Another Random Emily Musing

I think I wrote this one sometime this summer:

"There’s something so sad, somehow, about seeing a middle-aged man, sitting in front of a receptionist’s computer…temping. Ready for action, dressed in his nicest shirt and tie, sitting quietly with his hands folded, watching the bustle of big business around him while he reads the morning paper. How did he get there? What string of bad luck led him to the point of seeking out temp work filling in for the receptionist at a medium-sized private equity in Santa Monica? How does he feel about it? Ashamed that he is forced to temp…or happy to have finally gotten the call for duty? I imagine him waking up at 6 every morning, showering and ironing his shirt and pants…and then waiting by the phone. Maybe he showers the night before, just to make sure he doesn’t miss a call? I want to smile at him, show him some friendliness just in case he is hating the fact that he is here right now, but he doesn’t look up from his paper."


Found: An Old Emily Musing

I just found this little piece--I named the file  simply "10-23" (October 23, 2007):

Today I counted down the minutes, as I do every day, until I could break free and suck some life back into my nearly lifeless, corporate body. When 6PM came, I cut my shackles and headed home. 

What greeted me when I went out the door was not the usual unspoken unclean smog of Los Angeles, but something dirtier, heavier. My eyes felt itchy and dry. The fires, which had up until now been beyond my periphery, seemed ever closer.

I quickly got into Lainey and forgot about the air as I rocked to the Beach Boys on my Workout Magic playlist and got cooled off by my A/C. As I battled through Hollywood traffic, I wondered if it was bad to curse the GOD-AWFUL driver who happened to have the enormous “God Bless” Sign in the back of his car. Should that REALLY give him license to swerve manically in and out of lanes without signaling? I’ll have to meditate on that one.

As I drove up Cahuenga towards the freeway, I thought of little beyond getting into the left lane to get onto the 101. I missed it. Why ANYONE would INTENTIONALLY take Cahuenga past the freeway entrance is beyond me. It gets ridiculously backed up and takes 10 times the amount of time. I was busily swearing at the snail’s pace of the traffic (as the 101 traffic running parallel streamed steadily along) and not paying attention to anything outside, when suddenly I reached the peak of the hill.

The skies had been just dark up til now. It’s late October at 6:30, so I wasn’t questioning that point. If I had stopped to think about it, I would have remembered that yesterday wasn’t quite so dark…

But when I got that peak, I saw something odd. The horizon looked different. It looked like that silhouette time, that David knows I love so much. But this wasn’t the regular white-blue silhouette against the sky. These silhouettes stood against an orange-red sky, beneath the smoke, above the horizon.

I became breathless. I had to turn off Diana Ross on my iPod because I could not think of anything but this sight I was seeing and all that it represented. Suddenly I was reminded of all the lives that had been displaced in the last 48 hours; all the homes that had been built from hard earned money that were suddenly and cruelly burned to the ground. I realized that all of my money troubles, which I had brought onto myself, were nothing compared to the devastation that so many of my fellow Southern Californians were suddenly faced with.

I was at the stoplight at Barham, much sooner than I expected. There was a man there holding his cardboard sign, like so many other intersections throughout the city. I didn’t even look at the sign, but simply felt relief at the fact that I had cash in my wallet to give him. I needed to do something, anything, to help someone other than myself right then. I fumbled in my wallet and pulled out $2. I rolled down my window and the man said, “God bless.” Just like that fricking bad driver’s car.

I turned the corner and started down Ventura. The skies weren’t red anymore…they were just back to that same smoky black night sky. I really hope that guy buys himself a burger or a taco or something. How many drugs can $2 buy you on the street, anyway?


Turning Over a New Beaf

Beaf=Blog Leaf. Like Vlog refers to Video Blog...oh never mind.
Mmmmboy it has been awhile.
I have been struggling a lot with this blog and its purpose, for me and the world-at-large. Because, you and I both know everyone and their mom reads it. Hello Kazakhstan!
I think what has been a struggle is that I really want to say something neat and unique and cool every time I write, and neat, unique, cool things regarding FOOD just don't happen to me every day. To be perfectly honest, they DO happen a lot more than the 10 previous entries in this blog over the past 10 months, but it has really gotten hard to get up the desire to write when TV or books or sleep were alternatives.
As much as I LOVE food (and you know I do) I think that if I want this whole blogging thing to work, I need to encompass a bit more of Emilyworld outside of my kickass vintage kitchen. Shoot, I still need to do a blog about that!
MY POINT IS...if I want to do this blog regularly, and my multitudes of fans demand new material regularly, I need to write about more than just food. Like music, something I've been studying for umpteen years. And movies. And books. And life as a twenty-something. And...and. Yes.
So, this is my intro to a new chapter of Em the Epicurean. The name change will come shortly. Until then, kisses, my dears.


Tofu Peanut Kale Scramble, take one

Gentle Reader,

Haha...imagine if I went all Miss Manners on you. No freaking way, dudes.

Yahoo often has a link on their front page for recipes...generally easy-peasy ones for the harried cook with no time and a desire to cut calories. They don't usually inspire me--I have enough cookbooks, Cooks' Illustrated issues and recipes that I've already stuffed into my kitchen, all right? However, for whatever reason, today I took the plunge and printed out another recipe to add to my ridiculous collection. The recipe can be found here. If you don't feel like reading my ramblings about making it, you can just stop here and go on to live a relatively good life. Just in case you were wondering.

All right, getting back to tonight's dinner. What really drew me into this recipe, I guess, was the sauce. Peanut Sauce in any form is pretty splendiferous in my book. The sauce in this recipe was basically perfect, and super easy. I used white vinegar, fyi, and did not find any issue with that as substitute for rice vinegar. I'm glad I didn't buy rice vinegar just for this--if you are like me and don't have that in your kitchen stock, don't even sweat it. One thing I will say is more a criticism of my skills: MAKE SURE the ginger is really finely minced. I chopped it sort of half-ass fashion, because I don't have the greatest knife wielding skillz, and there were points in eating the dish where I got a bigger ginger taste than I wanted. The smaller the pieces, the more all of the flavors are able to just meld together so one doesn't pop out and hit you over the head like the ginger did to me.

So, this dish is called Tofu with Peanut Ginger Sauce, but upon close examination of the recipe, I came to the conclusion that those were all supporting players to the star of the show, the greens. With that in mind, I decided to spice things up a bit in that regard--the "BAM" factor, if you will. I love spinach, but I decided to dive in and substitute kale instead. You might remember my earlier post about M de
 Chaya in which I sang the praises of their kale with peanut salad--that is sort of what I was going for here. Thing was, I had never worked with kale, EVER. How different could it be?

The answer is, well, not too different.  I assumed that the kale would wilt like any normal green, and it did...slowly. The recipe instructs you throw all of the veggies and sauce in at once, but if you do that, and don't have a gargantuan pan, you're apt to end up with a mess. Whether you use spinach or kale or any other green, I would split it in half and allow the first group to wilt before adding the rest. One beef I have with this recipe is that they don't mention that at all. They are asking you to throw four cups of greens into a pan but they don't warn you that they won't necessarily fit right away. I don't consider myself an expert cook by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a bit of experience at a stove and knew that...if these recipes are really meant for anybody, though, they should TELL people these things and don't just make them find it out for themselves once a cup of their spinach has ended up on their stove and/or floor.

Here is another beef with this part of the recipe, by the by. (Sorry, by the way, veggies, for the figure of speech, but that's all it is-ain't no cow in this cookin'.) Because you're going to be working so hard to make sure the greens wilt, you're not going to have a lot of room in your pan for those there mushrooms and scallions to cook very well. I ended up with some barely cooked sliced mushrooms, which didn't really gel with the rest of the dish. I would suggest tossing the mushrooms with a small amount of olive oil and nuking them for about 15 seconds. It will give them a chance to soften up a bit without overcooking everything else in the pan.

This is the finished product as I made it 
Sorry for the lack of finesse-I really need to learn how to take good food photos. You'll notice that you see a lot more kale and mushroom in there than tofu--that is another fault of the recipe as it stands. It calls for one 14 oz container (standard size), but I would say that for it to stand up to the amount of greens called for, I would almost double the tofu...or else leave it out completely. This dish would do extremely well as a side accompaniment to chicken breast, or else as one of several veggie dishes merged together to make a meal. In spite of Yahoo's claim that this makes a great weeknight meal, I just don't buy it on its own. Overall, though, it is a really delicious dish. I urge you to try it out, and make your own substitutions, with different greens, veggies, and maybe even a different protein. I swear, anything will taste good with Peanut Sauce. :)

And friends...as a final note, let me apologize for once again falling off the side of the earth for a couple months. Life has been busy, with travels and recitals galore (ok, two recitals and two weeks on the East Coast), and my prime blogging time, during my slow workdays, is not allowable in the new work digs. HOWEVER, David and I will soon be moving to a lovely little flat closer to work and I will have some more TIME to do things I enjoy. At the top of that list is baking, cooking and BLOGGING...and I promise you a big chocolate cake if I do not stick with it post-move. Deal? Really, you win either way. Actually, you'd probably prefer the cake....

Until next time, my sweets!



I'm ba-ack!

Hey...is anyone there? Where have you guys BEEN? It's been FOREVER!

OK, OK. My bad. Did I not mention I am notoriously bad at keeping any habit up for long periods, even those as glorious and addictive as blogging about foodie goodness?

Miss me? Well, I missed YOU, my lovelies!!

You're probably wondering what inspired me to get back to the grindstone after my self-imposed blogger exile...all it took was a fairly basic, but YUM meal from Curry Land on Lankershim. The place itself doesn't seem much bigger than my walk-in closet, and thus I've never been inclined to eat there--takeout's the name of this game.

Although they inexplicably changed their name from Curry House to the aforementioned "Land" a few months ago, everything else remains the same for this little Indian gem of the East SF Valley. Every time we have ordered from here, the food has been consistently good. I realized tonight that we were enjoying a total comfort food dinner, though I certainly was not having flashbacks to nights during my childhood where I curled up by the fire with a hot plate of Chicken Tikka and samosas. As I've mentioned in the past, I was a very picky eater growing up and never would have touched most of the items on CL's basic menu...so what is it about the stuff that makes me feel like I've practically crawled back inside the womb? Every bit of the Sag Paner (spinach with paneer cheese-basically the most delicious creamed spinach you can imagine accompanied by cubes of cheese slighter softer and milder than feta) and Sag Aloo (potatoes with more spinach-I guess we were in a Popeye-fying mood tonight) made me feel like putting on my fuzzy slippers and watching, I don't know, "Pollyanna" or something (or would it be "Bollyanna"? Woah, just came up with that, I swear!). Pile those two entrees on some of CL's basmati rice (which seems to have just a touch of saffron in it for color) and you can just plan on mopping up that puddle of happy that is me.

OK, now, to be fair, the meal was not perfect. Along with the two veggie dishes, we ordered Chicken Dansak, described as "chicken cooked in thick lentil sauce with a touch of lemon juice." The chicken was tender, which was necessary in order to cut through the enormous chunks; however, the "thick lentil sauce" was less than impressive. There was little flavor beyond its indistinguishable heat, and no indication of lentils beyond a less-than-desirable graininess in texture.

Another snafoo is actually because of my own faulty memory. Every time we've ordered from Curry House/Land, I've been taken in by the list of delicious naan and insist on ordering some...and every time, I've been disappointed. Rather than the warm, fresh, well-seasoned naans I've come to expect in every Indian restaurant (when I eat THERE), takeout naan comes across as slightly stale, with none of that delicious doughiness. Tonight's choice was garlic, and the garlic meagerly sprinkled on top of the bread seemed bottled rather than fresh. Perhaps third time is the charm, and I'll leave my naan intake to restaurant visits from here on out.

A couple basic things I've learned about Curry Land/House: 1) order plenty ahead of time. The first two times we went there, we waited an inordinately long amount of time for our food. Tonight it wasn't bad, but there were only two people eating in-house. Other times, it's been much busier. 2) Stick to veggie dishes. To each their own, of course, but I've found that the vegetable dishes have been consistently good, while the meat dishes seemed lacking. Not bad, but not worth giving up another serving of Sag Paner, ya know?

Well, I think that is all for this installment. I really have missed you. I hope this wasn't too terribly written--I am feeling really rusty. Tomorrow promises to be another exciting dinner out, so I hope to write about that as well. Glucklichen Freitag und Wochenende!



Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Rice Dream drink (Vanilla)
Rice Dream ice cream (Vanilla)
Bailey's Irish Cream (Mint Chocolate)
Green food coloring
York Peppermint Patties, ground

Mix at will and drink up!


Lunching with (a few) Look-Look Ladies

But this wasn't just any lunch, kids. This was my first experience at Pizzeria Mozza! Yes, that's right, I bought into the hype. Actually, I've been dying to try the place out since even before it opened, when my fave food columnist (actually, favorite all-around columnist), Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Gold sang its praises. So imagine my utter and complete JOY upon realizing that my new job at Look-Look put me directly diagonally across Melrose and Highland to the latest Holy Grail of Pizza-Eating!

Fast forward 11 months later...and I had yet to go. Reservations for the place are still as elusive as aforementioned Grail, plus money's been a bit tight and the urge for this splurge never came at a good time financially speaking. And then suddenly a new job popped up, and I was about to be forced far, far away from the Pizza Lunch that appeared destined to never happen.

And then...just when I thought the bosses at LL could never do right by me...Sharon canceled one of those hard-won lunches. Rather than let the prize once again slip through my fingers, I held onto it tightly. And so it was, that Megan, Sara, KG and I enjoyed a lovely lunch in the Mario Batali/Nancy Silverton mecca.

Boy, that was a long time coming, eh? Both the meal for me and this little review for you!

Anyway, we were bustled in with the rest of the Friday lunch crowd. It's not a large place, but the atmosphere is made homey by the rust and goldenrod-colored walls. There was a film crew there for some reason or another, just in case we had forgotten that we were very much in Hollywood. The restaurant is not great in terms of sound-control--being the 'scene' it is, it was packed pretty quickly, and I felt almost as if I was in a bar, with the amount each of us had to speak up to be heard.

Our utensils were individually wrapped in paper with the Mozza logo--again, do we really need this reminder of where we are? The placemats were cute, though, covered with Italian cartoons. Who cares if I didn't have a clue about what they said beyond "I"?

Megan was the only non-Mozza virgin amongst us, and she recommended that we all split some appetizers. Out of respect for KG's tryst with veganism, we got all veggie-ful, dairy & meat-free treats: the Eggplant Caponata (described by one as really good ratatouille), the Brussel Sprouts (supposed to come with prosciutto breadcrumbs, which I am SO curious about, but we forewent them) and the Beets with Horseradish. The last of these was veeery light on the horseradish--it looked almost like tiny flower buds on top of the lovely purple vegetable--but still packed plenty of wallop! The fave of the table was definitely the eggplant. Though all of these came out in bowls not much larger than regular sized ramekins, we all got good samplings of each app. We also got a serving of the White Bean Bruschetta, which I probably could have polished off on my own. Loves me some white beans and good bread.

Less exciting was the salad, which was Rucola (a type of leaf that looks rather like overgrown clovers), mushrooms (white-yawn) and fresh Parmesan, the most redeeming part of this dish, but not enough to save it, or rather me, from boredom.

As I had been dreaming about Silverton's pizzas for months on end, I insisted on getting one for myself. I decided on the Goat Cheese, Scallion, Leek and BACON.
Upon digging in, I discovered the added bonus of roasted garlic cloves.
Now, this pizza. It was large, a bit big for a personal pie, although if you were really hungry, it would probably be easy to finish. One of the great things about the pie was just how fresh the ingredients were. I think maybe they keep a goat in back just for its milk and resultant cheese. The leeks were shredded thinly; I had never seen them prepared that way before, and I think that really helped emphasize and spread out their flavor a bit, if that makes sense. The bacon was a little sweet (maple cured) and a little fatty. And yeah, so sue me...I kinda liked that. The crust was crispy and generally delicious. My one beef was that it was a bit too oily. I get that you're not using tomato sauce...that doesn't mean you have to oversaturate your crust to compensate.

KG and Sara split the one vegan pie on the menu, just tomato sauce and oregano. It was very heavy on the oregano and really not much else. When you highlight your sauce so nakedly, I really think it needs to pop. This one did not.

I really wanted to get dessert, but the rest of the ladies apparently have smaller stomachs than I and were ready for the bill. It's ok, though...now that I have experienced Mozza once, I know I have to come back, with more friends, with David, with any miscellaneous visiting family. It is a classy, warm place with an upscale and creative, yet accessible (hello, pizza) menu, and in my opinion, worth the hype. As KG said when we first sat down, I looked like a kid in a candy store...and believe me when I say I left that candy store full and happy!


Ode to a Dive

Actually, THE Dive. Like a brilliant TV sitcom canceled before Sweeps Week hit, this little bar was torn from us before its time. Granted, I never really understood its place as a Hugo's Restaurant sibling...but danged if they didn't serve up the best durned-black bean burgers this gal had ever done tasted! I never got to try their ethereally-named cocktails, either, having always visited during working hours. No drinky-drinks on Look-Look's time!
Anyway, my real point in this blog is one of speculation. There is a sign up on the front of The Dive, promising something new and exciting in the coming days. Here's what I think: I spotted an Application for New Ownership or something similarly official at the Dive a few months ago, and on that App...the names of Milliken and Feniger. That's right, the Two Hot Tamales, creators of my FAVE restaurants in LA, Ciudad and Border Grill. Could it be REMOTELY possible that they're extending their (albeit small) empire to RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO MY OFFICE?!?! Demeter, that goddess of the bountiful harvest, has surely been listening to my pleas.
Again, this is all speculation...but I hope that for once my wishful thinking will pay off with bowls of hot tortilla soup all around. Mmmmmmm!



Presidents' Day Eats

It feels like absolutely forever since I had a day off, all to myself...I actually had time to neaten up the house (that is, neaten those corners that David has designated "Emily piles"), sing my recital rep, and plan a dinner that for once would not be rushed!

My mom gave me a copy of The New Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Kayden sometime last year, and while I've flipped through it quite a bit, I hadn't actually made any recipes out of it. Lately, though, I've been craving healthy cooking, and Moosewood promised me that. I settled on the Onion Soup, a top contender for the Easiest Recipes Ever Award. Anyone can do this one, kids...all you need are 4 large onions (I am in love with Sweet Mayan Yellows right now), a big stockpot and an hour to spare. Throw a couple spices in the mix (thyme and mustard this time around) and some butter to get the onions started and you're golden. I must admit to being a little underwhelmed as I began this dish--could 4 cups of water really replace beef stock sufficiently? But after those onions sat in the stockpot for 40 minutes, soaking in their own 'juices' so to speak, they were as tender as overcooked spaghetti, and smelled just heavenly. Pay the onions minimal attention, with just the occasional stir to ensure they don't stick to the pan, and you will wind up with a really simple and delicious soup. 

I had some ciabatta bread left over from the weekend, which I sliced into four small pieces, brushed with crushed garlic and olive oil, and stuck in the toaster oven for about 9 minutes at 350 degrees. I plopped the slices into the soup and laid a thin piece of Swiss cheese over each serving. Let me tell you, that beef broth was not missed one bit.

To go with our soup, I decided to finally test out my new panini press, which has been gathering dust since I received it for Christmas. I had some sliced sourdough bread, on which I added a spread of goat cheese, artichoke hearts, chives,crushed garlic, jalapeno, rosemary and thyme (next time I may leave out the last two and substitute other things--it was a little too woodsy for me); on top of that was some thinly sliced oven roasted turkey breast. I added some balsamic to my oil and garlic spread (I love garlic-sue me) and brushed this onto both sides of the sandwiches. I grilled the sandwiches for about 5 minutes, and they were pretty much perfect. 

NOTE: Some people may still wonder how practical it is to use panini presses, or for that matter, Foreman grills, considering how difficult it is to clean up the insides afterwards. It is for that reason I ALWAYS use aluminum foil, sprayed, as protection for anything cooked in those types of appliances. Trust me, it works exactly the same, and you'll still get those neat grill marks, but without the clean-up hassle afterwards!

To end this cozy comfort foods dinner, I made something else I had been dying to try out from scratch: rice pudding! Using some of our new cookware, I was able to begin the pudding (using Arborio, or risotto, rice for extra thick-and-gooeyness) on top of the stove and move it into the oven to bake using THE SAME PAN. Yeah, yeah, I know, big deal, but it's new for ME. And therefore awesome.  

Want to top off your own cozy evening at home? Try this simple recipe for yourself! I put a couple of personal touches on it--some lemon zest along with the spices, with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and blueberries on top! 



David's Birthday!

For some lame reason, David decided to have his birthday on a Monday this year. To alleviate said lameness, we opted to have a weekend-long celebration leading up to his big 2-6. Saturday was a fun-filled day of mini-golf and Universal City Walk; Sunday was a surprise from me to him. Since we got together, we've shared a common interest in learning more about wine. We've certainly drank a lot of it together, but with no real rhyme or reason regarding our choices beyond an attraction to the price and look of the bottle.

So, I started plotting a wine tasting excursion a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure where to go for it--we didn't have plans to go to Wine Country in the near future, so I was on the hunt for something for local. Goldstar Events actually had a couple of tastings offered, but they were upwards of $50/person. I mentioned these to KG, a friend at work, and she steered me towards Silverlake Wine in, you guessed it, Silverlake. She told me that they had weekly wine tastings with food that were really great and informative...and a lot more affordable than the frou-frou tastings I was coming across.

We were a little early arriving on Sunday and had a chance to wander around the shop a bit. It's a small place, and smells just like State Liquor back in Wootown. I'd forgotten what stores that ONLY sell liquor smell like. The wine selection was seemingly impressive, but again, we really don't know anything.

Once all of the attendees had crammed into the store, a bunch of wine store worker bees began serving the first drink: Domaine St. Vincent Brut NV New Mexico. A sparkling wine that reminded my inexperienced tongue of champagne, I found this one fairly refreshing and light. David, who doesn't like champagne, didn't enjoy it as much. 

As everyone was polishing off this drink, someone I assumed was the owner finally actually welcomed us. The theme of the day, he told us, was the wines of a particular Central CA winery, Lioco--with the exception of the first wine, all of selections were Lioco. Accompanying the wines were tapas of sorts by Auntie Em's Restaurant in Eagle Rock, which was particularly exciting, since I've been meaning to check them out. 

As I'm continuing this blog over a week after the actual tasting (slacker!), I am just going to cover a few key points. Besides the Brut, the wines we drank were:
Chardonnay "Stuhlmuller" 2006 Alexander Valley
Pinot Noir "Michaud" 2006 Chalone
Pinot Noir "Klindt" 2006 Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir "Hirsch" 2006 Sonoma
The names in quotations refer to the actual vineyard from which that particular wine's grapes hailed. One thing we novices learned that day was that the most important thing to note when you are buying wine is where the grapes came from. Learn your great vineyards and you'll seemingly never err.

Something else we learned was that wines are treated with lactic acid (I am not clear if that goes for ALL wines or just certain ones...) and so some wines actually taste creamy. After hearing about this, we tasted the Pinot Noir Michaud, and I tasted the buttery notes within it. The taste eventually got a little bitter, but that buttery richness was enough to make me a fan.

The menu to accompany the wines included:
Crab terrine with chives and tomatoes on French bread
Golden beet salad with blood orange dressing, pea tendrils and goat cheese
Mushroom "pate" avec crudites et pain
Beef bourguignon
Thankfully we're not vegetarians...as it was, we steered clear of the beef. The other three dishes were quite tasty, though, especially that mushroom pate--essentially a mushroom and cream dip. Yummy!
Oh! To top the afternoon off, Auntie Em's served their famous cupcakes, bite-sized. We both grabbed a red velvet and were licking our fingers until we got to the car. 

Final note: This was basically a cocktail party where we didn't know anyone and had to pay for admittance. As a couple of minor wallflowers, this was not our ideal situation. I don't want to knock the place or the event. We both had a lot of fun, and I think it's a great environment for someone super outgoing (or on the prowl) or a big group of friends...I would definitely be down to checking it out again with a few more peeps. Any takers? 

Anyhoo, thanks for reading this installment. 



Super Bowl Snackin'

Krysta and Kenneth hosted the Super Bowl this year. It would have been a damn shame any other way, frankly, considering that behemoth big screen they've got sitting in the place of honor in their living room. As with any gathering I'm invited to, my response was "I'll be there...what should I bring?" and as usual Krysta left the playing field wiiiide open for me.
So, I started looking through my recipe stash for ideas. (Oh, and it is a stash. Poor uber-organized David went so far as to promise to put my whole collection into a cohesive unit when he saw my drawers stuffed with printed and scribbled-out recipes.) My goal: bring something delicious, that the partygoers likely had never had before. I found my inspiration within a cute little dessert cookbook called Angels in My Kitchen by Caryl Westwood. It was the Amaretto Cheesecake that did it, but I didn't want to bring a big ol' pie to a SPORTS party, for God's sake. I'm a food snob but I do have some sense. I decided to translate the idea of cheesecake into bars. I would switch out the regular ol' graham cracker crust with a chocolate one, adjust some recipe portioning (5 containers of cream cheese would be just a little ridiculous for an 8x8 pan), and add some flair at the end for good measure. I consulted several different cheesecake and cheesecake bar recipes, as well as that trusty resource known as "Mom", but in the end basically flew by the seat of my pants. Lucky for all present, it all worked out, taste-wise. Next time I may very well cut out the glaze completely, and could increase the amount of cream cheese a bit. Also, I had some issue with the crust sticking to the pan (yes, I greased it)--I am thinking I may have baked it on its own for a bit too long? Anyway, here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Em's Amaretto Cheesecake Bars
20 crushed chocolate filled sandwich cookies (ie Joe Joe's)
4 tblsp butter
Combine and press into greased (spray is ok) 8x8 pan. Refrigerate. Bake in 350
degree oven for 12 minutes or until set.
12 oz (1.5 packages) cream cheese
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tblsp flour
zest from one orange
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
3 tblsp amaretto
1 tsp almond extract
Combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and zest in mixing bow--mix until smooth. Add egg, yolk, amaretto and extract. Pour over partially baked crust and bake in 350 degree oven for 25-28 minutes, until firm and brown on the edges. Refrigerate tonight.
6 oz white chocolate (I used morsels)
1/4 c heavy cream
2 tblsp Amaretto
The next day, melt the white chocolate, combined with the cream, over a low heat.
Stir in amaretto. Let the glaze cool slightly and ladle evenly over the cheesecake. Return to the refrigerator to set.
2-3 pieces toffee Candy (I used Trader Joe's English Toffee)
Process in food processor until in small chunks. Sprinkle evenly over bars. Cut bars into small squares and serve chilled.

I had actually originally intended to make two things, because you know, I'm an over-doer. However, David found a yummy recipe that he wanted to try out, so I was able to share my over-doing with my guy. His choice? Fried Rice Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella. I got super excited after reading this recipe because it gave me
the opportunity to do something I've been wanting to do for a long time--make risotto! That's right, in addition to making the actual treat, we made two full servings of that famously tricky dish to go INTO the treat. And we succeeded!
Since I am not sure of the rules as far as copyrighting recipes goes (and honestly, because I am tired), I'm not going to write out the recipe here. However, here are the super easy basics:
  1. make a batch of risotto
  2. cool it overnight
  3. combine risotto with a couple of eggs and form into balls the size of small fists, stirring in breadcrumbs to help balls keep shape
  4. poke a hole in the center of each ball and stick in a small cube of mozzarella (we used fresh whole milk mozzarella, which David called ice cream mozzarella-so yummy!)
  5. seal up hole in ball
  6. roll risotto balls in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs-repeat
  7. fry balls in batches of 4-5 in pot of oil
  8. drain on paper towels
  9. serve hot

Note: we saved some of the rice balls at home. I decided to stick a couple in the toaster oven last night to bake, rather than frying them, and BOY, were they good. This is a more healthful approach, and the cheese really melts in the middle. YUM!


Lunch in SoHo

By SoHo, I'm not referring to that hip bohemian haven in the Big Apple, but what I've come to think of as South Hollywood...the neighborhood within which I toil thanklessly 9-6, every day.
Work drudgery aside, lunchtime is usually a happy time for me. There are loads of restaurants in every pocket of LA, and I'd like to wax poetic for a moment about the two that are making my Tuesday a bit brighter.

Most of the hipster crowd in the city is probably aware of
M de Chaya (http://mcafedechaya.com), even if they haven't been. This veggie/pesca friendly place has always struck me as a uber-clean, new-agey deli. They serve loads of sandwiches, salads and sushi, with a revolving menu of soups. Most of their sandwiches come with meat substitutes...do NOT go in there expecting the Muffaletta to taste of real salami, because trust me, you will leave a sad panda. However, go in with an open mind and mouth and you are sure to be satisfied. I have fallen in love with the Panino Tuscano, which they describe as "tuscan white bean spread, spicy seitan “salami”, caramelized onions & arugula on house-baked focaccia grilled hot & crisp to order." It sounds delicious because it is. Nuff said.
Today, though, I wanted something different. I have a (some say bad) habit of always getting the same thing at different restaurants once I find something I adore. So I decided to opt out of my sandwich rut and dive into a few salads. Their menu lets you choose 2, 3 or 4 salads to combine in a sort of personal salad smorgasbord. I went with three vastly different but (pretty much) equally yummy choices:
  1. Kale with Peanut Sauce--there's really nothing else to this puppy. Kale, if you're not familiar, seems similar in strength of taste to spinach; texturally, though, it is more substantial. The strong taste of the kale is balanced by the subtle sweetness of the peanuty dressing.
  2. Sesame Soba Noodles--basically cold veggie lo mein (which, if you're me, is pretty much kickass anytime), but with a distinct taste of sesame, both in the dressing and in the seeds throughout the salad. There were some rather unwieldy pieces of tofu in this serving a little too tough for my liking, but it didn't do much to detract from the salad as a whole.
  3. Wasabi Sweet Potato Salad--yes, wasabi. I was both scared and fascinated by the idea of this dish. Let me put it out there now that I am normally not a fan of salads with mayo, and only ordered this one because they made it with vegannaise. The wasabi was an undertone of the overall dish, which worked really well. However, the sweet potatoes seemed no different that regular potatoes to me...it could be I just have not had enough exposure to them, but I have to admit being disappointed with that. My fave part of this salad was the slices of cucumbers...their crunchiness in combo with the wasabi vegannaise was nearly worth my sweet potato disappointment.
After a very short wait (in spite of a crowd) I got my salads to go and started the trek back to the office. I passed over the used bookstore, sex toy shop and haberdashery, but couldn't resist stopping at the local coffee shop to pick up my drink. Stir Crazy is a little cafe with a faded sign and an eclectic clientèle. I wandered in there one morning when I had missed breakfast, and waited no less than 20 minutes for a sandwich. With no one in line in front of me. BUT, along with that sandwich, I ordered something that I would NEVER have imagined on the menu of this place, or really any place: a cherry lime rickey. So what? you might say. Cherry and Lime Concentrate with some seltzer water...anyone could do that. Oh, but DOES anyone do it? No. Just ORDERING it made me feel like I was wearing a poodle skirt and waiting for my guy to pick me up outside the soda shop. Today, as I walked back to work (or hell, as I like to call it), that rickey called to me. It said, 'I'll make your day better! Just give me another chance! It won't take too long (unless you order a sandwich too)!''
So I did. And it was right. It was just the right ratio of cherry to lime to soda water, not too sweet or tart. Just Cherry Lime Rickey perfection. If you don't know what that is yet, well, I hope you do someday. It makes even hell a little bit more comfortable.

Until next time...


First Post!

Woah. This is waaaaaaay past due. Hey there, food-lovers! My name is Emily and I love food. There are times when my metabolism makes that very evident too...but that is fodder for another blog.

Moving on: I am a formerly extreme picky eater who has been mostly converted through the vast and wonderful culinary experiences I've had since living on my own in Los Angeles, CA. This is Hollywood, people. Now, I admit to still having some food hang-ups (and you may wonder, as I do on occasion, whether a girl who abhors plain tomatoes is really capable of writing a decent food blog) but trying new things now excites rather than scares me. I am a comfort food girl at heart but adore Thai, Indian, French, Southern, German, New England, New Californian...yadda yadda, you know the drill.

I also love baking. Both of my parents as well as my maternal grandma have been baking all my life and through their influence, I like to think that I've gotten pretty good at it! Baking begets things like big bellies and chunky hips, so lately I've been expanding my repertoire to things that aren't loaded with butter and sugar.

Through this blog I am hoping to share new recipes and restaurants with you. I hope to make them enjoyable and informative enough to get you all into the kitchen, and out to some great new places!!