Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sound Bites: I'm basically a hipster edition

Because there's not always time for a full meal…

1. The recipe I'm dying to make - Green Beans with Walnut-Miso Sauce via Mark Bittman/The New York Times - One would think that after another Lent without dessert, I'd be pining for chocolate-studded pastries and cookies the size and girth of my head, but instead all I really want is a giant bowl of these green beans. Served with tofu and the brown rice below. Because, I am the worst.

2. My new edible obsession - Koda Farms Organic Heirloom Kokuho Rose Brown Rice - I was introduced to this slightly sweet, mildly earthy rice via the sorrel pesto rice bowl at Sqirl, and since discovering its availability at my local gourmet market, Monsieur Marcel, cannot fathom cooking with any other type. The texture is unlike any rice I've had before - creamy like arborio, but with more heft and bite, so is perfect as a canvas for all sorts of things that weird people like me eat. You know, green beans and tofu; white beans with parsley pesto; and braised kale with a fried egg.

3. What I'm drinking - Kombucha Tea - It started innocently with a free sample of Better Booch's Apple Ginger at my Melrose Place Farmers Market last Sunday, a sample that led to a purchase, that led to a mid-week trip to Alfred Coffee + Kitchen to get bottles of Health-Ade's Pomegranate and Pink Lady Apple, that led to a subsequent inhalation of Kombucha Wonder Drink's Asian Pear & Ginger at Zinc Cafe on Saturday. My body is like pumped full of probiotics right now. I'm basically invincible, and two steps away from buying a Vespa and ceasing all hair-washing activity.

4. My new obsession - Buying myself flowers - I never really thought of myself as one of those girls who feels gooshy over a bouquet of flowers, but recently I've been feeling, well, gooshy over a bouquet of flowers. I blame this, again, entirely on my Farmers Market, which has made it far too easy to decide on a Sunday morning that I need to have a dozen pink roses as much as, if not more so, than I do that bushel of kale. And you know what? I really do. Everything feels just a little bit better when there's a vase filled with flowers to look at all week long.

5. Where I've been eating - Osteria Mozza - Even after 6 1/2 years, this is still my favorite place to be in all of Los Angeles - especially on a Saturday evening spent with two of my best friends from college. Mozza memories are the best kind. And the antidote to any weird kombucha-sipping, miso green bean-lusting, hipster-approaching behavior.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

PB&J Banana Baked Oatmeal: Last chance kitchen

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 egg
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

Eleven Madison Park Granola: THE Granola

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.