Habanero Pizza Sauce – The Sauce that Bites Back!

If you want to ruin delivery pizza for yourself forever, start fooling around with making your own crusts and sauces.  New York Pizza and Pasta at 7123 Sunset Boulevard used to send at least two pies my way every week.  The delivery guy once saw my face so often he’d chat me up at my door like I’d been best man at his wedding.  Well, New York Pizza and Pasta’s delivery menu has been replaced on my refrigerator door with my recipes for homemade pizza dough and this habanero pizza sauce.  That’s how often I’m making them both these days.

This is a pretty standard sauce recipe with the exception of the habanero which kicks things up a notch.  But not too much.  Those who like to avoid foods that make their eyes water will not be put off, though they will receive a subtle indication with each bite that there’s something sneaky going on.  It’s just a pinch of heat that won’t linger on the tongue but will definitely make its inclusion known.

Homemade mozzarella is next!

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Prosciutto Pepper Puffs

Here’s a simple twist on the recipe for crab puffs I posted a while back to accomodate those heathens who dislike crab. There were more of them out there then I originally realized – my mother and father being two of them – so out with the crustacea and in with a hot and zesty one-two punch of prosciutto and serrano pepper that’ll keep these babies flying into your mouth faster than you can keep count. And being as light and mouth-watering as they are, you won’t want to keep count.

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How to Make Pasta at Home Using The Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Maker

The Marcato Atlas pasta maker is reasonably priced and a great appliance to start with if you’ve never made your own pasta. It will take you a few attempts to master, but with some patience and your favorite playlist to keep you motivated, your hands will rapidly learn to make all the right moves.  After that, you’ll love the process of creating your own noodles out of little more than a pile a flour and a few eggs.

There’s a big upgrade in the freshness and the bite of the noodles you get when you make them from scratch, and they cook to perfection in about a third of the time it takes store bought.  But more importantly you have control over the size of the noodles from beginning to end.  You can make spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, capellini, fettuccine, or any combination therein, all in one session, at your kitchen counter with a turn of a dial or the snapping on of an attachment.

Fair warning: You will be doing a major flour sweep when all is done.  You’ll find it on the floor, coating your clothes, dusting your hair, painting your shoe laces.  You may need to groom your cat.

If you’re an amateur cook and want to step up your game, a homemade pasta maker will take you far.  Read how below.


Easy Homemade Pasta Recipe (serves approximately 4)

  • 1 1/4 cups  AP flour or pasta flour
  • 3 eggs, and one egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • touch of olive oil, and more for coating

Form the flour into a small volcano on a clean work board.

Drop the three eggs and the egg yolk into the middle of the volcano, add the salt and the olive oil and slowly begin to scramble them with a fork, first breaking the yolks, then slowly drawing in some of the flour.  Try hard not to break the walls so the eggs don’t come running out, but if they do, just use your free hand to push the mixture back in with the flour, and keep incorporating. Ideally, you just want to bring in some of the flour into the egg until it all starts to slowly come together.  Scrape the bottom every once in while.  You really shouldn’t need more liquid but if you do, try adding another egg.

Start getting more aggressive as the flour and eggs begin to come together. You can use a bench scraper to help incorporate the flour into the eggs. It should start forming into a single mass.  Flour your hands and start kneading it.  You should have a cohesive dough in about 1-2 minutes.  Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

When ready, flour both sides of your dough, and cut it in half so you can work in portions.  If you don’t have a lot of work space, you can quarter it.  Set your pasta roller to your widest width (for most machines that’s number 1).  Roll your dough through, about 15 times, each time folding the dough back on itself, both horizontally and vertically.  Your dough should really start to get stretchy and a little shiny.  Then send it through the number 2 setting just a few times, and keep dialing the setting up so the rollers are closer together and the pasta sheet continues getting thinner and longer.  I usually get to setting 6 and stop there.  If your dough is getting sticky during this process, just coat it with a little more flour.

Now you’ve got a long sheet of pasta.  If you have the cutter attachment, put it onto your pasta maker and roll it through.  You’ll have perfectly cut pasta out the other end.  I’ve also tried cutting it myself. To do this, take your long sheet, and cut it into three or four equal sizes. Mine were about a foot long, maybe a little less.  Dust each sheet with flour then stack them and loosely roll them up, and cut them into the thickness you’d like.  Go back and sprinkle some flour over it and gently separate with a light toss in your hands.  Shake off and excess flour.  Drop it into boiling, salted water as soon as possible.  Don’t let it sit too long.

Fresh pasta takes considerably less time to cook than dried, usually 1 to 3 minutes, so watch it carefully. To test, remove a noodle with tongs or a long-handled fork and take a bite.

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Carbibbean Jerk Marinade Sauce and “All The Things That Live in Our Yard”

It was Saturday, and I was innocently watching Password Plus in the bedroom, not a care in the world, when Michael came in from the yard and said, “Okay, I don’t want you to panic, but…”

Let’s stop there for a moment.

I recognized the look in his face, the all too earnest composure I knew I shouldn’t trust.  And the way he had his arms out in front of him, palms up like a re-assuring crossing guard who was determined to make certain I stayed right where I was or get snapped in half by a Cadillac.  There was danger in the air and this is what I knew for sure: Michael had just found something outside.  It was alive.  It was poisonous.  It was coming to get me.

And, back to scene.

“….there’s a rattlesnake in the backyard.”

I don’t really miss Hollywood apartment life, but the only wild animals we ever ran into there were the occasional rats smashed to rice paper in the middle of Franklin Avenue.  And that was just fine with me.  But ever since we’ve been living in the GreenBerry TreeHouse, I’ve had to confront all kinds of creatures I probably could have gone my whole life without getting to know.  Some are cute and furry.  Some are small and spindly.  Some of the more predatory ones have left piles of blood, feathers and unidentifiable body organs under the bird bath.  All of them, Michael tells me, are more afraid of me than I am of them. He knows that’s not true, but since I’ve stopped drinking alcohol he hasn’t come up with a better method for keeping me subdued.

Hey, why don’t we have a quick roll call of some of the new friends I’ve had up close and personal encounters with since we’ve come to the wildlife preserve known as the San Fernando Valley!  Let’s see, there’s been…


Orb Weaver:

Baby hummingbirds:

Black widow:

House Centipede, also known as “Fucking Hairy Pickle with Legs.”

Scrub Jay:

Mourning Doves:


Red-tailed Hawk:

And now this mother fucker under the wood pile:
After observing the markings and bringing them up on line, it turns out this was in fact not a rattlesnake, but a harmless gopher snake. Nevertheless, I demanded Michael give it a good poke with a long stick, which he did, and away it slithered. You should always have a big, long stick and heavy gloves when working in the yard near a forested area. And someone brave like Michael. You never know what animal kingdom asshole is gonna try to set up a new home in your yard while your boyfriend stands on top the patio table in his shorts and J. Crew sandals screaming, “Kill it! Kill it!”

We also used to have this little white guy come to the back doors and piss off MysteryCat. We dubbed him Hans the Ghost Kitty. One day we saw Hans in the yard and the white furry skin around his throat had been torn off, the red flesh and muscle underneath exposed. We tried to corner him but he got away, and we’ve never seen him again. We hope someone in the neighborhood managed to catch him and get him patched up at the vet and give him a safe home, a deep pillow, a bowl with jitter-bugging blue and pink kitties parading around it. That’s what we would want for Hans, always handsome and dignified as he padded his short cut across our backyard mulch, instead of thinking he ended up as an evening snack for the coyotes that run our streets in the hours after midnight. Sure, it’s Studio City, where driveways are protected by automatic gates and house fronts boast their security system decals. But if you’re making your home on the wrong side of the studs and insulation, you better keep your eyes open. Who knows what’s lurking in the eucalyptus.

Click here for the Caribbean Jerk Sauce Recipe

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil and Salmon

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil and Salmon

Let’s hear it for discount fish. Fish that’s so deeply and desperately on sale, they actually print “WooHoo!” on the price sticker to get you to take it from them.
Cheap Salmon -
Generally, I’m not a fish eater. But it’s early February and there’s a lingering “New Year, New Me” theme still floating around my person. You should see how nicely I’ve folded all the workout clothes that were stuffed under my bed and placed them in convenient “day by day” dress piles next to the closet so that there can be “No Excuses!”

Exactly how many years of life do you have to endure before you’re finally willing to settle on the fact that you may never see your abs proudly stretching through your skin, the relationship you have with your family is just fine as it is, and you’re still a decently articulate and thoughtful person even if you can’t get through a novel a week (and I mean real novels.  None of that Fifty Shades “It’s just a fun beach read” horse shit.  I really read, people!)

However many years it is, I’m not there yet.  I’m still doing crunches and then running to the mirror to see if there’s an eight pack.  There’s sorbet in the freezer instead of ice cream. The pasta is whole wheat.  And the fish doesn’t come with tartar sauce and a slice of cheese wrapped in a “McBun.”

I will give myself this though: today marks the 1,255th day I’ve gone without a drop of alcohol.

It also marks the second day I’ve gone without smoking weed, but that’s only because I had gum surgery yesterday and the periodontist said if I smoked, it might increase the blood flow in my mouth to the point that Rick Grimes may emerge from the woods and drive the sharp end of a fence post through my head.

But still… change is still possible.  Little by little, if we stay focused, keep an eye on our goals, and don’t beat ourselves up for being human, we may eventually become the people we dream we are.  I hope that for you.  I hope that for me.

But I did buy Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food yesterday.  Who can blame me, though? It was on sale.

WooHoo, indeed!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon. Basil and Salmon

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon Basil and Salmon
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound whole-wheat spaghetti pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil + 1 Tablespoon olive oil, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and more for seasoning
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper, and more for seasoning
  • 4 (4-ounce) pieces salmon
  • 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons capers
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and check it regularly. It should be tender, but still have a little firmness when you bite into it.

As the pasta cooks, warm a Tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season your salmon with salt and pepper (I added some fresh dill). Add the salmon to the heated oil in the pan and cook until medium-rare, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove salmon from the pan.

Drain the finished pasta and transfer to a bowl. Add the minced garlic, the two Tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Add the basil, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture just before serving, and toss to combine all ingredients completely.

Place spinach on plate and top with salmon. You can also place some salmon on top the pasta, or cut the salmon into small pieces and toss it with the pasta.

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Cheesecake Marbled Brownies 2014

I was four seasons into watching Game of Thrones before I finally had the nerve to admit to Michael I had no idea what the fuck was going on.

So many beards. So many heads on pikes. All the boobs and scullery maids and stone walls. None of it makes sense to me. I feel like HBO forgot to air one of the seasons and just decided to see if anyone would speak up about it.

Every so often Peter Dinklage would say something snarky, or a dragon would fly by, and for a moment I’d be back on board and really proud of myself for keeping up. But it wouldn’t be long before a man with long hair would start growling next to a fireplace about crossing some giant sea and getting revenge against some other flea-ridden Jack Black look-a-like who may or may not still have his penis, and suddenly my head would drop forward like someone yanked my cervical vertebrae right out the back of my neck.

I still have no idea how many fucking Stark children there are. I know there’s the sourpuss red head, the butch one, the paralyzed one, the half-breed. And I feel like there are two younger ones — a Bobby and Cindy Stark — stashed away someplace, deep under the roots of some thousand year old talking tree, cowering in fear because some evil warlord needs to find them and eat their livers so he can take over Gallipoli.

For me, Game of Thrones was over once and for all when the show killed off that bratty little inbred king who liked to stomp around and scream and kill people when they irritated him in the slightest. Was I the only one who liked that kid? I felt he was very relatable.

So now, Michael is in the den watching Sunday night’s episode while I make cheesecake marbled brownies for work tomorrow. I could hear the show from the kitchen, and as I dropped the pans into the oven I said to myself, “I bet pretty soon someone’s gonna be bitching about taking back Castle Black,” and sure enough I was right! I don’t even know which one Castle Black is. I looked it up once on the Game of Thrones wiki, and this is what it said: “Castle Black is one of only three mannered castles left on the Wall along with Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and The Shadow Tower. It has a sept but no Godswood. Those who are followers must travel into the Haunted Forest to take their vows before a heart tree.”   It’s like calculus for hobbit nerds.  I’m turning my Sunday nights back over to baking.  Follow me to the brownies, and leave your dire wolf at the door.

Get the Recipe for Cheesecake Marbled Brownies HERE

Mediterranean Style Chicken Breasts with Tomato Bruschetta Topping (And I’m Off to D.C.)

I’ll be spending the next week on my first trip to Washington D.C., visiting my sister and her family, the Smithsonian, the Spy Museum, The News Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, Madam’s Organ Bar, The White House, the national monuments, the used bookstores, the speakeasies and the cherry blossoms. But first things first… let’s hit that LAX Starbucks.  It’s not a true vacation unless you start here.  The smell of agitation, stress and an amalgam of international farts await you!

The only line that’s longer is for the Burger King.  I don’t do well at airports. From the moment I walk in until the moment I’m out the other side, I’ve got my fists balled up and my brain turned down to simmer while I play I Love Lucy episodes in my head, the same way I do when I’m at the proctologist’s office, Sunday mass, or when someone forces me to watch a movie with hobbits in it.

I only have about 55 minutes until I board or “plane up” or whatever the girl at the gate’s gonna call it to prove her airline is the hippest, so I’ll get on with this chicken recipe. I certainly don’t want to short change it as I’ve had the recipe pinned to my wall for about three years (with many thanks to Sam at My Carolina Kitchen for sharing it with me!) I served it forgetting to add the feta and basil to the top, so I made Michael put down his fork while I rained them down over his half-eaten plate, then ran to the bedroom closet to re-fetch the camera.  I bypassed the kalamata olives included in the original recipe because I’m about as big of a fan of kalamata olives as I am paying $8.75 for an airport Whopper with cheese.

This is a terrific recipe.  Straightforward, impressive-looking, minimal task time, maximum flavor burst.  Give it a try.

As for me, I’ll see you when I hit the IAD at 7pm Eastern time!


GreenBerry TreeHouse Cookies

As it has been pouring rain outside for the last two days (the first real storm to hit Los Angeles since we moved into the treehouse), I decided to commemorate the event and the explosion of green we’re nearly instantaneously getting in the yard as the plants and flowers drink to their health and present us with a pre-spring preview bloom.

This is pretty much a standard cooking with a little food coloring added for some Saturday jazz.  I happened to have on hand walnuts, pecans, white and dark chocolate chips, so in they all went.

Michael and I have barricaded ourselves into the TreeHouse and we’re not coming out until the rain stops pounding or Monday morning rolls around.  So if you want a cookie, slip into your swimsuit, throw on your water wings and dog paddle your way up the river of mud and rocks that has become our street. We’ll leave you some in the mailbox.