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.

About Me

My Photo
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
View my complete profile


Powered by Blogger.
Sep 30, 2011

Ken Burns' "Prohibition"

I normally don't post on Fridays, but I found it my Lush Chef duty to share with you all the news about acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns' opus on Prohibition that will be premiering this coming weekend.  The 5 1/2 hour documentary will be airing on PBS over the course of 3 days—October 2, 3 and 5 at 8:00 p.m.   He co-directed it with Lynn Novick and it charts the "rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment...and the entire era it encompassed."

If Prohibition hadn't been repealed, I wouldn't be entertaining you today with this blog!  On January 16, 1919, our silly Congress passed the 18th Amendment, with the intent to curb alcohol abuse and its effects, as well as ennoble Americans.  Instead, it had the opposite effect.  Drinking increased, once innocent citizens turned to rum-running and boot-legging, and large pockets of organized crime sprang up that remain here today.  It was one of the most misguided efforts by our government to date, but the era has also inspired today's mixologists to look back at our history and honor the creativity of those scofflaws.

Luckily, on December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified (Utah being the last state to vote for the 3/4 majority) and Prohibition and the Volstead Act were repealed. Check out PBS' site for "Prohibition," where you can learn more about this era, watch some videos and explore their photo gallery.  Maybe take a visit to The Varnish, squirrel away a flask in your garter and have them make you an illicit-inspired drink.  Me?  I'll be parked on a couch with an old-timey cocktail and tuning in.

Sep 29, 2011

Libation Education: Applejack

Fall is here, so its seems appropriate that this month's libation education focuses on Applejack (no, not the cereal).  If apples and whiskey had a baby, this is what it would be.  Made by Laird & Company, which has been around since 1780, Applejack consists of 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits that have a hint of apple and aroma.  According to a recent post on The Kitchn, Laird & Company was actually granted a federal license during Prohibition to make it for "medicinal purposes."  Mmm hmm...

This delicious libation is made at the peak of apple harvest, which is usually September until mid-November.  The pure apple juice is fermented naturally (it doesn't need any kind of yeast or starter) in big oak fermenting tanks for 7-30 days until all of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol.  The juice is then sent to the still where the distillation boosts the proof to about 160, where it ensures the maximum flavor and aroma.  After this, the apple brandy is cut with water and aged in oak barrels for 4-8 years.  Applejack tends to be made with a younger blend of this brandy (about 4-6 years).

Applejack is a lovely fall substitute for your traditional whiskey cocktails like Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, and I bet it would be killer mixed into a Hot Toddy or hot spiced cider.  It's also a main ingredient in American Trilogies, but you're all just going to have to wait for that recipe...

Sep 27, 2011


Libations used: 1 1/2 cups red wine
Libations left over: About half the bottle, so serve with dinner or have a glass while the stew is simmering.
It was a gloomy, slightly chilly weekend by the ocean in Santa Monica, and that kind of weather gets me in the mood for hearty soups overloaded with seafood.  One of my favorite seafood stews is Cioppino, which sounds like an Italian dish, but actually hails from San Francisco.  It was developed in the late 1800s by Portuguese and Italian fishermen in the north bay of San Fran and they would actually made it on their boats.  This particular recipe from Gourmet doesn't require you to whip up some stew on a dinghy, but you can get creative.  I've had this dish served with king crab, squid, mussels, and other kinds of fish, so just add whatever seafood you like.  As always, I got my catch of the day from Santa Monica Seafood, because as much as I would like to spend all morning casting my net out to sea, this Lush Chef has other things to do.

Cioppino - serves 6
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp crumbled dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried red hot pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)
  • 1 28-32 oz can whole plum tomatoes - drain and reserve the juice and chop the tomatoes
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (1 lb) king crab leg (I left this out because it's freakin' expensive)
  • 18 small (1 1/2 lbs) littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 lb skinless red snapper or halibut fillets, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 16-20 large shrimp (1 lb), shelled with tails left on
  • 3/4 lb sea scallops 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil
- Cook garlic, onions, bay leaf, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in olive oil in an 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring until onions are softened (about 5 min). 
- Add bell pepper and tomato paste, stirring for about 1 minute.
- Add wine and boil until reduced by about half (5-6 min).
- Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice and chicken broth and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.
- While stew is simmering, hack crab leg through shell into 2-3 inch pieces.
- Add crab pieces and clams to stew and simmer covered, until clams just open (5-10 min), checking every minute after 5 minutes to transfer opened clams to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon.  Discard any unopened clams after 10 minutes.
- Lightly season fish fillets, shrimp and scallops with salt and pepper and add to stew, simmer covered until just cooked through (about 5 min).
- Discard bay leaf and return clams to pot.
- Gently stir in parsley and basil.
- Serve with focaccia or sourdough bread rounds.

Sep 22, 2011

Libation Location: Wine Expo

Last week, the Lush Chef told you about her visit to Silver Lake Wine, but if you're a Westsider like me, sometimes you just want to be closer to home for a wine tasting.  Enter Wine Expo in Santa Monica!  I must have passed by this place a gazillion times on Santa Monica Blvd and I never thought to stop in.  I thought it was just a little wine shop like the ones in my neighborhood and boy, was I wrong.  A friend, let's give him the code name "American Trilogy," (cocktail recipe coming soon) introduced me to this spot because it's just down the street from him.  They recently built out a beautiful tasting room along the side of the shop.  The front part has a little art gallery-like space, but hidden in the back is a huge room with a nice, long bar, plenty of cocktail tables and seating, and even a small private room.

We went on a Saturday when they were doing their 20/20 special (they're doing 1 more Saturday in September).  Yes, that's 20 wines for $20.  American Trilogy and I knew we couldn't each drink 20 wines (there was only 1 guy in the tasting room that hit 20), so we split it and each did the same 10 wines so we could go through a flight together.  They change up the choices every week and break the tasting up into bubblies, pinks, whites and reds.  We only made it to wine 7 or 8 because the pours were quite generous.  Sangria and beer is also on tap, and they have a nice selection of salumi, cheese, olives, nuts and crostini plates.  Every night, there is a different gourmet food truck parked in the lot out front (check the website or their Twitter feed for updates on the trucks) and they'll even bring it to you right in the tasting room!

The 20/20 deal is normally on Tuesdays, but were extended to Saturdays throughout the month of September.  They also do Happy Hour from 5-7 on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, where wines by the glass are half off and bottles are discounted by 10% in the shop.  Monday nights offer special flights and discounts and Tuesdays offer beer flights and ale-friendly snacks.  They'll occasionally have live music playing and other nights planned that focus on different kinds of wines or regions.  Needless to say, it's a killer deal, fun crowd and the shop has an excellent selection of wines in a range of prices.

Sep 20, 2011

Mussels Manhattan

Libations used: Enough whiskey, dry vermouth and bitters to make a Manhattan
Libations left over: Make yourself a Manhattan!
I heart Manhattans (not as much as Old Fashioneds, but pretty close) and I heart mussels.  So when I saw this recipe come through on Tasting Table, I had a serious happy moment.  My culinary geeking out was kicked up another notch when I saw the recipe was from Holland House Bar & Refuge in Nashville, Tennessee.  I had gone to Nashville last fall for a business trip, and being the lush I am, I quickly found out where all the best cocktail dens were (The Patterson House is another fave).  The restaurant/bar is located in an old grocery store in a quiet neighborhood and only opened about a year and a half ago.  It was redone to have a classy vintage look with plenty of warm woods, velvet furniture, crystal chandeliers and old books tucked away.  The menu is broken down into historical classics and vintage-inspired contemporary cocktails.  Food is seasonal and combines French and Southern influences.

I ended up doubling this recipe and buying about 2 1/2 pounds of mussels at Santa Monica Seafood because I was making this for a main course.   Most of the alcohol burns off with the cooking, but it leaves you with a light Manhattan flavor.  The broth was so good that we heated it up again and toasted some more bread to soak it all up!  Please note that I used Tasting Table's pic because we devoured the mussels before a lovely photo could be taken, but looks like that!

Mussels Manhattan - serves 2 for appetizers 
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound mussels, beards removed
  • 1/4 cup rye whiskey (the chef recommends Jim Beam or I used Bulleit's new rye)
  • 2 Tbs dry Italian vermouth (chef recommends Noilly Prat or I used Martini & Rossi)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter (I used only 3 when I doubled this recipe, so I recommend using 1 1/2 Tbs)
  • salt (I cut this out because the stock already had enough salt content)
  • 1 Tbs shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • Toasted french bread rounds
- In a medium skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic and mussels.
- Quickly and carefully add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters because it could flame up.  I actually combined the liquor in one bowl so I could add it all in together.
- Stir in the vegetable stock and butter.
- Simmer until the mussels have opened (4-6 minutes).
- Transfer them to a serving bowl and top with cheese and basil.  Serve immediately with the toasted bread.

Sep 15, 2011

Libation Location: Silver Lake Wine

Since late February, The Lush Chef has been giving you food and cocktail recipes, libation education, little musings and spotlights on artisanal products, but I haven't told you about where I like to shop in Los Angeles.  So let's begin!

This past weekend, my old boss and I hit up Silver Lake Wine, a hip boutique that offers wines from around the world, some microbrews, select liquors and sake and a few yummy treats from local chefs/bakers.  I had my first experience with the shop when I went to the Barnsdall Art Park Friday Wine Tastings this past summer.  It's a great event out on the lawn in front of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, with KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox spinning tunes, a flight with four wines and the sun setting over the city.  The guys from Silver Lake Wine were young, hip, knowledgeable and just want you to find something you like.

My friend highly recommends the Sunday tasting events at 3pm because it's not as crowded and you get delicious food pairings with each glass of wine.  Sunday tastings are $20 for 5 wines and food and reservations are recommended—it's an insanely good deal, considering the pours are generous and the food is plentiful.  They also do Monday nights with 3 wines, cheese, olives and bread for $12 and Thursdays nights with 3 wines for $12 (the Let's Be Frank hot dog truck is parked outside if you need some nosh).

The focus of the evening was on California wines paired with food from Heirloom LA.  George Cossette, one of the owners was on hand and told these lovely, long stories about each winemaker.  The guy really knows his stuff and understands how to get folks excited about wine.  Here's what we had:

- Dominique Piron Rosé Beaujolais 2010 from France (the only non-California wine in this flight) - $13.25

- Tatomer Riesling "Sisquoc" Santa Maria Valley 2010 - $21 - paired with a Farmer's Market Salad with goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes, beets and shisito peppers

- Andrew Murray "RGB" Camp 4 Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley 2010 - $24.25 - paired with a salmon croquette with a spicy remoulade

- Storybook Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel Estate Mayacamas Napa 2008 - $39 - paired with osso buco in an heirloom tomato sauce with mini ravioli

- Sean Thackrey "Pleiades" Old Vines XX California - $26.25 - paired with ham thinly sliced over a red cabbage slaw and herb spaetzle

All wines featured in the tasting ended up being 10% off and my friend and I each bought bottles of the Riesling (we liked it because it wasn't very sweet) and the Old Vines (such a smooth red that I couldn't resist).  It's not often that I get out to Silver Lake, but it's worth the trek for great wines and beautifully planned tastings.  I'll definitely be venturing East again soon.

Sep 13, 2011

Honey Spice Beer Cake

Libations used: 1 bottle plus 1-2 Tbs of beer
Libations left over: 3/4 bottle of beer
It may not be fall yet, but this Honey Spice Beer Cake from the ladies at Booze Cakes has been on my "to bake" list for a long time.  Some friends of mine were doing a housewarming party and weren't planning on making dessert, so The Lush Chef to the rescue!  This particular cake is super rich, moist and decadent—as much as I would like to think I could eat a gigantic piece, I could only eat a small one.  But oh, what a delicious piece of cake it was!  The slightly salty mixed nuts were a nice way to offset the sweetness.  

The recipe calls for honey beer, but any kind of dark, spicy beer is fine.  I had an oatmeal stout on hand and it worked beautifully with this recipe—the flavor was a nice compliment to the lovely mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.  I bet this cake would also taste amazing with some pumpkin ale or Guinness, so feel free to get adventurous.

Honey Spice Beer Cake - serves 20-24
Cake Ingredients:
  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup honey
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 12 oz bottle of beer 
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1-2 Tbs beer (start with 1 Tbs and if you need more liquid, carefully add more beer until desired consistency)
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 2 cups lightly salted mixed nuts
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 325.  Grease and flour a 9x13 inch sheet cake pan.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars for a few minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Mix in honey, lemon juice and zest.
- Mix in flour mixture and beer in 3 alternating additions.
- Bake 40-45 minutes.  I actually had to bake mine for about an hour because the cake rose like crazy (all that beer!) and took a while to completely bake through.

To make the frosting:
- In a mixing bowl, cream butter with about 1/3 of the confectioners sugar.
- Mix in 1 Tbs beer and the rest of the confectioners sugar in alternating additions.  If the frosting is looking too thick, keep adding in a little bit more beer.
- Stir in the honey.
- Once the cake has cooled, frost and garnish with the mixed nuts.

Sep 8, 2011

Lush Chef Pick-up Line

This line could very well work on me, or will at least get a good laugh out of me.  Thank you Knock Knock for coming up with these Foodie Flash Cards.  They adorn my kitchen walls, are informative and make me giggle while I cook.

Sep 6, 2011

Spicy Strawberry Basil Margaritas

A beach afternoon on Labor Day always calls for a little cocktail time.  The strawberries are still in season and my basil plant was begging to be picked.  Malbec and Hefeweizen love their spicy cocktails and I had some leftover jalapeño-infused tequila.  These various ingredients may seem like an odd combination, but trust me—it works.  The slivers of basil add another level of flavor, and when combined with strawberries, reminds you of the dog days of summer.  So whip up a pitcher and sneak it onto the beach...

Spicy Strawberry Basil Margaritas - serves 6-8
  • 12 oz jalapeño-infused tequila
  • 6 oz Cointreau
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • About 16 strawberries
  • 6 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Ice
- Infuse the tequila - check out my Children of the Sun cocktail recipe if you haven't done this before.
- Purée 10 of the strawberries.
- Combine the tequila, Cointreau, puréed strawberries, lime juice and basil.
- Add ice and stir.
- Quarter the rest of the strawberries and garnish each drink with a few pieces.

Sep 1, 2011

Raspberry Beer Cocktail

This summer I've been doing a lot of beer cocktails at BBQs and pool parties.  Malbec has been having us over almost every Sunday for some grilling action and lazing in the pool, and while I love my Lush Chef Taste Testers, I can't be busting out the expensive stuff all the time.  Beer cocktails can go a long way and won't break the bank, so they're perfect for large, casual gatherings.  Last BBQ we went spicy and had Micheladas, but this time I was craving something fruity.  I bought a huge box of raspberries at the farmers market and went home to get a little blender happy.

Raspberry Beer Cocktails - serves 6
  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 3 bottles light beer (I used Stella Artois)
- Add 1 cup raspberries, lemon juice and vodka in blender and purée.
- Transfer to a pitcher, add the beer and stir.
- Serve each cocktail with some raspberries for garnish.