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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Oct 30, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Libations used: 2 tsps bourbon
Libations left over: None, but you can make this Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail while the bars bake...
Halloween is tomorrow, so I'm in total pumpkin mode right now.  Heck, I've even been putting it in my cocktails, like in this Midnight Pumpkin libation.  I've been telling my co-workers that I would bring in a Lush Chef treat, so on a warm fall afternoon, I threw open my door and turned on the oven to start baking.  I love all of Joy the Baker's recipes and her style (Joy, can we be friends?  We both live in the SaMo/Venice area?), and I had been waiting until October to bust out her recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars.  I'm not the biggest pumpkin pie fan, because it's just too much pumpkin, but I love these because they're bite size and the filling has a lighter pumpkin flavor with the cream cheese and egg added to it.  The crumble bottom and topping also adds a nice texture and breaks up the filling.  There are a couple teaspoons of bourbon in this recipe, but you can always leave it out...oh, but wait...why would you do that?  I topped mine with butterscotch chips, but you can also do chocolate chips if you desire.  The co-workers obviously gobbled these up and were in a sugar-high heaven by noon.

Pumpkin Pie Bars - makes 24-28 bars
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 15 oz pumpkin purée
  • 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice or 1 tsp each of cinnamon, walnut and ground allspice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps bourbon (I used 101 proof Wild Turkey)
  • Butterscotch or chocolate chips to sprinkle on top

- Preheat oven to 350.
- Line a 13x9" baking pan with aluminum foil, with the ends of the foil folded over the sides.
- Grease the foil with shortening.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar and brown sugar.
- Cut in the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can use a pastry blender, but I just like to use my hands.
- Stir in the oats and walnuts.
- Reserve 1 cup of the oat mixture.
- Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer or large bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract and bourbon.
- Mix until well blended.
- Pour over the crust.
- Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture and butterscotch chips on top.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Let cool about 20 minutes before transferring the bars from the pan to a wire rack.
- Let cool completely before cutting up.

Oct 25, 2012

Midnight Pumpkin Cocktail

Halloween isn't until next week, but everyone I know is going to start celebrating this weekend.  I've been doing a ton of apple cocktails so far this fall because of the large bounty of apples I picked.  For this holiday though, I really wanted something with pumpkin in it.  It just seemed more fitting...

The Rundown recently posted a couple of Halloween cocktail ideas by Stacy Nikkila at The Swizzle.  I opted for the Midnight Pumpkin, which is essentially a pumpkin-flavored margarita and has a beautiful festive orange color.  Note to self - this could totally work for Thanksgiving as well! Unfortunately, I didn't have any reposado tequila on hand, so I just used some Patrón Silver.  I think next time I make this, I'll opt for the reposado because it has that spicier finish and complements the light flavors from the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

Midnight Pumpkin
  • 2 oz tequila (preferably reposado)
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 oz pumpkin purée
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg & sugar, for garnish
- Rim a glass with cinnamon and sugar and fill with ice.
- In a shaker filled with ice, add the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and pumpkin puree.
- Shake and strain into the glass.
- Sprinkle some nutmeg on top.

Oct 23, 2012

Beef & Ale Stew

Libations used: 2 cups of ale
Libations left over: None, but you can always crack open another bottle of beer while the stew is on the stove...
Last week I was battling a little bit of a sore throat and stuffy nose, so even though it was hot outside, all I wanted was some soup...and an easy soup at that.  Jamie Oliver's recipe for Beef and Ale Stew uses ingredients that you typically have in the pantry.  I used Murphy's Irish Stout because it's what I happend to have in the fridge, but use Guinness or whatever brown ale or stout you have on hand.  All I had to do was run out and get some stewing beef.  There's also very minimal work involved — just cut up some veggies, throw everything in the pot, and let it go!  Even though the ingredients are simple, this stew packs a ton of flavor.  I mean, you can't beat meat stewing in some ale, right?  I'll definitely be making this again very, very soon.

Beef & Ale Stew - serves 4
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise & chopped
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb stewing beef, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 heaping Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, add the celery, onion, carrots, bay leaves and a couple glugs of olive oil.
- Cook the veggies for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the meat, flour, beer and tomatoes.
- Stir and add in a tsp of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
- Bring the stew to a boil.
- Cover and simmer over low heat for 3 hours.
- Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- Feel free to add water or some beef broth if the stew is looking dry.
- Discard the bay leaves before serving.

Oct 18, 2012

Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail

The temperature keeps see-sawing here in Los Angeles, so it's not Hot Toddy weather yet.  If you're looking for a simple and cooling cocktail that embodies the flavors of fall, then try this Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail.  Yes, it's from Garden and Gun Magazine (best magazine title ever, BTW) and it's southern boy Hugh Acheson's favorite tailgating cocktail.  I have a different recipe for ginger simple syrup from Cocktailia that I like to use, which includes some black pepper to give it another spicy layer.  Hugh also recommends making this drink with peaches, so it's perfect to adapt for the summer.

Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail
Ingredients for the ginger simple syrup:
  • 2 oz ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsps whole black peppercorns
Ingredients for the cocktail:
  • 3 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 1 Tbs ginger syrup
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 2 pear slices

To make the ginger simple syrup:
- Combine the ginger, sugar, water and peppercorns in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue simmering for 30-40 minutes.
- Let cool completely and then strain through a fine sieve.
- Transfer to a bottle and refrigerate.

To make the cocktail:
- In a glass with ice, add the bourbon and ginger syrup and stir.
- Top with club soda and stir.
- Add the pear slices.

Oct 16, 2012

Apple Gouda Oatmeal Cookies

Libations used: 1 Tbs dark rum
Libations left over: None, but you could make yourself this Apple Hot Toddy with rum while those cookies bake...
This past weekend, I went apple and pumpkin picking with a few friends in the Oak Glen region.
It's about 90 minutes away from Santa Monica and it gives me a little taste of fall and memories of home — the leaves barely change color, but they change nonetheless!  I always pick about half a bushel or more so I have plenty of apples to eat and cook with during the season.

We spent a sunny afternoon plucking Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Rome and sneaking some Granny Smiths from the trees at Los Rios Rancho.

Afterwards, we scarfed down chili dogs at Oak Tree Village and listened to a lone cowboy singing some country tunes on stage.  The smell of apple pie seemed to waft everywhere.  It was so tempting to buy one (I mean look at that crust!), but considering we picked so many apples, we decided it would be best to actually bake one ourselves.

Our last stop was Snow-line Orchard for apple cider and fresh, sugared donuts.  Besides immediately whipping up a batch of applesauce when I got home, I also really wanted to bake some cookies.  Namely, these Apple Gouda Oatmeal Cookies from The Kitchn.  I'd been promising my new co-workers for months that I'd bring in a Lush Chef treat, and I finally felt the baking bug.  They're slightly sweet and slightly savory and perfect for any meal.  In fact, they make an excellent breakfast — oatmeal, fruit and some cheese?  I mean, you can't go wrong!  I used one of the Rome apples I picked and happened to find an apple-smoked Gouda at the store.  They'll keep fresh for about five days if you keep them in an airtight container, although you and your friends will probably polish them off before that!

Apple Gouda Oatmeal Cookies - makes 20-24 
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs dark rum (time to bust out my trusty Myers's "Pirate" Rum!)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium-sized apple (1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded apple)
  • 4 oz Gouda cheese, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Whisk the olive oil and egg together in a glass bowl until thoroughly combined.
- Whisk in the rum.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, salt and oats.
- Stir in the raisins.
- Peel and core the apple, and using the coarse side of the grater, grate it into the flour mixture.
- Stir in the Gouda.
- Add the olive oil and egg mixture into the large bowl and stir until everything is moistened (the dough will be loose and clumpy, so don't fret!).
- Drop in large spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 17 minutes, or until the cookies are golden.
- Make sure you let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Oct 11, 2012

Fall Cocktail Round-up

It still doesn't quite feel like fall here in Los Angeles, but I'm turning green with envy at all the pretty pictures of red and yellow leaves, pumpkin patches and cider mills from my friends and family back home.  I'll be going apple picking this weekend with some friends to try and capture the spirit of my favorite season.  To get in the modd (although some of you already have been), here's a round-up of some of my favorite fall cocktails that I've posted on this blog. 

Old Fashioneds are my favorite drink, and in my opinion, the most perfect cocktail ever.  But sometimes you need to mix it up a little.  The Fig Old Fashioned highlights one of my favorite fruits that's in season during the late summer and early part of fall.  The inclusion of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar gives it that extra fall finish. 

Speaking of Old Fashioneds, another twist on this classic libation is the American Trilogy.  It contains Applejack, one of my favorite liquors to use during the fall, along with rye whiskey.  Instead of muddling in the standard white sugar cube, it calls for raw or brown sugar, and then orange bitters instead of Angostura.  It packs a punch and has flavor notes that remind you of crisp Autumn evenings. 

Whenever I go apple picking, I always end up picking way too many apples, and inevitably making a ton of applesauce.  I found a good use for some of that applesauce last year when I added it to a hot toddy and poured in Applejack instead of regular bourbon or whiskey.  This Apple Hot Toddy is perfect for soothing a cold or just enjoying on a chilly evening.  The best part is spooning out the boozy applesauce at the end!

In addition to my apple overload, I always have a jug of apple cider in the fridge, so of course I'm going to find a way to booze it up.  When I think of Manhattan, I think of the cocktail and apples (well, not always), so why not combine the two?  This Spiced Apple Cider Manhattan has the spiced gin-like liqueur Bols Genever and star anise to give it a whiff of fall.

Beer cocktails are now becoming pretty regular.  This time last year, it was still unusual to see them on a cocktail menu out here, and most people had never tried one.  This Sidewalker Cocktail was one of the first I ever had, and is perfect for a warm Autumn afternoon or spicing up the drinks selection at a football game viewing party.  The maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and Applejack scream of fall, and the flavors blend perfectly with a cold and crisp Hefeweizen.

And, if you want to be one of the cool kids and have a cocktail with the latest "it" liqueur, Green Chartreuse, then make yourself the classic Bijou Cocktail.  It was concocted back in the 1890's (insert Portlandia joke here), was forgotten and has now come back with a vengeance.  I've posted two different versions of this drink, which contains Green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth, gin and orange bitters.

Oct 9, 2012

Pasta with Burrata, Sausage, Mushrooms & Fennel

Libations used: 1/3 cup white wine
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
The Lush Chef was dealing with some neck pain this past weekend, and sadly didn't make it out to the market. I happened to have a bunch of mushrooms and fennel in the fridge and needed to find a recipe that wouldn't involve a ton of strenuous chopping and stirring.  A pasta seemed like the ideal solution, and Tasting Table's recipe for Pasta Scraps with Burrata, Sausage, Mushroom & Fennel was already utilizing some ingredients I had at home.  I just had to run out and pick up some burrata and sausages (I used Trader Joe's Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage) to complete the dish.  I had some orecchiette that had been sitting in the pantry for a while, as opposed to pasta scraps, so use whatever you have!  You can use any dry white wine for the recipe.  I opted for Toasted Head Chardonnay - a $6 bottle at Trader Joe's that I'm a fan of.  I also nearly doubled the amount of mushrooms and fennel used in this recipe.  As I was cooking them up, it just didn't seem like enough for the amount of pasta that was being cooked.  To top it off, I used my favorite finishing salt - Hepp's Murray River Salt - a beautiful and flavorful, yellowish flaky salt.  And because I loooove burrata, I'd probably double that too if I was serving to guests.  1 just isn't enough...
Pasta with Burrata, Sausage, Mushrooms & Fennel - serves 4
  • 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb mild or hot Italian sausage, casings removed and sausage crumbled or cut up
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced and fronds reserved
  • 2 1/2 cups cremini mushroom caps, sliced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used Toasted Head Chardonnay)
  • 3 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette)
  • 1-2 balls of burrata
  • Flaky sea salt
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil.
- Add the sausage and cook until browned and cooked through (about 5-7 minutes).
- Meanwhile, get a big pot of salted water boiling for your pasta.
- Remove the sausage from the pan and drain off the fat, leaving at least 1 Tbs in the pan. I didn't have much fat left over at all, so I just added more olive oil to the pan.
- Add the shallot, garlic, fennel and mushrooms to the pan and cook until they're translucent and tender (7-10 minutes).
- Add the wine and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the sausage back into the pan and season with salt and pepper, if needed (I didn't need any).
- Hopefully, you've started cooking your pasta by now.  It should be al dente, and don't forget to save about a cup of pasta water.
- When the pasta is done cooking, add it to the pot with the sausage and veggie mixture.
- Ladle in some pasta water until the pasta is creamy. 
- Spoon the pasta into bowls or on plates, and top with burrata, fennel fronds and some sea salt.

Oct 4, 2012

Bijou Cocktail

In last week's Libation Education on Green Chartreuse, I promised all of you lushes another recipe with this "it" liqueur.  The Bijou Cocktail is a rather old recipe, created by legendary barman Harry Johnson and dating back to the 1890's. It's reminiscent of a Negroni, with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Green Charteuse, as opposed to Campari.  The name means jewel in French because the color of  liqueurs represents diamonds (gin), rubies (sweet vermouth) and emeralds (Green Chartreuse).  I've had the Bijou served at a couple of cocktail joints around town, and I've noticed they've played around with the measurements to appeal to a more modern palate.  It includes more gin and less of the other liqueurs so it's not so syrupy.  I actually like it both ways, depending on my mood, so I've included both recipes below.

Bijou Cocktail
  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Lemon peel, for garnish
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Lemon peel, for garnish
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with the lemon peel.

Oct 2, 2012

Chicken with Figs, Honey & Wine

Libations used: 1 cup red wine 
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
I'm trying to take advantage of fig season for as along as possible, so when I scooped a basket up, I went searching through my recipe archives for something simple for dinner.  I had a friend spending the night, but wasn't going to have much time to be slaving over the stove.  Plus, I wanted to use more of that time to be chatting and catching up with her!  This recipe for Chicken with Figs, Honey & Wine from Food52 involves very little prep and cook time, with just a few delicious ingredients.  You really can't go wrong with figs, honey and red wine, right?  I served this dish with just a very simple salad because of the richness of the sauce.

Chicken with Figs, Honey & Wine - serves 2
  • 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 pinches salt
  • 4 pinches fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
  • 10 black mission figs, sliced in half
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a Shiraz Cabernet)
  • 2 tsps honey
- Heat 1 Tbs of the olive oil in a non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Sauté the chicken in the pan for 4-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through with a nice golden coloring.
- Set the chicken on a plate to rest and sauté the next chicken breast.
- In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil over medium heat.
- Place the figs in the pan, cut side down.
- Sauté for 3-4 minutes, turning the figs occasionally, until they're slightly golden.
- Add the red wine, the honey and a couple pinches of salt and pepper.
- Quickly cook for 2-3 minutes until the red wine reduces into a loose syrup.
- Spoon the figs and red wine reduction over the chicken and serve immediately.