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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Sep 24, 2013

Cucumber Salad

Libations used: 1 Tbs white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so drink up...
Summer is officially over, but I'm going to post one more summer-inspired recipe to get you through those last, occasional hot days.  This Cucumber Salad recipe from Cooking Light takes mere minutes and is the perfect, cooling side dish to accompany whatever meats or fish you have on the grill.  It uses only a tablespoon of dry white wine to make the vinaigrette, so buy a relatively nice bottle of something you'd actually like to drink.  I grabbed a $15 bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, since those floral flavors would pair nicely with the cucumber.  Be sure to slice those cucumbers thin so they can soak up all the yummy dressing.

Cucumber Salad - serves 4
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (1-inch cubes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (1-inch cubes)
  • 1 medium-large hothouse or English cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tbs chopped chives
- In a medium bowl, add the olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and sugar.
- Whisk to combine.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir gently to coat.

Sep 19, 2013

Summer Sage

It's officially the end of summer this Saturday, so time to cap it off with the last of the stone fruit and usher in some fall flavor notes.  This Summer Sage Cocktail from The Kitchn uses red plums and sage to combine the two seasons.  It's a beautiful summery-pink color, but that sage leaf is a reminder that pretty soon you'll be turning on that stove to get you through those crisp autumn days.

The Summer Sage
  • 6 small wedges of a plum
  • 5 sage leaves, reserving 1 for garnish
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1/8 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz rye whiskey (I used Redemption Rye)
- In a mixing glass or shaker, add the plum wedges, sage leaves and simple syrup.
- Muddle until it forms a plummy mush.
- Add the lemon juice, rye whiskey and ice.
- Shake and double strain (yes, do that - be a pro) into a chilled coupe.
- Garnish with a sage leaf.

Sep 17, 2013

Bloody Mary Salad

Libations used: 2 Tbs vodka & vermouth-spiked onions...
Libations left over: None, but use the rest of the salad ingredients and that bottle of vodka to make a Bloody Mary Bar... 
It's still hot out, and I still don't feel like turning on the oven. This past Sunday, when I was rushing through the Farmers' Market before hitting up a work event, I scooped up a couple pints of cherry tomatoes.  I'm milking as much as I can out of heirloom tomatoes while the getting is still good!  I ran across this Bloody Mary Salad from a few weeks ago and was saving it for a hot, end of summer week night.  I added a little bit more celery and bacon than the recipe called for, as I wanted a little more crunch.  This is an incredibly quick salad to put together and perfect for a boozy brunch for a crowd.  Buy extra garlic-stuffed olives and pearl onions, fry up some extra bacon and set the rest of your salad ingredients out for an epic Bloody Mary Bar!
Bloody Mary Salad - serves 6
Salad Ingredients:
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced with leaves reserved
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 vermouth-spiked pearl onions, halved from top to bottom
  • 1/2 cup Hormel mini pepperoni, sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup garlic-stuffed olives, sliced into thirds
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 3 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbs vodka (I used Absolut)
  • 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs Horseradish sauce
  • 1/4 cup V8 Spicy juice
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
- In a large bowl, gently combine all of the salad ingredients (except the celery leaves).
- In a small bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients and gently toss into the salad.
- Garnish with celery leaves.

Sep 12, 2013


I'm a huge fan of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," because...well, why wouldn't I be?  I just love the representation of that time period, and of course, the cocktail culture.  Even though it was Prohibition, and nary a libation could be found in plain sight, it forced those first bartenders to be rather creative.  If you weren't shaking things up at a speakeasy or making gin in your bathtub, you were probably overseas fashioning cocktails for the elite in Paris, London and Tokyo.  I was inspired by this past Sunday's premiere to make a libation representing that time.  The Scofflaw was one of those classic cocktails created in 1924 during Prohibition at the legendary Harry's Bar in Paris — a haven for American expats.  The drink can be made with bourbon or American rye whiskey.  I chose Templeton's Rye Whiskey, because of it's tie to the era, and used my favorite dry vermouth, Dolin's.

The term "scofflaw" was also coined during that year.  There was a nationwide contest hosted by The Boston Herald to come up with a word that represented mocking or ridiculing the Volstead Act, the incredibly clunky law set in place to enforce Prohibition.  There were two separate entrants that came up with the word "scofflaw," and they split a $200 prize.  Now, the term is used to mean anyone who displays disdain for laws that are basically difficult to enforce — kind of like what we're experiencing with the illegality of marijuana right now.
  • 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey (I used Templeton's Rye)
  • 1 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin's)
  • 1/2 oz grenadine (I used Rose's - the classic)
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (I used Fee Brothers West Indian Orange)
- In a shaker filled with ice, add all of the ingredients and shake.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Sep 10, 2013

Yellowtail, Mango & Avocado Ceviche

Libations used: 1/4 cup tequila...
Libations left over: How about making a Blood Orange & Thyme Paloma to go with this ceviche...
The heat wave has continued in LA, and it just really discourages me from cooking anything, but I've been the fortunate beneficiary of a lot of fresh fish from a friend.  He's been catching boatloads this past summer off the coast of Alaska, Mexico and California and sharing his catches with his friends.  A few weeks ago, I used some of his fresh fish for this Miso-Glazed Halibut, so this week, it was time to make use of all the Yellowtail I had on hand. This ceviche from AllRecipes, was a perfect end-of-summer recipe with plenty of mango and tequila, and since I'm a sucker for avocado, I added some of that in there too!  You can't go wrong with a quick ceviche for parties, and you certainly won't be slaving away at the stove.  Serve this with tortilla chips, or devour it on it's own.  Either way, you'll be satisfied and hogging the whole bowl.

Yellowtail, Mango & Avocado Ceviche - serves 6
  • 1 1/2 lbs of skinless, boneless yellowtail (or halibut), cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tequila (I used Patrón Silver)
  • 3 jalapeños, seeded and minced (use 1 or 2 if you can't handle the heat, but the citrus really mellows it out)
  • 2 mangos, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2-inch cubes, reserving half for the inital ceviche preparation
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 avocados, chopped in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
- In a non-reactive bowl (i.e. glass, plastic, ceramic), combine the yellowtail, lime and lemon juices, tequila, jalapeño, and 1/2 of the chopped mango.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.
- Add the green pepper, sweet and red onions and mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
- Gently fold in the rest of the mango, avocado, cilantro and parsley.
- Season with salt, to taste, before serving.

Sep 6, 2013

Bicicletta Cocktail

These hot summer nights make me crave Negronis and Aperol Spritzs.  For some reason, when it's too hot to move, I want Campari or Aperol, those bitter and refreshing Italian liqueurs in the amaro family.  I was making this Chicken, Black Olives & Lemon Spaghetti earlier this week, and I had about a whole bottle of Chardonnay left over. The Bicicletta Cocktail is like a twist on an Aperol Spritz and is a very popular Italian cocktail served as an aperitivo.  Hat tip to Bon Appetit for the recipe.  I'd recommend making this with a Pinot Grigio instead to stick with the Italian theme — I may be a lush, but I'm only going to open so many bottles of wine, kids.

This drink is so easy to stir up and is sure to cool you down.  So sit back, relax with a giant plate of pasta, Netflix Vittorio De Sica's neo-realistic classic Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) and pretend you're in Italy...

Bicicletta Cocktail
  • Ice Cubes
  • 2 oz Campari
  • 1 1/2 oz dry white wine (I recommend a Pinot Grigio)
  • 1/2 oz club soda
  • Lemon slice, for garnish
- Fill a wine glass with ice.
- Add the Campari, white wine and soda and stir, stir, stir.
- Garnish with a lemon slice.

Sep 4, 2013

Chicken, Black Olives & Lemon Spaghetti

Libations used: 1/3 cup dry white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
It's been so hot these past couple of weeks, so I really haven't felt like turning on the stove.  I was just craving pasta though, so I decided to suck it up and bust out the pots and pans for a little bit.  It's good to sweat it out every once in a while, right?  This Chicken, Black Olives & Lemon Spaghetti from Food52 was quick and relatively light.  Instead of turning on the oven and roasting a chicken, I cheated a little and bought one of those whole roasted chickens at the grocery store — it's a great way to speed up the prep for this dinner in no time, and make it a quick, weeknight meal.  I actually ended up using all of the chicken, a whole jar of black, pitted olives and tripled the amount of lemon zest and parsley.  I also upped the amount of liquid used for the broth, as I felt like 16 ounces of pasta called for a little more than the original recipe called for.  For the wine, I used Toasted Head Chardonnay, one of my go-to cheap whites.  Turning on the heat was worth it, as I downed this pasta in no time.

Chicken, Black Olives & Lemon Spaghetti - Serves 4-6
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used Toasted Head Chardonnay)
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 to 3 Tbs defatted pan juices from roasting chicken (there was just enough in the container from the grocery store!)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 jar pitted whole black olives
  • 1 small whole roasted chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tsps lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 Tbs parsley, minced
  • Parmesan cheese
- While your pasta pot full of salted water is heating up on the stove, place a sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add a couple glugs of olive oil and then add the garlic.
- Let the garlic gently cook until it just begins to turn golden (do not let it get browned).
- Add the red pepper flakes and stir.
- Add the white wine and let the alcohol burn off for a few seconds.
- Add the lemon juice, stock and pan juices.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, and season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust the seasonings.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by a third.
- Remove the pan from the heat if the sauce finishes before the pasta.  You can reheat before adding to the pasta.
- After the pasta is cooked, reserve about a cup of the pasta water before draining.
- Add the pasta back to the pot, and add the chicken, olives and lemon zest.
- Toss, and add some more salt and pepper, to taste.
- If the pasta is too dry, add some pasta water so there's a bit of broth.
- Add the parsley and toss some more.
- Garnish with plenty of Parmesan cheese.