Friday, July 28, 2006

WHAT THE......?!??!?!?

Although I hardly ever blog about fast food on Tuna Toast, I just had to share this with you after my sister gave me the info. She was at the mall the other day and discovered this new stand in the food court. She went, she saw, she was stunned, then went home and sent me the link in an email with the subject "Weird!" Of course I quickly opened it up to discover (drum roll please............) CripsyCones!

No, my dear readers, CrispyCones is not a new ice cream company. I'm not exactly sure what to say about it so I'll quote their website:

CrispyCones will forever change the way we look at meals on the go, with a new, fun alternative to traditional fast food. Made with nutritious ingredients and delivered in a smart drip-free cone that complements the delicious flavors of the food, the Crispy Cone lets you enjoy your favorite foods in a modern and environmentally-smart new way.

Spill-free, nutritious, and full of rich flavors, the Crispy Cone is the perfect portable food when you’re looking for a great, healthy, convenient meal on the go.

There are pizza cones, BBQ "Chicones" (get it? Chicken + Cone = CHICONE!!), Porcone (yes, that would be pork in a cone), egg cones, salad cones and the ever-so-delicious sounding Meatballscone. Now is that a meatball in a scone or meatballs in a cone? I'm guessing it's the latter. I've always wanted my pizza and my eggs to be "spill-free!!" Dreams do come true........

Ok now, I guess I shouldn't knock it til I try it, but why-oh-why must we take everything good and make it faster, easier and spill-proof? Cones were meant for ice cream or else some enterprising young mother would have packed tuna fish cones instead of tuna fish sandwiches in her kids lunchbox, don't you think? Haven't wraps taken care of the whole spillage problem already?

I'm afraid, as much as I pride myself on being open-minded, that I can't possibly waste $4.00 or whatever it costs to try one of these things. I'm also not sure how putting pizza fillings in a crispy cone could possibly be nutritious.

If any of you are brave enough, please report back. You know- next time your sweetheart says, "What do you feel like eating for dinner?" just reply with "I'm really feeling like a Chicone Teriyaki and then maybe a Smorescone for dessert."


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cilantro Quinoa Salad

Once again, I've become lax in my blogging but this time I have a good reason- the dreaded Summer Cold. Usually I'm not one to get bothered by being sick, but being sick during the summer really gets under my skin! I should be feeling better in a couple of days but in the meantime, I'd like to share one of my go-to, easy and refreshing summer recipes with you.

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare quinoa. It's easy, healthy and keeps well for about a week in the fridge. The other night I served it up with grilled tilapia and a green salad to make a nice and light summer meal.

Cilantro Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa, prepared according to package directions
1 cup cilantro
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
2 ears of corn- corn cut off cob
1 red bell pepper
1 medium red onion
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, sliced thin
Salt & pepper

Combine cilantro, oil, vinegar and garlic in a food process and whiz until smooth. Pour this immediately over the cooked (and still warm) quinoa and mix well so that it's evenly distributed. Set aside and let cool.

Cut the corn off of the cobs and sauté in a shallow pan until the corn browns slightly. Take the red bell pepper with a pair of tongs and hold over the flame on your stove (or put the pepper in a broiler) and heat each side until it is completely charred. Put the pepper in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. Let sit for 5 minutes. Take the bell pepper out and peel off black skin. Cut into small dice. Dice the red and green onions.

Combine the quinoa with the corn, red pepper, red onion, green onion and black beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the tilapia, I simply rubbed it with a mixture of olive oil, crushed basil leaves, sea salt and crushed garlic and let it sit for a few hours. After a quick visit to the grill, it was ready!

Now I've got to get back to my Emergen-C's!!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Something Sweet, For A Change

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was ranting about how hot it's been? The extreme heat made me delirious enough to call my beloved stove "the enemy." What has the stove ever done to me to deserve THAT kind of put-down? So Stove, if you're reading this, I am sorry. Also, I'll admit that I have a flair for overexaggeration on occasion....because here I am, a mere day later, with a cake.

Yes, cakes require baking. In an oven. Ovens heat up houses. My house has no air conditioning. So sue me! The weather has taken a welcomed and unexpected turn for the cooler and I made nice with my oven by baking a cake. One of my favorite executive producers at work turned 40 last week, but it was simply too hot to make anything for him. Besides, everyone made such a huge fuss over his birthday all week that I thought it would be nice to give him a little surprise after all of the hoopla died down.

Cake batter......mmmmmmm

I've been waiting for an excuse to make Clotilde's Yogurt Cake and, since this particular producer spent some time in France and even speaks French fluently, I thought it'd be the perfect present. Not that you need to visit France to enjoy this beautiful cake. The one mistake I made was buying fat free yogurt instead of whole milk- I'm sure some French grandmother is rolling over in her grave at even hearing the words "fat free." However, the cake turned out beautifully and I haven't heard any complaints from the receiving end. Next time, however, I plan to make the full fat version since the only other fat present is vegetable oil.

Sprinkled with blueberries.....

Speaking of Clotilde's Yogurt Cake, check out this hilarious post by the always humorous Amateur Gourmet. Being someone who has done the exact same thing more than once, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who's had cake all over the counter and floors. Hearing about (and seeing photos of) other food bloggers' kitchen disasters reminds me not get too down on myself when I have some big ones of my own.

Although the original recipe doesn't call for any fruit, I'm sure any variety would taste great against the tangy flavor of this cake. A sprinkle of confectioner's sugar gives it a nice finish as well, but I had to do that this morning so it wouldn't get gloppy from the moisture in the cake.

Finished product, minus confectioner's sugar


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another Day..........Another Salad

I know- you're probably wondering, "Is this blog called Tuna Salad or Tuna Toast?!?" It's just been so hot lately that my stove has become my enemy. Every night I get home from work, stand in front of the fridge and wonder what I can make that requires little or no cooking. Thus, salad has become my new supper of choice.

When I took stock of the fridge yesterday, I came up with pretty good bounty: fresh, crunchy Japanese cucumbers, a bag of mixed baby greens, scallions and a large Tupperware of leftover chicken, courtesy of my best friend Nikki. She of the small appetite went to a work-related dinner at Pane E Vino and ordered the chicken...which ended up being half of a very large roasted bird. Since Nikki no longer lives in Los Angeles and was just out for a visit, she opted to give us the leftovers instead of trying to take it back on the flight to Nashville....although it probably would have beat out anything that Southwest would have given her for sustenance. Oh wait- airlines don't even give free food anymore! Ack!

Although a nice green salad with some shredded roast chicken sounded good, I needed something a bit more substantial after a long day of work. I sifted through the pantry and found an unopened packet of soba noodles- score! I absolutely love soba and have used it in many different preparations aside from the traditional zaru soba way. I also love that it only takes about four minutes to get perfectly al dente soba as opposed to the 10 or so that it takes for pasta. After a quick boil, the strained and cooled soba went into a large bowl with the shredded chicken, julienned cukes, diced scallions and mixed greens. Tossed with some sesame dressing, it was a cool and refreshing way to end a hot and muggy day.

Maybe I should rename this blog Tuna Salad.........?!

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Baby, It's Hot Outside!

This photo of Cory best describes how we've all felt over the last week. With temperatures reaching past the 100 degree mark and no air conditioning, we now affectionately (or NOT so affectionately) refer to our house as The Oven. Sure, it cools off a bit at night but the sun doesn't even really go down until close to 8:00 PM. So even when we go to bed, it's still warm. It's been so hot that when it comes time to figure out what I want for dinner, only two things come to mind: Ben and Jerry. Since eating ice cream for dinner isn't a realistic option for my waistline, I've had to come up with other ideas.

As I stated in a previous post, a salad makes the perfect summer supper. Not only are they nutritionally sound (although beware of some restaurant salads that can clock in at over 1000 calories!!!), but they are cool, crunchy, refreshing and require no use of heat. There are few things as satisfying as a really great salad. When we're out at a restaurant, I always gravitate towards salads that contain the words 'southwestern,' Mexican,' or 'bbq'd chicken.' Yes, I have a weakness for those hearty greens tossed with bbq sauce, corn, tortilla strips, cilantro and plenty of colorful vegetables.

I found the salad of my dreams at the unlikeliest of places: Mi Piace in Pasadena. It's one of the few restaurants that has survived on the main drag over the years but I've never really thought much about their food. It's fine, basic Italian food dressed up to look nice, but there is nothing that has blown my socks off. That changed a few months ago on my first brunch-time visit - I ordered the half-order of the Insalata Di Taos, chopped. When I saw the heaping pile of chopped lettuces, blackened corn, cubed avocado, black beans, roasted red pepper, crispy onions, tortilla strips, grated cheese and diced tomatoes, I sat up straighter in my chair and grabbed my fork. It's flavor lived up to it's good looks and I knew that I'd be having regular rendezvous with Di Taos from that day forward. And what rendezvous we've had! Even if I'd find myself at Mi Piace at 10:00 AM, I'd still ask for the lunch menu so that I could have my beloved salad. We've been through bad waiters, long waits for tables and even one instance of lipstick on the water glass. My best friend and my husband both met Di Taos and also started a love affair with it! Yes, I love Di Taos THAT much. However, I can't hop over to Mi Piace every time I have a craving for that salad, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.
On a related note: Let me say that after one email to Mi Piace about all of the obstacles I had to face when dining there, the management really made a noticeable effort to get things right which was clearly obvious on my last visit.

Since I've been really trying to curb the calories lately, I knew I'd have to come up with a much lighter version of the salad. I brined some skinless, boneless chicken breasts in a simple solution of 1 cup of brown sugar, 5 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt overnight. I've been using this brine for awhile now and it consistently makes any white meat tender and juicy. Once the breasts were almost done on the grill, I slathered them with chipotle bbq sauce and let it caramelize onto the meat. Meanwhile I blackened the skin of one large red bell pepper and some corn. Instead of frying the tortilla, I simply put in it my toasted oven until it got hard and then broke it up into small pieces. After combining all of that with a mix of fresh chopped veggies and a dressing made with 1/2 light ranch and 1/2 chipotle bbq sauce, I had my homemade, lighter version of the Insalata Di Taos.

How did it taste? Well, let's just say I've had it for dinner three times this week and I'm normally a person who insists on variety. Even though this salad does require a bit of "cooking," the end result is so fine that I really don't mind. And if you grill up enough chicken, blacken enough corn and roast enough peppers, you'll have the ingredients to make the salad, well, three times a week if you like;).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Review: Comfort Cafe, Silverlake

I watch the Food Network. I'm just gonna put that out there because I know that there are quite a few food bloggers that absolutely will not partake in anything Food Network related. Although I do agree that the network has increasingly filled it's slots with no-brainer, lets-make-it-as-easy-as-possible cooking shows, I do have a soft spot in my heart for the place where I first discovered Anthony Bourdain and still see Barefoot Contessa regularly. I really believe that a lot of what I know in the kitchen is learned subliminally while having the Food Network on when talking on the phone, cleaning the house or working out. I have no doubt that my ability to cut basil into chiffonade or poke an egg before boiling to keep the yolk in the center came from watching Giada, Tyler, Bobby and Alton perform those tasks numerous times. Now, a girl does have her standards and my finger will quickly change the channel if I even hear one syllable of Rachel Ray's annoying squeal or Sandra Lee's yammering about "tablescapes." But from the shows I do watch, I can't deny it- The Food Network has made me a better cook.

One of the Food Network's newer shows is The Next Food Network Star, a realty competition where the grand prize is your very own show on the network. I didn't pay much attention to it the first season, but my curiosity got the best of me this year and I eventually got hooked. I have to admit, I was pulling for the eventual winner, Guy Fieri, from the get-go. He was energetic, fun and knew how to cook. I mean, he isn't exactly a gourmand but they guy can throw down in the kitchen. Since half of the contestants had never filleted a fish before, it was nice to see someone who actually had skills. Speaking of a show where no one can cook, has anyone been watching Hell's Kitchen? Pullleeze. Hells' Kitchen, you are NO Top Chef. Anyway, back to topic. Guy won the competition and now has his own show, Guy's Big Bite, while the runner up, Reggie, went back to his job as a pastry chef for Comfort Cafe, located in Silverlake. Since I live near Silverlake, I made a mental note to give Comfort Cafe a try one day. I'm no star stalker, but I did get to genuinely like Reggie and all of his "sassy" comments. Also, being a food lover, I had high hopes that Comfort Cafe would become a regular breakfast destination.

J and I went a couple of weekends ago, and alas- we didn't see Reggie who must have had the day off. The space was so cute with little embroidered chairs and etching on the walls. J and I stood at the counter perusing the large menu and finally decided on a southwestern-style omelet made w/ egg whites and a veggie platter. The veggie platter said "brown rice served with your choice of two salads." The case had several different kinds of brightly colored offerings and J chose the beets and the roasted vegetables. We got our iced coffee and iced tea and chose a table by the door.

Bland omelet with bland salsa. The toast was pretty good though.

My iced coffee was nice and strong but J's iced tea was infused with so much cinnamon that he took it back. Some people might like spiced tea but J isn't one of them and the menu made no mention that it was anything other than plain. Luckily the counter guy was very accommodating when J asked to order a juice instead. Shortly thereafter, we got our food. Mine looked fine but once again- J's plate had the beets, the roasted veggies and some greens. No rice in sight. When we asked the waitress, she seemed extremely confused so we reminded her that the menu said it was brown rice + 2 salads. She said "Oh....right....well a lot of people don't even want the rice, they only want the salads so that's why I got confused. I can take the beets off the plate and replace it with the rice if you like." Um, hello? After further explanation from us she finally "got it" and brought a side of the brown rice.

Bland veggie platter, sans rice.

The verdict? Bland bland bland. I know that an egg white omelet is annoyingly healthy but does it mean that it can't be properly seasoned? Even the accompanying salsa was tasteless. The same can be said for every single thing on J's plate except for the roasted vegetables which were good. We had to liberally salt and pepper everything to get some flavor. It's one of those times where you kick yourself for not just staying at home and making your own darned omelet- at least you would have added salt! I know this sounds simplistic but I hate paying money for mediocre food that you could have made yourself. Of course I have no one to blame but myself for being too lazy to do so on a Sunday morning! By the end of our meal, we were too defeated to even try one of Reggie's gigantic cookies which, I must admit, looked scrumptious.

The missing rice. Looks tasty, no? It didn't taste, actually.

Overall, it wasn't an awful experience. The staff is so friendly, the place is adorable and the food LOOKS great in the glass case but that makes the lack of flavor even more disappointing. I may go back for another try after a month or so, but with so many breakfast and brunch options in Los Angeles, I don't know if I want to bother.

Comfort Cafe
2520 Hyperion Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tofu Tuna Salad

When I go through periods where I don't cook much, I start to feel guilty and anxious. No one makes me feel this way- it's just something that I put on myself. I guess when I have a span of time where I'm cooking like crazy, I really feel like I'm making progress on my culinary journey. So when I don't spend much time in the kitchen, I guess I worry that the skills I'd worked on will go down the drain. "If ya don't use it, you'll lose it!" I tell myself.

Of course that is not true- cooking is sort of like riding a bike. Once you learn, you won't forget. Sure, you might be rusty after long periods of inactivity but the basics stick with you. After noticing that other bloggers have pared down their cooking during these hot summer months, my guilt has subsided. When I read about Molly's salad days, I had to agree- sometimes less is more. In fact, a lot of the time, less tastes pretty damn great. I'd be crazy to even attempt standing in front of the stove when we have no air conditioning and the temps outside are nearing 97 degrees! And with so much beautiful produce available at the Farmer's Markets, there is no need to really even cook. Just take a few things, assemble and enjoy the flavors of summer. After all, restraint is probably one of the most admired qualities of any respected chef, so it's probably time I focused on THAT instead of mulling over the meals I didn't make.

With J's band back in full rehearsal mode and a four month tour coming up, I'll be having many suppers for one which is a great chance to practice that restraint. The other night I just whipped together this salad out of whatever I had in the fridge, and it was the perfect, cool dish for a hot summer night.

Tofu tuna salad

1 half-pack of silken tofu
1 can albacore tuna in water
1/4 cup corn (freshly cut from the cob is best but canned if you don't have)
As many thinly sliced onions as you like (white or red)
1/3 cup diced green onions
Thinly shredded green cabbage
Mixed baby greens
Sesame salad dressing
Toasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and enjoy! I used the sesame dressing featured here but you can use any Asian-flavored dressing you like. High in protein, low in fat and best of all- totally satisfying.

I know the combo of shredded cabbage, corn and tuna may sound strange, but in Japan this is very common. It tastes really great and you get extra texture from cabbage that you don't get from lettuce.

Happy summer!

Friday, July 07, 2006


I have a confession to make. I rarely dine on the Westside. I realize that I am missing out on such places as Melisse in Santa Monica, Spago in Beverly Hills and countless other tasty destinations that are west of Hollywood. I'm not saying I'll NEVER go to these places but truthfully, I don't feel comfortable driving home from such a distance after having several glasses of wine. I also don't feel comfortable dining at those types of places and NOT having some wine;). That, combined with my general disdain for LA traffic, keep my dining destinations to the Eastside.

It's certainly a habit I will have to work on changing if I'm truly going to experience all that Los Angeles has to offer. I've started keeping a list of places beyond my usual city circle that I am determined to visit and will make it a point go outside the box, so to speak. I got my start last weekend when J and I had dinner at West, a new restaurant inside Hotel Angeleno, a new luxury hotel which sits where Sunset meets the 405 Freeway. Yes, you're right- it IS where that circular Holiday Inn used to be but now that building has been renovated into a hotel that begs to be the next Standard. The lobby is all muted colors and clean lines while the yet-unfinished pool area was strewn with dark and elegant patio furniture. Although the Angeleno looks a bit more mature than The Standard, I have a feeling that they are going for the same demographic.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I was invited to have a complimentary meal at West and that yes, that fact did encourage me to drive, er, west. J and I arrived a bit early, handed the keys to the valet and went straight up to the restaurant in one of two elevators. The very kind host and hostess greeted us warmly and sat us at a two-top right by the window and the beautiful view. Even thought it was only 7:30 PM, the bar area was buzzing and about 70% of the tables were full.

J immediately started reading the wine list and was excited to see one of our favorites- the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand- on it since we rarely have the chance to have it at a restaurant. Unfortunately, they were out of that wine so we went back to work out a new game plan. I have to admit I was surprised that such a new place was already out of something. Although the waiter suggested a South African sauvi that he thought was comparable, we declined the offer and decided to start with a couple of glasses of prosecco instead.

The menu includes a large selection of small plates- all of which sounded extremely appealing. However, I was there to try the steak since West dubs itself as an "Italian steakhouse." I decided on the Tuna Tonnato to start and the 20 ounce, bone-in rib eye with a chili rub for the main course. J chose the oysters as an appetizer and the Tuscan chicken to follow. The waiter asked if we wanted a side dish of vegetables for our mains, so I asked for the grilled asparagus with pecorino while J opted for the brocollini. We toasted our glasses and dug into the bread which came accompanied by chunks of nutty parmesan, fragrantly bitter olives and some chili-infused olive oil.

The waiter approached a short time later and set a rack (the sort you see at pizzerias that suspends the pizza off the table) down and placed the silver plate of oysters on top of the rack. Although I've seen this before with oysters (I'm guessing it keeps the condensation off of the table cloth) I'd never seen a rack so high that it put the oysters above eye level. After I got my tuna, J and I sat there for a moment feeling a bit silly that we couldn't even see each other since the oyster plate was almost completely blocking his head! He quickly took the plate off the rack and one of the busboys took the rack away. MUCH better. I don't understand how they expect you to eat anything that you have to reach above your head for. Anyway, on to the food. The tuna was seared, possibly smoked, sliced and topped with a creamy aioli and some greens. It was fine, but nothing spectacular. I guess I'm more partial to having my rare or raw seafood sauced with something more on the vinegary or gingery side- not a creamy sauce. J enjoyed his oysters which came with two types of mignonette.

Before the steak arrived, I ordered a glass of pino noir since, much to my disappointment, there were no zinfandels available by glass. To me, red meat and zin are a match made in heaven. My mood quickly changed, however, when the waiter sat the large plate of hunking meat down in front of me. I must say- it was gorgeous. J looked at his chicken and then looked at my steak and knew he should have ordered one too. Of course 20 ounces is much too much for a girl to eat all by herself (in public) so we ended up sharing it. It came complete with a blue cheese butter, a red wine reduction, béarnaise and a stack of meltingly tender caramelized onions, but who needs sauce on a piece of meat this delicious? To be fair, I did try all three sauces and particularly enjoyed the red wine reduction but the real star was the steak. It didn't really have even a hint of chili flavor or heat, but the beef was magnificent and perfect in it's medium rare state. J's chicken was fine, albeit a bit on the dry side, but we both agreed that steak was the way to go.

Then......well, I don't want to say horror since I was thoroughly enjoying my meal at this point. But I must be honest with you, dear readers. In my bovine bliss I had completely forgotten to eat my asparagus so I stabbed a couple of spears with my fork to give it a try. Unfortunately my fork stabbed more than just also seemed to have caught a long, dark hair that was partially wrapped around the veggie. Once again, in the interest of FULL disclosure, I have long, dark hair.....which was nowhere near the plate of asparagus but I thought "hmmm, maybe it's mine..." and pulled it off the plate. When my next forkful contained a short dark hair which had been ensconced in the middle of the pile of asparagus, I knew it didn't come off of this head and I also knew that I had to speak. To his credit, the manager looked very upset and swiftly took the offending plate off the table. Within a few minutes I was served up a fresh, piping hot plate of asparagus that was grilled very nicely.

Even though we were pretty full at this point, we had to try their desserts. J ordered the peach tartlet and I went with the molten chocolate cake. Both came looking as pretty as can be- my dark cake sitting on an oblong plate dotted with tufts of whipped cream and sprinkled with tiny balls of chocolate and J's tart perched on a drizzle of beautiful green sauce. I quickly cut into the cake to reveal the warm and gooey center which tasted like dark chocolate heaven. I also truly enjoyed the tiny chocolate balls which had some heat to them- I can't be sure but I think they were pink peppercorns coated in chocolate. Brilliant. J's tart was everything you'd want in such a comforting dessert- warm peaches in flaky pastry with hints of maple, brown sugar So THAT was the green sauce. Although it wasn't bad, I just think that some classic desserts shouldn't be messed with. Mint in a peach fruit salad? Great. Mint in a chocolate dessert? Fabulous. But adding that flavor element to what essentially is a peach pie just doesn't make sense. I think the tart would work much better without it.

Overall, the service was very good and we noticed that there were no less than three managers on the floor at any given time. The food could use a bit of tweaking (except the steaks which are perfect!) but for a place that has been open for only a couple of months, I have high hopes that those kinks will be worked out in no time. About the hair- it actually proves a point that I have regarding service vs. food at restaurants. For me, the service is KEY. If I have bad food at a place with stellar service, somehow that food is a bit easier to swallow and the effort by the staff may be enough to bring me back for another try. However, bad service can absolutely RUIN a good meal- no matter how good the food is. I recently had an experience where a waiter was so unbelievably rude that it wouldn't have made any difference had I been eating lobster and foie gras- I was livid and would never return. So the fact that the "issue" was handled in a polite, apologetic and timely manner made what would normally have been an extremely offensive bump-in-the-road something that was fairly easy to overlook. That said, it should certainly never happen again because, as they say, three hairs, I mean strikes, and you're OUT.

West is the perfect place for a date- the view is beautiful, the chairs are extremely comfortable and the variety of small plates makes it easy to try a bunch of different things on the menu. Of course the fact that you could book a room after dinner doesn't hurt either....but I digress. Go for the view, stay for the steak and whatever happens after that is up to you.

170 N. Church Lane
Los Angeles , California 90049