Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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May 30, 2011

Rum & Butterscotch Chip Cookies

The Lush Chef was making the Memorial Day BBQ rounds this past weekend and spreading lush cheer.  I didn't have much time to slave away in the kitchen making gorgeous cut-outs or anything fancy, so I turned to Grandma's always delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe. can I make this boozy?  And then an ad for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 flashed on my TV...

Rum...of course!  And dark "pirate" rum, for that matter.  You can use whichever kind of chip you like, but there's something about the combination of butterscotch and rum that makes perfect sense to me.

Rum & Butterscotch Chip Cookies - makes about 3 dozen
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs dark rum
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Cream shortening and butter, then add 2 sugars until fully incorporated
- Add the eggs, vanilla extract and rum and stir.
- Add the dry ingredients and stir.
- Add the chips & walnuts and keep stirring...arrr...
- Drop scoops of cookie batter on an ungreased pan - I like mine at about a 2 inch circumference.  And don't smush the batter down too much or else you're going to get a flat, burnt cookie.
- Bake 8-10 minutes
- Leave cookies on sheet for a couple minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

May 27, 2011

Christopher Walken Cooks!

I'm going to be doing TONS of Lush Chef baking this weekend for all the Memorial Day weekend parties I have coming up, so there will be plenty of recipes next week.  So for your viewing pleasure, I give you Christopher

Yes, the man I was afraid of on the silver screen nearly my entire life, opens up his kitchen to us and cooks chicken with pears.  There's really no need to further explain.  It's Christopher Walken in one of his finest performances.  Just watch, learn and enjoy.

May 25, 2011

Wine Cheese Balls

Since I definitely didn't feel like cooking this past weekend, I bring you another prepared gourmet food item.  The Lush Chef's parents introduced her to these wine cheese balls that they had at the tasting room at  Chateau Fontaine Vineyard in northern Michigan.  Whenever they visit this winery, they always mail back a couple packages of these dried seasonings, but if you don't have awesome parents like mine, you can order online from Monk's Meadow.  I always like to have at least one package of this in the pantry and the ingredients you mix with it are very inexpensive.  There are many different versions you can purchase, but the ones I've tried are the Cabernet Sauvignon & Seasoned Country Bacon and my favorite, the Chardonnay, Garlic & Cilantro.  The recipe is included on the inside of the package, but we use the Chateau Fontaine recipe, which lets you split the seasoning mix in 2 (great to save the other half for another occasion).

- Mix 2 Tbs of the mix with 2 Tbs of the wine
- Let the mixture soak for 30 minutes
- Blend in well-softened 8 oz of cream cheese and 8 oz (2 cups) shredded cheese
- Form into a ball and place in the fridge for about an hour

May 23, 2011

Bacon Bourbon Chutney

As much as I'd like to, I don't always have the time or the energy to make EVERYTHING.  Sometimes, all a Lush Chef wants to do is open a jar or package of something delicious and serve that to her guests.  I took a stroll over to the new Market at Santa Monica Place (Santa Monica's light version of San Fran's Ferry Plaza) where Artisanal LA had a pop-up with rotating local purveyors.  A jolly chef was serving all sorts of bacon she had cured and dips she had made.  When she asked if I wanted to try her Bacon Bourbon Chutney, well...I thought the rapture was happening right then and there.  Chef Rashida at Cast Iron Gourmet makes this chutney with smoked and braised, in what I'm assuming is bourbon, pork bacon.  The mixture is then combined with some veggies, herbs and spices.  It has both a smoky and sweet flavor.  I could have kept eating this plain on crackers, but it's also great on sandwiches.  I bet it would also be amazing on some toast points with goat cheese.  The texture reminds me more of a tapenade than a chutney because of the stringier nature of the bacon, but who cares?  At $16 a jar, it was a little on the pricy side, but I'm a strong believer in supporting local artisans and it's always nice to have some fun and surprising gourmet items in the cabinet for party emergencies (or moments of laziness).

May 20, 2011


"The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you.  They balance each other." - Orson Welles

Well said, Mr. Welles.  In the last Campari posting of the week, I give you one of my favorite cocktails - the Negroni.  This is one of the easiest drinks to make because all the ratios for the liquors are the same.  I crave Negronis on spring and summer afternoons, and I like to imagine sipping it outside an Italian caffé opposite Marcello Mastroianni...

This cocktail was invented in 1919 at the Caffé Casoni in Florence.  Count Camillo Negroni loved Americanos, but wanted a stiffer version (note to self...must get a drink named for me this way).  The bartender substituted gin for the soda water, and garnished it with an orange peel instead of lemon to distinguish the two drinks.

Negroni - serves 1
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
- Fill a glass with ice and pour in Campari, gin and vermouth.
- Stir and garnish with an orange peel.

May 18, 2011

Grapefruit Campari Sorbet

Libations used: 1/4 cup Campari
Libations left over: none, but that just means you'll have to wait until the sorbet is done...
I get cravings for sorbet on a regular basis, and after making Pear Riesling Sorbet in April, love keeping a homemade batch of lush-inspired sorbet in the freezer at all times.  It's the perfect palate cleanser and the Lush Chef's mom will be proud that she's getting enough fruit in her diet...

This Grapefruit Campari Sorbet is from David Lebovitz's blog, and is the perfect dessert to follow a night of grilling outdoors.  I wish I was grilling outdoors in Paris like David, but we can't have everything in life, now can we?  You don't need an ice cream or sorbet machine to make this - just give the mixture a whirl in your blender or food processor and chill again for about 8 hours.

Grapefruit Campari Sorbet - makes about 1 quart
  • 3 cups freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Campari
- Warm 1 cup of grapefruit juice with the sugar over low heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the grapefruit juice and Campari.
- Pour mixture into a bread pan, cover and freeze.
- After mixture is frozen, puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Put it back in the freezer for about 8 hours to firm up again.
- Serve and garnish with a grapefruit peel.

May 16, 2011

Orange & Campari Popsicles

Libations used: 1/2 cup Campari
Libations left over: None, but you'll be get a nice pick-me-up from these adult popsicles!
As promised from last Friday's "libation education," here's the first of 3 Campari recipes for the week.  In anticipation of the hotter months, I love stocking my freezer with lush-inspired treats like popsicles and flavored ice cubes.  These are perfect to whip out during impromptu dinner and cocktail parties, and now that summer's approaching, those tend to happen more often at the Lush Chef's beachside abode.

These popsicles can be made with freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice.  My mold only makes 8 small popsicles, so I added the extra juice to my king ice cube tray (perfect to drop in a glass of soda water for a refreshing and light drink).  Because Campari is an apéritif, these frozen treats are truly the perfect finish to dinner...or in my case, an afternoon snack...

Orange & Campari Popsicles - makes about 16, small popsicles 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Campari
- Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves.  Let it boil for about 4 minutes and then remove from heat to cool.
- Combine orange and lemon juices, Campari and 1 cup of the cooled simple syrup.
- Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 8 hours.
- Quickly run some hot water over the molds and gently remove the popsicles.

May 13, 2011

Libation Education: Campari

We haven't had a "Libation Education" in a while, and I feel it's my duty as the Lush Chef to provide the occasional fun lesson.  When the warmer months approach, most people crave margaritas, but I crave Negronis (recipe to come later).  The chief ingredient in these simple Italian cocktails is Campari, a citrusy bitter amaro (Italian bitter apéritifs), that for many is an acquired taste.  About 5 years ago in LA, there was a series of free, arty House of Campari events that attempted to develop young Angeleno palates.  I remember sipping on my first Negroni and despising it - it was far too bitter for me and I couldn't imagine myself coming to love it.  A few more events later, and I'd taken a shining to this ruby red libation.

Campari was invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy.  The liqueur was a fusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit (including chinotto - a small, bitter orange-like fruit that is grown in select regions of Italy) in alcohol and water.  It was originally dyed with carmine, a red dye derived from cochineal insects (mmm), and was called "Bitter Uso Olanda."  The recipe is still a closely guarded secret - some suspect it contains up to 20 ingredients, while others speculate there are 60.

In the late 1860's, Campari moved his family to Milan and opened up Caffé Campari where he could serve his distinctive liqueur.  This was also where the Americano cocktail was invented and was later enjoyed by a ton of American's (thus the name) in the early 1900's.  In the 1890's, the family started working with artists to create eye-catching, and sometimes racy, posters and advertisements.  Spearheaded by Gaspare's son David, the company soon became known for being artist-friendly and cutting-edge with its campaigns.

So go run out and buy a bottle, because yours truly is going to be posting Campari recipes all next week!

May 11, 2011

Michigan Vineyard Salad

Libations used - 1/2 cup white wine
Libations left over - pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with the salad
It's starting to get busy at the office again, and sometimes all a working girl can manage on a week night is a salad.  That doesn't mean your quick salad can't be "lush" and elegant.  This recipe from Sandhill Crane Vineyards on includes white wine in the vinaigrette.  And while I haven't visited this particular vineyard, the salad ingredients, especially the dried cherries, truly remind me of the Michigan vineyards I've visited with my parents.  I plan on serving this again for a Lush Chef ladies brunch, paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Michigan Vineyard Salad - dressing yields about 1 1/4 cups
Salad Ingredients:
  • Mixed greens - I always get my salad greens from Maggie's Farm at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market.  Their mixes are superb, and I'm truly spoiled by them.
  • Dried cherries
  • Sliced pears
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Toasted pecans
Vinaigrette Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- Reduce wine over medium heat by half.
- Add mustard and vinegar and whisk.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer wine mixture into a large bowl.  Slowly dribble oil into bowl, whisking constantly, until dressing is creamy, thickened and all the oil has been incorporated.
- Add in all the salad ingredients and toss with dressing.

May 9, 2011

Walnut-Crusted Tilapia with Lemon Wine Sauce

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine
Libations left over: pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner
It's almost beach season in SoCal, and after spending a couple of hours in the sand and staring at the ocean, I was ready for a fish dinner.  I was craving something fried, but after imbibing at an epic Kentucky Derby party on Saturday, I really needed to be eating a tad healthier.  This walnut-crusted fish recipe from Bite Me, a cheeky recipe book I got in a gift bag, provided a nice middle-ground - plus, it calls for white wine in the sauce...The original recipe calls for halibut, but you can use pretty much any white fish you like.  I also cut it down to 3 servings instead of 6 - hello, leftovers!  The dill and lemon flavors make this a perfect and quick fish dish for spring.  I served this with purple asparagus that I bought at the farmer's market this morning.

Walnut-Crusted Tilapia with Lemon Wine Sauce - serves 3
  • 3 tilapia fillets, with skins removed
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
Walnut Crust Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • olive oil
Lemon Wine Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbs finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
  • 1 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with a non-stick spray or some vegetable shortening.
- Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Place on prepared sheet about 1/2 inch apart.

To make the crust:
- In a medium bowl, combine panko, walnuts and parmesan.
- Mix in melted butter, horseradish, Dijon mustard, parsley, dill and lemon zest to form a crumbly mixture.
- Sprinkle panko mixture on top of fish and press gently with a spoon to adhere.
- Drizzle some olive oil on top of fish and bake until cooked through (about 12-15 minutes).

To make the sauce:
- In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add shallots and stir for a couple of minutes, until slightly softened.
- Turn heat to high and add white wine and lemon juice.
- Boil until liquid is reduced (about 4-6 minutes).
- Reduce heat to low and stir in butter until melted.
- Remove from heat and add fresh dill.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle sauce over the fish, or you can even serve on the side to dip it in.

May 6, 2011

Mint Julep

Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby, so what better way to celebrate your weekend than with a mint julep?  Yes, that's my Derby hat in the background, which will be smashing by the time I'm done garnishing it with roses and ribbons.  Mine certainly doesn't look as authentic as the ones they make at Seven Grand, with the pretty silver cup engraved with the bar's name and that snow-cone-perfect-ice.  There's only so much a Lush Chef can do with a crappy blender and a drink stirrer-turned ice pick.  But I was craving something minty and sweet with my favorite libation, so this did the trick.  Luckily, the mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby party I'll be co-hosting tomorrow will be made perfectly by one of LA's top mixologists, Joel Black, and I won't have to worry.  That's how the Lush Chef rolls...

Mint Julep - serves 1
  • 1 oz club soda
  • 2 heaping tsp sugar
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, give or take, plus 1 sprig for garnish
  • 3 oz bourbon (I'm a fan of Bulleit)
  • 1-2 cups crushed ice (enough to fill your glass, because clearly I make ghetto crushed ice)
- In a julep cup or a glass, fill with club soda and sugar.  Let that sugar dissolve a little.
- Add the mint leaves and lightly muddle - you don't want to macerate the leaves - just crush them enough to darken the syrup.
- Add bourbon, fill cup with crushed ice and stir to your little heart's content.
- Garnish with a mint leaf, and you're off to the races!

May 4, 2011

Mint Julep Cupcakes

Libations used: about 1/3 cup bourbon, 1/4 cup crème de menthe
Libations left over: sip a real mint julep while you're waiting for those cupcakes to bake
For this Saturday's Kentucky Derby party, I was asked to contribute a Lush Chef-inspired dessert.  While everyone automatically thinks of red velvet cupcakes for southern-inspired parties, I wanted to go for something more in the spirit of the Derby.  The result?  Mint Julep Cupcakes with 2 kinds of libations in the cake, and bourbon-laced buttercream.  Giddy up, indeed!  The creator of this recipe is a food blogger based in Tennessee, but she grew up in Kentucky, so of course I went for her version.  You'll probably need to double her frosting recipe, like I did below, and I always leave out the salt (I've never understood why people put salt in frosting recipes - it just never tastes right).  Yes, I'm a bit of a lush when it comes to frosting, but if you're using a piping bag, you really will need more.  For the party, I'll be making mini versions and topping some off with mint leaves and the rest with light green sprinkles.   Now, how these cupcakes are supposed to help people sober up, well...

Mint Julep Cupcakes -  makes about 16
Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups flour, plus 1 Tbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (use the cheap stuff if you have it - I only had Bulleit on hand)
  • 1/4 cup crème de menthe
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp bourbon
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 Tbs vegetable shortening
  • 2 Tbs milk
For the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 and line your cupcake pan.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
- Add the eggs one at a time.
- When eggs are combined, add the extracts and stir.
- Add in half the flour mixture and stir.
- Add the milk, liquors and rest of the flour to the batter.
- Add batter to cupcake cups - a little more than half full.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Let cool and enjoy a mint julep.

For the frosting:
- Whip the butter and shortening with a hand or stand mixer.
- Add in half the powdered sugar and mix.
- Add in the extracts and bourbon and mix.
- Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and milk, until frosting reaches desired consistency.
- When cupcakes are completely cooled, frost and garnish with mint leaves and/or sprinkles.

May 2, 2011

Porcini Risotto with White Wine & Truffle Oil

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine
Libations left over: pretty much the whole bottle
I have a bit of a love affair with truffle oil, truffle salt, truffles in general.  Just a few drops of the oil or a few sprinkles of the salt can add so much flavor to an otherwise average dish.  I wanted to make something quick and easy for this week, and with enough for tasty leftovers.  This Porcini Risotto with White Truffle Oil from Tasting Table comes from an Oregon-based restaurant and utilized Oregon white truffle oil...and wine.  You may see both white and black truffle oils available at your store, and I personally prefer the white, which is a little more refined.  However, when I'm using truffle salt, I actually prefer the black, because it's a little more pungent.  At the end of the day, the black and white truffle oils are pretty much the same flavor, so use whichever you prefer or can find.

Porcini Risotto with White Wine & Truffle Oil - serves 4
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces (you can find these at Whole Foods and most specialty stores)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • white truffle oil
To make the broth:
- In a medium saucepan, add the water, dried mushrooms, sugar, salt and soy sauce and bring to a boil.
- Add the rice to the liquid and cook, stirring occasionally, until it returns to a boil.
- Remove from heat and strain the mushrooms and rice from the broth.
- Return the broth to the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
- Set the mushroom & rice mixture aside in a small bowl.

To make the risotto:
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil.
- When butter is melted, add onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add rice mixture to the pan, stirring to incorporate the onions and coat the grains.
- Pour in the white wine and stir continuously until it's nearly all absorbed (about 2 minutes).
- Ladle in 1/2 cup of the reserved broth and stir until it's nearly absorbed.
- Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the broth is absorbed before adding more.
- Repeat with remaining broth until rice is tender (about 15-20 minutes).
- Divide risotto amongst bowls and top with grated cheese and a "healthy" drizzle of truffle oil.
- Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of wine.