Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tuna Salad (sans mayo)

I go in and out of massive tuna phases. It's probably a good thing for my mercury levels that I can forget about it every so often too. But right now I happen to be in a big tuna phase and I have read that certain brands of tuna carry less mercury levels than others, this can pictured here by Whole Foods, happens to be one of them.

After ordering the tuna melt at Gjusta a few months ago, I have craved the mayo-less kind, it is so much cleaner and more flavorful. I would have added capers if I had them but just chopping up several celery stocks and adding some green onions and then my favorite homemade vinaigrette, it's as close as I'm going to get to recreating Travis Lett's version.

You can do anything with the tuna, when I am feeling very clean then I throw it atop some lettuce and just add a little more dressing. Today I made a tuna melt with TJ's whole wheat glutton free bread and a slice of light havarti and about 10 minutes in the oven for a quick tuna melt.

Here's the recipe for the dressing:
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 Tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp Dijon 
  • 1/4 C apple cider vinegar (healthiest vinegar option)
  • 1 Tsp Kosher salt
  • Few turns of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C good EVOO
    Here's the recipe for the tuna salad:
    • 1 can albacore tuna in water drained 
    • 2 celery stocks, diced
    • 2 green onions, diced,
    • 2 TBSP dressing (or if you must use mayo, try Vegenaise) 
    • 1 TBSP capers optional

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    California Taco Salad Bowl

    How much do I love Mexican food? A LOT. And there isn't a protein much easier to whip up than this. A friend had me over for lunch last week and threw this salad together in what seemed like no time and without much effort which is a great thing when you have a busy 4 year old. What I like about this protein is that it's really versatile. I'm really into "bowls" these days and putting the turkey mixture atop some greens is a really calorie cutting alternative. But you can just as easily make some tasty tacos as well. I figure with my serious bread habit, I get enough carbs. The entire process takes about 20 minutes of prep time which includes the chopping. And I like to simply use salsa as my dressing. The meat is so flavorful alone that you really don't need any additional oils. And because I am a fan of some serious heat, I like to throw in a bit of cayenne into the mix as well. Additionally, Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream and a much healthier alternative. Adding some avocado for some healthy fat is always a good thing too. Here is the recipe:

    • 1 lb. ground turkey
    • 2 TBSP EVOO
    • dash of salt
    • 1/2 diced onion
    • 1 bell pepper, diced
    • 1 bag taco seasoning (TJ's or any grocery store will carry)
    • chopped lettuce
    • salsa for dressing
    • Greek yogurt for topping

    Heat the EVOO over medium high heat and add the diced onions and peppers, add a bit of salt and cook for about five minutes. Add the turkey meat and taco seasoning and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir often to ensure the meat gets evenly cooked. Add a dash of cayenne pepper while the meat is cooking if you like some heat. Then the fun starts and you get to create your bowl. Add some cilantro, more onions, avo or anything you like. Or toss the meat into a tortilla. It's super simple and serves about six. 

    Monday, November 13, 2017

    Montecito Wine Bistro -- Santa Barbara

    When I go home to Santa Barbara for a visit, Montecito Wine Bistro is always my first stop. The food isn't award winning but it's always consistent and the patio that runs along the little creek is so lovely that it always seems to beckon me. It's relatively reasonable as restaurant prices go in Montecito as well. Often times, it comes down to being comfortable and not having to wait for my favorite table when choosing where to eat out. The Wine Bistro used to be Piatti and it was always my favorite stop when home. The menu has not changed much and so it's a bit nostalgic when I do get to go...

    I've had most their dishes at some point and have been loving their shrimp caesar as of late. If I am in the mood for being a bit naughty, their lemon raviolis are divine. They also just recently added healthier "bowls" of which you can pretty much design yourself: choose a grain, a protein, a veg and a sauce. I also really love their broccoli soup which has no cream and you can literally taste how good it is for you. Another hit with my family has always been their Kobe meatloaf although I've never ordered it. It's delicious but a bit heavy for my taste. On the lighter side is their spinach salad with chicken. It's quite big and always hits the spot, the onion rings they put on top makes a little more exciting than most other spinach salads.

    The Wine Bistro also has a nice wine list. I always like something white, crisp and local. And better yet, order one from their winery up in Santa Ynez -- Lafond. There is a great chardonnay and pinot noir. I'm not much of a dessert person but they have many and they are on the large side. The coconut cake is my favorite.

    So if you're looking for something casual and easy on a Friday night and don't have a reservation, The Wine Bistro is always a good bet. Try to sit on the patio in from of the fire place pictured above. And there are heaters outside for these cooler fall and winter nights.

    Montecito Wine Bistro
    516 San Isidro Road
    Montecito, CA

    Thursday, November 9, 2017

    Eataly LA

    I was finally able to sneak into Eatlay this morning and snap some pics of the new Italian foodie mecca. As you enter in the building on the second floor there is just a gelato and Lavazzo coffee bar. But when you head up to the third floor, that is where all the action is. The difference between my visit at 10:30am and then again at 1pm was night and day. As beautiful the space and as incredible as the food is, I am not sure I can handle crowds like that in the near future again.  There was actually a thirty minute wait to get through the front door.

    But it is so incredibly stunning with the open air and white tile. It feels like a massive Dean and Deluca. It's pretty overwhelming how to even begin deciding what and where to eat. And there is yet another line once you get up to the third floor that will lead you to a host stand where they will seat you. So what appears to be this big emporium of individual stands is pretty much controlled by FOH (front of the house) so not an independent eating experience. Even the bar was run by the host stand. There is no signage explaining how to go about navigating Eataly so it really is confusing.

    But when we got to our table our experience took a 360. It was a beautiful table with a nice view out onto Santa Monica BLVD. I actually felt like I could even be in Italy! My pasta is pictured below, just a simple linguini with tomato and basil. But it could not have been better - sometimes simple is the hardest thing to execute. And the pizzas and fresh mozzarellas looked other worldly. We had a really nice crisp Italian Verdicchio that was pretty incredible at $10 per glass... My suggestion would be to go for a late breakfast or late lunch/ early dinner. You have to time it right or you might get  bit irritated ala yours truly. But no matter what, you will be impressed.

    Wednesday, November 8, 2017

    Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup

    The change in seasons here in LA has gotten me all excited for soup! Not only is this Tuscan staple warm and comforting, but it's also really healthy. With the little time I've had lately, I've been cheating and grabbing the Whole Foods pre-prepared version and eating it on repeat. I've  finally found myself with some time on my hands so thought I'd whip up a batch at home. The only chopping I did was the garlic as Trader Joe's did most of the chopping for me. I love their mirepoix and decided that in lieu of chopping all my veg, that I'd get two containers of mirepoix instead. This recipe makes eight servings so you'll be well fed and nourished for a good while, or serve it for your next gathering. The soup is so hardy and will warm you up with so much goodness. The secret weapon here is the parmesan rind to add some serious depth of flavor, I didn't need to add even a hint of salt. The recipe can also be 100% vegan if you choose to use vegetable stock and forego the parmesan. Here is the recipe:

    • 2 TJ's Mirepoix or one diced white onion, 2 diced carrots and 2 diced celery ribs
    • 2 TBSP EVOO
    • 5 cloves garlic cloves finely minced
    • 1/2 TSP dried red pepper flakes
    • 1 quart low sodium vegetable or chicken stock 
    • 2 -- 15 ounce cans white cannellini beans or beans from the north (as TJ's calls them) 
    • 1 TSP dried or fresh rosemary sprigs
    • 1 2-3 inch parmesan rind
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 4-5 C chopped kale, stems removed (1 bag TJ's pre-washed and chopped is great)
    • More parmesean for serving
    • Totally optional and perhaps a bit weird, but I added a poached egg and it was insane. 

    In a large sauce pan, heat a few TBSP of EVOO on medium high heat. Next add the two containers of mirepoix and cook for three minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Stir often. Add the beans with their juice, stock, rosemary, parm rind and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a low simmer, add the kale and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Serve with some crusty bread and add heaps of parmesan cheese atop each serving... And then press play. 

    Thursday, October 26, 2017

    La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara

    This is one of two dishes I actually have dreams about and it could very well kill me one day but because I don't get to go to La Super-Rica as often as I'd like, I think I might live a bit longer... This is a pot of melted cheese, red sauce and chorizo. I like to order a bowl of grilled veggies as well and then make soft tacos with their homemade corn tortillas. You can definitely eat on the "cleaner" side as well. All of their grilled meats are fabulous and be sure to check out their daily specials.

    Julia Childs called Superica, as we SB natives call it, her favorite Mexican food spot. And having grown up in Santa Barbara and being exposed to a lot of great Mexican food, it's mine too -- not that I come close to having the palate or cooking skills of JC. It's a funky little shack on Milpas Street with plastic subbing in for windows and patio seating with white plastic chairs. It's minimalistic at best but nothing will stop the hordes of people from popping by no matter what the time of day. And you will wait a while. But you will meet people in line who will tell you exactly what to order. And they will all be right because everything is excellent. It's a family run business with Martin taking orders up at the front most days. If Anthony Bourdain were ever to do a show on SB, I know La Super-Rica would be his first stop and he would love it.

    La Super-Rica Taqueria
    622 N. Milpas St.
    Santa Barbara, CA 93103

    Wednesday, October 25, 2017

    Sakura on Centinela

    I'd been driving by this always packed sushi joint every night for a year and always wanted to give it a try. It wasn't until last weekend that I finally did and I actually went back again a few nights later. Now it's no Sugarfish or Katsuya in feel, it's more of a casual hole in the wall but the hordes of people alert you to the fact that they serve up some really excellent sushi. It's warm and inviting and the staff are very friendly. We started with the crab gyoza and had to order more. Then the blue fin tuna came out and I couldn't help but moan as I bit into it, it was that good. It absolutely melted in my mouth, so fresh and mild. I always love spicy tuna on crispy rice and theirs was very good albeit not any better than others I have ordered. The albacore and red snapper sashimi were also beyond fresh and excellently seasoned with green onions and roe. They have a nice selection of Japanese beer and hot and cold sakes. Sakura is that diamond in the rough that every neighborhood begs for not to mention their very fair prices.

    Sakura Sushi
    4545 S. Centinela Ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90066

    Friday, October 20, 2017

    Le Moulin des Pinchinats -- Aix-en-Provence

    Several summers ago my family and I took a trip to Aix En Provence. I'd been once before and absolutely fell in love with it: the food, the rose', the art, I could go on and on... When I travel I like to be close enough to town to walk. I also like sitting by the pool in the afternoon after sightseeing and a nice lunch and I often have a hard time finding the perfect spot. But in this case, I could not have dreamt up a more incredible B&B that ticked all the boxes. There were several factors that contributed to an absolute dream holiday. The first was the quintessential old Provencial stone home with lavender shutters that literally felt like something out of a travel magazine. The gardens and the pool were equally magnificent. I whittled the days away on the patio hammock with a book. Second were the hosts, Jean Francois and his lovely wife were so dear, we felt like we were staying at an old  family friend's home. And the breakfasts! I included a photo from one of the four incredible morning spreads we were so lucky to enjoy. The pastries were straight from the patisserie and the yogurt was homemade. Every morning there was a different fresh squeezed juice and homemade granola and a baked tart. 

    It's less than a mile walk into Aix where there are countless amazing restaurants and shops. We often got lost winding through the cobblestone streets but getting lost in Europe is one of my favorite parts of the experience, when you are so in awe of your surroundings that you completely lose yourself in the moment. Getting lost and then found keeps me traveling. 

    There is a tourism office in the center of town that will take you on excursions in the surrounding areas, to the Luberon Valley or the wine region of Cassis. If you time it right you may be there for the infamous lavender bloom which is an experience in and of itself. A highlight for me was returning to le Moulin and sitting by the pool in the afternoon after a busy day in town. And with all this said, the price of the hotel is another major draw to le Moulin, it is one of the most affordable stays I've had in Europe. This is the first time I have actually posted about a hotel on the blog and it's because le Moulin des Pinchinats truly stands out in my mind.

    Le Moulin des Pinchinats
    552 route des Pinchinats
    13100, Aix-en-Provence, France

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London UK

    Meat Fruit: Mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread. This is their most famous dish and it was incredible! 

    Powdered Duck Breast: braised and grilled red cabbage, spiced umbles and pickled cherries

    I'd been dying to eat at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant The Fat Duck in London for years, it's been one of those bucket list restaurants for me for as long as I can remember. But because it's now closed and I was visiting London over the summer, I thought I'd try Blumenthal's equally lauded restaurant Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The menu at Dinner is an homage to historic British gastronomy. Some of the recipes they use date back to 14th century. And it's a very meat centric experience for sure. It's collected all the accolades possible, two Michelin stars and was ranked #7 on the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2015. I have to mention that the service was exquisite. The ambiance was modern, sleek with lot's of windows and glass and very aesthetically pleasing. There is no tasting menu so one can order a la carte as they choose. I had a starter and a main and paired each course with an incredible glass of wine. I don't often dine like this and Dinner was a total experience. It's definitely a splurge but well worth saving up for. 

    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Jon & Vinny's -- LA

    Love caprese like yours truly? Jon and Vinny's happens to have the best I have ever had outside of Italy. They use a creamy burrata rather than the typical mozzarella and it is a plate of fresh, luscious heaven. I happened to be on a glutton, dairy, sugar and alcohol free sabbatical upon my first and only visit so I missed out on a lot of what they are most famous for. But I simply had to try the burrata because as everyone knows about me, cheese is my weakness. And the tomatoes! I know we're moving away from tomato season but because the nice weather hasn't seemed to abandon us quite yet here in Southern California, I'll bet you can still manage to secure some tasty, in season tomatoes at Jon and Vinny's. Like I said, I missed out on their very well reviewed pies and dessert too. I'm planning to update again at some point as soon as I'm able to return. the takeaway here is that if you're planning a dinner in the LA area and want to impress your guests, Jon and Vinny's should top your list.

    (323) 334-3369
    SUN - SAT | 8:00AM - 10:00PM