Archive for June, 2013

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

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Brussels sprouts have recently joined the ranks of “trendy” vegetables alongside kale, chard, and farro. However, while (until recently) hardly anyone had even heard of kale and barely knew farro was edible, Brussels sprouts have been a staple in American homes, alongside meatloaf and casseroles, for eons.

Older generations tell frightening tales of the bitter miniature cabbage heads that kept them captive at the dinner table until there was nothing left on their plates  (or they fed the rest to the dog). I was lucky enough to never have been subjected to such torture (thanks mom and dad!). I was, however, forced to try all sorts of new age stuff like eel and fried crickets (no thanks, dad). Instead, the Brussels sprouts of my childhood were the purple pieces of lettuce found in spring salad mixes. Not too sure why I hated them so, as purple was my favorite color and I failed multiple blind taste tests with other types of lettuce, but I’d leave behind a neat little pile of purple lettuce on every plate. Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t a fan either.

Because I was never force fed Brussels sprouts, I wasn’t nearly as frightened as my grandmother expected when she introduced me to her new-school take on those old-school veggies. She even had to stop me from eating too many, and in typical Jewish relative fashion, explained the side effects of overloading on fiber. I’ll leave the rest of that conversation to your imagination.

I was pretty impressed when Grandma threw these little suckers together. Though she’s an amazing cook (my personal Julia Childs) she’s famous for her more traditional recipes like Caesar dressing (I’ll never tell!) and lentil stew (drooling at the thought). When I made her recipe on my own, I added brown sugar to help the sprouts really caramelize.

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These Brussels sprouts are hassle free and will send your taste buds into shock when you realize that the fearsome specimens can actually taste…good! By coating the sprouts in a combination of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and olive oil and baking at a high temp, the outside leaves crisp up and become sweet and acidic. Pair that with the sea salt and you’ll almost forget you’re eating something healthy! The results are tender in the middle, crunchy on the outside half-sprouts (you’ll cut them in half so they cook more quickly) that taste like smoky, caramely, bites of heaven.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut down the middle (from top to bottom)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 pinches sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 400’ F

2. Place halved sprouts in a mixing bowl, add olive oil, balsamic, and brown sugar. Toss to coat.

3. Arrange Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping sprouts after 15 minutes.

5. Once the outsides of the sprouts are caramelized and sticky and the inside is soft, remove from oven and serve.

 

Minty Vietnamese Steak Salad

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During the school year, my time to spend raiding pantries is fairly limited. I’m either in class, selling skin care products, or studying and by the time the weekend rolls around, I’m about ready for a waiter to ask me what I’d like to order. While I cook plenty of meals in between, it’s tough to find a moment to buckle down and write about it.

Now that it’s summer, I’ve got a lot more time for this here blog. Don’t get me wrong; I’m plenty busy. I’m about three weeks into my internship at Marlo Marketing, where I help out on the restaurant PR team. In other words, I spend my days scouring food blogs, restaurant reviews, and Eater/Thrillist/Urban Daddy newsletters for any mention of one of our beloved clients. Translated, this means I’m always hungry. While working 9 to 6, five days a week really takes it outta you (seriously grown ups, how do you do it?!) the good news is I get to leave my work at the office. So, when I get home, I have time to cook, snap photos, and write to my heart’s content. If you’ve been paying attention, that explains the higher frequency of posts, as of late.

Combing through all of these magazines and articles for mention of Clio, Tavern Road, Shake Shack, or any of our other tasty clients exposes me to a lot of other delicious ideas, such as recipes for sour cream swirl brownies and panzanella salad. While reading Daily Candy one afternoon, I stumbled upon a recipe for Vietnamese Noodle & Beef Salad imagined by designer Diane von Furstenberg’s personal chef, Jane Coxwell. I’m a big steak enthusiast, but usually stick to what I know (salt & pepper, seared on each side and then flash broiled in a cast iron skillet), but I’ve been on an Asian food kick lately (get at me, fish sauce) and this looked too good to pass up.

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It stayed on my “Recipes” Google Doc until just yesterday, when, after coming home from the beach and feeling drained from the summertime sun, all I wanted was something refreshing and light. I opened my handy dandy Google Doc and re-discovered this awesome recipe. After flaunting my fancy new tan lines on the walk to and from the grocery store, I whipped up a variation of the recipe that I’ll surely make again and again. With a few Asian cooking staples in your kitchen like rice vinegar, fish sauce, and soy sauce, you’ll only need to pick up a couple of other ingredients and you’ll have yourself a sweet, refreshing, and umami rich meal.

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This recipe is incredibly easy to whip together and can be made in 20-ish minutes. The rice vinegar dressing that’s poured over the salad soaks into the medium rare beef and saturates it with a sweet-meets-salty flavor.

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Though the beef is heavy, when paired with chewy rice noodles, velvety avocado, and refreshing mint leaves, you won’t feel weighed down when you’re done eating. The soy sauce marinade that coats the noodles unifies the lighter ingredients and the steak with a slight umami flavor that’s simply mouthwatering.

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Side note: This salad goes great with a minty lemonade cocktail. Muddle one sprig of fresh mint at the bottom of a glass. Add ice and fill with lemonade. Pour in one shot of white rum, such as Bacardi, and mix.

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Ingredients: (serves 2)

For the steak

  • ½ pound top sirloin steak, about 1 ½ inches thick
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the noodles

  • Dry rice noodles (as much as you’d like)
  • 1/8 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of ½ a lime

For the Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon minced (or zested) ginger
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, scallions, or cilantro (which is what Coxwell suggests), finely chopped

Other ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint, washed and de-stemmed

1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a medium size skillet over high heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of steak. Once oil is shimmering, add steak, cooking for 3-4 minutes on each side, until medium rare. Set aside.

3. Boil water in a medium pot. Cook rice noodles for 4 minutes, or according to package directions. While noodles are cooking, thinly slice steak  on the diagonal (against the grain).

4. Drain noodles and place in a bowl. Pour in soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice and gently toss to coat.

5. Serve noodles in personal bowls. Top with avocado and whole mint leaves. Lay strips of steak over the top. Shake jar of dressing and then pour over the steak and noodles. Garnish with a single mint leaf and serve immediately.

Zesty Chicken Piccata

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I know I’m being that annoying girl who won’t shut up about her amazing vacation, but bear with me while I share one more L.A. story.

I have this friend ,Patrick. He’s just about the most charismatic, outgoing, lovable, politically incorrect, dapper guy out there. This guy has so many friends that I feel like I’m out with a celebrity when we walk through UCLA’s Westwood Village, where he lives. Patrick is one of those friends whom you’ll see twice a year (not by choice, but because of geographic obstacles) and it will feel like no time has passed since the last bi-annual visit.

This time, we met up for dinner. I wanted pasta, so because I’m a diva, I dragged Patrick from restaurant to restaurant in Westwood to scour the menus for carb-tastic bowls of noodles that would please my picky palate. After teasing literally every hostess in Westwood, we wound up at California Pizza Kitchen, which I have unsuccessfully tried to convince my East Coast friends is merely called Pizza Kitchen in the Golden State.

I ordered the chicken piccata, thinking it might be a wee bit healthier than the rest of the heavy cream infused menu items. However, what was delivered to me looked like an entire fried chicken plopped onto a disheveled nest of angel hair pasta. Naturally, I ate the whole thing.

Let me tell you, this was not chicken piccata, at least not the chicken piccata I’m used to eating, which is only slightly breaded and full of lemony tang, acidic capers, and far less than the stick of butter used in CPK’s rendition.

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Fast forward to last night, when Patrick and I had one of those cross-country psychic moments when, after not talking in weeks, we text each other at virtually the same moment to say hello. Coincidentally, I was planning to make chicken piccata last night.

My recipe for chicken piccata is dedicated to California Pizza Kitchen. Seriously guys, if you follow this recipe instead of yours, you’ll save a helluvah lot of money on butter, so maybe you won’t have to charge so much! Also, no one needs to eat three whole chicken breasts, not even me.

This chicken is tender and juicy. By pounding the chicken into a thin fillet and dusting with flour, it soaks up all the yumminess from the garlic, butter, white wine, and chicken broth. Served on top of a (non-disheveled) nest of angel hair pasta and drizzled with the super rich reduction sauce, this meal is filling, yet refreshing. That fresh lemon juice wakes up the protein and carb rich meal and the white wine in the sauce lends a slightly fruity flavor. Serve with a glass of the leftover wine on the side and you’ve got yourself a meal.

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Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ¾ cup white wine (I use Chardonnay)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • ½ package angel hair pasta

1. Heat water and a hearty amount of salt in a medium-sized pot.

2. Rinse chicken breasts. Place between two sheets of plastic wrap/waxed paper or inside a Ziploc bag. Using a small frying pan or malate, pound chicken breast to ¼ inch thick.

3. Spread flour out on a dinner plate. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper then dredge in flour, covering both sides.

4. In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter and all of the olive oil. Once simmering, add garlic and sauté for roughly 30 seconds.

5. Add chicken breasts to skillet. Cook for three minutes on each side.

6. Add pasta to boiling water and stir occasionally until al dente, about three minutes. Then drain.

7. Remove chicken from pan, turn heat to low, and add remaining butter, lemon juice, chicken broth, and wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pan. If sauce seems too thin, add a sprinkle of flour and stir to incorporate.

8. After sauce has thickened, about two minutes, place chicken back into pan, turning to coat with sauce. Add capers to sauce.

9. On each plate, create a nest of angel hair, using a slotted spoon or your fingers to shape into a circle.

10. Place chicken on top of angel hair nest. Garnish with a lemon wedge and serve immediately.

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Nam Pla Marinated Pork Chops

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At first glance “fish sauce” sounds like an ingredient you’d want to steer clear from. There are a few foods out there that should just remain in their natural form, if you know what I mean.

That said, fish sauce is actually a godsend. Ever wonder how an Asian dish gets that (for lack of a better word) Asian taste? For most Southeast Asian cuisines, the answer is usually fish sauce. Other interesting ingredients in Asian cooking that I’m not quite ready to explore yet are egg shells and oyster sauce. I’ll take my eggs over easy and my oysters with a champagne mignonette, thank you very much!

While I really do want to convince you to try your hand at these Nam Pla (Thai for fish sauce) Marinated Pork Chops, I feel it to be only fair that you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Fish sauce is made of fish (usually anchovies) and salt that has fermented for one to two years. Here you were thinking you had to keep fish refrigerated at all times, and now I’m telling you to leave it on your counter for two years? I know, it’s a lot to take in. In Iceland (yeah, they’re on the fish sauce bandwagon, too), they realized that  would make for one smelly kitchen, so they buried the fish underground, at least 5 feet deep, for over a year.

As for me, I just pick up a bottle at my local Asian grocery store and save it for special occasions when I’m feeling rather brave in the kitchen.

My personal stash of Nam Pla was getting a little dusty when I came across a recipe for Vietnamese Pork Chops in Bon Appétit’s latest issue. The photo looked too good to be true, so I put my big girl pants on and strolled on over to my (non-Asian) grocery store for some pork. Sorry Super 88, I’m just not ready to explore that part of our relationship yet.

I made a few tweaks to the original recipe such as using center-cut pork loin chops (which allow for a more complex texture) instead of thick-cut bone-in chops, substituting olive oil for vegetable oil, plus a couple other things we’ll get to later.

By marinating the chops for at least an hour, they soak up all the rich flavor of that (not-to-be) dreaded fish sauce, which totally changes flavor when pan-fried. The result is a tangy, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside (none of that cardboard stuff your grandma made you eat) chop, that will have you second guessing whether you actually put that nasty fish sauce in there in the first place. But fear not, that unique Asian flare you taste is all thanks to our trusty fermented fishy friends.

This meal is ridiculously easy to prepare, only requiring a few ingredients. Pork chops are fairly inexpensive, so if your kitchen is stocked with the staples, you won’t have to fork over too much cash to make this meal happen. Because the flavor in these pork chops is so intense, I served mine with white jasmine rice. As an added bonus, you can turn that marinade into a dipping sauce. Feel free to set the table with straws though. You’ll want to slurp up every last drop.

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Adapted from Bon Appétit’s Vietnamese Pork Chops

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (preferably nam pla, the Thai variety)
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1-1 ½ inch thick center-cut pork loin chops
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1 fresh lime

1. In a shallow dish, whisk shallot, brown sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and pepper.

2. Rinse pork chops and pat dry with a paper towel. Pierce meat all over on both sides using a fork. (This will allow that yummy marinade to soak in and tenderize the meat)

3. Place chops in marinade and turn to coat. Place in fridge for one to two hours, turning meat frequently.

4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.

5. Remove pork from marinade and season with sea salt. Don’t use too much because the marinade is already pretty salty.

6. Pour marinade into a small saucepan and heat over low-medium heat, stirring often. Make sure to bring marinade to a boil for at least five minutes to destroy any harmful bacteria from the raw pork.

7. While marinade is reducing, cook pork chops in heated skillet, about four minutes on each side. When flipping, make sure the meat down side has a nice char on it. If it doesn’t, leave the first side face down for another minute before flipping.

8. Remove pork from skillet and allow to rest five minutes before serving. Meanwhile, pour dipping sauce into two ramekins.

9. Serve immediately with a wedge of fresh lime.

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Chia Seed Pudding

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Recently, my dad has become a bit of a health freak. We’re talking a green smoothie drinking, powdery herbal supplement adding, vegan everything eating, grade A health freak. This is the guy who taught me about Animal Style at In-N-Out and will share an extra-large Casa Bianca sausage and garlic pizza with me and almost finish it. So when I went back home to L.A., recently, I was not exactly pleased to find that the only food in our fridge was kale, carrots, spinach, almond milk, flax seed, and maca powder. On top of that, the kitchen where I grew up making Magic Spoon Cookbook recipes and eventually starting the Pantry Raid, was a giant gaping hole of nothingness.

I’ve been told that kitchen renovations are everyone’s nightmare, and let me tell you, that’s not far from the truth. The dining room and kitchen had merged into one, resulting in what looked a lot like the aftermath of a major natural disaster, topped off with a thick coat of dust.

My father, the optimist that he is, took this opportunity to embrace his inner health-extremist by acquiring one of those fancy Vitamix blenders. All of a sudden, all that yucky “food” in the fridge made sense. On my first morning in L.A,. I woke up early thanks to jet lag. At a loss for what to eat for breakfast, I wandered around the dining room/kitchen in search of some sustenance. As I scavenged, I daydreamed about my breakfast the day before – The Allstoned Sunrise at Refuge Café in Allston, MA. The only healthy thing about this cheesy, eggy, bacony, breakfast sandwich smothered in siracha mayo is the multigrain bread, and I’m totally okay with that. (side note: after posting a photo on Instagram of my breakfast captioned “Allstoned Sunrise,” I realized that non-Allstonions would not understand the reference to Refuge’s menu and I immediately felt poster’s remorse). Frustrated by the lack of carbohydrates and pork products in the fridge, I was beginning to lose hope.

Then, I found my dad’s stash of chia seeds, which had been one of my favorite snacks back in elementary school. Call me a hipster, but I was eating chia seeds way before they were cool. If you haven’t already been inundated with chia seed everything (juice, bread, smoothies [ahem, dad]) then the buck ends here. I guarantee that after reading this post, you’ll see chia seeds popping up left and right.

Because my dining room/kitchen was literally barren of all foods that aren’t smoothie appropriate and I was in no mood for one of Dad’s chartreuse blended beverages, I poured a handful of seeds into a red solo cup and ate them on their own.

Not only is this not a very filling breakfast, but it’s rather boring…especially when you had a bacon, egg, and heart attack sandwich the morning before. While chia seeds are packed with Omega 3’s, protein, and tons of fiber, they don’t taste like much. Leave a few in your mouth for a moment though, and they form a jelly-like coating that tastes a little like watermelon.

During this visit to L.A., I became more and more inundated with my dad’s healthy attitude. I was coerced into drinking one of his smoothies most mornings and I probably ate bacon only once, if that.

Back in Boston, I was stocking up at the grocery store when I happened upon some chia seeds (surprise, surprise!). There had to be a way to incorporate these yummy seeds into my diet that didn’t involve green sludge or solo cups. What I came up with was Chia Seed Pudding.

With a slight crunch and a tropical coconut essence, this pudding is simple, but delicious. The seeds, which jellify when left to rest, will thicken the coconut milk and lend to it an interesting texture.

This pudding is great for breakfast, dessert, or a quick pre/post workout snack. The protein from the seeds will give you energy and the coconut milk, while high in saturated fat, provides a number of great nutrients like potassium.

This recipe is a blank slate, so feel free to experiment by adding ingredients such as lime zest, cocoa powder, or substituting almond milk for coconut milk. I topped mine with fresh blueberries, which translated into a delicious breakfast parfait. Let me know what you try!

Ingredients (approx. 6 servings)

  • 1 can light coconut milk (14 fluid ounces)
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. In a medium sized mixing bowl or Tupperware, combine coconut milk, chia seeds, and honey and, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously.

2. Cover and place in fridge for at least one hour.

3. Remove from fridge, stir vigorously and serve cold with fresh blueberries.

Grilled Peaches with Marjoram Infused Whipped Cream

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One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles is the produce. Farmers’ markets are abundant with seasonal, scrumptious fruits and veggies year round and even convenience stores sell locally sourced limes alongside bottles of cheap tequila. Unfortunately, I’m not in Los Angeles. This summer will be my first away from the city of angels, as I’m staying in Boston to intern at Marlo Marketing where I’ll be helping out the restaurant team. It turns out that I’m already in their Rolodex of journalists to contact! I think that’s called foodception? I hope that means Leo will appear and whisk me off my feet.

It wouldn’t be summer without at least a couple of days in L.A. though, so before my internship started, I made a trip home to soak up the sun and eat my way through the city. While this mostly involved dining at my go-to restaurants, I had to get a taste of California summer on my own before it was too late.

Nothing more L.A. than succulents. That, plus  fake boobs and freeways.

This summery recipe is light and refreshing; the perfect palate cleanser after a giant burger or a charred-to-perfection steak. Grilling the peaches brings out a smoky flavor without compromising the juiciness that makes them the quintessential summer treat. My favorite part though, is the marjoram infused whipped cream, which tastes just a bit minty and a whole lotta good. A dollop on top of a grilled peach half bites the heat and leaves a cooling sensation on your palate. Sorry if that sounds uber pretentious, but we’re talking herb infused whipped cream here.

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Now that I’m back in Boston and missing farmers’ market herbs, I decided to grow my own, right outside my window! We fashioned a rudimentary window planter and filled it with basil, chives, rosemary, and arugula. Boston Gardener, the lovely shop in Roxbury where I stocked up on the greens, was all out of marjoram, so I’ll have to try a different infusion next time. Something tells me chive infused whipped cream won’t be too tasty though. Butter however…

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Approx. 5 stalks fresh marjoram
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 medium sized white peaches, ripe
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Special equipment – barbecue

1. In a small saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium heat until simmering, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes.

2. Remove pot from heat and add whole stalks of marjoram. Cover pot. Let steep for 15 minutes.

3. Using a mesh sieve, strain cream into a medium sized metal bowl. Cover with Saran Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

4. Use a hand mixer to whip the chilled whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks, about 7 minutes. Place in fridge.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut peaches down the centers. Twist gently to split in half and remove pits.

6. Pour a small amount of olive oil into one of the hollow portions of a peach half. Use a brush or your finger to spread olive oil lightly on the flesh of each peach half. Sprinkle sugar over oiled peaches.

7. Place peaches, open face down, onto a hot grill. Let cook for 5 minutes and then use tongs to gently remove peaches.

8. Place two peach halves on each plate, face up, and add a dollop of whipped cream into the center of each half. Garnish with remaining marjoram. Serve immediately.

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