Sunday, April 13, 2014
There's only a brief moment left. A few weeks, if that, before summer weather begins to collapse upon us, and the idea of turning on the oven to make breakfast will become as unfathomable as wearing a sweater in the sauna.
So while I've already told you what happens when one bakes oats together with a slurry of almond milk, bananas, walnuts, dates, and coconut (!), there are things that need to be said about the newest iteration of this baked oatmeal situation. Things that start with the bewitching nostalgia inherent in the combination of peanut butter and jelly, and end with their commingling with ripe slices of banana.
Of course, there's more to the story than that. It would be remiss of me not to mention that this jelly is actually homemade jam made with farmers market fresh organic strawberries so sweet they barely need the assistance of sugar let alone an oatmeal canvas. And I certainly shouldn't restrain myself from telling you about the salted peanuts that are scattered over the top like an afterthought.
They are far from an afterthought.
Nor is this oatmeal that I've purposefully moved forward in the queue because it demands to be known about now. While there's still a whisper of chill in the air, still a capacity to wear a sweater without suffocating, and still a desire to sit cross-legged on the floor with a steaming hot bowl of nostalgia.
PB&J Banana Baked Oatmeal
Inspired by Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day
Serves 4 to 6
Butter, for greasing
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (preferably natural)
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1/3 cup strawberry jam (+ additional for serving)
1/4 cup roasted & salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish with butter.
In a medium bowl, combine oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir until ingredients are well-integrated.
In a separate bowl, combine egg, peanut butter (if too thick, heat it slightly so it becomes more liquidy and easier to incorporate with the wet ingredients), and almond milk. Thoroughly whisk together.
Spread banana slices in an even layer in the base of the greased pan. Top with oat mix, then carefully pour the almond milk-peanut butter-egg mixture over the top. Gently shake the pan back and forth to ensure the liquid is evenly distributed. Use a spoon to dollop spoonfuls of jam around the top. Sprinkle with the peanuts.
Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, turning once to ensure even browning, until the oatmeal is completely set in the middle and the top resembles a crisp. Remove and set on a cooling rack. Serve immediately, with additional jam as preference dictates.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
I had very grand ambitions for this granola. All sorts of crazy ideas about how I was going to make my own apple chips like I was Mrs. Johnny Appleseed instead of, well, me, and then be all nonchalant about it.
Oh yeah, I just bought some organic pink lady apples from the farmer's market, sliced them into paper thin rings with a mandolin and then dehydrated them in my oven for nearly three hours. No big deal.
It - the dehydrating/Johnny Appleseeding - seemed what one ought to do when replicating Eleven Madison Park's granola. I mean this is THE granola that they give you at the end of your meal to take home with you as a reminder of how you will never live that lavishly ever ever again. And it's gooooood granola. Maybe even the best granola I've had outside of the granola that I'll make next and then re-declare as my favorite, because, you know, recency effect.
Even so, it's now been a good six and a half months since I first encountered THE granola, and a good two and a half months since I gave up on being Mrs. Johnny A. to buy dried apples from the bulk bins at Whole Foods so I could actually make THE granola. That means four jars have been consumed in total, and I still find myself irresponsibly spooning it over my morning Greek yogurt + cold banana mash-up that is entirely an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast.
What makes this granola THE granola that one wants to irresponsible spoon over desserty breakfasty sorts of things, is the juxtapositions that lie within. The salty vs. sweet. The chewy vs. crunchy. The dried apple ring chip bits that interrupt like a hiccup in the middle of a bite. A good sort of hiccup. The kind you wouldn't want someone to scare out of you unless that someone is Johnny Appleseed bearing more dried apple rings.
The point is… make this granola now. Enjoy it lavishly because it's from a lavish sort of place. And because in two months time I'll have a new THE granola to end all granolas.
With dehydrated strawberries that take me three days to make.
Eleven Madison Park Granola
Adapted from Wandercrush via Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook
Notes: Because I prefer my granola on the less overtly sweet side, I amped up the quantity of oats/nuts/seeds in relation to the amount of sugar. In other words, I used a heavy hand with my measuring cups, and also added sunflower seeds because I'm fairly certain the original I received from EMP contained them. Fairly. Certain. Finally, I more than doubled the amount of dried currants/raisins because, well, more is betterer, yo.
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
3/4 cup dried apple slices, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, dried apples, and salt. Stir together until ingredients are well-integrated.
In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup and olive oil. Heat gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has just dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour over the oat mixture. Stir together until everything is well-coated.
Spread the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. I like to cram mine together a bit to ensure I get some good clumps in there. Bake for 20 minutes, stir once, and then return to the oven for 10-20 additional minutes until pleasantly brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack. Transfer to an airtight container.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Because there's not always time for a full meal…
1. The recipe I'm dying to make - Slow-Roasted Chicken via The Wednesday Chef. Any time a food writer uses words like "meltingly tender" and "OMG" and "best thing ever," I feel like serious things are happening and those serious things need to happen to me on a Sunday when I have nothing better to do than, well, slowly roast a chicken. Though, really, I'm not sure a better way to spend a Sunday actually exists. Outside of… yeah, no, I've got nothing.
2. My new motto - "I am what I am and that's enough." I read this quote from Drew Barrymore in People Magazine this morning and had a "Yes!" moment (not to be confused with the "aha moment") because it resonated so much in my world right now. And not at all because I had a tarot card reading last night (alcohol happens), and the tarot card reader person said something about needing to own my shrewdness or whatever. I don't actually really remember all the details (alcohol happens), but, the point is, I'm enough, guys. I'm enough! We're all enough! And everybody gets a puppy.
3. What I'm drinking - Apple Brandy. So remember like five seconds ago when I said alcohol happens? I realize I'm not a 50-year-old male, but this stuff is crazy and is exactly what you want to be drinking after you've eaten wagyu beef cheesesteaks on air bread and jicama-wrapped guacamole (the best EVER) and salty wrinkled potatoes (the best EVER EVER). It's kind of like motor oil except it's actually apple brandy and will make everything better.
4. What I'm listening to - Coldplay's "Magic." I realize I should be all into some indie weirdness that's played on public radio, but I like top 40 and the color pink and deodorant and Coldplay and this song.
5. Where I'm eating - Sqirl. I first met Jessica Koslow five years ago at a screening of Julie & Julia, which we both attended because, hi, we like food, and immediately thought she was the bee's knees. (See: We like food.) It turns out she is also super crazy talented at making the food too, and a year and a half ago, she opened an experimental storefront to sell her farmers market-inspired jams and brioche toast to locals passing through the East Hollywood neighborhood. Flash forward to now, when Sqirl is basically the only place I, and everyone else in LA, wants to be for breakfast, brunch, lunch or whatever meal that it makes sense to be eating a kokuho rose brown rice bowl with sorrel pesto, preserved lemon, lacto fermented hot sauce (!), radish, French sheep feta, and a poached egg on a stool on the sidewalk. It's so much more than enough, guys. It's the best EVER EVER EVER.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
I ate eight.
Tartine's Salted Chocolate-Rye Cookies
Barely adapted from Tartine Book No. 3 via Tasting Table
Yield: 2 dozen
Notes: I've never been particularly good with restraint around homemade cookies - particularly those of the chocolate variety. While I thought I was past the days where I'd dig through the cookie jar for the largest, most perfectly formed specimens and devour them without apology, this recipe rendered me utterly helpless. I've been trying to convince myself that it, the utter helplessness, can be attributed to the context in which the eight cookies were devoured (during the 48 hours leading up to another dessert-free Lent), but it would be remiss of me to not at least acknowledge that I'm a total liar. I would have eaten that many regardless of time or space or the curt reminder from a tightening waistband.
Make these. Either as dictated below (the original recipe cut precisely in half and with 60% bittersweet chocolate as opposed to 70%), or as it stands in all its full salted bittersweet chocolatey rye glory.
8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60%, but if you can find 70% Valrhona, have at it)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole-grain dark rye flour (sourced from my local Whole Foods - thank goodness for Bob's Red Mill)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup muscovado sugar (dark brown sugar will do in a pinch)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Maldon or flaky sea salt, for topping
Fill pot with 1-inch of water and bring to a simmer. Set a heat-safe bowl over the pot (checking to ensure the bottom isn't touching the water), and fill with the chocolate and butter. Melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until it is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside to let cool while you are prepping the other ingredients.
In a small bowl, whisk together the rye flour, baking powder, and fine salt.
Measure the sugar into another small bowl. Crack the room temperature eggs into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the whisk attachment. Begin whipping the eggs over medium-high speed, gradually adding the measured sugar until incorporated, then turn the speed up to high. Continue whipping the eggs until they have nearly tripled in volume (approximately 6 or so minutes).
Reduce the speed to low and carefully spoon in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Blend until integrated, then add the flour mixture, until just combined. Because of the high liquid to flour ratio, the dough will seem rather wet, but it will come together just fine once it's been chilled. To that end, transfer the mixing bowl to the refrigerator and let refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then remove the chilled dough from the fridge. Use a rounded tablespoon to scoop and shape small balls of dough. Place on the cookie shoot, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Top with a few flakes of salt, pressing it in slightly so it doesn't, you know, flake off.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies have puffed up (mine didn't get particularly puffy to be completely honest, but clearly this didn't deter me from, you know, eating eight). The top should supposedly also be rounded (as puffed things tend to be), and the bottom relatively smooth, but regardless of appearance, do let them cool a bit before attempting to transfer them from the cookie sheet to a wire rack. Once cooled completely on the rack, store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I never intended for it to happen.
To be known as the "Quinoa Queen" - the girl who everyone associates with the super grain that's actually a seed. When I started documenting my every bite for the world to see, I didn't even know how to pronounce the word, and certainly didn't envision it becoming a core part of both my diet and my identity within the LA dining community.
It started as a survival strategy - a defense against the hazards of foodie-ism, a subject that Food GPS Founder Josh Lurie recently expounded upon in an exposition of the dark side of professional eating. The side that lurks behind those Instagrammed shots of housemade charcuterie, tonkotsu ramen and richly glazed donuts that are admired by envious eyes.
In his article, Josh pulls back the curtain, openly admitting what all of us who live and work within the dining industry secretly think and feel when we sit down to another seemingly bacon-inspired tasting menu or platter of buttermilk-brined fried chicken. In the moment, it's delicious. We lick the grease off our fingers, proudly capture the braised lamb neck pappardelle to share on social media, and go back for seconds without hesitation. The dictate to eat until you're 80% full has no place at our communal table.
Before I employed a blog (and long before I became a restaurant publicist), the whole concept of no-holds-barred eating was foreign to me. When I went to a restaurant, I ordered a single entree for myself, and would split an appetizer and/or dessert with my dining companions. It was a whole new world to me when I, as a blogger, began attending dinners with fellow food writers where the whole menu was up for grabs. My eyes would dance at the sight of the endless array of courses, and my fork would respond with equal enthusiasm until I'd reach a point of full that would make sleeping that evening an improbability.
As I'd lie in bed, arms wrapped round my swollen belly like protective gauze, I'd curse myself for taking seconds of the garganelli with sausage and finishing the entire butterscotch pot de creme sans assistance. The feeling would linger throughout the following day in what can only be described as a food hangover, an occurrence that would start to become increasingly common as I continued along a trajectory toward a career in the industry.
At a certain point, I knew that something had to give, and I wasn't inclined for it to be the waistband on my tightening skinny jeans, nor my health.
Rather than giving up the tricked-out restaurant meals I loved, however, I became more selective in the meals I attended, and when I wasn't eating out, committed myself to eating clean. I replaced the pastas and starchy foods I used to stock in my cupboards with quinoa, farro and whole grains, and found myself gravitating toward mostly vegetarian meals. Quinoa became a central part of my recovery plan - an easily digestible carbohydrate that would soothe my sore-ing stomach without rendering me hungry two hours later.
Admittedly, once I started to become known for my affection for quinoa, I played along with the joke, eating and talking about it more frequently until my survival tactic of eating and retreating transformed itself into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
An identity as the "Quinoa Queen."
Reading Josh's piece reminded me of the dichotomous struggle that we, as professionals who make our bread and butter from bread and butter, face on a daily basis. The challenge is to find a balance and achieve it - whether it's carb-free Mondays, a no-solo-boozing rule or an obsession with quinoa.
I'll let you know which one I choose.
Wild Rice & Quinoa Salad with Dried Fruit and Kale
Adapted from Russ Parsons/The Los Angeles Times
Notes: This salad is intended to be entirely wild rice, but I've recently become enamored with mixing wild rice with quinoa - for obvious reasons. I've made a few additional tweaks within the recipe in both technique and ingredient composition, including the use of pistachios in place of walnuts, dried cranberries rather than dried sour cranberries, and the use of baby kale in the stead of regular. With or without these tweaks, it's a delightful salad - the sort of thing that is craveable, yet wholesome - and, in my mind, the perfect antidote to the residual effects of a seemingly bacon-inspired tasting menu.
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
Juice and zest of one orange
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
4 cups baby kale
Salt, ground pepper
1/3 cup pistachio pieces, toasted
Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Add the wild rice and cook, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes or until tender. Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside.
In a medium pot, bring just shy of a cup of water to a boil. Add the quinoa, season with salt, and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the quinoa with a fork, and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place dried cranberries and raisins in a small bowl. Cover with the orange juice (reserving 1 tablespoon for the dressing), and hot water as needed until the fruit is completely submerged. Let stand to soften until just ready to use. Drain, then using the same bowl, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of orange juice with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil to dress the salad.
Place minced shallots in another small bowl and cover with water. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before draining. (This will help temper the sharpness of the raw onion.)
In a large bowl, combine the wild rice, quinoa, soaked and drained dried fruit, shallot, orange zest, and dressing. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Sprinkle the kale with 1/4 teaspoon salt and drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Lightly massage with your hands, then toss with the wild rice-quinoa mixture. Serve immediately topped with the pistachios, or refrigerate until ready to use.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
I've been on a mission to adultify my apartment lately. I'm cognisant that my use of "adultify," which autocorrect keeps trying to change to "adultery," likely makes me sound less adultified, but I'm embracing it.
Like an adult.
I've been in my apartment, a one-bedroom, one-bath, barely-sustainable space with finicky plumbing and marginally more privacy than a prison cell, for four years. When I moved in, it was perfect. I didn't mind the kitchen cabinets that didn't close all the way, the tile floor that never seemed to get clean or even the lack of air conditioning, because it was mine. The first apartment that I didn't have to share with a roommate who refused to empty the dishwasher or take the garbage out.
I loved the way my hand-me-down furniture filled the space with memories of my grandmother and family. I loved knowing that the couch was always free for me to collapse upon in the same sweatpants I put on every night. I loved being able to take over the kitchen for hours on end without impatient eyes watching me from across the room.
The novelty of it all was enthralling. Until it wore off like lipstick on a water glass, and I discovered that I actually wanted my kitchen cabinets to close and my floor to look clean, and might like an air conditioning unit so I didn't melt into myself every summer.
In my mind, however, it was only a temporary space. A place I would briefly pass through on my way to my real adult home with all the adult things that one decides they need after a certain age. Rugs, throw pillows and blankets that don't come from Target, bookshelves filled with dog-eared cookbooks, and framed pieces of art that didn't already come that way.
I didn't mind that my apartment didn't have any of these things, until, well, I did. Perhaps an aftershock of turning 30, or maybe just a desire to make this environment where I sleep, cook and watch Netflix into more of a home. At the very least, a place that didn't evoke the reaction, "When did you move in?" from new visitors.
These past few weeks, I've slowly started thinking about these grown-up sort of things - how giant red pillows and a mustard-colored chunky knit throw from West Elm might brighten up the couch that I collapse upon in those same sweatpants every night; whether I want to mount my landscape of the New York City skyline on a standard canvas frame or frame it like a picture so the extra canvas overhang becomes part of the aesthetic; and how to keep my new rug from getting irreversibly soiled.
They're all small little things, minor adjustments really, that have already made me feel better about the state of life when I walk through the front door, and think, "Home." Like I might actually fool someone into thinking that I'm not still floundering through each day without complete conviction of my purpose.
Dressing the part until I am the part, I suppose, and using the physical space of my apartment as proof that I've in some way become a grown-up.
Even if I do still blast Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus with the reckless abandon of someone half my age.
So I'll continue to pretend -- to flip through the pages of Elle Decor for aspirational inspiration, to buy flowers from the farmers market and put them in an actual glass vase, and to dress up my lunch of roasted florets of cauliflower with a vinaigrette that doesn't come from a screw-top bottle from aisle 12 of the grocery store.
Because infusing oil with the essence of apple, onion and curry spices is the sort of thing that grown-ups do to adultify a vinaigrette.
A few small tweaks that make all the difference in the world.
Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Curry VinaigretteAdapted from The Lemonade Cookbook
Serves 4 as a side
Notes: As per my usual kitchen coarse, I reduced the amount of oil used in this recipe. Rather than roasting my cauliflower with 1/4 cup of oil, I used 1 tablespoon and a trusty slip of parchment paper so it wouldn't stick to the baking sheet. I find this method still creates perfectly browned and crispy-edged roasted cauliflower, so do with that what you will. I also reduced the amount of almonds (as much as I love them, 1 cup seemed a tad generous), and added chickpeas for a bit of protein. Finally, I opted to cut the vinaigrette recipe precisely in half as I tend to prefer salads on the minimally dressed side. I suppose this is what happens when you become an adult. Or are trying to continue fitting into your jeans.
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (approximately 2 lbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
1/2 Granny Smith apple, halved, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon tumeric
1/2 tablespoon curry powder, preferably Madras
1/2 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon orange juice
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then roast, stirring about half-way through, for 25-30 minutes or until browned on the edges, and easily pierced by a fork.
While cauliflower is roasting, heat the tablespoon of oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the green apple and onion, and sauté, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and turn fragrant. Stir in the turmeric and curry powder, and cook about one minute, watching closely so the spices don't burn. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil, and stir everything together. Bring the oil to a low boil for approximately one minute, then turn off the heat and let come to room temperature.
Carefully strain the oil into a small container, then discard the apple and onion, reserving the infused oil for the vinaigrette. Allow the curry to settle to the bottom of the container.
In a small bowl, combine the mustard honey, vinegar, lemon and orange juice. Whisk together, then season with the salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the oil, taking care to avoid disturbing the curry sentiment at the bottom. Lightly whisk until the ingredients just come together. Store in the fridge or use immediately.
Toss cauliflower with the raisins and chickpeas. Plate, and drizzle with the vinaigrette, to taste. Top with the toasted almonds.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Because there's not always time for a full meal…
1. The recipe I'm dying to make - Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce via Bon Appétit- While quinoa is usually my jam when I'm cooking for myself at home (as opposed to, you know, at a library), pasta is what I crave when all the signals are red, I can't find a parking spot and Bruno Mars is on every radio station. This dish will clearly solve all my life's problems, and after I eat it, I'll never have to hear "Locked Out of Heaven" ever ever again.
2. What I've been drinking - 2011 Morelli Sangiovese - I picked up a bottle of this way-too-easy-to-drink red red wine at the recommendation of Whitney of Brunellos Have More Fun on one of those Friday nights when I really needed a way-too-easy-to-drink red red wine. (See: Bruno Mars, life problems) I was planning to tell you how well-balanced it is even before reading the description on domaineLA's website that articulates the same, so I'm feeling preeeetty proud of myself. I'm basically a master sommelier now. Holla.
3. Where I've been eating - Sushi Park - True story. Three point five years ago I went on a first date with a rather dishy English bloke who never called me again even though I was like a total charmer in my merino wool sweater and denim skirt combo, and offered to go halvsies on the bill. I was a little sad face because he was a little hot face, but he did leave me the best gift a guy can give a girl who is me: the name of his favorite restaurant in LA. While it took me three years to make it to the second-floor-of-a-strip-mall sushi hideaway, it's quickly entered into my top five dining destinations in Los Angeles. I love that it feels like a discovery, even if it wasn't my own, and love that each bite of the obscenely fresh fish elicits the kind of eyes-rolling-back-in-head reaction that is necessary for a girl who is dating her food. Uni > Spooning. Sushi Park, 8539 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 652-0523
4. What I've been watching - her - I haven't been quite able to figure out why this movie from Spike Jonze left such a strong impression on me. It's not the typical sort of film I gravitate toward (aka ones that tie up into neat little happy pink bows), but it both charmed and depressed me in a way that makes me wonder how and why that happened. So now I want everyone to go see it so we can have a long discussion about it at a coffee shop in Silver Lake while wearing our black skinny jeans.
5. My new edible obsession - Fage Vanilla Fruyo - This is basically dessert disguised as yogurt. So that's nice. Plus there are actual flecks of vanilla bean in there, which is also nice. I'd totally sit around with my girl friends talking about it for like an hour. "Giiiiiiiirl, this yogurt is like running at the beach in February good." True story, by the way. Sorry, Chicago friends.