Food Porn for the Soul
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Christmas Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s a night to bring family and friends around a table to enjoy good food, festive libations and fun games. This year, I stayed in town and invited myself over to the Cubaks. Nearly ten years ago, they welcomed me into their family and whenever I can’t make it to the Bay Area for a holiday, they are always at the top of my list. They’ve always made me feel welcome and treat me as one of their own. This year was no different. For dinner, Janet made a pot of Winter Chili like I had never had before. It should be known that I grew up with a distaste for beans, with the exception of two- Kidney Beans and Butter Beans. All of the others from pork and beans to re-fried beans, and especially my personal worst, black beans (no matter how hard I try, they taste like dirt) I tend to omit or steer clear. But Janet’s chili was so good, that I was the first to go back for seconds and talked myself out of thirds (on account of the divine dessert she had also prepared).
Then yesterday, I found myself craving another bowl of her chili, so I did what I do and I tried reconstructing it from my mind. The result was so delicious, that I have eaten almost the entire pot myself and I wanted to write it down so I could make it again in the future. The nice thing is, because the beans are already cooked, you can actually make this rather quickly if you are in a hurry, but the longer you can let it simmer (hour to an hour and a half OR for a few hours in a crock pot), the flavors just get better and better.
- 1 lb chicken, cut up into small chunks (I like to use boneless breasts, they just make life easier)
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 large 48 oz can of chicken broth
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 2 tbs Cajun Spices
- 2 tsp Cumin seed
- 1 14 oz can of Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soup
- 1 small can of chopped green chilies
- 1 15 ounce can of Great Northern White Beans
- 1 15 oz can Red Kidney Beans
- 1 15 oz can Butter Beans
- 4 Tbs of lemon juice
- 1 packet lowry’s Chili seasoning
Sour cream and shredded cheese for garnish (some people also enjoy chopped cilantro, but I’m personally not a fan).
In the bottom of the pot, I sauteed the onions, garlic and chicken with a little olive oil. Once they were fairly cooked, I began adding all of the other ingredients one at a time (draining the chilies a little and rinsing all of the beans). It was really that simple and I can not begin to describe how delicious it turned out. I also loved having the different textures of the different beans. Made it feel more like a bean medley! I personally chose to not make this one as spicy (I tend to add more kick in my Chili Con Carne). You can certainly add more heat, but I liked this one as a cozy comfort under a blanket and spicy just didn’t seem to fit in that scenario.
I served it in coffee mugs with some shredded cheese and a dollip of sour cream. That sour cream is so key, that I may add it in earlier on my next batch and see how it turns out. I’m going to go have another cup right now. If you try it, let me know. I’d love to know what you think!
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Tags: Chicken, chili, Winter
AKA, My Night in Minneapolis
Russell is one of the chefs at The Anchor in Minneapolis (brand new and highly recommended as they quite possibly have the BEST fish and chips I have ever had) and this is him after playing in the kitchen (the perk of being one of the last customers standing) and came up with “The Russell Special”. Warning: it is not recommended for those with dietary restrictions or individuals with high cholesterol or blood pressure, nor to be eaten regularly. However, if you are in your early twenties and find yourself hungover, this is heaven! He took a hamburger patty, wrapped it in bacon, then added cheese, then battered and fried, then topped with a fried egg (over easy so you get the yummy creamy yumminess from the yolk) and their amazing brown gravy. I suddenly wish I was 22, had no dietary restrictions and hungover (and that they were open for breakfast).
If you live in the Minneapolis area or plan on visiting soon, you MUST give this place a try. I was only in the area for two nights, but it was my dinner both nights because we had to go back!
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…it may as well be one of the best ever…
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sara and I headed to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market and on a whim, I picked up a crate of figs. I used to love them when I was little. My brain is warped, but I recall that it was either my friend Barron or my Aunt Carol who had a fig tree in their backyard and I would gorge on them during the warm California summer.You’d think I’d have kept them more conscious in my mind, but I can’t recall the last time I’d had one (all of my years eating Sari’s Fig Newtons doesn’t really count). Since the Farmer’s Market, that has all changed.
I have bought a carton of them every time I’ve visited a market these last few weeks and they hardly make it a day in my kitchen. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I stand over the kitchen sink with a pairing knife, slicing off the end and popping them in my mouth. I seriously can not get enough! Then this morning, yes you read that right, THIS morning, I was on Jamie Oliver’s website and I saw a heading for “The Easiest Sexiest Salad In The World” (you can click on that to be taken there). Since I have been eating a lot of salads lately (thank you Miss Jenny), how could I not be interested in “the easiest” and “the sexiest”?
You can imagine my glee when I clicked on the link and immediately saw three of my favorite ingredients: prosciutto, mozzarella and FIGS! I’m going to cut to the chase here… on my way home from my chiropractor appointment, I stopped at the Meat Market of Kenneth Village in Glendale where I bought a half pound of thinly sliced (but not so thin it tears like tissue) prosciutto. Then I headed off to three different stores in search of my beloved figs! Thank you magical buyers at the always reliable Trader Joe’s! Because I wanted it to be more of a “salad” and not such an “appetizer” feeling, I added in a bag of lamb’s lettuce and tossed it all together. Also, since the fine folks of Trader Joe’s offer buratta mozzarella (my personal favorite) at such a good price (two balls for $4.99), I opted for that instead of the buffala (plus it pulls apart and tosses much easier). This is what I did and it was so delicious, I couldn’t wait to share it with EVERYONE. Jamie, I am happy to agree with you… this is one of the YUMMIEST, easiest, sexiest salads ever!*
- About 3/4 pound of figs (washed, tips cut off and sliced in half)
- 1 bag of lamb’s lettuce (available at Trader Joe’s (and I’m sure butter lettuce would be just as nice))
- About 6 slices of prosciutto (which I then tore into smaller pieces)
I have this special Hawaiian finishing salt my dad and step mom had sent me, so I used that for each step, but sea salt will be just as excellent. In a large bowl, I placed the prepped figs, sprinkled with a little salt, then tore up and added the prosciutto, sprinkled with a little salt, added the lettuce, yes sprinkled a little salt (key word each time: little), then I drizzled a little lemon juice, honey, olive oil and gave it a good toss. I finished it off with (you can probably guess it) a little salt and fresh cracked pepper. I wanted to cry it was so delicious. And no, for those keeping score, this isn’t necessarily on my Jenny Craig plan, but I have 3 hours of dance rehearsals tonight and if I am going to have any extra calories, every one in this salad is worth it. Enjoy! And let me know if you try it!
*be sure and try it soon, fig season will be ending soon and they are already hard enough to find!
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I know I owe everyone (including myself) a real blog post and I promise to get one soon. Things have been busy and all has been well, but I realize that I need to keep blogging a priority because it is an extension of keeping myself a priority. I love documenting my life (especially since I can barely remember this morning) and I love feeling connected to my friends.
That said… in a spontaneous moment, my friend Jo shared with me her excitement over a dinner reservation she had last night. Chef Ludo Lefebvre has smartly begun (and brilliantly executed if you ask me) a new dining experience he’s calling LudoBites. The idea is to take one of the many LA restaurants that are only open for breakfast and lunch and open it for dinner under his menu and leadership. Think of it like an art installation at a gallery, where an artist takes up the wall space for a month or two, only in this case, the artist is a chef and you get to eat the art!
After stopping by his website and poking around, it was easy to become excited as Jo’s passion for food and fun is exciting and contagious. Within minutes, I had a reservation for myself and The Mister a half an hour after Jo’s. An hour later, Jo called and said she got us at her table and my heart smiled knowing we were in for a night of revelry.
I am not sure what it is, but chefs get me excited. I think it has to do with their work ethic and how hard they have to work to make a name for themselves. Ambition and hard work turns me on. I have no problem admitting that. So you can imagine happy I was with Chef Ludo. Every bite of food was better than the one before. The butter that came with the bread was described more as icing. The creamy polenta with oxtail and black truffle was worthy of a competition with Heidi’s. Check out Jo’s website for a complete review of the food as I would never do it justice.
It was hands down one of my favorite meals and I am thankful that Jo, Peter, Charles and Robert let us tag along! Oftentimes living in a big city, we take for granted some of the food and restaurants we have, but last night, I knew I experienced something special and today I am counting my blessings as well as the minutes on the treadmill.
To read more from the evening (including a complete review of the food we ate), and to be informed by one of the coolest foodies you could know, visit MyLastBite.com
Charles’ also has a food blog at 1hundredmiles.blogspot.com
And of course, to see what all of the hubbub is about, be sure and check out Chef Ludo’s website: www.ludolefebvre.com/
You can also follow him on Twitter and see where his next restaurant adventures take him: twitter.com/chefludo
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Tags: Chef Ludo, Ludo Bites
For my third visit to Sri Siam Café, I invited my fellow FoodWhore Bob for lunch. This time I was determined to eat Thai food the way I’ve always eaten Thai food… very HOT and very SPICY. Not all food has to set my mouth on fire to be pleasurable. There’s just something about Thai food that doesn’t quite taste “authentic” without the extra heat. I think it’s because when I first tried it (twenty years ago) the dishes were always extra hot and spicy.
For lunch I suggested Bob and I start with the Nam (crispy rice salad), which has Thai sour sausage mixed with roasted peanuts, ginger, green onion and crispy rice. The unusual sour sausage almost tastes like it was soaked in lime juice, and the crispiness of the individual rice kernels are a surprising, savory crunch. The spicy Nam had been my favorite bite from lunch the week before, so I wanted to share it again with Bob, and he LOVED it.
When I asked for “very hot and spicy” on my first two visits, the waitress smiled and brought me what I thought was a medium heat, which is totally understandable since I was a new Sri Siam diner. She probably assumed I didn’t understand how hot and spicy Thai food could be, and didn’t want to throw out perfectly good food just because I ordered incorrectly.
On this visit I asked our server (a waiter this time) which dish was the “spiciest” on the menu. He pointed directly to “Poh Tak” (spicy seafood soup). It’s a hot pot filled with mussels, shrimps, crab, fish and squid in a sour spicy broth. I ordered the Poh Tak and made sure the waiter understood that I wanted it extra spicy. I made a point of saying that my food wasn’t spicy enough before and to please ask the chef to make the soup extra HOT and VERY SPICY. The waiter then raised an eyebrow and was probably about to ask me “are you sure?”, when I butted in and pleaded “I need my food to be very, very spicy PLEASE!”.
When my hot pot of spicy seafood soup arrived, I gave the waiter a look of “hmmm… this looks a little spicy, but we’ll see if you succeeded here”. He graciously scooped out the first little bowl of soup for me and then I went ahead and started in on the beautiful (and delicious) green mussels. Bob ordered the Panang Chicken lunch special, which came with steamed rice, soup and a vegetable egg roll. After I took a few sips of my soup, Bob asked me a question and it was the strangest thing… even though I was trying to answer him, my mouth wouldn’t work. Right then my eyes started blinking and I sat there with my mouth open, struggling as I mouthed “OH MY GAWD”. This was the hottest (and spiciest) thing I had ever tasted in my life, and it was truly a whole new level of fire in my mouth.
I know spice and heat are all relative, but I just want to note that I can easily handle blazing habanero chilies (even with the seeds intact). One of my favorite spicy treats I make at home, is a dessert I saw on tv a few years ago called “Fire and Ice”. It’s half of a habanero chili filled with lemon sorbet. The fire and ice gets under your tongue and it’s sort of paralyzing (in a good way) for a second.
Back in my 20′s I read (in some glossy, fashion magazine) that rubbing a slice of jalapeno on my lips would make them plump… a cheap alternative to lip injections. On the morning I decided to try this “natural” method, I was also scheduled to meet my new boss, who was flying in for the day to check on his photo gallery. Following the magazine instruction, I cut a dime-size piece of the jalapeno and pursed my lips while I rubbed the chili round and round. At first, nothing… then came the screaming and crying. NOTHING took the pain away and I ended up with a large, uneven, red outer ring that looked like “double” lips. If you can remember “Wax Lips” candies, then you get the picture.
Later in the day, when my new boss shot me a strange look, I just laughed and said my lips were overly chapped and did my best to hide in the office. I never admitted that I’d purposely rubbed jalapenos on my tender, perfectly shaped, natural lips.
Currently, I have my fridge stocked with habanero stuffed olives that I order online from Primos Gourmet. The habaneros are perfect little, painful explosions that make me do the “happy eating dance” around the kitchen.
Just how hot are habaneros? Chili peppers are rated by Scoville units. As noted on Wikipedia: “The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is a chemical compound which stimulates nerve endings in the skin”. For example, on the Scoville scale, a bell pepper would measure 0 (that’s zero, zilch, nothing). Jalapeno peppers would measure from 2,500-8,000.
The hottest chili pepper I’ve ever eaten is the habanero, and it would measure approximately 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville chart. Culinary Masochism? Well, if that means I’m getting intense pleasure (go endorphins!) from intense pain (gastronomically speaking), then fine, I admit it…. I need a little C&M in my life.
Sri Siam’s spicy seafood “Poh Tak” soup felt like it was OFF the Scoville chart, and at first I thought it was way too fiery for me. After the initial shock wore off in my mouth I absolutely LOVED the broth, and from then on it was a heavenly seafood feast of squid, crab, shrimp and those delicious green mussels. Poor Bob had to watch me wipe the sweat off my brow, and he laughed as I dashed to the restroom several times to deal with a heat-induced runny nose. This meal was the perfect Thai experience I’d been after.
When we finished lunch, I went back to the kitchen and thanked the chef. He gave me a little smile and looked a little baffled, so I wasn’t sure if he understood what I said to him. I can’t imagine it, but maybe it was the first time he’d ever heard, “Thank you, thank you… thank you for making me hurt so good“.
A few photos in the Sri Siam Kitchen, and the wonderful crew.
Sri Siam Café Website
12843 Vanowen Street (at Coldwater)
North Hollywood 91605
818 982- 6262
Dining Date: 1/16/09
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