Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quick Dinner! Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

This dish is super fast.  It needs to marinate for 20 minutes, but you can make the sauce in the meantime.  Serve it with a quick salad or some store bought tabbouleh and you're good to go!  I made the tabbouleh in this picture because I had the extra time. Here's the recipe I use. It took me about half an hour to make the souvlaki and tzatziki, including the marinating time.  In addition to being a quick dinner for a work night, this dish tastes great.  The lemon and oregano make the pork interesting and the simple grilled onions add some extra flavor.  As always, I served it with some extra lemon wedges.  Even though I halved the amount of pork because I'm cooking for two, I made the full amount of tzatziki because I wanted extra for my pita.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chicken Scarpariello - Amazing!

It's not very often that I want to put a dish into my regular rotation after making it just once.  I'm making an exception for this dish.  It was fantastic!  The peppers had just the right amount of kick and the addition of a little lemon juice made it perfect.  The garlic cooked long enough in the pan to soften and taste like roasted garlic. The rosemary blended nicely with the rest of the sauce and made it feel more rustic.  The sauce had just the right consistency: not too watery, not too thick.  The chicken was juicy.  There was relatively little chopping.  I wouldn't call this a quick dish but it didn't take forever either.  It's totally doable on a work night.

As you can see, I had bad aim with the sauce. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Butternut Squash Stuffed with Bulgur and Chorizo

Butternut squash is a controversial food in my house.  I love it and my husband can't stand it unless it's prepared a certain way.  This was not it.  If you're a squash-hater, you should probably skip this post.  If you love squash, this is a cheesy, sort of spicy dish that goes nicely with a quick salad.  

I always try to buy cheese in the proper amount so that I don't waste any.  I couldn't get 2 ounces of manchego and I didn't want to pay for a giant block of it.  I used some nice aged cheddar instead. The basic recipe was good, but it definitely needed a little salt and some extra cheese.

One thing I love about Wegmans is that they sell pre-cut vegetables.  I bought the squash already halved and seeded, which saved me a little time.  I would bake it in a little more water next time, the squash wasn't as tender as I would have liked.  This recipe isn't very quick, the squash has to bake for 30 minutes and then it bakes for another 10 with the stuffing.

Overall this is a good dish if you want to eat healthy foods like butternut squash and bulgur.  The whole dish could be considered healthy if you didn't add a ton of extra cheese like I did.  The recipe is very basic and could definitely use some improvement.  If I made it again I would consider adding a spice or two to the mixture and maybe something else.  Nuts? garlic?  It needs something.

Butternut Squash Stuffed with Bulgur and Chorizo (and extra cheese)!
From Real Simple
Serves 2

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/4 cup bulgur
2 ounces manchego or cheddar, grated (plus extra!)
2 ounces cured chorizo, chopped
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
1.5 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Heat oven to 450 F.  Place squash halves cut side down into a baking dish.  Add about 1/2 inch of water and cover with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes.
2) While the squash is cooking, cook bulgur according to its package.  Then combine it with the cheese, chorizo, parsley, and olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3) Turn the squash cut side up and fill with the bulgur mixture.  Bake again until the cheese is melted and the filling is heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve with a side salad.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spice Glazed Lamb Chops with Red Wine and Coffee Sauce

I love coffee and red wine.  So putting them together in a sauce sounds amazing.  I've used ground coffee in spice mixes and rubs but I've never brewed up a pot of strong coffee and poured it into a sauce.  I was skeptical at first because I thought it would be bitter, but it was really good!  I couldn't taste anything that was identifiable as coffee.  It was a wine sauce with a nice earthiness to it.  It's definitely important that the coffee be strong.  I used the "strong" setting on my coffee maker and it worked fine. The ancho chile powder added a little bit of heat but the sauce as a whole blended really nicely. Next time I'd serve it over polenta or rice pilaf or something.  Normal people would probably make mashed potatoes (ew).  I used more pearl onions than the recipe called for, it seemed silly to use half a bag.  Plus they went really well with the sauce.  This dish wasn't actively quick, but it didn't take terribly long.  I would say it's doable on a work night if you aren't very busy.  I will definitely make this again because the sauce was fantastic.  I made a full recipe of sauce and didn't use it all.  

The asparagus was completely an afterthought.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I used to loathe potatoes (the devil's tuber!) but I really love latkes. Mashed potatoes are still gross unless they're filled with garlic or a gallon of sriracha sauce to make them taste not nasty.  But latkes are awesome.  This recipe comes from my mother in law.  My husband is the primary chef for this recipe, he's in charge of the frying pans.  That's right, pans.  He's so badass that he uses two frying pans at once!

Before I looked at her recipe, I had issues with my cut potatoes turning brown.  She suggests soaking the potato pieces in a bowl of ice water to preserve their color and it works really well!  These are great when they're crispy, I would definitely err on making them too crispy versus too soft.  I prefer my latkes with some sour cream mixed with fresh dill and topped with sliced green onions.  I served them with a salad so I could pretend that at least part of this meal is healthy.

My husband and I don't make these terribly often.  Usually we make them right when the weather starts getting colder.  At the bottom of this post, you can see a comparison picture of the first latkes we made.  These are much improved!!  The first attempt was crispy around the edges and kind of mushy in the center.

This recipe supposedly serves two people.  We did eat all of the latkes we made.  However, I'd argue that this recipe serves three or four people because it made eight latkes and I completely stuffed myself because I ate four.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Arteries are Evil and Must Be Punished!

My first memories of baked ziti are from the Maryland House rest area Sbarro's.  Growing up, my parents and I drove to Rhode Island a few times a year to visit family and we always stopped at Maryland House for lunch or dinner.  I was a weird kid; I didn't like pizza or hamburgers.  So I always ended up getting the baked ziti and thought it was the best thing ever, especially if they would drown it in marinara sauce for me.  Then I grew up to be a food snob and no longer appreciated rest stop baked ziti.  Now that summer is over and DC is getting cold again, I decided to make some comfort food in the form of my own baked ziti.  Well, not really mine, it's from Mario Batali's cookbook.  But whatever.

I'd like a side of Lipitor, please!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Super Fast: Piquillo Pepper and Chickpea Soup with Chicken

This soup took about 20 minutes to make, from start to finish.  It would have been even faster if I had used pre-cooked rotisserie chicken as the recipe suggested. I had to cook and shred a chicken breast.  I tossed some rice in my rice cooker while I was doing other stuff and it was ready to go when it was time to make dinner. The hummus is mostly in the soup for the creamy texture, the main flavor is from the piquillo peppers, which are different from normal roasted red peppers. They have a little bit of spice to them, but nothing so hot that this soup is off limits for the spice adverse.  If you like roasted, slightly spicy peppers, this is a fantastic work night soup that is made with relatively little effort.  I served it with a salad that I made while the soup was heating on the stove.
The Dowager Countess would not approve of my silverware placement.

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Pesto" Crusted Mahi Mahi with Asparagus

I've become a little obsessed with coating fish with panko.  It's easy, relatively quick, and there are tons of variations!  This picture is terrible, but my camera was telling me it had .0001 seconds of battery life left and so I didn't get a chance to redo it. The crust looks burned, but it really wasn't that bad.  That said, I don't recommend the power burner for heating oil  Just sayin'.

The sauce from the asparagus goes well with the fish, too!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Success! Mushroom Crusted Rockfish with Asian Coleslaw

A local restaurant that I really love makes amazing mushroom crusted fish.  I finally decided to try to make my own without a recipe!  I worked off my basic panko crusted fish recipe, but added some shiitake mushrooms to the panko mix.  Instead of using a lemon and caper sauce, I sauteed a random shallot I had sitting around and put it on top of the fish.  I made some Asian coleslaw with miso dressing to go with it. The slaw has a tasty dressing and a second sauce would have ruined the it.  The panko mushroom mixture browned nicely and the panko stayed crunchy even with the addition of mushrooms. It was the best of both worlds, a nice shiitake flavor but still crispy.

If you have a partner who is not a fan of mushrooms, this dish might be a good way to sneak some in because the flavor isn't overwhelmingly mushroomy. ;)

The Asian coleslaw was fantastic and went really well with the fish.  The dressing was tangy but not overpowering. There also wasn't a ton of it so it didn't make the bottom of the fish too soggy.With only one tablespoon of mayo for 6-8 servings, this salad is pretty healthy!  If you make extra dressing, maybe don't put the fish on top of the slaw.  If you're making both dishes, make the coleslaw first, the fish doesn't take very long.

The Asian Coleslaw is also quite pretty. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Panko Crusted Fish with Quick Caper and Lemon Sauce

Here's a quick fish dinner!  Searing fish with a panko crust is a pretty quick way to cook fish. The crunchy panko crust is quite tasty. I've been making a sauce with shallots, garlic, lemon, capers, wine and butter and it's really good!  I also season the flour with some salt, pepper, and garlic or shallot salt.  I buy mahi mahi, rockfish, or halibut, depending on what I can get.  This picture is of mahi mahi.  I served it with some spinach sauteed with garlic, but any green vegetable will do. I've paired breaded fish with broccoli and asparagus and sometimes I add a small salad.

Yeah, I really need to start using some smaller plates.  The fish and spinach look like they're having an armed standoff.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flank Steak with Corn Salsa and Roasted Potatoes

Back when I was in law school and Dave and I were just dating, he was the cook.  I could successfully boil water and sometimes nuke some ramen without needing to call the fire department.  Occasionally I made "gourmet" ramen which consisted of a sytrofoam cup of ramen with some sliced green onions, a packet of soy sauce, and maybe some Tabasco if I was feeling adventurous.  Dave on the other hand, made actual food.  He used to marinate flank steak and grill it, and it was awesome, especially when my idea of cooking meat was to keep it on the stove for so long that it made "well done" look practically raw.

When I was teaching myself to cook, I bought a copy of the Wine Lover's Cookbook and found a recipe for flank steak with corn salsa.  The first time I made it I thought it was super complicated based upon the number of ingredients in the recipe.  But it was so good that I've made it a ton over the years and now it doesn't seem that tough any more.  It's labor intensive because of all the chopping, marinating, and roasting, but it's definitely worth it!  The salsa is only slightly spicy, most of the heat in this dish comes from the potatoes because they're roasted with jalapenos.  If cooked properly, the flank steak should be tender and relatively pink the middle.  If it's overcooked it'll be tough.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Skate Wing with Lemon and Green Olives

Okay, so the original recipe called for preserved lemon.  But I don't have any, and the last time I bought a jar of preserved lemons they achieved consciousness in the back of the fridge because I rarely used them.  I could have made my own, but that was way too much forethought.  My grocery store only has skate wing intermittently; I had this recipe on standby in case it was available.  I served the skate with a side of steamed asparagus with lemon pepper and a small salad because both are simple. This dish has relatively little chopping and doesn't taste very long to make!  This dish is very doable on a work night.

Skate wing is pretty mild, so I was worried that the salty olives and sour lemon would overpower it.  It did, to an extent, but it was still very good.   It probably had something to do with the fact that I used extra olives because I love them.  If you don't want a slightly overwhelming sauce, stick to using 4 to 6 olives.

My skate wings didn't have bones in them.  Instead of cooking them for 4 minutes each side, I did 3 each side and that was plenty of time.  For thicker wings, 4 minutes each side or longer is probably necessary.  My skate wings were so thin that they were falling apart a little too much when I served them, next time I'll probably cook them for less time.

Skate Wing with Lemon and Green Olives
Slightly adapted from Arabesque
Serves 2

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small skate wings (about 1 lb)
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste (but at least use 1/2)
zest from 1/2 lemon
4 to 6 large green olives, pitted and chopped (I used way more, probably about 12 olives)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (I used parsley because that's what I had sitting around)
lemon wedges for serving

1) Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan large enough to hold the skate wings without stacking them.  Add the skate wings, sprinkle with salt, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes over low heat.
2) Flip the skate wings over and add the lemon juice.  Cook for 3 or 4 more minutes or until the flesh starts to come away from the bones if the skate has bones.  Otherwise be careful not to let them separate too much and fall apart.
3) Add the lemon zest, olives, and herbs and heat through in the oil and juices.
4) Put the skate wings on a plate, top with olive and lemon zest mixture.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fettuccine with Sausage, Basil, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

I love pasta!  I'm always looking for fast, simple recipes with only a few ingredients for when I don't feel like spending a long time cooking.  I figured Mario Batali's book, Molto Italiano, would have some good stuff.  The snobby part of me internally scoffed at the idea of buying a book from a celebrity chef.  But, I got over myself and ordered it.  I'm glad I did!  A lot of the recipes look very tasty and easily doable on a work night.

I already had all the ingredients for this recipe in my kitchen except for sausage. I don't know if you have this problem, but I make a lot of recipes that call for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, leaving me with the rest of the can, even when I buy the small one.  It gets put in some tupperware and then it goes into the fridge until it achieves consciousness. It's not pretty.  This recipe is a great way to use up leftover tomato paste!  If you make the full recipe, it needs 5 tablespoons.

I made 2 servings of pasta but the full recipe of sauce. I suspect that if I'd halved the sauce, the dish would have been maybe little bland.  I used fresh garlic from my husband's grandmother's garden.  Soooo good. The recipe calls for fresh tagliatelle but I didn't have any, so I used some dried fettuccine and it was fine.  If fresh pasta is easily accessible to you, go for it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicken Kebab with Spicy Bulgur Salad

This was supposed to be a recipe for shrimp kebabs and spicy bulgur salad.  But there was chicken in the freezer, so I used that.  Instead of trying to adapt the shrimp kebab recipe for chicken, I marinated it in olive oil, garlic, and some of the spice mix used in the bulgur salad.  It was simple and fast. But, the rest of this dish is kind of labor intensive, since there are four major components that need to be made: Golden Spice Mix, Chicken Kebabs, Spicy Tomato Dressing, and Spicy Bulgur Salad.  I would say that if you are in a hurry but would love the Spicy Bulgur Salad, the tomato dressing is definitely optional.  I loved it, but if you're strapped for time just omit it, the dish will still be good.  Plus the salad is definitely scalable, it kept in the fridge for 3 days! The spice mix takes no time at all to make and the chicken can cook on the grill while you prepare the bulgur salad ingredients.

The bulgur salad looks deceptively easy, but the dressing requires peeled and seeded tomatoes, which is a huge, time consuming pain in the butt.  That said, it's a fabulous dressing.  It has just the right amount of spiciness for the chicken, and the lemon and ginger stop it from being too tomatoey.

The star of this meal was definitely the bulgur salad.  It was great with the chicken, and I ate the leftovers for lunch two days later!  This recipe comes from Saha, Greg Malouf's first book on Middle Eastern cuisine; it features dishes from Lebanon and Syria.  It's thinner than Turquoise, so it has fewer recipes.  I like how Saha has several different spice mixes and sauces that can be used in the main dish recipes.
Keepin' it klassy with a posh serving dish for the dressing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pasta a la Power Outage

Last week DC got hit by a derecho, which I had never heard of until it was mentioned on TV.  It was a relatively short bout of rain accompanied by severe winds that took out enough trees and power lines that almost a million people in the DC area lost power. Actually, I missed the entire storm.  I went to see Magic Mike (chef recommends!) with some friends and then we went to a bar that was downstairs and had no windows.  It never lost power so I had no idea what was going on until people started texting me. I expected Metro to be in its usual state of weather-related fubar, but shockingly I made it to an above ground station without any problems. My husband picked me up and I came home to a house without power during one of the worst heatwaves on record.  It was over 90 degrees in our bedroom.  We ended up sleeping on the first floor on a mattress that we dragged down two flights of stairs.

Fifty.  Hours.  Without power.

Needless to say, we threw out the entire contents of our fridge and freezer.  Our cooler is tiny and it didn't seem worth it to try and salvage the one chicken breast that would have fit inside.  At least it was a good excuse to give the fridge a good cleaning.

The power came back on early on Monday morning and since I had to work, the big Wegmans run wasn't going to happen.  We've got a relatively new Safeway near our house, but I haaaaaate it.  It never has enough checkout lines open, the store layout was designed by a lab rat who ate three times its body weight in meth, and they are always out of things that I need.

So, we went to the Italian deli around the corner and bought some fresh pasta and the stuff I needed to improvise a tomato sauce.  What started out as an experiment turned into an excellent sauce! (Awesomesauce?) Since I bought a 28 ounce can of tomato puree, I ended up making the sauce twice to use it all.  The second night I tweaked it a little and it was even better!

This sauce is very tomatoey, but not in a sweet, commercial tomato sauce way. I added kalamata olives and capers for a little saltiness and a TON of garlic.  It took me about 20 minutes to make this.  I'm sure it could have simmered longer, but I was starving.  It's easy and vegetarian.

Awesomesauce version 1. I put cheese on half of the pasta so I could take a picture of the sauce.  I'm so considerate. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stir Fried Pork with Garlic Scapes

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited my in-laws.  They took us to the West Side Market and I bought some garlic scapes on a whim.  I'd never cooked them before, but my mother in law said they were pretty awesome.  She suggested that they would taste good with pork.  I looked all over the internet for a tasty sounding pork and garlic scape recipe and stumbled across this one from Tigers and Strawberries, one of my favorite cooking blogs.  I'm sad that it hasn't been updated in a while, I've tried so many of her recipes!  I modified this one a little because I didn't have time to go to the grocery store and made it with what I had already.  So, no pressed tofu or dried mushrooms.  But it still worked out really well, and the garlic scapes really are quite tasty.  They have the consistency of Chinese long beans unless they're blanched.  I wanted a bit of a crunch, so I didn't bother.  They taste like garlic, but lighter and crunchy.

This dish is pretty quick to make if you marinate the pork and then chop everything while it's sitting in the fridge.

My frog chopstick rest is fabulous. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pork with Grapes and Tarragon

This relatively quick dish has a fantastic sauce.  I used seedless red grapes and the tannins really do make the wine sauce pop. Normally I imagine that a sauce with grapes would be overly sweet, but that isn't the case here. Since I could only buy large bunches of red grapes, I added a few more than the recipe required. The tarragon and splash of vinegar counteract the sweetness of the fruit to create a balanced sauce. I served it with rice pilaf from a box and some simple sauteed green beans with shallots.
You can almost see my reflection in the sauce. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Olive and Egg Salad

Don't let the picture fool you, this is an awesome salad!  It's a great way to use hard boiled eggs.  The recipe can be halved to use this salad as an appetizer or the full recipe makes an excellent entree.  The dressing is simple; it's just lemon, garlic, and olive oil.  It adds a nice tang to the salty olives, slightly sharp red onions, and toasty pine nuts.  Even though there is a good bit of chopping, this salad is relatively quick if you're using left over hard boiled eggs.

The recipe is from my new Lebanese and Syrian cookbooks, Saha, by Greg and Lucy Malouf. I've had another of their books, Turquoise, for many years and I learned that they published Saha first.  Of course the last thing I need is another Middle Eastern cookbook, but I couldn't help myself!  I'm very glad I bought it.  It has fewer recipes than Turquoise, but so far all of them that I've tried have been fabulous. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ginger Carrot Soup

I'm a bit of a computer game addict, and Diablo III came out last Tuesday.  As a result, most of my meals have been either take out sushi or something I can make really fast so I can spend more time sitting in my dimly lit computer room punching demons in the face.  The meals I make when I'm in game addict mode don't make very good blog fodder since most of my fastest recipes are old ones that I've been making forever.  But, I managed to try a few new things, including this ginger carrot soup.  It's healthy, quick, and very tasty! If you make this soup, I definitely recommend an immersion blender, it makes it a lot easier. It's a creamy, slightly sweet soup with a small kick of ginger. It's vegetarian and vegan. It's also a pretty color and tastes like it takes a lot more work to make than it really does.

Definitely break up the orange with something green like a mint sprig and serve with a side salad.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paper-Wrapped Chicken

This dish is probably in my top five list of most labor intensive dishes.  It looks cool, but it took a long time to assemble the packets, and I had help!  But, it was a fun step outside of my comfort zone.  Wait, what?  I'm supposed to wrap chicken in wax paper and then deep fry it in my wok?!  Uh...

Having never attempted anything like this before, I suspected that my neat little packets of chicken and veggies would turn into a peanut oil flavored mess wrapped in soggy wax paper. While some of the packets did get some oil in, most of them were fine! The marinated chicken was tender, the vegetables were flavorful and still had a little crunch to them, and the addition of some prosciutto to the packets was a nice way to add some saltiness.

Here they are before I fried them.  Packets filled with chicken, prosciutto, red chili, ginger, and cilantro.

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Kibbeh" Meatballs

I've been away for a while, I went to Japan for vacation and it was fabulous!  Once I raid my local Japanese market, I'm definitely going to try and make some of the amazing food I tried while I was there.  Real ramen! Katsu! Sushi!  Well, maybe not sushi.  From what I hear it's expensive to ride in an ambulance.

But until then, here is a dish that was almost a colossal failure until my husband suggested we turn it into meatballs. It turned out to be a great tasting meal that made enough meatballs for me to freeze some extra.  I topped it with some super easy muhammara sauce and served it with a side of tabbouleh.

The plan was to make this recipe for baked kibbeh.  I don't know if it was because I ground my own lamb (Wegman's was out), if my onions were too watery, or my food processor juiced up on steroids while I was away, but it turned my kibbeh shell mixture into a sticky, runny pile of gloop that was impossible to roll into a uniform sheet and even harder to cut into rounds with a cookie cutter.  As I sat with my lamb gloop in one bowl and my delicious smelling filing in a frying pan and attempted to figure out how exactly I was going to turn it into kibbeh, my husband had an idea.  Why not just stir the filling into the meat disaster and make meatballs?  Brilliant!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Creamy Soup of Field Mushrooms

I'm still a little obsessed with my immersion blender.  Soup is so easy to make now! I've tried a few recipes for cream of mushroom soup but this one is the best I've made so far.  It showcases the flavor of the mushrooms without a lot of other ingredients to get in the way.  This recipe calls for a ton of portobello mushrooms.  It's relatively easy too.  I think it would freeze well for use in cream cheese chicken. This soup made a nice light meal.  I served it with some bruschetta. A small salad would work too. To use porcini mushrooms as a garnish, soak them in warm water until they're soft, about 20 minutes.

The bruschetta is from Wegman's.  Shhh, don't tell!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One Year Later: Green Enchiladas

I've been making these green enchiladas for years.  I wrote a post about them about a year ago. They were one of the first dishes I started making regularly while learning how to cook, and the first from-scratch enchiladas I ever made. Back in the day, I used canned enchilada sauce and I thought I was a cooking wizard because I could bake enchiladas in the oven that came out still resembling their ingredients instead of gooey charcoal.  Bonus points for being tasty! I think that in the past year, I've perfected them and wanted to post my updated recipe. 

These green enchiladas aren't terribly pretty, but they are awesome. They're creamy, cheesy, tangy, and if you add chili powder, just a little bit spicy.  I've changed the recipe a bit over the years. The original recipe is from Cooking Light, but I don't think these are very healthy.  But that's probably because I changed the recipe to include a ton of cheddar cheese, because I have to choose between healthy and cheddar cheese, the cheese will always win. If you use Herdez or Goya brand salsa verde, the sauce is mild and safe for the spicy-adverse. But I add extra chili powder.  I also season the chicken with some adobo seasoning and add some extra garnishes.  I make the full batch of sauce and then slightly less filling and tortillas to serve 2 people (3 enchiladas each).  The "proper" portion for this is two enchiladas per person.  If you decide to scale this up to serve more people, increase the amount of sauce!  The enchiladas should be completely covered with sauce when you bake them. I also omit the step of cooking the tortillas in chicken broth.  I've tried this a few times and it did nothing for me.  It seemed unnecessary and increased my enchilada assembling time.  If you want to make your tortillas more pliable, steam them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tuna with Tomatoes and Capers with Spinach, Beans, and Prunes

This tuna dish is simple and quick. It doesn't have many ingredients and if you like your tuna rare like me, there isn't a lot of cooking time. If you heave nice piece of fish, the sauce is tangy and flavorful but won't mask the taste of the meat.  I served it with a healthy side dish of spinach, kidney beans, and prunes.

I made the spinach dish because I wanted to use the rest of my prunes left over from my Cornish game hen meal.  I'd never used them before and I didn't want them to languish in my pantry until they fossilized.  My husband and I disagreed about how good the spinach dish was.   I loved it.  I would make it again. I love spinach!  I thought the sweet prunes were interesting and I thought they were a good addition to the earthiness of the spinach and beans.  My husband really hates fruit as part of dinner, so he was not a fan of the prunes at all. If you don't like sweetness in your veggies (or hate fruit in general), skip the prunes.  The side dish is vegetarian and I think that it's hearty enough for a main dish if you make extra. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

I imitated Komi, and was mildly successful

Komi has been on of DC's best restaurants for the last few years.  Situated on top of a dry cleaner's off Dupont Circle, it's easy to overlook if you're just walking by.  For years, I thought it was a sushi place.  The chef, Johnny Monis, has no formal training, which is shocking when you see his food. Last month, I put myself on their wait list and finally got to go last weekend.  One of small hot bites that was served before our main dish was a plate of roasted dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese and topped with fleur de sel. These were amazing.  The dates were soft but not mushy.  The cheese was slightly tart and somehow remained solid inside the dates, and the salt added a depth to the dish.  It was strange how just a sprinkling of salt could make a dish amazing.  I had to try to make these!  Although my dates did not taste exactly like Komi's, they were definitely similar.  There are lots of things I could do better, but this is a great stepping off point!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wild Boar Meatballs!

I've had wild boar a few times on vacation, but this was my first time cooking it.  I figured meatballs were a good safe way to start.  My plan was to buy some ground wild boar, but the store only had wild boar mini-roasts. But, I was determined to make meatballs.  In addition this being my first attempt at cooking wild boar, it was also my first time grinding my own meat.  So much for a meal that didn't involve a lot of work! These meatballs freeze very well.  I made the entire recipe and froze most of them after I baked them in the oven.  The sauce freezes well too! To reheat, I put the frozen sauce in a pot over medium-low heat until it was liquid again and then added the frozen meatballs and cooked them in the sauce until they were heated through.  About 30 minutes.  The sauce is simple and very flavorful. I don't think it would be as good with tomatoes other than San Marzanos.

I made a few slight changes to the recipe. The original recipe only used the cheese for a topping, I went ahead and put it in the meatball mix. To make the sauce less watery, I squeezed the juice out of each tomato and crushed them a little by hand.  I also removed the white stringy bit from the center of each.  An entire recipe of meatballs made three meals for two people.  I used bucatini in this picture, but used regular spaghetti for the other two meals.  The bucatini was interesting, but I don't see the point in buying it unless it's something you use regularly. I used panko instead of breadcrumbs.  I used a little extra butter because this tomato sauce recipe inspired me to always add extra butter. :P I used two tablespoons.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hot and Sour Soup!

A while back, I made some hot and sour soup from Williams Sonoma's Soup.  It was "meh."  Kind of bland.  It seemed like it was trying to capture the flavor of hot and sour soup without authentic ingredients.  The broth was very thin, and the "hot" and "sour" aspects were very, very faint.

Then, I tried Ken Hom's recipe.  This is an entirely different animal.  The broth has the right consistency.  The flavors are punchy, the mushrooms provide a great texture, and the egg is done right.  This soup tastes like what I've eaten at my favorite Chinese restaurants.  It doesn't take very long to make.

I was so happy that this looked like the real thing!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Persian Sweet and Sour Stuffed Chicken

I've been dying to try so many of the chicken recipes in Food of Life, my Persian cookbook.  So many of them call for an entire chicken, and I don't know how well stuffed chicken leftovers would work the next day.  But, when I saw the recipe for sweet and sour stuffed chicken that could also be done with a Cornish game hen, I was stoked.  Before this dish, I'd never eaten Cornish game hen.  My mom told me that back in the 70s and 80s, they were a Big Thing for people to cook when they entertained friends.  Wikipedia tells me that they're basically small chickens, and it tasted exactly that way.  It wasn't gamey at all.

This was my first time roasting an entire bird.  I've never hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas, so I've never done turkey, and I've never had the guts to roast a whole chicken when I have guests for dinner. It's generally a bad idea to experiment on friends.  I was a little intimidated, at first.  I was nervous that the meat would be dry and nasty, but this dish turned out *amazing.* The meat was moist and the skin was tangy from the lime juice in the basting liquid.  The stuffing was sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the onion and spices made it very hearty.  I would definitely make this for my friends for a special dinner.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quick Side Dish: Zucchini with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

I'm trying to find more quick, easy vegetable side dishes to serve at meals.  Right now, I don't have many in my regular rotation.   I think this zucchini dish will make it onto my list.  It's from Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  I served it with some baked falafel.  The combination of pine nuts and raisins is, according to the book, something that the Arabs brought all the way to Spain and Sicily.  The sweetness of the raisins and the nuttiness of the pine nuts go well together. I used a little extra of both.  Normally, I think more lemon juice is the proper solution to any cooking problem.  But, in this case, I think that there could have been less.  I used about 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and next time I'd use maybe half that.  This side dish took less than 15 minutes to make, including prep time! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Braised Quail with Polenta and Leek Broccoli Soup

I got an immersion blender for Christmas and now I want to blend EVERYTHING.  But I started small and made a quick, easy leek and broccoli soup.  I also went to Balducci's for the first time in a few years.  They had pheasant, rabbit, wild boar, venison, and quail!  I've had quail several times in restaurants and wanted to cook some, but never saw them at the grocery store. This was my first attempt at cooking quail.  I posted my other quail dish first because I thought the sauce was awesome.

Even though the quail have to sit in the fridge for a bit after they're rubbed with the spice mixture, this dish isn't very labor intensive.  The meal doesn't really take long to put together. I served my quail with some sundried tomato polenta (just heat it up out of the tube!) and I made some leek and broccoli soup with my immersion blender. 

 A few years ago, I watched Kitchen Nightmares (back when they still filmed it in England).  One episode featured a chef who overthought all of his recipes and ended up taking a simple concept, such as broccoli soup, and creating a recipe that called for 25 ingredients.  When I was looking for a broccoli soup to try, I remembered how Gordon Ramsay's soup had about 5 ingredients in it and it looked much better than the other chef's.  The recipe is from the Williams Sonoma Soup book and is pretty simple and straightforward.  If you like broccoli, you would love this soup.  If you only like broccoli when it's disguised to the point of being undetectable, you can probably give this one a pass.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seared Quail with Cranberry Vinegar Reduction

Normally, my grocery store of choice is Wegman's.  But I had to go to Balducci's for something that Wegman's doesn't sell, and I discovered that their meat department is filled with all kinds of stuff I want to cook!  I've had quail a few times in restaurants and have always wanted to try it at home.  So I bought some quails.  I bought 8, so look forward to Quail Experiment Part Two later in the month.  A lot of the recipes I considered using involved stuffing and roasting the quail, and that takes a long time.  So I opted to make this faster dish.  The sauce on this is amazing. Especially if you like sour and tangy flavors.  The vinegar reduction is tart, but not so much that the sauce is unbalanced.  The Creole spice blend adds a nice kick to it without being overbearing.  I made a half recipe of the spice blend and have plenty left over in my spice rack for later.  I served the quail with some green beans sauteed with some of the spice mix and leftover shallots and garlic from the sauce.
Not pictured: tons of extra sauce that I poured on three seconds later.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Afelia

Some people loathe Brussels sprouts.  I love them! One of my favorite dishes at Zaytinya is the crispy brussels afelia.  It's crispy brussels sprouts with barberries and a Greek yogurt sauce. It's so good that I sometimes order two of them.  I'm that crazy person in a restaurant who orders extra Brussels sprouts. I love the crispy sprouts with the tangy, salty yogurt and tart berries. I've been dying to figure out how to make it.  So, I bought some brussels sprouts and decided to play around with them.

First of all, I had no idea what an afelia was.  According to wikipedia, it's a Cypriot dish consisting of pork marinated and cooked in red wine with coriander seed and served with bulgur and yogurt. The dish at Zaytinya doesn't taste like it contains any red wine, but there is definitely coriander.  The yogurt sauce seemed like it had garlic and was a little saltier than regular Greek yogurt. 

I decided to roast the brussels sprouts with some olive oil and ground coriander, and made a sauce of Greek yogurt, salt, garlic, and a little olive oil.  I can't get barberries, so I used some dried cranberries instead.  Although my brussels sprouts weren't quite as crispy as they are at Zaytinya, this was a pretty good facsimile of the dish! 

Isn't it pretty?  Yay Brussels sprouts!


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