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Wednesday
Aug012012

Dirty Wild Rice

*Post by Angela.

For me, like most people, weekends are precious things, absolutely essential for unwinding after a long work week. While I’m pretty flexible with how my weekends are spent, I do tend to have a playbook: Friday nights are for getting out and seeing friends; Saturdays are for exploring new neighborhoods, lazing about at coffee shops, spending quality time with my guy and my dog, and just generally being out of the house. Sundays are all about errands, cleaning and cooking – getting everything in order so that I’m not an absolute crazed person during the work week.

Last Sunday, the cleaning aspect of the day was particularly intense, as we are headed into a season of out-of-town guests. I spent much of the morning and afternoon steam-cleaning, sweeping and scrubbing the apartment. By the time dinnertime rolled around, I felt like dirtying up my gleaming, clean kitchen with something awesome. I dug out this recipe for a Louisiana staple with a wild twist, a collaboration between chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto.

 

 

Ingredients: 
  • 6 tablespoons wild rice
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 8 oz chicken livers, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¼ small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, very finely chopped  
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper            
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 scallion, light green and white part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

First, I made the rice according to the package instructions, stopping just short to leave the rice just a tad underdone. Specifically, I cooked the wild rice in 3 cups of water for 40 minutes (package directions directed a 60-minute boil time), then threw in the long-grain white rice to boil for 10 more minutes (package directions directed a 15-minute boil time). I drained the grains into a colander and rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking so that I didn’t end up with mush. 

 

 

I heated a tablespoon in a large pot over medium heat and cooked the onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers and garlic for about 10 minutes, until all the veggies were nice and soft. 

 

 

Next, I minced up half the chicken livers and puréed the rest in my tiny food processor. It is not a pretty sight, minced/puréed liver. Also, it’s tricky to mince. But I love my offal, and wasn’t gonna let anything deter me. I added the minced liver and sautéed about 7 minutes, then added the puréed liver and cooked about 4 minutes more. I seasoned with the cayenne, salt and pepper, then transferred the entire (dirty!) mixture to a bowl.

 

 

I wiped out the pot, then returned it to medium heat with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the rice. I cooked about 5 minutes, then added the veggie/liver mixture back in with the chicken broth and cooked the rice was completely warmed through. To finish, I stirred in the butter, the scallions, and parsley.

 

 

I served it warm, heaped up on my plate. Now, this Cajun dish is maybe not for those who don’t like the taste of chicken liver (like Mark), but I really loved it – the bits of offal give the rice this really wonderful deep and rich flavor. It was a perfect end to my weekend: a clean apartment and a plate of dirty rice were just what I needed to buck up for another long week.

 

Friday
Jul272012

Border Grill's Quinoa Fritters at Home (with Aji Limon Aioli)

*Post by Angela.

After our trip to Border Grill the other evening, there was one thing over which we couldn’t stop obsessing: those incredible quinoa fritters. Thank goodness chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are too nice to keep the recipe a secret – it's posted on their website, and appeared in the June issue of Bon Appétit along with a recipe for ají amarillo aioli (we had aji limon paste left over from our ceviche last month, so we swapped that in). These fritters are amazing, so good we made them two days in a row. This might be my new favorite quinoa recipe.

 

 

Ingredients for the aioli:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons ají limon chile paste (or less, or some other chile paste – it’s your world)
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

I made my own mayo with my man Alton Brown’s recipe, but obviously, that’s a step you can skip, as it can be a little fussy. But making mayo into aioli? Easiest thing in the world. I whisked the mayonnaise with the lime juice, chile paste, parsley, and salt, seasoned it to taste, then stashed it in the fridge to chill while I worked on the fritters.  

 

 

Ingredients for the fritters:
  • 2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed, drained
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup finely crumbled Cotija cheese (use feta if you can’t find Cotija, but try to find it!)
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, minced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Vegetable/canola/grapeseed oil for frying

First up? Toasting the quinoa. I heated a dry pan over medium high heat and toasted the quinoa until golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan to prevent scorching.

 

 

I added about 1 1/3 cups of water to the pan and brought it to a boil, then covered the pan and reduced the heat to a simmer, cooking until the quinoa was tender and the all the water was absorbed, about 12-14 minutes. Once it was done, I turned off the heat and left it alone (covered) for 15 minutes, then uncovered it and let it cool all the way down.

Once the quinoa was cool, I stirred in the flour, Cotija, salt and pepper. I added the minced scallions, parsley, egg, and egg yolk and mixed it up with my hands until a sort of soft dough had formed. Using two spoons, I formed the mixture into oval shapes (called a quenelle).

 

 

Using a large skillet, I heated over medium-high heat enough oil for a depth of about 1/2-inch. Working in batches, I fried the quenelles until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side, then transferred them with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. The quinoa quenelles are a little delicate to work with (before they are fried, they have a tendency to fall apart), so be gentle!

 

 

We dabbed the top of the fritters with the spicy aioli and devoured the entire plate within 10 minutes. Obviously, practically all fried things = wonderful tasting. But the quinoa adds so much texture and nutty flavor, and the Cotija cheese brings delicious saltiness. If you can’t make it to Border Grill for cocktails and eats, do yourself a favor and make these. You won’t be able to stop thinking about them.

 

Monday
Jul232012

Crispy Kale Salad with Peaches and Ricotta

*Post by Angela.

As much as I loved living in D.C., summer there was the absolute pits. Temperatures in the high 90s or higher, so much humidity that walking outside felt like moving through steamy hot damp towels, and mosquitos lurking in every dark corner. Summer in the District required coming up with dinners that required very little heat, particularly in my tiny apartment. 

In contrast, summer in southern California is…well, much like the rest of the year here. In our little corner of WeHo, temperatures rarely reach above 85, and both humidity and mosquitos are pretty rare. While we tend to save hearty stews and heavier meals for the winter, there isn’t the same need to avoid the oven/stove from June-September. Even so, old habits are hard to break, and during this summer season, I'm always on the lookout for meals that require little-to-no cooking time. This lightning quick, easy, and cheap crispy kale salad from Bon Appétit is a great example.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 medium peaches (or plums), halved, pitted and thinly sliced
  • About 1 lb kale leaves, rinsed and dried well, any large center stems removed
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta

First I whisked together 3 tbsp of the olive oil, the vinegar, the thyme and the honey, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I tossed the peaches into the vinaigrette and let them sit a bit while I prepped the kale.

 

 

I preheated the broiler, then spread my kale leaves out on a couple of baking sheets. I brushed the kale with the remaining oil and sprinkled the leaves with salt. I broiled the kale until crispy and charred at the edges, about 4 minutes. If you have an outdoor grill, 1) I’m jealous, and 2) you can use it to crisp the kale.

 

 

To serve, I heaped the ricotta on our plates and seasoned it with a little salt and pepper.  I topped it with the crispy kale leaves and a few slices of peaches, and drizzled the whole thing with some of the vinaigrette. We really enjoyed the combination of creamy ricotta, salty, crisp kale and sweet peaches in that tart vinaigrette. With just a handful of ingredients and no more than 5 minutes of oven time, we had a meal I wish I could send back in time to my D.C. self.

 

Thursday
Jul192012

Summer Cocktails (and more) from Border Grill

*Post by Mark.

Mid-July, Los Angeles weather has finally acknowledged that it's summer, shaking off the June gloom to reveal rising temperatures. The best (or at least, most fun) way to combat the heat? Icy seasonal cocktails. Which is why we jumped at the chance to sample Border Grill's new summer cocktail menu (as well as a parade of small dishes from the kitchen), premiering today.  The cocktail list puts a fun, modern spin on traditional Mexican ingredients, echoing the food focus of Border Grill’s co-chefs and owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

 

 

Even without the new cocktail menu, the downtown Border Grill location seems like it’s designed almost specifically for unwinding after work. The great chips and (trio of) salsas, the playful décor, big patio and massive bar make it a prime happy hour destination.  

 

 

While we sample the cocktails, the kitchen wisely sends out a little foundation for our stomachs. First up: a fantastic mushroom ceviche (below), an item not typically on the menu, that will be offered to DineLA diners over the course of the next several days. The tiny bite brightens up earthy seasonal mushrooms with lime juice and cilantro aioli, and gets a nice crunch from minced jalepenos, and crisp fried plantains. 

 

 

The Fire/Water/Melon (below, left), made with Peruvian pisco, watermelon, lemon and serrano chile, may be the consensus favorite. Pisco literally translate to 'fire water' and keeping true to its name, the drink balances out its sweetness with a kick of heat. The Silver Surfer (below, right) is a little more divisive. Made with tequila blanco, celery mint shrub and sparkling water, this drink might not be for those opposed to celery. The vegetable is very prominent, but is surprisingly refreshing when combined with the crisp and clean notes of mint. 

 

 

The squash blossom taco (below) is a big hit, stuffed with sweet kernels of corn and a trio of cheeses inside a crispy, fried, handmade corn tortilla. The delicious vegetarian bite is topped off with a little fried hoja santa, a large-leafed herb that makes another appearance in our next cocktail.

 

 

The Summer Santa (below) features the aforementioned hoja santa along with cacacha (Brazilian rum), raspberry, orange and lemon. Light and fruity, the unexpected aroma from the herb (think root beer and anise) grows on you with each sip. 

 

 

Halfway down the expanded cocktail list, we take another food break. Chicken sopes with peanut mole (below) look small but are surprisingly filling, thanks to the thick maize shell.

 

 

The Andean Stallion (below) is a drink that combines two of our favorite base spirits, Fernet Branca and Pisco, with agave, lime and a dash of angostura bitters. Lovers of the Italian amaro will relish the combination, while the uninitiated may find this an approachable introduction to a medicinal spirit that is widely considered an acquired taste. The Pisco and Fernet have crossed oceans to be together, and let me tell you, their love story tastes great in a chilled martini glass. 

 

 

Just how good are the quinoa fritters (below)? Well, good enough to win Mary Sue Milliken a challenge on Top Chef Masters. The same winning recipe is on display here, with black quinoua and cotija cheese getting fried up and topped with an amazing red pepper mayonnaise. Our only complaint was that there wasn't a hundred of them.

 

 

The Ginger Summers (below), named after the two loveliest Gilligan's Island ladies, is a drink almost pretty enough to forget about getting stranded. Tequila reposada, orange liqueur, ginger, and blueberry (and a mezcal wash for a light smoky finish), make for a sweet and slightly spicy summer sipper that would certainly help pass the time if lost at sea.

 

 

Already approaching our consumption limit, the green corn tamales (below) put us over the top - these picturesque corn husk packages hide a creamy, buttery mash of grits and sweet corn. Serve them with some sour cream and salsa fresca, and you might have the perfect comfort food. 

 

 

Our final cocktail to sample is the Cava Guava (below). With cava, guava and lemon, it's very much like a bellini, only this one packs an extra punch - a shot of tequila blanco, which would make this very dangerous for day-drinking. As it stands, it's a rather elegant drink to end the evening with.

 

 

The perfect bow on the experience? Churro tots (below). Infused with dulche de leche and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, the bite-sized poppers are delicately crispy on the outside, warm and doughy on the inside, and taste great with the chocolate, caramel and whipped cream dipping sauces.

 

 

So, next time you walk out of work, besuited and sweaty and looking to unwind, you know where to head. Border Grill has some wonderful bites and a cocktail menu offering summer quenchers that are approachable for all audiences, and yet will challenge tastebuds with new ingredients. The expanded cocktail menu is available at the Santa Monica location as well.

*Disclosure: This was a hosted meal.

Border Grill on UrbanspoonBorder Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday
Jul162012

Grilled Chicken Salad with Garlic Confit

*Post by Angela.

Last week, I found myself popping deliriously delicious confitted garlic cloves like candy. I probably ate an entire head of garlic. And am thinking about making more tonight.

It’s because of this salad recipe. It is amazing, all having to do with the garlic confit – this salad makes use of both whole cloves of garlic confit and pureed garlic confit as a base for the dressing. I’m thinking of trying to work garlic confit into all of my recipes from now on. Powerful flavor, healthy, and easy. Perfect for summer.

 

 

Ingredients:
  • 20 garlic peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Dijon or whole grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup pitted, sliced black olives
  • 4 packed cups of arugula
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 roasted red peppers from a jar, cut into ½-inch-wide strips

First step: confit the garlic. Normally I don't really like to use pre-peeled garlic (just a preference), but I didn't really feel like taking the time for such an otherwise quick dish. In a fairly small pan, I brought the garlic and the olive oil to a simmer over medium heat, then reduced the heat to low and cooked until the garlic was well browned and a little crunchy on the outside, about 25 minutes. Then I ate the entire pan of garlic (so I guess technically, you need 40 cloves). I sighed, reserved the oil, and repeated the process, this time not letting the cloves get quite so crunchy on the outside (about 20 minutes). I managed to stop myself from eating any more of the cloves, and let them sit in the oil until cool. Then I strained the oil into container with a cover, reserving the cloves.

 

 

Eight of those garlic cloves and ½ cup of the garlic oil went into my food processor with the Dijon mustard and the vinegar. I blended it until smooth, seasoned it with a little salt and pepper and discovered that I had made the most spectacular salad dressing of all time. I set it aside to cook the chicken and let the flavors develop a little.

 

 

In a medium-sized bowl, I tossed the chicken breasts with 3 tbsp of the garlic oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I heated my grill pan over high heat, then cooked the breasts until golden brown on both sides (about 4-5 minutes per side). I had gotten rather large breasts (hee!) this time around, so to make sure they were all the way cooked through, I threw the entire pan in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

 

 

After I let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, I sliced it up, threw it in a big bowl with the remaining cloves of garlic confit, olives, arugula, parsley and roasted red peppers, and tossed it all with about 3 tbsp of the dressing.

 

 

If you weren't already a fan of garlic confit, this'll do it. The garlic takes on this slightly mellow, sweet flavor while retaining just a bit of bite, and the texture is wonderfully creamy. And cooking with garlic-infused oil imparted more garlic punch to the chicken than I was expecting (bonus? this recipe leaves you with some garlic oil which which to play around). I'm going to be making garlic confit all summer, and the cloves that don't get devoured will probably find their way into the making of this salad again.  

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