Friday, April 29, 2011


With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, I can’t help but get into the spirit a little early. I made some fresh tomatillo salsa this week and pretty much used it as a topping on almost everything I ate. One night, I paired it with some grilled skirt steaks and it was fantastic!

If you haven’t cooked with tomatillos before, they look like little green unripe tomatoes enclosed in a husk. They have a wonderful tartness that works great in salsas and sauces. You can roast them for a sweeter flavor, but I like them fresh the best.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb tomatillos, roughly chopped, (husks removed and well rinsed)
4 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ jalapeno, chopped (include seeds if you like it spicy)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Serve with chips, and use as a topping on your favorite Mexican dish!

Hope everyone has an awesome weekend! It’s supposed to be in the 80’s in L.A. this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited about it!!



Thursday, April 28, 2011


My intimate relationship with pho began in the winter of 2009.  Shortly thereafter, all of my friends got hooked.  

I began having pho at least 3 times a week.  At least.  That number eventually rose.  It became so pathetic.  I'd order pho from different restaurants all over town so that the people working at the one closest to my house didn't think I was a maniac [for pho], which I was.  

What is pho?

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup usually served with beef or chicken.  The noodles are made from rice and condiments one can add to the broth include thinly sliced onions, lime leaves, basil, bean sprouts, lime and jalapeno.  One can also add hoisin sauce (plum sauce) and/or hot sauce (such as Sri Racha).  I like adding it all.  The broth becomes so flavorful and spicy.  Great on a cold, rainy day...which is actually when I fell in love with this dish.  It was a cold winter's day in LA.  I think the temperature outside was 53 degrees.  Brr.  I kid.

Nothing like some chicken pho...

I pretty much have tried all of the pho restaurants between Beverly Hills to Koreatown.  And boy, do they have some interesting store names.  And I say interesting because "pho" is pronounced by natives in Vietnam as "fuh."  Yet these store names set their customers up for failure because look at the following restaurants! 

9021Pho (you would definitely NOT say 9021-fuh) - The most well decorated of the pho restaurants. The pho here is good...not great like it is at Pho 36.  And it's pricier than most places.  But it keeps me happy!

Pho Citi - They're open 24 hours and the pho here is just ok.  It's hard to mess up pho, though.

UnPhoGettable - On my list of places to go. 

Absolutely PhobulousNot that great.  And they had a prominently displayed B rating in the window.  When I saw it, I almost choked.  Ambience is crap.

What The Pho (for real, there's a restaurant with this name!) - Closed.

Simply Pho You - I really like this place, although there's no ambience.  If fluorescent lighting overhead doesn't bother you while you dine, this is your spot!

Pho 36 - My favorite pho place.  The noodles are the perfect thickness and the chicken is delicious.  Everything is amazing (except for the ambience) including the price.  Even though it's really far from my house, anytime I'm in that area, I obviously stop in.

With these restaurants clearly rhyming "pho" with the english sound of "OH," it's no wonder everyone thinks they're supposed to pronounce pho as "pho!"  So when I order my Chicken Pho, I can sometimes feel the disgust of the employees as they frown and read the order back to me; "One chicken FUH."  Now I just say PHO very loudly and confidently and hope they don't spit in my broth.

I haven't tried the following places, but I find it funny that these restauranteurs spent absolutely NO time thinking up a name for their restaurants.  

Pho 2000
Pho 21
Pho 4000

Pho 79
Pho 88
New Pho 999

I'm still not sick of pho, so if you have a favorite pho place, please let me know!  I would love to try a new place. 

If I had a pho restaurant, I might be silly and name it Mo Pho.  As in "more" pho.  But people would take it the wrong way.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I know soup doesn’t exactly scream summer. But Gazpacho does!

Gazpacho is a cold tomato based soup that perfectly compliments any summertime lunch, snack, or dinner. Topped with fresh croutons, diced bell peppers, and cucumbers, the cold combination of textures and flavors is insanely summery and refreshing.

Keep a nice tall pitcher of it in your fridge, and you have an instant and delicious soup ready to go anytime!

I really like this
recipe by Jose Andres. It sticks to the basics without adding too many extra seasonings and ingredients. You end up with a wonderful soup that really showcases the flavor and freshness of the vegetables.

By Jose Andres
Serves 6-8

For the soup:
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup sherry vinegar (mostly sold in specialty grocery stores and gourmet markets)
½ cup Oloroso sherry (if you can’t find Oloroso, a sweet sherry will work fine)
¾ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

For the garnish:
2 1 inch-thick slices rustic bread
¼ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
½ cucumber, diced
½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
Sea salt to taste

To make the soup, combine the cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sherry, olive oil and 2 cups of water in a food processor or blender. Puree the ingredients until everything is well blended into a thick pink liquid. Pour the gazpacho through a medium-hole strainer into a pitcher. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

For the garnish: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and toss in a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack until golden brown, about 10 minutes, turning halfway through. Set the croutons aside to cool.

To serve, pour the chilled soup into cups or bowls. Top with croutons, cucumbers and peppers. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


At the top of my list of countries to visit is...Italy.  Can you tell from my book collection?

Rachel's family is from Italy, so we plan to travel there together sometime in the near future.  In the meantime, I'll be thumbing through these books and reading blogs about Italy!  I think my next purchase might be Rosetta Stone: Italian.

Anyway, when the May issue of Bon Appétit arrived in my mailbox, I knew exactly what I was making for dinner that night.  The cover picture was of spaghetti in a tomato sauce, and I'm all about tomato sauce.  I LOVE IT ON EVERYTHING.

The teaser on the cover said, "The simplest, silkiest sauce you'll ever make." p. 142.  I got so excited. But this recipe didn't call for any protein, so I decided to throw in some garlic sauteed shrimp along with some mozzarella cubes.  The result was a very happy belly.

Pasta Al Pomodoro
Serves 4

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1  28oz. can peeled tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
3 large basil sprigs, plus more for garnish
12 oz. spaghetti or penne
2 Tbsp. cubed unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, Pecorino, or cubed Mozzarella

Heat olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium-low heat.  Add minced onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-4 minutes.  Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute more.  Increase heat to medium, add puréed tomatoes and season lightly with salt;  cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in basil sprigs and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot.  Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. 

Discard basil and heat skillet over high heat.  Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce; bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add cubed butter and cheese (and cooked shrimp if you desire!).  Sprinkle with remaining basil and serve.  Enjoy!

20 minutes later 


Monday, April 25, 2011


After seeing Maya's delicious chickpea curry last week and the baby octopus dish with chickpeas she tried at Culina...I thought I'd share one of my favorite chickpea recipes and keep this chickpea party going!!

It wasn't until recently that I learned that when roasted in the oven, chickpeas take on a deliciously crunchy texture comparable to nuts. Since chickpeas are naturally low in fat, high in protein and rich in fiber, this makes an excellent good-for-you-healthy-snack!

1 15oz can chickpeas or garbanzo beans (same thing), drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place all dry spices in a bowl and mix to combine. Use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from chickpeas. Add chickpeas and olive oil to bowl with spices and toss until chickpeas are evenly coated.

Spread evenly on baking sheet and place in oven. Roast for a total of 35-40 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Chickpeas should look lightly browned and shrunken when ready to take out of oven. Let sit for 10 minutes before crunching away!


Friday, April 22, 2011


Culina is the gorgeously revamped restaurant in the posh Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.  They did a much needed makeover because their previous restaurant, The Gardens, although nice, was getting a little dusty. With the hottest chefs leading the restaurant craze in the City of Angels, so many amazing new spots are springing up everywhere, and the Gardens couldn't compete.  Los Angelenos thank you, Four Seasons, for spending those millions on renovations.  I promise to frequent your restaurant more often now because I loved so many things about the new space:  The cuisine is modern Italian fare, and fancy at that because the bill didn't lie (I caught a glimpse of the total as my date signed his receipt).  The ambience is romantic and sexy with a dimly lit dining room and luxurious decor.  A great place for people watching, as the clientele is hip and beautiful.  

The story; I went on a date here recently.  He's a keeper since he dealt with my buzzkill picture taking every time the waiter brought a new dish.  After all, I am part Japanese, so I don't leave home without it (my camera).  And if that's the only real baggage I come with, he should be so lucky!  

My date and I were going to see a movie with friends at 7pm, but it was currently 3pm and dinner wasn't til 10pm.  We needed to eat something.  So we decided on drinks and a snack at the nearby Four Seasons.  It was a Saturday, and day drinking is permitted (and encouraged) on weekends and on holidays.  Mandatory on vacations.

His and Her martinis: Mine perfectly dirty and his with a twist.

View of the crudo bar area.  I was hoping for more people to be day drinking!

It seems I'm not the only one that loved their experience here.  Esquire Magazine named Culina as one of the nation's best new restaurants in 2010.  And one interesting feature about Culina that allows it to have a leg up on other venues; It houses LA's only crudo (means "raw" in Italian) bar. 

Fancy Snacks: Marinated Olives and delicious Breadsticks and Parmesan Crisps

Clockwise from left: Ahi Tuna with Ginger Oil, Coriander Seed & Lemon Salt, Hamachi with Orange and Star Anise, Uni with Truffle Oil and shaved Truffles, Salami with marinated Artichokes.  Not pictured: Parmesan Cheese plate.

The raw dishes, as well as the plating, are very simple and very pretty.  This "snack," along with our drinks, hit the spot.  But the bartender talked us into getting the Baby Octopus with Chickpeas in a Harissa Tomato Sauce.

So tender and smokey...mmm.  And you know I love me some chickpeas.

How would I rate the food, you ask?  Well, it was definitely satisfying and the blend of ingredients was fun and creative.  Would I go here just for the food?  Probably not.  But what Culina offers me is a whole experience.  Don't get me wrong, the food is great, but not mind-blowing.  Sometimes the best food can be found in a hole-in-the-wall mom and pop place, but with absolutely NO ambience.  

But I wouldn't blog about a mediocre establishment.  I stand behind Culina as a destination you must add to your list for a truly good time.  Chances are, if you go in the afternoon on a weekend, you'll see me at the crudo bar!  Come join me and I'll buy you a drink!  See, there are some perks to reading this blog. 


Thursday, April 21, 2011


This Indian curry is what I've been eating over the course of the past 3 days: As a meal, as a snack, with basmati rice, or with a dollop of plain yogurt.  

Looking for inspiration for what to cook for dinner one day, I was thumbing through my Food & Wine magazine and came across this recipe.  The ingredients listed made my mouth water on the spot, so I knew this was "the one."  And it didn't look too difficult, seeing as I'd never made an Indian curry and was also pressed for time.  The only part of the recipe that made me cry was dicing 3 onions.  

Side note: Growing up, my mom used to wear my ski goggles whenever she cooked with onions.  I thought she looked silly and used to make fun of her.  CUT TO: Me as an adult.  I now wear ski goggles when chopping onions.  You may look like a Dorky McDorkerson, but to the women, your mascara and nose will not run (men shouldn't wear mascara, so this doesn't apply to you).

Back to the curry.  The part of the recipe that made me wheeze and cough was when I opened the top to the food processor after pureeing the jalapeño/ginger/garlic paste.  Be careful!  That sh*t is potent! 

So without further ado, I give you utopia in a bowl...

Courtesy of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor
Total Time: 35 minutes 
4 - 6 Servings

This classic Punjabi dish is often served as part of a big Sunday lunch, along with raita, naan and salad.

8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 sweet onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or LESS, for this amount will make your curry very spicy)
1-1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth (or water, but broth gives the curry depth)
3/4 cup tomato purée or plain tomato sauce (this was my own addition because the broth wasn't tomato-ey enough for my taste!)
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons whole cilantro leaves

In a mini food processor, combine the garlic, jalapeños and ginger and process to a paste.  


...becomes this.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil.  Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling, about 3 minutes.  

Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  

Add the tomatoes and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, about 6 minutes.  

Add the chickpeas and broth (and tomato purée if you'd like) and simmer until the chickpeas are flavored with the gravy, about 8 minutes.

Season the chickpeas with salt.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with cilantro, a dollop of plain yogurt and enjoy!

What I love about this dish is how healthy and how flavorful it is.  Not only does it combine robust flavors to shock your taste buds, the tomatoes round it out with a tangy sweetness that is then perfectly tamed with the yogurt garnish.  An unusual blend of sweet, savory and spicy that will make your friends and family wanting more.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


For me, Easter isn’t really Easter without an Easter Pizza. My Grandma Rose, who happens to be Italian and also the world’s greatest cook (in my opinion), created this magnificent recipe. This isn’t any ordinary pizza. In fact, it looks nothing like a pizza and tastes nothing like a pizza. The best way I can describe it is that it’s sort of a cross between a soufflé and rice pudding. It’s airy and light, and has the perfect amount of sweetness.

There are all sorts of different kinds of Easter Pizza; each region of Italy and/or family has their own special variation. My Grandma used to make this sweeter version, and a more savory version that included ham. Since the sweeter version was always my favorite, that’s the one I decided to share with all of you!

Grandma Rose’s Sweet Easter Pizza

5 eggs – beaten with a fork
1 cup dry Acini di Pepe pasta (cooked, drained, and rinsed in cold water)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups ricotta
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 cup Crisco (shortening)
1/2 cup ice water

Egg wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare pie crust first. Combine all ingredients for crust in a large bowl and knead until combined. (do not knead too much) Roll into ball, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for 30 min.

While pie crust is in fridge, start on filling. Combine beaten eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl. Add cooked pasta and ricotta. Sir until combined.

Remove pie crust from refrigerator. Cut in half. Roll out one half and place in bottom of 8x12 baking pan. Pour filling in crust. Roll out other half of pie crust and place on top. Pinch sides and remove any overhanging crust.

Combine egg and milk in a small bowl for egg wash. Lightly brush the egg wash over the top of the easter pizza before putting in the oven.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 30 minutes.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This past weekend, I took a trip out to Colorado Springs, CO to visit my brother. As usual, I had a great time! Here are a few highlights from the weekend….

First stop: The Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, CO

Considering the fact that over 23 million barrels of beer are produced in Colorado each year, making it 1st in the nation in beer production per capita; it’s always high on my list to check out a different brewery each time I go. This trip, we ended up at The Great Divide Brewing Company 
and it was excellent. If you find yourself in Denver, I would highly recommend checking them out.

their Denver Pale Ale (DPA)which turned out to be my favorite

Best meal of the trip: Root Down in Denver, CO

Root Down’s kitchen focuses on locally sourced ingredients and even gives a shout out to each of their local suppliers on the menu, which I thought was pretty cool. With an unbeatable view of the Denver skyline, and lucky for me the most gorgeous cherry blossom trees in full bloom right outside, I was in a serious happy place while eating there. With great service, inventive fresh food, and a fun casual atmosphere; I’ll definitely be returning on my next trip out.

My favorite food item of the entire weekend: Roasted root vegetable salad with a maple Mascarpone crostini, smoked Prosciutto, and roasted pistachios. I can’t wait to try and re-create this dish at home.

Another really great dish: Diver scallops with plantain hash, lemon-habanero tartar sauce, micro basil, and crispy red onions

Best hotel in the area: The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO

Modeled after the opulence and extravagance of the finest hotels in Europe, The Broadmoor was built in 1918 by a wealthy entrepreneur and his wife. No expense was spared and it still shows today. Every Sunday, they host a fantastic brunch and it has become a tradition every time I visit.

I can't get over how beautiful all the ceilings are

Me and my brother