Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Highland Park Excursion: Tacos and Pop

I first discovered Galco's Soda Pop Stop a hot and sweaty August day when I was all dressed up for a work meeting in Highland Park. The meeting had ended, and my nylons were sticking, and all I wanted was a cold beverage on my way home. Instead of grabbing my usual Diet Coke, Galco's gave me row upon row of delicous sounding choices. I settled on Peach Nehi, a fizzy revelation.

While I'd been wanting to return to Galco's forever, a faint recollection of a LA Weekly article on good regional Mexican joints in the same neighborhood led to a two-for-one Sunday afternoon excursion, and landed us at Tacos el Michoacano, a hole-in-the wall joint, before soda-shopping. The article claimed Tacos el Michoacano had first-rate carnitas and indeed it did. The pork was cubed not shredded, and covered in a light green slightly spicy salsa. We were given chips and salsa as well--this salsa was smoky red and chunky. We gobbled our tacos and chips quickly, slurping sweet and milky strawberry licuados all the while. 2 tacos a piece, 2 licuados, less than $10.

We then headed to Galco's and proceeded to fill two six packs with a mix of sodas. We're splitting one a day, first trying a Plantation-Style Mint Julip, which was both the color and taste of spearmint gum, though not so sugary. We decided it would work well for an ice cream float. Last night we opened Jackson Hole High Mountain Huckleberry Soda--I can honestly, un-hyperbolically claim this is the best soda I have ever had. Lightly sweet and fully fruity, completely refreshing. I have a feeling we're going back for a case soon.

Galco's Soda Pop Stop

5702 York Boulevard
Highland Park
(323) 255-7115

Tacos el Michoacano

5933 York Blvd
Highland Park

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving Recovery

After a delicious, thoroughly decadent, butter and sugar-filled Thanksgiving in Kentucky, you land Friday night at LAX, hungry (amazingly enough), tired, and tempted to drive directly home and order in. Instead, you swing by Little Toyko and drop in at Hama Sushi. There's no better way to revive your appetite, both for healthy food, and for living in Los Angeles. This tiny sushi bar has become a favorite in this neighborhood, particularly on Thursday nights after visiting the (free) MOCA.

Its no-nonsense signage masks a warm interior and good-natured sushi chefs, particularly after they've consumed a couple Budweisers. Friday night after soothing bowls of miso soup, we enjoyed yellowtail and salmon sushi, spicy tuna cut and hand rolls. We also shared a plate of albacore tuna sashimi--this wasn't my favorite, possibly because of the slivered green onion topping--the fish was fresh, just not to my taste. On other visits, we've enjoyed the salmon skin hand roll--but the crispy, salty fried skins didn't fit our "recovery" mode. Next time.

Hama Sushi
347 E. 2nd St.
(213) 680-3454

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SHF/IMBB Cookie Swap: Cranberry-Orange Drop Cookies

The creative minds behind Sugar High Friday and Is My Blog Burning came up with an excellent idea to help prepare for the holidays--a virtual cookie swap. My contribution, Cranberry-Orange Drop Cookies, have become a holiday staple since I found the recipe in Bon Appetit 3 years ago.

Though the actual recipe calls for a bizillion ingredients, I've defintely added and subtracted in the past--you can replace the dried cranberried with more fresh ones, pistachios with all walnuts, lime juice and zest for the orange. I like to chop the fresh cranberries and the nuts in my food processor, but if you like larger chunks you may want to chop by hand (I end up with cranberries flying all over my kitchen if I do that--but you're probably more careful than me).

The full recipe is here: Cranberry-Orange Drop Cookies. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2005


After some "low key relaxation" (as opposed to all that high-stress relaxation) at Silverlake Wine's Monday night wine tasting, but before we go home to pack for Thanksgiving vacation, dinner at Pho Cafe was just what the doctor ordered. My knowledge of Vietnamese food is virtually nil, and I'm sure LA is home to many more authentic pho joints. Certainly, there must be pho joints where you're not elbow-to-elbow with the painfully hip.

However, Pho Cafe always satisfies. J. gets hot noodle soup with beef balls, I get cold noodles with lemongrass grilled beef. The plates of fresh herbs are piled high, and the beer is cold. The food comes fast and cheap--with an extra plate of what they call egg rolls (Gingergrass calls them imperial rolls) we're outta there in under 1/2 an hour and under $30.

Pho Cafe
2841 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026-2125
(213) 413-0888

Moroccan-spiced salmon with (sort-of) tabbouleh and wilted spinach

This meal was a combo of two different cooking classes I've taken in the past year: one on fish at Be Gourmet in Silverlake, the other on grilling at Hip Cooks at the Brewery downtown. I vastly prefer the classes at Be Gourmet, with chef Tim Ross in his home kitchen. The classes are small (3-5 people), personal, reasonably priced, and I have picked up both new (or improved) techniques and new, easy recipes in the three classes I've taken there. Starting with the name, HipCooks wasn't my favorite. I did learn about a great Armenian market in my neighborhood, and we got a lot of chopping practice. However, while eating the dinner we had constructed, a few friends of the instructor Monika, came over and she started chatting with them, ignoring the class. Then, when it was time for "clean-up" she sat drinking the rest of the wine with her friends, while we followed her instructions. Not that I mind helping clean, but for $50 a pop, I don't expect to scrub her kitchen.

Anyway, to the food. The Moroccan-spiced fish couldn't be easier. Preheat oven to 400. Whirl some coriander, fennel, and cumin seeds in a spice mill (aka an old coffee grinder). Mix in some salt and pepper. Cut your salmon into 2-3 in. cubes, and dip one side in the spice mix. Place the fish pieces spice-side down in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until spices are fragrant and toasty (about 3-4 minutes). Place skillet in oven until fish is cooked thru, about 30 sec-1 minute.

In class, we served this over some wilted spinach with a spicy harissa dressing. Having no harissa on hand, I threw together a half-assed tabbouleh--bulghar, dried mint, lemon, dried cranberries and pine nuts. This was loosely based on the good tabbouleh recipe I got out of the HipCooks class--really less a recipe and more a list of possible add-ins--finely diced fennel, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, etc. Matched the salmon nicely, and with the spinach, it was a healthy, flavorful meal.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Walnut Shortbread

I am in love with these cookies. So simple to make yet sophisticated to eat. They pair wonderfully with a cup of coffee, crisp enough for dunking. A few notes on slight changes I made to the original recipe. First, I sifted my powdered sugar to ensure a smooth batter (though if you sift directly into your stand-mixer bowl, scrape the sugar down into the bowl before turning on the mixer--unless you want to end up with fine white dust all over yourself and your kitchen--not that I would know, of course). Also, in the original, Batali instructs the cook to use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. No specification on what shape or size of cutter, and there's no picture. Instead, I cut them into 2 in. squares, which required a tad more time baking time than he suggested.

Walnut Shortbread

from The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali

4 c. walnut pieces
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. dark brown sugar, packed (I used light brown and the sugar police never showed)
3/4 c. sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Granulated sugar for sprinkling (I forgot this step)

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Spread the walnut pieces on a baking sheet, and toast for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool completely, then blitz in a food processor until just finely ground. Set aside. Reduce oven temp to 300.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and powdered sugar together until very smooth and creamy, then beat in the vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the ground nuts, flour, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm enough to roll, about 30 minutes.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Divide the dough in two, roll one piece out to 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a knife, cut out as many 2 in. squares as you can and place them on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough (you may have to bake multiple batches). Sprinkle each cookie with granulated sugar.
6. Bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes, or until they turn light golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cafe Figaro: A Redeeming Quality?

When I first moved to Los Feliz, Cafe Figaro on Vermont looked like a possible replacement for one of my DC favs, Bistro Du Coin. How wrong I was. The decor is lovely, but I find the food overpriced and instead of a convivial atmosphere, it always seems hushed and snobby. Once I stopped in for a morning cup of coffee to go, and it was $4. It was good coffee, but $4???

Well, last night on the way home I decided I needed some good bread for my eggs. I was walking from the bus stop, and Figaro's right on the way, so against my better judgement, decided to give the bakery portion a try. Remarkably, the service was friendly and they do something I've never seen before--you can buy just half a loaf of bread (it's not precut either, they take a fresh full loaf and cut it). It was still ridiculously expensive ($6 for half a loaf), but the olive bread was crusty outside, pleasantly chewy inside. Next time I'm feeling spendy, lazy and hungry for carbs, I'll stop in again.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Slow Scramble

A few weeks ago, the LA Times food section ran For Luxury That's Worth the Wait, an article about slow-cooking scrambled eggs. This will shock those of you who know me I'm sure, but I'm not exactly a patient person. However, the article cited The Hungry' Cat's Tweety Scramble as a slow-cooked masterpiece, and I'd have to agree, so I was willing to try the technique at home.

I started as the Times instructed--whisked my two eggs with a little fat (olive oil) and salt and pepper. Melted a bit of butter (ok, as you can see by the pic, maybe more than a bit) over extremely low heat, then added the eggs. One good idea mentioned in the article is to rub your wooden stirring spoon with garlic ahead of time, but I'm lazy.

After about 3 minutes of stirring, the eggs started to turn cloudy with a trace of curd. As per instruction, I started varying my strokes to discourage crazy curd development.

This photo was taken after approximately 7 minutes of stirring. More curds were developing, seemingly from the egg whites. Maybe I hadn't whisked well enough prior to scrambling?

At this point, I'd been stirring for 10 minutes, and I'll admit it, I was getting antsy. The eggs had noticeably thickened, but still remained custard-esque. Was I ever going to eat? Plus, I had to toast my bread, and reach for my goat cheese and herbs. How could I do that while continuously stirring? Ack! Turns out there are benefits to having a small kitchen. It was right after the ten minute mark that I stirred in a dollop of goat cheese. A few minutes later I tossed in the herbs.

And just like that (well, someone might have turned the heat up a smidge), they were done. Curdy and shiny. I took the pan off the heat and kept stirring. When the toast was ready, I spread the eggs on top and enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I have to admit, the first time J. and I drove by here, we scoffed at the NY-named bar and subway tile look--cheeseball. However, Bowery's location between our two employers made it a convenient place to meet for an after-work drink without resorting to a more club-like Hollywood venue, and I'm glad we did.

It's a long, narrow space with lots of mirrors. The large front window opens wide to the street, alternately providing fresh air or cigarette smoke. Two tvs above the bar, which normally annoys me, but it works here, perhaps because they're so high and the sound is off.

I started with some sweet potato fries while I waited for J. It may have been my hunger talking, but these tasted fabulous. Crisp on the outside but sweet and slightly creamy on the inside. They were covered in a generous dusting of salt, but it enhanced, not overwhelmed, the sweet potato flavor.

The dinner menu is short and simple--burger, steak, short ribs. The salads both sounded and looked good as well--the cesar and the mixed greens with goat cheese both passed by our table--the portions appeared large and well-dressed.

I opted for the chicken sandwich and J. orderd the burger with the works (mushrooms, gruyere, bacon, sauteed onions). The chicken was disappointing--though the baguette was crisp and well-buttered, the chicken itself was dry and boring. It came au jus, which unfortunately didn't help--the jus tasted like water colored brown. According to J. the burger was tasty, hard not to be with all the accoutrements. However, it came served on an english muffin??? Huh??? Perhaps a interesting concept, but as J. argued, a concept that should have been nixed the first time the kitchen attempted it, particularly when the burger has lots of toppings.

Overall, a solid place for a drink and a snack. Decent wine list, good beer list (despite the $5 cans of PBR--my Midwest roots are appalled at what hipster Angelenos will pay for Pabst), and nice liquor selection, including a solid collection of scotch. Bowery's proximity to the Arclight will I'm sure lead to more visits from us before or after movies. While we haven't eaten at Bowery's neighbor, Magnolia, we have had drinks there and much prefer the space (and service) at Bowery.

6268 Sunset Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 465-3400

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Wonder of Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is just one of the many culinary reasons I love southern California. Its produce sucks, and you can never be sure they won't discontinue your favorite item, but overall, it's brilliant. This pizza dough is but one example. Delicious, yet easy, with plenty of room for creativity (i.e., whatever's in the fridge). Something you can't get anywhere else. Crust turns out crisp, yeasty, and full of herb flavor. F'ing brilliant.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Snaps in a snap

Fresh ginger root is one of those foods where you need just a little but have to buy a lot (celery, parsley and plain yogurt also fall into this category--at least in my cooking world). The curry I made on Friday night called for ginger, but of course a decent chunk of root remained in my fridge.

Therefore, in an attempt at resourcefulness, I decided to try making gingersnaps with the ginger before it became a green moldy lump in my crisper. I shredded the ginger, which resulted in a somewhat stringy mess. In the spirit of experimentation, I tossed it in, and the cookies turned out fine, though some have a few strings sticking straight up. The recipe I adapted called for honey instead of molasses, and though I was skeptical at first, it turned out to be a nice twist.

Gingersnaps with Fresh Ginger
(adapted from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte)

2 1/2 c. sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/4 c. honey
2 1/2 tbsp. finely diced fresh ginger

1) Preheat oven to 350. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment. Sift togeter the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

2) Using an electric mixer, cream the butter. Beat in the sugar to mix, then the egg, then the honey, and then the fresh ginger. Mixing on a slow speed, gradually add the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a spatula as you go. Beat only until thoroughly mixed.

3) Using a teaspoon, place the dough on the baking sheets. Bake until cookies are uniformly brown, about 12-13 minutes. You may have to bake multiple batches. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Tamales By Golly

This weekend, downtown LA hosted the first annual International Tamale Festival. Tamales originated over 5000 years ago as warrior food, easily portable nourishment. Today in the U.S., due to the effort that goes into making them, tamales are usually associated with the Christmas holidays. Tamale vendors can be found all over Los Angeles--from the woman at my bus stop who sells them out of a cooler in a shopping cart, to Mama's Hot Tamales in MacArthur Park, which features tamales from all over Latin America and is run as a community redevelopment program, to the "Euro-Mex" Corn Maiden Tamale stands found at many Farmer's Markets around town.

J. and I headed to the festival yesterday and sampled three different types of tamales.

First, we tried Heavenly Tamales, made by a Catholic church in El Sereno. They had beef tamales only, served with homemade salsa. The masa part of the tamales was fairly dry, though the meat was succulent. The salsa was spicy and added a nice punch to the tamale.

Next up was Tamales Alberto, run by the Tamale Queen. Here we tried the pork tamale with red sauce. I found both the masa and the meat very dry in this one. J. disagreed on the pork--he thought it was just right.

Finally, we succumbed to Mom's Tamales, with the longest line of the festival. It was worth the wait--the tamales here were indeed the best of the bunch. We ordered the chicken mole; the masa was the freshest we'd tasted and the depth of the reddish-brown mole ensured the meat was moist. Mom's Tamales has a storefront in Lincoln Heights that we'll have to check out.

Mom's Tamales
3328 Pasadena Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Friday, November 11, 2005

Flavor of Fall

Inspired by my parents' recent apple-pie making extravaganza, I bought gobs of fuji apples at the farmer's market last weekend with only a vague idea of what I would make. Decided to go for an Apple Streusel Tart with Honey Crust, and conquer my fear of crusts (or at least get some practice). The rolling of the dough was my usual irregular shaped mess. I got it fairly thin, and then carefully tore off pieces and pressed them into the tart pan. Seemed wrong, but tasted great. The crust was actually my favorite part of the tart--it tasted like homemade graham crackers. The shredded filling, while tasty, had a weird texture. I think I would thinly slice the apples in the future. Also, I don't think fujis were the best apple for a baked dish--the recipe recommends Gala, Jonagold, or Winesap.

For more Los Angeles-area apple inspiration, check out this article in the Los Angeles Times about nearby orchards:Acre's of Apples

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Seeds and Pods

Ten years ago, had you told me I’d some day not only use fennel seeds on regular basis, but actually order them in bulk, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. I HATED fennel as a kid. I’d pick the seeds individually out of sausages on pizza, and hunt for them in pasta sauce, picking up on the slightest hint of licorice flavor. Now I can’t get enough. Last week, we made an amazing pork roast, rubbed in fennel salt 1 day ahead of time (recipe here) Since then—the leftover ground salt-fennel mix has been going in everything.

Fennel is not the only spice I love these days—fresh sage leaves, marjoram and mint are finding their way into many meals. Also, can’t get enough of the “pumpkin pie” spices—nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Lately, we’ve been simmering a small pot of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and star anise on the stove to make the house smell divinely fall-like.

Therefore, I was of course thrilled when my first-ever order from Penzey’s Spices arrived on my doorstep today. I had ordered fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garam masala, Chinese cinnamon, and cardamom pods. Having a horrible sense for weights/sizes, the 4 oz. I ordered of each will keep me stocked for many months to come!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Feeding Families Around the World

On the way home tonight, heard a segment on NPR about a new book called Hungry Planet. Photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio, a husband and wife team, travelled the world to interview families about what they ate in a typical week, then photographed the family with the food. The photos featured on the NPR website include American, German, Japanese and Guatemalan families--all of whom display grocery hauls that far outweigh that of another family shown--the Aboubakers, a Sudanese family living in a refugee camp in Chad.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” Hungry Planet

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Herb Fritatta with Three Lilies

Did you know onions, garlic and shallots are all part of the lily family? I didn’t until I made Mario Batali’s Rigatoni with Five Lilies and Ricotta Salata from the Babbo cookbook. Hence, my fritatta title (tribute or rip-off, you decide).

Why a frittata? J, the egg-hater, is out of town, and my quiche crusts are pretty pathetic--I need a lesson on rolling out dough.

Herb Fritatta with Three Lilies

4-5 small potatos
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
1-2 shallots
4 eggs
2-3 oz. goat cheese, softened
1/2 c. or so of mixed fresh herbs, chopped (I used thyme, marjoram and basil)
handful of shredded parmigiano reggiano
kosher salt
olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 400. Slice potatos 1/2 inch thick. If you hate doing dishes like me, toss the slices into the same 9 in. pie pan you’ll use to bake the fritatta. Mix well with a good slug of olive oil, salt, pepper, and finely diced garlic. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes, or until soft.

2) Chop onion and shallots. Saute in olive oil over medium heat until brown and tasty.

3) While your potatos and lilies are cooking, mix the eggs and goat cheese. Again, if lazy and dish-averse, mix with a fork. If you want your custard smooth, whirl in the food processor or blender (you could also add a little cream here for true decadence). Either way, after mixed, stir in chopped herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

4) When potatos are done, turn oven down to 350 and pour sauteed onions over the potatos. Then, cover with egg mixture. Dust top with shredded cheese.

5) Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top is well browned and middle is solid. Let cool a tad before digging in.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cooking for Mr. Late*

A couple Christmas's ago, I picked up Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte and couldn't put it down. The combo of love story and food diary charmed me, though sometimes her "foodiness" (Grains of Paradise a must instead of peppercorns? My palate may be too pedestrian, but I tried them and it wasn't a revelatory experience) was a bit over the top. The book's recipe's are solid and fairly simple. I love the mac n' cheese and through her I discovered boeuf bourguignon (Don't ask about the fish quenelles from the same chapter, however...disaster).

Tonight we whipped up Hesser's Halibut with Chive Oil, and adapted her Potato-Parsnip Sauce into a Potato-Turnip Puree. The halibut is a breeze--drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, roast in a 400 degree oven. All it takes to make chive oil is a whirl in the food processor--chives and olive oil, strain and voilá.

We had searched for parsnips at the Hollywood Farmer's Market this morning, but found none. "December," was the short answer from one farmer. We picked up some turnips instead, and after consulting my bible of late, the Joy of Cooking, determined the substitution would work. You dice the potato and turnip, toss in a saucepan, cover with milk, salt and pepper, and simmer until soft. Again the food processor is put to work--blintz until smooth-ish, return to the saucepan and swirl in some butter. Yum.

*J. doesn't drink lattes...he knows espresso comes after dinner. Timeliness, however, is another story.

Blueberry Coffeecake

How did I manage to marry a man who doesn't like eggs? There's no going back at this point, but I hope he realizes the breakfast sacrifices I'm making on my part. He has tried quiche once or twice, and even proclaims to like the Julia Child version (though I think that has more to do with the significant amounts of cream and bacon more than any appreciation for the humble egg).

Due to the egg ban, my urge for Sunday-morning cooking usually manifests itself in the form of baked goods. This morning frozen blueberries were thawed and the Better Homes and Garden coobook recipie for "fruit" coffeecake was put to use. Lacking buttermilk or sour milk, a combo of leftover mascarpone and 2% was substituted (I have no reasonable cooking justification for that, other than it sounded good). Turned out, it tasted good too, though the butter/sugar/flour topping could use a little work. But for before having actual coffee, not too bad.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Campagnola Trattoria Italiana

I love the neighborhood joints in my area—not the ones written up in the Times or the “in-the-know” foodie finds—but the places with the cheap house wine (or no corkage fee), cozy atmosphere, reliably satisfying main dishes, and a clientele that looks like they actually live in the surrounding blocks. In my vicinity, Il Capriccio, Madame Matisse and Michelangelo's fit this description, and I’ve enjoyed many a low-key Friday night dinner at each.

Yet when I leave my neighborhood to eat, my first instinct is that I must go to an Important Restaurant. Y’know—someplace with credentials. A few positive reviews from respectable media sources, praise from some Chowhounds, the place to try in [insert neighborhood name here]. This philosophy of course makes sense—how often do I make it to Santa Monica for dinner? Might-as-well get the goods while I can.

This is all to say, I was skeptical when J. first suggested Campagnola Trattoria Italiana for dinner in Westwood after hearing Joan Didion read at the Hammer on Saturday night. Where? What? On a list of CitySearch “cheap eats”? Was this really where you were supposed to eat your one night in Westwood????

Lucky for us, the more rational side of my brain took over and reminded me that it was only dinner, and when did I become such a snob?

Campagnola was an excellent reminder that satisfying neighborhood joints could be found west of Highland. It easily met my criteria: Wine--the Primativo we ordered was good and relatively cheap. Atmosphere—soft lights, mirrored walls, candles equaled cozy. Clientele—A combo of UCLA students out on dates and older westsiders (sample conversation: It’ll be fifteen years in December…no I can’t believe we’ve been together this long either…it’s just a miracle…he is my third husband after all).

And most importantly, the food: You start with delicious bread, including tomato and herb foccacia, served with a bright roughly chopped tapenade. J. got the bow tie pasta with peas, proscuitto and cream sauce, while I ordered the tagliatelle bolognese. Both sauces managed a balanced richness, without excess grease. The portions were just right, and the pasta was fresh. Both were the kind of comforting dishes we needed after listening to Ms. Didion’s harrowing reading from her new book about grief, "The Year of Magical Thinking."

Campagnola Trattoria Italiana
1553 Westwood Blvd.
Westwood, CA 90024
(310) 478-7376

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thursday/Friday Green Lasagna

It's Thursday night, normally a pre-weekend going out night for me. But we've already eaten out twice this week, and my responsible side says it's time to stay at home. It's feeling chilly for an LA evening, and I know we've got some left-over ricotta in the fridge and some spinach in the freezer. Plus, we're all out of Trader Joe's frozen lunch specials, so we'll need something to eat for Friday lunch (when it's oh-so-tempting to go out). Lasagna it is.

After a quick glance at Epicurious, The Joy of Cooking and Moosewood, I realize I can come up with my own plan. Quick walk to Albertson's for fresh basil and mozzarella, and we're good to go. I find that the no-cook noodles like lots of sauce to get moist, so definitely use the whole jar. If you're feeling more ambitious than I was, you could dress up the sauce by sauteeing some onions, mushrooms and garlic to add....but that means more pans to wash, and sometimes that's not what you want on Thursday night.

Thursday/Friday Green Lasagna

1 16 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach (Trader Joe's is great)
32 oz ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
handful fresh basil, chopped
kosher salt
jar of prepared pasta sauce (Whole Foods 365 Roasted Red Pepper is good)
1 pkg. no-cook lasagna noodles

1) Preheat oven to 375.
2) Thaw and drain spinach
3) In large bowl, mix spinach, ricotta, 1 c. mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and pepper.
4) In 9x12 pan, lay one layer of lasagna noodles. Top with even layer of cheese mixture, then spread some sauce on that. Repeat until you run out of noodles. Top the last layer of noodles with left-over sauce, then sprinkle last 1/2 c. of mozzarella on top.
5) Bake for 45 minutes, and let sit a little while before you dig in.

Serve with mixed green salad, and enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.