August 31, 2009

Brown Bag: Mango Quinoa Salad with Shrimp

I do all of my cooking on Sundays because once the week starts, there is just no time. So what I look for in lunch recipes is something that is easy, filling, healthy, and something that will keep well for a few days at work in the fridge. This way I can take the whole thing to work on Monday and have a few days worth of lunches there ready to go.

This week, my brown bag lunch was a mango quinoa salad with shrimp. I had seen red quinoa before, but I had never cooked with it. I wanted to switch things up a bit from the usual brown quinoa, so I purchased the red. They say quinoa is the perfect grain, and mixed with mangoes, bell peppers, jicima, red onion and cilantro, how could that array of bright and vibrant colors NOT be good for you?!! Plus, with the sweetness from the mangoes, the crunch from the jicima, red onion and bell pepper, the acidity from lime and vinegar, and the heat from the jalapeno - this salad satisfies from every end!


• 1 c red quinoa
• Slightly less than 2 cups of either vegetable stock or water
• 1 tbs lime juice
• 2 tbs mango nectar
• 1 tbs butter

• 1 red onion
• 1 small jicama
• 2 mangoes
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 jalapeno
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

• 1/4 cup mango nectar
• 1/4 cup rice vinegar
• 2 tbs olive oil
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
• Salt
• 2 teaspoon red chili paste
• 2 limes, juiced

• 1 lb shrimp
• 2 garlic cloves
• Red pepper flakes
• Salt and pepper

1. Rinse quinoa and add to small saucepan with 1 tbs butter and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until it crackles and becomes aromatic, 4 to 6 minutes. Add stock, lime juice and mango nectar and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Dice onion, jicama, mangoes, bell pepper and jalapeno. Put in large bowl and add cilantro.

3. Meanwhile sauté shrimp with garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper. Cook until light pink and no longer translucent.

4. Whisk mango nectar, vinegar, oil, ginger, salt and chili in a medium bowl. Add vegetables, cooked quinoa and shrimp. Toss, serve and enjoy!

** VEGAN NOTE: In homage to my vegan adventure to Cru last week - this recipe can be made Vegan if you omit the shrimp and butter! Look at that! I made a vegan recipe!

August 30, 2009

Brentwood Farmer's Market - From Fresh to Finish!

Part of the appeal of living in Brentwood is being able to wake up on Sunday morning a take a leisurely walk down to the Brentwood Farmer's Market. The market is always buzzing with fellow Brentwoodians, strolling the street for fresh produce, street food, trinkets, baked goods or the like. However, I have to admit, I feel as though in recent weeks the number of non-produce vendors is slowly approaching the number of produce vendors. And as much as I enjoy seeing what everybody has to offer, the main reason I come is for the fresh produce, and seeing the quantity start to diminish is very disappointing.

I come for the fresh, colorful and organic produce (and for the experience of outdoor shopping.) Part of the fun of shopping at the farmer's market is going and seeing what is in season, what is fresh, and just what catches your eye. Then you get to bring home all of your new found goodies and compile an impromptu meal made of Southern California's freshest and finest ingredients.

What caught my eye this week? Well, the heirloom tomatoes have been looking absolutely beautiful lately - the sheer array of colors are stunning, and the multicolored bell peppers caught my eye as well - how can you turn away from a purple and yellow dual colored bell pepper?! I sure can't!!

After my foray to the market this week, I came home and assembled a simple heirloom tomato salad, pico de gallo, quinoa mango salad (recipe), and mango frozen yogurt. Simple recipes that really let the produce shine.

And that's how you take fresh produce to the finish!

(Disclaimer: the mangoes were not purchased at the Farmer's Market, but the majority of the other ingredients were - I was just in the mood for some sweet and juicy mangoes yesterday!)

August 29, 2009

Vegan or Not...Here I Come!!! Cru in Silverlake

I had the pleasure of dining with LA OC Foodie, Sam Kim, ToastyMuffin, estarla and SquashBlossom Friday night at Cru, a vegan/raw restaurant in Silver Lake. This was my first intentional vegan meal, and I was pretty excited. What can I say, new adventures excite me!!

So Cru it was. The menu was intriguing. . .pizza, pasta, pad thai, chocolate cake….HUH? I thought this was RAW VEGAN. Then the obvious next question was – what exactly do they consider “pasta” and “pizza”. Well, we were about to find out. . .

First things first, a beverage on this sweltering day. The choice was easy for me, ginger lime aid please! And it was just what the doctor ordered, tangy, just a touch of sugar, and tiny pieces of ginger.

Next we ordered the Mezze Platter - This consisted of Tunisian beet and apple salad, cucumber tzatziki salad, marinated garlicky kale, fig paté, cashew cheese and flax/pumpkin crackers. The kale was tasty. It had a nice garlic essence, but it the end it was just raw kale, basically just dressed lettuce. The cashew cheese with the flax crackers was very good as well (for pseudo-cheese). Having been seriously disappointed by soy cheese in the past, I am still perplexed as to how they made vegan cheese so tasty. This cheese actually inspired me to later order the ravioli as an entree. With tzatziki being one of my absolute favorite sauces, the cucumber txatziki salad just didn't meet my high expectations (not enough garlic or white pepper in my opinion). The fig paté tasted like dessert, a fig newton minus the cookie, it would have been very good with some goat cheese (oh yeah, we're at a vegan restaurant, shoot!).

The next appetizer we had was the Dream Roll - kim chee, avocado, shiitake mushrooms, jicama rice and hijiki in a collard leaf served with tamari dipping sauce. The roll had a nice texture, fresh and crunchy. The tangy and sweet tamari dipping sauce was a nice accompaniment to all the fresh veggies.

On to the main course. I went with the Shiitake Mushroom Ravioli - this consisted of seven cashew cheese in a thinly sliced vegetable wrapper (maybe jicima or celery root?) in a sweet miso cream sauce topped with marinated shiitake mushrooms. The dish was average. There was a little too much cashew cheese for my taste, I felt like I was just taking big spoonfuls of cashew cheese - which had the benefit of filling me up, but the side-effect of a sever overdose of psuedo-cheese. Some of the other dishes that were ordered included Pad Thai made with kelp noodles, shredded cabbage, cucumbers, radishes, and sprouts in a chili almond sauce; Vegetable Linguine (carrot and zucchini noodles) in a Pepper Cream Sauce; the Mushroom Quinoa Risotto with shiitake mushrooms and spinach with a fig reduction; and the Sweet Pesto Wrap, made with pesto, cashew cheese, cucumber, cabbage, sweet onions and sprouts.

All the entrees were very flavorful and most of all, intriguing. My favorite raw entree was the Pad Thai, simply because of the texture of the kelp noodles, and the overall composition of the dish. The best dish overall in terms of flavor was the quinoa risotto. I make quinoa on a fairly regular basis (as a salad, it makes a great boxed lunch for work), and this quinoa was perfectly cooked and just bursting with flavor.

On to my favorite part of the night -- dessert! We decided to go with the chocolate truffle cake, the mint ganache cake and the lime cheesecake. All raw vegan desserts. My favorite was the "cheesecake". At first, it tasted like undercooked and melted cheesecake, but after a couple of bites, it really was pretty good. However, I cant say that I enjoyed or was fulfilled by either of the chocolate desserts. The chocolate cakes had a very hard consistency and were far too rich. They simply tasted like hard chocolate ganache. They were lacking a flavor and texture contrast which would have toned down the rich chocolate. A raspberry coulis or soy ice cream would have done the trick. It just needed something else to mellow out the incredibly rich and overpowering "chocolatiness" of the dish.

By parting thoughts? I will not be turning raw or vegan anytime soon - I am a carnivore through and through. However, for those days when I am racking my brain for another good salad place, or when I just went something light and fresh, a vegan meal just may be the answer.

August 24, 2009

Mushroom Pizza with a Little Pizzazz

Inspired by a recent trip to O&CO and Surfas, and the purchase of some truffle salt and truffle oil, I decided to make a mushroom pizza, topped off with some of my new purchases. The result....explosive flavor, and pure ecstasy.


1. Premade pizza dough (yes, I cheated, what can I say, I'm short on time)
2. A sauté of a variety of wild mushrooms, 1/2 onion, shallots and garlic. Finish with some white wine, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme and rosemary.
3. Assemble Pizza - Splash of olive oil on pizza dough, some salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. A layer of parmesan, fontina and mozzarella. A layer of mushrooms (drained of all excess liquid). A final layer of cheeses.
4. Bake at 450 degrees for 8-9 minutes (until golden brown).
5. As soon as it comes out of the oven finish with a touch of truffle oil and a touch of truffle salt.


PS - This saved great, and made a fast and easy lunch for both Dave and I for two whole days after! Nothing beats a great meal that doubles as easy lunches!!

August 23, 2009


I heard about Ludo Bites a few months ago, I don't remember exactly where, but since then the city has been all a-buzz over Ludo, and for good reason. The food is unique, decadent, innovative...simply divine. Dave and I made our first trip to Ludo Bites in July, and I knew I had to come back for the final celebration. And I did. And Ludo did not disappoint.

This time Dave could not accompany me so I brought along two friends, two friends who are now two new Ludo fans. The evening did not disappoint. There was a sense of euphoria in the air, the music was playing, the diners were laughing, the staff was all smiles, and the cameras were trailing Ludo's every move during his final hurrah.

We began the evening with, of course, a great bottle of red, and a large serving of Ludo's amazing lavender butter. Oh yeah, and some bread with the butter. Our first course was the lobster medallions with honey-sherry vinegar, daikon and rosemary. This was my favorite course, and Erins. The sweet and tangy vinaigrette perfectly complemented the soft and cool lobster. Oh yes, and we were so anxious to dive into this dish that I couldn't even get a picture in before each one of us had devoured our portion. Oops!

Next we tried the infamous Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur with ham, cherries and amaretto. Ludo takes the typical croque-monsieur, which is just a hot ham and cheese sandwich, and takes it to a different universe. Ludo's version starts off with squid-ink break, specially made for Ludo, and then fills it with foie gras, ham and cheese, and tops if off with a heavenly cherry amaretto jelly. This was my second favorite after the lobster medallions. Extraordinary.

Our third course was the Lacquered Pork Belly with mustard ice cream and vadouvan. Yes, mustard ice cream, and I have to admit, that was the selling point for me. How can you not order something on the menu that is served with mustard ice cream? When the plate came, Erin and Dana looked at it with a bit of skepticism. My response - just trust Ludo. Our waitress recommended that we "get a little of everything" on our bite (the same instructions apply to each dish). We happily obliged. It was awesome, BBQ in a bite. Even the two skeptics took down every last morsel. Something about each and ever element perfectly melded together to make the most awesome tasting BBQ bite.

We ended our culinary journey with the Fish & Chips, kimchee, honey-beer and peanut butter. This is another one of Ludo's take on the classics. This dish was actually a piece of halibut with a peanut crust served with a potato chip stick and a side of kimchee. Once again, you had to get a little bit of everything on each bite. This wasn't your typical fish and chips, by any stretch of the imagination, but the flavors and textures all worked together to make one amazing dish.

Thank you Ludo for bringing innovation and culinary ecstasy to Los Angeles. You are a trail blazer and a true magician in the kitchen. I can't wait for your next venture, and when you find you next stop, I will be first in line when the doors open!

PS: Thank you Krissy for your patience and your help, sorry for the +1! But you now have two new fans spreading the Ludo-gospel! :)

August 22, 2009

The "Leftover" Omlette

I had a refrigerator full of tiny bits of leftover ingredients from this weeks meals, and what better way to utilize all the leftovers than throw it all into a breakfast omelet! Here is what came out of it:

• Leftover crab (from crab ravioli)
• Tomatoes (from taco salad)
• Avocado (from taco salad)
• Red Onion (from taco salad)
• Mushrooms (from breakfast quiches)
• Redi-Egg (from breakfast quiches)

And voilá! Breakfast!!!

August 21, 2009

Tour Through Temecula

Dave and I had to attend a wedding in Temecula, so like the true wine lovers we are, we decided to play hookie, take a day off work, and go wine tasting on Friday. Oh and what a great idea that was!

This being our second time through, we started with our favorites from our last trip. Stop one, Keyways. I focused on tasting the whites, while Dave leaned towards the reds. I think between the two of us, with 6 tastes each,we tasted the: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanca, Riesling, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frolich, Zinfandel and Syrah. Whew! All in all, I would consider these wines mediocre. None of them really stood out to me as great wines. Don't get me wrong, none were horrible either, but I didn't feel the urge to buy a bottle of any one of these. Not to mention, we were completely put off by the employees there. They were not helpful, welcoming, pleasant or very friendly. The experience overall left a bad taste in our mouth. It was time to move on....

Next we were on to Cougar. This is the place to have a good time. Good wine, even better people. There is sure to be a party going on at this place! I loved each and every wine we tasted here. The list for this one is slightly shorter, we had the: Dolcetto, Sparkling Cougar, Pink Cougar, Full Monte, Sangiovese, Meritage and Merlot. We left with a bottle of sparkling Cougar for later that night too :) We will be back!!

The next stop, my favorite winery of all time...Foote Print Winery. Now let me tell you about Foote Print. It is an unassuming metal warehouse, off the beaten path of the Temecula wine tour trail. And for all those people who claim that Temecula cannot produce a red, they have not had a Foote Print wine. This was our second time at Foote Print, and I think we must have spent an hour and a half here tasting and chatting it up with the two other couples and the owner. Each wine (they only produce reds) was better than the last. It really was a joy for the taste buds. We tried the Estate Footeage (3 different years, shhhhh, don't tell, they were not on the menu, they were brought out of the back closet and they were some of the best wines i've had), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Krazy Foote and the Late Harvest Zinfandel. I left with a bottle of the Estate Footeage for myself. Can't wait to crack that one open!

After three tastings it was time for lunch. We went over to Wilson Creek where we sat on their patio overlooking their beautiful grounds. We started with some meatballs with a tomato and olive sauce that was a perfect little amuse bouche. Then we had the artichoke and goat cheese dip as a starter. It was ok, the pita chips were a bit too hard, went much better with the fresh french bread they served. Our "main course" was the patty melt which we got on a fresh focaccia roll with curly fries. We inhaled that patty melt like it was our last meal. The focaccia roll was a winner and made the meal. The curly fries weren't too shabby themselves. We were not ready for our final tasting.

We were on to La Creza. I have to say, this was not the way to end a fantastic day. Each wine was more disappointing than the next. I don't know if it was a result of the meal we just ate, but we barely finished out tasting, its not even worth writing about. Suffice to say, we will not be back.

However, we will be back to Temecula, for the wineries which we couldn't stop by because we ran out of time, and to those which we can't wait to return to!!

August 20, 2009

Crab Ravioli with Scallops and Gremolata

I was calling it an early day at work, Dave was at a client dinner, and I was trying to decide what to do for dinner. For some reason, I decided tonight would be a perfect night to experiment and try and make (semi) homemade ravioli for the first time. I was craving something fresh, tasty and simple. For some reason crab ravioli came to me, so I went with it. But I was also craving scallops, so I went with that to. I couldn't figure out whether to go with a sauce, or just simple butter. I decided a gremolata would be a perfect compromise (along with the butter of course).

Initially, I was planning on making the raviolis with wanton wrappers (since I don't have a pasta machine yet - I think that's one of those things that you are supposed to get as a wedding gift). But when I got to Whole Foods, of course, they didn't have them. So as I was about to leave and make the schlep over to Ralphs (which I was really trying to avoid - being rush hour and all) I remembered they had fresh pasta. I walked over to the pasta section and found fresh lasagna sheets, perfect I thought! I decided to ask the Whole Foods associate in the area for their opinion on using lasagna sheets for ravioli (which I thought was brilliant), and, to my surprise, she said no. Erg! Why not I thought?! She said they were too thick. I stopped, thought a second, contemplated driving to Ralphs, and decided -- this sounds like a challenge, you're on! I went with it. Here is the result.

Crab Ravioli with Scallops and Gremolata


1 tbls olive oil
2 shallots
I pckg crab meat
4 tbls ricotta
1 teas red pepper flakes
Fresh lasagna sheets or wonton wrappers
1 egg white
1/2 lb scallops

1/2 c parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tbls lemon zest (and lime zest)
Red pepper flakes

Lemon Butter
3 tbls butter
1 tbls lemon juice
4 lemon slices


1. Heat oil in sauté pan. Add chopped shallots. Sauté until translucent. Add crab meat, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Sauté until warmed through. Take off heat and cool.
2. Once filling is cooled add ricotta.
3. Separate out the lasagna sheets or wonton wrappers. Place about 1 tbls of filling on center of sheet (you don't want too much or filing will come out when cooking). Place dollops of filling about 2-3 inches apart. Brush egg white around the filling. Place another sheet on top of the sheet with filling. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter (or a glass - whatever works).
4. With a fork, press the sides of rounds together to prevent them from separating during cooking.
5. Bring pot of water to a boil. Add finished ravioli to pot of boiling water. Cook about 6 minutes, or until done.
6. After they are done place on paper towel to absorb water.

7. Gremolata: Add parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to food processor. Process until finely minced.

8. Scallops: Squeeze some lemon and lime juice on top of scallops. Season with salt and pepper. Grill or sauté until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side depending on size of scallops.

9. Lemon Butter: In sauté pan add butter, lemon juice and lemon slices. Heat through. Add ravioli and toss until covered.

Serve ravioli with a dollop of gremolata and scallops.

OH, and YES, it worked perfectly with the lasagna sheets!!