All posts by ChewNTeller

Pop, pop, give: Your new favorite green snack

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Once  upon a magical time, on a tiny piece of  pacific paradise, my earth-loving Kauaiian friends introduced me to something sticky and green that changed my perception of life forever: spirulina popcorn.

What is spirulina, you ask? It’s blue-green freshwater algae. What else goes on this popcorn? Nutritional yeast.  Do these ingredients have your mouth watering yet? If you already know and love them, you can stop reading here. If you are feeling a little grossed out, let me drop some health-food knowledge on you. Spirulina is a freakin’ POWERHOUSE of nutrition – loaded with all kinds of vitamins and minerals that you want to be in you. It is also 60% (!!!) protein, and a complete protein, too….meaning it has all the essential amino acids your bod is probably hoping you’ll ingest, instead of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in your hand (yes, you). Nutritional yeast (not to be confused with Brewer’s yeast) is deactivated yeast that is loaded with B-vitamins and other good-for-you stuff. More importantly, it has a super-fab cheesy, savory flavor that really makes this recipe mo’ betta.

Have I lost you? Are you thinking that this sounds waaay too much like hippie food* and can’t possibly taste good? I know we have probably not made it far enough in this relationship to have built total trust…but, I promise you…I only like to eat things that taste amazing. Not to mention there is another ingredient that I threw into this recipe to fancy it up and reduce the “granola”  factor: white truffle salt. Boom. I know all doubt has now been cast aside, so let’s make some popcorn:

First off, pop some popcorn. Stovetop is fine, but an air popper is preferable. If you don’t already have one, it looks as though we have found the cause of that lingering feeling that something is missing from your life. Air poppers RULE and have an awesome reputation, despite being totally cheap, fast, and easy. You can get one for under 20 bucks here.

A word about some of the other ingredients:  I like to use the good stuff. That means, organic (or at least GMO-free) popcorn, as well as organic olive oil.  But…I like to get it for cheap. Trader Joe’s has organic popcorn for under $5, and Costco has some of the best organic EVOO on the market – here’s some proof. Spirulina and nutritional yeast can be found at your local health-foods market, or here and here. (Ain’t Amazon great?!?!)

  • 1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
  • 3-4 TBS extra-virgin olive oil (plus a little extra)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. spirulina
  • nutritional yeast
  • white truffle salt
  • sea salt

Pop the popcorn in your awesome air popper. After it has popped, toss it into a brown paper grocery bag. Drizzle the EVOO over it, and give it a good shake. Add a generous amount of nutritional yeast, and give it another shake. Next, add the spirulina (1/4 tsp for spirulina virgins, 1/2 tsp for “experienced” spirulina eaters). Then, you guessed it….shake it up. Sprinkle with a little truffle salt,  and then embellish all of those savory flavors with some sea salt. Drizzle with a a bit more olive oil, and voilå – you just made yourself the easiest, tastiest, and (dare i say) healthiest snack on the planet.  You can even eat it instead of going to the gym – at least, that’s what I tell myself.

*Side note: No offense, hippies. I actually really like your food. Except carob.

Chewing and Telling: LA Weekly’s Food and Wine Event

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 Sunday, March 9, 2014 was a momentous day for many Angelenos. Thousands pushed themselves to never-before-reached limits of physical and emotional achievement in the LA Marathon, running through pain and fatigue until they hit the finish line. I thought of them often that day as I, too, tested my endurance and willed my body to new limits of food consumption at LA Weekly’s 6th Annual Food and Wine event .

Situated in DTLA’s LA Mart, this impeccably curated event featured 40-plus members of LA’s all-star restaurant roster. Chefs from the likes of Animal, Bestia, and Lucques had tables featuring bites of their best culinary creations. The event had sold out about a week before, and as I arrived a I was alarmed to find a seemingly endless line around the block. It became clear that the potential for this to be a culinary sh**-show was running about 99%. I finally made it to the entrance of the event about a half hour after I arrived, and as I saw swarms of people crowding around tables for bites of the city’s best, I had a realization:  there was no way there was going to be enough food for all of these people. Everyone looked like they had fasted all morning in anticipation of gorging themselves. This wasn’t going to be a casual, take-your-time-and-savor-each-bite kind of food event. No……this was going to be a real-life Hunger Games.   People were hungry, and survival instincts were about to kick in en masse. Luckily, there is one area of my life where I feel I have Katniss-level superpowers, and that is eating. “What about the lines of people, the crowds, and just plain old etiquette“, you ask? To which I say, “May the odds be ever in their favor”.  Luckily I had my fellow food zealot Melanie in tow, and quickly we devised a plan to divide and conquer.

My first stop was at Mexicali Taco Company (which I was unfamiliar with), and I immediately met my first challenge as I was presented an escargot taco (aptly named the “Taco Frances”). Snails – not really my thing. But, I made a decision that this was going to be a day of no-holds-barred eating, and down the taco went. It was the right decision – the combination of the chipotle-garlic sauteéd escargot, cilantro-lime gremolata, micro-greens and cheese hit all the right notes and made for a delicious bite.
What ensued after this was a rapid-fire onslaught of samples, detailed here:

Superba Snack Bar: Fried chicken with pickled chilies and red wine vinegar glaze. Yep, it was as delicious as it sounds -crunchy, salty, and tangy.
The Oinkster: House-cured Pastrami sandwich. It was good. It was a pastrami sandwich – no more, no less.
Nickel Diner: a trio of delectable treats: Maple-bacon doughnut holes, strawberry-jam doughnut holes, and Nickel Ho-Ho’s. (The Ho-Ho’s were the best; I had to swoop back around for a second one)
Night+Market: Papaya Salad. It was tasty, to be sure, but I guess I had hoped for their all-star chicken wings, which are one of the greatest things you can possibly eat in this city.
Bestia: octopus carpaccio. Absolutely stellar. Beautiful presentation and so delicious. Bestia can do no wrong. (Extra props to Genevieve who was plating beautiful bites while very preggo. She makes some of the best desserts in town- that kid has got it made)
Animal: Big-eye tuna crudo. Oh my, this was delicious. John and Vinny have had one of the most beloved restaurants in LA for the last 5 years, and they are clearly still bringing their A-game.
Beverly Soon Tofu: Spicy Kimchi, and cucumber salad. Fresh, light, and delicious.
chi SPACCA: Spicy spreadable salami. Yes – spreadable salami. Genius…and definitely spicy. I have had this relatively new Italian heavy-hitter on my list to try, and they did not disappoint.
Coni’seafood: Ceviche and shrimp tacos from Inglewood’s renowned Mexican restaurant. Yummy.
Jitlada: Spicy tofu curry with green beans. This was really great – I don’t particularly love tofu, but it was delicious once Jitladified. Also, extra shout-out to them because they were one of the only booths with food left at 3pm
Starry Kitchen: Singaporean popcorn-shrimp with curry leaves and red jalapeño “shooters” – consumed while an asian man in a blonde mullet wig chanted for me to “down it!!” Of course, I succumbed to peer pressure.
AOC: Lamb tartare. It was ok. I don’t really like consuming baby animals, so this one was a little hard to enjoy.
Little Sister: A super-tasty green papaya salad with shrimp, served in adorable chinese takeout containers. I will definitely have to make the trek down to Manhattan Beach to check this new asian-fusion establishment.
Drago Centro: To be honest, all I remember was that it was some kind of pasta dish, and it was savory and rich. This is about the point where it was all starting to get hazy. But fear not! I powered through….
Angelini Osteria: The restaurant’s famed lasagna verde with beef and veal ragu. Yes, it was delicious, and I was so excited to try one of the venerable Gino Angelini’s creations. Again, though, baby animals were involved, so guilt muddled the taste of this expertly crafted bite.
Hinoki and the Bird: I was thrilled to see this restaurant participating as it has been on my “to try” list for ages. They were serving up an “avocado mousse” dessert – topped with chocolate crumble and beet-juice soaked chia seeds. This was both a simple and special creation, and re-affirmed that this is a must-try LA dining establishment. At this point, supplies were dwindling, so I ate it this splendid mousse concoction with a knife (pictured above).
Sqirl: YES! I Love Sqirl! (See my last post). These east-siders did not disappoint with a delicious sampling of their Crispy Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Salad – followed by a chocolate cookie. I love Sqirl.
Craft: presented a pretty plate of avocado, tomatillo, hearts of palm, and spiced peanuts. Though it seemed a bit “light”, I was grateful..as I was hitting a feeling I had truly never had before:

I could not eat one more thing. The idea of putting one more morsel of food in my mouth made me want to cry. You see, in addition to all that was listed above, there were samples of ice cream, candy, tea, and juice – all consumed in under 90 minutes. Luckily, my stomach has “trained” for this challenge over time, but I knew I had just crossed my own personal food consumption finish line. I came, I ate (…a lot), I felt enormous pain, and in the end….I conquered (with a little help from my friend – thanks, Melanie!)  It is worth mentioning that there were still several restaurants that I was sad I did not get to try (Allumette, Chichen Itza, Salt’s Cure, and Church & State, to name a few).

On a final note, the folks at LA Weekly did an amazing job of curating a wonderful event at a reasonable price. It gave a lot of people the opportunity to try great restaurants that may normally be out of their budget. Sadly, though, most of the vendors were out of food by 3pm….with two hours left to go. At that point, most  people began channeling their efforts in to getting wasted on the free alcohol, the only thing left. (Imagine the poor, hungry schmuck who showed up at 4pm in an effort to “avoid the crowds”). Maybe next year there will be a better system to ensure that everyone gets to eat. Until then, I’ll be continuing my excessive-food-consumption training, one meal at a time.

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  • Superba’s fried chicken,  Mexicali’s escargot taco, and Oinkster’s Pastrami Sandwich
  • Trio of treats from Nickel Diner
  • Animal’s Big Eye Tuna Crudo

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  • Bestia’s Octopus carpaccio
  • Cone’Seafood’s ceviche tacos
  • Beverly Soon Tofu’s Kimchee and Cucumbers

 

 

 

 

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Nuts over Sqirl

“Mmmmmm…….Squirrel.” These words have probably been uttered together in the backwoods of America. Luckily, furry tree-dwelling nut hunters in the City of Angels need not fret if they overhear that phrase. Chances are, it’s a hungry human getting ready to pounce on East Hollywood’s delectable Sqirl cafe.

Opened in Fall of 2012 by jam-maker Jessica Koslow, Sqirl is a breakfast- and-lunch-serving delight on an unassuming stretch of Virgil Avenue. Jessica’s jams permeate the menu and come in a nice variety of drool-inducing flavors (Blueberry Rhubarb? Raspberry Lavender? Strawberry Rose Geranium? Yes, yes, and YES!)

While there is no shortage of great breakfasts being served in LA, it’s Sqirl’s unique take on savory first-meal-of-the -day fare that really sets it apart.  For example, let’s break down the Kokuho Rose Brown Rice bowl.  I’m sure the name alone invites the question – “What the heck is Kokuho Rose Brown Rice??”. Answer: it’s an heirloom Japanese-style brown rice grown on Koda farms here in California.  Take this high-quality rice, and top it with a sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, lacto-fermented hot sauce, french feta, and a perfectly poached egg. All these parts come together to create a deliciously tangy and savory whole. While some of these ingredients may not be entirely familiar to the everyday diner, one thing is clear….these Sqirl folks aimed to create a next-level delicious breakfast dish. I thoroughly enjoyed the complex combinations of flavor in every bite.

Still thinking about that jam??  Well, how about putting it on a slightly charred piece of buttery brioche, which has already been topped with a delicious mound of house-made ricotta? Let me confirm what you already suspect…it is crunchy, sweet and creamy mouthful that will definitely show up in your dreams all week long. (Did I mention the ricotta is made in-house??)

If, oddly enough, those items don’t tickle your fancy (in which case…I’m judging you), other carefully crafted menu items abound. (Daily quiches, frittatas, brown rice porridge, and granola with in-house almond milk, to name a few).  Take a seat in the lovely outside patio – no doubt there will be furry friends in the trees supporting your Sqirl (not squirrel) consumption.

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sqirl  720 N. Virgil Avenue. Los Angeles, 90029

 

 

 

 

Oh, Miso Honey!! Brussels Sprouts

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – a brussels sprouts recipe sure to set your valentine’s heart  (and libido) on fire.

Ohhh, Brussels Sprouts – the brassica that I adore that everyone else seemingly hates.  I have often wondered why that is the case, and my only guess is – my mom never made me eat them as a kid.  I had to eat other things I didn’t like, but bland and gross boiled  brussels weren’t one of them.  So, I had no veggie-induced PTSD to contend with when I started eating them as an adult.  And, man, do I LOVE brussels sprouts – especially roasted.  I have a few different ways that I love to make them, but this recipe is super easy. It is a flavor powerhouse – sweet honey, tangy lime, spicy sriracha,  and the savory umami of miso working together to bring out the best in one tiny little cruciferous vegetable.  Go ahead, make it for your date on Friday and see if the brussels aren’t the only thing that sprout. (wink)

* a note on selecting brussels sprouts: it may be tempting to have the mindset of “bigger is better” when selecting them. Don’t.  I’ve found that brussels are the best when they are small, with tightly  closed buds. I spend a fair amount of time sifting through bins at the farmers market, searching for the smallest sprouts possible. The tight leaves indicate freshness, and they will roast more quickly when they are smaller.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Brussels Sprouts (ends trimmed, and halved)
  • 1 Tbsp  + 1 tsp Sweet white miso
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp sriracha
  • 2 TBSP grapeseed oil
  • kosher salt
  • sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. In a medium size bowl, combine the honey, miso, lime, and sriracha. (Mix well to ensure that honey has completely dissolved). Add in the brussels, and toss until they are evenly coated. Distribute brussels evenly on baking sheet. Drizzle with grapeseed oil, and sprinkle  generously with salt (and sesame seeds, if you’re into them). Place in the oven and roast for approx 15-18 minutes, shaking pan midway through,  until they appear browned and crispy on the outside.(If you have small brussels they will roast quickly, so check on them frequently). Serve hot…..and then expect things to get hotter.

 

Not-your-average Buffalo Chili

Buffalo chili

Winter is coming…..to LA. That’s right, people – this week we finally have highs in the low 60’s and lows in the mid- 40’s.  Anyone who knows me is well aware that I abhor cold weather, so that means I have to prepare myself as much as possible….which means I have already made a giant pot of Bison Chili.

I have been a  big fan of bison meat for awhile now. I think it actually tastes better (but not vastly different)  than its much more popular  cousin beef, yet is way more healthful. Pound for pound, bison meat packs in more protein and less calories and saturated fat than beef. Even better, due to the way most bison are raised (very differently than poor factory-farmed cattle), you stand a much better chance of getting nutritionally superior grass-fed meat from animals that have been free to roam.  I get my bison from Lindner Bison at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market or from Whole Foods. Many major grocers now also sell buffalo meat, but be aware that odds increase that the meat has been grain-finished (check the label, if that matters to you). Continue reading