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You may and can and will have it ALL

5 Oct


All caps means it is soooo important.

What else is important?

Bread.

Cheese.

Butter.

Eggs.

Fucking waffles. Yeah waffles too.

I took a cheese sandwich, dipped it in savory French toast batter and put it in the waffle iron. I cracked open my old trustworthy Ravenswood and waited. I ate.

Things were good.

Here is what to do.

Waffles-French-Toasted-Grilled Cheese Sandwich Yeah

  • 2 pieces of bread
  • 1-2 oz cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cups half n half
  • Dash salt
  • More butter!!
  • Big bottle of red

Heat the waffle iron. Whisk the egg, half and half and salt. Slice tiny slivers of cheese. Sadly you cannot put the cheese on too thickly or it’ll ooze into the waffle maker, so slice thinly. Put it on one piece of the bread. Put another slice of bread on top. Butter both sides. Then put into the waffle iron and cook away. Meanwhile open red wine. Ooh and ahh at your life. It is worth it. 

soviet cuisine

23 Mar

  
World history has never been my forte. Art history? Sure. Food history? Heck yah. Political movements? Not so much. It is not that I don’t get concepts-it is just that I am terrible with names and dates and I have a sneaking suspicion that what I am taught has been passed through a misogynist and Anglicized filter.

Oddly, I can recite recipes for chocolate chip cookies and umpteen cocktails, complete with amounts. And yet I cannot for the life of me remember years that things happened and then I get historical events out of order. Save remembering that WWI was before WWII. Got that one down.

So I’ve been gravitating towards cookbooks that teach me a bit of history too because where there is food involved I am more likely to remember. The CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine deals with Soviet cuisine which is fascinating. The regime in power tried to promote an official cookbook and way of cooking for the all of the Soviet Union’s restaurant and catering businesses in order to get everyone serving exactly the same food everywhere, I suppose. That “official” cuisine seemed to veer towards Russian dishes, but the Soviet Union (aka USSR or CCCP) was pretty vast. The recipes that represent Soviet cuisine found in people’s homes ranges from Russian to Georgian to Tatar.

It is also interesting how much the the economics of the time drove the dishes. There is a reason for all those breadcrumb coated dishes. Meat at the time was scarce and the quality of what was available was poor. Crumbs disguised mystery meat. The lack of meat is the same reason there were so many canned fish, and varying patties of chopped meat.

Scarcity can also lead to remarkably good dishes. Eggplant “caviar” for instance. I’m not making it to replace real caviar. I’m making it because it is pretty dang delicious. Which I found shocking because rarely do I care for eggplant dishes.

The book is full of stories of dictators being jerks (to put it mildly) and the government being corrupt. The stories are alternately funny and sad. For instance the regime would champion eggs as not being so good for you when eggs were not readily available. When eggs finally were available in some abundance the government “realized” that eggs were in fact delicious and nutritious. Mmm, the tasty tales of executive power. By the time I finished reading and cooking through this book, I will be nourished both in body and mind.

As I mentioned, there are quite a few chopped meat recipes. There are some classics like sauerkraut, chicken Kiev, borscht and stroganoff. The recipe I am sharing is a sweet and spicy beet broth eaten with a toasted cheesy bread. Think of it as a variant of the classic pairing of grilled cheese with tomato soup. The topping on the toast is positively addictive. If you don’t like spice, you may wish to cut down the cayenne but being a nut for heat, I went all in.

The story behind this dish is about a chatty lil’ supper meeting between Stalin and Mao. Stalin steered Mao towards the soup because Mao grew up in southeast China, where the Hunan cuisine was full of the spicy flavors. Apparently at this dinner there was some wine drinking too, and Mao asked why Stalin liked to mix red and white wine. Stalin’s answer was that he liked creating his own bouquet of wine flavors. Now, I don’t recommend being like Stalin in general, and I REALLY don’t recommend mixing your red and white wine. But should you be into historical reenaction feel free to pop a couple of bottles open to wash down this meal. Just don’t reenact anything else the dictators might have been up to.

Borschtok with Spicy Toast adapted from The CCCP Cook Book by Olga and Pavel Syutkin

For borschtok:

2-2 1/2 liters meat stock (being veg, I substituted vegetable stock)
400 g (around a pound) beets
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg white
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sugar
For the toast:

2-3 slices white bread
25 g (almost 1 oz.) butter, plus some extra for frying
200 g (around 1/2 pound) semi-mature cheese (I used cheddar)
2 eggs
50 g (almost 2 oz) tomato puree or ketchup (I used tomato paste)
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
For the broth:

Add the beet, finely chopped, and the vinegar and egg white to the stock. Place over low heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add the cayenne and sugar and simmer another 5-7 minutes. Skim off any fat (if using meat stock) then run through a sieve (I lined mine with cheesecloth).

For the toast:

Heat the oven to 180 celsius or 360 Fahrenheit. Cut the bread into rectangular slices and fry in some butter. Grate the cheese and mix it with the tomato concoction of choice, eggs, butter and cayenne. Spread on the fried bread and bake in oven 10-12 minutes. Serve with the broth. Dip it. Dip it good.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip on bread. Dip in bowl. Dip da dip dip dippity do

6 Apr

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Ohhhh my goodness. I am finally done with the season of Girls on GIRLS. Although we will be rolling out cocktail-making segments soon.
And in between doing a bunch of live shows that ran the gamut from improv to sketch to contortion for comedy, I decided to pull out some of the posts I had had in my drafts for a while. This is one of them. A recipe I’ve enjoyed enough to make more than once. That’s a big compliment from me because having to vet new cookbooks leaves little time for old favorites. The genius work of Joy the Baker keeps me coming back.

Here’s the deal:
I LOVE a sandwich. I cannot dislike anything involving ample carbohydrates.

Here’s the other deal with a sandwich though:
I only love it if I can eat it on a plate with a knife and fork so I can deconstruct and reconstruct as I like. Here, a bite of the whole sandwich, there, a forkful of filling. Then a leftover bit of bread from where I swiped the filling. That I may butter.

The third and final deal with a sandwich is that I rarely actually eat things that are supposed to be served on carbs ON the said carbs. I devour bowls of spicy salsa with a spoon pretty much daily. It is not so different from gazpacho right? Then I butter the chips.
And I rarely eat the cheese on cheese plates atop the slices of baguette that come with it. I nibble each bit of fromage individually. The better to really taste the cheese, my dear. Then I butter the baguette.

So I made this dip and enjoyed deconstructing a sandwich made with it, and still had leftover dip to gobble from a bowl. And at some point I ran out of bread but I always keep back-up butter.

Take home lesson from this blog post is this: ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP BUTTER.

Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip/Spread adapted from this recipe by Joy the Baker
Olive oil spray
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
A few handfuls if baby spinach
2 pieces of whole wheat bread
1 Tbsp. cream cheese
2 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded
3/4 c. Chopped artichoke hearts
Pinch of fleur de sel
1 heaping Tbsp. Cottage cheese, mashed with a fork until relatively smooth
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
Butter
Spray a pan with the oil and sauté the garlic a bit then add the spinach, an cook just until wilted. Take off heat. Spread the bread slices with the cream cheese. Stir together the spinach mixture, Swiss cheese, artichoke hearts, fleur de sel, cottage cheese, and Sriracha. Heap as much as you want on top of cream cheese on one piece of bread, (save the rest for another sandwich, or if you are like me, eating out of a bowl) and top with other slice of bread, cream cheese side down. Spread outside of sandwich with butter and cook Ina skillet on each side until browned to your liking. Because it is all about you.

Pie parties, horchata cocktails, and what the hell am I doing?

8 Apr

Goth-chata

Goth-chata

Firstly, I devised the horchata cocktail. Me. Moi. Then literally a few weeks after I came up with it the recipe I’m going to share, a new trendy restaurant called Gracias Madre opened and everyone is talking about their horchata cocktail. But mine is better. And…goth-er. Which is to say I made my own horchata OUT OF BLACK RICE.

I devised the horchata cocktail for a pie party. Details to follow the following brain hemorrhage:

In between planning amazing pie parties like the one I shall regale you with tales of, I am pretty busy as an actor. I’ve been having a boatload of improv shows every
week, but in between all the performing I see the rest of the world, the people with real jobs wondering what the heck I do all day. And when asked on the spot I stammer and can’t quite remember it all because it’s a lot and so I come off as…I dunno. A not-busy person. God forbid. So I’m gonna tell you today’s activities (which now was a week ago). First off, I open up my laptop and email like a madwoman. Then I check the breakdowns to submit myself for roles that if I’m lucky I get called in to audition for. After fielding my email the breakdowns are my first stop. I go back to email and breakdowns a dozen times a day. Then I had an audition. This one was not too far, and it was in the golden hour when traffic is less horrible, so it didn’t take long. But between traffic and depending on how behind the casting office is running, an audition will bite several hours out of your day. Not counting all the prep time for it. After my audition I worked on scripts for another couple of upcoming auditions. What’s my motivation? No, really. What is it? Then I researched agents (I’m trying to find a new one) and wrote the perfect cover letter to send to one particular agent. This took a while. More work on scripts. What are my obstacles? Then I worked on the column I write for Hello Giggles. Then I updated my website with info on upcoming shows I’m doing and who my manager is because it just changed. Then I got in touch with a headshot photographer because I need new shots. Next I need to put the finishing touches on a pilot script I want to enter in a contest. And then I get to have late night coffee or who-am-I-kidding wine with a friend I want to collaborate with on a project. Because in LA your friends and the people you work are often one and the same. Which is both good and bad. Many evenings I’d be headed off to a class or a workshop or a practice or to do a show (after which there may or may not be wine) but tonight I get to skip to the wine.
And that, folks, is how I have “no job”.

And of course, there are the pie parties.

The last one was “Dark Side of the Pie” and took place right after Valentine’s Day as a palate cleanser. I made horchata with black rice, and designed a cocktail using it. I made a dark chocolate tart (recipe to come at a later date). Because I am still trying to perfect a southwest potato pie I made that but used purple potatoes to add some darkness. Guests were instructed to try to where black and red. Not all my friends came through on the attire, but many did bring red wines with delightfully goth labels.

It was pretty swell. Really, I am not sure where I’d be without my friends. Either slightly crazier or saner?

This cocktail had two variations for the party, but my friend Joel brought me a bottle of cinnamon liqueur that I later plan to use to create a third variation. Cinnamon liqueur was probably invented for the purpose of boozifying horchata.

Cocktails from the Dark Side: Amaretto and Chocolate
For horchata (adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe here)
2/3 cups black rice, ground in the blender
3 cups warm water
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups almond milk (chocolate almond milk for the Kahlua version)
Soak the rice and cinnamon in water for a minimum of eight hours in the fridge. Remove cinnamon. Stick an immersion blender in there and blend more. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth twice. Add sugar and milk. Refrigerate.
For cocktail:
1 oz. black rice horchata
1 oz. rum (light or spiced, take your pick)
3/4 oz. amaretto (or 1/2 oz. Kahlua if you made the horchata with chocolate almond milk)
a few dashes of chocolate chili bitters
cinnamon to garnish
Shake all except the cinnamon up. Strain over one giant cube. Garnish with cinnamon. Sigh in delight. Then sigh with great melodramatic tones. Nowwwwwww you’re doing goth right.

Vegetable Crepes Say Oui

8 Feb

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Last Sunday was a long day and a good one. I watched no football. I went to an audition. I worked on lines for another upcoming audition. I made it to the tail end of improv practice. Then we had a show. Then went out with the group afterwards for a drink. Then I came home and worked more.

Then I poured a glass of red, got on hulu and queued up The Mindy Project and Super Fun Night to keep the laughs coming and ward off the cold. It was LA cold by which I mean I needed a sweater and a scarf if outdoors. Then I got cookin’. If I was Anna Thomas I probably would have gotten stoned.

And I barely heard that the Seahawks won. But congrats to my Seattle chums and aunt and uncle.

I am honestly not sure where Anna Thomas gets off calling these crepes, as they are quite thick.Even after I adapted the recipe, pureeing a bit after stirring the veggies in, this batter was still unruly and hard to deal with. Maybe it was the pot she cites smoking convivially in The Vegetarian Epicure that impaired her judgement? I’m not against her enjoying a nice smoke, I’m just speculating. Or maybe her thinking they qualified as crepes was due to the era in which the book was written? I guess she didn’t have Siri around to quiz on what made a crepe different from a pancake from a griddle cake. Good thing she didn’t include Mexican and/or Tex-Mex fare in her book. The Chillaquiles/Migas debate could go on for days. Delicious days.

As I rewarded my day of hard work with these crepes, so will the hard work you put into these reward you, regardless of how much beer and football made your day easy. Kapeesh? Ok.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Vegetable Crepes adapted from The Vegetarian Epicue by Anna Thomas
A glass of robust red wine to sip whilst cooking
a dark and gloomy cold night out
olive oil spray
6 Tbsp. chopped onion
6 Tbsp. chopped scallions
1/4 tsp. chopped garlic (I used jarred)
1 jarred roasted red pepper, chopped
1 cup diced tomato (I used from a can. Convenience night, baby.)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 heaping tsp. dried parsley
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 T. + 2 tsp. flour
2 T. + 2 tsp. almond milk
1 egg
2 tsp. applesauce
grated Swiss cheese.
Heat a pan with olive oil spray, add onions, scallions, garlic and pepper and sauté until onions are good and soft. Add tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste and sauté until excess of liquid is evaporated. Use a blender to combine the flour, milk, egg and applesauce. Allow to sit about an hour or more. Stir in veggies when they are cool. Blend roughly with an immersion blender, you do want some chunk. If you need to add a dash of water to thin out the batter.
Heat a nonstick skillet with a wee bit of butter. Cook crepes using 1/4 cup batter for each until done on each side. Heat oven until 350 degrees. Put the crepes on a baking pan and sprinkle with a heaped up Tbsp. of cheese. Bake until melty and good. Sip wine. Revel Etc.

Out of character

7 Nov

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I got new headshots this week. It’s one of those harrowing experiences the actor deals with on a yearly-ish basis. We are expected to be able to distill who we are in one, brilliant, eye-catching shot that will read when it appears the size of a business card on the casting directors screen. And we are supposed to get one shot that conveys all that commercially and one that says who we are in a non-smiley way. A lot of folks make the mistake of getting awesome hrs that don’t say anything about their personality. Then casting gets a surprise when the actual person walks in.

The problem is, although every actor has go-to roles-I tend to be the off-kilter smart type for example-but if you are a good actor you can play a variety of roles. Because the truth is, no one is as one-dimensional as they may seem. In the last month I played an awkward loser, an accomplished lawyer, and a controlling girlfriend. Not counting all the stuff I auditioned for. So I’ve been thinking about character.

This recipe feels out of character for my darling Mark Bittman. It feels right for a retro cookbook, like Betty Crocker, or even a French cookbook, but not for Bittman of the miso vegan before six ideas.

But perhaps I should not put my man in a box. He deserves to show us all his sides. Even if they are the frumpy 50’s food dishes. Because those can be quite palatable. Even, dare I say, delicious. Which these eggs are. I want to make a joke about my eggs here but I can’t quite figure out how and I need to run off and get into yet another character so I’ll spare you the weird sexual innuendos and get to the good stuff.

I’ll be totally honest that my instructions on white sauce are not the most nuanced. This largely has to do with the fact that I’m a white sauce hack. Feel it out. You can do it.
Eggs au Gratin adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
1 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Flour
1/2-1 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 hard-boiled eggs, halved
1/2 cup grated Swiss
Parsley
Paprika
Melt the butter and stir in butter. Cook and stir until it gets a wee but tan. Slowly whisk in the first half of the almond milk. I usually have to whisk like hell and sometimes use a heatproof spatula to break up any buttery flour clumps. Whisk in the mustard and a bit more almond milk to make a medium sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread a bit of your sauce in the bottom of a small pan. Lay eggs in, cut side up. Add in the rest of the sauce, spread cheese over, and broil until the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle parsley and paprika over the top. Fantastic.

Croque Ellen

29 Aug

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I really should remake this on another (cooler) day and post a better picture.

Problem was the yolk broke when I cracked the egg so I didn’t get that nice egg shot with the yolk standing up looking all pert and sassy. It still looks pretty sexy though, flowing out into the chasm created when I sliced into the sandwich. And dipped in salsa, who cares what it looks like? Tastes perfect.

It is my birthday, and being as such I giving myself the present of naming a sandwich I invented myself after myself.

I’m so generous.

I actually woke up one morning thinking of this sandwich. THAT was a new one. I wasn’t even hungry.

I was just coming to, rolling about in my bed as I do and thinking about the Croque Madame I made, and how it would use up at least one of my eggs before they went bad. But I was also thinking spicy. And thus was born this southwest-ish version. Call the tex-mex Croque. Call it the Croque Ellen.

And now, my dears, I will not even attempt to amuse you anymore as I must scurry off to Lock and Key and have toast to me. Bourbon time.

This is not so much a recipe as a recommended assemblage.
The Croque Ellen
2 pieces of bread
About an ounce of cheese
Salsa
Cilantro
Baby spinach
Egg
Toast yer bread. Layer salsa, cilantro, spinach and cheese as you see fit. If you don’t care for bread that is te least bit soggy be careful with the salsa, or maybe wait and just add on the side later. Cut a circle out of top slice but leave it in place for now. Put some cheese on top. Put it in the oven broiler for about two seconds to melt. Take the circle out and crack an egg in there. Broil until done. Or be like me and realize everything else is going to burn before the egg is done as I’d like. Put in microwave to finish cooking. Yea. So good.