scott on September 11th, 2014

This terrific and chill “salad” makes a perfect a Summer night meal packed with flavor and protein. A bit of Mexico, a touch of the Mediterranean and a whole lot of Cali freshness.

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scott on May 12th, 2013

This is a refreshing, chilled out Summer dish with the flavors of the Far East enhancing the noodle salad experience. It takes a little time to make, but the finishing bowl is well worth the effort.

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scott on February 14th, 2013

This is definitely not your Mama’s meatloaf. It’s packed with Thai/Vietnamese flavor and healthy protein to make this the perfect mid-week meal with morsels to enjoy the next day.

1 package ground Turkey

Half onion, chopped fine

3 scallions, chopped fine (save some rougher chopped greens for topping)

Handful cilantro, chopped

Handful mint, chopped (optional)

Lime zest

1 lime, juiced 

1 egg white

2 glugs of soy sauce

2-3 glugs fish sauce

Drizzle chili sauce (ie ketchup with a heat component)

1 t garlic salt

1 t ginger powder

1 t Chinese red pepper

1/4 C ground flax seed

1/4 C cup bread crumbs

Siracha (for topping)

Mix all ingredients together by hand and place into small rectangular baking dish sprayed with Pam. Drizzle top with siracha and rough chopped green scallions.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Check. Loaf is done if therm hits 160 degrees. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting into slices and serving with a spoonful of sambal or more siracha.

Baby bok choy, steamed for 4-5 minutes and drizzled with Yuzu vinegar, makes a nice side dish.

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scott on December 7th, 2012
Mercado carnitas

Mercado carnitas,
originally uploaded by Scott Schalin.

There seems to be two kinds of Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles: The low-key, hole-in-the-wall spots that feature authentic Mexican fare owned and operated by folks with ties to our neighbors to the South and the upscale, fancy takes on the fajita fare made possible by white folks with big bucks and bigger ambitions.

Mercado, a new place open now for about six months is the one anomaly – a high-aspiring, classy Mexican restaurant whose roots in owners and chef are of Mexican lineage (Jesse Gomez and Jose Acevedo, respectively).

The decor is classic open-air, communal seating with tables on two levels that all face 4th Street in Santa Monica and gives the place an almost New York busy vibe. The margaritas are drop-dead gorgeous and a couple bucks cheaper during daily Happy Hours (5-7pm Monday-Friday and 4-6pm on the weekends).

The refreshing Margarita de Jamaica features centenario rosangel, triple sec, fresh hibiscus and fresh sour. Dem Apples pours sacacuento silver mezcal, apples, lime juice and sidral mundet. Go spicy with La Picosa that muddles jalapeño lime and serrano peppers with fresh sour and the El Poblano favors mezcal with poblano peppers, lime juice, agave nectar and chipotle salt. Each drink is as distinctive as the next in addition to 70 tequilas ready for tasting.

The problem is certainly not the drinks, but the food that follows. It’s almost incredulous how terrible the repast is based on the professionalism of everything leading up to the meal: the drinks, the artsy atmosphere, the incredible service – all are let down by a major brain fart in the kitchen.

If you sit at the dining tables surrounding the main room, you can only choose from the dinner menu where every entrée is $20 and beyond. A better bet, is to sit at the bar or at one of three long communal tables where you can then order off the bar menu and get samples of several dishes for about $7 apiece.

A signature dish is their pork carnitas soft tacos which overindulge in onions you’ll bark up for hours after. Demeaning the meat further is a freezing cold dollop of guacamole dollop which renders the tepid meat downright cold.

The al pastor beef is oily and dripping with cheese on a pan-seared flour tortilla which makes the bites basically a messy beef quesadilla. Much worse is the Tacos de Jicama con Camarón – crispy Mexican sweet shrimp wrapped in a deep-fried leather slipper that tastes like something some stoner pulled out of the freezer and cooked up in his microwave. Imagine the worst shrimp tempura and leave it out in the air to coalesce its grease for 20 minutes. A pint of Valvoline thinks this dish is oily.

The best bite was a seasonal tamales stuffed with corn and queso fresco (uh, cheese) and diced smoked poblano peppers that had a unique smoky flavor drizzled with a tangy tomatillo sauce.

The place is only open for dinner, so your best bet is to drain a few signature margs, then cross the street to Border Grill where the high-end, urban class Cali-Mexico food is more thoughtfully prepared and welcomes the south-of-the-border flavors rather than deporting them.

1416 Fourth Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: 310-526-7121

scott on September 27th, 2012
steak salad

steak salad,
originally uploaded by Scott Schalin.

This is a simple and refreshing way to get tons of flavor and a major protein blast. The perfect mid-week meal.

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scott on September 27th, 2012
chicken salad sammy

chicken salad sammy,
originally uploaded by Scott Schalin.

Chicken salad sandwiches area deli staple but usually made with canned chickers and a heaping glob of mayo. Making this classic dish from scratch is fulfilling and healthy and a great way to get fresh-from-the-oven flavor on your bread.


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scott on September 13th, 2012
garlic-lime chicken & olives

garlic-lime chicken & olives,
originally uploaded by Scott Schalin.

This perfect weeknight bird is easy to prepare and lands on the plate tender and flavorful with a touch of Latin and Mediterranean influences. It’s hearty and super healthy. Serve over a bed of crunchy quinoa to fully soak up the excess juices and maybe a side of spinach.

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scott on September 7th, 2012



originally uploaded by Scott Schalin.

If you have come down with a case of the blues, nothing beats the flavors of the Bayou to overcome whatever ails y’all. Cajun food is rich in history, so deep in flavor and so overwhelming in comforting the soul that any Southern-steeped dish can have positively healing powers.

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scott on July 13th, 2012

What’s better on a hot summer day than making money wearing shorts and flip flops, sipping a margarita and playing games online?

Online gaming has become a multi-million dollar industry with players reaping the benefits of playing and winning without the expense of flying to Vegas or a Caribbean island.

One of the most interesting gaming sites is a veritable online Vegas. It features all your favorite table games like blackjack, roulette and craps along with a wide variety of fun and interactive slot games that have some of the highest payouts on the web. There are two ways to play – directly through any browser using their “Instant Play” program or you can download their state-of-the-art software to play directly from your desktop.

Either way, it’s a fun and potentially profitable way to spend a day…and night!

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scott on April 12th, 2012
Achiote chicken

Achiote chicken,
originally uploaded by Scott Schalin.

Achiote paste is a brick-hued tiny cube of Play-doh strength Mexican flavor. Available at most markets – and Latin shops for sure – it’s about the size of six bouillon cubes and renders chicken and some hearty fishes with earthy, semi-spicy tomato-y goodness.

The stark contrast between its formal Mexican flavor and the sweetness of the tangerine sauce here makes a perfect mid-week poultry pick-me-up to bland breasts. Oh and marinater beware – wear an old shirt and even an apron because this blood-red paste will permanently stain any cloth on contact.


Makes 4 servings

2 T achiote paste
1 T honey
1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 t cumin

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into about 8 evenly sized pieces (so they all cook the same)
Olive oil
1 C fresh tangerine juice (Valencia orange can be substituted)
Handful chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all elements of the marinade in a small food processor and blend until a malleable paste forms. (Add a little more vinegar or a dash of water if it needs additional moisture.) Place the chicken in a Tupperware and spread the marinade evenly all over the chicken breast mini-steaks. Let stand refrigerated for a couple hours. Turn every now and again.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in nonstick skillet large enough to accommodate all the chicken at once. Sprinkle breasts with salt and pepper and brown in oil turning once – about 2 minutes per side.

Add ½ C of juice to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Turn once halfway through.

When done, transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm with foil or set in a microwave. (not on, of course.) Add the rest of the tangerine juice to the pan and cook on medium-high uncovered until sauce thickens – about 4 minutes.

Serve chicken over fluffy, white rice and spoon sauce over breasts and rice. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Chopped Mexican squash (about 3) makes a nice side dish, when diced and tossed with olive oil, pepper, chicken seasoning and garlic powder. Then bake in a single layer on a foil-lined rake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes until soft. Ole!

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