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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A Moist, Tasty, Satisfying Vegetarian Meatloaf
Oatmeal, Quinoa, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Gruyere Cheese
Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy
The somewhat mysterious walnut loaf on the vegetarian restaurant menu seemed way too heavy for lunch, so I ordered the sprouted salad instead.
While the salad was completely delicious, I was still curious about that hearty, compelling “vegetarian meatloaf” so I decided to make one at home.
While researching vegetarian walnut meatloaf recipes, I came across several that sounded similar to our local restaurant’s version. Upon further investigation, it appears that the original recipe is over 2 decades old, from famous vegetarian chef Deborah Madison.
Madison recently noted that 20 years ago she would add cheese to many of her recipes. These days however, with the variety and quality of vegetarian ingredients, she no longer relies on cheese to substitute for the meat. In this vegetarian meatloaf, cheese does play an important role…but vegan cheese should work fine too.
In my interpretation of the recipe, I substitute oatmeal and quinoa for Madison’s brown rice, and make many other adjustments as well, but credit for the concept definitely goes to her.
Vegetarian Meatloaf, Mushroom Gravy Recipe
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Vegetarian Indian Biryani
If you were one of the 90,000 people who attended Natural Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center earlier this month, you may have had a chance to sample my uber-popular Indian Biryani with Chickpea Risoni.
My friends at Explore Cuisine introduced this new product at the Anaheim show to rave reviews. Chickpea Risoni is rice-shaped chickpea flour (made into pasta, orzo style) produced in Italy that is gluten-free, higher in protein and fiber than white rice.
South-Asian Biryani is traditionally made with white rice and incorporates chicken, meats or fish to make a flavorful, all-encompassing one-pot dish. Here we substitute chickpea risoni for rice to provide protein for a very substantial vegetarian dish. Exotic spices, garlic, ginger, nuts, fruits, fresh herbs, caramelized shallots, and fresh lime juice all add fabulous textures and flavors.
The recipe is simple and easy…the result is layered and complex.
Vegetarian Indian Biryani 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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Pan-Roasted Asparagus over Brown Rice Noodles
Kalamata Olives, Balsamic Reduction, Shaved Parmesan
Organic brown rice noodles make this a fabulous gluten-free meal. Or omit the noodles and serve this asparagus as a low-carb side dish. Either way, French Master Chef Alain Ducasse’s recipe for “Roasted Asparagus with Black Olives” is a springtime winner. It’s the genius combination of just a few choice ingredients, it shines in its simplicity: Asparagus, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Olives, Parmesan.
In his snappy cookbook, Nature, Ducasse shares “simple, healthy, and good” recipes featuring plenty of fruit and vegetables, grains with a little meat or fish, all cooked in olive oil. The Chef admonishes us, “You can’t cook well without good ingredients.” To that end, make sure to choose the freshest asparagus, high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and authentic Parmesan for this recipe.
Pan-Roasted Asparagus over Rice Noodles Recipe
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Elegant Braised Leeks with Feta, Almond, Raisin, Mint
Once again inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi and his vibrant vegetable cooking, here I serve a braised leek dish instead of a salad to begin a recent dinner party. Its rich warm hues and luscious sweet-and-sour notes make it a fabulous Autumn starter. Or serve it with couscous for a stellar vegetarian main course. “I find the creaminess of leeks and their sweet oniony flavor very satisfying,” penned Ottolenghi.
Elegant Braised Leeks Recipe
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Pickled Tofu Carpaccio, Beet Syrup, Asian Slaw
By his own admission, he’s not a tofu guy. But my brother Don is definitely a foodie. Never met a foie gras he didn’t like. Tofu does not elicit even a glimmer of interest or enthusiasm. He trusts his sister though, so when she offers him a vibrant pickled tofu carpaccio – he definitely gives it a try.
Not to my surprise, it receives a big thumbs up. With the combination of exotic spices, sweet and hot juxtaposed to crunchy and soft elements, he advises to try all the flavors in one bite – calling it both a science experiment and a volcanic eruption.
Pickled Tofu Carpaccio, Beet Syrup, Asian Slaw Recipe
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