Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chopped Salad

Some of my fondest memories growing up was going out to dinner with my grandmother here in Los Angeles. We always went to fancy restaurants so it was fun to get dressed up and see all famous people, ladies in expensive clothes, and enjoy the delicious meals. One of my favorite meals I've ever had while out with grandma was at La Scala, a restaurant famous for their chopped salad. I'm not sure what is so good about it but it is incomparable. I've tried to recreate it, even after finding their recipe for the dressing online but nothing compares. However, this past week my roommate and I had a big craving for a chopped salad so I decided to create my own version tonight using the nicoise dressing I learned to make in my Julia Child cooking class. I served it with some garlic cheese bread and an iced tea and it was a perfectly light but filling meal. You can add or omit pretty much anything you'd like, just as long as you chop the lettuce finely. This is great as a side salad but filling enough that it's also a perfectly fine main course. Oh, by the way, between the two of us, I used almost 2 heads of romaine lettuce and there is nothing left :)

What you'll need (will feed 4-6 people):
2 heads romaine lettuce
1 can garbanzo beans
10-15 slices good salami
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 red onion, chopped
Salad dressing

1. Rinse and dry your lettuce. Cut off the top about 1/2 inch to get rid of the wilted top, and the bottom ends leaving the majority of the white part of the lettuce (this salad needs crunch!). Slice horizontally 4 times, then chop vertically all the way down to the bottom, so you get nice shreds of lettuce. Place in a large bowl to mix.
2. Add the garbanzo beams, mozzarella, and onions. Slice your salami 4 times across, then 4 times down to get bite size pieces.
3. Toss everything together with the dressing and serve immediately.

enjoy :)

Vegan Chocolate Sea Salt Tart

This weekend, my mom and I went to Mass for the memorial of my aunt who passed away one year ago. It was a very emotional morning and we were feeling pretty blue. What fixes that right away? You guessed it... SHOPPING! After a lovely brunch with my Grandma, Aunt's best friends, and my family in LA, my mom and I headed to the Grove for some retail therapy. We walked into Anthropologie and because it was Earth Day, they had some really cute little tables set up with flower planting, coffee stations, and, our favorite, a vegan cookbook signing. We have a large cabinet full of cookbooks and a few minutes before we went in the store my mom even said to me that she needed to clean the cabinet out because she has so many. Well after talking to the author for a few minutes and turning to the last recipe in the book, we had no choice but to buy the book and run home and check out the chocolate sea sat tart from Pure Vegan by Joseph Shuldiner. I have to warn you, this is EXTREMELY rich and almost more of a truffle than a tart. But my lord it is AMAZING! Now, you may think that the salt will throw you off but really nothing is better than sugar with a salt chaser, right? You'll need jut the TINIEST slice of this to give in to your chocolate craving or else you might pass out (in a good way, of course). This probably won't be a big hit with the kids, but you can try adding a dollop of whipped cream on top to cater to their liking. Either way, it is rich, decadent, and scrumptious! 

What you'll need:
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup cold vegan shortening, diced (I used vegan butter)
3 tbs. ice water

For the filling:
1 1/4 pounds good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tbs. instant coffee
2 1/2 cups unsweetened plain soymilk
1 tsp. salt
Fleur de sel for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 350*. In a large food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the vegan butter and pulse until the shortening is in small pieces. Quickly add the water while you pulse it.
2. As soon as it comes together take it out and transfer to a 9-inch tart pan. Press the dough all over the pan, especially up the sides, creating a 1/4 inch thick crust. Pierce the crust about 15 times with a fork (this will let the steam escape the shell and eliminate any air bubbles). Cover the shell with saran wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. After the shell has chilled, remove the saran wrap and line the tart shell with parchment paper. Take a bag of beans and distribute around to paper to weigh the shell down. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the weights and paper, and bake for another 5 minute. Set aside to cool.
4. While the shell is cooling, chop the dark chocolate, add to a heatproof glass bowl, and heat the soy milk in a large sauce pan until it starts to steam. Once steamed, add the salt and instant coffee, stirring until it dissolves.
5. Pour the milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit for ONE WHOLE MINUTE. After a minute, stir until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth (this may take up to 5 minutes. Don't give up, keep stirring!).
6. Pour the chocolate into the tart crust and let cool in the refridgerator for about 30-45 minutes. Once the chocolate has set, garnish with some fleur de sel. Remove from the tart pan and serve!

enjoy :)
the inspiration

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cinnamon Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

I love french fries. Honestly, I could probably live off of them. Beer battered, crisscut, sweet potato, they're just all delicious! But, sadly it has come to be found that this would not be the healthiest way to live (sad face). Usually we have some sort of a potato Sunday nights when we cook dinner at my moms but the fries in the bag have such a processed taste that I can't stand. So with that said, I started scouring Pinterest for a recipe for sweet potato fries. It's so much healthier to bake them than fry them, anyways. I tried to make some a few weeks ago but totally burned them. I came across a few that looked pretty good so I fiddled with them and came up with this recipe that was so good, there were none left! I would have eaten them all myself but I suppose that would have been rude. 

What you'll need:
3 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. chipotle sauce (Tabasco makes some)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. brown sugar (optional but DEFINITELY suggested)

1. Preheat your oven to 400*. Peel and cut your potatoes into strips that are about 1/4 inch thick (you know, the size of fries!). 
2. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil, salt, cinnamon, chili powder, chipotle sauce, and pepper. 
 3. Lay the fries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (non-stick spray is just NOT enough here, guys). Bake for 15 minutes, flip, then bake for another 20 minutes more. (if they're still a little mushy, bake for another 5-10 minutes)
4. While they're still hot, toss with the brown sugar and serve immediately!

enjoy :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Linguine with Shrimp

Yesterday my mom and I went to get foot massages. We were total noodles when we came home that all we wanted to do was watch a movie and eat popcorn. El found a movie on Netflix, called "Quill," that he thought sounded cute because it was about a Labrador puppy who was a seeing eye dog for a blind man in Japan (yes, it was a Japanese film with subtitles). It started off pretty adorable, with tons and tons of puppies running and falling. But we hardly expected the movie to end the was that we did; we were blubbering like babies! After that we needed a comforting meal and this dish sure did the job right. It's simple, light, refreshing, and so super easy. I found the original recipe from Barefoot Contessa but gave it a little bit of my own touch. First, much less salt. Second, I added a little bit of parmesan at the end (just as a garnish), and finally I omitted the parsley on mine because there is only one thing I despise of more than parsley: cilantro. The smell alone of either of these herbs makes me want to run in the corner with my tail between my legs and scream. Everyone else likes parsley so garnished their's with it and everyone was thrilled. Also, it should be noted that you MAY NOT use vegan butter for this because it doesn't melt the same way. We use olive oil AND butter because of the high burning temperature of the oil and the butter has a ton of flavor (and the garlic won't burn as easily if you use oil AND butter). If you let the sauce sit for a minute or 2 at the end, it thickens and just becomes heavenly. 
Try this meal if you are running late for dinner or are just too tired to make something which requires a lot of effort. It looks gourmet and fancy, but it is SO easy and yummy :)

What you'll need:
2 lb. FRESH shrimp
1 package linguine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 tbs. kosher salt, plus 1 tsp.
1 tsp. pepper
10 cloves minced garlic 
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 lemon sliced into rounds
Light sprinkle red pepper flakes 

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiled, add the 2 tbs. salt, 2 tbs olive oil, and cook your linguine according to the directions on the box.
2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil and the butter. Mince the garlic as finely as you can (hint, I used the mini food processor here. SO much easier) and cook for about 2 minutes (be careful NOT to let it burn).
3. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook for 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, zest, remaining salt, and pepper.
4. When the pasta is finished, drain and add to the pan with the shrimp. Toss in the lemon slices and give everything a good mix, making sure the pasta is fully coated in the sauce.
5. Garnish with some parsley (if you dare) and some parmesan cheese.

enjoy :)
mine, sans the parsley

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tips in the Kitchen: Pizza Stone

1 piece of stone floor tile from Home Depot
Over the last year I've developed an obsession with pizza. But I always somehow manage to either undercook the crust so it's still malleable, or burn the living you-know-what out of it. I Tried pizza trays, pans, and just about anything there is. Then, one day, we bought a pizza stone and it was like the heavens parted and the pizza Gods sang to me. You heat the stone before you even put the pizza on it and it starts cooking immediately from the top AND bottom. It's nearly impossible to mess up a pizza if you use a stone and keep your eye on it. But the only problem is, they can be really expensive.
we have this, GREAT buy!

same stone at a luxury cooking store for over $50!!!
Now that I've moved, I've been thinking about what kitchen necessitates I am still in need of. A pizza stone is most definitely up there but I just can't quite afford it. ALAS! My mom had some leftover stone from when they redid their kitchen floor and I took one square and BOOM! A FREE PIZZA STONE!!!
Now, I'm well aware not everyone has spare stone lying around but Home Depot does for under $4!!!!! $4--$30...$4--$30...$4--$30... hmmmmm which sounds better to you?
The ONLY down side to the floor stone, for your visual eaters, is that it creates a square, rather than a round pizza. But square is pretty chic and it will taste the same. And now that summer is sneaking up on us, you can even put the stone on the grill!!! A pizza stone is a total necessity that I command every one of you go buy! I'm giving it a trial run tonight so if my kitchen doesn't explode, then you'll know it works just as well as the name-brand pizza stone.
this is mine, simple piece of square stone