Meatloaf Recipe

Meatloaf is hard to do really badly, as long as you follow a few basics.   My rule of thumb for getting the texture right is that all the ingredients, once assembled, should have the consistency of stiff cookie dough.   Another tip is to make sure you have a mix of meats. Plain ground hamburger, or plain ground turkey, will cook up too dry.   If you are a very disciplined non meat eater,  who wants a ground turkey loaf with no secret pork added,  I have some tips at the end of the recipe.   For this recipe, I combine pre-made pork sausage and beef, which is easier than buying ground veal, ground pork and beef and then mixing.

For 4 adults, with leftovers guaranteed, you’ll need:

1.5 pounds of ground beef, not extra lean (85-15)

2 uncooked Italian pork sausages, hot or sweet (non spicy) .  I use one of each.   You can take the spice up or down to preference.

1/2 chopped red pepper

1/2 chopped yellow or white onion (not Maui or sweet)

one egg (2 if the eggs are small)

1/2 cup of plain toasted breadcrumbs

Dash or 2 of worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

For the topping:

Good ketchup – I use Simply Heinz

brown sugar

Uncooked pork sausages are the secret.

Put the beef in a bowl.  Slice open the uncooked sausages and turn the mixture into the beef.  I’ve seen tv chefs try to squeeze the sausage out like toothpaste.  It’s easier to slice it open, believe me.   Add the chopped red pepper and onion – I use a mini chopper as it is almost pureed and very wet. This moistens the meatloaf as it cooks.   Add the egg, cumin and worcestershire.  If you hate cumin, you can add in a couple tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley.   If dried, just a teaspoon.  I add the bread crumbs last, as the mixture is not always as wet or dry as I expect, so I put it in a bit at a time, to get the “tightness” I want.

Miniloaves formed, coated in ketchup.

Now  I get out a flat baking pan with at least a one inch rim and shape it into equal mini loaves, as everyone wants a crusty end, and there are only two if you put it in a regular loaf pan.

I then squeeze ketchup over each one, making a “shell”, and I sprinkle brown sugar over the ketchup and kind of press it in.

Bake this at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn it down to 325 for an additional 35 minutes or so.  You know your oven.   Notes for using ground turkey: double the onion and pepper and double the worcestershire.  Omit the cumin and use fresh chopped parsley.    I don’t do the ketchup topping on this as it is not really complementary to the poultry flavor.   Try it anyway, it may work for you.   You need to leave the turkey at high heat longer as it needs to “cook out”.   Nobody needs undercooked turkey!

We like the burned bits you get from the brown sugar melting down.

We eat it with a big salad and a side of pan roasted broccoli and garlic in olive oil.

Bibigo Beverly Hills

Chinese food is everywhere.  Indian food is everywhere and who would have thought people would be eating seaweed and raw fish in every major city in America?  So Korean food may be next.    I was in on a so-called “soft opening” last week of a new Bibigo location in Beverly Hills.  I had not been to the Westwood one near UCLA, but I have been to many  a grocery store in Koreatown for cheap, super fresh produce and seafood.  The Koreatown grocery stores have inside dining, usually noodle bowls and dim sum which are hand made on the spot.

My expectations were pretty high based on the terrific random food I had had in a low key grocery store.   Bibi, I gather, is short for “bibimbop” which means rice and veggies – an absolute staple, the meat and potatoes of Korea. Bean sprouts, chopped leeks, mushrooms, scallions and raw mustard greens are typical.

Plain words, explosive flavors.

The location is prime, just below Wilshire on Beverly Drive, in “lunch alley”. Beverly Hills teems with workers looking for a new place to eat, so they should get takers.   Just how many times can a person eat at CPK?   The staff was eager to explain what the food concept was, but not so up on what was in the food.  My fantastic shrimp pancake was laced with peppers which I was told were leeks.  Then the server checked with the kitchen., Yep.  Serrano peppers.  There were indeed leeks, plus shrimp and peppers, in a rice flour pancake, crisped brown and with a super hot pepper chili oil and lemony dipping sauce.  At least I think it was lemon. The server swore it was not.

I was invited to try more and went for the spinach salad with avocado, dried fig and the equivalent of Korean croutons: basically rice krispy treats without sugar.  Nutty and good.  The salad dressing (no choice) was pureed sesame seeds, wine, a touch of vinegar and more peppers.  This could have been put on an old shoe and it would have tasted good.  The mix of  salad ingredients was a touch off but tasty.

I had no room whatsoever but moved on to Bulgogi – marinated beef slow smoked over red oak, then served on a hot stone with hot chilis and mushrooms.  As with a lettuce wrap, you eat it by putting it in rolled-up mustard and dandelion greens.  I love bitter greens, beef and chilis.  Sold.

Like all Asian restaurants, dessert is basically defined as the absence of chilis.  I tasted a tofu “pana cotta”  which was barely sweet and a touch grainy, with a super simple fruit garnish.  So dessert is not why you go here.

The chain has several locations in Korea and two in Los Angeles.   City of Beverly Hills free parking is nearby and the Westwood location offers 2 hours free with validation.  They also have a frequent dining club with bonuses, kinda like earning a free cup of coffee at  Coffee Bean. And to help your dining experience?   Be a chilihead like me.


The Wood

I met an old friend for dinner at The Wood, one of the many casual dining spots in Culver City, a subsection of west L.A. that has its own mayor, city council, and white hot food scene that gives Silver Lake a run for its money.   The venerable cook and gourmet food supply shop Surfas anchors the area, plus there are a couple of small storefront cooking schools.   Locally, food is on the brain.   And indeed the co-owners ran a coffee shop and a cafe, respectively, and met at a farmer’s market.   That would be Demetrios Mavromichalis of  Venice Grind and Laurent Triqueneaux of Cafe Laurent.

It doesn’t hurt that there are film studios and media companies nearby to keep the caterers and lunch spots busy.  Lest you picture quaint streets and adorable areas to walk, I’ll set you straight.  Culver City was a suburb developed in the late 40’s/ early ’50’s at the height of L.A.’s love affair with the car, and has wide, bleak streets and pretty ugly architecture.  Style-less Moderne, let’s call it.   Travel a block and you will doubtless see an auto repair shop.  Not exactly Rodeo Drive.

A bleak corner with good food.

There is mostly outdoor dining at  meat-and-potato-centered The Wood, but we ate inside as it was 55 degrees, people!  The cafe promises locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible,  which is quite easy in California.  My rose wine was from Santa Barbara, for example, as was my side dish of kale, but my perfectly medium rare lamb chops were from New Zealand.  The amount of garlic in the chimichurri sauce on top of them could only be described as fearless, and very possibly from Gilroy, a garlic-growing center in mid state. The lamb stood up to the garlic. I did, too.

My friend’s pork chop was a shade dry,  but the accompanying mashed potatoes were way better than mom-style.   We started with fritto misto,  since the fried brussel sprouts appetizer would overdo me with a double load of winter vegetables.   The tempura-battered veggies and a few shrimp were good enough, but oily, indicating less than fresh or double-used oil, as a general rule.  Just a guess.  It was served cutely in a cake baking tin lined with parchment paper.

I’d go again and try a burger, and the sprouts, and try to find room for the chocolate pot de creme, too.    The desire to go again means this is a good place, and, as my friend noted, way better than the tired greasy spoon that used to be there.

Driving back to the freeway you’ll pass an only-in-L.A. series of storefronts, namely a famous sword and gun collectors shop, a relatively new mosque, the headquarters of,  a Lutheran church, the DMV and Sony Studios.

Potato Salad Recipe

Whatever market force brought the Yukon Gold potato to the grocery stores over the past decade or so, I am grateful. They take potato salad to a whole new level, well away from the realm of the mealy, runny and soggy taters I seem to recall from childhood picnics.

Ready to dress.

Here’s a simple recipe for a side dish for 5 to 6 people.   My rule of thumb is one medium-sized (about 2 inches across) potato per person, and then add on 2 extra potatoes.   Poke the raw potatoes with a fork so they don’t explode when you steam them.  Yes, steam them, no boiling.  It’s the only way to avoid that watery texture.   If you don’t have a steamer basket, just put 1/2 inch of water in a skillet or saute pan with a tight fitting lid.  Place the potatoes in, bring the water to a boil, then place the lid on and reduce the heat to simmer.    Check them in 15 minute by cutting one potato in half.  It should cut easily.  If it does not, put the lid on for a couple more minutes.

Take the potatoes out and chill them on a flat plate, no lid on it, in the fridge.When they are cool, cut them into quarters.  This allows for your dressing to cover a good amount of potato, without getting gloppy.

For the dressing you will need:

3 strips of bacon cooked crisp, drained and crumbled.  You are making your own bacon bits, basically.

white vinegar (champagne or rice)

1/2  a red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a small red onion, chopped

red pepper flakes


2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

A little more chopped than this does the trick.

To assemble, douse the cooled, quartered potatoes, in your proposed serving bowl, with the vinegar, about a tablespoon’s worth, or a few good drizzles.   Add in the mayonnaise and  coat the potatoes equally.  Then mix in the red onion, red pepper and bacon.  Finish by shaking red pepper flakes and salt over the salad, to taste.  Don’t overdo either one.

Ready to eat.

Variations on the above include:

–chopped jalapeno pepper instead of the red pepper flakes

–1 tablespoon of spicy grain mustard mixed with the mayo and skip the vinegar step

–omit the bacon for the vegetarians

–omit the pepper flakes for those who hate spice.

–add more mayo if you like a very dressed salad

All the chefs who judge cooking on t.v. talk about how a perfect dish will have it all: sweet, savory, creamy, crunchy and what they call “mouth feel.” Trust me, it’s in that bowl pictured above.

Cabbage Salad Recipe

Sure, call it cole slaw.  If you are a patient cabbage slicer, or have a Cuisinart handy, make slaw.  I am often just cutting cabbage thin enough for a hurried weeknight dinner.   We have some kind of salad with every meal but breakfast, and cabbage keeps so well it’s our go-to when the forgotten lettuce has given up the ghost and turned sad and brown.   How often do we have salad?  One week, through separate, uncoordinated trips to Costco we bought 11 heads of lettuce.  Ate them all over a 10 day period.

For a side salad for 3 or 4 people, half a head of green cabbage is perfect. To make:

Cut out the white “heart” at the bottom – it’s really too tough to eat.    If you have a dog, he’ll happily gnaw on it as a veggie bone.

Not shredded, but stirred.

Then slice the cabbage into the smallest bite size pieces (or slivers) you have the patience for.   In a decent-sized bowl, mix 2 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise,  1/8 cup of rice vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, a few grinds of black or white pepper, and  1/2 teaspoon paprika or mild ground chili pepper for color and a bit of bite.    Add the cabbage and stir.  If the dressing seems a little thick, thin it with rice vinegar.  Once the cabbage is coated, chill it in the fridge until you are ready to eat.  The vinegar will soften the cabbage and it will “sweat down” a bit.

If you have one on hand, grate a peeled carrot into it for color and sweet flavor.  Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-types add raisins to this but I find it is overkill.  I always taste it and salt at the end, but I am a salt head.   Lots of people don’t salt their slaw.