Superb Simple Summer Salad

We are currently sans kitchen at Magnolia Gardens, which means trying some creative (read: simple) recipes. Without a sing with a modicum of water pressure, dishes are kind of disgusting to scrub in the bathtub, and food bits will sully any oft-used sinks. Thus, we’re left to paper plates, plasticware and when absolutely necessary – thoroughly scrubbing (with paper towel) any real silverware or plates that are ‘must use.’

Thus, salads are high on the priority list and grilling becomes second nature. It’s summer, so fortunately both of these things are perfect for the season – a cool salad doesn’t generally involve cooking (all you need is a plate and a fork!) and grilling only involves foil and tongs. Perfect complementary cooking approach – and this dish combines both into one beautifully composed quasi-meal.

Most importantly, burrata is now available at the Ralph’s down the street, which makes me and The Missus very happy. We recently found out about burrata (in a peach salad, no less) – it’s mozzarella with a cream ‘filling,’ a decadent, hearty addition to a salad. Excited to utilize the burrata, and knowing we had peaches, I opted for an apple, a pear (both of which I had), arugula & an heirloom tomato to round out the dish. I was a bit leery about the tomato being included with peach, apple and arugula, but I couldn’t resist the tart crunchiness a perfect heirloom provides.

And it worked. Hopefully you enjoy this really easy, perfect-for-summer salad.

peachpearburrata

Ingredients

  • one good slab of burrata
  • two peaches, sliced into thick rounds
  • one apple, diced into small cubes
  • one pear, diced into small cubes
  • one heirloom tomato, diced
  • basil, chiffonaded
  • handful of small arugula leaves
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • fruity extra virgin olive oil

for the dressing

  • 1 tbsp, balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsbp, honey

Directions

  • whisk vinegar and honey in small bowl. cover and set aside
  • plate apple, pear, arugula and tomato into two equal servings
  • grill peach slices until slightly charred with nice grill marks (1 minute). turn over and grill other side for 30 seconds. set on plate
  • place burrata on top
  • sprinkle basil evenly
  • add salt and pepper, to taste
  • drizzle EVOO, to taste
  • serve while finishing off your special glazed grilled chicken drumsticks

 

 

 

 

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Afternoon Cheese Plate

A cheese plate is one of my simplest culinary pleasures. I always make sure to have several hard cheeses & at least one soft cheese on hand for those lazy afternoons where cooking is just too hot. Or annoying. Or time-consuming.

There are infinite varieties on cheese plates, and many are more elegant than mine – charcuterie, anyone? – but when I get the afternoon munchies, I get my:

cheeses I’m not a cheese snob, nor even an aficionado. I like to try new cheeses, and will grab anything that looks interesting at Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Parmigiano Reggiano is the backbone of my cheeseplate 99% of the time. It’s just so versatile and pleasing, complements basically everything. Dutch Rembrandt is another favorite, it’s an aged gouda. I tend to like the Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, but the cheddars don’t generally mesh well with too many other ingredients (below). Emmentaler Swiss is another crowd-pleaser, but delve into whatever you like.

crackers the more variants, the better – but I like them with a firm crunch; Croccantini are classic cracker buddies.  even Wheat Thins work in a pinch

herbs an oft-overlooked aspect of a robust cheese plate, herbs provide both a flavor & aesthetic pop. basil is the most all-encompassing herb and Italian parsley has a natural flavor affinity to most of the hard cheeses, but cilantro is pretty versatile as well. I’ve used Mexican mint or sage, but both are limited in the scope of flavors they can partner with.

peppers peppers actually begat the genesis of the cheese plate at Magnolia Gardens. jalapeños, serranos, habaneros are all perfect; I prefer to have all three, in fact, so you get the classic ‘stoplight’ flavor string of red, orange/yellow & green. adds a perfect punch and a nice crispness to the bite of cheese/cracker/herb &

honey credit goes to my wife on this one, as she loves to dip the crackers (specifically Croccantini) in the honey prior to adding the cheese, herb and pepper. the sweetness of the honey comforts the spice of the pepper as well, so it serves an additional purpose in that regard.

fruit grapes cleanse the palate perfectly, and actually work with most of the nutty cheeses. apples add a great crispness and can be a sweet or tart addition, and pears accentuate the cheese with a sweet succulence. berries can be added as well for a sparkle of color and a juicy addendum between bites of salty, nutty crunch.

nuts not pictured below, slivered almonds or diced pecans pair well with the honey and nearly all cheeses.

cheese

So whatever your iteration, a cheese plate should be a consistent inclusion in your snack rotation.

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Peanut Butter Bacon Bites

Bacon = everybody’s guilty pleasure. Extra crunchy peanut butter = all things considered, my favorite snack food. Maybe, just maybe, my favorite food period. A combination of the two might be crunch overload for some, but it’s right up my texturally-oriented alley. Combine some natural sweetness with the honey and add a nice carb-laden vehicle for oral delivery and well. . .you have what is arguably the most crunchily satisfying snack on the planet.

Perfect for tailgating parties (where the idea was born in 2012), picnics, bbqs, kids’ parties or just plain munching – this is a truly awesome – and easy! – snack.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb, high-quality bacon
  • 4 pieces bread – I used a sliced kaiser roll here, but plain white bread is ideal. The softness combined with its ability to crunch properly upon toasting is perfect.
  • peanut butter – I prefer extra crunchy (a brand called Krema is my favorite – literally 100% peanuts, and left in nice-sized crunch bitelets)
  • honey, enough to drizzle a complete layer on the peanut butter

pb1

Directions

  • really fry the bacon to a good crisp, but don’t let it burn. once crisped properly, set it on a paper towel and let it rest
  • if you are using white bread toast until crisp; any other kind of bread toast lightly
  • spread crunchy peanut butter on bread evenly while toast is still warm [if you keep your peanut butter in the refrigerator, leave it out an hour before you start this recipe]
  • drizzle honey generously over the peanut butter but don’t overdo it
  • apply bacon evenly on toast
  • eat open- or closed- faced
  • grab some milk, this is a definite mouthful guaranteed to leave you smiling

pb2

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Blog Crossover

Today I featured a recipe on my fatherhood blog, Me & Felix Bae.
It’s simple, it’s intended for a baby & it’s honestly delicious. For an ‘adult’ version I’d add more salt & pepper plus celery, green onion and parsley toward the end. Still really simple, and maybe an idea for a future appetizer – a soup inspired solid. Hmmm. . .Anyway, Check it out – hope you enjoy.

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Seriously Simple Summer Salmon Salad

Ahhh, to be young again. And eat carbs with everything. And not have to think of creative ways to eat salad and pretend to enjoy it even though it’s only enjoyable because it’s healthy.

Well – I can’t help with the fountain of youth; definitely don’t advise eating carbs nonstop (do as I say, not as I do); but I can definitely provide at least one salad that’s guilt-free, delicious, light and perfect for summer. Oh yeah – it’s simple. Literally ten minutes and you’re good to go. Ready? I bet you are – especially if you’re on the west coast and your supermarket is flooded with this fresh, wild caught keta salmon (aka dog salmon, no joke).

Keta is only $4.99 right now at my local Ralphs, and that was impetus enough for me to buy three pounds, and has me thinking about going back to get about ten pounds to freeze. Apparently, keta is the most abundant type of salmon and thusly the least commercially valuable. The texture is as luscious and buttery as sockeye, but it lacks the wallop of clean salmon flavor. It’s a lighter fish with a lighter flavor, which may appeal to your friends or family that is not particularly fond of salmon.

Regardless, I love it and this salad – especially on a beautiful L.A. summer day – was perfect. Enjoy.

summersalmonsalad

Ingredients

  • fresh, wild caught salmon – skin on (keta, sockeye, copper river preferred)
  • spinach, handful of fresh leaves
  • roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • capers, a pinch
  • fennel fronds, torn
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • brown sugar, to taste
  • serrano pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • peanut oil

Dressing (optional)

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp ponzu sauce
  • 1 tsp, Sriracha
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • lemon zest
  • fennel fronds, torn

Directions

  • heat oven to 375°F
  • season salmon liberally with salt, pepper & brown sugar
  • heat grill pan on stove
  • set spinach, tomato, red onion, capers on plate and salt lightly
  • add peanut oil to grill pan
  • apply lemon juice and pepper to leaves
  • once oil shimmers, add salmon skin side down
  • grill pan should be very hot, circulate peanut oil (be careful!) as salmon skin is searing
  • turn heat down to medium-hot
  • let salmon grill for 4 minutes
  • remove pan from stove, put in oven for 6 minutes or until desired doneness
  • remove grill pan from oven, immediately remove salmon from skin and onto wooden surface
  • let salmon cool 2-3 minutes, place on bed of leaves
  • serve with or without dressing
  • if cooked properly, the salmon skin should be absolutely PERFECT for removal within ten minutes of the grill pan being removed from heat. I am a salmon skin junkie and relish this ‘chef’s treat’ each time I make salmon. Would theoretically be good crumbled on salad, but it never makes it past my mouth.

 

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Not Chicken Parmesan

We’re theoretically eating a low-carb diet this week, which may or may not have everything to do with our venture to Vegas this weekend. It’s the first time in my life I’ve tried any sort of approach nearing low-carbs, and essentially the only tenets I’m holding loyal to are:

no bread, no pasta, no flour, no rice, no dessert, no crunchy snacks outside of carrots.

Not too infuriating, and still allows for some creativity and luscious eating if done properly (and also, an overdose on Krema chunky peanut butter, which is 100% pure peanuty nuttiness). That said, Bon Appetit had a great ‘New Chicken Parmesan’ recipe from their ‘boneless, skinless’ recipes feature, and it’s not only delicious, it was incredibly swift. Delicious, unique, swift and borderline low-carb?

I served this one with mashed fauxtatoes (cauliflower + garlic + cream cheese, recipe later) which was a great pseudo-carb complement.

not chicken parmesan

Ingredients

  • boneless, chicken chicken breasts
  • freshly shaved/grated parmesan
  • mozzarella – we used the real deal, sliced thiny
  • grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • EVOO
  • garlic, diced
  • basil, full leaves
  • 2 tbps fresh oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • brown sugar

Directions

  • place tomatoes in mixing bowl with generous EVOO, garlic, oregano. let marinate for 10 – 30 minutes
  • preheat oven to 500° F
  • set tomatoes on roasting sheet
  • use remaining oil (from tomatoes) to dress chicken, then season with salt, pepper, sugar
  • place chicken atop the tomatoes, roast for 12 minutes (assuming 8 oz. chicken breast; adjust accordingly)
  • pull out chicken, drape mozzarella over chicken and return to oven
  • roast for 2-4 additional minutes or until melted and properly browned
  • serve, swallow and smile!

 

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Appetizer (or dessert) for a Pear of Goats

While making some baby food for Felix last night, we had an extra half pear, and I also wanted dessert. Perfect timing, right? Well I’m actually not huge on pears, and I am generally reluctant to use them in cooking – or even have them in the house, really. Regardless, I know they pair well with cheese and we did happen to have some good goat cheese in the house. My wife has taken to utilizing honey as a main component of our cheese plates, so I knew that would accompany this budding dessert well. And pine nuts? When toasted, they add a rich, buttery flavor with a nice crisp texture. The balsamic would be the perfect balance because of the tart, sour notes.

In short, I’m pretty happy with the composition of this dish – the bonus is that it’s more appetizer than dessert, so feel free to use it for both. Yum.

peargoatpine

Ingredients

  • sliced pear
  • goat cheese
  • honey
  • toasted pine nuts 
  • subtle drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Directions

  • toast pine nuts
  • dab goat cheese on pear slices
  • drip honey on each piece
  • subtly drizzle balsamic on goat cheese
  • add pine nuts
  • serve at a party and be the guilt-free hero

 

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The Business (Cards) of Food

This is a project that’s been about a decade in the making. Inspired initially by my college roommate, and subsequently VMac and Cheese, I finally decided to put  a select segment of my business card collection on display:

bizcards

The restaurants featured are:

  • Gordon Ramsay at the London
  • The Little Door
  • Spago
  • Fig
  • The Bazaar at SLS
  • Hinoki and the Bird
  • Melisse
  • Mozza
  • Gjelina
  • Sasabune
  • Alma
  • Chego
  • Providence
  • ink
  • Animal

These are the business cards from some of our favorite meals in Los Angeles. Singularly, Urasawa is featured as it’s the best individual meal experience I’ve ever enjoyed:

urasawa

Finally putting those pack-rat skills to good use, I suppose. Tim, a shout out to you my Brooklynite Brother. Told you we’d finally get it done.

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Magnolia Gardens

I never thought I would be a gardener.

In fact, I never even anticipated growing my own food, or tending to produce, or wondering when the next harvest would be ready. I really never thought I’d be dealing with slugs, aphids, grasshoppers and caterpillars. I also never knew that I’d appreciate just how cathartic and invigorating heading into the garden on a brisk morning with my gloves, compost, shears and fertilizer would be.

I also didn’t realize how rewarding it would be to pull a radish, a strawberry, a snow pea and just eat it right off the plant, becoming mesmerized with both the beauty of the flavor and the resonance of the idea that I created this vegetable, nurturing it from seed to bloom.

I also never thought that I’d name my garden, but here we are – Magnolia Gardens is in full swing, and now that it’s yet another beautiful Spring in Sherman Oaks, I wanted to share some of the images from my various garden experiences that have helped inspire me to continue to expand my repertoire and my palette.

I hope you enjoy.

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hydrange

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Salmon Sandy

As previously discussed, we’re always looking for fun/creative ways to enjoy salmon because its not exactly the favorite water-dwelling creature of my wife. That, and the fact that when I was first learning to cook, I prepared it identically the first maybe 100 times we ate it. That will peach melba anything for a person.

(‘peach melba’ is the term I use to describe when you wake up one day and suddenly no longer enjoy – or are repulsed by – a flavor or food. When I was 11 years old, I’d come home from school and have a peach melba flavored yogurt every single day for about four months. One day, I opened it and was forever disgusted by the thought of peach melba yogurt. To this day, I don’t fully enjoy peachy cream items).

Personally, I am distinctly not peach melba’d on salmon and could have it literally every day. So when I was at Whole Foods ‘just browsing,’ and came across the fresh, wild caught Coho salmon for an eye-popping $12.99, I had to jump on it and figure out a way to present without being too salmony. Sandwiches are always winners, and with fish like this there is no need to bring too much to the party – simple, easy, colorful and pleasing as peach melba pie, this salmon sandwich is a winner for any lunch and dinner.

 

salmonsandy

Ingredients

  • 1 strong sandwich roll, I used wheat.
  • 2 tbsp., mixed oil (EVOO + canola)
  • 1 lb., fresh salmon
  • sliced red onion
  • sliced tomato
  • sliced jalapeño
  • non-wilting lettuce
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • brown sugar, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • ancho chili powder (optional)

sauce:

  • 3 tbsp, mexican crema
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp, cholula
  • fresh fennel (dill is fine)
  • garlic powder
  • salt, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions

  • mix together all ingredients for sauce, taste to make sure flavors are in balance, refrigerate
  • season salmon vigorously with all seasonings
  • let rest for 20-30 minutes
  • preheat oven to 350º
  • heat skillet to medium-high, add oil and heat until shimmering
  • add salmon for three minutes or until starting to get nice crust
  • flip, heat for three minutes
  • lightly toast sandwich rolls
  • place in oven to finish for two/three minutes until correct texture is achieved
  • let salmon rest for two minutes
  • spread sauce on both insides of rolls
  • add salmon to rolls, construct sandwich with proper ingredients
  • crunch through your first luscious bite and wonder why you’d get a fish sandwich anywhere else

 

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