15 November 2007

Moving house

I'm trying out a wordpress version of this whole blogging malarky at the moment. This site will stay operational for now since I'll most likely change my mind and come back when it all gets too much.

My inaugural food post is now up where I witter on aimlessly about cheese and bottled Californian sunshine.

Hope to see you there...


12 November 2007

Eye of round causes tears of joy

Sometimes, I crave me a steak. A juicy beef steak.

That's not an easy thing to find in LA. I have yet to stumble across a butcher. There are carnicerias, but they don't seem to sell beef steaks. There are supermarkets, but they don't hang their meat. So we don't often have steak, unless it's buffalo1.

So I was somewhat surprised when P came home with some eye of round in steak form, marinated in something and crusted with coarsely ground pepper. Meat from the hind tends to be roasted or braised or some-such. It can be stringy if not well-marinated and slowly cooked. At least in my limited experience. And so we usually stick with the safe tenderloins and sirloins. Or the British frying steak.

The eye of round steaks were under an inch in thickness, and a mere 2-3 minutes per side left them closer to medium-well done than our preferred nearly-medium juiciness. And it could have done with being hung for a fortnight or so. Still, it was steak. And it was juicy. So juicy we were reluctant to give the dog a bite. Served with crisp asparagus spears2 and steamed thin-skinned red potatoes (variety unknown), it was just what I needed.

A glass of Geyser Peak Meritage 2003 on the side made it a small meal of perfection.

1 Speaking of buffalo, I miss ostrich meat and venison.
2 How can tender asparagus still be found at this time of year? I suspect P has broken the "local-veg wherever possible" guideline. But I'm not complaining. Much.

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30 September 2007

foodies gather, ludo bites


Has it really been 4 months since I updated this blog? That's a lot of unreported interesting meals in and out. The events of July escape me, largely because I worked like a dog so I could take time off in August. The story of August will have to wait until I work out where all my photos have got to. September was catch-up month, but one where Santos came to town and twisted the arms of her food-loving pals to check out what chef Ludo Lefebvre was up to in his special engagement at the Breadbar on 3rd St: ludobites. An engagement so special they branded some chopping boards especially for the occasion. Something like branding cows for a dowry, but not quite.

It was the third week of Ludo @ the breadbar, and the first night they had tables right up against the food preparation area (looked somewhat like where the sandwiches are prepped of a normal work day). Having shrunk from a party of eight to 6, we were able to partake of the atmosphere within. An astute Susan chose the table right by the chef himself. And for the rest of the night, she and Santos were transfixed by the hairy chef.

MarshallTM kept us supplied with bread (specialty of the house) with Beurre Echiré (from Poitiers; I have friends in Poitiers, and it'd be a hard call to make between them and a slab of this "crisp" butter). I had my heart set on a few of the rarer fromages (e.g. Abbaye de belloc and Epoisse, the latter of which I've loved for years but never found outside France), and by subtle manoeuvering (i.e. saying nothing) had my deepest desires fulfilled when the table plumped for the large cheese platter with condiments (above photo), some trademarked Brocamole and heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes were a revelation; I've never eaten tasty large tomatoes. I'd always thought the term large tomato was something of an oxymoron (think back to beef tomatoes and you'll get what I mean). These old-school tomatoes were pleasantly sweet, probably helped along by the shreds of red onion.

Heirloom tomato, feta mousse

And from there, the evening turned... weird/strange/fantastical/magical. It started with some poor attempts at butter photography and ramped up with chef and maître d' mapping our complex cheeseboard for us. But the straw on the proverbial camel's back was the staring at chef Ludo. Guilty parties: you know who you are... You are responsible for the plates of Fourme d'ambert (creamy cow's blue chees with medium intensity), Tonneau (semi-soft cow's milk Swiss cheese with a nutty finish) and the unforgettable Santerre/Sanitaire(sp?) Saint Nectaire (bitter beyond belief; like a Morbier gone ash-crazy).

Subtle flirting with chef Ludo pays dividends. Ogling at his quenelling skills leads to a plate of apple cake and mashta ice cream gratis. Noticing the note of spice (of the Jalapeno variety) in his LUDO chocolate mousse results in his pushing bowls of avocado soup (with almonds and grilled bananas) on your table. Only for him to be horrified that he's done so to a table with an avocado allergy. No matter! Chef Ludo to the rescue with his sublime coconut pannacotta drizzled with passionfruit and basil seeds. Oh yes, noticing the basil seeds makes him happy too. Ah... An evening to remember. Never have I eaten so richly for so little money. The guilt made us tip heavy; lucky Marshall!

Update: The sexed up and exciting version of events is up here at Santos' LaLaBlog, and I've finally after a couple of years, made my way to Susan's place, where she has an account of LudoBites: Redux.


10 June 2007

Oats so good for you

Oatmeal cookies

In search of a half-healthy yet tasty oatmeal cookie recipe. This particular attempt was a result of a modified epicurious recipe for oatmeal cookie sandwiches with nectarine ice cream1. I made one minor but critical change: the addition of lots of orange zest as well as a teaspoon of orange oil. And to (my) half of the mix (next photo), a good handful of dried cranberries were added. I think the cranberry and orange additions made it something more than the plain oatmeal cookie P was craving, but it sustained our interest better for the whole course of the week.

Oatmeal+Cranberry Cookie

One satisfied customer:

C is for Cookie (Monster)

1 My interest at the time didn't quite extend to nectarine ice cream, but it's definitely one way to modify store-bought plain ice cream. Bereft of our very handy ice cream maker here, our sad attempts to make tea sorbet and coffee ice cream have been somewhat rough and icy. Stirring in roasted fruit may be one way to jazz things up without buying yet another 110V piece of equipment we can't take home.

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Mexican1 chocolate and almond cake

Mexican* chocolate and almond cake

Another epicurious recipe: Mexican Chocolate and Almond Cake.

Made modifications to the serving idea since I was taking this to someone else's house for Cinco de Mayo: replaced sauce and cream with a simple chocolate ganache (1/3cup cream boiled and poured over 2/3 to 1 cup of chopped-up chocolate). There wasn't quite enough time to let it all set (2-3h would have been better), but the slightly gooey ganache still worked out ok. The orange slices were difficult to slice through though. Need to find a way to slice the garnishing without totally destroying the cake.

1 Not claiming that this is a Mexical cake; epicurious named it as such. To be more accurate, the flavours are inspired by spiced mexican hot chocolate.

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A week of washoku

Japanese Cookbooks

Some time ago, we realised that we were somewhat cheating at dinner time. While not limited to spagbog, tikka masala or sausage n chips, our cooking was not exactly exciting. Cue the LA Times Book Festival, where Kinokuniya had a stand, and where the top book in the stack above reminded me that Japanese food is not that difficult to prepare, given some practice and preparedness as far as ingredients went. Cue the pulling out of the three other books and much scratching of heads over the ingredient lists. Some of the times we cheated and bought prepared simmered dishes and pickles to supplement the meal, bringing up the dish total to the preferred 5. But some other times, we even "pickled" our own, and were pleasantly surprised we didn't muck it all up.

In no particular order, the results:

Miso Soup with Daikon and Tofu Miso/tofu soup Spinach and harusame soup Snow peas, daikon and egg soup
Celery+Shirasu Salad Marinated rock clams Hijiki salad Wakame+Kuri salad
Chicken teriyaki Asparagus and green beans Miso-ed Sole Squid
Barley Tea Gyoza Futomaki Marinated octopus
Butter beans and edamame in ume dressing Hijiki salad, take 2 Tsukemono: Celery in miso Nibitashi|Lettuce and mini fish
Enoki and tofu miso soup Aubergine Salad Nameless miso soup Ika geso karaage
Gyudon Udon Yakisoba Daikon leftover soup

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25 April 2007

Pizza Pie

I was going to discuss the merits of different pizza styles and toppings, but I got side-tracked by the discovery that in Iran, pizzas are now known as elastic loaves (via).

So, instead of yet another dull "I made this, then ate it" post, we'll keep it to just the photo of my very-elastic loaf today:

Pizza, 2nd attempt

Oh yeah, the beer was decent. A not-too-sweet pale ale with a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste. Slightly malty, slight hoppy. From the cutely named Otter Creek brewery.

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20 April 2007

green chana/chickpeas/garbanzo beans

I can't be much of an Asian. I've never had green chickpeas (garbanzo to the Merkins). But I bought them from Trader Joe's anyway. They've sat in the freezer for the last month. The green peas, broad beans (fava beans to the Merkins) and pre-shelled edamame have all been scoffed, leaving behind these green versions of my favourite pulse/legume. Chana masala, made with the more usual yellow version of chickpeas, is a favourite standby in our kitchen. Whipped up with tinned chickpeas, tinned tomatoes and whatever Asian spices I have in the cupboard, every chana masala is an adventure in itself. Especially when I get the chillies out (poor P... his poorly tummy can't take the heat).

So it was with a certain amount of suspicion that I opened the bag of frozen greenies today. We haven't had much luck with American frozen pulses. The broad beans are already too far gone for our preference of firmness. Which means we've been substituting it with edamame, which retains its bite a little better, for our other standby: beans and bacon. Anyhoo, a interweb search pulls up a rather tasty looking recipe for harbhara chaat. Seeing the chickpeas in a cone of newspaper reminded me of my childhood, buying kacang puteh from the little cart outside the cinema. We'd get to choose one cone each. My mother always went for the chickpeas, my father for the cashews, my brother for the sugar-coated peanuts. I *always* wavered between the fried lentils and the boiled chickpeas. Somehow, even though the chickpeas were the "healthier" option, I usually chose them.

Green chana

Back to those greenies. They were a little over-cooked. I swear I only allowed them to warm up in boiling water for 2 minutes. Still. Beats soaking dried beans overnight and boiling for an hour. Not having the best stocked kitchen around, I substituted the onions with shallots and the green chilli with red jalapeno. Amazingly, there was a very old and wrinkled mango and lemon in the fruit drawer, so in they went. As for the spices, I'd be mortified if I didn't at least have cumin, coriander and ginger, so it wasn't too difficult to cobble together some chaat masala, after this recipe. Of course, without the powdered dried mango, it won't be the same.


Served with our current pseudo-Asian rice fave, fake biryani, consisting of whatever long-grain rice we have (usually Thai, but sometimes basmati), cardamom, random nuts (pumpkin seeds at the moment) and cranberries. (Yes, cranberries. Not a fan of sultanas, me. So I can't even make fake British-Asian biryani.) Don't knock it till you try it: sweet/sour dried fruit in rice works. Ask the Persians, inventors of polo, which inspired biryani, which inspired this:

Biryani-inspired rice

I love pretending I can cook. And at times like these, when everything comes together even though nothing is authentic, I really feel like I can tackle anything. (Don't mention the pizza...)

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Spag-balls and chips

Eh. Remember that post about the four staple meals in Britain? No? Never mind. Suffice to say, I made my annual allowance of spag bol today. Only it wasn't spag bol out of a Dolmio jar (let alone Loyd Grossman's). While looking for inspiration to cook the only mince I dare buy at Ralph's: ground buffalo, I came across this recipe for buffalo meatballs, which sounded far to easy to pass up. Plus, I was getting sick of buffalo burgers, buffalo black bean stir fry, buffalo burgers... And I was making cookies and onigiri at the same time, so something that was quick and could sit on the stove while I baked and shaped and walked the dog (re: the dog; just the walking, thanks. didn't cook her). And as the final nail in the coffin, the string of comments on my crappy pizza photo, which made me crave spaghetti.

on top of spaghetti

The only thing I changed was the concentrated tomato soup, of which I'm not a fan. On the other hand, I love having tinned tommies in the store cupboard for my puttanesca fix. So, a tin of blitzed plum tomatoes went into making the sauce instead. If I wasn't quite so busy with other things, I might have added some 'erbs or accoutrements like capers. Oh there we go with the puttanesca again... Oh, and I added some paprika too. I'm currently having a love affair with my tin of Spanish paprika. Some nearly went into the cookie dough mixing bowl by mistake. Now, that would have been an interesting choc chip cookie indeed.

how many can i fit in one mouthful?

The cookies were something of an impulse bake. Was decanting a new bag of flour I lugged home on the bus (not a trivial undertaking with laptop in hand and other important groceries like milk to carry too), and drawn in by the "Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies" recipe on the back of the packet. I like back-of-packet recipes. They're usually piss easy for idiots like me. But this particular recipe must have been developed for industry or a very big, multi-child family. It called for 4 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of butter, 2 1/2 cups of sugar (half white and half brown), 2 eggs, 2 tsp baking soda and a 24oz bag of choc chips (or 4 cups). FOUR CUPS OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS?!? P would accuse me of trying to induce a clogged artery so he could be replaced by an upgrade. Even when the recipe was halved, we still had difficulty finding enough containers for the surfeit of cookies.

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05 April 2007

Muffin madness

Mucho muffins

Multiple copies of the LA Times were strewn across our apartment floors for a couple of weeks. Perhaps it's not in good taste to explain why in a food post. At any rate, the food section has provided some inspiration for baking the last few weeks. I've not had an upside-down cake for ages; not since childhood days of being allowed to make pineapple upside-down cake unsupervised. So it was with great glee that I made a lemon upside-down cake a few weekends ago for my BBQ. It allowed me to get all sorts of things going on the grill and make a cake at the same time. Recipes should always be this easy. Unfortunately, no photos were taken. A usual. You must think I fake these posts... I was going to link to the LA Times recipe, but found it's a pay-per-view article. Well, sod that. I'm not going to reproduce it here, because I've no doubt there's some copyright law on that. So, there goes my stupid plan of using this blog as my recipe archive.

Multi-story muffin

To make up for a lazy Sunday of frozen waffles and blueberries, I got up early to make muffins on Wednesday. (If it was a lazy Sunday, does that make this a working Wednesday?) The recipe, again, was courtesy of the LA Times, so no link. It called for Meyer lemons, but we're swimming in mandarins at the moment, so mandarins it was. I like recipes that don't faff about too much during the prep stage. This one required the citrus to be roughly chopped, then food-processed, which wasn't overly complicated for early morning. The rest of the muffin recipe was the usual simple stir-wet-into-dry-but-not-too-much. I don't think I'll use this recipe again. It called for 1/2 cup of butter, which, compared to that epicurious recipe from before, is 1/2 a cup of butter too much. (Maybe the banana in the previous recipe added enough moisture and good fat to hold the whole thing together.) But I like the idea of using my spare citrus in this manner. Perhaps I could bastardise the two recipes and come up with something edible, yet P-heart-friendly. More experimentation beckons.

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01 April 2007

Frozen Brekkie

Freezer brekkie

Best not ask what time I woke up today. I don't even know that. Been living without a clock since moving in. And my last functional watch died last summer. And my mobile phone has done a strange disappearing act every weekend ever since I was phoned on the morning of my last birthday (a Sunday that time) about the location of a chemical in my lab.

Sundays have never been good days for me. I feel as if I should be doing a million and one things, but my body refuses to budge out of the nest I've made in my bed. On rare occasions, I get up early enough to have what is commonly known as breakfast. Sometimes I even bake something for brekkie.

Not today. Courtesy of some clever forward planning by P, we had store-bought blueberry waffles with frozen blueberries on the side. They weren't "leggo of my eggo", but close. There's something about plastic, pre-fabricated waffles that appeal to me, along with equally hydrocarbon-chain-polymer-like hash browns. I prefer the "real thing", but on some occasions, when one has woken up far closer to lunchtime than decent folk should, plastic tastes just fine.

P tucking in

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11 March 2007

Banana and blueberry muffins

Banana and blueberry muffins

I'm always envious of those Martha Stewart types who seem to have it all together. You know, nice home, nice garden, nice kids, good food on the table, nice table settings. And I've always suspected that while Martha Stewart herself has a huge operational team to make that happen for her, there really exist real women and men out there who live the life she has trademarked. Such people can get up in the morning, put the coffee on, make the bed, groom themselves, get breakfast ready, get the kids ready, yadda-yadda-ya... And that's just within one hour in the morning.

On the best of mornings (and only weekend ones at that), I just about manage to get out of bed some time after 1000h, stumble to the shower, waste copious amounts of water to get my eyes open, and demand breakfast very loudly until P gets up and makes it. But today, for some odd and unknown reason, I made muffins. Banana and blueberry ones at that. I've never made muffins. Not successfully anyway. I can make the most intricate of damn sachertortes, but hand me a muffin tin and crap comes out. Figuratively. Please, what do you think I am? Cack-handed?

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.com. Not having a Martha Stewart team of organised people to ensure all reagents were in place prior to baking, I was about 2 bananas short of a full cup and completely lacking oat bran. But I had frozen blueberries. That counts for something. Substituting oat bran with some weird New-Age seven-grain hot breakfast mix seemed to work, with the pleasant side-effect of crunchy, nutty bits without the sat fats of nuts. But substituting a shortfall of bananas with milk, vanilla and maple syrup results in an overly moist muffin lacking structure.

No matter. P liked it. While not a success, it wasn't a complete failure.

Eww. I've just looked at this post on Firefox and my muffins look like crap. They looked OK on iPhoto and Safari. What's up with that?

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05 September 2006

Feeling the heat in LA, both weather- and work-wise. Going through a depressive slump as a result. What's a girl to do to combat the resulting insomnia when crosswords aren't doing the trick? Buy some new cookbooks, that's what!

After a particularly cruddy day at work (and I mean this in the literal sense; omg i'm never going to do anyone a favour again), the satisfaction from opening the Amazon box sitting on my desk was close to that gained from tearing off the wrapping of an anticipated Christmas present. For within the box were two impulse purchases: Harumi's Japanese Cooking and Washoku- recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen.


I spent 20 minutes waiting for my agar to set salivating over the photo and recipe for Buckwheat Noodle Roll, an insane-looking maki sans rice, but made with buckwheat soba. That's definitely one to try one of these weekends.

Wa Shoku

Happy now...


03 September 2006


Ce soir j'attends Madeleine.


J'aime des madeleines. And they're surprisingly easy to make. I simply followed the straight-forward recipe from Epicurious.com with a few modifications. Self-raising flour instead of all-purpose flour plus baking powder due to an unfortunate invasion of weevils in our store cupboard. And vanilla extract in place of the much better vanilla pod. (Sacrilege, I hear you murmur...)

I must say the use of a silicone madeleine tray probably made things easier. I didn't have to butter multiple moulds, nor worry about things sticking. The madeleines popped out easily. And there was only one disastrous batch of darker-than-necessary cakes. (still edible, just not very pretty.)

But critically, they passed the taste test of our French neighbours.

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26 August 2006

Sushi Sasabune

Sasabune mosaic

Omakase. Trust your Itamae. With instructions courtesy of our friendly and efficient wait staff. (No dipping! Dipping allowed.)

Scallop and Salmon Sushi Black Cod Sushi Yellowtail Sushi
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