An Outstanding Opening — for Free!

I’ll bet that no one had as great of a culinary kickoff to the week as I did.  I am happy to report that I was invited, as a food blogger, to the soft opening of Rita’s Ice.  I gladly accepted the invitation, and here I am at Rita’s Ice in Redondo Beach!

Wait a minute!  I want to make sure that you know the details of this thriving company.  Rita’s Ice is a superb dessert chain that is mainly on the East Coast, with over 500 locations, but in Arizona, Rita’s Ice is blowing away customers in only five locations.  In California, there are only two:  in Santa Clarita and here in our own Redondo Beach.

********

I do not have enough time to do a full write-up on this fantastic event tonight, but I’m taking many notes, and I promise I will soon.  But, for now, I am just posting a short notice to let my Southern California readers know that on Monday (April 8) and Tuesday (April 9), Rita’s Ice in Redondo Beach will be celebrating their opening by …

(DRUMROLL)

Get There Before This Beauty Melts!

… Giving away free Italian Ice!  So, go enjoy it!  You know you want to.  I am writing a Healthy Eating Habits post soon, but hey, we can all indulge once in a while, and going to Rita’s and having real fruit Italian ice might be one of the healthiest desserts possible.  So enjoy Rita’s Ice if you can and comment so those of us who can’t go can hear all about Rita’s Ice, Redondo-style!

*******

Rita’s Ice

403 N. Pacific Coast Highway, #101

Redondo Beach, California 90277

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ritasicesbla

Restaurant Camp, Day 1

Last week, I went to Restaurant Camp.  It was at Kitchen Kid Manhattan Beach, where I went for “Mangia, Mangia” Camp last year.  I had lots of fun, so I wrote a diary entry for each day.

July 2, 2012

Dear Diary,

Today was my first day at Restaurant Camp.  Wiley from last year was there, along with his adorable sister, Kylie.  I was so glad to know someone.  Then, I met the culinary coaches, Caryn, Leslie, and Melissa.  They were all so nice!  Next, we all sat down and mingled while waiting for our fellow campers.  I sat next to Kylie and across from a girl named Sabrina.  Instantly, Wiley, Kylie, Sabrina, and I clicked.  We were inseparable for Monday, and that didn’t change all week.

Next, we played the Name Game.  We had to think of a food alliteration, and then show the action used to prepare that food.  For example, I was Mashed Potato Meg, and I “mashed” some imaginary potatoes.  Sabrina, next to me, was Sherbet Sabrina, and she scooped and ate sherbet ice cream.  Across from me, Watermelon Wiley was chopping up some watermelon, and a girl named Crystal chose chocolate.  Yum!

After that, we all discussed the difference between fast food, casual restaurants, and fine dining.  We named examples for each of the three categories.  Like Burger King was placed in Fast Food.  Charlie’s in Santa Monica was placed in Casual, and Benihana was put under Fine Dining.  We had a whole lot of fun bringing up some of our favorite restaurants.

Then, we split up into three groups.  Wiley, Kylie, Sabrina, and I were Group 1, and we followed Leslie into the kitchen for the annual kitchen tour.  Because Wiley, Kylie, and I already knew the ins and outs of the kitchen, we talked a lot about “Mangia, Mangia” and aimlessly followed Sabrina and Leslie past the sinks, supplies, main table, spice rack, stove, oven, dishwashing sinks, knives, freezer, fridge, and the pantry.  Finally, it was time to transfer to Caryn for some restaurant designing.

“You are each going to design your own dream restaurant,” Caryn explained eagerly. “Here at my station, we will be figuring out our dream decor.  I have picked our different home, garden, and food magazines.  We are going to make collages in our notebooks.”

We were so excited to design and explore all of our hidden ideas!  Sabrina came up with a brilliant Italian/dessert cafe, and Wiley served multi-cultural wines.  Kylie had a super cool restaurant going on.  I read some of it, but she didn’t share much.  I had sort of the same idea as Sabrina.  I wanted a cafe with a dessert conveyor belt, but I would also have a special menu with savory entrees.  Overall, the collages were such a creative way to get inspiration.

We picked up our notebooks and pens and took them over to Melissa’s Menus.  We looked at menus and wrote our own.  I had lots of sugary desserts, like gelato, brownie, cheesecake, and other sweets.  Wiley decided to serve a dish from each country he imported wine from.  He had Greek wine, Italian wine, French wine, and wines from some other European countries.  Clever, right?  Sabrina decided on lasagna and pizza.  Her cafe sounded really good and very authentic!  On my menu, I had mostly the desserts I mentioned, but on my special savory menu, I had jumbo shrimp, some salads, and lots of other delicacies.  After much hard work, my hand was getting tired.  Finally, Caryn called out,  “Lunchtime!”

********

Stir, stir, stir, I thought to myself.   This Presto Pesto Pasta Salad was thick and chunky!  But, then again, it looked delicious!  The cheesy salad was combined with the perfect al dente farfalle and savory pesto to create an amazing comfort food, authentic Italian dish, and a delicious and healthy snack.

Next course was our own individual pizzas.  Mine was kind of layered.  This might sound not so good, but believe me, it was fantastic!  On mine, I put tomato sauce and cheese (of course) and covered it in mushrooms.  Now, I love oregano on my pizza!  So I put on a layer of oregano, then a layer of pepperoni.  Then oregano again.  Then parmesan cheese … AND DON’T FORGET OREGANO!   Then I added the perfect amount of pepper flakes and way too much paprika.  I had to take some — no, most — of it off.

At last, it was lunchtime.  A friend of mine, Ruby, made creamy tirimisu with her group.  It was so sweet and heavenly and perfectly desirable any day!  I even brought some home to my mom, along with leftover Presto Pesto Pasta Salad.

Cute little Stella and her group made a zucchini risotto, and guess what, I made the same recipe last year!

After our notably exceptional lunch, Melissa, Dylan, Ruby, Crystal, Sabrina, Stella, and I played “Guess the Spice.”  We tried a spice like coriander, nutmeg, or even garlic powder.  From smelling and tasting it, our nose and eyes told us what we had to guess it was.  Everyone had a lot of fun proving their sensory skills!

Unfortunately, by then it was time to leave.  I was so sad that the day was over, but there was always tomorrow.   See you then!

***********

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp

www.kitchenkid.com

Tel:  (310) 450-3462

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp: What a Week! :)

Me and Counselors Ashley and Cindy

Me and Counselors Ashley and Cindy

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a cooking class camp called Kitchen Kids.  This week was Italian Week, which was called “Mangia! Mangia!” meaning “More! More!”  I had so much fun learning the different ways to use different knives safely, how to core and seed or pit fruits, and lots of other things that were useful in the kitchen.  I made lots of friends, including Ellen, Jackson, Wiley, and Jocelyn.  Our counselors (Cindy, Ashley, and Sam) were incredibly nice, helpful, and experienced. 

Dream Bruschetta Bar - Yum, yum, yum!

Dream Bruschetta Bar - Yum, yum, yum!

My least favorite dish was the caramelized carrots, but they weren’t so bad.  Four of my favorite dishes we made were:  the bruschetta bar, the zucchini risotto, the fluffy potato onion soup, and the chocolate and cocoa powder truffles.  The bruschetta bar had three different kinds of bruschetta:  a ricotta cheese and chopped kalamata olive spread, a cannellini bean spread, and a tomato, garlic, and basil bruschetta (my favorite!).

Me and Some Friendly Campers

Me and Some Friendly Campers

 

On the first day of cooking camp, I made focaccia bread, basil pesto, and broiled zucchini and potatoes with parmesan crust.  Jocelyn and I worked on the whole wheat focaccia bread (which had basil) while Wiley and Jackson worked on the white bread focaccia (which was topped with rosemary).  Then, Wiley and Jackson worked on the pesto, and Jocelyn and I worked on the parmesan crusted veggies.  This recipe was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, my favorite Italian chef on Food Network.  Here is the delicious, kid-friendly, 3-step recipe:

Ashley, Ellen, and I At Work

Ashley, Ellen, and I At Work

Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes With Parmesan Crust

4 small new potatoes, red or white, about 1.5 inches in diameter

2 TBS butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 small zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise (about 1 inch wide by 5 inches long)

Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 grated parmesan

1.   Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and let them cool.  When cool, cut the potatoes in half.

2.   Place a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add the butter, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and let cook until the butter melts, about 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, season the cut sides of the zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper.  Carefully place the zucchini and potatoes, cut side down, in the melted butter.  Let them cook until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. 

3.   Preheat the broiler, and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle the tops with the parmesan.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and serve.

So good!  Makes 4 servings.

*****

The focaccia was a big success!  I enjoyed the crunch of the thin wheat more than the soft doughiness of the white bread, but I adored the rosemary’s strong delicate flavor.  Here’s the easy, four-step recipe:

Focaccia Bread Recipe

Flour for the work surface

1 1-lb package refrigerated white pizza dough

1 1-lb package refrigerated wheat pizza dough

12 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese

1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary needles

1 1/2 tsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the white focacccia:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Spray and 8 x 8 square pan with Pam or nonstick spray, and then gently press the dough into it.  You may also do a free-form loaf by stretching the dough into an 8 x 12 rectangle pan and placing it on a parchment-covered cookie sheet.

3.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Use your fingers to make dimples in the dough.

4.   Bake for 5 minutes, and remove from oven.  Brush the dough with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the garlic, rosemary, and asiago cheese.  Return to oven until golden brown, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the wheat focacccia:

Use the same steps as the white focaccia, just substitute wheat pizza dough for the white dough, and substitute basil for the rosemary.

******

The basil pesto was extraordinary!  I loved watching Jackson and Wiley make it in my rare free time; it seemed like tons of fun! 

The other group (Ellen, Erin, and Tyrell) made Giada’s marinara sauce (obviously adapted from Giada) and honey-drenched struffoli (adapted from Mario Batali).  I couldn’t believe that there were healthy vegetables in Giada’s marinara.  It was so good it could have been served in a restaurant!  Yum!  The honey-drenched struffoli (also known as Christmas fritters, or little round dough balls) was very well made, but I personally don’t love sprinkles, and they put rainbow sprinkles on top.

Jocelyn and I Serving Cheesecakes

Jocelyn and I Serving Cheesecakes

What a fun week at Kitchen Kids!  There is a camp in Santa Monica, California and one in Manhattan Beach, California.  I’m so glad I found one!  Thank you to Ashley, Cindy, and Sam for inspiring me to do even more cooking at home, and to all my fellow campers for helping me along the way!

***

 

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp

www.kitchenkid.com

Tel:  (310) 450-3462