As another birthday draws near, I was thinking about what I would tell my decade-younger self. One big piece of advice I would give myself is not to be afraid to fail by taking more risks. I wish I would have studied abroad and taught English in Asia before heading to graduate school. Why was I in such a rush to have my life figured out? I often tell my students that they’ll be working for the next 25+ years and delaying grad school or a ‘real job’ for a year or two won’t make significant impact in the long run. Funny how I’ve gained that perspective many years later having been in their shoes.
I can’t rewind myself back to my early 20’s, but having this food blog has challenged me to take more risks in cooking things I’m not familiar with like mussels. I was wondering the aisles of Whole Foods and came across some live mussels and thought about Chef Julie Yoon’s recipe for mussels in white wine. I was able to experiment on my lovely roommate and college friend for dinner as we were celebrating my friend’s birthday. Serve this simple, light, and satisfying dish with a toasted bagette slices or over spaghetti. Btw, Chef Julie’s how-to video was helpful in walking me through the process.
Steamed Mussels in White Wine Sauce adapted from Chef Julie Yoon’s blog serves 4
2.5 lbs live mussels (see notes below on storing these) 3 TB unsalted butter, divided 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion diced 1/2 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup chicken broth 1/2 lemon 3 roma tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes, diced 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped salt and pepper
1. Clean the mussels under cold running water in the sink. Remove beards by slicing them with a paring knife. For ones that are slightly open, gently tap the hinge of the mussel on your cutting board so they close. If it doesn’t, discard. Should take about 15 minutes. 2. In a large pot on medium heat, add 1 TB of butter. Once melted, add your onions and garlic until cooked through (about 2 minutes). Add chicken broth and wine; bring mixture to a boil and add mussels. Cover with a lid. 3. Let the mussels simmer for about 5 minutes (set a timer) and shake in the middle for even cooking. At the end of 5 minutes, check to see that the mussels have opened. Turn off the heat and add parsley, tomatoes, and remaining 2 TB of butter. Gently toss to make sure the butter melts. 4. Toss any mussels that didn’t open. Squeeze half the lemon over the mussels and serve over pasta or with crusty bread.
Note: I bought my mussels 2 days before cooking them. To keep them fresh, I kept them in the mesh bags they came in and placed them in a colander in the fridge with bags of ice. Make sure to place a Pyrex or some kind of plate to catch the melting ice. I also covered the colander with a wet paper towel and re-wet it each morning. I know it sounds complicated but I had to keep them alive before serving for optimal flavor =) I wouldn’t recommend freezing them.
My roommate and I enjoy coming to Republique (in Hancock Park/LA) for Saturday breakfast pastries. It’s airy, has unique interiors, freshly baked pastries, and their drinks have me coming back for more. I haven’t been for lunch or dinner (made LATimes’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s top eateries 101 in LA), as it’s on the pricey end ($$$) but breakfast is an affordable luxury. My roommate tried a hazelnut croissant and highly recommends it.
One of my favorite bloggers, Joy Cho features Republique in a recent post w/more pastry case pics! Check it out here. She recommends their Hong Kong milk tea latte.
almond and carrot cake next to a strawberry-filled cream puff
Anima Pizza & Pasta is a new (opened December 2013) authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Koreatown (Vermont and 7th). My friend, Julie of LA eats introduced me to this gem in early March and went back with a group of friends a few weeks later.
bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00
insalata nicoise 8.50
lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)
capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50
gnocchi with ragu 8.50
spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00
The food is as delicious as it looks and wonderfully affordable. Where else can you get homemade pasta in LA for under $10 for dinner? Each time, I think I spent about $15 for dinner. The portions are not ginormous so you can share a couple dishes and leave feeling satisfied. They’ve applied for an beer and wine alcohol license so until then, no BYOB but they offer complimentary cucumber water and have non-alcoholic drink options on the menu.
The only challenge about this location is the parking. It’s in the same plaza as Kobawoo and a handful of other eateries. Valet parking (I think it was $2) is available if there’s space, otherwise, street parking is the other option.
I love Korean BBQ places but often the kimchi is disappointing. I dunno why they focus on all the other banchans (side dishes) and meat while neglecting quality kimchi. What ups the flavor quality and experience for me is grilling it to get that nice caramelized taste.
I made some kimchi quesadillas this week as my roommate brought her mom’s homemade kimchi to share. Made with organic, locally grown napa cabbage, it’s really good and even better when grilled and combined w/cheese. Check out my easy recipe for making kimchi quesadillas below. Love me some kimchi and 3-ingredient dishes!
kimchi quesadilla (serves 2)
1/2 cup of kimchi (napa cabbage, ripened), chopped
2 tortillas (I used whole wheat tortillas)
1 cup of shredded cheese
pico de gallo to serve (optional)
Place a frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tsp of vegetable oil and kimchi. Pan fry until browned (in my picture, it looks burned but it’s not) and set aside.
Adjust stove heat to medium low and place a tortilla and sprinkle a handful of cheese evenly on half the tortilla. Scatter half the kimchi on top of the cheese. Place another handful of cheese over the kimchi layer and fold over. Brown both sides of the tortilla or until the cheese is all melted. Place quesadilla on a cutting board; should rest for a few minutes. Slice into 4 pieces and repeat the same process for the 2nd quesadilla. Enjoy w/some pico de gallo.
Last month, Chef Jen Story of Cookin’ Thyme personal chef and catering hosted a cooking class for the women from my church where we made we three brunch dishes in our commercial kitchen.
Here’s what we made:
Chef Jen had all the ingredients and kitchen tools laid out and she took time to explain/demo the process before we split up into groups. Yes, there were lots of eggs and butter. On a sidenote, I took a nap after this class. The delectable meal was food coma inducing.
She put us to work! The ladies were making a brown sugar/butter reduction for the creme brulee French toast (bakes in the oven). OMG, aroma of warm gooey goodness.
Homemade pork sausage making action.
Check out the finished dishes; vegetable and cheese frittata (12 eggs each tray), French toast, and pork sausage (not pictured).
Praying for our meal before the chow down. Man, we were starving! Big thanks and shout out to Cathy who made these crafty center pieces. Showcasing just some of the talents of our lovely ladies.
Chef Jen did an awesome job walking us through the dishes and helping us manage the short time (about 3 hours). She also explained cooking techniques that she picked up in culinary school and her experience in commercial kitchens. Hands down, the creme brulee French toast was my favorite dish I look forward to making. It was soft, sweet, and the bananas Foster w/Grand Marnier elevated the dish (more chef-y). Really melted in my mouth and the frittata resembled a custard texture, so lovely. Perfect complement to the sweetness of the first dish.
I actually was referred to Chef Jen from a friend, Christine of feedmysole who hired her for another event. Chef Jen has her own cooking facility in Lawndale where she hosts events like multi-course meals and cooking classes. Check out her website and facebook page for more details. I loved the experience and highly recommend her! FYI: She was a contestant on the Food Network’s Chopped and the episode airs on April 7th (curious if she took home the 10K prize). Go Chef Jen!