Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Ferry Building: San Francisco Food Emporium

meyer lemon tart from Frog Hollow Farm

Where to begin? The Ferry Building, at the end of Market St, facing the East Bay, was one of few city buildings to survive the earthquake of 1906 (we know this because of the excellent exhibit of photos of the quake's aftermath at the SFMoma). Now, it houses a treasure trove of food shops, from chocolate to cheese to seafood to caviar to mushrooms and more. On Saturdays, the bounty expands exponentially with an outdoor farmer's market added to the mix--fresh produce from nearby farms, as well as homemade butter, canned vegetables, heirloom honeys, freshmade yogurt--it's truly ridiculous. We marvelled, we sampled, we feasted.

myriad mushrooms from Far West Fungi

watermelon radishes, slightly less spicy than regular ones

extremely large endive?

many meyer lemons

one dollar, one oyster coming up

Happy New Year: San Francisco's Chinatown

Sitting in my living room, enjoying a cup of Dragonwell Summer (a green tea), it's hard to imagine that it was just a few hours ago that we were sniffing the massive metal jars of tea at the Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco's Chinatown. We walked away with only the Dragonwell, but had our eye on some green ginger and white teas as well.

Today is Chinese New Year, celebrating the beginning of the year of the dog. As we explored the nooks and crannies of Chinatown this morning, the smell of incense wafted through the alleys and occassionally we caught the sound of singing from the monastaries housed above the shops and restaurants. We stopped in many a shop to marvel at the barrels of dried mushrooms, ginseng, scallops, and the occasional seahorse, then we met Jess for dim sum, at Hang Ah Tea Room (recommended on Slashfood by way of LARitz). This 80-year old, basement-level establishment is tucked off the main drag, away from the tourist hordes, yet filled with a mix of Anglo groups and Chinese families. Within the cheerful, bright orange walls we enjoyed shrimp dumplings shaped like rabbits, pork and shrimp dumplings, sesame balls, turnip cakes, flat packets of shrimp wrapped in bean curd, and the best char siu bao (bbq pork buns) I've had. Last but not least, after seeing several plates of crispy fried items travel to other tables, we managed to feebly describe them (I think I used the term bird's nest) to the waitress and get a plate of crispy shrimp balls. These were my favorite--lightly fried and satisfyingly crunchy. As Slashfood noted, there are no carts here, you order from the menu--which was fine by me--the dishes were all very fresh and we could look to other tables for inspiration. Our early afternoon feast kept us full all day, and was a worthy kick-off to the new year.

Hang Ah Tea Room
1 Pagoda Pl, off Sacramento St. between Stockton and Grant Sts.
San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nicky D's Pizza: Comforting Sunday Dinner

Sunday night we had grand plans for homemade wild mushroom ravioli, until our more adventurous cat, Sebastian, decided to chow down on a lily (hidden way, way, way up high on shelf). Lilies, as we now know, are poisonous and often deadly for cats, causing kidney failure. While I grew hysterical, J managed to get him in the pet carrier and we rushed to the emergency pet clinic. After two nights at the vet, one scare when his kidney enzymes went out of whack, and more money than we'd care to admit, he's now back safe and sound at home, though not convinced he can trust us anymore.

Sunday night was quite depressing though, as J and I sat in our living room and worried. A Pesto-Chicken-Goat Cheese PIzza from nearby Nicky D's helped sooth our nerves. (Well, that and a bottle of Tempranillo). Seriously, the woodfired pizza at this SIlverlake shop is some of the best, whether you're in need of comfort or merely a tasty pie.

Nicky D's Pizza
2764 Rowena Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Monday, January 23, 2006

Clafoutis: It's the pits (in a good way)

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for the suggestive sell at Whole Foods. Walk in the door, see a display of jewel-red cherries, taste a sample, buy a pound. They certainly weren't local (Chile, I believe), but they tasted damn good. Wasn't sure if I'd bake with them or just snack on them, but came across this clafoutis recipe in The Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook. According to the book notes, traditional French clafoutis-makers left the cherries whole, pits and all, because the pits imparted an almond flavor to the dessert. This recipe, however, had you pit the cherries and use a touch of almond extract instead. Well, I had no almond extract, and after pitting a few cherries I realized I'd be in for a much longer night if I did them all. So, by default and laziness I stuck to tradition and left the pits in. J was less than thrilled by this development because it meant much more careful eating, and I can't say I tasted much almond essence, but nonetheless I devoured the baked-pancake-like dessert. It has a relatively low fat content, and you could further health-ify it by roasting the cherries with honey instead of white sugar. I especially enjoyed the cherry syrup that results from the initial cherry-roasting. It's a good reminder how utterly pathetic commerical attempts at faux cherry flavor are.

P.S. If, like me, you wondered how to pronounce clafoutis it's CLAH-FOO-TEA. Fluent French speakers, I apologize.

Cherry Clafoutis
barely adapted from Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

1 lb. sweet cherries, washed (pits optional)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (I used a Meyer lemon)
1/4 tsp. grated lemon zest (again, Meyer)
A pinch ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar (try honey instead!)
2 eggs, seperated
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract (if you have it)
1/3 c. cream (here I used a mix of 1/2 and 1/2 and 2%)
A pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a baking pan (I used a cast iron skillet) large enough to loosely hold the cherries in a single layer. Arrange cherries in pan, and sprinkle with the lemon juice, zest, cinnamon and sugar. Bake until fruit is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Raise oven temp to 375. Butter another baking dish (I used an 8 inch round cake pan) large enough to hold cherries in a single layer. Drain the cooked cherries, reserving the juice. Arrange cherries in bottom of baking dish. Beat together the egg yolks and remaining 3 tbsp. of sugar until well blended. Beat in the flour, vanilla, almond extract, and cream.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks (I admit, I beat only until really foamy). Stir a bit of whites into the batter, and then carefully fold in the rest. Pour the batter over the fruit in the baking dish. (I made my batter while the cherries were initially roasting.)

Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the batter is puffed and browned. While the clafoutis is baking, reduce the fruit juices to a thin syrup (mine didn't need much reducing). When the clafoutis is done, if you're fancy, dust with powdered sugar, otherwise just gobble warm with a drizzle of the delicious syrup.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Easy Weeknight Meals: Mustard-Fennel Pork Loin

This pork loin is so delicious that it made up for my pathetic side dish of roasted turnips, squash and potatos. Clearly, roasted veggies have no place in a quick weeknight meal--they need time to carmelize and soften, and I was too impatient. You can season the pork in the morning before you leave for work, and it doesn't take long to cook. The leftovers make great sandwiches for lunch the next day, too.

Mustard-Fennel Pork Loin

1 bay leaf
3/4 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 (1-2-lb) center-cut boneless pork loin roast
coarse-grain mustard
olive oil

Crumble bay leaf into a spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder) and pulse with kosher salt and fennel seeds until well mixed..

Arrange loin, fat side up, lengthwise on a work surface. Holding knife horizontally, make a lengthwise cut about 1 1/2 inches deep along side of loin (do not cut all the way through). Open loin like a book, then pat dry inside and out. Rub mustard all over cut sides, then sprinkle with some seasoned salt. Close loin. Rub olive oil evenly over roast, then rub with mustard and sprinkle with seasoned salt (you may have more salt than you need), pressing lightly to help adhere. Put in a small roasting pan, covered, or ziplock bag and chill for at least 12 hours.

Let pork stand at room temperature 30 minutes before roasting.

While pork comes to room temperature, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Roast pork 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and continue to roast until thermometer inserted diagonally 2 inches into center of meat registers 145°F, 25-30 minutes. Transfer pork to a platter and let stand, uncovered, 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

LaLa Land: M Cafe de Chaya and Joan's on Third

Little in my daily life resembles stereotypical Hollywood fantasies--neither J or I or any of our friends work in the industry, we live far from the beach, I usually take the -gasp- bus to work, I've never set foot in a celebrity-owned eating establishment. Every once in awhile, however, I'll have a moment where it hits me like a ton of bricks--Holy Sh*t, I live in Los Angeles. The first such moment came not long after we'd moved here and I'd started my job. I attended a memorial service for the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and unwittingly sat down next to Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, both of whom made small talk with me until the event started, which was of course, emceed by Josh Whitford. It took quite an effort to wrap my mind around the fact this was an event I was attending for work.

The majority of my Holy Sh*t moments are less star studded (in fact, after 3 1/2 years here, J and I have a fairly pathetic star-sighting record. I, in an intellectually snobby way of course, blame it on not owning a TV)--most involve marveling at the weather, palm trees, the never-ending vastness, etc.

This is what macrobiotic looks like.

This is all a preface to the two very, very Los Angeles meals I ate on Thursday. For lunch, I picked up a salad from M Cafe de Chaya, the newish macrobiotic place on Melrose and La Brea. The review in the LA Times gave it high marks for flavor, and as I'm trying to eat healthy and all, I decided to skip another La Brea Bakery sandwich. I won't pretend that I've now learned anything about macrobiotism(?)--but I can make a few guesses based on the contents of my chopped salad. 1) No pork--instead, crumbled tempeh bacon 2) No dairy--the creamy peppercorn dressing was made with tofu, and damned if I could tell the difference 3) No generosity--if the paltry portions of chopped beets and carrots were a measure. Joking aside, overall it gets the Erin lunch spot thumbs up. Oh, even better than the chopped salad was the side of maple-glazed roasted veggies--brussel sprouts, eggplant and squash.

The other meal, not nearly so healthy, was dinner at Joan's on Third. After a late-ish night at work, I was driving aimlessly home, looking for a bite to eat, and happened upon Joan's. While the cramped, long and skinny space reminds me of a high-end New York deli, the clientle is pure LA, from the blonde TV producer hashing out her latest project with her daughter, to the middle-aged screenwriter, obviously a regular, excitedly relating to the cashier that the star from the OC wants to be in his flick, to the sighting of Dennis Franz (of NYPD Blue fame), looking scruffy and secretative in a Korn sweatshirt and knit cap. I took this all in while noshing a tarragon chicken sandwich on a baguette and a peanut-butter filled cupcake. The huge sandwich was peppery and mustard-y, with fresh greens and tomato filling it out. The cupcake wasn't as good as I hoped, the cake part was kinda dry and the frosting was a hard icing, not a fluffy buttercream.

Restaurants for a Day in LaLa Land

M Cafe De Chaya

7119 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90036
Telephone: 323.525.0588

Joan's on Third
8350 W. 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Telephone: 323.655.2285

Seven Meme

A few days ago, Darla at Messy Cucina tagged me for the sevens meme and I've been woefully slow to respond. I love lists, though, but I wanted to make the questions a little more food-oriented, so I hope she won't mind that I've adapted a few of the categories!

Seven Places I Want to Visit in LA This Year
instead of seven places to visit before i die

1) Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan mole joint
2) Ramen places on Sawtelle in West LA
3) Koreatown BBQ spots
4) Providence, a fancy seafood place that's earned high praise from both critics and chowhounds alike
5) Little India in Artesia
6) Fosselman's and Mashti Malone's Ice Cream
7) Game Chili night at Saddle Peak Lodge in the hills of Malibu

Seven Things I've Never Eaten (but plan to)
instead of seven things I cannot do

1) Caviar (the time at age 15 when I tried a bit off the salad bar at Legal Seafoods in Annapolis, MD doesn't count!)
2) Frog legs (though I had a chance at a conference in Northern VA last week, but who eats frog legs off the buffet line at a conference center?)
3) Truffles, the mushroom not the chocolate kind
4) Steak tartare
5) Sweetbreads
6) Chicken feet (when I studied abroad in Zimbabwe, my youngest host sister would get the chickenfeet as a special treat after dinner and suck on them for hours. She looked so happy that i was always tempted to try them, but never did.)
7) Cauliflower (Well, I have eaten this before, but not for awhile. I've seen so many good recipes with it lately, here for example, that i need to reexamine my tastebuds on this one)

Seven Food Bloggers I LIke Reading (that I need to add to my sidebar!)
instead of seven things that attract me to blogging

1) Jasmine at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict
2) Alysha at The Savory Notebook
3) A Curious Mix
4) Nic at Baking Sheet
5) Amy at Cooking with Amy
6) Tana at Small Farms
7) Nicky at Delicious Days

Seven Favorite Books--Because When I'm not Working or Cooking, I'm Reading

1) Anna Karenina/Tolstoy
2) Pale Fire/Nabakov
3) Cloud Atlas/Mitchell
4) Love in the Time of Cholera/Marquez
5) Midnight's Children/Rushdie
6) The Remains of the Day/Ishiguro
7) Country of My Skull/Krog

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wednesday Small Bites

The LA Times has an article about local wine bars in the food section today, mentioning Vinoteca Farfalla, which I praised here a couple weeks ago. The article doesn't mention the cozy nook at the Colorado Wine Company in Eagle Rock, a great spot for a glass, nor the ridiculously crowded but convivial Silverlake Wine regular tastings. I consider it a wine bar without seats.

LA Foodblogging has launched foodblogging forums, so head over and discuss. Right now I'm interested in the best Sawtelle Ramen poll--this is an area of town I never visit, but it's going on my (long) list of to-dos.

I'm Mad and I Eat made some delicious looking sausage recently, which reminds me I need to post the details of our terrine-making adventure before the holidays. It'll come soon, I promise.

Photo by Elektra Fisher

Monday, January 16, 2006

Recipe for Perfect Birthday: Overnight in Laguna Beach

Begin at Groundworks Coffee downtown location, tucked away in the arts district. You need the fuel for your drive down the 5 to Laguna Beach, where you'll check in early to the best beach bargain around, the Best Western Laguna Reef Inn, situated directly across Pacific Coast Highway from the swanky Montage Resort and Spa. To build the monster resort, the owners agreed to spiff up and maintain an extensive public park and beach, easily accessible from the Best Western. After enjoying the ocean view from the balcony of the Inn, walk down to the cliffs above the beach and enjoy sandwiches, fruit, and iced tea, picked up on the way into town from the Wild Oats Market.

View from Best Western balcony

When finished with lunch, wander down to the actual beach, spread out your blanket, think about reading, but instead curl up to sleep in the sun. A few hours later, explore the tide pools, and scramble around the rocks, closely examining shells and seaweed. Sun-soaked, head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner at the decadent bistro, French 75. Start with a champagne cocktail in the dark and cozy bar, listening to the middle-aged beach bum explaining to the silver-haired, monied Laguna Beach ladies his schemes for making money playing online poker.

Once at your table, briefly wonder why you don't yet have menus, but then get distracted by the crusty, warm, chewy bread and the black olive spread. When the menus do arrive, decide on shrimp to start, followed by peppercorn steak frites for J and duck three ways (confit, breast, and liver) for me. Marvel at the size of the dishes when they appear, but still manage to save room for port and a shared chocolate souffle, complete with candle and a discreet birthday wish (no roomful of song, thank god). Finish the evening with a nightcap at the Montage Resort's lobby lounge, a gorgeous craftsman-style room with a welcoming fireplace at one end, and an extensive scotch list. Try and guess who's really staying at the $500+/night lodge and who's just an interloper like yourself.

Crab Soup at Ha Noi Restaurant

Wake early for a freezing but invigorating walk on the beach, followed by a couple hours of the television show 24 in the hotel room (we don't have a TV at home, believe it or not). As you head back up from paradise to the noisy, busy city, have one last adventure in Westminster's Little Saigon. Slurp noodles at Ha Noi Restaurant, crab for me, duck for J, and express amazement at the best Vietnamese egg rolls you've ever had, wrapped up in crisp red lettuce leaves, stuffed with lemon-basil and pickled carrots. With a big sigh, pay your bill, and drive the last few miles home, say thank you, thank you, thank you to J for his perfect plan, and try not to think about work...quite...yet.

Groundworks Coffee Co.
811 Traction Ave. (downtown)
Los Angeles
(213) 626-8650

Best Western Laguna Reef Inn
3006 Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651-4222
Phone: 949-499-2227

Wild Oats Market

283 Broadway St.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: 949-376-7888

French 75
1464 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: 949-494-8444

Montage Lobby Lounge

30801 Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: 949-271-6953

Ha Noi Restaurant

9082-9086 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Phone: 714-901-8108

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Thrice Roasted Lemon-Garlic Chicken

No, roasting your chicken three times isn't some new-fangled technique. Instead, it's what happens when despite your thermometer reading, from deep within the thigh as instructed, the roast chicken still has some bloody bits coursing through the white meat. went back to the oven not once but twice. I have two theories: one, the chicken was frozen and I thought it was thawed completely before I cooked it, but perhaps not?? Second, do the spots of blood mean it wasn't cleaned completely before packaged and sold? It did have a more-than-usual smattering of feathers still attached as well.

Anyway, despite the frustrations, the final result was flavorful and moist. I had rubbed the entire thing (under the skin) with a mix of chopped rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, kosher salt, and pepper. I let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours, then sat on the counter for about 1/2 hour before putting it in the 400 degree oven, in a roasting pan with carrots and turnips. I also filled the cavity with sliced lemons, rosemary sprigs, and shallot chunks. The chicken juices were divine, and the roast veggies picked up the lemon/garlic/rosemary flavors (almost too much--the turnips were very lemony).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Easy Weeknight Meals: Almond Crusted Salmon

One of my holiday projects was editing my stack of Bon Appetits--cutting out recipes or ideas that looked interesting. While I hesitated before tossing the magazines, the practical side of the brain reminded me I’d be much more likely to use the recipes this way. This project also made me glad I’d stopped the subscription after a couple years--the mag is good, but after awhile you realize they basically repeat similar recipes and stories over and over again.

In my sorting, I found a ton of quick and easy fish recipes (perfect for New Years Resos #1 and #3). This weeknight meal derives from one such find. For the almond crusting I stuck to the intstructions, but instead of a leek and lemon cream sauce, I simplified to sauteed leeks--because really, cream isn’t healthy, and sauce isn’t quick and easy. (If you want the original recipe, visit here)

Almond Crusted Salmon with Sauteed Leeks
two servings

1 medium leeks, halved, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped
1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
pinch sea salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 450 if your salmon fillets are thicker than 1/2 inch.

Chop your leeks and saute in olive oil until soft and slightly brown, set aside.

Mix the almonds, lemon peel, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Place flour on a plate, egg in a shallow bowl. Dredge the salmon first in the flour. Then dip one side in the egg, followed by a dip in the almond mixture.

Heat olive oil in an oven-safe pan and place salmon fillets in pan, almond-side down. Cook until crust is brown, approx. 5 minutes. Flip and cook until just slightly pink inside. If your fillets are very thick, you may want to finish them in your very hot oven instead of over-browning the almonds. I found tossing the pan in the oven for five minutes or so did the trick.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Paper Chef #14: Red Quinoa with Curried Yogurt, Cashews and Baby Apples

Quinoa. Huh. Our household is not especially enamored of grains, prejudicially associating them with hippie health food. And lord knows, we’d rather not be healthy. Over the past year the occassional riff on tabbouleh has appeared on our table, acceptable because we put lots of chopped bits in it—fennel, dried cranberries, mint, etc. With add-ins in mind, I carefully embarked on my first Paper Chef endeavor—combining quinoa, yogurt, cashews and anything baby into a delectable dish.

I’m not sure I reached delectable heights, but my Red Quinoa with Curried Yogurt, Cashews and Baby Apples was solidly tasty. It would serve well as a bed for grilled chicken or fish, and I’d pack it on a picnic or in my lunch. All ingredients came from the crunchy health food store down the street, which offered many quinoa choices, yet only one type of expensive, unroasted, organic cashews. Officially, the red quinoa is Inca Red, according to the box it’s a heirloom variety know as Pasankalla. Having never had quinoa before I couldn’t compare the taste, but the reddish brown coloring was pleasant.

The "baby" apples are a mystery—I found them unlabled in the produce section and stockperson hadn’t a clue. They weren’t as tart as I expected, but a squeeze of lemon as I chopped perked them up.

Before I post the recipe, I must fess up—the curried yogurt idea came from a quinoa recipe on, found when I did a search for ideas on how quinoa is served.

Red Quinoa with Curried Yogurt, Cashews and Baby Apples

1 c. red quinoa
1/3 c. yogurt
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tbsp. lime juice
salt n’ pepper
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
A handful of finely chopped green onions
3-4 chopped baby apples (squeeze of lemon to prevent browning)
¼ c. cashews, toasted and crushed

Put quinoa and 2 c. water in saucepan, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Mix yogurt, curry powder, ginger, lime juice, salt n’ pepper in small bowl. Toss quinoa, bell pepper, green onions, apple, cashews and curry mixture together in large bowl. Squeeze a bit more lime juice into mixture, stir, and serve.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Within Walking Distance #2: Vinoteca Farfalla

Last night J and I warmly welcomed Vinoteca Farfalla to the neighborhood. Or perhaps it warmly welcomed us considering the slight headaches we had this morning, but regardless, it's a welcome addition to Los Feliz. Most bars within pleasant walking distance are either hipster dives (The Drawing Room, Ye Rustic Inn) or restaurant bars (Electric Lotus, Vermont)--all of which we enjoy frequently, but it's nice to have a more grown-up, dedicated wine spot within a few blocks.

The Vinoteca's owners also own two restaurants on the same stretch of Hillhurst, Farfalla and the new Tropicalia Grill, a Brazilian joint right next door. From the looks of the Vinoteca's limited menu, it shares a kitchen with the Tropicalia, but also has cheese and charcuterie, your typical wine bar accompaniments. We had wine only, ordered by the glass from the chalked list above the long, skinny bar. The list leans Italian, with a few French, Californian and Spanish wines thrown in the mix (though I assume the chalkboard means the selections change relatively often). The generous pours meant that after finishing our first round (me a Malbec and J a Primitivo), we were just tipsy enough to want another. For seconds I sampled a Super Tuscan who's name I can't remember and Jon tried a curious white from Italy. Also, half-way through our first glass a waiter plunked down a plate of bite-sized pieces of an eggy cheese bread--the texture was kinda weird, might have tasted better warm, yet we polished off the entire plate.

Vinoteca Farfalla
1968 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, 90026
(323) 661-8070

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

That's the Los Angeles Times Food Section

As both l.a. foodblogging and LA Observed mentioned, today’s article in the LA Times regarding food blogs ignored the slew of excellent Los Angeles-based food blogs. Kevin at LA Observed noted few reactions from local blogs, including mine. Considering I’ve had my blog for less than three months, I’m under no illusions that I’d be noticed by the Times, but I was surprised by the dearth of Angelenos in the list. Perhaps part of the reason was the recent Calendar section article on local blogs that mentioned a handful of foodies--including Eating LA, Professor Salt and The Delicious Life (I think that’s the list--can’t completely remember and can’t access the whole article without paying, link to abstract here).

In general, I look forward to the food section each week, particularly the recipes which often focus on using in-season produce, any article by Russ Parsons, and the counterintelligence column. In fact, I think it’s one of the strongest sections of the paper, so I’m willing to cut it a little slack on the blog article.

Good articles from this week’s section:
New Wave Kosher with Morrocan Flare : I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have found this place on my own.
Warmth of Provence: You’re all invited for a daube at my house soon!

Within Walking Distance #1: Cafe Los Feliz

No one walks here--my oft-repeated lament about living in Los Angeles. However, while I'll never walk across the city exploring new nooks and crannies, happening upon hole-in-the-wall restaurants as I used to on sunny Sunday afternoons in DC, it's unfair to say no one walks. In certain neighborhoods, including mine, the blocks are heavy with foot traffic on evenings and weekends. People don't walk long distances like they would in NY or DC (the streets in LA just aren't pedestrian friendly and there isn't the same urban density), but they do walk. I've realized instead of complaining, I need appreciate what I have and enjoy the places I can walk to, which drew me to this neighborhood in the first place. Hence, the first in an occassional series.

Within Walking Distance #1: Cafe Los Feliz

For some reason, I always forget about the block of Hillhurst between Los Feliz and Ambrose when it comes to eating options in my neighborhood. Therefore, though I'd heard many good things about the Cafe Los Feliz, I hadn't tried it (also, unlike many of my neighbors, I have a day job and its daytime-only hours rarely work out). Holiday break gave me some weekdays at home, so I finally tried this French/Armenian bakery that serves breakfast and lunch. According to the menu, Thursday is homemade dolma day, but I was there on a Friday so settled for the BLT with a side salad. Tasty sandwich, with a gorgeous salad--olives, cucumbers, tomatos, mixed greens. Most of the other patrons (a mix of older Armenian women and aging hipsters) were enjoying the soup of the day, which came with toasted homemade bread.

bad photo of mystery hazelnut cake

The real treat was dessert--a small hazelnut cake, which had a French name that I asked the waitress to repeat twice, but I still didn't catch. I think it started with an M--anyone have an idea after looking at the picture? Regardless, it was delicious, rich with hazelnut flavor and slightly chewy. Many other treats in the pastry case looked fabulous, so I'll have to go back to taste test, but unfortunately only on weekends due to the cafe hours.

Los Feliz Cafe
2188 N. Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

'06 New Year's Food Resolutions: #3 Plan for Easy Weeknight Meals

Often J and I end up in the grocery on Sunday afternoons, a cart partially full of our Trader Joe's standards (yogurt, breakfast bars, dried mango), standing in the freezing frozen foods aisle, asking each other, "So...whaddya wanna eat for dinner this week?" This usually results in one of two answers: 1) "I dunno..let's get outta here, we'll think of something during the week and pick it up after work." Yeah, right. 2) "Ummm...I dunno...just get some frozen tortellini and maybe some pizza dough." Wow, how delicous and healthy. Not.

Sometimes we plan ahead and have a list, but even then, we often resort to boring standbys. We both tend to work late and cooking rarely sounds thrilling at 8:30 pm when you're starving, but there has to be more to life than pasta and sauce, right? So, we've started a weeknight meals file with recipes and notes on simple things we've made in the past. Each weekend before grocery shopping, we'll pick out 3-4 meals and make a list accordingly. This is the ideal plan of course, but for the first week of '06 we're on track. Tonight was zucchini and black bean quesadillas; sausage and fennel gratin and almond crusted salmon are on tap.

The quesadillas are super simple: shred a few zukes, toss with some salt in a colander and really squeeze to get as much water out as possible. Toss water-less zucchini in a bowl with black beans, chopped scallions, shredded cheese, a little salsa (I love those small cans of salsa--see photo), salt and pepper. Heat your pan, get your tortillas buttered, fill with zucchini mixture and fry 'em up.

(This recipe, with more precise measurements, orginally came from The Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen email newsletter, which I highly recommend)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

'06 New Year’s Food Resolutions: #2 Conquer Crust

For once, it rolled so well that I was actually able to truly drape it across the pan. Excitement!

When it baked, however, it shrank in fear from the sides.

My layers of curd and chocolate ensconced in a not-too-flaky, underdone crust.

#2-Conquer crust
I am so close. I have the right tools—my new rolling pin sleeve and non-stick mat prevent disasters that end up pressed into the pan. I have the right advice—Julia, Madame E. Saint-Ange, and the Joy of Cooking combined steer my course. I even understand both the term and technique of fraiser—working the dough. Yet I don’t quite have the feel. My well-rolled but overly sticky dough for the Meyer Lemon Tart I made this weekend cringed from the sides of the pan upon baking and was very, very hard—signs of too much water according to Madame. Plus, I underbaked it (from fear of the center puffiness preventing any room for the lemon curd), further contributing to the hardness, particularly of the bottom crust. This disappointment (especially considering the deliciousness of the filling—it deserved a perfect container) only increases my desire to practice, practice, practice. And of course, convince my neighbors to eat all my creations, as too many buttery crusts will contradict the goals of Food Resolution #1.

'06 New Year’s Food Resolutions: #1 More Fish and Salads

I'm not normally a formal New Year's Resolution list maker, but as I expand my cooking and food exploration more and more I realize I want to learn and grow in my food knowledge, which requires a bit of planning and setting goals. So--with that in mind, and the fact that writing things down always makes them more real to me, the next few posts will outline some delicious plans for 2006.

Beet and Orange Salad

Morroccan Spiced Salmon with Wilted Spinach in a Harissa Viniagrette

#1: More Fish and Salads
Eat healthier. Our fridge will always hold the ingredients for a mixed green salad, and more creative vegetable/fruit/greens mixes will appear on our table at least once a week. I’ll learn and remember the list of environmentally-sound fish and finally visit the Fish King in Glendale (and remember frozen TJ’s seafood will do, too). I’ll visit healthy websites like Cooking Light and Kalyn’s Kitchen for inspiration.