Friday, October 30, 2009

OT: Hallowieners

C'mon Mav! Do some of that pilot stuff!

Here's my doxies in their Halloween costumes. Pebbles has the faux-leather flight jacket, and Polly is in Nomex green.

Mr. Toro is wearing one of my old flight suits tomorrow, so the puppies are going to be his sidekicks;)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jumbo Jet Bento

Mr. Toro is off to Virginia today, so I packed him a jumbo bento to eat on the plane--hopefully it'll be better than airline food;)

In the bento: chicken seared in brown butter with heirloom tomatoes; swiss chard and beet greens tart; salad of spinach, roasted beets, and more; asparagus with olive oil and lemon juice; and roasted garlic bread.

As you might have guessed, I made a trip to the West Los Angeles Farmers' Market on Sunday, so dinner (and lunch leftovers) were chock-full-of fresh veggies.

Once again, I used this recipe for a delicious swiss chard tart. This time, I used 2/3 chard (beautiful golden stemmed swiss chard at the market this sunday) and 1/3 fresh beet greens, trimmed from the roasted beet roots in the salad. Also, I substituted Gouda cheese, just because.

The salad was amazing! I had a bunch of fresh spinach from the market which I tore into bite-sized pieces. Into the spinach, I tossed pomegranate seeds, walnuts, avocado, beets (roasted about 40 minutes with a sprinkle of salt and pepper), and cheese. The cheese was a find at the grocery store--a 'white Stilton,' meaning it wasn't made to mold into bleu cheese, with blueberries mixed in. It was creamy and sweet, and went perfectly with the pomegranate and other ingredients.

The chicken was cooked especially for this bento--for dinner we had orange roughy from the market, but I didn't think it would keep quite as well as chicken while Mr. Toro was traveling today--but it was cooked with the fish and the same way. I put about a tablespoon of butter in a hot pan and let it turn a nice caramel shade of brown. In went the fish and chicken, for a couple minutes each side. Into the middle of the pan I tossed an heirloom tomato, diced pretty small. The whole pan then went into a 350 degree oven for around 15 minutes or so. To serve, the buttery roasted tomatoes got spooned over top the protein.

Dessert last night was poached persimmon poured over vanilla bean ice cream. A dish of the poached persimmon is this bento's dessert.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Invisible Bento

For today's lunch, for a Halloween theme, is an Invisible Bento!

Okay, okay, I inadvertently deleted the photo before posting :)

Today's lunch is a fillet of pistachio-crusted Halibut on mashed sweet potatoes with a side of roasted asparagus.

I tossed a half-ounce of pistachios per 6 oz. fillet into a food processor. The fish then got a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper before a quick dip into a beaten egg (you could just press the fish in the nuts if you want to avoid eggs...the crust probably won't stick as thickly, but same idea), then a roll in the nuts. These got seared 3 minutes a side on the stovetop, then tossed into the oven at 400 F for another 10 minutes.

I tossed the asparagus on the side of the pan when I put the fish in the oven--the spears were nice and thin, so a 10 minute roast was perfect.

I made the sweet potatoes completely without fat--I 'baked' them in the microwave, then mashed them with a masher and a little water to loosen them up. Just a touch of cinnamon brought out their natural sweetness.

It was beautiful...I swear ;)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spinach Pie in the Sky

Today's lunch is a spinach pie made from the same recipe I used once before, but with some modifications. Instead of swiss chard, I used a 16 oz. bag of frozen chopped spinach I had on hand, as well as Gruyere cheese, and once again used cooking spray vice olive oil.

The result was a tasty tarte, although one with a more pungent flavor than the original recipe using chard. Both Mr. Toro and I agreed we preferred the dish with chard, however, this was still pretty tasty.

On the side is some sliced turkey breast and a half of a baked potato cut into slices. The potatoes we had for dinner were incredibly sweet--is that because there is a fresh crop right now? Regardless, they were very tasty.

Garnishes include sliced tomato, bleu-cheese stuffed olives, sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade, and some flat leaf parsley.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hop Schwiiz

Another not-too-exciting bento today--I have a paper due tomorrow, so the last few days have been all quick-and-easy cooking.

Lunch is sprouted-grain pasta topped with a ragout made of organic tomato sauce, grass-fed ground beef, zucchini, onion, garlic, and carrot. In the center is a little Swiss Cross made out of Parmesan cheese.

Mr. Toro is originally from Switzerland, which is why Swiss themes crop up from time to time. "Hop Schwiiz" is a crowd cheer for sporting events to support the national teams...usually accompanied by lots of cowbells ringing;)

Sprouted grain pasta is a new find for me. It's made from grains that have been allowed to sprout before they are milled into flour. Sprouted grain products are supposed to have higher levels of vitamins and nutrients, low glycemic index, and high protein as compared to regular flour products.

Taste-wise it's like whole wheat pasta. Texturally, it's a bit gluey, but it works just fine with heavier sauces. I wouldn't try it with cream sauces or broths.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back Into The Water....

I recently came across the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's website on issues related to the overfishing of the oceans, and was stunned by a lot of what I read. I supposed I always assumed that eating fish, any fish, was ecologically superior to meat or fowl, but overfishing, by-catch, and environmental damage are crushing the supplies of fish in the ocean.

I recommend everyone have a look at this website--it's full of great information written by experts in the field. And what's better is it's not just doom and gloom, but rather there are great guides on selecting fish from sustainable sources and suggestions for alternatives to unsound choices.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tantalizing Thai

Tomorrow's lunch is leftover Thai yellow curry with rice noodles and mung bean sprouts.

This is a super easy weeknight dinner. I stir fried some fresh veggies--some from the farmers' market, and some from the grocery store--then added bottled curry sauce from Trader Joe's, then added some beautiful jumbo shrimp to poach in the sauce.

The rice noodles are a nice change from serving a curry over rice; I like the change once in a while. The bean sprouts add a nice fresh crunch.

A second look at my bento, and I notice the complete lack of contrast between all of the white ingredients and the white bento box. I think it might have looked a little more appetizing if I used one of my colored boxes or put some sort of garnish underneath to make the noodles and sprouts stand out. Oh well! That's one of the great things about eatable art--mistakes don't stay around too long;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yippie-yai-yay Mini Burgers

Tomorrow's lunch is a pair of mini burgers topped with turkey bacon, lettuce, and golden heirloom tomato.

On the side are a collection of hand-cut sweet potato fries, a dish of organic cottage cheese, some more of those purplish cherry tomatoes from the farmers' market, and a couple of bleu cheese stuffed olives.

The mini burgers are made with grass-fed pastured beef from a small family farm in Northern California, the Lazy 69 Ranch

I ordered from this farm in the not too distant past and am beyond thrilled. I had been doing some reading on the health benefits of grass-fed beef, and went looking for a semi-local farm from which to order when I came across L69. Not only is it healthier than your standard supermarket grain feed beef, it is, in my opinion, much better tasting. Add in the benefits of spending my money supporting small farmers instead of feed lot producers, and I couldn't be happier. (Note: I don't have any relationship with this producer other than being a happy customer).

The sweet potato fries were sprayed with a little cooking spray, then baked at 350F for around 40-45 minutes. They're sweet and delicious, easy to make, and, according to a group of nutritionists, they are the most nutritious vegetable available. Win / win! I give mine a little sprinkle of sea salt when they're hot out of the oven, but Mr. Toro prefers them straight up.

Fish and Farmers' Market Freshness

I went to the Sunday Farmers' Market in West Los Angeles again this week. I just love markets, especially when they're so full of such beautiful produce.

This week bunches of beautiful Swiss Chard caught my eye. I used this recipe to make a chard and onion tart. It was really delicious. Mr. Toro couldn't stop talking about how good it was. It's definitely on my make-again list. I altered the recipe slightly in that I eliminated the oil and just used a little cooking spray to saute the veggies.

The main dish for lunch is a halibut fillet, simply grilled with a little salt and pepper. It is crusted with a sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade.

On the side, in addition to the chard tart, are a couple of bleu-cheese stuffed olives as well as some lovely cherry tomatoes, also procured from the farmers' market. These had a lovely red and deep purple-green coloration and had a great deep tomato flavor.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Polenta Bella

Mr. Toro is in Kuwait for the week, so here is my bento for tomorrow.

Lunch is leftover polenta, covered with tomato, beef, and zucchini ragu, and then decorated in the colors of the Italian flag with fresh basil leaves and shaved Parmesan cheese.

For dessert, I've packed some sweet raspberries.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Road to Seoul

Mr. Toro's parents have been visiting us for the last two weeks from their home in Switzerland--yet another excuse for my sporadic postings;)

For a farewell dinner we went to a Korean barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles called The Road to Seoul. I really enjoy KBBQ--I think the interactive cook-your-own on a personal table grill is fun and an entertaining way to have dinner.

In the photo you can see some of the banchan, or side dishes, as well as some meats on our grill. We ordered Bulgogi, a marinated beef, Kalbi, which is marinated boneless short rib, unmarinated shaved brisket, and unmarinated thick chunks of sirloin. This restaurant has a large variety of beef, pork, chicken, and seafood from which to choose, all-you-can-eat style, but we stick to a few favorite (and admittedly less adventurous) cuts.

Mr. Toro likes the brisket the best, but I think my favorite is the Kalbi when it is cooked to a nicely caramelized point on the grill. Mr. Toro is also enamored with the Paejon, or Korean pancake, which you can see in photo on the plate in the bottom right. It contains eggs, scallions, and other veggies--really tasty.

A very interesting part of this style of restaurant, at least in my limited experience, is that there are little doorbell-like buttons on each table--when you need service, be it refills of meats or banchan or extra napkins, you ring the bell and your server comes by the table.

It was the first time my parents-in-law had eaten KBBQ, but they really enjoyed the flavors.