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. SautĂ© 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 CafĂ© 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.)

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

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

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.