Birthday Cake…(one of) my guilty pleasures

Do you ever have a craving that just will not go away? Is there something that you crave and you eat, but after a few days or weeks there is that little voice in the back of your head screaming ever so lightly? For me, its chocolate cake (and chocolate chip cookies but that’s another story).

So a couple of weeks ago my whole family got together to celebrate my sister and mother’s birthdays (they are only born 2 days apart!). I got a text requesting a chocolate cake and my first thoughts were :HELL YEA.

Being a pastry chef I have to admit that most sweets don’t make me super excited, I am the type of person that adds extra salt to my cookie recipes or douse my carrots and cucumbers with soy sauce and lime (don’t judge its delicious).  But there is something about chocolate cake that just makes me crazy. Have you ever seen the movie Matilda? Remember the scene with the chocolate cake? Mouth-watering…..

Anyway, back to the birthday cake that I made, I spent a good amount of time looking through my recipe collections and finally decided on using David Lebovitz’s Devil’s Food Cake recipe. I love this cake; its moist, chocolatey and not too sweet. I gave it my own twist by adding a raspberry ganache (simply fold in about 1/4 to 1/2 raspberry jam into some of the ganache from the recipe) between the two layers. Yum! The result: A beautiful, juicy, heavenly cake…But now that its been a couple weeks, and the craving is slowly starting to return….

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!!

My Obssession with Ceviche

Besides sushi, ceviche is one of my all time favorite foods; I have a strange affinity for very acidic food and a true love for all things seafood.  My weakness for ceviche probably comes from my years spent in the coast of Mexico; Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, where I was able to sample some of the best of the best, with the freshest fish and the perfect balance of lime juice, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes . It wasn’t until a few years ago where I had the opportunity to sample Peruvian ceviche, which to my understanding is where it originated from, at one of Portland’s best restaurants, Andina. Peruvian ceviche differs from Mexican ceviche in that they usually add potatoes to balance out the heat as well as some kind of lettuce, usually butter lettuce.

After I had tried this version, I was instantly hooked and on a mission to find something like that here in LA. Thanks to a random night of being driven by a Peruvian cab driver, we were sent to Mario‘s Peruvian. It is a very unassuming place that really has no sense of style whatsoever but that’s not why you go, you go because the food is incredible and extremely satisfying. After waiting about an hour for a table, totally worth it, we sat down and started stuffing our faces with the fluffy and warm white bread that you smother with a tangy green sauce called huacatay, made with; aji, huacatay (a Peruvian plant), oil, rocoto perper and salt. Truly addicting. We decided to order the ceviche mixto, which came with fish, shrimp, squid, and octopus. It is cooked in the lemon juice with onions and spices and served with boiled potatoes. The spices brought me straight to a little village in Peru, I just couldn’t get enough. It was absolutely balanced with just the right amount of acidity that was complemented with the sweetness of the seafood. The seafood had a nice soft texture, not chewy like in other ceviches I have tried. I didn’t feel that it was too spicy for my personal taste, but I can see why the potatoes might be necessary for those who can’t handle heat.

Once we got home I was determined to make my own version of ceviche to see how it could even begin to compare to Mario’s. I added a little twist by adding some fresh peach that we had just gotten from our vegetable box of the week. Considering we finished the whole thing in one sitting, I think it was pretty damn good! Here is the recipe:

1 pound Shrimp, peeled,  cut into small pieces

Juice of 8 limes (more or less depending on how acidic you want it)

1 tomato, cut into small cubes

1/4 c cilantro, finely cut

1/2 onion, cut into small cubes

2 tsp salt

1tsp pepper

1 peach, not ripe, cut into small cubes

2 tsp jalapeno, cut into very small pieces

Place all ingredients into a large bowl, mix well (make sure you wash your hands after or else the jalapeno will most likely get in your eye) and let sit for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.If you have time, give it a good stir everyone in a while to make sure the flavors are distributed evenly Serve with your favorite chips and a margarita or two!

   This is a Mexican ceviche from another great place called Picante. I told you I am obssessed!