I Panini di Ambra in Hollywood, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Sunday, my boyfriend and I decided to try the new taco joynt in my hood, House of Tacos.  Sadly, it was closed.  Stunned by this development, we staggered down the street trying to think of what to do next.  We were on the block of Hollywood Blvd that is home to my favorite Thai restaurant – Torung – but Torung doesn’t open until 5pm.  Then I noticed a little hole in the wall that I had never seen before.

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My boyfriend, Miles, can be a very finicky eater & is known to refuse food all day – if the things he is served fall short of his expectations.  I, on the other hand, will eat pretty much anything.  Miles refused to eat this steak from Chan Dara

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because he was EXPECTING it to be a tradition Chinese-style green pepper beef sorta thing – with steak strips & green bell pepper.  Mind you – Miles eats steak.  He loves steak.  But on this particular day, he wanted green pepper beef & this steak was not that.  So – it came home & was fed to the dogs & he skipped all food all day until dinner.

That is a lot of pressure for ME.  I like to feed people.  I like people to enjoy their meals in public.  I like to eat WITH someone.  With someone who is also eating.  Finding a place that will live up to Miles’ very specific tastes is sometimes a Herculean task.  <insert deep sigh>

So – I see PIZZA & sandwiches – meat sandwiches.  Miles eats those things.  We stood outside, gazing at the posted menu.  I expected Miles to respond positively quickly – but he did not.  He gets suspicious if he sees things like “speck panini” or if the cheeses listed are unfamiliar.  While I considered whether or not it was safe to pressure him, the two customers sitting inside the door over OUTRAGEOUS looking tiramisu & espressos beckoned to us.   “Come in!  The food is AMAZING!”  I suspected the food would be amazing.  Look at the menu:

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but if Miles spots one errant or too exotic ingredient listed on a sandwich – the whole place starts looking hinky.

“Really!  They make their own bread here!   Come in,” the diners insisted.

I wanted to go in.  I peeked inside:

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Such a cutie little spot!  Such a surprise on that very ugly block on Hollywood.  This is exactly the kind of place this area needs more of.  Quaint, cheerful & with imaginative & really fresh food.  While I weighed whether or not I wanted to insist we go in & risk another Miles hunger strike, the proprietress came from behind the counter to the threshold where we continued to conspicuously hover and, in a melodic Italian accent – also beckoned us in.  “They have pizza, Miles.  How dangerous could that be?”

“Best pizza in town,” a voice said.

At that point, I felt like a lame tourist afraid to step into a restaurant that wasn’t an international chain.  I pulled Miles inside.  Look how cute he is!

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He does look a little worried, doesn’t he?  But, as it turned out – there was nothing to be nervous about.  My smoked salmon & goat cheese panini (to which I had them add some arugula) and Miles’ ham & mozzarella panini were as delicious as they were pretty – and they each came with a light little side salad for an extra .75 cents.

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And Miles got this lemony dessert which put a big grin on his face.  He declared it delightful!

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And look at the little coffee planters on the tables:

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I Panini di Ambra is owned & run by an Italian husband & wife team.  They were warm & gracious and when our hostess noticed that Miles only ate half his sandwich (because he is a light eater) – she worried that he didn’t like it – and offered him any other sandwich on the menu instead.  Very sweet!

I don’t think you will find a fresher or more delicious panini anywhere in Los Angeles!  I can’t wait to go back & try the pizza!

http://ipaninidiambra.com/

Chipotle Lime Roasted Potatoes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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If you can roast potatoes – you can manage this dish.  It is spicy & pretty & delicious!  It would be a nice Cinco de Mayo side dish but it is so yummy – I bet once you try it – you will put this in your regular rotation.

I used russet potatoes because I bought a bag of them the size of a body bag & I am trying to work my way through them.  Any potato would work here, though, even sweet potatoes.

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Chipotle Lime Roasted Potatoes

INGREDIENTS

3 large russet potatoes (or any other potato- including sweet potatoes)

olive oil

S&P

3 chipotle peppers – minced

1 TBS adobo sauce (from the can of chipotles)

2 garlic cloves – minced

1 large lime – juice & zest

2 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup cilantro – chopped

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DIRECTIONS

Wash the potatoes.  Peel if you want to.  I did not.  Cut them up into bite sized chunks.  Toss in some olive oil until all the potatoes are thoroughly coated & sprinkle with salt & pepper & roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Mine could have used another 10-15 minutes to increase their color but I got impatient.

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While they roast, whisk the remaining ingredients together (chipotle, adobo, garlic, lime juice & zest, olive oil & cilantro).  When the potatoes are done, immediately toss them in the sauce being sure they are well coated & serve!   See?  EASY!

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Grilled Chipotle Chili Lime Shrimp Tostadas

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Another Cinco de Mayo dinner option.  I like to plan parties that involve a room temperature or very self-service buffet kinda vibe.  Tacos seemed labor intensive & would require that keep heating up tortillas etc.  So – I thought – hmmmm.  If I make a little tostada bar & cheat by using the pre-made tostada shells (sorta ghetto but fuck it) – all I would need to to is make & chop everything in advance & then just set it all out there.

I’ve never made a tostada before.  Not difficult to make but how the fuck do you eat them?  All of a sudden, I envisioned people milling around a house, eating standing up & trying to put a 6 inch hard disc (piled high with spicy shrimp & veggies) in their mouths whole.  Or worse – trying to cut into the whole affair with no leverage.  On second thought, this might not be the best buffet idea but, for me last night, these guys were easy & delicious.  And messy.

What you put on your tostada is as open to your imagination as the contents of a taco or burrito.  I opted for these chipotle lime shrimp & a little of everything else I had laying around.  That included:

Spinach

Cabbage

Tomato

Avocado

Red onion

Cilantro

Scallions

Cotija cheese

Lime

Chipotle Mexican Crema (1/2 cup crema – or sour cream – blended with 3 chipotle peppers)

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You can use pre-made tostadas or fry up some corn tortillas yourself.

The only cooking required here is the shrimp.  Once they have been in the marinade a bit – just grill them up & get ready to make a mess all over the place as you try to eat these sloppy fuckers.

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Grilled Chipotle Chili Lime Shrimp

INGREDIENTS

1 lb shrimp – peeled & cleaned

3 chipotle peppers in adobo – minced

1 TBS sambal oelek (or other chili paste)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 TBS brown sugar

1 large lime – juice & zest

1/4 cup cilantro – chopped

1 TBS olive oil

Blend all the non-seafood ingredients in a bowl & add the shrimp & coat them.  I then put this in a zip lock bag in the fridge for a few hours.  And shallow bowl serves this same purpose.

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Cook your shrimp (on a grill or in an oiled pan) for 2-3 minutes each side.  Err on the side of a tad under-cooked because they will continue cooking once they are off the heat.

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Tostadas

Simply pile your ingredients on top of a fried tostada shell in an sequence you prefer.  I loved my VERY spicy chipotle Mexican crema (1/2 cup crema blended with 3 chipotle peppers) but you can use sour cream.  Squeeze lots of fresh lime on your completed tostada.  And here are some topping ideas:

Spinach

Cabbage

Tomato

Avocado

Red onion

Cilantro

Scallions

Cotija cheese (or other grated cheese)

Lime

Chipotle Mexican Crema (1/2 cup crema – or sour cream – blended with 3 chipotle peppers)

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Homemade Cracked Pepper Spaghetti with Broccoli & Goat Cheese Pesto

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is not a Cinco de Mayo recipe but several will be coming in the next few days.  This is just a yummy broccoli pasta recipe that is really easy – especially if you use dry spaghetti.

I am not going to post a formal recipe here for the spaghetti except to say that the ingredients are: 600 grams flour, six eggs, a tsp salt & 2 TBS fresh cracked pepper.  That works out to what they call 6 servings.  I put all those things in my bread machine & let that thing work its magic.  It produced this tacky ball:

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which I then put through this process:

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to get this result:

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Homemade pasta is a glorious thing!  Comprehensive instructions on making pasta dough is HERE in this post.  It can be done without any tools beyond a rolling pin & a knife – but that seems like a lot of work.

This pesto doesn’t have any nuts.  It is as easy as any pesto & just as yummy.

Also – I bought red basil at the AMAZING store – Super King – that I blogged about yesterday & that is the dark leafy stuff you might make out in the photos.  Regular basil is fine.

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Broccoli & Goat Cheese Pesto

INGREDIENTS

2 small – medium heads broccoli

garlic cloves (I used 10 – but that might be too hardcore for more tender palates)

1/2 cup fresh basil

5 oz goat cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

juice & zest of 1/2 lemon

S&P to taste

Lemon wedges as garnish

Grated Parmesan as garnish

Parsley and/or extra basil, chopped as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Cut the florets off of one head of cauliflower & quick steam them for 3-5 minutes in a covered pan with very shallow (1/2 inch) boiling water.  Drain & rinse under cold water.  Set aside.

Take the stems from the first head & all of the second & chop them up.  Blend in a food processor with goat cheese, garlic, basil, lemon juice & zest and S&P – adding the olive oil slowly.  You might not need it all – you might need more – depending on the quantity of broccoli you have.  It also might need to be scraped down the sides of the work bowl a few times.   If it is still too thick and you want to limit the olive oil used – just add a bit of water.

Cook your pasta.  While it cooks, heat a TBS olive oil in a pan & heat up your pesto.  Add the broccoli florets you set aside.  Heat it through but do not cook it too long so that your florets do not get soggy.

When the pasta is done, drain it & toss it with the pesto.  Garnish with grated Parmesan, chopped parsley & a lemon wedge.

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Pink Grapefruit Margarita

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK, kiddies!  Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner!  I am going to start posting some stuff you might want to consider if you are throwing a party.  This one is eye-catching so I thought I’d start here.

Pretty basic stuff.  You can either use fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice (preferred) or bottled Ruby Red (easier).  Fresh is way better but sometimes it just isn’t practical.  This can be served blended or over rocks (as I did it) and with either a salt or a sugar rim.  I went sugar.  A sprig of fresh mint would look pretty, too.  I forgot that part.

Pink Grapefruit Margarita

If you are putting salt or sugar on your rim, put the salt/sugar on a plate, wet the rim with a wedge of lime, dredge the rim through the stuff & set aside to dry as you make your cocktail.

INGREDIENTS

2.5 ounces white tequila

1 ounce triple sec

5-6 ounces pink grapefruit juice

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt & lime for garnish

Salt or Sugar to rim your glass

DIRECTIONS

Shake up the tequila, triple sec, grapefruit juice & lime juice over ice in a shaker or blend it up in a blender with a cup of ice.   Pour into your glass, add a pinch of salt to the cocktail & garnish with lime slices.

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Super King Grocery Store in Los Angeles

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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My friend Bobbe emailed me today & said that there was a grocery store in Glassell Park – a neighborhood on the east side of Los Angeles – that I simply HAD to experience to believe.  She warned that the parking lot would be nuts but promised I would “Die!  I mean DIE!” when I went to this joint.  She mentioned hard to find fresh herbs (red basil) for prices like .69 cents a bunch.  ‘Nuff said.

An hour later – I fucking went!

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I navigated the parking lot fairly well (10:30am mid-week) & approached the entrance.  It was like a farmer’s market out front with tons of produce piled up everywhere for crazy low prices!  Check this out.

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I was immediately overwhelmed & my heart started racing.  I cannot explain why.  There was just a general sense of frenzy in the air – like at a Filene’s Basement or Fred Segal blow-out sale.  I blew off everything outside so that I could begin the more intimate exploration of the interior of Super King.

Super King, it seems, caters to a lot of Eastern Europian & Middle Eastern folks.  Hispanics, too, but the foods there that they had in conspicuous quantity seemed Mediterranean or Eastern European or Middle Eastern.  Look!  Raw almonds!  REALLY RAW!

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And an entire roasted nut bar!

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I’ve never seen fresh grape leaves at a supermarket – but Super King had’m!

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Look at all these pickling cucumbers

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The produce section was the most congested of the entire store and that is saying a lot because it is MASSIVE.

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I notice it doesn’t look very hectic in that photo but it was.  Once you head in & to the left – people are all zombie walking & leaving carts in the way & grabbing at vegetables.  I was most impressed by the fresh herbs which really were very varied & abundant & CHEAP!

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Five bunches of parsley or cilantro?  99 cents.  For FIVE.  Mint – 3 for .99.   I pay $4 for an anemic little bunch at Gelson’s.  And look at the cost of kale.

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Several varieties and practically free.

Also impressive was the VAST selection and not just of standards.  They had the sometimes hard to find celery root & kohlrabi & just everything imaginable.  They even had these golden beets (that would cost about $5 each at Gelson’s – if Gelson’s ever had them).

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At Super King?  They were .69 cents a pound!  I got three huge ones for $1.81!!!

When I was taking the panoramic shots, this guy stopped me.

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In the blue with the vest.  See how suspicious he looks?  He stopped me & asked what I was doing.  I explained that I was amazed at the store & was just taking some photos.

“No photos!” he spat at me, like the Soup Nazi.  No photos?  WTF?  Super King isn’t exactly on the Homeland Security Department’s list of high risk targets.  What did he think I was doing?  Casing the place?

“I have a blog,” I explained.  “I want to do a story about this place.”

“No photos.  Not allowed!” he said, sounding less convinced himself that this was actually a rule.  “The competition…”

Competition?  I thought he meant there was some kind of competition involving blogs & supermarkets.  I looked at him stupidly.

“Our competitors.  We do not want them seeing our prices.”

Competitors?  Prices?  First of all, competitors can just walk in the freakin’ door, just like I did, and see the prices.  And B, their prices are what makes Super King so great.  And they have a fucking web site – HERE – telling everyone about their prices.  But, for some reason, the silver fox Armenian in the sweater vest didn’t like me taking pictures.  So – I said, “Just this ONE, ok?”  And I took the shot that included him in it.  From there on out, I felt like a terrorist every time I took my camera out.  Which I did – many more times – but mostly in the aisles that sold non-perishables.  Those aisles were ghost towns. It was the produce & meat sections that had throngs of pushy, desperate people cockblocking you at every turn.  At any rate – between my accelerated pulse & the furtive nature of my photography – the photos in the blog are scant & lame.  Apologies.

OK – let’s talk about the meat department.  I took a number, number 92, and then looked in the mile of cases.  It seemed every cut of beef was near $4 a pound and pork was closer to $2.  Isn’t that cheap?  I don’t know.  I never buy meat.  They had marinated meats & regular meats & prepared meats like these lulas.

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I guess lula is what you use to make kabobs.

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On the shelf beneath the meat cases there were about 76 million brands of lavash.

Seafood was cheap, too, but didn’t look super awesome & didn’t indicate whether or not it was farmed.  Still – I bought a pound of shell-on shrimp for $7.99.  I opted to eschew the head-on variety.  Oof.

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Here is another very special thing about Super King.  SPICES.  A wall of spices.  Ethnic groceries are always the best source of cheap spices & Super King did not disappoint.

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Also – if 40 kinds of rice is too limited of a selection for you – look no further.

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Like a big selection of dry pasta, too?

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And where else can you spot a SELECTION of ghees??  (Ghee is clarified butter.  I use it making Indian food.)

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The olive oil aisle was over the top, too, as was the cheese aisle – especially as regards feta cheese.

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They also sell liquor at Super King.  I had just come from Costco where I priced a bottle of tequila for May 5.  Unless I am mistaken – the bottle I looked at (in the bright green box) was $69.99 at Costco – but only $36.99 at Super King.  But – sometimes the signs at Costco can get confusing.  Maybe I misread them.

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At any rate – I am absolutely IN LOVE with Super King.  Apparently, there are several locations so go to their site & see if there is one near you.  A little extra drive is worth the effort.  I promise!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Garbanzo Garlic Sauce & Tomatoes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is so delicious & so easy – I cannot recommend highly enough that you give it a try.  I used a LOT of crushed red pepper & lots of garlic & the dish was genuinely spicy.  You might want to reduce the quantities of these to suit your own taste.  Also – I made this – as usual – from whatever ingredients I had handy which included half a lemon & about a cup of some kind of peppercorn Pecorino or something that looked like this (image pilfered off Google):

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It was a bit creamier than a Pecorino and it was really pungent.  It went very well in this recipe but a Parmesan or feta would work, too.  I am just gonna go ahead & list the recipe with Parmesan but you could use a blend & experiment, if you like.

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Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Garbanzo Garlic Sauce & Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS

36 oz vegetable (or other) stock

2 tomatoes – diced

8 garlic cloves – minced & divided (or less – to taste)

1 29oz can Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) – drained

3 TBS olive oil

1 TBS crushed red pepper (or less – to taste)

1 cup grated Parmesan (or feta or other richly flavored cheese)

3 TBS lemon juice

3 TBS parsley – chopped

1 TBS basil – chopped

1 lb whole wheat pasta

S&P to taste

More grated Parmesan for garnish

More chopped parsley and/or basil as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta as per the directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add 6 of the minced garlic cloves, crushed red pepper & saute a minute or two.  Set a handful of garbanzos aside for garnish later.  Add the remaining garbanzo beans & the stock.  Bring to a boil & then simmer for about 15 minutes.  Then, CAREFULLY, puree the garbanzos in a blender or deep food processor.

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When the pasta is done, drain it & return it to the pan you cooked it in.  Add the pureed garbanzos, the remaining two minced garlic cloves, the chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, cheese & parsley to the pasta & stir to blend.  Add S&P to taste.  Serve with extra grated cheese & chopped parsley or basil and a few whole garbanzos.  Devour.

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