Monday, September 27, 2010

Food Buzz's Project Food Blog 2010

As much as I hate to ask, if you fancy, could you vote for me here for this week's challenge?

Every week a combination of judges' and readers' votes help determine who moves on to the next round.  Last week, my blog was chosen to be one in 400 that moved on from somewhere under just 1000 blogs. This week, the cut is from 400 to 200. Eep!

However!  I am excited to potentially move on to the next round, which is the Luxury Dinner Party round. The menu is planned, the shopping list on post-its in my day planner (yes, I still write out a day planner by hand). The sterling is polished, the crystal is shined.  If you are a regular reader, please link through and have a vote for me and any other blog you deem worthy. There are some seriously tasty cooking posts in there.

Some of my favorites:

 And so many others worthy of your time and vote.

Thank you for reading, and even more thanks for taking another moment or two and voting.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

PFB2010 Challenge #2: Hawaiian Style Albacore Poke & Alan Wong's Mini Loco Moco

Food Buzz Project Food Blog 2010
The Classics

The challenge this time around:

Any food blogger worth their salt can make a classic dish sing, but can they go outside their comfort zone and tackle a foreign cuisine? We're bypassing the French and Italian standards in favor of more challenging cuisines.

Bloggers are to tackle a foreign cuisine outside the realm of one's normal blog practice to challenge our cooking and writing skills for this challenge.  Although Hawaii is technically part of the United States, I feel very strongly it's an entity unto itself. Ask a few natives to expound on the topic, you will hear strong opinions about identifying with the U.S. And by native, I do not mean military or tourist. The more time I spend in Hawaii, the more the cuisine thrills me. And yet, I have never cooked it.

Anyone who follows this blog or my life in general knows of my familial involvement and frequent visits to Hawaii. D and I often comment that we feel Hawaii is less like this country's newest state and more like its own country, floating alone out there in the warm equatorial Pacific.  Hawaii is an oddly dichotomous place. It encompasses and embraces so many cultures in a way communities here on the mainland don't seem to do with equal grace. Yet at the same time Hawaii is distinctly itself. Polynesian, Japanese, the United States; surfers, sailors, sightseers; languages, food, geology and phenotypes all combine together curiously. The more often one visits the more evident Hawaiians are both deeply protective of their islands yet fiercely proud. Protective and proud of all of it: neighborhoods, landforms, beaches, local color...the following two quotes sum up my thoughts on this exotic place rather neatly. (Really, the second one just made me laugh).

Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace. ~Paul Theroux

Hawaii's the 50th state? I thought it was a suburb of Guam. ~Bobby Heenan


Yesterday I found myself hurtling through the time/space continuum in a state of Friday afternoon bliss coupled with an, "I'm moving onto round two in Project Food Blog" elation.  As I drove toward Little Tokyo Market Place I began making a shopping list in my head.

PFB2010 The Classics

Poke is my favorite Hawaiian food, hands down. From the jubilant poke at the Ono Seafood counter (my holy grail poke), the solid from Tamura's Wines, and the crunchy at Imua Lounge (all in Honolulu) to all the mediocre and sometimes just sad poke on the mainland, I will always eat the poke.  Recently, I have become pretty enamored of the poke served at Chaya during Happy Hour in downtown Los Angeles. Do the hokey poke.

During the week, awaiting the first round results of Project Food Blog, I planned my cooking attack by exhaustively researching poke recipes on the internets. I didn't want to use a chile pepper, using brown sugar is heresy, and I don't really like nuts in my poke.  I did find this fun article, an exploration of poke culture, poke one-upmanship and devotion between poke masters of the islands such as Sam Choy, Mel and Justin Tanioka, and Hideaki Miyoshi of izakaya Tokkuri-Tei (have dined at Tokkuri-Tei in the past). It gave me a list of poke to try on my next hop to the middle of the puddle. Nothing like having goals.

I landed on the following recipe because of simplicity, seeming authenticity (no brown sugar please) and potential heat. Caveats: I chose sashimi grade albacore loin instead of ahi because of its comparative beauty on the shopping day in question and my preference for it in general for sushi and sashimi. Additionally, I made enough for a small army to feed house guests that night and mah jonggers in the morning.

PFB2010 The Classics1

Above: cutting wakame into thin strips with kitchen sheers (many thanks to The Count for the last minute wakame run to A-1 Grocery Warehouse), starting the sauce, chopping garlic and grating ginger, soaking and draining wakame (it's seriously slimy), and finally tossing albacore chunks in the beautiful spicy sweet salty savory poke sauce.

1 pound very fresh ahi tuna 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
1-1/2 tablespoons sesame oil 
1 clove of garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 
1 teaspoon sriracha chili paste 
1/3 cup chopped scallions 
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds 
2 tablespoons julienned wakame seaweed (optional)
Cooking Instructions
Cut the tuna into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine the tuna with the remaining ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. Chill for about 20 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Recipe thanks to

Alan Wong's Mini Loco Moco

Chef Alan Wong is one of the 12 co-founders of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, a culinary movement that began in the early 90's in Hawaii highlighting Hawaii's diverse ethnic food styles and local ingredients.  Their goal was to create a stronger connection between the constant demand for high end food created partially by the tourist industry and Hawaii's highest quality products such as cattle from the Big Island, fruits and vegetables from the rich volcanic soils of Maui, and the rich bounty from the Pacific waters.

Alan Wong runs two wonderful restaurants, Alan Wong's in Honolulu (voted #8 of America's Top 50 restaurants by Gourmet in 2006), and The Pineapple Room in Macy's at the Ala Moana shopping center. Having eaten at both several times I can attest both are fantastic, with Alan Wong's being by far the more upscale, but I actually prefer the food at the Pineapple Room personally.

The last time I was at Alan Wong's, for my appetizer I ordered the Mini Loco Moco, which sparked a two year long relationship with loco moco in general. I have tried several during my last few visits to Hawaii. I remain fascinated by the Japanese/Hawaiian fusion of the Mini Loco Moco still on the menu at Alan Wong's. Here, I recreate it in my own kitchen with a few snags and snarls along the way. Inuyaki blogs about Wong's mini loco moco, Yelpers rave about it, and Giant Steps shares his snaps.

Chef Wong's mini loco moco eschews the traditional hamburger patty, white rice and meat gravy turning traditional loco moco on its head. He replaces white rice and hamburger patty by crusting unagi with mochi (made from sweet white rice). He then tops the mini loco moco with a quail egg and seasons it all with a wasabi kabayaki sauce. I can do this, no recipe needed.

I started by considering the fried chicken. I crust my fried chicken with flour ergo I will crust my unagi with Mochiko, a white rice flour used for making the gelatinous substance we know as mochi. No. Did not work. Uncooked, it's texturally sandy and simply frying the Mochiko breaded unagi was not the right cooking method to bring out the heft of mochi from the Mochiko. So, I cooked the box of Mochiko into a pan of solid mochi.  I thought, I will simply cut it into thin slices, wrap the unagi and then fry or broil.  This was not 100% unsuccessful either, but I was getting there.

mini loco moco

See above.  The problem was that the mochi was very difficult to work with at room temperature. Very sticky and dense. Additionally, the thickness of the mochi meant that the flavors and textures of the beautiful unagi were somewhat lost.  I tweeted/facebooked/forumed in frustration. I was considering a more traditional loco moco using fried rice and maybe a Wagyu beef patty from Harmony Farms. Which seemed silly being that I had already shot my financial wad on eel, sauce and Mochiko. Twitter to the rescue.  My long time twitter friend blogger Ono Kine Grindz suggested I freeze the mochi and try grating it like cheese. Happily, I had success. I owe it all to a fellow food obsessed Hawaii loving blogger, who happens to have mouth watering skills with a camera. Check out his blog if you have a minute. The grating worked perfectly for two reasons. The mochi was cold and doesn't stick to your hands quite as badly, and the grated pieces allow you to crust the unagi more thinly so the flavors and textures stand up to each other more equally in the dish.

mini loco moco1

See the sucessful and delicious mini loco mocos above. At first bite, from D I got an, "Oh my God, Liz, this is delicious! Can we please eat these sitting down?" That, my readers, is success.


10 ounces BBQ unagi
1 lb Mochiko or blocks of cooked mochi
unagi or kabayaki sauce
quail eggs

Freeze mochi. Before grating allow to defrost slightly, for maybe 10 minutes. It needs to be soft enough to grate on the large side of your cheese grater. Cut unagi into 2"x2" squares, crust both sides thinly with the sticky grated mochi and fry in hot pan very lightly oiled until mochi crust is crisp.  While the mochi crusted unagi cooks, simultaneously fry one quail egg for each loco moco. In small dish mix 4 tablespoons of kabayaki sauce with 1 teaspoon of wasabi. Top mochi crusted unagi with quail egg, and drizzle wasabi kabayaki over the top to your taste. 

Mahalo and ohoiho!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lake Havasu Summer 2010; Just Sayin'

Close to the top of the hill.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Hot. Our favorite non-place on the planet because our some of our favorite people are there.

Late afternoon. Late late.

Steps down to the BLM.

We grill corn.

Watch cactus grow.


Sit under the stars at night.


And nuthin' much more.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mo's Burger at L.A. Flea Market

4301 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 845-3009

Mo's started as a brick and mortar in Burbank at the corner of Riverside and Rose in 1995.  I have eaten there several times with the S family, but haven't been in since I started food blogging, what four years ago? Or was it three? It was three. I actually passed my three year blogiversary unheralded on August 17th.

D and The Furious Seasons were playing the L.A. Flea Market one weekend recently. 

After the boys were done wowing the crowd, D and I took a mouth watering gander at the food trucks. We should have eaten earlier because by the time he was done around noon the lines were long everywhere we looked. The odor emanating from Mo's truck was quite enticing, so we took a peek at their menu and made the commitment. They offered a couple different kinds of protein including beef and turkey with a number of different toppings: tomato, avocado, bleu cheese, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, bacon and so on. You catch my drift.

Best burger I have had in L.A. since I don't know when. Turkey burger on whole wheat with caramelized onions and BBQ sauce. The burger was cooked perfectly. some nice carcinogenic char flavoring but still nice and juicy (sometimes a turkey burger can be a bit dry). The juicy tomatoes, sweet BBQ sauce and browned through and through caramelized onions didn't hurt one bit. 

 Next time the Mo's truck is cruising around your general hemisphere, hit it up. Have them cut your burger in half and share it with your favorite person.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Food Buzz Project Food Blog

This week starts the launch of Food Buzz's Project Food Blog contest. The contest entails posting one blog post a week around given parameters regarding different angles in the food blogiverse.  My first post is due today, and as I reluctantly type this I do so under duress knowing it is the most difficult of all the posts.  The directive is as follows:

This is it! Your very first entry and we're giving you a chance to tell the world: what defines you as a food blogger and why should you be the next food blog star?

I know more or less what defines me as a food blogger and it is part of my header. "Food, she thought. Eating, drinking and debauching my way through Los Angeles and the universe." This is me to a T. I love to travel (which is fortunate because I do so for work), I love to eat and drink and talk and write about eating and drinking. And I like to debauch my fair share as well. I love to cook, think ad talk and obsess about what I will cook. I even revel in the times when I haplessly and totally make a mess of what I am trying to cook. There is always a lesson to be found in my mistakes. What do I not like to do? I do not like to write about myself.

Having been asked to be on judging panels here and there, for Table 20, for the Luxury Chocolate Salon, and so on, the only thing that causes me hesitation is knowing I will be asked to submit a brief bio.  I love to write. And taking photos has been a hobby of mine since high school. However, I do NOT like to write about myself.

So the pertinent question arises, do I write about food because it is concretely not about me except for the moment of reception? Food is someone else's creation, someone else's art. Do I enjoy food blogging because I enjoy writing about someone else's art more than I do making my own art? I don't know. But I think it's a great question and maybe one that I should spend some time thinking about during Project Food Blog.

What defines me as a food blogger is my pleasure in trying anything and everything from Joel Robuchon at the Mansion to the bacon wrapped hot dogs from the bottom of my hill at the end of a drunken Friday night and tell my readers about it in joyous detail. Why should I be the next Food Blogging star? Because I am fun, of course.  And most of the people who read my blog want to eat with me.

In the weeks to come, look forward to posts from the following categories:

  • The Classics
  • Luxury Dinner Party
  • Picture Perfect
  • Recipe Remix
  • Road Trip!
  • Video 411
  • Piece of Cake
  • You're the Critic
  • The Final Post

So...the journey of Project Food Blog begins. Hopefully it will be a long one and together we can enjoy every delicious and hopefully introspective minute. Wish me luck!

Chaya Happy Hour, Early Fall

525 South Flower
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 236-9577

Chaya hosts my favorite happy hour, full stop.

Above, T's Seeing Double and my standard dry Belvedere martini with two olives. Two, not three, I find three annoying.

Sea salted eda mame.

I am currently harassing Chaya for their poke recipe. It's my favorite mainland poke, and I have tried dozens. This is the only one this side of the Pacific that is worthy. My co-worker Bob just this week caught some tuna in Baja....there will be a frozen piece in the kitchen at work for me on Monday and I want to make poke. I need this recipe. Need. Non-negotiably.

Above, a small pork belly dish with Asian greens, red onion and cucumber. The flavor profiles of this dish kept the pork belly light and savory. 

Sadly, Chaya's Happy Hour menu on their website is not up to date and I have recollection what this last dish was. T will know. She has a mind like steel trap. Nevermind, it was all delicious and the perfect foil to a much needed Friday night on the town.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quick Late Bite at Yxta: Does Love

Yxta Cocina Mexicana
601 S. Central Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90021

As I discussed with Valentina from East Side Food Bites via Twitter, why is Yxta not as popular and renowned as some other to-be-unnamed Mexican spots around town?  There are solid reviews around the internets, including these on Yelp, here at Dig Lounge, raves for their tacos al pastor on Chowhounds,  Eating LA,  by Jessica Gelt in the LATimes,  a nod on Thrillist that's more newsy than reviewesque, a rave on Daemon's Food, and right here at FST. I love Yxta, have eaten something delicious there every time I have visited. Jesse always remembers D and I, and I am always sad when his mom is not in the kitchen whipping up something delicious.  Mexican food by Mexican people, made in an upscale way with no velvet ropes, no tiny portions, and nothing so artsy on the plate you feel hesitant about digging in. If you have been eating in upscale Mexican restaurants around L.A. the last couple of years, and more recently, you know who I am talking about.

After cruising A Current Affair Vintage Pop-Up on the evening of Fashion's Night Out last Friday, T, D and I found ourselves on Jesse's doorstep hungry for some sophisticated snacks of the Latino variety. We started with this beautiful dish off the menu, corn and nopalitos in a crema sauce with manchego. Rich, and delicious, wonderful. A nice bite to it, which makes me happy.

I was thrilled calabacitas were in season. The last couple times I have been in the squash blossoms were sold out or out of season. Ole! Flipping yum. Mexican squash blossoms with queso cotija. 

For dessert, Jesse treated us to a hefty slice of Tres Leches chocolate cake. Insane, I had a couple decadent nibbles and let T & D have at it.

Yxta is always pretty busy, I just don't see why people aren't beating down their doors & the Opentable reservation line for the amazing food, aguas frescas cocktails and so on. D & I are already planning on visiting again next week because this was our first visit since late last winter. When we make the big move downtown (coming right up) we will be there far more often.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pink Sparrow Teaches Tapas Chez FST

Jennifer Sperling
Christena Pinkerton

Last weekend, after a few months of emails flying back and forth between Jennifer and I trying to work out logistics, menus, location and my work schedule Jennifer and Christena of Pink Sparrow fluttered over to Echo Park to provide a few blogger peers and me a cooking party/class in my own nest. Cooking it was, party it was. Included in the festivities were Linden the Gastronomnom and his fiancee Amy, and Felicia from The Food Ledger with her buddy Matt.

The Pink Sparrows supplied us with all the recipes tied up conveniently into little booklets with red ribbon. Smart.  

Before your affective filter around price based on the luxury and plentifulness of the food rises, let me assure you that a party of this caliber (without alcohol) starts at around $40 per person. (The price goes up from there based on luxury of ingredients, number of courses and whether or not you want them to provide wine pairings). 

Jennifer and Christena offer the party together. However, Jennifer, a graduate of CIA in NYC, is in charge of instruction. They cook together, add commentary and just in general make your kitchen a happy place.

Ingredients, instruction and company are all high caliber.  My friend T was asking me about Christena and Jennifer last night. Adorable, young, smart, fun...not too trendy yet definitely not staid. The type of woman I am friends with in my personal life, as a matter of fact.  They were a pleasure to have in my house and I plan to use them again for other events. Definitely.

Warm Olives with Orange, Fennel Seed and Paprika

They bought a cup or so of Italian or Spanish olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods. Sprinkled liberally with paprika and fennel seeds, olives and some juice are placed on a wide layer of aluminum foil.

Jennifer shaves off wide slices of zest from a ripe orange and places them around the olives while Felicia snaps in the back.

Fold the foil securely around the olives and bake at a low temperature.

Voila! Warm, paprika'd olives with a slight taste of citrus and fennel.

I was amazed at the delicious simplicity. Already planning my next party, these are definitely on the short list for crowd pleasing and easy to make appetizers.

Baked Olives with Orange, Fennel Seed and Paprika:
Serves 4
1 cup Spanish olives
2 strips orange peel
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp paprika
Pre heat your oven to 325 degrees. Make a double layer of foil and add the olives and orange peel on one half of the foil.. Sprinkle with fennel and paprika. Ingredients can be adjusted according to preference. Fold the foil in half like a book over the ingredients and fold over edges to seal. Bake 8-10 minutes or until warmed through and serve.

Jennifer, like any cook, prepares the items that need time to sit first and then preps the things that cook and assemble quickly. So this post is not really in the order of assembly, it's in the order of eating. :-D 

Serrano Ham & Manchego Croquettes. 


First she started in on the bechamel, one of the mother sauces of French cooking. Bechamel is used as the base for other sauces such as: mornay, nantua, soubise, and is spread on some variations of Croque Monsieur.

Here you see onions and butter sauteeing away. In a few moments she adds flour, making a basic roux.

Jenn adds cream to the mixture, turning the roux to a sauce base.

She stirs rapidly to prevent separation as the roux thickens.

Next, she adds manchego cheese and tiny bits of serrano ham.

Here the slightly more solid mixture.

Now the task of forming croquettes begins. She rolls small mounds of the mixture into ovoid shapes, dips into a seasoned scrambled egg mixture.

After the egg mixture she dips into flour to coat dryly.

And carefully places in the hot oil.

All 8 croquettes sizzle away happily.

Hot, crispy, cheesy, hammy end product.

Be careful how quickly you eat them, the insides stay hot for a surprisingly long time.  Great appetizer for parties.

Serrano Ham and Manchego Croquettes:
Serves 4 as a tapa
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp onion, chopped
salt and pepper
3 ½ tbsp all purpose flour, plus more for shaping
6 tbsp whole milk, room temperature
3 tbsp Serrano ham, finely chopped
2 tbsp manchego cheese, grated plus more for breading
2 large eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Heat butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in milk or mix with wooden spoon and cook stirring for 3 minutes. Mix in ham and 2 tbsp cheese. Season with salt and pepper if desired but be careful do to the ham and cheese already being salty. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and let cool while you set up your breading station. Mixture can be refrigerated in an airtight
container up to 2 days. Whisk together eggs in a shallow dish. Stir together breadcrumbs and a little more manchego cheese if you wish. Scoop tablespoons of cooled mixture and shape with floured hands into balls, ovals, egg shapes or little log shapes. Dip in egg and then roll in breadcrumbs. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat at least 2 ½ inches of oil in a large, heavy stockpot until it registers 375 degrees on a deep fry thermometer. Working in batches to avoid crowding, fry croquettes, flipping once until dark golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Adjust heat in between batches to maintain temperature. Serve warm.

Next up, Shrimp with Toasted Garlic.

This was probably the easiest dish to make, easily replicated by even the most inexperienced home cook. I will add that all the dishes she demo'd are extremely user friendly. Nothing to be afraid of here in terms of reproduction.

Matt (above) walked into my house describing his hatred for food bloggers. I looked at him askance...does he know whose house he's in and who else was invited and the point of the evening and all things good and fun and entertaining in the world? Seriously...after a few moments of exclaiming and protesting he settled down and became awesome. Above Jenn teaches Matt some knife skills, how to handle his way around a giant bunch of parsley.

Linden being useful and Amy being cute.

Linden has told me before he doesn't cook much but he handled the garlic like a seasoned pro. Granted, depapering parsley isn't the most complicated thing in the world, but I have seen a lot of people peel a clove like they are peeling an orange. Just saying.

First, we infuse the oil with garlic by heating the chopped cloves until the are just brown.

Chopped and browned garlic is then removed from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Saute the shrimp in the infused oil, paying careful attention making sure to now over saute, as overcooked shrimps become rubbery.

Toss with the parsley your new friend Matt has chopped.

Throw in the garlic chips and serve.

Really? So delicious. This could be an any-old-weekday kind of dish with salad for me and tossed over angel hair pasta for D. (I did make these this week, and they were just as delicious the second time around. I admit to substituting cilantro for parsley, but I only admit this under punishment of death.)

Shrimp with Toasted Garlic:
Serves 4
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail off and split down the middle
Kosher salt and pepper
1 lemon
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat a sauté pan over low heat. Add olive oil and toss in sliced garlic. Bring to a bare simmer and keep on the lowest heat possible so the garlic toasts to a golden brown- about 15 minutes. Season shrimp with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add to the pot and remove from heat. Allow to cook until pink and tender. Finish by squeezing juice of whole lemon over shrimp and sprinkling with chopped parsley. Use a slotted spoon to fish out prawns and serve on a platter topped with toasted golden garlic shavings and parsley

Mussels in Saffron Broth

Christena is smart. She knew I would have some dry white wine appropriate for cooking already open in my fridge to use for the mussel broth. She's either smart or I am predictable. You decide.

Jennifer neatly pulls each perfectly cooked mussel from the pan with a pair of tongs.

And then pours the beautiful broth over the mussels, decorating their blackly opalescent shells with translucent onions.

Mussels in Saffron Broth:
Serves 4
1 # Mussels, bearded and scrubbed
½ onion, finely chopped
1-2 sprigs parsley
½ C white wine
1 small sprig thyme
1 small bay leaf
½ tsp saffron threads, chopped and dissolved in 2 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a large saute pan, combine the mussels, onion, parsley, wine, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper, to taste, saffron, and olive oil and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue cooking, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels have all opened. Remove from heat and remove the mussels with tongs, to a large bowl. Set aside. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove 1 half of each shell and discard. Place the half-shelled mussels in the refrigerator to chill, and reserve the juices from the bowl. Strain this liquid, as well as the liquid from the saute pan, and combine in the saute pan. Reduce by 2/3 over high heat, then remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Once it is cooled, drizzle over the chilled mussels and serve.

Chorizo Tortilla

Definitely a crowd pleaser, and probably what I would consider the main course, if there really was such a thing that evening.  The trick here is to par-cook the leeks and potatoes in your oven proof pan on the stove top until they are nice and soft...then the eggs can cook evenly around the more dense matter on the inside.

Second trick: choose a dry chorizo. In the past I have enjoyed clams or mussels in Spanish restaurants served in a broth with crumbled chorizo. Trying to recreate this in my kitchen, I have used the chorizo that is the most convenient, Central American chorizo which tends to be much oilier. Yeah, didn't work out well for me. A greasy orange broth is not what you are looking for with lightly flavored shellfish. I have been schooled.

Jennifer preps the tortilla, checks the doneness of the potatoes.

The product after she pulls it out of the oven, nicely browned just a touch on top.

It can be slid easily out of the pan, almost like a perfectly cooked pizza, but without the bread.

Chorizo Tortilla:
Serves 4-5
¼ chili, deseeded and finely chopped
small handful of chopped herbs (parsley, chives or chervil or a combination
olive oil
½ Spanish onion, thinly sliced
¼ pound potatoes, finely sliced
½ leek, washed and finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
¼ pound of dried chorizo, sliced and quartered
6 eggs

Preheat the broiler or preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the chili and herbs in a large bowl. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium low heat and sauté the onions until very soft. Add the potatoes and leeks to the pan and when soft, add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. Place ingredients in the bowl with the chili and herbs. Wipe out the sauté pan with paper towels and return to the heat. Saute the chorizo for about 5 minutes and add to the bowl of ingredients. Beat the eggs slightly with a fork and season with a little salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in the pan and add all ingredients back in. Cook on one side then place under broiler or in the oven until the tortilla is light brown and firm to the touch. Leave to set for 5 minutes and then turn onto a serving platter.

Chocolate Truffles with Smoked Paprika

We actually started the dessert first. Jennifer made the truffle base, a basic chocolate ganache, before everyone arrived and set it aside to cool and harden.

Carefully warm heavy cream.

Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate, a little Grand Marnier and smoked paprika. You can use an number of spices or additional ingredients such as cinnamon, chile powders, other liqueurs.

The chocolate didn't melt all the way from exposure to the cream, at least not to whipping texture, so Jenn put it in the microwave for a few 5 second blasts.

After we were full as ticks from noshing on tapas and drinking wine, we formed balls from the flavored ganache and rolled them in cocoa powder. How beautiful are they?  I have another Eat My Blog! Bakesale to benefit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank coming up, and because I am such a suck ass baker, I might be making these this time instead. I just need to find a way to package them. If you have any packaging ideas that are novel and would not affect the structural integrity of truffles, please to comment.

Chocolate Truffles with Smoked Paprika:

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz semisweet chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp orange flavored liqueur
1 tbsp good smoked paprika
¼ tsp vanilla extract
cocoa powder

Chop the chocolate with a sharp knife and place in a heat proof mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl with chocolate. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the liqueur, paprika
and vanilla. Set aside at room temp for 1 hour. With two teaspoons or a small ice cream scoop, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each ball of chocolate in your hands to roughly make it round. Roll in cocoa powder. Keep refrigerated but serve at room temp.

We all had a fantastic time. One of the things that I like best about the Pink Sparrow cooking party (aside from hanging out with Jennifer and Christena) is that the level of interaction with food items is negotiable. We all got our mitts into the food, but Jennifer and Christena still did the bulk of the cooking while we watched, drank (lots of wine), snapped, chatted and ate.

Did I mention we drank wine?  About a week before the party, Christena sent me a wine paring rec list. I didn't want to lead with this, because really, the food is the thing. But I think it's a fantastically convenient service and was happy to see the list isn't particularly spendy.

Cavas Jaume Serra "Cristalino" Brut NV (Cava), $9. Simply delicious. Lively crisp apple fruit.
Segura Viudas "Reserva Heredad" Brut NV (Penedes), $12 to $15. Soft and creamy. A terrific sparkler for a party.
Martin Codax Albarino 1998 (Rias Baixas), $14. Albarino is Spain's most exciting white grape. Fresh and racy, it's terrific with tapas.
Julian Chivite "Gran Feudo" Rose 1998 (Navarra), $7. One of the best roses made in Europe. Fresh and bursting with berries.
Bodegas Muga Reserva 1995 (Rioja), $16. A classically beautiful Rioja with soft cherry and dried-leaf flavors.
Finca Retuerta "Abadia Retuerta" 1996 (Sardon de Duero), $24. Spicy black fruits. Mouth-filling and wonderfully earthy.
Torres Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva 1995 (Vilafranca del Penedes), $11.Rustic and bold, with good juicy red fruit flavors.
Vina Mayor Crianza 1996 (Ribera del Duero), $11. Soft, spicy cherries; very easy to drink.