Tuesday, December 30, 2008

really easy...really good

Wanna know a simple, delicious recipe for tomoato sauce? Read about my answer to that question at dc foodies. Marcella Hazan, you're my hero.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Buddha Bar

The scoop:

Vegas' Hottest Sushi Bar & Lounge is Coming to DC! Buddha Bar has just signed a lease at 455_Massachusetts Avenue, NW. The building is owned and managed by ASB Real Estate Investments. This 9,348 SF restaurant and bar will be the place to be seen in DC and is famous for its sushi, Pacific Rim cuisine and traditional Chinese dishes featuring a French influence.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm a baking fool.

It's the time of year that I spend all day thinking about what I'll be baking when I get home (my boss isn't reading this, right?) I've spent hours watching Love Actually and listening to Harry Connick Jr.'s Christmas album. There is a serious amount of holiday cheer.


Here's what I've made:
-gingerbread with an egg nog glaze. topped with sweetened coconut (recipe to come)


On the horizon- chocolate chips cookies and, my favorite, saltine toffee cookies. These are easy to make and satisfy that salty-sweet tooth that rears it's festive head this time of year. I hope you're having as much fun as I am! If not, don't fret! Homemade cookies are coming your way!

Monday, December 15, 2008

cook books= the best gift in the world (trust me)

I went to Border's last week to pick up a few holiday gifts for loved ones. Like a tractor beam, the cook book section drew me in. If you ever see me in a book store, you'll recognize me by my dumb grin and growling stomach as I pick up, flip through and reluctantly put down a variety of cook books.

While I cannot yet reveal the cook books I've purchased for loved ones (because they may actually be reading, which would explain the 10 hits and 2 followers my blog has today) I'd like to share this article I read about this season's top books/gifts...any of which I would be thrilled to recieve (hint, hint).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I want for Christmas

It seems like foodies everywhere are putting together (and putting out there for the public) their Christmas wish lists. The Washingtonian’s got this list, Chow is suggesting you pick up these kitschy mugs, and Better Homes suggests an all-in-one coffeemaker for serious cooks.

In order to stay hip (always a top concern of mine) and keep up with my fellow writers, here are a few items I’m hankering for this holiday season:

The Professional Chef- for the dreamer in me. I’ll probably never be a pro, but that doesn’t stop my yearning for knowledge, my appetite for cooking or my passion for feeing the people I love. This is a serious reference for a serious reader with a serious passion. (Me, me me!)

Immersion Blender- I cranked out some serious soups this year and don’t plan on stopping! However, an immersion blender would make the process a lot smoother. And I mean that quite literally – taking out that extra step of transferring small amounts of my chunky soup to a food processor, then to a bowl, then back into the pot when it’s all done would be a real time saver. Not to mention the texture of soup greatly improves with this gadget.

Mini Burger Tools- while making sliders the other night, I thought to myself- wouldn’t these be even more adorable if they were perfectly uniform? Sur La Table to the rescue. Check out this great set of tools to create your own sliders. And yes, I like my sliders extra adorable. Sue me.

Make your own Animal Crackers- If you read my column at DCFoodies.com, then you know I’m obsessed with making things that you’d normally buy at the grocery store. These little cookie cutters would be a perfect way to recreate one of my favorite childhood snacks.

Cookbook Holder- This is one practical, essential item I’ve yet to purchase. Yet every time I cook, I wish I had one. Self deprivation is one of my lamest habits.

Handmade Platter- My garlic stuffed olives, cheese with tomato tapenade and salami are just DYING to be served on this thing. Won’t you help them?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

White Potato Pie

Relive a childhood memory (and office pot luck nightmare) with me here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday stress? No way, Jose!

Check out this article about ways to cut down on holiday stress, costs, and cooking. Yours truly contributed a few thoughts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

leftovers to hold you over

I’m always up for a culinary challenge. I mean, who am I kidding? I’m not Top Chef material, here. If you gave me wagyu beef, skittles and canned pinto beans you’re not getting a masterpiece from me.

But I do like to think that I’m rather sharp at taking regular refrigerator items and random leftovers and turning them into something fun and tasty.

So I started thinking about all the things you can make out of….just about anything. Steak becomes stir fry, chicken becomes cobb salad, risotto becomes risotto balls. Here’s what I’ve got. Please feel free to add your own:

Fried Rice- if you’ve got celery, carrots, onion, rice and an egg (and you know, oil and soy sauce), you’ve got fried rice. You can add any meat or other veggie, too.

Omelets- eggs taste great with just about anything. When I met my husband, he scored big (ahem) with a ranch dressing, maple syrup and cheese omelet that he claims was his bachelor stand by. I know, it sounds gross. But it worked. (and look at us now)

Wraps- toss lettuce with cheese, veggies, leftover chicken, rice or anything else and smother it into a tortilla. Or if you want to fool yourself into thinking your being “healthy”, take the same ingredients and put them over the lettuce…you’re eating a salad…oh, and cut those tortillas into triangles, brush them with oil and salt and broil them for a few minutes. They’re perfect with the salad.

Pureed soup- any veggie can be cut up, mixed with chicken stock, cooked like hell, and then pureed into a gorgeous soup with a food processor. I’ve tried zucchini, peas, butternut squash, white beans, lettuce…

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Much love for Food Buzz

If you haven’t checked out foodbuzz.com please do. You will not regret it. This site is packed full of passionate foodies, educated chefs and just plain good people. Last night I met a group of them at Central, Michel Richard’s more casual take on French food. What could be better than tender lamb shank, red wine and hours of conversation with like-minded food obsessors?

Nada.

Cheers to my new friends!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marvin

If there’s anything that makes up for a rainy, chilly night, it’s Marvin. A blend of Belgian comfort food and good beer set to the rhythm of toasty funk provided serious remedy for Saturday night’s storm. Lucky for me it’s just a short walk away from my apartment.

I’d heard the place could get a little crowded (and experienced it first hand at a recent happy hour), so I tried for a last minute reservation. They couldn’t accommodate us at 6:30, so we hustled out the door to make a 5:30 reservation, the only thing they had available.

We started out with Hoegaarden, but our waiter was quick to recommend De Konink…and after a few sips, we were quick to order a round of that. And another.

Our waiter went two for two when he recommended the halibut, which my husband devoured. And the house bread was a perfect sponge for the onion puree that accompanied it.

I couldn’t get enough of the mussels served in shallots, fennel, and white wine. But then I remembered the other half of moules frites- the frites.

Now I may not be an authority on french fries but I do have my favorites around the city. Bistrot du Coin, Lavandou, and Five Guys top my list. Marvin’s now has a place on that list. A good cut, a salty finish and a fried texture without too much oil stuck to my fingers afterwards, served with two types of mayo and your basic tomato ketchup.

We also tried the duck confit, which left me dreaming about those pickled beets and looking for a recipe. I mean the duck was fantastic, but nothing beats beets and chevre, right?

Right.

Marvin
2007 14th Street, NW
202-797-7171

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

I’m wearing a sweater. My new Uggs are getting major mileage already. And last night, I think I slept in a sweatshirt (well, I feel asleep with it on. Who knows what time I peeled it off).

With cold weather dangling its cute little self right over our heads, I’d say it’s high time to make some soup. This week I ventured into butternut squash. Here’s a simple puree that will leave you feeling toasty and satisfied.

6 tablespoons chopped onion
4 tablespoons margarine
6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
3 cups water
4 cubes vegetable bouillon (low salt)
1 (8 ounce) package low fat cream cheese
Salt to taste
Powdered ginger to taste

In a saucepan, sauté onions in margarine until they’re tender and turning golden. (Don’t let them get brown). Add the squash, water and bouillon. Bring to boil; cook about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
Puree the squash and cream cheese in a blender or food processor in batches until smooth. Return to saucepan, and heat through. Add salt and ginger to taste. Do not allow to boil.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Burgers- Ole!

I made a great burger last night, so I thought I’d share. I served my burgers with fresh corn, sautéed till toasty brown with a little butter and salt…these awesome pyramid shaped salt crystals I got last week at Williams Sonoma (and I really have been meaning to blog about that trip, because I learned a few handy knife tricks in a complimentary knife skills class…this Sunday’s class is cookie making). But enough about that! The burger recipe is an adaptation on one that I found on the Food Network site. I made some changes, including no jalepeno chiles (hubby don’t like peppers. Bad fraternity incident). And toasted a ciabatta loaf (in the pan that I made the burgers in) for make shift buns. Yum.

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 (2-ounce) piece Monterey Jack, cut into 10 pieces
salt & pepper
For the guacamole:
1 large avocado
¼ cup sour cream
salt

Directions
Divide it into five pieces, shaping each into a ball, and with your thumb make a depression in the center. Fill each depression with 2 pieces of the cheese and form the meat around the cheese mixture into a patty. Season the hamburgers with salt and black pepper and grill them on oiled hot grill pan for 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare meat. If you don’t have a grill pan, a sauté pan will do just fine.
Make the guacamole while the hamburgers are grilling: Halve, pit, and peel the avocado. Put pieces in a food processor, and add sour cream and salt.
Transfer the hamburgers to the buns and top them with the guacamole.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Columbia Heights Day

If you’re in my 'hood this Saturday, you’ll be happy to know that area restaurants are helping to celebrate Columbia Heights day. Here’s a list of the specials:

Wonderland Ballroom: Happy Hour all day
Red Rocks Pizzeria: Happy Hour all day
The Heights: Special Menu
Commonwealth Gastropub: Columbia Heights Cocktail
Tonic: $4 Yeungling and 50 cent chicken wings (minimum 6)
Pete's Apizza: $5 Pint and Slice

Here’s my perfect excuse to check out Commonwealth! Check out this review on DC Foodies. A schedule of events is available on this web site. See you there!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Carba-licious

I'm like Fergie- they be lining down the block just to watch what I got (in the oven).
Dunno what it is, but I've been in a doughy sorta mood lately. Check out my recent posts on DC Foodies for gnocchi and soft pretzels...mmmmmm.....flour.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thirsty for politics?


Look no further. Check out this article I wrote for the Staten Island Advance about DC's affinity for the red, white and blue...cocktails, that is.

Do You Like Your Politics Straight Up, or With a Twist?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Free classes at Williams-Sonoma

Getting mail (as in, real, paper, snail mail) is one of life’s little pleasures. This week has been full of those- Food and Wine and the new Williams-Sonoma catalogue hit my mailbox and have my taste buds watering.

Did you know Williams-Sonoma holds free cooking classes? Our friends at the Mazza Gallerie store have a variety of classes this fall, including Knife Skills (October 5 at noon) and Cookies and More (October 12 at noon). I’ll be at both. I wonder if the other participants will find me dorky if I bring the new apron my mom just made me. It's covered in cherries and have a ruffly bottom. And pockets. Seriously, I'm very cute in this thing.

If you’d like to sign up for these classes or inquire about the other free classes available (which include Comfort Foods, Cocktail Mixology and Make-Ahead Meals), you can reach the helpful people at the Mazza store at 202-237-1602. Other stores are participating, as well. This month’s catalogue has a complete listing of classes.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 5, 2008

R is for Oysters

“Obviously, if you don’t love life you can’t enjoy an oyster.”
-Eleanor Clark, The Oysters of Locmariaquer

I saw this quote in an ad a few weeks ago, and it prompted me to learn about Clark's book, which is now on my "to do" list. It also made me hungry for oysters (and yes, I do love life) but I found myself looking for an “r” in August, to no avail.

You’ve heard that old saying, right? Don’t eat oysters in a month that doesn’t have an “r” in it. I’m not saying it’s true, but I am saying that in general, when it comes to advice, folklore and general wisdom about seafood, I take heed. One bad experience with mussels in Belgium (and the week following that ordeal) where enough to teach me a lesson.

In case you’re wondering, I found this article, from the Seattle Post, which explains that in May, June, July and August, Oysters are spawning, which takes a lot of energy. “During reproduction, an oyster consumes the energy stored in its plump little body to aid in its heroic and taxing effort. The result is a tired, flaccid, mushy oyster with a milky appearance.”

The author writes that it’s really okay to eat oysters in the summer, and you’re not going to die from eating one. “It's that they're, er, busy and, as such, not at their prime for eating.”

Well, September is here, and friends, I found my “r”. So oysters it is. As if those slippery little suckers weren’t well enough alone, or with a little Tabasco (or vodka! Yum!) here’s a recipe I found on epicurious.com for Oysters Rockefeller, a dish so rich that it was named after one of the wealthiest men in the US, John D. Rockefeller.

Ingredients
3/4 cup firmly packed watercress sprigs (2 oz before discarding coarse stems), finely chopped
1 1/3 cups firmly packed baby spinach (1 1/3 oz), finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion greens
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced celery
3 tablespoons coarse fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a day-old baguette)
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liquor
Pinch of cayenne
3 bacon slices
About 10 cups kosher salt for baking and serving (3 lb)
20 small oysters on the half shell, oysters picked over for shell fragments and shells scrubbed well

Directions
Toss together watercress, spinach, scallion greens, parsley, celery, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bread crumbs in a bowl. Melt butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then add watercress mixture and cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in Pernod, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer mixture to a bowl and chill, covered, until cold, about 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

While watercress mixture chills, cook bacon in cleaned skillet over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, then drain on paper towels and finely crumble.

Spread 5 cups kosher salt in a large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and nestle oysters (in shells) in it. Spoon watercress mixture evenly over oysters, then top with bacon and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons bread crumbs. Bake oysters until edges of oysters begin to curl and bread crumbs are golden, about 10 minutes.

Serve warm oysters in shells, nestled in kosher salt (about 5 cups), on a platter.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fried Ravioli

It’s been a while since I’ve written…that doesn’t mean it’s been a while since I’ve cooked! It just means I’ve been cooking up a storm without stopping to jot anything down.

First there was a baby shower, then a visit from the in-laws, and a few restaurants in between. There was zucchini bread, brownies, mini muffins and heart shaped butter. There was fried ravioli. There was 100 fried ravioli, grouped in twos, placed carefully in little takeout boxes.

And that’s where I’m going with this entry…fried ravioli. Usually when I make these, I use mini ravioli, but my mom did the shopping (and purchasing) this time, so no complaints from me. We’ve made these many times for guests, and there are never leftovers, but always compliments. Granted, I should make my own ravioli (and I promise, I’ll do that soon. Seriously. I swear.) But the store bought frozen variety just work so well.

The recipe comes from Giada DiLaurentis’ Everyday Pasta – a book that’s become a staple in my kitchen. It’s no Molto Mario, or Joy of Cooking, but it’s a reliable place to turn when company or winter weather are coming around the corner.

Ingredients
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
1 box store-bought cheese ravioli (about 24 ravioli-small and large work well, but the large ones take a bit longer to cook. But then you probably knew that already.)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan marinara sauce, heated, for dipping (optional)

Directions
Pour enough olive oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F.

While the oil is heating, put the buttermilk and the bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Working in batches, dip ravioli in buttermilk to coat completely. Allow the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bowl. Dredge ravioli in the bread crumbs. Place the ravioli on a baking sheet, and continue with the remaining ravioli. I recommend getting all the ravioli coated before you start cooking them.

When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain…I find it easiest to do this with tongs.
Sprinkle the fried ravioli with Parmesan (before they’ve cooled completely) and serve with a bowl of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

MFK Fisher

“Central heating, French rubber goods and cookbooks are three amazing proofs of man's ingenuity in transforming necessity into art, and, of these, cookbooks are perhaps most lastingly delightful.”


-M.F.K. Fisher

Fisher, who passed away in 1992, wrote more than 20 books and published two volumes of journals. Her books dealt with the prepartion, history and philosophy of food. Here's one of the recipes from her book, How to Cook a Wolf:

FRITTATA OF ZUCCHINI

In her words: “This frittata is a good dish. It can be made with almost anything: string beans, peas, spinach, artichokes. Cheese can be sprinkled over it. [As an older and easily wiser frittata cook I almost always, these richer days, add a scant cup of good dry Parmesan cheese to the eggs when I mix them. Often I add rich cream, too. How easy it is to stray from austerity!] Different kinds of herbs like sweet basil, summer savory, on and on, can change its whole character. And with a glass of wine and honest-to-God bread it is a meal. At the end of it you know that Fate cannot harm you, for you have dined.

Ingredients
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion or 3 green onions
1 clove garlic
5 small zucchini
1 large fresh tomato (or 1 cup solid-packed canned tomatoes)
1 tsp herbs, including parsley, sweet marjoram, or thyme
9 eggs
Salt and pepper

Directions
Heat oil in skillet and cook minced onion and garlic slowly in it 10 minutes. Add zucchini cut into thin slices. Add peeled and cut-up tomato, seasoning, and herbs. Cover, and cook until vegetable is tender. Take from stove and cool.

Beat eggs lightly, season, and mix with cooled vegetables. Pour back into skillet, cover tightly and cook over a slow fire until the edges of the frittata pull away from the pan. If the middle puffs up, prick it with a long sharp knife […or better yet, pull away from sides once or twice with large spoon, to let the soft middle flow outward].

When it is solid, brown lightly under a slow broiler flame in a preheated oven, cut in slices like a pie, and serve at once.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How 'bout them 'maters?

This weekend I made salsa featured in a recent Bon Appetit. You may not need a magazine to tell you how to make salsa (Tomatoes! Onions! Duh!), but if you’re looking for a new mix of veggies and spices to pile on tortillas, look no further. This recipe has it all- the fresh bite of summer produce, the spicy zip of smoked paprika and the sweet tang of red wine vinegar. Although, I did cut out the olives (because we have an olive hater in the house).


There was a little bit left over from a night with friends, and as I made salmon (with olive oil, garlic and capers) the next day, I thought, wouldn’t this salsa taste great if I pureed it and used it to top the salmon?

Sometimes I’m full of great ideas.

It seems the Washington Post thinks so, too! Check out this week’s food section, which is full of recipes for “tomato mousse” and the many ways to use it. Tomato mousse…who knew? I thought I was just getting crafty with leftover salsa.
And I totally agree with Andreas Viestad:
“The better the tomato, the less it should be subjected to cooking.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Orange Flower Wha?

While recently browsing one of my favorite sites, chefshop.com, I came across Clotilde Dusoulier’s (of Chocolate and Zucchini fame) “pantry”, or list of items she loves and recommends on the site (and yes, I can only hope that one day chefshop.com asks me to create my own pantry. But isn’t that every girl’s dream?)

Clotidle picked some real winners – dried coconut tops my list – and a few items I may disagree with (but hey, it’s her pantry! And she’s the one with a cookbook!) but I was most intrigued by her choice of orange flower water. A few months ago I purchased a bottle for a ricotta pie recipe that turned out not-so-hot for other reasons I addressed here. And so, with a failed (or at least not-so-hot) pie attempt and little interest in other uses for orange flower water, the tiny blue bottle was pushed to the back of the cabinet.

It surfaced against this weekend as I searched for ingredients to add to my granola bar recipe (and no, I didn’t put any in the granola.)So I find it fortunate that I noticed her pick today. Clotidle writes that a few drops of orange-flower water go a long way. It can be used to enhance fruit (like apricots, figs, strawberries, pears, or bananas. She recommends adding a few drops to fruit salads, fruit pastries or crêpes. My favorite suggestion (and the one I’ll try out tonight) is adding half a teaspoon of orange-blossom water to salad dressings. I’m always looking for something to spice up my favorite green salad.

Here’s a few other uses I found online:
To make a Victorian martini, add several drops of orange flower water to gin and vermouth.
Add it to your iced tea
Try using it in a Greek recipe, such as Kritika Patouthia.
Add a tablespoon into a rice pudding recipe

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm so granola

Really I'm not. I mean I recycle and I walk to work, (and I'm even polite to the Greenpeace people that smile too much and bother people on corners all over the city) but I also shower way too much, blow out my hair way too much, use way too much nail polish and have WAY too many shoes. But sometimes it's fun to pretend!

What I am is in love with this granola recipe...check it out on DCFoodies.com.

(I bet these cuties looove granola)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zucchini Blossoms

I’ve got this great dad, see, and every once and a while my mom drags him down to DC for a visit. It’s not like he doesn’t like me, it’s more like he abhors the traffic.

And I get that – he was born and raised in Delaware (like me) and has chosen to stay there his whole life (unlike me) and rather enjoys his short commute and plethora or parking options whenever he goes (really, really unlike me).

So when he comes to town (and you, too, mom) I want it to be extra-special. Brunch at Crème, mussels at Bistro du Coin, wine on our roof deck. Chewy chocolate chip cookies that stay uncovered on the counter, eaten between every meal. And special items picked with care from our farmer’s market.

I grew up with a garden, (courtesy of my dad’s sweat and hard labor) that stretched along the side of our acre-long backyard. So unlike now, as I have to pay premium prices and wake early to get the best of the produce at the market, as I child I merely walked outback with a bucket and started picking. I hope one day I can share the passion of gardening with my own children, the feeling of accomplishment as the first cabbage heads pop up, the carrots start to sprout, the beans are strung neatly on vines, placed in pods like pearls. The satisfaction of biting into a juicy red tomato or a fried green one. But for now I’ll rely on my market for fresh vegetables. And I’ll plot and plan. (Or, plan my plots!)

This weekend’s family visit (and simultaneous visit to the farmer’s market) called for zucchini blossoms. Beautiful, yellow leaves surrounded by pale green pricklies. Now I know that last month’s issue of Bon Apetit taught us that stuffing these lovelies with cheese was a bit passé, but it’s also incredibly delicious. And I’m pretty sure my dad’s not that concerned with being cool, anyway.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta Cheese
(Inspiration borrowed from Mario Batali’s Fiori di Zucca Fritti, naturally)

Ingredients
12 zucchini flowers
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (I prefer to make my own, or use Keswick Creamery’s)
1 egg
1 small or medium onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground sea salt
Dash of ground black pepper
1 large golden tomato
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Basil leaves (fresh if you have them, but dried works fine)

Directions
Open the zucchini flowers and remove the stamens. Be careful not to rip the flowers. I found fishing it out with one or two fingers worked best. The stamens snap pretty easily.

In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, onion, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Using a small spoon or scraper, stuff each blossom with the filling. Try to ensure that the filling is far enough into the flower that it won’t spill out too much into the pan when cooking. You may want to arrange the tips of the petals over the filling on the top, creating a cap. This will help with spillage, too. Set aside.

Chop up the tomato into cubes. Combine the tomatoes, ½ cup of the olive oil, vinegar and basil leaves in a blender and blend until smooth (the mixture will appear creamy). Pour the mixture through a strainer set over a bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Place 3 or 4 flowers into the pan and cook (spread them out and only cook a few at a time…they’re delicate when flipping and need the room), turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining batches.

Arrange 3 or 4 blossoms in a shallow serving bowl, and drizzle with the tomato dressing to serve.

I served these with a baguette, which was perfect for soaking up extra tomato sauce.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Peachy Caramel Coffee Cake


Is it ever really too hot to turn on the oven? It’s an issue surrounded by much controversy, really. You’ll read articles that tell you to take it easy in the summer, grill out, eat raw fruits and vegetables and keep your oven cooking to a minimum.

I’ve never been one to follow the rules.

My oven is always on…and I’m not even that crazy about my particular oven. In fact, I’ll venture to say that when I get a new oven, I’ll be lethal. No beef will go unbraised. No cookie will go unbaked (you hear that, New York Times cookie recipe? I’m talking to YOU).

If you’re tough…like me…and don’t use the 90 degree heat as an excuse to stay out of the oven, (or if you live in a small condo with no yard, thus no grill…and yes, this blog entry is really about the fact that I’m extremely bitter that I do not have a grill) this one’s for you.

Peachy Caramel Coffee Cake...because even tough guys like me love peaches.
(modified from Upside Down Coffee Cake, from Allrecipes.com)
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
3 1/2 cups fresh peaches, pitted and sliced thin
2/3 cup margarine
1 1/3 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Extra Topping (optional)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. You’ll need a deep sided 10 inch pan, like this one for this cake, because it rises a lot…If your pan has a removable top like mine, you should place it on a cookie sheet to bake.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then pour into the deep sided pan. Place sliced peaches on top of the brown sugar and butter topping.
In a large bowl, cream together 2/3 cup margarine and the white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Pour batter over caramel and fruit in pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and carefully remove pan. Don’t be afraid if some of the caramel and fruit juices leak out of the pan…that’s why you used that cookie sheet!

You may want to consider making a little extra caramel topping to drizzle over the cake when it’s done baking. I would make this while the cake is cooking…you don’t want to make it too early on in the process, because the caramel can get hard pretty quick. This is a dense, sweet summer cake, and if you want to take advantage of the beautiful peaches, ripening as we speak, try this recipe.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Glorious Corn

By some strange coincidence, I found out I was not allergic to corn and started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma around the same time. The significance of this is that I have been allergic to corn for most of my life, always wearing a frown around corn on the cob season, missing out on mouthfuls of buttery popcorn at the movies, and suffering from asthma attacks when I just couldn't take it anymore, and ate a whole bag of Doritos (okay, so this may have happened a few times).

So I went to the allergist, got 60 shots (yes, that is 6-0 as in SIXTY and yes, it hurt), and found out I’m allergic to about 25 new things, but I’m no longer allergic to corn!!!

Enter The Omnivore’s Dilemma- a book about the American food chain, all of which can be inevitably linked back to corn. Now, there are some pretty disturbing facts about corn in this book; how it’s been chemically manipulated, how it’s fed to the cattle (which are not naturally corn eaters) to fatten them up for slaughter, and why corn is actually making farmers poor.

So yeah, not necessarily a happy story about corn, but in conjunction with my major life discovery, I've been thinking about corn a lot... and now all I want to do is eat corn!

In the past month since the tests and since I began the book, I’ve had corn on the cob five times, popcorn, nachos, canned corn, corn salad, corn cakes, polenta, Texas caviar, and I think there was some corn in the quesadillas prepared for me last weekend.

If you are what you eat, then for the first time in 20 years, I have become corn.

So in honor of this momentous occasion, I’d like to share one of my favorite corn recipes, found in Bon Appetit’s February issue: Corn and Bacon Pie (because if you’re going to eat corn, you might as well eat bacon and Gruyere cheese, too).

Crust:1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup fine-grind whole grain cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening (preferably with no trans fats), diced
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Filling:1/2 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Maui)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper1
12-ounce package frozen corn kernels (2 1/2 cups), thawed, patted dry
1 1/2 cups half and half
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 6 ounces)

Preparation
For crust:Whisk first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Using back of fork, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons ice water. Toss until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Shape dough into disk. Wrap; chill at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish with nonstick spray. Place large piece of parchment paper on work surface. Place dough in center; cover with second sheet of parchment. Roll out dough to 12-inch round. Peel off top parchment. Using bottom parchment as aid, turn dough over into prepared pie dish. Carefully peel off remaining parchment. Fit crust into dish, sealing any tears. Fold excess dough under and crimp edges, forming highstanding rim.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.For filling:Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons drippings. Add onion and pepper to skillet. Sauté until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add corn; sauté until very tender, about 3 minutes longer.Whisk next 6 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Mix in green onions, then corn mixture. Sprinkle bacon, then cheese over bottom of crust. Pour in egg mixture.Bake pie until filling is golden and just set in center, about 55 minutes. Let pie cool at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Serve slightly warm.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Baltimore Chefs and Wine Experience

Like Salmon? You should have been at Baltimore’s Chefs and Wine Experience last weekend. Area chefs, local foodies and national celebrities gathered to eat, drink and talk about gastronomy. And salmon.

The pink, omega-3 rich fish took center stage on Benjamin Erjavec’s (Oceanaire) demonstration table, as he filleted it and prepared it three ways for an eager audience. Ted Allen served salmon (and hilarious banter) to his audience after a cooking demonstration that also included roasted chicken and a cauliflower puree debacle, spurred by a broken food processor. His wit and of course, the taste of his dishes made up for any misfortune on stage.

And the salmon de resistance – The Grand Tasting, reserved for event VIPs included whole tables and platters full of delicious smoked salmon, garnished with cipolini onions, olives, roasted tomatoes and toasted bagel chips.

A few gems of wisdom from the event (that may or may not include salmon):

-Ricotta cheese isn’t just for pasta. Nick from Piacci recommends piling into mushroom caps and topping it with roasted peppers, or blending it with spinach and parmesan cheese to add to an omelet. Piacci’s was on hand to promote their new mozzarella, provolone and parmesan cheeses. So far, the cheeses are only available in a select number of grocery stores (like Roots Market in Olney) and the company’s web site isn’t up, but when people find out how buttery Piacci’s parmesan cheese is it’ll really be in demand.

- Pesky fish bones can make or break a dish. If you’re having trouble removing them from raw filets, Chef Benjamin Erjavec recommends keeping a small pair of needle nose pliers in the kitchen. Bend the filet in half and pull the bone from the bottom with the pliers.

-Nonstick pans are great for….nonsticking, but do you miss those juicy brown bits? Ted Allen explained that nonstick pan users often miss out on those brown bits left to linger in more traditional cookware after foods are browned. The benefit of the bits? They make a delicious sauce. Next time you find yourself with bits (or glaze) at the bottom when you’re done with your pan, add a little wine or stock (and maybe some butter) stir it around and viola- a perfect topping for your meal.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Like Buttah

I love butter.
Ok, I love just about anything you can eat, but there's nothing like fresh baked goods smothered in butter. Or lobster poached in butter. Or butter on a baked potato. (Sheesh, I'm starting to sound like Bubba again.)
Point of this post- butter is really easy to make! Check out my column on dcfoodies.com for a simple, quick way to make your own butter.

fish tacos

I returned from a week in the Outer Banks with a great tan, good memories and about two pounds of fresh mahi mahi. It seems a lonely fisherman got his 4 wheel drive stuck in the sand, and when my sister and her boyfriend helped pull him out, they were rewarded with an abundance of fish. I was lucky enough inherit some of it. Isn’t that what family is for?
This was a beautiful filet- thick and red, bones mostly removed. It was screaming to be grilled, maybe with a ginger glaze, maybe served with chutney. And there’s always sesame seeds… But I couldn’t get my mind off fish tacos.
My obsession with fish tacos started on my honeymoon in Maui, at a place called Hula Grill. Three nights in a row, my husband and I bellied up to a table, half drunk on newlywed bliss and coconut rum, and enjoyed these fresh bites of warm tortilla wrapped around fresh fish, cabbage and some sort of tropical sauce. Add an acoustic guitar player by candlelight and we had heaven.
As you can imagine, this is the sort of scenario one wants to recreate whenever possible. So to me, that filet was screaming to be wrapped up in a warm tortilla, smothered with a creamy lime sauce, topped with sweet corn and ripe tomatoes. Shared with my husband as we reminisce about beautiful Maui beaches.
So that’s what I did. And here’s how you do it:

-cook the fish in olive oil in a pan on your stove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lime juice.
-while the fish is cooking, mix together half a cup of sour cream with a two tablespoons of lime juice. Add ginger, cumin and cayenne pepper to taste.
-when the fish is done, serve it in warm flour tortillas. Top with the sour cream mixture and shredded cabbage.
-If you’re feeling ambitious, mix up some homemade salsa. I created mine with corn, tomatoes, onion, black beans and avocado. I also added salt and pepper, a little garlic powder and some balsamic vinegar. This is a great way to top your tacos, or eat as a side.

You’re practically in Maui.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Truffle Oil...again

On a trip to see my best bud several months ago, I picked up a variety of foodstuffs. (Just typing that word makes me giggle. Who came up with that, anyway?) There was salami from Salumi, salmon from the Pike Place Fish Market and white truffle oil.

The salami and salmon went quick, but the truffle oil has lingered all these months. I tried my hand at G. Garvin’s recipe for macaroni and cheese with proscuitto and truffle oil, I dabbled in cauliflower soups and added the oil to other dishes, here and there.

A few days ago when I opened my cupboard to dig around for some agave nectar (for Elana’s fabulous simple bread) I saw that truffle oil, staring me down.

So I’m making an effort to use the stuff. Not like its some great burden- truffle oil gives an earthy aroma and decadent taste to just about anything. Let’s call it’s presence a privilege, even.

This is when some of you will roll your eyes and say, listen, sister. Truffle oil is so 2006. Been there, done that, moving on to wagyu beef.

To you I say, it’s cool. I’ve never been hip. And if it’s really good stuff it transcends time, kinda like legwarmers and stirrup pants. Ok, maybe not stirrup pants.

So, for all you non-hipsters, content in finding happiness in yesterday’s oil (and legwarmers), here’s what I’ve been doing with my white truffle oil lately:

-Popcorn can be covered in just about anything, but may I recommend salt and truffle oil? Make your popcorn, then sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Shake the bag, pour into a bowl and enjoy this indulgent version of an every day snack.

-Pour a tablespoon of olive oil and half a teaspoon or so of truffle oil into a pan. Sauté some onions and, while they’re sweating, finely slice some yellow squash. When the onions are nice and soft, throw in the squash, some salt and some pepper and let it cook till the vegetables are mostly transparent, maybe even a little brown. Serve this up with some roasted chicken (or just eat them ravenously out of your pan. It’s whatever).

-How about adding a little truffle oil to your favorite risotto recipe? Here’s a link to a recent risotto I made. Add asparagus and shallots and you have a rich side dish.

Monday, June 23, 2008

In Case You Were Curious

I saw this, here, and wanted to play along. I also guessed on the plant picture, but am afraid I may be wrong...


What was I doing ten years ago?
Graduating from high school, getting ready to take on the world (or at least, North Carolina).


What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?
1. Make a list of clothes to bring to the beach (vacation next week in the Outer Banks!)
2. Make a list of ingredients to bring to the beach (Old Bay, lemons, parsley, capers and anything else I can rub all over the daily catch).
3. Read, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
4. Call Valerie
5. Make a wicked taco salad for dinner





Five snacks I enjoy:
1. Hummus and olives
2. Popcorn with Old Bay
3. Pickles Vegetables
4. Cheetos
5. Peanut Butter. On anything.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Buy as many cookbooks, major kitchen appliances, fresh ingredients and wine as I could, make good use of them and invite my friends and family over for Thanksgiving dinner. Every Year.
2. Buy season tickets for the Mets (for my husband)
3. Buy my parents their own beach house in Cape Hatteras…and if they were really nice, a new boat.
4. Travel Europe, Africa and South America with my husband…and when we were done, stop by Hawaii to relive our honeymoon.
5. Go to culinary school

Places I've lived:
1. Wilmington, DE
2. Newark, DE
3. Elon, NC
4. Falls Church, VA
5. Washington, DC

Jobs I've had:
1. Stock girl at a bird food store
2. Salesperson at Victoria’s Secret (this lasted approximately one week)
3. Waitress at an Irish Pub
4. Director of Marketing at a Commercial Real Estate Firm
5. Devoted Wife


anyone else want to play?

Good Read

“In Europe, we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.”

-Ernest Hemingway



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

potato chips

I think about potatoes much in the same way that Bubba thinks about shrimp…there’s baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, new potatoes, au gratin, hash browns, home fries and my favorite- potato chips.

If you ever had homemade potato chips, loved them like I did and have been craving them ever since, you’re in luck. Check out my post on DC Foodies and make your own potato chips.

And make sure you invite me over to try a few. My first batch is already long gone (I’m looking at you, husband…)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pea Soup

On Saturday I had my heart set on visiting the Dupont Circle Market. So in the early morning, 90 degree heat, I dragged Gregg down to the circle.
We walked around the area where the market should be, but found no market. Instead, we found a lot of sweat pigeons. We took our first (in five years!) picture of the Dupont Circle Fountain.

In confusion and inner heat, we started the walk home, whereupon we ran into a couple with a small shopping cart. “Are you going to the Dupont Market?” we asked. “You mean the Dupont Market that’s only open on Sundays?” our tactless sidewalk friend snorted.

Yes, that was the one.

This was one long, hot walk to get that basic information that the Dupont market is indeed, open on Sundays. Note to self.

After this groundbreaking news, there was nowhere else to turn but our usual market at 14th and U (definitely open on Saturdays).

I was in search of beautiful spring peas, and I found them. I should mention that this month’s issue of Food and Wine is stellar, and my first dive into their latest recipes was Chilled Spring Pea Soup, a variation of David Boulud’s famous recipe, which appears in his Café Boulud Cookbook.

I love the idea that famous chefs don’t mind “dumbing down” their recipes for us common folk. Am I too crass to assume that I could create a pea soup as silky and tasteful as Bouluds original? No. Am I good enough to imitate his easier version? Yes.

I’ve been obsessed with soups lately. Odd, considering we’re in the middle of a heat wave. I think I was first intrigued after I found this recipe for zucchini soup, which looked extremely creamy sans any and all dairy. And then I dabbled in a variation of one of Mark Bittman’s soups that I altered with swiss chard, bacon and white beans. I think it’s the idea that I can chop up so many beautiful fresh ingredients, put them in a pot and let them simmer and sweat, creating beautiful smells in my kitchen. And I can bring them to work all week as lunch, their smells and tastes reminding me of the happy hours spent on weekends walking through markets (when they’re open) and chopping vegetables over front of my condo-sized cutting board. Alas.

The pea soup was as perfect as an amateur pea soup could be. And as I’ve spent several days at work without air conditioning (yes, the system broke during the heat wave) I’ve enjoyed eating this soup cold. Here’s the link to the recipe, and below is how I made it with a few of my own alterations (most notably, I wanted a lower-fat version, so I switched out the cream for fat-free half and half. Oh, and I’m sorta anti-rosemary right now.)

Ingredients:
8 slices of bacon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced
1/2 pound spring peas
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup nonfat half and half
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions
In a medium soup pot, cook the bacon over moderate heat until browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate. Pour off the fat in the pot.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil. Add the celery and onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the veggie stock, 4 slices of the cooked bacon and a pinch each of salt and white pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the bacon. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the sugar snaps and spring peas and cook for 5 or 6 minutes (until the peas are soft). Add the parsley and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute; drain. Add the sugar snaps, spring peas and parsley to the blender and puree until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of the broth to loosen the mixture. Transfer the soup and the remaining broth to a large bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water to cool.

In a small saucepan, bring the half and half garlic to a boil. Simmer over low heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Strain the garlic cream into a bowl and let cool.

Ladle the chilled pea soup into bowls and drizzle with the garlic cream. Crumble the remaining 4 slices of bacon into each bowl and serve.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesdays are Yummy

It’s hard to top Friday, but I’d argue that Wednesday is one of the best days of the week! Forget the hump day nonsense, I’m talking about food news. Granted, every weekday seems like a perfect day to get up, make coffee and dig into a stack of good reading, but if I had my choice, I’d make every Wednesday a sick day (cough).

I’d start with yoga, take a quick shower and then pour myself a hot cup of Cuban coffee, fresh out of my Bialetti. My husband would then serve me a fresh croissant from Breadline, possibly accompanied by apricot jam and interpretive dance. Then I’d dig in:

-The Washington Post food section. I’m excited to read about TangySweet’s Dupont Circle opening!

-The Washington Post chats; one with Tom Sietsema and the other with the food section staff. I linger around these chats and (occasionally) ask questions about restaurant rumors or local ingredients, but have the most fun reading about the extreme disgust of people whose restaurant experiences are too noisy, waiters who are too rude, and whose local Whole Foods have run out of leeks. Seriously, chill out, folks.

-The New York Times food section. I’ll be reading this Mark Bittmen gem on my lunch break.

-The Los Angeles Times’ food section. I read an article in this month’s Food and Wine about Grant Achatz’s battle with cancer and its interesting effects on his career at Alinea, so I’m excited to read that he was awarded outstanding chef for 2007 at the James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony in New York.

-I’d end the day with Top Chef. I’m really pulling for Stephanie in tonight’s finale, but would enjoy seeing Richard win as well…I'm just not crazy about little miss crossed-arms. Attitude much?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Green Garlic

Two weeks ago I came across green garlic at the U Street Market. As I was about to ask, “what’s the difference?” to a fellow shopper, I heard the salesman explaining that it’s a milder garlic found only in the spring, and that “Some old Italian guy came in and snatched up a ton of it last week.”

Being a young Italian girl, I figured it was worth a try. So I bought a bunch (about 6 pieces) and simmered it down, along with shallots, in an asparagus soup. While the texture of the soup was a little off (it needed to be strained) the flavor was smooth and buttery. It had a garlicky flavor without the bite that can be a bit much sometimes, when more mature garlic is used. In case you’re wondering, one stalk of green garlic is equivalent to one or two cloves of mature garlic.

So I became a fan, and put it on my list of things to pick up on a future trip to the market (I’m crossing my fingers for this Saturday…)

It was then that I noticed green garlic popping up everywhere. No, not in gardens (as I don’t tend to pass too many of those living in the city) but on web pages, like here, here and here.
Am I missing something? Did everyone know about green garlic, except me?

It looks like I have of work to do. As if I didn’t cook, read and eat enough. It’s kind of like when I FINALLY tried cooking with fish sauce, or I FINALLY got reusable grocery bags.

Unlike green garlic, I’m clearly a late bloomer.

In honor of this seasonal treat, I bring you the green garlic recipe I plan on trying this weekend:

Shrimp stir-fry with green garlic, from www.chezpim.com

10 oz. shrimp, shell on (but head off)
1/2 onion, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 cup julienne green garlic (cut into about 2" very thin sticks)
1 heaping teaspoon of curry powder
4 tbsp cooking oil (use high smoke point oil)
1 tbsp fish sauce2 tbsp water1.

With a very sharp knife, cut each shrimp in half lengthwise with the shell on. Clean out the veins from the shrimp halves and set the shrimps aside.
Heat a fry pan or a wok until hot, add oil and then about a quarter of the julienne green garlic. (This will be used as garnish at the end so you won't need much.) Cook until the sticks just begin to change color. Take them out of the oil immediately. Set aside to rest on a paper towel.
Turn the heat to medium then add shrimp to the pan, laying each one the shell side down. Let shrimp cook, shell side down only, for 2 minutes or until the shells begin to caramelize. Take the shrimp out of the pan and set aside.
Add onion into the pan, cook until translucent, then add the curry powder, the rest of the green garlic, and give everything a quick stir to mix well.
Add shrimp back to the pan, then the fish sauce and the water. Stir vigorously until the shrimp is cooked to the desired doneness. Check the seasoning, add more fish sauce if needed.
Transfer into a large plate, garnished with the fried green garlic, and serve with freshly cooked jasmine rice.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

back to the books

I recently read an entry from a fellow blogger who was shocked to find she had 30 cookbooks. It got me thinking about how many cook books I had. It couldn’t be that many!

So this weekend, after a trip to the U and 14th Market, I was looking online for a recipe that included swiss chard (I got beautiful bunches of it at the market, along with bacon, strawberries) and it occurred to me that there was probably a great recipe in one of my books. I started thumbing through a few and suddenly stopped. I counted – one, two, three, fifteen, twenty seven…I stood in awe. I have exactly 30 cook books!

Is this excessive? It’s a question worth considering. Collecting cookbooks isn’t necessarily an expensive hobby, but in the 600 square feet of our DC condo, it’s sometime’s an untidy one. I started this blog as a way to journal my experiences with recipes cooked from the books I own and love. It’s morphed into many things for me, but this fact resounds- I love to read and I love to feed. So on Saturday, my hunt for online recipes was over - it was a day to pull those dusty books off the top of my cabinets and get cooking.

I started off with a simple pecan pie, created from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. This is an easy recipe for a personal favorite, reminiscent of my college days on North Carolina. And what better accompaniment to one southern classic than another? Fried chicken was calling my name.

A bridesmaid’s dress was calling simultaneously. So in an attempt to squeeze into it this weekend, I opted for a healthier version- BHG’s oven fried chicken. It came out just as juicy and flavorful as its deep-fried counterpart.

After a visit with BHG, I noticed The Joy of Cooking was looking a little lonely. Its pages are worn and its novelty is well past, but its relevancy and beauty will never dull in my mind.

Originally published in 1931, The Joy of Cooking stands out on my shelf as one of the most complete, thorough, lovely cook books of our time. Any question I’ve ever had about ingredients, procedures or substitutions has been answered by a flip of its pages. It didn’t take long for me to settle on their classic risotto recipe, to which I added spinach and some of that fresh bacon I purchased from the market. Gregg said it was just as good as the risotto at Floriana, which we recently devoured and adored. He’s a good husband.

All of this reading and cooking done, and there was still swiss chard. I found a lot of options, but had my heart set on a simple soup, so I created a variation of a soup found in The Minimalist Cooks Dinner, by Mark Bittman. Using the swiss chard (finally) the leftover bacon, some white beans and shallots, I created a simple soup with a sweet and savory broth. It was tinted pink, to boot.

So here’s my challenge to you- dust off your cookbooks. Open them up. Create. It’s easy to rely on sites like allrecipes, epicurious, and chow, but it’s uniquely satisfying to turn to an old favorite for a new recipe. You’ll be surprised just how many you haven’t tried.

Risotto, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Heat 3 tablespoons of clarified butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 shallots, minced; cook until soft and clear. You could also add some minced garlic and/or onion.

In a separate pot, simmer 8 to 10 cups of chicken stock over medium heat. (I ended up using only 8 cups of the stock, but it’s better to have extra prepared.)

In the pot with the butter and shallots, stir in 2 cups of Arborio rice. Stir until the rice is coated completely in the butter.

Add the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, and simmer and stir continuously until absorbed. The rice should become creamy and not stiff.

Stir in 1 cup of parmesan cheese, several cups of raw spinach and chopped, cooked bacon…or any other add-ins you’d like.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thank you, neighbor

We have this great neighbor. He’s the guy we call when we’re going out of town and need our car to be moved from the “Monday” side of the street to the “Tuesday” side (even though I’m convinced the streets never get cleaned, I don’t like to risk a ticket.) He’s the guy who feeds our fish and takes in our mail. When he goes away, we do the same. His name is Peter and he is a lawyer. I don’t know too much about him.

Last night I found out he is one hell of a cook.

“Ah, two of my favorite people,” he said, as we entered the building last night. It was a nice way to come home. It was even nicer when he offered up red beans and rice, a “Monday night tradition in New Orleans,” he said. Yes, his home was swept away in the massive tragedy several years ago, “but I’m so past that,” he recently told Gregg.

He delivered red beans cooked with sausage, turkey necks and sauce “that isn’t as hot as I normally make it.” He brought two containers of warm rice.

I took the lid off the beans and breathed in that firey mix. The smell said, “I’ve been cooking for a long time, simmering in turkey juices, heating up under hot sauce. Go ahead and pour me over that rice so it can soak up my goodness.”

All day I’ve been thinking about those beans. About what a nice, simple gesture it is to share a home made dish with neighbors. About how good it tasted and how nice it was to just come home and heat up a meal someone else had prepared for us.

About whether this Monday tradition is one that Peter practices every week…and if so, how I can finagle more beans next Monday…

Monday, May 19, 2008

a lil' self promotion

If you're a fan of food writing and live in the DC area, you've probably heard of DCfoodies.com.

Today I'm very excited to have a piece on the site!

Do you ever question the ingredients you buy at the grocery store or market? Do you wonder if you could make things like cheese, butter, bread and pasta by yourself? So do I.

My column will be part science experiment, part money-saving scheme, part recipe, and will feature my attempt to create items I'd normally buy. This week, read about my attempt at making my own ricotta cheese.

Is there something you've thought about creating instead of buying?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New York

Pardon the absence, but we’ve been in a New York state of mind – and belly – over the past several days. I can still smell the nuts on the street (not the homeless variety), the hot dogs at Shea stadium and the best freakin’ steak my husband has ever tasted (his edited words) at Perilla. Ah, New York City.

The trip to the Big Apple was of course, about food. Okay, it was also about a romantic get away to Gregg’s favorite town, a trip to Shea before they tear it down and a quick catch-up with old friends…but the food was the centerpiece; what we did between (and during) visits and photographs. The thing that will stay in my memory (but I’m just obsessed like that.)

John’s Pizzeria was crowded, noisy, delicious. Flat pizza, covered in cheese the way it’s meant to be. Crunchy, buttery crust, still coated in light flour, fresh from the oven. My sister-in-law recommended the place, I read mixed reviews, but I loved every minute. The waiters’ shirts read, “No Slices” and I was glad that rule forced us to order a whole pie…if fresh-from-the-oven
pizza wasn’t good enough, the cold leftovers at 3 a.m. were a bonus.

Les Halles was everything a French bistro is supposed to be on a Saturday night – boisterous, delicious, and seemingly okay with their slow service. It took us a while to get a waiter, a glass of wine, a dessert menu, and a check, but fortunately the food was worth the wait. I paired the coq au vin with the cote de rhone…and French fries! Because in my world, there is no such thing as a trip to a bistro without French fries. I got one tasty rooster, covered in wine and sweet, tender pearl onions. For dessert we split the chocolate soufflé, which I really enjoyed. It could have been overwhelmingly sweet, but instead was subtly bitter. The waiter was the same…


‘Wich Craft was a great choice for Tuesday afternoon, after the rain had stopped, the clouds had parted and our train was about ready to leave…A stop in Bryant Park for a beautiful outdoor lunch was the perfect way to end our trip. Ironically, I was served the wrong sandwich, but decided I was too hungry to care. I’m glad I stuck with the surprise! Marinated eggplant, chickpea puree, roasted peppers and watercress smothered on a ciabatta roll turned out to be just what I wanted!

Perilla was the place we (read: I) chose for Monday night’s meal- our last night in the city to be shared with one of Gregg’s oldest and dearest friends. I was intrigued by the menu, but let’s be honest about something here- I mainly chose it because I knew there was a chance that I’d get to steal a glimpse of Harold Dieterle, winner of Top Chef Season 1.

Is this a (slightly) lame reason to pick a restaurant? Maybe. Am I the first person to do this? Probably not. So I held my head high upon entering, tried not to act too geeked up when Harold came out of the kitchen for the first time, and giggled only slightly with glee when someone else at my table actually ordered the spicy duck meatballs as our appetizer without me even mentioning, “You know, Harold was best known for his spicy duck meatballs on the show…”

Ahem. The food was delicious. The spicy duck meatballs were served with tiny gnocchi cooked a little more than al dente, but nowhere close to mushy. I had duck for my main course, as well, served with mustard greens, barley, pistachios and white mulberry-ginger sauce. The sauce was sweet and crunchy, and perfect for the duck. Duck has never been so happy to be covered in sauce. We ordered risotto for the table, a small bit of which I had to snag before the boys ate every last drop. And, as stated above, my husband really enjoyed the steak. Really.

As a general rule, I stay away from donuts. In fact, over the past 15 years, I’ve had approximately two. My aversion began shortly after my mom told me they were bad for my ovaries due to the high content of saturated fat.

However, on Monday night, I exposed my ovaries to the best damn donuts I’ve ever had (and it’s been a while, so I haven’t had that many…but even if I had, I’m pretty sure these were the best.) I neglected the chocolate ganache they were served with, favoring the rich, Meyer lemon curd instead.

The server was friendly, the wine recommendations were a perfect pairing and we left feeling every bit satisfied.

For the record, I saw Harold three times.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hummus

I’ve made a discovery and there’s no turning back. So ok, maybe it’s not an original discovery, since I’ve been reading about variations here and here, but it was the first time I personally tried roasting my garlic before blending it into my hummus, and boy am I glad I did!
Roasted garlic carries that buttery smell, taste and consistency, so it only makes sense that it would only add to the creaminess of hummus. I love good, stinky garlic as much as the next girl, but I’ve always been a fan of a blander hummus…and know I know how to make it!

2 cups chick-peas, drained and rinsed
1 head of garlic, roasted in olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
juice squeezed from half a lemon
¾ cup veggie stock
1/2 tsp salt1 head of roasted garlic

Puree all ingredients together in a food processor. Serve with olive oil, pine nuts or paprika.

Monday, May 5, 2008

1789

1789 is not the kind of place you just stop by after a long day of shopping in Georgetown. It is the kind of place, however, that courtesy calls you to advise men wear sports coats, and, oh yeah, no one is permitted in jeans or sneakers.

I giggled during said phone call, but agreed to their terms.

So what I got on Saturday night was hearty but refined food with a gorgeous man in a suit. And really, what else is there?

I ordered a not-so-cohesive but delicious selection – three courses from varying regions. I started with Hamachi- that glorious filet of fish that was served with a smooth avocado paste and crunchy sea salt. Probably worth mentioning that my husband ordered the salt cod fritters, which were definitely worth stealing off his plate, which was then worthy of having bread slathered against it to pick up rogue sauce. Yum. I followed that up with a cavatelli (I told you I hopped all over that menu) served with mushrooms and asparagus. The pasta tasted homemade, doughy, fresh. The mushrooms and asparagus added an earthy flavor. My main course was a filet of local rockfish, accompanied by leeks, (more) mushrooms and escargot. Being leek season and all, I thought this was an appropriate choice.

I love it when I’m right.

I don’t know a lot about rockfish, but I do know that the slight fattiness of the fish, combined with the creamy mushrooms and leeks created a nice consistency, almost like a thick stew over the fish. And if that wasn’t good enough, sporadic bites of escargot made it seem luxurious and special.

And just when we thought we were full, the desert menu came. We split a praline-filled, chocolate mousse cake of sorts…and it sort of made me wish I had ordered my own.
We’ll be back, 1789. We may have to save our pennies for a few months, but we’ll be back.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Fish Sauce...who knew?


I haven’t written lately…it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading or cooking, it just means I haven’t taken the time to write about what I’m reading or cooking. It also means that when I’m cooking, I’m not taking pictures of what I’m cooking.

I’m bad.

But I’d like to re-enter the blog-o-sphere with an entry about Martha Stewart’s Lemon Grass Beef Skewers. I was a little intimidated because this was my first venture into cooking with fish sauce. The smell is a bit off-putting. Not to mention its pungent taste when sampled on it’s own. But the combination of fish sauce with brown sugar, lemon grass and garlic creates that familiar Thai seasoning that blends perfectly with peanuts, crisp lettuce and juicy beef.

I’ve made the beef three times now, and served it along side Martha’s rice noodles with scallions and herbs. For lack of a grill pan, I’ve cooked the beef on my Foreman Grill (with detachable plates, mind you!) and been extremely happy with the texture.

You remember Aladdin? The part where Jasmine is flying through the air on a magic carpet, singing “A Whole New World?” Well this dish opened a whole new world for me. I’m happy to report that fish sauce is now my friend!



Serves 4
3 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 inches only, minced
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light-brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless sirloin, trimmed of excess fat
1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts (about 1 ounce), crushed
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal (optional)
Fresh mint and basil sprigs, for serving
Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves, for serving
Lime wedges, for squeezing
Directions
Soak 8 bamboo skewers in cold water for 30 minutes.
Whisk together lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and oil. Slice beef very thinly against the grain. Add to marinade, and toss. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Thread beef onto skewers. Grill until browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Sprinkle with peanuts. Serve with the remaining ingredients on the side, bundling the meat, cucumber, and herbs inside the lettuce leaves if desired.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Good News for the Neighborhood:

Dear Friends:
I am pleased to announce that the owner of Bus Boys and Poets will open a second restaurant at the Flats of Union Row. The new restaurant is across the street from the first, Bus Boys and Poets, at 14th and V St, NW.
The new restaurant will be called Eatonville. It is named in tribute of one of the first all-black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation. The restaurant will occupy 6,000 sq. ft. with seating for about 250 guests. There will be an outdoor patio.I am pleased to welcome Eatonville to the historic U Street Corridor. Bus Boys and Poets has been a great success. Eatonville will provide another great dining experience for the residents of Ward One.
Bests, Councilmember Jim Graham

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Last night at Ulah

How I would rank (in order of awesome-ness) the details of my evening:
1. The company
2. The service
3. The food

So let’s start from the top:

1. Jackie. My former coworker, the mastermind behind my women’s writing group, the hysterical blogger, and oh yeah, my friend. While we don’t get together often (outside of our monthly writing group meetings) it’s always a pleasure.

Jackie feels my pain. She knows what it’s like to feel stuck in a world where your dreams are big, your plans are uncertain and your direction is…unclear? You know how us creative types are. We want the world on a hot pink platter, laid out in front of us with clarity, creativity and speaking for myself, cook books! It’s nice to know that in this muddled mix of real life and big dreams there are kindred spirits. And it’s nice to know that they come with big smiles and yoga mats!

2. The waiter at Ulah. Why didn’t I catch his name? Maybe I was busy with my whine and my wine…a Sauvignon Blanc, to be exact. Crisp with strong pear undertones. A perfect glass for last night’s heat.

But where was I? Ah, yes- our waiter. This is the kind of waiter you want on a girl’s night out. No, not some twenty-something stud to fix up with Jackie. A nice, middle-aged man with a big smile, an attentive eye and the ability to make helpful recommendations. Sure, my date and I had plenty to talk about, but it’s nice to have that casual conversation from friendly wait staff every once in a while. It’s also nice to have your food delivered promptly, your glass filled, your evening made a little more pleasant with an invitation to return, a good recommendation.

It looks like most the people who visit Ulah have positive things to say about the staff, and you’ll get no arguments from me. And truth be told, if a place has decent food and superior service, I’ll be back a second time. I can’t stress this point enough.

3. Ulah Pizza and Mojito Chicken. The pizza was a pleasant surprise and came recommended by our waiter. Thin, crispy crust topped with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, basil, parmesan and crabmeat. I thought the pizza could have benefited from a little more basil, but the tasty, lumpy crab meat won me over. How nice it is to bite into a crab pizza and actually taste…crab!

The chicken was ok…the menu detailed what I would have thought to be stronger flavors (glazed in rum, roasted in spices.) What we got were mild flavors. The risotto was tasty – a little dry, but since the perfect risotto is still beyond this novice chef’s reach, I won’t begrudge Ulah’s chef.

And there it is. A decent place, a fun waiter, a perfect dinner date. Good enough!

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Tale of Two Brunches

(Or, Many Bloody Mary’s)

One of my favorite people graced me with her presence this weekend, and this called for celebration. The word means many things to many people, but to me (and fortunately enough, to one of my favorite people) celebration means eating, drinking and being merry, set to the music of endless girl talk and retail therapy. Amen, sister.

So brunch – it’s that time of day when last night’s partying and this morning’s hangover turns into a blur of hash browns, smoked salmon, pancakes and mimosas…hair of the dog, no? You leave brunch feeling full, slightly buzzed and ready to take on the afternoon (or the evening, whereupon you relive the last 24 hours over again.) Ahem.

But when one of your favorite people is your mama, and you didn’t spend the previous evening raging, brunch is more about catching up, sharing laughs and getting a good “base” for the shopping and walking that will ensue.

That said, we arrived at Crème around 11:25, about 25 minutes after they opened. Crème was already full- every seat in the house was taken by hungry patrons, mouths watering at passing pancakes. We waited 15 minutes, which was not a problem, as the host paid us lovely compliments and made sure we had a place to sit while we waited (yes gentlemen, flattery will get you everywhere in life.)

We got a table near the large, sunny window towards the front of the restaurant. Crème’s menu, (if you missed my last post) focuses on country cooking with a modern, slightly upscale twist. It was hard to choose just two entrees, but we settled on eggs Chesapeake, and waffles with fried chicken. Oh yes, and the bottomless bloody mary’s. When our entrees arrived we split them up and went to work.

Aside from my mom’s special Easter and Christmas fare, I don’t think I could have enjoyed brunch more.

The crab cakes were lumpy with backfin meat and the poached eggs plopped lazily on top were perfectly runny. The crunchy-on-the-outside-waffle held on top of it the sweetest, crispiest fried chicken outside of a grandmother’s kitchen.

We felt a little odd eating fried chicken for brunch, but a few of Crème’s bloody mary’s helped us feel a little less funny and a little more fuzzy. And warm. And, (as alcohol tends to do to me in general) more hungry. And these entrees didn’t disappoint there – what we ordered for 2 could have fed more like 4. (It’s probably worth mentioning that if you like your bloody mary’s spicy, as in very peppery and with a large serving of horse radish, these are for you. You’ll get your glass filled generously and often with the fiery drink by friendly wait staff that carry around pitchers of the things. If you’re not into pepper, I’d recommend you try something else, like the bottomless mimosas.)

We spent the lazy hours of brunch at Crème, soaking up sun, easy conversation and runny egg yolk on a buttery English muffin.

I’ll spare the details of the rest of the day, which include a lot of shopping and further tomato juice and vodka consumption (at Jack’s on 17th Street and J. Paul’s of Georgetown…both of which were tasty and not nearly as peppery as their Crème counterparts). And skip to the next day…Sunday…whereupon we indulged in a second brunch at Station 9.

While Crème and Station 9 share the culinary influence of Chef Terrell Danley, their brunches offer different settings and selections. While you’ll find a fried chicken variation on the Station 9 brunch menu (the batter was saltier and less sweet than at Creme) you’ll find that chicken on a buffet table.

But this is not your average buffet. My mom and I counted 4 stations in Station 9’s brunch setup, and this was before mimosa’s had us seeing double. This generous display of food included fried chicken, cheesy grits, a hot, salty seafood salad, French toast, smoked salmon, a variety of baked goods (including biscuits and carrot cake, accompanied by a huge bowl of thick, whipped cream) several kinds of sausage, pancakes and an omelet station. And I know I’m missing a few things. Phew, my pants are tightening just thinking about the selection.

My favorite parts of the meal were the grits and sausage. I’ve had Station 9 grits before (for dinner, accompanied by scallops) and remain a fan. It’s not every day that a girl from the North would choose grits over a bagel with smoked salmon, but this girl did.

The dining room wasn’t nearly as packed as Crème, but Station 9 offers patrons a much larger food selection and seating area. And the smaller crowd didn’t bother me – less people to maneuver around when I went in for a second helping of grits.

Mom and I agreed- overall, we enjoyed brunch at Crème a little more. We preferred picking out just a few of our favorite things and being served. But we’d gladly visit both Station 9 and Crème again for brunch. And next time we’ll wear sweatpants.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Top Chef Tacos- No Bueno


After last night's Top Chef taco debauchery, I thought this link to 50 fabulous taco recipes would be muy importante.

Ole!


Click here for tacos galore...

Free cook books! All is right with the world...

Because one can never have enough cook books on her shelf (or enough books in general!) I present a few links to you, my readers (if there any out there…sigh…)
I signed up for a free newsletter through justfreestuff.com, and lo and behold, free cookbooks! Below are links to a few cookbooks that look interesting. And even if they end up to be a bust, at least they were free!

Cooking Light
California Olives
Kidney Friendly Cook book (in case you're like me, and have a grandfather with Diabetes!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

James Beard Nominees

Hooray for our local chefs, nominated by the James Beard Foundation:

José Andrés of Minibar for Outstanding Chef of the Year
Johnny Monis of Komi for Rising Star Chef of the Year
Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria
Eric Ziebold of CityZen for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic
Terry Theise of Terry Theise Estate Selections in Silver Spring for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional
Michel Richard's Central is also nominated in the Best New Restaurant category (Michel won Outstanding Chef last year)

Winners will be announced June 8. Now, if we could just get a few of them to duke it out with Bobby Flay or star as guest chefs on Top Chef...

Here's a link to the entire nominee list.