Monday, October 31, 2011

Meatless Monday: Veggie Frittata with Feta Cheese

What a fun weekend!

Not only did we have amazing weather (lower '80's and gloriously sunny—sorry East Coasters!), but my in-laws came into town for a nice visit. We had indulgent meals at Lou on Vine, Bouchon, Ray's (at LACMA—my new favorite place), and finally Pace. I think we'll all need a detox this week!

I did make us a lovely brunch at my house in the canyon, cooking up a simple feast of Raisin Walnut Spiced Muffins (recipe coming shortly) and a Veggie Frittata with Feta Cheese, using ingredients purchased at my local farmers market. Usually, I just stock up on everything that looks fabulous, and then figure out what to with it once I get home (I'm on my way there shortly...).

This fritatta combined some of my favorite vegetables—lacinato kale (I try to sneak this into any recipe that I can); jumbo asparagus (just materialized last week at the market); sweet cherry tomatoes (still coming in strong in California). The finishing touch was some fresh goat's milk feta cheese, also from one of my vendors at the market. Likewise, the eggs were procured from one of my local farmers.

I cooked the frittata in my cast iron skillet (which was only $20, and is one of my favorite pans). I started it stove top, and then moved it into the oven, before finishing it under the broiler.

I served the frittata with some homemade Raisin Walnut Spiced Muffins (made with whole grains and raisins also from one of my farmers). The resulting feast was simple, yet delicious and satisfying. I served the frittata directly out of my cast iron skillet, which looked lovely and rustic on the table.

Veggie Frittata with Feta Cheese
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
Print Recipe


  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups kale, thinly chopped
  • 2 cups or 1 bunch asparagus, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the garlic, and saute for one minute.
  3. Add the asparagus and kale, stirring to combine. Continue to cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften. 
  4. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl and beat until the yolks and whites are mixed together and the entire mixture is slightly frothy. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cast iron skillet over the vegetables. Place the halved cherry tomatoes cut side up on top of the egg mixture, gently pressing them down.
  6. Top with the crumbled feta, a little salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Continue cooking stove top until the frittata begins to set. 
  8. Finish the frittata under the broiler. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
  • lacinato kale, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, garlic, thyme, eggs, and goat's milk feta cheese from the West Hollywood Farmers Market

Thursday, October 27, 2011

L'Ermitage Beverly Hills Debuts New Small Bites Lounge Menu

Kumamoto Oysters with Ginger Summer Salsa

L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills is a stalwart bastion of Los Angeles. When I worked in Hollywood, I booked many drinks in their lounge.

Much about the hotel remains the same--the refined crowd, the framed Oscar-winning screenplays on the walls, the relaxed atmosphere. However, the lounge and cocktail menus have recently gotten a total revamping, thanks to Executive Chef Joseph Elevado (a jovial man who has trained with some of the greats, including Nobu himself) and award-winning mixologist Stephanie Brown (who has a penchant for growing wacky ingredients in her own garden and infusing them into her cocktails).

Octopus Salad Skewers

The new menu features small bites with subtle Asian and Mexican influences, such as the Kumamoto Oysters with a delicate ginger summer salsa (I must have eaten twenty of these); the Pork Belly sliders served on buttery brioche with tomato jam; and the Pickled Fries (yes, they are deep fried dill pickles--amazing!).

Wagyu Sliders on Brioche

The cocktails match the food in their complexity and flavor. My favorites included the Off the Vine, a heady combination of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, lemon juice, agave nectar, heirloom tomatoes (you read this right), and basil; the Root of All Evil, made with rum, citrus, ginger beer and candied ginger (they had me at ginger); and The Bitter Truth, a refreshing blend of elderflower Liqueur, grapefruit, and champagne.

The Chefs pushing Lemon Curd Zeppoli's

And I haven't even mentioned desserts yet. We enjoyed the Lemon Curb Zeppoli's. Frankly, anything fried, especially desserts, are delicious.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meatless Monday: Tofu Bolognese with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Tofu Bolognese with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

This is a dish that my mother used to make us when we were kids, and she was still a vegetarian. It had generous hunks of tofu in it, and yes, we loved it.

Kids love anything with noodles as a general rule. Even tofu, when it's seasoned well so it actually tastes like something yummy. This recipe essentially substitutes the meat usually found in  bolognese sauce with firm tofu. The tofu is simmered in the tomato sauce, which infuses it with great flavor. It literally sucks it up.

I serve the sauce over a whole wheat spaghetti, but any type of pasta would work great. To finish it, I top it with a little parmesan reggiano cheese, but that's not necessary. The dairy-free version (vegan) is delicious, too.

I also much prefer to use tofu in my sauce, rather than a meat-like substitute vegetable protein (which tends to be very processed).

Finally, for a super shortcut easy version of this recipe, toss bottled organic tomato sauce into a slow-cooker. Add tofu. Simmer on low for several hours. It's delicious.

Tofu Bolognese with Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Vegan (meat and dairy-free)
Print Recipe

  • 1 package (14 oz.) firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 28 ounce can of tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parley, chopped
  • pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • parmesan reggiano cheese, for grating (optional)
  • 1 package (1 lb) whole wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  
  2. Add the onion and carrots and saute until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  
  3. Then, add the garlic and chili flakes (optional) and saute for another minute. 
  4. Finally, add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and tofu. Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  
  5. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
  6. To serve, place the pasta in a bowl and top with a generous portion of the  sauce. Finish with chopped parsley, freshly ground pepper, and a little grated parmesan reggiano cheese if desired. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • onions, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf from West Hollywood Farmers Market
  • organic firm tofu, organic canned tomatoes, organic whole wheat spaghetti, parmesan reggiano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's
  • organic chili flakes from Whole Foods

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce

There simply aren't enough hours in the day.

I'm sure that I'm not alone in thinking that. And I know that I am blessed--my days are filled with so many fabulous things. I shouldn't complain.

Today, brings week 2 of my mentoring program, the Young Storytellers Foundation. It's a fabulous program where we go into low income schools and work with kids over the course of a few weeks to write short screenplays. Then, at the end of the program, we have a "Big Show" where real actors come to our school and perform the kids' work. Last year, Jeremy Piven did my school's show, and from what I hear, it was epic. Hopefully, he'll be back again this year.

Today, I get my mentee assignment! They're a fabulous bunch of kids--bright-eyed, easily excitable, eager to learn. It gives me so much hope for the future.

My only typical regret is that I wish I had more uninterrupted hours for writing. I'm sure every writer feels this way. I'm knee-deep into my new book (young adult, science fiction--quite a departure from my first novel, which is currently on submission to publishers via my fab agent). And it's finally starting to come to life in my head and on the page. The characters are beginning to become real.

The solution is to get up much, much earlier, I think. Now, I have never been a morning person. Not even close. I don't wake up, whistling and waving hello to hummingbirds. The Adorable Monster does (well, more like he barks at dogs that walk by our house). And it's not like I get up that late.

But very early. Painfully early. Before the sun has risen. Before the fog has lifted. Before most sane people rise from their beds.

That's what it's going to take.

Now if only I could start going to bed earlier. Sigh.

Time for food! This is a great recipe that I made this week for Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce. It's quick and easy to make, healthy, and looks far more impressive, as if you've slaved over the stove for hours. The salmon and the sauce are cooked in the same pan, making clean up a breeze.

The sauce is a simple reduction made from shallots, mustard, and white whine. That's it. But it's oh so tasty--tangy and spicy and rich. 

I served it over wilted spinach, but it would go great with any sauteed greens or other vegetable of your choice.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard Shallot Sauce
Serves 2 people
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
Dairy and gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 2 salmon fillets (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

  1. Heat the grapeseed oil over high heat. Meanwhile, season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Add the salmon and reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until the outside is crispy and nicely seared and the inside is cooked to desired doneness (I prefer my salmon a little bit medium rare).
  3. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Pour off all but one tablespoon of oil from the pan. Add the shallots, and saute for two minutes, until beginning to soften.
  5. Add the white wine and mustard, stirring to deglaze the pan. Simmer for a few minutes, until reduced in half. Taste and check seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. 
  6. To serve, place a piece of salmon on a plate and spoon the sauce over the top. Finish with a little chopped parsley and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • salmon and shallots from the West Hollywood Farmers Market 
  • whole grain mustard from Whole Foods
  • white wine and grapeseed oil from Trader Joe's

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto

It's the middle of October, but you wouldn't know it from the 100 plus temperatures in Los Angeles last week!

I had to fire up the air conditioner and huddle indoors. The Adorable Monster and I both started to go a little bit stir crazy. Thankfully, that weather has passed, and I'm back to cooking more fall-ish, comforting recipes.

Of all the comfort foods out there, risotto has got to be one of my favorites. And we're just back from a trip to San Francisco, where we dined at my brother's restaurant, Picco. They're known for their risotto, which comes out fresh on the half hour. It changes nightly, but always involves some fabulous combination of vegetables. Who knew that rice and veggies could taste so spectacular?

And that has inspired me to share this recipe for Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto. I also figured that I'd better slip it in before we hit winter, since it uses the last of the late summer harvest (my parents in Virginia are still pulling tomatoes from their garden, if you can believe it).

I love this combination of tomatoes and squash, which I roast first in the oven to intensify their flavor. Working with the components separately to wring the most flavor out of them is a key to making to die for risotto (my brother does this at his restaurant). Another key is homemade stock, but store bought works, too.

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Risotto
Serves 3-4 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano cheese, plus more for garnishing
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Do the same thing with the zucchini.
  3. Spread the cherry tomatoes evenly over a cookie sheet or other oven proof dish. Do the same thing with the zucchini on another cookie sheet. 
  4. Roast both in the oven until they're tender and gently caramelized (about 20-30 minutes depending on size). Remove from the oven and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the risotto by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. 
  6. Add the shallots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Then, stir in the rice, coating it with the oil, and cook for another two minutes. 
  7. Pour in the white wine and stir until absorbed. Once the wine has been absorbed, slowly add the vegetable stock 1/2 at cup at a time, stirring until it's absorbed before adding more stock. Continue adding stock and cooking until the rice is al dente (note: you may not use all of the stock).
  8. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the roasted tomatoes, the roasted zucchini, the parmesan, and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. To plate, spoon the risotto into bowls. Top with freshly ground pepper and drizzle with a little good olive oil. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • cherry tomatoes, zucchini, shallots, and parsley from the West Hollywood Farmers Market 
  • parmesan reggiano, arborio rice, white wine, and olive oil from Trader Joe's 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Everything But the Kitchen Sink" Dal Recipe

From Clean Food, Dirty Mouth

Occasionally, I like to share great recipes I stumble across. This one for a sort of "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" dal, posted on my college roomie's blog (aptly titled, "Clean Food, Dirty Mouth"), felt like it was worth sharing.

Firstly, dal is one of my favorite dishes in the whole wide world. And secondly, I love recipes that are like a base with which you can experiment, working with fresh, seasonal ingredients, adding your own twist.

From Clean Food, Dirty Mouth

This is why I love risotto (my brother's restaurant does a risotto special every day, taking this same flying by the seat of your pants approach). Only he's more like Superman when it comes to flying, and his pants are Gucci. But I digress...

And who knew, a decade ago back in college, that both of us would end up writers/self-taught-foodie-chef-bakers?

It's a Mad, Mad World...

Click here for her wonderful dal recipe

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baby Potato Zucchini Casserole

Baby Potato & Zucchini Casserole

I've just returned from San Francisco, where I spent the weekend at Cavallo Point celebrating my one year wedding anniversary, enjoying the Fleet Week air show, and dining at Picco, my brother's fabulous restaurant. We had two amazing meals there, and even got to meet Chef Bruce Hill, who I absolutely adored.

Not only is the restaurant busier than ever (it was packed both nights we were there), but the menu just keeps getting better, if that's even possible. It's worth the trip over the bridge for the risotto alone, which is made fresh on the half hour, and which many people believe to be the best in the city, if not the country.

I was sad to leave SF, but all good things must come to an end...

But getting away really does wonders for you. In a way, it reboots your brain, clearing out all the cobwebs, letting you return refreshed and ready to dive back into your life with a clearer perspective. I'm spending today catching up with myself--blogging, cleaning up, unpacking, grocery shopping, etc.

And tomorrow, I'll get back to my two favorite things: cooking and writing!

But in the meantime, I thought I'd leave you with a great recipe for Baby Potato & Zucchini Casserole. The other week, I received samples of baby potatoes from The Little Potato Company (available at Ralphs and other stores).

There are few things I love more than little potatoes.

For this recipe, I used a package of their Terrific Trio, a delightful combination of yellow, red, and purple baby potatoes. I love the different colors, which bring a whimsical flair to any recipe.

I paired them with zucchini, making them into a simple casserole by layering them over caramelized onions cooked with thyme.

The finishing touch? A sprinkling of parmesan reggiano over the top. This recipe looks great served out of the roasting pan on the table, and is the perfect side dish for any lunch or dinner.

Baby Potato & Zucchini Casserole
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 60 minutes
Vegetarian; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 pound baby potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 5 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a dutch oven or other oven proof pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Stir in the thyme and remove from heat. Note: if you don't have a roasting pan that can go on the stovetop, this step may be done on the stove top and then poured into an oven-proof dish.
  3. Layer the zucchini and potato slices over the onion mixture, alternating a row of potatoes overlapped by a row of zucchini (see picture). 
  4. Once the pan is full, drizzle the potatoes and zucchini with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover the dish and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. 
  6. Once thirty minutes have elapsed, remove the cover and roast for an additional 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  7.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parmesan. Then, return to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  8. Serve family style straight out of the roasting pan for a beautiful side dish to any meal. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
  • Terrific Trio of baby potatoes from The Little Potato Company
  • organic zucchini, organic onions, parmesan reggiano, and extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's
  • onions and thyme from the West Hollywood Farmers Market
Disclaimer: I received free samples of potatoes, however the opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living somebody else's life." --Steve Jobs

if you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.

don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking.

don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.

and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. they somehow already know what you truly want to become.

everything else is secondary.

stay hungry. stay foolish.

--steve jobs

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meatless Monday: Sweet Corn Succotash

When I was thinking about what I most wanted to write about on this Meatless Monday, I couldn't help thinking about sweet corn.

It's in season right now, in the late summer and early fall. And nothing beats sweet corn in season. You know what I'm talking about...

And on that note, can you believe that's it's already October?

For one, I can't! And it promises to be a very busy month. First up, my husband's birthday is on Wednesday (I gifted him a beautiful mandolin so he can be the minstrel of Laurel Canyon). And on Friday, we're heading up the Bay area to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary with family, friends, and of course, great food (we're dining at my brother's restaurant Picco).

See what I mean about time flying? One year already...

But there's something about food--thinking about it, preparing it, sitting down to eat it--that seems to make the clock slow down. Maybe it has something to do with savoring the small pleasures of the day. Maybe it's how it connects us to the present by feasting on what is available at the moment.

The seconds tick slower, as the day is parceled out into meals.

Today's simple recipe brings out the best in sweet corn by cooking it with red bell peppers, red onions, and finishing it with a little fresh cilantro. It's a lighter take on a tradiational succotash, which usually includes lima beans or shell beans. But feel free to add them if you want.

Click here to view my recipe for Sweet Corn Succotash

Saturday, October 1, 2011

GOOD Magazine's 30 Day 'Get Healthy' Challenge

Wouldn't it be nice to do something small every day for 30 days to improve you life? Your health? Your fitness? You mental well being?

That's why I've signed up for GOOD magazine's 30 Day 'Get Healthy' challenge. The mission is simple: "For the next four weeks, we want you to get healthy."

All you have to do to sign up is enter your email on their website. Here's a little more from them on the 30 Day challenge:

There will be siestas in pursuit of relaxation, meditation in pursuit of a sound mind, and flossing in pursuit of a healthy mouth—one task per day intended to get you to make an incremental change that could prove very important. Don't think of this as an exercise regime so much as an all-encompassing effort to pick up healthy habits and leave behind unhealthy ones.

So what are you waiting for? Just think--you could change your life in 30 days. I'm excited to get started! Bring it on October!

Click here to sign up