Poker Night Snacks: Mini Sandwiches from Nate 'n Al's Delicatessen

Bryan had the boys over to play poker last night. I was headed out for a night with the girls but wanted to leave the guys with something great that they could munch on – not to mention, soak up bottles and bottles of beer – before I left. Bryan told me that typical poker food included a fabulous combination of bowls filled with chips, nuts, pretzels, etc. I responded with four words: "Not in our house." Don't get my wrong; there's absolutely nothing wrong with bowls of snacks. But I couldn't – in good conscience – just open a bag of chips, dump it in a bowl and say, "See ya! Have a good night!" It's like the fast food cop-out, plus I knew I could make something way more delicious in practically the same amount of time. So here's what I did. Considering there wasn't one left when I got home, I think the boys enjoyed them!

Nate 'n Al's Bishop's Best Sandwich (that's our name for it, not theirs)
I asked Bryan what he thought about making miniature versions of one of – in my opinion, anyway – the city's BEST sandwiches from Beverly Hills staple, Nate 'n Als Delicatessen. It's the Jewish version of Santa Monica's Bay Cities Italian Deli. I've been eating their food since I was a kid, as my mom always got Nate 'n Al's for summertime backyard dinners. I introduced Bryan to the sandwich when we first started dating: it's made with layers of fresh roasted turkey, black forest ham, roast beef, cole slaw, muenster cheese, spicy mustard and Russian dressing on fresh-baked rye bread. While I get it without roast beef, it's just an amazing sandwich. Apparently the thought of the sandwiches for poker night was good, because Bryan agreed with a resounding "YES!" So come Friday, off to Nate 'n Al's we went, getting all the ingredients for the sandwiches and ordering separate sandwiches for ourselves. It was lunchtime, after all!

Now I'm sharing the recipe with you. There are lots of step-by-step photos, so it's a snap to figure out and make. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Deli packages from Nate 'n Al's

Nate 'n Al's Bishop's Best Sandwich
Make 24 miniature sandwiches. All ingredients are available at Nate 'n Al's deli case.
  • 1/2 loaf rye bread (minimum 12 slices)
  • 1/3 pound thinly-sliced roast beef
  • 1/3 pound thinly-sliced roasted turkey breast
  • 1/3 pound thinkly-sliced black forest ham
  • 1/3 pound sliced muenster cheese
  • 1 pint cole slaw
  • 1/2 pint Russian dressing (I forgot to get this so substituted low-fat mayo)
  • Spicy mustard (quantity up to you)
  • Toothpicks
To make the sandwiches, just follow these steps:

Step #1: Spread out all ingredients on cutting board or counter.

Step #2: Lay out bread for each sandwich. Spread Russian dressing on one slice and spicy mustard on the other (I've shown mayo because I forgot to buy Nate 'n Al's Russian dressing). Add a slice of Muenster cheese to one of the slices.

Step #3: Fold a slice of ham and lay on the opposite slice of bread.

Step #4: Top the ham with a slice of roast beef.

Step #5: Top the roast beef with a slice or two of roasted turkey breast.

Step #6: Top the layer of meat with an even layer of cole slaw (about 2 tablespoons), spreading it to the edges of the meat.

Step #7: Top the sandwiches with the other slice of bread. The Muenster cheese acts as a barrier between the cole slaw and the bread, preventing it from getting soggy.

Step #8: Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the sandwiches into four quarters. Stick toothpicks in each quarter (now a mini sandwich!)

Step #9: Assemble the sandwiches on a platter – or two, after all you're making 24 mini sandwiches – and serve with small plates and cocktail napkins. The sandwiches can also be made ahead of time, covered with a layer of plastic wrap and refrigerated until it's time to serve.

Step #10: Serve and enjoy! These guys are popular, so make sure you get one. Or, better yet, just buy extra ingredients to make one for yourself later. Oh, and get a pint of potato salad. It's the best around.


Caprese Meets Crostini: Campari Tomato, Balsamic Glaze & Mozzarella on Toasted Baguette

A few days ago I posted a recipe for a beet and goat cheese crostini. While I personally love beets, I can't say the same for some close friends and family members. And the last thing I want to do when heading to someone's house – even to my own parents' – is to bring an appetizer that I know will only be enjoyed by half of the people there. So as I was making the beet crostinis, I grabbed some Campari tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella out of the fridge and decided to make an alternative for the beet-averse folks in the crowd. I followed the exact same instructions from the beet and goat cheese crostini recipe, still toasting the baguette slices, spreading them with the goat cheese mixture, but then adding a layer of buffalo mozzarella and marinated Campari tomato slices. A sprinkle of chopped tarragon finished off the crostini and before you know it I was ready to head out, two appetizers in hand.

Caprese crostinis; these will disappear at your next dinner party!
Of course, it would be irresponsible of me not to try my own appetizer. I love nothing more than taking a bite and then getting a second opinion from my husband; our household's official taste tester. If he closes his eyes and lets out an escalating "mmmm!" I know I've got a winning recipe on my hands. In this case, as I took a bite several layers of flavor immediately came through. First, the sweetness from the balsamic reduction and Campari tomato flesh. Then the salty creaminess of the mozzarella, the tang from the goat cheese, heat from the raw garlic and slight hint of licorice from the tarragon. Granted, this flavor explosion was over in about 10 seconds; just enough time to take a second bite!

While small, Campari tomatoes have a lovely natural sweetness and juicy flesh

My go-to mozzarella (same with ricotta): Angelo & Franco
The moral of this one-recipe-turned-two-crostini story is that you should never be afraid to modify a recipe. Instead, be original, use ingredients that you (or others) love and get creative. You just might end up with a winner!

Caprese Crostini

For the baguette slices:
  • 24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette, toasted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
For the goat cheese spread:
  • 1 (5-ounce) package goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
For the Caprese topping:
  • 6 Campari tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used a balsamic reduction)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 package buffalo (or water) mozzarella, cut into 1/3" slices
Prepare the crostini slices: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and move one oven rack to top slot. Slice baguette into 1/2-inch thick slices. Using a pastry brush, coat one side of each slice with olive oil. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown. Note: Make sure to watch very closely as the bread can go from brown to burned in an instant!

Prepare the goat cheese spread: combine goat cheese, mayonnaise, tarragon, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Spread each baguette slice with one teaspoon cheese mixture.

Spread each baguette slice with one teaspoon cheese mixture
Prepare tomatoes and mozzarella: In a medium bowl combine the balsamic vinegar, lemon zest & juice, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add tomato slices; toss gently to coat. Set aside. Slice the buffalo mozzarella into 1/3-inch thick slices. Set aside.

Slice buffalo mozzarella into 1/3" thick slices
Top with two slices of buffalo mozzarella and two slightly overlapping slices of tomato. Sprinkle with chopped tarragon as a garnish and serve immediately!

Arrange mozzarella on top of goat cheese mixture

Add two tomato slices, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with tarragon for garnish & enjoy!


Roy's Hawaiian Fusion: Win a $50 Gift Certificate for Roy's Summer L.A. Ohana Tour!

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a tasting for Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant's summer "L.A. Ohana Tour" promotion. Normally I'm not a big fan of writing about promotions but a) I love Roy's; b) I thought the scavenger-hunt-meets-dinner aspect is fun, and; c) you could win a trip to Hawaii. And if you do, you better take me with you!

In the meantime, here's your chance to win a $50 gift certificate to any Roy's location. Just comment at the end of the post and leave your email address. I'll randomly selection a winner this Friday, July 2! Good luck!

So here's the deal: From June 9 until August 31, 2010, if you visit three Southern California Roy’s restaurants – participating locations include Anaheim, Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Pasadena, and Woodland Hills – you'll get an Ohana Tour Card to present at the next Roy's location (visit #1), a complimentary Chocolate Soufflé with purchase of an entrée (visit #2) and finally, a $20 gift card with purchase of an entrée and entry into the Hawaii sweepstakes (visit #3). If you win, you're awarded an all-inclusive trip to Hawaii where you'll enjoy a personal dinner with founding chef Roy Yamaguchi. And you get a free chocolate soufflé, a $20 gift card and fabulous meals in the meantime. Sound good?

It's time for Roy's Hawaiian Fusion L.A. Ohana Tour!
If you're still not convinced, check out the photos from the mouth-watering Roy's L.A. Ohana Tour tasting. Chef Garrett from the downtown L.A. Roy's made individual Pupu (Hawaiian for appetizer) portions for each of the food bloggers attending the event, including Grilled Albacore Flatbread, Yellow Fin Ahi Poke, Spiced Duck Confit Tarts, Short Ribs of Beef Au Poivre and Strawberry Basil Panna Cotta. While each dish was delicious, my two favorites were the Grilled Albacore Flatbread – light, bright flavors from the herb paste, a refreshing tang from the tzatziki with great smokiness from the grilled albacore and the smoked feta – and the Short Ribs of Beef au Poivre. You can't go wrong with fork-tender braised short ribs, especially when they come with a piping hot, crispy truffled tator tot. It's a win-win, all around!

The Tasting Menu

Basil Cucumber Collins | Original Hawaiian Martini
The Basil Cucumber Collins was a wonderfully refreshing cocktail, and while some cucumber martinis can be too sweet, this was light and crisp. It was made with certified organic cucumber vodka muddled with fresh basil, fresh limes and topped with club soda. The Original Hawaiian Martini was made from Maui pineapples infused with SKYY Vodka, Stoli Vanil Vodka and Malibu Coconut Rum. It's shaken and served with fresh pineapple. Definitely a cocktail for the tropical drink lover.

Yellow Fin Ahi Poke | Wasabi aioli, avocado & Tobiko caviar

Spiced Duck Confit Tarts | Sage Chevre cream

Grilled Albacore Flatbread | Pickled red onions, smoked Feta, herb paste & tzatziki

Short Ribs of Beef au Poivre | Truffled tater tot & tomato jam

Strawberry Basil Panna Cotta
Thanks to Liz from Formula PR for coordinating all the details; I had a great time exploring Roy's latest pupus and spending time with @foodfashionista and @uncouthgourmands. Thanks for the fun conversation!

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Crostini

Wednesday night was a busy night; Bryan was podcasting and I was had plans to stop by my parents house for appetizers before heading to a friend's house for dinner. I was in charge of making appetizers for both, so I went the crostini route. I had some roasted beets from the night before, goat cheese, lemon, tarragon and a baguette, so I knew there could be a fantastic crostini in the works.

I found a recipe in Cooking Light for a goat cheese and beet crostini; it was perfect! I sliced and toasted the crusty bread, mixed goat cheese, minced garlic, tarragon, lemon juice, zest and salt and pepper and spread it on each slice of bread. Then I glazed the sliced beets with a truffled balsamic reduction that we brought home from Italy, layered them on the cheese spread and added a tarragon leaf for garnish. One bite and I knew I had a winner; the tang of the goat cheese and lemon zest worked beautifully together as a base, while the sweetness of the beets mixed with the truffled balsamic glaze took the flavors to a whole new level.

Beet & Goat Cheese Crostini
Armed with the knowledge that beets can be really polarizing – either you love them or you hate them – I made an alternative Caprese-themed crostini using Campari tomatoes and slices of water mozzarella. I even topped the tomatoes with the balsamic glaze and chopped tarragon for some flavor flair (recipe and photos coming soon). These are great, fast (minus the time it takes to roast the beets) appetizers that are packed with flavor and sure to be a hit at your next dinner party! Here's the recipe...

Beet & Goat Cheese Crostini

For the beet topping:
  • 3/4 pound beets (about 2 medium)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the cheese spread:
  • 1 (5-ounce) package goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette, toasted
To make the beets: Preheat oven to 375°. To prepare beets, leave root and 1 inch of stem on beets; scrub with a brush. Place beets in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish; add 1 cup water to dish. Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool. Trim off beet roots; rub off skins. Cut beets lengthwise into quarters, and cut each quarter crosswise into 9 (1/8-inch) slices.

Roasted and sliced beets
In a medium bowl combine the vinegar, rind, juice, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add beets; toss gently to coat. To prepare cheese spread, combine goat cheese, mayonnaise, tarragon, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Spread each baguette slice with 1 teaspoon cheese mixture; top with 3 slightly overlapping slices of beet.

Combine goat cheese, garlic, tarragon, lemon juice/zest, salt and pepper

Spread goat cheese & tarragon mixture on each slice of toast

Assemble beet slices on crostini

The result? A delicious appetizer for the beet lovers in your life!

Ginger & Garlic Marinated Chicken Soft Tacos

We must be in a taco mood because we made them again; last time with tilapia and this time with ginger and garlic marinated chicken. Actually, I must put the blame on Whole Foods as we were there when I spotted these foulish beauties. Yes, I consider marinated chicken breasts "beauties" because a) they're already packed with flavor and, b) it means less work for me! Of course you can use any marinade you enjoy most – I personally prefer Lawry's Baja Chiptole, Sesame Ginger and Caribbean Jerk marinades – but that day, the ginger and garlic was calling my name.

We decided to grab some corn tortillas, grill up some chicken, bell peppers, onion and mushroom and top the tacos with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo. The whole meal took about 30 minutes – I've got my homemade guacamole recipe down pat – and we were enjoying tacos and beer in no time.

Homemade chicken soft tacos!
Here's our recipe:

Ginger & Garlic Chicken Soft Tacos
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 pound marinated boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips (Note: you can also slice them after the breasts are grilled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup prepared hot salsa, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup prepared guacamole
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Spray large heavy skillet or griddle with canola oil (or use 1 tablespoon canola oil). Heat over a high flame until very hot. Add chicken and cook, stirring until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. If you have grilled whole chicken breasts, let rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.

Whole Foods ginger & garlic marinated chicken breasts

After it rests, slice your marinated & grilled chicken
In the meantime, reduce heat to medium and re-spray the griddle (or add another tablespoon or canola oil). Add onion, bell peppers and mushrooms in a single layer and cook about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin and flip, continuing to cook another 3-5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften and brown around the edges. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add bell pepper, onion and mushrooms to grill

Grill vegetables until soft and brown around edges
While all the your cooking is going on, don't forget to warm up your tortillas! You can either warm them in the oven (wrap tortillas in foil, warm at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes) or in the microwave (wrap tortillas in a damp cloth, microwave for 1-2 minutes...then wrap in foil to keep warm).

Heat tortillas until warm, then keep wrapped in foil
Now it's time to assemble the tacos! Bryan and I have slightly different taco-making styles, so we put our ingredients in separate small bowls, making ourselves our very own taco bar! That way we can make the tacos however we want, with the items that we like. Personally, I top a corn tortilla with a few slices of chicken, then with the veggies, then with guacamole and salsa. You can add whatever you want, like scallions, sour cream, etc. The taco world is your oyster!

Optional: If you're working in a skillet, you can combine the vegetables and chicken in the skillet and stir in the spicy salsa. Cook, stirring, until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Spoon into warmed tortillas and garnish with guacamole.

What's for dinner? Chicken soft tacos!


Conquering Another Foodie Phobia: Roasted Beets

First I conquered my cooking phobia of Scallops, and now I'm tackling beets. I love beets. Napa Valley-based Bistro Jeanty's Salade de Betteraves is one of my favorites in the world. It's got beautiful jewel-toned beets, mâche and feta cheese and citrus dressing. It's fantastic, especially when accompanied by their tomato soup with puff pastry crust. But that's another blog for another day.

So I went to the Beverly Hills' Farmers Market last Sunday morning and bought two bunches of beets, one of Chioggia (interior white/red concentric rings) and the other, Burpee's Golden beets for $3. Talk about a deal. I asked the vendor to remove the stems; in my own mind, I was one step closer to clean beets. I got them home, let out a big sigh and opened the bag, ready to tackle the beets. Then it hit me; roasting beets can't be any different than roasting any other root veggie. And if that was the case, I knew how to do it. You just cut off the edges, scrub the skins and roast them in the oven for just under an hour (depending on the size). I could do this!

After roasting the beets, I have to admit I'm completely embarrassed I was ever intimidated by them. I feel like I'm a representative of The Idiots Guide to Cooking. No, seriously. I have roasted pretty much everything under the sun...beef, broccoli, root vegetables, peaches, etc. Why I thought beets would be beyond me is, well... beyond me. But I'll stop beating myself up and get to the recipe! :)

Oven-Roasted Beets
  • 3 medium beets (red or gold), scrubbed, leaves trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Aluminum foil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat beets lightly with oil (omit this step if you're going watching calories; the beets will steam in the foil even without the oil).

Cut top and bottom edges off beets

Scrub beets under running water until clean

Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Wrap beets with aluminum foil and place on cooking sheet

Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on size of beets

Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then peel. The skin should come off very easily, either using your fingers or a paring knife.

Remove beets from oven and let cool for 10 minutes

Unwrap beets and remove skin with fingers or paring knife

Discard the skin and the foil and use the beets however you want: slice into 1/4-inch thick slices for a gratin, quarter them and toss them in a salad with lentils, goat cheese and frisee. Whatever you do with them, enjoy!

Beautiful roasted beets, peeled and ready to go!


Conquering a Cooking Phobia: Scallops Provençal

This week is about conquering my cooking fears. Obviously I love to cook and hopefully am somewhat good at it, or else I wouldn't be writing this blog. But there are just some things that I feel are better ordered at restaurants, because my perception of their complicated, involved, lengthy preparations have me backed into my figurative kitchen corner. Take scallops for example. I don't mean tiny, fishy bay scallops. I mean gigantic, tender, gorgeous sea scallops. The ones you get at a restaurant like Gulfstream or Napa Valley's FARM, for example, where they're just perfect. So perfect you know anything you do at home will just be a disappointment. They've been pan seared and have a light, golden crust, a perfectly succulent texture and taste like heaven. I love when they come with roasted golden beets (another foodie phobia of mine), marcona almonds and frisee.

Conquering a cooking phobia: Pan-Seared Scallops Provençal
Photo courtesy of OnePerfectBite

So the other day I decided to tackle the shellfish head (or shell) on, spreading out my cookbooks and searching each index for the perfect scallop recipe. I was picky; after all, I figured the better the recipe, the better my chances of success. I found what seemed to be a great recipe from Ina Garten for Scallops Provençal, and while I had low expectations (yet high hopes), I have to say it turned out great!

I was so excited about the result that I actually bought scallops again for tonight. Now I'm going to try, try and try again until I get close to perfect. Most importantly, I'm one kitchen phobia down and only have a few more to go. Here's the recipe:

Scallops Provençal
  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (make sure it's good...then drink the rest!)
  • 1 lemon, cut in 1/2
A word to the wise: This recipe goes by FAST. Even one extra minute means tough scallops; and no one wants tough, chewy scallops. So make sure you've got everything ready chopped, measured and ready to go before you start.

Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess. In a very large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in 1 layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, total. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic, and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine, cook for 1 minute, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Dredge scallops in flour with salt & pepper, then brown in pan

Dice two large shallots & garlic clove

Wash and chop flat leaf parsley

Flip scallops once they are golden brown

Add shallot, garlic, flat leaf parsley and cook for two minutes. Then add the white wine and let all the flavors come together.

I tossed a mixed green, tomato and mozzarella salad on the side.

There you have it! Scallops Provençal

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