Sqirl is a popular eatery on the east side of Los Angeles, and I try to go every time I’m in the area and the line isn’t crazy long. Weekdays are less crazy, and weird times are even less crazy. If you’re going at 11AM on a Saturday then just be prepared to wait.
Everything I’ve tried has been worth trying, including the sorrel rice bowl, the seasonal hash, stewed chickpeas with eggs, and the oft-grammed ricotta toast. It’s all simple and fresh and flavorful. Thumbs up!
While continuing my lifelong struggle to prep easy lunches ahead of time, I returned to a recipe I’ve been making version of for close to 10 years now. I’ve since lost the original, but it combined couscous, tomato, edamame, chickpeas, and feta. In the past I’ve mixed it up by using other, healthier grains, adding other veggies, and leaving out the cheese. The iteration I made today is pretty similar to the original (from what I can remember) and is full of protein. It will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge, and tastes equally great hot, cold or room temperature.
Chickpea and Edamame Quinoa Salad Serves 5-6
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes, no or low salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chickpeas
1 cup frozen edamame, defrosted and shelled
salt and pepper
1/2 cup feta or queso fresco cheese, crumbled
Combine the quinoa and the water in a medium pot and cook according to package directions.
Meanwhile, Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the edamame and cook for a few more minutes, stirring.
Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir. Season to taste. Add the crumbled cheese and stir. Serve hot or chill and serve cold. Keeps for up to 5 days in the fridge.
As much as I love food and to eat eat eat, one of my least favorite tasks is lunch prep. Sometimes I’m working from home and can whip up my meals when I’m hungry, but it inevitably takes too long and leaves less time for my lunch break. Leftovers like soup, rice dishes, and curries heat up quickly and easily, and when possible I fall back on these heat-and-eat dishes. But I often don’t have leftovers to lean on and I need something fresh instead. This brings us to meal prep: no-cook meals that are easy to make the night before and simply mix up and eat at lunchtime. The obvious choice is salad, but there are way more variations than you may think, and options that can be filling and flavorful.
Here are some combos to get to started. Simply use this as a jumping off point—you can mix and match based on your preferences and what you have available. If you’re still looking for ideas, I wrote a roundup a year ago about this very topic. These are in layering order, from the bottom to the top.
Asian Rice Salad
ginger, lime, and soy dressing + cooked brown rice + shredded cabbage and carrot mix + sugar snap peas + grilled tofu or chicken + sesame seeds
We’ve had visitor after visitor and I haven’t been cooking as much as I like, so I thought I’d write a little round-up of my current favorite places to eat and drink in LA (or really close to LA). This is in no way definitive and is subject to change at any moment, and the list is totally east side-biased. But all of these spots are worth a visit.
Lincoln in Northern Pasadena is a revelation in breakfast/brunch/lunch cafe fare. Everything I’ve eaten here has been wonderfully simple and simply delicious.
BS Taqueria in downtown has my current favorite happy hour. It’s only on weekdays which is a bummer, but they offer 4 really great cocktails for half price and $2 tostadas, which might be my favorite thing on the menu.
ETA is the new cozy-chic cocktail bar in town and is within walking distance of my house in Highland Park. Need I say more?
Ramen Hood in Grand Central Market has surprisingly delicious vegan ramen. Skip the vegan egg.
Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea serves up breakfast and lunch, including sandwiches on great bread. I had one of the best donuts I’ve ever eaten there (and I really love donuts).
China Tasty in Alhambra is worth the short car ride. They serve up huge servings of perfectly chewy hand-pulled noodles at low prices, and you can watch them being made through the glass. Bonus: it’s next door to an old school bowling alley.
Block Party is my current favorite beer and wine bar in Highland Park with a killer outdoor patio featuring shuffle board. They let you bring in your own food, too.
I’ve been obsessing over a salad lately, and it all started when I needed lunch now-now-now and cobbled together a few items I had handy. It’s a flavorful bowl of goodness that’s really nutritious but satisfying, comes together quickly, and allows for customization. Do it!
Kale and Quinoa Salad makes 1 salad
1 cup packed baby kale or torn kale leaves
1/4 of a lemon or lime, juiced
salt and pepper
1/2 to 2/3 cup quinoa, cooked (hot or cold)
1 large radish, chopped
1/4 of a pomelo, pith removed and cut into small wedges (1/2 a small grapefruit also works)
1 ounce of crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese)
1 handful golden raisins (or other dried fruit)
1 handful toasted almonds (or other nut)
Dress the kale with the lemon juice, a glug of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Add the quinoa to a bowl. Top with the kale followed by the radish, pomelo, feta, raisins, and almonds. Eat it!
While attempting to cobble together a weekday lunch, I peered into my refrigerator to find a few eggs and a mostly full bag of spinach. I snagged a sweet potato and clove of garlic off the counter and a meal was born—one that was good enough to share with you.
Sweet Potato and Spinach Hash with Fried Eggs
1 large sweet potato, cut into small, 1/2″ cubes
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
1/2 to 1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach
1 oz crumbled feta cheese
4 fresh eggs
Add 1 cup of water to a large skillet and heat over high heat. Once bubbling, add the sweet potato cubes and spread out into a single layer. Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing once, or until about halfway cooked through. Drain the potatoes and wipe out the pan.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add a glug of olive oil. Return the potatoes and toss to coat. Add the paprika, chili powder, and salt and pepper and toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes don’t put up much resistance when poked with a knife. It’ll take about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a glug of oil in another skillet over medium-high heat. Add two eggs (or four, if your skillet is real big) and fry until over-easy. I cover the pan with a baking sheet to cook the whites through. Just make sure you check often and remove the eggs when the bottoms are crisp but the yolks still giggle. Repeat until all four eggs are fried.
Add the garlic and toss, cooking for one minute. Add the corn, if using, and stir. Add the spinach and toss, stirring and cooking until the spinach is completely wilted. Test the potatoes to make sure they are tender enough.
Split the hash between two plates and top with crumbled feta cheese. Top the hash with eggs and serve with hot sauce for anyone who likes that sort of thing.
Last weekend we took a short trip to the Arts District in downtown LA to try Guerrilla Tacos.
They’re menu changes on a daily basis, but they usually post it on their site and Twitter. Most days they’re in front of one of two coffee shops downtown, but certain days they’re in Culver City or Silver Lake. Again, all on their site.
They have a limited, rotating menu, and the day we went they were serving shrimp and potato tacos with a chile morita, sweet potato tacos with feta and fried corn, mortadella tortas with pinto beans and avocado, and an ahi tuna tostada. We ordered everything but the tostada.
The torta was huge, with the thickest slice of mortadella I’ve ever seen, a slice of queso, beans, arugula, avocado, and aioli all on a crusty bun. My husband devoured it.
The sweet potato taco was lightly sweet and creamy, with gooey cheese, a bit of crunch, and a lightly spicy sauce.
The shrimp taco had huge grilled shrimp, crispy and creamy potatoes, lemony greens, and a really tasty sauce. Actually, it was all really, really good. We’ll be back again and again.