Breakfast in LA: Sqirl, Huckleberry, Eggslut, The Larder

LA has a number of great breakfast spots.  My favorite is Sqirl, run by Chef Jennifer Koslow.  At Sqirl they serve unique grain bowls that are savory, brightly acidic, herbaceous, and deliciously well-balanced.  I really liked their signature dish, the sorrel pesto rice, which comes with tangy goat cheese, pickled radishes and a runny egg.  Another delicious grain bowl is their crispy rice with herbs (add an egg and sausage).  Here in the Bay Area we have $4 toast, and at Sqirl they make an incredible avocado toast with creme fraiche and pickled carrots, and a brioche toast with homemade jam and ricotta.  They also make some specials, salads and sandwiches for lunch, and baked goods (cakes, cookies).  As in LA, one must drive there (on Virgil near Silver Lake), and I have always been able to find neighborhood parking.  There is seating both inside and out, and usually a line (get there early). Several of Chef Koslow’s recipes have been published in a feature in Bon Appetit, and a cookbook will be published Fall 2016.

Another of my favorites is HuckleberryI have been baking regularly from Chef Zoe Nathan’s beautiful cookbook before I tried the actual restaurant, which is a bright and cheerful place in Santa Monica.  They have a display case with all of their delicious baked goods, and one can also order breakfast dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Eggslut is located in the bustling downtown LA food hall Grand Central Market.  They make egg sandwiches and their signature coddled egg on top of potatoes that is poached in a small glass jar.  Delicious.

I am a big fan of Chef Suzanne Goin and her collection of restaurants in LA.  The Larder, in Hollywood, serves up delicious breakfast fare and baked goods in a casual atmosphere.





The A.O.C. Cookbook Suzanne Goin Book Tour

Chef Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Chef Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Suzanne Goin is a James Beard Award-winning chef, owner of four restaurants in Los Angeles, and author of one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at LucquesSunday Suppers was a massive hit, and I have cooked so many delicious meals from it over the years and still go back to it.  She thankfully resisted her editors’ wishes to make things simple a la 30-Minute Meals, because if you are going to take time to cook, it should be delicious.  Her food is seasonal, inspired by local produce, with layers of balanced flavors and textures. Eight years after coming out with Sunday Suppers, Chef Goin has just released The A.O.C. Cookbook, and was recently in the Bay Area for a book tour.  Chef Goin told the story of how she opened the restaurant Lucques in LA about fifteen years ago with the philosophy of serving food that she would like to eat, rather than targeting a specific demographic, and in a more welcoming environment than some of the stuffy fine dining restaurants in LA at the time.  At Lucques there was a lively bar scene, focused on wine, but it was limited to a small space.  She wanted to create that same type of atmosphere but in a larger venue, and thus the A.O.C. wine bar and restaurant was born.  There they serve cheese, charcuterie, salads, wood-fire oven cooked items, and desserts, all served on small plates to be enjoyed with wine.  For The A.O.C. Cookbook, Chef Goin has modified the small plates served at A.O.C. into more traditionally sized main courses serving six people.  Readers of Sunday Suppers will find the format and layout of the recipes very familiar.  There is more explanation on why different flavor combinations appear in each dish and similarly, why specific wines are chosen, with wine notes for every dish by sommelier/co-owner Caroline Styne.

Chef Goin answered questions from the audience.  How does she split her time among four restaurants?  The menus at the restaurants change twice per season, and these changes are staggered such that she will often stay at one restaurant for one week for their change, then oversee the change at the next restaurant.  She has gone from focusing on perfection for every protein while working at the grill, to stepping back and enjoying the big picture with well-trained staff in place at each restaurant.  Where do they get their produce?  All sourced from local farmers in Southern California, from Santa Barbara to Inland to San Diego.  Often the farmers will bring new products that Chef Goin will then incorporate or make into a dish.  What about work-life balance?  There are trade-offs in juggling the jobs of chef, restaurant owner, author, wife, and mother, but she emphasized how important it was that when she is with her family she is present and focused on them.

Bookshop Santa Cruz is a great independent bookstore in downtown Santa Cruz and did a wonderful job hosting the event.  They served delicious recipes from the book (Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Red Vinegar, Persimmon Cake with Creme Fraiche and Candied Pecans), and later Chef Goin and Ms. Styne autographed copies of the book and chatted with attendees.  Chef Goin will be at Omnivore Books in San Francisco on November 8 at 6 pm.

Here is an Amazon link to The A.O.C. Cookbook, but use it only if you do not have a local independent bookstore that carries the book!

Making Ice Cream at Home: A Primer

The summer months make me think of making home-made ice cream, which can be a real treat.  I will highlight several styles of ice cream that can be made at home, ranging from simple to more complex.  The great thing is that even the simple ones are really good, made with fresh ingredients, and so much better than store-bought.

Typically, a flavored ice cream base is made and then chilled and then churned in a pre-frozen ice cream maker.  The churning allows for the formation of tiny ice crystals and pockets of air surrounded by thick, concentrated cream, leading to the smooth and creamy texture associated with ice cream.  There are many types of ice cream makers out there.  I own an ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer.  The bowl is pre-chilled in the freezer overnight and then a plastic dasher attaches to the mixer to churn the ice cream.  I have also used stand-alone ice cream makers, such as the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.  With the Cuisinart there is a bowl that is placed in the freezer, and then the bowl is rotated within the machine to churn the ice cream.  After churning, the ice cream is then placed in the freezer to harden for a couple hours.

There are many types of ice cream bases.  The traditional French custard ice cream base is made with egg yolks and heavy cream that are whisked together over low heat to make a thickened custard.  However, this is a bit of a pain, because you end up with a lot of leftover egg whites (which can be used in a meringue or in an egg-white omelette), and heating the custard so that the eggs don’t cook quickly and become scrambled requires a lot of attention.  A great example of a French vanilla ice cream made with this type of base can be found in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook.  This goes great with tangerine or tangelo juice to make a creamsicle with candied orange sugar cookies.  (You can cheat and buy vanilla ice cream, but where’s the fun in that?)

However, a super-easy ice cream to start out with is No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream, from Gourmet magazine.  As the name implies, there is no cooking of a traditional custard ice cream base.  Instead, mashed strawberries, a little bit of lemon juice, sugar, salt, and heavy cream form the base, half of which is pureed in a blender to smoothen, and the entire mix is then spun in the ice cream maker.  Really easy and really delicious fresh strawberry flavor.

A bit more difficult is Sour Cream Ice Cream, also from Gourmet magazine.  It might sound strange, but the tartness of the sour cream works really well as an ice cream flavor.  This one does require making a cream and egg yolk custard.  The Sour Cream Ice Cream goes wonderfully with Honey Caramel Peach Pie.

A little bit more complex ice cream, but one that does not require egg yolks is Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream.  I first saw this published in The New York Times as an excerpt from the book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, from Jeni Britton Bauer’s famous shop in Columbus, OH.  Her base is non-traditional and includes corn syrup, cornstarch, and cream cheese.  Milk, heavy cream, and sugar are heated together with freshly shucked corn kernels as well as the spent corn cob.  The base is thickened with cornstarch slurry, then strained, mixed with cream cheese, chilled, and spun in the ice cream maker.  The ice cream is layered with a black raspberry syrup cooked down from fresh berries and sugar.  Black raspberries are hard to source, and I substituted 1/2 blackberries and 1/2 raspberries instead.  This is a really great and unexpected flavor combination and perfect to make in the summertime with fresh corn and berries.



Christina Tosi at Momofuku Milk Bar uses sheet gelatin to stabilize her ice cream base, and again no eggs are needed.  I have made the Graham Ice Cream, and there are many other unique recipes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook like Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Red Velvet Ice Cream.  A little more complicated but worth doing for the unique flavors.

Finally, Joanne Chang’s Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream, from her Flour cookbook, is really rich and sophisticated.  It is made with a traditional custard ice cream base (heavy cream, egg yolks), with the delicious combination of honey and cinnamon.  Really good paired with a fall dessert like her Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata.

Try an easy recipe or try a harder recipe, but hopefully you will be convinced to go out and make your own ice cream!

Link to No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream recipe here.

Link to Sour Cream Ice Cream recipe here.

Link to Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream recipe here.

Link to Honey Cinnamon Ice Cream recipe here.

Recipe Review: Sauteed Halibut with Arugula, Roasted Beets, and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Another winner from Chef Suzanne Goin and the Luques cookbook.  Great halibut from a local fisherman at the farmer’s market is sauteed and plated on a light salad of roasted beets and arugula dressed in a simple vinaigrette (shallot, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and EVOO).  There are some gorgeous beets now available at the farmer’s market in a variety of colors.  To roast, simply toss with a little olive oil and salt in a roasting pan, cover with foil, and place in the oven at 400 F for 45 minutes to an hour until tender, depending on the size of the beets.  Then slip off the skin with your hands.  The horseradish creme fraiche (creme fraiche, available at Trader Joe’s, prepared horseradish, lemon juice, and heavy cream) ties the whole dish together.  The horseradish is an interesting addition, giving the sauce a subtle sharpness that complements the sweet roasted beets and enhances the mild-flavored halibut.

Link to recipe here and link to beets recipe here.

Recipe Review: Grilled Chicken with Pancetta, Sicilian Breadcrumbs, Ricotta Pudding

Suzanne Goin, the executive chef at Luques in Los Angeles, is one of my favorite chefs.  Her sophisticated dishes have multiple layers of flavors and textures.  This recipe is from the Luques cookbook that I use quite often.  This recipe has a couple of sub-recipes, including Sicilian breadcrumbs – toasted breadcrumbs with shallots, parsley, toasted pine nuts, currants, and balsamic vinegar – and a ricotta pudding made with ricotta, milk, heavy cream, and eggs that is baked in a water bath in the oven.  However, once everything is in place, the final assembly is easy – grill the chicken, saute shallots, pancetta, spinach, rosemary, and chile, top with the Sicilian breadcrumbs and serve with the ricotta pudding.  The book calls for grilling quail on a barbecue, but I used skin-on, de-boned chicken leg/thighs in a grill pan.  A really delicious dish.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Salad, Torn Croutons, Burrata, Basil

Heirloom tomatoes are a magnificent summer treat and are highlighted in this salad by Suzanne Goin, chef of Luques in Los Angeles.  Sunday Supers at Luques is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.  Chef Goin makes seasonal, delicious food.

Notes: burrata is a creamy cheese encased in a mozarella skin.  It bursts open when you cut into it.  Burrata is sold at Trader Joe’s.  You can substitute mozarella or ricotta. You can also substitute approximately 1 tsp of dried oregano for 1 Tbs fresh oregano

Adapted from  Sunday Suppers at Luques, by Suzanne Goin and Teri Gelber

Time: 30 minutes, Servings: 6

Heirloom Tomato Salad, Torn Croutons, Burrata, Basil

1/3 pound country white bread
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh oregano leaves
1/2 garlic clove
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes in assorted sizes, shapes and colors
1 tsp. fleur de sel
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound burrata cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 to 3 Tbs. small fresh basil leaves

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Cut the crust off the bread and tear the remaining loaf into 1-inch pieces. Using your hands, toss with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, squeezing the bread to help absorb the oil. Toast on a baking sheet, stirring a few times, until the croutons are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oregano, garlic and 1/4 tsp. of the kosher salt to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the vinegars and the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil.

Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Core the heirloom tomatoes. Cut half into wedges and set aside; slice the rest 1/4 inch thick. Season with the fleur de sel and pepper. Cut the burrata into 12 slices. Arrange the tomato slices and burrata on a large platter. Drizzle with a little vinaigrette.

Toss the heirloom wedges and cherry tomatoes gently in a large bowl with the shallots, the remaining 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, a pinch of pepper and 3 Tbs. of the vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinaigrette if desired. Add the croutons and gently toss.

Pile the salad in the center of the platter. Scatter with the basil leaves.

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