Friday, March 31, 2006

A Final Homecooked Meal: Scallop Chowder

Last Friday, as I was scrambling to pull myself together for a work week in Washington, my brain was frankly more interested in deciding what to cook that night, my last meal before a slew of breakfast-lunch-dinners out in DC. After the position papers were collated, last-minute meetings set, pantyhose packed, and sensible yet stylish shoes purchased in anticipation of skittering from one Congressional office to the next, I finally stopped off at the Fish King in Glendale, and immediately wondered why I'd never been before. This fishmonger has a wide-ranging selection of the freshest looking seafood I've seen in the area--better than Whole Foods, even. Slabs of salmon, whole rainbow trout, a stack of kumomoto oysters. Live lobsters and enormous crabs; plus, freezers filled with homemade fish stock, lobster bisque, and other seafood creations. There's an anemic but useful produce section (onions, garlic, couple tomatos), and fresh bread.

I had planned on mussels, but instead settled on some small bay scallops, with the idea of chowder slowly forming in my brain. I picked up what else I thought I might need--some of the aforementioned fish stock, an onion, a bit of half and half, and a baguette.

At home, Epicurious once again to the rescue--I modified this recipe for a superb soup. I had no bacon, but did have a bunch of shiitake mushrooms (which I sauteed seperately and mixed in at the end). Used the fish stock instead of clam juice; half and half instead of cream. Also omitted the thyme but mixed in a handful of roughly chopped tarragon at the end for a bit of green color and licorice flavor. My only regret is that I had to get on a plane the next morning and J. got all the leftovers.

Fish King
720 North Glendale Avenue
Glendale, California 91206

Erin's Kitchen Recipe Index: Meats and Fishes; Soups and Salads
Erin's Kitchen LA Restaurant Index: East-ish

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Recovery Rice Bowl

Sometimes, enough is enough. Enough eating out. Enough butter. Enough red meat. Enough complicated presentations and 12-step recipes. You just want a simple supper that's about sustanence, not entertainment; something to calm your senses instead of overwhelm them.

Recovery Rice Bowl

1/2 c. cooked black rice**
1 c. frozen, shelled edamame, thawed (Trader Joe's sometimes has fresh, shelled edamame, too)
sesame seeds
salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together. Eat. Go do something not food-related.

**I had never made black rice before, but after searching a bit on the internet, I boiled 1/2 a cup of rice in a cup of water. It seems to cook very quickly and stays a bit soupy, which works for this dish. The water turns a lovely purplish color, too!

Erin's Kitchen Recipe Index: Pasta, Rice, Eggs

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Downbeat Cafe

Last night Echo Park's Downbeat Cafe took me two places at once: both back to high school and to college. High school first--last night's jazz combo was a couple of talented high school kids, a girl on the piano and boy on the bass. As they goofed with their friends and snuck out front for a cigarette, I recalled the thrill of visiting the first artsy coffee shop to open in downtown La Crosse, WI--Jules. Sipping mochas with Kelly, hashing out the trials and tribulations of high school, sneaking glances at the older indie boys a few seats down. Oh, the angst--if only we had known we'd each end up in places where artsy coffee shops are a dime a dozen.

Then, to college: specifically, The Haymarket, a crunchy veggie coffeeshop in Northampton, MA. Many a night was whiled away studying, draining cup after cup of strong coffee. Often my friends and I spent more time talking than studying, and of course, still checking out the indie boys at the next table.

J and I have been heading to the Downbeat lately for our form of post-college studying (aka work), laptops in hand. The Downbeat does not have wireless, which means I actually accomplish something when I'm there. It does have simple and tasty sandwiches and salads--nothing special, but freshly made with good ingredients. I can always count on the turkey and avocado sandwich, as well as the Greek salad, heaped with feta, olives and tomatos. They usually have a soup o' the day which seems to stretch leftover or exceedingly basic ingredients to the max (last night they featured onion, on a previous trip the soup was garlic, which I can't recommend).

And of course, I've heard the Downbeat is a good place to sneak glances at cute indie boys.

Downbeat Cafe
1202 N Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90026-3127
(213) 483-3955

Erin's Kitchen Restaurant Index: Los Angeles: East-ish

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Shot of Summer

Berry Smoothies
Originally uploaded by erinsikorskystewart.
I can't take it any more. If we lived in Seattle, fine. Or if we lived in North Dakota, I'd handle the March snows. But Los Angeles? Cold and rainy every single week? CANNOT take it. After three years of living here, I'll admit it, I've become soft. I need not only sunshine, but warmth. Please can't I wear my flip flops soon??

The sun did peek out for most of the day Sunday, and we were able to sneak to the farmer's market for early season strawberries. Whirled into a breakfast smoothie, they brightened our spirits, and almost made up for the lack of vitamin D. It also got us our dose of antioxidants, just like Sweetnicks encourages us to do for ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday.

Very Berry Smoothie

1/2-3/4 pint washed and roughly chopped strawberries
a couple handfuls blackberries
juice of two mid-sized oranges
1 Trader Joe's Strawberry Yogurt

Toss all ingredients into the blender and whirl til well mixed.

Erin's Kitchen Recipe Index: Cookies, Cakes, Breads and other treats

Monday, March 20, 2006

Whaddya mean simmer?

According to this article, fewer and fewer Americans have a basic cooking vocabulary.
At Kraft Foods, recipes never include words like “dredge” and “sauté.” Betty Crocker recipes avoid “braise” and “truss.” Land O' Lakes has all but banned “fold” and “cream” from its cooking instructions. And Pillsbury carefully sidesteps “simmer” and “sear.”

When the country's top food companies want to create recipes that millions of Americans will be able to understand, there seems to be one guiding principle: They need to be written for a nation of culinary illiterates.

Ouch. Is it really that bad? One speculative reason given that many of today's adults had mom's that worked full time, hence no kitchen knowledge. That can't be it--BOTH of my parents worked full time, yet they were able to teach me the basics--how to follow a recipe, how to make a roux, how to grease the INSIDE of the pan (yes, according to the article some folks think you should grease the outside).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunny Sunday Brunch: Campanile

Sunlight is an essential ingredient for a splendid Sunday brunch. Whether you're nursing a hangover or have already been up for hours, streaming sunlight makes you feel so healthy and lovely that you can ignore the fact that you're lazily wasting the late morning/early afternoon away drinking coffee and eating fancified (aka more expensive) breakfast items.

Campanile has sunshine in spades, shining through skylights in its front atrium--the perfect place to while away our mid-day, waiting for our friends trying to battle the LA Marathon traffic. We started with coffee of course, followed by a peach bellini for J and a Lillet-spiked OJ for me. Lillet, a citrusy French apertif, signals summer weather to me, which we could really use around here. A basket of baked goods began our meal--you can order pastries individually from an ever-changing selection, but a basket saves you a buck or two. We munched a warm apple turnover and huckleberry frangiapane tart--both more dessert-like than breakfast-like, but the best pastries usually are.

After realizing we had picked the worst possible place to meet up on marathon day (our poor friends were stuck outside a circle of blocked off streets), and a friendly warning from the waitress that the kitchen would soon stop taking orders, J and I ordered sans companions. Knowing Campanile's sister spot La Brea Bakery was the bread source, J went for the french toast with lingonberry jam and a side order of sausage. Since the pastries had already filled my sweet urge, I headed towards the spring quiche, with pea tendrils, asparagus and goat cheese. Both were delicious--the french toast a delicate balance of crispy outside and just-a-tad squishy inside, richly vanilla and eggy. The spring flavors of the quiche popped and kept it from unbearable richness.

Overall, a place I would visit again, particularly when I'd like to linger, or show out-of-town guests the glory of a sunny California weekend. I will note that the prices of some items are on the expensive side, even, in my opinion, for a high-end restaurant. The pastries are $5 a pop--they are fantastic and freshly made, but perhaps the $3-4/range would suffice? Also, drinks--$10 for my Lillet concoction and $12 for a Bellini. However, other items are extremely reasonable for the quality -- french toast was only $10 -- about the same as many a trendy yet flavorless spot in our hipster neighborhood.

I must also give big kudos to our waitress who graciously served our friends when they arrived well after the kitchen closed--she brought bread and pastries, and kept offering to refill our coffee cups long after every other table emptied. The epitome of excellent service.

624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3568
(323) 938-1447

Erin's Kitchen Restaurant Index: West-ish

Thursday, March 16, 2006


This was posted in the LA Times Food Section on Wednesday--

If you've been itching to check out Secret Restaurant the invitation-only, cash-in-an-envelope dinner prepared by L.A. chefs-du-moment at Marvimon House near Chinatown, now's your chance. On Saturday, New York composer-pianist Andrew Shapiro will perform new works there on a Steinway concert grand. The chefs, who host Miguel Nelson says will be an ensemble from Lucques and Grace and AOC, are still working on the menu. They're actually trying to pair the food and the drink to the music that's being played at the time you're tasting, he says. Shows are at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. $65 per person, including cocktails. For tickets, e-mail

Sounds cool right? Too cool, as it turns out-

Subj-2 tix for Sat, 11 pm

Hi there,
I'd like to reserve two spaces for Saturday's event at 11 pm.
Thank you, Erin

Re-2 tix for Sat, 11 pm

thanks for your interest. this event is totally private, so i need to know how you were invited in order to proceed.

To-Sherry Walsh/marvimonrsvp

Hi Sherry,
There was a blurb in the LA times about the event with this email as a RSVP, so I assumed anyone could buy tix.
Thanks, Erin

From-Sherry Walsh/marvimonrsvp

i know. sorry for the confusion. the times was not given permission to print the details of our private event. we have been forced to cancel it.


Poor Sherry. Think of how many emails to mere plebians she's had to send this week.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Easy Weeknight Meals: Turkey Meatballs

Cook at home on Friday night? The recipe better be exceedingly easy but also damn delicious. At least in my world, the temptation to eat out Friday night is huge after a busy week of work.

Last Friday, temptation was resisted here in LaLa Land--we were saved by turkey meatballs. Well, to be honest our savior was Ms. 30 Minute Meals herself, Rachael Ray. I've never actually seen her show, but I've picked up her new mag, Every Day with Rachael Ray and actually like its tone and layout (once I got over the pics of her smiling mug on every other page). I adapted her recipe a bit, cooked up a pot of buttered egg noodles, and we were good to go. Um, good to go spend our saved dinner-out money on drinks instead.

Turkey Meatballs

1 lb. ground turkey (Trader Joe's usually has good stuff)
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 garlic cloves, diced finely
1 egg
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 tsp. pizza-like seasonings (I used my free sample of Penzey's pizza seasoning, a mix of fennel, oregeno, etc)
Olive oil (okay, EVOO if you must)

1) Preheat ove to 400.
2) In a large bowl, mix the turkey, onion, garlic, milk, bread crumbs, cheese, and seasonings. Don't be a wimp; go ahead and use your hands.
3) Once mixed, shape into eight largish meatballs and place on a baking sheet.
4) Drizzle with olive oil, put in the oven, and cook for 25 minutes. While you wait, toast the fact that it's Friday with a big ol' glass of wine.

Erin's Kitchen Recipe Index: Easy Weeknight Meals

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Favorite Things Saturday: Hitachino Nest White Ale

My friend Jill has begun Favorite Things Saturday for folks to share things, ideas and places they love. My list of favorite foods and drinks is probably infinite, but I'll start with Hitachino Nest White Ale. I discovered this Japanese brew at Buddha's Belly, an otherwise fairly forgettable restaurant. It's crisp, pleasantly sour and slightly citrus. A crumpled receipt with the name scrawled on it had been floating around my kitchen for over a year, but I never saw it in the store. Finally, on a recent trip to the restaurant supply store Surfas, I saw this little pink owl looking up at me from a stack near the check-out line. And I just had to take him (and lots of his friends) home.

Friday, March 10, 2006

SHF #17: Goat Cheese and Lemon Cheesecake

From the 405 to the 710 to the 5--all the way home from Laguna Beach, all I could think about was my cheesecake, sitting patiently in my fridge. 10 p.m. on the dot, I open my front door, zoom straight to the fridge, and pull 'er out. No cracks, perfectly browned crust, she still looks as good as she did when I carefully placed her on the shelf the night before. A few minutes later, slice on plate, fork in mouth--yum.

I can't truly trace the genisis of the goat cheese idea. On my way to the market, as I ruminated on the dairy theme for this month's Sugar High Friday, it seemed to pop in my head out of nowhere. I picked up what I thought I might need, and went home to scour the internet and my cookbooks for recipes. I found precious little in the sweet category, except for an Emeril Legasse version featuring too much sugar for my tastes, Grand Marnier (blech), and a lot of sour cream (double blech). So I struck out on my own, with a bit of guidance from Joy of Cooking, which gives dire warnings of the dangers of omitting a waterbath for the cake. I threw caution to the wind, baked her in the springform pan alone, and was quite pleased with the results.

Goat Cheese and Lemon Cheesecake


Lemon and Goat Cheesecake


Goat and Lemon Cheesecake (well, maybe not)

1 c. ground walnuts
4 tbsp. melted butter
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
12 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
zest and juice of 1-2 lemons
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Mix ground walnuts and butter in a medium bowl. Press mixture into the bottom of your favorite springform pan, which you have already buttered/greased. Put crusty pan in fridge until you need it later. Once you are sure your cream cheese is soft enough, toss it in your stand mixer or a big ol' bowl and mix on medium speed until smooth. Mix in yer goat cheese until blended, then add and blend in sugar. One at a time, add your eggs. Toss the zest, lemon juice and vanilla in, mix a bit more until incorporated. Pour mixture into crust-lined pan, and bake for approx. 55 minutes, until sides are set and middle's just a tiny bit jiggly. Cool completely on a rack, then force yourself to be patient and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. It's worth the wait.

Note: Most every recipe I looked at included about 1/2 c. of cream as well. I didn't have any, so I didn't use any, and I liked the consistency of my cheesecake just fine. If you're a supersmooth kinda person, you many want to add it.

+ +

Erin's Kitchen Recipe Index: Cookies, Cakes, Breads and Other Treats

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

French Fried

I have not been kind to my arteries this week. Three of the past five nights, french fries (or their close cousin, the onion ring) have magically appeared on my plate and I was forced to eat them. If you count "ordering" as magic, I suppose. In my defense….hmmmm…can’t think of anything. Howabout a fry moratorium for the next few weeks? In the meantime, I can relive the decadence through the following reports.

1) Friday, 8 p.m., Good Microbrew and Grill (Silverlake)
I think J and I spent as much time deciding to eat here as we did actually eating. Ultimately, the allure of casual Friday night beers outweighed any desire for delectable dining. Good’s a beer place first and foremost, with a list of hundreds. Though the food descriptions are intensely adjective-d, it’s your basic bar menu. My turkey sandwich was surrounded by golden brown onion rings, freshly battered and fried. It also came with a side of Like A Prayer—Good has a gazillion TVs and all were (loudly) tuned to Madonna’s most recent concert.

2) Monday, 10 p.m., The Brite Spot (Echo Park)
The Brite Spot is an old school LA diner that has turned slightly new school to accommodate the neighborhood influx of hipsters. Nearly every item on the extensive menu has a vegan option, and on most of our visits we’ve seen many more headbanded mullets than uniforms of its chili’s namesake, the LA Fire Department. Open ‘til 4 a.m., I much prefer its simple sandwiches and veggie soup to the other nearby all-night diner, Fred 62. Despite the healthier options of cottage cheese or fresh fruit, my tired brain was lured by the side of fries to accompany my BLT. Here they’re thin and crisp, sprinkled with a slightly spicy red powder. Per no request of ours, our waitress brought us not one but two containers of jiggly mayo for the fries, and seemed disappointed that we didn’t partake.

3) Tuesday, 6:00 p.m., In&Out Burger (Oakland, CA)
After a day of briefing Congressional candidates on U.S. nuclear weapons policies, but before depositing my rental and facing the hordes at the Southwest terminal of the Oakland aiport, I needed simple and fast sustenence. After ordering my cheeseburger and fries, I zoned out and watched the fry boy shove potato after potato in the magical slicing machine (basically, an industrial strength mandoline). Shoomp. Shoomp. Shoomp. They had to call my number 4 times before I awoke from my reverie. Of course, the fries were worth it.

Good Microbrew and Grill
3725 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026-1527
(323) 660-3645

The Brite Spot
1918 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026-3229
(213) 484-9800

Find the one closest to you here

photo by jbelluch

Restaurant Index: Los Angeles: East-ish

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Roatan Report, Part 2: Plantains and Shrimp

Considering we were surrounded on all sides by the Caribbean, it’s no surprise that seafood played a starring role in most of our meals on Roatan. Of course, access to fantastically fresh lobster, fish and shrimp doesn’t automatically translate into restaurants that know how to cook it, and we had a few overdone lobsters during our trip. However, we found fried seafood a universally safe bet, and multiple joints served amazing conch soup, often in a yellow curry base, with a side of homemade coconut bread.

Our condo’s kitchen was well-appointed and our table with a view of the ocean beckoned, so we did cook for ourselves a few nights. Though the grocery store had little to offer, the pick-up trucks lining the streets of West End were laden with pineapples, plantains, avocados and other home-grown veggies. We also managed to discover a seafood vendor (again, from the back of a truck) and picked up a pound of shrimp for a ridiculously low price. Hence, our favorite island supper consisted of rice, plantain chips, and shrimp sauteed in garlic and butter. In particular, I was pleased with the plaintain chips—peeling them is a ridiculous exercise (I was without this tool the NYT profiled recently), but it was worth the effort. When you take a bite, the crispy, salty exteriors give way to creamy, sweet, slightly starchy insides—an evocative island food.

Plantain Chips

firm plantains
vegetable oil
lime juice

Warning: This is less of a recipe, and more like general instructions—I know it’s kind of vague.
First, you want to slice and peel your plantains. I found the easiest way to peel was to slice into ½ inch pieces first, make a small cut in the peel on each slice, and then pull the peels off. Then, heat your oil over medium heat—I used about ¼ c of oil for two large plantains, but it use your judgement based on the quantity of your plantains. Once oil is heated, toss in your slices and salt liberally. Turn heat to medium-low, and fry for quite awhile—up to 20 minutes. The time will depend on the ripeness of your plantains. I just kept testing slices along the way until you like the taste. When done frying, let them drain on a paper towel-lined plate. After a few minutes, transfer to serving dish and squeeze lime juice on them to taste.

Recipe Index: Cookies, Cakes, Breads and Other Treats

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Refuel at Ford's Filling Station

Last week's vacation means this week I'm working late. When I stay at the office past 8, if I ask J nicely, he'll come pick me up and we'll visit somewhere nearby for dinner. Last night we decided to sample Ford's Filling Station, a new spot that already has Angelenos talking (See here and here).

We followed our usual method and grabbed a couple stools at the bar--these were precious commodities, as the host explained they're still waiting on a shipment of stools--hence a few of the tables in the bar are currently chair-less.

The menu begins with an interesting list of cured meats. We decided to share a mix of sweet sopprasetta, smoked paprika sausage and proscuitto. All were excellent, particularly the proscuitto (a good reminder that not all proscuittos are equal--why do we ever buy the junk at Albertson's??). However, the large serving of meat came with merely three small slices of french bread. I like my meat as much as the next Wisconsin girl, but particularly with the proscuitto, I like a little starch with it too.

For main courses, I settled on the walleye pike with fennel mash and leek cream, two of my favorite veggies. J hemmed and hawed, vascillating between the steak or leg of lamb, but finally kept it simple and went for the chopped sirloin burger, with blue cheese and carmelized onions. The walleye, a fish you don't see often in restaurants, came with the top skin intact and nicely grilled. The creamy flesh matched well with the spicy fennel and sweet leeks. According to J, the burger wasn't as good as the Hungry Cat's or even Nick and Stef's, but it satisfied. The fries received high praise, crispy, potato-y, and sprinkled with chopped herbs.

J was sucked in by the butterscotch pudding for dessert (one of his favorite flavors from childhood, I now know). I shared a few bites, but it didn't do much for me--too sweet.

One final note, they have a great wine list. It's a bit pricey, but we had some excellent glasses. I started with a Paige 23 Syrah from Santa Barbara, and the bartender paired a nice glass of Sancerre with my fish.

Ford's fits nicely in the neighborhood, and I'm always happy to have new places near my office. It was already packed last night, and I'm sure once the inevitable LA Times review hits the stands, strolling in for a seat at the bar will be difficult, so sneak in while ya can.

Ford's Filling Station
9531 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 202-1470