The Adventures of Pizza Dog.

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Hey there, so we had our first Halloween with Winston and he was thrilled (ignore the expression on his face) to make his debut as a slice of pizza. We live in Atwater Village, on the east side of L.A., and our neighborhood is rife with trick-or-treaters. So Craig and I finally had an excuse to join the fun; well, we didn't trick-or-treat, but along with Craig's cousin David, who was visiting, who roamed around with Winston who was a big hit.

Later, our friends Ryan and Jonathan came over for pizza and Monster Cookies which I'm about to tell you about...

What I've Been Cooking:

1. Monster Cookies.

I didn't have a lot of time to make dinner on Halloween, but I wanted to make SOMETHING, and I remembered the concept of Monster Cookies which I'd never made before but which usually feature M&Ms, a staple Halloween candy. So I did some Googling and hit upon a recipe by Sally's Baking Addiction (click those words for the link) that not only had M&Ms, but also peanut butter in the dough AND chocolate chips.

Reader, believe me when I tell you: these cookies were insane. Like off the charts good. I think the key was the instant oats in there which somehow transformed the texture; they were salty, chewy, peanut buttery, and sweet from the candy. Ryan and Jonathan said they were the best cookies I've ever made. This is going to be a Halloween tradition from now on, just like Winston's pizza costume (sorry, Winston).

2. Pork Chops with Cauliflower, Pickled Onions, and Cilantro.

I'm trying a new strategy for saving money these days; that strategy is called "not shopping at Gelson's." My usual grocery store is the Gelson's on Hyperion, which is very pleasant and clean and the produce is great, but it's SOOO expensive, and it's insane to buy staples there like pasta and salt and olive oil when those very same products are available at Albertson's for less money. So I went to McCall's for pork chops on Sunday night (that's money well spent because their meat is so great) and then wandered over to Albertson's for the rest. Well, joke's on me because even though the cauliflower was the same packaged organic cauliflower I buy at Gelson's, they were out of parsley. I usually roast my cauliflower and toss it with chopped peppadews and parsley. So what would I do now? Well they had cilantro and red onions. So I decided to take my cauliflower in a different direction.

When I got home, I pickled the onions using a super easy technique from Bon Appetit: namely, you put sliced onions in a jar and pour in a mixture of apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt.

In terms of effort expended vs. impact of the results, this may be one of the more impressive recipes out there. It just sits for an hour and you have pickled onions.

As for the rest of the meal, I coated the pork chops with lots of salt and ground coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds. Then I decided to cook them directly in the cast iron skillet, flipping every minute or so because I saw Bridgett and Julia do that on America's Test Kitchen.

What can I say? These were pretty stellar. I think it helped that they were high-quality chops on the bone with lots of fat, so there was lots of insulation to protect it from the pan. (If you tried this with boneless, leaner chops, you'd probably wind up with hockey pucks.)

Meanwhile, I was roasting cauliflower in the oven; just coated florets with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some of the leftover ground spices from the pork chops. Popped into a 425 oven, tossed around every so often, until they were golden brown all over. Once out, I scooped the cauliflower on to plates with the pork chops, topped with the pickled red onions, and sprinkled with cilantro. Voila! Thank you Albertson's.

3. Melissa Clark's Apple Cake.

I was cooking up a storm on Sunday, maybe because I'd been so sick with a stomach bug and I was finally starting to feel better. So while the pork chops were sitting with their spices in the fridge, and the cauliflower was waiting to be roasted, I whipped up Melissa Clark's apple cake with toasted pecans.

This is an odd recipe for a few reasons. For one: the batter is like paste... it's super thick, and then you stir in apples and pecans. Two: you bake it in a tart pan. And three: it comes out kind of ugly. I couldn't get a good picture of it no matter how I posed it.

But here's the crazy thing: it tastes sooo good. It reminded me of like an apple bar; imagine this cut into squares and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's studded with apples and pecans and all of the butter and sugar just makes it super intense and flavorful and fun to eat. Don't skip the pecans, though... they add great texture.

4. Too Salty Oatmeal.

Just to lend credence to the "amateur" that's still in the title of this newsletter, I made one of my favorite breakfasts the other day; April Bloomfield's English Porridge. It's basically 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoons of Maldon sea salt cooked with 1/2 cup of steel-cut oats and 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats for about half an hour.

The saltiness is part of its charm, usually, and it's cut by the heap of brown sugar you pile on top. But the one I made on Sunday was inedibly salty. Thinking back on it, I think I did three HEAPING 1/2 teaspoon measures into the liquid; but it tastes like ocean water oatmeal, and Craig wouldn't eat his. I ate mine but had to rent a cow to lick me to get rid of the salt an hour later. So be careful if you make this: go easy on the salt.

Where I've Been Eating:

1. Osawa.

I love discovering a new restaurant and instantly falling in love with it. That's what happened on Saturday night when Craig and I were going to go to Sushi Sasabune in Glendale, next to the Americana, but parking was a nightmare and I remembered once reading about an amazing sushi place in Pasadena. So I told Craig to Google "Eater LA Pasadena sushi" and somehow we hit upon Osawa. I then remembered that Jonathan Gold wrote a piece about Osawa, praising it, so I had Craig read it out loud as we made our way over there.

When we got there, I knew we were in a great restaurant. The room was packed with people, the chefs were all hard at work. And there was just an exciting vibe in the air.

Though there were all kinds of fascinating things to order, we both decided to do the omakase which was $65 a pop but came with an assortment of sushi, a miso soup, and ice cream for dessert. To start, we took the server's advice and tried the fried anchovies (or smelt).

They were perfectly fried: crispy on the outside, salty, and wonderful dipped into the spicy mayo.

And then came the sushi platter.

This was easily some of the best sushi I've had in L.A... or Pasadena, as the case may be. The fatty tuna was out of this world and the uni was heavenly. The only thing I didn't like was the "live octopus" which tasted like a bunch of rubberbands fused together; in fact, I had to spit it out because I have a fear of choking (sorry, I'm neurotic).

But all in all, this is one of my new favorite restaurants and I can't wait to go back.

2. All-Time.

My friend Diana and I have a tradition of going to lunch at Little Dom's every week or so with her daughter Phoebe. This last week, though, Little Dom's was closed for filming (so L.A.) so we wandered down the street to All-Time, the adorable cafe that used to house another adorable cafe whose name I forget.

I love the vibe at All-Time. Here are some shelves:

And here's my turkey sandwich, which was a pretty irrefutable take on things: crusty bread, pickled onions (hey, that's a theme!), avocado, aioli.

Diana ordered French toast for the table, which was also pretty stellar.

The only problem is that the secret's out: too many people know about All-Time and the place was packed. So if you're reading this, please don't go there. It's really not that great. I'm exaggerating.

3. L&E Oyster Bar.

On Saturday, we took Winston to the dog park and then treated ourselves to lunch at L&E Oyser Bar. For some reason, I was craving the lobster roll... maybe because it was 75 degrees out and it's November.

I have to say: this totally hit the spot. I'm a lobster roll with mayo sort of person; I like the way it extends the lobster flavor. And the fries were textbook fries: crunchy, salty, everything you could want from a fry. So this was a lunch fit for a king... or a queen, as the case may be.

Links & Things:

[We went succulent shopping at Potted on Sunday because I killed my herbs again.]

* Noma’s Super-Goth Dishes Were Foraged Straight From Hell, Eater (Seriously this all looks so disgusting to me: I never want to eat here.)
* 17 Supreme Destinations for Beautiful LA Bagels (L.A.’s definitely stepping up its bagel game since I moved here from NY), Eater LA
* Najmieh Batmanglij is the grande dame of Iranian cooking. It’s time you knew her name, The Washington Post (Fun fact: I made one of her sons tacos, and another one of her sons made me scallops in Provincetown. I swear, it's true!)
* David Lebovitz’s wonderful book, L’Appart, is now available in paperback (I read it when we went to Paris last year and enjoyed it thoroughly), David Lebovitz
* The New York Slice That Slices Through Tradition, at Mama’s Too (Pete Wells review), New York Times
* Jessica Koslow (of Sqirl)’s Bourbon Cranberry Sauce, Washington Post
* Troye Sivan Cooks Chicken Under A Brick (Video), Bon Appetit (He touched his hair after touching raw chicken!)

Culture-wise, I had the craziest experience watching Three Identical Strangers, the documentary about triplets separated at birth who found each other later in life. As I was watching the movie, most of which takes place on Long Island, I suddenly had a vivid memory: my dad had his 40th birthday party at a restaurant called Triplets in 1989. I said to Craig, "If they open a restaurant, that's where my dad had his 40th birthday party and I played 'The Turkish March' in front of everyone on the synthesizer." Well, turns out, they did open a restaurant called Triplets...

...and I talked to my mom and, sure enough, that is where my dad had his 40th birthday party. Crazy! The movie's really moving and sad and takes some surprising turns along the way: I highly recommend it.

Otherwise, we watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes the other night and I delighted in every second of it: Marilyn Monroe was such a gift. If you've never seen it, you're in for a treat. Bookwise, I started Lauren Groff's Florida, which is beautifully written, but I didn't find myself particularly compelled to finish it. So I downloaded Tana French's The Witch Elm on my Kindle and I can't stop reading it. Maybe I just wanted to be engrossed in a great story and The Witch Elm definitely scratches that itch.

Finally, I was milling around the cookbook section of the book store the other day and I hit upon Anita Lo's new book, Solo.

It's an absolutely gorgeous cookbook by an absolutely brilliant chef and even if you're not just cooking for yourself, the recipes are really compelling. I'm definitely putting it on my Christmanukkah list this year.

That's all for this week folks!

Until next time...

Your friend,