Oh man! Where to start! I think it's been about a year since the last post. This, as is the norm here now, will be a medley of food and bug (a.k.a. sadie-bug) and boz and etc. The photo above is from sometime in late 2012; just before we moved from the Los Angeles area up the coast a little to Ventura County. It was only a 30 mile relocation but feels significantly further in terms of lifestyle change. So much less traffic, noise, pollution, commuting, and diversity in food. The only positive I can say about living in LA is at least there's the food. This quiet suburban suburb we now call home is nestled on the east side of the foothills that separate the coastline from the inland valley of Southern California. They scenery is fantastic in my opinion with looming crags of rock and rolling hills; ten miles through the mountains and you're at the beach. Subsequently, the weather is more mild compared to the San Fernando fire pit in which we previously lived. There are some decent restaurants around us now, however, they lack character and ethnic diversity but I will never live in LA again! Done! Alright, let's get to business. Had to check out the quality of our new oven and what better way to check its chops than with pizza. It did not pass the test. While we enjoyed the cherry tomato, shallot, and kalmata onion pizza drizzled with truffle oil, the crust did not brown the way I like.
I had made a large batch of dough and tried again, thinking that a few days fermentation may help with the rise and sugar content to facilitate a better outcome. The dough was slightly improved but just not quite there. This one was baked with olive oil and smoked sea salt and topped with arugula, a fried egg, and drizzled with a good balsamic. I will forever be in search of the ultimate homemade pizza but I fear that it will not come until I build a wood fire convection pizza oven in the backyard. Step one though is, (1) buy a backyard. To be continued.
A friend from work passed along what he calls, "the most badass french toast recipe ever!" Do you know what happens when you put what seems like a disproportionately large amount of flour into your french toast batter? Come on, be honest, you probably don't know. Don't feel bad. Just do it as soon as possible. I don't know if it's as simple as that; I think it's actually a Williams Sonoma recipe. The result is a french toast with a crispy exterior and a creme brule like interior. It hurts my soul right now to sit here recollecting this breakfast and not have it actually in front of my face. Let's move on.
Oh, yeah and there were some steaks... not much to say about that.
Psyche! Much could be said of these steaks. Actually books could be written about these steaks. Say what you will about life behind the orange curtain (Orange County), made famous by the smutty housewives, it's not so bad in the OC. They've got Laguna Beach and killer Asian and Mexican food in North Orange County. The reason I bring up the OC is because my parents live there, there is a small boutique butcher there, and that is where the above steaks came from. We picked up two New York cuts and one Kansas City; both are short loin strips. The New York is trimmed from the bone while the Kansas City is not. Not to be confused with the T-bone or Porterhouse which are also short loin strips not trimmed from the bone; the difference being that the T-bone/Porterhouse usually have some tenderloin attached to the bone as well. Sorry for my excessive use of the semicolon (trying to show that I have been formally educated).
Switching gears here both figuratively and literally. In the pic below you see the shiny hood of the convertible Porsche Boxter our generous friends let us take to Dana Point for a wedding where we grazed from the dessert appetizer table also shown below. No, no typo! They really had pre-savory appetizer sweets for their guest to munch on. That's all there is to say about that.
At some point between then and now there was some camping, some playing with cousins, and grilling, and some playing with daddy, and searing and slicing, and some lovin' on grandpa, a little Yes We Can, and of course some Boz.
So the pics below are from our trip to Kansas last Christmas and happened before all of the previously shared pics, I think. Whatever, no matter. For some reason it's virtually impossible to take a direct flight to Wichita from LAX so we usually have to break it up into about a three hour first leg and a one hour second leg flight. You can see in the photo that we really had fun on the plane despite the fact that Sadie scream-cried for about 85% of each leg of the flight. I think she may have been teething and wasn't equalizing well with the cabin pressure; either that or she was temporarily possessed by something... something bad.
We woke up the next morning to a serene snow cover as seen from Shelese's old room. One of several things Kansas does, and does really well, are cinnamon rolls. No special bourbon and Madagascar vanilla pecan whole grain blah blah blah type of cinnamon roll (which has it's time and place), just simple and perfect cinnamon rolls. So soft and airy and sweet it's almost painful. Washed down with strong black coffee while gazing out the window at a giant snow dusted oak tree and an old rusty tractor. I seriously love our times in Kansas! The scenery and the family are always wonderful and Sadie helps me learn the overly complicated card games that the family has been playing for generations.
Sometime after the New Year I made it out to a local crag for some amateur rock climbing. I've been gaining some chops in the indoor rock gym near our home for a while and enjoy getting outdoors to climb occasionally. These mountains are part of the larger Santa Monica Mountain complex and are relatively close and accessible. The views are decent and the quality of climbing adequate. At most you can only get up about 150 feet then you have to rappel down. An added bonus is that I need to go to REI (sporting goods store) to purchase gear to do the aforementioned climbing... and... near REI is a very good Korean restaurant that lets you steal their food for practically nothing. Normally I order some meat and we use the inset BBQ and cook it up with veggies, throw it on rice and consume it with pickled and spicy sides. This time though I went with the bibimbop.
Been spending a lot of time on the weekends making large batch meals that we can quickly pack for lunch or re-heat for dinner. It's just more practical to do this if we want to eat healthy tasty food during the week without the investment of time and energy to cook every night. This one was a winner. Israeli cous cous, sauteed spinach, roasted butternut squash, cannellini beans, and a light savory citrus dressing.
I frequently roast a brined chicken on root veggies and that feeds us for a week. If it's not roasted, it's smoked; either chicken or other meats. Pork loin and tri-tip both come out nicely on the smoker.
There was this experiment in the cast iron skillet. It was not a full-on deep dish but more doughy than the usual Neapolitan style pies I try to make.
Sadie really gets into food sometimes too. She is especially fond of stabeywee yagoot.
Nothing like a little, "Elmo Steet," as she calls it, to help with digestion.
This was an obsession of mine for a month or so. The ballontine is a classic French boned poultry stuffed with something, usually more meat. One of my food idols, Jacques Pepin, has a video on the world wide interweb in which he debones and stuffs a chicken like the boss that he is! Watch this tutorial and he'll soon be your idol too! Anywho, here's the finished product and following is the process in my kitchen. I won't narrate it but I think you can get the idea.
Time for some more gorgeous bug action.
This meal was for some special occasion I think. It was fantastic! While the chop tries to steal the show, I think that the raw kale salad reigned supreme. It was inspired by a salad at a local favorite restaurant that combines kale with mandarin oranges and mushrooms. The one I put together had cannellini beans, white and red cherries, red onion, and a savory fig and walnut vinaigrette.
Father's day dinner. Dad loves Lawry's Prime Rib so that was the target. Followed Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc recipe and would rank the quality of cook an 8 out of 10. Came out more well done than I would have liked but the crust was sublime. He uses a blow torch to enhance to crust prior to cooking lower and slower than you would think. Along with the meat was creamed spinach, whipped horseradish cream, and Yorkshire pudding. The Yorkshire pudding was one of the best things I've put out of my kitchen! Soft and moist was the center with a crispy exterior and a slightly salty savory hint coming from the beef fat drippings used to coat the muffin pan.
That's about it for now. As I always say, I'll try not to wait so long until the next post, but we all know that's malarkey. So until next time, thanks for reading and enjoy your food!