Friday, July 30, 2010

Mushroom "Steak" Sammie

I have a confession to make. I don't think I have ever eaten a philly cheese steak sandwich in my entire life. Given I grew up in California and have been a pescatarian on and off for 11 years, this may not surprise you. But what may surprise you is the fact that I have come up with a vegetarian interpretation of this all American classic. Not sure why, it just sounded good!

I have another confession to make - up until the last few years I used to HATE mushrooms. I was a mushroom-hating vegetarian. That's almost as weird as a salad-hating vegetarian. Vegetarians have used mushrooms for years and years as a substitute for meat but I was just never into it. I hated the texture, thought they smelled weird, don't even get me started on how they look, and could never understand how they could be compared to meat. I did eventually start eating them, slowly but surely, over the course of the past few years. I still don't love them plain raw but do enjoy them marinated. Isn't it weird how much our taste buds change as we get older? There are so many things I count on my list of favorites now that used to make me gag as a kid - tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, raw onions - to name a few. Anyway, this recipe for mushroom marinade comes from the best cookbook ever - Veganomicon - and really does make them taste "meaty." At least to me!

Delicious recipes abound!

For the cheese "steak" sandwich there are 4 simple components: caramelized onions, roasted marinated mushrooms, cheese of your choice (I prefer swiss, but the traditionalists may want to go with the cheese food in a jar), and a crusty bread (baguette or ciabatta have been my top 2 - I've made this sammie more than a few times...).

Mushroom Marinade:

1/2 cup cooking wine (I've tried both Sherry and various red wines - red is my preference)
2 T low sodium soy sauce/tamari/bragg's liquid aminos
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I use 4 - can never have too much garlic!)

2-4 portobello caps, stems removed
(I've also had much success with the smaller portobellos and have used regular old button mushrooms - portobellos are the preferred choice here but I sometimes have to improvise)

Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together, preferably in a measuring cup with a pour spout, for easy pouring over the shroomies. Lay your mushrooms down face up (with the funky gray ridges upwards) in a baking dish or roasting pan. Pour the marinade over them, making sure to distribute the garlic bits evenly amongst the mushrooms. This position is ideal because the smooth caps are sitting in the excess marinade and the round top serves as a sort of cup to hold the sauce you pour over them so you are effectively marinating the whole mushroom at once. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and let the mushrooms sit for 20 minutes.

While the oven is heating and the mushrooms are soaking in their tasty bath, slice up half an onion into half moons. Put a small frying pan on the stove and heat about 1 T of olive oil over low heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally and watching consistently to make sure they don't burn too much. You want to cook them slowly over low heat to get that caramelized effect.  

After patiently waiting 20 minutes, wrap the baking dish tightly with some aluminum foil and stick your fungi in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, flip mushrooms, and roast for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

Slice your bread any way you want it - I prefer lengthwise. Remove your mushrooms from the roasting pan and slice them thinly like steak. Here's the secret. Take your bread and soak each half in the left over "gravy." Don't leave it so long that it gets soggy through out, but this really enhances the flavors of the whole sandwich and this marinade is seriously delicious, so don't be shy either. I made this one open faced - so layer mushrooms, caramelized onions, and swiss cheese on each piece of gravy-soaked bread. Turn on the broiler, stick the sandwich under there, and leave it for just a few minutes. It is very easy to burn things in the broiler - much easier than you would think. Get that cheese all melty and gooey, grab a brewski, and enjoy your manwich. Mmm. Also, if you eat steak, you could easily use these same ingredients to make that type of a sammie. I have no idea how to cook beef though, so you're on your own with that one. Some bell peppers combined with the caramelized onions would also probably be delicious...hmmm, why didn't I think of that sooner?

Not very photogenic, but what it lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for in taste. Scout's honor.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An LA Weekend

At long last I spent an entire weekend within a 5 mile radius of my new home! It has been such a huge adjustment moving from a city that is 7 miles squared to a sprawling county that doubles as a "city" of sorts - in short, life in Los Angeles is a far cry from life in San Francisco. First off, no matter how "far" your friends live in SF and even if you do have to transfer buses to get to them, they are definitely no farther than 7ish miles. My parents are now much closer but if I want to see them I have to drive 60+ miles, my boyfriend is 50ish miles away, and my closest friend down here is 20-30 miles away depending on where she is hanging out. So I have to stare at miles of gray freeways to get to the ones I love. I think this distance will seem less torturous once I am no longer making a 25 mile (each way) commute to work every day. It's still an adjustment and I miss the stress-free feeling of just sitting on a bus, reading my book, or staring out the window at gorgeous Victorian architecture en route to any destination. This is definitely a case of "the grass is always greener" because I can't tell you how many times I cursed the fact that I was carless when the next bus wasn't coming for 20 minutes and it was 50 degrees and misty on a June evening. All in all, I'd say I am handling this transition period pretty well - certainly the best I have handled any major life change thus far and I am proud of that!

Back to my weekend - the boy came up and it was so great to just hang out in the neighborhood with him! Friday night was spent drinking wine and eating a frozen pizza from Trader Joe's. On Saturday we walked over to my neighborhood farmer's market, which was vastly smaller than the Hollywood one on Sundays but still good for convenience and I was able to pick up a few necessities at a fair price. I spent under $10 and bought a purple onion, a purple bell pepper, two yellow bell peppers, a bunch of tomatoes, two peaches, one pluot, and two avocados. Not bad!

For dinner on Saturday we collaborated on what turned out to be one awesome home-cooked meal. I had purchased a few wild Alaskan salmon fillets from TJs the night before and N finally got to show me his fish cooking skills by spicing them up and frying them in some Dijon mustard in a cast iron skillet. SO GOOD. Buttery and flaky and so unbelievably satisfying. I love how pink wild salmon is, even when cooked. It is such a beautiful color, how could it not be good for you? I was in charge of side dishes and made one old standard along with an improvised newbie: rosemary garlic potatoes and lemon garlic butter green beans, respectively.

Rosemary Garlic Potatoes:

7 small Dutch baby yellow potatoes (or any small potatoes) cut into bite sized wedges
4 cloves garlic (I LOVE garlic - if you don't, reduce!)
1 t dried rosemary, crushed with your fingers (or fresh minced)
1-2 T olive oil, enough to coat a large non-stick skillet
s&p - be generous!

Place the cut potatoes in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Put on the stove and turn the burner up to high, bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes. Test for doneness with a fork - they should easily pierce but not crumble (crumble = overdone for this application). Strain the potatoes. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat - add potatoes. You want the heat pretty high here so the potatoes will get crispy and brown on the outside but not so high that your oil is smoking. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper and leave alone for a few minutes - too much stirring will just make it take a lot longer for the potatoes to brown (this might be a "the watched pot never boils" type of effect, but trust me, leaving them alone helps!). When they start to get a good brown going (after about 15 minutes) add the garlic (either minced or pushed through a garlic press) and the rosemary and give it all a good stir. You should have some seriously tasty taters on your hands. If you want the garlic to mellow out a little, lower the heat and leave it on for a bit. I like a strong raw garlic taste, personally. I know, I'm gross.

Green Beans w/ Lemon Garlic Butter

1/2 -1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2-3 inch pieces (sorry, not sure how much green beans I had here, I used the other half of my package of organic green beans from TJs)
2 T butter or oil (I used butter)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put a nonstick skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add green beans and saute for 2-3 minutes (or to desired doneness - I like mine pretty al dente). Add garlic, s & p. Saute for another minute or so. Turn heat off, squeeze lemon over everything, stir it up, and enjoy! YUM.

We both agreed that this was the best meal we had had in a very long time. It was so satisfying in a meat and potatoes kind of way (with the salmon acting the part of the meat, of course) and felt special. I think we will have to make this a weekly tradition - seafood Saturdays? I want to try imitating one of my favorite cooked Japanese dishes - miso glazed black cod - and also want to try my hand at scallops. I don't have much experience cooking fish but I want to have more experiences eating it so I'll have to see what I can work out...

The rest of the weekend was spent running local errands and doing some projects around the house. It is great having so much space to work with - there are so many things to organize, so many areas to be nested, so much to personalize! I am looking forward to potting an herb garden, putting up a roof over half of our patio, and digging up the side yard to plant our own veggies! We also were able to check out a few local area bars for a few drinks, obviously an essential part of getting to know any neighborhood. Well, that's all for now. I have some more catching up to do on recipes but will save my next post for tomorrow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Officially a Hippy

When I moved into my new place I did what any sensible person would do and after unpacking boxes immediately tried to scrub everything until it shone with the power of a thousand suns. Well, I was disappointed by the lack of cleaning supplies already in my house and quickly made a list of about ten different products I "needed" to clean everything from the grout to the top of the fridge. OCD aside, this was going to be quite expensive. It's no secret that I mostly try to use "earth-friendly" cleaning products in my house (with the exception of laundry detergent because I don't think the all natural ones work as well) and I turned to the internet to do some research on the best bang for my buck.

After doing some reading on, I was pretty shocked to find out that "earth-friendly" is a completely subjective term and that most of the products that claim to be non-toxic may in fact only be less toxic than their ammonia and bleach containing counterparts.They are not required to disclose ingredient lists in cleaning products and most do not. Also, take note that most cleaning products (even the green ones) say that they are skin irritants, which probably means they are toxic, no? Also, did you know that bleach and ammonia mixed together create a POISONOUS GAS? Yeah. Um. Scary. Everything we use to clean our houses goes back into the earth through our drains and I have a minor panic attack feeling responsible for the death of whales and adorable sea otters but I am also a little bit completely OCD and like things clean clean clean. So how do I reconcile these two things? I decided to try out making my own cleaning products and if they didn't work, I'd go back to the good stuff (all recipes can be found on

Well, I am happy to say that so far all of the bright green alternatives I have created seem to be working just as well as anything I could have purchased at Target or Whole Foods (if not better). One thing I thought I'd never be able to live without as a long haired lady was drano/red devil for the shower. I read online that you can use vinegar and baking soda to clear drains and I was soooo excited that this solution actually WORKS. I was literally bragging about my fifth-grade science class skills to anyone who would listen. I also created an all-purpose cleaner and a windows/glass cleaner and both seem to work well.

The only ingredients I had to purchase for all cleaning needs were: Castile soap (Dr. Bronner's lavender scent), Borax, Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar, Vinegar, Hydrogen Peroxide. All of these ingredients in the largest sizes you can buy added up to under $30 and will probably be enough for about 6 months. So much cheaper than GreenWorks/Seventh Generation type stuff! My only complaint is that most of the recipes call for vinegar and I really do not like that smell but I plan on buying some essential oils to help cover that up (a few drops of lavender or rosemary should do just fine!). Anyway, I don't mean to be preachy, I just want to share my experience and to let you know that these alternatives seem to work really well and that should mean something coming from someone like me who values sanitation so highly. I just think that a lot of our perceptions come from marketing and that maybe we should question "reality" a little more - who says we need to bleach our houses? Clorox, that's who. I mean, seriously. So even if you are just inspired to replace one bottle of drano with some vinegar and baking soda I have done my part! I have always been a huge fan of Comet for stain removal in sinks and am going to try out a paste of baking soda and cream of tartar as soon as I have a free moment. Will let you know how that works out...

Anyway, back to the food! Have you gotten on the Greek yogurt band wagon yet? If you haven't, please immediately drop everything and go to the store to grab the largest container you can find. You need it in your life. Trust me. I always buy the nonfat plain and each brand tastes a bit different and the texture can vary quite dramatically. I recommend Fage because it is extra thick and tangy - the consistency is like a very thick whip cream or creme fraiche. The Trader Joe's brand is a little sweeter and with more of a flan-like consistency. I have also had the Greek Gods brand sold at Whole Foods and that one is the sweetest - doesn't even need any honey. Some of my favorite ways to use the good stuff:

1. In any salad that calls for mayonnaise: potato salad, pasta salad, tuna salad, etc. I always add a little lemon juice and garlic when using it in this way and also love to add a little dijon mustard.
2. With honey, berries, and granola.
3. In place of sour cream in Mexican food, on spicy chili or curry, in zesty lentil soup.
4. Mixed with a little lemon, garlic, s&p, and herbs as a dip for veggies.
5. Stir in shredded cucumber, lemon, garlic, s&p and enjoy homemade tzatziki
6. In smoothies/milk shakes
7. With sliced cucumbers, radishes, and dill for a healthy take on the traditional sour cream version.

Really, the possibilities are endless! Will update later on my weekend and some of the delicious food consumed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's All Greek to Me!

I meant to post this last night but I am officially old and could barely hold my head up at 10pm when I finally got into bed. A little elementary math:

Morning traffic + 8 hours of work + gym + evening traffic = one very exhausted Rachael

Seriously, I don't know if it's the commute or the simple fact that I am out of my house for 12 hours a day or just adjusting to a new lifestyle or what, but I have been sooooo tired every night when I get home. Like can barely keep my eyes open, don't want to move from physical exhaustion tired.

I finally had my first run in with really horrible LA traffic. HA and I thought my commute was traffic-filled. I had no idea. I tried to go to a speaker's panel at my law school which involved a commute from the South Bay to Downtown. The event started at 6, I figured if I left at 5 I'd get there, no problem! Laughable, laughable I say! When it took me 30 minutes to go 3 miles trying to merge onto the first of 3 freeways I realized it was a lost cause unless I abandoned my car and ran there. So, I promptly turned on my trusty GPS and headed home via surface streets. It took me 2 hours to get home. 2. hours. Maddening! Thank the dear sweet heavens above I recently purchased "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" on audiobook - it keeps me sane.

My sweet roomie cooked me dinner last night of grilled "cheese" and spicy roasted tomato fennel soup as a thanks for the delicious homemade granola I supply (with granola this good, there is no room for modesty. Trust). I say "cheese" because she used vegan "cheese" called Daiya and I must say as an avid cheddar lover, this stuff hit the spot. It actually melts and tastes really good! I recommend if you are lactose intolerant or aiming to cut down your dairy (I am neither...). But, I made some very delicious Greek-inspired potato salad for dinner the night before and have been wanting to share it but have been too tired to keep my eyes open. We won't talk about what I ate for dinner tonight. Let's just say it involved beans, cheese, and not a lot else. Hey, it's Thursday, and I am T-I-R-E-D.

Greek Potato Salad (makes 2-3 servings)

7 small dutch baby yellow potatoes (or red-skinned or yukon golds or whatever you like - about 2 cups) cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups green  beans, cut into 2 inch long pieces
2 small tomatoes diced
1/4 red onion thinly sliced into half moons
Handful of mixed greens, arugula, or spinach per serving
1 oz feta, cut into small bits or crumbled


Juice from 1 lemon
2 T olive oil
Lots of fresh cracked pepper
Dried or fresh herbs (I used about 1/2 tsp dried oregano)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used a handy dandy garlic press)

Put the diced potatoes into a small pot and cover with water. Place on the stove, bring to a boil, and cook until a fork pierces easily (about 20 minutes or so). Towards the end, pop in the green beans for a few minutes giving them a quick blanch - you just want to remove that raw edge. Or cook them longer if you don't like your veggies al dente. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

Make the dressing in a bowl large enough to hold everything but the greens. Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing, add potatoes, beans, feta, tomatoes, and onions. Toss it all up to coat and taste to see if you need to add any salt or more pepper - I didn't find mine to need any salt because the lemon/garlic combination was nice and tangy and feta is super salty. You could also add in some garbanzo or cannelini (white kidney) beans for a protein boost. To serve, place a handful of greens in a bowl and spoon desired amount of potato salad on top. I used mixed greens with my dinner and ate another serving with arugula for lunch. Both were good - I LOVE potatoes in salad. Such a treat. I also ate mine with a hunk of that kalamata olive demi-batard, wasting food be damned!

Did you know that potatoes are actually really good for you? I feel like they get a bad rap! They aren't very high in calories (so long as you aren't eating a MONDO one, but if it's a meal, then go ahead and eat the huge 'tater), their skin is full of micronutrients (and is a good source of potassium), and do I even need to mention their starchy deliciousness? So eat them!

Forgive the flash, but this one looks better than without a flash under my kitchen lights. You get the point, it still looks yummy, right?

Next post I will talk about one of my other favorite Greek foods - Greek yogurt (is it really Greek?). I also want to tell you about my new adventures in making my own cleaning products. Yes, I'm that crunchy. Night.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Packing Lunch and Two More Salads

I can't believe I only have 3 more weeks at my job and then I start on my next great adventure: law school. It is going to be interesting making the transition back to a no income lifestyle - it has been nice making my own money and supporting myself for the past few years and things will certainly be different when I am paying interest on every dollar I spend. Oh well, it is an investment in my future and I know it will be worth it - I am looking forward to the rigorous training that leads to an actual profession! My Spanish degree didn't do much to train me for a job but it was fun so who cares.

I always try to bring my lunch to work and hopefully this habit can be carried through law school. Maybe I should invest in a nice insulated lunch box so I can be the dorky law student carrying around a day's worth of food. I plan on hanging around in the library between classes so that I can hopefully get the bulk of my studying done during the week - I might need to bring 3 meals with me to campus. Maybe I should just get a cooler on wheels or a mini fridge that I cart around on a dolly and plug in wherever I go. Ha. Bringing meals saves some serious moola and also ensures I get to eat something healthy and satisfying - have you ever noticed how the healthier options at restaurants usually cost more than the unhealthy (or rather, less healthy) choices? A slice of pizza will run me FAR less than a fully loaded salad. With the way I eat, I figure I probably save $10-12 per day by bringing my own lunch. That adds up!

On Friday, I made a very satisfying lunch by mixing leftover sauteed zucchini and mushrooms from my benedict creation with whole wheat couscous and halved grape tomatoes. I drizzled everything with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and s&p. I love whole wheat couscous because it only takes about 5 minutes to prepare - just boil water, add couscous, turn off heat, cover for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork (equal parts couscous:water). Keep it in the fridge for making couscous salads in a snap. Easy peasy! If I had pine nuts in the house I would have tossed some in for good measure. I also probably would have thrown in some flat leaf parsley if it were available but sometimes you just gotta make do! I have a few couscous salads that I love to make and will definitely share more in the future. The other involves marinated mushrooms, onions, and kidney beans. Yum!

Mmm it looks especially beautiful under the lovely fluorescent lights in my office, doesn't it?

For dinner last night I was inspired by some garden fresh tomatoes I got to pick straight from the vine at my grandpa's in Fallbrook on Saturday. If you have never tasted a sunshine warmed tomato fresh off the vine then you have not lived! Okay, maybe you just haven't tasted the best tomatoes. Coincidentally, while I was eating last night, the episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown I put on in the background was about tomatoes. If you've never seen Good Eats, it's a show that takes one food/ingredient and gives you encyclopedic information on it including origins, biology, and different ways of preparation. Did you know that most store bought tomatoes are actually not as flavorful as farmer's market or homegrown? This is because tomatoes go bad very quickly and would not survive the truck rides and shelf time we put them through if they were actually picked ripe. Thus, most tomatoes that go to your local chain grocery store are picked before they are ripe and then exposed to ethylene gas to "ripen" them before going on the shelves. Unfortunately, ethylene gas only reddens the tomatoes - it does not actually ripen them in such a way that they actually taste riper. Also, you are not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes because this turns off one of their flavor compounds permanently. Personally, I refrigerate mine because I do purchase them from farmer's markets and they go bad too quickly. And I must say that the organic pearl tomatoes I buy from Trader Joe's are some of the tastiest tomatoes I've ever had. So, take everything with a grain of salt and do what works for you, is what I say!

So, in addition to the fresh picked tomatoes, I also bought my first plant yesterday: basil! Can you see where this is going? I picked up some fresh mozzarella, crusty rustic olive bread, and turned my cheapo balsamic into something special by reducing it over low heat and voila: caprese salad.

3 smallish/medium tomatoes, cut into rounds of desired thickness (mine are about 1/4"
1/2 large ball of mozzarella (the kind that comes in water - not the harder variety you use for pizza/string cheese)
3-4 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
drizzle of olive oil
crusty bread of your choosing

First put a small sauce pan on the stove over low heat and add the balsamic. Be sure to watch it carefully! I burned my first batch/it got too thick and I decided that burnt balsamic caramel would make an excellent hard candy but would not go so well with my salad. The vinegar should reduce by about half and get a liquid syrupy consistency like pure maple syrup - not quite as thick as honey, by that time it has started to caramelize/burn. Allow vinegar to cool slightly when done (aka remove from heat).

While vinegar is reducing, slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate. Slice mozzarella and place a piece on top of each tomato. Lay your basil leaves on top of one another and roll them up like a cigar. Being careful to tuck your finger tips, slice down the roll into thin strips. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and mozzarella. Use a spoon to drip your balsamic reduction along the plate/on top of tomatoes. Generously top with freshly cracked pepper and fleur de sel if you have it (I did not and just used fine grain sea salt - fleur de sel works better for this I think, the salt is in large flakes and adds more to this classic dish). Sprinkle on basil. Tear off a few pieces of crusty bread. Eat salad. Sop up vinegar/olive oil/tomato juice mixture with bread. Yes.

Purdy! Sorry my pictures always have arm shadows - lately dinner time has been 8:30 - 9pm and unfortunately there just isn't much sunshine at that hour.

I looooooooooove bread and Trader Joe's rustic olive bread is on my list. My good list. It's sort of sourdough-ish and flecked with zesty kalamatas. Also, bonus points if you have an olive oil carafe like the one my roomie brought back from Italy - it makes drizzling so much easier and that much more fun.

Okay, that's all for now. Will be back with more food. I am looking forward to my lunch for today and will probably share it with you later. That's another great thing about packing lunch - it gives me something to look forward to midday: a nutritious and delicious meal.

Leaving you with a gratuitous photo of me and an adorable puppy because who doesn't love puppies? Ziggy says "bye bye!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot Weather Cooking and Dealing with Negativity

I got home last night around 8:30 and it was about 87 degrees inside my house. After a sweaty run on the treadmill and an hour in traffic, I was in no place to try and reconsider my dinner plans. I had some zucchini and cremini mushrooms that needed to be used because I will be in Orange County this weekend. I was craving eggs and wanted to give my little egg poaching pouch a try again. So, after a quick shower, I set to work chopping vegetables, sauteeing them, frying bread (yes, frying!), and boiling water. Let me just say that I will NEVER do that again (Cook in 90 degree heat, not fry bread. I will definitely fry bread again). I may as well have not showered because turning on my fashionable vintage stove rose the temperature in the kitchen to what felt like Death Valley levels and trying to enjoy hot food even though it made me sweat was pretty damn difficult; still tasty, but not the best feeling. I just know that trying to improvise when I am starving is never really a recipe for success (pun intended) and I would have ended up eating tortilla chips and salsa for dinner if I didn't stick with the plan.

I never really had to consider weather when I was cooking in San Francisco - soup is just as appropriate there in June as it is in December. My house was always around 65 degrees inside which created a whole host of other fun challenges (I  was hardly ever barefooted, two down comforters in the winter, the necessity for scalding hot showers, etc) but made cooking warm, healthy comfort foods easy. I think my style of cooking is going to have to change pretty dramatically now that I am living in 90 degree heat. I want to do some reading about/exploration of a more raw diet because I am telling you, standing in front of that stove last night was absolute misery. I recommend this dish for those living in colder climates or for a different season, because it was still very satisfying and yummy. I do not, however, recommend making this if a stick of butter would turn to liquid if left upon your counter for 5 minutes. You don't have to tell me twice!

Zucchini Mushroom Saute:

2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in half and diced into half moons
2 cups cremini mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you prefer/have on hand)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
s & p
squeeze of lemon

Heat up the oil over medium high in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes. It's okay if some of the shallots get browned and crispy - in fact, it's encouraged. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 7ish minutes or to desired "doneness." Add the garlic. I always add the garlic at the end for a few reasons: a.) I am paranoid about it burning and b.) I like a strong garlic flavor and find it mellows out too much if you put it in too early. So, I add the garlic at the end and allow it to cook for just a few minutes. Sprinkle liberally with s & p, squeeze of lemon. Stir it up and remove from heat.

Eggs and toast:

1-2 eggs, prepared however you prefer (I poached mine - but sunny side up or scrambled would work)
1-2 pieces your favorite sliced bread
Drizzle of olive oil or butter

I used this amazing tomato basil sourdough bread that I bought at the Hollywood Farmer's Market (more on that another time) drizzled with olive oil and seared (read: fried) at high heat in the same skillet I cooked the zucchini and mushrooms in. The idea for frying instead of toasting the bread came from a favorite quick breakfast of mine: bread eggies. I call them bread eggies as a result of my childhood but it's just where you cut a hole in toast, butter it up, fry it in a skillet, and crack an egg in the hole. I recently saw them called "eggs in jail," which I almost prefer, but old habits die hard. My dad also calls it "rocky mountain toast." The bread always tastes so AMAZING fried - so much better than toasted, so I figured, why not? Also, I have this thing about hot food being really hot and I always feel like a toaster dries out bread more than it makes it hot. I often find myself rushing to eat toast before it cools off. Frying makes the bread really hot through out and it maintains the heat for much longer than it does from toasting.

So my egg poaching pouch is more about function than form, but I was in no place to practice my egg poaching skills at 9pm on a Thursday night...Also you can see my arm shadows holding up the camera. Word.

This was really satisfying - anyone who knows anything about me knows that my  favorite food-related phrase is "eggs benedict" and this hit that spot, even without the gooey hollandaise. I do plan on learning how to actually poach eggs and also would love to attempt a hollandaise, but I will save that for a weekend.

I have been wanting to start a food blog for awhile but have been hesitant for many reasons. Do I really want to have a blog? Will anybody read it? Will blogging change the way people look at me? I have finally gotten to a point where the answer to the first question makes me not give a flying fig about the answer to the last two. If people are going to judge me because I like writing about cooking on the internet, I don't really care. I am a firm believer in the age old axiom "if you don't have something nice to say then don't say anything at all" but have only recently begun to apply it in my own life. My lifelong mantra was "I'm gonna say whatever I am thinking and not care about the repercussions because other people can just deal" (really flows off the tongue, doesn't it? ha). I actually prided myself on being brutally blunt. Ultimately, I realized this was detrimental to my relationships and that I really didn't want to hurt those I loved, who inevitably bore the brunt of my tactless honesty, or anyone else for that matter. Now, I try to think before I speak and try to give love and support unconditionally and even if others haven't noticed, it has made a world of difference for my peace of mind. Some people tell me I am still terrifying and unapproachable, but at least it is not conscious anymore - I am not TRYING to ice people out. I am still working on the ways I ostracize people unknowingly, but that is obviously more of a challenge. I can't tell anyone else how to live, I can only lead by example, and to use just one more cliche/idiom, treat others as I'd like to be treated. That's my two cents and because this is MY blog I can put in my two cents whenever I want (alright, one more idiom for good measure)!

I am really looking forward to this weekend. I'm heading down to the OC tonight to see my man. Tomorrow I am going to a yoga class taught by my amazing friend Tricia, who gave me the hardest work out of my life in the form of one of her boot camps. She is a personal trainer and the most in shape lady I have ever met. She is also a total sweetheart and makes the best exercise play lists :). Then we (boy and I) are heading down to Fallbrook for a bit of family time - my g parents, parents, aunts, etc will be there. THEN the lead singer for My Hero (great band!), Taylor, is singing the national anthem at the Angel's game. I am so looking forward to hearing her sing and to drinking beer outdoors - one of my favorite weekend activities, which will only be made better by the 80 degree weather (okay, drinking beer outdoors is one of my favorite activities any day of the week, I just don't think it would really fly in the courtyard of my office building). Hopefully I will have some time to cook some tasty food and to relax! I feel like I spend half my life in the car now...I am sure I will get used to it, but still. I hope you have a great weekend and will talk to you soon! Thanks for your love and support in the form of reading this post!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cycle Butt and My Favorite Salad

I tried spinning class for the first time ever on Monday night. Sometimes I get really bored with working out and I try to throw in some variety when this happens. Mostly I go through elliptical and treadmill phases and have been lifting weights 1-2 times per week for about 6 months. I also make an effort to go to yoga at least once a week. Currently, I cannot even look at an elliptical machine. Ew. One of my favorite work outs is running stairs - if you live in San Francisco or are visiting and are sado-masochistic like myself, I highly recommend the Lyon St Steps. I digress. My point is I need variety in my work out routine and Monday led me to my first ever spinning class. It was hard - SO much harder than I even expected. My legs were burning something fierce but the worst part was my poor little hiney - I just could not find a way to sit comfortably on the bike saddle. How people go on 100 mile bike rides is beyond me for the simple reason that two days later my backside still feels bruised. Anyway, it was still pretty fun and I will probably be back to torture myself next week. An hour of intense cardio just flew on by. While my legs were burning really badly during class, they actually were not sore at all the next day, so I will probably push the resistance more next time. If I'm working that hard, I better feel it the next day! Yes, I know, I am crazy.

On to my favorite salad of all time. Okay, so that is probably an excellent example of hyperbole, because I love lots of different types of salads. I make my salads as decadent as possible with lots of "stuff." I hate salads that have hardly any toppings! Lettuce is okay but it's the mix ins that make a salad really desirable, if you ask me. This particular bowl o' greens is directly inspired by a salad on the menu at Somerset in Rockridge (North Oakland - no, it's actually not ghetto): Roasted Beet Salad arugula, ruby grape­fruit, avo­cado, gor­gonzola and cham­pagne vinaigrette. I call it my "favorite" (to use the term loosely) because it contains some of my very favorite foods: avocado, grapefruit, beets, cheese, and onions.

All tasty salads begin first with a sumptuous dressing. My basic formula (learned from a British ex-pat residing in the South of France):

  • Olive Oil (you want this to be of good tasting quality, one you would dip a crusty baguette in - My favorite on the cheap is Trader Joe's Spanish or Sicilian - you could also use grape seed oil or any flavorful nut oil - I am sure that hazelnut oil would be great)
  • Vinegar or Citrus Juice (my standard is Balsamic or fresh lemon juice)
  • Dijon (I use Maille - I just think it tastes better than any other, probably because it's French, and to me that seems classy haha)
  • Honey
  • Salt & Pepper

Obviously you can tweak this to suit your tastes or ingredients on hand. It can be made super fancy with gourmet oils and vinegars or just stick to the basics - either way it is tasty. The measurements I use are my eyeballs but I guess for one serving you could do 1 tbsp oil to 1-2 tbsp vinegar depending on how sweet/sour your choice is, 1/2 tsp mustard and 1/4 tsp honey. You can also add any manner of herbs, garlic cloves, and/or minced shallots. Yum! A note on Dijon - I use the fine ground, creamy type, but the stone ground is much milder if you do not like the mustard bite. I used to hate Dijon! This dressing is what converted me to a mustard loving lady.

For my version of this extra special salad I used:


Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

Mixed baby greens (no arugula on hand)
1/4 small yellow onion thinly sliced into half moons
1 smallish avocado
1 small pink grapefruit, supremed
1/2 cup roasted beets (snagged from my roomie! Thanks, Lu!)
Humboldt Fog crumbles (I had no Gorgonzola on hand - this made an excellent, milder substitute)

Mix together the dressing ingredients in the bottom of the salad bowl. Put the thinly sliced onions into the dressing and toss to coat. Leave to sit while you prepare the other ingredients - this gives the onions a chance to get a quick pickle going on, making them even better, if that's possible.Put the greens of your choice atop the dressing and marinating onions - don't toss yet!

To supreme the grapefruit, use a sharpish knife to cut away the rind and then cupping the fruit gently in one hand use your dominant hand to slice between the membranes - the pithy lines in the fruit, you know, the part that's super hard to chew, cutting away just the juicy fleshy parts (that sounds pretty steamy, doesn't it? it is!). Bonus points for sucking the rest of the juice from the left over membranes. Mmm dirty. If you don't like grapefruit, feel free to sub another citrus -I think blood oranges would go particularly well and look beautiful. Drop supremes delicately atop the lettuces. Supremes is pronounced the French way - the best way I can think to phoneticize that is soo-prems and to supreme would be to soo-prem (rhymes with ahem. sort of). Tres chic! 

Dice your avocado and add it to the party along with your roasted beets and crumbled cheese. You can buy prepared beets at Trader Joe's near the lettuce and you can sub any crumbly cheese you like - if you don't like bleu then use goat or feta. Stir everything up, top with fresh cracked pepper, and don't be surprised if you forget you are eating a salad because this meal is just that decadent.

Isn't she a beaut?

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. De Mille!

All stirred up!

I thoroughly enjoyed this little baby. I think it's kind of fancy and would do very well at a dinner party or for impressing a date. Beets and goat cheese are all the rage these days. Okay, I think it's time for me to sign off! Happy eating!