Saturday, December 26, 2015

Coffee and Vanilla Bean Encrusted Tri-tip

Sweet Baby Jesus, I've found the perfect holiday rub. 

At once insanely savory and subtly sweet, this simple formula of coffee, vanilla bean, salt and pepper turns a modest Tri-tip roast into something celestial, cheery and warm. 

The rub lends a complex flavor profile and unique texture to this bottom sirloin cut that I've never experienced before -- resulting in utter tastebud titillation. If you want to surprise and tantalize the guests at your holiday table, this recipe is the new go-to.

Chiara Santi Conti, our fair Veronese friend and co-owner of Fabiolus Cucina Italiana Verona in Hollywood, introduced the recipe to me, which she sourced years ago in Food & Wine Magazine. Her execution of the dish is masterful and inspired. 

I could no longer find the original recipe online, but here is an adapted version: 

Coffee and Vanilla Bean Encrusted Tri-tip

1 3-to-6 LB Tri-tip roast
2 T Table salt
1 Vanilla bean
4 T Espresso or Dark Roast Coffee (never use instant coffee or espresso here)
1 T fresh ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl put 2 tablespoons of table salt, open a vanilla bean lengthwise with a pairing knife and scrap the seeds out with the help of the salt, by rubbing it against the small vanilla seeds to remove them.

Add 4 tablespoons of ground espresso coffee or dark roast coffee (NO INSTANT COFFEE), and 1 tablespoon of ground back pepper.

Trim the silver skin from the tri-tip roast, leave the bottom fat in place. 

Rub the tri-tip all over with the mixture, if you have some left put it on the fattest side of the meat. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight, if you have the time. Before cooking, remove from fridge and let the meat sit at room temperature for one hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. 

Heat a large cast iron grill pan on stove to high heat. Sear the bottom fat side of the tri-tip roast for 4 minutes, then turn it over and immediately move to the oven. 

Roast the tri-tip for 10 minutes more per each pound (30 to 60 minutes more for a 3 to 6 pound tri-tip) or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare.

Before carving, let the roasted meat sit for 10 minutes to redistribute juices & finish cooking.

Step 1: Incorporating the Vanilla Bean pod seeds into the salt.

Cover the tri-tip with the Coffee & Vanilla Bean rub.

Sear in grill pan, then roast.
Or just roast it in a roasting pan if you don't have a large grill pan.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Say It Ain't Gazpacho

A perfectly executed gazpacho is where Summertime's best bounty comes together in its starkest splendor. The ripest tomatoes, freshest cucumbers, most piquant peppers, sweetest onions when combined well and at the correct ratios can be a revelation.

Too often I've made gazpachos that lean too much toward the salsa-y or marinara-y or bland-y. It's made me abandon the pursuit for years at a time.

But when it happens just right you get ... velvet, an otherworldly orange pink sheen and a dynamite taste profile that bursts and bursts. That first sip of the tomato elixir is a heart breaker -- a life taker -- as any respectable '90s pop song will tell you.

Last week the NYTimes printed the definitive gazpacho recipe. In case you missed it, it really rocks.

One of the things I appreciate the most about it is the use of the unsung cubanelle pepper. Easily one of my favorites at the summer farmer's market, the elegant cubanelle has the perfect amount of heat that pretty much anyone can tolerate. I should also note that choice of quality olive oil and sherry vinegar goes a long way in this recipe.

BEST GAZPACHO by Julia Moskin


About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
1 Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper, such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
½ cup extra ­virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling


Step 1 Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Step 2 With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.

Step 3 Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Step 4 Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Our neighborhood happens to be saturated with a host of walkable ice cream, gelato and frozen yogurt options. This is not the worst problem to have. The strident newcomer, Jeni's Ice Cream, recently brought top-dollar haute artisanal ice cream flavors -- $28 for 2 adults, 2 kids to lap up Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean, Wildberry Lavendar, Brown Butter Almond Brittle and a sundae -- along with snaking lines around the block at all hours of the day. Sure, it tasted great, but the overhead involved in the experience ruled it out as a high-frequency option for us.

Upon witnessing Jeni's auspicious launch, we shuddered to think how the other local establishments might fare against such stalwart artistry in a hipster hood, but so far each shop seems to be different enough to hold its own. Froyo Life wins huge with the family sect offering a large selection of frequently updated flavors, toppings, ample space/seating & free toys/board games to occupy the ankle biters while adults peruse their large selection of current magazines. Gelato Bar is a well turned-out traditional Italian gelateria experience with classic flavors as well as sorbetto and a few frozen Greek yogurt options. 

Then the high-drama began. After such gleaming fanfare, Jeni's was suddenly shuttered for weeks with no notice save for a handwritten sign posted by a neighbor urging the business to fess up to having a product riddled with Listeria that risked the health of the 'hood. It reopened and the long lines reappeared, but only for a short time before they closed again. This second Listeria outbreak scare was widely reported and even made the national news. Now it was very easy not to crave the high-priced, not-worth-the-wait dessert. 

Cut to last weekend at the Barnsdall Art Park Friday Night free-for-all (not) when I succumbed to the child pleading for an ice cream from the Jeni's Ice Cream food truck. Here I stood, only 3 people deep in the line, but still flashing back to the pre-Listeria days and excrutiating wait times. When I finally arrive at the window, I've already accepted the $5.50 cost for a child's 2-scoop ice cream, but am now greeted with a new offense: the $1.00 extra charge to have your ice cream put on a cone.

Where does Jeni get the balls to charge an extra dollar so your kid can have an ice cream cone?! $6.50?? Retreating with ice cream bowl in fist-clenched hand, I swore, Never again, Jeni.

How I longed for simpler times and the reasonable yet delicious suburban ice cream stand of my youth.

Then today, when and where I was least expecting it, I happened upon the answer to my local ice cream angst. A frozen gem a mere 3 blocks north of all this fierce competition: Little Dom's Deli. Although a limited flavor selection, Little Dom's Deli has gelato and frozen yogurt for $3.00 and comes with a cone. But not just any out-of-the-package cone -- our esteemed local pastry chef at Lil' Dom's, Katherine Anne, handmakes small-batch fresh waffle cones on a pizzelle griddle. All I can say is thank you ... and Little Dom's Deli wins!

Here's a recipe from to make your own waffle cones on a nifty pizzelle griddle at home:

Pizzelle Waffle Cones 
1 ⁄2 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar 
3 eggs 
1 1 ⁄2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 ⁄2 tsp. baking powder 
1 ⁄4 tsp. kosher salt 
1 ⁄4 cup whole milk 
1 tsp. lemon zest 
1 ⁄2 tsp. almond extract 
1 ⁄2 vanilla bean, scraped, seeds only reserved 
10 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled 

Using an electric hand mixer, beat sugar and eggs in a bowl until pale yellow and thick, about 4 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in 3 tbsp. milk, the lemon zest, almond extract, and vanilla seeds. 

Gently fold in flour mixture until just incorporated, followed by the remaining milk and 7 tbsp. melted butter. Let batter rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Heat a pizzelle iron. Working in batches, brush iron with some of the remaining butter and add 1 heaping tbsp. batter to each mold. Close cover; cook until wafers are golden, 1 - 1-1⁄2 minutes. Wrap each wafer into a cone shape and let harden on a baking sheet, seam side down. Serve immediately, or store in an air-tight container for 1-2 days.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Pickle Potion

I'm always on the lookout for a killer quick pickle recipe for cukes and veggies alike. Lately I've been using Alice Waters' method from the Art of Simple Cooking, but here's something new from the Keller crew via Yahoo Food.

Blue Ribbon Pickles

Makes 6 liters

Even someone as distinguished as Chef Keller knows that the best recipes are the ones passed down from generation to generation. These pickles come courtesy of Betty Breeden, who happens to be the grandmother of The French Laundry’s Chef de Cuisine David Breeden. She used to make them without a recipe at home in Greenville, Tenn., where she still lives. Breeden put it in writing, and Keller’s restaurants have been using the recipe for eight years.

4 cups water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon Tellicherry peppercorns
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon star anise
1 teaspoon coriander 
2 stalks celery, sliced to fit in pickling jars
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
3 sprigs dill
2 pounds cucumbers, washed well, blossom-end removed

In a large pot, bring water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar and salt.
Add the remaining ingredients and allow to steep for 30 minutes.

Cover cucumbers in liquid and let sit for at least 5 days. Best after 3 weeks.