Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Joys of Cilantro


I was absolutely NOT in the mood to set half a toe out of the house and of course, in order to maintain some form of justice in the world, laziness must entail SOME sort of sacrifice. Well, in this case, it was a sacrifice pertaining to dinner (one of the three most important meals of the day).

I didn't want to go out...but at the same time, there was almost nothing that was dinner-worthy in the house. I had a tub of pig’s brain in the freezer but I wasn’t really in pig’s brain mood. So, still adamant about staying cocooned in apartment 23, I had to pull together something from the random bits of everything I could find. Mmmm…sounds appealing already doesn’t it?

I DID just stock up on eggs…but eggs alone for dinner? How unsatisfying. This is where the wonderful Cilantro makes its grand entrance.
I LOVE Cilantro. Absolutely love it. To me, cilantro is summer in a handful. Its deep, fresh green color, strong flavor and fragrant smell spell out L.O.V.E in the mind of Dorothy. Forget scented candles – break out a few bunches of Cilantro and set it in the room. Well…at least it works for me.

I had a good supply of that happy herb in the fridge, leftover from a previous meal at home. Beautiful, beautiful cilantro. I ended up making an egg “roll” – one of the most insanely flexible meals ever. I had a bit of rice to go with the egg. But since I felt like being peasant-extravagant, I flavored the rice with a few drops of sesame oil (one of the most useful things to have in any kitchen) and topped it with a little bit of pork floss. That’s right…I’m living the high life!

I have the recipe for the egg roll below but it’s pretty much redundant since ingredients AND measurements can vary according to personal taste.

Egg Roll with Cilantro, Pork Floss and other things…

3 eggs, lightly beaten
A large handful of chopped **fresh** cilantro
A handful of shredded random vegetables (I had a bag of coleslaw veggies lying around so in they went)
A good sprinkle of pork floss
½ tablespoon light soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil

Combine all ingredients. Oil (NOT with the sesame oil - sesame oil gets mixed with the other ingredients) and heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour about a third of the mixture into the skillet and spread evenly so that the whole skillet is covered. Wait until the mixture is somewhat set, then start rolling the egg into a single roll. Move the roll to the edge of the skillet. Add a little more of the mixture to the pan and again, spread over the pan. Wait to set. Then roll the first roll into the second layer. Repeat with the rest of the mixture until you have one giant roll.
Remove from heat. Cut the roll into even sized slices. Arrange around a bowl of sesame-oil rice.


And to end the night, I plopped 2 large spoonfuls of plain yogurt into a bowl and topped with blueberries and fresh strawberries. Yes, random bits of everything can be very very good!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sushi Masu: The Best Thursday Ever

I hit it lucky again this term and managed to get two days off school. Seriously, having school FIVE days a week last term was waaaaay too much and I don't think I could ever handle that again. But that also means I have 7 hours of back-to-back classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday...but we don't like to talk about that.

Anyhow, I've decided to make good use of my two days off a week and dedicate the time to a new "project". That's right...a new project. Right off the top of my head, I'll label this project "Eating Beyond Wilshire". It sounds very all-expansive but really, without a car, all it really entails is eating down Westwood Blvd and extending down Pico. But that alone should take me a good amount of time anyways.

So, as an informal beginning to my project (after all, I have eaten at several restaurants "beyond" Wilshire already), I went to Sushi Masu. I've read such great things about this place and, more importantly, it's really been a long while since I've been to a REAL sushi joint. You know, places that aren't fusion or called "California Roll" and the likes.

Sushi Masu is a small place. Personally, I prefer small sushi joints...they remind me of the restaurants we'd go to in Japan and I like the relaxed atmosphere that comes in the small package. Plus, I don't know what it is, but the best sushi always seems to come from the tiny hole-in-the-wall places, which Sushi Masu was.

(Amberjack and Seared Tuna Sushi...SO FRIGGIN' GOOD!)

I grabbed a seat at the sushi bar and already, Chef Masu smiled at me and asked "first time here?" I told him I came ESPECIALLY to try this place and his smile grew even bigger as he semi-bowed his head. I fell in love with him already in those 2 minutes. I glanced over to the hand-written daily recommendations and the first thing that caught my eye: LIVE sweet shrimp.

"Live? It's still moving?"
"Yes. You like?"
"That sounds really interesting. But I've never tried..."

Shrimp in hand. Flick of knife. Live sweet shrimp sushi on my plate.
SOOOO good. It's been a long while since I had something THIS fresh.

"VERY good."

Well, the shrimp was the perfect introduction to what this place had to offer...within 5 minutes of meeting him, Chef Masu had already won over my complete trust:

"Give me whatever you think is good today"

A piece of amberjack sushi appeared before me. Into mouth. Melt. Literally. I looked up at Chef Masu, eyes glimmering almost and told him how good that was.

"Next piece even better."

The thing I love about Chef Masu is that he doesn't lie. The next piece - the seared tuna - WAS even better. This was followed by 5 other pieces of the "best sushi I've had in LA so far" (including white tuna and abalone, among others) and a perfectly sweet eel and cucumber hand roll. Every piece I plopped into my mouth induced a huge smile on my face.

My favorite was definitely the seared salmon sushi. I could smell it when Chef Masu was searing it behind the counter and was already excited. Then he placed it in front of me...the way he seared it made it look like a mini piece of art! My excitement rose. Now, the actual eating of it. WOW. I'm still thinking about it right now. The outter part of the fish tasted almost like smoked salmon (which I absolutely love) and just when I was thinking that it was the best thing ever, I was introduced to the melt-in-your-mouth texture and taste of fresh raw salmon. Two of the best forms of salmon in one bite - what more can you ask for? Want to know what love is? It's Chef Masu's seared salmon sushi!!

(Fried Shrimp Head)

And remember that live shrimp I had at the very beginning? They took the head back into the kitchen, fried it, took it back out. Better than fried calamari!! At the end of the meal, I told Chef Masu that the seared salmon was my favorite, to which he replied,

"OK, next time I give you thicker piece".
I'm so looking forward to "next time".

(Rounding off a perfect meal. Chef Masu is an artist!!)

Everything together (including a huge tip for Chef Masu and the friendly waitress) came out to about $45. Like Chef Masu said, I had a "big lunch" today...but it was worth every cent. I was a VERY happy camper.

So yes, that was my "first time" at Sushi Masu. And that's the "first time" to a WHOOOOOOOLE load of more times!!!!

And, to make today even better, after the meal, I nipped into Pink Orchid bakery next door and got a mini tub of Mashti Malone's pistachio ice cream. And, unashamedly finished the whole thing by myself. I rock.

FOOD: 4/5

Sushi Masu ($$$)
1911 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

(310) 466-4368

Monday, April 7, 2008

Good Friends, Good Food

I'm still lamenting my return to LA after having spent a (beautiful) week in New York. But there's one thing that consoles me: being back in LA means being back in the kitchen. I was reading Julia Child's My Life in France during my stay in Manhattan and not only was it an absolutely delightful read, I could feel myself itching to get back and make something. Yes, I might as well confess it out loud - when I was in NY, part of me missed Los Angeles...but ONLY for the kitchen!!

Truth is, not a lot makes me happier than cooking for people I like. It's really not JUST the food (although, of course, that makes up a huge chunk of it) but the idea as a whole. Argh, it's hard to put into words...the point is, I already had my heart set on cooking for the girls the first weekend we all got back. Saturday.

I decided to go with a Salmone in Cartoccio dish with herb and cheese puffs on the side. I'd never made this before but I think I now LOVE this cooking method (baking the fish in individual parchment "steam packets")! When reading My Life in France, one thing that really caught my attention was Julia Child's description of the beurre blanc sauce (Butter, white wine vinegar, flavored with shallots). There was a copy of the recipe in the book and I knew I HAD to try it...so in a way, I guess going with the fish was just an excuse to try out the beurre blanc. Julia Child called it a "wonder sauce" and she was soooooo right!!!! At first, I was scared that it would be overkill if I added the sauce to the Salmon...but thank God I DID add it. It's now officially my new favorite sauce. Thank you Julia.

And what's food without wine? Of course, I'm still only a poor college kid so I had to make do with whatever we could afford. At least most cheap wine doesn't taste like absolute shit anymore - especially whites...which was good since that was what we went with. Quickly whipped up a couple of bellinis which, in my mind, are perfect when paired with salmon...and CATCHING UP!!

Foodwise, the real highlight of the night, though, was the pomegranate gin cocktail. Sososososososo good! I bought the world's cutest cocktail glasses as well so you can only imagine how stoked I was (great drink in a great cup...yes, I'm a huge serveware nerd).

And to round off the night, I made a coffee mousse cake. Yes, this was the labor of love (it took 2 days to prepare). A sponge cake base (which was dipped in vanilla syrup), topped with caramel latte biscotti and a coffee mousse. This dessert was actually an adaptation of a recipe from Claire Clark's Indulge (I bought the book a week ago and it's GREAT! I can't wait to try more things from it). The original asks for an almond sponge flavored with marzipan but: a) I was too lazy to do that and b) having blown enough money on serveware and cooking supplies already in the past few weeks, my wallet wasn't in the mood to ""splurge"" on marzipan. It also uses amaretti but neither Ralph's or Whole Foods carried it (I'm surprised they didn't at least have it at Whole Foods!) - I would NEVER have had this problem if I was back on the Upper West Side...I could just pop into Zabar's! Oh well, I used biscotti instead and it still worked fine. This dessert also gave me an excuse to try out the chocolate transfer sheets I got in New York (YES - I FINALLY have transfer sheets!!)

This was my second attempt at the whole individual mousse delices thing and, though far from perfect, I'm slowly getting the hang of it (my first go was a white chocolate and hazelnut delice...but I hated it and didn't bother taking photos at all. We shall not mention it again). I'm having a mousse cake phase right now so if you happen to live near me...I'm VERY sorry - you're going to have to put up with a lot of those in the next few weeks.

And again, with transfer sheet chocolate discs

All in all, I loved Saturday. I'm hoping I'll have more time to cook this term (after all, I do have 2 days off school). In all honesty, this is all you need: Good Friends, Good Food, (Good) Wine

...oh, and Love!!

Pomegranate Gin Cocktail

2 parts gin
1 part Simple syrup
1 part lime juice
1/2 part pomegranate molasses

Shake in a cockatil shaker with ice. Strain into tall glass and top with slub soda.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

If You're Not Careful, It Could Take a Whole Day

So, Amy decided to turn 20 a few days ago. How could I NOT bake for her?? On Monday, I got out of class, ran over to Ralph's to get some last-minute provisions and got to work.

Consulting Donna Hay was a must. I had big plans for this "project" (I happen to like Amy. A lot). I started by making the "bases" - a chocolate cake and a yellow cake. Basic basic basic stuff - into the oven, 25 minutes. Cool down. You know the drill. These were then cut into small rounds - 2 rounds to a cakelet: sandwiching a layer of icing (cream cheese icing for the chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache for the yellow cake). It was in the next step that I realized I should probably get a palette knife. Icing cakes can be a back breaking job.

A formidable army of bears and bunnies <3

Since this was to be a baking "excursion", I thought I'd try my hand at marzipan. I personally hate the taste of that stuff...but it works well for decorative purposes. After a few trial-and-errors (aka. a lot of deformed bunnies), I came up with a somewhat-uniform bunny model. I got a little better when it came time to make my marzipan bears.

So the finishing touch: a bunny for each chocolate cake and a bear for each yellow cake!!

Of course, A LOT of room for improvement. Don't worry - I'll get it someday.

12:00am. Oh shit. Time flies!!