Sunday, February 25, 2007

What I Learned About Food While Watching the Oscars

  1. Vons thinks it's Whole Foods. There was a commercial for their new line, called 'O', of 150 organic products. This is a good thing. Right?
  2. Round Table Pizza thinks it's artisanal. Proscuitto Artisanal pizza with lemon feta and artichoke hearts? A far cry from canned pineapple and canadian bacon.
  3. Taking a Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie out of the freezer and chucking it into the oven is cooking with "absolutely no shortcuts". Obviously.
  4. Albertsons is now quirky and hip. Who knew?
  5. Apparently, in countries the world over, "Dad's making dinner" means Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. Ugh.

Not sure what to make of all this. There's a whole wide crazy world out there when you actually turn on your television.

[Incidentally, and a propos of even less, did anyone else absolutely love the user-submitted Dove commercial? And she's from Sherman Oaks! Rock on, valley girl!]

Monday, February 19, 2007

Project Chicken Soup: A Call for Volunteers

Long time readers (ha) might recall I volunteered this past summer for an incredible organization called Project Chicken Soup. I'm going back, on Sunday, March 11. It's a 4-hour commitment, and involves spending time with a really spirited group of people in an industrial kitchen, preparing a week's worth of nourishing meals for people throughout Los Angeles living with HIV. Obviously, they can use all the help they can get. If you're interested in joining me, let me know.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brain Food for Today's Young Minds

"Pickled herring and gefilte fish are brain food. That's why you're so smart, bubbele. Now come here and rub your bubby's feet -- I have to ask twice?"

When you were a growing boy, amidst matzoh ball soup and kasha varnishkes, Grandma was sure to feed her sweet grandson lots of fish. Now that you're all grown up, you mention this tidbit from your past to your Japanese girlfriend (because, let's face it, chances are, if you are a young Jewish man in this city, you've got an Asian girlfriend). She looks lovingly at your pasty, shmaltz-fed face and smiles. Her grandma fed her lots of fish, too. Not in the ground and pickled form, but as miso-roasted fish served with rice for breakfast, bits of tuna in the onigiri she would help mom pack in her schooltime bento, or dried into flakes that flavored dashi broth for cozy noodles.

"Alright, let's go get dinner," you say, and naturally, you clever kids head over to Mishima. Maybe it's that cross-continental brain food phenomenon, but for some reason, the IQ of the average Mishima customer seems higher than at any other nearby restaurant. Somehow the scene that helps spots like flashy Grand Lux Cafe across the street thrive has passed over this unassuming strip-mall Japanese restaurant. So, those that are in the know are especially lucky: our noodles get to the table that much faster.

The restaurant offers all assortment of soba and udon, along with rice bowls like katsu don (fried pork or chicken cutlet) and curry don, grilled seafood bentos, and a small sushi and sashimi selection. But for you, the no-brainer order here is the hand roll combo: a half order of udon, soba, or miso soup, and 3 generous hand rolls, in the California, spicy tuna, and eel varieties. All for under ten bucks -- how's that for smart? Nothing special in the noodles -- just briny dashi broth and a single chewy white fish cake encircled in hello-kitty pink, but they come with tsukemono, salty pickled vegetables, and tenkasu, irresistible bits of fried tempura batter, and are a perfectly warming companion to the hefty hand rolls.

As you sit there slurping and exchanging pithy banter with your girl, you think back to the times you used to dine alone at the clean, sparse space's communal table, striking up conversations about the state of world politics and Dave Eggers' latestwith the people sitting next to you. You sip some tea and look back at your girlfriend, and you know Bubby was right. Maybe raw tuna with wasabi is a bit of a departure from whitefish with horseradish, but you've certainly made some intelligent choices.

Mishima is at 8474 West Third St., just east of La Cienega.

Thanks for the photo!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Way To Your Honey's Heart: The Recipes

I wrote a post on WiseBread with ideas for a homemade Valentine's Day dinner that satisfies 3 requirements:
- It can be whipped up by any bachelor in any bachelor kitchen.
- The ingredients are inexpensive, and the meal will save you major bucks over a restaurant meal.
- It will turn out a result that is impressive, sophisticated, and delicious (which is to say, your girlie will be swooning).

The post is here.

The recipes are below. Good luck boys.

French Kisses

Variations on this recipe are all over the internet. Mine has a lipstick red cranberry in the center of each. You end up with a lot of the little guys, but they are irresistible. And you'll need a mini muffin pan.

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (2 sheets)
1/2 lb brie
about 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce

Remove puff pastry box from freezer to begin thawing (give yourself enough time to follow package directions for thawing). Remove rind from brie if you wish. Cut brie into marble-sized pieces and place them on a plate. You should end up with 32 pieces of cheese. Put the plate in the freezer.

Once the puff pastry is thawed, preheat oven to 400F. Unfold one pastry sheet and press the seams together with your fingers. Cut it into quarters, then cut the quarters into quarters, so that you have 16 squares. Repeat with the second sheet.

Place a pastry square in each cup of a mini muffin pan. Press the center into the bottom of the cup, and keep the corners pointing up. Try to keep them even. Remove cheese from freezer, and place one piece in each cup. Top each with a single whole cranberry from the cranberry sauce.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.

Broiled Fish Filets

The secret to this recipe is its versatility. It can work with any firm white fish (sole, cod, tilapia, trout, etc.), or even salmon fillets, and you can use your favorite fresh herb: dill, parsley, thyme, mint, basil are just a few ideas.

2 fish fillets
melted butter or olive oil
1 lemon
about 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh herbs

Preheat broiler. Grease a small ovenproof pan with butter or oil. Pat fillets dry with paper towels and place in pan. Brush fillets with more butter or oil; season with salt and pepper. Pour a thin layer of wine or vermouth around fish. Place pan under broiler. and cook until fish just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Broilers cook food very fast, so check after 3 minutes.

Remove fish from heat. Halve lemon, and use one half to squeeze juice onto fish. Remove any seeds that may fall onto fish. Sprinkle herbs over fish, return to broiler for 1 more minute.

Serve with pan juices spooned over fish, and garnish each plate with a slice of lemon from the non-squeezed half.

Blanched Vegetables

Blanching is simply quickly boiling vegetables, then putting them under cold water to stop the cooking, so that they save their fresh color.

2/3 cup fresh vegetables (broccoli, broccoli raab, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), cut into florets (except for Brussels sprouts)
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add vegetables and cook for about 3 minutes, until vegetables are slightly soft, but not mushy. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse vegetables under cold water. Toss with softened butter, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Basil would be the obvious choice of herb here, but mint, thyme, or sage are just a few other options.

1 one-pint package cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a single layer in a baking sheet or ovenproof dish for 10 to 15 minutes, until tomatoes just begin to soften. Remove from heat and sprinkle herbs over top.

Pasta Aglio Olio

Simple and delicious, you can serve this pasta on its own, or choose a small pasta shape (like orriechette, farfalle, or fusilli) and toss it with the roasted tomatoes above.

2 servings dry pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
crushed red pepper to taste [optional]
1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs
grated parmesan cheese [optional]

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a large pan over medium-low heat. After about 3 minutes, add pasta. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, and toss. Remove from heat, and mix in herbs and cheese.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake

Doctor store-bought mix to make a dense, decadent, richly chocolatey chocolate cake. The key to making this look like more than just brownies is a round pan.

1 box dark chocolate brownie mix
eggs and vegetable oil, per brownie mix package directions, plus 1 egg
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur, rum, coffee liqueur, peppermint schnapps, orange liqueur, or prepared espresso [optional]
1 recipe chocolate ganache

Grease a round cake pan, springform pan, or pie dish. Dust pan with a small amount of brownie mix. Prepare brownie batter per package directions, with the following exception: add an extra egg. Bake per package directions; allow to cool 15 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut off the 'mound' that forms when the cake rises, so that the top of the cake is a flat surface. Run the knife around the circumference of the cake, then turn the cake out, upside down, onto a large plate or serving dish. If it sticks, hit the bottom of the pan firmly a few times. Drizzle the liqueur or espresso evenly over the top of the cake. Spread with ganache. Garnish servings with a few fresh raspberries, powdered sugar, or a small spring of fresh mint.

Chocolate Ganache

1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, heat cream in the microwave, full power, for 20 seconds. Add chocolate chips, and stir to melt the chocolate and combine with the cream. If mixture is not smooth, return to the microwave for another 10 seconds.

Friday, February 02, 2007

aw hell

so i was mugged last night. guy took my purse, which had in it my phone, my wallet, my camera. like 2 steps from my apartment too! of course it could be a million times worse: it's just money; it's just an inconvenience.

so there was going to be a post right here gushing about the absolutely delightful time i had with the warm wonderful people at the san antonio winery (last night they hosted a generous blogger event -- such an impressive and evocative space they have there!). i had some lovely pictures of the barrel rooms, the bottling facility, and the super-friendly group of people we spent the evening with.

i do hope to eventually write that post, although, sans photos. once i get everything squared away with officer this and detective that though. in the meantime, let me just mention that they're having an event this month where they're pairing wines with a variety of mama's hot tamales (if you don't know about mama's fantastic tamal-centered non-profit co-op, really, read the link. great stuff). that's right, tamales and wine downtown. rad. i love los angeles.

despite, well, you know.