A Holiday Brunch

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It’s the holidays! Delicious food, drinks and time with loved ones are the best ways to  warm up the chilly hours. I hosted a simple brunch for a few of my friends. The star of the meal was this gloriously tall leek, goat cheese and pancetta quiche. The custard was just perfectly set, silky and jiggly. I used Thomas Keller’s quiche recipe as a blueprint, adopting his call for a two inch tall tart that offers generous bites of luscious custard. The combination of sweet leeks, sharp creamy goat cheese and meaty pancetta was luxurious.

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A Summer Dinner

I made dinner for a few friends the past weekend at my friend Ellen’s place which she has renovated with an awesome kitchen. It houses an island over 16 feet long with its own sink, wine fridge, shelves for cookbooks and a microwave, and tons of very organized storage area for all the kitchen tools and tableware. And the best of all a six burner Viking stove and french door Viking fridge. As you can imagine I was super excited to be cooking in this kitchen. Could I possibly have more surface area to work on? I think not.

Here was my summer menu:
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Vadouvan Gougeres

These look like typical gougeres but I added a spoonful of vadouvan to the batter. They came out golden, puffed up and with a hint of earthy curry.

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Skirt Steak a la Bordelaise

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One day I decided to make veal stock. I purchased a 24 quart stock pot, 10 lbs of veal bones, a large chinois and got to work. I went with the French Laundry recipe involved no roasting of the bones, but an important blanching step, veal stock #1, veal stock #2, and remouillage. Oh, and lots and lots of skimming. The ever funny and entertaining Carol can tell you better than I can what the process was like.

The simmering veal stock made my apartment smell so good. Savory, meaty, comforting. I hated washing that big ass pot but the rewards were well worth it. The reward being a meal of delicious steak bordelaise. I used Bouchon’s recipe which actually did not call for bone marrow, a traditional ingredient. But sadly I could not get my hands on any so it didn’t really matter. When I bit into the juicy skirt steak with sauteed mushroom and bordelaise sauce spooned over it I was one happy girl. The sauce was deep, flavorful and so delicious. How could it not be? After all, delicious homemade veal stock reduced with red wine and paired with steak is a stellar thing. I reduced the remaining veal stock into demi-glace and froze it in one tablespoon measures. My pantry feels a bit more proper having homemade demi-glace ready to go.

Scallops Beurre Blanc

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Scallops Beurre Blanc with Roasted Asparagus, Mashed Potato

Simplicity does it again. I love scallops sooo much – it’s my favorite seafood and definitely one of my favorites foods ever. So succulent and sweet. I seared it up and served it with beurre blanc, a French butter sauce in which butter is emulsified in a liquid state using a reduction of wine/vinegar and shallots. This was a dish I made for a birthday friend recently, a fellow scallop loving girl. She requested mashed potatoes for her birthday so that’s what I did. Trader Joe’s was low on potatoes when I went shopping and whatever ones I got weren’t the best for the mash. I even put the mash through the tamis and didn’t get the super smooth texture that I wanted. Looks a lil funny under the scallops but oh wells. Roasted asparagus flanked the side of the plate – you can’t go wrong with those.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, Pistachio Sorrel Pesto

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I was panicked a few weekends ago thinking that heirloom tomatoes were going to be gone soon and that I hadn’t got my fill of them this season. I asked the tomato stand people at the Santa Monica farmer’s market how much longer they were going to be showing face and they said until Christmas time! That’s Southern California weather for you.

The combination of juicy heirloom tomatoes and creamy burrata is hard to beat. I usually eat it pretty straight up but since I had some sorrel on hand… Using the handy mortar and pestle I mashed up toasted pistachio, garlic, and chopped sorrel along with a few basil leaves, but leaving out the cheeses. The mortar and pestle is a bit of work but it’s all worth it in the end for the wonderful texture. I thinned out the paste with the deliciously fruity and unfiltered Frantoia Sicilian olive oil that I received from Julie who always spoils me with culinary goodies. I seasoned the tomato slices and burrata with fleur de sel and a drizzle of the olive oil before dolloping the bright herb paste over them. The citrusy tang of the sorrel and nutty pistachio in the pesto brought a new twist to the ol’ heirloom tomato and burrata salad.

Harissa & Yogurt Marinated Halibut Wrap

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Harissa & Yogurt Marinated Halibut Wrap with Tomato Cucumber Avocado Salad

Every time I buy a tub of yogurt for a recipe I always seem to have a good amount of it leftover. Although frozen yogurt is an excellent solution but lately I haven’t had an inkling to make any sweets. So instead I continued on with the seafood. I think I read somewhere yogurt tenderizes meat besides making it taste excellent. I marinated halibut slices with harissa and Greek yogurt then cooked it gently over a very small flame until it was just done. The halibut came out so tender and flaky. Corn tortillas were what I had around to make a wrap but a soft flatbread would have been perfect too. To top the fish off I made a salad of tomato, cucumber, avocado, mint, cilantro and lemon. I can eat this salad by the bowlful. So fresh and light. I sprinkled sumac over the top of the wrap and served it with lemon wedges.

Poppy Seed Waffle-Eggs Florentine with Parmesan Hollandaise

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Believe it or not I still have some poppy seed dishes left in me. Waffles have been on my mind lately from my feeble attempts to rethink the popular chicken and waffle. I made poppy seed belgian waffles and topped it with sauteed spinach and shallots, eggs mollet and parmesan hollandaise. Voila! A waffle version of eggs florentine. It happened by accident actually. First I thought of which vegetables to pair the waffle with. Then I thought real hard about the sauce and I could not come up with much but hollandaise. Parmesan hollandaise? Even better. Bacon lardons were also part of the mix but I made the dish vegetarian this time around for my vegetarian friends. Do include bacon lardons in yours!

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Ooh look at that yolk oozing out. I loved the poppy seeds in the waffles too. They added a nice crunch of course and extra nuttiness. My friends loved the dish.

Buttermilk-Poppy Seed Biscuit, Duck Confit, Savory Cherry Compote, Creme Fraiche

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Biscuits – another way to use poppy seeds! Fresh from the oven the warm buttermilk biscuit was fluffy, buttery and now also pleasantly crunchy from the black seeds. I paired it with duck confit (also begging to be used up) for a little appetizer. I topped a biscuit half with shredded duck confit and savory cherry compote made with fresh cherries, red wine, orange juice, sugar and spices. The lovely duck confit and cherry compote pairing is straight out of Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook. I finished the dish with a quenelle of tangy creme fraiche to contrast with the earthy spices of the duck and compote. A few sprigs of microgreens later and the cute appetizer was ready to be consumed. I saved the skin from the duck leg and made a cracklin out of it. Delicious!

The original inspiration for this dish was the Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches of deli turkey, cranberry sauce and cream cheese that I used get at a sandwich shop during the college days. Duck confit for turkey, cherry compote for cranberry sauce, and creme fraiche for cream cheese. And of course , the touch of poppy seeds.

Bagna Cauda

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I picked up these gorgeous baby romanesco and baby cauliflowers at the Weiser Farms stand at the farmer’s market. Although at that point I had way too many bags of produce in my hands I could not pass them up. First dish that came to mind was bagna cauda, a winter Piedmontese treat consisting of a “hot bath” of anchovy-garlic olive oil in which raw vegetables are dipped.

Against the bagna cauda rules I lightly blanched smaller florets in salted water for about thirty seconds. Still close to raw but softened around the edges a bit and color more expressed ever so slightly. Boy thought these looked like little pieces of toys. The colors are just too lovely.

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But since I cannot make a meal out of just baby florets I went ahead and made my own very untraditional dipper – mozzarella and spicy giardiniera panini. Simple and perfect for dipping into the warm oil.

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