Weekend Eats: Good Food Day's Cabbage Cooking Contest

Cabbage: Love It or Hate It?
Photo: Wikipedia
Cabbage. I can't think of a more polarizing food. Some people love its signature stink, waxy leaves, and rubbery post-boil texture. Others hate it, well, for the exact same reasons. If you're like me and fall in in the former camp, you might want to check out this Sunday's "From Kim Chee to Cole Slaw" cabbage cooking contest, the closing event of Good Food Day at downtown's Metabolic Studios. Heck, you can even throw your best cabbage recipe into the pot (literally).

"From Kim Chee to Cabbage" dishes are judged in three categories: Best Fermented Dish (sauerkraut, kim chee, etc.), Best Fresh Dish (coleslaw, curtido, etc.), and Best Cooked Dish (cabbage rolls, cabbage soup, etc.) Judges include the Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, Councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, Chef Josiah Citrin of MelisseA Champions for Change mom and one special local farmer (not announced at time of release). 

Mmm... Kim Chee!
Photo: Fabulous Foods
Of course, there are some rules for participants, but you can read about them here along with Sunday's judging schedule. If you want to add your cabbage recipe to the tasting, email Joyce Chan at joyce@see-la.org with your name, email address, phone number and the category you are entering (fermented, fresh or cooked). Or, if you've got questions, feel free to call her at (323) 463-3171.

"From Kim Chee to Cabbage" is part of Good Food Day LA, a citywide event dedicated to learning about, celebrating and volunteering to strengthen Los Angeles' local food system, namely every food source within 200 miles of our sprawling metropolis. Mayor Villaraigosa and the LA Food Policy Council has made Good Food Day LA an official day of service and has dedicated over 40 sites to planting and harvesting crops, seasonal cooking and food sustainability workshops. 


April 28: The 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational!

I've said time and time again, put dessert in front of me and I'll pass on it every time. But give me a great piece of artisanal cheese -- stinky Fontina, nutty Gruyere, ooey-gooey Brie, or chunks of aged Parmesan -- and I'll fight for it tooth and nail. This slightly irrational love for all things cheese causes me to get equally irrationally excited for a certain Grilled Cheese Invitational, happening Saturday, April 28, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Lot K of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.   

There are three ways to register for the event: as a participant (amateur chefs = $25; professional chefs = $50), as a judge ($25), or as someone who gets to casually stroll around and eat your weight in grilled cheese ($15). I know which direction I'd go; how about you?

If you want to put your best grilled cheese up against other would-be winners, there are four "sammich" categories to consider:
  • Love, American Style: White bread, butter, orange cheese (American or Cheddar). Nothing else.   
  • The Missionary Position: Any type of bread, butter and cheese. No additional ingredients.   
  • The Kama Sutra: A sandwich of the savory nature, with any type of bread, butter and cheese PLUS additional ingredients, and the interior ingredients must be at least 60% cheese.   
  • The Honey Pot: Any kind of bread, any kind of butter, and any kind of cheese, and the interior ingredients of the sammich must be at least 60% cheese, plus additional ingredients, and with an overall flavor that is sweet and would best be served as dessert.
Get your tickets soon! There are a lot of grilled cheese lovers in La-La Land who are sure to sell this sucker out ASAP. Need more info? Check the event's official website or follow them @grilldcheez.


Tie-Dye Cupcakes: A Psychedelic Dessert, Indeed

Tie-Dye Cupcakes
Photo: CanYouStayForDinner

I admire my friends who've made the leap into parenthood for many reasons. They manage to function as (somewhat) sane adults while totally sleep-deprived, they balance work with childcare, and perhaps most importantly, they are constantly coming up with creative ideas to satiate their child's curiosity... and sweet tooth

So when I received a note the other day from a reader whose son wants a tie-dye themed birthday party, it was the least I could do to provide some inspiration! And in this case, inspiration looks like tie-dye-swirled cupcakes. I recently made these beauties for a friend's baby shower and they were a hit. Even better, they're quick (and by "quick" I mean made with store-bought cake mix and frosting), fun and filled with psychedelic colors that will boggle the kids' minds. Here's how you make them:

Tie-Dye Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

Directions: Preheat your oven to 350°F for metal or glass pans, or 325°F for dark or coated pans. Divide 24 cupcake liners equally between the two cupcake pans. Set aside. Make the cupcake mix: Blend dry mix, water, oil and egg whites in large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds). Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Divide cupcake batter equally between 5 small bowls. Add color: Gently dip the tip of a toothpick into the red gel food coloring and add it to one of the bowls of batter. Mix with a spoon until fully combined. If you'd like a deeper color, add a TINY bit more gel food coloring until the batter reaches your desired shade. Repeat the same instructions for the orange green, blue and purple batters.

Divide cake batter into five small bowls and get ready to add some color!

Here's the food coloring I prefer...

Mix food coloring in each bowl of batter until you reach a desired shade
Using a teaspoon, drop a dollop of each colored batter into the cupcake liners. Continue to layer the batter on top of each other (or around the sides for an uneven "layered" look) until all five colors have been added and each cupcake liner is 2/3 full. Insert a toothpick and gently swirl the batter in a clockwise direction to add a swirled design. Bake for 21-24 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool. 

Dollop teaspoons of colored batter into cupcake liners

Use a toothpick to make a swirl design

Bake for 21-24 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean
Once cupcakes are cool, top with frosting (I like to use a piping bag with a star-shaped fitted tip) and sprinkle with colorful jimmies of your choice. Serve and enjoy!

Top with frosting and colorful jimmies of your choice!


Breakfast Brilliance: Make Ahead Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Make Ahead Breakfast; Oatmeal in Jars
Photo: TheKitchn
Let's talk about breakfast. Who doesn't love a hearty, satisfying, delicious start to their day? Look up steel cut oatmeal in the dictionary and "hearty, satisfying and delicious" might as well be the definition. The one word that won't be there, however, is fast.

Steel cut oatmeal -- while wonderful -- is a chore to make, taking the better part of an hour to cook in a boiling water bath. Which is why I was so excited when I came across a brilliant breakfast idea at The Kitchn: make-ahead steel cut oatmeal in jars. Basically, it's a week's worth of breakfast in one Sunday night swoop.

Here's the Sunday night scoop (or whatever night marks the "beginning" of your week): Put five servings of steel-cut oats in a pot of water, bring to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Let the oats sit overnight and they'll be perfectly creamy and tender in the morning. 

Divide the oats and water among five jars and every morning, grab 'em when you're on the go. Give the oats a few minutes in the microwave, mix in your favorite toppings -- I go for fresh berries, a drizzle of honey and splash of non-fat milk -- and enjoy an incredible start to your day. Breakfast brilliance, no? 


Vietnamese Phở: Soothing, Spicy, Soupy Goodness

Chef Helene An's Phở
Photo: House of An
I'm ringing in this week with brand new cold. Sure, it's sucky, but it's also a chance to do what I do best: Feed a cold. Or feed anything, really. While I do love homemade chicken noodle soup, I'm really feeling a twist on that cold remedy recipe: A steaming bowl of Vietnamese Phở.

Sure, it's got chicken, noodles and broth, but the chicken is poached in a broth spiked with spicy goodness: ginger, onions, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, fish sauce and more. The noodles are transparent rice noodles, gentle on sore throats. And the soup is topped off with slices of paper-thin onion, torn cilantro, chopped basil leaves, bean sprouts and thin rings of fire...err, serrano chili.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, how about this? The phở recipe comes from Chef Helene An, executive chef and the brains behind Crustacean (Beverly Hills), AnQi (Costa Mesa), Tiato (Santa Monica) and those infamous garlic noodles. Her soup is soothing, spicy and rich with both flavor and antioxidants. So go ahead, make it and feed that cold.

Vietnamese Phở
Adapted from Chef Helene An
Makes 5-6 bowls of Phở

Soup Ingredients:
  • 3-4 pound organic free-range chicken
  • 2-3 pound of chicken bones (ask your supermarket butcher for them)
  • 1 large onion peeled and cut in half
  • 8 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger sliced in half lengthwise (about 3″ length)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro (roots and stems)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2″x1″ piece of (Saigon) Cinnamon (also known as cassia bark)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked white pepper
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)

Topping/Noodle Ingredients:
  • 20 ounces dried phở noodles or fresh rice noodle 
  • 1/2 small onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • chopped cilantro (about 1/2 cup)
  • fresh lemon leaves
  • basil
  • bean sprouts
  • 4 serrano or jalapeno chili peppers sliced thin 

Directions: Wash the chicken inside and out and set aside. Using a broiler, torch, or a gas stove, burn the cut side of the onion, both sides of the ginger and both sides of the garlic. If you have some wire mesh you can set it on the gas stove for the garlic, otherwise a torch works great for these. You want the surface to be about 50% black as it adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the soup without making it bitter. 

Place the chicken breast side up and the chicken bones into a stock pot just a little larger than the chicken, then add the ginger, onion, garlic, cilantro, star anise, cinnamon, brown sugar, fish sauce, white pepper and salt around the chicken. Add water until the top of the breast is almost covered. Cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, skim off the excess fat and impurities on the top. Turn the stove to low heat (do not remove the lid), and poach the chicken for 30 minutes. 

Remove the chicken and set it aside to cool. When it’s cool enough to handle, carve all the meat off the bones and return the bones to the stock. Simmer the stock for another 1 1/2 hours. Slice up the chicken meat and put it in the fridge.

Soak the dried pho noodles in warm water for about 30 minutes to rehydrate them. Chop up your condiments and have them ready.  When your broth is done, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any excess oil. Taste the soup for salt and add more as necessary. 

Bring the stock to a boil. In a separate pot bring water to a boil to further rehydrate the noodles. (Note: will cook in a matter of seconds, so a couple swishes in the boiling water will do the trick). Drain the noodles from the boiling water and split evenly into 5-6 bowls. Top with chicken, onions, scallion and cilantro to taste, then ladle on the hot broth. One sip and you'll instantly feel better.


Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Guinness Ice Cream with Chocolate Bacon Bits

The luck of the (hungry) Irish must have been with me this morning as I woke up to my inbox filled with delightful St. Patrick's Day recipes. The one that caught my eye seemed to have been sent by a particularly boozy leprechaun at Sur La Table, one who loves the magically delicious combination of chocolate, bacon and... Guinness
Photo: SimpleComfortFood

Before you balk, Guinness is one of the darkest, richest and creamiest libations around, perfect as the base to a St. Patty's Day frozen dessert. What makes it even better is pieces of applewood-smoked bacon, brushed with a coat of semisweet chocolate and sprinkled on top of the ice cream. So if you've got the time, inclination and company who can't resist a sweet and savory dessert, get out your ice cream maker and get moving! 

Guinness Ice Cream with Chocolate Bacon Bits
Adapted from Sur La Table
Serves: 1 quart ice cream, or about 8 servings


  • 12 ounces Guinness Stout, or other dark stout beer
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 pound thick-cut applewood smoked bacon
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped

Directions: To prepare the ice cream, pour the Guinness in a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Simmer the stout until reduced to 4 ounces and reaches a syrupy consistency, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

Combine cream, milk, and sugar in another large saucepan. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a lengthwise slit in the vanilla bean. Using the back edge of the knife, scrape the vanilla bean seeds out of the pod and into milk mixture, along with the pod itself. Heat milk mixture over medium heat until it boils, then remove immediately from heat.

Prepare a large mixing bowl with an ice-water bath. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow in color. Rapidly whisk 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks. Gradually add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream back into the hot cream while whisking constantly. Cook egg mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the reduced stout to the thickened egg mixture, whisking well until to blend. Transfer the ice cream base to a heatproof medium mixing bowl and place inside ice-water bath. Stir ice cream base often and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate ice cream base for at least 4 hours or until cold.

Pour cold ice cream base into the bowl of an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Because of the stout, the ice cream will only reach a soft-serve consistency. Remove ice cream from machine, cover, and freeze until ready to use.

To prepare chocolate-covered bacon bits, preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the center. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange bacon strips on prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch of space around each piece. Place a second rimmed sheet directly on top of the bacon and weigh down baking sheet with a heavy ovenproof skillet. Transfer to preheated oven and cook bacon until well browned but still pliable, about 25 to 30 minutes.

While the bacon cooks, fill the bottom of a double boiler with 2 inches water and heat over medium-low heat until simmering. Place chocolate in the top of a double boiler and set over the simmering water. Heat gently, stirring often, until completely melted. Keep warm over low heat.
Once the bacon is cooked, transfer the slices to a heatproof wire rack set over another rimmed baking sheet, spacing the bacon at least 1 inch apart on all sides. Using a silicone pastry brush, coat one side of each bacon piece with melted chocolate. Transfer pan with bacon to the refrigerator for 8 to 10 minutes to let chocolate set. Remove pan from refrigerator and carefully flip the bacon pieces. Coat the second side of the bacon with melted chocolate and return pan to refrigerator for another 8 to 10 minutes, until ready to use.

To serve, use a sharp chef’s knife to chop the coated bacon into ½-inch pieces. Scoop ice cream into chilled bowls, sprinkle chopped bacon over ice cream, and serve immediately.

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