Southwest-Style Shakshuka with Avocado, Epazote, Pinto Beans

Southwest-Style Shakshuka (Eggs Cooked in Spiced Tomato Sauce) Avocado, Epazote, Pinto Beans

Southwest-Style Shakshuka (Eggs Cooked in Spiced Tomato Sauce) Avocado, Epazote, Pinto Beans

Shakshuka, the breakfast/lunch dish that originated in Tunisia that’s wildly popular in Israel, is a perfect brunch item. It is easy to prepare in a single pan but takes a bit more time than weekday fried eggs and toast. The skillet doubles as the serving dish, and makes a terrific presentation on the buffet.

This now-global egg and tomato skillet dish has many incarnations – made with a myriad of ingredients such as sausage, feta, bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and a variety of herbs and spices depending on geography and the seasons.

Epazote in garden

Inspired by my garden overflowing with epazote, I decided to make shakshuka with a Southwestern influence. Epazote is often paired with beans for its natural carminative properties. The saw-toothed epazote leaves give the shakshuka a unique aroma and flavor. I have fallen in love with this herb and its intriguing bouquet which is strangely reminiscent of, if you can believe it, kerosene. Here, spicy tomato sauce is simmered with pinto beans and epazote, then topped with eggs. Once cooked, the whole thing is garnished with avocado slices, cilantro and scallions.

Smoky charred corn tortillas and sour cream

It can be served on its own or as tacos with smoky charred corn tortillas and sour cream.

Southwest-Style Shakshuka (Eggs Cooked in Spiced Tomato Sauce) Avocado, Epazote, Pinto Beans

For the Memorial Day holiday, try this vegetarian shakshuka for brunch, and save the meat for a big barbecue later in the day.

Memorial Day

My Memorial Day

Every year at the end of May, it is our duty to honor those who have laid down their lives to defend our freedom and ensure our liberty. Simultaneously we celebrate Memorial Day weekend as the official start of the summer grilling season. So in addition to serving awesome grilled foods and refreshing drinks, we proudly display the American flag and observe a minute of silence at 3:00 PM to honor and remember those who have died in service to our nation. We turn on the television to watch the President lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and we listen with respect as a lone bugler plays the languid 24-note melancholy bugle call known as Taps.

“The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Abraham Lincoln

“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
John F. Kennedy

“Memorial Day is a day of ceremonies and speeches. Throughout America today, we honor the dead of our wars. We recall their valor and their sacrifices. We remember they gave their lives so that others might live.”
Ronald Reagan

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Mother’s Day Brunch

Mother's Day Table Setting

Mother’s Day Brunch

It’s no secret that Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for U.S. restaurants. Take mom out for a nice meal, give her the day off from cooking and cleaning, what a treat! But if you would like to make the day festive and personal, try these tips for “Making Mother’s Day Special” starting her day by fixing breakfast or brunch. And {hint} you can still take her out for dinner!

brunch strata

Prepare a fresh and easy brunch that is on the healthier side. The menu includes a light egg & cheese strata, fresh fruit parfait, with juice, and coffee or tea. The strata provides a delightful savory element, while the parfait adds a sweet note.

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Brunch. Manhattan. Beach.

post bangin' brunch, mb post
Manhattan Beach Post
POST BANGIN’ BRUNCH

She called it one of the most surprising openings of the year. As one of the Best Meals of 2011Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic S. Irene Virbila lists her experience at M.B. Post as one of 2011’s most memorable. The upscale Water Grill in Downtown LA with Chef David LeFevre at the helm for years has been our favorite seafood restaurant, and that hasn’t changed. But now this Michelin-starred chef is in the South Bay, our neck of the woods, down at the beach, and we’re thrilled.

manhattan beach post restaurant

M.B Post serves imaginative, artisan global-style dishes in a casually sophisticated atmosphere that purposefully lends itself to a “social house” setting. It’s a fresh brilliant concept where sliding doors open onto the street, with beach-town ambiance, but in a non-stereotypical fashion.

The Chef began offering his Post Bangin’ Brunch in January. Hooray.

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A Trip to Little Saigon & The NYE Repas du Soir

southeast asian table setting
A Trip to Little Saigon
The New Year’s Eve Repas du Soir
New Year’s Day Fabulous Leftovers Brunch

Best friends, great memories, stellar food – that’s how we celebrate the New Year! The old gang is together again, this time we take A Trip To Little Saigon & cook a NYE Repas du Soir together! My old dear friends, dating back to our restaurant days in the 80’s, are visiting for the holidays.

It was Tori’s idea to spend the day in Little Saigon. Eating lunch, laughing, taking photos, getting massages, and shopping. It was her idea that led to the inspiration to cook French/Vietnamese for dinner. We picked up authentic ingredients for our repas du soir and returned to my home in LA in the late afternoon to drink Champagne and create a six-course meal together.

southeast asian table setting

The dinner table was pre-set in a casually elegant Southeast Asian style with orchids, bamboo, and the color red to symbolize wealth and prosperity. We cranked up the holiday music and started cooking; everyone participated in the creation, photography, prep, and execution of the menu. We had a blast!

I had no intention of submitting this outing for the Foodbuzz 24X24 event until I read that the folks over at Foodbuzz were interested to see how Featured Publishers would be spending the last day of 2011. We had terrific culinary/cultural plans that turned out to be a fantastic way to ring in the New Year.

Extending a very special thank you to my friends FA, Al, Kirk, Tori, and Tom for your love & friendship and sense of humor & adventure! Thank you to Foodbuzz for choosing A Trip to Little Saigon & The NYE Repas du Soir as a participant in December’s 24×24 event. Foodbuzz 24×24 showcases posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, highlighting unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period.

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Vegas Brunch Fav: MESA GRILL

mesa grill
Bobby Flay’s  MESA GRILL  Las Vegas

shrimp corn tamale, mesa grill

When the JetBlue flight touches down at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, many people get that familiar tingly feeling. Excitement, adrenaline, gonna win big this time! But our thrill comes not only from fantasizing about hitting the $10 million MegaBucks jackpot (although that’s part of it). Our unique-to-Vegas sensation is mainly about hitting the Culinary Jackpot.

We agonize over our restaurant reservations well in advance of the trip, painstakingly coordinating visits to hot new Chefs, old favorite Chefs with new venues, various cuisines and locations. This time, my brother Don imposed a requirement – we could not eat anywhere we had previously eaten. Except, of course, Mon Ami Gabi @ Paris, because it’s our favorite spot for al fresco breakfast and the bar is our afternoon hangout for drinking vin gris and enjoying the Bellagio Fountains.

Another trip to Vegas, another trip to culinary heaven. Thanks to Don’s edict, this recent journey introduced us to Andre’s @ Monte Carlo, the bar at Michel Richard’s new Central @ Caesar’s, Bradley Ogden @ Caesar’s, Sirio @ Aria.

And brunch at Bobby Flay’s MESA GRILL @ Caesar’s:

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Snowbound Brunch & Snowball Fight

Asparagus Frittata

Festive Breakfast Table

Smoked Salmon with Bagels
Onions, Capers, Cream Cheese,
Olives, Lemons, Dill

Fresh Fruit Salad

“Adult” Mac & 4 Cheese
(Stone thought it was too stinky).

Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne
Menu
Asparagus Frittata
Smoked Salmon, Bagels and Accompaniments
Fresh Fruit Salad
Adult Mac & 4 Cheese
Veuve Clicquot Rosé
Coffee & Juice

Isn’t that an awesome holiday brunch buffet?
We were guests at the home of our dear dear friend Susan in New Jersey. Just like last year, we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Susan, family, old friends, and making some new friends as well. Susan, you are truly the warmest and most generous hostess in the world! Thanks again!
Now, perhaps you heard about the blizzard that blanketed the East Coast this past Saturday? We woke up to a winter wonderland.

But we didn’t have snow gear!

Athena and Eric make snow boots for us with trash bags and tape.

Here I am with my nephews, Jett, 5, and Stone, 7, ready to play in the snow!

My brother Don brings out the shovel and we build our forts.


I’m going to get you!

Lisa and Stone are on one team.

Gotcha!

Making snow angels.

May your Christmas be merry and bright!

BLT Quiche

BLT Quiche
A Quiche Inspired by the Classic
 Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich

Are you a fan of the BLT?
Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Mayonnaise
Served here on Toasted Ciabatta 
Caperberries for Garnish
BLT Quiche Recipe

Slice high-quality bacon, cook in a non-stick skillet until cooked through but not crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Meanwhile sauté finely chopped yellow onion with a small amount of bacon fat until soft and slightly browned. Set aside on paper towels to cool. Combine bacon and onion.

Spray a pie dish with baking spray (cooking spray with flour added). Form pie dough (homemade or store-bought) in the pie dish.

Add bacon onion mixture.

My ratio for quiche custard base is:

  • 5 fresh whole large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups of warm light cream
  • 1 T flour
  • salt and pepper
I beat these ingredients with an electric hand mixer.
Pour custard base over the bacon onion mixture. Bake at 350° for about an hour, maybe a little longer, until just cooked through.

Let quiche cool completely to room temperature.

Slice the quiche into wedges before topping with the salad. Top the bacon quiche with tomato wedges and mixed lettuces tossed with mayonnaise or ranch dressing, salt and pepper to taste. A pie server is perfect for serving. This is a great dish for a brunch buffet as it is served at room temperature, it’s colorful, whimsical and delicious! 

David Burke Fromagerie

HAM AND CHEESE OMELET STREUDEL
My favorite meal to dine out is SUNDAY BRUNCH. And my family and I like a leisurely brunch at that. A while back we had a phenomenal four hour brunch at David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson, New Jersey.

HANDMADE CAVATELLI & BRAISED SHORT RIBS
wild mushrooms, truffle mousse and mushroom chips

For nearly 35 years, Fromagerie has been a landmark in Rumson. In his teens, New Jersey native David Burke worked in the kitchen here. “I didn’t become a cook because I love food, I became a cook because I love the kitchen.”
As he became more successful, Chef Burke remained friends with the original owners. It was his dream to one day buy Fromagerie when it came time for his friends/mentors to retire. This dream came true in 2006.

PETITE FILET MIGNON & EGG BENEDICT
home fries

HAND CUT BACON “for the table”

Our family has a dining custom we call “for the table.” It first came about in the 90’s at a new restaurant in Vegas where our waiter said we would be remiss if someone did not order the Chef’s truffle risotto. My brother said, “Well, just bring one for the table,” thus ordering an additional entrée for all to share. Over the years this has become Standard Operating Procedure. Ordering the Chef’s recommendation or a dish to share “for the table” even has it’s own gesture: Outstretch arm and make a circular motion with the hand toward the middle of the table.

TITANIC FRENCH TOAST
two marmalades & strawberry consomme

What to drink with Brunch? Bloody Marys are good. But we are in love with Grüner Veltliner. This darling Austrian white wine pairs with all brunch foods. All? How can that be? Salad, artichoke, omelette, asparagus, hollandaise, bacon, crab, cheese, French toast??? Yes. I plan to keep drinking GrüVe, affectionately called groovy, with brunch and I promise to let you know if something doesn’t work. I suspect it has something to do with the time of day as well as the wine’s character: Juicy. Complex. Bright. Balanced. Intriguing. Johann Donabaum is one of a new generation of younger winemakers producing wines from the western end of the Wachau, Austria’s great dry white wine region. Johann Donabaum Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Berglage Loiben 2005

The Hirsch winery is among the best white wine producing estates of Austria. Josef Hirsch and his son Johannes, with a love of nature and honed oenology skills respectively, combine old style and new style produce wines of exceptional character. Speaking of Austria, if you want a real treat, please visit my blogger friend Merisi, whose Postcards from Vienna photography will give you an amazing taste of this gorgeous country. Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal Kammern Lamm 2005

FRESH SEASONAL FRUIT
lemongrass-ginger consommé & “chai tea” whipped cream

MOLTEN CHOCOLATE S’MORES
bourbon vanilla gelato, crisp meringue mushroom

DAVID BURKE CHEESECAKE POPS – The staff could not have been more gracious. To top off the experience, they presented all six of us with a gift box of cheesecake pops to take home (or for some of us, on the plane).
We just returned from Las Vegas where we celebrated my mother’s 75th birthday and enjoyed another fab David Burke meal at his restaurant in The Venetian. More to come…

Rise & Shine! Poached Egg, Lentils, Béarnaise


Steamed seasoned lentils topped with a poached egg and béarnaise. I refer to Yann Chef of Food Lorists for fabulous sauce recipes, this one included. Thanks Yann!

This breakfast/brunch dish is my contribution to “My Legume Love Affair” Event by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook Blog. Do you have a legume dish to share? You can join in through February 9th.