Sunday, July 7, 2013

Angel Hair Rice Pasta with Spinach, Shiitake Mushrooms & Roasted Garlic and a tour of LA Kosher Restaurants

Trip inspiration!
Sometimes you just need to get away.  Last week Dear Husband and I escaped the madhouse for the first time ever, by ourselves, no kids with us, for a little over 4 days.  It was in honor of our special anniversary (KIH) and we really needed to get away, by ourselves, no kids.  I personally had a few requirements: 1. No kids with us 2. No kids with us 3. I wasn’t cooking a single meal (so we had to go to a place that had restaurants/prepared food) 4. Good weather 5. No kids with us.  We ended up fleeing to Los Angeles where there are tons of Kosher restaurants, good weather and lots to do.  So, last Sunday we dropped our youngest daughter off at the bus for her sleep away camp, waved as the bus drove away, and high tailed it out of here!  We arrived in LA Sunday evening checked into our hotel, and then had to decide where to eat.  Now the idea of this trip was to de-stress big time, and ironically there are SO many Kosher restaurants I was actually starting to feel a little stressed about picking one!  Goofy, right? For those of you that don’t know LA, there is a long main street called Pico, that has a bajillion Kosher restaurants and stores up and down the street.  It’s pretty impressive.  Dear Husband and I decided for our first dinner we’d punt and go with the easy choice – our favorite, Chinese food.  We ended up going to the fabulous Shanghi Diamond Garden.   Dear Husband (DH) noticed that we could get a special for two that was only a few dollars more than just an entrée.  We ended up with the best wonton soup I have ever had with fresh vegetables, chicken and incredible wontons. We also had an assortment of super appetizers, egg rolls, fried wontons, and chicken satay.  DH ordered his favorite beef with broccoli and I ordered my favorite hunan beef.  Both were great and came with a huge plate of vegetable fried rice.  Delicious!  Bonus, the wait staff was incredibly friendly and efficient too.  

We were off to a great start! We ended up walking all the way up and down Pico after dinner (otherwise we would have rolled home we were so full!) to check out the local stores and grab menus from the other restaurants along the street.  SO fun!! 

We had ordered the “Go LA Pass” in advance and ended up doing all the touristy things that LA is known for: Studio tours, La Brea Tar Pits, Getty Museum and gardens, Hollywood walking tour, Rodeo Drive and an amazing bike ride along the Pacific coast near the Santa Monica Pier.  We also made it to the Farmers Market where we checked out all the interesting goods and found purple apricots!  Super fun, but the biggest bonus was…not having to cook!  For all of you that are planning a trip to Los Angeles here are the places that we ate at, they were all great – shocking but true!

Monday Lunch – Nagila Pizza
After a fun walking tour of Hollywood, we wanted a quick filling lunch so we went to the Nagila Pizza Shop.  They have different varieties of pizza and we ended up ordering a few types (we were hungry from all the walking!).  The best was the stuffed crust pizza.  I had mine with extra mushrooms on top.  The crust was filled with gooey cheese and diced mushrooms.  YUM!!!  DH also had the eggplant topped pizza which he rated very highly.  As the sign outside the store says: Have-a Nagila Day!

Monday Dinner – Mexikosher
It turns out that DH has one family he’s related to in LA, so we were so happy to go out to dinner with Ronit and Alan for dinner on Monday night.  We don’t have a Mexican restaurant in Chicago, so Mexikosher was an obvious choice.  The food there is authentic Mexican and you can build your own meal with different options.  We each had a different meal and they were all great.  Mexikosher also has a vast assortment of sauces, a lot of them spicy (hooray!), which were really fun to try.  If you go, ask the guys behind the counter for advice – they are really helpful in suggesting the best combination to fit your tastes.

Tuesday Lunch – Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
It turns out that there is a coffee house in LA called the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and in the LA area they are all kosher!  So after enduring a majorly packed Universal Studios in the blistering heat, we grabbed a quick bagel and cream cheese lunch at the Coffee Bean at Universal.  Always looking for new and delicious pastries, I also ordered the cheese Danish – YUM!  There are Coffee Beans everywhere you turn, so if you’re looking for a quick grab-and-go sandwich or coffee this is the place.

Tuesday Dinner – Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage
It was almost sacrilegious to go to Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage considering that we have the world’s best sausage factory here in Chicago – Romanian Kosher Sausage Company, but given that we know what sausages are supposed to taste like we couldn’t pass up Jeff’s.  It didn’t hurt that the night before when we were doing our restaurant investigative work, we passed by Jeff’s and saw someone eating the best looking chicken hot wings and chili fries.  We actually stopped and talked to the guy eating the wings and he said they were fantastic – we were sold!  We ended up ordering a ton of food (we had to try a good assortment….otherwise how would we know if they were good or not) and had to take some of it home there was so much.  We order 4 sausages and an order of hot wings.  We really liked the Cajun chicken, Mergez, and Borewors sausages, but our winning sausage was the chorizo: Extra spicy traditional Mexican beef and chicken sausage served on a French roll crowded with hot fajita style onions, peppers and tomatoes – with a 4 pepper spicy rating!  The hot wings came with a ranch style dipping sauce (which you needed because they were so hot!).  We recommend Jeff’s – it’s really fun to try all the different sausages and fun menu items.  Although, nothing can surpass Romanian sausages, Jeff’s sausages were really good too.

Wednesday Lunch – Café of Paris
To sum it up, Café of Paris: The best quiche, Panini, and vegetarian chili we have ever had.  I ordered the goat cheese and marinated artichoke quiche.  It was light and fluffy, flavorful, and the crust was incredibly buttery and delicious.  The vegetarian chili was wonderfully fresh tasting.  DH had the pesto and fresh mozzarella Panini on ciabatta bread and still talks about how good it was.  We also had the low fat cheesecake – outstanding.  We strongly recommend the Café of Paris…great food and reasonably priced.

Wednesday Dinner – Pat’s
Since the trip was an anniversary trip, we had decided in advance that we were going to go to one “nicer” restaurant on our trip.  Pat’s came highly recommended, and a friendly young lady we met while eating lunch at Nagila advised us to order the Bread Pudding for dessert when making our reservation.  She said that it takes a while to make the dessert so you have to order it in advance.  We also found out later that because it’s so popular the restaurant actually runs out of it.  DH thought I was nuts (bread pudding?!!), but I followed her advice anyway.  We split a Chinese Chicken Salad for an appetizer (With grilled chicken, crispy noodles, and sesame dressing).  DH had the Rib Eye Steak and I had the Mixed Grill.  The food was delicious!  Then the dessert came and DH was very happy to literally eat his words.  Considering that we both had no idea what to expect, the bread pudding was a fantastic surprise.  Crusty, hot, filled with chocolate, and accompanied with whipped cream – it was a dessert dream for a pair of self-proclaimed pastry snobs!  The bread pudding was so big that we wrapped it up and I polished it off the next day.  It pays to listen to friendly strangers!

Thursday Lunch – Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Beverly
It was so nice to know that there were Coffee Beans everywhere.  After walking around Rodeo Drive (where we were pleasantly surprised by all the modest dresses in the windows!), we wanted to grab a quick lunch nearby – Coffee Bean to the rescue!  I had a terrific smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich, and DH had an egg salad, fresh spinach and cheese sandwich.  It was July 4th, and the store was selling coffee to send to the troops –how nice is that?!  We also really liked the iced teas that the store offered, they were flavorful and refreshing.  Now if only they’d come to Chicago!

Thursday Dinner – Got Kosher?
For our last dinner in LA we went to Got Kosher?. Got Kosher is known for it’s cool “pretzel challah” and has even won awards for it.  We got to taste some with our dinner and it was great!  The meat menu has a “Tunisian” influence.  We ordered the chicken noodle soup and the “Shwar-guez” (GK?'s unique take on schwarma: ground beef seasoned with our merguez sausage spices and grilled on a schwarma pit. Served with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, onions & creamy lemon-garlic sauce & pita).  It was very unusual and the schwarma had a distinct sausage “fennel” flavor.  The owner was super nice and overall we had a great experience.  I was tempted to take home a pretzel challah for Shabbat – but realized that we really had no luggage space and it would have gotten pretty smashed on the way home. 

We came home Friday morning after taking the red-eye Thursday night.  Our wonderful kids (KIH) made Shabbat for us (mostly) and the house was still standing when we got home (whew!).  I was inspired by a dish that we saw on the menu at Pat’s for Capellini con Spinacih - Angel hair pasta with spinach, shiitake mushrooms and roasted garlic in a light tomato sauce.  I decided to do a take on the dish for Shabbat, using angel hair rice noodles and left off the tomato sauce.  We loved the idea of fresh spinach, shiitake mushrooms and roasted garlic in a pasta dish.  By using the rice noodles we also make the dish Gluten Free (great for the GFE!).  I also added some toasted sesame oil and soy sauce to give the dish a little more flavor.  The roasted garlic in the dish was fantastic, added a lot of flavor, and roasting the garlic mellowed it and gave it a rich almost sweet flavor.  You also could add more spinach or mushrooms according to your family’s preference.  The pasta came out el dente, and we debated over Shabbat whether I should have added a little more toasted sesame oil or not.  I actually think in retrospect that if we wanted the noodles to be a little softer we could have added a little vegetable stock to the whole thing and sautéd the pasta dish until the stock was absorbed.  You can try it and let me know how it turns out!

Now we’re back home after a much needed time away and back to our personal rat race.  We’re a little rejuvenated but still looking forward to our next secret getaway in the far future.  Any suggestions?

Angel Hair Rice Pasta with Spinach, Shiitake Mushrooms & Roasted Garlic

8 ounces angel hair rice noodles
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (divided)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 ounces fresh spinach, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.  Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes until soft.  Wrap the whole garlic heads in a double layer of foil.  Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until soft.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Remove roasted garlic from the skins and slice thinly.  Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the shiitake mushrooms and sauté until soft.  Add the spinach and sauté until wilted.  Drain the rice noodles then toss with the vegetables, garlic, the remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, and the soy sauce.  Sauté until warmed through and the flavors are blended.

Finely slice the mushrooms...
 Soak the rice noodles...
 Wash, check & dry the spinach...
Sauté the mushrooms...
 Add the spinach...
 Sauté until wilted & tender...
 Peel the roasted garlic...
 Slice the roasted garlic...
 Add it to the pan...
 Add the pasta, toasted sesame oil & soy sauce.
Sauté until blended.
 So good you have to see it close up!

A few fun photos from our trip 
to the Farmer's Market..

Kosher Everyday is dedicated to the memory of my father
Dr. Theodore Saltzberg - Tuvia Ben Nachum Z”L
May his memory be for a blessing - Yihi zichro baruch.

Look for additional information about Edible Experience Kosher Everyday at,, Mishpacha Magazine’s Kosher Inspired Magazine,
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These recipes are for sole, personal use of visitors to Sharon Matten -Edible Experience Kosher Everyday. Edible Experience Kosher Everyday recipes are for your enjoyment but are not to be posted or reprinted without express permission from Sharon Matten. Thank you!!

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