Wednesday, December 29, 2010 Work and Emeril's Spaghetti Squash Carbonara on Mah Jongg Night

Warm Olives
Mache Salad with Cara Cara Orange Supremes, Pistachios, Pomegranates
Roasted Beets, Chevre, Red D'Anjou Pears, Pistachio Oil
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

This post is partially sponsored by Crave! Work.


Crave delivers fresh produce to offices in the greater Los Angeles area.  From their About Us page:

Our mission is simple. We hand select the freshest, most delectable fruits and vegetables available and deliver them straight to you, so that all you have to do is ENJOY! From exotic fruits to the newest variety of snack size tomatoes, we will surprise you every week with only the freshest, peak-of-season offerings we can get our hands on.


Two days before Christmas they delivered to my front porch cardboard boxes of  ripe Cara Cara oranges, my ultimate favorite citrus of all time.


And red d'anjou pears, maybe my favorite fruit, period. So many delicious uses in cooking, great with savory courses and for use in desserts. But even better alone. I sometimes eat these sliced with a sprinkling of goat cheese.

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Warm Olives

The first course and first use of Crave's fruit was warmed olives to nibble at during our first round of mah jongg. I am still using this delicious trick I learned from the beautiful Pink Sparrows.  I buy a small container of olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods or Gelson's and lay them on a piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with paprika and fennel seeds. Lay a couple wide slices of orange peel and wrap the foil tightly.  After I turned the oven off from roasting the beets and spaghetti squash, I plopped the wrapped olives in to absorb what was left of the heat, left them in maybe 12 minutes just to warm through. Place in ramekins, and don't forget little dishes for the pits. So simple, so inexpensive and just a little elegant.

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Same Cara Cara orange (actually, I used two oranges).  Sectioning an orange for supremes is easy, I've watched my mom do it a million times.  Iron Chef Symon does a video tutorial here for Chow.  Clockwise from top left:  slice off a generous section from bottom and top of orange, remove peel and pith with your sharp paring knife (thank you Pat), slice in between the pith walls that segment the sections on both sides stopping at the middle of the orange and pull out section, one perfect supreme pith free (mostly).

Mache Salad with Cara Cara Orange Supremes, Pistachios, Pomegranites

Tossed the ingredients together and put back in fridge to chill until we were ready for the first course.  Why do the good ingredients always migrate to the bottom of the bowl?


I dressed this with a mish-mash of almost empty dressings in the door of my fridge. The mish-mash was delicious, a little of this one and a little of that one.

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Roasting beets, clockwise from top left: trim the greens, clean and place on foil, wrap different colored beets separately as the dye from the red beets will stain lighter beets, roast at 375 for one hour, after beets are roasted the peels literally slip right off.  I baked these at the same temp and time as the spaghetti squash. I love how forgiving root veggies are when it comes to roasting.


I treated myself to a spendy bottle of La Tourangelle pastachio oil at Whole Foods. Delicious stuff.  In retrospect, I could have been more generous when drizzling the oil over the beets. The flavor is wonderful, but beets and goat cheese are fairly dominant flavors. Then again, one doesn't want an oily dish. I will play with the proportions a little next time.

Roasted Beets, Chevre, Red D'Anjou Pears, Pistachio Oil

I could eat this dish three meals a day. Earthy, goaty and sweet.

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Prepping the squash.  Before roasting the ginormous spaghetti squash, poke holes in to release pressure as the heating matter inside expands.  I use a meat thermometer because the flesh is so tough to bore through that I worry about the safety of using a knife. For the same reason, I halve these after cooking, not before, although many recipes suggest you halve first.  I just cannot get through the outer rind even with a sharp knife.


Roast on aluminum foil lined cookie sheet at 375 for about an hour. When cool to the touch, cut in half and remove rind. Scoop out seeds and spread apart strands with fork. Spaghetti squash ready for whatever sauce or topping you choose.


Simple ingredients for carbonara.  Most people have these on hand.  Parmesan cheese, shallot, parsley, bacon, garlic.  I follow Emeril Lagasses's recipe with some fidelity.  I have tried to play with the proportions a little, to bad end. Now I stick to it closely.

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The four stages of bacon, because everyone loves bacon. Top left: sautee until just before bacon browns, toss in shallot and garlic and sautee until slightly caramelized, drain about half the fat, add quarter cup or so of white wine and reduce.


Egg, cheese and parsley.  I whisk these together with salt and pepper. I think my yolks are a little extra bright because I bought free range organic brown eggs.  I'm a little more aware of my eggs these days because I have a friend who is an egg farmer.  She has told me many times how much difference there really is between home grown free range eggs and industrially farmed eggs. I believe her, but have yet to do a taste test.

I add the egg/cheese mixture to the bacon immediately after I take it off the heat. You do not want scrambled eggs here, you want an egg and cheese mixture that is barely cooked through. It's a delicate balance and it happens quickly.  After the egg/cheese is just barely cooked, toss the entire mass with spaghetti squash strands. I start with about half the squash (because their size varies) and add more as I go. I don't want the dish too sauce dominant, but I also want a taste of bacony goodness in every bite.

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

Not the most photogenic dish on the planet, but it is so wonderfully creamy and eggy. The squash really lightens this dish up, after eating even two servings you don't feel weighed down.  We played several more hands of mah jongg after our meal, not a nodding head at the table.

The Plimsouls were on my playlist this morning. Thank you boys for the blast from my past.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner 2010

Over the river and through the woods to Mom's house in Sacramento, where we are always rewarded by first booze (let's get our priorities straight), then food and complete authority over the remote control.


D played bartender and made Mom her favorite pink drink. I know some people feel (aka über hip bartender at 1886 Bar at in The Raymond who, scoffing at a client's Cosmo, informed me he planned to school Pasadena in the new art of cocktailing) that the Cosmopolitan is démodé. However, the cook should always be afforded full leeway with regard to their drinking preferences.  And I will be damned if D doesn't make a durn good Cosmo. To hades with trend, I say. And bring on the vodka. I happily joined her.


D shook himself (gasp, he might have bruised the vodka) a Belevedere martini straight up with a little citrus squeeze. And an appetizer. The appies on hand were savory Parmesan shortbread cookies. Just as insanely delicious as they sound. I ate a few Boxing Day on the long drive home.

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As a kid, I used to have to help scrub these behemoths after dinner with copper scrubbing powder. They still taunt me to this day. I own one Revere Ware copper pan and I refuse to cook with it on principle. Beautiful to look at and a dream to cook in but a beast to clean. I am lazy like that.

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Mom always sets a beautiful table. She has been collecting sterling serving pieces she uses on a holiday or dinner party table since I was a kid. She started out by trolling garage sales and thrift stores back in the salad days and now seeks out bargains at antique stores. Her collection is so fun to look at.


Joy deserves a second round.

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We started with a Lamb's lettuce salad with blood orange supremes, pistachios and pomegranate seeds in a light blood orange vinaigrette. Blood oranges from her tree!

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And because this year it was just the three of us for dinner, I begged and pleaded successfully for her famous fried chicken.  My favorite food from childhood. 

Mom's Fried Chicken
1 chicken, cut into parts or chicken parts pre-cut
sea salt
Italian herbs or herbs de Provence
cracked pepper
vegetable oil

Salt and pepper fairly dry chicken parts. Add all dry ingredients to a paper or plastic zip lock bag. (Mom uses paper, I use plastic because sometimes the flour mixture spills out through the seams at the bottom of the bag). Season dry ingredients to taste. Toss 2-4 pieces of chicken in dry mixture, coat thoroughly. Fry for 12-14 minutes per side in electric frying pan at 350F. And by side, consider most chicken pieces have at least three sides, some might have four. Wings usually only have two, but every other piece has all the edge sides that definitely deserve a 9-12 minute turn in the hot oil.  Drain on paper towels.

The great thing about fried chicken is that it's delicious at room temperature or even chilled.  She cooked the chicken and had to set it aside, festivities took priority over dinner. My brother's family dropped by unexpectedly to exchange gifts, and I was soon embroiled in a long Monopoly game with A and R, which R won like a stealth ninja capitalist tycoon.  R even engaged in acts of philanthropy, trying to slyly hand his poor aunt welfare in the form of Monopoly money. At the end of the game, the little plutocrat had a stack of 500's bigger than my cocktail. Harumph.


When we finally sat down to eat, almost 9 o'clock, we were all starving and a little tipsy. The notable side dish. Fried chicken is nothing without mashed potatoes. And this year Mom changed up her gravy recipe. She made a mushroom gravy using duxelles. Insanely delicious, powerfully mushroomy.


Christmas dog lies on floor gazing up dreamily at the fried chicken.

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Dessert. Chocolate ganache and raspberry tarts in hazelnut crust.  These are so gorgeous, they look professionally done. Gobstoppingly beautiful.


Mom's Christmas bonsai. That's the Lakers in the background getting their Christmas asses handed to them on a Miami Heat platter.

Merry Christmas, Mom.

Monday, December 20, 2010

1642 Beer and Wine: It's Your New Local


1642 Beer and Wine
1642 W Temple St
Los AngelesCA 90026


On the night in question a 4 PM opening time was mentioned, which is prime time for me to swing by with a book for a glass of wine solo fresh off the highways and byways of one of my Southern California commutes to places far and wide.


1642 is just the type of bar I grew to love living in San Francisco and London. Slightly polished, reused urban space. One of the things I love about living in Los Angeles is watching slightly decrepit neighborhoods develop fun highly desirable destinations. As I sit in my Echo Park domicile, newer spaces are creeping ever closer as the slightly downtrodden spaces in between West LA and DTLA start to be consumed by opportunistic retailers and restauranteurs. First Silverlake, then Hollywood, now Echo Park and we have all witnessed the very loud reiteration of a culturally rich downtown redevelopment. 1642 is just such a place. Currently, there is nothing else of note on this block, but it will be fun to watch that change.


1642 is located on that very traffic busy section of Temple, just south of the Glendale Boulevard exit off the 101, 11 blocks from my house and 800 meters from the infamous after hours joint Dinner House M.


Just serving beer and wine, they offer Portuguese white Vinho Verde, Washington pinots and syrahs (Paso Robles, please). They also offer beers bottled, canned and draughted.


Unfortunately for anyone with allergy issues, they house a very curious bar cat.  If this is to be a local, it will be my local, not our local. My husband is so allergic to cats that a fondue birthday party once landed him in bed for 3+ days. I am feeling a mah jongg here sometime in my near future. 1642 does not serve food, but it was certainly suggested to me on my last visit that they allow food from neighboring restos.


Filtered tap water is served cold from a bottle, but the service is warm and friendly.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Honey! Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New YorkNY 10010

(212) 889-0905

Conference Room MetLife/PanAm

As soon as we decided to visit NYC to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, several people from around the country gave recs for food.  The famous, the infamous and the less so all weighed in and Eleven Madison Park came out at the top of several lists.


Thirty days in advance of the date in question, I was on Opentable at 6:30 AM Pacific time hitting reload maniacally. It was worth the effort and one hundred percent worth the hype.

Happy 10th Anniversary

Greeted with a Happy Anniversary and an excellent table in the stunning MetLife Building. EMP resides in what used to be the main conference room.  Built in 1954, the building was owned by PanAm until it was purchased by MetLife in 1981. A few scenes from Catch Me if You Can were filmed in the building, and sitting in the dining room I can envision the Mad Men-esque escapades of businessmen and women meeting at a long conference table to discuss the future of modern airline travel after two-martini luncheons.

Le Menu

Chef Humm's approach to the menu is unique, in my experience.  There are four main courses, each diner chooses a flavor profile for each course.  Diners are also quizzed as to likes and dislikes, allergies, etc. We are pretty easy diners, bring it on, I say. However, the gents at the table next to us shared a laundry list of concerns with the waiter. I almost wanted to scoot over when their food came to snap a few pics and nibble from their plates to see how Chef Humm dealt differently with their food. I restrained myself.

D chose: scallop, John Dory, chicken and chocolate. Mine: foie gras, cauliflower, pork, coconut.

Gramercy Cellars Syrah 2008

The sommelier assisted us in choosing this Walla Walla syrah, which was good but not great. We are extremely spoiled these days by my constant travels to Paso Robles and my quick jaunts into their syrah heavy wine rooms.

Chicken Veloute, Toasted Brioche, Black Truffle Butter

The element of marvel in this meal occurred less so due to the actual main courses themselves, although each was beyond reproach.  It was the series of hors d'ouevres that kept us on the edge of our seat, gasping at the presentation and oohing at the flavors.  D said he could have eaten an entire bowl of the chicken veloute and gone home happy.

Goat Cheese Popsicles, Fennel Seed, Dill

How cute are goat cheese popsicles? Adorbs. Delicious and simply just as stated. Frozen goat cheese on a stick. The ice cream man in Echo Park could hit a homer with these.

Beet Marshmallows

I am experiencing a fascination with marshmallows right now. Several bloggers have posted in the last couple years about making marshmallows and canning in Mason jars for gifting. Despite my recent slightly unsuccessful run in with making salted pumpkin pepita caramels, I am tempted to give these a try myself. The beet marshmallows at EMP? Ever so slightly and sweetly marshmallowish, not so beety.

Sea Urchin & Shaved Foie on Brioche Toast

I loved the sea urchin and shaved foie hors d'ouevres. The umami of the foie played beautifully against the brininess of the uni, supported firmly with toasted brioche and topped greenly with chives. Yum.

Sturgeon Foam, Smoked Sturgeon

Beautiful presentation here, for the smoked sturgeon and foam.  Lovely smoked flavor, and digging down into the bottom of my shell I pulled out several nice sized chunks of smoked sturgeon.

Oysters, Jelly Caviar

I totally don't get this one. I remember it tasting good, like oysters with a little salty caviar.  The oyster was cooked, maybe steamed. I should have asked for more details. My first thought is that the colors and textures were done just for the art of presentation. But sometimes when one is enjoying food one needs to just give into the enjoyment of it all. So I don't have anything else here except, isn't the picture pretty?

Hamachi Torched with Chile Rub & Yuzu on Crispy Rice

The ubiquitous crispy rice rears its head! This was amazing. The delicate hamachi flavor and slightly fatty textured perfectly opposed the warm spice of the chile rub and the sweet/tart of the yuzu. Win.

Scallops, Sweet/Sour Foam, Toasted Pepitas

Another major win, flavorwise. This just had so much pop with the sweet and sour foam working with the nutty pepita. The scallop under the foam was small but silky, kind of a perfect protein to marquee the big flavors.

First Course: Foie Gras Terrine, Diced Pineapple, Pineapple Jelly 
& Foie Creme Brulee, Toasted Brioche

Both of these dishes were good, neither was excellent.  The terrine was overly smooth although the flavors were big and beautiful against the pineapple fruit and jam.  The creme brulee was very soft and almost runny, and again, although the flavors were wonderful against the sweetness of the burnt sugar I didn't love the texture.  Additionally, I think two foie courses in one is overkill. I tend to have a deeper appreciation of foie served more rustically. Knowing there would be nothing rustic about this meal, I think I ordered poorly for this course. For my own palate. I think many other foie lovers would do backflips.

Raw Scallops, Yuzu

Honestly, I do not remember tasting this dish. D liked it. We have both come to love raw scallops, ever since our initial introduction via Chef Ludo at the opening of Ludobites and the Let's Go To Bed exhibit at Royal/T. We both order hotate at our favorite sushi bars regularly.

Second Course: Poached John Dory with Dehydrated Citrus, Eda Mame

The flavors here were light and playful, just like the colors and composition.   Thinly sliced radish and the dehydrated citrus sauce were nice together, a nibble and a swoosh eaten with each bite of Dory. Defined acid here, but not overwhelmingly so.

Roasted Cauliflower, Cauliflower Puree, Cauliflower Cous Cous, 
Golden Raisins, Marcona Almonds

This dish was so up my vegetable alley. I always feel that what a chef can do with vegetables tells us so much about who they are as a cook.  I judge nearly every restaurant  by their sides and veg. This was a wonderful compilation, playing with cauliflower texturally three different ways. I would have licked the plate if I hadn't been afraid to embarrass my husband. It's happened before.

Now marcona almonds. They're everywhere these days, even in the Costco mixed nut jar at work.  Grown in Spain, marcona almonds are shorter, rounder and sweeter than the typical California almond.  I like a little variety in my nuts.

Third Course: Poached Chicken, Parsnip Puree, 
Glazed Leek, Black Truffles

D's third course invoked the little green monster from deep in my psyche. When the menu said chicken (and he never ever orders chicken) it didn't mention poached (one of my favorite preps), it didn't mention leeks (loves) and it certainly didn't even hint at black truffle shavings. He is such a gentleman he offered to switch, but I know pork isn't one of his favorite proteins. That chicken tasted even better than it looked if that's possible.

Chop of Suckling Pig, Morcilla Sausage, Braised Pork Cheek

Course envy during the third wasn't meant to hint there was anything wrong with my pork chop. Beautifully cut, perfectly cooked, so juicy it almost squirted (gross imagery, sorry), this was also delicious. Now, my experience living with a group of Irish folks in a London pub in the early 90's first introduced me to blood pudding. My later work in a very elegant French restaurant in Knightsbridge acquainted me with boudin noir. So, after taking a nibble of the morcilla sausage I had a feeling...Yes. Morcilla sausage is the Spanish version of sausage made from sangre, or blood. As an eater, I am not afraid of game, offal  or just about anything humans have put on a plate and called dinner. The morcilla was delicious and added that rustic texture to this dish that I felt was missing in my first course.

Dessert Debut: Kir Royal, Rasberry Sorbet, Champagne Foam

This little beauty was cradled lovingly into a cold ceramic pillow. D and I both had to touch the ceramic pillow to confirm it was actually hard and cold. Underneath were hard little nuggets of meringue. Fizzy foam and sweetly tart raspberry magnificence. This was my favorite dessert.

Fourth Course: Something Chocolate

D's course. No clue, looked good. He cleaned the plate. Next.

Something Coconut & Passionfruit

You had me at "tropical flavors". The rich coconut sorbet atop a crumbled graham-crackery crust. Passionfruit and coconut sauces swirling around the plate. This was my favorite dessert.

Mignardises: Brittle and Truffled Chocolate Truffles

It's no small feat pleasing my palate's limited patience with sweets. Nearly every course of this parade of sweets was a joy. Didn't love the brittle, but I adored the truffled chocolate truffles. To the extent I am considering trying to recreate them in a home cooked truffle tasting menu this winter during truffle season. (Be afraid. My efforts at sweets usually end up in the bin or as some reworked Frankensteinian concoction that may or may not taste good).

Black Olive Macarons, Frozen Chocolate Banana Lollipop

Nothing all that surprising in the flavors, the macarons tasted more of pure sugar than olive. The lollies were just perfect fine dining frozen chocolate covered bananas.

Enfin: Pear Brandy

This beautiful bottle was set right at our table, no stopper. And seemingly no limit to any booze indulgent intentions. I was feeling less than perfect that night (which in no way inhibited my appetite), so we just tasted. The booziness was too strong for D on the night in question (nursing quite the manly hangover), but loving eau-de-vie I loved this too.

But Wait! EMP Granola

We chomped on this in bed the next morning, sans milk. I can attest to its deliciousness.  Pepitas, candied ginger, rolled oats.  

Eleven Madison Park is the perfect place to go for a special dinner.  The pomp and circumstance are just elevated enough to be god damned fancy. The food has enough whimsy to keep one from feeling like dining at EMP is a privilege. Clearly, the procession of deliciousness made the expense account level cheque seem almost like a value. Almost. I have eaten a small handful of once in a lifetime meals. I put this in that category, for us as a couple right now.  EMP stands heads above the others, no question.

Eleven Madison Park Restaurant in New York on Fooddigger