Category Archives: Restaurant Recreations

Easy Mole and Shredded Chicken Recipe

A new recipe post! Today’s recipe combines two things I love… an easy shredded chicken recipe that is part of our weekly rotation and a prepared mole sauce from a small, female-owned business in Mexico that elevates leftovers into a semi-homemade meal in a snap.

easy chicken and mole plate (recipe)

I have used the Seasons of my Heart black mole and red mole and both are delicious. Here in San Diego, they are found in the retail section of Specialty Produce. I’ve thrown it on leftover Thanksgiving turkey, rotisserie chicken from the store, and our home cooked chicken (recipe follows.) Being a busy, working mom, I love having premade sauces I can throw on a protein and call a home cooked meal.

Seasons of the Heart Mole

If you want to doctor up the sauce, you can add extra unsweetened chocolate, chicken broth, almond butter, a tablespoon of butter… The instructions on the black mole actually call for a lot of ingredients and steps, including sautéing and chopping veggies, plantains, bread and pureeing in a blender. Ain’t no one got time for that. I usually just add a little of the cooking liquid from the chicken and call it a day. It’s that good as is!

Don’t have a Mexican mama in your kitchen using the 900 gagillion ingredients that go into mole? Don’t worry. You can have Susana Trilling as back up in your cupboard. She makes her moles and jellies in Oaxaca in small batches, certified slow food. And yummy.

easy chicken mole recipe

I also want to share Papa Bird’s new toy. I recently signed up as an affiliate with the Grommet, primarily because I saw the Bear Pawicon and thought it would be a perfect gift for my husband. Part meat shredder, part heat-proof food lifter, it makes him feel like Wolverine while prepping his weekly shredded chicken.

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My serving suggestion for the mole is a plate with brown rice, black beans, cotija cheese, cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, and (go for it) a fried egg. You might not even need the meat…

Easy Shredded Chicken Recipe
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
An affordable, quick way to have chicken ready to go for multiple recipes.
Ingredients
  • 1 package of chicken thighs (we use boneless/skinless)
  • 1 quart of chicken broth or water
  • 1 onion
  • 5 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • herbs/seasonings such as Mexican blend, or at least oregano and a bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rough chop veggies. Throw everything in a pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and up to pressure. Cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on your machine, or until done and fork tender. If starting with frozen chicken (totally works with a pressure cooker) increase cook time at pressure to 10-15 minutes, depending on your machine.
  2. Use the bear paws or two large forks to shred. Reserve the cooking liquid for broth.
Notes
If you don't have a pressure cooker, simply simmer for an hour.

Disclaimers: as mentioned, I am an affiliate of the Grommet, which means that if you purchase something off their site through a link on my site I may receive a small percentage for the referral. This particular product I personally bought and sincerely recommend. I am not an affiliate per se of Specialty Produce. If you go, please mention that “Baby Birds” sent you, but I don’t get paid per person. Full disclosure, they do hook me up. In fact, the first time I tried the mole sauce it was given to me for free. But I have since purchased it multiple times again!

Brunch at Catania

Ever since dining at Catania in La Jolla, I’ve been looking forward to returning. I was happy to accept an invitation to sample the new brunch menu last weekend.

Brunch at Catania Coastal Italian in La Jolla

Joining a group of friendly San Diego foodies, I sampled several of the new menu items. Our waiter brought out Two Eggs and Ham (above) and let us know the Italian sausage and Prosciutto Coto were made and cured in house. The tomatoes, like the arugula in the salad below, were planted and harvested by the restaurant staff at the Milagro vineyards. It sounds like a farm to fable boast but the veracity is backed up by my friend from Revolution Landscape and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Brunch at Catania Coastal Italian in La Jolla, CA

The Arugula and Eggs includes pancetta, roasted mushrooms and Pecorino Toscano. I swear I’m going to start putting a poached egg on top of my salad now. I’ve mentioned before in my “restaurant recreation” posts how I like to get ideas from restaurants. I love finding simple, easy things that I can replicate or add to my cooking repertoire at home. I know some people think putting an egg on top of everything is a food fad that is past its time, but in this case my eyes are totally open to how delicious it is on top of a slightly bitter green salad. Try it!

Italian brunch at Catania in La Jolla, CA

Next up we tried two dishes that are worth getting out of pajamas to let the chefs make for you: Veal Milanese, with eggs, tomato and toast, and (my favorite) Eggs All’Amatriciana, eggs baked in a delicious sauce made from tomatoes, guanciale, white beans, swiss chard and breadcrumbs. The sauce was cozy, and homey, and made you just want to keep eating.

We sat on the patio again. I love how the atmosphere can be casual and laid-back, while still being special. I sent some good friends to the Catania patio at sunset for their anniversary. This time I spied a stylish shopgirl run in for a quick bite solo, and later saw her in front of her shop, which is visible from the patio. The third story deck is poised for some of the best people watching in La Jolla.

Polenta Pancakes at Catania in La Jolla, CA

Can I make a confession? I had super amazing ricotta pancakes at home before going to the restaurant… Papa Bird is a pancake master. I usually request pancakes on Mother’s Day. The Little Birds ask for them at five days a week (and get them four.) Still, I had never tried Polenta Pancakes. These were dressed with an abundance of fall fruit (persimmon, pear, figs, blackberries), lemon syrup and mint, and were light and fluffy.

Farro Oatmeal with Pistachio Marscapone, persimmon, fig and currants

The Farro Oatmeal was also topped with persimmon and fig, along with currants, honey and cinnamon. For me, it edged out the pancakes by the inclusion of a pistachio marscapone. Which was every bit as creamy and decadent as it sounds.

What To Order at Brunch at Catania

My two picks for a perfect brunch would be the Eggs All’Amatriciana and the Farro Oatmeal. Go halvsies with a brunch date, or just show up solo like the shopgirl, order them both, and bring any leftovers home for your afternoon snack. Then again — lunch items are also available and it’s hard to avoid one of the seasonal crudos. Decisions are the worst.

Catania has self-serve coffee and nutella brioches on a side board. It makes the place seem more home-like and is perfect for those that come hungry and can’t wait to be served.

Today’s Restaurant Recreation Inspired by the Catania Brunch

Rice Pudding with Papaya, Pomegranate, Grapes and Honey

I thought I’d for sure be trying out the poached egg + salad for breakfast soon, but I ended up finding inspiration this morning from the farro oatmeal plating. I made my Baby Birds these two bowls of rice pudding with cinnamon, topped with papaya, pomegranate, grapes and local honey. It was a hit, in part because I had them help prep the fruit. If you follow my kids’ cooking posts, you’ll know my philosophy is to bring kids into the kitchen from infancy.

VISIT CATANIA

Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday until 3 pm.

Catania website

7863 Girard Ave, Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92037
(858) 551-5105

Click to add a blog post for Catania on Zomato

Go and Let Me Know What You Think!

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Fresh shishito peppers are in season. We received some in our most recent Farmers’ Market Box from Specialty Produce.* Shishito peppers are a small, mild pepper, very similar to a Padron pepper. Approximately every 1 in 10 is spicy, which makes eating them like a fun, culinary version of Russian roulette. When I lived in Spain, one of my most favorite tapas was pimientos de Padrón, in which the peppers were simply cooked with salt and pepper.

Fresh Shishito Peppers are in Season

When my sister and her family came down to help celebrate our Little Birds’ birthdays, we cooked up a batch. We were loosely inspired by the Shishito peppers at Mahe in Seal Beach, which are tempura fried and covered in a ponzu sauce with bonito flakes. We just seared ours in a hot pan instead of tempura battering them. Since we also ordered pomegranates from Specialty Produce, I let pomegranate take center stage in my ponzu. And to mimic the fishy hint from the bonito flakes we added fish sauce into our version of ponzu. Well they turned out great, so I picked up another batch of Shishitos from Melissa’s Produce at Sprouts and made it again.

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Don’t you love the look of our picnic table (above)? Papa Bird got the matte black look by charing (burning) the wood in the Japanese tradition of Shou Sugi Ban. It also preserves it from the elements. 

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu Recipe

Notes: 1. I made this once in a wok and once in a large frying pan, and I liked the frying pan better because I could get all of the peppers to fit in it, which made it easier to blister them evenly. You could also use cast iron or broil them. You want to cook them quickly on high heat so that they blister. If they are in the pan too long they’ll steam and get mushy. 2. I used avocado oil because it is a neutral tasting oil that is suitable for high heat. (It’s also good for you!) You could use grapeseed oil or another vegetable oil. 3. The peppers cook very quickly (just a few minutes) so have the sauce and other elements ready to go before you start them.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Shishito Peppers are blistered in a wok or pan, and tossed with a pomegranate ponzu made with pomegranate concentrate, soy, fish sauce and Go-Chu-Jang.
Ingredients
  • Shishito Peppers or Padron Peppers
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Go-Chu-Jang
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other light, neutral vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
  • pomegranate arils for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry peppers, discarding any that no longer appear fresh.
  2. Mix the pomegranate concentrate, soy sauce, fish sauce, gochujang, avocado oil and vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust according to your preference. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the pomegranate arils by pulling them out of a fresh pomegranate and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium high to high pan or wok. When it is hot add the peppers. You want them to cook quickly and hotly, so that they blister on the outside. You don't want them to steam, or sit too long. Once the peppers are cooked, pour about half the sauce to all of it (depending on how sting or saucy you like it) over the peppers and very briefly (30 seconds) continuing cooking.
  5. Remove from the heat, garnish with the pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

*Specialty Produce is the leading supplier of fresh produce to San Diego’s top restaurants. They also let retail shoppers (aka normal home cooks like me) buy from the warehouse and feature local farms in a weekly Farmers’ Market Box. If you use the group code BABYBIRD when signing up for a Specialty Produce Farmers’ Market Box account here, you will automatically have $2 taken off each box. For $20 – or $18 for you – it is a generous amount and variety of produce. I don’t receive any kickbacks, per se, on your purchase, but I not so secretly want to be invited to more of their events, so letting them know I sent you by using the code is very much appreciated!

Catania Coastal Italian: Aperitivos at the Latest La Jolla Restaurant from Whisknladle

Featuring San Diego restaurants has been so fun lately. Papa Bird and I have enjoyed every single meal we’ve shared at Prep Kitchen and Whisknladle. So when my friend, Cassidy, invited me to happy hour, or “Aperitivo,” at Catania Coastal Italian, the latest from Whisknladle Hospitality, “YES” was an easy answer. In addition to the excellent, peak of season food you might expect, Catania has a peaceful ocean view and laid back, upscale vibe.

Gorgonzola Cheese plate at Catania

Disclaimer: We were invited by the restaurant to sample the Aperitivo menu and craft cocktails. I wouldn’t share here if I wasn’t impressed and thought my readers would appreciate. The general manager, Steven, even invited the two of us behind the bar to view all the Italian liquors, wines and craft beers. Being old (well me, not Cassidy), married moms, we tried not to get into too much trouble.

Catania Coastal Italian - behind the bar

Aperitivo Menu at Catania

The menu changes frequently with seasonal availability, but my pick of the summer happy hour menu was easily the Gorgonzola (pictured at the top of the post). On my first bite, I swore it was the best gorgonzola I had ever tasted. And I take my cheese seriously. Yup, this is the girl that once made a version of Humbolt Fog at home. I grew up sampling everything in the Cheese Shop in Carmel; it was the only store ever that had a charge account for my family. Anyway, at $6 during happy hour, the cheese plate is a surprisingly good value (especially for the upscale location in La Jolla), and is accompanied by fried almonds, a nectarine mostarda, grilled bread, basil and olive oil. Yum!

aperitivo happy hour menu at Catania

We sampled, clockwise, from upper left:

  • Beef Heart Carpaccio ($6), arugula, parmesan and olive oil.
  • Grigliata Mista ($9), Suzie’s Farm squash, peppers, eggplant, basil pesto, and bread crumbs.
  • Gorgonzola ($6), fried almonds, nectarine mostarda.
  • Prosciutto and Melon ($6), ricotta salata, saba.

Prices listed are for the happy hour, which is daily, 3pm-7pm.

Craft Cocktails

In addition to an impressive collection of Italian wines and craft beers, the cocktails are mighty tasty. Luckily, we were with a group of friendly foodies, and were able to taste many of the cocktails.

craft cocktails at catania

I gravitated towards the Grigio Bianco (Gin, Carpano Bianco, Lemon, Thyme and White Wine), as I’m obsessed with vermouth bianco, even simply on the rocks. Our waiter’s recommendation was a Boulevardier, which was not actually on the menu, but replaced the gin in the Negroni (gin, Carpano Antica and Campari) with bourbon. Another favorite of the group was the Api E Radice (vodka, honey, roasted carrot and lemon). Pictured above is the Ciao Bella in the foreground (bourbon, seasonal jam, sweet vermouth, angstura bitters) and a Seasonal Bellini in the background. The Bellini was a little sweet for me, but I am not a Bellini fan.

roasted carrot cocktail and sunset at catania in la jolla

Above is the famous roasted carrot cocktail and roasted olives. The olives ($6) were roasted with rosemary, orange, garlic and chili flakes, and inspired me to start cooking my olives (see how below.) As long as you are taking advantage of the “Aperitivo” hours, from 3pm to 7pm, the craft cocktails range from $5 to $8– totally reasonable!

So I Was Invited for Happy Hour but Stayed for More

Since the little birds were safe sleeping at home with their papa, and the menu looked so tempting, I ended up staying on! On the recommendation of Steven, I ordered a Yellowfin Crudo, that came with avocado, jalapeño oil, and a melon-cucumber granita that reminded me of a refreshing summer drink.  It was amazing, light and cool, perfectly balanced in taste. New friends Laila and Cindy also shared a bite of their Peach and Prosciutto Crostini (below.) I reposted it on Instagram. By the way, I recently made my (four-year-old) Instagram account public and have been enjoying sharing quick glimpses of food and our urban homestead. Please follow!

Catania is Truly Farm to Table

I’ve written before about how every restaurant that boasts a farm to table garden is not all that. And more recently, San Diego Magazine highlighted outright fraud in an article entitled Farm to Fable. Catania’s fresh food is the real deal. I’m so glad I stayed longer and got to hear more. As our water served us a plate of squash roasted with walnuts, rosemary, honey and parmesan, he told us how he and the rest of the staff had planted the squash at Milagro Farms.

“Our waiter planted the squash he served us.” True #FarmToTable – tweet this

Small world, but our friend and neighbor, Ari of Revolution Landscape, happened to help Whisknladle Hospitality set up their garden at the Milagro Farm Winery. Ari told me that the owners of the restaurant group are also part owners in the winery. They recently developed a portion of the winery with produce for the restaurants, and brought in Revolution to get them started. He confirmed that the restaurant staff helped plant. So I can confirm that our waiter wasn’t just boasting!

Easy Recipe Recreations and Inspiration

I love getting inspiration for cooking when I dine out. Some restaurant dishes I can only admire and go back for. But others are easy enough to recreate. After eating at Catania, I threw some Kalamata olives in a hot pan with some rosemary from our garden and red pepper flakes. Along with Carpano Bianco on the rocks and Gorgonzola crackers, I enjoyed “aperitivo” watching my kids dip in their kiddie pool.

Fried Olives with rosemary and red pepper flakeswatermelon, burrata, cherries and hazelnuts

Above is an example of a restaurant recreation from last month, a burrata, watermelon, cherry and hazelnut salad, inspired by a similar appetizer at Kettner Exchange — another quick post and recipe I only shared on Instagram.

Visit Catania

Catania website

Suite 301, 7863 Girard Ave, San Diego, CA 92037
(858) 551-5105

Click to add a blog post for Catania on Zomato

Go and Let Me Know What You Think!

Grilled Baby Artichokes and an Awesome Cheese Board

Are you grilling for Memorial Day? Try these delicious grilled baby artichokes! Because they are small and tender, they do not have to be parboiled or steamed before throwing on the grill. I am also sharing some tips for creating an awesome cheese, nut and fruit board, in case you will be entertaining. (Or just like cheese, like me.)

grilled baby artichokes

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce who supplied many of the ingredients free of charge. The recipes, post and opinions are my own. You might remember Melissa’s Produce from my posts on Butternut Squash, Chick Peas and Black Rice with a Clementine Shallot Vinaigrette and Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar). I didn’t hesitate when Robert from Melissa’s reached out and asked if I wanted to try some of their latest products, like Clean Snax and the baby artichokes, and seasonal, exotic fruit and nuts.

cheese and nut plate with clean snax

First, the artichokes! I grew up in the Carmel/Monterey area on the Central Coast of California, which is the perfect climate for artichokes. I still remember eating the grilled artichokes at the Rio Grill in Carmel, and it’s been at least 15 years. They were slightly charred, and dripping in olive oil, garlic and salt. I actually had been wanting to grill artichokes for awhile, and was excited to see the baby artichokes from Melissa’s. Cutting into them, it was fascinating to see that some had no choke at all, and some had a little to cut out.

baby artichokes

Robert included Melissa’s new Hollandaise sauce, which made a tasty dipping sauce, along with our family’s favorite: balsamic yogurt. Other classics to try would be melted butter or garlic aioli. My mom used to do a semi-homemade take on aioli with garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise. The full recipe for grilled baby artichokes and balsamic yogurt sauce are at the end of the post. We used the same olive oil, garlic and thyme, to dress a chicken my husband rotisserie-grilled, which completed our meal.

grilled baby artichokes with hollandaise and balsamic yogurt sauce

Now for the cheese board….

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