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Comfort Foods and Indulgences

Streuseled Honey-Butter Breakfast Muffins

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by Cathy Pollak

Honey-Butter-Breakfast-MuffinsDid you grow up with lots of muffins in your household? I didn’t. In fact, I don’t remember having them around at all. Cakes? Yes. Pies? Yes. Cupcakes? Yes. Muffins…no. Maybe that’s why I love them. I’m making up for lost time.

Now, my favorite muffin is hands down the Peanut Butter-Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffin I make often. It’s more labor intensive and fits the bill when I have ripe bananas available and want some chocolate in my breakfast. It’s really fantastic.

I do have one criteria for breakfast muffins. I don’t want them over the top sweet. These Streuseled Honey-Butter Breakfast Muffins fit that bill perfectly. And the streusel makes the perfect crunchy-crunch. Just look at it. This is so good with my black coffee, it’s “off the chain”…as someone said to me on Facebook the other day. I love that Triple-D saying.

Anyway, these are also one of those exceptional looking muffins. They pop up and rise into a perfect dome shape, don’t brown too much and stay moist. They are keepers forever, I hope you try them soon. 

Use It Up Vegetable Soup

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by Susan Salzman

VEGETABLE-SOUP2I do my marketing on Friday’s. Sunday’s I load up on fruits and veggies at a local farmers market. By the time Saturday roles around, whatever is left in my vegetable bin isn’t so pretty. Inevitably, these items end up in a soup or a salsa or something random.

Cleaning out the vegetable bin (to make room for the newest and the freshest) left me with a few string beans, broccoli, left over roasted cauliflower, sauteed leeks (I keep sauteed leeks on hand to put in weekday morning eggs), about 1/2 cup of cooked lentils (leftovers from a previous meal), a carrot, a few stocks of celery, and a minced shallot.

A pot of soup was whipped up in less than 45 minutes and it was the perfect Saturday afternoon lunch. It is always so gratifying when I can create a healthy, whole meal without a plan or a recipe.

Soup, unlike baking, does not have to be exact. It’s not a science. Check your provisions, be creative, chop away, and make a double batch!

Homemade French Dip, Almost as Good as Philippe's

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by Susan Salzman

frenchdip-sandwichOne of my favorite memories growing up was going to the Dodger games. For most people, they looked forward to a Dodger dog, a bag of peanuts (from the peanut guy who still, to this day, throws peanuts to everyone), and a frozen malt. Dodger games were a high priority, but eating at the stadium was not on our family’s agenda. Our tradition was either dinner at Little Joe’s or a French Dip sandwich from Philippe's, with a side of pickles, and a bag of chips. Yup…so good.

Sadly, Little Joe’s is no longer around. When I was pregnant with Eli(17 years ago), I CRAVED their salad and their raviolis w/bolognese. As I write this, I can still taste their signature recipe on my tongue. Oh, how I miss that place; the tacky red booths, sawdust on the floor, the bread, and the “take out” deli where my dad and I would buy boxes and boxes of raviolis to freeze for future meals.

Little Joe’s may be a part of my past, but Philippes is still a huge part of our present. We have broken tradition a bit. Philippes is not simply a pre-game meal. It’s where we go when they have a day off from school(sometimes taking the metro directly to Union Station) or a late night snack. NO ONE makes a French Dip sandwich quite like Philippes. It’s that good. So when I bought my slow cooker a few months back, French Dips were high on the list.

Girlfriend’s Plum Cake

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by Jessica Harper

plumcakeI love this cake. I think of it as a dessert for a minor event, like when a couple of girlfriends come over for dinner or I’m celebrating an insignificant birthday, say, turning forty-three. (Okay, fine, so that happened a while ago.)

This recipe is easy and vey forgiving. I am a crabby cook, which is to say that after preparing a couple of courses I am often in a high state of irritability when faced with creating a third, as in dessert.

Once, when making this cake in a fit of impatience, I threw all the wet ingredients in a food processor, even the milk, which actually requires a more gentle, gradual entry. After I hurled in the flour mixture, the batter looked like something you use to make sidewalks but it all turned out beautifully.

I made this one with plums (which I bought way too many of at the Farmer’s Market) but you can use other fruit—peaches, pears, whatever. And if you have any patience left (I didn’t), make some whipped cream to go with it.

Chevre Brownies

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by Susan Salzman

brownie-chever-3Brownies are the perfect picnic food. I wanted chocolate, I wanted a brownie, but I wanted something a little different. I thought a cream cheese brownie would be great but didn’t have cream cheese. However, what I did have was some goat cheese. I thought, what the heck…I am going to experiment.

I used the brownie base for David Lebovitz’s (Ready for Dessert) cheesecake brownies, but swapped the cream cheese for goat cheese and added a touch more sugar (to compensate for the tartness in the goat cheese).

I also omitted the chocolate chips from the actual brownie base and instead took a skinny bar of Valrhona and did a rough chop. After swirling in the cheese mixture, I dotted the top of the brownies with the chocolate chunks.

Lobster and Chanterelles

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by Brenda Athanus

Golden-ChanterellesIt is the time of year when the spring fiddlehead foragers return to our store to sell us chanterelle mushrooms packed into rounded over Tupperware containers. It is an exceptional year for chanterelle mushrooms because it has rained a lot in Maine this summer and that make them grow large, luscious and most abundant.

We eat mushrooms regularly at our house usually sautéed in a combination of butter and olive oil with a touch of minced garlic at the end but once in a while I make “the dish”. The ultimate chanterelle preparation is combining the mushrooms with lobster meat, cream and cognac. I know what you are thinking; how rich… Yes, but spoon a small portion on a beautiful plate and eat slowly as you ponder how anything could taste this wonderful..

I use 1 pound of chanterelle mushrooms and I pick out the largest ones. Wipe them clean, trim the bottom of the stem off and I like to pull the mushrooms apart by hand keeping the pieces fairly large. The reason I prefer the mushroom pulled into large pieces is because it’s the star of the dish. You’ll see.

Sassy Sliders

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by Jessica Harper

SLIDERS1A couple years back i reported about a prize-winning, record-setting burger that weighed in at over 210 pounds. Well, apparently that record has been obliterated, shattered, knuckle-dropped, air-popped, heel-stomped and other synonyms for royally busted. A burger in Minnesota weighed in at just north of one ton. (It’s 2014 pounds.) Not just your basic lazy cook’s plain burger, this one featured 60 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds each of pickles and cheese and 50 pounds of lettuce.

I, or one, would never make such a burger. First of all, they needed a crane to flip it, and my kitchen will not accommodate a vehicle larger than a bicycle. Also, I would be much to irritable to fry all that bacon. And as much as I would love to eat this monster, I’m not sure there is enough Pepto-Bismol in the world to calm the post-prandial abdominal pushback. I will therefore stick to cooking that burger’s diminutive cousin, the slider.

This little guy weighs in at only a few ounces, but I’m guessing that, flavor-wise, it is David to the Ton One’s Goliath. Only a couple of inches in diameter (vs. gonzo-burger’s ten feet), it packs a killer punch with it’s dab of chipotle mayonnaise.

Cherry Tomato Pizza

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by Amy Sherman

cherrytompizzaIt's hard to say no to cheese. Since I never tasted Parrano cheese I was more than happy to accept a sample to try. Apparently it has been around since the 1970's but I can't recall ever seeing it at the market. It's a semi-firm cheese created by a Dutch cheese maker who went to Italy and was inspired to create a Gouda that would be reminiscent of Northern Italian style cheese. It's aged for at least 5 months and often described as tasting like a cross between Gouda and Parmesan. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, but I can tell you it's buttery and has a caramel like flavor that complements tomatoes beautifully.

I've been inundated with cherry tomatoes recently and decided I would use them on a pizza with Parrano cheese. I also happened to have some grilled marinated artichokes and that combination is really something. I added chives for a little color and oniony flavor, but really, just a plain cherry tomato pizza would be delicious too. The good thing about using cherry tomatoes instead of tomato slices and Parrano cheese instead of mozzarella is that neither will make your pizza soggy. That said, biting into a cherry tomato half can be a deliciously juicy experience.

Individual No-Bake Banana Split "Cakes"

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by Cathy Pollak

No-Bake-Banana-Split-CakesI have been making a version of this cake for the past 20 years. However, I’ve always made it in a 9 x 13 pan. I finally decided to streamline the recipe and serve it in individual portions. Since this cake was always something I would normally make for a party, it just made more sense to put it together this way. It’s so much easier to serve. And cuter too.

Nothing falls apart, it tastes great and believe it or not, it’s not overly sweet. The oven also never goes on! 

This cake gets a walnut crust just because it tastes so much better…more complex. The crust does not need baking, chilling it in the refrigerator keeps it all intact. If you have a nut allergy you could make a graham cracker crust using the same method. It works too.

I bought a wooden tamper originally to make mojitos. However, I rarely make mojitos but find I use this tool for so many baking and cooking projects. It worked especially well flattening the crusts in the bottom of the glasses.

Layered Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies

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by Cathy Pollak

Chocolate-and-Peanut-Butter-BrowniesLast weekend I went to a wine auction and indulged in chocolate-peanut butter brownies. Needless to say I thought about them all week. On about the third day of having brownie on the brain, I figured I better make a batch for myself. Does anyone else daydream about dessert like this?

Truthfully these are really, really easy to make. It just takes time with cooling and I like to let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. This is how you get those really nice side cuts for brownies.

Using parchment paper in the pan allows you to lift them right out into a block. They are much easier to cut this way.

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