Recipe: Gazpacho

I’m on a serious, serious health kick. I’ve recently left my job as a pollster – I feel fortunate to have seen an inside look into the development of competitive political campaigns, but political consulting wasn’t the path that I saw myself on in the long term.

While I’m figuring out the next step – and finally settling the long-term debate I have with myself between pursuing public interest law or academia, I’m taking time to rejuvenate in every possible sense. I’ve really pumped up my fitness routine. I’ve been attending the LA Public Library’s incredible free lectures, and the Colburn School of Music’s free recitals and concerts. I’m finally learning Spanish, spending several hours a day studying intensively.

Foodwise, I’m finally have time to cook nutritious meals again, and it feels amazing. Last weekend, we went to the Hollywood Farmer’s market and got an incredible spread of beautiful fresh California produce – carrots, beets, chard, lettuce, fresh onions, strawberries. I couldn’t wait to get cooking.

One recipe I’ve really been craving is gazpacho. I made some for lunch today and it was amazing. Jon was also a big fan.

Jon’s One Line Review: The soup may be cold but Greer’s on a hot streak with this one.

Ingredients:

  • about 5 juicy fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 small or 1 large shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • about 1/4 cup vinegar (sherry or cider)
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend the tomatoes. Add 1/2 the cucumber (quarter before adding), 1/2 the red pepper, the shallots, and the garlic. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add the vinegar, and olive oil. Taste, and adjust proportions as desired.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Chill (gazpacho is best after 1-2 days, but I was very impatient and ate mine immediately)
  5. Serve with a sprinkling of diced red pepper and cucumber, a drizzle of olive oil and cracked grated pepper.

Travel: Paris

IMG_3290This is very, very much a throwback post. I’m writing it in my sunny apartment in LA because I’m feeling a travel itch and am really missing living in England, where a trip to Paris or Rome or Madrid was just a hundred bucks and an hour flight away.

Last year, Jon took me to Paris, for my birthday, and also to ask me to marry him. It was an absolutely incredible couple of days for many, many reasons and we’ll remember it for a lifetime. One amazing part was that Jon scoured restaurant and cocktail bar reviews for weeks before we went, because he knows how much good food means to me. The places he picked were all so, so incredible. The other day we were talking about some of them, and trying to remember where we went, so I thought it’d be a good idea to write them down, while they’re still relatively top of mind.

So here’s the list of our favorite bars and restaurants in Paris.

Restaurants and Cafes

Breizh Cafe

This crepe place in the Marais will ruin all other crepe places for you for the rest of your life. The buckwheat savory crepes have the most delicious fillings – from creme, caviar, and potatoes, to fresh farmers’ market vegetables. I also tried the buckwheat crepes with dessert fillings – pear, caramel and ice-cream. They also serve amazing alcoholic cider with their crepes, which is a totally acceptable thing to drink for breakfast…I think.

The main restaurant is always really crowded, and you’ll have to make a reservation, but they have a tiny cafe right next door where you can pretty much always get a seat. This place was so good, we were in Paris 5 days, and I think we may have gone here three times. Ahhh I wish I could go right now!

One of my favorite crepes at Briezh
One of my favorite crepes at Briezh

109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, France, 01 42 72 13 77

L’Office

Can’t say enough good things about this place. It’s everything you want a restaurant to be – beautiful intimate atmosphere, a small selections of fresh dishes to choose from that are absolutely perfect! I had a burrata and beet risotto appetizer when we went, and a cod with sesame and miso. We split a cheese plate for dessert. The menu changes all the time, so you’ll be in for a treat!

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3, rue Richer, 75009 Paris (Montmartre), 01 47 70 67 31

Graindorge Restaurant

I loved this old-school French restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe. The design of the restaurant is very old school art deco. We splurged and went for their three course menu, which was delicious. I had a herring appetizer and a delicious fish stew for dinner. It’s kind of out of the way, but worth the trek!

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15, rue de l’Arc de Triomphe, 75017 Paris, 01 47 54 00 28

Cocktail Bars

Candelaria

A taco place in Paris? Yep, and you’ll have some of the best cocktails and tacos in the entire world here. Come early because the lines can be astronomical, and you’ll be luck to get a seat, and with tacos these delicious and messy – you’ll want a seat. Be prepared to see lots of hip, well dressed Parisians. Be prepared to want every taco and every cocktail on the menu.

Jon at Candelaria
Jon at Candelaria

52 rue de Saintonge 75003 Paris, 01 42 74 41 28

Curio Parlor

This cocktail place was really fun – incredible cocktails and a great vibe (dark, with lots of taxidermy). It’s located near Notre Dame.

16 rue des Bernardins 75005

A trip to Paris isn't complete without this shot!
A trip to Paris isn’t complete without this shot!

Review: El Coraloense Tacos (and LA Taco Madness Festival)

Today was the annual LA Taco Madness Festival in Grand Park in downtown LA. The free festival brought together some of the best taco trucks and stores from around LA.  I had very high expectations for this event, and boy were they were met!

We tried a bunch of different stalls, but my favorite tacos by far were from El Coraloense, a taco place with locations in Downey and Bell Gardens, CA. They had an incredible ceviche tostada with fresh mango salsa – so refreshing on such a hot day. Their fish “taco revolcado” was my favorite thing on their menu (pictured above). It was a grilled fish with a fantastic seasoning served with salsa, cabbage, and vegetables. After getting one round of tacos, we waited in line for another 20 minutes to get seconds at this stall. I think a trip to Bell Gardens is in my future.

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We didn’t get a chance to try any tacos from  Marisco Jalisco, which I’ve heard routinely wins the “Best Taco” prize  at this festival, but  they’re located near downtown, so we plan to go sometime in the next few weeks.

Me and Jon at LA Taco Madness
Me and Jon at LA Taco Madness

 

Restaurant Review: Sushi Gen (Downtown, Los Angeles)

Sushi Gen has fast become our favorite restaurant in downtown LA. It’s a  sushi joint in a strip mall in Little Tokyo that has the best, most satisfying  sushi combination box I’ve ever had in my life (and it’ll only set you back $20). The tuna and fatty tuna sushi is particularly noteworthy, and completely melts in your mouth.

On top of the food, going to Sushi Gen is always a special experience – the restaurant looks like a beautiful bento box inside.

The only caveat is that there’s usually around a 30 minute to 1hr wait to get in, but there are plenty of bars nearby to keep you busy. I really like the One Eye’d Gypsy, though it’s a bit of a trek.

If  this short little review didn’t convince you to give it a try- LAist ranked it as one of the best affordable sushi places in LA.

Sushi Gen, 422 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Closed Sundays

Recipe: Gluten-Free Mexican Quiche

I was really in the mood for quiche yesterday morning, and wondered if I could make some with corn tortilla crust, because we had a bunch of leftover corn tortillas in our fridge. The experiment turned out amazingly – Jon and I had to stop ourselves from eating the whole pie pan of quiche on the spot! The corn tortillas made such a delicious delicate crust.

The quiche is really versatile – you can throw whatever vegetables or ingredients you want into the egg mixture.

Jon’s One Line Review: Wow – you really are an exceptional cook!

Ingredients:

  • pat of butter (for greasing the pan)
  • 5-6 small corn tortillas
  • 4 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • half an onion, diced
  • two tomatoes, diced
  • large handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup of salsa verde salsa (my recipe will be following soon!)
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • dollop of Greek yogurt (to serve)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a pie pan with butter (I don’t have a pie pan, so I used a frying pan, and put aluminum foil over the plastic handle).
  2. Layer corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan and around the edges, so that it looks like a pie crust (to place the tortillas around the edges, use a pair of scissors to cut them in half, and put the flat side down on the surface. You want to make sure the whole bottom of the pan, and sides are covered.
  3. In a big bowl, mix the eggs, milk, onion, tomatoes, salsa, cilantro, and cheese.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the tortilla crust “shell”.
  5. Put in the oven, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the egg is cooked and set.
  6. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt to cut the heat!

Recipe: Classic Creme Brûlée (France)

It was Jon’s birthday a few weeks ago, so we decided to celebrate by eating lots of melted raclette cheese, and topping it off with homemade creme brûlées for dessert. Jon had given me a creme brûlée torch for Christmas, and this was the first time we used it. We ran into a slight hiccup – at 9 p.m. when our creme brulees were all cooked and cooled, we took out the torch to use it, only to discover that the butane fuel for the torch was sold separately. Always one to improvise, I tried taking out a fire lighter, and held it over the creme brûlée, but all that happened was that one little granule of sugar turned into a translucent bubble. Googling around, I found out that I could just put our creme brulees under a broiler in the oven, but Jon was adamant that  we hadn’t bought creme brûlée dishes that could withstand the heat. Plus, that option didn’t sound as cool as setting something on fire.

So, we made mad dash to the late-night drugstores of Downtown. We finally found a butane container at RiteAid for only $5. We filed our torch up, and used it to make the most delightfully crispy burnt sugar top to our creme brulees.

Jon’s One-Line Review: “It’s fun to burn things and to eat them.” 

Ingredients: (makes 6 small creme brulees)

  • 2 cups of heavy (whipping cream)
  • 4-inch piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • a hefty portion of granulated sugar for the topping.

Pour the cream into a saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and add the vanilla pod. Place over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape any remaining seeds into the cream.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the 1/3 cup of sugar until dissolved. Whisk in the cream.

Put six small ramekins in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Pour warm water into the baking pan to come halfway up the side of the dishes. Bake in the oven for between 40 minutes to an hour, or until the center of each custard is set, but still jiggles slightly. Remove from oven and take dishes out of the hot water.

Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (not an optional step, necessary for the custard to set!)

When ready to serve, make sure your creme brûlée torch is ready to go. Then, evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over each custard. use the torch to caramelize the sugar.

Take out your teaspoon, crack the creme brûlée and enjoy!

Recipe: Salmon Ikura Donburi (Japan)

Hirozen is one of my favorite places to eat in Los Angeles. It’s a little restaurant tucked away in a strip mall in West Hollywood that has the most delectable Japanese small dishes and sushi. One of my favorite things on their menu is their Salmon Ikura Donburi. I recently discovered how to replicate it almost perfectly at home. The secret is Nori Furikake seasoning.

Jon’s Review: “Mmm! The lemon really brings out the flavors”

Ingredients:

  • 1 decent-sized salmon filet
  • olive oil
  • soy sauce
  • 1 cup of white rice
  • fresh ikura
  • nori furikake seasoning (definitely not optional!)
  • lemon (for garnish)

Cook the rice. Add two cups of water and one cup of rice to the pan, with a smidge of olive oil or butter to prevent sticking). Put the lid on the pan, and let it come to a boil. When the pot is boiling, turn down the heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed.

Add the salmon to a baking pan, and marinade in olive oil and soy sauce. Broil in the oven for about 8 minutes (you want the fish to be all the way cooked through, not rare).

When the rice is done, add a generous heap of nori furikake seasoning, and mix into rice.

When the salmon is done, flake it, and add to the rice. Mix well.

Serve with a generous portion of ikura as garnish. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top, and serve!

Recipe: Sea Urchin Spaghetti

I was in the mood for something really decadent yesterday, so when fresh sea urchin (uni) caught my eye at our local Japanese grocery store, Little Tokyo Marketplace, I really couldn’t resist getting some. I decided to make a sea urchin pasta dish, something kind of similar to the sea urchin spaghetti at the restaurant Chaya in West Hollywood.

It was amazing!! As soon as I finished my plate, I wished I had more. But, at $6.99 a package for sea urchin, this is going to remain a special occasion recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 servings of gluten-free spaghetti (I’ve still been using M&S gluten-free pasta that Jon brings me back from England)
  • 5 whole cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red chili flakes (approximate)
  • 1 package of cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
  • package of sea urchin (you can get this at most Asian markets that sell fish)
  • leaves from about 6 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • salt

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

While waiting on the water, pour the olive oil into a large frying pan (the pan will have to be big enough to hold the pasta later). Add the garlic and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the garlic cloves caramelize. You’ll want  to flip the garlic cloves every few minutes, so that all sides are caramelized evenly.

Next, add the chili flakes to the frying pan, turn the heat up to medium, and saute until crispy, about two minutes. Next, add in the cherry tomatoes, and cook until just wilted. Set aside.

When the water in the pot boils, add a generous spoonful of salt and the spaghetti, and cook until barely al dente. Drain the pasta, setting aside one cup of the pasta water for use later.

After you’re done cooking the pasta, add about 3/4 of your sea urchin to the frying pan with the tomatoes and garlic. Turn the heat back on, add a generous splash of the reserved pasta water to the pan, and saute until the uni is blended into the water. Then, add the cooked spaghetti to the pan, and mix it into the sauce. Then, add the parsley, and mix. When ready to serve, place spaghetti on a plate with the remaining sea urchin as garnish. Enjoy!

Recipe is adapted from here.

Recipe: Vegetarian Chorizo and Potatoes (Mexico)

This morning, we drove to Boyle Heights to check out the Mexican grocery store El Super. It was super all right. Walking into the store was like taking a trip into Mexico. You’re greeted with the smell of fresh homemade tortillas, big displays of chiles, corn husks, and cactus. The produce is fresh and everything in the store is so cheap!

One of my favorite finds in the grocery store was vegetarian chorizo. Often, fake meat has wheat as an ingredient, but this package proclaimed it was gluten-free! I decided to make some for brunch today in a chorizo and fried potato recipe I found in my favorite Latin American cookbook, Jose Garces’ “The Latin Road Home”.

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Jon had a version of this recipe with real meat chorizo, and this was his review: “Tasty! Would go great with salsa verde and scrambled eggs”

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1/2 pack of vegetarian chorizo, crumbled
  • 1-2 yukon gold or similar potatoes, cubed
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • olive oil
  • handful of crumbled quesa fresc0 (for serving)

Boil water in a medium pan. Add potatoes and boil until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and add chorizo, onion, and jalapeno. Cook for about 10 minutes until onions are caramelized. Then, add potatoes to the frying pan, and more olive oil as needed. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until potatoes are crispy and fried. Serve with crumbled quesa fresco and your favorite Mexican breakfast dishes!

Review: Sarita’s Pupuseria in Grand Central Market (Downtown, Los Angeles)

Grand Central Market  is another gem in Downtown LA. It’s a dusty old place that has been in operation since 1917, and has lots of stalls that sell super cheap vegetables, tacos, Asian rice bowls, fish, ceviche and more.

Recently Grand Central Market has been going through some big changes. A new breakfast place called Eggslut opened up a few weeks ago, and just last week a fancy cheese shop opened up. While it’s nice to see some new things in the market, I really hope the affordable old-world food stalls can survive the gentrification!

One of my favorite classic stalls in the market is Sarita’s Pupuseria. If you haven’t had them before, pupusas are cornmeal pancakes, filled with cheese and vegetables. In addition to the classic cheese, at Sarita’s you can have pupusa fillings ranging from mushrooms to spinach or jalapenos. They also serve their pupusas with complimentary spicy coleslaw, which really livens up the softer taste of the pupusas.

I’ve tried out some other dishes at this stall, including the plantains, but you really want to stick with the pupusas here – they’re the best thing on the menu.

Jon and I went to Sarita’s for breakfast today and it was delicious as always!

Jon’s Review: A delectable combination of cheese and whatever the other ingredient is.

Here's a picture of Sarita's. If you enter the market on Broadway it'll be one of the stalls on the right.
Here’s a picture of Sarita’s. If you enter the market on Broadway it’ll be one of the stalls on the right.

Sarita’s Pupuseria. Grand Central Market. 317 Broadway #41, Los Angeles, CA 90013, (213) 626-6320, Open everyday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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