From Frozen to Fabulous - Transforming A Trader Joe’s Pre-Packaged Dinner: Wow, what a catchy title, right? Are you intrigued? As a college student, with no meal plan, living off-campus you realize how hard it is to make a dinner from scratch every night. While some nights I will roast some veggies and have a protein, most nights I am stuck gazing into the freezer wondering what Trader Joe’s meal I should defrost. While my Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burger phase lasted a scarily long time (try them), I find myself needing to spice up the semi-bland Trader Joe’s options that I am often left with for dinner. One of my favorite Trader Joe’s items is the Japanese Style Fried Rice. It is much better than Trader Joe-San’s (it kills me to type that) Shrimp Fried Rice and provides a great base to add some veggies and egg. The Japanese Style Fried Rice already has edamame, tofu and hijiki seaweed but I always add more tofu (I love Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Teriyaki Tofu), two big handfuls of Trader Joe’s ‘Organic Power to the Greens’ (baby kale, chard and spinach) and a beautiful soft-boiled egg. While I may be the first person to ever type out a recipe for essentially defrosting a bag of rice, I feel like it is necessary to achieving a great Trader Joe’s meal.
1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan (this is for the egg)
2. Once water has come to a boil, put in the egg and turn the heat down a bit, let cook for about seven minutes
3. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet and pour in desired amount of rice
4. Let the rice defrost for about one minute and add in the two handfuls of greens
5. Keep stirring the stir-fry (ha) and add in the tofu (I usually cube it)
6. Stir in some soy sauce for a little extra flavor
7. Let rice cool
8. If it has been seven minutes - take the egg out and shock it in some cold water with ice
9. Put stir fry in bowl, place peeled egg on top, finish with salt and pepper and enjoy!
Cool that you now know how to defrost a bag of rice, but I promise that your friends will be impressed with how gourmet the final product looks!
Nom York City: Being born and raised in Los Angeles has given me a great appreciation for New York City. New York City solves all of Los Angeles’ problems and I am still convinced that if the two cities had a child I’d live there (San Francisco?). In New York there are no grueling debates about who will be designated driver, the city doesn’t die at 2am and the layout makes logical sense - no map required. Yet, what I love most about New York is the amazing food culture. There is so much history attached to some of New York’s best restaurants - for example - Russ & Daughters has been in operation since 1914 and run by the same family. After reading about Russ & Daughters and watching Louis C.K.’s homage here, I was convinced that I had to go. I built my own everything bagel with New Zealand smoked salmon, scallion cream cheese, capers, tomatoes and onions. They don’t toast their bagels but after the first bite I realized toasting was completely unnecessary. This was the best bagel I have ever had and well worth the 15 minute wait - if you are in New York go to Russ & Daughters! In Los Angeles, I find that there are only a handful of restaurants that have a deep history while continuing to serve awesome food - one being the always delicious Bay Cities Deli which has been operating for a little over 85 years.
Some of the other places I ate at during my recent trip to New York were:
Danji - A cute modern restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen that serves korean tapas. The farmers market bibim-bop was flavorful and completed with a perfectly runny egg.
Rubirosa - Every since Carol Han of Milk & Mode mentioned the vodka sauce pizza at Rubirosa I had been dying to go - it should be noted that her post that mentioned the pizza was in December of 2010 so I was fairly ready to go! The pizza did not disappoint - and it made a good breakfast the morning after. We also got the roasted octopus which will turn anti-octopi folk into believers.
H&H - Classic but pretty meh in comparison to Russ & Daughters.
Luke’s Lobster - Soooooo gooooood. I first heard of Luke’s Lobster after reading this blog post from Annamarie Tendler and Aziz Ansari. After going I am fairly certain this is my favorite lobster roll…ever. Not heavy at all, which is dangerous because I could have easily had 5 of them.
Roberta’s - Umm…this place is the shit. I had heard about Roberta’s well before I visited but I was unsure if I would ever make it out to Bushwick. Well…I went twice in the seven days I was in New York. The L train is fast and it is worth it to stay on a little after Bedford for some good grub. First tip: get their pizza. ‘The Bee Sting’ pizza is amazing - tomato, mozzarella, soppressata, chili flake, honey - I don’t even like spicy stuff but the honey made this so irresistible that it didn’t bother me/I picked some of the chili flakes out but whatever. Second tip: get the damn Bloody Mary. It uses horseradish and brine and is simply amazing. Third tip: get the cornmeal pancakes. I have a huge spot in my heart for cornmeal pancakes so ordering them was a no-brainer and they turned out amazing. Can you tell that this is one of my favorite spots in New York?
Soba-Ya - Ohhhh yaaaaaaa. Soba-Ya has some of the best soba I have had outside of Japan. When you walk in you are greeted by a lovely man making fresh noodles, which is never a bad sign. We ordered the Yasai hot soba which was mixed vegetables and mushrooms and I added an egg. We also got the classic Nabeyaki Udon which is always so good. The hot noodles were the perfect antidote to a cold New York evening.
Easy Hors D’oeuvres: Before departing for Italy our family hosted a lunch at our house for my Aunt’s birthday. I offered to make some appetizers and my mom was happy to hand me over the responsibility. I decided to go with some caprese sticks along with my infamous bacon wrapped dates (I’ve never made these and had leftovers, just sayin’).
Mozzarella Balls (ones that have been marinating in oil and herbs are preferable)
Sweet Cherry Tomatos
(The amounts for each varies depending on how many guests you are serving)
Take a toothpick put on a mozzarella ball, a little piece of basil, and the cherry tomato (you can either halve the tomato or leave it whole). Repeat these steps until you have enough sticks. Then divide up the skewers onto two plates. On the first plate drizzle some pesto onto the skewers. On the second plate drizzle some balsamic (reduced balsamic is the best for this) and a little olive oil. And you’re done! This recipe is super easy and always a hit.
For the recipe I already posted for Bacon Wrapped Dates or as I like to call them Dates in a Greasy Blanket click here!
Picca is definitely one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles right now. The Peruvian restaurant serves up family-style small dishes that are the perfect size and leave you feeling happy and full. The restaurant has an open kitchen and really allows you to be part of the action. The restaurant is backed by Bill Chait, who also is known for Short Order, Sotto and Rivera - so you know it’s good.
Here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed at Picca:
Tuna Tartare - tuna, avocado, lemon soy dressing, sesame oil, wonton chips
Anticucho Tomatoes - burrata, black mint pesto
Anticucho Salmon - miso, pickled cucumbers
Seabass Tiradito - thinly slices seabass, soy sauce, lemon dressing, sesame oil, sweet potato puree
Causa Shrimp - pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho guacamole
Causa Unagi - avocado, cucumber, eel sauce
Ceviche Crocante - halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari
Arroz con Erizo - peruvian paella, mixed seafood, sea urchin sauce
Artichoke - huacatay aioli, aji amarillo butter
Bisteck a lo Pobre - skirt steak, egg, pan fried banana, chickpeas tacu tacu
Locro de Quinoa - quinoa pumpkin stew, fried egg, choclo, parmesan cheese, crispy tomato
Vanilla Bean Pisco Flan
When I am at school and bound by the confines of rubbery turkey sandwiches, bland salads, and worm infested cornbread (it’s true, don’t want to talk about it), I like to think about some of my better meals. The first restaurant I usually think of is Joan’s on Third. It really doesn’t get any better. Easily the best Tuna Melt in Los Angeles (it’s so mustardy and the bread is so crunchy…oops just drooled on my computer). But really, everything at Joan’s is just so good. The menu is expansive and inviting, unlike some of the more uptight places you seem to wander into around LA. I recommend Joan’s on Third for breakfast and lunch. This family owned business truly knows how to please the stomachs of…well…everyone.
8350 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
My Slider Provider: The best morning remedy for a late night in my college “village” is easily some egg sliders from Some Crust Bakery. You fill out a little sheet, pay and out comes stacks on stacks on stacks of pure joy. I personally get french bread with egg, bacon, avocado, tomato, white cheddar cheese with mayo and dijon mustard. It sounds a little crazy, but it’s the perfect can’t-decide-if-I-want-breakfast-or-lunch decision. Also, because I am into pretending it’s fall even though it’s 100 degrees outside, I ordered a Cinnamon Dolce Latte (got it iced just to be logical) and was completely satisfied. Some Crust also makes great cakes, pastries and sandwiches. Definitely one of the higher points of the Inland Empire (low points being monster trucks and meth labs - which actually is kind of a high point now that I watch Breaking Bad). Either way, check out Some Crust if you ever find yourself in the IE.
Some Crust Bakery
119 Yale Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711
French Market: Here are some pictures from various French markets my parents visited in France. I love the colors of the spices contrasted by the rustic and neutral tones of the cheese and salami (I’m so deep).
Speaking of salami - shout out to my salami queen Kelly. Kelly and I live parallel lives - all the way down to the fact that we are both salami obsessed (one time she called me at midnight and said she was walking to the market to buy salami…only now am I realizing that was a little weird). But on the real - you guys should follow her blog and, like, be friends with her.
French Food Envy: My parents just got back from France and took tons of pictures. Here are a few of their meals that make me seriously jealous. Let’s just take a moment to drool over that oozing chocolate dessert. All of the food looks so fresh and colorful. Take me, please!