Friday, February 27, 2009

potato soup with leeks and sausage

This is a super easy weeknight dinner for when you're feeling lazy and the weather is dreary. Perfect occasion for your enameled cast iron dutch oven! Important note: It's really crucial to salt and pepper your dish throughout the cooking process. Food with salt & pepper added only at the end sometimes falls flat. When you adjust seasoning at each stage, the flavor is much more developed. Yum factor increases. Celebration ensues.

*Potato Soup with Leeks and Sausage*
4 links andouille sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
5 fatty leeks, cut lengthwise and then into 1 inch pieces
1 stick butter
2 tbsp flour
6 largish red potatoes, diced to 3/4 inch squared
6 cups of chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf

Brown up the sausage in your skillet with 2 tbsp butter over medium high heat. Once it looks done, take it out and set it aside. Don't clean out your pan.

Put in the rest of the stick of butter, and turn the heat down to medium. Once your butter is bubbly, put in your leeks and some salt and pepper. Work them out, yo! Make those puppies sweat, but don't let them brown. This will take a good 15 minutes and look something like this:
When the leeks are tender (not smooshy), put in your flour. Cook that for at least a couple minutes to mellow the flour our. Once that's done, add the rest of your ingredients, including your cooked sausage. Season up your soup again.

Let this whole mixture cook together with the lid on for about 15 minutes. At this point, check your potatoes. The soup is done when your potatoes are fork tender. I really need to get you guys (hahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahaha, like anyone but me reads this) my garlic bread recipe because it goes great with just about everything.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

simple, easy, delicious cosmo

Don't they look purty? They are usually much more of a mellow pink color than the picture, but I just loved this shot. Anyway, these are super simple and really very good. I like to go heavy on the lime and line the glass with sugar to offset it.

1 shot vodka
2/3 shot triple sec
1/2 very juicy lime
2/3 shot cranberry juice
lots of ice

You have to mix, mix, mix this drink in a shaker, or it will just be off. The pictured cosmo was not shaken because my shaker is in storage, which is why it's so red. And when I say shot, I mean all the way to the top of a shot glass shot. Don't be shy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

farewell, san francisco

(on San Francisco)
"It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit~. Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?"~Julia Child

"Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible." ~Walter Cronkite

koko cocktails

When I walked into Koko Cocktails, I knew it was my kind of place.

1. A DJ was bumping cool 40's music throughout the joint
2. When I sat down at the bar, they had my current favorite liqueur behind the bar (St. Germaine, and the bartender knew how to use it - as pictured)
3. They had the movie Caddyshack projected on the wall (!!!)
4. All cocktails are $7

The crowd was low key, but still lively. It wasn't too crowded, the bartenders were friendly and made awesome drinks, the clientèle wasn't too snobby/hipster/yuppie/scary. Audrey and I each had a St. Germaine and mint martini, something I had never tried. It was sweet and intense, but not too much so. I sipped on my drink, chatted with my friends, watched Caddyshack out of the corner of my eye.

Our second round went like this... I had a black cherry cosmo made with Effen black cherry vodka (lol, I said effen), triple sec, fresh lime and cranberry. Very good! Audrey had the casino which is made with gin, luxardo (marashino liqueur), orange bitters and fresh lemon juice. Hers was a bit harsh and bitter, but I can see why people might like it, but we just aren't those people. Brandon stuck with the dark and stormy made with rum, ginger beer and lime juice. It was very well put together. These were quality drinks in a quality environment. Go there and take me with you!

fenton's creamery

Cookie Creation - 1 Brandon - 0

Brandon ordered this for himself at Fenton's. FAIL. While obviously completely gluttonous and yummy, he didn't even come close to finishing. I ordered a single scoop sundae and only could finish half of it. I just wanted to play the sad Charlie Brown music while he skulked away from the ice cream monstrosity that beat him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


San Francisco, especially North Beach, is such a strange place. There is a mix of tourist traps and great restaurants within feet of each other. The problem is differentiating the two. It's a crapshoot most of the time, but we were lucky to stumble on L'Osteria one night while walking the city.

L'Osteria is the real deal. This is a teeny tiny little hole in the wall that always has a wait. Actually, now that I think about it, everywhere in San Francisco is a wait! Anyway, this place literally only can accommodate 24 people in the entire restaurant. Just our luck that a party of 8 was just one party in front of us. We didn't mind terribly much because we had been walking all day long and just sat out in front of the restaurant for about an hour until a seat finally became available.

When we were seated, we got the wine list. I have recently discovered Italian reds, and I am definitely a fan. Every wine we have ever ordered there (probably 6-8 wines) have been very, very good. I got a glass of the cheapest Sangiovese ($7) and was very happy with it. Brandon and Audrey had the Spinelli ($5.50) and it was very decent as well.

When our food came out, I have to admit, none of it was very pretty. Sometimes, though, ugly food is the tastiest, and this was the case here. Audrey got the roast beef, which by the headliner picture you can tell is sliced very thin. It was served at room temperature with olive oil and pepper. She really liked it. The butter lettuce salad that came with it was very tender and tasty.

I got the special butternut squash raviolis with butter sage sauce and OMG, they were so good. The pasta was kind of odd. It almost reminded me of what a dim sum pork bun (the actual bread of it) would taste like if it were a ravioli. The dough was sweet and insanely good. The filling was to die for... perfectly balanced. Although only 6 raviolis came with the meal, it was enough food for a hungry Cori. Mmmm.Brandon and Keoni each got a pizza: sausage/mushroom and margherita , respectively. Brandon was kind enough to only get sausage on 1/2 his pizza so I could partake (the joys of being newlyweds, ahhhh), so I did. The crust was really thin and crispy, just the way I like it. It wasn't greasy in that orange oil way pizza can be (you know, the kind that cures a hangover in two minutes flat). The guys each liked their pizzas, everyone was happy.

Yet another successful and delicious meal courtesy of L'Osteria. We'll be back!

universal cafe

I swear, this is my last breakfast post from San Francisco! I really loved my super simple breakfast from Universal Cafe... grapefruit, oranges, kiwi, alongside toast with fromage blanc, cinnamon, honey. The fruit was ripe, the toast was yummy. My black tea was good. The service was not particularly personable, but it wasn't rude, either. No complaints here.

My fellow diners had more of a problem with the menu. They thought it was a bit too ecclectic. I have mentioned it in the past, Brandon (the hubs) has simple tastes. The fact that you couldn't order simple french toast bothered him a bit. I told him that he should at least try the rhubarb compote on top, and awesome, trusting husband that he is, he did. The french toast came to the table smothered with delectable whipped cream and some rhubarb compote. It was superb for the first piece, but the whipped cream melted within a few minutes. He would have been wise to get it on the side. He liked it, although I think he would have preferred the simple french toast by itself.
Audrey got the eggs benedict type dish... two perfectly poached eggs atop the fattest, softest latkes I have ever seen. All of this was drenched in a hollandaise sauce paired some sauteed greens. It was rich! She only ate half of this puppy and was full for quite some time afterwards.

Everything was really fresh. You could tell that the produce changed often and with the seasons, which I personally love. I could have eaten for days from the menu, but the other members of my party felt that the menu was limiting by the eccentricity. I would definitely go back if I were a local, but I would have to find another group to go with!

Monday, February 23, 2009

mama's grill

I'm not really too much of a breakfast person. Give me a simple tender scone and a cup of tea, and I'm happy. This probably doesn't ring true based on my last two posts, but there are certain things I look forward to waking up to. This is one of them.

Walking up to Mama's, you can tell that this joint is popular. Although possibly a bit touristy at times, it really does live up to it's badges of honors plastered along the outside wall. They scream "Trust me! I'm worth the 30 minute wait! Yelpers and Zagat think so!" They definitely do not lie.

The food was really yummy. I got the farmers omelet: bacon, melted leeks, goat cheese. I substituted turkey sausage for the bacon as I don't eat pork, and I think it would have been much better with the bacon my husband was indulging in. The home fries were not my favorite part... just barely done and a bit too al dente.

But then there was Brandon's cinnamon chocolate french toast. Super good. Everything about it was delicious, right down to the unseasonably ripe fruit on top.

Worth the wait!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

tartine bakery

Brandon went to school in San Francisco... Berkeley to be exact. I was at school at UCLA at the time, so to make our long distance relationship work, he would come down once a month and I would make the trek up to SF once a month.

Food lovers that we are, we ate our way through San Francisco, one weekend at a time. We started in Berkeley, but almost always took at least one day to go on through San Francisco. We would BART into the city, eat somewhere, walk around a bit (just until we were hungry again), eat somewhere, walk around a bit, cycle, rinse, repeat. We wanted so badly to be hungry just a bit more often. In fact, this Onion article comes to mind, describing my feelings perfectly.

I digress. I wish I had taken pictures of my amazing pastries and tarts from Tartine, but it was rainy and I was hungry. Things just didn't work out. But we ordered a TON of food to make up for it.

I started with quiche of the day with nettles. Yes, I had no idea what nettles were, either. Apparently, they are a really mild leafy green, and barely noticeable in this quiche. It was absolutely divine. Soft, creamy, light eggs with a browned top and buttery crust. It was perfect with my English Breakfast tea. Brandon had the ham and cheese croissant, which he said is the best specimen he has ever had.

We had a banana tart for our breakfast dessert. It was very, very yummy. The tarlette crust was lined with chocolate and the bananas were bathed in a not too sweet caramel sauce. It was all topped with freshly made whipped cream and shavings of Valrhona Chocolate. Mmmmm.

In the car on the way home, we had the chocolate croissant and lemon tart. The croissant was very rustic, buttery and intensely chocolate. I have noticed that they like their pastries cooked a bit passed the golden brown color, and instead take it to a deep chestnut. It makes the crusts taste toasty and nutty all at the same time. The tart was sweet, but mostly sour, perfectly balanced. Definitely worth the food coma that ensued.

Oh my gosh, I know, I'm gushing. I love San Francisco, I love bakeries, and I love Tartine. Even in a city with so many enticing food options and a finite amount of meals, I do not miss a chance to go to Tartine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

mac & cheese

There is just no arguing with this recipe for macaroni and cheese. I have spent the last 5 years perfecting this recipe, and at this point, it's damn good. So, it's not low fat. In fact, I think my ass gets fatter just looking at the pictures.

Let me put it in old lady terms: I have gall bladder issues. Dairy triggers these horribly painful symptoms. I had two servings of this. It's worth it; it's so worth it.

Mac & Cheese
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups milk
1tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp dry mustard
12 oz grated cheese (I like 8 oz cheddar, 4 oz pepper jack)
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 pound macaroni

Heat up your water and your oven to 350. Those are the things I always forget to do!

Melt one stick of butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Put in the flour and let them cook together on medium heat for a couple minutes, making sure to they don't brown. This gets rid of the icky floury taste that you sometimes get from, well, flour. Slowly stream in all of the milk and whisk your mixture constantly. This is when you should start boiling your pasta (note: you should cook your pasta very al dente since it's going into the oven at a later point).

One that barely comes to a boil, add in your salt, pepper, and mustard. If you're feeling in the mood, add a dash of cayenne. Your mixture should be fairly thick at this point. Take it off the heat and add in your cheese.

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick butter and mix it with the bread crumbs.

Combine your cooked pasta with your cheese sauce in a 9x13 pan. Top generously with the bread crumbs. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

There ain't no competing with this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

uber cheap wall decor

This is a project that I did last spring when I had barren walls in my house. I wanted something quick, cheap and easy (that's what he said!), so this project was absolutely perfect to help give a bit of warmth to my home.

I bought four fabrics I thought would work well together from Tonic Living and promptly waited 2 weeks for my fabrics to arrive. The company is based in Canada, so it wasn't their fault, but it definitely helped me practice my patience skillz. In the meantime, I went to the art store and picked up some wood canvas frame pieces. I knew that I wanted to do three panels, to I wanted tall-ish and skinny-ish, but I wanted the fabric art to be a main focus of the room, so I went with 38x20 inches.

First things first... make sure your fabrics are nice and flat. That means you'll probably want to iron them. Then you can assemble your frame. It's super easy to do because these frames are cut such that a monkey with a blindfold can put them together.

Next, lay your frame out on the fabric and cut around your frame and position the frame so that your pattern doesn't look wonky. If you want to make the back edges look pretty, too (which doesn't matter because it will be against a wall, anyway), you will want to leave about two inches excess fabric around the frame so that you can fold over the fabric and staple gun it to the frame.

After you staple that first edge, do the complete opposite edge and pull tight. It may look like it's too taught, but it isn't and the lines will smooth out once you fasten the adjacent staples. When you are stapling those, you'll run into the corner problem. It's very simple to do a double fold and make sure that your corners are folded nice and tight:

Monday, February 16, 2009


February is the month of many birthdays in my family; my husband, my brother in law, and my dad all have birthdays within a 3 day period. We get together for each birthday throughout the year, so this was to be a big celebration. It obviously called for one thing and one thing only: PAELLA PARTY!

OK, so maybe that‘s not *totally* true. My family, for the most part, is very meat and potatoes. My sister, Heidi, is an awesome and adventurous cook, but my dad and most of the rest of the people in my family prefer ribs and potato salad to my frou frou miso glazed sea bass with garlic ginger green beans and wasabi mashed potatoes.

Paella is something that I made in the past that fit the bill of something that everyone could enjoy. It calls for several carnivorous palette pleasers, not terribly exotic veggies, and the most basic of foods, rice. It’s a one pot meal, which is always nice. However, since I wanted to cook enough for 10, I used two dutch ovens (I don’t own a paella pan).

I have to admit, it is a fairly fussy recipe, but I have tried to simplify it as much as possible. Here she blows!

*Dutch Oven Paella*
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (yes, thighs!), seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 pound spicy sausage - I used chicken andouille
1 pound shrimp
1 pound mussels
1 large onion
2 tbsp garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, liquid and all
2 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads (TJ's has them for cheap)
1/2 cup peas
1 bell pepper
1 or 2 dried bay leaves

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and adjust the rack to fit a big old dutch oven.

The first thing to do is blister your bell pepper over the stove. I take tongs and turn a burner on high and char the outside of the bell pepper until it gets slightly soft and blackened in spots on the outside. Chop it up into bite size pieces and set aside for later.

Next, use a few tbsp olive oil to brown up your thighs (bwahahahaha) and sausage over medium high heat. They don't have to be cooked all the way through, but you do want them to be nice and brown.

Add a bit more olive oil and then your onion. Let it soften for 3-4 minutes and scrape up all the browned bits with your wooden spoon. Add the garlic and let that cook for another minute or so.

Pour your can of tomatoes over everything and let that cook for a minute or two. Then, put in the rice. Cook the rice for about a minute and add the wine. Cook for another few seconds, then add the broth, bay leaves, and saffron. Let it come up to a boil.

Slap on the lid and stick it in the oven for 20 minutes.

Once the buzzer rings, take it out of the oven and put everything else in: shrimp, mussels, peas and bell pepper. Mix it all up and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and sprinkle some parsley on top. Try to give it a sec to cool and dig in! It pairs nicely with a spinach salad with lemon shallot dressing and crusty fresh bread with butter.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

elderberry collins

I didn't even know that I liked gin until this drink. Craft exposed me to an extremely refreshing cocktail based on the classic Tom Collins. Here is my rendition of the drink, as prepared by G-dale's best bartender, our own Audrey!!! :::round of applause:::
*Elderberry Collins*
1 full shot glass of gin
2/3 shot of St. Germain Elderberry Liquor
splash of simple syrup
1/2 lime
sparkling water
limes for garnish

Put the liquor, syrup and lime juice in your shaker (or Nalgene if you're super cool like us) and shake, shake, shake until you get a nice, blurry picture!
Top it off with a splash of sparkling water and a lime wedge.
So good!

craft la

I love Top Chef. You get the drama of any good reality show (complete with canoodling contestants this season) with the added benefit of it being based around one of my favorite things in the world... food! Plus, the judges are pretty awesome. Padma, Tom, Gail... speaking of Gail, what happened to her? I miss her. This new British dude is trying to be the sarcastic Simon-esque persona but his insults fall as flat as warm, day old coke (and that joke).

About a month ago, my good friend, Audrey, took me to Craft, Tom Colicchio's restaurant, for my birthday. The meal was intense. It consisted of at least 9 courses and at least 3 or 4 amuse bouches to round it out. We got the wine pairing, so you can imagine that it was a a fun evening.

The restaurant's decor was stunning. Beautiful modern lights and accoutrements, without the starkness that normally comes with that style. It was warm and inviting. We each got a drink when we walked in. I got the elderberry collins. Best cocktail ever. I didn't even know I liked gin until I had this drink. Audrey and I have worked up a pretty great replica and I'll be posting that recipe later. She got a ginger mai tai, which was also excellent.

Then came the food. While very good, at times seemed to be lacking in both flavor and direction at times. It was kind of hit or miss for me. The salmon wrapped trout mousse with caviar on top was a divine, unctuous first amuse bouche that made me excited for things to come. Our first course was crab gratin, which was more soup-like than I would have expected but was still fabulous. Delicate in flavor, yummy. Right after that course came a cod pot pie with root vegetables. It was a pretty large portion for what it was, which was part of the problem. The flavor of the fish was overwhelmed by the thickness of the bechemel and the butter, but delicious, crust. It was a bit heavy for being served right after a very rich dish. I do tend to like Cal/Med cuisine, so I'm biased.

Then, the waiter served us the veal francobolli with pancetta butter. One problem- when Audrey made the reservation, she had specified that I don't eat red meat or pork. They told her that would be no problem to accommodate. We reiterated this to the waitress when we ordered. They still managed to forget and didn't prepare anything for me. We told the waitress and she was entirely apologetic and brought out some butternut squash with sage butter sauce very quickly. But the problem was the wine had already been poured- a deep California red to be paired with the veal. We asked to speak to the sommalier because neither of us thought that a red, let alone that one, would typically be served with the course I was eating. He came over to us and was extremely defensive. He said that the earthiness of the wine pairs well with each course. Whatever. I think he just didn't want to go pick out another wine, but when you're spending $400 on a meal for 2 people, you expect it to be perfect. (I'm realizing writing this down that I sound like a major pain in the ass, but I can assure you, I'm not. At least, I didn't think so).

I had a great time. The food was good. The wines were well paired (barring that one mishap) and solid. The desserts were innovative and downright delish. The experience was memorable and overall, very positive. It was just expensive for what you got.

Let me put it this way... Derek's Bistro in S. Pasadena is one of my favorite places ever. It's one of those places that you want to go to every time an occasion calls for fancy dining. You consider going to places like Craft, and if you actually end up taking the leap, you hope for it to be better than Derek's, especially because it's far more expensive. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Monday, February 09, 2009

you said you wanted it, sweetie

This weekend, I had a conversation with my husband, Brandon, about desserts. I told him that I was planning to make my awesome chocolate caramel tart later this week to blog about it, but that I needed input as to what he thought would be something else post about. He said chocolate chip cookies. He always says chocolate chip cookies. What can I say, the man has simple tastes and know what he likes.

The problem is, chocolate chip cookies are just 'meh.' I mean, I make an OK chocolate chip cookie, but I don't make a great one. I'm still in the market for the *best* chocolate chip cookie. I fully believe that sometimes the simplest recipes are the most difficult to perfect.

Then I has an epiphany. Brandon's birthday is this week. If I can't make the best chocolate chip cookie, I might as well make the biggest.


The behemoth chocolate chip cookie cake.

I got this recipe from Martha, and boy, she wasn't kidding; this sure is GIANT. It was really easy to make, the cookies were very cakey and definitely soft enough to cut all the way through, and just the idea of a cake made out of cookies made me giggle. Brandon absolutely adored the cake. I couldn't argue that the novelty of it couldn't be beat.

I decided to go with buttercream frosting because what else could chocolate chip cookies need besides more sugar? That and I don't particularly care for cream cheese frosting. The cake slid around once the frosting was on, but I popped it in the fridge for a while until the frosting set up a bit.

C'mon, is it not the coolest cake you've ever seen?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

easy, yummy din din

I love my mom. I really do. We have a somewhat contentious relationship, but it is often times hilarious and we can laugh at ourselves, and do, often. Growing up, my mom was always good about making sure that we were fed, usually fairly healthfully, but the meals themselves were usually simple things that a working mom with 5 kids could whip up in no time.

Since I started cooking back in college, I have cooked many dishes that I never had growing up. An unanticipated side affect of all of this cooking has been that my mom has been more willing to try to cook a wider variety of things at home. If I make her a meal that she really likes, she'll make that meal again. And again. And again. Like, 2 times in a week, 8 times in a month, again. She's a creature of habit and if she finds something she likes, she'll stick with it.

This is one of those meals that my mom makes all.the.time. It's a combination of easy, reasonably cheap, requires little forethought, uses a very few ingredients (of which most are usually already on hand) and is really very tasty.

*Chicken Piccata*
4-6 pounded chicken breasts
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons of capers
1-2 lemons for juice
1/2 cup of white wine
1 cup of chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons of parsley
4 tablespoons of butter

Salt and pepper your pounded chicken breasts. Dredge them in flour and fry them up in a pan with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons of butter until they're brown on the outside, and not quite done in the middle. Take them out of the pan and set them aside.

In the hot oil, add the crushed garlic and let it sautee for a minute. Then, add your white wine and lemon juice and let it cook down for a just a sec. Add in the capers, chicken broth, 1/2 of the parsley. Let it cook together for a few minutes. Put in the 1/2 stick of butter.

Add back in your chicken and any juices that have accumulated. Cook the chicken through. Sprinkle with the rest of the parsley. Serve with thin spaghetti, garlic bread, and a veg.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

the cake is a lie

I did it. That thing that brides aren't supposed to do for their wedding. I made my own cake. But I have a perfectly valid and sane reason.

My dear husband and I decided that for our low key wedding, ice cream cake would be the perfect thing to cap off the evening. However, I had already ordered these uber cute and extremely well done Wii replicas to surprise my groom with on the day of the wedding. We all know that ice cream cake + warm LA July evening = disaster. So, I had to go to plan B. Fake Cake.

Now, this isn't exactly the most delicious cake you've ever tasted. That is, unless you like the taste of Styrofoam. I bought dummy layers and fondant from Lady Jane's Cakes and embarked on my somewhat watered down version of wedding cake mission.

It was trial and error. I watched videos on Youtube to educate myself quickly. I warmed the fondant through with my fingers, roughly measured out enough coloring to fold into the fondant, used powdered sugar to roll out the fondant. I gingerly placed the fondant over the filed down edges of the Styrofoam to create this cake that almost looks good enough to eat.

In the spirit of all things inedible, I glue-gunned the ribbon and the dragees on that puppy. Might as well, right? What can I say... I'm klassy like that.

No stress, yet still expressive and creative wedding cake - just our style.

**the following is evidence that we did indeed have a real, edible backup cake and didn't serve fondant-covered, glue-gun embellished, trace-metal-containing dragee-enhanced Styrofoam cake at our wedding**

how hungry are you?

What is the deal with blogs, anyway? I can't tell you how many times I have started this, edited it, deleted it, wanted to share it, thought otherwise... but here I am again. Clean slate. So I'm taking this chance to use my cooking, crafts, photography, writing and life and will try to put it all together to make something that doesn't suck. Here goes nothing!