Thursday, July 31, 2008

Old School Egg Salad Gets New California Girl Makeover

Back in my single days, I rarely had bread in the house. I mean I do like bread but regular sliced sandwich bread is just so so and frankly I could never eat the whole loaf by myself before it went bad. And I am not one to freeze bread that was just mediocre to begin with. So mostly I bought French baguettes or fresh sour dough or something from a bakery only when having people over or doing appetizers or bringing home a fabulous piece of cheese and a bottle of wine. Back then I basically shopped when I was ready to eat and KNEW I was going to be home to eat. When you are single it just seems that sometimes a week or two may go by and you never end up eating at home except a quick snack. Or that was how it was for me. So I hated to buy things that spoiled quickly.

Now while I didn't have any bread in the house regularly, I DID always have tortillas. What good Californian doesn't? They seem to last quite a while in the refrigerator and it is just easy to whip up a quesadilla or burrito or something when there isn't much to eat. Now most of you have probably made plenty of quesadillas and burritos with your tortillas but how about wrapping up cold cuts or other sandwich fillings? My favorite choice for this is egg salad.

Egg salad is a childhood comfort food for me. There is nothing like it just the way my mother and grandmother made it on fresh, soft, plain white bread. But when all else fails and you don't have bread, try a tortilla!

Simply hard boil your eggs and make the egg salad as to your preference. I do it simply, as my mom did, with good quality mayonnaise, a little paprika, salt and pepper and occasionally a tiny bit of Dijon.

Using tongs, heat your tortilla over a gas flame moving it around and flipping until it is warm and browned on each side. This is what makes the tortilla really tasty especially if it isn't really fresh.

Place the egg salad on the tortilla and fold like a burrito.


Try it at home sometime. It is really good. Especially if the egg and tortilla are still a bit warm!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ahi Sashimi with Soy Bean Purée

Those of you who have been following along for a while, may remember my mentioning some great food on my trip to New York. The trip was such a busy tiring one, I barely (operative word) had the energy to eat let alone take photos of the food. But one dish really stood out. I found it to be an amazing compilation of flavors and savored every morsel. This gastronomic treasure was found at Mercer Kitchen in Soho, one of Jean-George Vongerichten's many restaurants. He called it a tuna spring roll with soy bean purée.

Normally when I think of a spring roll, I think of veggies and possibly a meat, chicken or fish encased in a thin rice paper or other such wrapping. Jean-George's, however, were just the raw tuna in a circle with a very thin layer of light flakey wrapping around the edge. These were plated in a semi-circle on one side of the dish with a mirrored semi-circle of the purée on the other. In the middle was a design with another sauce or two and edamame lined up in a row like a Zen rock garden putting you at peace before entering into perfect union with your food. It was phenomenal! Did I say that already??? Well it was!

Okay. So as you might have gathered, I really enjoyed these spring rolls. But it was the sauce/purée that really cinched the deal. So what was in it? Soy bean obviously. In my mind that means edamame. I also tasted lime and there was a good amount of cilantro too. "I could make this", I thought!

Shortly after getting back from the city, I went to my farmer's market and found a new fish vendor. She touted the fish was fresh enough for sushi. So I opted to try her ahi. Not cheap... but less expensive than some stores. I thought it might be perfect to try with Jean-George's sauce!

Now for the sauce. I knew it had edamame. I put that in a blender. Cilantro? Check! Fresh squeezed lime? Check! Whiz and blend. Too chunky. Not smooth enough. I needed something to thin it out and make it a sauce. What could I add? A little oil. Olive would be too Mediterranean. So I added some vegetable oil and some sesame oil. Getting thinner. I added a little soy sauce. I added a little chili oil but not too much as I didn't want it to spicy. I couldn't add much more lime as it would be over-powering. And so it went. I added edamame, cilantro, lime, a combination of sesame and vegetable oils and soy sauce until the consistency and taste was close to what I envisioned.

Sorry to say, I do not have exact measurements for you. I just kept putting in a little of this, a little of that. I got close! My sauce was still thicker than the chef's but the taste was close. Not quite the same. But close. Maybe with practice I will get it! And maybe with practice, I can work out some measurements and better guide for you. Because this definitely had a great flavor!

I tried to plate mine similarly to the restaurant presentation. Of course, my ahi was just raw and sliced. In the center I made a design with soy sauce, sesame oil and chili oil with the edamame beans in a line. Unfortunately when I brought it to the table the oils and sauce blended around and wasn't as pretty as it was when I first did it. I also had to realign my beans for you.

I think my version may have been better suited to a grilled white fish. A lovely sword fish or even sea bass or halibut would have been divine!

This photo is far from ultra appetizing but as an experiment, I took a small piece of the ahi and rolled it lightly in panko. I then QUICKLY tried to brown it in a pan of hot oil. Unfortunately the ahi cooked up much more than I would have liked. I wanted a crunchy outer texture and seared fish but it was almost cooked all the way through as you can see. It was pretty good. But I liked it raw better.

I wish you could taste it too and help me decide the proper ingredients and quantities. But I will keep at it and see if I can't get it to be a bit closer to the original.

Now look at my messy kitchen upon preparing just one experimental dish for just myself! Oh and some rice and peas for the kids. Pathetic! Wish I was neater when cooking. Then it wouldn't be such a pain to clean up afterward.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ménage à Trois!

I thought that might grab your attention! Ménage à trois literally translated means "household of three." So get your mind out of the gutter! Nothing but food porn here! Hee hee hee.

In this instance I am referring to three kinds of pizza on the grill. Sounds like the makings of a summer Sunday night dinner chez moi!

This time I used Amy's recipe for the dough. You can find it on her blog, Familia Bencomo. I was in the mood to do a few different kinds of pizza. Traditional red sauce is good but it is always fun to mix it up. When grilling pizza things go REALLY fast sometimes so have all your toppings ready to go and standing by. I also find it works best to use a smaller size dough as it is easier to flip. I grill one side until beginning to be a light golden brown and then flip it and begin to add toppings.

I started with a chicken Alfredo pizza. On this I put Alfredo sauce first. Try making your own Alfredo. It is so easy and takes just minutes. You can really taste the difference. In most all recipes I have seen, it is simply an equal part of butter, cream and fresh parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste and add a little fresh ground nutmeg for that little extra... je ne sais quois!

Then I topped with mozzarella, chicken (left over from the night before) and carmelized onion and garlic (on only half as the kids would balk at it on their pieces.)

Secondly, I made one pizza with pesto and slices of fresh mozzarella. This one wasn't my favorite as the pesto was purchased and just not up to par. It was too salty or something. Not sure what the problem was. I need to just make my own as it isn't that hard at all.

Thirdly, to appease my kids favorite as well as my husband, I made a pepperoni pizza. Marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni... you know the drill on this one.

I cut the pizza up into small strips so it was easier for the kids and we could try all the concoctions.

We all had fun and it is a great family treat. Or try it with a group of friends. Have all the toppings ready and near the grill and let everyone top their own for "personal" do-it-yourself grilled pizzas! My old roommates and I did it all the time. Back in the good old days living on Balboa Island!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In Honor of Bastille Day

To all those who celebrate it, I hope you had a wonderful Bastille Day!

When I was watching the Channel 5 morning news in the morning, I saw a salmon dish with a white wine cream sauce or something of the sort. It was from a French chef in LA. I thought about it all day and when the evening rolled around felt I needed something of a French nature for dinner. I didn't have any salmon or fish here so opted for the old stand by-- CHICKEN (again!). But it would work.

I was sure the chef mentioned something about wine, lemon, butter and cream. Well there is something about that combination that is just amazing on fish and chicken! Don't you agree?

I based my recipe on a dish I made once which was from Longhi's restaurant in Maui. I had had a fish there in this AMAZING sauce and some months later went online to try and find the recipe. The one I found was for shrimp but based on the ingredients I think it is the same thing. I just happened to be there on a day when they used a Hawaiian white fish instead. You can view the recipe here (scroll down a bit)! It is a great, light and flavorful dish!

To start I melted butter and olive oil in a pan until the butter was foamy. I then placed the chicken (which I pre-seasoned with salt and pepper) in the pan until each side was brown and the chicken fully cooked. I didn't cook too too much as it was just the kids and I. I think this recipe works well for 2-4 people depending on how much you love your sauce. I LOVE sauce and pack it on. So cook enough chicken for 2-4 people. Set the chicken aside.

Pour in about 1/2 - 3/4 cup dry white wine and bring to a boil scraping up the brown bits. Simmer to reduce. Add the juice of 1/2 small lemon and reduce a bit more. When it is about 1/2 reduced add about 1/2 cup of cream and let warm and thicken. Throw in some chopped tomato, basil and chives (both from my garden) until just wilted. Place the chicken back in the pan to warm. Plate (pouring PLENTY of sauce over the chicken) and serve!

Not to toot my own horn but .... mmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!! So delicious! Perfect amalgamation of flavors. The sauce is a wonder topper for the asparagus too.

DO try this dish with chicken or fish (either works). I think you will love it. Oh and if you find yourself on Maui or Oahu, GO to Longhi's. It is great. Bon Appetit!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Concert in the Park

Every summer, here in Southern California, various cities offer free concerts in the park. I have been to them in a few different cities. My sisters go nearly every week. People bring food or buy it there and hang out on the grass- picnic style and mingle and listen to different bands. I like to join my sisters when I have the time. We all like to cook to some degree or another and bring things to share.

Trader Joe's had this interesting yogurt dip with cilantro and chives that I had purchased. I also got some Brie. So I marinated some chicken (seen in the first photo) with fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, garlic, oregano from my garden and about a 1/2 cup V-8 juice! Listen V-8 juice is great for so many things. Drink it straight for a quick veggie boost. Add your tobasco and lime and vodka etc. for a late morning cocktail with friends. But I think it can add nice flavor to a marinade for chicken or steak too. I also like use it to thin down a thick marinara sauce or to get the tomato sauce to go a little further when there isn't much left. It's a nice way to add a few "sneaky" vitamins for the kids that way too! Not that I'm a Jessica Seinfeld or anything.

While the chicken marinated, I took a shower and got ready. I packed up the car and the dry things like napkins, forks etc.... Then I grilled the chicken and some par-baked bread brushed with olive oil from Trader Joes.

The bread was crisp and delicious! I put it in a paper bag so it wouldn't get soggy.

I wrapped the chicken immediately in foil and finished packing our cooler and we were off!

The chicken was still hot when I arrived. It tasted wonderfully with the yogurt dip and toasts. And went well with my sisters hummus too! I also brought some cherry tomatoes and the brie of course and don't forget the vino!

I wish I had pics of our spread but seriously with a playground only feet away, I didn't have many moments to sit, relax, taste and sip before running after my very very active 2 year old! Maybe I'll get some more photos next week!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

4 Weeks and Counting...

Photos By: G. Pollak
Please note that the above and all following images are, to my knowledge, the work of the above photographer.
The images were incorporated into a PDF file that was a chain email to me from my father.
He thought it might be "interesting" or amusing to put on my blog. Would love your input.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics are quickly approaching. They begin August 8th and continue through the 24th. Now I am not a huge sports fan. If I never saw a football game, baseball game etc... I could care less. Unless of course said game was featuring one of my children as a key player. But the Olympics... They have a certain Je ne sais quois! The word Olympic. They history. The feeling and camaraderie. All the countries represented. I REALLY enjoy the Olympics. I usually prefer winter as I am a big skier and really enjoy the ice skating. But the summer Olympics are nearly as exciting and hold some sense of Nostalgia for me. My how things have changed in the past several years.
4 years ago, I watched the games in Athens at all sorts of odd hours. The events were replayed several times. I had a newborn baby girl (my first child) who was only a couple weeks old. So I was nursing around the clock basically. Many events, I missed. Many I saw on a repeated a few times. Funny how that works. It was a time when my only concerns were taking care of, feeding and playing with my baby. I didn't have any pending work. I slept when she slept. I read or watched TV while nursing and playing. I was tired. In a different way than now. But it was a time of great contentment. Life was easy.

Wind back another 4 years. I lived alone in a hip apartment complex that I payed way too much for. I was working for an ad agency in Newport Beach and was dating-- A Lot!!! Nobody serious. But I had plenty of dates. Plenty of fun. Right about the time the games started in Sydney, I had a few dates with a young man from Australia of all places. On one occasion he brought over several Australian beers and we watched the games while doing a taste test. It was a fun summer. Lots of parties. Lots of beach outings. Lots of "boys". A Hawaiian vacation and more. Work had its stress but everything else was pretty carefree.

So now I have sooooo much more to do! The kids. The business. The house. I cannot say life is carefree or mellow. But it is good. Very tiring. Sometimes frustrating. Sometimes overwhelming. And sometimes I really really want a break. A day off. A day of no kids and no work. But that is probably a looooonnnngggggg way off. But all in all it is good.

Now back to Beijing. Here are some more of the sidewalk food stands that are purportedly in the area.

Now what will our Olympians eat??? Would you eat any of this? I like to think I am an open eater. That I have a wide palette. But these delicacies? Yikes! I guess the corn looks alright. My diet would go a lot better/easier over there in the east. I would be sooooo thin if this was all I had to choose from. Let me know your thoughts!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Father's Day... Belated Post...

I am still trying to get into the swing of summer and here we are nearly in the middle of July! I have some serious catching up to do... on this blog, on my work and on my R & R!

As I have mentioned a few times previously, I have not been cooking much. WHEN I actually have cooked, I either did not take photos or have not had time to upload and post.

So the deal this time (for father's day) I was asked to do an appetizer. I did a crab stuffed mushroom which came out ????? So so I would say. Mostly I think due to the Trader Joes canned crab. I DO think it would be much much better if I had used fresh crab or something to that effect.

Then at the suggestion of Peter at Kalofagas, I decided to do something with shrimp and sausage. He had put grilled shrimp and chorizo together. I happened to have some Portuguese sausage on hand and bought some shrimp. As the day was to take place at my parents and my mom prefers I do most everything in advance so as not to create too much mess and havoc with so many people around, I grilled my sausage here and had purchased the shrimp already cooked. I still wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it though. Then I remembered this packet of mix for New Orleans style BBQ shrimp that I have had lying around since I went there some time ago. Basically it is just a bunch of herbs and seasoning and you melt a sizable amount of butter and mix it in. This was easy to do and reheat at my parents home.

Well it is not like the sausage needed any more grease, fat or flavor but... The combination of the sausage, shrimp and spicy butter mix... Really good. Amazingly good! So good that I forgot to take a picture until most of it was gobbled up.

So here is a pathetic picture of the last dregs of the appetizer. My sister gave me no end of sh** for taking this photo. She thinks I am so lame for photographing food at all let alone this sad remains. And it doesn't look that appetizing but it WAS!

Since my mother was barbecuing a London Broil, I thought the sauce that Peter made with a Spanish blue cheese (Cabrales). I also happened to have an unopened bottle of Sherry from Spain that I had gotten some years ago. But I didn't find the Spanish blue at my market and with 2 little ones, I don't often hike all over town for items as I did in my single years so I chose a gorgonzola. I followed Mr. M's instructions but for the fact I didn't have the fat and brown bits from the meat to stir up into the sauce.

I did everything at home and then reheated it on a stove at my mother's. It was rich and creamy and very good but would have been better with the brown bits. I did put a little of the meat juices from the dish into the sauce though. I will have to try it again sometime with the Cabrales and cooking the meat in the same pan.

All in all it was a delightful meal and a fun father's day.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Warm Nights - Fresh Food

We are in full swing of summer now. It began with Memorial Day weekend and now we are nearly finished with the 4th of July celebrations. One of the things I love most about summer is how late it stays light. This combined with the warm temperatures (yet cooler California evenings) make for perfect dining alfresco! I just love it.

Fire up the grill and throw on some good carne asada! Slice it up and stuff it in a tortilla with tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado and squeeze of lime. This, my friends, nears perfection! Add something like a Negro Modelo or a light white wine and you are good to go.

Happy 4th of July!!!

Well it is a few days past the 4th but it is still the holiday weekend. So I am finally back and here to wish you a happy happy 4th of July!!! I hope it was filled with family, fun and sun!

Nothing says the 4th to me like kids and watermelon. Here are some shots of my crazy little boy who ONLY will eat melon if I cut a LARGE slice. He ate almost the whole entire thing!

I have uploaded some food photos and hope to offer a few posts very very soon!