Holiday Dinner

The rampant holiday eating and cooking continued the day after Christmas. My brother and I hosted a dinner for a few of our friends.

The menu:

no knead bread, preserved lemon butter
roasted walnuts in the shell
chestnuts in warm sage oil, prosciutto
sweetbread nuggets, honey mustard
roasted cauliflower, coriander, paprika, anchovies
merguez corndogs
warm peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, whipped cream


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Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Easy and Quick Hor d’Oeuvres

For this month’s installment of the Foodbuzz 24 event I did a spread of easy and quick hor d’oeuvres. I had some good ingredients in my pantry already so I whipped them up for a lunch with a few good friends.

Piquillo Peppers, Lemon Oil & Zest, Sherry Vinegar

Piquillo peppers are such a delicious ingredient. They are northern Spanish peppers which are hand-picked, roasted, peeled, seeded and jarred. All the work is done for you beforehand. I seasoned them with lemon oil, sherry vinegar, lemon zest and a pinch of orange-thyme salt.

Pecorino Bean Crostini, Pickled Zucchini

I’ve made bean crostinis countless times. What can I say? I love them. They are really versatile, inexpensive and of course tasty. This time I added pecorino to the bean puree and paired it with Zuni Cafe’s pickled zucchini. The tangy crunchy pickles were a nice contrast to the creamy bean puree.

Pickled Cherry Peppers, Tuna, Basil, Pinenuts

I had pickled some cherry peppers recently which were sitting in the fridge unused. They make a perfect hor d’oeuvre base once its top is cut and it’s deseeded. I stuffed them with a salad of tuna, basil and toasted pinenuts. I used imported Spanish tuna which is higher quality and more delicious than the domestic stuff. The cherry peppers had a pleasant kick of spiciness.

Crostni with Dry Rubbed Home-Cured Bacon, Crescenza Cheese

I made a simple mix of smoked paprika, brown sugar and black pepper and rubbed this over thick-cut home-cured bacon and let it marinade overnight. After baking them off in the oven I combined it with creamy Bellwether Farm’s Crescenza cheese on a crostini. Needless to say these were very popular. Even all the leftover bacon was polished off. Easy and quick hor d’oeuvres, always a pleasure to host with.

Green Bean & Sungold Tomato Salad with Mustard Seeds, Marjoram


If a salad could convey summer, this salad must be it. Barely cooked green beans and sungold tomatoes tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. Seasoned and flecked with crunchy toasted mustard seeds and fresh marjoram with its intoxicating scent. A wonderful combination of flavors and texture. Juicy and crunchy, sweet and herbal, tart and nutty. Sure, it’s almost Halloween, but rest assured this being LA you probably can still make a summer’s salad to satisfy your vegetable needs.


Ricotta Gnocchi, Succotash, Heirloom Tomato Confit


I came across lima beans at the farmer’s market and knew I just had to make succotash. Succotash is Narragansett for “boiled corn kernals”. Succotash differs regionally though but the common link is the combination of corn and beans, which together are supposed to create a complete protein. I was excited to cook with lima beans as I’ve never had them before.


Succotash is a delicious side dish on its own but I wanted to do my own twist on it as a whole meal. I thought ricotta gnocchi would go great with the vegetables. I was so nervous to make this since my first and only time was such a disaster. Flour and I don’t mix very well. But they turned out great! I already got another tub on ricotta for my second batch. Yay.


I also wanted to add tomatoes to the mix but not actually cooked with the other vegetables. I made an heirloom tomato confit following the Lucques recipe for its yellow tomato confit. The tomatoes are cored and cooked in a 400 degree oven with red onion, chile de arbol, garlic, water and olive oil. This produced a pan of cooked tomatoes that smelled more fragrantly delicious than I had ever imagined. I pureed this in the blender and sieved it.


Once the ricotta gnocchi was boiled I sauteed them in butter until slightly browned and then combined it with the succotash. The final plate featured the flavorful tomato confit topped with the gnocchi and succotash and minced chives. I garnished the plate with a ricotta stuffed and roasted cherry pepper. I’m going to give dish another go this week with a minor changes so expect a sequel!

Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup with Watermelon, Basil, Habanero


It’s almost the end of September and yet I find myself holding on to the heels of summer. Feeling like I was running out of precious time I loaded up on heirloom tomatoes, corn and peppers from the farmer’s market last weekend. Feeling inspired by the produce I wanted to keep things very simple but unique at the same time. I tried out the combination of tomato and watermelon. I had felt hesitant about this pairing when I’ve seen it on menus before but I knew with sweet heirloom tomatoes it would be delicious.


I skinned and pureed reddish hued heirloom tomatoes and seasoned it with fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper and placed it in the fridge to chill. I plated cubed watermelon in a soup bowl with basil, minced habanero, lemon oil and freshly cracked black pepper.

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:
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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Braised Lamb Shoulder, Vadouvan, English Peas, Cilantro Orange Gremolata


At the end of May I figured I still had a small window to sneak in a hearty braise before the warmth of summer took over. I got a whole lamb shoulder from the butcher and had him cut it up into six chunks with the bones in. The meat was browned in olive oil and then chopped onion, garlic and vadouvan in the meat drippings. After the pot was deglazed with red wine and chicken stock the lamb chunks were added back in the pot and the whole lot simmered for about two hours. When the braise had cooled down a lil bit I separated the meat from the bones in large chunks and added a healthy squeeze of lemon juice.

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Fava Bean Salad with Feta, Hazelnuts, Sumac


Oh fava beans. Such deliciousness but such hassle. It must be shelled and skinned. Then you get to the the richly green beans. I separate them by three size grouping – small, medium and large. I always have a little trouble with this part because some of the beans seem to be medium and large, or in between. Medium large. But if I start making subgroups it may be a slippery slope. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up cooking each bean one by one! 


Separating the beans by size helps in the cooking process so that each batch of beans will cook in about the same amount of time. This will eliminate some prospects of having beans that are way over cooked (the teeny ones) and ones that may still have a taste of starchiness (the large ones). It seems like one more step of hassle but after you’ve shelled and skinned your fava beans you probably want to take care that they cook properly. Don’t want to waste all the hassle now.


The handful of pods gave up just enough beans for one person. That’ll be me. So after all that hasslin’ and cookin’ carefully in salted boiling water I was able to make my green, summery, delicious fava bean salad with feta, hazelnuts & sumac. I dressed it with a combination of lemon juice, Champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I love contrasting flavors and textures in salad – nutty crunchy hazelnuts, bright tender fava beans, salty feta cut into little cubes. The hassle was definitely worth it. But then again I’ve only cooked fava beans once this season.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Walnuts, Pecorino


I kept hearing about raw kale in salads so I decided to try out for myself. I sliced up very thinly a bundle of destemmed Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero, dinosaur kale and Lacinato). I dressed it with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and added pungent salty pecorino and nutty warm toasted walnuts. This salad really surprised me. It was delicious, hearty and satisfying. Also mentally satisfying knowing that I was getting all this nutritious greens in me.

Chicken Fricassee with Red Cabbage


The simplicity of Marcella Hazan’s Chicken Fricassee with Red Cabbage recipe blows me away. It calls for just chicken, red cabbage, onion, garlic, red wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it! From those you develop flavors, meld them together, simmer them. There are basically three steps. First is to cook the cabbage until it’s meltingly tender. Second is to brown the chicken. Lastly, it’s the marriage of those two slowly simmering away in a pot together. Instead of tossing the browned chicken pieces in the dark red cabbage sauce like Marcella instructed  I nestled them and let it simmer with the skin side up.

The chicken became so tender and the saucy red cabbage sweet and savory from the red wine. Pure comfort food. You gotta have mad passion and love to make a dish so delicious from just a few ingredients. Italian food has always been inspiring in this way. It’s simplicity at its best.