Category Archives: appetizers

Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market Products (and yes, I’m baaaaack!)

Whoa. How long has it been since I’ve even been on my blog? It’s been a pretty hectic few months and unfortunately Tuna Toast has fallen by the wayside, even though this food blog is honestly one of the reasons why I’m doing the work I’m doing now.

I don’t want to get into it too much, but as the 1.5 longtime readers of this here blog  know, I worked in entertainment media for years up until the end of last year. Since then it’s been a journey- honestly that’s the best way to describe it- to finding something that is both personally rewarding as well as professionally challenging and satisfying. It’s a story you read often on food blogs- blogger works in a non-food industry, is itching to make their passion their profession, makes a leap of faith and either lands on both feet or lands on one foot while the other is still dangling up on a rope somewhere. I think maybe I’m more of the latter – I’m basking in the warm glow of actually working in the food/wine industry while occasionally letting the worry of starting over (hey- I’m not over the hill but I ain’t 25!) damper the experience a bit.  I know I shouldn’t waste any time or energy doubting myself, because it was only a few short months ago that I was bound to a cubicle, daydreaming of working elsewhere. The constant reminder on the nightly news about the state of employment (a complete lack of it!) in this country should also be a reminder that I should feel extremely lucky and grateful to be working at all, much less in a job (make that  jobs) I actually like. Continue reading

Super Bowl Food

Ah, The Super Bowl.  It might be the second biggest eating “holiday” in the U.S. after Thanksgiving.  I’m not really sure where the tradition of stuffing your face while watching football started, but I’m not complaining about it!  I mean, any excuse to eat while watching TV can’t be bad (for your soul…but it could be bad for the body!) plus the food gives the football haters something to focus on while the others scream loudly at the television as if the referees can actually hear them.  Which is probably why I made SO much food yesterday.  As you may know from reading this blog, J is a musician.  As you can probably guess, none of his musician friends watch sports of any kind.  So the food was the reason they came, while only a couple of us actually watched the game.  It was a win-win for everyone (OK, maybe not the Steelers…oh well…).
I don’t know why I but I always make way more food than necessary, whether it’s for a special occasion or just a regular ol’ night.  You’d think I was cooking for the Duggars (that family that has like, 100 kids) but I guess I always feel it’s better to have too much that too little.  Of course during the 4th hour of cooking I often wonder what the hell I was thinking, but then I get out of the weeds and it all works out.  Isn’t that the joy of cooking?!  I just have this need to feed people…it’s what makes me happiest, so I’ll come up with any reason to cook mountains of food as long as there are people willing to eat it.  
Since we only had a few people over, I sent each person home with enough food to last them a week.  I think next time I’ll take it down a notch and remind myself that our guests aren’t bears and do not need to eat enough to sustain themselves until spring.  
Here’s what we had:

Lobster salad in endive cups.  Normally I make this with crab, but J and I bought a 5 pound lobster at Shun Fat El Monte Superstore for under $20, so I figured why not?  Do you know how much a container of dungeness crab meat costs?  A lot more than this giant specimen of a lobster!  The claw meat was amazingly tender and worked really well in this dish.



Two kinds of empanadas: 1) Soyrizo, corn and cheese empanadas and 2) Butternut squash, black bean and salsa verde empanadas.  I find it’s easiest to keep a lot of party dishes vegetarian friendly, and as long as they’re satisfying, the meat eaters won’t even notice.  I took a shortcut by purchasing empanada dough discs from Figueroa Produce- they sell three kinds, all in their freezer section.

Lightly blanched green beans and asparagus with sesame dip.  I just whizzed one block of silken tofu in a blender with some Japanese toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds and sesame salad dressing.  It was thick and delicious- try substituting silken tofu for mayo in your next dip recipe and you’ll see how creamy it is!

Italian sandwiches: Tofurky Italian Sausage sliced thin, provolone cheese, mixed greens and pesto.  I made big sandwiches the day before on ciabatta bread, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and compressed them with cans, then unwrapped them the day of the party and sliced them into smaller sandwiches.

Guacamole and three kinds of salsa: I made the guac- you can’t have a Super Bowl party without it- and bought the salsa from Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock.

Japanese fried chicken drumettes: My mom used to make these for my sister and me on special occasions like birthday parties, and they are absolutely my favorite kind of fried chicken.  Just marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger and green onions for a few hours, coat them in a mixture of equal parts flour and potato starch, then deep fry (I used peanut oil).  You don’t need any sauce since the flavor is built right in.  DEEEELISH!  I garnished it with some extra chopped green onions for color.

Ina Garten’s Macaroni and Cheese: Easy to make in advance so you just pop it in the oven 30 minutes before guests arrive.  Always a hit.

Here’s the whole spread:

What did you eat on Super Bowl Sunday?  

Cooking for 40

Holy cow- I truly stink at photography- ironic, really, since my father used to be a professional photographer. Sorry Papa, even though I got your Punctuality Gene and Cooking Gene, it looks as if the Photography Gene only landed in my sister and not me. I just spent the last few minutes downloading photos from my camera only to see shot after awful, blurry shot of much of the food I cooked or ate over the last couple of months. Yes, it’s been THAT long since I last blogged, but trust me- based on those crappy photos I’m saving you, dear reader, from being exposed to my poor documentation of some really good food. I simply did it no justice!

These photos fall into that category as well, but I couldn’t NOT post about the first time I cooked for close to 40 people. Yep- forty. J and I decided to throw a party for his band/crew family to celebrate the end of the year since the guys travel so much and we hardly ever get a chance to hang out. You know what? It wasn’t so hard. I did it bit by bit over the course of five days, and although I was sweatin’ it a little on party day, it all came together fairly painlessly. After all, I did get the Planning Ahead Gene from my dad as well.

On the first day, I made the savory pastry crust for four mushroom and gruyere tarts and tossed them in the freezer. The next, I made 7 quarts of pureed butternut squash soup which also went into the freezer, and made the mushroom filling for the aforementioned tarts. They day before the party I marinated the pork tenderloin and made a big batch of caramelized onion jam for the sliders, and prepped both the carnivore and vegan version of bacon wrapped dates. All that was left to do on the actual day of the party was put it all together, and make 4 quarts of Barefoot Contessa’s famous mac ‘n cheese!

Here’s the evidence:

Two kinds of salami, purchased at Nicole’s Gourmet Imports in South Pasadena:

I love savory tarts and have made this mushroom and gruyere version many times.

If you make four and then cut each into 12-15 pieces, you immediately have enough for a large party:

Two kinds of sliders: Garlic/balsamic/rosemary-marinated pork tenderloin and vegan bratwurst, both topped with sweet caramelized onion jam, arugula and spicy dijon mustard on Trader Joe’s slider buns:

Little pastry cups filled with a mixture of crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon zest and chives topped with flakes of smoked salmon:

Up front: Crudités of lightly blanched green beans, asparagus and sugar snap peas served with hummus:

The Barefoot Contessa’s rich, beautiful macaroni and cheese made with three cheese, a pinch of nutmeg and topped with fresh breadcrumbs. I skipped the tomatoes since they weren’t (and still aren’t) in season:

You can’t have a party without cheese, crackers and assorted other nibbles like olives and cornichons!

I rented chafing dishes for the first time ever- along with heat lamps, tables and chairs from Dolphin Party Rentals in Pasadena- everything was awesome and they deliver and pick up. So easy. That soup chafer is filled with butternut squash soup, one of my favorites. The only real trouble making that is breaking down five squash- peeling, seeding, cutting….but worth the effort:

On the left: Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo. On the right: veggie bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with soyrizo. Honestly, they were equally delicious and one of the most popular items at the party. Just buy seeded dates, stuff cooked sausage or soyrizo into each, wrap with your choice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. You can do this the night before, then bake them on a cookie sheet the day of the party:

Call me crazy, but cooking this much food was so fun…my love of cooking only grows by the minute, and I’ve started to just make most dishes based on what I personally like to eat instead of following recipes. Of course when there is a recipe as good Barefoot Contessa’s mac ‘n cheese, you gotta make it! There are few things in life as satisfying as seeing the smiles on friends’ faces when they eat something you made for them, and I’m glad we did it!

What’s your favorite party dish?

Asian Chicken Sausage Rolls

As someone who checks out other food blogs constantly, I have a stack of recipes that I’m anxious to try and have stockpiled in my brain at all times. With so many food bloggers also doubling as professional-level photographers, how can one resist not rushing into the kitchen after seeing such works of art? I want to cook them, eat them and serve them to friends and family as soon as possible….which wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t so many drool-inducing food blog posts out there. I mean, what on earth is a girl to do?

mise en place

I made a teeny weeny dent in my “I-Need-To-Make-This-Now” list this past weekend by recreating Rice & Noodles’ Oriental Chicken Sausage Rolls to take to a football viewing party at a friend’s house. The minute I saw these golden rolls of Asian flavors I knew I had to make them. Not only were they beautiful but I could practically taste them by looking at the lovely photos.

First of all, it’s a brilliant recipe. You can make a lot for little effort- everyone likes that, no? The rolls are also as beautiful as they are delicious, plus they are a nice departure from traditional sausage rolls and the element of surprise is always nice. The scent of chopped garlic, ginger, chilies and fish sauce reminded me very much of gyoza filling, and it came together so quickly and easily that I’ll definitely plan to put this recipe on my permanent list of go-to party foods.

These turned out so well and were a huge hit. They really did remind me of my favorite gyoza or shumai except for the light and flaky crust which just added another element to the dish. I may try adding diced Chinese sausage instead of pancetta the next time, or maybe even try phyllo dough or pizza crust. There are lots of variations that would work well with this original concept.

Maybe you can whip these up to serve as you cheer on the Dodgers tonight???