Monday, January 30, 2006

Roast Chicken wit...?

FIRST, A question: What kind of peppers are these? They were purchased at Super H and labelled only as "Sweet Peppers." Bueller? Bueller?

The Reason I ask, is they were a lead ingredient in tonight's dinner, I sort of made this up as I headed to work this morning and thought of what I had left in my fridge from the last shopping trip:

Roast Chicken with Cilantro, "Sweet Peppers", Lime and Garlic with Mashed Potatoes and Carmelized Onions.

-I had one package of 3 thighs, 3 legs and 3 wings, in terms of chicken bits
-about 2 large handfuls of cilantro
-the juice of one lime
-5 of the "sweet peppers", roughly chopped
-2 cloves of garlic
-A few TB of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a food processor give the cilantro, peppers, lime juice, garlic, S/P a whirl until it just comes together. The turn on and stream in the olive oil until it comes together into a loose paste. Done.

Rub all over the chicken bits and get it under the skin. Put a little extra on top of the skin. Place in a baking pan (skin up) and place in the oven for approximately 40 minutes until the juices run clear. Check about 1/2 way through, turn pan if you need to. My chicken needed a little extra tanning, so I stuck it under the broiler for 5 minutes. But before sticking it under the broiler, I had some extra of the cilantro sauce, so I put that on top, for a fresh burst of flava. Done and done.

We would have liked it spicy, so maybe some of these sweet peppers and one or two jalapenos? We also think it would be better grilled...much better grilled.


Tomorrow night these peppers will make one final appearance....stay tuned for a vegetarian night.


Earlier today I had this behemoth arrive at my door at the office. This will not serve as a review, but more of an overview. Weighing in at a backbreaking 7lbs (almost) and nearly 1300 pages, I can quickly see why this book as been the cornerstone of true Italian kitchens for the past 55 years and will be the keystone for American kitchens for the next 55 years!

The Silver Spoon was first published in Italy some 55 years ago. And has been THE gift given to every bride since then. It is in every kitchen, literally. There are over 2000 recipes in here, and I can't even begin to describe!!!!

Well, last year it was published in English for the very first time and quickly went on to become a best seller in English speaking countries the world over. I noticed it early on, but didn't realize what it was, Silver Spoon didn't speak, "Italian" to me, so I just moved on. Then I started to read about it and it's importance..... I was impressed, but I didn't see one in person, so I didn't rush was on my Amazon would find it's way to me!!!

Well, I think it was last week, Jon at I HATE BROCCOLI wrote up a post about it and I knew then, immediately, that I had to have it! (Thanks for prodding!!!)

But I was flummoxed. Borders didn't have it on their shelves. Amazon didn't expect to be able to delivery it within a five to seven week period...ahhh! Guess what...I'm not really much of a baker...! BUT...Amazon Marketplace had a few....someone there had an used copy for sale, a few cents cheaper than Amazon no less and they guaranteed shipment in 2-3 days. It arrived today in Perfect, un-used condition!

Jon's post is really good, so you can click over and read it for a more detailed review.

For now, I'm going to keep flipping through and lusting after this new gentle giant with it's tantalizing delights. I commented at I Hate Broccoli that it made me think thoughts I've never had before...mostly about vegetables...but really....I don't like peas...there was a picture in there...I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! There are also some things in there that I'd rather not know cooking kid....a sort of suckling lamb....why did they have to call it a kid....? I won't eat lamb "Don't eat me Lisa", let alone "Kid"!!!!!

Anywhoooosss...if you see it....this is one that deserves a spot on the counter in the kitchen where it will get used...and that way you won't have to lift it too far!!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pork Medallions with Orange Sauce

This was tonight's quickie dinner.

It was really quite easy! And FAAAAST!

We watched them make it on Everyday Food, J-lo was sent to the store for a few items and we had it for din-din! Easy-peasy!

I made one small alteration, here is my version of the recipe:

Pork Medallions with Orange Sauce
(serves 4)

1 1/2 pound pork loin, trimmed of fat and silver skin, cut into 1/2 inch slices on the bias and pressed lightly to make medallions.
Olive Oil (a few tablespoons)
1 cup flour
1 medium shallot, diced
3 large, heavy oranges, juiced to make one cup
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 TB capers, drained and rinsed

After your pork loin is trimmed and ready to cook, mix the flour and salt and pepper. Lightly coat the pork medallions in the flour mixture and put directly into the pan with hot oil, do not crowd the pan, you will probably have to do this in 3-4 batches. You will probably have to add a little extra oil each time. Cook each batch for two minutes per side, remove to a warm plate and continue until all the medallions are done.

Toss in the shallot and stir for 30 seconds. Carefully add the OJ and lemon juice into the pan, there will be lots of steam and it will boil quickly. Stir constantly. Toss in the capers. Season with S/P. Allow to boil for a minute. Put the medallions back in the pan. Allow to cook for a minute, turn to coat and serve! Spoon over extra sauce.

We served ours with green bean almandine....Green beans that have been par-boiled for 3 minutes then tossed with toasted almonds, 1 TB butter, S/P! Done and Done!

For some of our dieting friends, the Everyday Food recipe website has the nutritional info, it appears really healthy and the portions were really good! The pork loin is super lean, the only extra fat is the olive oil.

Stir-Fried Noodley Goodness

Last night the Sommeliertrix and I went on a culinary adventure to SUPER H in Wheaton, Maryland. Super H is an Asian Supermarket. But it's much more than that. It's really an international supermarket. They have an amazing produce section, and just awesome products all around. We pretty much kept ourselves to produce and few other items. Our plan: get some items for dinner and move on back to my place where we'll join up with J-lo for some yum yum delights!

Before departing for our adventure I grabbed my most recent issue of Fine Cooking, as there was a recipe I thought would be fun for our adventure....and it WAS! So, here it is in the magazine, then with our notes at the end. WE LOVED IT! I think there were tears of joy at one point!!!!

Stir-Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Chiles & Lime
Serves 2 (we doubled)

3 oz dried wide (pad thai) rice noodles
2 TB fish sauce
2 TB granulated sugar
1 TB soy sauce
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp chile-garlic sauce
1 TB vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic
6 oz medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 4 oz can fire roasted whole green chiles, drained and sliced
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
2 TB crushed unsalted roasted peanuts
1/3 cup coarsley chopped cilantro
10 mint leaves, torn into small bits
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Soak the dried rice noodles.
*submerge in a large bowl in warm water for 30 minutes until they're pliable but still rather firm, about 30 minutes. Take a bit, it's the only way to know how they will taste. Ours weren't right, so we drained them, then poured over boiling water from the teapot for a minute and they were perfect! Al dente.

While the noodles soak for the 30 minutes, prep your ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and chile-garlic sauce.

Once the noodles are done and drained, heat the oil in a large skillet or stir fry pain over high heat until very hot! Ad the garlic and stir--immediately add the shrimp. Stir-fry until the shrimp turn pink and firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fish sauce mixture. Stir to combine for 20 seconds, then add the chiles and the noodles. Stir-fry until the noodles are tender the liquid is absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. If the noodles are too firm yet, add 1 TB of water and cook for another minute. Add the sprouts and stir-fry until they are slightly limp, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss in the cilantro.

Transfer to a large bowl or serving platter. Garnish with peanuts, mint and lime wedges!

*Our noodles were not labelled exactly as the reciped called, so here is what we used: Bahn Pho Thuong Hang, Size M.
*Frankly, we wanted to save time, so we cheated on the shrimp. We got some pre-cleaned and (sheepishly) cooked shrimp. Not worth it. If you use shrimp, get fresh shrimp, clean them yourself and do all this yourself! BUT....we really didn't even want the shrimp...the noodles without the shrimp were AWESOME!!! So really, I'm going to file this under a veggie friendly recipes!
*I added about a tsp or TB of grated ginger, just because.
*We used 4-6 garlic cloves, just because.
*We think there are sooooooo many different options you could add to this dish....I don't think I could even list them all here....shredded carrots, peapods, broccoli (blech), 'shrooms (blech), and who knows what else???!?!!!!
*Oh, the chiles...we couldn't find the canned fire roasted green I grabbed green fresh chiles and just fire roasted them myself at home...but they were sweet and not hot...still great...but we think hot would have been better! If you use sweet instead of hot...add a tsp or so of red pepper flake to your fish sauce mixture!
*The mint is amazing...don't skip it....this is what caused the tears in J-lo's eyes while eating dinner! Same for the cilantro. It just brighten's the flavors!!!

Action Shot!
Serving up the noodles with the mint, limes and peanuts on the side!

Pay no mind to the SAME bowl as the last foodie picture I posted (they are my favorite bowls)...and pay no mind to the stray noodle next to the lime!
It was YUM YUM in my TUM TUM.

And for dessert, we had fresh, homemade mixed berry ice cream,
garnished with fresh mixed berries and amaretti cookies!
Sorry for the bite that was already taken out of the bottom of the photo-couldn't help myself!

BTW: I do not work for FINE COOKING. As I've said many many times before, it is my favorite cooking magazine and I strongly encourage anyone who wants to enjoy cooking more and learn more and explore more in the kitchen to get a subscription to this fine magazine! Try picking up an issue first!! Currently, it is the only magazine subscription I have...I've cancelled or not maintained any other! Period.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Chicken Provencale with Lemon Scented Orzo

Tonight we had this, with Lemon-Scented Orzo.

The Lemon-Scented Orzo...really, I just made the orzo the way the package said and when it was done, drained it, threw in large strips of lemon zest, some olive oil and let that set for a minute while I finished the rest of dinner. I liked it. Bright Flavors.

Unwrapped and Rachel Ray

This chicklet cracks my s**t up and has for a long while....wait until her Olympic coverage!!!

Check this out.


Stef asked about Fennel recently in a comment.

Here's some information:


What we call "seeds" are actually the fruit of the plant. These "seeds" (i'm going to have a hard time changing my ways) are used alot in conjunction with sausage and fish. Give them a whack to crack them a bit before tossing them into a dish to let their flavors out. Our Giant sells the Fennel Fruit with a candy coating in the international "Indian" section. Might have to give that another look next time around. I think the Quakers in this country chew it in this country when in their meetings???? I'm probably wrong and grossly uneducated.

The leaves and stalk of the plant can be eaten as a vegetable, and I've done this as a salad before, it's very mild in flavor. Extra crunchy!!!

It's a member of the Parsley Family.

Sweet and Aromatic, the flavor and scent are similiar to anise.

Mediterranean in origin.

Some countries do not distinguish between fennel and anise.

Fruity Snack/Dessert

This was hidden in another recipe post from a few months back, I've served this a few times at my place and have had multiple requests for it. So instead of having it hidden, here it is out in the open.

Pineapple and Kiwi with a Simple Ginger-Lime Syrup

Quantities are rough estimates based on quantities:

*1 whole fresh pineapple, most markets have them prepped already for you in the produce section, this works prefectly well!
*A few kiwis, peeled and sliced
*a handful of Toasted, shredded coconut (optional)
*2 limes, both zested and both juiced
*1 inch chunk of ginger, smashed
*one cup of sugar
*one cup of water

Combine sugar, water, ginger, and lime juice in a sauce pan and bring to simmer until sugar is dissolved. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and throw in the lime zest. Allow to cool. Remove the chunk of ginger.

Arrange the fruit on a large, deep platter or in a large bowl, drizzle the syrup over the top and garnish with the toasted coconut.

DID YOU KNOW, that coconut can be spelled coconut and cocoanut? At least according to the American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quickie Dinner Pizza

Tonight...Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Pizza

1 lb sausage ( I had the Bob Evans, it was on sale this weekend)
1/2 medium onion, sliced into 1/2 moons
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped-reserve all liquid
1 tsp fennnel seeds
S/P to taste
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes

A poppin' fresh tube of pizza dough

1 cup roasted red peppers
2 cups shredded mozarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven according to poppin' fresh's instructions.

Crumble sausage into a large saucepan and saute until browned and cooked through. Add the onions and allow to sweat for a minute. Add the garlic and allow that to cook for a quick 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, toss to coat everything and allow to simmer.

Then, step aside and roll out poppin' fresh into a "quarter sheet" pan...I don't know the official dimensions, but the dough fits really well in it. Put a little olive oil on top and throw in the oven for 15 minutes.

While that is cooking. Go back to your sausage/tomato mixture.

Check for salt & pepper desirability? How...? Taste it! Then add the fennel, oregano and basil. Make sure to give the fennel a little crunch first, get the seeds opened up a bit. Allow to simmer and reduce until the dough comes out.

When the dough comes out, spoon on the sausage/tomato mixture, sprinkle on the crushed red pepper, parmesan cheese and mozarella. Bake an additional 6 minutes. If you have a stupid stove like mine, the broiler is underneat the oven compartment....I had to take the pizza out and put it in the broiler at this point for a few quick minutes to get it golden brown and delicious!


This was about 20-30 minutes of cooking and I had all ingredients on hand except the poppin' fresh and mozarella. I cut the pizza into 8 LARGE pieces and this could easily have stuffed four people!

So for less time than delivery and less money than was pretty damn good if I do say so myself.

It's not figure friendly that's for sure. However, if you were interested in having this on a diet, what's to say you couldn't use just ground pork and less cheese....maybe add more vegetables? This can be very versatile. What would you do?


Sunday, January 22, 2006

I've got the blues...

This morning I made a quick Blueberry Scone to go with this mornings hot coffee. Not to go into the long long story, I'm on some crazy ass head medicine that leaves me feeling hungover more often than not...the coffee is a godsend! (Two weeks until the next appointment with the Dr., to see if what else we might try-keep your fingers crossed).

Anywhoo....the coffee...yum....but the scones...simple and tasty!

I had a package of dried blueberries in the cupboard. I took 1/2 cup of them and put 1/2 cup of boiling water on them for about ten minutes. Then drained them. Set them aside.

Then I went to this recipe here, for Ginger Scones.

I did everything exactly the same, except that I used the blueberries instead of the crystallized ginger. I didn't have have milk, so I used heavy cream. Also, I added the cream first, then added the blueberries as the last step. Once in the oven, 12 minutes later I had fresh yummy scones!


And speaking of "The Blues..."

Last night I made Chicken Piccata, a yummy, lemony, buttery, tangy, tasty chicken dish. I didn't use a recipe last night and pretty much went from memory from the past when I've made it, so I may or may not have used garlic in the past...I'm guessing not, because what happened, just about had me calling the food police to make sure we were not going to die!

In a nutshell, chicken dusted with flour, sauteed in olive oil until golden brown and delicious. Remove. I tossed in three minced garlic cloves, quickly tossed that around to prevent burning. Added the juice of one lemon, some chopped parsley, stirred. Added a cup of broth, simmer to reduce. Add some capers and butter, pour of chicken. YUM.

OK, so what happened.

My Garlic Turned BLUE! I'm not kidding. My garlic turned BLUE BLUE BLUE! I've never seen this. OK, so a quick Google search gave me an answer and might have sent my name to the Justice Department?
Garlic contains anthocyanins, water-soluble pigments that turn blue or purple in an acid solution. While this color transformation tends to occur more often with immature garlic, it can differ among cloves within the same head of garlic. The garlic flavor remains unchanged, and it totally edible without bodily harm.
OK, solved! I really was freaked out and my tasty dish looked silly with the blue dots in it. I think the past I didn't do garlic or I did shallots?!?!! But I don't remember. Maybe added the lemon juice later helps?


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Thursday's adventure

Friday night is the big fat lasagna dinner night that I'm helping Joyous with. For my part, I'm preparing...for the first time...a tasty "pick-me-up," Tiamisu.

From Fine Cooking Magazine

Serves ten to twelve

This recipe calls for uncooked eggs, so keep the tiramisu refrigerated and serve it within 48 hours.

5 cups hot brewed espresso (or double strength drip coffee made with espresso roast)
1 cup plus 2 TB granulated sugar
2 TB rum, ore more to taste (optional)
4 large eggs, separated*
16 oz mascarpone cheese (2 cups)
About 46 ladyfingers or savoiardi cookies, preferably Balocco, Bonomi, or Elledi brands
2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder

Pour the coffee in a large bowl and add 2 TB of sugar while it’s still hot. Stir well and let it cool to room temperature. Add the rum, if using.

Combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until the yolks are pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (The mixture will be fairly thick at first). Add the mascarpone and beat until fully incorporated into a smooth cream, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.

Thoroughly was and dry the stand mixer bowl and whisk. Put the egg whites in the bowl and whip on medium-high speed until they form medium-stiff peaks when you lift the whisk (the tips should curl over onto themselves a little). With a rubber spatula, fold about one-quarter of the beaten whites into the mascarpone cream to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining whites, taking care not to deflate them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Submerge one ladyfinger in the cooled coffee until the coffee penetrates about halfway through, leaving the core dry (break it to check). This can take from 1 to 12 seconds, depending on the type of ladyfinger. You don’t want the lady finger to get completely soaked or it’ll become soggy and fall apart. You should be able to feel that the outside is soft, but the inside is still firm.

Once you’ve determined the correct soaking time, submerge each ladyfinger individually, gently shake out excess coffee, and immediately set it in a 9x13 inch baking dish; continue until you have one tight layer that covers the bottom of the dish. (You may need to break a few ladyfingers to fit in snugly). Spread one-half of the mascarpone cream evenly on top of the ladyfingers.

Repeat the soaking procedure with the remaining ladyfingers to create a second snug layer, arranging them on top of the mascarpone cream as you did the first layer. Spread the rest of the mascarpone cream evenly on top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, sift the cocoa powder over the top to evenly cover.

*If the uncooked eggs in this dish are of concern, use pasteurized eggs (Preggers, elderly, compromised immune system, etc.)

Sounds pretty straight forward and easy enough! I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Long Time Gone

I was devastated when I heard that Fuzio Universal Pasta closed it's Dupont Circle location a few years back. I loved this chain restaurant while in grad school and the early year's of my career when a night out at Fuzio yielded a bill of about $25 for wine, entree and dessert vs the same at twice the price somewhere else. Often I would find myself sitting at the 'bar' overlooking the kitchen. The restaurant was smallish, but always busy. I have to assume that they just couldn't pay the high rent for that location, it's really too bad because it was a fun place to go with a group of people, where everyone in the group was likely to find something on their small menu that they would like, from veggie to meat eaters, most everyone was always pleased.

That said, I often would get the exact same thing when I went to Fuzio. 90% of the time I would order their one of their specialties, Fuzio Firecracker Pork Fusilli.

Corkscrew pasta with tender ginger-braised pork, firecracker-hot habanero pesto and sour cream-give it a stir to mingle heat and flavors together.

Well, since the restaurant closed, I have been thinking about this dish. I had tried internet searches yielding nothing. This past week I was ready to try to recreate the dish even if I had nothing to go on. I tried a few more variations of the google search and got a few ideas, includingon saying to be the exact recipe...I pulled them all together to see what I could come up with.

To start, the recipes called for Pork Tenderloin as the meat cut of choice. Great! Except the two stores I went to either 1) didn't have it or 2) had it in restaurant size $50 quantities! Not on my budget! So I went with a butt roast. We'll see how it works out....let's move on, I'll be back to the meat.

The meat needs to be marinaded for 24 hours. The marinade I put together in the food processor was: 9 cloves of garlic, about a 5 inch piece of ginger, sliced up, 1 full bunch of cilantro, with the root end removed, 1 bunch of green onions (from the tip up about three inches), 1/2 a regular onion. Give that a whirl for a few seconds until it comes together. Then add 12 oz of pineapple juice and 6 oz of soy sauce. I used "lite" soy sauce. Whirl this all together and prepare the meat.

As I said previously, I used a butt roast. There is a lot of fat and connective tissue in this meat. It is really important that the final product be really tender. To help this process along, I chopped the meat into large chunks and then cleaned it up by removing some of the fat and as much of the connective tissue as possible. I have to say, this process (making the marinade and fixing the meat) took an hour. I really will try to get a pork tenderloin next time.

Once the meat is prepped, but it in a zip top bag placed inside a large bowl (to catch any spills or leaks), then pour in the marinade. Zip up and place in the ice box for 24 hours.

Long story short, I didn't marinade for 24 hours, more like 18 hours. Don't tell the food police! See, when I went to the store earlier in the day to get everything, I did...except the pork. *DUMBASS*

The dish is supposed to take 2 hours of cooking time. So two hours before you are ready for dinner, pre-heat oven to 300, get a large pan out and on the stove over high heat with a thin layer of oil. Remove the meat from the marinade--do not discard the marinade--sear the meat on all sides in the pan. Do this in steps if you need, don't over crowd the pan. If you have to do this in batches, during the final side of the final batch, pour in the reserved (and strained) marinde. Bring all to a high simmer, cover and throw into the oven, check in and hour and turn meat!

Prior to serving, prepare your Habanero Pesto. To start, find the peppers. I don't know if I have Scotch Bonnets, Hungarian Wax or Habanero peppers. They all look pretty similiar in photos on the web and the Giant only had them listed as "hot" peppers, so I don't know. I grabbed some Jalapenos, just in case.

In the food processor, add a full bunch of cilantro, 2 Habanero peppers and 2 Jalapenos, a small handful of pine nuts and parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt, grind of pepper...whirl until it just comes together. Start drizzling in olive oil, until you get the desired consistency.

Serve the Ginger-Braised Pork with a shapely pasta and top with a dollop of the pesto and sour cream. Swirl it all around in a bowl to combine flavors and enjoy!


Friday, January 13, 2006

Inspired/Stolen Recipe

Before we go any further, head over to Chilefire and read this recipe for Shrimp with Red Chile and Piñon Nuts....I'll wait for you.....ok, welcome back!

I saw this recipe when our cookie winner, Mr. Chilefire, posted on his blog about making a quick lunch during a busy weekend. The dish looked really good and I loved the idea of making it into a quick taco...I knew I wanted to try it out sometime and I decided that last night would be the night experiment.

Ooops, I didn't really have all that I needed to follow the recipe as is and had no desire to go out. (Shrimp, Cilantro, Cream, or that particular chile powder)

But, I did have a few frozen chicken 'tenders,' a few pine nuts, a different type of chile powder and chili powder. OK, why not, let's give this a shot.

I quickly thawed the chicken (four chicken tenders) and chopped it up in to very thing, small pieces, set those aside.

I had a few pine nuts, but not many, so I poured in what I had and added a small quantity of slivered almonds. I toasted those as described in the recipe.

I added the minced garlic. I had a low quantity of the nuts, so the oil from them was nil, so I had to quickly add in some olive oil to prevent the garlic from burning. After about 30 seconds, I tossed in the chicken and started sauteing that. I threw in a pinch of salt.

When the chicken was nearly cooked through, I added 1/2 a tsp of chili powder and 1/2 tsp of ancho chile powder. Stirred this in to incorporate. I had to add another little touch of oil to get it all to work together. If I remember from my Alton Brown education, spices like the chiles "bloom" in hot oil and the flavors really coming out, so the little extra oil really helps the flavor.

I let that go about two to three minutes on medium low heat.

In the mean time I threw two tortillas on the stove to warm them up.

To finish off, I added about 1/2 a tsp of honey, per the recipe, to finish the dish off.

I had no cream, so when I removed the chicken/nut combo off the heat, I stirred in a little sour cream. Dump into a tortilla, roll up and YUM!

I really liked this dish!!

1st) The chicken was a good substitute, but I can't wait to try this with shrimp, I'm sure it's great.
2nd) The texture of the meat and the nuts was great. I thought I disliked pine nuts for a long time until I tried this veggie dish at Coppi's and found I really liked them as an ingredient. The obvious nuttiness and the crunch. I also enjoyed the almonds, but their was no real change in flavor as far as I could tell. But it might be a nice option to help cut back on the amount of pine nuts, that can be a little pricey depending on where you get them.
3rd) The chili/chile. With the varieties I used I was suprised by the mild 'heat' levels. It appears at first glance that this is going to be a spicy hot dish, but it was incredibly mild and flavorful.
4th) I didn't have the cream, so I used the sour cream. I think it could be used as just a garnish and you can skip the cream altogether, but having not had it that way, I shouldn't judge yet.
5th) As I recently (last few years) discovered that I do love cilantro, I wish I would have had some to brighten up the whole thing at the end, but again didn't have it and it was still good.

Bravo Chilefire on this recipe and hope you don't mind the alterations I took. Someone recently had a post on recipe variations....Oh, I HATE BROCCOLI....I think this certainly falls into this category and also falls into the "what to make for dinner, but don't have all the ingredients" category.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Restaurant Week-Vidalia

OK, just back from what I’m sure will be my only restaurant week adventure this go-round.

The Joyous, J-lo and I met for lunch at Vidalia at 20th & M Streets NW. I got there a little earlier than they did and as I was descending the stairs into this basement restaurant, I was greeted before my eyes adjusted to the light, so I have no idea who, out of five staff, said hello.

I checked my coat and was taken to my seat. I was a little excited when I was taken to a back dining area, as I was told when I made my reservation that we would be in the “wine bar” area and there might be smoking. Well, after ordering my beverage (Rosemary Lemonade), the head maitre de came by and apologized and said they should have waited for the other guy to get off the phone before sending the hostess with me to the seat…whatever, I didn’t care.

So now at my proper seat in the bar area (totally not smoky BTW, at least at that time), I was able to check out the menu. The left page was a full selection of wines…I was at work, on lunch, so no wine today…and for other reasons sadly. So I just went on with my lemonade and looked at what my restaurant week options were. Vidalia is nice enough to offer their full menu as a restaurant week special, for everyone. This was nice as those poor schlubs of us who are coming into the restaurant for the first time don’t have to timidly point out we’re on the cheap.

I decided on a Bibb lettuce salad with onion vinaigrette, capers, herbs and some aged/dried ham. It also came with egg, but I requested to not have that. I enjoyed the salad, but part of the herbs, well, most of the herbs were parsley and they did over power a few bites. Perhaps less parsley or chop it to let it integrate more. The vinaigrette was yummy…nice and tart. The ham reminded me much more of prosciutto than a country style ham…that was ok, I liked it.

For my entry I did the Pork Chop Cassoulette. It was a seared pork chop with a sauce of molasses and some rye whisky and maybe something else. YUM. It was a sizable chop, with a good portion that was very easy to get too, but there were also a few of the more unsavory parts of the meat-extra fat, tendons, etc, that had to be worked around. The chop rested on a bed of butter beans and sausage that had been cooked with some back fat! There was a lot of thyme in the beans that really jumped out at you. I liked them, but wouldn’t eat too many of them. There was also some sort of red saucy like stuff to one corner that I didn’t even see until the beans moved a bit. I didn’t like the looks of it, so I didn’t try it…It really seemed like it shouldn’t have been there…but who knows.

I also was wooed by the Cheddar Mac & Cheese with smoked ham. It was good, but I think mine is better. The ham was smoked too much and permeated too deeply into the rest of the dish. And the cheddar was extra sharp.

Dessert made me giggle and cry a little. I didn’t even realize my actions until the Joyous pointed them out. Sometimes simplistic things are the best! It was an apple pear crisp with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was warm, it was perfect. I almost licked the dish when I was done. The apples and pears were just cooked enough…a second longer and we probably would have had apple pear sauce. The crisp topping was delightful with the right amount of cinnamon and the vanilla ice cream was really spot on.

Over all I enjoyed my meal.

Joyous had a mixed green salad with goat cheese. Her entrée was shrimp and grits…some of the best grits I’ve ever had. And for the dessert, a lemon tart.

J-lo had a frissee salad with some ham and vinaigrette and something else. His entrée was trout and dessert was the chocolate cheesecake with cheeries.

I’ll let them leave some feedback on what they thought.

Lady Brandenburg just sent me a note from the Washington Post and I 100% agree:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006; Page F05

PUMPKIN EMPANADA (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

Restaurant-goers looking for cool and fine food regularly seek out Rice, the popular Thai restaurant near Logan Circle. Its unusual menu is rich with its own take on authentic Thai cuisine as well as unique dishes developed for 21st-century tastes. A customer favorite is the pumpkin empanada appetizer ($5) created by co-owners Sak Pollert and chef Phanarai Promprasert. Flaky pastry is wrapped around an Asian pumpkin filling and accompanied by a sweet vinegar dip. "It's sweeter and firmer than American pumpkin," says Pollert. "People really like it."

Rice, 1608 14th St. NW; 202-234-2400

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Note to self:

  • * When making cookies, do not place your arm on the oven rack that has been preheating at 350 for an hour.
  • * When frying chicken in oil, do not place your finger in the oil that is sizzling and leave it there.

    That's all! Thank you Charles Darwin.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Drop Dead Gorgeous...I mean delicious

This recipe is from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen book. I made it awhile back, it's probably been two years, but I'll be making it, well helping someone make it, in two weeks.

Of course I don't remember too much about what I did the same or differently, so i'm just going to post this up now and come back later to fill in any notes I have on the recipe. I do remember that it was really good!

Also, before I go any further, anybody have a GREAT vegetarian lasagna recipe they can point me to. I'm helping the Joyous with this for a lasagna dinner party and we need a veggie recipe as well. I'd love to see if there is a red sauce one and white sauce one?!?!?


Drop-Dead Lasagna
from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

Time: 2 1/2 hours
Serves 12

This is the old-school lasagna that you find in the Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. Fuggedaboudit! You can assemble the lasagna ahead of time...and it's great for leftovers.

1 lb lasagna noodles
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 TB fennel seeds
1/2 TB red pepper flakes
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 TB dried oregano
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 lb ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
4 cups Marinara Sauce (further down)
Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Fill a large pasta pot with water and place over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle some olive oil so the sheets don't stick together, the set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle with {about 2 TB} of olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and bay leaf for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent and smell sweet. Add the ground beef and pork, stirring to break it up, and cook until the meat is throroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain ou the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and dried oregano in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, give it a whirl, and sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmigiano cheeses. Fold in the parsley, basil and eggs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take inventory of the components you should have now: slightly cooked lasagna noodles, seasoned meat mixture, ricotta cheese filling, 2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, a pot of sauce and a 13 x 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Let the layering begin.

Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom; in my experience this prevents the lasagna from sticking. Layer 1 -- the noodles: slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lenghtwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Here is a little tip I swear by: if you take 2 lasagna noodles and line the short ends of the pan, they will act as brackets or a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it. Layer 2 -- the meat: spread half the meat mixture on top of the noodles with a spatula. The emat mixture, being the most solid element, will act as a foundation. Layer 3 -- the cheese: spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula, and then sprinkly a fhrist of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture for that stringy cheese pull that you know and love. Layer 4 -- the sauce: top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1 cup; smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce and the remaining mozarella. I like to tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles and to compress the layers.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden and bubbling. Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes so it doesn't ooze all over the place when you cut it into squares. Pass the extra tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano around the table.

Marinara Sauce
from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

Makes 5 cups
Time: 1 hour

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28 oz) cans of whole tomatoes
5 fresh basil leaves, cut in fine ribbons
2 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp of sugar

In a large pot over medium heat, heat {about 3 TB} of olive oil until hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to appear translucent. Hand-crush the tomatoes and add them, along with their liquid, to the pot. Toss in the herbs, red pepper flakes and sugar; season with salt & pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Remove bay leaves before serving.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Thit Bo Sao Dau

This morning I knew I wanted to make something new for dinner, so I brought a few new foodie magazines I've recieved recently, to browse for tonight. Before the day got too crazy, I cruised over to I HATE BROCCOLI. I didn't even need the magazines!

In a great little story about the dentist, Rachel Ray and having recipes with multiple endings, Mr. I Hate Broccoli gives us his recipe, that he's pulled off the web.

In a nut shell, what we have here is stir fried beef with green beans in a brown sauce. Of course, I have no idea what the actual translation is of the name, but I do know that it was tasty good and super easy!

Thit Bo Sao Dau
From I Hate Broccoli

This is the master recipe I use. I use the technique and process to formulate other similar meals. By adding or subtracting just one or two ingredients you'll find myriad of potential dishes. This serves four but can easily be halved.

1 clove garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound beef sirloin tips, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup beef stock, from a can (unless you've got the real thing, then lucky you)
1 teaspoon soy sauce

-- Combine garlic, pepper, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a bowl and mix well. Add the beef, making sure to coat well.

-- In a large frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil over high heat. Add the meat to the hot oil and brown on one side, about two to three minutes. Stir the meat quickly, let it heat another 30 seconds to a minute, and transfer to a clean bowl. Forget about it for a couple minutes.

-- In the same pan you just cooked the meat in, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and then add the onion. The onion will cook fast, so be careful not to burn it. Cook the onion until it becomes translucent and tender.

-- Put the green beans in the pan, and add the beef stock. Stir the stock, scraping up any bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan up. Because there will be cornstarch residue from the beef in the pan, the stock will start to thicken like a sauce. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and let sauce reduce, for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until the beans are tender and crisp.

-- Stir in the beef and the soy sauce, stir constantly and cook for about a minute or two, or until heated through. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little more stock to thin it out.

-- Serve over rice, though any pasta like farfalle (bowties), conchiglie (seashells) or orecchiette (ears) will do just fine.

My Notes:
I loved this. Easy, fast and tasty.

*I probably had a bit more of the green beans and a little less of the beef, but that's OK.
*I added about half an inch of fresh grated ginger and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes, I'd use more ginger next time.
*I used about 1/2 cup of beef broth and would probably use more, to make things more saucy.
*I'd do 2 tsp of soy for bit more flava.
*We served this with "ginger scented jasmine rice." I threw the last little knob of ginger and some of the peel in the water before the rice. Whatev.., didn't bring much to the party.
*Oh, and I used two cloves of garlic.
*I threw the sirloin tips in the freezer for about 1/2 an hour to firm it up, to make it easier to sliced thinly.

Thanks again Mr. I Hate Broccoli! If you head over to his site, you'll see a variation of the recipe with chicken, peas and cream.

UPDATE: made this again with a new suggestion: 1 TB Hoisin Sauce! YUM. See Photo here.

Don't forget...

DC folks,

Don't forget, next week is Restaurant Week. A great opportunity to try a new restaurant you've always want to give a whirl, or to revisit an old favorite!

I hope you all try to take advantage of this special treat, and it's not just DC, there are Maryland and Virginia restaurants as well.

In my times going, I've tried:

Spezie-Yum yum Italian. There was some great soup and salad. I think I had pasta carbonara and then some mini plate of desserts. All very good.

Butterfield 9-This was my first Restaurant Experience. I was worried, but the food ended up spectacular. I had a risotto that was all mushrooms (which I HATE, but it
was great flavor...the 'shrooms were pushed to the side), and entree that I don't
really remember--chicken, probably and creme brulee for dessert that was pretty good.

And there was one other that I've been to, but can't remember the name and don't see them on the list for this year's oh well!

Live Well and Eat Well in 2006!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Spaghetti Sauce

On New Year's Eve, I made a giganto pot of spaghetti sauce for dinner. It's easy, can feed lots of people and easy, did I mention easy? The only skill needed, really, is to dice an onion and there are many ways to do that...and to taste things to find the right flavors that you want!

I don't have a recipe that I follow, per here's what I did and this fed lots of people!!

2 large onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 TB Olive Oil, plus some more for later
1 regular sized can of tomato paste
about a cup of wine (I had chardonnay this time, normally I'd use a dry red)
1 large (28 oz) can of tomato sauce
1 large (28 oz) can of tomato puree
1 large (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
Salt & Pepper
2 TB sugar
Lots of herbs: Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, Savory (all dried)
Hefty "Pinch" of red pepper flakes
Fresh Basil

In a large pot, sweat the onions in the olive oil for about 1o minutes, you want them to become translucent. Add a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Add the garlic and saute for about a minute.

Add the herbs. I usually start with a heaping TB each of the dried herbs and the Red pepper flakes. Stir and allow to simmer for a minute.

Add the tomato paste and start to work into the onions.

Add the wine and stir to incorporate and allow to reduce by half.

Add the tomato puree, diced and sauce. Stir to incorporate fully.

Bring sauce to a simmer, taste for desired herbage. Add more of whatever is necessary. Usually a little more salt and pepper for sure.

I like to let my sauce simmer for at least an hour if possible...uncovered, so it will make a giant mess. About ten minutes before you're ready to serve, add a swirl or two of olive oil and a handful of sliced basil. Stir to incorporate, remove form heat.

Serve on your favorite pasta (Spaghetti Rigati from Barilla) and garnish with fresh parm and some big fat bread for sopping up extra sauce. If you want some veg, have a salad on the side.

Next up...I make Tiramisu....someday soon...I have a recipe I MUST TRY!


Mmm, it's soo good!

Yesterday, Joyous came over and we made Cincinatti Chili and watched a movie. I encourage all the meat eaters out there to try this recipe at least once! There are a number of ingredients and a strange step at the beginning, but it is so easy.

  • 1) blanch the beef
  • 2) saute onions, garlic, spices
  • 3) add broth, water, tomato sauce
  • 4) simmer---DONE!

Really it's that easy. The chili simmers for an hour and gets all saucy. We made a double batch yesterday and threw a large container into the freezer for a lazy day when we don't want to go to the store.

After we gourged ourselves, I made the winning cookie from the Cookie Collection 2005! Yum. I made them extra large and when I'm eating one, I feel like I spent three dollars on it at Starbucks, except it's 100 times better. They are not a super sacchrine sweet cookie. Just sweet enough to get that sweet tooth. The remind me of the "Salty Oat" cookie at Teaism, except with some great stuff in it!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Top Voted Cookie Recipe of 2005

Hello Everybody!

Hope the new year is starting out well for everyone.

Just over two weeks ago I started the Cookie Collection 2005 recipe contest.

The contest was a simple one. Submit your favorite cookie recipe, one that you've made and the readers of this blog were allowed to vote for their favorite!

There were five eligible recipes:

After a week of voting that finished at 1159pm on December 31, 2005 (I sure am happy no one was voting here then!), the winning recipe is....

Oatmeal White Chocolate-Chunk Cookies with Spicy Spiked Cranberries submitted by! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to thank everyone for playing and now that the holiday's are over, I can't wait to make the cookies. Happy New Year ya'll.

PS: I'll let you all know what the prize is after I ship it, so it's still a bit of a suprise to our winner.