Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Restaurant Week

Sorry for today's late posting, I was too busy browsing and counting the days till this:

Old Pasadena Restaurant Week

Any thing look tempting? Any recommendations?

Monday, May 25, 2009


In honor of my flash fiction post (go ahead, it'll take you three minutes to read it) a couple of ideas that take no time at all:

1. String cheese.

2. Yogurt

For the lactose intolerant:
3. Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread.
This is vegan, great source of protein, energy and complex carbohydrates. It's good for you and the environment. To reduce the environmental impact of washing up eat directly out of the jars.

4. Bananas: peel, and presto! Soothing to our olfactory nerves and ape brains.

5. Candy bars. Soothing to everything else. In order of preference: Dove, Reese's and Snickers.

Hmmm, perhaps today's post has been hacked by Restless Chef's mother!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Frugal Frivolity

What does the Restless Chef do between meals? Scours her inbox for restaurant deals. I'm already lusting after this one at Kendall's in the Music Center and this Gourmet Happy Hour at Fraiche, although Culver City is so blinking far from Altadena.

Too far to drive on a lazy Saturday afternoon? There's always Magnolia on Lake, whose happy hour starts at 4:30 and then a short toddle over to Le Petit Vendome for a little wine tasting. They used to do one dollar pours on Saturdays, but now they moved that to Thursday night. They have a very tempting cheese and pate selection to go with their delightful wines.

Sunday seems pretty parched for happy hours, but after a weekend of mole prep I love to clamber onto a high stool at Ruth's Chris. They have terrific deals on drinks and little bites, and it runs on Sunday! Oh dear, I think I'm getting thirsty--maybe this weekend I won't cook at all.
Do you have any favorite deals you're willing to share?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Little Salsa in your Blender

Let's start complicated, then move to simple.

You will need a skillet and cilantro; for every two tomatoes: one unpeeled garlic clove and one jalapeno chile.

Heat the skillet, add the unpeeled tomatoes, garlic and chiles. Turn and cook them over medium high heat until browned all over. Drop the tomatoes in your blender; stem the chiles and add, peel the garlic and add. Shake in half a teaspoon of salt, cover your blender and press "Whir!"

When smooth pour into your salsa container, add more salt if you like, garnish with minced cilantro. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve. You will have something delicious and authentic.

Browning those vegetables too much dang work?

Take a 14 oz can of peeled diced tomatoes. Plop into blender. Add one or two chiles chipotle in adobo sauce (canned chipotle chiles en adobo can found in most So Cal supermarkets). Press whir again, and you will have a smoky, tomatoey salsa that will impress those friends of yours who are convinced you have no business in the kitchen. And when they look for it at Trader Joe's, they won't be able to find it.

Monday, May 18, 2009


You may have
already heard the Spanish word for crumbs: migas. It's also the name of a dish composed of leftovers and what's on hand. There are dozen of fancier versions, but this simple one is what I grew up on, and what my own son loves.

Slice up as many corn tortillas as you like, around two per person, into whatever shape seems convenient: wedges, strips, squares.
In a sauce pan heat on high at least an inch of oil. I use a small sauce pan, slightly larger than your average corn tortilla. When it's hot enough to surprise the food, ( and the food will absorb much less oil that way) fry the tortillas, a handful at a time. Drain on paper towels, salt to taste.

Heat a skillet, add a tablespoon of oil, scatter in the salted chips. Crack eggs on top, 1-2 per person. Fold the eggs in with a spatula, and continue folding until eggs are cooked to your liking.

Add a little more salt, and a dollop of sour cream.

Feeling wild? Garnish with avocado slices, grated cheddar cheese, a side of rice and refried beans, home made salsa. Hmm, maybe I should do that recipe another day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mojito Madness

When life gives you mint, make mojitos. Summer is here, sitting on the patio, or porch, listening to music at Memorial or Farnsworth Park, life is here now!

Let us drink to Calypso and celebrate!

You will need:

Fresh squeezed lime juice
Superfine sugar or simple syrup
Soda water

In a tall glass muddle mint and superfine sugar. I love the muddling process: it releases the oils in the mint and mashes sugar against its leaves. Add an ounce of lime juice, a shot of rum, lots of ice. Add soda water, a splash of simple syrup if you like, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Sip, savor, enjoy. Summer is here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Retro menus

How can you not love a pop star who has a hit single named after you? And my dark secret is, I loved him even before that; I remember singing "Sweet Caroline" for glee club, and being quite happy about it. This year my mother's day gift was a compilation, replacing a former greatest hits cd that disappeared. I guess after the thousandth time someone got tired of it.

In any case, despite the UB40 and Smash Mouth covers, Neil Diamond conjures the 70s, and in the words of my husband, those who forget the 70s are doomed to repeat it; memories of junior high school (when they called it that) and scary movies on Saturday nights.

A typical menu to accompany the movie on Fright Night:

Doritos and sour cream
To mix it up, my mother mixed canned pickled jalapenos in the sour cream. Quite a spicy surprise.

Phone in a pizza! I wish I could remember the name of the delivery spot in Lynwood.
My favorite was sausage and mushrooms.

And guzzle strawberry Crush. Well named.

What's your favorite retro menu?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Paella Permutations

If you've seen "The Hoax" you know about Clifford Irving and his pal Richard Suskind. Long before children and marriage I lived in Paris, and, through a friend, hung out with Richard, er, Dick. According to the film he was a children's book author;according to my memories he was a professional writer. (I loved the fact that his role was portrayed by an affable Alfred Molina.) One evening he chatted about his time in Ibiza, we bought the ingredients, and he showed me how to cook paella. His version is a rather upscale chicken and rice.

Much is made of that squatty paella pan, but I work with what' s on a hand, and a skillet or saucepan that can be covered works best for me.

With meat:

Coat a pan with olive oil, sliver a couple of slices of bacon, saute on medium flame until crisp, remove. Saute 1/4 pound of Spanish chorizo (more like a hard, cured sausage) briefly.
Pan fry your favorite chicken parts, I prefer thighs, at least one per person. Brown well on each side, on medium to low heat (15-20 minutes total) remove.

Using the fat in the skillet, still on medium, brown 1 1/2 cups rice. Add half a sliced onion, two slivered garlic cloves, and saute briefly. Add three cups of chicken broth, half a cup of frozen peas, a cup of garbanzo beans (cooked, yes, cooked) , one roasted red pepper, julienned, and a pinch of saffron. Yum. Add all of the previously sauteed items. Bring to a boil. Simmer on low and cover for ten minutes.

At the ten minute mark add your rinsed and bearded shellfish(bearded means you pull off the dangly hair parts of the mussels) : a pound of mussels, a pound of manila clams. Cover and steam for another five minutes. Now add your shrimp, shelled or with shells on, and cook for another five minutes. Rice seem raw, and not enough liquid? Add a bit more water and keep covered. Full disclosure: a truly authentic version has crusty rice at the bottom, crisp from the cooking. I've never been able to achieve that.

Serve with a green salad, or a delectable tomato salad.
Bring out your aioli, (gosh, mine completely flopped last time) and your favorite rose.

Forget about the chicken, bacon and chorizo. Gee, that was easy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mothers and Other Strangers

I am an equal opportunity celebrant. We've hosted Hannukah, Passover, Christmas, St Patrick's Day parties, Bastille day parties, and yes, I've even hosted Mother's Day brunches. So why, why why does this Sunday's fill me with dread? Why am I considering adding hemlock to my favorite cup of coffee?

Greeting card holidays get my goat, and this, pardon me, is the mother of them all. Add to that my mother, my mother-in-law, the fact that I am a mother and I'm just one woman short of being drawn and quartered. Far too many directions to be pulled. Three too many women set up for unrealizable expectations followed by disappointment. Then, there's the little fact that on my first Mother's Day my husband got me a car duster. I guess life really is not a DeBeers commercial.

Two years ago I called in sick on Mother's Day, and settled in for hours on my son's Wi, revisiting Super Mario and his brother Luigi. It was memorable.
This year I'm planning on calling in sick again. An X-Men marathon with my kids should be just the ticket. My concession to the holiday? I think I'll have my son make the popcorn.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How many menus does one tiny party need?

A friend recently invited me to his wedding in Peru. Hmm, travel, adventure, and friendship vs. finances? Sorry, friend, I have to pass. Thanks to the INS he has returned to So Cal, minus Peruvian wife. (That ought to be a year or two, the officials consoled him). But there has to be a celebration, right? I invite him and our group of friends to my veranda.

Menu 1. My little mind starts clicking. Easy: Italian cold cuts, wonderful olive bread, all from Roma Deli, burrata followed by a meaty lasagna or a baked pasta with meat sauce, salad, and cocoa cake. Simple.

I email friend for a) beverage of choice, and b) any food issues I might not know of.
He answers a) Champagne.
Great! As long as it doesn't have to come from France.
b) Go easy on the meat.

Damn. Scratch that menu.

Menu 2. But chicken's not meat, right? Mind whirs again, now it's middle eastern, with lebne, tabbouleh, home made hummus, along with a Greek salad, mountains of pita bread, and chicken kebabs.

Pescado, por favor, my friend writes.


Menu 3. To start: little bites, chips and guacamole. Aioli, harissa, and seafood paella. We'll stick with the cocoa cake for afters.

If the rice in the paella has to be brown, it's time for Domino's.

And as a reward for reading through all of that, starving reader, I give you

Essence of avocado guacamole:

Take as many avocados as available. Slice in half, scoop flesh into bowl. Season to taste with garlic salt, add a sprinkling of minced onion. Mash to the desired consistency, drop an avocado pit in for authenticity. Devour.

Preview: Monday's recipe is paella.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cocoa cake

Such a dilemma!
What to do with all that wonderful cocoa. Union Bakery in South Pasadena sells this kilo bag for $20. It will make a life time supply of mochas. (one teaspoon plus two teaspoons sugar, mixed with a tablespoon hot coffee, add more coffee and milk to taste)

Or, a number of delectable cocoa cakes.
A cocoa cake is an unusual creature: it's a cake without eggs, without much fuss, and the topping seeps through to the bottom of the pan as it bakes, creating a marvelous mess of cocoa goo. Hershey's must have popularized it. I grew up eating my grandmother's version (she even shipped it off to me in college, where, I confess, I hoarded it all to myself). When I served it to my husband, he recognized it as what his mother calls, Black Magic on Halloween. Ah those Brits: they do have a way with naming their desserts!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a brownie pan.

  • Mix one cup flour with 1/4 tsp salt, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder.
  • To 1/2 cup of milk add 2 tbls melted shortening; mix into the dry ingredients.

You will have a stunningly unappealing dough. Smooth it, stretch it out across the bottom of your brownie pan.

  • Mix 5 tblsp cocoa with 1 cup brown sugar. Sprinkle this on top of your cake dough.
  • Gently pour 1 1/3 cup hot water over the sugar mixture; place in oven

Bake 40-45 minutes--the topping will have sunk to the bottom, and the top of the cake will be a dark crinkly brown.

Dollops of Cool Whip make a delightful contrast. Try it, and tell me what you think.

Friday, May 1, 2009


A canele is a wonderful thing
: crisp caramelized sugar exterior, light interior. A delightful contrast of textures and sweet flavors. And that was exactly what my first experience was like here.

The next time, giddy with anticipation of the experience and the gratitude of my intended recipient, I splurged and bought a couple. Instead of that crisp contrast, we both bit into mush. A disappointment.

On occasion I would drop by but the symbols of perfection were not quite ready; or were not being baked that day; or were sold out. I think artistic temperament best explains their baking schedule.

To the meat of the discussion, starving reader. Last week I returned, once again, in hope of snagging that perfect morning treat. There they were, an assortment of deep brown caneles, hinting at baking perfection. At last. But first a quick question:

I said to the server, "You know, last time I bought those they were actually soggy, and I was wondering---"

The server interrupted me by saying, "That's because those were yesterday's." She swept up the plate, emptied its contents into the dust bin, and I watched, agog. "You shouldn't be selling those," she said to the server next to her.

What other day-old items were on display? What would I now risk?
I turned around and headed to Polkatots.