Monday, June 27, 2011

Spicy Mustard Potato Salad

Summer Potato Salad

Can you believe that the 4th of July is just around the corner?

Kuzak and I are traveling to Iowa to visit his family, while the Adorable Monster is off to camp for a week. Hot summer weather awaits us in the Midwest. In honor of that, I thought that I'd revisit one of my favorite summer recipes. Is any BBQ complete without a great potato salad? Not in my book!

Filled with spices and herbs, this isn't your average potato salad. So this holiday weekend, give it a shot. It's sure to be a hit.

Spicy Potato Salad
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: 35 minutes 
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 1/2 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  1. To cook the potatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil 
  2. Add the potatoes and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until they can be barely pierced with knife.  
  3. Strain the potatoes and cover with a towel to allow them to steam for another 15-20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, mustard, tumeric, pimenton, cayenne pepper and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve or quarter them depending on their size.  
  6. Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl and cover them with the dressing to keep them moist. 
  7. Add the spring onion and celery. Toss and check seasoning (salt and pepper).
  8. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the ingredients to blend together.  
  9. Serve cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Note: Potato salad may be made up to a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. If it dries out at all, add more mayonnaise before serving.

Source For Ingredients
  • baby Yukon gold potatoes, organic mayonnaise, whole grain mustard, organic celery, spring onions and organic parsley from Trader Joe's
  • organic tumeric, pimenton, cayenne pepper from Whole Foods
  • organic apple cider vinegar from the Hollywood Farmers Market

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Restaurant Opening: Coney Dog Serves Up Detroit-Style Hot Dogs, Chili Fries & Faygo Pop

Sometimes I have to take a break from my healthy diet and load up on some delicious street food. What's the point in living otherwise?

So when I read that Coney Dog was opening this week on the Sunset Strip, I had to be one of the first people to check it out (read about it on Patch).

The brand new WeHo eatery serves up Detroit-style hot dogs, chili-cheese fries, and colorful Faygo pop. As it so often happens in Hollywood, the restaurant's famous investors include Tim Allen, Mike Binder (who was on site during my lunch), and director Sam Raimi, all Michigan-natives.

 I entered the brightly lit space and settled into a communal table, which seem to be all the rage among top restaurants now. After taking one bite of my first Coney Dog, laden with beanless meat chili, mustard, and onions, I was officially hooked. The meaty dog had a nice snap that gave way to juicy goodness, and the garnishes were the perfect counterpoint.

I also noshed on Chili-Cheese Fries with the vegetarian chili (I wanted to sample both varieties). The crinkle-cut fries were perfectly crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, smothered with real cheese and plenty of chili. To say I loved them would be an understatement. This is the stuff both heartburn and heaven are made of.

I washed it all down with sips of Faygo pop. I can't wait to go back and try all of the varieties this summer. Now if only their food was calorie free... sigh...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegan Chocolate Pot de Creme

Vegan Chocolate Pot de Creme

I love summer entertaining. On Saturday night, we had a group of friends over for a simple dinner of grilled turkey and organic grassfed beef burgers. We had plenty of wine, but I knew that any great party needs a great dessert.

However, as I wrote about in my new Hawaii Women's Journal column, I harbor a serious fear of baking. I also like to make "healthier desserts." So for my party, I decided that I wanted to make a Vegan Chocolate Pot de Creme. What's awesome about this dessert, besides the fact that it's super healthy, is that it requires no cooking whatsoever. It's also fast to make and only necessitates a few ingredients. Oh, and did I mention that it looks stunningly beautiful?

The resulting dish is very rich, almost like a flourless chocolate cake. This dessert is for the serious chocolate lovers amongst you. I served it with fresh summer berries, for the perfect ending to a lovely dinner party. Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Pot de Creme
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run 
Prep time: about 10 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1/2 cup chocolate almond milk
  • 1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces silken tofu, drained
  • shaved dark chocolate
  • fresh mint leaves for garnishing

  1. Melt the chocolate chips using a double boiler or in a large metal bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. 
  2. Once they’ve melted, add the chocolate almond milke, the vanilla extract and the tofu. Stir to break up the tofu and combine.
  3. Place mixture in a blender or vita-mix and process for about thirty seconds, or until completely smooth. 
  4. Pour into shot glasses or small bowls.
  5. Shave dark chocolate on top and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
  6. Chill in the fridge for an hour and a half or so before serving. 

Source for Ingredients
  •  chocolate almond milk, organic tofu, semi-sweet chocolate chips, organic mint, and organic dark chocolate from Trader Joe's
  • organic vanilla extract from Whole Foods

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chicken & Shrimp Paella

Chicken & Shrimp Paella

I love any dish that can be served family style. I especially love it when I'm hosting a dinner party, or hoping for great leftovers.

Ever since I watched Mario Batali whip up paella on Oprah, I've been hooked on making it. Paella is a Spanish rice dish that reminds me of a risotto that you don't stir. Paella owes its distinctive flavor and color to two key ingredients. The first, is saffron, a delicate spice made from the stigma of special saffron flowers. Pound for pound, it's the world's most expensive spice, but a little goes a long way. When you buy it, you'll see that it comes in a tiny portion.

The second, is pimenton, a smoked paprika. When you pick this spice up, take a good whiff. The aroma is amazing!

The next key to a great paella is the rice. You need a starchy, creamy short grain rice, such as La Bomba, or Arborio (the rice also used in risotto). I also highly recommend using homemade chicken stock for that extra humph, but in a pinch, store bought will work.

Thirdly, you need the right pan. You can buy specially designed paella pans anywhere from Bed, Bath and Beyond to Williams Sonoma. You can find inexpensive ones, but in working with them, I've found that  they don't heat very evenly. I prefer to use my All-Clad Braising Pan. It pulls double duty for paellas, being the same shape as a traditional paella pan and perfect for the oven.

Once you're all set with your basic paella ingredients, you can choose your proteins. For this paella, I used organic chicken drumsticks and shrimp. I love the surf and turf combination, and getting my hands dirty with the drumsticks. But once you master it, feel free to experiment by adding other proteins.

If you've never made paella, here's your chance! It's a great dish for summer entertaining, or any old day of the week. Enjoy!

Chicken & Shrimp Paella
Serves 6-8 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Print Recipe

  • 2 cups La Bomba, Arborio, or other short grain white rice
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade 
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, pureed
  • 2 tablespoons pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 spicy chicken sausages (chorizo or andouille), diced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron 
  • about 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • lemon juice for garnishing
  • chopped parsley for garnishing
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Rub the drumsticks with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil  in the paella pan over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and saute until tender (about 8 minutes).
  4. Add the sausage and cook for another few minutes. Then, add the tomato puree and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the saffron and pimenton and stir to combine. Cook for 3 more minutes. 
  5. Add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the rice and peas and stir well to combine. Return to a boil and resist the urge to stir after this (paella should develop a crust on the bottom, so don't be alarmed). After it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  7. Once the rice is becoming tender, add the shrimp to the paella, allowing them to cook in the pan with the paella.
  8. Cook for for another 10 minutes, or until all of the stock is absorbed, the rice is tender, and the shrimp are cooked. Note: if the shrimp are smaller, they may be added later because they will need less time to cook.
  9. Spread the chicken drumsticks around the paella pan. Top with lemon juice and chopped parsley, and serve family style for a lovely dinner. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • onions, pepper, parsley, and lemons from West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic chicken drumsticks, saffron, and arbiorio rice from Trader Joe's
  • jumbo shrimp, chicken sausages, and pimenton from Whole Foods

Wine Pairing

With this meal, we drank a bottle of the 2007 Saxum Bone Rock (James Berry Vineyard). All of the 2007's are supposed to kick ass, so we were excited to sample this bottle of Saxum, which was rated an incredible 99 points by Robert Parker. This was a stunning wine, very very very young in maturity, but showcasing huge amounts of character and layers of flavor.

82% Syrah, 13% Mourvedre, and the rest Grenache, the wine is inky purple in color and huge on the nose and on the palate. Huge long almost minute long finish. Tastes of earth, licorice, raspberry, black fruit, with great minerality and structure. Given this fantastic bottle, we can't wait to try more of the 2007's.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan

Monday always comes as a shock to the system, especially after a lazy Sunday.

I always feel like I spend the better part of the day just getting caught up with myself and settling back into the routine of working. But one thing I love about Mondays is writing up my weekly Meatless Monday recipe.

Today, I have big news to share with you, too. The Meatless Monday campaign has reached over 50% awareness with the American public! That's a huge accomplishment in such a short amount of time. And this is without paid or pro bono advertising -- it's all viral word of mouth, thanks to readers like you, and blogs like this one. And Oprah and Mario Batali, two of my all-time favorite people in the world.

Now onto today's recipe. I've been trying to put up a few more veggie recipes. It's amazing how many people I meet that want to incorporate more vegetables into their diets, but don't know how to cook them and make them taste great. The Brussels Sprouts in today's recipe are a prime example. Done wrong, they taste rubbery and bitter, and haunt many a schoolchild's nightmares. I'll confess that I despised them growing up.

However, they're worth eating -- heralding from the cruciferous family of plants, they're chalked full of fantastic health benefits. In PubMed, health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C., there are over 100 studies involving Brussels Sprouts. Half of them are focused on its cancer-fighting properties. In fact, at a minimum, doctors recommend eating cruciferous vegetables 2-3 times a week (average serving size 1 1/2 cups). Even better, aim for 4-5 times a week with a serving size of 2 cups for maximum benefit.

Other cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, broccoli and similar green leaf vegetables. In fact, I eat bok choy almost every morning with my breakfast, cooking it up in my cast iron skillet with a little olive oil, low sodium tamari, and sesame seeds.

For this simple recipe, I roast the Brussels Sprouts in a little olive oil. Roasting renders them exceptionally crunch and tender and brings out their natural sweetness (not the bitterness). I finish them with a light dusting of Parmesan and a little bit of lemon juice. I do like these little guys on the saltier side, almost like roasted potatoes. This is my favorite way to cook Brussels Sprouts.

So enjoy them while you can! They've just come into season this month (it runs June to January). I found these beautiful ones at my local farmers market.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 25 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 6 cups brussels sprouts, halved and ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • parmesan reggiano
  • lemon wedges for garnishing (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the brussels spouts with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place them in a roasting pan or other oven proof dish.
  3. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender and caramelized.
  4. Remove from the oven. To serve, top with some grated parmesan and garnish with lemon wedges if desired. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • brussels sprouts from West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • parmesan reggiano and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Fave Bites: Pizzeria Mozza

Lazy Afternoon Lunch at Pizzeria Mozza

What can I say about Pizzeria Mozza that hasn't already been said?

Not much, that's for sure!

Yes, they serve up some of the city's best pizzas, fired in a wood-burning oven. Yes, the antipasti and insalate are to die for. Yes, the olive oil gelato garnished with sea salt must be tasted to be believed. Yes, everything is great here.

The food literally speaks for itself. Observe...

While Pizzeria Mozza is a fun spot for dinner, I much prefer if for a lazy late afternoon lunch, like the one that I had with my in-laws a few weeks ago.

We noshed on everything from the Asparagus with Speck & Parmigiano Reggiano; to the Mozza Caprese (my favorite incarnation of this dish) with thick rustic slices of fresh bread slathered with olive oil; to a multitude of pizzas.

We tried a smaller pizette laden with ricotta, fresh peas, leeks, and guanciale, as well as two classics: the Squash Blossoms, Tomato & Burrata pizza and the Egg, Bacon, Yukon Gold Potato pizza (literally, breakfast on a pizza).

This is truly one of the great restaurants in Los Angeles, and one of the reasons that the food in this second largest city has improved by leaps and bounds over the last many years.

Bravo to Nancy and Mario for crafting up such a bright light in the city of angels. If you haven't eaten here yet, now is the time!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meatless Monday: Stir-Fried Snap Peas, Bell Peppers & Shitake Mushrooms

Stir-Fried Snap Peas, Bell Peppers & Shitake Mushrooms

Just this weekend, a friend was asking me on Twitter if I knew any vegetable recipes for kids. That got me to thinking today that it's been a little while since I've posted a straight up vegetable dish, even though I make them all the time.

Usually inspired by my farmers market finds, I find that my creativity comes out best when I'm working with vegetables (not protein). The textures, the colors, the flavors, the ever-changing seasonal inventory are what get me excited. I plan my meals around vegetables and fruits, not the other way around.

So today, here's a simple recipe that I make all the time for Stir-Fried Snap Peas, Bell Peppers & Shitake Mushrooms. This dish cooks up in a flash. I saute the vegetables quickly in my cast iron skillet, finishing them with a little low sodium tamari and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. I've noticed beautiful peppers and peas at the farmers market over the last few weeks, so take advantage of them.

Stir-Fried Snap Peas, Bell Peppers & Shitake Mushrooms
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: about 7 minutes
Vegan, gluten-free 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups snap peas
  • 2 cups red bell peppers, julienned
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  1. Heat the oil in a saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. 
  2. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the snap peas, peppers, and mushrooms and reduce the heat to medium. Saute until becoming tender (about 3-4 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the tamari and the sesame seeds. Cook for one more minute or until all the vegetables are tender. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • snap peas, bell peppers, baby shitake mushrooms, and garlic from West Hollywood Farmers Market 
  • organic low sodium tamari from Whole Foods
  • sesame seeds from Trader Joe's 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chilled Gazpacho Soup with Feta

Chilled Gazpacho with Feta

Summer is here.

How do I know?

It's not because the days are warmer and longer, though they are. And it's not because the Adorable Monster is due for a shorter haircut, though he is. It's not even because school is out for the summer, though it is.

I know because tomatoes have finally hit my local farmers market. Tomatoes are to summer what Punxsutawney Phil is to spring. Terrible out of season, nectar of gods in season, this simple fruit is one of the great joys of summer.

I have many fond memories of feasting on sun-warmed tomatoes from my father's garden in southwest Virginia when I was growing up. I'd eat them like apples. There was always a massive box of them stored in our cellar, ripe for the taking. I even remember the time that my overly ambitious mother decided to make fresh tomato sauce and can it from hundreds of surplus tomatoes. It had been a banner year. We (meaning my two brothers and I) helped her crank them through an old press, the juice slurping out the other end like a geyser. We realized that if you ran them through twice, you could squeeze out twice as much juice.

The kitchen may have looked like something out of Saw IV when we were finished, but it was the best freaking tomato juice that I'd ever tasted.

Food memory is a powerful thing. You carry it with you all of your life, and the smallest whiff can bring it rushing back like a tidal wave. I'm reminded of that as I think about the Chilled Gazpacho Soup that I made yesterday, my thoughts drifting back to the past. What does it bring to mind?

Many things. The first time I made this recipe was with my mother in Floyd a few summers back (here's a great recent New York Times article on Floyd). It's actually her recipe with a few extra flourishes. What else? My youngest brother, now a talented chef, loathed tomatoes growing up. They were his foodie kryptonite. He loved spaghetti and ketchup and all manner of things wrought from tomatoes, but despised the fruit itself. He also failed to see how illogical this was.

I remember the first time I tried an heirloom tomato from the farmers market. It teleported me back to my childhood, to my father's garden, to that box of tomatoes in my childhood cellar, the one where a giant blacksnake lived under the old freezer, which seemed as old as that very old farmhouse on Lake Drive. Seemed, but probably wasn't. That house dated back to Davy Crokett times, or so I liked to believe when I was a kid. We did discover a baby's tombstone in the basement that dated back to the 1800's. Most likely that infant was buried there during a hard winter, when the ground froze solid and the only soft soil for digging a grave could be found deep in that dark, dank basement, where more spiders lived than people.

All these memories from Chilled Gazpacho with Feta. You should try making a batch, the first of the season. See what glimpses of your past it dredges up for you.

Chilled Gazpacho with Feta
Serves 4 people
Prep time: 10 minutes (plus one hour chilling time)
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 4 cups tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup cucumbers, roughly chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, halved and seeded (optional)
for garnishing:
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • feta cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper
  1. Place the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, jalapeno, red onion and garlic in a blender and puree together until combined but still a little chunky. 
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil and mix together. 
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Chill the soup for at least an hour in the refrigerator (may be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge).
  5. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Crumble some feta cheese on top and drizzle with olive oil. Top with a little fresh cracked pepper. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, and goat's milk feta cheese from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Whole Foods