Saturday, January 31, 2009

Restaurant Week: Akasha

Akasha on UrbanspoonI went to Akasha for the restaurant week lunch special the other day. Click here for Akasha's menu. Overall, the food was pretty good, not great. The service there was pretty bad. I plan to write a more detailed review about the service on Yelp when I get a chance.
I had the carrot ginger soup and my companion had the grilled artichoke. Both were quite good. The artichoke came with a tasty aoli. We both had entree salads. The greens were OK, the dressing was nothing to write home about, but the grilled shrimp on my salad, which is one of the restaurant's popular dishes, were delicious. Nice grilled flavor on the outside spiced with Masala and juicy on the inside. I think my favorite part of the meal however was the dessert. We each chose three different flavors of sorbets and ice creams. The sorbets were delicious. Very fresh flavors in the blood orange and other fruits. My almond ice cream was flavorful and my dining companion's chocolate hemp ice cream was dark and rich, just the way I like it. Next up is going to be Dolce Enoteca.

9543 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Restaurant Week: Nine Thirty at the W Hotel

Nine Thirty on UrbanspoonOur first restaurant week meal was at the Nine Thirty at the W Hotel for lunch on Sunday afternoon. I just love the W hotels because of how beautifully they are decorated. The restaurants are the same way so the ambiance was very nice. Click here for Nine Thirty's menu.

I am re-posting the review I wrote on Facebook where I was the only one to write one because people on Facebook like to join groups and then do nothing else in the group. But anyway..
I had the Roasted Kobacha Squash Soup (picture above) which I think was delicious and better than the two salads on the menu, both of which my companions ordered.

I got the Chicken Frite for the entree (picture to the right). The chicken was good but the Truffle Oil Fries and Wilted Spinach were the best things on the plate.. but I love fries with truffle oil..

My boyfriend's salmon was good (pictured below), but the star of his plate was the spaghetti squash.
Finally, we all had the Pear Upside Down Cake (picture at the bottom) which was pretty good, a little dry, but the accompanying maple ice cream was delicious.
I am on a quest now to find some truffle oil to cook with. I was at the regular 'ol supermarket yesterday and they had two kinds, black and white, both for 20 bucks each. This is going to take a little research...

Nine Thirty at the W Hotel
930 Hilgard Ave
Los Angeles, CA

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's Restaurant Week(s) in Los Angeles

It's that time of year when "fancy" restaurants offer prix fixe menus.
Dates: Jan 25-30, Feb 1-6
It is basically running Sun-Fri 2 weeks in a row. It's a little tricky because when selecting restaurants, you need to double-check which ones are actually open on which days. On Sundays, some restaurants aren't actually doing the prix fixe menus because they are doing their brunches instead, so call to double-check.
Check out the restaurants.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Culinary Classes

Well, folks, I am not sure if I've mentioned that I've taken some culinary classes recently including the basic and advanced sushi classes at the California Sushi Academy. These were the one-day classes, not the 15-week professional program. They were great classes. As some of you know, I have been making sushi for years, but this was the only class I've taken and it was very helpful to learn and see what the correct techniques are for cutting fish, rolling and forming sushi, and making rice. I even learned how to make shrimp tempura.

I can't explain how good it felt to take these classes. I am kind of a cynical person, and there aren't a ton of things I enjoy doing, but to be learning about something that I just enjoy so much anyway... it was a strange feeling of just belonging there. Anyway. It really combined my love of food and cooking with my love of all things Japanese.

I took a few pictures with the iPhone. The photo above is when he was showing us how to cut fish. It's important, especially when you're cooking in a restaurant, that the cuts are as consistent as possible. Then the other picture is a shrimp tempura roll with eel sauce that I made.

In addition to these classes, I am also enrolled in the Professional Program (They call it Pro 1) at the New School of Cooking. I'll start another post about this course specifically. I am very much enjoying it.. one of the best things I've ever done!

Monday, January 19, 2009


I'd never really made risotto until the other day when I didn't have much in the house for dinner but I did have a box of Trader Joe's Aborio Rice which I'd never opened along with a bag of frozen cooked shrimp so I thought, this could make a good meal along with the salad I just whipped up. The results: amazing, one of the best things I'd ever made and surprisingly it's naturally low in fat and calories. It's naturally creamy because of the starch in the rice, but you don't actually add any cream to it and in my opinion you can leave out the butter and cheese which is traditionally added at the end, especially if making with seafood. I flavored my risotto with the juice from half a lemon, so it was pretty lemony and very good, but it tasted amazing even before I added the lemon. So, I think you can really take the basic recipe and modify the flavors in lots of different ways by trying different broths/stocks, wines, veggies, etc.

Lemon Shrimp Risotto
Makes 4, entree-sized servings
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

  • 2 big or 3 small garlic cloves, crushed or grated

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red, yellow, or orange bell pepper

  • 8 green olives with pimentos, finely chopped

  • 1 cup Aborio rice (or even better rices are supposed to be Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)

  • 2 cups hot chicken broth (if using stock, will need to salt/season more)

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

  • 1 lb cooked shrimp, tails off, frozen OK

  • 1/2 lemon, juice and zest (separate)

  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium/high heat until hot. Add the butter and swirl and melt.

  2. Add the onions and peppers, cook two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and olives, cook two minutes more.

  3. Add rice while stirring, cook 2-3 minutes stirring constantly until rice starts to brown.

  4. Stir in the wine 1/4 cup at a time.

  5. Add the saffron.

  6. Stir in the broth 1/4 cup at a time with a minute or so between each addition. Keep stirring constantly.

  7. When liquid comes to a boil, turn to very low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and there is just enough liquid left (should be a thick sauce, but not soupy). When done, stir in the lemon juice and add white pepper to taste (broth and olives have the salt).

  8. While rice is cooking, heat up the shrimp with the lemon zest in a pan.

  9. Serve rice with warm shrimp!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I'm Still Alive People! Plus, Christmas Eve Wrap-Up and Tiramisu Recipe

Apologies for the MIA status. I was working on a super-hectic work project in December, then I took a couple of weeks off for the holidays and now I am just being lazy.

I went to Boston for two weeks over the holidays. My mother, my nephew and I cooked the Italian seafood Christmas eve dishes we usually make, as part of La Vigilia, the feast of the seven fishes. I counted them up and it came to six fishes this year as opposed to seven. This is because no one made the delicious salted-cod antipasto, Baccala, that I love so much. Thanks a lot! This recipe at the Boston Globe comes close to it. I just realized I have an eerily similar post from last year where I did post the Baccala and Stuffed Squid recipes. So, check it out.

The fishes we made were:

  • Scallops wrapped in bacon (bacon deviates from the tradition because it's meat)

  • Stuffed clams

  • Fried smelts (I really perfected the frying method this year - yes!)

  • Salmon with farfalle (bow-tie shaped pasta)

  • Grandma Phyllis' shrimp casserole

  • Stuffed calamari with spaghetti

Most of the dishes we make are some combination of the fish/seafood, tomato sauce, garlic, and Progresso bread crumbs. I swear we use like three containers of those breadcrumbs every Christmas.

We don't really do much of a meal Christmas day; we usually just eat leftovers. We do however have plenty of Panettone in the house for breakfast Christmas week. I looooove Panettone.. the best way to describe it is a light Italian fruitcake but it tastes nothing like regular American fruitcake. It is very difficult to make, so even most chefs don't recommend trying to make it at home.

My mom also usually makes her homemade cannoli but I talked her into letting me make tiramisu which came out awesome! I'll even post the recipe below. It is kind of a fake/poor man's tiramisu because it doesn't use marscapone cheese but it is awesome nonetheless. I got it from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine a few years ago. It's actually one of the reasons why a roommate and I parted ways.. but that's a story for another day.

Poor Man's Tiramisu

  • About 2 packages of lady fingers (cookies)

  • 2 cups of heavy cream, freshly whipped. This will make the 3 cups of whipped cream which will be used for the filling and frosting.

  • Grated chocolate or sifted cocoa for topping/garnish


  • 2 8oz packages of Philly cream cheese, softened

  • 1 cup sifted powder sugar

  • 3 Tablespoons Kahlua

  • 2 cups of the whipped cream


  • 1 cup of the whipped cream

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 2 Tablespoons Kahlua

For soaking the lady fingers:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup strong, fresh coffee

  • 1/4 cup Kahlua

  1. Now, you can make this in 2 or 3 layers depending on the size of your dish, but you'll need one that's a few inches deep. You can use a longer dish with less height, or a smaller one with more height. The more cookies you use, the more coffee you'll need to soak them. So, go choose your dish and decide how many layers you'll be doing before you get started.

  2. First you should make your coffee and whip your cream.

  3. Prepare the filling: mix together the cream cheese, sugar and Kahlua. Then, fold in the whipped cream. Set aside.

  4. Prepare the frosting: mix together the sour cream and Kahlua. Then, fold in the whipped cream. Set aside.

  5. Combine the coffee and the 1/4 cup of Kahlua.

  6. Now, you're ready to start layering. With the exception of the frosting, if you are doing two layers, use the cookies, coffee mixture, and filling 1/2 at a time. With three layers, use 1/3 at a time.

  7. Arrange your first layer of cookies at the bottom of the pan evenly. If you need to chop off some ends of some cookies, do so. Pour the first part of the coffee mixture evenly over the cookies so that they are all covered.

  8. Spread your first layer of filling over this.

  9. Repeat with the remaining layers. With each layer, arrange the cookies in the opposite manner so as to build strength into the Tiramisu.

  10. After the last filling layer, spread the frosting on top.

  11. Chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle shaved chocolate or sift cocoa over the whole thing right before serving.