Culinary SOS: Your restaurant recipe requests answered
Dear SOS: The chilled tomato soup at the Obika Mozzarella Bar in Century City is bright, refreshing and delicious. Any chance they'd be willing to share?
Dear SOS: I read your articles every week, and I am finally writing to ask for a recipe, because my husband and I are crazy about the Bolognese sauce at Cafe Pierre in Manhattan Beach. Although this is a French restaurant, its sauce puts most Italian restaurants in the L.A. area to shame. I haven't been able to duplicate this one at home, so I need your help.
Dear SOS: On a trip up the coast of Maine, we found a wonderful bakery in Portland called Standard Baking Co. Everything was delicious, but my husband declared the oatmeal cookies the best he'd ever had, and we made a special detour on the return route to buy more cookies. I'd love it if you could obtain their recipe, so I could surprise him with a batch.
Dear SOS: I recently visited the beautiful little town of Capitola, next to Santa Cruz on the California coast. Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria is a special place. Along with mouth-watering baked goods, I enjoyed two delicious dishes: a kale and quinoa salad and a very yummy artichoke frittata. Could you please try to get the recipes?
Dear SOS: I am a former California native, having lived in Pasadena for almost 47 years. Our family used to eat at the Lawry's establishments all of the time. I am trying to find a recipe for the Lawry's chocolate Kahlua mousse.
It was my family's favorite dessert, and we often ordered it on birthdays. Well, my 60th birthday is coming up on Aug. 19, and I would love to make this.
Mary K. PullenMore...
Dear SOS: I love the delicious short ribs served at Kendall's Brasserie, the Music Center restaurant run by Patina. The ribs are so flavorful, meaty and tender. Please, please try to get Patina to share the recipe.
Dear SOS: I recently was in Aspen, Colo., on a trip through the Rocky Mountains. The ham and bean soup at the Creperie du Village was wonderful. Is there any way you might be able to get the recipe?
Dear SOS: I'd love to have the recipe for salmon bisque at Robin's in Cambria.
Dear SOS: My co-worker raves about the chicken tequila fettucine from California Pizza Kitchen. Her birthday is coming up in February, and we would like to make the dish for a girls' night in to celebrate. Do you have the recipe?
Dear SOS: Sweet Butter, in Sherman Oaks, uses shrimp in the freshest tasting and most flavorful ceviche I have ever tried. Can't stop thinking about it. Any chance of snagging the recipe?
Dear Annette: Both tart fresh apple slices and dried apple chips flavor this salad, also tossed with sliced onion, lightly spiced candied almonds, julienned strips of chicken and creamy goat cheese. The salad is tossed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette. The whole recipe, including the candied almonds, comes together in about an hour, perfect as a side or a light meal.
Total time: 1 hour, plus cooling time for the almonds
Note: Adapted from a recipe from Nordstrom.
Spiced candied almonds
1 tablespoon egg white (about ½ egg white)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 pound blanched almond slivers
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy, then whisk in the brown sugar until the sugar is moist. Add the almonds, tossing to evenly coat.
2. Spread the almonds into a single, evenly spaced layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toast the almonds until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While the almonds are toasting, in a small bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
4. When the almonds are done, immediately sprinkle over the spice mixture, using a spatula to toss the hot almonds with the spices until evenly coated. Set the almonds aside to cool completely before using. This makes a generous 2 cups spiced candied almonds, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the almonds will keep, sealed in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
3/4 cup canola oil
In the bowl of a blender, beat together the shallots, mustard, sugar, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly blend in the oil to form a creamy vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. This makes a generous cup of vinaigrette, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, 3 to 5 days.
Chicken, apple and goat cheese salad
1/3 cup Champagne vinaigrette, more to taste
8 to 10 cups (10 ounces) mixed greens
4 ounces sliced tart apple, preferably Granny Smith
1 cup spiced candied almonds, divided
6 ounces goat cheese, divided
1/4 red onion, sliced into thin half-rings
3 ounces dried apple "chips"
12 ounces cooked chicken, cut into strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a large bowl, combine one-third cup vinaigrette and the mixed greens, apple slices, one-half of the spiced candied almonds, one-half of the goat cheese (added in small dollops), the red onion, apple chips and chicken. Gently toss together, adding additional dressing as needed and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Garnish each serving with the remaining spiced candied almonds and goat cheese, sprinkling the almonds over the salad and adding the cheese in small dollops. Serve immediately.
Dear Suzanne: These adorable scones, delicate, flaky and not overly sweet, may look small, but they pack a lot of flavor. Buttermilk lends a subtle tang, enhancing the richness of the egg and butter, and a bit of dried or candied fruit adds a nice surprise with every bite. A little taste of Britain right here at home.
The Savoy's Cornish scones
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: Makes about 2 dozen scones, depending on the size
Note: Adapted from the Savoy Hotel in London.
4 1/4 cups (17.6 ounces, or 500 grams) flour
2 1/2 tablespoons (1.05 ounces, or 30 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon (.08 ounce, or 2.5 grams) salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (3.17 ounces, or 90 grams) sugar
6 tablespoons (2.9 ounces, or 82.5 grams) butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 extra-large eggs (3.9 ounces, or 107.5 grams), lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (5.5 ounces, or 160 grams) buttermilk
Prepared egg wash (1 to 2 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of water)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces, or 125 grams) dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, currants or diced candied orange or lemon peels
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter to give the mixture a sandy texture.
2. Pour over the eggs and buttermilk, and stir until incorporated; the dough will be crumbly and look dry. Continue to stir or knead it to form a cohesive dough.
3. Add the dried fruit, kneading it in the bowl to evenly incorporate it into the dough.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough three-fourths-inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds using a small circular cutter (about 1¼ inches in diameter).
5. Place the scones on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1½ inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with the prepared egg wash once as they are arranged on the sheets, then once more before they go in the oven.
6. Bake the scones, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and golden brown, about 18 minutes. Rotate the sheets halfway through baking for even coloring.
Each of 24 scones: 146 calories; 4 grams protein; 25 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 4 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 37 mg cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 209 mg sodium.
Playa del Rey
Dear Linda: It's a gingerbread lover's dream come true. Imperial's rich, dark gingerbread is fragrantly spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and fresh ginger, and doused with homemade toffee sauce fresh out of the oven, making for an extra-moist cake.
Imperial's sticky toffee gingerbread
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus cooling time for the cake
Note: Adapted from a recipe by pastry chef Michelle Vernier at Imperial in Portland, Ore.
5 ounces (1¼ sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the butter, sugar and honey to a deep, dark caramel color over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, bring the cream, salt and vanilla to a gentle simmer in a separate saucepan. When the sugar mixture is ready, carefully and slowly whisk in the hot cream (it will bubble, and it could spill over the pan if poured too quickly). Remove from heat and set aside. This makes about 3 cups toffee sauce.
1 cup porter beer
1 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter
6 ounces (1½ sticks) melted butter
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 cups (9.5 ounces) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2/3 cup prepared toffee sauce, plus more for serving
Freshly whipped cream, for serving
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch-square baking pan.
2. In a small, deep, heavy stockpot, bring the porter and molasses to a boil over high heat. Carefully whisk in the baking soda (the mixture will bubble up and could easily bubble over the pan if it is not big enough). Remove from heat and set aside until the mixture settles.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, apple butter, melted butter and grated ginger. Sift in the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, then slowly whisk in the beer/molasses mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove the cake and drizzle over two-thirds cup toffee sauce, then return the cake to the oven and bake for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the cake and cool, still in the pan, on a rack for 30 minutes before serving.
5. Serve the warm cake with additional toffee sauce and softly whipped cream.
Each serving (served with a scant 2 tablespoons sauce and without whipped cream): 576 calories; 5 grams protein; 80 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 27 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 121 mg cholesterol; 55 grams sugar; 392 mg sodium.
Dear Carrie: Dark green julienned strips of kale are tossed with nutty quinoa and sunflower seeds, colorful bell pepper and red grapes, then dressed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette. Parmigiano and manchego cheese lend a subtle richness; the preserved lemon strips add a nice salty tang. La Grande Orange was happy to share its recipe, which we've adapted below.
La Grande Orange Café's kale and quinoa salad
Total time: 50 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4
Note: Adapted from La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena. Preserved lemons can be found at select well-stocked grocery stores as well as cooking and gourmet markets.
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallots
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon chopped chervil
Ground black pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallots and salt; set aside for 20 minutes to soften the shallot. Slowly drizzle in the oils while whisking to emulsify the vinaigrette. Whisk in the chervil and pepper. This makes a scant one-half cup vinaigrette; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 4 days.
Kale and quinoa salad
1/2 cup quinoa
4 cups loosely packed julienned kale, from 1 large bunch
3 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2/3 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese
10 to 12 strips finely julienned preserved lemon
1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a simmer. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse well, then drain, and add to the simmering water. Cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, about 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Remove from heat and drain any remaining liquid. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a baking sheet to cool. The quinoa can be made ahead of time and stored, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days before using.
2. In a large bowl, place the kale and one-fourth cup of the vinaigrette. Using your hands, massage the vinaigrette into the kale until the kale is softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. To the bowl, add the cooled quinoa, the sunflower seeds, bell pepper, grapes and Parmigiano Reggiano, tossing to combine.
4. Divide the salad among serving plates, evenly sprinkling over the Manchego cheese and garnishing with the preserved lemon strips. Serve immediately.
Each of 4 servings: 375 calories; 9 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 26 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 219 mg sodium.
Dear Janet: It doesn't get much simpler than shrimp and grits, but Bar / Kitchen at the O Hotel takes this classic comfort food to new heights, with large Mexican shrimp cooked in a rich creamy sauce spiced with minced Spanish Bilbao chorizo and a helping of Sriracha hot sauce. Spooned atop cheesy stone-ground grits, it's heaven on a plate.
Bar / Kitchen's shrimp and grits
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 8
Note: Adapted from Bar / Kitchen in Los Angeles. While this recipe calls for stone-ground grits, regular grits may be substituted, though they will not require as much cooking time or liquid; instant grits should not be substituted.
6 cups milk
1 cup stone-ground grits
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan
1. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits to avoid any lumps. Stir in the salt and pepper.
2. Reduce the heat and simmer the grits, stirring occasionally, until they start to thicken, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, a little at a time. Gently simmer, stirring frequently to keep the grits from scorching, until the grits are softened and thickened, about 30 to 45 additional minutes. Slowly stir in the parmesan cheese. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if desired.
Shrimp and grits
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 to 16 large Mexican white shrimp (less than 15-per-pound count)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup minced Spanish chorizo Bilbao
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
4 teaspoons chopped white onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or similar hot sauce, more if desired
1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
2 cups heavy cream
Chopped chives, for garnish
1. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil. Add the shrimp and sauté, searing the shrimp on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes (the shrimp will not be fully cooked yet). Remove the shrimp to a plate.
2. Add the chorizo and cook for 30 seconds over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Cook until the onions just begin to soften, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice, white wine and Sriracha, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the paprika and season with three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-half teaspoon pepper, or to taste.
3. Stir in the cream and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Add the shrimp back to the pan and increase the heat to high. Continue to cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste, and season if desired.
4. Divide the grits among four bowls or plates and top with the shrimp. Pour over the sauce, and garnish with chopped chives.
Each of 8 servings: 766 calories; 25 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 61 grams fat; 35 grams saturated fat; 289 mg cholesterol; 11 grams sugar; 960 mg sodium.
Dear SOS: I enjoy reading your column, and it occurred to me that you might be able to answer my request. "It was a dark and stormy night," like many we've recently had, when friends and I happened into Smitty's in Pasadena after the theater. Not being Pasadena locals, we didn't realize our good fortune. It was a perfect night for their signature chili and corn bread specials. Not your ground beef variety, the chili seemed to be prepared with flank steak and the corn bread was the best ever. Any chance you could wheedle their secret for your readers?
Dear Lynn: A perfect fall dish, roasted butternut squash is combined with onion and garlic and finished with rich cream in this soup, a touch of fragrant nutmeg and cinnamon rounding out the flavors. Flavor del Mar was happy to share its recipe with us, which we've adapted below.
Flavor del Mar's butternut squash soup
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus roasting time for the squash
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: Adapted from Flavor del Mar in Del Mar.
5 pounds butternut squash (about 2 medium)
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper
3/4 pound onions (1 large or 2 medium onions), coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (½ stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken broth
3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup heavy cream
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise, scooping out and discarding the seeds. Place the squash on a large cookie sheet, brushing the top of each half with the oil. Sprinkle one-half teaspoon each salt and pepper over the halves. Roast the halves until golden-brown and a knife easily pierces the flesh, 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the thickness of the squash. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle, then scoop out the roasted flesh, discarding the shells.
2. In a 4-quart pot, combine the roasted butternut squash flesh with the onion, garlic, milk, sugar, butter, broth, nutmeg and cinnamon. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for about 45 minutes to marry the flavors.
3. Blend the soup, in batches if necessary, then strain into a clean pot. Stir in the cream and heat until the soup is warmed. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. This makes about 2½ quarts soup, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days.
San Bruno, Calif.
Dear Sarah: Rich and buttery, yet oh-so-light in texture, these rolls are bound to steal the show at any dinner party. Rye was happy to share its Sally Lunn roll recipe, which we've adapted below.
Rye's Sally Lunn rolls
Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus rising times
Servings: Makes about 1½ dozen rolls
Note: Adapted from Rye in Louisville, Ky.
1 Yukon Gold potato
1 1/4 cups (5 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons plus 2½ teaspoons (1 ounce) sugar
1/4 cup plus 2½ tablespoons (½ stick plus 2½ tablespoons) butter, divided
1/2 cup plus 3½ tablespoons milk
2 egg yolks
1 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (6¼ ounces) bread flour
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, divided
1. Boil the potato in a medium pot until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the potato and mash. Measure one-half cup (2 2/3 ounces) mashed potato and set aside (save the rest for another use).
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, yeast and sugar. Set aside
3. In a small saucepan, melt one-fourth cup plus one-half tablespoon butter. In a blender, combine the melted butter, milk and mashed potato, and blend until smooth.
4. Add the potato mixture to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes to give the yeast time to activate.
5. If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the whole egg and one yolk, and mix until combined, then add the bread flour and 1¼ teaspoons salt, scraping down the bowl as needed until the ingredients are combined to form the dough.
If mixing by hand, beat in the egg and 1 yolk using a hand mixer, then add the bread flour and 1¼ teaspoons salt, mixing by hand with a spoon or spatula until the ingredients are combined to form a dough.
6. Scrape the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl, and lightly oil the top of the dough, then cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.
7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and portion the dough out into 1½ dozen balls, each weighing about 1¼ ounces.
8. Roll the portions into balls and place on a lightly oiled parchment-lined baking sheet (6 rows, 3 rolls each).
9. Very lightly brush the tops of the rolls with oil and gently cover with a layer of plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
10. When the rolls are almost ready, heat the oven to 375 degrees.
11. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over low heat just until melted. Place the butter in a small bowl and beat in the remaining egg yolk. Gently brush the tops of the risen rolls with the butter mixture, then sprinkle over the remaining three-fourths teaspoon coarse sea salt.
12. Bake the rolls until golden brown and completely set, about 20 minutes.
13. Remove and cool slightly before serving.
Each of 18 rolls: 135 calories; 3 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 43 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 234 mg sodium.
Dear Meg: Sweet cherry tomatoes and vibrant zucchini strips lend bright colors to this pasta salad, and the fresh lemon zest adds a nice zing. The pasta salad comes together in minutes, the flavors rounded out with fresh chopped basil and rich Parmigiano-Reggiano. Wolfe's Market was happy to share its recipe, which we've adapted below.
Wolfe's Market's shell pasta salad with lemon zest
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: Makes 5 quarts
Note: Adapted from Wolfe's Market in Claremont.
1 pound shell pasta
Zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups petite peas
3 zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 bunch (1/3 ounce) fresh basil, leaves finely chopped
8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
3 to 4 tablespoons best-quality olive oil
1. Cook the shell pasta to al dente according to the manufacturer's directions, then rinse under cold running water to cool completely.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, lemon zest, thawed peas, cut zucchini, tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. Drizzle over olive oil to coat and toss gently. The salad will keep up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
Each cup: 170 calories; 4 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 93 mg sodium.
Dear Lynda: Owner Sumi Chang was happy to share her recipe for this wonderfully fragrant, moist and delicious cake, writing that "it is a very humble-looking cake, but the taste is incredible. Originally, someone gave me this recipe as an apple cake recipe, and I baked a lot of apple cake using it. Once, however, I was out of apples, so I used Anjou pears instead. The rest, as they say, is history." The secret is the ripe pears; Sumi told us she usually buys the pears before they are fully ripe, then lets them ripen fully before using.
Euro Pane's pear spice cake
Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus cooling time
Servings: 12 to 16
Note: Adapted from Sumi Chang of Euro Pane in Pasadena. She recommends using fully ripened Anjou pears.
3 cups (12.75 ounces) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
7 ripe Anjou pears, peeled, cored and chopped into cubes
2 cups chopped walnuts
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease again.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, and set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar, then beat in the oil. Beat in the flour mixture just until combined, then fold in the pears and nuts.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake until puffed and golden brown, and a toothpick placed in the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check the cake after an hour, and cover the top loosely with a sheet of foil if it browns too quickly before it is done.
5. Remove and cool completely on a rack before serving.
Rancho Santa Margarita
Dear Arlene: King's Fish House, a Southern California chain, was happy to share its take on this classic comfort food. Enjoy!
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Servings: 8 to 12
Note: Adapted from King's Fish House
1/4 cup (½ stick) butter plus 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmesan plus 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound macaroni
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt one-fourth cup butter over low heat. Whisk in the flour to form a roux.
2. Slowly whisk in the half-and-half and bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking frequently. Cook until the roux thickens, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Slowly add the Velveeta cheese cubes, whisking to melt the cheese. Whisk in three-fourths cup Parmesan cheese, kosher salt and white pepper. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if desired. This makes a scant 4 cups cheese sauce; the cheese sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and covered and refrigerated before using.
4. Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package until al dente. Drain and set aside.
5. While the macaroni is cooking, make the panko topping: In a small mixing bowl, mix together the panko bread crumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter, stirring well to combine.
6. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
7. In a large pot, heat the cheese sauce over low heat to warm, then gently stir in the macaroni until well mixed. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish, then sprinkle over the panko topping. Cover the pan with a layer of greased foil.
8. Bake the macaroni and cheese for 15 minutes to warm through, then remove the foil and continue to bake until the topping is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Dear Andrea: Take everything you love about summer and arrange it beautifully on a plate. Juicy heirloom tomato wedges and bright chunks of cool watermelon come together perfectly in this salad, punctuated with the light spice of arugula and floral notes of fresh basil and mint. Crumbled feta adds a nice hint of richness, and the tangy watermelon vinaigrette brings it all together.
The Hungry Cat's tomato and watermelon salad
Total time: 40 minutes
Note: Adapted from the Hungry Cat in Hollywood. To make a watermelon reduction, juice all or part of a watermelon (using a juicer, a blender or food processor and straining), then simmer until the juice is reduced by half.
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup watermelon reduction
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallot, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the watermelon reduction, then whisk in the oil until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This makes about 1 1/3 cups vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
Tomato and watermelon salad
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided, more to taste
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided, more to taste
4 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, preferably French feta
8 to 10 basil leaves, torn (preferably opal basil)
8 to 10 mint leaves, torn (preferably Persian mint)
4 cups loosely packed arugula
1/3 cup watermelon vinaigrette, or to taste
1. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and spread them out on a sheet pan. Season with one-half teaspoon each salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, watermelon, onion, feta, basil, mint and arugula. Gently toss in the vinaigrette. Taste and season with one-fourth teaspoon each salt and pepper, or to taste. Add additional vinaigrette to taste as desired before serving.
Each serving: 300 calories; 9 grams protein; 23 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 33 mg cholesterol; 17 grams sugar; 883 mg sodium.
Dear Marianne: It doesn't get much better than a great pecan pie, and this is one of the better ones I've had. Rib City Grill was happy to share its recipe with us, which we've adapted below.
Rib City Grill's pecan pie
Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling time
Note: Adapted from Rib City Grill. This recipe makes a 10-inch pie; 10-inch pie tins and dishes are available at cooking and baking supply stores, as well as some gourmet markets, and are widely available online.
1/3 cup (2.7 ounces) butter, softened
3/4 cup (5 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) dark corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) chopped pecans
1 (10-inch) prepared unbaked pie shell
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fully combined, about 1½ minutes.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the dark and light corn syrup. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is evenly combined.
4. With the mixer running over low speed, slowly pour in the beaten eggs. Beat the ingredients well, making sure the beaten eggs are fully incorporated into the mix.
5. Fold the chopped pecans into the batter using a spatula.
6. Place the prepared pie shell onto a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Pour the mixture into the pie shell, and place the baking sheet in the oven.
7. Bake the pie until the custard filling is puffed and set (it should jiggle only very slightly when tapped) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Line the outer crust with foil if it browns too quickly before the custard is set.
8. Cool the pie on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
Each serving: 692 calories; 8 grams protein; 77 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 43 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 113 mg cholesterol; 34 grams sugar; 240 mg sodium.
Dear Kathy: Amtrak was happy to share its recipe with us, telling us that the lamb shanks are the creation of Seattle chef and cookbook author Tom Douglas, who is part of their culinary advisory team. Amtrak's executive chef, Daniel Malzhan, developed the recipe, using sous-vide cooking ("20 hours at a precise 160 degrees"). Amtrak converted the original recipe here for home use so that cooks can braise it in the traditional manner and get terrific results in far less time.
Amtrak's braised lamb shanks with portobello mushroom, tomatoes and oregano
Total time: 3 hours
Note: Amtrak serves the lamb shanks with garlic mashed potatoes and an array of vegetables.
4 (1 pound each) bone-in lamb shanks, well trimmed
1/4 cup canola oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely dice red onion
2 large portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, cut in medium dice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, preferably Greek
1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) diced plum tomatoes in tomato juice
3 cups beef demi-glace (or 3 cups beef broth thickened with a slurry of 2 tablespoons each cornstarch and cold water)
2 bay leaves
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, toss the lamb shanks with 1 tablespoon oil, one-half teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper.
2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Add the oil, and when the oil is hot add the lamb shanks in a single layer (do this in batches, if necessary). Brown the shanks uniformly on all sides, then remove the shanks to an appropriate casserole or braising pan with a tight-fitting lid.
3. Pour off and discard any excess fat, leaving only 1 to 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the onion and mushroom and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic. Cook another minute, stirring, so that the garlic does not burn. Add the red wine, bring to a near boil, and reduce the liquid by two-thirds. Stir in the oregano, tomatoes with juice and the demi-glace. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from the heat and pour over the lamb shanks. Add the bay leaves and cover the lamb tightly with the lid.
4. Transfer the lamb to the oven and cook for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and continue to cook the lamb until it is fork tender but not falling off the bone, about 1 additional hour.
5. Remove the casserole and allow the lamb to cool , uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove each shank to a serving dish and cover with foil. Remove the bay leaves from the casserole and discard.
6. Skim any fat from the top of the sauce. Check the consistency of the sauce (it should be the consistency of heavy cream). If the sauce is too thin, reduce it on the stove-top until it is the proper consistency. This makes about 2½ cups sauce. Taste the sauce, adjusting the seasoning as desired, then pour over the lamb shanks and serve.
Each serving: 730 calories; 74 grams protein; 33 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 34 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 1,795 mg sodium.
Dear Mike: Artichoke lovers, rejoice! We loved this rich, creamy soup from Carmel's own Hog's Breath Inn, which touts its "Old West ambience" with scenic fireplace murals, mounted hog heads and paintings of Clint Eastwood. A simple ingredient list nicely brings the artichoke to the forefront, the flavors nicely rounded out with a touch of sherry. I can guarantee there won't be an empty seat at the table when you serve this.
Hog's Breath Inn's artichoke soup
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 2 to 4
Note: Adapted from the Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel by the Sea, Calif. We tested the recipe using artichoke hearts canned in water.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter, divided
1/2 onion, diced (about 1¼ cups diced)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons sherry
2 pounds drained artichoke hearts
1 1/3 cups chicken broth, more as desired
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup cream
1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot heated over medium-high heat until hot, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and peppers, and continue to cook until the garlic is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the sherry and stir, scraping any bits of flavoring from the base of the pot. Stir in the artichoke hearts, chicken broth and sugar. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt, or to taste.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, loosely covered, for 30 minutes.
4. While the soup is simmering, make a roux: In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly rain in the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the roux turns a light brown color, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. This makes about one-fourth cup roux, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The roux will keep, up to 2 weeks, covered and refrigerated.
5. When the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, uncover and slowly whisk in the cream. Thicken as desired with roux, whisking in 1 tablespoon at a time; you may not use all the roux.
6. Blend the soup using a stand or immersion blender, and strain if desired. Return the soup to the pot, adjust the thickness with additional roux (to thicken) or broth (to thin), and taste once more for seasoning. This makes a scant quart of soup.
Dear Leslie: Magnolias was happy to share its take on this pimiento cheese, a true Southern classic, which we've adapted below.
Total time: 15 minutes
Servings: This makes about 4½ cups pimiento cheese.
Note: Adapted from Magnolias in Charleston, S.C.
5 large red pimiento peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 2½ cups jarred chopped red pimiento peppers, drained
1 cup finely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
5 cups shredded sharp Vermont cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper, more if desired
Flatbread, for serving
In a food processor, pulse the peppers a few times. Move the peppers to a large bowl and add the olives, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, mayonnaise, parsley, black and cayenne peppers. Mix until fully incorporated. Season with additional cayenne pepper if desired. Serve with flatbread.
Each tablespoon: 41 calories; 2 grams protein; 0 carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 0 sugar; 91 mg sodium.
Dear Allison: Chopped kale and romaine are tossed with quinoa, almonds, raisins and parmesan cheese, with a bright lemon vinaigrette added just before serving. Napa Valley Grille was happy to share its recipe, which we've adapted below.
Napa Valley Grille's kale chopped salad
Total time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from Napa Valley Grille in Westwood.
Juice of 3 lemons and grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 anchovy fillet, minced
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 basil leaves, cut in thin strips
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, shallot, anchovy, cheese and basil. Season to taste with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper. This makes slightly more than one-half cup vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
1/4 cup quinoa
1 romaine heart, chopped
1 head green kale, chopped
1/4 cup almonds, toasted
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under cool running water to remove the outer coating of the quinoa (if not rinsed, the coating can give the quinoa a bitter flavor). Place the rinsed quinoa in a dry saute pan and toast, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is dry, lightly colored, and has a nutty aroma.
3. Place the toasted quinoa in the saucepan with the water, reduce the heat and simmer the quinoa until it is translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, 12 to 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Drain the quinoa and spread it out on a baking sheet to cool.
4. In a large bowl, combine the romaine, kale, quinoa, almonds, raisins and parmesan cheese. Add one-fourth cup vinaigrette and toss to lightly coat. Add additional vinaigrette as desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Each of 6 servings: 170 calories; 5 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 5 grams sugar; 153 mg sodium.
Dear Kate: Unapologetically rich, Zea's dense sweet potato bread pudding has an almost cake-like texture, with a crunchy pecan topping. It's great on its own, but baptized with a thick, sweet rum sauce, it's downright inspired.
Zea's sweet potato bread pudding with rum sauce
Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling time
Servings: 12 to 16
Note: Adapted from Zea Rotisserie and Grill in New Orleans. The restaurant bakes the pudding in a 3-inch-deep casserole dish; if using a dish this depth, the baking time can increase by as much as an hour.
Sweet potato bread pudding
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (from 1 large boiled, peeled and mashed sweet potato)
1/3 pound butter, melted
1 quart milk
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
1 pound stale French bread cubes, cut into ½-by-½-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large glass or nonreactive bowl using a hand mixer, beat the eggs. Slowly beat in the sugar, then beat in the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract. Beat in the mashed sweet potatoes until thoroughly combined, then beat in the butter. Add the milk, beating until all of the ingredients are completely and thoroughly incorporated. If using a stand mixer, transfer the custard base to a large glass or nonreactive bowl.
2. Using your hands, mix the bread cubes and raisins into the custard base. Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight.
3. Shortly before baking, heat the oven to 275 degrees. Thoroughly stir the mixture, making sure there are no white spots of un-soaked bread (it is fine if the soaked bread breaks down somewhat as you stir), and check to see that the raisins are evenly distributed.
4. Pour the mixture into a lightly buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Lightly scatter and press the pecans onto the top of the pudding.
5. Bake the pudding until it has puffed and the custard is set in the center, about 70 to 90 minutes. Remove the pudding to a rack to cool for 2 hours before serving.
2 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup dark rum
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, heat the corn syrup, rum and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and, using a whisk, vigorously beat in the softened butter. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve. This makes about 3 cups sauce.
Each of 16 servings: 735 calories; 10 grams protein; 104 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 32 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 161 mg cholesterol; 61 grams sugar; 272 mg sodium.
Dear Jana: With layers packed with fresh spinach, portobello mushrooms, artichokes and gooey mozzarella, there's no shortage of creamy richness in this lasagna from Café Roka (and your guests might never guess it's vegetarian). Assemble the lasagna ahead of time if you wish, then bake before serving; it makes a perfect dinner whether you're planning for company or a simple family dinner.
Café Roka's artichoke and portobello mushroom lasagna
Total time: 2 hours
Servings: 10 to 12
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, medium dice
1 pound portobello mushrooms, medium dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can artichokes (packed in water), drained and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 pound coarsely chopped spinach
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
4 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (9-ounce) box oven-ready lasagne sheets (no-boil style)
1 pound grated whole milk mozzarella
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil to blanch the spinach.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet heated over medium-high heat until hot, then add the olive oil and the onion. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, stir in the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until any of the liquid released from the mushrooms has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. While the mushrooms are cooking, blanch the spinach: Add the spinach, in batches, to the boiling water and cook until the spinach softens and turns a bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the spinach in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Repeat until all of the spinach is blanched. Drain the spinach, and wrap it in a large kitchen towel, squeezing the towel to drain the spinach of any excess moisture.
4. When the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, add the white wine, stirring to scrape any flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and artichokes, stirring until completely combined. Taste the mixture, and add three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-half teaspoon pepper, or season as desired. Stir in the spinach, then taste and season again if needed. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. Make the tomato-bechamel sauce: In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is foamy, whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken and take on a sauce-like consistency, 10 to 12 minutes. Slowly stir in the parmesan cheese, and when the cheese is melted, stir in the tomatoes. Taste the sauce, adding three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper, along with a pinch of nutmeg, or season as desired.
6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and assemble the lasagna: On the bottom of a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish, ladle about 1 cup of the tomato-bechamel sauce. Cover the sauce with a single layer of lasagna noodles. Sprinkle one-fourth of the vegetable mixture over the noodles, then ladle over another cup of the sauce. Top the sauce with one-fourth of the grated mozzarella. Repeat with the noodles, vegetables, sauce and mozzarella until you have 4 layers (if you have more than one cup of sauce left when assembling the fourth layer, go ahead and pour all of the remaining with that layer before sprinkling over the last of the mozzarella cheese). The dish can be assembled up to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to a day before baking; remove the plastic wrap and leave the lasagna out at room temperature while heating the oven before continuing with the next step.
7. Cover the baking dish with foil and place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drippings. Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes. Increase the temperature to 450 degrees, remove the foil from the lasagna and continue baking until the top is lightly browned, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool slightly on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.
Each of 12 servings: 407 calories; 21 grams protein; 32 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 58 mg cholesterol; 8 grams sugar; 1,000 mg sodium.
Dear Wenise: These cookies are like taking every single one of my favorite snacks and packaging them in a simple, compact, magical treat. Chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coffee, graham cracker crust, pretzels and even potato chips are tossed in with a rich cookie dough to turn out something truly inspired. I'll never look at another cookie in the same way again.
Momofuku Milk Bar's compost cookies
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus chilling and cooling times
Servings: This makes 15 to 20 cookies
Note: Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. Glucose, mini-chocolate chips and mini-butterscotch chips are available at baking and cooking supply stores.
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup (20 grams) milk powder
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter, more if needed
1/4 cup (55 grams) heavy cream
1. In a medium bowl, toss together the graham cracker crumbs, milk powder, sugar and salt with your hands to evenly distribute.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter and heavy cream. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and mix it in with the crust base.
3. This makes about 2 cups crust base, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. Eat the base, or use as desired in other recipes. Store in an airtight container for up to one week at room temperature, or for one month in the refrigerator or freezer.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2/3 cup (150 grams) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (50 grams) glucose or light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups (225 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (4 grams) kosher salt
3/4 cup (150 grams) mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup (100 grams) mini butterscotch chips
1/2 cup (1/4 recipe) graham crust
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 teaspoons ground coffee
2 cups potato chips
1 cup mini pretzels
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugars and glucose on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for an additional 7 to 8 minutes.
2. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute, being careful not to overmix the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. Still on low speed, add the chocolate and butterscotch chips, the graham crust, oats and coffee and mix just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the potato chips and pretzels and beat, still on low speed, just until incorporated, being careful not to overmix or break too many of the pretzels or potato chips. (You deserve a pat on the back if one of your cookies bakes with a whole pretzel standing up in the center.)
4. Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/3-cup measure, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing each portion roughly 4 inches apart. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, up to one week. Do not bake the cookies while at room temperature — they will not bake up properly.
5. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Bake the cookies, one tray at a time on the center rack, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the cookies halfway through baking for even cooking. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread while baking, and should be very faintly browned on the edges yet still bright in the center. Give them an extra minute or so if needed.
7. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage. At room temperature, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; frozen, they will keep for up to 1 month.
Each of 20 cookies:337 calories; 3 grams protein; 47 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 16 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 36 mg cholesterol; 28 grams sugar; 288 mg sodium.
Dear SOS: I'd love to get the recipe for goat cheese bread pudding from Nopa in San Francisco. It's the best one I've had, and I'm eager to try to duplicate it.
Dear Margaret: Nopa's savory take on this classic comfort food is wonderfully rich yet amazingly light in texture, the bread cubes breaking down into a luxuriously soft pudding. Served alongside a simple salad, it makes the perfect meal.
Nopa's goat cheese bread pudding
Total time: Total time: 3 hours, plus overnight refrigerating and chilling times
Servings: 12 to 16
Note: Adapted from Nopa in San Francisco. The restaurant uses a mixture of pain de mie and white levain breads. This recipe requires a roasting pan large enough to fit an 11-by-15-inch baking dish. Large, disposable aluminum steam-table pans will work and can be found at most cooking and restaurant supply stores.
3 1/2 cups milk
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup crème fraiche
8 cups crustless bread cubes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, divided
1 (8-ounce) log fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1. In a large bowl, mix together the milk, heavy cream and crème fraiche.
2. In an 11-by-15-inch baking dish, place the bread, mounding it slightly in the center of the dish. Pour over the milk mixture, gently pushing the bread down into the liquid so it is evenly soaked. Wrap the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, black pepper and one-fourth cup each Parmesan and Gruyère cheeses. Pour the egg mixture over the soaked bread. Dot the top with the crumbled goat cheese.
4. Using your hands, gently but thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients, making sure there are no pockets of unincorporated egg or cream. Don't worry if the bread breaks down. When everything is thoroughly mixed, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and Gruyère over the top.
5. Cover the top of the dish with a sheet of greased foil, then place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven, carefully pouring in enough hot water to come up the sides of the baking dish by half.
6. Bake the bread pudding until set when jiggled (the middle will be moist but not runny), 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. Gently remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is browned, about 15 minutes more. Cool the bread pudding completely and chill before slicing, then rewarm the slices before serving.
Each of 16 servings: 382 calories; 12 grams protein; 13 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 31 grams fat; 19 grams saturated fat; 189 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 494 mg sodium.
Dear SOS: I have been to Lawry's Carvery many times. I wish I knew how to make their baked macaroni and cheese. I hope you can acquire this recipe. They have many of their recipes on the website, but the mac 'n' cheese is not on it.
Rancho Santa MargaritaMore...
Dear SOS: I had lunch with a friend at Chaya Downtown restaurant, in Los Angeles. We ordered their chopped salad with grilled shrimp in an aioli jalapeño dressing. It was superb! I'd love to make it at home. Can you get the recipe from the chef?
Dear SOS: I recently moved from San Luis Obispo to Denver. I miss the berry bars at House of Bread in San Luis; they were my favorite breakfast after a run or before class, and they were even my last meal before commencing the 18-hour drive from SLO to Denver! I'd love the recipe so I can have a slice of my old college town here in my new big city. Thank you!
Dear SOS: Mucho Ultima Mexicana Restaurant in Manhattan Beach makes the best strawberry mojito I have ever had. Can you please get the recipe from them so I can make and enjoy it at home? It's the perfect drink. Thank you.
Dear SOS: We've just returned from a trip to Chicago, and I tell you, we were there for just five days, but we were at the Purple Pig three times. My fave is their fried pig's ears with crispy kale. What an amazing dish! Can you see if they are willing to share their recipe with your readers? Appreciate it very much.
Mary Anne Hernandez
Dear SOS: The San Diego bakery the Cravory (formerly 410 Degrees) makes the most amazing cinnamon roll cookies. Any chance of getting the recipe? Many thanks!
Dear SOS: I was at Kuleto's in San Francisco recently, and we had the best minestrone soup. It was fabulous. I have called and emailed, and nothing. Can you please obtain the soup recipe? Thanks for your help.
Elizabeth A. Reers
Dear SOS: Over the Christmas holiday season, we quartered at the beautiful Heathman Lodge, Vancouver, Wash., to be near relatives in both Oregon and Washington, and enjoyed its renowned Hudson's Bar and Grill. Among other marvelous presentations was its steamed Manila clams. Do you suppose its chef, Brendan Callaghan, would share his recipe?
Robert E. Tumelty
Dear Robert: Hudson's Grill was happy to share its recipe for steamed Manila clams, which we've adapted below.
Hudson's steamed Manila clams
Total time:20 minutes
Note: Adapted from Hudson's Bar and Grill at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, Wash. You will need a sauce pan or stock pot with a tight-fitting lid, large enough to hold the clams comfortably, no more than two deep. Before cooking the clams, soak them for 30 minutes in brine (dissolve 1 cup kosher salt in 1 gallon cold water) to encourage the clams to purge themselves of any sand they may be holding inside. After 30 minutes of brining, drain the clams and give them a quick rinse under cold running water, scrubbing as necessary to remove excess mud.
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 pounds manila clams
2 tablespoons butter, more if desired
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan or small pot, combine the shallot, wine, garlic and pepper flakes over high heat.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 2 to 3 minutes to marry the flavors. Add the clams and butter, cover the pot and reduce the heat so the liquid gently steams.
3. Steam the clams until they have opened, 2 to 3 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Be sure to discard any clams that have not opened. Serve hot with a few slices of toasted crusty bread.
Dear SOS: I am eagerly and desperately looking to replicate the most delicious, amazing salad I have ever had. My fiancé and I are regulars at the Tender Greens in Culver City, and we finally tried its best dish on meatless Monday: the happy vegan. It successfully combines the tastiest health foods such as red quinoa salad, green hummus and farro, with toasted hazelnuts, all on one plate. Please help me with the recipe!
Dear SOS: I am from North Carolina and recently visited Los Angeles. While there I visited Julienne in San Marino. The double-chocolate espresso walnut cookie is the best I have ever eaten. Would it be possible to get the recipe for this cookie?
Dear SOS: My husband and I have enjoyed eating at Taix French Restaurant for over 30 years. It's a genuine Los Angeles institution, with old-fashioned ambience and service. The quality of its food and the value for the price has always remained high.
We both love the pea soup that's served on Sunday nights. It is so flavorful and has just the right consistency — neither too thick nor too thin.
Dear SOS: My husband and I recently visited downtown Napa, Calif. The amazing chocolate dessert at Carpe Diem is absolutely the best chocolate dessert I've ever tasted! And I am not a big dessert person. Satin-smooth chocolate with a texture between a pudding and souffle, but better. Not too sweet and topped with a small drop of whipped cream and then sprinkled with perfectly roasted and salted pepitas [pumpkin seeds]. Divine.
Dear SOS: Recently my best childhood friend treated me to a creekside birthday dinner at beautiful Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo. We both had the Thai green chicken curry, and it was absolutely incredible. I tried an online recipe that was good but just didn't reach the level of excellence that Novo's creation did. I would love to have the privilege of getting that recipe if possible!
Dear SOS: Milk has the best molasses cookies I've ever had. My entire family adores them, and I would love to be able to make them for my dad on his 66th birthday. Please help? These cookies are out of this world. I need the recipe, before I spend my last dime on them! Thank you!
Dear SOS: I was in Santa Barbara recently for a little vacation and stopped at Palazzio. Loved everything we had there, but especially loved the mac and cheese pie. It was incredibly rich, but so delicious. I'm especially curious as to what technique they use to make it so dense. Any chance you could get their recipe? Thanks!
Dear SOS: My family and I just got back from a trip to Traverse City, Mich., where I had the absolute best veggie burger I've ever had. Is there any way you could coax North Peak Brewery Co. to give up its recipe for its Black Bean and Portobello Mushroom Burger?
Playa del ReyMore...
Dear SOS: I am in love with a cookie from Euro Pane in Pasadena. It is the mocha cookie. We were in the restaurant last weekend, and I asked for the recipe, and they laughed at me. I thought you might have a better chance.
Dear SOS: We recently dined at Ciopinot in San Luis Obispo. We tried their "no work" cioppino, and it was the best cioppino we've ever eaten. Wonder if they will share the recipe? Thank you.
Dear SOS: I have never been able to find a vegetable soup that comes close to Coral Tree Café's. I know they must have a secret ingredient in there that gives it that extra something special! With fall approaching (and hopefully cooler temperatures), I would love to make this soup at home.
Dear SOS: A wonderful restaurant in Newport Beach called Il Barone has by far the best tiramisu in the world. It is limoncello tiramisu, irresistible and worth whatever calories it contains. It is very light, moist and unforgettable! We would love this recipe!
Dear Stephanie: Fresh, lightly herbal, sweetened with a touch of honey and with just the right amount of tang, BLD tosses its homemade dressing with a wonderfully bright and colorful salad of crunchy fresh corn, edamame, roasted bell peppers and green beans, along with diced rich avocado and toasted cashews. They top the salad with fresh sprouts and a drizzle of nutty hemp seeds. It makes for a perfect side or light meal. Enjoy!
BLD's fresh vegetable salad
Total time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from BLD in Los Angeles. Hemp seeds can be found at select well-stocked markets as well as most health food stores.
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sweet rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup canola oil
1. In a blender, grind the ginger, shallots and rosemary to a paste.
2. Add the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, lemon juice to the ginger mixture and blend until fairly smooth.
3. With the blender running, slowly add the oil. This makes about three-fourths cup dressing, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The dressing will keep, up to 3 days, covered and refrigerated.
Fresh vegetable salad
2 cups shelled edamame beans
1 cup raw fresh yellow corn
2/3 cup diced avocado
2/3 cup toasted and salted cashews
1/2 cup sliced or diced roasted and peeled red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups French green beans (haricot vert), blanched, shocked and chopped
2 cups diced jicama
1/2 cup salad dressing, more as desired
1 cup daikon sprouts
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
In a large bowl, combine the edamame, corn, avocado, cashews, peppers, green beans and jicama. Add one-half cup of the dressing and toss to coat. Taste, and add additional dressing if desired. Divide the salad among 4 plates and garnish with the daikon sprouts and hemp seeds. This makes about 8 cups of salad. Serve immediately.
Dear SOS: Can you please get the bread pudding recipe from La Boulange? By far, it's the best bread pudding I've ever tasted. It is so good! Thank you very much!
Dear SOS: My husband and I just returned from a trip to Israel to attend the wedding of one of his former students. We stayed at the beautiful Mount Zion hotel in Jerusalem, which served an incredible Israeli breakfast. In addition to a wide array of delicious salads, they offered a hot cheesecake dish. The hot cheesecake was amazing: light, soufflé-like, not overly sweet. A perfect breakfast dish! We're still dreaming about that dish and would love to have the recipe.
Dear SOS: Recently, my husband, some friends and I were at Cafe del Rey in Marina del Rey for the restaurant's 20th anniversary party. Besides the delicious food, they served an amazing white sangria made with fresh peaches. Everyone enjoyed it so much, and I'd love to make it at home if they will share the recipe. It's the perfect refreshing drink.
Dear SOS: During a trip to north Mississippi and the Delta, we ate a memorable meal at Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford. The brandy-spiked pain perdu was a stand-out among the dishes we ordered (with stiff competition from the house-cured bacon and biscuits). Since I don't anticipate being back in the area soon, is there any chance you can obtain the recipe? Thanks.
Dear SOS: I'd love to get the recipe for the couscous at Hillstone (formerly Houston's) in Santa Monica.
Dear SOS: On a trip to Zion National Park, we had the most delicious meatloaf at Wildcat Willies in Springdale, Utah. Please ask the chef to share the recipe. I'd love to try it.
Dear John: Chi Dynasty was happy to share its recipe with us, which we've adapted below.
Chi Dynasty's Chinese chicken salad
Total time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from Chi Dynasty in Studio City. To make crispy rice noodles, fry the noodles in oil heated to 350 degrees until they're crisp, 1 to 2 minutes; drain on paper towels.
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and ginger. Taste and adjust seasoning and flavoring as desired. This makes a generous one-half cup of dressing.
8 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
3 cups crispy rice noodles
1 pound boiled chicken breast, cut into strips
1/3 cup finely chopped peanuts, more to taste
2 tablespoons minced preserved ginger, more to taste
1 tablespoon roasted black sesame seeds, more to taste
1/4 cup chopped green onions, more to taste
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, more to taste
In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, noodles, chicken, peanuts, ginger, sesame seeds, green onions and cilantro leaves. Add half the dressing, tossing to lightly coat. Taste, and toss in additional dressing as desired. Serve immediately.
Dear SOS: A large group of us descended from the higher elevations of the Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego County, a little grungy from camping and hiking. No matter: We received excellent service during lunch at Jeremy's on the Hill, just a few miles outside of Julian. Everyone, from the professional chef/fancy hotel executive to the foodies to the children who ate off the kids' menu, thoroughly enjoyed their meals. I, however, had the wise sense to order the waitress' favorite, the artichoke-potato au gratin, which came with broccolini and a house salad with balsamic reduction.
The artichoke-potato au gratin was one of the best dishes many of us had ever had (yes, I shared). Seriously. It was creamy, rich, flavorful and perfectly baked with lovely browned areas throughout. True, we were famished and, true, we had been camping, but still, we know good food when we eat it. Might you be able to acquire this recipe for us?
Dear SOS: I have had this wonderful bread pudding at Pete's Cafe & Bar on 4th and Main in downtown L.A. Could you please get me the recipe?
Dear SOS: Hello! I utterly crave the Green Goddess dressing they make at Dish in La Cañada Flintridge. It has just the right balance of tart and mellow tastes. I would love to be able to make it at home. Thanks,
Dear SOS: I adore the gazpacho at the Urth Caffé. My recipe is so bland compared to theirs. I would love to know what they use to get such a wonderful flavor.
Dear SOS: I love the Sweetie Pies Bakery in Napa Valley. Last time, I tried the sweet-glazed currant scone. Would it be possible to get the recipe?
Dear SOS: I just got home from our neighborhood restaurant, Cayenne Cafe, on Beverly Boulevard. We go there a lot, as it is close by, the food is always good and the staff is very friendly. We never usually get dessert. However, it was our friend's birthday, so we decided to splurge. We ordered two, first their carrot cake, which was very good, with cream cheese frosting and a caramel sauce. My husband doesn't like tiramisu because it is made with coffee, and he doesn't like cold coffee. But their citrus tiramisu was absolutely delicious. We were all licking the plate. It was one of the most delicious and unique dishes we have had in a long time. It was light and moist, and I would love to have the recipe to be able to make it during the summer.
Dear SOS: Had an amazing goat milk flan at Border Grill downtown. Even chatted briefly with Susan Feniger, but unfortunately that was before dessert. I'm not usually a big flan person, but I loved the tang and the interplay between that tang and the rich sweetness of the caramel. Truly unexpected and fantastic twist on a traditional dish. Can you help get me the recipe?
Dear SOS: Last summer while vacationing in Sedona, Ariz., our family had a fabulous dinner at an Italian restaurant called Cucina Rustica. For dessert we had the most delicious three-chocolate mousse cheesecake. I would love to have this recipe. It is divine! I am hoping that you can procure this recipe.
Dear SOS: On a recent visit to the Philadelphia area, I encountered the absolute best Welsh rarebit at a local British pub.
Dear SOS: We recently dined at Tyler Florence's new Rotisserie & Wine in Napa. The cornbread was crisp on the outside and almost custard-like in the middle. It's not like any of his cornbread recipes online. Can you get it for me?
Dear SOS: An all-time favorite of my entire family is Massaman curry (with chicken) from Cholada Thai in Thousand Oaks.
Dear SOS: At the recently opened Brendan's Irish Pub here in Camarillo, along with the bread plate they serve a tasty condiment that the waitress described as an apricot, whiskey, onion jam. As I have an apricot tree in my backyard, I would enjoy knowing how to make this jam.
Dear SOS: We love to order the "Famous White Sangria" at the LGO Café in Pasadena at La Grande Orange Café. Perfect on a summer evening — can you please help us get the recipe?
Dear SOS: I am addicted to the Tuscan kale salad at Little Dom's in Los Angeles. I love kale no matter how I prepare it, but it never tastes quite as delicious as the Dom's salad.
Dear SOS: My family recently vacationed in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and our favorite meal by far was at Nani's Cucina Italiana. The surprise star of the evening was the tortino di fagiolini, a delicious green bean tart that reminded us of a refined Italian version of green bean casserole. Maybe you can convince them to share the recipe?
Dear SOS: I absolutely love the butterscotch brownie at Clementine in Los Angeles. It's chewy and full of brown-sugary goodness — the perfect afternoon treat or sweet for a picnic. I'd love to be able to make it at home. Would you be able to find the recipe for me?
Dear SOS: I have just returned from a trip to Napa wine country, where I had the best steamed mussels I have ever tasted at Hurley's in Yountville. They were grilled, then steamed with chorizo.
Dear Noelle: My husband and I love the mushroom barley soup at Junior's Deli in West L.A. Could you possibly get the recipe so we can make it at home? Thanks.
Hello, Noelle. I live in the Inland Empire, and I love this restaurant in Loma Linda called Napoli. The food and the service are always wonderful. Everything on the menu is usually very good, however my favorite is the capellini al gamberetti. I have tried to make it at home, but, alas, something/everything is missing. Could you please try to get the recipe?
Dear Culinary SOS: On our trip to the Russian River earlier this month, we had a lot of amazing food. The dish we can't get out of our heads is the Brussels sprouts at boon eat + drink in Guerneville. Everyone in town sent us in to the restaurant to try these out, and now we know why. We still can't get over the incredible flavor and texture; they were outrageous. Please help us get the recipe for this. It would be perfect for holiday meals.
Dear SOS: I'm hoping the chef at PizzaVino, a lovely little restaurant on the plaza in Sebastopol, Calif., will share his secret for the most delicious crunchy croutons I've ever tasted. It seems as if many of us "Hail, Caesar"!
Dear SOS: We recently had the most delicious Mac and Cheese at the Bistro in the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Bakersfield. Can you get this recipe for me?
Dear SOS: Help! The apple butter cake at Huckleberry is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. I can't stop thinking about the taste. I would do anything for the recipe, including washing dishes there for the day. It's that good.
Dear SOS: Today my daughter and I had lunch at Coast restaurant at Shutters on the Beach. We so enjoyed the turkey chili and were hoping you would be able to get us the recipe.
Dear SOS: El Colmao in Koreatown has the most delicious chicken stew with olives. Could you please get their recipe for El Colmao Chicken? Thank you!
Dear SOS: Earlier this year my wife and I had the best Tuscan tomato soup at Bewley's on Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland. It was thick, well-seasoned and simply delicious. We both loved it, and we have tried without success to duplicate it. Do you think you could possibly get the recipe?