Fiesta in a Bowl
Black Bean Soup with Salsa Verde
This is one sassy black bean soup. It is easy to make and gets a kick of heat and smoky authentic flavor from the addition of fire-roasted salsa verde added at the end of cooking. Let each diner go crazy with the garnishes according to their own taste: pickled red onion, garlic crema, tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro all add to this fiesta in a bowl. The black bean canvas is artistically painted with a array of flavors, textures, and colors.
With only 4 ingredients (tomatillos, jalapeños, salt, and water) – our favorite Salsa de Molcajete Verde from the refrigerated section at the supermarket, adds robust Mexican taste without having to take the extra steps to roast chiles and tomatillos over an open flame.
Black Bean Soup with Salsa Verde Recipe
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Heavenly Farmer Cheese Blintzes
An enjoyable dinner at the new Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse here in Las Vegas and the approaching Jewish High Holy Days curiously inspired us to make homemade blintzes.
We discovered that infamous Jewish mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky were huge fans of the Cheese Blintzes at Ratner’s Restaurant. Founded in 1905 and located on the Lower East Side of New York City, Ratner’s did not serve meat in deference to the kosher prohibition against mixing milk with meat. They served a Jewish kosher dairy menu with cheese blintzes as one of the most loved dishes.
Growing up, our Jewish pancakes were always stuffed with farmer cheese, but, alas, not the easiest cheese to find in modern times… As luck would have it, my friends at Lifeway Kefir make Farmer Cheese that is happily having a resurgence. It is a cultured soft cheese made from an old world recipe with a distinctive tangy flavor, and packed with probiotics. Feeling nostalgic for Jewish comfort foods from our youth, we found the perfect authentic filling for our blintzes.
We prefer our blintzes cooked in browned butter for a nuttier taste and on the slightly crispy side, always served with the obligatory sour cream and lots of other complementary toppings. Here’s our recipe….
Farmer Cheese Blintzes Recipe
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Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone
Have you been baking a lot of bread during this pandemic time? More than you and your family can possibly eat? Maybe you have some slices in the freezer? Here is a delightful meatless meal to use the remainder of the bread that may be becoming a little hard and stale.
The flavorful bean broth rehydrates the toast…and for such a simple dish, this crostone is really extraordinary. Butter AND olive oil add rich mouthfeel while colorful cherry tomatoes add sweetness. Fresh thyme adds herbaceous earthiness while yellow eye beans bring a deep creaminess. It’s a peasant-style vegetarian dish drenched in flavor and texture, and is extremely satisfying. And extremely economical.
Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone Recipe
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Eggplant Steaks, Restaurant Style
A couple months ago we had an absolutely delightful and completely unique meal at Roy Choi’s restaurant, Best Friend, at Park MGM on The Las Vegas Strip.
“Best Friend is… Koreatown in a capsule – a portal to the streets of LA, but also rooted in what makes Las Vegas… VEGAS. Hip hop-to-bibimbop. Kimchi-to-spaghetti. BBQ and late-night food. I want Best Friend to energize the minds of people looking to experience the best in life. Whether they are from Hollywood or Hong Kong, D.C. or Down Under, I hope all guests are licking their fingers with their mouths full saying ‘holy sh!t’ as they reach across the table for another bite. LA food in Las Vegas. Los Vegas. Best Friend. Forever.” – Roy Choi
Blown away by the KALBI Korean BBQ marinated bone-in short rib; SLIPPERY SHRIMP crispy rock shrimp, chili mayo, walnuts; ELOTES kewpie mayo, lime juice, tajín, cotija, cilantro; and EGGPLANT SCHNITZEL.
The eggplant was simple yet elevated with its silky interior and crunchy exterior. The sauce was intriguing, creamy, and mustardy. Fresh peppery green arugula provided the perfect balance to the fried eggplant. Brilliant.
In his endearing, personal, and somewhat irreverent cookbook L.A. Son, Chef Choi writes, “I make a mean schnitzel.” Yep, he sure does.
Eggplant Steaks Recipe
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Bulgur and Burrata with Grilled Okra and Roasted Tomatoes
Basil, Oregano, Mint, Lemon
Garlic Ginger Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Grilled Lodge Bread
The fresh crisp okra was surprisingly popular at the farmers market last weekend, I just had to join in the frenzy. If you like the taste but are not a fan of the mucilaginous properties of okra, this preparation will be for you. Okra brushed with olive oil and cooked over high heat for a short amount of time results in a very tasty charred veggie with only the tiniest hint of its unappealing characteristic.
Bulgur is an ancient whole grain that makes a nice addition to our rotation of favorite grains like farro, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats. Red bulgur is hard red wheat that has been parboiled and cracked. Its chewy texture and nutty flavor adds to the satisfying qualities of this meatless meal. The “hard red wheat” is also the type used in the Lodge Bread. Hard red wheat has more protein than its white counterpart.
The tomatoes were plentiful and popular as always. I roast the cherry tomatoes in a 375°F oven with olive oil and balsamic for a half hour to really concentrate their sweetness.
And who can resist burrata cheese…a mix of mozzarella and cream, it’s simply heavenly. It was super-fresh, made the day before, also a product of the Torrance Farmers’ Market where they feature top quality products from over 60 California farms.
More market items – lemon, basil, oregano, and mint add the tangy and herbaceous qualities to the meal. The addition of finely minced garlic and ginger add a pop to the olive oil, while aged balsamic vinegar brings sweet mellow notes.
And it’s very difficult to leave the Farmers Market without a loaf of fabulous Lodge Bread. Here I brush slices of Seeded Country Loaf with olive oil and grill until semi-burnt. That burnt charcoal flavor inspired the wine, a Zinfandel.
Mighty Satisfying Meatless Meal
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Tomato Water Gelée, Burrata Cheese
Olive Oil, Chiffonade of Basil
Fans of the ubiquitous Insalata Caprese made with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil will go wild over our unique Caprese Verrine. Freshly extracted tomato water combined with sea salt and gelatin when chilled, creates a smooth gelée that melts on the tongue tasting of pure tomato flavor, and pure summer heaven! Layered with chopped burrata – fresh mozzarella stuffed with “rags” of mozzarella and heavy cream with all its wonderful delicate creamy, sweet, sour, and earthy flavors. Finished with fresh basil from the garden and our favorite fruity olive oil from California Olive Ranch – this little 2 oz. verrine is our new darling for summer entertaining.
We served the Caprese Verrine as the amuse bouche at our recent Sunken City Supper Club event, “Mediterranean on the Pacific.” It was a fabulous start to an amazing al fresco summer dinner…
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