Kale Glorious Kale

22 Jan

kale 1

A few years back, before kale became all the craze in LA and the world’s new super food, Rigo showed up one night holding two voluminous dark green leafy bouquets and thrust them at me with great vigor.  “What’s that?”, I asked him with genuine ignorance.  “It’s kale!”, he told me excitedly. “Do something with it.”

Do something with it?, I thought to myself. What the heck was I going to do with it?  I had no idea how to manage this new, nutrient dense, slightly bitter, and very intimidating vegetable.  So I had to rely on my Italian roots and my love of Mediterranean ingredients.  I immersed myself in the kitchen and emerged a few hours later with the tastiest kale salad that my taste buds have ever experienced.  It was as if they were screaming at me between every bite, “Give us more of the delicious and nutritious!”.   It was so tasty, in fact, that Rigo decided to enter this salad in a food contest at work.  The theme on that occasion was “green foods”…or maybe it was “cold dishes”…or it could have actually been “healthy dishes”….hmmm….anyway that’s irrelevant.  The important part is, this salad won first place, and it has gone on to have a successful career in the food world as it has been a hit at every party, dinner, potluck, and random celebration where it has made an appearance.

It is my pleasure to share this recipe for our award-winning kale salad:

Ingredients:
Kale (1 bunch or one bag)
Sun dried tomatoes in oil — julienne sliced from trader joes (about 1/2 jar with the oil for one salad)
Pine nuts (toasted in the toaster oven) – I use about 1/4 cup for one salad
Crumbled feta cheese — about 1/4 cup or 4 oz
1. Remove the stems, wash, dry, and chop the kale.
2. Add the sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts.
2. Season with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3. Add a little salt.
4. Add the feta cheese last and toss well.
You can store this salad in the fridge overnight because the kale is very sturdy and gets softer but will not wilt. Sometimes I make it the night before and then eat it for lunch the next day.
Note: When I make the dressing, I use a one part oil to one part balsamic ratio because the tomatoes already add some oil to the salad. But I also like to be heavy on the vinegar. You can adjust the ratios according to your taste.  Be sure to use a good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Also, feel free to add extra of any of the ingredients.
2nd Note: Rigo likes to “massage” the kale first by adding some lemon juice to the leaves and rubbing the leaves together between his fingers or hands. This will make the kale nice and soft from the get-go. If you opt for the lemon juice massage I recommend adding a higher ratio of oil in the dressing.

Buon appetito amici!

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Coffee is my religion

22 Jan

A weekday evening at approximately 7pm:

Rigo – “Baby, I bought us some home roasted coffee from the farmer’s market!”

Me – “Home roasted?…. really?”

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Oh LA.  The land of small farming, backyard beekeeping, and yes, now we have home roasted coffee.  Behold Papua New Guinea organic home roast by Alana’s coffee roasting co. — located in the owner’s house, sold at farmer’s markets, and available with a bonus home delivery option.  This particular bag was less than $20 per pound, though he also offers a roast that is $70 per pound.  Naturally it was already sold out that day.  I opened the bag to smell the beans and was enveloped in the most perfect air of roasted sweet coffee goodness.  The scent was so lovely that I popped a bean in my mouth and crunched down on it with pure satisfaction.  The flavor preview was incredible.  Like an ecstatic dog waiting to bust out the front door after he hears the word “walk”, I could not wait to brew up this coffee.

The next morning I leaped out of bed, ran downstairs, whipped out my french press, threw a pot of water on the stove, and started grinding.  Approximately 6 minutes later I took my first sip…I thought I heard a chorus of angels descending upon me. That’s when I knew – this coffee is damn amazing.  I could smell and taste the earth, the sun, and the love that all combined to make this incredible caffeinated creation.  I was in love. Not just in love – I was infatuated, I was obsessed, and I was ready to run to Vegas and get married with this coffee.

Coffee is one of my greatest and most treasured pleasures in life.  How lucky I am to live in a city that feels the same way.

http://alanascoffeeroasters.com/shop.html

the Lazy ox canteen

2 Jan

What better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon on the first day of the year than to indulge yourself with a new food adventure? Ah yes there is also good beer and Disneyland (the perks of living in LA), but the food won out this time.

Brunch time!  I love brunch.  The term so beautifully removes the guilt of having woken up too late on a Sunday to have breakfast, and adds the efficiency of combining 2 meals into 1.  Brilliant.  As if brunch could not be any more fantastic, the Lazy Ox has upped it one level by doing it tapas style. God do I love LA.

For your perusal, I had my personal food photographer/boyfriend capture a partial image of the delightfully long brunch menu:

Though exceedingly difficult not to order the entire menu, we managed to narrow our selections to  5 items.

1.  Roasted poblano soup – with pork belly, chicharron, autumn grapes, and creme fraiche

4/5 stars

This soup was a splendid blend of salty, sweet, smoky, and spicy flavors. The chiles brought enough heat to make my mouth tingle and heighten the other flavors without compromising my taste buds.  The pleasant, creamy, light texture was happily balanced by the crunchy chicharron. Win.

2. Caramelized cauliflowerwith chile, pine nuts, and mint

4/5 stars

This dish was a delight.  Turning a bland uninspiring vegetable such as cauliflower into an explosively tasty food is quite the challenge.  This spicy, warm, nutty combination with a vinegary tang on a lightly cooked cauliflower base rounded out by the caramelized coating not only rose to the challenge but also karate chopped it, ninja smacked it, and kung fu kicked it into submission. Win.

3. Pork and beef ragu – with egg pasta and fried egg

2/5 stars

We can’t have it all….This was a severe disappointment.  Growing up with an Italian mom who is an amazing cook made my standards for good pasta and sauce exceptionally high, and  here they were put to the test.  The egg pasta was overcooked and it seemed that the pasta water had not been sufficiently salted.  The meat sauce was decidedly lacking in an ingredient, possibly onion or garlic.  The usual savory quality of a good ragu sauce just wasn’t there. This dish had so much potential but didn’t make it to the finish line.  Fail.

4. Lazy ox burger – with cantal cheese & whole grain mustard

3.5/5 stars

This was a solid burger.  The seasoning and the cantal cheese were enough to enhance but not obscure the fresh meat taste.  The accompanying fries were beautifully seasoned with a crispy outside and tender inside – just the way I like it.  The side of smoky sweet chipotle mayo was a flavor bonus and a great addition to the fries.  Unfortunately for this place, this burger is no match for LA’s Umami burger or Austin’s Casino el Camino burger.   75% Win.

5. Anson mills polenta – with creamed mushrooms and curry

4.5/5 stars

Stupendous.  This dish made me float away on a polenta dream.  Polenta  was originally a food of the peasant Italian people but it has notably made its way into the most upscale of restaurants where the styles of cooking it are greater in multitude than the number of clothing items in Kim Kardashian’s closet.  The sweet, buttery, creamy polenta combined with charred bitter greens and delicate mushrooms whisked me off into food heaven.  Do not leave this place without tasting this dish.  I beg you.  In fact,  if there was a Nobel Food Prize, this dish would have it. Extreme Win.

Thank you Lazy Ox.  You were beyond worth the sacrifice of my post-Xmas detox.

http://lazyoxcanteen.com

the Avocado project

31 Dec

The beautiful thing about an avocado, is its ability to go from salty to sweet, back to     salty, and still be a fabulous flavor sensation.  Though we traditionally appreciate this item in salty dishes, the avocado should never be limited to this one category of the food palate.  Such as with butter, cream, and nuts, the ingredient combinations are endless and extraordinary.

Behold “the avocado project”,  a tantalizing drink of rum, citrus, agave, and yes…..avocado.  The lightly sweet (agave), buttery (avocado), tangy and refreshing (lime), and warm (rum) flavors combined with its smooth and creamy mouthfeel make it a dreamy, unforgettable creation.

On a nutritional note, the avocado bursts with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients, so you can feel good about consuming this drink.  Go ahead my friends, have two.

 All you avocado lovers, do not miss this one.  Lucky for me, it also happens to be at one of my fav restaurants in LA….score.

The Avocado project is brought to you by the mixologists at Picca.

http://www.piccaperu.com

Philly Cheesesteak!

25 Dec

Eating a Cheesesteak Sandwich at Tony Lukes

You know you’re a food addict when….you drive all the way from Baltimore to Philly for no other reason than to eat a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich and a Cannoli.  The most famous of cheesesteak places in town are Pat’s and Geno’s.  That’s where you go if you are a tourist.  If you want the BEST cheesesteak in town, then you need to head to South Philly to Tony Lukes.  I sampled 3 of their delectable sandwiches. The traditional cheesesteak with onions and cheese whiz (you order it by saying “Whiz Wit”) was of course to die for.  My god am I glad to be a meat-eater.  The cheese whiz was like a warm, cheesy, runny blanket that oozed with beauty and clung to the meat like an obsessive ex-girlfriend.  Amazing!  I also tried the Italian Steak — steak with provolone and broccoli rabe.   I love that distinct bitter taste of the rabe against the sweet and smoky provolone.   But wait, the fun hasn’t stopped yet!  Did you think I was done at 2 cheesesteaks?  Come on!  I’m Italian!  Next up was the roasted pork sandwich, also with provolone  and broccoli rabe.  The pork was so tender and juicy it nearly melted in my mouth.   It’s a must have.  6 cheesesteaks later Marco, Renzo, Rigo, and I were disgustingly yet without reservations full, and having a critical discussion about when we would be eating cannolis.  We put those anorexic LA girls to shame….

I Love Beer!

15 Dec

I Love Beer! I love drinking it! I even love making it! Love Love Love! Beer Beer Beer!

Drinking at the Beer Festival

Drinking at the Los Angeles Beer Festival

I Love to Cook

15 Dec

I love to Cook! And I’m good at it!  Yeah!

Oxtail Ravioli with fresh made pasta