Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Minimalist Cooks Some Fantastic Chicken

A few weeks ago, my husband picked up a copy of Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist Cooks Dinner,” a collection of recipes taken from Bittman’s column in the New York Times. I’m a fan of his columns- especially the collections of recipes he does, like his 101 appetizers. So I figured the book was a sure bet. I was right.

While the book is around 7 years old, its relevancy, ease and flavorful suggestions are timeless.

The first recipe I tried from the book was Bittman’s chickpea soup, which I opted to make without meat. I added a variety of vegetables, (including carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms). What I enjoyed most about this recipe was the consistency of the broth- Bittman suggests cooking the vegetables and removing about half (once softened) and pureeing in a food processor, then adding them back in. It made the soup thick and creamy without adding any sort of dairy. This soup provided me a week of healthy, hearty lunches and I’ll definitely make it again.

Last night I made the Chicken-Mushroom “Cutlets” with Parmesan. I substituted spinach for mushrooms (per Bittman’s suggestion, plus my husband hates mushrooms.) I also added a little more garlic than suggested; I thought a little more kick might be nice with the Parmesan and spinach.

The recipe made around 9 cutlets (or burgers, actually), and it was tough to not eat all nine! The flavors worked well together and the consistency was surprisingly juicy…I got nervous that, considering the fact that chicken needs to be cooked well, the burgers would become pucks, but they didn’t. We had nice, juicy bites of chicken, cheese and spinach. I ate mine with a little fresh salsa, but my husband didn’t top his with anything. I served them with steamed asparagus.

So that’s two recipes down, plenty to go from this book…and I’ll certainly be cooking more. Both recipes were easy to create and easy to adapt, but also tasty and interesting enough to serve to guests (if I had guests…anyone want to be a guest?)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Getting a buzz

So if you haven't checked out Foodbuzz, you should. I just got done rating my favorite DC restaurants. It made me realize I've had some pretty fantastic meals, but I'm nowhere near done working my way through the best (and the worst) that our city has to offer.

My highest ranked restaurant? TenPenh. Maybe it's the nostalgia it has to offer (it's where my husband took me after he proposed) or maybe it's the atmosphere or friendly staff, or maybe it's just the fantastic food. I think it all works together to create one fantastic pan-Asian feast.

My favorite TenPenh dish? Chinese Style Smoked Lobster. I can't get enough of this beautiful, crispy dish that combines flavorful lobster, fried spinach and a sauce that lets the lobsters natural flavor shine. I've often opted for the Pan Seared Scallops (and have never been disappointed) but the Lobster can't be beat. Mmmmm, someone's getting hungry...

Fingers crossed

Have you heard of the Foodie Blogroll? I've just signed up. Here's hoping I hear from the leftover queen herself! Check out her site. I think I'm loving it! I'm obsessed with leftovers myself...especially taking leftovers and transforming them into completely new dishes. But there's some leftovers you just shouldn't mess with...cold pizza? Yes, please. Sesame chicken? Bring it.

Roasted chicken and leftover asparagus? Now that, my friends, is just asking to be put in a casserole. Or a pasta. Or chopped up and added to an omelet. (You see where I'm going with this?)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Super bowl, super plates, super forks...

Football fans of the world, exhale: Super Bowl Sunday day is almost here. Even if my team had made it to the big game (go Eagles!!) my mind would still be on my menu.
It looks like we’ll be spending Sunday at home this year, cursing the Pats and paying special attention to commercials with my sister and her boyfriend, so I’m only cooking for four.
My sister and I have spent many Superbowl Sundays together at my parents house (eating wings, white chicken chili, nachos) so I have a variety of childhood favorites to choose from, but I’m always up for an adventure.

That said, I compiled a list of a few of my favorite sites and their recommendations for Sunday’s feast…so feast your eyes on these:

-The Minimalist's recs from the New York Times
-The Food Network's Ultimate Super Bowl Menu
-Tasty ideas from Epicurious
-When in doubt, ask Martha
-Keep it healthy with Cooking Light

I hope you find some inspiration from this list!

speaking of cookbooks

someone over on (Hi, DC Nesties!) just recommended this site. Holy cow! Talk about cookbooks...I might put Borders on hold...

Coupons- best friends, or worst enemies?

Just got my daily email from Borders and lo and behold, there's a 40% off coupon for anything in the store over 20 bucks! How can I resist? (I cannot.) There are so many great cookbooks out right now, and they're mine for the (discounted) taking!!! Here's a list of a few I've been eyeing up:

-Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordain
-Cook with Jamie, by Jamie Oliver
-Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, by the staff at Martha Stewart Living

by the way, if you aren't already a Borders member, here's a link to a 20% off coupon. Happy reading (and cooking)!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rocco Rocks

I have a's ok, my husband knows. In fact, I don't think he only makes me a better cook and him a happier eater.

I have a crush on Rocco DiSpirito. I know, I know, he sold out, he needs to get back in the kitchen, yeah, yeah. I know it all. And yet, I crush.

I hadn't thought about him in a while, and then Saturday, while walking through the (gasp!) frozen foods aisle, I spotted a bag of Bertoli pre-made pasta meal in a bag. Something about chicken and penne. (Don’t worry, I didn’t actually buy it.) It all came rushing back to me. Memories of last season’s Top Chef. Bourdain’s blogged insults about Rocco. The aftermath.
Why must we pick on Rocco? What did he ever do, besides have great curly hair, an entrepreneurial mom, a few restaurants and some guest appearances?
Please, Rocco haters, explain it to me. Explain to me why he’s become a whipping post.
Thinking about Rocco makes me think about Top Chef…oh, cooking Gods, please give Rocco another guest appearance this season…I’ll pass the time until the season starts (what’s the countdown?) by purchasing a few of Rocco’s books.

Sweet Sunday

I’d say brunch went well. Mini quiche and fruit kabobs with brown sugar dip aside, I got to share a few of my favorite books with the group (Straight Up and Dirty by Stephanie Klein, Heat by Bill Buford and My Life in France by her royal highness, Julia Child) talk about girl stuff for a few hours (you know…food!) and meet a new friend, Julia. Talk about inspiring! Check out her blog. Reading it’s got me running to my closest Nordstroms, for sure!
In case you’re wondering how I made the mini quiche, I’ll indulge you.
Broken down into 2 parts, you’ll need this basic shell recipe and my souped-up recipe for the eggs.
I made around 30 quiches…the shell recipe says it makes 24, but not quite. I thought it sounded small, so I doubled the recipe. Good thing I did! I used every bit of the dough. After you assemble the shells, roll the dough into a ball and stick it in the fridge for an hour or so.

To make the eggs, you’ll need:
4 eggs
2 cups half and half (never fear, fat free half and half works beautifully)
½ cup shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste

Wisk these ingredients together…do you have a bowl with a spout? I’d recommend using it. I found this really helpful when pouring the eggs into the tiny shells…speaking of, after the dough has chilled, take it out, roll it into tiny balls and press them into a mini muffin pan (I used one with 1.5 inch holes) I found the easiest way to get the cup shape I was looking for was by using my thumb the press the dough around the edges of the cup. Sprinkle a little bit of shredded mozzarella in the bottom of each cup, and then pour the egg mixture over top, almost filling up the cups.

So here’s the fun part…what do you like in your quiche? I was banking on my quests digging mushrooms and bacon, so I sautéed up some each ahead of time. I took small pinches of the mushroom and sprinkled them over top half of the quiches. I sprinkled bacon on top of the other half. Putting these on top served two purposes: 1) yumminess, 2) I wanted my guests to be able to tell what they were eating (you non meat eaters know who you are.)

When you’re done assembly, bake the quiche at 350 degrees. A tray of 18 baked for around 30 minutes in my oven (the temperamental old lady that she is.) Cook until golden and puffy on the tops. Just touch lightly with your finger and if they spring back, you’re all set. Here’s hoping your quiches are lovely!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Excuses, excuses

I look for reasons to cook. It’s not that I don’t genuinely love my friends and family and want to see them often, but I must confess that my desire to host a party (or small get together, considering the size of el condo) stems from a need to cook, cook, COOK! Oh, and plan. I like to plan, plan, PLAN.
It’s not just groups, either. It’s every-days. 8 a.m. and we’re walking to work in 25 degree chilliness, and I immediately start thinking about what I want to make for dinner. It seems like it’s going to be a steak and sweet potatoes sort of night. I usually bake them, but tonight might be the night to try these. (It’s like desert with your main course!) And probably some red wine to go with.
But see what I mean? I haven’t even had morning coffee and I’m already thinking about my evening appetite.
I’m excited for Sunday. I’m part of a women’s writing group, courtesy of the fabulous Jackie, and I’ll be co-hosting this week’s event with Amanda. I left the content of the meeting to her genius, as my immediate questions were instantly about the menu. It seems like a brunch sort of meal to me, so I’m planning mini quiches, fruit kabobs, muffins (courtesy of Amanda) and the group’s signature drink, mimosas.
I’m still newly-married-enough to really look forward to using my wedding gifts (those that manage to fit in the condo…many are at my parents house, in my brother’s closet, just waiting to be used by his grubby hands…HANDS OFF JOE!!!) I’m thinking about silver platters for quiches and kabobs, crystal pitchers for orange juice and a glass tea kettle for straining green tea.
If you’re looking for a free meal, look no further. Come on down.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Holy Yellowfin Tuna, Batman!

According to this web site, Wasabi is opening a new place on 14th and U Street.


I've been waiting for sushi near the U Street metro for years now. My husband and I even joked about opening our own place (we, of course, know nothing about sushi except that we love eating it and enjoy watching people use chopsticks for the first time...te he he...)

A place opened next to (and is a part of) Sala Thai on U, but we've only visited once due to the fact that:

a) it was extremely hot in there!

b) it smelled fishy

c) we felt we paid more than the quality was really worth

So let's hope Wasabi is better! I'm heading to one of their other places tomorrow night, hopefully it sets the stage for many great dinners to come at Wasabi on U Street!

Monday, January 7, 2008

If at first you don't succeed...

...fry, fry again.This is my motto after this weekend’s potato chip letdown.
I followed this recipe quite literally, and the first batch came out reasonably crispy, but every subsequent batch was soggy and never got crunchy, even after time spent lying on wax paper….a lot of time.
I knew this recipe looked too easy.
It’s not that I don’t trust my microwave. It’s given me a tremendous amount of weeknight help, defrosting meat and fish at rapid speed after a day of work spent wishing I had remembered to take the damn thing out of the freezer the night before. I’m also a huge fan of cooking sweet potatoes in the microwave- wash, puncture the skin in a few places with a fork and cook for 7 minutes. All I do is add a little butter and brown sugar and viola- “baked” sweet potatoes.
I’ll also admit I’m a sucker for microwaving vegetables. The ease at which they cook (and likewise do NOT dirty a pan from the added EVOO used to sauté them…also adding calories) is great, and even a person like me who LOVES to cook (and enjoys the painstaking efforts to which I must often go) appreciates an easy veggie every once in a while.
I just have a feeling that oven-baked potato chips are the way to go. So I vow to dig my Kitchenaid shredder out from the depths of my under-the-sink cabinet once again to finely slice potatoes and cook them….all for the love of potato chips and this blog.
Speaking of the Kitchenaid, my love for it grows and grows. The slicer was easy to use and created the most perfect potato chips you’ve ever seen. It comes with two slicing attachments to make thick and thin slices, along with various shredders…I feel zucchini bread happening very soon.

Mmm...Bell pepper...

Your love of Top Chef may dictate your feelings about Anthony Bourdain, but I beg you – if you think he’s a jerk, check out his show, No Reservations. It completely changed my opinion. Last night I watched last season’s episode about China, and it’s got me very psyched for the series premiere tonight!
And if you can’t get enough cooking shows (and you’re awaiting Top Chef’s spring arrival as much as I am) I suggest also watching Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon Ramsay is a well-known Scottish born, English bred chef who travels Europe infiltrating kitchens, embarrassing chefs and getting restaurants back on track with basic menus, toned down décor and better waitstaff. He does it all in his hour-long show with much humor and great British curse words that only BBC would allow.
You’ll probably recognize Ramsay from Hell’s Kitchen…I’m telling you, this show is better.
If I had my own cooking show, who would I be? Probably Giada, with Ramsay’s wit, Mario’s love of wine and some of the guest appearances from Top Chef. Set to the tone of Iron Chef…the original Iron Chef, that is.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Is it weird that I've been dreaming about homemade potato chips all day? I'm at work, I'm busy, I've got deadlines and I'm getting a lot done, but I got chips on the brain.
My fabulous brother got me this for Christmas, and all I've been able to think about is how fabulous it would be to have homemade chips. Sure, I could do cole slaw too, or zucchini bread, but who can think about green vegetables at a time like this?
I can't decide if I want to use sweet potatoes or white potatoes; if I want to try an easy recipe like this one or something a little more creative and pretty like this. Although I'm not sure I'll be purchasing caviar for a laid-back weekend with my husband, the creme fraiche is a pretty fantastic idea.
What if I made my own homemade Old Bay chips? What if I did salt and vinegar? And you can't have chips without dip..homemade onion dip? Clam dip? The possibilities are endless.
So the real question here isn't about what kind of potato chips I should make, it's what would I be doing if I could spend all day doing something I love?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

You smell that?

I’ve realized something about myself- I love scents of food (like vanilla, pie crust, bread baking in a hot oven, apples, really ripe peaches) but I don’t want to smell like food.
Whenever I’m in a cosmetic or bath/body shop, I hover around the perfume, lotions and potions that smell like food. I love them. I buy them and I take them home. I shower in them, cover myself in them afterwards, spray myself down with them. I dab them behind my ears
Then what?
Then I realize I smell like pie. Or like cookies. Or like cake. This is nice because I happen to love pie, cookies and cake.
This is BAD because smelling like food does 2 things for me:
1) It makes me REALLY hungry…usually for whatever food I happen to smell like
2) It makes me feel sticky. Aren’t sweets usually sticky? Maybe that’s just my perception of sweets
3) I think people think I spend all day in a bakery. And that’s not natural (unless you are a baker. I happen to be in marketing)
4) I feel like I’ve actually consumed a great number of sweets. I usually end up feeling really full.
I realize these feelings are probably not normal, but this is my blog so I’m sharing. People should not smell like food. They should smell like Chanel or Dior or Vera Wang. I don’t want to smell like food. That is, unless I spend all day in a kitchen, slaving over beautiful, sweet, warm food.

Absolute and Resolute

I’m making only one- one that makes sense because it makes me happy, is healthy, is attainable, is good for my future and head, maybe profession? All of it.
I usually spend my lunch break eating whatever leftovers I brought from home (or occasionally trying a new spot), wishing I had remembered to bring whatever book I’m reading (or actually reading the book I remembered to bring…although it’s rare) or picking up prescriptions from CVS (apparently I take a lot of medicine)
BUT…what I should be doing is writing…writing here, or in my hand-written journal. So, my resolution is to write more.
How did I come to this resolution?
I just spent the last hour and a half catching up with Stephanie Klein’s blog. When I discovered her blog about 3 years ago it consumed me for a whole day (yes, I was at work. Sue me.) It’s been some time since I’ve read it, but it always inspires me to be me…and to do more things that make me happy and make me, me. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make it a priority to try to write every day.
I’d also like to lose ten pounds. Ha!