Monday, May 25, 2015

Eating Around Towns Both Near and Far

It has been nearly 6 weeks since my last blog post. And yes, I feel that I'm confessing in a way to the sin of being too busy and too creatively drained to keep this up. I feel this is something I've brought up a few times in the last year where I found that while I was enjoying new restaurants, eating amazing dishes while traveling, I just wasn't taking the extra step to document it. I could come up with a litany of excuses...work has been busy, I've been traveling a lot, I've found more worthwhile efforts to focus on, etc. But I pick my proverbial pen yet again, and vow to be better. As of today, this marks my 262nd post since I started this little venture in January 2012. So I shouldn't beat myself up about it, and just recognize that I'll write when I feel inspired, and if it isn't as often, so be it.

Having said that, I want to catch up on some of the amazing things I've eaten in the last two months, as well as some dishes I've made along the way. For the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the amazing dining I've experienced in DC over the last two months. While I've always been one to dine out fairly regularly, I've found a dining-companion-in-crime who also likes to try out exotic dishes, isn't afraid of a little spice and is game for trying out just about anything.

So while I did take two trips out of town in April (to NYC and NOLA), here is a brief write-up on some of the awesome places I've eaten in the town I've called home for 11 years. And since I've written about NYC many times before, my next post will only focus on my April trip to New Orleans. Because NOLA is all about that food.

Here is just a sampling of some of the places I've been frequenting this Spring. Some of these restaurants have been featured in the Washington Post's 40 Essential Eats list or the Washingtonian's 100 Best Restaurants for 2015, and I'll admit, these lists have not disappointed thus far.

Donburi - While this little Adams Morgan spot lacks a website, they do not lack in flavorful Japanese cuisine. I opted for the BBQ eel noodle dish. I was so enraptured by the aroma and taste of the dish, I couldn't seem to remember to take a photo. So you'll just have to trust me and go there. Pronto.

Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread...
take that Little Caesar's Crazy Bread!)
from Compass Rose
Compass Rose - This restaurant in Logan Circle prides itself on their concept of "International Street Food." As a regular consumer of this type of food, I'm a big fan of taking all the great foods you can buy on the cheap, off the streets, in every corner of the world and then placing all these country cuisines into one location. As someone who is all over the place on what they like to eat in one sitting (what do you mean it's not common to crave sushi, cheese, and pork in one sitting???) this places hits the mark. One of their more popular dishes, the khachapuri, while not one of my favorites, did bring me to this place in the first place where so many other dishes hit the mark. The cocktails are great, and if you go, definitely get the lamb kebabs. Divine.

Doi Moi's  Sakhoo Yat Sai.
Doi Moi - This restaurant is brought to you by the same people who own Estadio, which I regularly remark is my favorite Spanish-style tapas restaurant in the city. Doi Moi takes the small plate concept, but moves it to Southeast Asia where most of the dishes are meant to be shared, and present a more sophisticated take on many of the dishes I enjoyed during my trip to Thailand in 2012. They even have Kao Soi, which is something I had yet to see in the states, and they did not disappoint in their interpretation of this curry noodle soup. The one dish that had been highlighted at this restaurant in some of my foodie lists was the Sakhoo Yat Sai, or Stuffed Tapioca Pearls. These meaty (sans meat) little delights were filled with peanuts, radishes, tapioca, fresh garlic and love.

Naem Khao at Thip Khao.
Heaven in a lettuce wrap.
Thip Khao - The crowning achievement of my dining in the last few months can be found steps away from my condo. This Laotian restaurant brings the heat and my boyfriend on a regular basis. By far some of the more authentic heat levels and ingredients to be found in the DC-area, I've been here half a dozen times since it opened over the winter. Go crazy. Order off the Jungle Menu. I'm a fan of the laabs on there, chock full of organ meat. But our favorite dish there, thus far, is their Naem Khao. These lettuce wraps are filled with crispy rice, coconut, lime, scallion, pickled pork ham, peanut, and cilantro. I can't even describe them in a way that even comes close to matching how awesome they taste. The crunch! The spice! The sweet!  Ridiculous.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Broiled Scallops with Miso Stuffing

April is going to be an amazing month. I'll be dining not only in NYC and NOLA, but also at some of my favorite places in DC. So needless to say, consumption will be at a high, so in times like these, I find it important to eat as healthy as possible when cooking at home. Last weekend, Easter would bring a healthy dose (read: large) of chocolate as well as sugary and salty dishes shared with friends. Don't get me wrong, I love all of those things, but this weekend was the first of many where I wanted to try some lighter meals at home.

We had some Miso that we wanted to use and found this great recipe in "How To Cook Everything." We served these scallops on a bed of greens with an Asian dressing. A wonderfully light meal and very easy to make!

Broiled Scallops with Miso Stuffing (serves 4)


Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 lbs large sea scallops
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TB peanut oil.
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow miso
  • 2 TB mirin
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chives

Directions:

Make a paste by combining the miso, mirin and light sprinkling of salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and the peanut oil.

Make a deep horizontal slit in the side of each scallop, but don't cut all the way through. Fill each scallop with 1/2 teaspoon of the miso mixture, and close. Pour the remaining oil onto a plate or pan and turn the scallops in it. Let them sit while you heat a broiler until very hot (500 degrees) and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source.

Put the scallops under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes per side. Serve immediately, adding a little dollop of the miso paste/oil to the top if desired. We also added some chopped chives.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Artichoke and Spinach Orzo

Spring is just around the corner. I can feel it. The tourists are flocking to DC in droves, crowding our metro platforms and asking asinine questions like "what is there to do on the Mall?" or "wait...I thought I was going to a Mall...where are the stores?" Seriously...I've had to answer these questions multiple times over my years working near the Smithsonians.

But it's not just the tourists! My allergies have started to become a daily annoyance. My pale legs are blinding everyone around me as it's becoming warm enough to go without tights. And then there there is the inevitable shedding of the winter comforts...big sweaters and for most, the move from filling your belly with amazing amounts of winter comfort food to opting for lighter fare that won't put you into a food coma once the humidity arrives. Plus there is outdoor dining to look forward to. Who doesn't love a good beer garden?

I find that vegetarian side dishes with a little bit of carbs are my typical "go-tos" during this time of year. Orzo and/or couscous provide a great base. I tried this recipe recently, which is from a post back in 2013 on my friend Nick's blog (www.macheesmo.com). This was a great side dish with fish, and I think it would also go well with other Mediterranean-flavored main courses.

Artichoke and Spinach Orzo (serves 4-6 as side dish)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. orzo pasta, cooked and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed well
  • 6 oz. marinated artichokes, drained
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), diced
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper
Directions:

Cook orzo according to package instructions. Once cooking is completed, be sure to drain it and rinse quickly with cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil and the red onion and cook over medium-high heat for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until onion softens. Then add a pinch of salt.

Add artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes. 

Add washed spinach to the skillet, along with 2-3 TB of water to help the spinach steam. Add more water if needed. Cook until spinach is wilted, just a minute or two.

Stir in orzo and season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.  This salad is good both warm or cold, with grated cheese. Because cheese.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Food Travel Porn: Charlottesville, VA

For those of you who know me well, food is only one of my passions. Travel also ranks pretty high and I make it a point to combine these two as often as possible. Since 2009, I've made a pact with myself to travel internationally each year. I've kept that promise to myself each year since. Last year I upped the ante and also vowed to get out of town every quarter. It didn't have to be far, but it had to be at least for an overnight. Last year, this pact took me to Austin, Peru, Ecuador and San Diego.

My first quarter trip for 2015 was an overnight to Charlottesville, VA. Despite living in the D.C. area for 11 years, I had yet to make the trip despite countless people telling me it was right up my alley. Only a 2 1/2- hour drive from DC, this needed to happen. And I found the perfect excuse when Doug, who went to law school there many years ago, commented on the great food scene and how we wanted to go back for a quick visit. Despite a busy, and at times nasty winter weather-wise, we found a weekend to go. Here are some of our favorites food stops from the trip. And yes, we will be back and hit the wineries once the nice weather decides to stick around for good. Next up? NYC for a weekend and a long weekend in New Orleans in April. I cannot wait.

Marco & Luca - We went there for what Doug has repeatedly said are his most favorite dumplings. The place has grown a little in size since he was in school, but still only sits a modest 15 people or so and the dumplings remain cheap.

Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar - After we walked around the pedestrian mall and checked out some of the sites, we paid two visits to this tea shop, which reminded me a lot of the places I visited in Boulder, Colorado in the mid-90s. Both trippy, and tree-like, the inside d├ęcor took you to a far off place and provided a sanctuary of hot beverages on a blustery day, as well as Board games to pass the time. If you like tea and may be a bit of a hippie (such as myself) spend some time there on one of their cushioned pillows with a nice, hot cup of tea.

Commonwealth Restaurant & Sky Bar - There are A LOT of awesome places to eat in Charlottesville, or so I'm told from all of the amazing recommendations we received. This of course means we'll just have to come back! We settled on Commonwealth which not only had great ratings online, but also a lot of personal praise from several friends. The menu did not disappoint. We started off with a Ahi Tuna Tartare, and follows with two amazing entrees. I must admit, I think Doug made the better choice here. Doug had the Seared Diver Scallops with Pork Belly, Mashed Sweet Potato and a cider reduction. This was a beyond amazing flavor combination and I wanted to eat off more of his plate, and fortunately he was happy to share. I ordered the Braised Beef Brisket with Horseradish Potatoes, Carrot Frites and an Onion Gremolata. The desserts also looked amazing, but there was just no room left at the Inn. Speaking of Inns...we stayed at the South Street Inn. Quaint, convenient, and they offered a wine and cheese happy hour!

Bodo's Bagels - I'm a tough critic when it comes to bagels. I feel nothing competes with a New York bagel. Or a Montreal bagel, which comes in a close second in my book. But these were some damn good bagels. We grabbed two on our way back to DC and I only wish we'd picked more up for the week. Next time, for sure.

Next up in my quarterly pact? NYC for a weekend trip with my mom and a long weekend in New Orleans with Doug in April. I cannot wait. And will no doubt eat a ton and write all about it!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Guinness for Strength...in Cooking!

In 2009, I traveled to Ireland for an 8-day vacation with my friend Jeanine. While there was a lot to highlight there (though sadly, as you can imagine, the food is just so-so...one can only eat so much fish & chips) there were two standouts.

1) This picture which has come to signify all that is amazing about St. Patrick's Day, each and every year. He's disgruntled. He is fortunately never nude (but look at the sign behind him). I mainly put this here because it makes me happy without fail, every year.

2) The opportunity to visit the Guinness Storehouse and Factory in Dublin. What they say is true-it tastes better over there. I'm sure so much goes in to the transportation to the States and while the differences may seem minor, there's just something to be said for fresh beer. This is not to say I still don't enjoy a good Guinness here, but I really enjoy a good Guinness there.

In celebration of the upcoming holiday, here are two great Guinness food recipes to get you in the holiday spirit.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes - I will be making these for a St. Patrick's Day house party next weekend.

Maple Stout Bread - If you like maple syrup, this is a great breakfast bread. It's easy to make and remains moist, which isn't the easiest thing to achieve with breakfast breads as they tend to dry out fast.

Beef & Guinness Stew - Can't say I've made this, but I pulled this from the Guinness Storehouse website to I have high hopes for its awesomeness.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pucker Up: Part 2 of 2 - Sea Scallops with Citrus Butter

As a follow up to last week's lemon post, I wanted to share another recipe that we learned to make as part of our Culinaerie class called: "Pucker Up - Cooking with Lemon." I remain optimistic that Spring is just around the corner and during this time, I like to gravitate toward lighter meals and move away from the heavier soups and stews of winter. This dish really hits all the marks. It's a relatively simple dish with simple ingredients. Sure, there is a little cream and butter involved, but I'm a firm believer that a little fat can really make a dish. We served it with a lemon pepper couscous.

Sea Scallops with Citrus Butter Sauce (serves 2)


Ingredients:
  • 8-10 scallops
  • plain oil for sauteing (I prefer olive oil)
  • salt and pepper
Citrus Butter Sauce
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
  • juice and zest of one orange, half a lemon and half a lime
  • splash of heavy cream
  • 4 oz. butter, cubed, cold
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Lemon Pepper Couscous
  • 1 cup couscous
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon and enough chicken stock to equal 1 cup liquid
  • 1 TB butter
  • salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

Directions:

To cook the scallops, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a saute pan over high heat, add a thin film of oil.

Saute the scallops, turning once, to brown both sides. Then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for a minute or two until the scallops are cooking through (opaque and slightly springy). Serve hot with the sauce (recipe below)

To make the citrus butter sauce, zest and juice the citrus fruit and add this to the shallots in a small saucepan. Reduce over high heat until nearly dry. Add a splash of cream.

On and off the heat, add the butter to the pan one chunk at a time, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Place the pan on and off the heat as necessary to melt and incorporate the butter without bringing the sauce to a boil. Adjust the seasoning and keep warm until serving.

To make the couscous, bring the chicken stock/lemon juice mixture to a boil with the butter, salt and pepper. Add zest of lemon to the couscous. Pour boiling liquid over the couscous, cover and let steam for 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pucker Up: Part 1 of 2 - Lemon Poppyseed Cake

I have always been a fan of cooking classes. In fact, I usually seek them out when I'm traveling abroad because I think they add a nice element to the cultural and culinary immersion experience wherever I go. Thus far, I've taken cooking classes in Peru, Spain, and Thailand.

But you don't need to travel far to find great cooking classes! From "Cooking with Bacon" (I've taken two of those) to "Cajun Cooking," there are a bunch of great places to take cooking classes either by yourself, or with a partner in crime. My typical go-to places in the DC-area have included Sur La Table (which isn't just local, I believe they offer classes throughout the country) and the former Living Social event space (RIP). This time around, I went to Culinaerie, which I'd been to only once before in my 11 years in DC and that was for a sushi rolling class. February's venture to the class focused on a very specific ingredient: lemons.

During the course of the three-hour class, we learned to make three dishes that highlighted lemons. On this snowy Thursday, I'll focus on one that might make for a nice snowy day breakfast. I'll follow up with a second recipe from this class in my next post.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake (2-4 servings)


Ingredients:
  • 4 TB butter, soft
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1/2  tsp. lemon zest
  • Lemon juice plus enough buttermilk to equal 1/4 cup
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch baking soda
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
Syrup
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Glaze
  • 3/4 powdered sugar
  • Combination of water/milk/cream/lemon juice/limoncello to make a glaze
Directions:

First, let's make a cake!  Cream the butter and sugar until light. Add egg and blend. Then add the lemon zest and lemon extract.

Combine flour with baking powder and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter, alternating with buttermilk/lemon juice. Start with the flour mixture and end with the flour mixture.

Fold in poppy seeds.

Pour batter into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees until the blade of a knife pulls out cleanly. Time will vary depending on what size of pan you use.

Here's how to make the syrup. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is syrupy.

Here's how to make the glaze. Combine 3/4 powdered sugar with the liquid combo I mentioned above. It will need to be a balanced amount to make a heavy yet pourable glaze. Add liquid gradually to the powdered sugar, stirring well, until proper consistency is reached and no lumps remain.

Soak with syrup while still warm (this is optional, but we found the syrup kept the cake very soft for a few days in the refrigerator). Glaze if desired or simply dust with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Browned Butter and Sage Sauce

Sometimes, the sauce truly is the boss. The right sauce can transform the most basic pasta meal into something amazing. And it can be achieved with less than 5 ingredients!

I've made some pretty awesome sauces over the years, from romescos to marinaras. But I believe that with certain types of pasta, in particular those made with pumpkin, squash or sweet potato, that something a little lighter and savory fits the bill. One evening I found myself in possession of some leftover fresh sage, as well as sweet potato gnocchi that I had brought back from Pittsburgh over the holidays. With just a few more staples, I had what I needed to make this very basic sauce. So if you find you are short on time, and ingredients, this is a favorite.

Browned Butter and Sage Sauce (serves 4)


Ingredients:

  • 4 TB butter
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Instructions:

While your pasta of choice is cooking, melt the butter in a saute pan and cook until it starts to turn into a golden brown color. Add sage leaves and remove from heat. Add lemon juice and then sit aside until the pasta is done.

Once you've drained your pasta, save a bit of your cooking water and then gently pour into the pan and return the sauce to heat. Add the cheese, toss to coat and then serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Date Night at Home in Four Dishes

 Now that we've passed the weekend of love, I feel enough time has passed to talk about two of my loves. 1) Cooking multi-course sophisticated meals at home as opposed to going out to eat on one of the busier restaurant date days (see: Valentine's Day); and 2) Achieving amazing time management skills in the kitchen.

When you're cooking multiple courses, time management can be extremely difficult. One key factor is having a partner in the kitchen to help execute multiple dishes at the same time. I'm happy to report that our date night at home effort was very successful in the area of time management. Not only did we execute a starter salad, a main dish with side, and a dessert in under 2 hours (when you count the time it takes to cook the sweet potatoes in the oven) we did so without any major disasters and little time wasted. We even had the dessert ready to go in the oven when we started the meal so once we were done eating 20 minutes later, dessert was ready.

In short, here is what we made and how we got it done. Our menu was as follows:

1) Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad (courtesy of Epicurious, see recipe below)
2) Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin - a gem I've made multiple times.
3) Sweet Potato Puree with Smoked Paprika (also courtesy of Epicurious)
4) Maple Bacon Bread Pudding - I learned to make this during a cooking with bacon class last year

In order to execute this four course meal, I suggest starting by cooking the sweet potatoes in the oven as this will taken the most time to execute (1 hour). While those are cooking, I suggest opening a bottle of red wine. Because I said so. 

About halfway through the cooking time, and once you've enjoyed some wine, make the salad dressing and set aside. Then mix the herb topping for the pork tenderloin so that once the potatoes are removed from the oven, the meat is ready to cook. I also suggest cubing the bread for the bread pudding. Once you place the pork tenderloin in the oven,, you can also toast the bread cubes needed to make the bread pudding. I suggest assembling the bread pudding at the same time as when the meat is cooking so once that is done, you can place the ramekins filled with maple bacon bread pudding goodness in the oven so they'll be ready when you're done eating.

I know this sounds a bit complicated, but if you take a few minutes to plan your prep strategy for any multi-course meal, it can be done. Wine also helps.

Here's the kale salad recipe. It's awesome and I'll be making this again. The dressing also works well with arugula.

Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad (serves 4)


Ingredients:

  • 3/4 to 1 lb. lacinato kale (also called Tuscan kale) or tender regular kale, stems and center ribs discarded 
  • 2 TB finely chopped shallot 
  • 1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper 
  • 4 1/2 TB extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 oz. coarsely grated ricotta salata (1 cup)
Directions:

Working in batches, cut kale crosswise into very thin slices.

Whisk together shallot, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Toss kale and ricotta salata in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat well, then season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Failed Soup Experiment...or was it?

I'll be the first to admit that not everything I cook is a winning dish. But 9 out of 10 times, I think I do pretty damn well. But what constitutes a failed dish? In baking, it's pretty easy to determine. The bread doesn't rise properly or perhaps the brownies sink in the middle of the pan (true story.) With cooking, it's a bit more complicated. Yes, you can burn a dish, or over salt, but what happens when you just don't like it?

This was the case when I tried to make a healthy soup for myself using a few ingredients I had on hand that individually, I enjoy. And this is not to say that they wouldn't work together in other dishes, hell, maybe even in this soup. But for whatever reason, I just hated this soup. Maybe my taste buds were off. Maybe the butternut squash had started to go bad. It could just be that what I was craving was something unhealthy, but I made this and couldn't stomach eating the rest. I share this recipe to show that I am human when it comes to cooking and who knows, maybe this will fit your taste buds just fine.

Butternut Squash, Kale and Pasta Stew (serves 4)


Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup tiny pasta, like macaroni
  • Salt and pepper
Directions:

Peel butternut squash and then dice it into 1/4 inch cubes. Or you can be lazy like me and buy the pre-cut squash, and cook it into smaller pieces.

Cook pasta according to directions.

Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add onions and cook for a few minutes until they are soft. Add garlic, rosemary, and squash. Continue to cook until squash starts to soften.

For kale, cut out any large stems and roughly chop. Add kale to pot, cover, and let steam for a minute.

Add vegetable stock to pot and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes. Then, add cooked, drained pasta. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tempeh Spring Rolls

As I posted earlier this month about the wonder that is prime football watching food for the Super Bowl, I was actually making something quite different for the Super Bowl Party I attended. It was requested that I bring a healthier side dish to offset all the chili, wing dip, and cookies you could imagine (and believe me, they were all amazing). After attending a party last summer where my friend Scott deftly made these healthy little bundles of goodness, I figured it was time for me to not only work with tempeh for the first time, but to also make my first spring roll. These were not that difficult to make, and I got the hand of wrapping them pretty quickly.

Were they the prettiest spring rolls ever made? Probably not, but they were tasty! This recipe is courtesy of my buddy Nick's awesome blog, http://www.macheesmo.com.

Tempeh Spring Rolls (makes 8-10 spring rolls)


Ingredients:

  • 1 8 ounce block of tempeh
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thin
  • Bean sprouts
  • Pea shoots (I couldn't find any so I used watercress)
  • Spring roll wrappers 
Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Sriracha sauce, to taste
  • Sesame oil, to taste
Directions:

Whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and Sriracha and toss in tempeh block. Cover and shake well to coat tempeh. Let rest for 15-20 minutes to marinate.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Remove tempeh and sear on both sides for 4-5 minutes per side.

Remove tempeh and slice thin. Also grate carrots and slice cucumbers into sticks.

To make a spring roll, put some warm water in a large plate. Take one rice paper wrapper and submerge it in the water. Let it sit for 5 seconds. It should be flexible but not soggy.

Move wrapper to a clean surface. Add a few tempeh slices and veggies to the middle of the wrapper. You can fill them pretty big.

Roll wrapper up, pulling on the wrapper as you roll to keep it nice and tight.

Slice each roll in half and repeat until you use all your tempeh or veggies.

Serve with dipping sauce!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Food Porn: A Week of Thai-tanic Proportions

Back in January, I had what I would coin a food week of Thai-tanic proportions. Though I must admit, only two of the meals were true Thai food, but I'm hard pressed to find a better way to describe the amount of Asian food I consumed in one week. The total came to 18 Asian dishes in 7 days. Not bad for a cold week in January. Prepare to be insanely jealous.

Toki Underground
On a Saturday, I braved the cold with three others to wait in line (my first of two cold line waits of the week...good food can do that) for Ramen at Toki Underground. Toki is one of those places that people will wait in line for an hour or more just to get on the waiting list to get a table. The space is intimate and the food is fantastic. While waiting, a Toki staff member brought out hot tea. Fortunately the cold scared many people away from waiting for extended periods of time (which would be the case again at my second dining location the following week). We were able to get in for an early seating and what came next was just amazing. We ordered some stiff drinks and their fried chicken steam buns to start. Served like a traditional pork steam bun, the flavors and the dipping sauces were just awesome. You just can't go wrong with a sweet chili sauce.

There are several types of Ramen you can get here, with a number of add-ins from pork belly for fried prawn heads to their Toki Endorphine Sauce. I opted for the Red Miso, which included pulled pork, kale, egg and pickled ginger. Others tried a similar Ramen that also included Kimchi. Bottom line: this place is worth the wait and you should go in the Winter and arrive in late afternoon. The line will be shorter and the warmth of the food will warm your heart and your soul.

Little Serow
On the Wednesday after Toki, I went to Little Serow to celebrate a friend's birthday. Previous trips there had involved an hour or more wait in line with the slim chance of getting a table. The cold scared away most people and so I probably could have arrived a little before they opened at 5:30 and snagged one of their tables for 4. This was my third visit to this little gem and while I can't share photos with you (I respect their request for no photos in their restaurant) I can say that each time is a different experience, with some overlapping dishes. Probably one of my favorites this time around in the 7-course meal was the Chiang Mai Catfish Laap with shallots and spices. The heat levels at Little Serow are no joke for most people, but I find it to be comfortably spicy.

BaJeng Thai Pop-Up Restaurant from Capital Taste
The last stop in my Asian Tour-de-Force was a Thai pop-up restaurant hosted by Capital Taste. I had met Chef Mackenzie Kitburi at a foodie networking happy hour last Fall and was happy to finally check out his food after weather got in the way of several previous Farm-to-Table style events. The event was held in the Mess Hall, a relatively new space for chefs interested in holding events such as this. The space featured an open kitchen so that you could see the team at work from a distance. You can watch a great video about the event and the chef here. (And yes, you'll spot me at about the 5-minute mark.)

The meal was inspired by the chef's grandmother and celebrated the diversity of Thai cuisine. Many of the dishes in the 9-course spread  nailed the complex flavors that make Thai food so unique and diverse. Not to mention the fact that each dish looked like a piece of art and were beautifully executed.

The dish (pictured first on the right) contained an assortment of mushrooms, Thai sausage as well as lychee. The crumble, which I believe was peanut-based, had a meaty taste to it as well and really brought this dish together.

My favorite dish of the night was the giant prawn with seafood dumpling. This was cooked to perfection and the dumpling was sublime. While the spice levels overall were relatively mild, this dish included some shredded chiles (that Doug ate like candy) which really gave the the dish a nice level of heat.

Capital Taste hosts a variety of unique dining experiences throughout the year. I encourage you to check one of them out and support a hometown chef who is making a name for himself in DC.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Bowl Party Food = Amazeballs.

Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl...here we go! Sadly, not this year, but you know where my allegiances always lie. Plus this Pennsylvania girl may have been a bit jealous of the snow up north, hence breaking out the best piece of head gear I own.

So once my hopes for an extensive post-season were as deflated as New England's balls, I started to think about not only where I would watch and hope for a Patriots loss, but what I would make. A request came in to make something healthy for a party, so I will post what I decided on in a future blog post. But in the meantime, here are some great options for those of you who want to keep your bellies fat and happy with all the awesome that comes with meat and cheesy goodness.

Katie's Super Bowl Top Five Dishes

Buffalo Cheese Bread: This post has received the most page views of anything I've blogged about over the last several years. I think it is a testament to how awesome my friend Nick's blog is. (see below for another reference and link). It takes everything that is awesome about buffalo wings and substitutes the meat for bread.

Janet's (meat)BALLS: Sweet, sweet meat.  Balls. 'Nuff said.

Sticky Wings: These are my favorite wings and they are the creation of my buddy Nick at http://www.macheesmo.com. I've made them several times and they are always a crowd-pleaser. If you like an Asian-style wing and love that Rooster sauce, these wings are for you.

Stuffed Jalapenos: These little pillows of meat and cheesy goodness are stuffed with chorizo and smoked gouda. And boy is it gouda.

Tomatillo Peach Salsa: This beats any jarred fruit salsa variety. Hands down and worth the extra effort.

And to give a quick shout-out to a former work colleague of mine who had a role in this little bit of amazing...don't forget about food safety this Super Bowl Sunday!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of make-your-own-takeout. Not only is it economical, but I also think that many Asian dishes are pretty easy to make, and I often have most of the spices and necessary ingredients in my cupboard. From curry powder to garam masala to ginger, most have similar flavor profiles which make the dishes easy to make and in my opinion, not too difficult to mess up.

One thing that I hadn't attempted before in making my own Asian carryout was to use a slow cooker. Two weekends ago I found I had a craving, a slow-cooker, and a cooking partner in crime. The result was this lighter version of a butter chicken that makes enough to feed a small army.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken (serves 8)


Ingredients:

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 (14-oz.) can light coconut milk
  • 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
  • 2 TB whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. curry powder 
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (I like my dishes a little hot, so I think this helped with the flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder, or more, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 TB chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, tomato paste, flour, garam masala, curry powder, chili powder and ginger powder until well combined and slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place chicken into a slow cooker. Add sauce mixture and gently toss to combine. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 hours.

Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro, if desired. We made with brown rice for a healthy lunch that also froze pretty well.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Churro Pancakes

Hooray for a long weekend! Long weekends are for sleeping in and making complex brunch dishes. Because you have the time and you have the hunger.

Last weekend, while not a long weekend, was a busy one, but I found the time in the morning to try out a new recipe, one from my friend Nick's blog, www.macheesmo.com. It helped get me through the rest of the day and if you find yourself with some time on your hands this long weekend, you should give it a shot!

This recipe had caught my eye when he first posted it over the summer, but I was waiting for the right opportunity to make it. I wanted something sweet and savory...so I paired it with a side of bacon. Because bacon.

Churro Pancakes (makes 12 pancakes)


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
     
  • Spicy Chocolate Sauce:
    • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 4 TB unsalted butter
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Chili Cinnamon Sugar:
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
Directions:

Stir together the ingredients for the chili cinnamon sugar and set aside.

For chocolate sauce, stir together ingredients in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water. Let sit until chocolate melts and stir together. Keep warm over low heat and a double boiler until needed, stirring occasionally. I didn't have a metal bowl, so fortunately my trusty sous chef rigged two pots on top of each other to imitate a double boiler. Worked like a charm.

For pancakes, stir together dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl. Whisk milk, eggs, and melted butter separately. Then whisk liquid stuff into dry ingredients. If batter is super thick, add more milk.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium. Add a small dab of butter or a drizzle of nonstick spray. Once hot, add pancakes in 1/3 cup measurements and cook them for 3-4 minutes on the first side until bubbles show on top of the pancakes and the edges start to pull up slightly.

Flip pancakes and cook for another 1-2 minutes on the second side.

Serve pancakes while warm drizzled with spicy chocolate sauce and sprinkled heavily with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup

It started with a sniffle, and then manifested into something far worse...a complete loss of voice. This is what I experienced over the holidays and I'm just now starting to feel more like myself.

From what I hear in the hallways  at work and amongst others in the area, this nasty bug has been hitting everybody. When you're sick, you often crave comfort food. For some people, that is the types of foods mom would make you when you were sick as a child. Peanut butter toast or grilled cheese were my go-tos. Nowadays, I tend to gravitate more to the exotic and I like to think that spicy food will cure what ails me most of the time. Unfortunately, when I was told I had a mild form of laryngitis, I was advised to avoid spicy foods and to focus on hot liquids and soups to nurse my way back to health.

When I'm not feeling well, the desire to cook anything that takes longer than 30 minutes is completely lost on me and when you don't have your mom around to make you that toast or soup, you have to cook through your Sudafed haze. So quick and easy is the way to go.

So I made the simplest, quickest soup I could come up with that included protein and vegetables: chicken noodle soup. Like most soups, this freezes well so I will continue to experience this soup's healing powers throughout this winter. But let's hope I don't need it!


Quick Chicken Noodle Soup (serves 6-8)


Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. chicken thighs, diced 
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock 
  • 1/2 lb. wide egg noodles

Directions:
Place a large pot over moderate heat and add olive oil. Add diced chicken thighs and cook for 5-6 minutes until the pink is gone. Remove from pot and set aside.
Add stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves to the pot. Then add carrots, onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Add diced chicken, return soup to a boil, and reduce heat back to moderate. Add the noodles and cook soup an additional 6 minutes or until noodles are tender and remove soup from the heat.

Remove bay leaves and serve with saltines, if you desire.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Apple Chutney on Toast

Ever since I last posted to this blog, nearly 8 weeks ago, I've debated whether I had the time and the desire to keep it up. I've posted over 250 times since I started this blog in January 2012.The blog came about a year after I decided to cook one new recipe each week for a year in 2011. It was the first resolution I'd ever kept, and I was determined to dive in head first to food blogging. And I enjoyed it, and I still do, but I found that the perfectionist in me was bound and determined to post twice a week without fail, writing about new recipes, restaurants I've visited and the foods I've eaten during my travels. And I was failing. A transition to a new job as well as sick family members made it nearly impossible to keep up in a way that I felt was adequate.

This doesn't mean I haven't been cooking, I just haven't been writing about it as much. But in the spirit of New Year's resolutions, I'm ready to recommit myself to this blog, but in a smaller way than in years' past. I vow to post once a week without fail, and more if time and the situation calls for it. I'll post about fun food events and restaurants I check out, my travel food adventures, and most importantly, what I cook up in my little kitchen in Columbia Heights.

I also plan to maintain last year's resolution of getting out of town for at least an overnight every quarter, which I'm sure will lend itself to more fun food travel blogging, which has been what I enjoyed most about writing this blog last year.

So here's a dish I made for a holiday party back in December. The recipe comes from my friend Nick's blog, www.macheesmo.com, which continues to be a great resource for when I want to cook something new.

 

Apple Chutney on Toast


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 scallions minced (not the green parts)
  • Baguette, sliced and toasted
  • 5-6 oz. blue cheese
Directions:

Combine the sugar, red wine vinegar, orange juice, cinnamon and ginger in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar melts, about 2 minutes.

Peel, core, and chop your apples and add them to the chutney.  Stir everything together and cook over low-medium heat until the apples are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add currants and chopped scallions to the chutney at the very end.

Cool the chutney for at least an hour and serve on toasts with blue cheese.