Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Restaurant Opening: Smashburger Debuts in LA!

Smashburger has opened in LA.

Already excited for this restaurant, I jumped when my invitation arrived to be one of the lucky food bloggers to sample the entire menu on a warm, sunny January day. The location is technically in Culver City (the other Southern California location is in Thousand Oaks).

Let's just start with the Smashburger itself. Juicy, tender, great seasoning—the burger lived up to its reputation. I sampled Classic Burger with Smashburger Fries (start with the basics). The favorite burger was the L.A.—made with crispy wonton, fried egg, cilantro, cucumber, and ginger dressing.

We were invited to view the special process as demonstrated by Tom Ryan, the CEO and Chief Concept Officer. The ground beef is loosely packed (and not put through a traditional meat grinder). The key part of the process is when the meat is "smashed" with a patented press.

It's then generously seasoned with a salt and pepper mixture.

Sweet Potato Fries
Other highlights of the menu included the Sweet Potato Fries. If you're craving something healthier, you can do a side of "Veggie Frites"—flash-fried carrot sticks and green beans. Very tasty.

Fresh Mex Veggie Black Bean Burger
If you're not in the mood for beef, the chicken options are stellar. The chicken breast is pounded thin and marinated. Any burger option can be made with chicken instead. And if you're hoping for a vegetarian option, the Fresh Mex Veggie Black Bean Burger was awesome. The biggest surprise, considering that Smashburger is known for being burger restaurant, was the quality of the salads. If you're hoping for something on the lighter side, try the Baja Cobb and add the chicken.

I loved the burger, but the milkshakes made my day. Using Haagan-Dazs ice cream, I loved both the vanilla and the strawberry. Malts are also available in tempting flavors like Butterfinger and Chai. There's also an IBC Root Beer Float.

Vanilla Shake
So if you're in the neighborhood, or looking for a fun foodie field trip, check on the new Smashburger in Culver City (Los Angeles, CA). And now I'm hungry...

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Smashburger, but received no compensation and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Curried Butternut Squash Crab Soup

Happy new year!

Can you believe it's 2013? Did you make your new year resolutions?

I've got about ten or so... you can read about them here on my author blog. One very exciting possibility—a cookbook based on my blog. I'll provide more details as it starts to come together.

After spending a week back East cooking with my mother, I was inspired to whip up a feast for New Year's Eve. I started the meal with this Curried Butternut Squash Crab Soup. The squash is roasted in the oven and then pureed into a velvety rich soup, spiked with curry powder and coconut milk. I garnish it with lump crab meat, cilantro, and toasted pepitos—this adds both texture and flavor.

The resulting soup is spicy, decadent, and creamy (but without dairy). To make it vegan, simply leave out the crab. This is perfect dish for these cold January days.

Curried Butternut Squash Crab Soup

Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about one hour
Gluten-free; dairy-free; easy to veganize


1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and freshly ground pepper

for garnishing:
fresh cilantro, chopped
toasted pepitos (pumpkin seeds)
lump crab meat (about 1/4 cup per serving)
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place the squash in a roasting pan. Rub the inside of the squash with the olive oil, thyme, and chili flakes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the squash face down and poke holes in the skin with a knife. Roast the squash in the oven for about 50 minutes or until tender.

3. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool. Once it's cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh from the skin and place it in a blender. Add the curry powder, garlic cloves, maple syrup, and vegetable stock and puree until smooth, adding more stock as needed for desired consistence.

4. Pour the newly pureed soup into a pot on the stovetop. Stir in the coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slowly bring up to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes.

5. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with the crab, cilantro  and pepitos. Finish with a drizzle of good olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.  Enjoy!