Homemade Squid Ink Pasta (Nero di Seppia)

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Martin and I had always wanted to go to the fish markets in Downtown Los Angeles but we never seem to wake up early enough to catch the good stuff. One morning, we made our way over to Los Angeles Fish Co. in the industrial district, ready to be inspired by the bounty of the sea. Razor clams, Santa Barbara uni, PEI mussels, pompano fish, arctic char, fanny bay oysters… the assortment was exciting. One of the more interesting finds was a jar of cuttlefish ink. We love to order squid ink pasta whenever we find it on a menu, and we’ve always wanted to make it at home ourselves, so we opened our wallets and forked over the $35 for the 500 mL jar (as we later discovered, it will last us for a very long time).

Capellini nere alle vongole

Capellini nere alle vongole

The first question I had (and Googled) was “squid ink vs. cuttlefish ink.” The verdict? I learned that most commercial squid ink is actually from cuttlefish, and that cuttlefish ink is superior because of its rounded, smooth flavor. Squid ink could taste strongly of iodine. Both bring the briny essence of the sea and a stunning black hue to a classic Italian dish. My second question was whether I should have purchased the cephalopods whole and extracted my own ink sacs. Another Google search told me that commercially harvested ink, packaged in jars, are generally higher quality and better suited for cooking. And the third and last question — how the heck do I add it to the pasta dough?

Squid Ink Pasta Dough Ball

Squid Ink Pasta Dough Ball

Well, browsing online yielded a lot of recipes for what to do with the store-bought squid ink (don’t do it). But when I finally found some advice on making homemade black pasta, it turned out to be surprisingly easy! Just take our fresh pasta recipe (yields about 1 pound of dough), and whisk in one tablespoon of ink with the egg-oil mixture prior to pouring it into the flour. It’s that simple.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

5 ounces all-purpose flour

5 ounces semolina flour

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon squid ink (or cuttlefish ink)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Measure out the flours and gently mix to combine. Make a well in the center.

Flours and Egg-Ink Mixture

Flours and Egg-Ink Mixture

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, ink, and oil. Pour into the well.

Whisking in the Ink

Whisking in the Ink

3. Using a fork, stir in a circular motion to slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.

Kneading Time!

Kneading Time!

4. When a dough starts to form, knead on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes.

Resting the Dough

Resting the Dough

5. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Cross-section of Dough

Cross-section of Dough

6. Cut into quarters. Flatten into a disc and roll out to desired thickness.

Beautiful Velvety Jet-Black Pasta

Beautiful Velvety Jet-Black Pasta

7. Cook in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and toss into sauce of choice. Serve immediately.

Cut Pasta

Cut Pasta

So if you’re looking to make a homemade Italian meal to impress a loved one, try making squid ink pasta. Now that’s amore!

Serving Suggestion: Squid Ink Pasta with Clams

Serving Suggestion: Squid Ink Pasta with Clams

The Factory Kitchen – Downtown Los Angeles

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fusilli alla amatriciana

fusilli alla amatriciana

Hidden away in the heart of the newly coined “Arts District” that is transforming the grungy old industrial neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles is, believe it or not, a trattoria-style Italian restaurant that just opened in 2013. In a dining room that stays true to its concrete column and exposed ducting “look,” The Factory Kitchen’s menu features a variety of traditional dishes including a selection of handmade pastas.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Martin had been here for lunch with his coworkers before and he raved about so much that we decided to dine here for a belated Valentine’s Day meal.

focaccina calda di recco al formaggio - pizzata

focaccina calda di recco al formaggio – pizzata

Starter: focaccina calda di recco al formaggio - pizzata – crescenza, san marzano tomato, capers, anchovies, oregano. Martin suggested that we share a focaccina to start and he let me pick one. Lured by the prospect of anchovies and capers, I selected the pizzata. What is a focaccina? It was unlike anything I’d ever had, but I suppose the best way to describe it would be a very thin, very flaky and puffy flat-bread pizza. The pizzata was lightly sauced with a San Marzano tomato puree and decorated simply with a pair of anchovy loins. But the beauty is in its simplicity. It was so amazing I almost didn’t want to share.

gnocchi malfatti

gnocchi malfatti

Entree (M): gnocchi malfatti – ricotta semolina dumpling, lamb sugo. I’m a big fan of ragu-type meaty sauces (and I don’t mean the stuff in the jar), so I had a feeling the lamb sugo would be a good choice. The ricotta gnocchi were very fluffy but also very cheesy. Martin, who is already a huge fan of potato gnocchi, really enjoyed this dish!

fusilli alla amatriciana

fusilli alla amatriciana

Entree (A): fusilli alla amatriciana – long corkscrew pasta, pork jowl, onion, spicy tomato. I needed only to spot the words “pork jowl” and I knew this would be the dish for me. There’s something inherently comforting about the flavor combination of pork fat and tomatoes, and this tender, fatty pork jowl did not disappoint. Also surprising were the long (VERY LONG) corkscrews; they were like rotini on steroids. So delicious I only wish there were more on the plate!

pannacotta

pannacotta

Dessert: pannacotta – meyer lemon curd, feuillitine crunch, candied zest. Another one of my buzzwords is feuillitine. Did I ever tell you about the time Martin and I made our own crepes dentelle? Now that was an adventure, but a story for another time. This dessert was love at first sight. Silky vanilla panna cotta topped by a thick layer of lemon curd… the combinations of tart and sweet, smooth and creamy… it was heaven on a spoon. I’m also a big fan of candied citrus, so I thought the zest was a great touch.

A wonderful meal, fabulously attentive service, and a taste of Italia in the heart of the industrial district… definitely swing by and check out The Factory Kitchen!

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Check out The Factory Kitchen: thefactorykitchen.com

1300 Factory Place, Suite 101
Los Angeles, CA 90013

See their Yelp reviews here!

Risotto with Italian Chicken Sausage and English Peas

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Last week I posted a picture of our dinner after having made what I thought was just a simple but tasty way to use up some storebought Italian sausages I had hanging out in the fridge. But the photo garnered many “likes” on both Facebook and Instagram (follow me: keepcalmbakesouffles) so by popular demand, here is the recipe. I had a package of Open Nature brand Italian chicken sausages, but your favorite sausage of just about any brand and flavor will do. (Although if you have some bratwurst to deal with, might I suggest our beer braise with caramelized onions instead?)

Risotto with Italian chicken sausage and English peas

Risotto with Italian chicken sausage and English peas

Also, I chose to toss in English peas as they looked especially fresh and colorful on the shelf of my local Trader Joes (which, apparently, now stocks microgreens as well in case you wanted to bring restaurant plating techniques to your home kitchen). You could substitute (or add) fava beans, chopped asparagus, artichoke hearts, shaved fennel… if you dream it, you can achieve it. Longtime readers may recognize that the instructions are very similar to the risotto al funghi that we posted last summer!

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 white or sweet onion, diced

1 package Italian chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces

1 1/4 cup arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine (2 buck chuck Chardonnay will do fine)

3 cups chicken broth (approximately)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or a few sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup English peas (or frozen petite sweet peas)

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

Salt & pepper

Prep

Prep

First things first, set up your mise en place: minced garlic, diced onion, sliced sausages, bottle of wine opened and ready to go. (And peas picked out of their pods if yours are THAT fresh.)

Sweating the Onions

Sweating the Onions

Sweat the onions and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the Sausage

Add the Sausage

Add the sausage and saute for a few minutes. I tried to get a bit of color on some of the slices.

Add Rice and Wine

Add Rice and Wine

Add the rice and pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. Stir until the wine has been absorbed.

Simmer Simmer

Simmer Simmer

Toss in the thyme and pour in the chicken broth, about 1 cup at a time. Let the liquid come to a simmer. When the rice has absorbed most of it, add more chicken broth, reserving about 1 cup (less is OK) for the next step.

Add the Peas

Add the Peas

After about 20 minutes or when the rice has just gotten to the al dente stage, add the peas and pour in the reserved broth.

Finishing the Risotto

Finishing the Risotto

When most of the liquid has been absorbed and the peas are cooked through but not mushy, finish with the butter and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Serving Suggestion

Serving Suggestion

White wine may be a more traditional pairing for risotto, but I enjoyed my portion with a tall glass of the Sam Adams Seasonal brew Cold Snap, an unfiltered white ale with the smooth brightness of the summer ale but a hint of spice to remind you of the best parts about this time of year. (Yes, I loved it so much at Dave & Buster’s that I bought a few bottles to enjoy at home!)

DineLA – Piccolo Venice (Winter 2014)

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Though this entry is a bit belated, we have not missed a single DineLA Restaurant Week yet, and this winter, we would have had no excuse as restaurant “week” lasted a whopping twelve days! Winter DineLA is always extra special since it coincides with Martin’s birthday. His selection this year? A quaint little Italian place tucked away at the Venice Boardwalk… where we’d probably walked past at least a dozen times without even realizing it was there. We’re so glad we got to stop by and try their menu; in fact, one of the reasons why we chose this restaurant was that their dineLA menu offered a five course tasting of items featured on their regular menu.

Piccolo Venice

Piccolo Venice

The cozy atmosphere and romantic ambiance makes Piccolo perfect for date night. Candles lighting each table, a beautiful chandelier in the center of the room… Immediately after we were seated, our friendly and oh-so-Italian server brought a basket brimming with warm table bread. My favorite was the fluffy cubes of focaccia.

Table Bread

Table Bread

First Course: We both selected the conchiglie – marinated fresh sea scallop and sea urchin. What it fails to mention is that the crudo-esque dish arrives in the form of mini seafood “dumplings”, with the thinly sliced scallop resembling a clear hargow wrapper encasing a “filling” of uni.

Conchiglie - marinated fresh sea scallop and sea urchin

Conchiglie – marinated fresh sea scallop and sea urchin

Second Course: plin – fontina filled, homemade ravioli, butter-parmesan, fresh black truffle shavings. I love fresh pasta, though this particular dish was drowning a bit in the salty sauce. Still, nothing a few generous flakes of earthy black truffle couldn’t save. (Did I ever mention that I want a truffle pig? Or perhaps to train one of our cats to hunt truffles…)

Plin - fontina filled homemade ravioli, butter-parmesan, fresh black truffle shavings

Plin – fontina filled homemade ravioli, butter-parmesan, fresh black truffle shavings

Third Course (M): neri – squid ink tagliolini, sea scallops emulsion, bottarga shavings. Martin is a sucker for squid ink pasta and he seemed very pleased with the long strands of briny goodness flecked with crumbles of cured fish roe. I was a bit jealous.

Neri - squid ink tagliolini, sea scallops emulsion, bottarga shavings

Neri – squid ink tagliolini, sea scallops emulsion, bottarga shavings

Third Course (A): garganelli – homemade, braised wild boar sauce ragu. From appearance alone, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference from the boar sausage and ordinary ground beef, but one bite of gamy, hearty protein and I was hooked. It paired perfectly with the al dente hand-rolled pasta.

Garganelli - homemade braised wild boar sausage ragu

Garganelli – homemade braised wild boar sausage ragu

Fourth Course (M): tagliata – seared natural australian kobe ny steak, lemon-thyme pesto, maldon salt. It arrived rare just the way he likes it, and the pleasant surprise — cubes of crispy fried polenta! How did they know he loved those?! Super tender, juicy steak – this was a great dish.

Tagliata - seared natural australian ny steak, lemon-thyme pesto, maldon salt

Tagliata – seared natural australian ny steak, lemon-thyme pesto, maldon salt

Fourth Course (A): anatra – pan roasted duck breast, roasted black currants sauce. I love a good seared rare duck breast and Piccolo did not disappoint. The meat was tender and was complemented well by the currant sauce. My surprise sides? A dollop of purple potato mash (puree?) and crispy roasted brussels sprouts… some of my all-time favorite side dishes. Again, how did they know??

Anatra - pan roasted duck breast, roasted black currants sauce

Anatra – pan roasted duck breast, roasted black currants sauce

Fifth Course: chef’s selection of homemade desserts. If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, TELL YOUR SERVER. We were surprised that the plate arrived on our table without any mention of what the selections were, nor a particularly thorough description of the items. That’s okay for us though; we have daring palates and resilient stomachs. Just thought I’d warn ya.

Semifreddo with amaretto caramel

Semifreddo with amaretto caramel

Semifreddo with amaretto caramel sauce and profiteroles (or, a la Italia, bignole) filled with fluffy dark chocolate mousse.

Bignole filled with valrhona chocolate mousse

Bignole filled with valrhona chocolate mousse

Both delicious palate cleansers and adorable little bites to end the meal. Molto bene!

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Check out Piccolo Venice: piccolovenice.com

5 Dudley Avenue
Venice, CA 90291

See their Yelp reviews here!

DineLA Winter 2014 – $$$ ($45/person) dinner

Parking near Venice Beach is notoriously difficult. We swallowed our pride and paid for the valet, which shares a parking lot with On The Waterfront Cafe.

Dave & Buster’s Comes to West Los Angeles [Media Preview Event]

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[Sponsored] Billards. Draft beer. Giant LED TVs playing the popular sports game of the evening. Fried food. Burgers. Oh, and arcade games. While food and booze are awesome, Dave & Buster’s offers a unique experience previously unavailable on the Westside — namely, skee ball for adults 21+ only. And they found a great spot for their first Los Angeles location — the expansive ground floor suite at The Promenade At Howard Hughes Center in Westchester. The hype has been building since last year, but just yesterday, we were invited to attend a media preview event, joined by hundreds of their Facebook fans to fill the place and make it truly bumpin’ even before the big grand opening on Wednesday, February 19th.

Dave & Buster's Westchester / Culver City

Dave & Buster’s Westchester / Culver City

Conveniently situated between both entrances to the parking structure, Dave & Buster’s is hard to miss with its huge “Eat. Drink. Play.” slogans livening up an otherwise ordinary shopping plaza. We were surprised to see a very long line of eager fans waiting to get a sneak peek of the shiny new location. Luckily, we found the media check-in and were ushered inside expeditiously. We wove through the venue, jamming to More Than a Feeling, and managed to score prime seats at the impressively large bar counter. Michael, our friendly bartender, greeted us and pointed out his favorites on the menu as he poured our drinks — a 22 ounce Blue Moon draft for Martin and a 16 ounce Sam Adams Seasonal (Cold Snap) for me.

Our selections (of the nine available beers on draft)

Our selections (of the nine available beers on draft)

We went with Michael’s suggestion and ordered the Mountain O’Nachos. A mountain, indeed! This was the menu description: Fresh tortilla chips piled high and smothered with spicy ground beef and melted queso, topped with black beans, jalapeños, tomatoes, lettuce, fresh guacamole and sour cream. Serves three to four.

Mountain O'Nachos!

Mountain O’Nachos!

While every point was deliciously accurate, perhaps the most precise statement was the last line. It was WAY too much food for just two people, even ravenous eaters like us. Still, I couldn’t help but continue picking at the crispy chips slathered in cheesy, meaty sauce and scooping up bites of the refreshing guac.

Mountain O'Nachos!

Mountain O’Nachos!

The bar was quickly filling as the patient fans started trickling in. While I admired the twenty plus TVs that surrounded us, Martin counted the number of bartenders (12) all rushing to fill orders and greet guests. The service was surprisingly attentive despite the chaos. Before I knew it, our entrees had arrived. Martin selected the fried shrimp platter – a dozen crispy butterflied shrimp served with a chipotle honey sauce and fries. He was very pleased; I believe the sentiment was, “Fried shrimp and beer? Can’t beat that!”

Fried Shrimp Platter

Fried Shrimp Platter

I decided to go simple with the Buster’s Cheeseburger, rare. The half pound monster arrived topped generously with American cheese on a glistening bun. Sadly, it was definitely overcooked (medium-well to well done) but it was surprisingly juicy in the middle. Their burger meat has a great fat ratio, making for a super satisfying sandwich.

Buster's Cheeseburger

Buster’s Cheeseburger

Martin ordered another Blue Moon while I opted for a colorful cocktail I had spotted on the drinks menu — the watermelon snow cone. A stemless martini glass filled with shaved ice and layered with two different colored mixes (naturally, red and green in the watermelon’s case). The red layer was a mix of watermelon-flavored Smirnoff and sour watermelon mixer (DeKuyper, I believe), while the top was a blend of Midori and Sprite. Super pretty. Super girly. Super tasty.

Watermelon Snow Cone

Watermelon Snow Cone

Our bellies happy, we decided to wander the venue. After all, the best part about Dave & Buster’s (arguably) is playing arcade games without kids running around.

Onward!

Onward!

Skee ball, air hockey, even a giant digitized version of Connect Four. Of course, we looked for one of my favorites, Deal or No Deal, modeled after the game show. And we played a lot of those coin pushing games that had planted themselves firmly in Martin’s fond memories of childhood.

Giant Connect 4 Board Game!

Giant Connect 4 Board Game!

And then fate happened. We noticed free credits on the Pump It Up machine. For those not savvy to the dance (dance) revolution of the early 2000s, Pump It Up is essentially Korea’s answer to DDR. The most notable difference is that the arrows are in the NW, NE, SW, SE, and center positions in Pump It Up, making it exponentially more difficult. We had a great time making fools of ourselves to K-Pop tunes at 130 BPM. But that’s okay. I want nobody nobody but you!

The shiny, shiny coins!

The shiny, shiny coins!

By the end of the night, we gathered up our accumulated tickets and headed to the redemption area. I was suddenly brought back to my childhood visits to Chuck E Cheese and other similar play-and-redeem arcades. Through teamwork, we had earned enough for a big prize. Martin, being the gentleman that he is, let me choose. Of course, this meant that he had to share the passenger seat with a big fat Minion plush.

Our Cuddly Souvenir

Our Cuddly Souvenir

The conclusion? Dave & Buster’s Westchester / Culver City location infuses new life into the Howard Hughes Center. Now we Westsiders don’t have to drive all the way to Arcadia or Orange County or elsewhere to Power Up our D&B fix. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive free food, beverages, and game credits at the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

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Check out Dave & Buster’s: daveandbusters.com

6081 Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045

See their Yelp reviews here!

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