Osteria Mozza

For my birthday last Wednesday, my very benevolent husband took me to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Osteria Mozza.

photo-36

We started off the night with our favorite Italian cocktail, Spritz con Aperol, a classic venetian cocktail made with prosecco, ice, aperol, a little soda water, and a slice of orange peel; Mozza does it just right, with the perfect ratio of prosecco to Aperol.

photo-37

I love Mozza for their very diverse mozzarella bar, the incredible pasta selection, and the exceptional service. I also love the bold flavors, the incredible textures, and the beautiful presentation of the food.

We started off by splitting the Grilled Octopus with potatoes, celery and lemon. The octopus was perfectly grilled; crispy exterior, soft delicate interior. Balanced beautifully with the acidity of the lemon and the crunch of the celery.

photo-35

Then we had the Baby Kale with pine nuts, ricotta salata, and marinated anchovies. What an incredible dish. A twist on a classic salad (Cesar) the kale is blanched just enough that you still get a crunch from the greens and is dressed with an incredible Cesar-esque dressing that is tart and salty from the anchovies. Then it is sprinkled very generously with the ricotta salata. This dish is definitely on my to-do list for recipe developments.

Following the salad we had the Bufala Mozzarella with crushed lemon, bagna cauda and bottarga, which honestly I could do without. The bagna cauda over powered any other flavor and completely took over the subtlety of the bufala mozzarella, which is a true shame.

Lastly we shared two different pastas: Garganelli with Ragu Bolognese; nice rich flavors, beautifully crafted pasta, nothing to out of this world. And the Bucatini all’Amatriciana; spicy yet sweet, nice balance of tomato to pasta ratio, very classic and extremely well executed, paired wonderfully with the wine.

As if we couldn’t eat enough, we finished off the night with the Bomboloni that is served with huckleberry marmellata and lemon mascarpone. I gotta say, this is one of the best desserts I have had in a while. Bomboloni are one of my favorite things in the world; think fancy doughnut holes. Served with an incredible huckleberry jam and and the most heavenly lemon mascarpone. Perfectly fried and deliciously sweet yet tart. At this point I was so full that we had to take the rest of the Bomboloni home, which were a perfect breakfast the next day!!

Advertisements

Friendsgiving

photo-33

photo-34

 

 

Ok OK, so this is way late, but with the Holidays and traveling to Mexico for a family wedding, it has been tricky to get this post up.

For the last three years, my now husband and I have been planning and hosting what we like to call “Friendsgiving”. In years past, we have done a pot-luck style event and have just been in charge of the turkey, a few sides, and of course dessert. This year though, we decided to go all out and make everything and just have our friends bring wine or beer.

One of the things I have come to love the most about the hubby is his philosophy of: if you are going to do something right, you should go all out. And all out did we go! We got rentals for the tables and chairs, and all of the wine glasses and dinner plates. We spent all week prepping and chopping and planning and stressing! It was a wonderful way for us to bond doing the things we love the most, all while listening to wonderful music and sipping on delicious wine!

The dinner menu was wonderful:

Soup:

Butternut Squash Soup with Fried sage croutons

Main Course:

Roasted Brine-Cured Turkey with With Wild Mushroom Stuffing

Madeira-Sage turkey gravy

Sides:

Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette

Everything parker house rolls

Baby Arugula salad with Roasted beets, toasted pumpkin seed, cilantro and goat cheese

Cranberry Sauce with Champagne and Currants

Mashed potatoes with celery root

Dessert:

Pumpkin Brioche Bread Pudding with cinnamon caramel sauce and whipped crème fraiche

 

All in all a very successful event full of many laughs, wonderful food, and incredible wine chosen by our resident wine expert, David Othenin Girard at K&L.

Looking forward to next year!!

 

 

 

 

The Silverspoon

For those of us who like to cook, we are always in search of the perfect cookbook. But what makes a perfect cookbook? Can there really be just one?

The reason I love cookbooks is because there are literally thousands of viewpoints on different techniques, cuisines, themes, and so on. Whenever I am traveling, I usually like to buy a cookbook that is written for locals versus something that is made for tourists because it tends to be a lot more authentic and is fascinating to see how different authors around the world communicate to their readers about food and cooking.

One of my favorite books to cook out of is The Silverspoon, which is exactly that. A cookbook for Italians that includes all the dishes that Italians like to eat and prepare. The edition that I own has been adapted for English-speaking readers. According to the book, English language cookbooks usually  have very detailed step by step descriptions for how to prepare the dish. Although its been adapted for English-speaking readers, the authors of The Silverspoon, made a huge effort to maintain the authenticity of the recipes and include some ingredients or methods that may seem unusual to us. For example, the other night I made Bread Soup with Tomato, something I had never had and didn’t know how it should taste. It was interesting because the recipe was quite bland for my palate and I ended up dousing the soup with Sriracha and added way more salt than I think it calls for.

What I think this book was intended to do, was to give its readers a basic understanding of Italian food and cooking, and to encourage cooks to branch out on their own. I have cooked a couple of things out of this book and so far, it has been a great learning experience and, thanks to the support of my husband, I have decided to cook my way through this book in an effort to learn more about Italian cooking and to further my skills as a chef! Coming up….Shrimp Risotto!!

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bread

Is it just me or does it seem like fall just does not want to come to California this year. I know that (and I send my deepest condolences to all those affected by Sandy) many parts of the States are experiencing their own climate changes (yes I said it!), so I really can’t complain that us Angelinos are “suffering” from day after day of 80 degree bright and sunny days. I just want to be able to put on a sweater, curl up by the TV and eat some delicious fall baked goods. There is something so absolutely wonderful about the taste of pumpkin, the crunch of pecan pie, and the  smell of cinnamon emerging from the oven.

One of my favorite things to bake (regardless of the season) is my pumpkin-chocolate chip bread. This weekend I refused to let the heat win and decided to whip up a batch of this glorious bread. It is moist, full of spice and the pumpkin pairs divinely with the chocolate chips. I wanted to use my new chocolate chips (Cacao Berry Mexique) that I had bought at surfas, but they were absolutely disgusting. They were waxy and tasted like dirt, and ended up using Ghiradelli Chips.

This bread also keeps really well and is wonderful toasted with a spoonful of Valencia peanut butter with sea salt. So lets keep hoping that it will finally cool down and I can start making some mulled wine!!

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup (9 ounces) canned pumpkin puree

1/2 c neutral-flavored vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat loaf pan with melted butter or cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and salt until thoroughly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

2. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the chocolate chips, stirring until evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

3. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely (difficult as this might seem) before removing from pan and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Wrap left overs in plastic and store in refrigerator for 4 days.

Back from Hiatus

Hello all,

I am back. I have to apologize for my disappearance. With a wedding (!) to plan and survive, and a little life challenges to deal with, I have not exactly been inspired to write. But now I am back! And back for good. I  have been doing a lot of cooking and a lot of eating. And even dabbling back into home baking. Starting slowly, like someone suffering from PTSD, with the occasional cake or quick bread here and there, I feel like I am finally feeling at ease with my dear o’l friend, Ms. Kitchen Aid, who has been sadly staring at me from her neglected corner.

Maybe I should explain.For those who know, I am a pastry chef in Los Angeles, who has lost her passion for home baking, because honestly after 10-12 hours of doing anything for a living who wants to do it all over again when they get home? Not me! But I realized, this was my go-to meditation, this was where I felt at home. Mixing batters and doughs, creaming butter, proofing bread, I loved it all. I decided that in order to reignite my passion for baking at home, I have got to get (slowly) back into it.

One of the problems that arose with my home baking is that I had all these ridiculous standards for myself for perfection and doing everything the 5 star, 5 diamond way. This is not the case at home. It should be relaxed and rewarding, and sometimes it should be a failure. It shouldn’t matter if you can bake 10,000 macaroons (not an exaggeration) in 8 hours, or make a $10,000 cake for one of the wealthiest royal families before lunch. It should be on my terms; when I want, how I want, and if I want.

That being said, I have to remember that when I am feeling like I am reverting to my old ways, I need to take a deep breath, step back, and appreciate the way baking makes me feel and how rewarding it can be. Because I really don’t want to lose one of my oldest and dearest friends; good o’l Ms. Kitchen Aid.

                                                                                    

Starry Kitchen-New Downtown Location

Last night, after two glasses of rose at Spring Street Bar (one of the best local bars in LA), Cameron and I decided to go check out Starry Kitchen. We had been before to the location in the Financial District, which sadly closed down, and really enjoyed the meal that we had.

Once we heard that they were doing a sort of “pop up” restaurant at the Tiara Cafe, we decided we had to go eat there. I am a big Asian cuisine fan, everything from Thai to Vietnamese, and especially love what the husband and wife duo at Starry Kitchen do. Fresh ingredients, in your face flavors, and traditional Asian dishes.

The staff were very friendly and attentive, and made us feel like we eating at the owner’s house. We started out with the beef wrapped in sesame leaves which was served with a nice pickled vegetable dipping sauce. The beef was a little under seasoned on its own, but once you dipped it into the sauce it brought out the flavors of the sesame leaves and the beef.

Next we shared the garlic noodles, which looked just like plain noodles with butter, but were surprisingly flavorful and paired nicely with a generous splash of Sriracha.

Lastly we split the Singaporean crab, which to be honest was one of the tastiest things I have eaten in a while. The sauce is made with a homemade chicken stock and tomato base. It is spicy and sweet and has pieces of crab floating around waiting to be soaked up by the bread that is served with it. The crab is sweet and succulent. and is large enough to split between two or three people. Truly a spectacular dish. In fact, the waitress told us that on the weekend they usually sell out of the crab by 7:00. So if you have plans to go there make sure you get there before 7:00 or you will miss out on a sensational experience.

Summer Bounty

One of the reasons I love summer is all of the beautiful and delicious produce that is available. Watermelons, peaches, tomatoes, plums, etc. There is so much flavor and color that brings food alive that makes cooking fun and enjoyable.

Tonight we decided to make a lovely watermelon and Farro salad, heirloom tomato and mozzarella caprese, and to finish it off fresh strawberry juice. Even though I am not vegetarian by any means, Korean BBQ is one of my all time favorites, I enjoy a good healthy, veggie friendly meal every once in a while.

Farro is perfect for a hearty vegetarian salad because it has tons of protein, a pleasant  nutty flavor and pairs wonderfully with fruits and vegetables. I decided to try it with fresh watermelon, summer peas, cilantro, chives from the garden and parmesan cheese. The result: a delectable and satisfying salad that I would definitely try again.

The caprese is easy to make and is great with heirloom tomatoes. Top it off with a nice grassy olive oil, a sweet balsamic, a little sea salt and pepper and voila! You have a luscious salad that pairs nicely with a glass of grenache rose.

Lastly to make the strawberry juice, cook about 1 pound of strawberries with a cup of sugar on low heat for a couple of hours until the juice starts to separate from the fruit. Strain the juice and serve chilled (or with a shot of tequilla to make strawberry margaritas). Tomorrow I am tackling the final phase of the croissants, I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Farro Salad:

1 cup watermelon cubed

1 cup cooked Farro

1/4 c cilantro finely diced

1 c cooked summer peas

1 tbsp chives

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

juice from 1 lime

1/4 parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl, serve and enjoy.

 

Caprese Salad:

1 pound heirloom tomatoes, sliced

1 large ball mozzarella, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 tbs basil, fine chiffonade

1 tsp chives, very finely cut

Place tomatoes and mozzarella evenly onto plate. Pour oil and balsamic over them. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle basil and chives.

 

Alegrias

This week I have been on a little baking spree. After I made the brownies I was inspired and motivated to start baking again for fun. I wanted to do something that I have never done before so that I could challenge myself and learn something new.

I have tons and tons of baking books and hundreds of recipes, but there is one that has been calling at me for a while, it’s called “My Sweet Mexico” by Fany Gerson. What I like about this book is that it has really authentic recipes for all of my favorite childhood treats. It has beautiful pictures and very detailed instructions. It also gives you lots of information about the different ingredients and where to find them.

I chose to make what are called Alegrias, which are Amaranth “Happiness” Candies (although I would classify them more as a cookie). I remember being young in Mexico and eating these straight from the markets in Downtown Mexico City. They are wonderfully sweet, full of nuts and dried fruit, and have a nice crunchy yet chewy texture.

They are also really easy to make. They only hard part is puffing the amaranth, which is an ancient seed from the Pre-Hispanic times. Make sure you use a hot skillet and do not put oil in the pan, I made this mistake and it was disastrous. Use a wooden spoon to move the seeds around in the skillet and allow them to pop like pop corn. Be careful not to burn your eyes! Also do them in small batches because they tend to burn quite easily.

I adapted the recipe by changing the types of nuts and dried fruit. I would also suggest adding chocolate chips for a nice flavor combination. I used cranberries, roasted almonds that are roasted with Bragg liquid amino, toasted pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts. It had a nice sweet and savory combination that went really well with the sweetened amaranth. Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts

1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup roasted almonds

1/2 cup cranberries

8 ounces brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

1/2 tsp lemon juice

4 ounces puffed amaranth seeds.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the nuts and fruit onto the prepared pan. Cook the brown sugar, honey and lemon juice in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture has thickened a bit. Take off the heat and add the puffed amaranth seeds. Stir well to make sure that everything is evenly mixed. Pour over the nuts and fruits and using your hands (I suggest using gloves) press firmly down to spread evenly. Make sure that the amaranth mixture is very well compacted. You can moisten your hands if it is getting too sticky. Allow to cool completely, at least 40 minutes, and invert onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife cut into desired shapes and sizes. Wrap whatever you are not going to eat in a tightly sealed container.

Tcho: So Hot Right Now

I don’t know if any of you have had the pleasure of tasting Tcho Chocolate. Whatever you are doing, stop right now, go to the Tcho website, and do yourself a favor by ordering some chocolate.

Tcho is an American owned company located in San Fransisco who produce some of the most innovative chocolate products today. They are really focused on providing a clean and pure chocolate flavor by doing extensive research and development.

According to the website, “Extraordinary is re-imagining what it means to taste chocolate, as represented by our dark and milk Flavor Wheels. Because chocolate isn’t just one flavor, savoring chocolate is a journey for your intellect and emotions, as well as your senses.” (Tcho.Com)

One of the things I love about their chocolate is that you can taste the richness and the “terroir” of the cocoa beans that they use (all fair-trade of course). In the “fruity”, which is 68% chocolate, you can taste hints of cherries, or cranberries, without them adding flavorings to any of their chocolate. Similarly the “citrus”, which is 67%, has hints of lemon and orange, without being really in your face (again because the flavor comes from the bean itself) The milk chocolate , 39 %, melts in your mouth in such a glorious, delicate way that it almost makes you want to take a nap and dream about it.

The only down side is, if you want to bake with it, you have to make sure that it is a predominantly chocolate dessert, eg. flourless chocolate cake. Because this chocolate is so exquisite, it would be a shame for it to get lost in a dessert or pastry in which chocolate is hardly a side note, rather than the star.

Trendy Coffee

For those of you who are into artisan foods  have surely noticed an increase in goods that are being locally handcrafted and marketed to fashionably hip and socially aware consumers. For example, intelligentsia  or stumptown coffee company were the pioneers in revolutionizing the way we consume coffee. While I believe their intentions were to produce a much more sustainable product, it  seemed to have also turned coffee drinking into somewhat of a fashion statement. If you step into any one of these hip, local coffee shops you will see hipsters drinking coffee using the “pour over” method or the vacuum coffee makers, which claim to produce a cleaner, crisper cup o’ joe.

I decided to give it a go at the Republic of Pie, located in North Hollywood, which serves some pretty damn good pies and actually a very good cup of coffee. I ordered a soy latte and Cameron ordered a large “pour-over” coffee. It was hard to tell if the coffee itself was really good (they serve intelligentsia) or if it was in fact the pour-over method that made a big difference. I got distracted by the guy who was preparing our coffee, who was acted as if he was a “coffeeologist” (and yes he had a mustache), and gave us a huge lecture about why this method was the best.

All in all, I do prefer coffees like intelligentsia or stumptown over huge corporate companies like Starbucks or Peet’s. I just hope that like many fashion/food trends which seem to come and go, we continue to be more aware of our social and environmental impacts when it comes to consuming food, rather than move on to the next hot thing.