Wednesday, August 31, 2011

George's Ocean Terrace & A Steak Dinner Remix

I've been away from my kitchen for several days...traveling for work and then for a weekend retreat. While I was away, I definitely ate well. I love being treated to a nice dinner by my company.

We were in San Diego for a few days and landed a reservation at George's Ocean Terrace, a casual bistro on the roof of George's at the Cove (a higher end restaurant) in La Jolla Village. We got there just in time for the sunset - our fellow diners (and I) were like the paparazzi, snapping photos.

And as the hot pink sun tucked itself into the horizon over the Pacific, everyone on that roof began clapping, giving due praise to the wonder of a beautiful seascape. Bravo, God, bravo.

This was just the beginning of a delightful evening of laughs, good food, and the celebration of two colleagues' 15 years with our organization.

Two had the halibut special, the other three of us had steak. I went with the Asian Skirt Steak with Garlic Spinach and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (I subbed out the onion rings).

The marinade on this steak was so good I drenched each bite of food in the tiny stainless steel cup of reduced sauce (left). Sweet and salty. One of my favorite flavor combos. The cup on the right held the potatoes, which were also drenched in the sauce before each bite. If ever in La Jolla, go there at sunset.

When I got home from the weekend away, I guess I was still thinking about that steak. I found two sirloin steaks in the freezer and had a pound and a half of fresh green beans from my CSA stash. Sounded like a great dinner for my love and me. I looked up recipes for sirloin and found one for Beer and Brown Sugar Steak Marinade.
Ingredient list: brown sugar, teriyaki sauce, garlic powder, seasoned salt, pepper, and beer.
I marinated it for about a 1/2 hour, poking holes into the steaks so that as much flavor seeped in as possible
Dinner for two!
I used sirloin instead of skirt steak, garlic green beans instead of garlic spinach, and left out the potatoes. I reduced the leftover marinade and strained it to serve on the side. It wasn't George's, but I have to say, the flavors were close and it was pretty satisfying to remake a memorable meal right here in the comfort of home. It's good to be home. :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

When Life Gives You Peaches...

...cook 'em and can 'em!

Here's a step-by-step to making peach jam (this time I made Lady Grey tea-infused jam, recipe from Bon Appetit):

Boil the peaches whole for 1 minute to loosen the skins

Take them out and put then in a cold water bath for another few minutes
Take off the skin with a paring knife, and also cut off any imperfections or bruised parts

They should look nice and shiny afterward!

Take out the pits and cut the peaches. The left ones are cut into inch-sized chunks for peach butter, the right ones are cut much smaller for jam.
I made about 8 cups (4 pints) of peach butter with 14 peaches, and 6 cups (3 pints) of jam with 8 peaches. My how-to on peach butter can be found {here}.
Add 2T of lemon juice, 21/2 cups of sugar, a pkg of fruit pectin, 1T butter, (and 4 Lady Grey or Earl Grey teabags, for a little extra flavor). Bring it to a rolling boil and cook until it sets up - about 30 minutes.
I use Ball Fruit Pectin. Check out their site for canning at this {link}.
Ladle the cooked jam into hot jars (I stick mine in the dishwasher on sanitize).

Top with self-sealing lids that have been kept hot in simmering water. Then process the filled jars in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Remove with tongs because the hot jars will burn you!

Let rest on dry tea towels until cooled.
These will be perfect gifts for the holidays. I love getting things done early. For a procrastinator like me, this was quite an accomplishment. And so much fun too!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Warm Brown Rice Salad

I invited my neighbor over for lunch and needed to come up with something quick. I didn't have time to go to the store, so I was stuck with what I had on hand. A few random vegetables, lettuce...I needed something more substantial. I stuck my head in the freezer and pulled out a chicken breast and a package of frozen brown rice.
I bought this at Costco, but I've also found it at Trader Joe's
Sidenote: Have you been introduced to frozen (brown) rice? So much better than that Uncle Ben's instant stuff. You stick the portioned bag in the microwave for 3 minutes and it's done! And it's loads better than dragging out the rice cooker and waiting 30-40 minutes. I love it. You can find it in the freezer aisle at most stores. Back to the recipe...

A few years ago, I went to lunch with girlfriends at 26 Beach in Venice, CA. Cute place with yummy-good-for-you food. Burgers. Salads. Sandwiches. All fresh ingredients and tasty too. I had their warm brown rice salad. And from time to time, I re-create the dish at home. At least I try. It turns out a little different each time, depending on what I have. Here's the way I made it this time:

Warm Brown Rice Salad
1 pkg of frozen brown rice (or 2-3 cups cooked brown rice)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 1/2 c. broccoli florets
2 small tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup carrots, sliced into coins or half-coins (I used baby carrots)
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
pepper to taste
Green lettuce as a bed for the rice salad, optional

2 T. lemon juice
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence
salt and pepper
5 T. extra virgin olive oil

-Cut the chicken breast into 1/2 inch cubes. Season with cumin, salt, paprika, pepper. Saute until cooked in a small pan.
-I roasted the broccoli in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes, after tossing it in olive oil, salt and pepper. But you can put it in raw or steamed. However you like it. Roasting brings out a deeper flavor.
-Cook the frozen rice in the microwave as instructed on the package. Keep warm.
-Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a separate bowl.
-Toss the rice, chicken, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and cheese together in a large bowl and add the vinaigrette to coat the salad.
-Serve on a bed of green lettuce (green leaf, romaine, mache, arugula, butter lettuce...whatever you have!)
-Makes about 3 entree-sized servings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Our 1st (hopefully Annual) Neighborhood BBQ

We had our neighbors over for a summer BBQ. We've been talking about it since we got our Traeger smoker/grill last year. It was a successful day. I hope we can do this every year from now on. Getting to know the folks who live next door was never something I expected here in Los Angeles. But it happens every now and then, and I feel super blessed that it indeed happened to us.

Hubby pulling pork and prepping the chicken wings for the smoker

Corn on the cob: some with cilantro butter and others with BBQ rub & butter

Chicken sausages with pineapple chunks

White chocolate dipped peaches and strawberries
Our neighbors brought appetizers of chips and salsa, hummus and pita chips, fruit salad and veggies, potato salad and drinks. We also smoked tri-tip and teriyaki beef, and had an ice cream cake for dessert. What a feast! Next year I'll have to stop eating and remember to take a group photo!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roasted Rack of Lamb & Summer Squash Gratin

I love Google. More often than not, I get my ideas from the web. I type in the ingredient(s) that I have and want to use, and let the search engine find me the best ideas. My favorite recipe website is probably They have really great recipes, reviews, and everything I try is really delicious.

This week, I bought a frenched rack of lamb from Costco and also wanted to use up the summer squash* from my CSA box.
*Note: I find that the earlier I use it the better. When squash sits too long, the skin gets bitter. I'm pretty sure that's why I hated squash when I was a kid. It's taken years for me to really enjoy it...for fear of bitter squash skin. Blech.

In a couple of minutes of scanning links, I found a 5-star rated recipe for the lamb, and a blog's recipe for summer squash gratin.

Tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper, add feta cheese, and a mixture of egg and milk, then sprinkle with herbes de provence or thyme.
 Baked in the oven at 350 degrees until eggs are set and it's golden brown on top
And let me tell you...when I find recipes that turn out exactly like I imagine they will - in look, taste, smell - I get super excited. I start "speak-singing" (part talking, part opera-singing, like, "Iii'm gett-ing ex-ciiiiited!!!!!" can you hear it?). It's my subconscious cue to my hubby to rave and rave about what he's about to eat.
The lamb with olive oil, salt & pepper - ready to sear in an oven-safe pan
Chop up some fresh rosemary leaves for the crust
The recipe called for garlic, rosemary, salt, and bread crumbs. I didn't have bread crumbs, so I used parmesan cheese!
After you sear the rack of lamb, brush it with dijon mustard
Put the rosemary mixture onto the lamb, and cover the bones with foil to prevent burning
Put the lamb in the oven for 12-14 minutes, until the temperature reaches 145 degrees for medium rare. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then slice the chops between each bone.
These two recipes delivered the speak-singing. And dancing. I think I even clicked my heels. And the meal got its raves...from him and from me.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner

The last Saturday of July, my husband's company had a picnic at Knott's Berry Farm, which included a full meal and discounted ticket into the park. I was pretty excited because I'd never been there. And franchement (frankly), I was really excited about the chicken. Forget the crazy roller coasters.

Here in Southern California, this chicken, whose recipe is now 77 years old, gets a lot of hype. People line up out the door for hours to get a table on a weekend. So that's what we did. And this was after I already tasted one form of the chicken at the picnic.

Yes, we went to the restaurant for dinner, after already having it for lunch. Don't judge. The chicken at lunch was not fresh. It wasn't the real deal. It had been sitting in a steamer tray and wasn't a very good representative. I needed to have the Chicken Dinner Restaurant experience. So we indulged.

This is the lighter side chicken dinner. Leg and thigh, cherry rhubarb (not pictured), mashed potatoes and gravy, cabbage and ham, and biscuits. The full meal had even more chicken and more sides (yikes!). The chicken was good: tasty, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. It was good. I liked it a lot. Better than lunch but nothing too extraordinary either. Extraordinary were the biscuits! Small, but buttery, soft and fluffy. I had three. and a half. with boysenberry jam. Oh yeah. I'll be back for the biscuits.

All that said, the most amazing thing about this restaurant had to be how crazy big it was. The place went on and on and on.

Someone was having a birthday party in the room we were in. Heck yes! I'm 98.5% sure I'll be stealing that idea for my next birthday. You're all invited. If you're lucky there will be a princess cake too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cauliflower: the Fabulous Faux Carb

Let's be honest. Cauliflower is not the most flavorful vegetable. Often the counterpart to broccoli, when raw it is often paired with ranch dressing and, when cooked, it can be found topped with Velveeta cheese. But is that all there is? I think not.

Lately, this low-fat, fiber-filled, Vitamin C-bearing vegetable has become a healthful staple in our fridge. I often roast it in the oven, tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and sprinkle it with a little lemon juice. Sometimes I make "mashed potatoes" by boiling it, pureeing it, and adding milk and butter - just like you would do with an actual potato. This week, I made it into a rice substitute. I've heard of others doing this, but had never tried it. Here's how I did it:

 Cut the cauliflower into small pieces and then pull out your food processor.

Pulse the raw cauliflower pieces in the food processor just until it's rice-sized.

 Boil a pot of salted water, and pour the "rice" into the boiling water - kind of like you would with pasta.

After 5-7 minutes of cooking it at a simmer, drain the "rice" in a fine-mesh strainer.

I used the cauliflower rice as a bed for my Cajun shrimp, sausage, and pepper stir-fry. I used a chicken andouille sausage from Trader Joe's, chopped onions, bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), and shrimp marinated with lemon juice, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. 

And, voila! The finished dish...

The cauliflower soaked up all the yummy spice from the stir-fry, and it came out to be a nice hearty meal, without the starch. This diet thing ain't that bad after all. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Exploring K-Town, Part 2

, SoLast week, I made my way back to K-town for Korean-Chinese food at China Gate Restaurant. My friends Linda and Sarah met me there and we feasted. For real. Good thing I skipped breakfast.

They have a lot of classic Chinese dishes, but with a Korean twist. For example, we had sweet & sour pork, but it had a thicker batter and they also offer it using beef instead of pork. Though there are mainly Chinese type dishes, you know it's Korean-owned when they pull out the little dishes...

The side dishes: raw onion with fermented black bean paste and kimchee
 My favorite dish was the Jajangmyun. It was the first time I'd tried it, and it was delicious. I could have eaten that whole bowl by myself, but I held back.

Jajangmyun: Korean black bean paste noodles with diced onion and zucchini
Mixing it up and cutting it so it's easier to serve - love the scissors!
From left top, clockwise, the rest of the meal:
steamed buns, sweet & sour pork, steamed white rice, and jellyfish with sauteed vegetables
They gave us mini steamed buns to soak up all the yummy sauces from the sweet and sour pork and jellyfish. Nice bonus. Chinese restaurants usually only give you bread like that with Peking duck. Also, I'd never had jellyfish in a hot dish. It was stir-fried with green onion, zucchini, carrots, and chicken. Pretty tasty, though I think I prefer my jellyfish cold. How do you like yours? ;o)

Overall, it was a great new find. Homestyle Chinese food with Korean flavor - a new kind of comfort food.