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Chakchouka à la Moncef

29 Nov

Chakchouka is a fried pepper and vegetable dish that is as commonly served in Tunisian kitchens as are hot dogs at American ball parks.  Chakchouka is an incredibly flavorful dish that emerged from a country that is a bustling crossroad of French, Italian and Arab cultures.  Since Italy is just a hop across the picturesque Mediterranean, many Tunisian dishes have been influenced by Italian culinary traditions.  Not only do both countries share the same passion for fresh ingredients and lively tomato based dishes, but both also view food as a hub that strengthens bonds between gathering friends and families.  Chakchouka is one of my favorite things to eat in Tunisia because it can be eaten at any time of the day and the spices always enhance the inherent flavors of the fresh veggies.  My father’s recipe puts a nice twist on the traditional version by adding potatoes – making this the perfect entrée for an easy Sunday brunch.

Ingredients

  •  1 red and 1 green bell pepper (cut into thin slices, about 2 inch long pieces)
  • 1 medium size yellow onion (chopped or finely sliced)
  • 1 medium size potato (skinned and diced into about 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes (seeded, diced into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 medium size zucchini (1/4 inch thick half circles)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 2 gloves of garlic (1 finely diced, 1 quartered)
  • 4 oz. of plain tomato sauce
  • 1 Tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 Tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbl. chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbl. chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 Tbl. chopped green onion
  • olive oil

Preparation

  1. In a medium size skillet over medium heat, lightly fry potatoes in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until slightly browned and almost tender. Salt lightly then set aside.
  2. Repeat step 1 with the zucchini.  Cook until they are still slightly firm but nearly edible. They will be cooked more later, so be careful to not overcook.
  3. Preferably in a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tbl. of olive oil. Sauté the onions on medium-high heat for about 4 min or until translucent.
  4. Add the bell peppers to the onions. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the cilantro.
  5. Cook the mixture for 1-2 more minutes then add all of the garlic, coriander and caraway, mix well.
  6. Add the tomato sauce to the mixture and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes – stir on occasion until the sauce has thickened.
  7. Once the mixture has thickened, distribute the potatoes and zucchini evenly on top and push them gently into the mixture.
  8. Simmer uncovered for 3 more minutes on medium-low heat.
  9. With the back of a large spoon, make depressions for the eggs on top of the Chakchouka (creating a “nest” for the eggs so they are contained and do not run all over the top).
  10. Carefully crack the eggs into the nests. Salt and pepper them,  then top the dish with chopped Italian parsley and green onions.
  11. Broil the entire skillet in the oven for about 3-5 minutes or until eggs are set and no longer translucent – make sure the yolk is still soft and runny.

Serve right away and enjoy.  The secret is to not overcook the Chakchouka, and as my grandmother, Meherzia, used to say, “You must eat it live!”

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Ludo Ludo LudoTruck!

7 Sep

Chef Ludo Lefebvre has undoubtedly made his culinary mark here in Los Angeles.  Upon completing his 13 year culinary training in France, Chef Ludo immigrated to LA in his early 20’s and quickly became executive chef at acclaimed local restaurants, L’Orangerie and Bastide.  Soon thereafter, Ludo was a top contender on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters and created his infamous LudoBites – a “touring” restaurant event where the Chef takes over an existing restaurant’s space for roughly a month and works his culinary magic for LA foodies.

When he’s not busy planning his next LudoBites event, Chef Ludo also has his LudoTruck.  Serving up tasty finger food with a unique twist – this massive, bright-red kitchen on wheels is difficult to miss when cruising the LA streets.  Although Ludo has described his culinary style as “French with an international flavor,” for me, LudoTruck is the perfect diversion from Chef Ludo’s traditional gourmet fare.  This time, he takes tasty standard American staples (fried chicken, wings, slaw and fries) and infuses them with French-based sauces, spices and methods of preparation that subtly enhance and exceptionalize the standard food truck experience.

LudoTruck Menu:

Provencal Pepittes (fried chicken bites crusted with breadcrumbs and herbs de Provence)

Honey-Garlic Glazed Wings

Crunchy Buttermilk Strips

Ludo’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich (with cole slaw and béarnaise mayo on toasted pain de mie)

“Perfect 3-day French-Fries” & Ludo’s Cole Slaw

Homemade Sauces:  BBQ, Béarnaise, Honey-Whole Grain Mustard

In the Midst of Delish Food Domination

Follow LudoTruck on Twitter @LudoTruck, to see the next time you can score these treats in your area!

5 Foods Friday: 5 Things to Eat at Outside Lands

12 Aug

For music, food and general San Francisco enthusiasts like myself, it really doesn’t get much better than the Outside Lands Festival.  With  great musical performances, an entire giant tent dedicated to wine and seeminlgy endless food offerings, my visit to SF’s annual music, food, wine and art festival is long overdue.  After disecting the “Taste of the Bay Area” lineup for this weekend… I’ve carefully chosen my top 5 must-try festival foods.

1.  Arepas – Pica Pica Maize Kitchen

Indigienous to mainlyVenezuela and Columbia – Arepas are a moist and tasty corn dough treat that are typically stuffed with melted cheese and meat.  They are easy to eat and walk around with and keep you full for awhile, a perfect festival food!

2.  Hawaiian Poke and Baja Shrimp Ceviche – Pacific Catch 

Typical poke consists of cubed raw yellowfin tuna that is mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed and chili pepper.  It is full of dynamic flavors that serve to enhance the natural taste of the fresh tuna.  Pacific Catch has a famous restaurant in the Marina District of San Francisco that I’ve been wanting to try –  so as long as all this fresh raw fish is kept firmly on ice, I will most definitely be trying the poke and ceviche at this festival food stand.

3.  Uhhmazing chicken, beef and carnitas tacos and burritos – Gordo Taqueria

When I lived in the Bay Area during college, Gordo’s was THE spot to hit up for some real Mexican food that reminded me of my hometown, San Diego.  Gordo’s is a huge must for me!

4. Po’boys (Shrimp, BBQ Pork, Southern Fried Chicken) – Criolla Kitchen 

Even though these may get a little messy and difficult to eat while walking around a festival, good po’boys are crispy and always packed full of flavor.  The perfect po’boy must be eaten right away and it’s all about the freshness of the bread roll.

5.  Filet Mignon Sliders, Portobello Mushroom Sliders, BBQ drumsticks – Up & Under

I have a strange obsession with sliders and pretty much anything that’s cute and mini-sized (i.e. mini Tabasco bottles).  Sliders with filet mignon and portobellos + BBQ drumsticks…who can resist? I’ll take 2 of each please.

This weekend at Outside Lands, I will eat my heart out and dance my ass off.  I’ll be sure to report back with photos…

5 Foods Friday: 5 Best Things in LA to Eat with your Hands

5 Aug

On whole, I find utensils pretty overrated.  Since the foods I enjoy the most are the ones where I get to toss the spork aside and use my hands, I’ve decided to do my first 5  Foods Friday post – a weekly themed list of my top 5 fave foods/places to eat.  This week’s theme: Best things in LA to eat with your hands.  Before eating, please wash those hands first, your cell phone probably has more bacteria on it than a gas station toilet. Yummm.  So with that said…let’s eat!

1.  Umami Burger

This place is definitely an LA staple and on any given night you’ll find crowds of people waiting to get the infamous Truffle, So Cal, or Umami burgers into their hot little hands.  For blue cheese fanatics, the Port & Stilton burger is a must.  The juicy beef patty is loaded with Stilton blue cheese and caramelized onions – which serve as a perfectly sweet contrast to the sharp, full-bodied cheese. 

If the rich and amazingly flavorful burgers aren’t enough for you, Umami also has housemade, crispy cheesy tots, onion rings and they even make their own ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, jalapeno ranch and spicy diablo sauce.  Wash it all down with fresh watermelon juice or a deliciously sugary glass bottled Coke.

Umami Burger: Juicy Beef (ground in-house), Roasted Tomato, Parmasean Crisp

2.  Cielito Lindo: Taquitos

Located on the corner of Downtown’s Olvera Street Marketplace, this famous little stand sells the most incredible taquitos I’ve ever tasted.  They are freshly made to order, pan fried to a perfect crisp and topped with an amazingly flavorful  salsa verde and avocado sauce.  The true flavor of the taquitos and fresh tortillas aren’t drowning under heaps of shredded lettuce, they look simple but once you bite into one, the sauce perfectly enhances the taquito’s juicy meat and crispy yet soft texture.   At $6 for a tasty combo plate, Cielito Lindo really can’t do any wrong.

3.  Haru Sushi & Roll Cafe: Lava Stone & Albacore Onion Roll

I know you “technically” should be using chopsticks for anything sushi related, but sometimes the rolls get just a little too big and crazy, and I’m forced to view these delish pop-ems as more of a finger food.  Haru is undoubtedly one of my favorite spots in LA for a sushi feast.  The Lava Stone (crispy rice topped with spicy tuna, black caviar and avocado), Albacore Onion roll (spicy tuna roll covered with albacore, topped with lightly fried onion strips)
and the Yellowtail and Jalapeno Carpaccio are my consistent go-tos on the menu.

4.  Mendoncino Farms: Korbuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

This place has superb sandwiches and super fresh ingredients that never fail to impress.  Along with the DTLA masses, my favorite sandwich here is the Korbuta Pork Belly Banh Mi.  It’s not a completely traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi, but this version does great justice to the original.  The sandwich has tender braised and caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots (which balance the subtle sweetness of the pork), cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos and chili aioli all on a grilled ciabatta.  The only drawback is that once you’ve experienced all these explosive flavors on your palate, you’ll crave this sandwich on the daily.

5. Fugetsu-Do Bakery: Mochi 

Even though I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, I have to give a shout out to Fugetsu-Do Bakery in Little Tokyo for their amazing Mochi (small gooey Japanese rice cake deliciousness).  This 100 yr-old Japanese bakery in Downtown LA remains family owned and makes the best Japanese desserts – no Mochi compares to the lightly sweetened treats made here.  Their specialty is the strawberry mochi with a crunchy peanut butter filling.  Even though this flavor combo may sound a little off, the amazingly chewy texture of the outside strawberry mochi perfectly compliments the soft peanut butter filling.  Plus, you get to hang out with possibly the sweetest woman in the world…

 

Now go roam the LA culinary streets and dig in!  It tastes better that way.  Stay posted for 5 Foods Friday next week!  Also feel free to leave theme suggestions if you so dare.

One Delish Dish at “WoodSpoon”

19 May

Being that I don’t venture out to Downtown LA as much as I’d like to, I’ve completely missed out on great places such as this tasty Brazilian hideout for far too long.  My dinner at WoodSpoon gave me a million reasons to explore Downtown eateries more often – WoodSpoon serves an assortment of freshly grilled Brazilian meats, fried dumplings, juicy burgers, short rib stews, handmade chicken pot pies and of course, Sangria to wash it all down.  Since Brazil has had centuries of immigrants bringing their respective cuisine and cultures from every corner of the globe (i.e. Portugal, Spain, Germany, Japan, Italy and Lebanon), there is no shortage of remarkable food in this country. Restaurant owner and Brazil-native Natalia Pereira, successfully provides amazing homemade Brazilian comfort food with all locally farmed, quality ingredients.  

WoodSpoon

Brazilian Sausage w/rice, beans, plantains and collard greens

Pork Burger w/roasted cabbage, onions on toasted potato bread and yam fries

Don’t let this messy looking mound fool you, this perfectly prepared burger is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Amazing Mix Plate - Coxinha, Potato Croquette, Portuguese Croquette, Pastel Portuguese, Kibe

Showcase of Brazil’s Popular Street Foods (aka little delish fried treasure balls)

Coxinha: Shredded chicken and spices

Potato Croquette: Mashed potato and cheese

Portuguese Croquette: Potato salted Cod

Pastel Portuguese: Dumpling stuffed with shrimp, coconut sauce

Kibe: Bulgur wheat, mint and ground beef (Middle Eastern inspired)

*All served with a tasty green chili pepper/cilantro mayo dip

Inside a Coxinha

Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie - fresh out of the oven, so fresh it scorched my starvingly impatient mouth

Sorry Marie Callender but WoodSpoon has got you BEAT in the Chicken Pot Pie department

Doesn’t get much better than moist grilled chicken wrapped w/perfectly crisped bacon.
Very simple, colorfully cute and clean decor – reminiscent of an authentic Brazilian eatery w/a little LA twist

Loved the food, coziness and everything about WoodSpoon!  I shall return with a quickness.

Click here to read more on the chef’s unique upbringing and how it shaped her beliefs on what constitutes a top-notch meal.   

107 West 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213.629.1765

One Delish Dish at “The Little Next Door”

9 May

Every time I’m at El Carmen fulfilling my incessant taco & margarita craving, I always seem to catch myself peeking over at the bustling patio next door.  Any restaurant overflowing with lively patrons always intrigues me, so needless to say, this wonderful French bistro immediately caught my eye. 

I finally had the pleasure of eating at The Little Next Door and my palate was jumping for joy.  This great restaurant not only had the adorably inviting decor of a traditional Parisian bistro or pâtisserie  (even down to the woven chairs and authentically Frenchie waiters), but it also had some amazing cuisine to support the ambiance.  

 Our Dinner:

Appetizers   Chef’s Special (cured meats, pate and yummy cheese plate)

                             Grilled Calamari Salad

                             Creole Soup (with shrimp and crisped bacon)

Entrees         Lamb Couscous (w/zucchini, carrots, garbanzo beans)

                            Steak au poivre (grilled skirt steak w/green peppercorn sauce)

                            Moules-frites (creamy white whine and shallot steamed mussels)

Dessert        Assortment of macaroons: Coconut, Lavender, Chocolate, Praline, Coffee,  Pistachio, Cookies & Cream

Outside patio area - great place for brunch or an early dinner

Amazing charcuterie and cheese plate

Gettin down on these succulent bad boys (aka Moules-frites)

Wine and moules make her pensive...

The steak screamed out "Eat Me," so we did...

Digging into the tasty treats

The Little Next Door – 8164 W 3rd Street Los Angeles – (323) 951-1010

I will most definitely be back again for dinner or a famous Little Next Door brunch!

Get your Matzah Brei on…

26 Apr

So I realize I am a few hours late for my One Delish Dish shout out to Passover and all of its culinary delights, but I’m hopeful that my tasty twist on Matzah Brei can be enjoyed at anytime of the year.  Among the Gefilte fish, bitter herbs and zero-yeast policy, Passover isn’t typically known as the holiday filled with amazing cuisine.  However, my close friend and fellow “Jewish-insider,” Jonathan Cohen, told me that Matzah Brei is the way to go during Passover – well, that and Matzah pizza, but I could never deal with a dough-less pizza.  That’s just not happening, I love a good dough a little too much.

Matzah Brei is an easy, healthier alternative to quiche that’s super tasty when spiced up a bit.  It’s basically softened matzah that is mixed with eggs and either made into a frittata-type cake or broken up into pieces.  It can be prepared in a savory style (served with meat, onions, chives and/or sour cream), or a sweet style (served with cinnamon, sugar and jam).  Since I would pick a cheeseburger over a cupcake any day, I chose to go the more savory route.  They key is to make it as crispy as possible on the outside (without charring it of course).

To make this you need:

– 4 or 5 pieces of matzah

– 4 eggs

– about 10 finely chopped chives

– 1/4 cup of fried onions (either freshly fried or dehydrated)

– salt and pepper to taste

– 2 teaspoons of garlic powder

– 1 tablespoon of butter

– 3 strips of turkey bacon, chopped into small pieces

– one large dollop of sour cream

avocado slices

Preparation:  In a large bowl, break the matzah into bite-sized pieces, then pour hot water over them (enough to cover).  As soon as the matzah is soft, drain out the excess water.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Then add the eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chopped chives to the softened matzah, mix and set aside.  Heat the butter in the frying pan and fry the chopped turkey bacon.  When the turkey bacon is crispy, pour the egg/matzah mixture over it and let the mixture cook over medium heat.  I prefer to cook this like a frittata, so allow it brown and crisp on one side, then carefully flip it either by hand or with a spatula.  After both sides are crisped, slide it onto a plate and top it off with some sour cream, avocado slices and fresh chives.  You can either cut it up and serve it like a quiche, or simply dig in with a fork.  Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner…and of course, don’t forget the Tapatio!


 

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