Tag Archives: lunch

Recipe for Sunday Brunch: Mini Artichokes with Curry Mayo

mini-artichokes-curry

Mini Artichokes with Curry Mayo

More than 30 years ago, I was asked to help host a baby shower for a close girlfriend. I said yes, of course. Then, I was asked to contribute a dish for 25-30 women for brunch! That was a little daunting, as I’d never done anything for that many people, much less a dish that was going to be on display. And then, my crazy kicked in. I decided that it would be great fun to do mini artichokes stuffed with a curry mayo. I have no idea where that came from but it sounded like something I would want to eat at a ladies brunch. Did I mention that this was July in Los Angeles and over 95 degrees outside? Mayonnaise stuffed anything? In that heat? Here is what I did and they’re still talking about it 30 years later!

Ingredients

  • 75 baby artichokes
  • Mayonnaise (I use Best Foods because I like the taste)
  • Curry Powder
  • Salt
  • White Pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • Fresh Lemon Juice

Instructions

  1. Begin by trimming the artichokes’ ugly outer leaves. Cut off about the top ¼ and cut the stem completely off (so they will stand). I left several of the dark green outer leaves on, as I wanted the color (and back then I had no idea you were supposed to trim all of the dark leaves off).
  2. Put them in a covered pot of boiling water.
  3. Boil for about 15-20 minutes (time varies depending on how many you are cooking at the same time). I imagine I made them in a couple of batches, as I didn’t have really big pots then.
  4. Stand them up on cookie sheets and put them in the refrigerator to cool.
  5. While they are cooling, mix together: Mayonnaise, Curry Powder, Salt, White Pepper (the black will show), Onion Powder (very little to taste), Fresh Lemon Juice (very very little to taste)
  6. Taste this as you go along and adjust the seasoning to your own palate.
  7. Now comes the tricky part. Take the chilled artichokes out and VERY CAREFULLY dig out the centers (the part with the little hairs) making sure to leave the heart intact. Use the back of the smallest spoon you have. I used toothpicks to hold the leaves apart while I was finishing cleaning the centers out and put them back to chill some more.

After they are all cleaned out, carefully put some of the mayo/curry mix into the center of each artichoke. Et Voila! They each have their own dipping sauce. I placed them side by side on a large platter and served. An impressive dish that wasn’t complicated, just time consuming but all in all worth it for the WOW factor – perfect for a brunch.

SĀMBĀR: Craving Indian Cuisine in Los Angeles

SĀMBĀR

I love Indian food, but my favorite place closed a few years ago. I hadn’t been able to find a new place to satisfy my craving until recently when one of my best friends, Akasha Richmond, opened SĀMBĀR in Culver City, CA.

If you’re looking for wonderful flavors presented in a slightly untraditional way, then SĀMBĀR needs to be on your list of go-to restaurants. They’ve recently opened for lunch and have some fantastic salads and Kati Rolls on the menu if you want something lighter. For dinner, they offer a curry I thought I’d never eat in Los Angeles – Truck Stop Goat Curry. Don’t let the goat scare you. If I tell you it’s amazing – I wouldn’t be exaggerating. They have beautiful little samosas, oven roasted curried cauliflower and yogurt roasted vegetables to mention just a few of their vegetarian offerings. All of their sauces and chutneys are made in-house – the best! Their bar is incredibly creative, as well, with unusual spiced cocktails (using infused alcohols and flavors that are inspired by the cuisine), punches and their own take on the classics. Clare Ward, who created them all, is a genius and you’ll see her behind the bar most nights. For dessert, they serve a wonderful food memory of mine – soft serve ice cream. Oh my! Run, don’t walk. You won’t be disappointed.

The Quest for Food Memories

old-fashioned-cookbook-300wAs long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading recipes. I didn’t cook them often while I was growing up, but I loved reading them. Reading cookbooks was a favorite too. While I was reading a recipe that caught my eye, I would imagine the steps the chef was taking and how the meal would appear; how it smelled and tasted. I guess this was the beginning of my love for food and feeding people. I still have a Chinese food cookbook from the 1940’s that was way out of print when I bought it at a used bookstore. I don’t cook Chinese food at all (I’ve always imagined it to be way too complicated), but I loved reading the recipes.

The funny thing is that I didn’t learn any of this from my parents or grandparents. My Grandmother could make one thing really well – Boston Cream Pie – FROM A BOX.  But, I asked for it every birthday. It’s comfort food for me, and I can’t find it anywhere the way she would make it. I always joke that my mother could burn boiling water. Yet, she could bake up an amazing pie crust (which has yet to be replicated-even by my niece who’s an amazing baker) and great rum balls that my parents gave as gifts every holiday season. I still remember sheet trays of them drying on top of the refrigerator.

My father always cooked the Thanksgiving turkey and then made a fabulous Turkey carcass soup with barley, another comfort food memory. He also made a Russian peasant dish with noodle dough and mashed potatoes and onions. This I will try to find a way to duplicate some day. The last time he made it was on my kitchen table more than 20 years ago. I wish I would have written the noodle dough recipe down. I can duplicate the potato/onion/chicken fat mixture for the filling but can’t do the noodle dough! So annoying! He didn’t make the dinners but again, what he made well was amazing.

The first meal I made for entertaining was dinner for my Junior Prom date in High School. I still remember it – marinated Lamb and a savory rice. It wasn’t anything I had ever made before or since but it was a definite hit then! I still have my recipe box from that time with 3×5 index cards filled with recipes that I wanted to cook. My handwriting was SO good back then. If I attempted that now, I wouldn’t be able to read one ingredient!

Sfixio, Discover Your Secret Italian

I’m going to make a confession here – my favorite cuisine is Italian and my hands-down favorite Italian restaurant is Sfixio in Beverly Hills, CA.

It’s the closest to any food I’ve eaten in Italy that I can find in the States. So, think of it as getting your Italian fix, without the expense of traveling to that gorgeous place – imagine, Firenze in the spring.

Sfixio means “on a whim” in Italian slang and I’m so glad that Mara and Massimio (husband and wife owners) decided to open this “on a whim” in 2011.  At the time, I lived almost down the street and walked by one evening looking for a place to have dinner and went in.  I am SO glad I did.  It has been my “go to” place for a birthday celebration, the place I always take friends that I want to impress with great food but it’s especially my favorite when I don’t want to eat at home and am craving some fabulous Italian food (can you say all the time?).

Mara, who rules the front of house, is from Milan and Massimo, who’s the master in the kitchen, is from Florence so the atmosphere and cuisine are definitely Northern Italian.  This means a lighter hand in the kitchen and dining room- not your typical Italian (dark wood, red table cloths, etc.) restaurant atmosphere.  They have no freezer so everything is fresh including the pasta that is made to order and not before.

Do not expect huge American portions – these are the same size portions you will find in Italy.  That means that you eat courses here – you will not get a heaping bowl of pasta (actually they never use bowls for pasta) so don’t expect one.  Pasta is a course in Italy, and not a main course, a Primi Piatti – First Course.  That being said, I’ve come in for a simple salad and a pasta and been completely satisfied.  The sauces are always light and never over powering.

If you like truffle you must try their Truffle Caviar Pasta.  It’s a signature dish and not on the menu.  Do not expect caviar in the pasta as there isn’t any.  The caviar in the name refers to the shape of the little beads of truffle that are tossed in the fresh pasta.  This truffle caviar is imported from Italy regularly and is incredible tasting and incredibly rich in flavor.  This is a dish that contains cream as well so it’s not exactly dietetic but DEFINITELY worth the calories.  Amazing, to say the least, and worth every fabulous review it receives.

They have a wonderful whole grilled Branzino but my favorite fish on their current menu is the Salmon with Caponata.  They used to have it only as a special when Massimo would make the Caponata but it was so wonderful they’ve finally put it on their regular menu.  I can’t resist.  They also serve some wonderful beef, veal and chicken so everyone has something they can order.

Please save room for dessert.  I’m not a big sweet eater but Massimo’s desserts are so light I always save room.  My favorite is Ricottina con Amarene- a fresh ricotta served with imported Italian cherries.  Perfect.