Lunch at the Cabbage Patch + Summer Slaw Recipe

L.A. is HOT. The kind of hot that, as kids, meant slip 'n slides made their appearances on front lawns, hoses became cooling devices and frozen popsicles became regular afternoon treats. While a popsicle sure sounded nice earlier today, it didn't make the cut as a fulfilling, hot weather lunch. In this heat, there are few things you want to eat: I crave foods that are light yet filling, cool yet crisp, and healthy but full of flavor. So as we were out and about between errands, I'm so glad we stumbled upon the Cabbage Patch, a (somewhat) new sandwich, salad joint on Beverly Boulevard that focuses on sustainable, organic fare. And it just happened to have cool-down lunch options practically made for a hot-weather snap.

The Menu
I ordered a chopped salad filled with cabbage, radicchio, baby romaine, sheep's milk cheese, chickpeas, oregano and red wine vinaigrette. I added chunks of Jidori chicken (cage-free and raised locally in Southern California; a really big deal to me since I scared myself stupid by watched Food, Inc.). If you're not a chicken fan, there's also an option to add chopped salami. I really enjoyed the salad; it met all my criteria for lunch on a super hot day but truth be told, it could have used just a bit more dressing. To be clear, there are salad dressing lovers out there: the people who drown their salads with various oils, vinegars and dairy-based toppings. I'm not one of the those people. I use restraint with my dressing, but I will admit that this one was a bit under-dressed. No harm, no foul; just ask for some extra dressing and you're set to go.

Chopped Salad with Jidori Chicken
Bryan went for an oven-roasted turkey sandwich. His favorite turkey sandwich IN.THE.WORLD. comes from a tiny joint in San Carlos called Gracie's Delectables. Gracie, the namesake, roasts whole turkeys first thing in the morning, cuts the turkey breast right off the carcass before your eyes and adds it to your sandwich immediately after you order it. It's the epitome of made-to-order freshness, especially when it's served on homemade oatmeal bread. But I digress. When Bryan tasted the sliced turkey in the Cabbage Patch sandwich and remarked that the meat was similar to Gracie's, I knew we had a hit. He also liked that it was served simply with tomato, shaved parmesan, baby greens, aioli, and balsamic vinaigrette on seven grain bread. The sandwich comes with fries (no way on this hot day) or Cabbage Patch's signature slaw. You can see which one he chose. I liked the slaw so much that I've included the recipe below, courtesy of an interview the chef did with LA Weekly.

Oven-Roasted Turkey Sandwich on Seven Grain Bread
Since it was our first time at Cabbage Patch, we ordered a small side of French lentils, served cold with cilantro, cumin, avocado and lime juice. The avocado added a great, creamy touch to the cool lentils, the cumin wasn't overpowering and the tang from the lime juice was a great touch. Part of me wanted to dump it into my salad; which I think I might do next time!

French Lentils | cumin, cilantro, avocado & lime juice

On to the slaw. If you're a slaw fan like me, check out Cabbage Patch's recipe below. It's not creamy or too sweet like some slaws can be; it's got a bit of heat from cayenne pepper, crunch from toasted peanuts, lots of texture from sliced cabbage, jicama and radicchio and a flavorful dressing filled with champagne vinegar, honey, dijon mustard and spices. Since Summer is still in full-swing, it would be a perfect accompaniment for Labor Day BBQs. Enjoy!

Note: The dressing should be made first and the salad dressed to taste; any remaining dressing can be saved for another use. 
Makes: About 12 side salad portions

Cabbage Patch Signature Slaw
Dressing Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 cup peanut oil

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 3/4 cup Champagne vinegar

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Make the dressing: In a blender mix together the herbs, spices, honey, mustard, peanuts, and vinegar. Drizzle in the oils slowly, until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Slaw Ingredients
  • 1 large head of savoy cabbage, shredded thinly with a knife or a mandoline

  • 1 medium head of radicchio, shredded thinly with a knife or a mandoline

  • 1/2 of a large jicama, shredded thinly with a knife or a mandoline

  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 cup toasted peanuts, roughly chopped
Make the slaw: In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, radicchio, jicama and cilantro. Toss with dressing (to taste), season with salt and pepper (also to taste) and garnish with toasted peanuts. Divide between bowls and serve immediately.


Review: Test Kitchen's Red Medicine

Tonight I was one of the lucky few to get a reservation to Test Kitchen's second (of four) night schedule "testing" the menu for Red Medicine, L.A.'s upcoming punk-meets-Vietnamese restaurant. For a little background, Test Kitchen is a new restaurant concept by Bill Chait (Rivera, Spark Woodfire Grill) and Brian Saltsburg (Boyz Night Out Supper Club), giving some of L.A.'s top chefs a temporary space to "test" out dishes in the works for future restaurant projects. It's a brilliant concept; various chefs rotate through the Test Kitchen and share their potential plates with the palates of Angelenos.

Test Kitchen's Dining Room
Place Setting

Considering I live about a stone's throw from Red Medicine, I was very excited to taste Chef Jordan Khan's creations. Khan has previously described the restaurant's concept as "punk meets Vietnamese," while Test Kitchen website dubs it as "contemporary Vietnamese featuring local ingredients and modern cooking techniques." As a huge aficionado of Vietnamese cuisine, this thrilled me; I love the simple execution but bright, mind-blowing flavors in traditional Vietnamese dishes: homemade pork Banh Mi sandwiches with pickled carrots and cilantro, crisp green papaya salads, chicken meatballs in lettuce cups and glass noodle salads loaded with fragrant mint and basil, salty fish sauce, earthy peanuts and a spritz of tangy lime juice. For me, flavors just don't get better than that. Not to mention, anyone bold enough to describe their cuisine as punk is bound to have some serious rock star food.

My homemade Banh Mi Sandwich (recipe here)
We arrived right on time at 6pm -- Test Kitchen is located in the Pico Boulevard space that previously housed Spark Woodfire Grill -- and were immediately escorted to the bar. Matthew Doerr, Red Medicine's Bar Manager, was mixing up five featured cocktails as well as bespoke/dealer's choice libations. I ordered a bespoke cocktail -- "anything with basil and vodka in it" were my only instructions. The basil turned out to be wonderfully fragrant, with a hint of citrus from grapefruit juice and tartness from the ginger beer. My guest ordered the #5 (Red Medicine doesn't name their cocktails), made with Plymouth Gin, Lemon, cherry heering, kambucha and sparkling. His reaction? It was ordinary. However, later in the evening he ordered the #3, which was anything but ordinary, made with Redemption Rye 2yr, Luksusowa, pickled peaches, lime, mint and ginger beer. It was fantastic. I am not a whiskey drinker and the combination of the whiskey with the pickled seasonal peaches, hint of mint and lime was great.

Bespoke "Basil" Cocktail | Basil, ginger beer, grapefruit, vodka

The #5: Plymouth Gin, Lemon, cherry heering, kambucha, sparkling

The #3: Redemption Rye 2yr, Luksusowa, Pickled Peaches, Lime, Mint, Ginger Beer
We sat down and the dishes just started coming. The whole idea behind Test Kitchen is that, aside from cocktails, you're not ordering anything. There are no substitutions, there are no vegetarian options. There is a wave of twelve prix fixe, family-style dishes that just start making their way to your tabletop, ready or not. You're there as a test subject, not as a decision-making diner; which was just fine with us.

Test Kitchen's Red Medicine Menu
The servers were incredibly enthusiastic, attentive and for the most part, quite knowledgeable about each of the dishes coming from the kitchen. As you can see from the menu above there was no shortage to the ingredients in each dish, which has the potential to cause problems for both the servers' memories as well as the execution of the dishes themselves. Which unfortunately ended up being the case; while there were truly some dishes we enjoyed very much -- the green papaya salad, chicken dumplings, crispy Brussels sprouts, skirt steak and coconut bavarois were excellent stand-outs -- at the end of the day we felt as though Red Medicine was trying a bit too hard to transform Vietnamese food into extremely upscale fare. Which made me sad; any reflection of "punk" in Khan's Vietnamese cuisine was sadly missing. There is certainly a time and a place for modernizing indigenous cuisine -- Rick Bayless has mastered it in his conception of Topolobampo and most recently, L.A.'s very own Red O -- but Red Medicine's menu seemed to sacrifice bold Vietnamese flavors in favor of creative textures and edible, tweezer-appointed flora and fauna. To quote the great Coco Chanel, "Always take off your last accessory you put on." In my opinion, the same rule should be applied to Red Medicine's menu: less it more. Use less dehydrated coconut milk, charred friseé and puffed tapioca and more expressions of the bold Vietnamese flavors true fans of the cuisine know and love.

Again, this is only my opinion and there were some lovely dishes. The whole point of Test Kitchen is to gauge the reception of dishes being considered for a future restaurant concept, so I certainly cannot fault them for experimenting. It was clear that the kitchen was full of seasoned professionals, the wait staff was well trained and the owners were very invested in the success of the menu, welcoming us both in and out of the restaurant. But my idea of a true "test" kitchen would be to solicit the feedback of the diners themselves, especially those invested enough to make a reservation for an extremely limited, four-night run. Maybe it's my marketing research background coming into place, but it's just a thought.

Radishes | Coco-butter, lime, dried soy
Cured amberjack | Lime leaf, french melon, nuoc cham, bird chili, mint

Brussels sprouts | Caramelized shallots, fish sauce, prawn crackers

Tomatoes | Marinated in an infusion of their vines, silky tofu, crunchy tofu, herbs

Saigon tartine | Pork belly, pate, coriander, carrot pickle, green chili

Green papaya | Crispy taro, rau ram, fried shallots, peanuts

Caramelized chicken dumplings | Lemongrass, scallion, bibb lettuce

Baby carrots | Fermented black bean, star anise, coconut, tarragon

Bay scallops | Pomelo, young ginger, tamarind syrup, puffed tapioca, charred friseé

BEEF bavette | Bacon X.O., chinese eggplant, chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, sesame

Peaches | Crème de cassis, raspberry, condensed milk, tonic water sorbet, violet

Coconut bavarois | Coffee ice cream, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory


Heirloom Tomatoes + Burrata Cheese + Marcona Almonds = Amazing Salad

Forgive me, but I'm going to be controversial for a minute. I'm not a huge fan of chain restaurants. There, I said it. Before you get angry and start defending the "Cheesecake Factory/California Pizza Kitchen/insert chain restaurant here" let me explain. So many chain restaurants have huge, static menus, lack any resemblance of fresh, seasonal ingredients and don't show any creativity in their dishes. When I see that, it's a huge red flag that these restaurants lack the passion that I love to see from my favorite restaurants and chefs. While I certainly cannot say for sure, I would imagine they're not visiting the farmer's markets in the mornings, hand-picking the ripest heirloom tomatoes, juicy peaches and fragrant basil to use in dishes on that night's menu.

Again, before you get mad, let me be clear. Of course not ALL chain restaurants lack the inspiration and passion for truly creative, fresh and flavorful food. Case in point: Gulfstream, owned by the Hillstone Group, which also owns and operates Houstons, Bandera and R+D Kitchen. Several months ago I posted a recipe to Houston's famous Evil Jungle Thai Steak salad, one of my all-time favorite sweet, spicy and savory salads filled with medium rare steak, soba noodles, mint, cabbage, tomatoes, peanut and chili sauce. It's amazing. But that's another post.

Houston's Evil Jungle Thai Steak Salad
Today I want to talk about Gulfstream's seasonal heirloom tomato salad, topped with oozing, salty burrata cheese, crunchy Marcona almonds, a rich balsamic vinegar reduction and drizzle of green, almost grassy extra virgin olive oil.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Photo courtesy of GourmetGalleryWaco.com

Burrata Cheese
Photo courtesy of SaraRosso.com

Marcona Almonds
A trip to Whole Foods this afternoon inspired me to try my hand making this incredible salad at home, after a huge pile of red, green and yellow heirloom tomatoes caught my eye. I knew that Whole Foods also sold burrata cheese from Angelo & Franco, one of my favorite cheese companies, so I grabbed a red and yellow tomato, a container of burrata cheese, a small box of Marcona almonds (a flat, intensely crunchy almond from Spain) and some arugula, for some greens and good measure. At home, I chopped the tomatoes and sprinkled them with salt and pepper, pulled apart one small ball of burrata cheese with my fingers (hey, you've got to get dirty in the kitchen sometimes!) and layered it among the tomatoes, dropped a few almonds on the pile and finished it off with a few drizzles of an Italian balsamic reduction (balsamic vinegar boiled down until it thickens into a syrup-like consistency), extra virgin olive oil and some chopped arugula. Dinner, done and done. It was just amazing and dare I say it, better than Gulfstream's version.

My version of Gulfstream's heirloom tomato & burrata salad
I don't have an official recipe for this; I just eyed it. But if you'd like something more official, here's my best guess.

Heirloom Tomato + Burrata Salad
Makes two servings
  • Two medium-sized heirloom tomatoes (mix the colors for a beautiful result)
  • One container of Angelo & Franco Burrata Cheese (contains two balls)
  • 20 Marcona almonds (found in most specialty stores, or in Whole Foods' specialty section)
  • Drizzle of balsamic reduction
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • ~3 tablespoons chopped arugula (or simply rip it with your fingers and sprinkle on top)
Wash heirloom tomatoes and cut into large chunks. They don't have to uniform; in fact, they're more beautiful when they're totally different shapes and sizes. Separate on two plates. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Take one ball of burrata cheese and pull apart with your fingers. Spread the cheese around the plate, throughout the tomatoes. Drizzle balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil over tomatoes and cheese. Drop about 10 almonds around plate. Top with a a tiny bit of arugula and serve. Just make sure to have these ingredients on hand quite often, because people are going to request it. A LOT. :)


A Tribute to Family: Bryan's Turkey Burger Recipe

It's been just over two weeks since my last post. Things in our world were just thrown upside down, as two weeks ago Wednesday we received a call that Bryan's Auntie Judy had been admitted to the hospital. Needless to say we were shocked as Judy, one of Bryan's closest aunts, was always full of vigor and monitored her health very, very closely. It turns out, she played it her health card too close to the vest. Only 63 years old and married for 43 years, Judy had battled (and beat) breast cancer several years ago. However, a few years later the cancer came back near her stomach. Judy kept this news to herself -- undergoing many rounds of chemotherapy and various treatments alone -- preferring to spend quality time with her family and just-born granddaughter without causing them any worry. Well, after three years of fighting, the cancer had spread beyond repair and Judy was hospitalized. When we got the call, we dropped everything, packed our bags (and Charlie's) and drove up to the Bay Area. It was only then that we learned the truth and severity of the situation. After three days in the hospital and many visits by her loved ones, Judy passed away peacefully with her husband and sister-in-law by her side.

Needless to say the past week-and-a-half has been incredibly emotional as we've all comes to terms with the situation. Whether we agree with Judy's decision is beside the point; we just lost one of the most fun-loving, straight-shooting, brave and compassionate women in our world. Judy was more than just Bryan's aunt; she was a second mom, a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen. We love her very much and she will be missed more than she'll ever know.

This family recipe, courtesy of my husband, is for Judy.
All that said, it's a bit hard for me to just jump back into blogging. However, I think I've got the perfect post to get back into the spirit: a family recipe. It might not be Judy's famous ziti, but it's one of my favorite recipes that just happens to come from my husband, Bryan. It's comforting, it's delicious and he's been making it since we first started dating, making minor adjustments throughout our relationship and finally perfecting it just a few weeks ago. What is it? A turkey burger, dubbed by yours truly as the Bishop Burger. It's a staple in our household and I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do.

Bishop's Burgers

  • 3/4 lb of ground turkey meat
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard (dijon works as a substitute)
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 3 tablespoons feta cheese
  • 1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beer (for the handsome cook)
  • Sliced tomatoes, for topping
  • Grilled onion, for topping
  • 1 ciabatta bun, brushed with extra virgin olive oil and toasted on grill
Heat grill over medium high. Mix turkey meat, egg white, olive oil, spicy mustard, onion, garlic, feta cheese, Worcestershire, salt and pepper until throughly combined. Bryan always does this with his hands, as you can feel the ingredients come together. Form into two patties and set aside.

Bryan working his burger magic...

Mix all ingredients and form patties
Heat the grill over medium high heat and cook the turkey burgers until done, about four minutes on each side. Remove from grill, cover in foil and let rest for a moment.

Grill the turkey burgers until cooked through, about four minutes per side.

Add the buns to the grill and remove the burgers. Set aside and let rest.
In the meantime, add buns to the grill (sliced side down) and let brown for a minute or two. Watch them closely so they do not burn. Remove from grill, top with a turkey patty and add your favorite toppings and condiments!

We grilled some onions; they're one of my all-time favorites.
We threw some onion slices on the grill for fun and added it to layers of crisp lettuce, thick steak tomatoes (sprinkled with salt and pepper, of course) and spicy mustard. I opted out of the bun, using iceberg lettuce leaves as a wrap instead.

Layer your favorite toppings and add a fun side dish, like grilled corn!


How To Make Gorgeous Homemade Sugar Cookies At Home. Move Over, Cookies By Design.

Last weekend I co-hosted a baby shower for one of my closer high school friends. Since it's been almost twenty years since we met at the tender age of 13 (eek!) and this is her first baby, I wanted to make it really special. And since I show my love mostly through food and wine, I figured there was no better for way than to make some really fantastic desserts for the shower. It was an outdoor garden party, so I consulted with my friend, professional baker and owner of Bakelab, Kristin Feuer, about what to make. She shared her go-to sugar cookie and royal icing recipes with me and I was off to the races, making flower-shaped cookies. On a stick. Stuck into miniature flower pots. I've got to say they turned out amazing and they were a total hit at the party. They tasted even better than they looked, which is always a great thing! Most importantly, people couldn't believe the cookies were homemade so I figure if I can do it, YOU can do it. Hence why I'm sharing the recipe and the steps to making fantastically delicious, hand-piped sugar cookies.

Flower Pot Party Favors!

Sugar Cookies
  • 25 ounces (3 cups, 1 ounce) pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • 11 ounces (1 cup, 3 ounces) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound (equivalent of four sticks) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla (I prefer Madagascar vanilla paste)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Royal Icing
Yields approximately 2 1/2 cups
  • 16 ounces powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 large egg whites (I used pasteurized egg whites in a carton, which is safer for pregnant women and children)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
To make the sugar cookies: Add all dry ingredients into a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on LOW until combined. If you put it on a higher setting, you'll end up wearing the dry ingredients. With mixer running on low, add in the cold butter pieces a few at a time until a crumbly, wet dough starts to form. You may to increase to speed as the dough thickens. Make sure you do not let it come together into a ball of dough, as you still have to add the cream cheese and vanilla paste. With the mixer still running, add the vanilla paste and cream cheese and mix on low until dough forms large clumps. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead lightly to finish. Break the dough into four equal portions and rap in plastic (13-14 oz. each). Chill for at least an hour, then roll out until the dough is 3/8”-1/4” thick. Cut or shape as desired. Re-roll scraps only once. Freeze shapes before baking and do NOT thaw before putting them in the oven. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat (nonstick) liner, add the frozen shapes and bake until the edges are a light golden brown and the center feels just set.

Important note about the dough: Since the dough is make primarily of butter, it softens very, very quickly. If you need it to harden a bit before working with it, I roll out the dough between two wax sheets of paper . That way, if it gets too soft, I can throw it back into the freezer for a few moments and then bring it back out. That way none of the dough sticks to your counter top or cutting board, either!

To make the royal icing: Put sifted powdered sugar and cream of tartar into the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. (I found you can also do this in a large bowl with a stainless steel whisk). Start the mixer running and begin streaming in the egg whites, mixing until the mixture comes together and resembles the consistency of toothpaste. If you need to, go check your tube of toothpaste. It doesn't run out of the tube or leak. It's a pretty sturdy consistency. If icing is too thick, as a tiny bit more egg white -- a little bit goes a LONG way -- until the proper consistency is achieved. If the icing is too thin, add a little more sifted powdered sugar until you get the consistency you're after. Store the icing in an airtight container, with a damp paper towel pressed to the surface of the icing. Wrap in plastic wrap twice. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Keeps about 3-4 days.

Okay, now let's get to the good stuff... how to make and decorate the cookies!

Combine dry ingredients with butter until it forms dough chunks

Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix until combined

Separate dough into four equal packs; chill for at least an hour

Roll out dough to 3/8”-1/4” thick, cut as desired. For easy clean-up, I roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper and used a 4" flower cookie cutter.

While dough is soft, insert 6" - 8" lollipop sticks into each cookie, gently pressing down. Cover with second piece of wax paper, transfer to freezer and freeze until solid, at least one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookies on parchment-lined sheet pan stick-side down.

Bake until edges are light golden brown and centers feel set. Let cool for a few moments before transferring to a cooling rack.

Mix a batch of royal icing and depending on how many colors you need, you may want to separate it into bowls. Then, using food coloring (I prefer professional-grade food coloring), mix the icing until it's the shade/consistency you're looking for. Insert into a piping bag and begin to decorate your cookies. I piped an outer edge on my flowers.

Once the edges were dry -- it just takes a few moments -- I "flooded" each petal with a lighter blue, thinner consistency royal icing. Tip: Do this one flower at a time, otherwise your icing will set before you're able to spread the icing to the edges of each petal (see next photo).

Working one flower at a time, I used a toothpick to spread the icing to the edges and completely fill each petal with icing.

I added orange icing for the centers of the flowers and let them dry. Once all the flowers were dry I gently slipped them into cellophane bags and tied personalized tags with green ribbon.

I shredded some green tissue paper in a shredder, stuffed it into a miniature flower pot and added the flower. Each flower was used both as a name place and a party favor!

Here are the tables set up with the flower pots in place. They were a hit!
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