Friday, March 26, 2010

Chorizo Cure All

It's a good thing birthday parties only come around once a year. This year, mine just happened to be squeezed in amongst a few close friends, all of whom decided to ask me out for cocktails the same evening. My third stop, which culminated in a three pub hop and salsa dancing extravaganza with a bevy of male friends and artists, ended a little after midnight prompting me to fall asleep later in dreams of morning chorizo-the only thing in the world that can cure a hangover, comfort a grumbling belly and stave off the talons of headache and low energy. Taken with a nice dose of trash t.v. and eaten even possibly in bed, this recipe below courtesy of my friend George Abril, is easy and perfect. 

6 ounces chorizo sausage
8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 dash hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™), or to taste
 1/2 cup salsa

1. Crumble the chorizo sausage into a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until evenly brown. Set aside.
2. Heat one skillet over medium heat, and heat another skillet over high heat. The skillet over high heat is for warming tortillas. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Spray the medium heat skillet with some cooking spray, and pour in the eggs. Cook and stir until almost firm. Add the sausage, and continue cooking and stirring until firm.
3. Meanwhile, warm tortillas for about 45 seconds per side in the other skillet, so they are hot and crispy on the edges, but still pliable.
4. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese onto each tortilla while it is still hot. Top with some of the scrambled egg and sausage, then add hot pepper sauce or Red or Green salsa to your liking.
* Condiments: salsa and grated cheese are the basics. You can also include Pico de gallo, cilantro, chopped onion, chopped FRESH jalapeño peppers, lime, salt and pepper

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chocolate Souffle and Charlotte

At 37 years old, I recently saw my daughter go off to college right at a time when most of my friends are just now having babies of their own. One of my favorite things to do on weekday afternoons is visit my girlfriends with little ones to get a dose of vicarious maternal fixes while catching up with good buddies. Of course, there is always food involved.

Yesterday, I arrived at my friend Charlotte's house while little Camilla took her afternoon nap and was met with a fine plate of strawberries, Freixnet (our favorite stand-by cheapie champagne) and stone wafer crackers with boursin cheese. While catching up on life, I taught Charlotte how to make an easy chocolate souffle, taught to me by my favorite Chef Aaron Kiefer of East Meets West Catering, and chosen for its simplicity in ingredients and swiftness in cooking so that even moms on the go can whip it up easily in the home.


  • 7 ounces finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus for preparing the molds
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 8 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Confectioners' sugar for garnish


Brush 6 (6-ounce) ramekins with soft butter, then coat with sugar. Put the prepared ramekins in the freezer. (This can be done a day ahead.)

Set an oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside.

Combine the egg yolks and warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer or large bowl and beat until frothy. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, and continue beating until ribbons form, about 5 minutes. Very lightly fold the yolks into the chocolate mixture. (Rinse the bowl well, if using for beating the egg whites.)

Remove prepared ramekins from freezer. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer, or large non-reactive bowl, add the lemon juice. Beat on medium until frothy; then gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and increase speed to high. Beat until the whites hold a stiff but not dry peak.

Working quickly, fold about a third of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten; then fold in remaining whites until blended. Gently ladle or spoon the souffle mixture into the ramekins, and place on a baking sheet. (Level off the surface with a straight edge, scraping any excess mixture back into the bowl.)

Immediately bake until the souffle rises about 1 1/2 inches from the ramekins, and the tops are touched with brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fish Tacos for the Hip

Fish tacos are one of my favorite foods and the best are, unarguably, the kind I can buy for one buck on the side of the road in San Felipe that come just plain and served with the special white sauce and nothing else on a miniscule corn tortilla disk spiked with a squeeze of lime. Almost every time I go to a seafood or Mexican restaurant this is my item of choice even though most American joints screw them up with way too much slaw and foliage and condiments a la sour cream and guacamole.  Recently, I ran into the fish taco at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. The menu at Ace's King's Highway Restaurant is full of comfort foods changed for the uber-hip denizens of the trendy and grassroots indie resort so I was a bit skeptical when I saw this item offered. True to my skepticism, the tacos arrived wrapped in the looks of the tragically cool, a sliver of grilled fish no bigger than the size of my pinkie finger, served plain with that special white sauce on a teeny tortilla. But there were three on the plate and I was satisfied with that even though the bulimia-clad waif at the other table only touched one of hers. I will definitely order this dish again, although next time it will probably follow the blood salami adorned charcuterie plate as well for a starter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Persian Milkman

I popped out of my mother's womb craving Persian and Middle Eastern foods. So much that my mother would joke that she must have had an affair with the Persian mailman without knowing it. My palate has lifelong ached for the tastes of pomegranate, walnut, chickpeas and coriander and I always love it when I get the chance to dine on this exquisite cuisine. In my hometown, a Persian restaurant does not exist so I find myself oftentimes heading to my friend Shahram's house for some homemade fare in his salon-style environment that features swirling Middle Eastern painted decor and is alive with his exquisite paintings of whirling dervishes and veiled figures.

Persian cuisine is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, culinary traditions and styles distinct to their regions. It includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelo kabab (barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresht (stew that is served with white Basmati or Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, and others), aash (a thick soup:as an example Ash-e anar), kookoo (vegetable omeletes), pollo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including loobia pollo, albaloo pollo, Sabzi pollo , zereshk pollo, and others), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.

Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. The main Persian cuisines are combinations of rice with meat, chicken or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavorings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.

Recently, I traveled to Los Angeles with Shahram and attended his exhibition at the USC Hillel Center for Persian Jewish artists. On the way into L.A. we stopped at Sha Abbas in Santa Monica for a traditional meal of fessun jun, meat logs, and milk yogurt soda which was surprisingly carbonated and satisfyingly bitter.

Later that evening at the exhibition I tasted the most extraordinary chickpea cookies made out of nothing but chickpeas smashed and compressed into a dough and coriander.

Next step: learn how to translate my kitchen into a Persian one....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bellatrix Serves Up Great Tastes and Great Grapes

As a rule, I try to stay away from country club and golf course food, preferring to dine at the various restaurants our fabulous valley offers. But I would be remiss in this town, to avoid mentioning a few of them, which go beyond the traditional fare to step out of bounds and offer fine and surprising cuisine. Bellatrix, at the Classic Course, is one of these exceptions.
Chef Greg Monette has created a menu that offers creative twists on conventional favorites, served up with a vast wine menu and a wait staff that knows its grapes. On my recent trip there with my Vino Chick friend, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the small and elegant touches: a hostess who offers up a hook for your purse; a starter basket of bread that comes with a trio of exquisitely green-tasting extra virgin olive oil, freshly made and grainy hummus, and whipped butter; and an amuse bouche that features a fat and tender scallop bursting with the subtle overtones of grapefruit and curry and a large shrimp fragrant with thai lime.
The meal that followed was equally flavorful. A decadent appetizer of fried goat cheese arrived in a small, lightly breadcrumb-coated ball, soft and pliant to the fork, and perfectly spreadable for the sliver-sliced crispy baguette chips. An entrée of halibut arrived on top of linguisa sausage-spiked risotto that was adorned with buttery clams and creamy mussels like a big bowl of brothless cioppino. But the highlight of the night was the generous wedge of chocolate gateau cake for dessert, which bite after decadent bite remained light and rich at the same time. Upon asking, I discovered the reason for this was the use of mascarpone cheese instead of flour.
These sorts of unconventional modifications to ordinary classics, like the chocolate cake, are exactly why I will eat here again. Will be interested to see what other California-based favorites will be spiced up ala Chef Monette for the pleasure of my palate. 
I am fortunate enough to have enjoyed many a memorable restaurant meal in my life, and there is one common denominator that has tied all of these culinary experiences together-a killer wine list. I discovered just that during a recent experience at Bellatrix, a gem of fine dining located inside the Classic Club in Palm Desert. The restaurant's name is derived from the magnificent star in the constellation of Orion, so it was only fitting that some heavenly pairings were in order.

Bellatrix offers enticing twists on contemporary favorites, all while keeping it simple or as my dining partner and blogging peer Kimberly puts it "primal, back to basics, hunks of meat and seafood with a nuance." She's right, and for food this simple yet still complex, the wine has to match up.

We were fortunate that our server, Casey, was well versed in the subtleties of pairing our culinary choices with selections from the restaurant's extensive wine list, which features a wide array of California Chardonnays, Pinots and Cabernets, with 34 selections offered by the glass.

My appetizer of delectably juicy Korean short ribs was met with the smooth and silky 2007 Summerland Trio, a Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. A lover of all things Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I especially enjoyed the way its bright red fruit complimented the rich protein of the short ribs.

A seafood trio of scallop, shrimp and ahi tuna was accompanied by the ever-enchanting Caymus Conundrum, a heady Napa blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay and spicy Viognier. The wonderfully floral and buttery, tropical notes of the wine paired excellently with the vanilla sauce that the scallops sat atop, the wasabi that garnished the tuna and the sweet chili sauce that accompanied the shrimp.

My favorite part of the evening arrived at the table next...a moist and amazingly tender parmesan-encrusted lamb shank, surrounded by Kalamata olive ragout and toasted gnocchis. For this plate of perfection, Casey surprised me with his choice of a Bogle Petite Syrah, which I found to be smoky and full of black fruit with a hint of caramel. Its supple and full tannins matched well with the iron-rich lamb meat-about as primal a meal as it gets.
 For our decadent dessert of chocolate cake, Casey recommended a well-aged port...but by this time, I was quite sated. I have a feeling the lush, alcohol-tinged fortified wine would have been a perfect match...not unlike the rest of the evening.