Monthly Archives: June 2014

Homemade Pizza in 30 Minutes!

Believe it or not, homemade pizza is one of Bryan’s and my favorite last-minute dinners. The minute we find ourselves stuck in the “what do you want to eat?” conundrum, we grab a bag of Trader Joe’s pizza dough from the fridge and a great dinner is only 30 minutes away. We use anything that’s in our refrigerator, freezer or pantry; basil, mushrooms, Parmesan, frozen meatballs, bacon, etc. Don’t have pizza sauce? Use canned pasta sauce. Heck, you can even use canned tomatoes if you want. Just toss in a little oregano, basil and good ole’ S&P.

Making your own pizza is ridiculously easy

The other night we made a truly down-and-dirty pizza. In our house, that simply means the refrigerator was nearly bare so we had to scavenge our freezer and pantry for ingredients. It’s a fun challenge; making pizza out of whatever you can find. Here’s what we came up with: TJ’s whole wheat pizza dough, pizza sauce, frozen turkey meatballs, basil, mushroom, onion and half a block of grated Parmesan cheese. Sounded like the makings of a great pizza to us!
Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough
Our last-minute pizza dinner, before baking

I microwaved the frozen meatballs and cut them into quarters, chopped the fresh ingredients and opened the jar of pizza sauce (also from Trader Joe’s). I put our Mario Batali pizza pan in the oven, set the oven to 450 degrees, rolled out the pizza dough on a floured surface and waited for the oven the come to temperature. Once I heard the quintessential oven “beep!,” it was go time. Or more like (almost) dinner time. I took out the pizza pan (careful, it’s HOT!), delicately laid the dough over it and worked fast to arrange the rest of the ingredients. Then back in the oven it went for 12-15 minutes. We like our dough extra crispy, so 15 minutes seems to do the trick.

Throw all the ingredients on the pizza dough. It doesn’t have to be pretty; you’re at home!
If you haven’t tried to make your own pizza, I promise when you do it will be incredibly hard to order for delivery again. From start to finish, our pizzas are ready in 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes prep and like I said, another 12-15 baking. Why wait 30 minutes for delivery again when you can have this? Bon appetit!
Mmmmmm homemade pizza!

Petrossian’s “Egg Royale”: Almost Too Pretty to Eat

“Festive Egg Royale”
Photo: Petrossian

Oooohhh la la! Look what Petrossian West Hollywood is serving as first course of its prix-fixe Easter brunch. Appropriately called “Festive Egg Royale,” pastel-dyed eggshells are filled with soft scrambled eggs, topped with vodka whipped cream and finished off with a dollop of Petrossian’s signature caviar. I’m not normally a big caviar fan, but even I can get over my textural hurdle and indulge in this beauty.

The petite dish kicks off the West Hollywood caviar outlet’s Easter brunch menu ($45/person) and is followed by a choice of smoked salmon bagel with caviar, caviar scrambled eggs or caviar flatbread. Dessert options are caviar-free and include vanilla panna cotta, almond crème brûlée or carrot cake. Wash it all down with glass of champagne, lavender mimosa or bellini. 
Want to experience the Egg Royale for yourself? Reserve your spot by calling Petrossian at (310) 271-6300. 
Petrossian West Hollywood
321 North Robertson Boulevard 
(one block north of Beverly Boulevard) 
West Hollywood, CA 90048

Food & Wine Mag’s “Best Ever Nut Brittle”

The holidays are over and I’m left with empty cupboards, a whole heck of a lot of Lean Cuisines and oddly enough, two pints of heavy cream. I’m one of those people who feels extreme guilt when perfectly good grocery items threaten to go bad, and heavy cream is no exception. So I’m beating the expiration date by using the cream in a big batch of Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best Ever” nut brittle. Don’t let the name fool you, it really is the best I’ve ever had. Not to mention, it will make great snacky-snacks for Bryan’s poker night on Friday. 

It’s True: The Best Ever Nut Brittle!

Here’s how you make it:

Best-Ever Nut Brittle
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Servings: 2 pounds

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 ounces roasted salted peanuts, cashews, pistachios and/or pecans
  • Fleur de sel or crushed Maldon sea salt

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is light brown and registers 300° on a candy thermometer, 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the nuts, then immediately scrape the brittle onto a large rimmed, nonstick baking sheet. Using the back of a large spoon (oil it lightly if it sticks), spread the brittle into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break the brittle into large shards.

Combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup

Cook until mixture registers 300° on a candy thermometer

My preferred combination of nuts: Peanuts, cashews & pecans

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. Careful, it’ll bubble!

Add in the nuts, quickly stirring to combine. Do it fast or else they’ll harden in a chunk.

Immediately scrape onto a large nonstick baking sheet (I lined mine with foil). Spread out quickly with the back of a non-stick spatula. 

Let brittle cool for 30 minutes then break into large shards

MAKE AHEAD The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Warm & Wintry Lentil Soup

Hell may have frozen over because it’s actually raining in L.A. Talk about a welcome sight (and sound) when I woke up today. Given that it’s December 7, it’s time for some cold, rainy weather. I’ll never complain about perfect, 80 degree and sunny beach weather the rest of the year, but it’s just not right during the holidays. If I could have my way, L.A. would be covered with a beautiful blanket of snow and everyone would be in scarves, jackets and mittens. 🙂

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for L.A. to turn into a winter wonderland, so I’m going to celebrate the rain and cold by making some fabulous lentil vegetable soup. It’s one of my favorite recipes and while I originally made it using Ina Garten’s recipe, I’ve made it enough times that I’ve really turned it into my own version.

For example, there is no meat in Ina’s version so I add bite-sized chunks of chicken, shrimp and spicy sausage. It’s almost more of a lentil jambalaya instead of a soup, but still great with a chunk of warm, crusty bread. It’s delicious, hearty and freezes really well, too, as the recipe makes about generous 8-10 servings. Get ready to warm your tummy on this cold, wintry day.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 pound dry lentils
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (~3 large onions)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white park only (~2 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (~3 gloves)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus two teaspoons for cooking the chicken
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium-diced celery (~8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium-diced carrots (~4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 5-6 chicken cutlets, cut into bite-sized pieces and pre-cooked
  • 1/2 pound shelled and de-veined raw shrimp
  • 4 pre-cooked spicy sausage links, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar*
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil and add the chicken pieces. Saute until the chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any liquid.

Time to start on the soup itself. In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes.

Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, lentils, and pieces of chicken and sausage. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for one hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Add the chunks of raw shrimp and gently fold them into the soup until they are covered. Cook for 3-5 more minutes until the shrimp is cooked through. Check the seasonings. Add the red wine (or red wine vinegar) and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan. Mmmm…

*A note on red wine vinegar from Ina Garten: Red wine vinegars vary greatly in strength. Put half the vinegar in the soup, taste it, and add the rest if you want more. Williams-Sonoma has a really good but strong Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Vinegar.

Tonight’s Dinner: Chicken Picatta

Tonight’s meal – Chicken Picatta – was another pantry meal. Since we’ve got a busy weekend coming up, I wanted to use up the remainder of the chicken and veggies we had. I looked through a few cookbooks and per usual, found a great recipe in my go-to cookbook: Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa At Home. I’ve always wanted to make it but for some reason, have been intimidated to make the sauce. Whenever I work with lemon, the acidic flavor ends up overpowering the dish. In risotto, in chicken dishes, in sauces, etc. However, Ina’s version of Chicken Picatta turned out so well I’ve 100% added it to my dinner roster.

Chicken Picatta
I had all the key refrigerated ingredients – chicken, lemons, flat leaf parsley, eggs, butter – as well as the pantry ingredients. I felt comfortable breading the chicken, especially after making Oven Fried Chicken earlier this week. So that wasn’t a problem, especially since it was with regular seasoned breadcrumbs, not the more complicated corn flake, almonds and sesame seed mixture. But I digress. 🙂

The Chicken Picatta took about 30 minutes, including oven time. The crust on the chicken was crunchy, hot and well seasoned with Italian herbs. The Picatta sauce was lemony but not in an overpowering, acidic way, as has been my experience with other citrus sauces. The butter really cut through the acid and left the sauce velvety, smooth and deliciously rich. Not to mention, the chicken was juicy, cooked perfectly from the few minutes in the oven. So, all in all, the meal turned out to be really delicious and great to look at.

Here’s how you make it:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 extra-large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate (use a shallow bowl if it’s easier). In a second shallow plate, beat the egg and 1 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures (in that order).

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 4-6 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Enjoy!