Monday, August 30, 2010

Lazy Friday Night Supper

Who says you have to cook to have a great meal at home? Sometimes you just need some really fresh produce, cheese, crackers and wine to create the perfect supper for a hot summer night...and let me tell you, last week in Los Angeles was HOT. I didn't even want to boil a pot of water, much less turn on a single appliance.

Here's what we had:

Smoked trout with dill which we purchased, plus a horseradish dressing whipped up using nonfat Greek yogurt, horseradish, a bit of light mayo, lemon zest and cracked black pepper.

Sliced baby roma tomatoes and Greek cucumbers, both from the Eagle Rock farmer's market, plus a nub of Saint-André triple cream brie, one Laughing Cow Babybel and one Laughing Cow wedge- all of which I dug out of our cheese drawer.

A basket of various crackers and bread we had left in the pantry- some La Brea Bakery multigrain, seasoned Ry-krisp and some random olive oil flatbread crackers plus a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette:

Put together, it all looked something like this on my plate:

Not bad for a dinner on the fly, and it definitely beat sweating it out in the kitchen. I guess it's one of those situation where each individual element might not look like much on its own, but together, makes a pretty great meal.

What's your favorite lazy supper?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Broiled Branzino, Steamed Artichokes and Panzanella Salad

Oh boy. Again with a post revolving around something beautiful purchased at McCall’s Meat & Fish Company. You must think I’m getting bribed with free slabs of Argentinean beef or some jumbo lump crab in exchange for multiple posts about this artisan butcher/seafood shop in Los Feliz, but I promise you, my love for their stuff is the only reason why I can’t seem to stop talking about them. Besides, if you met owners/butchers/fish mongers Karen Yoo and Nathan McCall, you’d know they’re honest, hardworking people whose main desire is to have their customers experience truly fresh and delicious food. Not only do they have the best stuff, but they’re always available for cooking advice or menu ideas, and best of all, they are two of the friendliest people around…which is saying a lot for a couple who work about 280 hours a week. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration but the truth is pretty close.

J and I decided that we’re going to try and buy our weekly supply of protein from local shops instead of the grocery store; ditto with our produce from farmer’s markets instead of a neon-lit supermarket. Food just tastes better when it hasn’t been forced to grow quickly or plumped up with chemicals, and we want everything we put into our mouths to taste great! Plus supporting local businesses and farmers is putting our money where it really counts.

Since we were buying for the entire week, I came home from McCall’s with a whole chicken, a tub of fresh non-GMO all natural handmade tofu (which I can’t WAIT to spoon into!), a pack of herbed smoked trout and two whole branzino. I felt like I hit the lottery as I carried my goodies home.

Initially, I was going to save the branzino for tonight (Monday) but they looked so damned pretty that I couldn’t resist cooking them up for Sunday dinner. Inspiration hit and before long, I had an exact menu in my head and it came together very quickly. Here’s what we had:

Steamed artichokes- I bought these gorgeous specimens at the Eagle Rock farmer’s market but then J pointed out that I’d probably end up heating up our already warm house (our poor, vintage floor-unit A/C can’t really compete with 95 degree heat) and since artichokes take awhile to steam, I almost decided to scrap the idea. Then I remembered my handy dandy Japanese rice cooker which also steams! Woot! I trimmed the tops, cut out the chokes, cut them in half (in order to make them fit into the rice cooker) and let them steam, insulated, for an hour. Easy!

The branzino was pretty much perfect as is, so I seasoned the outside and inside with salt and pepper, stuffed the cavity with lemon slices and flat-leaf parsley and drizzled a bit of olive oil on top before broiling for five minutes on each side (thanks Karen, for the perfect cooking time!). The skin got nice and crisp, and the flesh was flaky, tender, moist and utterly delicious. I made some salsa verde out of lemon juice, parsley, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper to drizzle on top but the fish didn’t really need it. I think J and I ate every available piece of flesh from each fish.

J and I’d eaten at Barbrix in Silverlake last week, and my favorite thing was a panzanella salad made with beautiful heirloom tomatoes. I did my best to recreate it with the heirlooms, cucumbers and arugula I’d bought (again, farmer’s market) and toasted up cubes of La Brea Bakery multigrain bread, then tossed it all with a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The soft, juicy tomatoes combined with cool, crunchy cucumbers and slightly chewy, crisp bread soaked in the dressing is a lethal texture/flavor combo.

Every time we eat like this, I just remember that quality ingredients require little or no manipulation and shine on their own, which is the perfect way to cook (or not cook!) during these hot summer months. Food just tastes better when it's fresh!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meat 'n Potatoes!

This dinner is from a couple of months ago, and I’ve been eager to share it with you, so here it is!

Our friends Henry and Jenn came over for dinner, and I know Henry loves his meat and potatoes and Jenn loves pretty much all food (like me!) so I decided to pick up some beef from McCall’s (yes, I realize I’m beginning to sound like their spokesperson but their meat/seafood is THE BEST!). I saw some Flintsones-sized bone-in rib eyes so I snatched those up, then went to the Farmer’s Market for some Yukon Gold potatoes and other veggies.

First of all, check out these babies. I mean, c'mon:

Here’s what we had:

The Girl + The Fig dried fig compote, goat cheese from the Cheese Store of Silverlake and some pepper water table crackers. The cheese was pretty dry and chalky, which was a tad disappointing.

Mixed green salad with heirloom tomatoes and fresh corn:

White on Rice Couple's Todd's amazing, incredible, life-altering Potatoes Au Gratin. I'm not overexaggreating. He and Diane were nice enough to invite my sister and me over for dinner a few months ago and they served this to us and let me tell you- it's CRACK! It only has six ingredients, but Todd's signature "break the crust" method keeps the potatoes tender and creamy while the top gets golden brown. We ate a pretty nice chunk out of it but still had some leftover; I'd take a spoon and eat it cold right out of the tupperware every day for the next four days. Not even kidding. It's THAT good. Who needs chocolate or other such silliness if you have this?! Check out his step-by-step instructions on the method here so you can make it this weekend. Heck, make it today. NOW.

Here are those two, fat rib eye steaks, seared to get a nice brown crust and cooked to medium rare. They were delicious and the four of us polished it all off, easily. I think personally, I prefer a cut where there aren't as many ribbons of fat- I know I know- it's the best part but I guess I'm more of a filet mignon, skirt or flank steak girl myself. It was indulgent and delicious regardless. I only wish I would have plated the dramatic steaks in a more, er, dramatic fashion. Should've used my giant cutting board, but we were all so hungry I think we just wanted to eat!

Plum and almond tart. My plum tree literally exploded with plums this summer so I had plums coming out of, front yard. This was one of the last things I made; I think I'm good on plums for awhile now! We served it with caramel gelato.

A wonderful time was had by all and once again, McCall's didn't let me down with the high quality meat they sold me for this dinner. Another thing that's great about McCall's is the husband-wife team of Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo are happy to answer any questions you have about their product, recommend ways to cook or order something in advance if you have a special request. "Enthusiastic" wouldn't begin to describe how both come across about their business- you can see the commitment to quality, customer service and a joy and love for food/cooking in their faces. They rock!

Here's what our dinner table looked like just before we sat down to eat. I'll spare you the "after" photo!

More to come.....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still eating.....

...but obviously not blogging as much. A good friend reminded me today of why I love to blog so I'll get back on it- I have some things saved up that I've wanted to share with you (hint: Flinstones-sized rib eyes!) and I will do my best to keep on blogging about one of my greatest passions- FOOD!

The photo above is one I took quickly after throwing together a plate of "healthier" homemade nachos. Nachos is something I rarely eat but crave often. I'm not a fan of fast food nachos, but good, bar-food or fine dining nachos are awesome. I had some chips, so I topped them with shredded chicken, black beans, diced avocado, red onion, tomatoes, salsa & non-fat Greek yogurt (the best substitution for sour cream in ANY recipe, seriously!) and warmed it all up for just a minute before finishing it off with some fresh cilantro and green onions. It definitely hit the spot.

This photo of some dumplings I ate for lunch today at Susan Feniger's STREET came out oddly pink, but I think it was the tint of the reddish umbrella that shaded our table from the sun. This "Dumpling Sampler" consisted of Verenyk (Ukrainian dumplings filled with spinach and salty cheese served with sour cream and lemon marmalade), shrimp stuffed shiitake mushrooms and Mandoo vegetable dumplings which were my favorite, filled with Asian vegetables, sweet potato noodles and roasted honey yam and served with sesame dipping sauce. YUM!

More to come....