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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Jan 30, 2014

Ginger-Kumquat Smash

We're blessed to still have access to some really great winter fruit out here in SoCal, but most of you are suffering from negative zero temperatures and only citrus to choose from.  This Ginger-Kumquat Smash from The Kitchn uses ingredients that most of you can get access to at your local grocery store during this time of year.  Mix in a dark, spiced rum, and you'll feel like you're on some sandy beach in Jamaica.  I made some modifications to the original recipe, as I felt it was too gingery and not boozy or sweet enough for my taste.  My version is below.  And oh, because bitters make everything better, you can even add a few dashes of orange bitters as well!

Ginger-Kumquat Smash
  • 2 kumquats, sliced in half with seeds removed
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or agave syrup, if you're trying to be a little healthier)
  • 1/3 tsp freshly grated ginger & juice
  • 3 oz dark rum (I used Crusoe Organic Spiced Rum)
  • Club soda, to taste
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (optional, I used my homemade ones)
- In a small glass, muddle the kumquats with the brown sugar.
- Add the ginger, rum, and orange bitters (optional), along with a couple of ice cubes and stir.
- Add some club soda, to taste.

Jan 28, 2014

Rum Raisin Bread

Libations used: 2-3 Tbs rum...
Libations left over: The whole bottle, so make this Cider Smash...
It's been ages since I've baked, and man it felt good.  I'm loving the start of this new year and looking forward to turning the oven on more and getting myself covered in flour.  I had all day Sunday to play around, so this Rum Raisin Bread from My Baking Addiction was an easy, little project.  You just need plenty of time to let the dough rise.  If you don't have a dough hook for your stand mixer, don't fret.  I happened to not get one with my Craigslist purchase and have made do by using a little elbow grease.  Kneading bread is a terrific workout!  Use any kind of cheap, dark pirate rum you have.  The original recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of raisins, but if you want even more (which I recommend), then up it to 3/4 of a cup and use 3 Tbs of rum.  I sliced up this entire loaf the next day and distributed pieces amongst the neighbors.  It tastes terrific lightly toasted and slathered in butter or peanut butter!

Rum Raisin Bread - makes 1 big loaf

  • 2-3 Tbs dark rum, depending on how many raisins you use (I used Meyers's Rum)
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbs heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 Tbs nonfat dry milk
  • 1 tsp salt
- In a small bowl, thoroughly coat the raisins with the rum, and let them sit for about 30 minutes (stirring about halfway through).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or a large bowl (just use your hands), combine the water, heavy cream, butter, vanilla, egg, brown sugar and yeast.
- In another small bowl, add the flour, dry milk and salt and thoroughly combine.
- With the machine on low speed, or kneading with your hands, gradually add the dry ingredients.  Gradually bring the mixer up to medium speed and knead for 7 minutes, or until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.  You should have a smooth dough ball.
- Drain the raisins and knead them into the dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a moist towel or washcloth, allowing it to rise for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
- Spray a 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Gently deflate the dough and shape it into the loaf pan, making sure it fills the corners.
- Cover and let it rise for another hour and a half.
- Preheat the oven to 350 and bake it for 30-35 minutes, or until it's golden brown and the internal temperature reads 190 on an instant read thermometer.
- Let the loaf cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Jan 21, 2014

Cream of Mushroom & Herb Soup

Libations used: 1 cup of red wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
My parents love going wine tasting up north in Michigan near Traverse City.  They were up there this past weekend for an event where some of the wineries along the peninsula were pairing their wines with food.  They were raving about a Cream of Mushroom & Herb Soup they had Brys Estate that uses some of their Pinot Noir.  This is a quick and light-tasting cream of mushroom soup, as it uses a lot of stock and a cup of red wine.  I had half a bottle of Tablas Creek's Patelin de Tablas (a blend of Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre) left over, so I poured that in with the mushrooms.  This is the perfect soup to whip up on a weekday night as those mushrooms cook up fast.

Cream of Mushroom & Herb Soup - serves 6
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Three 8 oz containers of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir (I used Tablas Creek's Patelin de Tablas blend)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt (you may use less, depending on how salty the broth is)
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the butter and melt.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender.
- Add mushrooms and sauté until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the flour and continue to stir and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom.
- Add the chicken stock and herbs.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.
- Using a blender, purée the soup.
- Add it back to the pot and stir in the cream, adding salt and pepper, to taste.

Jan 17, 2014

White Russian

The first cocktail I ever had in my entire life was a White Russian.  It's kind of the perfect first libation for many because it tastes more like a milkshake than a stiff drink.  Once looked down upon because of these qualities, I feel like the overly sweet White Russian is having its revival.  It also helps that The Big Lebowski's continued cult status has also popularized it over the years - it's now become somewhat hipsterish and cool to drink one as long as you're referencing the movie.  It had been years since I'd had a White Russian, and I really just wanted dessert after dinner, but didn't have any sweets around the apartment.  As I stared at my bar, it came to me instantly, and I couldn't help but break into a smile.  I had also recently received a bottle of Caffe Borghetti, which is an Italian espresso liqueur, the recipe of which originated in 1860.  If you don't have this particular brand, feel free to sub in the more popular Kahlua choice.  I go light on the cream as I like my drinks stiff (but you all know that).
White Russian

  • 1 2/3 oz vodka (I used Grey Goose)
  • 2/3 oz Caffe Borghetti or any other espresso liqueur
  • 1-2 oz cream, to taste

- In a glass filled with ice, add the vodka and Caffe Borghetti and stir, stir, stir.
- Top with the cream, to taste.

Jan 14, 2014

Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese

Libations used: 1/2 cup dry white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so pour yourself a glass while that Mac is bakin'...
Alright, so I ate healthy right after the holidays, but time to throw back in some comfort food.  I started a new job this week, so it's been an exhilarating start to the new year.  I wanted to create a special meal for myself to celebrate on Sunday night, and also have some leftovers for the week!  Since cauliflower is the "it" vegetable right now and I at least wanted to still include something healthful in my meal, I opted for this Cauliflower Mac n' Cheese from Food & Wine.  The recipe comes by way of Renato Sardo and Dario Barbone of Baia Pasta, a company based in Oakland, California that sources and produces its pasta here in the U.S.  The cauliflower, which is cooked in white wine, lends the dish a nice texture, and your momma will be proud that you're getting your veggie intake.  There's plenty of creamy Taleggio and Parmigiano-Reggiano to put you in your cheesy happy place too.  I served this with Nancy Silverton's famous and delightfully Italian Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts and Anchovies - because you never have too much cheese...
Cauliflower Mac n' Cheese - serves 6
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower (about 1 3/4 lb), cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp minced rosemary
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Toasted Head Chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 6 oz)
  • 1/2 lb Taleggio cheese, rind discarded and cubed
  • 1 lb large shells (I used conchiglioni)
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 450.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and then add the cauliflower for about 5 minutes, or until tender.
- When cauliflower is done, place in a bowl of cold water to cool.  Let the hot water in the pot remain though!
- In a medium pot, melt the butter in olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic and rosemary, and cook until softened (about 3 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes (they should be browned a little in spots).
- Add the wine and let cook until it's evaporated.
- Meanwhile, return the water in the large pot to a boil.
- Remove the pot of cauliflower from the heat and stir in all of the Taleggio and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Let that pot sit while you cook the pasta until it's al dente.
- Drain the pasta and then return it to the large pot.
- Add the cauliflower and cheese mixture to the pot and gently stir until thoroughly combined.
- Add half of the pasta into a 3 quart baking dish and top with about 2 Tbs of the bread crumbs.
- Top with the remaining pasta, followed by the rest of the bread crumbs and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Bake the pasta for 20 minutes and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Jan 10, 2014

Sage Brown Derby

I feel truly blessed to be living in Southern California and have sunshine nearly all year round.  While my friends and family have been shivering with grey skies in other parts of the country, we've been experiencing 70 degree weather and gorgeous sunsets.  While I can't bring the good weather to them, this Sage Brown Derby from Bon Appetit is a great wintry cocktail that recalls sunnier days and will take away the gloom.  There are plenty of fruit juices (grapefruit and lime) in it, along with agave syrup, so it's healthy, right?  Putting such a savory herb as sage in a cocktail may sound odd, but trust me, it works.  It gives it just the right pungent note to offset the sweetness.  I just loved it in this Summer Sage Cocktail that helped transition me out of the season into fall.  I'm looking forward to shaking this up for my girl friends for winter brunches.

Sage Brown Derby 
  • 2 oz rye whiskey (I used Redemption Rye)
  • 1 oz fresh red or pink grapefruit juice (I used pink)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 oz agave syrup
  • 2 oz orange bitters (I used Fee Brothers' West Indian Orange)
  • Sage leaf, for garnish
- In a shaker filled with ice, add the whiskey, grapefruit and lime juices, agave and bitters.
- Shake, shake, shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass (p.s. - I like to double strain when dealing with fruit juices to remove pulp or any stray seeds).
- Slap the sage leaf between your palms a couple of times until it's fragrant and float on top of the drink.

Jan 8, 2014

Poached Halibut with Tomato & Saffron

Libations used: 1/4 cup white wine...
Libations left over:  Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
I haven't been doing any cooking since I got back to LA after the holiday and it's been a bit of a whirlwind this past week.  I'm beyond excited for 2014 and it's already gotten off to a terrific start!  I've been rather MIA on posting as much as I used to on this blog, so I'm really eager to get back into my old, happy cooking/cocktail shaking rhythm again.

I was looking for a quick fish dish to make using some of the halibut I had in my freezer (new year, so time to clear that freezer and fridge out!), and found a recipe for Poached Cod with Tomato & Saffron in the January issue of Bon Appetit.  You can sub in any other light, white fish.  Also, I went heavy on the tomatoes and just pulled them out of the saucy jar, plopping them in the skillet without draining them.  This is a great, easy and fast dish to make on a weeknight, and for those who are scared of overcooking fish, you really can't go wrong with poaching.

Poached Halibut with Tomato & Saffron - serves 4
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • One 14.5 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Toasted Head Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Four 5 oz skinless halibut or cod fillets
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until fragrant - don't let the garlic brown up.
- Add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them (that part was fun!), the wine, bay leaves, saffron and the water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and then place in the skillet.
- Cover and cook at a bare simmer until the fish is opaque and getting flaky.
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Serve the fish with the poaching liquid (and tomatoes, if you like) spooned over.