Seasons

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Seasons

This summer brought with it excitement and change. I moved across the country to begin a new job and made a little stop at home in the Midwest along the way. The sunny season at home brought back the sights, sounds, and taste of my childhood summers…which always means juicy, ripe tomatoes; fragrant, fresh basil; anything on the grill; plenty of ice cream – all accompanied by crashing Lake Michigan waves and magnificent people.

There is something bittersweet about the change of seasons.

I savored summer and all that it did to my senses, soaking up everything until the very end. In the same way I’m longing for just one more bite of my Los Angeles favorites…the Truffle Burger from Umami, a Garden Pizza and Truffle Fries from Sonoma Wine Garden, and a baby cupcake from The Vanilla Bake Shop on Wilshire.

As I say good-bye to summertime and my Santa Monica staples, I am also thrilled about all  the new. A new job, new city, and new season – so many things to explore; all unfolding in Fall, the coziest and nostalgic of all seasons.

I’m anticipating Autumn in Florida (I’m afraid my firewood candle and pumpkin tea must suffice for now amidst the heat) and the hearty, rich Fall flavors that soothe and comfort. Friendship does the same thing. I’ve been blessed with girlfriend moments with my 20-something year old friends sitting on my floor eating Chinese take-out around my coffee table. This new season is full of things to discover: local restaurants in my city and finding the perfect butternut squash soup recipe this Fall. In the mean time; however, I am going to sit in the comfort of my friendships – celebrating life, community, new seasons….and the simplicity of take-out.

Flourless Chocolate Petite Cakes

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Flourless Chocolate Petite Cake

For many summers my sister and I prepared a romantic dinner for my parents in celebration of their anniversary.  The “Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze” recipe from a Bon Appetite article in the late 90s was declared a winner on anniversary #18 or 19 and has been a decadent dessert go-to ever since. Wanting to create a special dessert that was easy to eat and could be enjoyed by my gluten-free friends, I adapted the recipe into petite cakes. The result: a lighter almost flaky texture versus that of the original dense, fudgy large cake – and an apparent hit. People devoured the little chocolate cakes. Cake

  • 12 Oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ C Unsalted Butter
  • 6 Large Eggs, separated
  • 12 T Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla

Glaze

  • 9 Oz Semisweet Chocolate, chopped
  • ½ C Whipping Cream
  • ½ C Dark Corn Syrup (Karo syrup)
  • Berries, Sea Salt, Chocolate Shavings, Decorative Sprinkles etc. to top (I overheard that the sea salt was the consensus favorite)

Cake Butter a mini muffin pan making sure to grease the bottom and sides of each cup. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt butter over low heat. To avoid burning the chocolate, remove pan from heat and add bittersweet chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted, adding to heat as needed.  Stir frequently and cool to lukewarm. Beat egg yolks and half the sugar (6 T) with an electric mixer until thick. When chocolate has cooled, fold into yolk mixture. Fold in vanilla and set aside. Beat egg whites using clean beaters. When soft peaks form, slowly add the remaining sugar in a few additions until firm peaks form. Gradually fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.  Using a tablespoon fill muffin cups ¾ full with batter. Bake at 350 for about 7-10 minutes, cakes will rise with a thin, crisp top that very well may break (that’s just fine). Allow cakes to cool slightly before carefully removing from pan. As cakes cool prepare chocolate glaze and toppings. Glaze In a heavy bottom sauce pan, bring cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Using a table spoon, spoon glaze over one cake and smooth with back of spoon. Place cake on cookie sheet or jellyroll plan and continue until pan is full of a single layer of petite cakes. Do not stack! Garnish with a berry, slice of strawberry, sea salt, or whatever tickles your fancy.  Place pan in refrigerator, allowing glaze to set for at least an hour.  The pans of petite cakes can be stored in the refrigerator over night. Allow cakes to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. A petite, perfect pairing to a bold cup of dark coffee or an oaky Cabernet.

Portland-Seattle Trip

In an effort to get-away and explore new places, a friend and I decided to take a long weekend break from life in Los Angeles and visit Portland and Seattle. As one would expect the air was clean, the fish fresh (20 minutes fresh at Pike Place in Seattle), and coffee strong. The pioneer spirit is alive and well in kitchens of all shapes, sizes, and vehicles in these two northwestern cities – chefs are taking risks and engaging their creativity.

I knew of the infamous Voodoo Donut before arriving in Portland. Donuts filled with risk, glazed with unconventionality, and sprinkled with creativity. Are they over-rated? Worth the wait in line? Wanting to judge for myself, I went, waited, ate, and smiled. A new craving now teases my taste buds. The Maple Bacon Bar and The Dirty Old Bastard (Oreos, chocolate, and peanut butter) simply delish! As a bacon fan, I appreciated the contrast of the meaty, salty bacon with the gooey maple frosting – sweet and smoky! And who is going to argue with peanut butter, oreo cookies, and chocolate? If you go to Portland take a trip (or two) to Voodoo Donuts!

Portland and Seattle are food adventure cities waiting to be explored. Go! Taking a lesson from the food scene in Portland and Seattle, I encourage you to discover local microbreweries, coffee shops, cafes, markets, and restaurants and celebrate the spirit of the pioneer in kitchens wherever you are.

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Springtime, Salad Time

I enjoy making my own salad dressing, playing with the proportions and ingredient to accommodate my taste preference. I am a proponent of texture and multi-layered flavor – give me: salty, sweet, smooth, crunchy, earthy, tangy, bitter, nutty, briny… tossing a salad is foolproof way to do just that. Salad in general is a great way to be your own chef and eat seasonally. During a recent stroll through my local famer’s market I was inspired to play a little with salad dishes.

Vinaigrette Dressing

  • ½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ¼ C Fresh Grapefruit juice, from a mild white variety
  • (optional, can use another form of acid such as white vinegar, balsamic, red
  • wine vinegar, or another form of citrus)
  • 2 splashes of red wine vinegar (again optional, I like a complex vinegary bite)
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 6 chives, chopped
  • Salt + Pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients by whisking or in a food processor. Store in shake-able container, like a mason jar.

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Citrus Salad

I enjoy the peppery, bitter flavor of arugula complimented with the sweetness of the fruit, saltiness of the parmesan, and tanginess of the dressing

  • Arugula
  • Grapefruit, segmented
  • Orange, segmented
  • Chopped chives
  • Fresh Shaved Parmesan
  • Vinaigrette dressing

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Add a Little Bacon

In an attempt use ingredients I already had on hand and satisfy my craving for salty, crispy bacon I tossed this salad together. I appreciate the brightness of the grapefruit and raspberries alongside the crisp, meaty bacon pieces.

  • Arugula
  • Ruby Red Grapefruit, segmented and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Raspberries
  • Freshly grated parmesan
  • Cornmeal baked bacon, crumbled (see below)
  • Toss with vinaigrette dressing

Cornmeal Baked Bacon

By baking your bacon you can cut down on the grease-splattering mess and the cornmeal gives the bacon an extra crunch. Perfect crumbled on salad, with eggs, or ice cream with a caramel sauce.

Line baking sheet with foil.

Pour cornmeal in a ziptop bag or bowl.

Dredge bacon in cornmeal, shake off excess.

Place bacon on foil-lined sheet, do not crowd.

Optional: To give a little smoky heat sprinkle with chili powder.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 17-20 minutes, until crisp.

Place bacon on paper towel, allowing grease to drain and the bacon to cool slightly.

Crumble or simply enjoy.

The Farmer’s Market

The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is always a delight.

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My senses love walking through the bustling market along with the crowd of fellow patrons baskets, carts, and bags en tow. The smell of fresh produce and earth, the bright colors that dazzle my eyes, and the complexity of textures. Each purveyor’s booth ignites my culinary inspiration, adding colors to my pallet.

Don’t know what to cook for dinner? Need a new snack to spice up the afternoon? Explore your local Farmer’s Market. Try eating seasonally and don’t hesitate to glean knowledge from the vendors. As always, have fun and play with your food.

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Warm Broccoli Salad

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The other night I was craving texture and had no interest in making a grocery run. This crunchy, tangy, salty, crispy, warm broccoli salad did the trick.

  • 2 Large Broccoli florets
  • ¼ C Pinto Beans
  • ¼ C Roasted and Salted Almonds, rough chop
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 t)
  •  Salt + Pepper (to taste)

Sauce

  • ½ C  Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 T Honey
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced

Drain and Rinse pinto beans. Pat dry and roast in the oven on a cookie sheet for about 20-30 minutes at 400.

Blanch broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking. Slice broccoli into bite side florets. In a medium bowl add sliced broccoli, olive oil, and salt + pepper. Toss.

Heat balsamic vinegar over medium heat in a small saucepan, bringing it to a gentle boil. Add honey. Allow the vinegar to reduce in half and thicken to a syrup-like consistency.  Remove from heat. (I like to set some reduced balsamic aside at this point so that I have it on hand for dressings, sauces, and over fruit.) Add garlic to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Add Almond and beans to broccoli, mix well. Pour balsamic over broccoli and toss. Serve warm.

Grandma Florence’s Pasta Salad

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Summer picnics, family get-togethers, and trips to Northern Wisconsin often involved this simple side dish. As someone who often forgoes pasta salads, my Grandma’s pasta salad was always the exception. Bring it to a party or keep it in the fridge for a quick little snack, enjoy.

  • 1 lb Dried Rotini Pasta
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1/4 C Milk
  • 1 32 oz Whole Peeled Tomatoes (real, solid plum)
  • 1 Large Green Pepper
  • 1 Medium Red Onion
  • 2/3 C Sweet Diced Pickles
  • 3 Green Onions, chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 Cups Mixed Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (follow dried packet instructions)
  • 2 T Beef Bouillon Powder
  • 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 T Pickle Juice
  • 2 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Instructions:

Cook pasta with oil in water. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in large serving bowl. Sprinkle with milk. Toss to moisten. Drain and cut tomatoes into 1/4″ pieces. Chop green pepper and onion into 1/4″ pieces. Add pickles. Chop green onion and add. Mix ingredients. Toss well.

Mix dressing and pour over mixture. Chill and marinate for one day.

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Ruffled Truffle Popcorn

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bowl: Real Mud Pottery by Abbie Demmitt

I’m a stove-top purest. Growing up, popcorn was made weekly at our house, whether for movie night or a just-because snack, my mom always popped the popcorn with her trusty, stove-top, Whirley Pop. The closest I’ve come to my childhood popcorn is skillet style (see end of recipe). I’ve also jazzed up my popcorn, in an effort to enjoy one of my favorite flavors – The Truffle.

  • Prepared popcorn, according to your preference
  • Truffle Oil (White or Black, which ever fancies your palette)
  • Fresh Parmesan, Grated
  • Fresh Italian Parsley, Chopped

Spread prepared popcorn on jellyroll pan (cookie sheet with edges). Drizzle with Truffle Oil and toss so popcorn is lightly coated. Generously, grate fresh parmesan over the popcorn and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Broil in oven until cheese is slightly crisp, sticking to popcorn. Salt to your preference and enjoy!

Stove-Top Popcorn

Oil (I like to use Olive Oil, but taste-wise Canola is usually preferred.)

Popcorn

Heat oil in skillet and place three kernels in the pan and cover. When the kernels pop, you know the oil is ready. Carefully pour in popcorn kernels into skillet and cover. Shake skillet frequently in an effort to prevent the popcorn from burning.