Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pizza Pizza

This morning I was cruising around my favorite foodie blogs and stopped in to see what Biscuit Girl has been doing at You Gonna Eat All That. She recently had a run in with fresh homemade pizza. Well, damn, that's what I have to have for dinner. Thanks for the suggestion!

I made a quick basic tomato sauce. I took 3 tomatoes and whizzed them in the food processor and then simmered them for 10 minutes to help get some of the extra water to simmer out. Done.

Chopped some fresh basil, thinnly sliced some onions and some fresh mozzarella.

The pizza dough came from Trader Joe's. So easy.

Pulled out the dough to about 12 inches wide. Spooned on some sauce, spread some basil, onions, crushed red pepper, cheese and threw them in the oven for 6-10 minutes (450 degrees) until delicious!

Sauce, Basil, Onions!

Mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pizza 1 is done.

Pizza 2 is done.

We have a pizza stone for our oven. I keep it in there all the time. I think it helps give us a little more even heating. In preparing for making the pizzas, I sprinkled some corn meal on the stone before the oven started heating up. I wanted to make sure the dough could hit the stone, so I prepared the pizzas on a flat cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal as well. When I was ready to put the pizza in the oven, I gave the cookie sheet a shimmie to loosen the pizza and then it slid right onto the stone. Perfecto!

The pizzas were really tasty and good. But too much for the two of us. Should have just made one pizza, but since I hadn't made these before, I didn't know if the one package of dough from TJ's would be enough for I bought two and we ate two...well, most of it anyway. Mmm, good.

Now we will wait awhile and eat the TJ's Key Lime Cheesecake for dessert! Will let you know how it is.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Simple Soup

This is a great simple soup that can be made day of or earlier. I'll have some more notes at the end.

Tortilla Soup

from America's Test Kitchen
Despite its somewhat lengthy ingredient list, this recipe is very easy to prepare. If you desire a soup with mild spiciness, trim the ribs and seeds from the jalapeño omit the jalapeño altogether) and use the minimum amount of chipotle in adobo sauce (1 teaspoon, pureed with the tomatoes in step 3). Our preferred brand of low-sodium chicken broth is Swanson's Natural Goodness. If advance preparation suits you, the soup can be completed short of adding the shredded chicken to the pot at the end of step 3. Return the soup to a simmer over medium-high heat before proceeding. The tortilla strips and the garnishes are best prepared the day of serving.

Makes about 9 cups, serving 6

Tortilla Strips
8 corn tortillas (6-inch), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 TB vegetable oil

2 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds) or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds), skin removed and well trimmed of excess fat
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 very large white onion (about 1 pound), trimmed of root end, quartered, and peeled
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
8 to 10 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 sprig fresh oregano
2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
½ medium jalapeño
1 chipotle chile en adobo , plus up to 1 TB adobo sauce
1 TB vegetable oil

1 lime, cut into wedges
1 avocado, diced fine
8 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled, or Monterey Jack cheese, diced fine
fresh cilantro leaves
minced jalapeño pepper
Mexican crema or sour cream

1. FOR THE TORTILLA STRIPS: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread tortilla strips on rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss until evenly coated. Bake until strips are deep golden brown and crisped, about 14 minutes, rotating pan and shaking strips (to redistribute) halfway through baking time. Season strips lightly with salt; transfer to plate lined with several layers paper towels.

2. FOR THE SOUP: While tortilla strips bake, bring chicken, broth, 2 onion quarters, 2 garlic cloves, cilantro, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt to boil over medium-high heat in large saucepan; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer; discard solids in strainer. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces; discard bones.

3. Puree tomatoes, 2 remaining onion quarters, 2 remaining garlic cloves, jalapeño, chipotle, and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce in food processor until smooth. Heat oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering; add tomato/onion puree and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has darkened in color, about 10 minutes. Stir strained broth into tomato mixture, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, about 15 minutes. Taste soup; if desired, add up to 2 teaspoons additional adobo sauce. Add shredded chicken and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.

TO SERVE: place portions of tortilla strips in bottom of individual bowls and ladle soup into bowls; pass garnishes separately.

1. The bone-in chicken breasts give alot of great flavor, but if you want to make this easier or more low fat, just use boneless skinless breasts.
2. If you don't want to use fresh tomatoes (not in season or nothing good at the store) I think a can of pureed tomatoes would work. I'd go as far as saying diced tomatoes would be great as well.
3. I loved the smokiness that chipotle and adobo gave the soup. But I have been looking for those at my local grocery stores with no luck. What I have actually came from a specialty shop in Philly. Perhaps some roasted peppers could give a little bit of a substitute?
4. I added a few handfuls of frozen corn kernels to add a little more bulk to the soup. Tasty.
5. Garnishes really are just for garnish...they weren't really necessary. The avacado and the cheese were nice, but I could really do without all of them. Of course all the garnishes add more fat. I think the soup is really good without them. So maybe just stick with the 2 TB of oil in the tortillas and for simmering the tomato mixture. Or low fat cheese/sour cream.
6. I loved the baked corn tortilla chips. But I would actually cut them differently in the future. Maybe into smaller squares...something that would more easily fit on a spoon.
7. If you have a food processor or blender, I think you can follow the directions. If not, I think just finely dicing the ingredients would be great. The soup would be more chunky and that would be OK. I'm actually thinking the next time I make the soup, I'll add some diced tomatoes (and the corn again) for a more chunky soup.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Non Foodie Moment

I really enjoy the Scissor Sisters, a newish band that had their debut in 2004 with their self-titled album with a few hit songs, Take Your Mama, Filthy Gorgeous and the Grammy nominated Comfortably many others.

Their newest album is called Ta-Da and will be launching in late September. Well, the first single (Don't Feel Like Dancin') has hit the web. Head over
here for a listen.

OK, you may no resume regularly scheduled foodie programming.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Overnight Prep Needed

...and it is so totally worth it!!!

I've made this chicken once before and didn't marinate the chicken, but for 30 minutes...this is 100% OMG so worth it, SO much better. I highly recommend doing this and putting in the extra time soak the chicken overnight. Read on...(FYI, I added three things to the recipe (my initials are placed next to) and I think they are worth it, but if you don't have them, continue on without!)

Yep, had a long day at work, so I had to have a "little sip" before making dinner.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
1/2 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger root
10 Cardamon Pods, cracked (sse)
1 large pinch red pepper flakes (sse)
1 small handful cilantro, chopped (sse)
3 1/2 pound chickens, quartered

Cook the first seven ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted, then allow to cool. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

Serve with Basmati Rice and Roasted Carrots.

I served roasted potatoes...again!

All that yummy juice would be great on some rice though! But it was just as good on some little potatoes!

NOTES: My chicken took longer than the specified time. It went about 15 minutes longer. But as the recipe says, when the juice runs's done. Giant had a package of chicken quarters for like $5 and it was on sale and I got it for $2! Five quarters for $2 bucks!!!

I think if you want to avoid the oven/kitchen, this would be amazing on the grill. Go forth and conquer my friends.

Also, for those of you who don't cook...this is so easy...I insist that you try it!!! You know who you are...Make the sauce, pour it over the chicken (buy an aluminum pan), sit overnight, turn on oven, cook and eat!

Monday, July 24, 2006

There was a suprise in my mailbox today. Two of my favorite naughty magazines arrived at the same time. I'm going to go be by myself for awhile.

OK, so this isn't an image of the most recent issue, but it's what they had online.
The current issue has a Milwaukee Fish Fry (OMG, sooo good), Turkish Delights and Vancouver Islands.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Giada's Chops

I was craving mashed potatoes tonight so I needed something to have with them...well, I didn't need anything else, but thought it would be appropriate to have a meal out of something more than just mashed potatoes. I thought I'd take Giada's Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chop recipe and give it a whirl tonight.

Here's the recipe and my comments will come later.

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 4 servings

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve immediately.

Tasty; check.
Easy; check.
The right idea; not quite.

Giada has the home chef coat the pork chops in the parmesan cheese, then egg and then breadcrumbs. Although great and easy, I'd recommend one change. I'd blend the parmesan and breadcrumbs together and in the first step, lightly dust the chops with some seasoned flour. Why? I give the egg, and later the breadcrumbs, a little something more to stick to. With the cheese, I don't feel it coated the chops sufficiently enough and later while cooking and eating, the crust was flaking off. So, not a major issue, but something I'd want to fix for next here's what I'd do:

Step 1: Lightly coat chops with seasoned (salt/pepper) flour
Step 2: Lightly dip the chops in the egg
Step 3: Blend the breadcrumbs and cheese together and coat the chops
Step 4: Cook


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Easy Dinner

My basil plants were trying to take over the balcony so I had to cut it back...mmmm? Pesto?!?! Sure!!!

So I made some quick pesto and then blanched some green beans for three minutes in boiling water. Roasted some small white potatoes in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper for 35 minutes and some chicken breasts in the oven for 12 minutes. Tossed it all together with the pesto. Only downfall, I used a touch too much salt in the pesto. But it was still a filling, yet light-ish meal.

I guess I'll call it Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes and Chicken in Pesto. My basil plant is actually four different varieties of basil, when they are all blended together, the pesto just tastes like more. I think if I went with just the peppery basil or just the purple basil, there might be a difference.

I'm growing really fond of small, tender, roasted potatoes in olive, salt & pepper. Just need some time (35-45 min) in a hot (400 degree) oven and perfect!

Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette

I promised my dinner guests the other night that I would post the recipe for the dressing on the salad.

I pulled this from several websites. I'm not sure if the final is someone else's recipe or not.

Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette

4 TB Fresh Basil, rough chop
2 TB Shallot, rough chop
1 Garlic Clove, rough chop
2 TB Dijon Mustard

To taste, Salt, Black Pepper, Sugar (I started at about 1 TB each, and added pinches until it's right)

3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup Olive Oil

Blend all ingredients in the food processor until well blended. Then slowly add the oil until emulsified.

I chilled mine for a few hours before was great!

And you get about 2 cups of vinaigrette.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One, Two Buckle My...

It just keeps coming...more berries! I think this will be it for awhile, in terms of berries. They are mostly gone at this point...just need to do something with the raspberries. Ms. L shared this recipe with me after we went berry pickin' this weekend. I had 4 lbs of blueberries to use, so why the heck not. Blueberry Buckle! What's a Buckle? Here's a Buckle and other fruit desserts.

Blueberry Buckle

8-12 servings
1 hour 25 minutes
15 mins prep
70 minutes to cook
30-45 minutes to cool

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (or spelt flour)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup whole-wheat flour (or spelt flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. Grease 9 inch springform pan and wrap bottom with foil or place parchment paper on the bottom before clipping the sheath together.

2. For Streusel: In bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Stir in oil 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture looks crumbly. Set aside for later.

3. For Cake: Sift flours and baking powder into a bowl.

4. In a second bowl, whisk together syrup, oil, vanilla, and salt.

5. Stir syrup mixture into flour mixture. Fold in the blueberries.

6. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle streusel over the top.

7. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

8. Cool 30 minutes on wire rack.

9. Allow to cool 15 more minutes, unmold, and serve. (With ice cream!!!)

Oh, and it's vegan!

It's been unsheathed!

The carnage!

OK, so the regular ice cream makes this non-vegan, but it was soo good!

This was really easy to make and I would certainly do it again. The instructions to fold the berries into the batter should really say something like 'cut the berries into the dough.' The batter is really thick and the berries don't really fold well into that sort of dough. Also, I didn't have real maple syrup so Madame ButterJamima filled in. It's just sugar, one way or another. I'd like to try it with real maple though, see how the flavor improves!

Indian Goodness

On Sunday, Sterfanie and I had some really good Indian food at...Bombay Bistro in Rockville. It was good. They had a buffet set up so we went with that and go to try all sorts of goodness. I had some chicken, rice, lamb, chickpeas, bread...all very good. There were some other things, but I wasn't too sure what they were so I stayed away. The food was really good.

Last night, we went to dinner with Jason's cousin and her boyfriend. At a recommendation of someone, we went to Udupi Palace in Langley Park/Takoma Park. (Intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard.)

Go Go Go!

Their tag is: Pure Vegetarian South Indian Cuisine

I would say: Pure Amazing

When I saw that this place was all veggie, I was a little worried because I had a preconceived notion of what that was going to be. I was wrong. The menu was HUGE and they had something for everyone.

We placed our order and a short time later, the wait staff came over with a smaller half sized table and lined it up with ours...we were conversing, so we just looked at them, like what they heck. The have lots of food, you'll need more room...oh lord what did we get into.

I ordered Alu Bonda for an appetizer (potato dumplin mixed with spices). OMG! Why did I share them. My entree was Chana Masala (chickpeas cooked in erotic...exotic spices) and I ordered the paratha (multi layered whole wheat bread). All so amazing!!! The dumpling was perfect. A slight crust on the outside and tender potatoes cooked in curry and other fragrant spices. The chickpeas were simple and amazing. I used to hate them...chickpeas...for no reason really than I don't like hummus...still not so much...but this was awesome. Great spice! The bread was pretty tasty as well, but the naan, although different, at Aatish On The Hill is abetter bread.

Other dishes ordered were Bhendi Masala (tender okra with herbs and spices, cooked in a traditional Indian style), Butter Masala Dosai (crepe filled with potatoes, onion and cooked in butter). THIS thing was amazing. The crepe was about the size of Rhode Island and rolled to look similiar to a cornucopia, with a pile of potatoes in the middle. Hilarity ensued as we sat in awe of the behemoth sitting on the table. There was also Onion and Peas Uthappam (Indian style pancake made from ground rice and lentils, this one served with onions and peas). and a puffy fried bread; Batura.

I was sooo stuffed, but had to try one sweet; Rice Kheer (rice cooked in condensed milk, garnished with pistachios.) Sterfanie had this at Bombay Bistro on Sunday and loved it and this looked really tasty, and it was...but it wasn't a winner with us. We loved the taste of it, but there was something about the texture that didn't agree with us.

When all was said and done, four of us had a bill of about $65, not bad for an unbelieveable amount of great food. The one downside of the restaurant...well two things...1) the service was fast, but not really helpful, we didn't really know what we ordered so when they brought the food, there were moments of confusion on our part and the waitstaff...who gets what. And 2) the location. Middle of know where, Bad traffic, a million people...chaos. I had to make a turn as I missed the drive for the restaurant (in a strip mall, FYI) and I said...I feel like we're in Tijuana, the traffic, the masses of people, the seeming chaos. I wonder how many accidents happen there.

But regardless of all that...this was an amazing dinner. Again, I highly recommend it, it's even worth a special trip!!!

Udupi Palace-South Indian Vegetarian Cuisine
1329 University Blvd. (Hwy 193)
Takoma Park, MD 20912
This location neighborhood area is also known as Langley Park.

They also have two locations in Illinois:
2543 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659

730 Schaumburg Road
Schaumburg, IL 60194

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Un-Jelly

I took the juicy berries I picked yesterday and made jelly last night. Well, it didn't really it's more of a very delicious fruit sauce. I've had it several times so far on toast and it will be amazing on ice cream....and maybe pancakes instead of syrup.

My one dozen jars of mixed fruit "jelly"...90% tart cherries, 5% blueberries and 5% raspberries; 100% delicious.


Ms. Rachel has her new talk show coming this fall. I wish her well, but caution her about the market saturation with her name and image and brand. She has what 10 shows on the Food Network, a magazine, 15+ books, line of kitchen utensils and now this show.

Careful Ray Ray, I don't want to see you fizzle too soon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Desktop Wallpaper

Ms. L forwarded a picture she found that makes a great desktop wallpaper. If you like, click on it to enlarge it and save as backdrop. Mmmm, berries!

Do not adjust the color on your monitor

Today I braved the heat with C&L and Sterfanie and went berry picking. It was hot, but not nasty hot out in the country. It was a lot of fun and brought home a big bounty of fresh fruit!

The bounty...Raspberries, Tart Cherries, Blueberries and Golden Plums.

The raspberries. There were a few varieties the farm has, but red were the only ones ready and still around.

The plums. I only got a few, because they didn't seem ripe enough. But one bite and you'll need a new shirt from all the juice running down your face.

More bounty.

I've got the blues! I have had blues before at the store and I didn't see the appeal in just eating I'd always cook with them. These...these my friend are different...sweet and juicy all the way.

This picture is really to show the proportion of how many blueberries I picked! That is one full bowl of blues!

Food Porn! Don't let the kids look. Tart Cherries. I didn't pick the cherries...because I didn't think I'd like them...but when at the main barn, they had baskets of them, so I tried one and was blown away by how good they were. So I snagged a quart of them.

More of the cherries!

Larriland Farms
3 miles south of I-70 (exit 73) on Rt. 94, Woodbine Road
(east of Mt. Airy, near Lisbon)

Mailing address:
2415 Woodbine Road
Woodbine, MD 21797

Notes on going to Larriland Farms. Cash only! The raspberries were about $3.99 a lb. Blues were $ prices aren't bad. Make sure to stop at the barn and look at other produce and goods you can't get in the fields. When you pick something, there is usually someone near by that you pay. And eat as you go! Bring water to drink and rinse fruit. And wear a hat if the sun is out to keep you from getting too hot. I also bought some small jelly jars and some fresh juices at the barn, in addition to all the fruit. And they do have veggies...check the website. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bastille Day

We celebrated Bastille Day last night with a lovely dinner party...if I do say so myself!

C&S, P, K, J-lo & I enjoyed good French music, food and conversation well into the night.

Dinner started with a lovely mixed field green salad with pears, cashews and a homemade basil balsamic vinaigrette. This is our favorite salad! I timed things out so there was actually a span of time between each course. We went to a wedding a few years back where we arrived at the table and had an appetizer...then there was dancing for 20 minutes or so...then salad course was served...more dancing...then dinner...more dancing...then was awesome because the food was so good and it was great to space it out! So I took that idea and applied it dancing tonight, but plenty of time to converse. This also allowed me to prepare the entree. The main course was my new favorite heart attack inducing dish by Julia Child, Supremes de Volaille Achiduc (chicken breasts with onions, cream and paprika), served with a basic risotto. About 20-30 minutes later we moved onto dessert...creme brulee!

Recipes for the vinaigrette and creme brulee to follow in an upcoming post.

The table...I broke out the clothe napkins!
But I need new chairs...I sat on the kitchen step ladder and I think J-lo sat on the foot rest.

The salad course, sans pics of the dressing...oops.

All ready to start cooking. I did a bunch of prep work on Thursday night, so you see the bags of prepped onions, chicken, herbs chopped, etc. Also made the creme brulees on Thursday and finished those with the burnt sugar crust just prior to serving.

The Supremes and risotto plated up.

Back at the table.

The devils.

There were many of "those" moments while the group was eating this...the clink of a spoon...silence..."Mmmmm, ooooooh"...silence.....eyes rolling....hands on the table and then the proclamation...."Oh that's good." FUN! In honor of Em, I licked my ramekin.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bang On!

I've been a bit busy this week and haven't done any cooking yet. And what
I do tonight will be preparing for a dinner party tomorrow. I'm really
excited and look forward to sharing with you all, even though all the
recipes have been shared once already. There should be pictures.

But in the meantime I thought I would give little mini-reviews for two
restaurants that I hadn't been to before and am just getting around to
doing now.

In mid-June, the old sckool brunch group got together again. For J-lo and
I, it had been a long time since we'd seen this full group of friends, so
we were really excited. And we got to celebrate someone's birthday!!!
We headed to Belga Cafe on Capital Hill. There has been some conversation
on a few blogs about this little Begian restaurant and most of the
experiences were less than great. Perhaps is was because we went for
Saturday brunch, but we had a great time and wonderful food.

There were seven of us total and we were seated immediately (we called
ahead) and right away we had water and a waiter asking our drink orders. I
went with a 'lavender champagne.' Frilly and girly, but really cool. A small touch of lavender syrup/reduction was in the bottom of the class and the champagned poured over. If you order this, give it a quick stir with a straw or something, otherwise you get all the syrup at the end of the glass and it's way sweet by itself. (It might have been a lilac syrup as well...can't remember).

Shortly after the drinks, I was able to place my order, coffee, crepes with nutella and bacon. The coffee was great...Illy Brand (?). The bacon was super thin, abundant and just at the nearly perfect crisp state, so there was a slight chew to it. Great! I had only had crepes once, nope, twice before and both times were bad...but these were delicious. Ate them all up! And there was a small strawberry on the plate...note to the chef...give more...A little strawberry, crepe, nutella....sweet mother of god it was good.

I don't remember what anyone else ordered, so I can't speak to specifics, but I know everyone seemed to really enjoy their meal. Throughout, the service was attentive without being intrusive. The restaurant had a nice level of hustle and bustle for a Saturday morning.
And from the looks of it, if you like mussels, they have a pretty good selection of them with a wide variety of sauces/broths/service options. But I generally don't like to eat something that lives in its own house, I'll pass on that offer.

Oh, I think there was bread brought to the table and I kept eating it and didn't really share, so it must have been good.

Belga Cafe
415 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

This past Tuesday I headed out for a book club meeting to discuss our recent read (or what I didn't finish reading in my case) at Elephant & Castle at 12th & Penn Ave, across from the Old Post Office Pavillion.

FYI, the book club selection was NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro.

E&C was fun. It's a Ye Olde Tyme British pub sort of place. Lots of beer, good ol' comfort foods (Shepherd's Pie, Fish & Chips, etc.)

I order up a pint of Fuller's Porter, it was really good. A full dark, rich beer that didn't have a heavy body to it. Tasted like rich chocolate coffee!!!

I shared an appetizer/starter of potato skins...small order, but they were tasty. Note to the chef, if that is in fact the size of the portion (which is appropriate for a portion size), put it on a smaller plate. On the larger platter they were served on, it looked tiny and like a waste of money.

My entree...Stuffed Yorkshire Pudding, Roast beef, onions, mashed taters all piled together with a Yorkshire Pudding and covered in gravy. The beef, well, it was alright...nothing to right home about, but not something I didn't want to finish. The onions were overly sweet...almost like they might have been artificially sweetened, but the potatoes and gravy, and the pudding was all pretty good. This was served with a nice portion of green beans, but they were just barely overcooked...almost limp, whereas I prefer my green beans to be more crisp and snappy.

Next up, I think I'm going try their fish and chips...looked really good and you can choose between Cod or Halibut, which you normally don't get a choice when you order F'n'Chips at a restaurant.

I'd head back here from some beers and food in a fun casual setting. The service was nice, considering we were a table of 16 or so, and I feel like our waitress had just started.

Elephant & Castle
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

Hope you're all doing well and not schfitzing too much in this humidity.

PS: I looked to see if my version of schfitzing is in the dictionary, it's not but schlepping is...!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Yo', I'm out for the weekend. I'll be back next week with more nibbly goodness.

Eat your veggies while I'm gone.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I don't cook healthy

But this meal came out very healthy. Inspired on a recipe I made a few years ago, tweaked around a little bit.

Shrimp with Tomatoes, Saffron & Wine

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pinch of saffron
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of dry white wine
A bit of lemon juice
1 TB olive oil

All prep done in advance, this is a very quick meal, no time to chop or find something once you start.

In a large skillet heat the oil over high heat, add garlic and stir into the oil until very fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook for one minute per side. Once on the second side, add the tomato, saffron and red pepper flakes, stir to mix all the ingredients in. Add the wine and scrape up the bits and reduce for about one minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Done.

Happy dancing shrimp!

I served with asparagus that had been dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice. I cut the ends off the asparagus. Added to a shallow pan full of boiling, salted water. Boil for 3 minutes. When done, remove to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. The asparagus should be perfectly tender. If the veg is thicker, it might take a little longer in the water. When you're ready to plate up, heat one TB of olive oil over medium high heat. When shimmery, add the asparagus and toss to coat. Allow to warm through, about one minute. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Done.

Green Beans! Er...Asparagus.

The final meal. Make sure to spoon some extra sauce on the shrimp. I little pita is nice for some carbs. If you want more, rice is nice with this. Or even an angel hair pasta.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Yee's my 300th post to the this Blog!!!

Thanks for playing along.

In celebration of the 300th post, I want to share with you an extra special, mind blowing dish with 3 different functions.

Oh, and Happy 4th of July!

The other day we watched an episode of Lidia's Family Table starring Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. She just about made us cry with the dish she made, so I jumped up and pulled out the matching book and flagged the recipe. It takes some time and a bit of a commitment on the ingredients but you will be sooo happy!!!

Salsa Genovese—Braised Pork Shoulder with Onions

Pork shoulder is delicious braised as well as roasted. Salsa Genovese provides a wonderful sauce as well as a large amount of meat—indeed, this traditional Neapolitan Sunday dish gives you two options, for two different meals.

In a custom of “Sunday Sauces,” the freshly cooked pork and its braising sauce are served separately the first time: the sauce with the meat extracted is tossed with pasta for a first course, and the meat is sliced and served as a main course. (In Italian and Italian-American homes, these might be different courses or on the table at the same time.)

Whatever sauce and meat are left from the first feast are then combined into a meaty sauce to dress pasta another day. A 5-pound pork shoulder cooked, in my recipe, with 5 pounds of chopped onions will give you plenty of meat and sauce to enjoy all these ways. Braise a bigger shoulder for even more leftovers—just be sure to buy plenty of onions: a 7-pound pork roast gets 7 pounds of onions!

Serves 6 or more

For the Pestata

4 oz bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup whole peeled garlic cloves

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped

5 lbs onions, peeled and chopped
5 lb pork shoulder (butt) roast, bone-in

1 TB kosher salt
½ cup olive oil
¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 TB tomato paste
4 cups (or more) broth (Turkey, Chicken or Vegetable)

All the ingredients are ready. And make sure you have everything and it's good enough to use. I thought I had tomato paste and didn't, but I had an option for a substitute. I had bacon, but it was a bad way, at that point I had to go back out to the store and then got tomato paste.

Making the Pestata and Starting the Braise

Using the food processor with the metal blade, mince the bacon and garlic cloves together into a fine pestata (paste).

This is really nasty! But once it starts cooking it's all ok.

Since you have the machine out, use it to chop the carrot, celery and onions if you want (you don’t need to wash the bowl). Process the carrot and celery into small fine bits. Reserve. Chunk up the onions into 1-inch pieces, put them into the food-processor bowl in batches, and pulse them to fine bits. Reserve.

Here are the carrots and celery chopped together, to give you an idea of the texture they need to be. Onions should be the same. (Those pictures didn't turn out, sorry.)

(Of course you can do all that by hand with a knife. It takes longer but is quite satisfying…according to Lidia.)

Rinse and dry the pork. Cut off some of the extra fat, but leave enough to flavor and render out. Sprinkle the pork generously with salt on all surfaces, patting it on. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan/Dutch oven, with a good cover, set over medium heat. Before it gets hot, lay the pork in and brown it—lightly—turning it after a minute or so on each side.

While the meat is browning, add the bacon & garlic pestata into the pan bottom; spread it out and let the bacon begin to render. Drop in the hot pepper flakes.

Early browning of the roast with the garlic/bacon mixture in the pot.

After 3 minutes or so of browning the pork, add the tomato paste into the fat; stir and caramelize minute. Dump the carrot and celery mixture into the pan bottom; stir for a minute, just to get them cooking. (Keep turning the meat so it browns evenly).

Tomato paste and the carrot/celery mixture added in.

Now scrape the onions into the pan, all around the meat. Sprinkle with remaining salt; raise the heat a bit, stirring the onions up from the bottom and mixing them with the oil, pestata and tomato paste. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring for about 5 minutes, until the onions are all hot and starting to sweat. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low.

Onions have been added and stirred into the other mixtures in the pot.

Braising the pork

The pork is now going to cook for 3 hours. Leave it alone for the first 45 minutes, then uncover and turn the meat, and stir the onions. They should be carmelizing and releasing liquid; if there is any sign of burning, lower the heat. Cover, and cook for another 45 minutes, turn the meat and stir the onions. They should be quite reduced in volume, in a thick, simmering sauce. Stir in 2 cups of hot broth, bring the liquid higher around the pork.

Cook, covered, for another 45 minutes, the stir. If the sauce level has dropped a lot and is beginning to stick, stir in another cup or two of broth. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Cover and cook another ½ hour to 45 minutes. Check the consistency of the onions—they should be melting into the sauce, and the meat should be soft when pierced with a fork. If satisfactory, remove from the heat; otherwise, cook longer, adding more broth, or, if the sauces seems thing, uncover and cook to reduce it.

All steaming and done! The kitchen and apartment was filled with an amazing aroma.

Pretty little roast.

Serving Salsa Genovese, Three Ways

As a primo, first course, for six: remove 2 cups of the onions sauce from the pot and put it in a large skillet. Cook 1 pound of rigatoni, or other pasta, and toss it in the skillet with the simmering sauce. Finish with extra-virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

As a secondo, main meat course, for six of more: remove the pork from the braising pot and cut out the blade bone (just lift eh cooked meat off it and remove the bone). Slice the pork against the grain in 1/3-inch slices, and moisten with the hot onion sauce from the pot.

The main course. As this was actually lunch, we just had it with some bread. If it was a main course for dinner, we would have added some salad and maybe roast potatoes!

As a meaty sauce for pasta: traditionally, the leftover meat and sauce from Sunday dinner were combined and served another day as a dressing for pasta, but you can dedicate any amount of Salsa Genovese to this marvelous mixture. Pull apart meat into pieces about ½ wide and toss with sauce. Heat two cups of sauce in a large skillet; refresh and extend it a bit with of extra virgin olive oil and broth, and bring to a simmer. Serve with rigatoni or ziti. Finish with more olive oil and freshly grated cheese.

After we had our lunch, we headed to see Superman Returns. (I LURVED IT SO MUCH!) Then we came home and had the sauce and meat with some homemade pasta! OMG, so good. I could have eaten another plate...good thing I only made 1/2 the pasta.

And I wanted to show my cute little platter I served the 'main course' on. I bought it at Williams-Sonoma two weeks ago. I have a companion plate with the beouf!

Ladies and Germs. These meals were amazing. But I won't took a major commitment on my part to make it. The braising itself took over three hours. The prepping didn't take too long. If you think you want this for lunch, start it around 9am. For dinner, I'd started at 3pm. And having it with pasta...really amazing. I wish there was more I could say...but it's something you just need to try!!!