Thursday, August 18, 2011

A 30 Minute Pasta with Sautéed Farmers Market Vegetables

At the height of summer, the farmers markets have the most amazing selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Corn, tomatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant, zucchini, peas, broccoli, parsley, arugula, frisee, plums, pluots, figs, peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes...I'm running out of breath trying to say them all.
Part of me wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen experimenting and playing with all these great ingredients.

The other part would prefer to stay outside, enjoying our beautiful Southern California weather. This recipe splits the difference. I can have fun with the farmers market bounty and it takes only 30 minutes.

That's a win-win if ever there was one.

Sautéed Vegetables and Pasta

For vegetarians, this is a very satisfying meal-in-one. For everyone else, cooked meat, poultry and seafood can easily be added with great results.
I choose to cut all the vegetables so they are similar in size to the corn kernels, although I make an exception for the string beans, which I think are more enjoyable when cooked in lengths of at least 1". A personal preference.  At any rate, cut the vegetables small or roughly, depending on how you like them.

Yield: 4

Time: 30 minutes

1 pound pasta
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 pound string beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" lengths
1 small yellow onion, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt and pepper to taste


Bring to a boil a gallon of water with the kosher salt. Add the pasta and stir well initially and every couple of minutes to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Place a heatproof cup in the sink and capture one cup pasta water when you drain the pasta.

Return the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and sweet butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Lightly cover--do not seal--with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a large frying or chefs pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté all the vegetables until brown. Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Simmer over a medium flame until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cooked pasta. Toss well to coat. If more liquid is needed, add more of the remaining pasta water and a pat of butter. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.


Instead of Italian parsley, add 1 tablespoon fresh oregano.

For heat, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the vegetable sauté.

Along with the pasta water and sweet butter, add 2 cups of any chopped, cooked meat, poultry or seafood you like.

Add roasted, skinless tomatoes with the pasta water and sweet butter.

Add 1 cup raw, chopped tomatoes with the vegetables.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or roughly chopped almonds.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted or sautéed bread crumbs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Year Old, Santa Monica Place Celebrates with a Restaurant Tasting

The newly remodeled Santa Monica Place has hit its one-year anniversary. As part of the celebration, eight of the mall restaurants are offering tasting menus for lunch and dinner until Aug. 14.
For anyone who hasn't yet visited the remodeled Santa Monica Place, you are in for a surprise. The old school, enclosed big-box mall has had a remarkable make-over.
The top of the old mall was literally peeled off, creating a three-story, open courtyard. On the top floor, a Dining Deck with fast-food restaurants has seating both indoors and outdoors with views of the ocean—provided you stand on tippy-toes and peek above the building to the west.
In the afternoon, cool ocean breezes add to the pleasures of being on the deck. If you happen to visit at the end of the day, you can watch the sun set as you enjoy your plate of fish tacos from Pinches Tacos or Charlie Kabob's rotisserie chicken with humus and rice.
In additon to the Dining Deck, the rennovated mall has ten sit-down restaurants offering a great variety of cuisines.
As part of the anniversary celebration, most of the full-service restaurants on the top deck and in the Market are offering tasting menus for lunch ($20) and dinner ($30) through Sunday, Aug. 14.
Personally, I love tastings. At a reduced price, a selection of dishes from the menu are offered as a way of introducing diners to the restaurant.
The Taste of Santa Monica Place is the perfect opportunity to try out the varied cuisines of La Sandia, Ozumo, Zengo, Sonoma Wine Garden, and Xino on the upper deck, the Blue Stove inside Nordstrom and Primi Al Mercato and The Curious Palate in the Market.
What a great variety of local and global cuisines. From the Curious Palate's farm-to-table American comfort food to Ozumo's authentic upscale Japanese cuisine and sake bar, one could satisfy just about any craving.
With two hours of free parking and valet service available on Second Street, Santa Monica Place makes it easy for visitors to come for shopping and dining. Check in at the concierge stations on the first and third floors about other special events, reduced parking rates, as well as gift bags offers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Yabu in West Los Angeles - Authentic Japanese

Living in Southern California, we enjoy rich ethnic diversity. Those of us who explore culture through cuisine are very happy about that.
Located in West Los Angeles, Yabuwhich has a devoted following and is a good example of a neighborhood Japanese restaurant.
Because Yabu has a much larger, sister restaurant in West Hollywood, when you call to make a reservation, you will be asked to confirm that you want to eat at the Pico restaurant.
You do.
There are lots of chain restaurants with Japanese names, but Yabu's kitchen prepares authentic Japanese comfort food.
Serving lunch (Mon.-Sat.) and dinner (Mon.-Sun.), the restaurant is perfect to drop in for a quick bite at the sushi bar or with family and friends to hang out at one of the tables tucked into the corners of the room.
Order cups of hot green tea, ice cold bottles of Japanese beers or hot (or cold) sake and try out new dishes as you enjoy easy conversation and good food.
The sushi selections are always fresh and made with precision. Affordable—unless you go crazy—sushi and sashimi can be ordered individually or as combination platters.
The beef tataki, a Japanese version of carpaccio, and the albacore tuna tataki are especially tasty and the ponzu dressing is spicy enough to bring out the best of both.
In no particular order, here are some favorites: fried tofu, stir-fried lotus root (kimpira renkon), edamame, eggplant, seaweed salad, miso soup, shishito green peppers, broiled salmon and soboro don (finely minced chicken cooked in a ginger soy sauce with a bit of heat and served over donburi rice).
Come at lunch and try the combination of noodle soup (soba or udon) and sushi. Affordable and freshly made, the soup is light and flavorful, the noodles chewy and delicious. 
One of my favorites is the tempura udon in a big bowl of soup. Ask for the vegetable and shrimp tempura on the side so they stay crisp and crunchy.
Yabu's tempura may be some of the best in Los Angeles. Light and fresh tasting, the shrimp, seaweed square, lotus root and sweet potato have their flavors enhanced, not overwhelmed, by the batter.
Everyone has his or her favorite sushi; mine are tamago (egg), baked crab in a hand roll (on the dinner specials menu) and spicy tuna.
For a small restaurant with a kitchen about the size of a Mini Cooper, you'll be surprised at the plentiful menu.
Make reservations by calling 310-473-9757 and be sure to mention you want to dine at the Pico location. Valet parking is available. Pay in cash and receive a 10 percent discount.