmoil. Minor revisions must be completed this month. But this in and of itself means something important. I should keep writing and writing and writing!

Now you see why this was truly a birthday to remember, and hopefully the start of an exciting birthday year.

OK, off the writing and onto the food!

I made these delicious little Blackberry Walnut Muffins yesterday for breakfast. They're vegan and made with whole grains (cornmel and whole grain spelt flour, an ancient cousin to wheat). They also have lots of nutrients and protein and omega-3's from the walnuts. If you make a batch on Sunday, then you can eat them all week long for breakfast. Enjoy!

Blackberry Walnut Muffins
Makes 8-10 small muffins
Baking time: 20 minutes
Print Recipe

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond or rice milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. 
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (vanilla, rice milk, oil) and whisk together. 
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring to combine, but be careful not to over beat the mixture. 
  5. Fold the blackberries and walnuts into the batter.
  6. Oil a muffin tin and spoon the mixture into it. 
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown. Enjoy! 

Source for Ingredients
  • organic blackberries, extra virgin olive oil, and walnuts from Trader Joe's
  • organic cornmeal, organic whole grain spelt flour, organic vanilla, organic cinnamon, and baking powder from Whole Foods

Monday, August 1, 2011

Zucchini with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Feta

Zucchini with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Feta

How was everybody's weekend?

I cannot believe that August is here. My birthday is in only two short days, and I've yet to make any plans or prepare myself mentally for turning yet another year older. I mean, this year has literally flown by. Dare I say it? I'm going to be 32. That's right--I didn't mistakenly juxtapose those two numbers.  Gasp.

I just get that feeling that there's still so much I want to do with my life. That I've only touched the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Scratched the surface. A new novel is under construction right now, a daunting and monumentally challenging, but exhilarating task (my first novel is out in the world as we speak, searching for the right agent). This new one is young adult science fiction, and I'm loving creating and living in the world, but it is an all-consuming effort at times.

Often, I have to remind myself to... just breathe. To take it one sentence, and one chapter, and one moment at a time, like with everything else in life. My daily morning yoga routine helps with this. And so does the Adorable Monster and his unwavering love and affection (he really is the best dog ever). And I have to remind myself not to put so much pressure on myself all the time. It's my perfectionist tendencies coming through (hello Type A personality!).

This hot August Monday, I'm pulling out a recipe from the vault to commemorate squash season. It's here people--get on board! Even better, Meatless Monday is featuring this recipe this week on their website, so check it out here.

Sweet, fresh summer squash is overflowing at grocery stores and farmers markets all across this great country. I love roasting squash with nothing more than olive oil, salt, and pepper. This recipe brings a Mediterranean flair to roasted zucchini in the form of sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and fresh mint (it goes great with squash).

Question: is there anything that I don't like to put feta on?

Not many things, that's for sure!

Zucchini With Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Feta
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 4 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I prefer goat's milk, but any kind works)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss the zucchini with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  
  3. Roast the zucchini in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Once it's finished cooking, remove the zucchini from the oven.
  4. Then, toss the zucchini with the sun-dried tomatoes and feta. Check seasoning (salt and pepper).  
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the fresh mint. Enjoy!

Source For Ingredients
  • organic zucchini and organic mint from the Hollywood Farmers Market
  • goat's milk feta from Whole Foods