Kismet! Harissa-Roasted Cauliflower Toast

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Harissa Roasted Cauliflower Toast

Kismet is a restaurant at the edge of the Los Feliz neighborhood in Los Angeles. In his LA Times review Jonathan Gold may have called the place “quasi-Middle Eastern”, but its groove and its neighborhood could not be more reflective of what’s going on in Los Angeles right now. So I wasn’t surprised during a recent lunchtime visit to see Harissa-Roasted Cauliflower Toast on the menu.

Kismet indeed. It’s simply delicious! It’s the perfect melding of classic Mediterranean cooking and what LA is eating right now.

So here’s my version of the Kismet menu item that impressed me so much. I’ll admit that I didn’t actually get the recipe while I dined there, but I think this is a close approximation. The big difference is that I did not make the labneh myself as they do at the restaurant.

Labneh

In case you’re unfamiliar, Labneh is a soft cheese with a smooth texture similar to cream cheese. It’s made from strained yogurt and is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. Don’t be confused by its many spellings. Lebneh, lebnah, labaneh, labane, labne, and labni are all labneh.

Labneh is becoming easier to find in many markets. Look for it next to the yogurt. If you can’t find it and want to try it you can easily make it at home. Start with homemade or good-quality store-bought full-fat plain Greek yogurt, Add a few pinches of salt and strain it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a deep bowl. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight or until it reaches the desired consistency.

Harissa-Roasted Cauliflower Toast

A beautifully assembled toast makes a terrific light meal. This Harissa-Roasted Cauliflower Toast has artfully layered textures and touches of heat. With its soft-boiled egg smiling up at you, it’s sunny food that feels just right for a summer’s morning. However, it also has a flirty tartness that can transform a dreary February afternoon no matter where you live. But it’s the spicy cauliflower, roasted into soft submission, that makes this combination pure modern-day comfort food. GREG

Harissa Roasted Cauliflower Toast

Harissa-Roasted Cauliflower Toast

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Kismet Restaurant, Los AngelesPublished

Ingredients

  • 1 cup labneh (you may use strained Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup harissa paste (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds before trimming)
  • 4 slice rustic bread (lightly toasted)
  • micro-greens (as needed)
  • pickled shallots (as needed, see recipe)
  • 4 soft-boiled eggs (optional)
  • 4 fresh lemon wedges

Directions

Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat to 425°F.

In a medium bowl mix labneh and lemon juice together until smooth and spreadable. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the harissa, oil, and salt. Set aside.

Halve and core the cauliflower then cut into bite-sized florets. Place the florets into the bowl with the harissa mixture; toss to coat evenly.

Spread the cauliflower onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast 35 to 40 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and starts to brown and become caramelized. Remove from oven and set aside to cool somewhat.

Meanwhile, spread a generous layer of labneh onto each slice of toasted bread. Top with a heaping pile of the harissa-roasted cauliflower. Garnish with micro-greens and pickled shallots. Serve immediately with a warm soft-boiled egg (if using) and a lemon wedge on the side.

Pickled Shallots

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
shallots

Ingredients

  • ½ cup thinly sliced peeled shallots (lightly packed)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place the sliced shallots in a medium, heat-proof bowl. Place water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small, nonreactive saucepan; bring to a boil and remove from heat. Allow the mixture to cool then pour over the shallots. Let sit at least 2 hours at room temperature.

Where to Eat in Death Valley

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Where to Eat in Death Valley

As you can imagine this is a hard post to write. That’s because dead folks don’t eat that much, so the pickins are slim. I probably should have done this post on where to hike in Death Valley. Or where to stargaze in Death Valley. Or where to simply stand and be awed in Death Valley. But, truth-be-told, dead folks don’t do much of those things either. So I’ll stick with where to eat in Death Valley.

I’ll give you some more truth: there aren’t a lot of places to eat in Death Valley. This isn’t really a problem because none of the restaurants in the park have what I’d call a not-to-be-missed dining room. So if you’re staying at one of the resorts inside the park or at the resort at Panamint Springs you could choose to eat all of your meals at one of their restaurants. You probably wouldn’t be missing out on too much.

But you know me I gotta go the extra mile no matter how many extra miles it takes. And it takes a lot of miles. Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States. It’s also the hottest, driest and lowest of all our national parks. And there’s basically only one road (CA-190) that traverses the whole thing. So there’s a lot of endless driving back and forth. Of course, it’s endless driving with endless views. So perhaps I complain a touch too much.

Death Valley Panoramic

Inside The Park

Badwater Saloon: This is the more casual of the two restaurants in Stove Pipe Wells Village. It’s open for lunches and light suppers and the food is surprisingly good. However, it’s the mirrored bar and lively crowd (as well as the off-menu pizza) that make this the most popular place to eat inside the park. 51880 CA-190, Death Valley, California

Toll Road Restaurant: This is the restaurant that’s attached to Badwater Saloon. It’s where resort guests go for breakfast, but they also serve dinner after 5:30 pm. One half of the menu is exactly the same as Badwater Saloon. The other half is the dinner-only selections such as salmon, roast chicken, steak, and pasta. 51880 CA-190, Death Valley, California

The Inn at Death Valley: (formerly known as the Furnace Creek Inn) is a 1920s stucco and red tile architectural treasure with an amazing spring-fed swimming pool. The Inn Dining Room is where weary hikers dust off the desert to savor a fireside eve of fine food and wine. They’re open breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 328 Greenland Blvd., Death Valley, California

The Inn at Death Valley

The 19th Hole: This is the bar at The Furnace Creek Golf Course. It’s the place where you do what you do when you’re done on the links. Or skip the game and get a Salty Dog or a Bloody Mary as the sun sets and the coyotes come out to play. As far as food, there’s the expected burger from the griddle and a few other things to chase down the booze. CA-190 at Badwater Rd, Death Valley, California

Last Kind Words Saloon: On the grounds of the resort Oasis at Death Valley (formerly known as the Furnace Creek Lodge) it’s my favorite of all the places to eat in Death Valley. Sure you’ll feel like you’re dining on the set of an old-school Hollywood western but that’s part of the charm. The rest of the charm comes from a selection of grilled steaks and chops and a cocktail bar that knows how to make a good strong drink. CA-190 at Badwater Rd, Death Valley, California

Almost Inside The Park

Panamint Springs Resort Restaurant and Bar: Straddling Death Valley’s far western edge this tiny motel with a couple of extra cabins has views of the distant sand dunes and a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. Like most places to eat in Death Valley, the menu features steaks, burgers, and pizzas. The surprise from this remote restaurant is the large selection of craft beer. 40440 CA-190, Darwin, California

Amargosa Hotel Opera House: This place sits outside of Death Valley National Park, like some desert dream forgotten by time. There’s a famous opera house, a small hotel, and a well-regarded restaurant. I have to admit I didn’t actually eat here but the pictures I’ve seen of the place are so gloriously odd that I had to include it. The restaurant serves a simple menu of farm-to-table meals, and they also make stuff to go for those much-needed picnic meals once you’re in the park. Don’t forget to check out the murals in the theatre. Oh, and watch out for ghosts. The place is supposedly haunted. 608 Death Valley Junction, Death Valley, California

Amargosa Opera House Chase Stevens

Outside The Park

If you’re looking for long drives, stunning views, and tasty food, you need to listen to what I’m about to tell you. The tiny, hardscrabble town of Tecopa, CA is worth veering off CA-127 on your way into or out of Death Valley. Some people stop for the hot springs and mineral flats. Others come for the date milkshakes. The Los Angeles Times recently convinced me that Tecopa is a foodie destination that is still only known by a few and I wanted to be one of the few.

Tecopa might be in the literal middle of nowhere but it’s breaking through small-town expectations with two craft breweries to serve 150 fulltime residents. That’s probably more breweries per capita than Portland, OR.

But there’s more…

Tecopa Bistro and  Death Valley Brewing

Where to Eat in Tecopa, CA

Steaks and Beer: Locally raised t-bones as big as a plate or butter-soft filets served with vegetables and mashed potatoes and finished with a combination of red wine, butter, and balsamic. How could a place like this exist at the very quiet backdoor of Death Valley? The answer is Eric Scott, a Vegas chef with dreams of downsizing from cooking 700 steaks a night at STK on the Strip. Now he’s got just a couple of indoor tables, a few kitchen view bar stools, and a fistful of outdoor seating scattered over and around a fish pond. Sure, there can be an hour’s wait when the weather’s just right. But don’t worry Death Valley Brewing is right next door and the steaks are worth the wait. 120 Old Spanish Trail, Tecopa, California

Tecopa Bistro: It’s run by chef Ryan Thomas and it’s been more aptly called a “culinary art gallery” where Chef Ryan occasionally sets aside his tongs to let itinerant chefs come in and do their own culinary thing – whatever that thing might be. The vegetables come from neighbors’ gardens and the chickens are the local birds. The building has been an on-again-off-again home to 40 years of cooks, but it’s latest itineration is helping put Tecopa on the culinary map. You never know what will be served so Chef Ryan suggests diners visit his Facebook page to see him harvesting in the morning what will be cooked up and served that night. 860 Tecopa Hot Springs Road, Tecopa, California

Tecopa Brewing Company and BBQ: Texas-style brisket, Memphis-style pulled pork, racks of ribs, and big bowls of chili. Classic barbecue and a menu of always-changing housemade craft beer. It’s the kind of everyone’s welcome establishment where, if you’re lucky, you can play beanbag toss with the resident 3-year-old! 368 Hot Springs Road, Tecopa, California

Death Valley Brewing: As you pull into Tecopa you’ll see a giant wooden beer mug and suddenly you will feel very thirsty. Good thing because you’ve arrived at the brewery that may have gotten the culinary bandwagon rolling in this small town in the middle of nowhere. There’s always a pale ale and coffee stout on the menu, but they like to experiment too. Death Valley Brewing Company also serves homemade root beer, bratwurst, and burgers. 102 Old Spanish Trail Highway, Tecopa, California

GREG

Beer and BBQ Tecopa CA
Death Valley

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

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Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake. Is that legit? When I was growing up an upside-down cake was made with pineapple from a can – usually with a Day-Glo maraschino cherry adorning the center of each sunny ring. To a kid like me, it was a marvel of a cake – full of magic and mystery. How could it be possible to get that glistening yellow and red design embedded into a cake?

I’ll admit the whole concept still holds allure. But, as an adult I crave something that’s reminiscent of all that magic and mystery, but with a bit more seasonality and sophistication.

The season is set by the calendar, true, but the sophistication is up to me.

Where I live the persimmon is a common backyard fruit tree. I like to watch its seasonal progress as I walk the streets in the old Hollywood Hills neighborhood where I live. In the summer the leaves are green and lush, but the tree doesn’t look particularly special. Come autumn the trees begin to set loads of green fruit, hinting at what’s to come. By December they’ve usually dropped their leaves, creating a gray tangle dotted with crimson orbs silhouetted against the sky. Here it is January and many of those orbs still cling to the trees.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

But not for much longer. So when my friend Armineh showed up at the house with a bag of the last-of-the-season fuyu persimmons I figured that the time was now for a magical dessert. Persimmon Upside-Down Cake. GREG

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

Persimmon-Ginger Upside-Down Cake

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Persimmon-Ginger Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients

  • softened butter (as needed for pan)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 ½ ounce candied ginger (roughly chopped)
  • 4-5 fresh fuyu persimmons (peeled cored and cut into bite-sized wedges)
  • 1 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ vegetable oil
  • 2 uni large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ice cream (for serving, optional)

Directions

Butter the insides of a 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment round cut to fit edge to edge. Set aside.

Bring orange juice, ¼ cup sugar, and candied ginger to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to low; simmer until thickened, about 7 minutes. Add persimmons. Simmer, covered, until tender; 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer fruit and ginger, in an even layer, to the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Continue to cook syrup uncovered until reduced a bit more (you should have about ¼-cup). Pour the syrup over persimmons. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking. Gently pour the batter and over the persimmons in the cake pan, then carefully make the surface smooth with the offset spatula.

Bake in the heated oven until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

Run a small spatula or knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a rimmed serving plate, leaving the pan on the cake for another few minutes. Carefully remove the pan. Peel off parchment. Check the arrangement of the persimmons and make adjustments if needed while the cake is still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream (if using).

Hunker Down with Meatball Stew

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Meatball Stew

Now that we’ve cleared the holiday hurdle it’s time to start thinking about surviving the winter. I live in So Cal where our winters are typically mild. Often wet, but always mild. Still, I look for the joy in the season wherever I can find it and cool-weather pleasures don’t get simpler than a steaming pot of Meatball Stew: cheap, easy and deeply warming, it’s the edible equivalent of mittens and a scarf.

There’s a lot of ways to go when it comes to meatballs. I don’t really have one way I always make them. In fact, this is the first time I’ve made meatballs in a stew. I chose to go simple in my meatball preparation, no mixed meat, no herbs – just salt and pepper. But you certainly could make this meatball stew or one similar using your preferred meatball method. I was tempted to try braising my meatballs for this stew, without browning them first, but I got into auto-pilot and pan-fried them before they hit the stew pot. Either way would work.

Of all the cooking I do in winter, a deep pot of stew is what I find myself drawn to most often – sometimes it is merely the sum of what I have in the fridge and pantry, other times more layered and considered. Whichever way, it’s time to hunker down with Meatball Stew. GREG

Meatball Stew

Butternut Squash and Meatball Stew with Chunky Tomatoes and Cauliflower

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished
Butternut Squash and Meatball Stew with Chunky Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 slice sandwich bread (crusts and all cut into tiny dice)
  • ⅓ cup whole milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • salt and black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounce pancetta (cut into tiny dice)
  • ½ teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 2 cup 3/4-inch diced butternut squash
  • ½ onion (½-inch diced)
  • 3-4 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 (14½ oz) can beef broth
  • 3 Roma tomatos (cut into 1 ½-inch chunks)
  • 1 cup smooth tomato sauce
  • 2 cup raw cauliflower florets (bite-sized)
  • grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Directions

Place diced bread in a bowl; pour milk over bread. Set aside for a couple of minutes.

In a medium bowl gently combine soaked bread with beef until well-distributed but not overworked, season generously with salt and pepper. Gently shape into 12 (1 ½-inch) meatballs.

Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stew pot that has a lid over medium-high. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meatballs in a single layer; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Add diced pancetta, anise seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes to the hot pan and cook until the fat has rendered. Add squash, onion, and garlic to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add stock, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in cauliflower; cover and cook 3 minutes. Return meatballs to pan; cover and cook just until meatballs are cooked through 6 to 8 minutes.

Serve warm with Parmesan cheese.

Christmas Chocolate-Ginger Cookies

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Christmas Chocolate-Ginger Cookies

We’re looking towards another Christmas and, despite myself, I’ve made Chocolate-Ginger Cookies for the holiday cookie season. That same time of year when I tell myself (year-after-year) that I’m just not going to bother. I don’t mean I’m not going to bother with the holidays. Though it’s fun to insinuate it just to watch the Scroogey glances shoot my way.

Nope, it’s not that. My halls will be decked with a little Christmas cheer and our menorah is ready to go. It’s the Christmas cookies I always try to avoid. It’s the fuss and muss most Christmas cookies require more than the yuletide yummies themselves that tempt me to skip the sugar and spice each year. Too much sugar, messy food dyes, sticky counters lined with neat little piles of cookies tied up in red and green ribbons. I don’t think so– I try to tell myself– it’s just not my style.

Ha-Ha-Ha!

Or should I say Ho-Ho-Ho? Because behold I bring you good tidings of great sugary joy in the form of Chocolate-Ginger Cookies anyway.

These Chocolate-Ginger Cookies (from Susan Spungen and NYT) are perfect for the season– rich, spicy and most importantly delicious. Christmas cookie purists may disagree because these cookies aren’t frosted, painted, or blitzed in sprinkles. You can’t roll them out and cut them into fancy shapes. They might look like turds if you tried to hang them on the tree. Still, I think the indulgent amount of ginger helps transform these cookies into Christmas essentials.

So go ahead. Spin a dreidle, raise a glass, or bake some cookies. Happy Holidays. GREG

Christmas Chocolate-Ginger Cookies

Chocolate-Ginger Crinkle Cookies

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 24Source Susan SpungenPublished
Chocolate-Ginger Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients

  • 45 gram all-purpose flour (about ⅓-cup)
  • 30 gram Dutch-processed cocoa powder (about ⅓-cup)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 ounce bittersweet (70 %) chocolate (broken or chopped into pieces and divided)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 100 gram granulated sugar (about ½-cup)
  • 55 gram light brown sugar (about ¼-cup)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 70 gram candied ginger slices (thinly sliced crosswise)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and the butter in a small heatproof bowl that fits on top of a small saucepan without falling in. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in the saucepan over high, reduce to a simmer, then set the bowl on top. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Remove bowl from the saucepan to cool slightly.

Combine eggs, granulated sugar and light brown sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on medium speed to combine, scraping down the sides once. Increase speed to high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the ginger and vanilla. Beat to combine.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and beat on medium speed to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer, scrape sides and fold a few times to make sure everything is well combined. Add the 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips and fold to combine.

Use a small cookie scoop to scoop dough (which will be pretty runny) into generous 1-tablespoon portions. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, setting each scoop 3 inches apart. Top each cookie with a good pinch of candied ginger. Bake until the surface is crinkled and edges are firm, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through.

Let cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool further. Scoop any remaining dough onto one of the baking sheets — it’s O.K. to reuse the parchment — and repeat. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie with Persimmon and Spice Compote

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Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie

Although it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted I want you to know that it’s Thanksgiving and I’m giving thanks for this little blog. It keeps me sane sometimes, even though I don’t give it all the care and feeding it’s been used to all these years. Still, I couldn’t let the holiday pass without pie. Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie.

I can’t remember who introduced me to Brown Sugar Pie. I’ve had so many versions that they all seem to run together in my mind. There’s the version made with cream, and the improved version made with buttermilk. I even recall a version so delicious that my host (and my date for the evening), after cutting a tiny slice for me, proceeded to demolish the rest of the pie straight from the tin. “Damn fine pie” I recall him mimicking from a Twin Peaks quote popular at the time.

In this version, I combined both ideas and made mine with sour cream. The sweet and sour tang seems to fit my mood and the mood of the holiday we’re about to celebrate.

Thanksgiving Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie

It’s Thanksgiving and I have to wonder, can you carve a turkey without a knife? Could cranberries be weaponized? Do basters ever get shoved where the sun don’t shine? You don’t need a crystal ball to see that this holiday is going to be contentious for some families. Sure, there’s always been that drunk uncle (usually me) who pushes the political envelope a little too loudly. But this year a lot of tables are going to be elbow-to-elbow in “drunk uncle” bravado and there’s plenty of topical fuel to exacerbate the sparring. Especially if you find yourself a blue sheep in a mostly red flock (or vice versa).

Thank God there’s (damn fine!) Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie this year. I may just eat it straight from the tin. GREG

Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie

Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Sour Cream Brown Sugar Pie

Ingredients

  • raw pie pastry (enough to line one 9-inch pie pan)
  • 1 ½ cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • ¼ cup finely ground cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sour cream (at room temperature)
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted and cooled to room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • fruit compote (as topping, optional)

Directions

Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400ºF.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle, about ⅛-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate and gently press it up the sides. Drape any excess crust over the edge, then fold under and crimp decoratively. Use a fork to prick holes in the bottom of the dough. Chill for at least twenty minutes.

Line the chilled pie pan with parchment or foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and parchment or foil, then continue baking for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the crust is dry and pale-colored. Remove from the oven and set aside on a rimmed baking sheet to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl mix the sour cream, melted butter, and vanilla together until no lumps appear. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir vigorously until the brown sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the partially baked pie shell.

Transfer the pie, on its baking sheet, to the 350ºF oven. Bake until the custard is barely set and a little puffy, about 45 minutes. Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature with a scoop of fruit compote (if using) on the top of each slice.

Persimmon and Spice Compote

Persimmon Compote

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Persimmon Compote

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Moscato wine
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 4 Fuyu persimmons (peeled, cored and cut into bite-size wedges)

Directions

Bring wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer until thickened, about 7 minutes. Add persimmons. Simmer, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer fruits to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Cook syrup until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Pour over persimmons. Let cool. Refrigerate until chilled (up to 2 days).

Pork and Pineapple Tacos. That’s a Post!

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Pork and Pineapple Adobo Tacos

I ate these Pork and Pineapple Adobo Tacos weeks ago. I was so inspired by Ben Mims’ Los Angeles Times recipe for Adobo Roast Pork Shoulder with Pickled Pineapple Salad that I quite literally went out that same day and shopped the recipe. Once I had made the dish I couldn’t stop myself from serving his creation in taco form. I even took a few pictures intending to post my collaboration.

But then something happened to all of my good intentions. I think they call it life.

Sure, I still had the photos (and the memories of those adobo tacos) but I didn’t have much to say.

That’s because I think of pork and pineapple as an awkward duo. Too many slightly queasy adolescent glances across the pizza parlor I suppose.

I’m referring to the awkward pairing of ham and pineapple with the even more unlikely name of Hawaiian Pizza. Even as one of those teenage boys whom biology had predisposed to eat just about anything I thought pineapple was just too weird a pizza topping.

Then I grew into a man and I discovered Al Pastor Tacos. Shards of pork bathed in a chile sauce, dripping with pork fat and roasted pineapple juice– the meat neatly folded into a corn tortilla. Suddenly it was if this pairing had always been meant to sit side-by-side.

Pork and Pineapple Adobo Tacos

Well, I’m leaving for Mexico for a few days. The land where Pork and Pineapple Al Pastor first found it’s way into my heart (via my belly). Naturally, I dug up these photos.

I’m still not so sure that I have too much to say, but I did manage to (not) say it in 300 words. According to Google, that’s exactly enough for a post! GREG

Pork and Pineapple Adobo Tacos

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10-12Source Adapted from Ben Mims for the LA TimesPublished
Pork and Pineapple Adobo Tacos

Ingredients

  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 4 ½ pounds)
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ pound peeled and cored fresh pineapple (cut into ½-inch chunks, divided)
  • 24 clove peeled garlic
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 3 cup apple cider vinegar (plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 red chile pepper (such as Fresno, thinly sliced)
  • cumin-spiced pepitas (optional, see recipe)
  • fresh mint leaves (optional, as garnsih)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Generously rub the pork all over with salt and pepper. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 3 days in advance. Allow the pork to come to room temperature before continuing.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned meat to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate leaving the fat in the pan.

Place about half of the pineapple into the hot pan. It should sizzle. Add the garlic and bay leaves. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 seconds, then lightly crush pineapple with a spoon and stir it around to pick up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the pineapple, garlic and bay leaves are well caramelized in spots, about 2 minutes more. Pour the 3 cups vinegar, soy sauce, and water and scrape the bottom of the pot while stirring to pick up the browned bits.

Return the meat to the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot, place it in the oven and cook for 3 hours, or until the pork is falling-apart tender and the sauce is reduced by about half.

While the pork cooks, place the remaining pineapple into a bowl along with the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, chopped mint, honey, and as much of the sliced chile as you like. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To serve, remove the pot from the oven and let the pork rest for 10 minutes. Using tongs, twist and break apart the meat into large chunks; remove and discard the interior bone. Gently stir the meat to coax chunks of pineapple and garlic on top of the pork, making sure it’s well-coated in the sauce.

Serve the pork with on tortillas topped with the pickled pineapple and garnished with cumin-spiced pepitas and fresh mint leaves (if using).

Cumin-Spiced Pepitas

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Cooking LightPublished
Cumin-Spiced Pepitas

Ingredients

  • ½ cup green pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt (to taste)

Directions

Combine pepitas, cumin, and oil in a bowl; toss to coat. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add pumpkin seed mixture to skillet, and toast, stirring often until lightly browned 2 to 3 minutes.

Scrape the pepitas onto a paper towel-lined plate in as close to a single layer as possible. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and set aside. Once completely cool place them in a small covered bowl. Store them at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Simply Italian Great Wines: Pinot Grigio

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Simply Italian Great Wines: Pinot Grigio

The Simply Italian Great Wines Tour, 2019, at the SLS Hotel, West Hollywood, was a rapid carousel of peaches and pears, violets and cherries, honeysuckle and linden blossom. Starting at 10 am with a yawn and eight glasses of Pinot Grigio, Ken and I spent a glorious day by invitation spinning between tasting seminars.

I usually think of Pinot Grigio as a safe choice wine because of its fresh flavors, food-friendly acidity, and wallet-friendly price point. It is an easy Summer tipple to drink with cheesy snacks, but I don’t usually take it very seriously. This seminar changed my thinking somewhat. We tasted a diverse array of 2018 Pinot Grigios from the D.O.C. Delle Venezie, each with its own very distinct characteristics but all with the through-line of acidity and minerality typical for the region. A little look at my tasting notes illustrates the kind of variety we were treated to:

Di La-Vis  Pinot Grigio

Kroger, from Cantina Di La-Vis. This is a dry mountain wine with refreshing youthful effervescence. It delivers apples and pears on the nose, minerals, and spice on the palate, and releases a little brine on the finish. A winner that retails for only $8.99.

Pinot Grigio Villa San Martino, from Cantina Di Bertiolo S.P.A.

Villa San Martino, from Cantina Di Bertiolo S.P.A. Aromas of white peach and biscuits, dissolve into pithy citrus fruit on the palate with a subtle hint of almonds on the finish. This wine would complement Asian dishes perfectly.

Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie from Bidoli. This is a salmon pink white wine, as distinct from a rosé. The color is achieved by leaving the juice on the skins for about six hours. I wonder how many people would identify this as a white wine with their eyes closed. I am not sure I would be able to as there is a distinct hint of strawberries on the palate that I associate with rosé wine… and yet, the mouth-watering wet stone minerals tell another story. This is a very interesting tipple.

Dorsiduro Pino Grigio

Ai Palazzi Dorsoduro from Masottina, for me, is the most complex of the wines tasted. The nose is fragrant with honeysuckle and herbs. It is blended with a small amount of Chardonnay (The DOC requires that at least 85% of the varietal composition must be Pinot Grigio. All the previous wines mentioned use 100%). This combination leans in towards the Chardonnay, to provide a strong backbone of apples, pears, and citrus fruits with a rich toasted almond finish. By contrast, Ecco Domani, a supermarket favorite, also cuts a tiny (5%) percentage of Chardonnay into the bottle but I wouldn’t have known that by taste alone. Here the nose is delicate chamomile but the palate is bright with kiwi-berries and raunchy acidity.

 Pinot Grigio 2018 DOC Friuli Grave from Albino Armani

In a different seminar, Fresh and Fun Wines from Fruili, #TheSparklingLife, we tasted Pinot Grigio 2018 DOC Friuli Grave from Albino Armani. Round, dense, approachable and delicious notes of ripe Bartlett pear and yellow apples mingle with hints of toasted almonds and salty stone. It’s from the wrong DOC for purists, perhaps, but I absolutely loved it and I have a much greater respect for the Pinot Grigio grape than I did going into this day. HELEN

Tayson Pierce: Rothchild Rosé and Lobster, It’s a Wrap

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Tayson Pierce Rothchild Rosé paired with Grilled Lobster Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Remoulade and Pomegranate

An invitation to taste through the new line of Tayson Pierce single-vineyard, limited production Napa Valley wines, paired with Wally’s Santa Monica Executive Chef Ryan Kluver’s gourmet cuisine, came at just the right time.

I’ve been somewhat down lately. It seems to me that good ol’ common sense has gone out the window– disrupting everything from what’s politically acceptable to what’s environmentally necessary. Our views are polarized and most people are unwilling to cross the aisle. Well, I decided to breach one of my own boundaries and cross La Cienega Boulevard (LA’s east-west dividing line whose crossing represents a real commitment).

Estate Proprietor Taylor Rothchild graciously hosted the evening and introduced the history and distinctive qualities of each of his wines. He began by telling us that the brand name Tayson Pierce is a mash-up of his and his brothers’ names: Taylor, Grayson, and Pierce. Taylor followed in his father Eric’s winemaking footsteps (foot stomps?) and traveled to France, Italy, Greece, and Croatia to broaden his oenological experience. Once settled back in Rutherford, California, Taylor introduced a line of vintage, NV and Rosé Champagnes (produced in France of course) and crafted the wine we’ll explore in this post, the Rothchild Rosé.

Champagne Éric Philippe

But first, a few words about Champagne Éric Philippe. I was especially taken with the Extra Brut, made from a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The toasty notes of brioche, almonds and green apple along with a healthy dose of acidity loudly spoke French to me. I found it a delightful, true representation of classic, slightly funky Champagne flavors– enhanced by a low 1% dosage (added sugar) to naturally express terroir. My favorite of the three Champagnes we tasted.

Tayson Pierce Rothchild Rosé

2017 is the first vintage of the Tayson Pierce Rothchild Rosé. A lovely salmon color, the wine is primarily composed of Grenache with the support of Carignan and a soupçon of Syrah. If you’ve read my past posts here on Sippity Sup, you know that I love Rhône varietals. This blend does not disappoint. Neither did Greg’s recreation of Chef Ryan’s Grilled Lobster Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Remoulade and Pomegranate.

Seafood cries out (unfortunate lobster connotation) for a wine with a fair amount of acid and minerality. The Rothchild Rosé is bright and somewhat saline, with a distinctly round and juicy mouthfeel. Citrus and stone fruit flavors, with tart raspberry notes from the Grenache, complement the pomegranate arils in the wrap. The wine’s bracing acidity, along with fresh crunchy lettuce, cuts through the succulent texture of the lobster and the rich celery root remoulade. This new Rothchild Rosé is elegant and rich, with layered lingering flavors and a nice weight. Yum! I do feel better. KEN

Tayson Pierce Rothchild Rosé paired with Grilled Lobster Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Remoulade and Pomegranate
Grilled Lobster Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Remoulade and Pomegranate

Grilled Lobster Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Remoulade and Pomegranate

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Adapted from Chef Ryan KluverPublished
Grilled Lobster Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Remoulade and Pomegranate

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon tahini
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • ½ cup sesame oil
  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 4 (6 to 8 oz) raw lobster tails
  • 1 celery root (peeled and cut into fine julienned "matchsticks")
  • ¼ olive oil
  • 8 whole little gem lettuce leaves
  • 8 whole baby red butter lettuce leaves (or similar red lettuce)
  • 8 whole parilla sesame leaves (you may also use shiso leaves)
  • micro-green or fresh baby herbs (as needed for garnish)
  • 2-3 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

Directions

Make the sesame remoulade: In a medium bowl combine tahini, lemon juice, Dijon and whole-grain mustard. Whisk until smooth and then begin to slowly add the sesame oil, whisking the whole time, until emulsified and thick. You might not use all of the oil, use your judgment. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss julienned celery root with just enough of the sesame remoulade mixture to coat. Set aside up to 2 hours in advance.

Just before serving heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high.

Leaving the lobster in its shell cut the lobster tails in half lengthwise. Brush the exposed flesh with olive oil and season them with salt, and pepper. Run a skewer lengthwise through each tail section to keep it straight while grilling. Set the tails aside while prepping the serving plates with the rest of the ingredients.

Create the lettuce wraps by placing a green little gem lettuce leaf onto the center of each of 8 salad plates, top each with a baby red butter lettuce leaf, and then a sesame leaf. Scatter a few fresh micro-greens on top of the lettuce stacks.

When ready to serve grill the lobster tails flesh side down for approximately 5 minutes, then flip for another 3 or 4 minutes until cooked through. Quickly remove the tail meat from the shells and place them together in a large bowl. Gently toss with pomegranate molasses. Season lightly with salt and pepper if you like.

Top each of the lettuce stacks with one section of lobster tail, about 2 heaping spoonfuls of the celery root mixture, a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and a few more fresh micro-greens. Serve immediately, encouraging the diner to pick the wraps up and eat them out of hand.

Turmeric and Cauliflower: A Soup Made for the Season

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Velvety Turmeric and Cauliflower Soup

Just like that and I’ve turned the seasonal page. It’s Chilled Dragon’s Tongue Beans followed by Celery and Jicama Salad one week. Then, with barely a look backward, I’ve got a coolseason soup featuring Turmeric and Cauliflower.

Not that it’s exactly cool in Los Angeles.

But it’s not really hot either.

In fact, it’s perfect. Blue skies, cool nights and warm days. I love autumn in Southern California.

Turmeric and Cauliflower Soup

What I’m trying to say is soup-season is more of a state-of-mind where I live – and in my mind it’s soup-season.

This first soup of the season is rich with the colors and flavors we associate with fall. Vibrant yellow with a cream-free velvety texture and fragrant cumin-spiced pepitas. I think turmeric pairs fantastically with cauliflower and most other winter produce. Its brightness, astringency, and tart character balance the earthy sweetness of these vegetables.

A Few Cooking Notes

Make sure you take the time to create a slurry with the flour and stock before you add either to the pot. The creamy dairy-free texture comes about once this slurry is heated. Of course, you can use plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream (or skip it altogether) if you prefer a truly dairy-free version of this soup. Briefly cooking the pumpkin seeds and cumin in hot oil – a process known as blooming – draws out the aroma of the seeds and spices and deepens their flavor. Which is perfect for the season. GREG

Cumin-Spiced Pepitas

Cumin-Spiced Pepitas

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Cooking LightPublished
Cumin-Spiced Pepitas

Ingredients

  • ½ cup green pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt (to taste)

Directions

Combine pepitas, cumin, and oil in a bowl; toss to coat. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add pumpkin seed mixture to skillet, and toast, stirring often until lightly browned 2 to 3 minutes.

Scrape the pepitas onto a paper towel-lined plate in as close to a single layer as possible. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and set aside. Once completely cool place them in a small covered bowl. Store them at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Velvety Turmeric and Cauliflower Soup

Velvety Turmeric and Cauliflower Soup

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished
Velvety Turmeric Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 8-10 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon ground tumeric
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 cup vegetable stock (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 heads of cauliflower (cut into florets)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • cumin-spiced pepitas (optional, see recipe)
  • sour cream (optional)

Directions

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add turmeric, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour and about 1 cup stock in a small bowl until smooth.

Pour the flour-stock mixture into the soup pot. Add salt, cauliflower florets, and remaining 3 cups stock. Turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until cauliflower is very tender about 20 minutes.

In batches, place soup in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in lid. Process on high until smooth. Return soup to the pot and gently warm it to serving temperature. Stir in vinegar, brown sugar, and white pepper.

Serve in bowls; garnish with pumpkin seeds and sour cream (if using).