Babes, What’s for Dinner: Gluten-Free Meatloaf and Red Mashed Potatoes

Sometimes, my belly craves classic Americana.  I don’t know where it stems from considering we never had any traditional American fare growing up.  I still remember my first taste of burger.  It was hard to let go – literally.  Before I was of school age, my father and I accompanied my older sister to her first day of school where they were serving burgers for breakfast – go figure.

We sat at the long benches in the noisy cafeteria amongst all the other excited-for-the-first-day-of-school kids.  I quietly enjoyed my soft and salty parcel of joy.  I was in my own little burger heaven and did not realize how much time had lapsed.  The bell rang and everyone got up to clear their trays.  They tried to take mine but I wouldn’t let go!  My sister laughed and laughed but I didn’t care.  I was in love.  :)

With this recipe, I tried to create an unknown nostalgia.

For the loaf:

  • ½ cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 lb pork
  • 1 lb beef
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg
For the glaze:
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Heinz 57 sauce

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Combine the bread crumbs and the water and set aside.

We always grind our own meat.  I am certainly far from a vegetarian but I find it a little scary to eat something that is made of 200+ different animals.  I’ll take my cow one at a time, please.

Our KitchenAid stand mixer is the one thing that stays out on our plywood counter as it gets used so often.  It’s very handy for recipes like this.

With the grinder attachment, start with grinding the meat.  We used pork butt roast and beef tri-tip that we happened to have around.  Then grind the vegetables.

Transfer the bowl of ground vegetables and meat to the mixer and add the remaining ingredients, including the hydrated bread crumbs.  Mix with the flat beater just until combined.

Pack the mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to mold the shape of the meatloaf. Flip the meatloaf out of the pan onto the center of a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Pop it into the oven.

Then prepare the glaze.  Toast and grind the cumin.  Then combine with the sauces.

Take the loaf out of the oven and cover with the glaze.

Pop the loaf back into the oven for 45 minutes until its internal temperature reaches 155° F.

While the loaf is cooking, prepare the mashed potatoes.

  • 5 medium organic red potatoes
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • milk
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground

The one thing Husfriend insists on buying organic is potatoes.  Like any good wife, I research then obey.  If potato farmers aren’t eating their own crops, we probably shouldn’t either.

Boil the ‘taters until a fork easily slips through them.  Drain and let dry.  Then mash with the butter.  Add milk until desired creaminess is reached then salt and pepper to taste.


Babes, What’s for Dinner: Tacos Al Pastor

Being in Hollywood has so many great perks – one of which is easy access to amazing, and often very affordable, food.  One can stumble outside and have their pick of a bounty of food and cultures.  Within walking distance of the apartment, we have access to Peruvian, Pescatarian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hungarian, Greek, Southern Italian, Northern Italian and Mexican.

Nothing beats Tacos al Pastor any time of day.  These delicious parcels of goodness originated in Puebla, Puebla as the result of the natives adapting the shawarma that was introduced to them by Lebanese immigrants.  Mexicans swapped out lamb for pork and added their own herbs and spices.  To say that we’re big fans of both versions would be a big understatement.

If we could, this would have a permanent home in our home:


Alas, we barely have room for Dorothy.

There are many recipes on the internets and this is a culmination of a few tasty trials:

  • 1 4-lb  pork butt roast
  • 5 dried guajillo chili peppers
  • 5 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 5 dried anaheim chili peppers
  • ½ tsp whole cumin
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs annatto seeds
  • ½ tbs dried mexican oregano
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar (the regular stuff can be used – I just don’t like the smell of it)
  • 1 chipotle chili pepper (in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tbs adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle chili peppers)
  • 1 fresh pineapple cut into 1/2″ slices (3 slices for the marinade and the rest for the cooking with the meat)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbs canola oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 4± tsp kosher salt
Mandatory Garnish:
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
Optional Guacamole Garnish (just mash it all together):
  • 2 large avocados
  • 2 tbs white onion, chopped
  • 2 tbs cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato, chopped
  • kosher salt, pepper and lime juice to taste

Before starting the marinade, put the pork in the freezer to make it easier to slice (about half an hour).  Oftentimes, I just have the butcher do it for me.

Dissect the peppers by removing their stems and seeds.  Then cut them into pieces with kitchen shears and gently toast in a frying pan over medium heat.   Flip often as to not burn them which will impart an unwelcome bitterness to the marinade.  Then toast the cumin, cloves, annatto seeds and cinnamon stick.  Let cool then finely grind the peppers and spices in a blender.

Except for the salt, oil and onion, blend in the remaining ingredients until a watery paste forms.

Brown the onions with the oil then add to the blender and pulverize.

Cut the pork into lengthwise slices about 1/3″ thick and spread out onto a large baking dish and salt accordingly.

Then slather the marinade between each layer until every nook and cranny is covered.  Cover and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight.  When I don’t plan ahead and am super craving tacos on the day of, we just use our vacuum sealer to marinate the meat.  It takes about 12 minutes to get the same results as a tortuous overnight wait.

When it’s time to cook, spread the meat out in one layer in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish or on a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the set-to-high broiler.  There should be some open space between the pieces; it’s better to do multiple batches than to crowd the meat.  When I made the marinade, I warned Husfriend to not eat the pineapple slices in the fridge as they were going to be used for the tacos al pastor.  Turns out I forgot to remind myself so when it came time to cook the meat, we didn’t have the pineapple.  Normally, the pineapple slices go on top of the meat in the oven.

Assuming you didn’t accidentally eat the pineapple too, broil the meat and pineapple for 10-15 minutes until well browned and crisp; there should be some caramelized juices in the bottom of the dish.  For the “taco-shop” treatment, dice the meat and toss in a pan over medium-high heat with the pan drippings.  This’ll give the edges a little crisp and infuse even more flavor.

¡Buen provecho!

Babes, What’s for Dinner: Caprese Steak atop Spinach Salad

It’s always been my dream to go to French cooking school.

So, Husfriend got me the next best thing as a wedding gift – French Canadian cooking school…online.  :)

This was one of the lessons that I tweaked and the result was phenomenal.  It made us feel very fancy.

What you will need:

  • 4 thick 6 oz steaks, trimmed of any excess fat or gristle
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 generous tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons gorgonzola
  • 16 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup dry good-enough-to-drink white wine
  • 2 tbsp Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 oz spinach (about 4 handfuls)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Before cooking, let the steaks sit out of the fridge for about an hour to come to room temperature.

To cook the dish, preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium to medium-high heat. We used our beloved cast iron braiser.  While the pan is heating, liberally season the steaks on all sides with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan, followed by the steaks. After about a minute and a half, turn the steaks over.

Continue to cook, turning the steaks every couple of minutes until done. Each time you turn the steaks, make sure you place them in the same spot so you don’t burn the glorious little flavor bits, the sucs, on the bottom of the pan – very important.  Continue flipping the steaks for about 5 to 10 minutes. The time will depend on the thickness of your steaks and how you like them cooked.  I have found that undercooking them ultimately yields the perfect doneness since they’ll be tented (and will continue to cook a little) while the sauce is being made.

When the steaks are done, transfer to a plate and tent and vent with a few slits.

If you’ve burnt your sucs, I’m not sure how’d you proceed from here.  Burnts sucs will yield a bitter sauce and starting sucless will yield less flavor.  :(

Assuming the sucs are nice and golden, add the tomatoes and let cook for about 30 seconds then deglaze with the wine.  Let the wine reduce, until it is a bit syrupy.

Then add the garlic and stir to combine. Once the tomatoes have softened and just start to break down, season with a bit of salt and pepper. At this point, turn off the heat and bring the tomatoes and sauce together in the center. Dollop on the mascarpone and sprinkle on the gorgonzola.  The residual heat from the pan will soften and slightly melt the cheeses. Finish the sauce by sprinkling the parsley and 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top.

While the cheese is melting, toss your salad with the balsamic, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice over the sauce. Place a bit of the salad onto a plate and top with one of the steaks. Spoon a few tablespoons of the sauce over each steak and serve.

Buon appetito!

Babes, What’s for Dinner: Caribbean Jerk Tri-Tip with Brown Rice and Peas

Husfriend is a well-traveled man who has been to many places on this planet.

I, on the other hand, not so much.  Aside from having been born in a land-locked country far, far away, I pretty much have only been to Tijuana, Mexico where I was detained by the US Border Patrol on my first visit.  I’m lucky like that.  I didn’t have it as bad as the poor girl who was made to spread eagle in her Quinceañera dress though.  :/

Of all his travels, Husfriend especially enjoyed the Caribbean.  Despite his pasty whiteness, it was as though he had returned to the motherland.  He loved the vibe and food.

For him, this recipe is as close as it comes to the original.  We’ve made it often.  This was the first time it was done with cow.  We usually have it with chicken.

The marinade is super simple and comprised of many things that we often already have around in the kitchen.

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 medium scallions
  • Scotch bonnet (or habanero) chili peppers, to taste – 1 pepper is spicy, 2 is über spicy
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Pulse everything in a food processor or blender until you get a watery paste.  This will yield approximately 3 cups of marinade.

Place in container with the meat for as-long-as-possible marination.  We did a 2-lb tri-tip for two nights in the fridge.

When it’s time to eat, start with making the rice and peas first.

  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 cups water
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • kosher salt, to taste

Sweat the onions and garlic in the oil.  Then stir in the rice until it absorbs the oil, about 5 minutes.  Add the liquids and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Fluff in the remaining ingredients and salt to taste.

The steak can be grilled or cooked in a broiler.  We opted for the broiler this time.  Cook your steak until the desired doneness. Take your tri-tip out when it reaches 145° for a medium-rare steak, or 160° for a medium steak.  Be sure to rest (the meat) before slicing.

Enjoy, mon!

Babes, What’s for Dinner: Rosemary Chicken with Pancetta

Our new favorite show is “Two Greedy Italians” from BBC Two.  It’s a fun show that follows two old chefs, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, around as they explore their roots in Italy.

They make the most amazing-looking food on the show.  Unfortunately, the recipes aren’t posted anywhere so the following is our attempt at recreating the featured deliciousness that Gennaro made with wild pheasant.

Considering that there aren’t too many wild pheasants roaming around Hollywood, we had to make do with some organic chicken drumsticks that were on sale at Sprouts.  Even with the organic chicken, the entire meal ended up being about $3 per serving and this configuration can serve two gluttonous individuals or three normal people:

  • 4± tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ lbs of bone-in chicken (in this instance, breast may not be best)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (ours were from our window box)
  • 12 slices of thinly sliced pancetta (about two slices per piece of chicken)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed with skin on
  • 1 dry chili pepper, broken up
  • 1 cup of Chardonnay (or any good-enough-for-drinking white wine will do)

First, fire up a skillet on medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Any heavy skillet with a lid or braiser will do.  We used our rarely-used cast iron tagine and it worked perfectly.

Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and lightly coat with flour.  Shake off the excess and brown the chicken in the by-now-should-be-hot-enough skillet.

Once the chicken is browned on both sides, lower the heat to medium-low, and add the chili pepper, garlic, pancetta and rosemary sprigs.

Cover and let cook for 5 minutes.

Then, add the white wine, cover and let cook for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare its perfect accompaniment, polenta.

  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of unsalted butter

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

Serve the chicken (and garlic) atop a healthy dollop of the polenta and be sure to drizzle with the braising liquid.

Buon appetito!

Babes, What’s for Dinner: Oyster Shooters and Wild Atlantic Salmon Pot Pie

As with most everything we make at home, our meals stem from cravings either of us are having at the moment or simply trying to recreate something we’ve had before.  This meal was a little of both.

Recently, a friend and I revisited a sushi restaurant in San Diego that we hadn’t been to in a few years.  It’s a more than 2-hour drive from Los Angeles and a half-hour drive from where I used to live in San Diego so it’s certainly not convenient.

But the one thing that makes the drive worthwhile is their oyster shooters, especially during Happy Hour when they’re only $1.50 a pop.  I’ve been known to put a few dozen away.  :)

Being that it was 2 hours away and nowhere near Happy Hour at three in the morning, I decided to recreate my own.  After some googling for a ponzu recipe and a quick trip to the 24-hour Ralph’s, we had the most amazing, and possibly even better than the original, oyster shooters.

The ponzu recipe, which I tweaked a little, is simple and tasty:

  • 3 tablespoons of mirin
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of tamari soy sauce
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of dashi
  • ¼ cup of fresh lime juice
I threw everything into a half-pint mason jar and shook until the dashi was dissolved.  This will definitely become a staple condiment in the refrigerator door.
All we had to do next was assemble the shooters:
  • oyster (ours were huge so we cut them into thirds)
  • a pinch of thinly sliced scallions
  • a pinch of sesame seeds
  • a tiny squeeze of Sriracha
  • a tiny dollop of masago
  • a tablespoon or two of the homemade ponzu
  • garnish with pickled burdock
With the $5 jar of oysters at Ralph’s, we were able to make a dozen shooters. Not too shabby…

Whilst googling, I also snagged a seasoned vinegar recipe for seasoned sushi rice for the main course, Wild Atlantic Salmon Pot Pie.

  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

This pot pie is also a take on a dish that I’ve had before in a now-long closed sushi restaurant in San Diego. They made theirs with yellowtail but I’m sure any firm fish would work.

Basically, I cook all grains – be it rice of any kind, quinoa, steel cut oats, etc. – all the same with my tried-and-true 2:3 ratio. Rinse grains feverishly until water runs clear then drain and let dry completely. Bring 2 parts grain and 3 parts liquid to boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer until all liquid is absorbed.

I cooked one cup of calrose rice, which yielded about two cups of cooked rice and fluffed it with the seasoned vinegar.

As for the topping, the following ingredients are combined according to preference.
  • 8 ounces of wild Atlantic salmon (we get ours from Costco where they’re pre-portioned in handy vacuum packs)
  • a big dollop, or two, or three, of masago
  • 4 tablespoons of Japanese kewpie mayonnaise
  • a big dollop of chili garlic sauce

You really can’t go wrong with putting too much or too little of anything.

Next, fill the pie tin with the seasoned rice, top with fish mixture and pop in broiler until golden crusty goodness appears (about 10ish minutes – check often).

Top with thinly sliced scallions, serve with lemon wedges and tamari soy sauce and savor…