Elegant, Easy Peas-y White Fish

I was at STK the other night and ordered their striped white bass, which was served with a pea purée and chorizo. The dish itself was pretty underwhelming (sorry, STK – I still love your steak!) but the presentation was beautiful and the inspiration was pretty obvious: it is prime pea season at Magnolia Gardens:

I love peas. I didn’t used to love peas. In fact, the only peas I liked was the pea soup at Pea Soup Anderson’s in Buellton. But that was because I’d never tried fresh peas. Like, really fresh peas. They were a revelation – this was the first item I’d grown in my garden that had a transformative taste – it was a reason to plow ahead with Magnolia Gardens and discover the world of veggies & plants that were bursting with flavor & freshness.

So yeah, I tried to recreate the dish – and hopefully make it better. I think I did. Try it yourself, I hope you enjoy.


  • 1.5 lb. wild caught and 1/2″ thick Cod or Halibut
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 whole shallots, sliced
  • 3 cups peas (frozen is fine)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1 cup fresh-shucked peas
  • 3 tbsp. mustard seeds, crushed or ground
  • 3 slices bacon, broken into crumbles
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • fennel or dill to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste

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  • spread ground mustard, salt & pepper on the fish
  • heat 2 tbps of butter over medium heat, add shallots and caramelizing for five minutes
  • add frozen peas + 1 cup of water and salt and pepper, and cover partially; cook until sauce is reduced, 7-9 minutes
  • puree peas, 2 tbsp of butter, salt and pepper in a food processor; transfer to a pot and keep warm over low heat
  • heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sear/sautée. Flip once until golden brown, about 4 minutes on first side, 2-3 on second
  • divide pea purée, and top with fish; spoon over sauce and garnish with dill, bacon, bell peppers and serve
  • Yum!




Family Favorite: Stuffed Zucchini

Earlier this summer, my wife sent me this Pin from Buzzfeed extolling the virtues of ‘Quick Dinners to Make This Week.’ I’m not a huge fan of stuffed bell peppers, and I’d never tried stuffed zucchini so I was not very excited. It looked good, but I was sort of like ‘meh.’

That said, “Happy Wife Happy Life” is probably the best advice I’ve ever received so I figured – sure, why not? Turns out that it was an AWESOME decision, and this recipe has made its way to our table regularly for the last few months, and has even turned into a favorite to prepare for guests.

Inspired by this recipe at Katrina Runs for Food, it really is easy – dare I say, fun? – fairly quick and awesomely fulfilling & delicious. I snapped a quick video and uploaded it to youtube, and the recipe itself is below. Hope you enjoy – I know your family will.


  • 4 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise and middle scooped out with melon baller and saved for later in the recipe.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped red/yellow/green peppers in any combination
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • heavy hand of cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • heavy hand ancho chili powder, or regular chili powder if ancho is not available
  • generous shake of garlic powder
  • generous salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin


  • Sautee beef, peppers, onions until beef is browning
  • add the middle part of the zucchini that was scooped out.
  • Add seasonings. Stir and simmer a few minutes until flavors are ingrained.
  • In a large bowl, add beef mixture, cheddar, mascarpone, parsley. Mix well.
  • Spoon mixture into each zucchini boat.
  • Bake 400°F for 30 minutes.
  • Remove, sprinkle mozzarella cheese and return to oven for 4-5 minutes.
  • Top with green onions and serve.

Tortilla Española

Inspired by Omar Allibhoy, I recreated one of my favorite all-time dishes with this Tortilla Española. I first encountered the dish as a naïve, hungover, food-deprived 21-year old in Madrid. After successive nights of ecstatic partying, our gracious hosts prepared what looked to be a ‘puffy omelet.’ At the time, I was kind of agnostic about eggs – take ’em or leave ’em – and prepared to be satiated with a few simple bites. What happened next, even in my slumberious haze, was nothing short of a revelation. Was this cheesy? Was this buttery? What is this creamy texture that somehow holds tight, and oozes deliciousness over every tastebud?

Turns out, this was a simple fortification of potatoes, onions, eggs, salt, pepper & EVOO. And that’s IT.

One of the simplest recipes I’ve made, but takes concentration and is definitely an ‘active’ recipe. But absolutely worth it – breakfast, brunch, dinner. Amazing food here.


  • Four fist-sized waxy potatoes
  • One yellow onion
  • 7 eggs
  • glugs upon glugs of EVOO
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • pour oil, realistically 3/4 of a cup, in to a wide, non-stick skillet. heat on high.
  • quarter the onion, then slice it. once pan is heated, add to pan.
  • while onions are heating, and they need time to caramelize & brown, half then slice the potatoes.
  • once onions have nice color, add potatoes to the pan and mix actively for the next 15 minutes, or until potatoes have great color as well.
  • while potatoes are frying, crack eggs in a large bowl and whisk with salt and pepper
  • after potatoes & onions have browned, turn off stove and drain excess oil (strain & save it – can be reused about five times and has a great subtle flavor)
  • place potato/onion mixture into the eggs and let stiffen for about five minutes.
  • put skillet on stove and heat to medium – add mixture
  • heat for four-five minutes, moving subtly the entire time
  • place a large plate on the top of the skillet, press down firmly and flip. this is easier than it sounds, but still pretty harrowing.
  • slide the now-forming tortilla onto the skillet again, and heat other side for four-five minutes, again shaking subtly.
  • slide off onto plate, let cool for five minutes and slice.
  • i like to add crisp greenery and an acidic element (tomatoes) as well as an herb (parsley), but you can literally make this as sweet or savory as you’d like.
  • enjoy.


tortespa             tortespañ

Simple Green Beans. Really Simple

A really, really easy recipe for the unheralded green bean. Honestly almost too easy, and a crowd pleaser for sure.

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  • green Beans, ends removed, chopped in half
  • pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • two garlic cloves, smashed
  • high quality EVOO
  • sea salt


  • Boil green beans, garlic and a healthy glug of EVOO in pot of heavily salted water for three-four minutes
  • drain in colander and remove to pot immediately
  • glug EVOO generously over green beans
  • add sea salt to taste
  • serve and marvel and the lustrous wonder of this simple vegetable




Simple, Quick Lamb Chops, Eggplant and Chickpeas

The Nigel Slater tome, Eat, has provided me with not only an awesome perspective on food and cooking, but accessible, realistic recipes that are more simplistic than they appear – thus perfect for somebody with slightly-better-than-novice skills such as myself.

My meal last night was both inspired by (lamb w/ yogurt) and adapted from (eggplant & chickpea puree) recipes in the book. The Middle Eastern influence (from a British chef/ author, haaa!) was definitely outside of my typical kitchen paradigm, but I have to admit it came out awesome. And the entire meal was on the plate within 30 minutes of start time. Pretty awesome.

Hope you enjoy.



  • 6 smaller lamb chops, frenched and cleaned
  • EVOO
  • head of garlic
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 can, chickpeas
  • handful of fresh thyme
  • handful of mint lives, minced
  • greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika


  • slice eggplant in half, salt and let sit for 20-30 minutes to draw water out
  • marinate lamb in olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced garlic for at least one hour
  • rinse eggplant and let dry over paper towels, then slice into half-rounds
  • preheat oven to 400°F
  • prepare yogurt accompaniment by whisking yogurt, juice from 1/2 lemon, mint, paprika, salt, pepper & minced garlic
  • take half of the eggplant half-moons, put on baking sheet with garlic and thyme and generous EVOO. place in oven.
  • heat cast-iron skillet to high with a handful of garlic cloves
  • heat dutch oven or other high-sided pan, pour in generous EVOO – when heated, layer in the remaining rounds of eggplant. sauté the eggplant until browned, then flip for 2 minutes to brown on other side
  • sear the lamb chops thoroughly on both sides – should take about 3 to 4 minutes per side – when done, put the lamb chops in the oven to finish for 2-4 more minutes
  • add chickpeas to the eggplant in dutch oven, as well as more salt/pepper. turn off heat, cover
  • pull lamb and eggplant from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes
  • use handblender to puree half the eggplant & chickpeas, leaving the rest in tact for both textural and aesthetic purposes
  • plate as desired, with or without couscous, rice, and enjoy


Quinoa Risotto. Seriously.

I’m not a huge quinoa fan. I know, I know – take away my ‘foodie’ card. I hate that word anyway, foodie, but that’s a different story. Point is, every preparation I’ve made – or tasted – has been too grainy, too gritty. Even when we went to Peru, I just wasn’t a fan. I don’t dislike it, but. . .

So when I saw the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine list quinoa as the #3 favorite ingredient of 2013 of it’s readers, I had two thoughts:

  1. the readers are nuts -and-
  2. I have to give quinoa yet another whirl; the umpteenth time.

They did include one recipe with each of the top ten ingredients, and this one happened to catch my eye. Why not, I figured? I sure do love san marzano tomatoes, and any excuse to imbibe is a good one so hopefully their magic would rub off on the quinoa, and with a little help of my good friends creme fraiche & parmesano reggiano, I’d enjoy a good meal.

And enjoy I did. Behold, my favorite quinoa dish – and the gateway to hopefully more quinoa quaziness (jk, but seriously):


note: this is a long recipe but honestly it’s easier than it reads. nothing here is difficult and none of the ingredients are foreign. here’s your list followed by your directions:
  • quinoa. rinse the quinoa before making. they tell you to let it sit for hours in water or run it under water for 10 minutes (literally) which i find wasteful. what i do is get a real tight strainer, dump the quinoa in there and water it until the water runs clear through the strainer.
  • whole peeled tomatoes. san marzano brand is literally the best and most renowned tomatoes in the world. period. cheap too and you can get them at ralphs or whole foods. you’ll only need like four or five so save the rest in a tupperware or honestly eat them whole. they’re THAT good.
  • garlic, four cloves, minced
  • parmesan cheese (real deal, grate it yourself, so worth it)
  • creme fraiche, which is so indulgent. i actually would probably use sour cream if I made this again. CF was too rich.
  • shallot, minced
  • parsley. i was about to omit this but i’m glad i didn’t. it’s necessary at the end.
  • small lemon (which I just realized I omitted in the descriptor).
  • panko (which you should have in your house anyway, it’s literally so versatile and adds crunch to whatever you need)
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 lemon, peeled with pith removed and cut into sections, then cut further into 1/2 inch cubes <–annoying as heck but kind of fun too. the pith is where all the bitter comes from so use a small, manageable knife to rid yourself of it.
  • salt pepper duh
  • olive oil, and a ton.
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth, low sodium (important)
  • heat oven to 375°.
  • boil quinoa in 2.5 cups water with pinch of salt <–important. i usually boil in a ton of salt w/ pasta or rice but I guess quinoa absorbs the salt more efficiently. mine was a bit too salty so literally use a pinch.
  • once its boiling, cover it – count on 20 minutes, but peek every few minutes or so after 15 – as soon as the water is evaporated, take it off the heat (but leave cover on)
  • while its boiling, slice four or five of the san marzanos in half LENGTHwise
  • let them sit and drain (cutting board is fine, paper towel on cutting board is better) and make the ‘topping’ for them – mix panko (1/2 cup) with EVOO (2 tbsp), salt, pepper and two cloves minced garlic
  • throw them in the oven for 25 minutes or eyeball them until the topping browns and crisps. honestly makes me hungry just reliving this part in my mind man that was good. sidenote: you can serve those as an hors d oeuvre and you’d be lauded amongst your friends. i hope i remember this, it’s a knockout. anyway, that’s neither here nor there so back to the recipe
  • the tomatoes should be coming out of the oven around the same time your quinoa has been on the stove ‘resting’ post-removal from heat. put them aside. and maybe eat one just to be in tomato heaven.
  • heat medium sauce pan with 4 tbsp (a ton, i know, but trust me) EVOO medium hot. add minced shallots (1/2 shallot) and 2 more minced garlic cloves and sautée for four minutes or until they’re just starting to crisp – add the rosemary to the pan and stir stir stir so you don’t burn the shallot/garlic.
  • THIS IS THE ONLY TRICKY MOVE: get the quinoa into that same sauce pan. it’s going to fry quick, so add the  broth as fast as you can and slam the heat down to low. you want to get a calm simmer going, which you’ll maintain until the ‘loose’ liquid has evaporated. for me it took about 10 minutes
  • once the quinoa resembles a ‘thick sauce’ in consistency, add 1/4 cup creme fraiche, 1/3 cup grated parmesan and lemon segments (!!!), remove from heat and stir
  • Spoon the risotto into bowls, top with the tomatoes and garnish with crème fraîche, grated cheese and chopped parsley; serve.


Asparagus Egg Delight

Delicious. Elegant. Artistic. Seasonal. Simple.

This dish, inspired by both our local farmers market as well as Roy Choi’s L.A. Son, was absolutely incredible. And so, so easy – 12 minutes total cook time.

I love asparagus, and this was a real treat. I was pretty shocked when I saw Choi’s recipe, but it made sense – the Flavor Bible lists egg as a flavor affiliate of asparagus, so off I went; poaching and sautéing and shaving and lapping up yolk. Incredible.

And if you’re cooking for your mate, be sure to put this on the menu – it will elicit moans of delight. Enjoy.



  • large brown egg
  • white asparagus tips
  • handful of parsley, roughly chopped or torn
  • red pepper flakes
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • crystalline salt, to taste
  • kosher salt, for water
  • parmesan cheese block
  • 2 tbsp, butter
  • 1 tbsp, EVOO
  • 1 tsp, vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon (optional)


  • boil pot of kosher salted water and vinegar
  • heat EVOO in large skillet on medium heat with 1 tbsp butter
  • sauté asparagus until barely colored, should still be somewhat crisp
  • remove asparagus to paper towel lined plate, add salt and a pinch of pepper
  • drop egg in boiling water and remove from heat
  • let stand for 2 1/2 minutes
  • remove egg with slotted spoon, put on paper towel-lined plate
  • move asparagus to serving plate, add egg on top
  • shave parmesan generously
  • crack pepper, generously
  • add parsley and a decent sprinkling of salt crystals
  • serve with squeeze of lemon for a counterbalanced acid flavor*

*this is Choi’s recommendation. he has a much more astute palate than myself, but honestly I prefer sans lemon – hit me with the pure rich lusciousness of this bad boy and wowza.