Pickle Pantry Essential #11

Pickle Pantry Essential #11: Cupcake Carrier

cupcake carrierI cringe while saying that I own (and necessitate) a cupcake carrier, but it’s true and has made my birthday party life significantly easier. After one too many times  emerging from NYC Cabs and the subway adorned with frosting (which always got some interesting stares) and twenty odd smooshed cupcakes, I pounced on a cupcake carrier as part of a free giveaway. While I feel like a grade A moron walking around with one of these in hand, it never fails me and I arrive with the cupcakes I left with. If I adorn it with skull and crossbone stickers will people like me more?

Summery Salad

I love raita, tzatziki, cacik and everything yogurt-cucumber based, so I put together a little cucumber-yogurt-chickpea salad:

DSC_0057Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas (rinse and drain before use)
1 small clove garlic (chopped finely)
1 cucumber
scant cup Greek yogurt (as you can see, I may have put a bit too much!)
about 4 chopped chives
drizzle of olive oil (about a teaspoon and a quarter)
salt & pepper
drizzle of red wine vinegar (1/2-1 teaspoon)DSC_0063Mix veggies, chives and garlic and then add the yogurt. Mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper, then drizzle the olive oil and red wine vinegar.
The chives and garlic add deep flavor, while the cucumber is refreshing and light and the chickpeas make it a more substantial salad. The red wine vinegar cut the thickness of the yogurt.

This salad is even tastier the next day and is delish on mixed greens or atop a crunchy cracker.

Pickle Pantry Essential #11

Pickle Pantry Essential #11: Mint Simple Syrup

mint simple syrupLiving alone, the chances of piles of unused herbs in my kitchen are even higher than for those that cohabit, and I know this is a problem for lots of people.  Left with a rapidly rotting clump of fresh minty goodness following an overzealous purchase,  I knew I needed a solution, and simple syrup provided that. Easy to make, and perfect on anything from chopped fruit to ice cream to bourbon and soda, it’s a lifesaver. Here’s the recipe I used courtesy of Epicurious:                                                                                         Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water                                                                                                                                                                      Preparation: Chop mint. In a saucepan bring sugar, water and mint to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer syrup, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve, pressing hard on solids, and cool. Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, 2 weeks.

L.A. Eats!

LA picstichMy visit to L.A. was, as expected, full of culinary delights. What follows is a list of some staples and favorites we went to. Due to my oft’ aggressive appetite, some are represented in photograph and some not.

Mother Dough—This casual joint serves tasty thin crust pizzas with a heavenly tomato sauce, go for the Margherita if nothing else. The beer selection is great and the vibe is relaxed and friendly.

Marisco’s Jalisco For a life-changing bite, eat the shrimp taco from Marisco’s Jalisco: IMG_4091 [An excerpt from a column I wrote:] This deep fried wondertaco (yes, I said it) brimmed with sweet, fresh crescents of rosy shrimp while its exterior was draped with epaulettes of ripe California avocado and anointed with two salsas: one a piquant onion-flecked salsa fresca and the second a spicy reduced chile-based concoction. With their contrasting effects, the various elements seduced and entranced the palate: succulent shrimp contrasted the salty, grainy corn tortilla; buttery avocado tempered acidic spicy salsa (making my mouth home to the most simple yet artful guacamole.) I arrived in Los Angeles with a taco craving, and Jalisco Marisco satisfied it immediately and eternally.

Loteria – The location nestled in the sprawling Grove Farmers market makes terrific carne deshabrada and chicken mole tacos. Here’s the tasty shrimp taco (not transcendental like Marisco’s, but good nonetheless):TacoFinish it off with a chocolate covered banana from nearby Bennett’s Ice Cream.

 Chun Ki Wa IMG_4092For excellent and well-priced Korean barbecue, this place is a go-to. While the traditional Galbi was very tasty, the satandouts for me were the Bulgogi on the barbecue, thin slivers of superbly seasoned meat caramelized to perfection and the decadent crispy fat ends from each short rib. Also, the very thin anchovy banchan which look like little sparkly snakes, are excellent. Make sure to order extra rice cakes for wrapping the crispy barbecued meat in!IMG_4093 Nem Nuong Ninh HoaIMG_4113Located off the beaten track in Rosemead, this Vietnamese restaurant serves a delicacy known as “banh beo”, small saucers filled with gelatinous rice cake and topped with ground shrimp, scallions, a crisp crouton, and a light but pungent sauce. These are unlike anything I’ve ever had. Due to their similarities in texture, flavor and appearance, we likened them to oysters and proceeded to eat at least a dozen each!IMG_4116They also serve these terrific rolls “nem nuong” with special sausage and a crispy shrimp stick: IMG_4112inside:

IMG_4115Our visit began inauspiciously: after a long car ride with empty bellies we were informed that the restaurant had endured a power outage and couldn’t serve us. Soon, though, we were let back in for a completely mind bending meal. Kudos to famed L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold for popularizing this place (and many others).

Chang’s Garden – Two words: beef roll. IMG_4122Tender beef, vegetables and Hoisin sauce wrapped in a crispy fried pancake make this Arcadia-based Shanghainese restaurant worth the trip. Everything else we ate at this simply decorated spot was really delicious too, especially the smoked and fresh pork warm pot which also had an adorable little bean curd twist:IMG_4123 Long Jin shrimp: IMG_4121Birdseye: (note the cute little red hot pot!)IMG_4125Eveleigh – The gorgeous dining room and breathtaking view make this a must-see L.A. stop. We had a nice brunch (the food doesn’t make you re-think your existence), but it’s a delightful experience especially if you order the avocado toast and a cocktail while you breathe in the Pacific air.

Mixto – This taco joint doesn’t scream authentic L.A. (you can order soy chorizo), but it’s satisfying, tasty and quite cheap.

Broome St. General Store – My brother very accurately  described Broome St as “if Brooklyn was cooked in a pan into the ultimate Hipster reduction”. Artisanal coffees, snacks and cutesy gifts are the order of the day at this Silverlake coffeeshop. The coffee is very good and the outdoor seating is quite lovely.

Intelligentsia – This Chicago-originated coffee chain has a beautiful outpost in L.A’s Silverlake neighborhood on a very cute stretch of Sunset. The mesa-style building has great outdoor seating, good coffee, and sweet and savory pastries.

Cheese Store of Silverlake – Right next to Intelligentsia, this cheese shop sells a bounty of the stinky stuff, in addition to meats, breads, cookbooks and condiments. They also make sandwiches, and the one I had with ham and cheese on a pretzel roll made for a (slightly) improved cross-country flight.

Forage – I’ve mentioned (raved about) this place before.  Gorgeous mounds of prepared salads and proteins entrance you from behind the counter the minute you walk in. You can put together plates with proteins and sides or order from a small-ish menu. The food is foraged and high quality and the desserts are also very good. If you get there just a bit before noon you’ll miss the onslaught of the lunch rush. Some snaps from a fab lunch there last week:DSC_0068German Chocolate Cake: DSC_0074Now, if only I could make this bi-coastal thing work…DSC_0051 DSC_0065