Sunny Spot Venice

Roy Choi, Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” in 2010, is Kogi Korean BBQ food truck’s founding chef. Kogi was also recognized as one of the Top 5 Food Trucks in the U.S. by, and their short rib sliders would be #1 on the Cristina Lowry episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. This is no exaggeration. The short rib, sesame mayo, cheese, salsa roja and a chili soy slaw on fluffy toasted buns highlight Choi’s culinary genius. His food really does live up to the hype. Our First Friday crew has had Roy Choi food dozens of times, and every time we take our first bite we stand in awe, giving each other that look of, “Is this real life? How can food taste this good?”

Choi has been branching out in LA with A Frame, Chego and Caribbean themed Sunny Spot. Marta, Brooke, Alaina, Jared, Brent and I decided to spend our Saturday afternoon at Sunny Spot on Abbott Kinney and Washington. We loved the fried plantains, torta, burger, mofongo, jerk potatoes, yucca fries, and especially the bottomless mimosa/bloody mary/rum punches. The atmosphere was great too, with a sunny courtyard with a bright, summery feel. We’ll definitely be back.  Roy Choi, you can do no wrong.

Sandwich King Greek Tacos

I cheered for Jeff Mauro throughout the seventh season of the Next Food Network Star. Jeff has a charismatic and goofy personality, and an awesome midwest accent. He also knows how to make a quality sandwich. Jeff takes sandwiches up a notch with recipes such as Schnitzel Biscuits, Crunchy Fried PB and J and Filet Mignon Crostini with Rosemary Pesto. So far my favorite has been the Greek Taco, combining the best Mediterranean flavors. The pita topped with seasoned lamb, fresh cucumber salad and a dollop of homemade tzatziki has a heartiness about it, while still feeling fresh and light.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground lamb
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry red wine

Feta Mint Tzatziki:
1 English cucumber
Kosher Salt
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint

Cucumber Tomato Salad:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 firm tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
Black pepper

6 pitas, oiled and lightly griddled on each side (I like Trader Joe’s Middle Eastern Flatbread and Whole Foods Whole Wheat Pita)

For the meat: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the meat gets nice and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the lamb/beef and reserve. Lower the heat to medium and saute the onions in the juices until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano and garlic and cook until fragrant. Season. Add the tomato paste and cook until it caramelizes. Deglaze with the red wine and scrape any bits on the pan. Add the lamb back in, stir and set aside.

For the tzatziki: Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater and place in a fine-meshed strainer or cheese cloth fitted over a bowl. Salt the cucumber and let sit 10 minutes. Then squeeze out any excess moisture. Add the strained cucumber into a bowl with the yogurt, feta, garlic and mint. Add salt to taste.

For the cucumber tomato salad: Toss the olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in a bowl and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover and let sit.

To make the taco: Place on the lamb on the pita and top with cucumber tomato relish and tzatziki, or make it Brent style by spreading tzatziki first, then add lamb and relish.

Shrimp and Chorizo Paella

I have been working on perfect paella for about a year. Unfortunately something always went wrong. My paella would be too mushy, too crunchy, too salty or completely bland. After a year of testing the dish, I finally got it right, and found the perfect combination of ingredients. I love the taste of shrimp and spicy sausage with vegetables and rice. Although following the recipe below gives the most delicious results, when I am feeling lazy I throw the rice, saffron, paprika, bay leaves, and broth in a rice cooker. Next, I soften the vegetables on the stove, thrown in the sausage, and add the shrimp for just a few minutes. When the rice is cooked, I mix the cooked rice, vegetables, sausage and shrimp together. When I am pressed for time, this rice cooker version satisfies my paella craving.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 links cooked Spanish chicken chorizo, cut into 1/2 inch rounds

1 pound uncooked peeled deveined large shrimp
1 small onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 cups brown rice
1 pinch saffron threads
2 bay leaves
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tomato, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over high heat. Add onion, red bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the cooked chorizo and cook until browned and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add rice, paprika, saffron, and bay leaves. Stir to combine and coat the rice, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add frozen peas, tomato and shrimp. Stir to combine.

Transfer skillet to oven. Cook uncovered until rice is tender and no liquid remains, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Fluff with a fork, season to taste and serve immediately.