>> Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Picky Gourmet has moved to:
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The Picky G


Hello Goodbye Hello

>> Monday, July 19, 2010

My dear readers: The Picky Gourmet will be out of commission for a day or two as I launch the redesign of the site. I am working to make it better looking, more streamlined and user friendly and I'm excited for you all to see the NEW Picky Gourmet!
See you soon!
<3 The Picky G



>> Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Weekend!


Grilled Ahi Salad with Lemony Greek Dressing

>> Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's summertime! Everything is better in summertime. The food I find at the Farmer's Markets and even at the grocery store inspires me. Walking through the summer markets I have to slow my brain and remind myself that there are only so many meals I can cook and eat in a day. Just because I love juicy nectarines doesn't mean I need 30 of them RIGHT NOW! I know I'm not the only one who feels the giddiness of summer; as I peruse my favorite blogs, I'm encountering rhapsodic descriptions of strawberries (!) tomatoes (!) asparagus (!) cherries (!) peaches (!) and all the other signs that the good stuff is ripe and ready.

This salad may not scream summer, it isn't packed with veggies, but it isn't too heavy and it's the perfect dinner to eat before heading to the beach for a sunset walk (or cocktail if you're into that sort of thing.) The bright lemon in this homemade dressing mellows the richness of the roasted garlic making it light and luscious. Keeping the tuna cold until you sear it ensures a nice jewel-pink center.


For salad dressing:
- 1 head of garlic, roasted until soft and caramelized
- 4 Tbs dried oregano
- 3 Tbs dried basil
- 6 Tbs red wine vinegar
- 3 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice

For tuna
- 1 1/4 lb tuna steak cut into two pieces
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- sprinkle oregano
- sprinkle salt
- sprinkle pepper

- 1/2 bag baby spring greens or other delicate, leafy greens of your choice

For dressing:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast garlic by lopping off the top of a head of garlic and drizzling in a decent amount of olive oil. Rub olive oil all over the head of garlic then wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place onto a baking dish or into a muffin tin and roast for 35-45 minutes. Garlic is done when it is buttery soft and a light caramel color. Scoop out cloves and pulverize with a fork. Add all other dressing ingredients and whisk together or whiz in a food processor.

Rub tuna with olive oil and lemon juice sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Marinate in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes.
Heat a grill pan over medium high heat, when very hot, add tuna, sear 2 minutes on each side for a 3/4 inch thick piece of tuna. Remove from heat and refrigerate until ready to use. Just before you place tuna on salad, slice into thin strips.
Drizzle dressing* over greens then spread tuna over the top. Serve!

*you'll have lots of leftover dressing, keep it and use it for other salads or as a marinade for chicken!


Catering Music Videos

>> Thursday, June 17, 2010

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be hired as a caterer/craft services person for two music video shoots. I also got to do the food styling for one of the videos. It was an awesome experience; I catered a web series shoot last year as well and though it was stressful, it was well worth it.
So far, all of my catering ventures have been done by myself with some heavy lifting and assistance from my sous-chef and a few friends. There is so much that goes into catering events like these that it can be really daunting. All the shoots I've done have been for between 20 and 40 people which may not seem like a lot but with my tiny kitchen, limited equipment and full-time job, it really adds up.
The hardest part of catering for me is not the cooking but the planning. I spent hours figuring out the perfect dishes for the locations: food that will stay warm but not wilt in the sun if the shoot is outside, options for vegetarians and people like me with food allergies and intolerances. I had to calculate how much food each person would be expected to eat and I had to do all this on an extremely tight budget which meant driving to many, many different stores to get the cheapest available ingredients.
 I learned an immense amount from these experiences and I still have a lot to learn. Cooking the food and serving it was fun but the planning and shopping were agonizing. I laughed, cried and lost my mind several times a day while working on this. I don't think people realize that the food that materializes in front of them at chow time, didn't just get whipped up in the kitchen and dropped off. It involved weeks of planning, shopping, prepping and then hours of cooking, packaging, cooling, re-heating, transporting and serving. Hearing that people enjoy your food is so satisfying but hearing people complain makes you want to put them in a choke hold and explain the calculations you used to determine the exact amount of beef, chicken, onions and peppers to buy in order to make fajitas for 30 people. In the end, there were successes (gluten-free triple berry cobbler with ice cream) and failures (cheesecake brownies that didn't cook through and looked like wet tar) but the experience itself was priceless and made me a much better chef and caterer.
 The day after every shoot I swear to myself that I will NEVER put myself through the torture of it again but the second someone asks me to do it, I jump at the chance. The bottom line is that I love to cook for people. Watching people dig into a giant batch of baked ziti after they've been working in the sun since 6AM warms my heart and knowing that I am able to feed people well on mere dollars per person makes me feel accomplished. And now I'd like to present the videos I cooked for.
 This video for the song World News is by LA/OC band, Local Natives. All the food you see was made by me. If you even knew the blood, sweat and tears that went into making this food...well you'd understand why the food tasted so bad!
I wanted to make food that would pop on camera and look both elegant and trippy.  I accomplished this but the one thing the food wasn't was tasty. Crisco frosting piped into parmesan cheese crisps looks a hell of a lot better than it tastes but no one seemed to mind too much. Enjoy!

The second video for the song Neverest is by Chicago band Hey Champ. Fair warning: this video is totally crazy and also features nudity and some slightly frightening visuals so if that doesn't sound up your alley, I won't be offended if you skip it. Being on set and seeing how different the final product turned out was awe inspiring to me. Computers can do crazy things.

Want to know what I served? For the Local Natives I made: garlic bread, Greek salad with homemade lemon oregano vinaigrette, baked ziti with mozzarella cheese, sweet Italian sausage, sauteed onions and tri-color peppers and the failed cheesecake brownies. (plus breakfast and snacks)
For Hey Champ I made a fajita bar with chicken, beef, veggies, corn or flour tortillas, Spanish rice, pinto beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa and chips and  a southwest salad with corn and avocado with a choice of homemade creamy cilantro dressing or lime vinaigrette and triple berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Also, snacks, coffee and more coffee as this was a night shoot that went from 7PM until 8AM!


Creamy Carrot Pasta

>> Thursday, June 3, 2010

I've never been a huge fan of cooked carrots. Their mushy sweetness compared to the savory crunch of raw carrots always put me off. I tend to like my veggies on the salty side, garnished with some ranch dip or a nice vinaigrette (or, in the case of artichokes, with luscious melted butter.) For most of my life I have picked carrots out of chicken soup and pot roast. I would always try one but I was usually haunted by flashbacks of pre-school lunches at La Petite Academy where I was coerced with threats of no dessert to eat this nastiness:
I just threw up in my mouth a little just thinking about it. It's gross.

So yeah, I don't like cooked carrots. That's why it was weird when I stumbled upon a cooked-carrot pasta sauce recipe on Tastespotting and it sounded good to me. Really good. I couldn't get it out of my head, I felt compelled to make it.  I did. And I loved it. The thyme and parmesan bring out the nuttiness in the carrots and the sweetness is mellowed by the cream. The bacon adds a much needed smokiness and saltiness that make this dish addictive. The leftovers were even good cold!

If you suffer from cooked carrot PTSD, this recipe might be the cure!
(Adapted from this recipe on

- 1 lb Carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-1 inch rounds
- 5 cloves of garlic, whole, peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea or Kosher salt
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
- 6 strips of Niman Ranch bacon
- 1 pound of gluten free pasta (If you haven't tried Ancient Harvest Corn/Quinoa blend DO IT.)

This sauce works best on curly shapes. I used a mixture of Garden Pagoda shape and Veggie Curls.
- 1 1/2 cups of pasta water
First, cook the bacon. This is my go-to method for making a lot of bacon at once. it cooks evenly, is absurdly easy to clean up and leaves your kitchen free of grease splatters. Also, you don't have to hover over it the way you do when making bacon in a skillet.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
Line a cookie sheet  with foil and place a cooling rack on the sheet. Spread bacon out on cooking rack and bake for 20 minutes or until very crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to cool then chop into small pieces and reserve for later.
Increase heat in oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl toss the carrot rounds and garlic with the olive oil, thoroughly coating the carrots and garlic with oil.
Season well with salt and thyme (and pepper if you're into that nasty stuff.)
Roast on a foil-lined about 45-50 minutes until carrots are tender. Take the pan out and stir or toss halfway through the cooking time to ensure carrots cook evenly on both sides.

When carrots are soft and tender, remove from oven.
Cook the pasta in a generous amount of salted water to al dente according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, puree the carrots and garlic with the heavy cream and parmesan cheese in a blender or food processor . When the pasta is done cooking reserve a cup and a half of the pasta water.
Quickly drain pasta and toss into a large mixing bowl with carrot cream sauce, adding pasta water a little at a time until you get a nice consistency and the pasta is evenly coated. Toss in the bacon and stir until it's incorporated.
Serve with a generous grating of parmesan cheese.



>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

 Guess what? You can get pretty much any book you want FOR FREE, just around the corner from where you live! It's true! You just walk right in, tell 'em what book you want and they hand it over to you. Now, you don't get to keep it forever but you do get to keep it for as long as it takes you to finish it. This free book fantasyland is called "The Library" and though it may seem like I'm being a bit sarcastic here, really, I'm not.
See, I used to spend a lot of my hard(ish) earned money on books. Books that I usually only read once and then added to the ever-growing collection in my towering, wall-to-wall book shelves. My new year's resolution this year was to STOP BUYING BOOKS. It sounds so easy but I was scared. I (shamefully) hadn't used the public library since I was about 13. Sure, I used the school library for projects and reports but for some reason I plumb forgot that there was a public library in every town I have ever lived in that was chock full of the books I was paying $14.95 a piece for! It seems totally crazy when you think about it. Last year I probably spent well over a couple hundred dollars on books. I am an avid reader, I always have a book I'm reading and I sometimes read up to a book a week. Used book stores helped defray some of the cost of all these books but really, I was buying the cow when I could have gotten the milk for free. I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT!
I got a Los Angeles library card a few years ago on a tour of the Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles. They explained on the tour how the LA Library system is streamlined and connected to make it easy to get a book from any LA library delivered to the one nearest you so you can pick it up at your convenience. I got my card on the spot then promptly did nothing with it. That is, until this year when I mustered up the courage to go online and test out this supposedly easy system. Turns out, it was just as easy as they said it would be. I found the book I wanted, put a hold on it and checked back in a day to see if it was ready for pick up. All this from the comfort of my couch! When the book was ready at my library of choice, I swung by and walked up to the front desk where they scanned my library card (which conveniently attaches to my keychain!!!) and handed over my book with a receipt that provided me with the due date. It was that simple.
The pictures in this post are all from my chosen library, the Westwood branch.
I love this place. It is everything you expect a library to be and more. It's incredibly quiet (of course) but also just tranquil and peaceful. It has huge windows that reveal lush green tree tops and bright blue sky, it almost feels like reading in a tree house when you sit near these windows.
There is a great kids area with stunning butterfly wing stained glass windows. The building is beautifully made with interesting materials and sculptures. It has an airy, open feel but also has small rooms downstairs from the main library area for meetings and book groups.
The staff are very helpful and there is free(!!!), underground parking. The switch from buying retail-priced books to checking out exactly the books I want has been almost seamless. Sometimes a book I want isn't available or a transfer from another library to mine takes more than a few days but when you are paying 0 dollars and 0 cents, these minor inconveniences are well worth it. So far I have checked out 7 books from the library, read them all and haven't paid a penny.
If you, like me, forgot about this amazing resource, maybe now is the time to reconsider. Just think of all the money you could save! Check it out: (get it? check it out?. Punny, I know.)
PS. If you're really lucky, someone will leave little surprises in the books that you get to discover! I've found photos, notes, grocery lists and boarding passes!