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I know you’ve been sick of the same ole food you’ve been ordering over and over from those same ole, same ole restaurants. Also, it’s been on your mind for some time now that the food you’ve been taking down is not really that good for you. I know you’ve been craving something homemade, delicious, NEW, and actually on the healthier side.

I may have some good news for you, that is if you happen to live in the close vicinity (that would be Hollywood and West Hollywood of Los Angeles, CA). You may have noticed a few changes on this site, with the most significant one–a new link on the top menu bar called LUNCH DELIVERY SERVICES. That’s right, I have begun a new service, aside from my Personal Chef’ing, that will allow YOU to test and taste my own creations.

Don’t hesitate and check out the menu. I won’t let you get bored with it either, as I will keep adding on new items and rotating the existing ones to keep it fresh and versatile. Place your order today for your lunch tomorrow.

Bon Appetite!


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Today marks two weeks since we returned from Europe, the continent where people eat whatever they want (for the most part) and seldom exercise the idea of a dietary restriction. Mother Nature is still the biggest supplier of food there, and no one questions that order. I choose to believe that based on the quality of ingredients that had built our meals while in Poland, and then in France.

When we first arrived back in Los Angeles, Jason and myself decided we needed a break from eating meat, as it was such a fundamental part of our diet when still on the Old Continent. The first week went swimmingly well. I whistled cheerfully as I cooked away quinoa, made meals with a variety of beans, various grains (e.g. barley), then lentils, and greens rich in protein (like broccoli). Last but not least nuts were all around us, all day long. And I don’t mean just because we live in Hollywood. Each morning I began with a whole-grain toasted muffin, topped with a layer of almond butter and slices of fresh strawberries. Jason snacked on a mixture of raw nuts and dried fruits in between the meals. Roasted pine nuts or walnuts ended up in fresh salads. Toasted pepitas served as a base for my vinaigrette.

About three days ago I realized I was …hungry. Sixty minutes after I finished breakfast I was ready to eat again. The first craving hit me right between the eyes leaving a black-eye the size of a fist.  No matter how versatile menu I prepared for the day and how much flavor I incorporated into each dish, it all began to taste …boring. Every time I inserted a fresh bite of food into my mouth, from the start I knew it was missing one ingredient–meat. It didn’t matter what I was eating. If I could I would sprinkle pancetta bits into my whole-grain cereal with blueberries and a sliced banana. A temporary comfort I found in hard-boiled eggs, and cheese sandwiches.

Now, I know that all protein is equal. It doesn’t matter, from a scientific point of view, whether you get your amino acids (which are the molecules of the protein) from an animal or a plant, as our bodies are dexterous engineers and can put together a complete protein out of those building blocks. As long as you provide your system with those standard 22 amino acids it requires to form the protein we need. That’s the reason all nutritionists of the world emphasize the need for a versatile diet, in particular for the vegetarians walking amongst us.

Enough with the lecturing. I know that I had enough protein in my diet over the last two weeks not to NEED any meat. Though I realize now the source of my misery. It is all in my head. My cravings for a juicy steak, and beef stew, or a tender chicken thigh have everything to do with the fact that I can’t have it right now, for I do not appreciate restriction. It goes deeper than that. I refuse to be pressured. If there is a movie coming out that the entire planet can’t shut up about, and 70 million people go see it on the opening night, you can be sure Agi won’t participate in the mass hysteria. For example, I have never seen “Titanic” nor “The Da Vinci Code”. I wasn’t interested in the slightest. You know what else I have not watched, nor read? The entire “Harry Potter” series. Sure, we can argue whether I am better or worse for that, but it is not the point of this discourse.

Despite that fact that my diet over the last two weeks was nutritionally dense, I began to notice feeling weaker and weaker. I was no longer able to lift words and put them down on paper. At the gym, when requested by Jason to do abdominal crunches, I didn’t even stomp my foot on the ground anymore. I fought him just for a moment when he made me get down on the ground and throw my legs in the air, but only because resistance to a voluntary pain application is a part of my psychological make-up. Then I got a hair cut, as those two extra inches of hair made a whole lot of difference when washing it. Saving energy became my motto.

Agi in Poland, by the Baltic Sea, all happy and joyful knowing she can eat whatever the hell she wants!

I am facing another two meatless weeks, which in my head translates into a form of mind slavery. It is my brain that has to make an effort to relax and breathe knowing it will be OK.

Agi, let me introduce you to DISCIPLINE. I hope you shall become fast friends.

Amen.

“I have a richard. I have balls! My balls are big. My richard is BIG! You think you’re frustrated? I am the head of the department and still have no say.” –  Jason said to Melissa last night when she complained that Hollywood is run by a gang of chauvinistic pigs and she constantly is put in her place only because she’s a woman.

He did not actually say “richard”, you understand.

Both Jason and Melissa were venting their frustration with work, as what a better place for that than a merry Ho Ho Ho party. Their pain, however, meant nothing to us. We laughed so hard at Jason’s sudden and so passionate conclusion that we almost got into an accident. Melissa cried, Brian sprayed his beer all over the table and Leslie’s groovy hat, and I fell off my chair and rolled down the kitchen floor and then a full stoop down to the courtyard.

The party, as spontaneous and last minute as it was, rocked. Even Cosmo had a blast. In fact, he was so hung-over this morning that when I took him to the Pet Wash, instead of his ritual attempt to escape, he looked into the groomer’s eyes and whispered: “ ‘S’up. No perm, please. Just a quiet trim today”.

One lesson I took from last night is to plan the menu better. And by that I mean to prep the food BEFORE a party, so when the guests arrive I get to actually hang out with everybody and enjoy my friends. Last night I spent two hours in the kitchen getting the food out, thus making people migrate into that hot and crowded chamber in order to see me. Not a soul complained, however, once they sunk their teeth into the MUSHROOM PUFFS with a side of SPINACH WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD and steaming hot CAPRESE TARTS.

I really want to tell you how I made those, as I am still getting thank you phone calls mostly because of those tarts. You’ll have to take my word for how amazing they are, as I don’t even have a picture to share. Why? As soon as I got those little tasty bastards out of the oven, all I managed to do was to cut them in wedges and before I knew it the little triangles disappeared from under my knife. By the time I brought the food into the living room, the platter was half empty. Five minutes later the tarts were just a gloomy and sweet memory.

Let’s give the recipe for my CAPRESE TARTS a try nevertheless.

Your essentials:

–       2 sheets of puff pastry

–       6 small/medium Roma tomatoes

–       fresh basil, handful

–       12-16 thin slices of buffalo mozzarella

–       1/2 cup good olive oil

–       1/4 cup aged balsamic vinaigrette

–       1 tbsp honey

–       kosher salt + black pepper to taste

–       1 egg for egg-wash

Roll out your thawed out sheet of puff pastry to a 9” x 18” rectangular. Using a 9” bowl (upside down) cut 2 even circles out of the dough. Take a paring knife and gently draw a circle on each piece of pastry, about 1/2” from the edge. Prick the inner circle with a fork, thus preventing the bottom of the pastry to grow when in the oven. Treat the second sheet of pastry with the same manner. Place the tarts on two sheet pans (2 tarts per baking sheet) lined with parchment paper. Put aside in a refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds and all juices. Dice the rest of the tomatoes and put into a bowl. Chiffonade fresh basil leaves and combine them with the fruit. (Yes, tomato is a fruit.) In a separate cup whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Pour the mix over the tomatoes, toss around, and store everything in the icebox to chill.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Pull out the tarts and tomatoes and place on the counter. Using a slated spoon, scoop out a little of the tomato/basil mixture and spread within the inner circle of the dough. Now place the mozzarella slices on top. Break the egg into a small bowl, add a touch of water or heavy cream, and whisk it with a fork into an egg-wash. Brush the outer edge of the tart with the egg-wash, and fold it over the caprese mix.

Place both sheet pans in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately. You won’t have a choice anyways.

I’m off to finish baking Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies that will serve as stockings’ stuffers and also will replace my panties on our Christmas Tree…

It may come as a shock to some of you, but I do not cook. I mean, I do but I don’t. Everyday, I mean. Wait. Let’s go back. I love to make food. From the first step of washing and peeling, through chopping, then sautéing and seasoning, to stirring and tasting I engage as if I were watching a season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. There are times when I bury myself in the kitchen for days and cook my heart out. I strip, mix, whip, bag, massage and flip until my legs shake and I lose my breath… for a moment.

Alas, however satisfying the experience, I must step aside for a day or two to recover, recuperate, and relax. On those days Jason (and myself, who am I kidding) has a chance to go out and take care of the culinary sentiments Agi doesn’t necessarily tend to – good sushi, authentic Mexican cuisine, or a good ol’ American burger. And I tag along for a chance to try something new, cleanse my palette, and even to get inspired.

Last week I reached one of those culinary climaxes, and I was COOKED OUT. I had nothing left in me to power through another dinner in the house. I needed a breather. Jason very generously offered to take care of dinner and whipped out his wallet. Neither one of us wanted to be responsible for choosing a restaurant in case it turned out a total failure. We decided to write down potential eateries on pieces of paper, fold them up, and throw them into a hat.

Chantel's Hat

I shoved my whole arm inside, stirred around the votes, tried to FEEL the answer with my fingers, and finally pulled out our vote. It read: SUSHI. I liked what I saw as it was MY handwriting. Jason didn’t oppose, however he still wanted his vote to be considered. I dove in once again and searched all around the bottom of the hat for another strip of paper. I got it at last, unfolded it and read out loud: SUSHI.

That’s it. All Jason wanted was to show how unanimous we are in our thinking. So cute!

It was getting really late, and certainly past our mealtime. Our stomachs started growling at each other and I knew that any minute they would jump at each other’s throats. With no further ado, we hurried to a nearby Japanese restaurant called Shintaro – a staple in the neighborhood, but a new joint for us, since we’re relatively new to the hood. Thank god, the sushi was stupendous and calmed down the CRANKY HUNGRY BITCHES within us just in time before disaster struck.

The next day we got caught in Santa Monica running errands. It was close to 6pm when we realized we never had real breakfast or lunch. After a quick debate, we arrived at this earthy new restaurant called Kreation Kafe where they serve fresh organic produce from a local Farmers’ Market, organic beef, free range chicken, wholesome teas…you get the idea. The food was EXCELLENT and well worth fasting a whole day before feasting on this full and healthy meal.

Sunday rolled in, and became JUST ANOTHER MANIC PRE-MONDAY, filled with running around with no time to breathe. Come dinner hour, we looked at each other and I couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth:

“Do you want pizza?”

“YEAH!” Jason exclaimed with the expression of utmost shock mixed with a hint of adoration painted on his face.

And just like that, we ended our weekend of dining out with an artificial blob of pizza from a street-corner burger joint. It was stomach-wrenching and disappointing on every level possible. Not only did the pizza guy take our money upfront, then didn’t RECALL us paying for it, and refused to release our dinner in a box, but the pizza was ABSOLUTELY TASTELESS. Furthermore, it then made itself at home in my intestines for an unmentionable amount of time, making me feel not only constipated, but PREGNANT CONSTIPATED.

I missed my cooking toys. I missed spending time with my knives and chopping boards. The weekend seemed longer than it really was, and I needed to start the new week with something healthy and delicious. And even though it took a whole three days, I eventually reached our kitchen, and upon arrival I scrutinized the pantry to establish a dinner potential. I quickly devised a plan: SEARED TUNA OVER FORBIDDEN RICE WITH AN ORIENTAL FLARE.

I’ll walk you through the steps should you decide to flatter me by copying thy menu one night.

Forbidden Rice, aka Thai Rice is black, and as such presents itself with glamour and style on a plate. Cook it accordingly to the directions on its package. For extra flavor, add a couple of dry bay leaves to the pot and obviously season the water with salt. Chicken or vegetable stock are excellent substitutes for water, and certainly bring an extra layer of flavor to the whole dish.

For the fish, you want Sashimi Grade Tuna Fillets. Wash them in cool water and pat them dry-ish using a paper towel. Place the guys in a plastic zip-lock bag or a shallow glass/ceramic container, add enough low sodium soy sauce to cover the flesh, and close it up. Store your fish in a refrigerator for 1-2 hours, and let it marinate and soak up all those salty flavors. Clearly, you should prep the fish first, followed by the rice, and not the other way around. Are you confused yet?

When the rice is perky and bubbly in the boiling liquid on your stove, and the fillets are done marinating, heat a grilling pan (or any non-stick frying pan really) and get the tuna out and onto the pan. Violent sizzling is the music you want to hear. Sear the fish for 2 minutes on both sides, and the edges – for about 30 seconds each. Use a pair of clasping tongs to help stand your tuna on its sides.

Don’t forget about your vitamins and enzymes stored in everything that’s green, leafy AND EDIBLE. A little salad on the side of your plate will serve as a nutritious smiley face to your dinner.

Tuna

I’m afraid this is it. I wish I could say something more to make the dish sound more complicated. It’s just not. I keep saying – this is COOKING FOR IDIOTS with an IDIOT (me) COOKING.

Bon Appetit!

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