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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shallots. The superb member of the onion family.

This is the shallot. It's like the older sibling you were jealous of. It does everything, and it does it better. Sorry young Khloe Kardashian, you know it's true.

Life sized picture
Please don't confuse it with an onion or a scallion.

Onion, duh.

SCALLION or green onion.
So please people. Don't come into my cooking class and ask the guest star chef "what's the difference between a scallion and a shallot?" COME. ON. PEOPLE.
Okay so now that we've sorted out the difference between a shallot, scallion and onion, we can move on to the important stuff. What is a shallot you ask? The answer to this question will not be surprising.

It's like an onion, because it's a bulbous shape like an onion, and it has a skin like an onion. However, it has a lighter more delicate flavor than an onion, and it's smaller. And, its not at all like a scallion. NOT. AT. ALL. Oh and... most importantly, the shallot will not make you cry.

I always have shallots on hand in the crisper drawer of my fridge, and I use them in numerous dishes. They're easy like that. They're small, they keep for-ev-er, and they cost like 3 cents.

My favorite dish to use shallots in is guacamole. I'm obsessed with guacamole.  I kinda make it like 2 times a week, and it might be a problem. But we don't need to focus on that. I make it fresh... none of that guacamole packet mixer stuff. That's lame, and not to mention, expensive. The secret is the shallot.

2 avocados
1/2 jalapeno
about 1/2 inch slice of shallot
a small handful of cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime

Spoon out your avocados first. Then squeeze on your lime and add salt to taste. Then chop up your jalapeno, cilantro, and shallot. When I say about a 1/2 inch slice, I mean, take the shallot, estimate about a 1/2 inch worth and make a cut with your knife. Then chop it up small. Add the 3 chopped ingredients and use your spoon to mix together. Your avocados should be soft enough to where the spoon will blend them easily. If they aren't soft enough, wait a day and they will be. If your avocados are ripe and you aren't ready for them, put them in your fridge. They will be good at least another 4 or so days. It took me a year to figure that out, and plenty of bad spolied avocados were wasted in the process.
Do it. Seriously. Bring it to the pool party. Your friends will love you.

I use shallots in other stuff too, like: salad dressings, sauces, chicken and tuna salads and on top of lettuce based salads (specifically wedge salad). My favorite salad dressing with shallots is a creamy, red wine vinegar dressing, as follows:

a couple big spoonfuls of mayo (like the tablespoon from your silverware drawer)
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (actual tablespoon, like from your measuring set)
8 or so tablespoons of olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped up small like
salt and pepper
In a bowl, whisk together the chopped shallot and the vinegar. Add the mayo. Then whisk in the olive oil. I estimate about 8 tablespoons. But do it Rachael Ray like. Just mix it in there till you're satisfied. Add salt and pepper. Then you're done.
I serve this dressing on top of red leaf lettuce. It's fantastical.

Shallots. Just try them. They will change your life.

This public service announcement brought to you by the letter S.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I went to LA and I didn't see Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber

Hello Y'all, I'm back from a whirlwind 3 days in Los Angeles. It's been a week since I got back in Houston, but I've been busy recovering from traveling the last 2 weekends in a row, so I am excited to update you about last weekend.
We stayed on Redondo Beach, an adorable beach community, just south of Manhattan beach. Actually, adorable doesn't even begin to describe this place. It was more like the scene from last month's Pottery Barn Catalog shoot. We were able to get bikes and ride them up the bike path along the beach, getting breakfast at delicious cafes, gazing at the beautiful beach homes, browsing in the cute little shops, and enjoying cupcakes at a cupcake bakery. I know, leave it to me to smell out the nearest cupcake bakery. First let's talk about real estate. I couldn't help myself from taking pictures of all the pretty houses. I know it's marginally weird, but clearly I don't really care.

Evidence that I'm a crazy house stalker. But, even more, evidence that Malibu Ken also thinks I'm looney. Thanks for the pictures babe.

Turquoise trim??!! Could you die?

My favorite house by far. These people probably thought I was the DEA or something with the number of pictures I took of their place.
Hello?? Is Martha home?

How big is this house?

 Pottery Barn. I die.

 I didn't know Hansel and Gretal lived in California
Yes, we're THAT couple. I know.

Now for trip highlights, mostly about food.

Here I am with Malibu Ken on our beach cruisers. How California.

The North End. A restaurant featured on Triple D. What? Do you think I would go on vacation and NOT find a Food Network location?

 Guy's famous stamp of approval.

A mocha flavored with orange zest. In fact there was a gigantic orange rind under all the froth. It sounds kinda weird, but it was seriously delicious.

I don't actually remember the name of this dish, but it had some amazing sauce on eggs over bacon and sausage on corn tortillas.

The next culinary adventure. Cupcakes Couture.

Vanilla bean with vanilla icing and white chocolate shavings and a strawberry shortcake cupcake. To drink, a pomegranate Italian soda and a raspberry iced tea.

Engineeringirl stamp of approval
 For those of you following the Houston cupcake shop challenge, my vanilla cupcake was delightful. I'm not sure how I'd rank it against Crave or Sprinkles as the cupcakes I order there were both of the chocolate variety. I'd definitely visit Couture Cupcakes again.
Besides shoving my face full of food all weekend, I enjoyed the landscape all around, which included succulents. And boy there were some crazy ones.

Purple succulents. I thought my brain might explode!

I thought these looked liked sea creatures. Aren't they cool?

Succulent box. Genius.
Garden boxes outside a restaurant. LOVE IT.
Sunday brunch. Garden in background.
Other than cruising the town on our bikes all day, I also went on my first sailing adventure EVER. And it wasn't just any sailing trip, it was a sailing race. Oh yes. A race. Ultimately this was a multitasking exercise as I was:  1) trying desperately not to throw up, 2) trying to be helpful by pulling the ropes and follow the sailing directions Malibu Ken Senior (that would be Malibu Ken's Father) was giving me, 3) ensuring I didn't get smacked in the head by the boom (the thing the sail swings around on), and 4) most importantly, trying to look cute.
Clearly I succeeded at the last objective.

Primary ingredient to looking hot on a sailboat, a hot sailor

Nice looking sailboat. Looks like the one we were in, I think?

Sailboats lean in the wind. Nope, wasn't ready for that.

These are all the boats in our race. We were all sailing around starting line, waiting for the race to start.

Sailing was fun, and I managed to accomplish all my objectives. I would definitely like to go again, in a calmer scenario. That's on the list to do for next time.
We did also go the Hollywood Bowl, which is a huge outdoor amphitheater. It was opening night, so it was super special. Harry Connick, Gloria Estefan, Cirque De Soleil, and the orchestra were performing, with guest speakers Helen Mirren and Hilary Swank. It was a beautiful outdoor theater and a very romantical time.
So that's all for now. Does anyone have any sailing tips for me for next time or any LA recommendations?

Hollywood Engineeringirl

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Farm Fresh Experience

Last weekend, I did two things to celebrate and support the farming/ seasonal food movement here in Houston. I visited Feast, a rustic traditional European restaurant, serving seasonal food. Feast focuses on meats, and only serves meat that is humanely raised and slaughtered at local farms.

Listed on the back of the menu was where each of the meats came from
And at the bottom, a smart quote:

A very unique menu
 Not only did Feast take pride in serving the highest quality, the menu was quite impressive as well. For appetizers, we ordered a squash soup garnished with green apple and mint and a terrine of pork, rabbit and duck.

If you're wondering what a terrine is, I did too. It's basically some chopped up meats smashed into a loaf pan, cut into slices and served cold
Enjoying a champagne cocktail with elderberry liquor
 For dinner, Malibu Ken went rogue and ordered the leg of rabbit, which was roasted in a bale of hay! I had the Cock-a-leekie, which was chicken braised in cream, served with leeks and plums.

Hay, brought right to the table, as proof

Leg of rabbit and smile of Malibu Ken :)

The next day we joined Jaime and Charlie at the farmers market off Richmond. We picked up a few things to enjoy for dinner that night.

Farmers Market was outside with lots of tents
A bunch of tri-colored carrots to roast with beets

These beets look dirty but they are a beautiful red when peeled and sliced
Heirloom tomatoes to have sliced with goat cheese on toasts

The stand where we bought some delicious goat cheese

Ken holding our purchases in a reusable bag. How earthy crunchy!

Jaime and Charlie waiting in front of the food truck waiting for Charlie's breakfast burrito

Here are some of the other items we considered.

Pretty eggs.  I didn't even know they came in these colors!

Snake like cucumbers
Has anyone visisted any other farmers markets around Houston or any seasonal type restaurants? I'd love to hear of your experiences.

Crunchy kisses, Lauren