Monday, April 29, 2013

Urban Families and Dinner Parties

We pardon the interruption from my regularly scheduled blog entry to bring you this special bulletin.

While this may not be much of a "news flash," and it's something that I could have written about months ago, this past week presented itself with the perfect opportunity for me to talk about some very special people: my urban family.

While I may not be blessed with a family of my own in DC resulting from marriage or kids, I am very blessed to have made some amazing friends over the past 9 years that I consider to be my urban family. Nearly all of us come from somewhere else, some are happily paired up with the loves of their lives, some are begrudgingly single, and some are just along for the ride. And the great thing about this urban family is that it has no limits. It can grow to great lengths and evolve over time to something just as precious. It can be dysfunctional (in a fun way) and full of great adventures and I now know that in recent years, this urban family will be here for me when I need them most. Sometimes the need is obvious, other times it's simply in the form of  a good meal and conversation, to distract from a stressful week. In whatever form this family arrives, it's always right on time (except for Aniello, he's always late...but he makes up for it in charm and large amounts of wine).

And this brings me to the point of this post-I'm fortunate to have a regular seat at the dinner table with some friends and neighbors. On occasion, we venture out of the neighborhood to try someplace new. Several weeks ago the idea came about to finally try Thai X-ing, a family-style Thai dining experience that I'd been told would be the closest thing I'd get to authentic Thai food here in DC. They were mostly right in that department, but regardless of authenticity, I can't debate the authenticity of this amazing group of urban family dinner patrons this week.

We joked that the group of us really did represent the microcosm of DC professionals in their 30s. We were four gay men deep (that's what he said?), five single women, and one very lucky straight guy. As is dinner party tradition, we shared stories around a particular theme, this one was travel, and best of all, we shared a ton of food. From pumpkin curry to marinated chicken legs and entire fish, we gorged on these Thai delights in a restaurant that very much resembled a family dining room.

They say that food is love, and I'm all for showing the people I care about how I feel through food. I hope to continue to share my life and my meals with friends throughout this year. We truly are a "Modern Family." And I wouldn't trade mine for the world.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Panko Crusted Fish Tacos with Peach Relish

I love Mexican food, but it's often not the healthiest type of cuisine. However, if you're going to have to pick something on the lighter side, fish tacos are the way to go. This is my second attempt at fish tacos, after a very successful first run last year with my cumin-spiced fish tacos with mango-avocado salsa. That one remains a favorite, but this one is a little less spicy.


  • 2 cups finely chopped peeled peach (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 TB chopped cilantro
  • 1 TB fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
    Remaining ingredients
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 pound tilapia, cut into 2-inch strips
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

  • Directions

    To prepare relish, combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.

    Preheat oven to 375°.

    Combine panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add fish to bowl, tossing to coat. Place fish in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once.

    Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish and salsa evenly among tortillas.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Salmon with Sriracha Sauce

    It's some kind of cruel punishment when you can't spell something you cook with often. This is the case with Sriracha Sauce. I always have a bottle of it in my fridge, I cook with it often, yet I always have to triple check the spelling. A friend of mine has often referred to it as Rooster Sauce (because of the image on the bottle) and I might have to start doing the same. Cock-a-doodle-doo. Have I mentioned I haven't been sleeping well lately? :)

    So this is a very simple recipe that I got from SELF magazine, which included a feature on Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook: "It's All Good."  Of course, they indicate in the recipe that you can buy the book to get Gwyneth's personal sriracha sauce recipe, but I'm good with the rooster. This had a nice flavor to it and wasn't overly spicy. I might opt to marinade the salmon in this for a bit before cooking. But I like my food like I like my men...muy caliente.

    Salmon with Sriracha Sauce (serves 4)

    • Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
    • 1 TB maple syrup
    • 1 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce
    • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
    • 1 1/4 lbs salmon fillet, skin removed
    • 2 TB coarsely chopped cilantro
    Heat oven to 425°.

    In a bowl, whisk together juice, zest, syrup, sriracha and salt.

    Place salmon in a baking dish lined with parchment paper; pour lime-maple mixture over top. Roast salmon until cooked through and flaky, 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve.

    I served this with asparagus and the orzo spinach salad I made last week. I'm practically making that salad once a week now. It's awesome.

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Bison Burger with Goat Cheese and Pinot Noir Carmelized Onions

    As you'll recall, two weeks ago I regaled you all with the saga of my busted refrigerator and the desire to work through the meat in my freezer. I put it out to a vote, and the winning meat was the bison burger. I'm also happy to report that my new refrigerator will be arriving tomorrow, so it's fitting that I should post this today.

    The bison meat that I had was in pre-made patties, so it limited my creativity a bit in what to make. Let's be honest. After a long work day, sometimes I just don't want to have to think or make the tough decisions. Like what type of cheese to put on a bison burger. So I kept this simply...delicious.

    Bison Burger with Goat Cheese and Pinot Noir Carmelized Onions (serves 2)

    • 1 small vidalia onion, sliced
    • 1 sprig thyme
    • 1/2 TB. olive oil, plus additional for cooking burgers
    • 1/2 cup pinot noir
    • 1/2 lb. ground bison
    • 1 TB chopped parsley1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 oz goat cheese
    • 2 split hamburger buns

    In a  skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the thyme. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook with a pinch of salt until the onions are soft golden brown, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pluck out the thyme sprig  and then increase the heat to medium-high. Add the wine and cook until it’s almost completely absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, press the parsley, garlic, salt and pepper into the patties. Cook them however you like–grill, broil, pan fry, about 2 1/2 minutes per side for medium.

    Broil or toast the buns with the goat cheese on them. Serve the burgers on the toasted buns with the onions.

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    Food Porn: Masa 14

    While I've never been described as a "slacker" I feel I have been completely slacking on this blog as of late. Work and social life has been getting in the way and making it hard not only for me to cook regularly for myself, but even to simply meal plan, which can take time. So you'll notice I'm posting less and posting a lot of restaurant food porn pieces. Because I've been eating out a lot and have had some pretty awesome meals. So I'm sharing my porn collection with you and hope to get back in the kitchen with more regularity in the coming weeks.

    This week's edition of food porn is from my parents' visit a few weeks ago. I'm always taking them somewhere different and one place I've been meaning to go for awhile is Masa 14. I've been there for some dates in the past, but never really delved in to the menu as much as I would have like. After enjoying a few beers beforehand, we were ready to eat and eat we did. Shown here are the pork steam buns and some chicken wings with a chili sauce that my mother deemed as quite possibly the best wings she's ever had. Next to the sticky wings I've made on here. :) Of course. Good mom.

    I've been told that Masa 14 has an all you can eat/drink brunch on the weekends so I plan to add that to my list of places to go for brunch in 2013.

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    Orzo and Spinach Salad

    Yesterday I revisited a great tradition from dinner with some friends in Southwest DC to watch some of our favorite HBO programming. Family dinners started with True Blood a few years ago when my good friend Drina would whip up awesome Creole and southern dishes. It evolved to the group of us watching other HBO shows, including Big Live, Boardwalk Empire, and others. The group had started to watch Game of Thrones two years ago, and while I was a late adopter to the series, I did score an invite for the season premiere this weekend.

    My friend Will made a great chicken and pasta dish, not to mention his first cake. I made a light side dish that turned out pretty flavorful despite its simplicity. I'll be making this one again.

    Orzo and Spinach Salad (serves 4)


    • 1/3 cup uncooked orzo
    • 2 cups spinach
    • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
    • 1/4 cup feta cheese
    • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper


    Cook orzo according to instructions on box.  Drain, and then toss into a bowl with the spinach. Mix thoroughly until the spinach starts to wilt slightly.

    Add cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Toss together. Add white wine vinegar and mix together. Serve immediately.

    Seriously, it's that simple. This is not great the second day, so having leftovers isn't ideal. But this is so tasty, I doubt you'll have much left over. This is great for a summer picnic or to accompany heavier main dishes.