On the Road

By Krista,

I’m packed and ready to hit the road again. My neighbor Sarah of Fruit & Flour pies lent me a copy of Big Sur by Jack Kerouac, which I’m really looking forward to reading on the 15 hour flight over to AUS. First stop, Melbourne!

Off, up, and away!

By Krista,

Today I’m heading off to one of my favorite countries in the whole wide world, Australia! This time around I’ll be visiting Melbourne, Kangaroo Island, Sydney, and Tasmania. I can’t wait! Just in the nick of time, my former editor gave me this darling Japanese daruma doll. The tradition, which usually takes place on Japanese New Year, is to paint on one eye and make a wish. Once the wish comes true, you paint on the second eye.

Here’s to hoping my wish comes true. And may all of yours as well!

 

Breaking my booze fast at Carlsbad Pizza Port

By Krista,

Today marked the end of a two week booze fast, and I couldn’t possibly think of a better place to do so than Pizza Port in Carlsbad. I’m not big on resolutions, but I’m going to do my best to drink less this year. When I do indulge, it should be for taste, not to get wasted. I think this flight of brews fits the bill. (Those are 4 oz. pours, and I shared them with a friend!)

 I’m also aiming to update this fancy little blog more, even if it’s just short little snippits with my photos. I think this is a much happier home than Facebook, no?

Kicking the birthday blues with the Cecchini crew

By Krista,

Cecchini's special salt, aka Chianti crack. Read on and I'll explain.

Last week I had the ever-so-indulgent honor of being invited over to Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada’s casa for Sunday supper. Two two girls run the infamous Lindy & Grundy butcher shop, so any meal at their place would no doubt be absolutely magnificent. But this Sunday was particularly special because Riccardo Ricci, who works with Dario Cecchini in the Chianti region of Italy, would be cooking the meal. It also happened to be the night before my 27th birthday, which I was particularly lamenting. And we all know there’s no better cure for the getting older blues than a great meal, so it was game on.

Melissa and Ricardo work their magic

For those who don’t know, Dario is one of the foremost butchers on the planet. His butcher shop in Panzano, just outside Florence, not only supplies locals with outrageous meat, but also feeds two of his own wildy-popular nose-to-tail restaurants. Erika and Amelia, savy business women that they are, snapped up one of his former employees, Melissa Cortina, to manage their Fairfax Avenue shop. Melissa and Riccardo were close friends while she butchered with Dario, and the two worked together in the girl’s West Hollywood kitchen with style and grace.

Chad's charcuterie spread

The crowd was mostly L & G staffers, plus a handful of local chefs and writers. Chad Colby of Osteria Mozza, who won the Los Angeles Cochon 555 competition, showed up with the most beautiful plate of pate, head cheese and charcuterie– all made from a single  pig. And Willy Blackmore of Tasting Table brought over some gorgeous bottles of Italian wine from Domaine LA, which we delightfully sipped on as the scent of fennel, rosemary and roasting meat wafted out of the kitchen.

For the first course there was Chianti crudo, or as Ricardo called it, ” beef sushi,” served tableside. This sustainable version of steak tartare was made from the highly muscular hind quarters, which are repatedly tenderized, then mixed with a hearty guzzle of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a heaping serving of what we came to call “crack” — an artisanal salt served at Dario’s restaurant that’s the consistency of baking powder, with the a distinctive herbaceous minerality. Our table’s bowl of salt kept mysteriously disappearing throughout the meal, and every few minutes someone would be caught asking, “Wait, wait…where’s our crack? Someone stole it! Who has it?” Seriously, we became fiends. Thankfully Riccardo sent each of us home with a ziplock baggie of the stuff, pictured above.

Porchetta perfection

Riccardo also served a cured pork dish that reminded me of a porcine version of tuna, which was cured in wine and salt and served with raw red onion. Then came the porchetta, a giant loin wrapped in its belly, then stuffed with rosemary and other aromatics. There was also a beef roast stuffed with marrow, tied with twine and then slow cooked til it was fall-apart tender and the most outrageous stewed cannelini beans. The feast wrapped up with delicate olive oil cakes and French pressed coffee. Perfection.

As we neared the midnight hour, Riccardo busted out one of the most outstanding bottles of grappa that ever graced my lips.  If this is emblematic of what 27 has in store, I’m stoked.

A sweet start to a new year

Leftover solution: Turkey empanadas

By Krista,

This Thanksgiving, my lovely mom finally relinquished a little bit of control and let me do a little bit of the cooking. I took care of the turkey in an apple cider brine and made the traditional vat of gravy, as well as two pies: apple and pumpkin.

To be honest, the pie baking bit didn’t go as orinally planned since all my mom had in the house was whole wheat flour. Thankfully. I used a top secret recipe lent to me by dear friend Sarah over at Fruit and Flour, which turned out to be a dream even with the healthy whole wheat. Everyone loved the flakiness that the whole wheat lent, plus the consolation prize of being (somewhat) guilt-free. But because Sarah’s recipe makes enough for a pie top and bottom, I was left with a ball o’ dough after Turkey Day.

Enter the empanadas. I hate to admit it, but I got the inspiration from a Guy Fieri segment my mom was watching. At one of his dive’s a chef was making turkey empanadas with puffed pastry. There were just a few scraps of leg meat left (evidence of the brine’s success), so I sauteed that with some butter, onions, crimini mushrooms and a slice of brie and baked it in my leftover crusts. I guestimated the amount of turkey and gravy, simply because I was just chucking together leftovers. In hindsight, I’d love to have some peas or carrots in the mix, but they were still lovely savory little snacks — sort of like a pot pie pocket.

Turkey empanadas 

1 fresh or pre-made pie crust

chopped turkey meat

1/4 cup crimini mushrooms, finely chopped

1/4 cup onions, finely chopped

gravy

1 beaten egg for wash

Sweat the onions in butter, then add chopped mushrooms. Once the mushrooms get thier umami on, add the chopped turkey and gravy. Set aside.

On a floured surface, roll out your dough a bit thinner than your average crust. Then use a 4-inch cutter to cut circles. I used a coffee tin top, but if you’re fancy and have an actual cutter, more power to ya! Gather the remaining dough, roll and repeat. You should have around 10-12 pieces.

Place a teaspoon of filling in each of the circles, then top with a small slice of brie. Brush a bit of egg wash on the edge of each empanada, fold over, then press with a fork to close. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, and then rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Supporting local food businesses on Black Friday

By Krista,

I’ve never really understood Black Friday. Throwing elbows to fork over the same bank’s credit card that got us into this crummy economic situation just seems bonkers.  So to help out frantic shoppers (and foodies!), I compiled a list of  L.A.-based craft fairs and shops where you can purchase holiday gifts that will support local businesses. You’ll be able to find everything from aprons to handmade pottery at these L.A. fetes. Read on over at the L.A. Weekly>>>

Recipe: Baked butternut squash with brown butter

By Krista,

The other night I was making myself a simple seasonal dinner, and as I always do, I posted a note on my Facebook about how freaking amazing my apartment smelled. My friend Clemence from the Gourmandise Cooking School replied to my status, asking if she could borrow the recipe for today’s newsletter, which was awesome because it forced me to get the recipe down on virtual paper.  So, here it is: butternut squash with brown butter. Prepare to make your neighbors jealous.

Baked butternut squash with brown butter

1 medium sized butternut squash

3 tablespoons butter (2 for the bake, 1 per serving for the brown butter sauce)

2 cloves garlic, smashed

8 sage leaves

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400. While it’s warming up, place a 12 inch baking dish inside with 2 tablespoons butter to get it all nice and melty. Remove the dish once the butter is melted. Cut your butternut squash in half, then place sage leaves on the fleshy orange side of the squash in a lateral pattern. (Don’t worry about the seeds, you’ll take those out later.) Season with salt and pepper, then place the squash face down into your buttery pan. Tuck the smashed garlic cloves underneath the seedy bits. They’re just there for aromatics anyhow. After about 30 minutes, check on your squash. It’s cooked through when the flesh is tender to the poke of a paring knife. After it’s been out of the oven for 5 minutes, it should be cool enough to pick up and begin plating. Cut in 1/2 inch slices, then trace the skin off with a paring knife. Serve your squash with a simple brown butter sauce, which is basically just butter, salt, and a spring of sage cooked slow and low in a sauté pan until it turns a gorgeous, nutty brown.  Since I’m single, I only made enough for myself, which is where the 1 extra tablespoon butter came in. Yes, I’m aware that’s a generous serving of butter for one. What can I say? I love my butter! And to be fair I did eat half of a butternut squash for dinner, so it all balances out.

Fast Food Nation, meet Short Order

By Krista,

Renown journalist and author Eric Schlosser received an honorary doctorate degree at Occidental College on Thursday evening, where he spoke to a loaded auditorium about the past, present and future of our local food system. Los Angeles, Schlosser asserted, was the incubator for a fast food culture that has severely harmed the health of our nation as a whole. The commodification and industrialization of food all started with McDonald’s, whose first location in San Bernadino was opened in 1940. Now, nearly 75 years later, there’s hope that our city can correct its course and serve as a model for positive change.

I won’t go too far in depth to what Schlosser spoke about, as much of it is in his book Fast Food Nation. One thing that struck me as particularly apropos, though, was his summation of how McDonald’s changed the structure of kitchens. Instead of hiring a short order cook, a few unskilled employees were hired to repeatedly do one task — toasting buns, for instance — therein making workers disposable (and I imagine pretty bored!). With this system came the elimination of unions in the fast-food industry, and the decline of wages for it’s workers.  It also evolved to become a mechanical restaurant chain that could produce food that was “everything, everywhere, always the same.” Fast food lost its humanity, as well as its sense of place.

Now here we are 10 years after Schlosser’s expose was published, and the world had changed a lot. Good, clean, fair food is a hot button issue, and the general populous has a strong desire for sustenance with soul. Heck, there’s even an organic garden on the White House lawn! There’s even hope in the quick service industry itself. Last night’s opening of Short Order, a casual restaurant dedicated to serving locally-sourced produce and protein, is proof.  The space was packed to the gills with family, friends, and fans — all of whom eagerly anticipated the opening of a burger joint with a backbone.

Short Order, and hopefully many more to local establishments to come, will continue to push the agenda for fair food that tastes good, proving that Los Angeles is indeed an incubator for change.

Recipe: Jazzy Sprouts’ souped up beans

By Krista,

Before my freelance days — aka “funemployment”– Friday evenings usually meant pushing through copy til around 8 or 9 p.m., then drinking copious amounts of booze in attempt to forget the drama of the newsroom. By the end of the week, I was usually too tired to grab drinks with friends, let alone go shopping. So even though I live over in Echo Park, I’d never been to the Friday evening farmers market.

While working on a post on LA Food Day for the Weekly, I discovered that my local market was celebrating its 5th anniversary. I decided to head down to commemorate my local market’s success– and my own newfound freedom. (The free carrot cake really sealed the deal.)

Echo Park’s smaller, more mellow affair was a real treat compared to the neighboring Saturday Silverlake market that I’ve been frequenting. Not to mention, shopping is much more pleasant the night before one too many old fashioneds. Another unforeseen bonus was meeting Dexter of Jazzy Sprouts, who sells all sorts of sprouted legumes and grains.

Dexter is a wiry, grey gent that has a real passion for beans and their health benefits. He’s also got a great sense of humor and loves to sing, hence the “jazzy” bit. He and I went back and forth sharing bean puns before I finally decided on getting a bag of his goodies. I ended up with a mix of lima beans, black eyed peas, red lentils, quinoa, barley, English peas and kidney beans.

When I woke up to a misty morning, I figured I might as well do some cooking and writing. (Funemployment!) Thus was born this “it’s bean real” chili, which is perfect for a blustery fall lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

4 cups broth (I used pho bouillon for this batch. If you use stock you’ll need to add salt to taste.)

1/2 pound mixed beans and legumes from the bean dude

2 zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1 cup carrot, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 large can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1/2 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup corn kernels, canned or raw

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon papika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon brown sugar

In a large stew pot,  sweat the onion and garlic. Then add the remaining veg, and brown for 2 minutes. Add the dry spices, and “stir the pot.” Then add your broth or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes on low, or until beans are cooked through. Top with sliced avocado, a dollop of Mexican crema or grated cheddar. Or just eat plain for a lighter meal. Bon apetit!

Indian summer tartlettes

By Krista,

Recently, my friend and former culinary school compadre Felicia Friesema invited me over for some girl talk and a much needed catch up sesh. Fel is a a phenomenal cook (and rockin’ host), so she offered to prep the dinner. My mouth being quicker than my mind, I offered to bring dessert.

In the past pastry has not been my forte. Not because they turn out disastrous, but simply because I don’t have the patience. The precision always struck me as stunting. I’ve always approached the kicthen as a place where I can work as a whimsical alchemist, letting intuition be my guide. Baking just seems so formulaic. And let’s just say I’ve had road blocks in the math department since the fifth grade.

But if there’s one thing I’ll bake for, it’s gossip. So I headed where I always do when in a bind for a fool-proof pastry recipe: David Lebovitz. And his recipe for jam tarts did not disappoint. Lebovitz actually borrowed the idea for the tarts from Wednesday Chef. Deciding not to rest on his laurels, he  tweaked the crust, adding cornmeal to the traditional base.

Deciding not to rest on my own, I opted to make a fresh homemade fig and strawberry jam for filling. I also tweaked the recipe to be mini tartlettes, perfect for our dinner for two plus leftovers. And my lovely neighbor Sarah of Fruit and Flour pies lent me these adorable fall leaf pie crust cutters for a little extra flair. (Fel was cracking open her wine stash, after all.)

My favorite part of Lebovitz’s recipe is that the dough requires no rolling out, and the crust is really lovely and flaky because of the cornmeal. I imagine that a little jam made from the coming season’s persimmons would make a great filling, but use what you’ve got!

Head over to David’s blog for the recipe.