Friday, September 30, 2011

Modern Bite Bakes Up Designer Cakes & Cookies

Modern Bite doesn't occupy a store front in L.A. In fact, it can't be found in any brick and mortar establishment. It's an online bakery, perfect for this modern age.

The brainchild of Daniel Shapiro (baker) and Greg Roth (tastemaker), Modern Bite offers custom cakes, cupcakes, and cookies with design-driven elements.

Take for example their stunning Fondant Cakes. The layers of colored fondant create a visually arresting presentation. And the flavors are completely customizable, ranging from the classic vanilla and chocolate to red velvet, carrot, or salted caramel. Wouldn't these be fabulous at a party?

Let's leave the cakes, and move on to cookies. Modern Bite offers a huge array of tempting choices. My favorite were the Toffee Peanut Pretzel, which combine brown sugar, English toffee, peanuts, and salted pretzels. They prove that salty and sweet really is a match made in heaven.

And if you're looking for a great gift, I love their Gift Boxes filled with buttery shortbread cookies. The boxes are gorgeous (and reusable), and available in several different colors and patterns. I brought a box of these to my book club, and they were a big hit with the girls.

All their baked goods are made with premium ingredients, which explains why they taste so great!

So if you're looking to add flair to your party, send a fabulous gift to a loved one, or just want to chow down yourself, check out Modern Bite's online bakery.

Click here for their website

Disclaimer: I was given free samples to taste and the owner is a family friend, however the opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meatless Monday: Zucchini & Chickpea Spaghetti with Hot Paprika

Zucchini & Chickpea Spaghetti with Hot Paprika

The marine layer is back.

This is as close to a change in the seasons as we get in Southern California. Thick cloud cover for most of the day, sometimes burning off a little after midday where I live in the hills. But by the ocean, the layer persists most of the time.

I actually love the chill in the air and the murky sunlight. It gives me a chance to take a breather -- to not have to be go, go, go all the time. To not feel guilty for staying inside, hunkered down with my creaky old white MacBook (I don't even think they make these anymore). Working away on my next novel -- a daunting, but exhilarating task. Like scaling a mountain. Only you don't know the route to take, nor can you see the summit. It's hidden in the clouds.

All you have is hope and a prayer that you'll make it. Will power. It's all up here, in my head, somewhere. I hope I can shake it out, onto the page.

After this post, it's back to work on the story. I'm only at the beginning...

So here's a Meatless Monday recipe that I love. It combines zucchini (though any summer squash will do) and chickpeas with a whole wheat spaghetti. To boost the flavor and make a lovely sauce, I add Hot Paprika (though smoked or regular will work, too). I finish the dish with a dusting of fresh grated parmesan.

This is an easy, healthy recipe that cooks up quickly. It's also hearty and comforting, perfect for these cloudy fall days.

Zucchini & Chickpea Spaghetti with Hot Paprika
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 25 minutes
Print Recipe

  • 3 cups zucchini, diced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1/2 vegetable stock 
  • 1 pound whole grain spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • parmesan reggiano for grating

  1. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. 
  2. Add the squash and cook until becoming tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook for one more minute. 
  3. Add the stock and paprika, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half.
  4. Add the pasta to the saute pan and toss with the zucchini and chickpeas. If needed, add more stock to keep everything moist. 
  5. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. To plate, scoop some pasta into a wide-bottomed  bowl. Top with freshly grated parmesan reggiano. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • hot paprika from All Spice
  • zucchini and shallots from West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic chickpeas, whole wheat spaghetti, parmesan reggiano, and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Windows Lounge at the Four Seasons: High-Class Hotel Gets Down and Dirty with New StrEAT Menu

Singaporean Carrot Cake Scramble

The other night, I had the honor of sampling the entire menu at the Four Seasons (Beverly Hills) newly launched Windows Lounge. The brainchild of Executive Chef Ashley James, the new StrEAT menu draws inspiration from street food around the world and showcases it in a collection of small plates.

Crab Tostadas

This is not your average high-end hotel fare. Favorite dishes included the light and dainty Crab Tostadas served on crispy corn chips; the Mini Tortas with pork carnitas and arbol chili sauce (I'm obsessed with arbol chiles right night); and the Singaporean Carrot Cake Scramble with organic eggs and daikon rice pancake.

Mini Tortas with Pork Carnitas

But my favorite dish -- the one that will send me back here shortly -- was the simply named Pommes Frites. Don't be fooled by the moniker -- these aren't your run of the mill French fries. Rather, the Belgian-inspired potatoes were thick, gluttonously long, and perfect deep-fried to a crunchy, slightly well done crisp. The finishing touches are a dappling of sea salt and real mayonnaise (which is a pleasure that must be experienced).

All the dishes were perfectly balanced with great spice and flair. It was a vast improvement over the typical stale American fare usually served at these sorts of hotels. Adding to the energetic vibe, the lounge also showcases live music.

Chicken Chipotle Cilantro Dog

The perfect ending to the evening was a sampling of the desserts, beginning with the Churros. Dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with warm chocolate sauce, this is one of my favorite desserts in the world. I also loved the so named "Knickerbocker Glory," a huge vanilla ice cream sundae served in a tall glass with Jello, berries, and fresh whipped cream. It was glorious.

The lounge is also serving a great selection of fresh cocktails (hello mixology) and wines, which draw from much of the same inspiration as the food.

Kudos to the Four Seasons for taking a risk with this menu. I plan to go back. It's worth it for the French fries alone...

Disclaimer: I was invited to an event to taste the menu. However, no compensation was received, and the opinions here are my own.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meatless Monday Features My Recipe: Grilled Figs with Thyme & Honey

In a double dose of Meatless Monday fun (check out my weekly meatless recipe for Sweet Corn, Squash & Pepper Hash), the official website for Meatless Monday is featuring my dessert recipe for Grilled Figs with Thyme & Honey!

This is one of my favorite ways to end a BBQ meal, and a perfect way to showcase the late summer fruit. Nothing beats fresh figs. And grilling them brings out the best in their flavor--like a Fig Newton times a thousand! The thyme adds a nice herbaceous note, and the raw honey amps up the sweetness slightly.

Here's the description from Meatless Monday:

This is the perfect note on which to end late season barbeque. Figs are grilled soft and topped with savory thyme leaves and sweet honey in this simple dessert which shows off the fruit of fall.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

In addition to my recipe, they're also featuring my photograph on their homepage. Which for an amateur photographer like myself, is very exciting!

Here's the direct link to the recipe

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sweet Corn, Squash & Pepper Hash with Black Beans

Sweet Corn, Squash & Pepper Hash

I know that it's Sunday, but looking forward at my week, I thought that I'd better go ahead and throw up my Meatless Monday post!

I could schedule it to post tomorrow, but I figure, why wait? Instant gratification is so much more rewarding anyway.

My weekend in food consisted of a delicious dinner at Tasca with the A-Girl (the homemade gnocchi had to be the highlight of the meal) and a leisurely lunch at Lazy Ox downtown (which resulted in a parking ticket, but it was worth it!).

And last night, possibly as a healthy detox from an indulgent weekend, I made this delicious vegan recipe for Sweet Corn, Squash & Pepper Hash with Black Beans. In fact, I love it so much, I've been making it almost weekly. It's kind of like an everything but the kitchen sink dish with farmers market ingredients.

The combination of sweet corn (coming in strong at the market right now), summer squash (any variety works great), and bell peppers is healthy, delicious, and satisfying. The black beans and brown rice give the dish the protein and fiber components that make it a complete meal. In fact, it's a great way to make use of leftover rice, which I always seem to have stashed away in my fridge.

I finish the dish with fresh cilantro, but any herb like basil or parsley would be great. And the secret ingredient? A dash of hot sauce! This provides a nice kick and vinegar to bring out the flavor of the vegetables.

It's also a one pan meal, and I find that my twenty buck cast iron skillet is the best receptacle for the recipe. Clean up is a cinch.

Even better, what's great about this recipe is that you can experiment. Sometimes, I use cherry tomatoes instead of peppers. And when I have kale lurking about, I throw it in, too. I mean, you can never have enough kale in your life, right?

So think of this as a template for a simple, healthy vegan meal. You can change it up, throw other ingredients into it. The hash is great leftover, or served for breakfast with a sunny side up egg on top.

Sweet Corn, Squash & Pepper Hash with Black Beans
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 25 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 2 cups summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • hot sauce for garnishing (optional)

  1. In a cast iron skillet or other pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until beginning to soften.
  2. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
  3. Add the squash, corn, and peppers. Cook until beginning to soften (about five minutes).
  4. Stir in the beans, brown rice, and cilantro. Cook for another few minutes, until the vegetables have finished cooking. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. To serve, spoon the hash onto a plate. Garnish with a little chopped cilantro if desired. Serve with hot sauce. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • summer squash, sweet corn, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro from West Hollywood Farmers Market 
  • organic black beans and brown basamti rice from Trader Joe's 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Curried Sea Bass with Coconut Milk

Curried Sea Bass with Coconut Milk

Today is one of those days where I'm tackling a huge To Do List. You know the kind... too many entries... certain tasks that get procrastinated and carried over to the next list day after day... like purchasing our Thanksgiving plane tickets, or getting new window treatments for the bedroom.

If truth be told, I'm a To Do List junkie. There I said it!

But they do help me stay organized. It's a way to get all those annoying voices telling me to do things out of my head and down on to a piece of paper, so I focus on my actual life and living in the moment. So they are a blessing, too.

Wow, venting really makes me feel better! Oh, how do I love blogging?

So onto today's recipe for Curried Sea Bass with Coconut Milk. I've made this dish twice in two weeks, which should tell you how much I adore it.

It's a light curry made with coconut oil and coconut milk, fresh ginger, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. The local sea bass is very gently poached in the curry, rendering it succulent and flavorful. The flavors taste bright and remarkably fresh. Plus, it's a one pot meal that's a cinch to prepare.

I love serving the curry over a brown basmati rice, but any type of whole grain would be great. As for the fish, I used sea bass in this incarnation, but I've also made it with sole. Almost any white fish would work beautifully.

It's also great -- if not better -- as leftovers the next day.

I'm sure I'll be making this again soon...

Curried Sea Bass with Coconut Milk
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Dairy-free; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 pound sea bass or other white fish, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

  1. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and bell peppers. Saute until beginning to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. Saute until the tomatoes begin to break down. 
  3. Then, stir in the curry powder and cook for another two minutes, or until fragrant.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Add the fish and cilantro. Simmer the fish in the broth for a few minutes, until it's cooked through and flakes apart.
  6. To serve, ladle the curry over brown basmati rice. Garnish with a little chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • local sea bass, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, baby spring onions, garlic, ginger, and cilantro from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • hot curry powder from All Spice
  • coconut oil from Kelapo
  • coconut milk and organic vegetable stock from Trader Joe's

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meatless Monday: Spiced Okra

Meatless Monday is featuring my recipe for Spiced Okra on their website this week! And my lovely photograph is on their main page.

Here's their description of the dish: 

Okra is caramelized in the oven and tossed with tart lemon juice. Curry powder adds a kick to this simple side dish that highlights okra’s naturally savory flavor.

Just the other day, I was standing next to a huge box of fresh okra at the West Hollywood Farmers Market, when a woman asked me how to cook okra. She complained that whenever she's attempted it, the okra always comes out horribly slimy (which it tends to do when not prepared properly).

What I love about this recipe is that roasting the okra crisps it up beautifully, transforming the sliminess into juicy deliciousness. The curry powder and lemon juice lend the dish a great kick and amplify the flavor. And roasting the okra with olive oil is much healthier than frying it (which also eliminates the slime factor).

So if you have a chance, hop over to Meatless Monday's website and check out my recipe for Spiced Okra -- and those from the other three featured bloggers this week. Their recipes include Eggplant Chard Frittata, Corn Bell Pepper Soup, and Roasted Summer Squash Spagehettini. Can anybody say yum?

Here's the direct link to my recipe for Spiced Okra

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes & Kale

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes & Kale

My husband is in Las Vegas for his fantasy football draft (but given how seriously he takes it, I don't think it's much of a fantasy for him).

Consequently, I have a very quiet Saturday planned. I woke and drank a pot of green tea. Then, I prepared and ate my simple, yet perfect breakfast (one egg, one slice of Ezekial toast, sauteed baby bok choy with low sodium tamari and sesame seeds, raspberries). I also did yoga on my porch while the sky thundered and rained a little bit (the first rain we've had in as long as I can remember).

I'll spend the rest of the day doing a little work, writing my recipe column for Patch, and organizing my office. And perhaps I'll come closer to finishing A Dance with Dragons (I've been reading this series for the better part of the last five months, but it's drawing to a close soon). And I'm addicted to Salon's Life Stories, and am reading through the entire archive (I love personal essays).

I also decided to make one of my favorite recipes for dinner tonight: Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes & Kale. I threw all of the ingredients into my slow-cooker instead of cooking them conventionally.

I'll let them simmer and stew away all day, and then eat them over brown rice. And perhaps with a side of garlic naan as a special treat (from the freezer section at Trader Joe's). This will be a comforting, healthy dinner.

I love the hearty, earthy combination of lentils, sweet potatoes, and kale.

I also love using my slow-cooker because at the end of the day, it feels like somebody has cooked dinner for me, something that never ever happens in my house...

To a lovely weekend for us all, filled with joy, comfort, and most of all, good food!

Update: I ended up meeting friends last minute at Son of a Gun for delicious cocktails and dinner. But this dish made a fabulous lunch the next day!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad (Panzanella) with Wild Arugula

Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad

According to my calendar, it's September, but you wouldn't know it from the triple digit temperatures in Los Angeles.

The Adorable Monster and I are huddling up by the air conditioner, avoiding the dog park (much to his chagrin), and doing out best to stay cool. Ironically, our Labor Day weekend was filled with work! I finished polishing my manuscript and sent it off to my agent this morning (Yay! Can't wait to see how it all unfolds!).

So hold a positive vision for the novel finding the right publisher...

When it gets hot like this, I always gravitate toward making cool dishes, like today's recipe for Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad. Also known as Panznella, this recipe is based on the Florentine dish that combines tomatoes with stale bread, olive oil, and vinegar. Basil and onions often accompany it, too.

Fortunately, heirloom tomatoes are still going strong at my local markets, and I'm always looking for any way to use them. Another thing that I love about this recipe is that it makes use of stale bread (waste not, want not!).

In addition to the bread and tomatoes, I added some lovely purple basil and wild arugula, but feel free to make it without those flourishes. It's great either way! Also, if I'm feeling extra fancy, I sometimes saute the bread cubes with a little olive oil to crisp them up slightly, but this step isn't required.

Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad (Panzanella) with Wild Arugula
Prep time: about 10 minutes
Serves 4 people
Print Recipe

  • 4 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 2 cups), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup stale bread, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup wild arugula (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Place the bread in the bottom of a bowl. 
  2. Top with the tomatoes. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
  3. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes, until the bread soaks up the liquids from the tomatoes and softens. 
  4. Add the basil and arugula (optional) and toss to combine. Serve right away at room temperature. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • heirloom tomatoes, purple basil, and wild arugula from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • sourdough baguette from La Brea Bakery 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Adorable Monster Sleeps Through Earthquake

It's been awhile since I've posted about the Adorable Monster, my crazy mini-golodendoodle who is fast approaching the ripe old age of three. That's twenty-one in human years.

Yesterday, an earthquake struck Southern California--only a 4.2 on the scale--but enough to shake the house and rattle Kuzak's high rise. He texted me to ask if our dog sensed the earthquake before it struck and led me to safety.

Yeah right! I thought as I read the text. Fat chance of that...

So I sent him this picture of exactly what the Adorable Monster was doing during the earthquake--sleeping! Also, note his preference for using pillows like a human.

Earthquake sensing is apparently not in his repertoire.  

What are his main talents?

1. Waking me up. Every. Single. Morning. By pouncing on me wolverine style with his monster paws.

2. Getting overly excited when told he is going to the "dog park" (two words you should never say in my house, unless you want a fur ball flying through the air at you at top speed with paws extended).

3. Eating anything and everything he can get his furry paws on. This includes kitchen scraps, sticks, dead bugs, live bugs, leaves, hair bands, guitar picks, loose change, socks, underwear, bras, actually, any item of clothing, dish towels, and more.

4. Barking at every dog which walks past our house. Even though the same dogs pass the house at the same time. Every. Single. Morning. Somehow, it still excites him. Sometimes, I wonder if he's like a gold fish with shoddy long term memory.

5. Sleeping in various contorted positions on the softest things in the house. At all hours of the day. Sometimes all day long.

6. And lastly--he has a talent for being extra fluffy. Seriously, that counts.

So there you have it folks! This concludes the Adorable Monster update.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jinya Ramen in Studio City

Let's all welcome September!

It's sure to be a packed month. I'm busy finishing a polish on the manuscript for my debut novel, which I'm delivering to my agent after Labor Day. I'll be hunkering down for the next five days, staring at my computer screen with blurry eyes and swigging green tee by the pot. But there's nothing I'd rather be doing.

Instead of sharing a recipe today, I wanted to post about the fabulous lunch that I had yesterday at Jinya Ramen in Studio City. A recent transplant from Japan, I consider this shop to have the best ramen in Los Angeles (I know, there's always a big debate raging about this).

Yesterday, along with my friend/editor/literary guardian angel, I feasted on the spicy ramen, studded with spinach, spicy bean sprouts, and pork chasu. We both added a green salad and gyoza, which I adore.

Although, we both had to take post-ramen naps, it was worth it! I think that ramen is the ultimate comfort food--filling, flavorful, warm, soupy, and budget friendly.

In addition to Jinya Ramen, I also love their counterpart izakaya (Japanese pub) called Jinya Robata on 3rd Street in West Hollywood. In fact, I go there so often, that the manager and all the cooks know me well.

Here's the article I wrote on Jinya Ramen when they first opened.