May 30, 2013

Recipe: Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Sweet Pilaf

Since the minute we finished our kitchen, I have been cooking like a mad woman.
Eating has always been a favorite pastime of mine,
and I'm constantly inspired by my never ending wander list to not only travel, but to also experiment with different cuisines.
Last weekend Erik and I hosted my family over for dinner,
and I decided to go all out and prepare a full Moroccan feast.
I searched high and low for a legit recipe,
and finally settled on Emeril's classic concoctions found here and here.
I adapted the formula slightly, by using lamb shanks rather than a shoulder for example,
but overall was very pleased with how it all turned out.
The meat was practically falling off the bone it was so tender,
and the pilaf complimented the richness of the dish perfectly.
You can see my updated recipe after the jump.
Moroccan Lamb Tagine
-2 pounds lamb shanks
-1 teaspoon ground turmeric 
-1 teaspoon ground ginger 
-1 1/4 teaspoons salt 
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
-1 1/2 cups diced onions 
-3 large garlic cloves, minced 
-1 cup chicken broth 
-8 threads Spanish saffron, crushed 
-16 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied together with a cotton string 
-1 cup dried, pitted apricots 
-1/2 cup golden raisins 
-1 onion, halved and thinly sliced 
-2 tablespoons honey 
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 
-Mint, for garnish 

Place lamb in a medium-sized bowl. Season the lamb with turmeric, ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt. 

Heat a tagine or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and half of the seasoned lamb. Cook the lamb until browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb from the pan and set aside. Repeat with remaining oil and lamb. Return the seared lamb to the pan and add the diced onions. Cook, stirring to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, saffron, and cilantro bundle and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. 

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the apricots and raisins and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain and set the fruit aside. 

Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat, place it on a clean plate, and keep warm. Bring the remaining liquid in the pan to a simmer. Add the sliced onions, apricots, raisins, honey, cinnamon, ground pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Return the liquid to a simmer and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until mixture is slightly thickened. Add the cooked lamb back into the sauce and cook to heat through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with fresh mint. 
Sweet Pilaf
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/3 cup blanched whole almonds
-1 cup small diced onion
-1/2 cup small diced carrot
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 cup long grain rice
-3 cups chicken stock
-1/3 cup golden raisins
-2 teaspoons orange zest
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 1 1/2 quart oven-proof casserole dish. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the almonds until they are golden and become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and cinnamon and stir well, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring to make sure all the kernels are coated with oil. Add the stock, raisins, orange zest and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil. Place the mixture into the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the rice from the oven and place on a large platter. Serve with Moroccan lamb tagine.


May 28, 2013

Project Kitchen : Before and After

Hi guys!
Hope you all had a great weekend. 

As I mentioned last week, the husband and I finally finished our kitchen renovation project. 
We did the big reveal during a little housewarming party for some friends and family a few days ago,
and got great reviews!
Such a proud moment for us, because this project was definitely a LOT of work. 
Being the overachievers that we are,
we thought doing the whole thing on our own was no big deal. 
Boy, were we in for a treat! 

And when I say we did it all ourselves, I seriously mean it. 
No contractors were hired during this whole process. 
We designed, built, and decorated the whole room all on our own!

Like with any major project,
there are bound to be glitches and delays in the schedule. 
This kitchen was no exception. 
Let's just say that our patience was tested more than just a few times,
but I suppose now that it's all done and I can stand back and admire our handiwork, it was all worth it. 

So. Without further ado, say hello to our shiny new kitchen:
As you can see from the before and after shots, 
we pretty much tore eeeeeverything out and started with a blank slate. 

First step was to demo - my personal favorite!
I had no gripes with take a sledgehammer to those stinky old cabinets. 
Once the walls were bare, we started on the electrical. 
Those bulky industrial lights had to go, 
so we tore them out, recessed the ceiling and installed canned lights.

Next step was to install the cabinets. 
I'm not sure exactly how many hours we spent at IKEA during the design process, 
but it was definitely more than a dozen!
After we signed off on the final specs and {gulp} handed over the credit cards,
it was time to take all those boxes home and put everything together!
In typical IKEA fashion, the building wasn't the tough part..
(a few screws here, a couple of pegs there, boom you're done),
what stalled the process was the actual installation into the kitchen.
Yeah. Not as simple as the "easy guide video" made it look. 

Once the cabinets were in, it was time to apply the counter tops. 
Disclaimer: if your husband comes to you and suggests pouring your own concrete, 
do yourself a favor and politely decline. 
Although I LOVE the way the countertops turned out in the end,
that was probably the most trying part of this whole process. 
Once that was done though, it was all easy sailing. 

The backsplash and floor tile were purchased from Bedrosians
The husband did an excellent job with the herringbone pattern - turned out exactly how I wanted!
All appliances are by Samsung, and were purchased from Best Buy
And as for everything else,
I have a feeling it will be constantly evolving. 
I love the mixture of modern and vintage throughout the room.. I think it gives the kitchen character. 
A major thank you to the main man in my life,
without whom this project would have simply not been possible. 
I'm so lucky to have a handy man like yourself in my life. 


May 25, 2013

Almost There

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 
Well, this is really the home stretch guys!
Construction for the kitchen remodel is finally over, 
and the only thing left to do is to add the finishing touches. 

I've had this idea of my dream kitchen planned in my head for so long,
and it's simply surreal to see it all come alive. 
These are just a few pieces that I feel would make the perfect additions to our shiny new abode. 
The huz and I are doing the big reveal tomorrow afternoon,
during a little housewarming party that we planned for a few close friends. 
I can't wait to show it off,
not only to them, 
but to all of you too!

Pictures coming real soon, promise!


May 21, 2013

Salt & Cleaver

Spring is in the air,
and flowers are not the only things blooming!
New restaurants are popping up all over San Diego,
and I am on a mission to visit as many of them as possible. 
Salt & Cleaver has been open for barely a week, 
but it's already gathering some great reviews from the locals. 

The concept is simple -
pick your wiener, and dress it up however you like. 
For those who have a hard time making choices,
there are some pre-picked favorites that are bound to tickle your fancy. 
I stopped by the sausage fest during lunch time, 
and was able to sample a few different combinations by ordering family style with my buddies.
(always the best route when dining out) 
The crowd favorite was definitely the Duck.Duck.Pig from the protected list,
with the IPA Bratwurst coming in close second.
The cucumber fries were not quite what I expected, but interesting nevertheless,
but the real money maker were the S&C fries.  

In my opinion, the options are already pretty good,
considering that the full menu hasn't even rolled out yet. 
Already planning a comeback during happy hour, to sample some beer from S&C's impressive list,
and I obviously wont be able to sleep until I get my hands on that Lobster Roulade.
Duck.Duck.Pig - duck & bacon sausage, crispy duck confit, bacon-aze, orange marmalade, house bun.
IPA Bratwurst - smoked pork sausage, malted sauerkraut, roasted peppers, smoked brown ale mustard, pretzel bun.
Cucumber FriesFresh - cold cucumber spears. Served with Tzatziki. 
Mild Italian - garlic and fennel pork sausage, blistered cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto, toasted pine nuts.
S&C Fries - twice fried, skin on. Served with S&C sauce.
3805 Fifth Ave.
Hillcrest, San Diego, CA


May 15, 2013

Double Date Night

Date nights are fun,
but you know what's even more fun?
DOUBLE date nights.
Last weekend the husband and I decided to take a break from our kitchen renovation project from hell,
to go out for some dinner/movie action.

Our friends met up with us for some pre-dinner cocktails <reads: a couple of bottles of wine>,
and then we were off to the beatiful land of La Jolla.
Our dinner destination for the evening was Amaya,
the newest addition to the glitzy pavement of Prospect Street.
Little sister to her namesake at the Grand Del Mar,
Amaya Jr. had quite a reputation to live up to.

The theme?
Dressed up American without the dress code.
"Soooo.. what do I wear?", asked the husband.
In reality, the place is very nice -
a type of joint where you don't necessarily want to stumble into after a day of beach lounging at the adjacent La Jolla Cove.
But, to be fair, it's not stuffy..
Picture the scene from the restaurant where Jack Nicholson takes Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets,
one of my all time favorite movies, right before he gives her the greatest compliment ever.
No, Amaya is not like that at all.
It's classy enough to impress a fancy-pants date, yet there are no table cloths, meaning - no jackets required.

One of the great benefits of doubling your party size, (besides great company, of course),
is the fact that you get to order twice as many dishes, which means you get to try more items from the menu!
Unless your friends don't like to share... in which case you may want to look into new friends.
Luckily, this scenario worked out in our favor,
and after ordering a few bottles of wine and a good range of items from the menu we were all happy and stuffed.
Some standouts?
The sweetbreads were very tender, and the duck with the cornbread puree? Spectacular!
I was a little dissapointed with the fried quail,
which I've heard people raving about on multiple occasions.
It wasn't bad by any means, but I wouldn't call it groundbreaking either.
Tasted... well.. just like chicken.
Sautéed Skate Wing and Veal Sweetbreads - Braised Romaine, Veal Jus 
My dress and clutch are both from ASOS.
Buttermilk Fried Quail - Smoked Mac and Cheese, Coleslaw
Angus Beef Carpaccio - Pickled Vegetables, Parmesan
Friday Special: Lightly Breaded Market Fish - Hush Puppies, Tartar Sauce 
Cheddar-Herb Biscuits, Jalapeño Cornbread and Deviled Eggs served with every order of the Daily Rustic Southern Specials
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast - Cornbread Purée, Butter Beans
After a well-fulfilled meal, and some excellent conversation,
we proceeded to the Arclight Cinemas in La Jolla.
It was our first time to this theater,
and although it's not as glamorous as Cinepolis Del Mar,
they still had a bar that offered up stiff cocktails and assigned seating which just takes the average movie-going experience to a whole other level.
Our movie of choice?
The Great Gatsby.
Can I just say that I am so sad to hear that it's been getting mixed reviews?
I thought it was amaaazing.
The glitz, the glam.. the hard contrast between the classes.. all there!
And Leo? In 3D?
Case closed.
Best movie of the year!


May 7, 2013


The last 24 hours have been rough.. 
I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say I needed to escape my daily life and gain some perspective...
to breathe in some fresh air. 
So I called in sick, packed up by babe, and headed out to my favorite dog beach
The warm sun rays and the calming ocean breeze was just what I needed.

Thanks San Diego. I love you. 


May 3, 2013

Two for One Special

May Gray my butt. 
I'm happy to report that San Diego has been going through a little heat wave for the past two days,
and it's been 95 and GORGEOUS.
And who wants to be stuck inside when it's so nice out?
Not me! 

My bestie and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather, 
so we met up for cocktails right after work last night. 
Destination: Polite Provisions,
the shiny new product brought to us by Consortium Holdings,
the same peeps that spoil us with Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment, Underbelly and Neighborhood
Love all those spots, and Polite Provisions is no exception. 

Packed with hipsters to the brim, this place is cool. 
As we made our way past the plaid shirts and suspenders, I was immediately smitten by the decor. 
The open air ceilings may have been my favorite part, 
letting a nice breeze and great lighting into the place, while we pondered over which cocktail to indulge in. 
We let the crafty mixologists entertain us for a while, until we got hungry,
and that's where the second part of the story begins.
The Swine A La Carte - smoked pork with chipotle and pepperjack
Mac & Cheese and Asparagus
Right next door to Polite Provisions, is a tiny little meatball shop called Soda & Swine
No, you can't order food directly from the bar, because after all, they're two separate businesses,
and one of these things is not like the other as far as liquor licensing goes. 
what you can do, is politely cover your cocktail with a napkin, 
cross your fingers that you won't get roofied,
and walk over next door to place your order. 
Grab your number and bring it right back to the bar. 
The nice thing is that they will bring your meal over and even allow you to take your time as you slowly shovel all this glorious food into your mouth. 

A few hours later, and you'll be as giddy as the two fools pictured below. 
Definitely recommend this place!
4696 30th Street
North Park, CA 92116

2943 Adams Avenue
North Park, CA 92116