Ah Summertime, when one’s thoughts turn to the beach, balmy evenings, picnics, and… quinoa. At least that’s what popular vegan chain Veggie Grill wants us to think about. Every year about this time, they debut their new Summer menu items. Here’s this year’s list: Grilled Quinoa + Veg Burger, Mediterranean Toss with House ‘Feta’, Sonoran Summer Bowl, Haricots Verts with House-made lemon tahini dressing, and Chargrilled Street Corn. Read more about their Summer menu and find locations here.
Those succulent little heralds of Spring, white asparagus, have arrived from Provence in all their plump, sweet glory and are currently featured as the stars of the menu at Josiah Citrin’s Melisse in Santa Monica. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try them in their signature dish, White Asparagus “Cocotte” with Morel Mushrooms and Yellow Wine Sauce as well as other preparations. Time is extremely limited so move fast… melisse.com
I had a revelatory moment one balmy evening on the patio of the Amanjiwo Hotel overlooking Borobudur, the 9th century Buddhist monument in Java. Dipping a crispy spring roll into the ubiquitous and oftentimes boring peanut sauce brought a gasp: what was that flavor? It was slightly citrusy, bright and yet deep like the jungle itself. I later found out that the mysterious flavor was kefir lime leaf. I was instantly a fan. Upon returning home, I began scouring Indonesian and Thai grocery stores for the elusive leaf. I couldn’t get enough! Eventually, I planted a tree in a pot on my patio. Using it judiciously as a background flavor creates exotic complexity. More boldly as a primary flavor, kefir lime instantly transports one to a tropical Asian sunset of explosive flavor. Naturally I use it liberally this time of year to elevate the saturated earthy flavors of Asian sauces, coconut curries, and stir fries, but it sings in desserts as well: try it as the central flavor in a creme anglaise over a dark chocolate souffle, in a creamy Thai tapioca or rice pudding, or muddled in a cocktail. Of course it goes well in peanut sauce too…
Ok, here’s my first attempt at pizza from Mario Batali’s aforementioned book, Molto Gusto, with recipes from Enoteca Otto Pizzeria in New York. If you’ve ever been to Otto, you know the pizza’s are wonderful and the salads and small plates heavenly. I still make my version of Roman artichokes modeled on the ones I had there: artichokes in oil from Bay Cities, slivers of red onion, mint, parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon. Simplicity itself, but wonderful and summery. I normally wouldn’t undertake pizza. I didn’t believe one could get the same results from a home oven that are seen in a professional kitchen. But Batali’s recipe is different. The crust is initially ‘baked’ on a griddle, then topped and broiled. Initially, I was doubtful. And as you can see from the burnt crust in the photo, I had some problems finding the right amount of space from the broiler. Batali recommends 4 inches from the broiler for 7 minutes. No way. I moved the rack to the lower part of the oven and watched carefully. Also, I gave up on the stretching of the dough because it would tear. Once I switched to a rolling-pin I had no problem except that there is no raised edge. The crust still burned but no matter: it was malty, flavorful,, crispy. I bought all the essential ingredients from Bay Cities in Santa Monica. The Pomi strained tomatoes that Batali requires gave the pizzas an authentic taste. All in all, although they may not look like Enoteca Otto’s pizzas, mine were unbelievably delicious, as good if not better than what I’ve had in many restaurants in LA (Mozza and Gjelina notwithstanding). I recommend you give it a try, it’s easier than it looks and the results are impressive.
Fresh Tomato, basil, Buratta Pizza Mushroom and Taleggio Pizza
Cecelia Gannon of Donaghadee has long been know for her famous scones. Scones are an essential part of Irish tea-time. They are not the heavy, dry triangles one sees at Starbuck’s. Rather, they are always round, lightly crumbed and slightly sweet. Celia’s are a classic example of the Irish version of these wonderful treats. Her recipe is a simple and easy to remember ratio of 6, 4, 2. This recipe is a great example of how our grandmothers used to bake: Not by exacting and careful measuring but by instinct. Feel free to experiment and add in various other ingredients such as currents, orange zest, pecans, or whatever you want. Personalize the recipe and make it your own!
Cecelia’s Irish Scones
6 ounces of self-rising flour
4 ounces of butter
2 ounces of sugar
Mix together the sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until thouroughly incorporated. Mix an egg into an amount of buttermilk. Make a well in the middle of the four/butter mixture. Pour in the egg/buttermilk and using your judgment, use only enough to moisten the dry ingredients as you stir, stopping immediately when you have a ball of dough. Knead breifly. Flour a countertop lightly and roll out the dough until it is about 1 1/2 inches. Using a round biscuit cutter, cut out the scones and place on cookie sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper. Brush top with a beaten egg if you wish. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Serve with clotted or whipped cream and jam.
What could be better on a sunny Los Angeles Valentine’s day than an impromptu al fresco brunch? I made a simple frisee salad with white balsamic vinaigrette, pecans, and parmesan shavings to accompany the coddled eggs with shaved black Perigord truffle all washed down with a fine glass of Dom Perignon. To make coddled eggs, firstly, one needs egg coddlers. Egg coddlers are porcelain cups with metal screw-on lids and a ring at the top. They may be difficult to find. Mine are from Royal Worcester, who I believe invented the egg coddler. Butter the inside of the cup. In the bottom, I put a little cheese. This time I used Boschetto, a truffle cheese from Italy. In go two eggs, then a splash of cream and some salt and pepper. The lid is then tightly screwed onto the egg cup and the cups are lowered into a saucepan of gently boiling water. I boil them for about 8 or 9 minutes, so the yolks are still runny but the whites set. I top them off with shaved black truffle. Served with crusty bread, Heaven! Here’s hoping your Valentine’s day is filled with delicious moments!
Recently a reader requested my recipe for madeleines, the extroardinary teacake from France. Except for dinner parties, I seldom bake. (Hello… this is Los Angeles… who actually eats sweets?) But when I do, my go-to recipe is always the reliably fantastic madeleine. It is simplicity itself. But it’s power is immense. Marcel Proust was launched on a dreamy reverie by the mere taste of a madeleine, resulting the the masterpiece, Remembrance of Things Past. Feel free to experiment. Anyone who has been to Fauchon in Place de la Madeleine in Paris knows that they only make about a million variations. I sometimes add 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans. Enjoy!
(adapted from a January 2000 Bon Appetit recipe)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel (use organic unwaxed)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Preheat oven to 375degrees (I use 350 degrees truconvec on my Viking). Lightly butter the madeleine molds (mine are nonstick from Williams-Sonoma-they just fly right out!). In a stand-up mixer (or hand-held), beat eggs and sugar until blended. Add vanilla lemon peel, salt and mix in. Beat in flour until just blended (any more and you’ll have dreaded ‘tunnels’ in your finished product). In a slow, steady stream, beat in melted butter on low and stop as soon as it is incorporated. I usually stir the last of it in by hand. Spoon batter into molds. I prefer large madeleines, so I fill the molds about 3/4 full. For me, this recipe makes about 15, but you can use less batter and get more. Bake for 9-10 minutes depending on your oven. As soon as you see crispy brown edges, take them out. Overbaked, they become dry and chalky. Let them cool in the pan for about 1-2 minutes, then tip them out onto a countertop to finish cooling. When completely cool, dust the brown side with powdered sugar. Perfection!
“And as soon as I had recognized the taste of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set…”
-Marcel Proust Remebrance of Things Past