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Miso-glazed black cod - day 3

Miso-glazed black cod - day 3

It was the third day of miso marinade on the black cod and do you think I was scared to eat 3 day old fish? A little bit, but not really. I am putting my faith in this Epicurious recipe. Plus I made sure to check the fish before I cooked it. So did it taste any better day 3? I think the marinade got sweeter over time, but otherwise it wasn’t much different than marinading it over night. It tasted pretty awesome either way, but would probably be too sweet for weaker women than me by day 3.

To be honest, the cod tasted great every day so I got way more excited about changing my salad a little bit every day. For today’s salad, I used spring mix and baby spinach. In the salad I put tomatoes, carrots, grapefruit, a tiny bit of sliced onion and the best part… toasted pine nuts. I used the same dressing as yesterday because I think it is perfectly simple. Now all I can think about is all the stuff in my kitchen that will be great in my next salad. My eyes have been totally opened to how good a simple salad can be when you put a little love into it.

Miso-glazed black cod - day 2

Miso-glazed black cod - day 2

I am not sure I realized what a commitment this black cod experiment was going to be. Here I am, planning to go out around dinner time, so I had to make my day 2 version and eat a late lunch/early dinner… linner. Luckily, black cod is amazing so I win either way.

So my pops was worried that the marinade may contain an acid, which would cook the fish in the fridge. It doesn’t seem to. The glaze/marinade/whatever it is contains sugar, white miso, sake and mirin. Mirin is a sweet rice wine. I checked around for a few other recipes and they are all the same as the Epicurious one except they only call for 24 hours of marinade. Here’s the recipe that someone posted for Nobu’s famous version of the dish.

Does it taste better day 2? I think so. One problem with the fish may be that I am grilling it instead of broiling it. I am scared of the drawer broiler in my kitchen. I also updated yesterday’s salad dressing. With the same base as yesterday, I added a bit of balsamic vinegar and honey to the dressing and onion to the salad. I think the grapefruit juice needs a bit of balsamic to compete with the olive oil.

Miso-Glazed Black Cod

Miso-Glazed Black Cod

I never had black cod before I moved to LA and lunched at Beacon in Culver City. My sister found and made this recipe for miso-glazed black cod after I went on and on to her about what an amazing dish it is. Now Beacon is closed and I am without anywhere for my black cod fix (and tiny pickles for that matter). I decided to make it the other night, but it calls for marinading the cod in the sauce for three days! Keeping fish in the fridge for three days sounds gross, but it is in the recipe so it has to be right, right? Since I have just my little tummy and .9 lb of black cod, I decided to marinade it and pull a piece out to cook every day. I have no idea what this will prove, but it gives me a fun activity for the next 3 days.

For tonight’s meal, I also made a little salad with spring mix, grapefruit, avocado, and tomato. I have long been embarrassed about my lack of knowledge about salads so I finally watched the salad videos on Rouxbe.com. Based on what I learned, I made a little vinaigrette with 1 part grapefruit juice, 3 parts olive oil, shallots, salt and pepper. Delicious! Stay tuned for day one and a half.

ny strip steak & shredded brussel sprouts

ny strip steak & shredded brussel sprouts

Every once in a while I will be sitting staring at an ingredient and remember that I have a subscription to watch the always helpful cooking videos at Rouxbe.com.  This time the ingredient was a NY strip steak that I picked up at the store the other day. It was on sale, which is perfect for my “austerity” measures to save money.

I watched the How to Cook Premium Steak video and learned so much:

  • Temper the steak (bring it to room temperature) by putting it in a turned off 200 degree oven.
  • Season liberally with salt and pepper 15 minutes before cooking.
  • Before cooking, pat with a paper towel and drizzle with oil.
  • Then, the big secret… flip the steak every minute until it reaches the right temperature.
  • Rest the steak for 10 minutes on a rack and tent with foil.

I tested the doneness by touch and when I thought it was medium rare I double checked with a thermometer. When you flip the steak every minute, the inside cooks really evenly without overcooking the outside. Tempering it first helps. Pretty cool and my kitchen didn’t fill up with smoke like it normally does when I pan fry steak.

For a side I tried to make the shredded brussel sprouts with bacon that my dad made the other day, but I really didn’t know how he made them. So, I cooked some bacon, drained some fat, chopped the cooked bacon and then cooked the sprouts in the bacon fat. It tasted a bit too good so it probably coulda used less bacon. I guess I’ll just have to wait for papa Kempner to comment on this post tomorrow.

salad with pickled onions

salad with pickled onions

Just in case you think I just eat bacon and steak, I also ate some salad with pickled onions. I made these onions way back on October 31st and canned them. I had to slice 3 lbs of red onions! These onions make any salad taste better although this one had hearts of palm so it was off to a pretty good start. After I canned them, I made a little video of all the bubbles escaping from the jars. Vacuums are neat.

Vacuum seal of pickled onions from Michelle Kempner on Vimeo.

Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Quinoa

Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Quinoa

One thing that has struck me recently is the sheer number of different ingredients I have in my kitchen. If I need vinegar, I can choose from white wine, champagne, sherry, balsamic, apple cider, and even raspberry. I have been trying to save a bit of money so it makes sense to choose recipes that use things I already have around the house. I am not a fan of Rachel Ray, but her recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Couscous uses chicken thighs (cheap), pine nuts, dried fruit, cumin, coriander, olives — all of which I have. I replaced the couscous with quinoa to add an educational element to the recipe. I haven’t ever eaten quinoa much less cooked it. Of course with all my clever planning, I forgot that I didn’t have any paprika so I added a bit of cayenne pepper instead.

What can I say? It is not the most glamorous or photogenic recipe, but it is affordable and easy for a weeknight. And for me, it provides meals for days.

beef borscht

Hot Beef Borscht with Sour Cream

With the extra cabbage in the fridge and fond memories of shredding meat, I continued my Christmas hibernation by making beef borscht. I have only had borscht at two places. One is the famous Veselka in the East Village of New York where it is honestly a pretty bland beet broth. The other place is The Olive Tree Cafe in Greenwich Village. It is a sort of touristy restaurant that is part of a comedy club, but the borscht is beefy and amazing served with great pumpernickel bread. So I guess I wasn’t sure if I even liked borscht, but I already had the cabbage so I walked over to The Farmer’s Market and bought short ribs.

I was following the Hot Beef Borscht with Sour Cream recipe from Epicurious. The recipe is a two step process. First you make a beef broth with the short ribs. You then shred the beef, chill the broth and remove the fat. I have to stop right here and say that short rib is the most amazing food ever. I think I could eat short rib for every meal and be happy.

Step two is a broth with beets and cabbage that you add the beef stock and beef to. This is where the recipe goes wrong. I love beets, but I don’t think I can look at a beet again for a long time. I halved the recipe and added lots of seasoning, but it still blandly multiplied in the pot. No more borscht. From reading the comments over at Epicurious, I realized that there are different types of borscht, but yadda yadda yadda unless I am at Olive Tree Cafe, I aint eating borscht again. No real lessons learned here other than I need to spend more time with mister short rib.

sausage and peppers

sausage and peppers

The other day I was hungry and I looked around my kitchen and found yellow peppers, green onions and those gross packaged cooked sausage you can get at the supermarket. I heated up some french bread from the freezer, cooked it all up and realized it wasn’t half bad. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to make and I ended up making a Philly classic – a sausage and pepper sandwich. I tried a few more times with better ingredients and it occurred to me, this is my first recipe. I made it up myself. I know that is a rather minor accomplishment for a normal chef, but I am still just aspiring to be an amateur home chef.

I just made it for my visiting sister and her husband…

a little taste of Philly

olive oil
salt & pepper
1.5 lbs sweet Italian sausage
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 c chicken stock
fresh french bread
grated parmesan

Add a bit of olive oil to a saute pan and cook the sausage covered over medium heat. After 8 minutes, turn the sausage over and cook on the other side for 8 minutes. Remove the sausage to a cutting board and slice on an angle.
Pour out excess oil from the pan, but leave nice sausage bits. Add a bit of fresh oil, season with salt and saute the sliced peppers. After a few minutes add the onion. Season a bit again. Add the tomatoes.
* Tangent This is an excellent recipe for practicing your pan tossing skills. I have to admit, I watched a how to video, but never actually did the pan tossing homework. This recipe just naturally calls for it and I started doing it pretty easily.
Once the peppers are starting to become soft and the onions are translucent, deglaze the pan with around a 1/2 cup of chicken stock (homemade, please). Make sure to scrape up all the delicious brown pan bits and make a bit of a pan sauce. Add the sausage back to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to heat through.
Serve the sausage and peppers on toasted french bread with a little parmesan cheese and enjoy yourself an Eagles game. Go Philly!

*Disclaimer, I made this up. I am sure there are other and better ways to make sausage and pepper sandwiches.

strawberry preserves on cracker

strawberry preserves on cracker

As if learning to cook wasn’t enough, my friend Kendra recently got me excited about canning. It turns out, canning isn’t all scary and filled with botulism. Botulism can’t exist in highly acidic environments so there are lots of good recipes you can safely preserve. For a starter, Kendra suggested this recipe for Strawberry Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar & Black Pepper. She said it wasn’t as overly sweet as some of the other strawberry preserves. Canning is really meant to preserve extra in season fruits and vegetables so I would like to say that I had an abundance of strawberries laying around, but I didn’t. I made the preserves using a pint of strawberries from the CSA, two strawberries from my garden, and the rest from the grocery store. The jelly made a great dessert with just a hint of pepper.

jars of jelly

jars of jelly

I only opened one jar and I am going to hold off opening the others for a taste of summer in the bitter cold of the Los Angeles winter. I think pickled cocktail onions might be next.

rack of lamb

rack of lamb

I am still in the throes of a love affair with lamb. Today at the market, I saw rack of lamb on sale. I have cooked individual lamb chops, but never a whole rack. I decided to buy it and give it a try. I found this simple recipe on Epicurious, which also allowed me to use fresh rosemary, parsley, and thyme from my container garden.

I needed something to go along with the lamb and I just received my first CSA box ever. Whenever I had previously contemplated signing up for a CSA, I worried what I would do with all that kale. I don’t know why I thought kale was a given in a CSA box, but I must have been on to something because I opened the box and bingo… kale. I have never cooked kale. I am not sure if I have even ever eaten kale. I decided to make kale chips. I also served some heirloom tomato and avocado with a little balsamic vinegar.

lamb, kale chips, heirloom tomato

lamb, kale chips, heirloom tomato

So, what did I think? I checked the lamb temperature a few times and confirmed that it was the right temperature for medium rare, but the doneness freaked me out a bit. Maybe I am a medium lamb girl. The kale chips were… like… slightly bitter, insubstantial papery things. Everything was seasoned well between the garden herbs on the lamb and the sherry vinegar on the kale chips. All in all, it wasn’t a bad meal for a mellow day where I did marathon training in the morning and just wanted to lounge about for the rest of the day. I have another week to figure out something else to do with kale before the next CSA box arrives. Now what to do with all that eggplant?

Some interesting stuff about cooking a rack of lamb

Grilled Radicchio and Lamb Chops

Grilled Radicchio and Lamb Chops

You don’t have to read my blog long to know that I still have a lot to learn about cooking. It has taken me a while to eat something at a restaurant and even realize that I am eating food that I could actually make at home. The other day I ate at Chego! and noticed that I really loved the radicchio in the grilled caesar salad. It sounds simple, but I had never touched radicchio outside of a restaurant. My sister recently sent me a Lodge reversible stovetop griddle/grill so I decided to buy a little radicchio to play with at home.

Lodge reversible grill pan

Lodge reversible grill pan

I separated the radicchio leaves and brushed them with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and wilted them on the grill for about a minute on each side. To serve, I simply sliced the leaves and topped with a little grated parmesan.

lamb chops cooking

lamb chops cooking

I then sprinkled the lamb chops with dried rosemary, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and grilled them about 4 minutes each side to medium rare. Sometimes I try to wing simple recipes and end up regretting it, but this turned out fantastic and only took about 20 minutes tops. The best part is that I had just picked up a lemon, lamb chops and radicchio at the grocery store without any idea what I was going to do and had everything else I needed. The next challenge will be trying to eat sustainably. I was sad when I noticed the lamb chops were marked “from Australia” on the packaging.