When Erin Eastland was moving to Southern California from New York in 2005, it didn’t take her long to figure out that she wanted to call Santa Monica home. It helped that she and her family scoped out the city on a Wednesday. “We came upon the farmers’ market and I was like, ‘We’re done,’” says the mom of two, who is now executive chef at Milo and Olive, a cozy restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard that serves bakery-centric breakfast, and wood-fired pizzas and small plates inspired by that very farmers’ market for lunch and dinner.
Eastland and her husband, Rick, and daughter Eloise, 7, and son Lander, 5, are part of a large extended family where everyone pitches in to cook holiday meals. She shared a few favorite recipes that would be a great fit on any holiday table.
Cheesy Arancini with Roasted Tomato Sauce
(makes about 20 arancini)
You can use your favorite jarred tomato sauce, but this roasted tomato sauce is easy to prepare. Just roast the tomatoes, then crush. “It’s kind of fun, because my kids like to squash them,” says Eastland. She recommends using a deep fryer, if you have one, for the arancini – which can be rolled and breaded ahead of time, then frozen until you’re ready to fry them. If you are frying them in a pan, make sure the oil covers the arancini completely.
For the arancini
½ cup diced sweet onion
2 TBS olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
3-3 ½ cups hot chicken stock (homemade is best or low sodium)
½ cup apple cider or apple juice
1 TBS lemon juice
¾ cup parmesan cheese
½ cup fontina or softer gouda cheese
salt to taste
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
2 cups canola oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes or another thin-skinned sweet tomato
1 TBS fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, whole
¼ cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Start roasting the tomatoes. Remove the stems, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, sprinkle over the thyme and garlic. Roast at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours until tomatoes are very soft and mushy. Let cool, then crush with a wooden spoon. If the skins are still tough, remove them. The sauce should be slightly chunky. For picky kids, puree with the olive oil and garlic. Season and set aside.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, sweat the onions in the olive oil until soft but not brown. Add the rice and toast until it becomes opaque, about 5 minutes. Add the cider and lemon juice and cook until absorbed by the rice. Add one ladle of hot stock at a time and stir over medium heat until absorbed. You may not need all the stock. The rice should be cooked all the way through, but not mushy. Stir in the cheese, let cool slightly and then add the eggs one at a time. Store mixture in fridge for 2 hours.
Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to portion the cooled rice into about 1-ounce portions. Roll into balls, coat with the seasoned breadcrumbs and leave in the excess breadcrumbs to form a crust. Let sit in fridge in breadcrumbs for 30 minutes.
Heat the canola oil to 350 degrees. (It is best to use a candy thermometer to check the temperature.) Add a couple of breadcrumbs to see if they bubble and float. If they sink, the oil is not ready.
Fry the arancini in small batches until brown and very crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain oil.
Reheat at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until hot and the crust crisps up. Serve with the warm tomato sauce and grated parmesan if you would like more cheese!
Butternut Squash and Apple Pudding
This pudding is a staple at Eastland’s house and at the restaurant. All summer, they have it available with corn rather than squash. In winter, they do it with squash. Eastland just recently added the apples for her kids, because they like it a bit sweeter. Bake this pudding in a heavy-bottomed dish for even cooking, and make sure it is set (only wiggling slightly in the center) before you pull it out of the oven.
For the pudding
1½ pounds peeled cubed butternut squash
¾ pound peeled cubed apples
3 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper for roasting squash and apples
3 TBS unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus more for buttering pan)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 TBS flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 TBS honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
crème fraiche to finish
Sweet and salty toasted pumpkin seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 TBS olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat squash and apples in 3TBS olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast on same sheet pan until soft but not too brown, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the cubes. Let cool slightly.
In a blender or food processor add roasted squash, apples, eggs, flour and spices. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and carefully whisk in milk and cream.
Butter a 9-by-11-inch heavy-bottomed baking dish. Pour batter into the dish and bake 60-75 minutes until the pudding is set (doesn’t jiggle in the middle when lightly shaken and looks like cracks are forming on top) and light brown on top. Let cool.
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small pan coated with the olive oil until lightly brown and you can start to smell the seeds, about 8-10 minutes. Toss with the salt and sugar.
Serve the pudding warm, sprinkled with the seasoned pumpkin seeds and a dollop of crème fraiche.
Sweet and Creamy Polenta with Stewed Apples and Vanilla Ice Cream
This polenta isn’t just for dessert. “I actually make sweet polenta for my kids for breakfast,” Eastland says, adding that it’s really easy to make. “It’s basically like making cream of wheat.”
For the polenta
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 -3 TBS maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup fine-ground polenta
For the apples
3 cups small diced peeled apples
3 TBS butter
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp honey
3 TBS water
¼ tsp cinnamon
Your favorite vanilla ice cream.
Sauté the apples in the butter until they begin to soften, but do not brown. Add the honey and 3 tbsp water and cook on low heat until the apples cook through and the sauce forms. Add the salt and cinnamon and adjust with more honey if the apples are too tart. Let cool.
Make the polenta. Bring all ingredients except for the polenta to a simmer. Whisk in the polenta and continue to cook until the polenta is soft, creamy and thickened. You will need to add more milk or cream to reheat later if you are not serving the dish right away. If you prefer a sweeter polenta, add more maple syrup.
Serve the polenta warm in a bowls topped with the stewed apples and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.