Monday, April 28, 2014

Skillet Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese

Asparagus is in season as is regular Sunday family dinners. After travels and cleanses and other events that were causing the typical traditional fare to be altered on a regular basis, two weeks ago we were back on target with regular food (no offense, vegans) :)

I love a simple roasted asparagus, but this time around, I wanted to try something a bit different. The result was a great side salad for a big dinner party.

Skillet Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese (serves 6)


  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed (about 30 medium spears)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp. julienne-cut orange rind
  • 1 tsp. julienne-cut lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 TB dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 5 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups mixed baby salad greens
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 TB chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 TB fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Directions:

    Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add one-third of asparagus mixture; cook 4 minutes or until lightly charred and crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan; set aside. Repeat procedure twice with the remaining asparagus mixture.

    Place 1 cup water in a microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave for 2 minutes or until water just boils. Add orange rind; let stand 20 seconds. Drain, reserving rind. Repeat procedure with lemon rind.

    Combine orange rind, orange juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until juice mixture measures about 3 tablespoons (about 5 minutes). Combine wine, lemon juice, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Gradually add 5 teaspoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in orange juice mixture.

    Place 1/3 cup greens on each of six plates. Divide asparagus evenly among salads. Top evenly with cheese, pecans, and tarragon. Stir lemon rind and parsley into orange juice mixture; drizzle dressing over salads.

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    Food Porn: Le Diplomate

    Certain holidays are associated with gluttony. Who am I kidding? Most of them are! You wear your comfy pants (as my nephew calls them) and you just resign yourself to overindulgence. Easter Sunday is like that for most people. Many people give up something for Lent (often alcohol or sweets or something challenging) and once Easter Sunday arrives, it's all you can do to pry them away from the bar. A few years ago, I attended Easter brunch with a friend who had given up cheese for Lent. She picked an Italian restaurant for our brunch and there was a table with chunks of parmesan cheese upon entering the restaurant. Coincidence? I think not. In honor of Easter brunches past, I had to order cheese. And let me tell you, I could lap up that truffle honey shown here all day. Damn. I digress...

    As for me...I didn't give up anything. I do not celebrate the religious nature of Easter, but I do celebrate gluttony. So that's what I did this Easter Sunday.

    My friend and I had made reservations at a French restaurant in DC that had opened about a year ago. Le Diplomate had been popular from the very start and we were excited to finally get around to checking it out. My friend Lauren was working there that day and her first recommendation, rather she insisted on this notion...was to get the bread basket. As you can see, the basket contained a wide variety of breads including one that contained anise and as my friend kept saying, "It's like eating a gum drop. Oh god, it's like a gum drop." Yeah, we enjoyed every bit of bread in that basket. Bunnies got it going on.

    And when it comes to gluttony and holiday meals, you have to go big or go home. Which is what this Gruyere and Fresh Herb omelette, along with some amazing potatoes, was all about. Because once I made it through half of this, it was time to go home. And take a nap.

    If you haven't been to Le Diplomate, please go. And enjoy the bread and cheese for me. Heaven. It's the kind of organized religion I can get behind.

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Oven-Roasted Crispy Kale...Oh and Tilapia!

    I've been following into a pattern lately where I may have a weekend of overindulgence (case in point: Easter weekend brunch, but I'll talk more about that later this week), followed by a week when I want to eat light to make up the difference.

    So tonight, I revisited an old favorite: Beer Battered Tilapia with a Chile-Mandarin Orange Sauce. This recipe is pretty light on the battering and doesn't come across like an overly fried fish. Or at least that's what I tell myself when I want to "eat light."

    To accompany the fish, I made my first crispy kale in the oven. And while some pieces got a bit more brown than I'd like, all in all I was happy with the results. The kale recipe is below.

    Oven-Roasted Crispy Kale (serves 4)

    • 2 bunches of kale
    • 2 TB olive oil
    • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
    • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 TB toasted sesame seeds


    Preheat oven to 375°F. Rinse kale and pat dry thoroughly. Remove and discard thick ribs and roughly chop leaves. Pat leaves dry again. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. 

    Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until leaves are tender, crisp on edges and slightly browned. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    Food Porn: Texas Edition

    One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to "get out of town" in some capacity each quarter. It didn't need to be a big trip, but it would require an overnight stay somewhere that was not my home base of Washington, DC. My first quarterly trip for 2014 took me to Austin, TX, to visit my cousins and visit a warmer climate, having been stuck in what seemed like an endless DC winter. I was cutting it close in getting to my first quarterly destination, reaching Austin during the last week of March. My cousins had asked me in advance what I wanted to do during my trip and my requirements were quite simple. I wanted to eat good BBQ and hear some good live music. We accomplished both of these tasks during my 3-day trip, but for the purposes of this blog, I'll talk about
    the BBQ. Because it was definitely the Boss.

    I had received a lot of recommendations of where to go in Austin and the surrounding area to get BBQ. Everyone has their opinion, but after consulting with friends and my family there, we decided to hit the road to Lockhart, TX, about a 45-minute drive north of Austin. But during the previous night's planning and preparation for the BBQ excursion, I realized that between the three of us, we couldn't decide on where to go. So we elected to do a BBQ crawl of the three main BBQ joints in Lockhart. We were on a tight time frame, needing to complete this crawl in about 3 1/2 hours since we needed to get back to Austin, to watch my Dayton Flyers play in the Elite 8. Challenge accepted.

    Our first stop was to Smitty's with the giant fire pits (shown above). There was a bit of a wait here so I got to inhale that smoky meaty goodness for a solid 30 minutes before having the opportunity to purchase our BBQ. Recognizing that this was going to be a marathon, not a sprint, we devised a plan to divide and conquer, tasting 2-3 types of meat in each location, but definitely brisket in each place. For this first stop, we elected for 1/3 pound of brisket, hot sausages, and beef ribs. We didn't bother with sides, save for the bread and
    pickles, but we did decided to try the National Beer of Texas: Lone Star. Here I got to channel my inner True Detective, attempt to solve the riddles on the bottlecap, and wash down this tasty BBQ. Amazing. But I'll leave my formal BBQ ranking for the end of this post!

    Next stop was Black's, one of the BBQ institutions in the town, and from what I understand, one of the originals. Fortunately the line wasn't too long, but just long enough for us to digest a bit from the first place. For some reason, I felt like I needed more than just meat here, opting to grab some mac and cheese as well to wash it all down. Here we elected for another 1/3 pound of brisket as well as some baby back ribs. There were some FrankenRibs that we elected not to purchase (pictured here) because again, we knew that we still had one more place to visit. A marathon, not a sprint, boys. At this point we started joking about the meat cramps and feeling like we permanently had a rib wedged near our ribs. But we were 2/3 of the way through our crawl. Not the time to cramp up!

    Our last stop was Kreuz Market, home to what my cousin has deemed "the best damn pork chop" he's ever tasted. So clearly we needed to order that in addition to more brisket. Because we needed to try brisket in each location in order to come up with formal rankings. My cousin wasn't joking about the pork chop. Un-freaking-believable. The rub was solid and the meat cooked to tender perfection. Between the three of us, we managed to eat about 2/3 of the pork chop as well as all the brisket, but we sure were full!

    And we did this all with time to spare! We were able to drive back to Austin, drop off the small amount of leftovers at the house, and then head to the bar to watch my basketball team. Sadly, the Flyers did not win, but all-in-all the day was a win.

    And now for the formal rankings.

    This was extremely difficult because even though we elected to get brisket at each location, the first was a lean brisket (the horror, I know!) while the other two were fatty to medium-fatty. Having said that, I felt that best cooked part of the brisket we had at Kreuz (one end was a bit over done) was the most flavorful. As for the ribs, I loved the rub on the ribs we had at Smitty's. My cousin Joe preferred the baby back ribs at Black's, and don't get me wrong, they were great. But there was just something about the smokiness of the Smitty rib.

    I could go on and on about this BBQ for another few paragraphs, or talk about all the awesome breakfast tacos I had while I was there, but my stomach may just burst. So I'm going to go for a run now in solidarity. Because God knows I can't eat like that every weekend. Truly an awesome time with two awesome cousins in a very awesome city. Thanks, boys!

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Maple Blueberry Muffins

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Cooking is an art, while baking is a science. I've never been good at science, and while a lot of the draw of science is the ability to experiment to come up with your desired outcome, you have to be prepared for disastrous results.

    I'm happy to report that even though I had to experiment a bit with this recipe (namely because I didn't quite have enough of two of the ingredients) my improvisational skills worked out ok. Perhaps the texture of these muffins would be a bit different if I had the exact amounts of Greek yogurt and maple syrup, but I was pleased with the results. And I hope my coworkers who will get to try these tomorrow feel the same way.

    I'm posting the recipe as it should be made, courtesy of my friend Nick Evans' blog, And did I mention that Nick wrote a cookbook? I've received my copy and will be writing about it in the coming weeks, once I've had a chance to cook from it. You should totally check it out.

    Maple Blueberry Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

    • 1 large egg 
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup
    • 1 cup Greek yogurt
    • 4 TB unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • Pinch of salt
    • 6-8 ounces blueberries

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl whisk together egg, sugar, syrup, yogurt, melted (and cooled) butter, and milk. Set aside.

    In a larger bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Wash blueberries and toss in with dry ingredients.

    Add wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold the batter together. If it's very thick add a bit more milk.

    Divide muffin batter between 12 muffin tins that have been lightly buttered or oiled.

    Bake muffins for 25-28 minutes at 350 degrees F. Rotate the muffin pan once halfway through cooking.

    Remove muffins when they are golden brown on top and around edges. Let cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove and eat while warm or let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    Vietnamese Tilapia with Turmeric and Dill

    Last weekend, I traveled to Austin, Texas for several days where I ate my fair share of meat. I'll talk more about that in a blog post later this week, because there's a lot to say.

    But when I returned from what I'm now referring to as the "Weekend of the Meat Sweats," I knew I need to offset some of that heavy food. So I resolved to eating fish and vegetables for the week, and decided to try this new recipe that my parents had made a week earlier. It was a good call. Not only was it flavorful, it was nice and light. Which was just what I needed.

    Vietnamese Tilapia with Turmeric and Dill (serves 4)

  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 TB chopped fresh dill
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 TB grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 TB fish sauce
  • 1 TB dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets                              
  • 2 TB peanut oil
  • Cooking spray                               
  • 4 cups vertically sliced sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh dill, divided
  • 4 green onions, cut into (2-inch) pieces
  • 1 TB soy sauce 
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 8 lemon wedges.

  • Directions:

    Combine first eight ingredients, through the black pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add fish; toss to coat. Cover and chill 2 hours.

    Remove fish from marinade; discard marinade and solids. Combine fish and peanut oil in a bowl; toss to coat.

    Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, 1/4 cup dill, and green onions; stir-fry 3 minutes. Add soy sauce and sugar; stir-fry 1 minute. Arrange onion mixture on a platter.

    Return pan to high heat. Add half of fish to pan; cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over; cook 1 minute or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Place fish on platter over onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining fish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup dill and peanuts. Serve with lemon wedges.