Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Pesto

There are few things more delicious than the rich and savory, umami flavor of caramelized onions. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that making them requires some patience and a few basic rules to stick by. This pizza is the ideal recipe to perfect the art of caramelizing onions since they are the flavor focal point of the dish.   This recipe of mine came about from an intense craving for homemade pizza. The creamy goat cheese, smoky roasted tomatoes, fresh pesto, and sweet yet savory caramelized onions create an absolutely sublime flavor combination.     Making pesto from scratch with the help of a food processor is super simple! All you need is a few cups of fresh basil, a couple cloves of garlic, raw pine nuts, olive oil, and a hard cheese.     Ok, so here’s the trick to caramelizing onions- patience! If you want them to turn out just right, you’ll need to allow 30-40 minutes for them to slowly brown over the stove-top. More importantly, avoid using high heat throughout.     Prep Time: 1 hour Serves: 3-5 Ingredients: 2 Sweet Onions, sliced 1 lb, Pizza Dough (Whole Wheat) 2 cups, Cherry Tomatoes, roasted 4-5 ounces, Goat Cheese 2 cups, Fresh Basil 2 cloves, Garlic, minced 1/4 cup, Pine Nuts 1/2 cup, Parmesan Cheese 2/3 cup, Olive Oil 1/2 tspn, Butter 1 tspn, Raw Sugar Sea Salt, Red Chili Pepper Flakes, and Black Pepper to taste Balsamic glaze to drizzle Preparation: Preheat oven to 400F. Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and...

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

It’s the peak of tomato season! These beautiful heirlooms are everywhere and available in such variety at the moment. It’s definitely the right time to stock up at your local farmer’s market!   I absolutely love the inherent variety found in heirloom tomatoes. Everything from their color, to their shape, and ultimately, their flavor are unique. The orange ones tend to be a bit sweeter, while the Cherokee Purple variety have a more earthly flavor.     I was anxious to shoot the pictures for this post. It was a gray, overcast Sunday, without a peak of sunlight. As luck (and photography experimentation) would have it, the moody lighting worked perfectly to highlight the vibrant, bold colors of the ingredients. I was elated with the results of this shoot!         The best part of this recipe is that the leftovers work as a great, fresh salsa if you get tired of eating it as a chilled soup after a day or two. I added it to my sandwiches and rice bowls throughout the week.     Depending how much you spice up the gazpacho, you can top each serving with a dollop of sour cream or Greek Yogurt to cool the heat. Both the flavors and the spice will continue to build the longer it sits. I found that the gazpacho is at its pinnacle of taste by the second day.     Recipe adopted from food52.com Prep Time: 35 mins Serves: 6-8 Ingredients: 6 Heirloom Tomatoes (a colorful mix of varieties) 3 Kirby Cucumbers, small 1 Green Pepper 1 Sweet Onion 2 Garlic Cloves, minced 1/3 Cup,...

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

  These roasted fingerling potatoes are just about one of the easiest dishes to throw together in no time at all! I like to pick up a few bags of the multi-colored variety from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. They include the beautiful purple, Peruvian potato.     Olive oil, a generous sprinkle of sea salt, a couple sprigs of rosemary, and fresh-crushed garlic are all you need before your kitchen is wafting with fragrant aromas.     These garlic cloves I picked up from the Farmer’s Market were quite possibly some of the most fresh, aromatic cloves I’ve ever had the pleasure to cook with. Note to self- garlic from the Farmer’s Market is of a distinctly higher quality than that from the supermarket.     Prep Time: 35 mins Serves: 4-6 Ingredients 2 lbs, Multi-colored Fingerling Potatoes, halved 2 tbsp, Olive oil 3 Garlic cloves, minced 2 large sprigs Rosemary, roughly chopped Sea salt and pepper Preparation Preheat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, olive oil, minced garlic, and chopped rosemary. Season with sea salt, black pepper, and red chili pepper flakes (optional). Pour the potatoes on a large baking sheet and place in the oven to roast, stirring occasionally. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and golden brown. Serve with a side of ketchup or homemade lemon aioli.  ...

Arugula Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Pomegranate

Given that eggplant is one of my favorite foods, it really was about time for me to create my first ‘ode to eggplant’ post! The versatility of eggplant is why I love it so much- it easily soaks up the flavors of a unique dish. It is no wonder that eggplant has managed to become a staple dish in such a wide variety of ethnic cuisines.     With the summer solstice marking the beginning of the season this past weekend, it was quite perfect that I happened to prepare this quintessential summer salad for a festive gathering of friends.   A well-known trick to avoid that bitter eggplant taste is to salt the slices well before cooking them. I lay out the slices on a large baking sheet and then sprinkle them with coarse sea salt along with a splash of lemon juice before popping them into the oven.   These roasted cherry tomatoes are SO amazingly tasty and simple to make that I could create a separate post dedicated entirely to them! My roommate and I have gotten into the habit of roasting up a whole bunch of them for the week to add to anything from salads to open-faced sandwiches.   I found this salad on Epicurious.com as an excerpted recipe from Modern Flavors of Arabia: Recipes and Memories from My Middle Eastern Kitchen. The original recipe didn’t call for the roasted tomatoes and the pomegranate dressing was a bit too sweet for me. With a few simple tweaks, I was able to arrive at a version of this salad to my exact liking.   Prep Time: 30 mins...

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese and Basil

This is a perfect crowd-pleasing appetizer to serve alongside an excellent bottle of red wine. A rich, savory flavor results from pairing the saltiness of the prosciutto with the sweet date, and the creaminess of goat cheese with the fragrant crunch of fresh basil.     I have been craving an excuse to pick up fresh dates after coming across this incredible recipe for Cocoa-Chia Date Bites on The Fresh Find. This fantastic food blog brimming with healthy recipes and drool-worthy food photos was created by my inspiring, passion-seeking, optimist of a friend, Kristin.     The best part of this appetizer was that the prep took nearly no time at all. I whipped this up right before a Memorial Day barbecue. In just 3 short minutes, these were out of the oven with the goat cheese warm and bubbling.     Prep Time: 15 mins Serves: 6-9 Ingredients 16 Medjool dates, pitted 1/2 log goat cheese 16 fresh basil leaves 4 wide, thin slices of Prosciutto, cut into 4 long strips 16 toothpicks Preparation Spoon 1 teaspoon of goat cheese into each date. Wrap each date with a basil leaf, then with the thin strip of prosciutto. Secure with toothpick. With the oven set to broil, place wrapped dates on a cookie sheet and broil for 3 minutes until cheese is warm and...

Superfood Acai Bowl

My hunt for the best acai bowl around town has been on par with my search for nailing down my ideal locale for a breakfast sandwich. I have firmly decided upon GTA for the latter. As for the acai quest, I gingerly accepted Novel Cafe as my best option but couldn’t help but cringe each time I forked up nearly $15 a bowl. Alas, it was time for a homemade option!   Shopping for fresh produce is my favorite part of preparing a new recipe. I headed over to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market to sort through their vast array of fresh, seasonal berries. I left with a basket of strawberries and blueberries.     The real twist to this recipe was the addition of shredded coconut as a topping. It introduced a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, along with a crispier texture to a traditional acai bowl recipe.     In under ten minutes, I was able to whip up this nutrient-packed bowl for breakfast! Acai is one of the most potent superfoods, loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and heart-healthy fats.     Prep Time: 10 mins Serves: 1-2 Ingredients 1/2 cup blueberries, frozen 1 cup strawberries, frozen 1 large banana, frozen 1/2 cup coconut water 1 packet frozen Acai puree (available at Whole Foods) 3/4 cup granola Fresh sliced strawberries and banana to top Shredded coconut to top Preparation Blend the frozen berries, banana, coconut water, and Acai puree in a blender until smooth. Top with the granola and fresh-sliced strawberries and banana. Finish with a generous sprinkle of shredded...

Shrimp and Tilapia Ceviche with Mango

Ceviche is the perfect dish to whip up for a  dinner party or backyard grill-out. Packed full of fresh seafood and heaped with chopped veggies, it makes for the appearance of a great deal of effort and inventive cooking. In fact, it’s one of the easiest appetizers to throw together to be enjoyed later in the day.   After preparing this recipe at a Hipcooks class in West LA, I learned that the preparation of raw seafood is far from daunting. The raw fish and shrimp is simply marinated and cooked in lime juice. Just be sure to use the absolute freshest ingredients!     The majority of the prep for this dish involves dicing up the mango, scallions, red pepper, and jalapeño, along with finely chopping the fresh cilantro. If you have a food processor on hand, this will make the process even more quick and simple.     I picked up two different varieties of mangoes from Whole Foods – the popular red/ green skin variety known as the Hayden mango, as well as the yellow-skinned Francique variety from Haiti. Next time I prepare this dish, I’ll be sure to stick with the latter variety as the sweet, rich flavor provided the perfect contrast to the spice of the cilantro and jalapeño.     The ceviche can be served either with tortilla chips or atop tostadas with a few slices of avocado. Don’t forget the ice-cold Mexican beer to wash it down!     Prep Time: 20 mins Cook Time: 4 hrs (Fish will cook in the lime juice marinade) Serves: 6 Ingredients 1/2 lb Tilapia, thinly sliced 6...

Chana Masala

This recipe marks my first foray towards a traditional Indian dish. The  health benefits of the aromatic spices and powerful herbs which comprise this dish are astounding. Ginger, turmeric, coriander, and cumin are all considered to be potent antioxidants with tremendous anti-inflammatory benefits.     Wave after wave of intoxicating, exotic smells hit my nostrils as this dish came together over my stovetop. From the freshly chopped ginger, to the minced garlic cloves, the smells and flavors continue to build and grow more complex.     This recipe was surprisingly simple to make. Now that my kitchen is stocked with cumin seeds, ground coriander, and tandoori masala, this dish can be thrown together easily to make a nutritious, hearty, and flavorful meal.     Prep Time: 30 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients 1 Yellow Onion, chopped 2 Cans Chickpeas, rinsed 1 Can Peeled Tomatoes, whole 1 tbsp, Fresh Minced Garlic (4-5 cloves) 1 tbsp, Fresh Minced Ginger 1 Serrano Pepper, finely chopped (keep all seeds to increase the spiciness) 1 1/2 tbsp, Olive Oil 1 1/2 tsp, Tandoori Masala 1 1/2 tsp, Ground Turmeric 1 1/2 tsp, Ground Coriander 1 1/2 tsp, Cumin Seeds 1/4 tsp, Cayenne Pepper (optional) Sea Salt to taste Fresh Cilantro, chopped (to garnish) Lemon, sliced (to garnish) Preparation In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil before reducing the heat to medium-low. Add the cumin seeds and toast until golden-brown for less than two minutes. Bring the heat back up to medium, then add the ginger, garlic, onion, and Serrano pepper. Stir often, cooking the onions down for approximately 5-6 minutes. Next, add the tandoori masala,...

Cherry Baked Brie

Cherries, honey, brie- what more could you ask for in a simple, quick  appetizer? I have been meaning to give this recipe a try after coming across it on a fashion blog, no less. A recent effort to cut back on dairy and cheese in my diet has held me back. After a few weeks of limiting my dairy intake, I have come to realize that quality cheese is far too good to deprive myself of entirely! Moderation proves to be key time and again.   The fresh rosemary sold by Maggie’s Farms at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is not only the most fresh and fragrant variety I have found on the Westside, but also has those gorgeous little clusters of purple flowers sprouting out from the tips of the branches.     Recipe adopted from Because I’m Addicted Prep Time: 10 minutes Serves: 3-4 Ingredients: 1 wedge, Brie Cheese 1/3 cup, Dried Cherries 1/4 cup, Toasted Pecans 1/4 tsp, Chopped Rosemary 1/4 cup, Honey Preparation: Preheat the oven to 400F In a mixing bowl, combine the cherries, pecans, and chopped rosemary. Drizzle with honey, then stir. Place half of the mixture atop the brie. Flip, and place the remainder on the other side. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until the brie begins to ooze, but not melt. Serve with your favorite crackers and...

Kale Salad

I simply can’t stop making this kale salad after getting my hands on Gjelina Restaurant’s recipe. Gjelina in Venice is an absolute favorite spot of mine. With it’s highly seasonal menu, farm to table credo, and effortless delivery of meals, it is certainly among the finest in dining that LA has to offer.  At a fraction of the cost, this fresh and highly nutritious salad is a quick and easy dinner party favorite! This dish is devoured right before my eyes each time I prepare it for a group of friends! I pick up my kale for this recipe from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market or Whole Foods. Curly kale is fairly easy to find but I prefer the fresh, crisp quality of the variety from the farmer’s market. Fennel is one of those unusual vegetables that I needed to Google the first time I stumbled upon it in a recipe. The white bulb is the edible portion of the plant. Don’t be put off by the anise (black licorice) smell- this crisp veggie  makes for a refreshing and crunchy addition to the kale salad! I’ve had a number of friends tell me that they have attempted this recipe with varied success. So here’s my big reveal behind the secret to my prep – I massage the kale with olive oil. That’s right, a rubdown is what transforms this green from being tough and bitter to slightly sweet and flavorful. Prep Time: 20 minutes Serves: 3-4 Ingredients 1 Bunch of Kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves finely sliced 1 Bulb of Fennel, finely sliced 1 Cup of Ricotta Salada, crumbled 5...

Avocado Toast

This is yet another one of my favorite, quick and simple recipes adopted from Gjelina’s takeaway spot in Venice. A quality loaf of bread, along with just the right balance of lemon juice and sea salt to create the perfect kick, is what really takes this recipe to the next level.     I picked up this gorgeous loaf of freshly baked, sourdough bread at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.     Thinly-sliced radish atop the toast is not only great for presentation but also adds a bit of crunch to this tasty appetizer.     Resist the urge to mash the avocado too finely- we don’t want to prepare guac! Big, uneven hunks of avocado are great for flavor and varied consistency. Sea salt is ideal for this recipe, as the rough texture contrasts nicely with the creamy avocado, while bringing out the lemon bite.     Keep the radish slices thin and leave the parsley roughly chopped.   Prep Time: 20 minutes Serves: 4-6 Ingredients 1/2 Loaf of Bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices 2 Avocados 1 Lemon, juiced 1/4 Cup Fresh Italian Parsley, roughly chopped 4 Radishes, thinly sliced and halved Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste 1 Tbsp Olive Oil Splash of White Balsamic Vinegar Preparation Toast the slices of bread in the oven at 375F until golden brown. Cut thick slices of the avocado in a mixing bowl. Top with lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar. Using a big spoon or butter knife, roughly chop the avocado. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Garnish with the fresh, chopped parley and radish, then...

The Perfect Breakfast Sandwich

Finding the perfect breakfast sandwich has been a long-time quest of mine. I have spent many a weekend morning hunting down the best of what Venice and Santa Monica have to offer. And believe me, the list is quite plentiful. Some of the best around town include the breakfast sandwiches at GTA, Zinque, and Brick + Mortar. In the new year I have switched gears entirely by taking this experiment to my kitchen. The results are as follows: Fresh ingredients are absolutely key to building the perfect sandwich. I stocked up on fresh tomatoes, avocado, and a pumpkin-seed loaf of bread from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, while picking up a wedge of smoked gouda from Bay Cities Italian Deli. I have yet to find a quality breakfast sandwich without a strip or two of perfectly cooked bacon.     Prep Time: 15 mins Ingredients 1 large, brown egg 2 slices of toast (pumpkin seed loaf used above) 2 slices, fresh tomato 1/2 avocado, sliced 1 slice, applewood-smoked bacon 3 thin slices, smoked gouda cheese Preparation Toast the slices of bread in a toaster-oven until lightly browned. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Crack the egg into the skillet, seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. Place the fried egg on the slice of toast. Top with the tomato slices, cooked bacon, gouda cheese, and avocado. Optional: Garnish with fresh basil Serve with your favorite hot...