Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dinner tonight: Thai Coconut-Curried Salmon with Greens


After Christmas Eve and Christmas feasts, Pat and I wanted to eat something light and healthy. I also needed to use a massive amount of leftover arugula that, even after 3 nothing-but-arugula salads, I hadn't managed to put a dent in. So...dinner was Thai coconut-curried salmon with greens.

I made 3/4 of the recipe so that we had one M-sized and one P-sized portion--I think fish leftovers can be kind of gross. I also made a lot of changes. Used a bit more curry powder than called for, a bit less sugar, fresh garlic, and arugula in place of the watercress. I also added snowpeas to the mix, at the same point as the salmon (next time around, I would add with the greens...they were a bit overcooked and gray-green). The greens and salmon took a bit longer than the recipe says to cook. I served everything over cellophane noodles.

I'd give this recipe about a 7.5/10. Definitely one of the best Thai-style dishes from CL, but it still could have used a bit more spice. I will say, we felt much better about our indulgences after having such a healthy detox meal. Sadly, the indulgences continued soon after, and we now have many more sinful meals to make up for!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday feasting (abridged)

Well, we ate a lot over Christmas and Christmas Eve, and there's a LOT more eating in the week ahead: Le Bernadin, Rice to Riches, La Bergerie, at a minimum. This will be a very, very brief account of the few things I actually prepared over the holidays, plus a shout-out for some Daly family Christmas cookie classics.

Gifts for work people this year were little baggies of maple-chile popcorn. While I thought this would be a great way to make a large volume of snacks for a big group, I think I either put too much of the maple sauce on or coated the popcorn a bit too much, because it shrank significantly and I ended up having to give our really miserly portions. Because the recipe called for popcorn popped without fat and salt, I don't have an air-popper, and it's impossible to find the microwave kind with nothing in it, I ended up popping my own corn in a big soup kettle. It was kind of fun! The recipe I followed closely, but used half red pepper, half chile powder because I ran out of the former. Tossed with some soynuts as well to add a little crunch. Went over pretty well, and Mary said it tasted a lot like a bar snack they serve at Rasika, so...score!

For Christmas Eve at Steph's house, I was responsible for the pancetta chips with goat cheese and figs appetizer. Because I'm me, and because they were on sale, I used persimmon wedges in place of figs, and I made a quick balsamic reduction instead of buying fig jam (which I was pretty sure I would have a hard time finding anyway). Interesting fact: Israeli sharon fruit is the same thing as persimmon--it's just a special variety that is apparently ripened chemically so that it tastes good even when the fruit is still hard. These were hugely successful and went really quickly. The only thing I would recommend is that you get pancetta slices that are a little thicker than the recipe calls for...they end up being really delicate and easy to break if they're too thin, which means either a) you will end up destroying many of them in the assembly process, or b) they will probably make a big mess when people try to eat them. The nice thing is, because they are large and a bit unwieldy, your guests will probably only have one or two each.

For Christmas I brought the brussels sprouts we debuted at Thanksgiving (which Pat's mom specially requested) and an appetizer of mascarpone stuffed dates, dressed with a little good-quality olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. These were inspired by our Komi dinner a while back, and are easy to make. Just assemble as described above and heat at 350 degrees for 5-7 min. Not too long, or the cheese will melt, which I kind of screwed up this time around.

Finally, my mom sent me a gazillion cookies in the mail so that I would feel guilty about not coming home for Christmas this year. Chinese almond cakes, date-nut pinwheels, and pistachio biscotti. I believe the first two are McCall's cookie recipes and I'm sure the last is a trade secret of my mother's (she IS the biscotti queen...).

Of course, we ate a lot of really fantastic food prepared by our gracious hosts as well, but I'll let them tell you about that themselves!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dinner tonight: Salmon Burritos with Chile-Roasted Vegetables


As usual, the "tonight" part of this post title is a lie. This time my excuse is a combo of take-home final, canceled flight, and illness. A maelstrom of reasons not to blog! Plus, I'm a little bit lazy now that it's freezing freaking cold out. Okay, let's be honest...that last reason is probably the majority of why this post is a week and a half late. :)

I love making salmon because I know how healthy it is, and it feels a bit more substantial than tilapia, for instance. But I was getting a little bit bored with the whole fillet-of-salmon-with-some-sort-of-coating-plus-veggies-and-a-starch thing, so this time I made salmon burritos with chile-roasted vegetables.

My mods were as follows:
-Flat-outs instead of tortillas, because they're uber low in calories, easy to bend without breaking, and large
-Cubanelle pepper instead of poblano (but only because the Teeter was out)
-Greek yogurt instead of sour cream because I didn't feel like buying a whole tub of the latter just for this dish, and then not open the container again until like 3 months later, only to find some sort of multicolored fuzz and $4 down the tubes
-Half the salmon, potato, and tortillas, but the full amount of veggies to make one Margaux-sized portion and one Pat-sized one.

For once, everything cooked in the time it was supposed to!

This was pretty decent. Definitely a nice change from the usual salmon dinner, and the roasted vegetables were pretty tasty and tender. I would have liked a little more chile flavor, though, and probably little kick--Tobasco or ground red pepper, perhaps. Also, the salmon seemed a little out of place in the burrito, but it certainly was not off-putting. Pat gave it a thumbs up. And both of us were fully satisfied by the portion. Pat said, "You should make this one again." We all know what my response was to that. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Exploding pasta!

Okay. So I'm a little exhausted/harried from a busy wedding weekend (congrats to Eric and Brevard!!) and a canceled flight...I do have a new recipe review to post, but that's totally not happening tonight. Instead, I will share with you a bit of wisdom that Sarah shared with me today. This guy's laugh is HI-larious, but his lesson is a good one. Never fry gnocchi. Besides...pasta is bad enough for you without deep frying it...!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dinner tonight: Hot and Sour Pork with Cabbage


You know how I keep saying CL does not do Thai well? Or Indian? One cuisine it does do really well is Chinese. By "well," I don't mean "authentic," per say, but I do mean "delicious and healthier/tastier/WAY freer of guilt than take-out."

Tonight I decided to try hot and sour pork with cabbage. It seemed pretty easy and quick, and anything that has cooked cabbage means lots of volume with low calorie count--perfect for days when I am inexplicably ravenous but trying not to binge because I have a weekend of wedding-induced eating ahead of me. Like today.

The pork took about three or four times longer than the recipe calls for to cook through, and I cut back slightly on the sugar--1 T seemed a bit excessive, especially since ketchup has so much already. The result was pretty yummy and certainly satisfying, although I have to say that the spiciness really seemed to overpower the flavors of the dish. I love me some sriracha, but I'm also a total spice wuss. So if you are too...recommend cutting back on the racha. The pork was super-tender, which I attribute to the sauciness, because I pretty much always turn pork into rubber. Also...this recipe makes a total mess of the kitchen, what with all the prep bowls and shredded cabbage flying willy-nilly out of the pan.

I would also like to point out, for the record, that my dinner looks more delicious than the one on the CL site. Just saying. :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sweetgreen comes to Arlington!

Thank you healthy food gods!! Thanks to sweetgreen, I'm no longer living in the no man's land of quick healthy eating (read: Ballston-VA square corridor). I'd never actually been to any of the other locations, so I was eager to try out this one. I had the curry gold salad, which was delicious. The dressing was light and uniquely-flavored, with a hint of spice, and I loved that the chicken was diced small enough that you could theoretically have a piece with every bite. Also...a pretty sweet deal calorie-wise at 364.

The bread that came with the salad was equally tasty...just enough to sop up my extra dressing, and a good combo of crusty and soft.

I also got a b-nut squash/cauliflower/kale soup for lunch the next day. Holy cow that was good. And I'm a total squash snob.

If they don't have a frequent flier card for this place, I hope they make one soon. Because I have a sneaking suspicion Arlington sweetgreen may become my second kitchen...(x-posted to yelp.com)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So many recipes to be thankful for!

Well, readers, another Turkey Day has come and gone, which means it will be another year before we can binge to the point of pain and have it be socially acceptable. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a recap of the Hoar-Malone-Daly Thanksgiving festivities and all of the good food in which we indulged!

Pat and I started off the morning running a 5 miler, which let us feel slightly less guilty about the hours to come. After a quick shower, I spent the next three hours prepping our contributions to the Turkey Day dinner.

Besides the standard turkey (which was huge and cooked beautifully) and stuffing (one of my greatest weaknesses), we had Dina's green beans with caramelized onions and a cranberry ring. I contributed rosemary mashed sweet potatoes with shallots and nutty warm brussels sprouts salad. The potatoes were yummy...apparently "mashing" potatoes with a hand mixer makes them super fluffy, and rosemary is delicious with basically any orange veg. No one believed the only thing in the sweets themselves were rosemary, salt, and pepper. The brussels were surprisingly delicious as well. I love these things, but this particular recipe even got a "yum" out of my mom, who *hates* brussels sprouts, and Pat had a whole bowl for leftovers the next day! Both recipes I made as written, with the exception of a little less olive oil (2 T is a LOT!) for caramelizing the shallots, and a smaller amount of breadcrumbs and walnuts than the salad called for (otherwise they would have overwhelmed the dish). Both of these were super easy to make and I would highly recommend either if you're looking for a dish to contribute to a future TD shindig! Sadly, we were far too excited to eat and forgot to take pictures...the only one that make it into the camera were the sprouts.

Dessert was just ridiculous. We brought a famous, spicy, Daly family pumpkin pie, along with a ridiculously complicated and beautiful version with struesel and a ginger snap layer that my mom made. You guys. It's called "pumpkin pie spectacular." Seriously. She also brought her famous chocolate-dipped pistachio biscotti. Of course, two pies and cookies were not enough, so we also had for dessert a gorgeous three-layer strawberry cake (a little too sweet for me, although, after sitting at the table long enough, I managed to pick through the entire slice anyway) and an double-crust apple pie. The pecan never even made it to the table...and believe me, my thighs are thankful for that.




We had quite a treat for wine as well: Two types of Seghesio zinfandel (a family favorite), a Molly Dooker shiraz (Pat's Turkey Day tradition--2007 was a yummy vintage), a Moonstone white dessert wine from local Hillsborough Vineyards, and champagne.

It was a cornucopia, to be sure. And I'm so thankful to have been able to share it with so many loved ones!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dinner tonight: Red Lentil Mulligatawny with Apple-Celery Salsa


Okay, the title's a bit of a lie. I made red lentil mulligatawny with apple-celery salsa at least a week ago. Life's been crazy.

I wanted to make a soup with fall flavors that was not pumpkin or bnut for once, and one that had enough protein that it could serve as a meal. I'd had this recipe in my big fat "to cook" folder (yes, I actually have old-school clippings in an accordion folder) for just about forever, so I though we'd give it a try.

Another eh. There was a slight bitterness to it, I think because I accidentally added the lime at the same time as the coconut milk, rather than at the finish. The salsa was interesting, and, as the recipe states, this soup thickens a lot over time. I would actually recommend making it the night before...a really thick soup is much more satisfying as an entree. For an easy, weeknight, vegetarian recipe this was okay, but nothing stellar. Definitely not an entertaining dish.

Next up...Turkey Day posts!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CityZen Birthday Dinner!

For my birthday, my wonderful, thoughtful, thankfully also food-loving boyfriend Pat took me to CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental downtown. Our meal was Very Good, but not one of my All Time Favorites. I was not-so-secretly expecting the latter, given Sietsema's affinity for the CZ and others' reviews, but we certainly were not disappointed by the food. It just didn't blow my mind.

As such, I will describe the meal in a Very Good, but not one of my All Time Favorite forms of poetry, the haiku (personally, I'm a sucker for rhyming couplets). I've also included some editorial comments in brackets following each verse. (Bear with me...it was a tasting menu.)

Oyster canape,
dressed with bloody mary foam,
cucumber gelee

[Pat said, "I never knew celery could be so flavorful!" And he loves celery. This was good (the oyster was perfect and plump), but I thought it was a bit of a cop out for the amuse.]


Cooked matsutakis,
pumpkin, hom'ny, microgreens,
dressed, sweet and tangy

[Honestly, this would have been fantastic without the feature of the salad, the mushrooms. They were chewy and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the dish. The crispy hominy crumbles were fun, though, and the dressing was delectable.]


Surgeon risotto,
sliced chestnuts, sans white truffles--
way too much butter

[Eh. Too buttery and fishy for my taste. Maybe it would have been better with the $40 white truffle supplemental...(HA)]


Hunk of speck-wrapped quail,
seared foie and maybe a veg?
Heavenly fall bites

[Yum-O. And I think I'm starting to love foie...]


Lobster tail and claw,
creamy, buttery sauce, on
sunchoke pedestal

[Perfectly cooked. A LOT of lobster. And I'm a sucker for Jerusalem artichokes!!!]


Venison, med-rare,
huckleberry sauce, and a
fennel financier

[We did not get this dish at all. The venison was cooked perfectly, but it didn't really work with the huckleberry sauce. And neither worked with the financier, which, although tasty, was sweet enough to be dessert and tasted nothing of fennel.]


Palate cleansing time:
A tiny quinule--of oats
and oatmeal ice cream

[Very refreshing and a nice change of pace (not to mention more seasonally appropriate) from the typical citrus fruit.]


Vanilla ice cream,
apricot napoleon,
and cinnamon twille

[Not bad. The ice cream was super creamy and rich and yummy. Probably gelato, actually...]


Fruit gelees, truffles,
fig macaroons, twee cupcake:
Happy Birthday, me!

[I consider myself a cupcake connoisseur, and I have to say this was one of the better ones I have had. I was sad it wasn't bigger. The macaroons were perfect. The other two I didn't much care for.]


Besides the food itself, impressions of CityZen:
Pros
- They really went out of their way to make me feel special on my birthday. I got a card signed by apparently my new friends on the CZ staff, and Pat and I each received a muscato d'asti-style dessert wine to go with our napoleons. They also wrote "Happy Birthday" in chocolate on the final plate of sweet bites.
- The sommelier is very good. He treats you like you're not an idiot, and has an extensive vocabulary for describing wines. He also did not recommend the most expensive wine on the menu.
- The service was spot on, with the exception that the leftover Parker House rolls we requested doggie-bagged never actually made it back to us. When we started getting painfully full around the third course they let us take a breather before continuing our gluttony.

Cons
- It's very confusing when you walk in where the hostess stand is. This is a minor point, but we did not see one couple walk in un-perplexed.
- The seat against the wall (bench-style, where the girl would usually sit) was VERY, VERY uncomfortable. My lower back was screaming my the end of the night.

Thanks for a very special birthday, P!
(portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dinner tonight: Chinese Chicken and Persimmon Lettuce Wraps

So, the Teets has persimmons on sale this week. I had never had a persimmon, but they looked pretty fun, and seasonal, so I scoured CL recipes for a good reason to buy some. There were a couple good looking salad recipes, but I needed a meal, so I decided to go with chinese chicken and persimmon lettuce wraps. Kind of.

In true Margaux form, I made subs. Many subs. Some of these were intentional--instead of lettuce wraps, for instance, I just served it over pre-shredded cabbage. Same difference, much less messy (and I find it's harder to inhale something with a fork than with my hands, so a good way to make sure it took more than 30 seconds to eat). I also used a can of diced water chestnuts...it seemed pointless to buy them whole and chop them myself. The other subs were not intentional. First, I got home from the supermarket and realized that "orange" had somehow not made it onto the shopping list. So...no fresh OJ for me (and I don't drink juice, so no bottled kind either). I bit later I remembered that I had used up my oyster sauce the last time I made stir fry. And hoisin, although not exactly a perfect substitution, was also not possible...I had depleted my supply of this as well! So...the sauce was a bit of an improvisation. I ended up going with about 1 or 1.5 tablespoons of black bean sauce, and probably about the same of soy.

This was yummy. It wasn't overly different or exciting, but it was tasty, the persimmons add a fun je ne sais quoi, and the water chestnuts a nice crunch. Plus, it turns out that just 4 oz of ground chicken is quite a bit of meat, so the dish was filling as well. Not bad, for a recipe I managed to totally mangle!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mandy's Birthday Dinner/Fall Feast; Double-Caramel Turtle Cake

This past Sunday, Mandy and her housemates hosted the most ridiculously excessive, delicious dinner party in celebration of her birthday and fall. The dinner featured a cornucopia of autumn flavors, many organically grown, hard apple cider, good friends, and a hilarious game of Taboo. I think the highlight of the evening was a banjo and spoons concert by Eric and Alex...but this is not a blog about folksy music. So. On to the food!

We had, to wit:
Appetizers: toasts with either homemade pesto (from Es's own basil plant) or blue cheese and smoked salmon

First course: Veggitastic pumpkin soup

Dinner: Roast turkey, stuffing made with corn bread, Italian bread, and saltines (some with oysters, some without--this apparently was a Paula Dean recipe, but we're going to pretend it wasn't. For so many obvious reasons...), mashed potatoes with chives, sweet spaghetti squash, roasted turnips and beets, vegan sweet potato-pear-raisin-I'm missing something salad, crustless eggplant quiche (with or without tomato), green bean casserole, wilted winter greens dressed with a balsamic reduction, and wheat rolls. I think that's all. But that was a lot of dishes to keep straight in mind head. Sorry if I missed any! There was SO much deliciousness, they made me take home 3 tupperwares of leftovers. And I didn't even make a dent!



Oh yes. There was also a pork shoulder they had been smoking since early that morning, but that was being obstinate and was not ready in time for dinner (smoker pictured here...they ended up having to finish it up in the oven). Fortunately, the pork WAS done in time for me to put together my leftovers plates, which meant that today I have a chipped pork sammie with cranberry bbq sauce and pickled red onion. BEST lonely lunch at my desk ever.
After a brief respite to make some room in our tummies, we had dessert. I made a double caramel turtle cake and Grant brought an apple/berry pie and red velvet cake. We made quick work of them all. But guys. I baked. I don't bake, but this was a special occassion. And it was really, REALLY yummy. The chocolate cake was uber rich and chocolatey and moist, and the frosting/caramel/pecan combo made it even better. I think the base chocolate cake would work in lots of forms...I'm thinking of a peanut butter variation, and maybe a peppermint one for the holidays. Because I'm an idiot, I layered the cakes wrong and ended up with a big crack in the cake, but no one seemed to mind--aesthetics don't hold a candle to yum!


And speaking of candles:


Believe me when I say I ate it all, it was famously delicious, and I was totally still full at 9:30 am the next day. And we are already in discussions for a Winter Fest. Which I suppose means I better either start cutting back on my cals now, or buy a larger pair of pants, in anticipation...


Happy Birthday Mandy!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dinner tonight: Curried Squash and Apple Soup

Fall = time to get my money's worth out of the slow cooker. It also happens to = apples and butternut squash, so for dinner Wednesday I made curried squash and apple soup. The nice thing about this recipe was that, even for a slow-cooker recipe, the prep work was pretty minimal. Only three things to chop, and no pre-sauteeing or anything like that. And for once, I made it exactly as described! (ok, I used two cloves of garlic instead of the bottled minced kind, and used bottled minced ginger instead of the fresh kind. That's basically the same. ;) ) I even actually diced (=1/4 in cubes) the apples as directed , rather than doing a lazy chop.

For Pat, I paired the soup with some frozen Gorton's grilled shrimp, and made my go-to, Alexia whole wheat dinner rolls, to sop up the soup.

So, from the color and ingredients, I expected this soup to be sweet-savory. It wasn't at all, really. It was super, super spicy, and only savory. I thought it was okay, Pat really liked it. We both agreed that you couldn't taste the apple at all. I had some leftover roasted acorn squash in the fridge, so I put a little mashed dollop of that in the bottom of the bowl, which I think tempered the spiciness and brought out the squashiness (hrm, that sounded gross...which it wasn't). I think if I were to make it again, I'd use 4-5 cups squash, rather than three, to bring out that flavor a bit more. And use half as much red curry. All-in-all though, a reasonably easy, weeknight fall dinner. Especially if you like spice, and don't mind not tasting the apples you so tirelessly diced...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dinner tonight: Scallops with Green Tea Cream and Miso-Garlic Broiled Eggplant

Ok guys, I have a really good excuse this time for not blogging for a while. I was sick. Not like, dog-ate-my-homework sick, but like, I didn't want to think about food, let alone blog about it, sick. Fortunately, we have moved on, hopefully to more delicious meals!


The farmers' market last weekend had some really fun looking eggplant...they looked like long, squiggly purple worms. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I really couldn't help myself. Turns out they were pingtung long eggplant, an Asian variety. So of course our meal had to be Asian-themed!

I prepared these eggplants as miso-garlic broiled eggplant. Rather than making slices, I just cut each eggplant lengthwise. And no sesame seeds because they seemed superfluous and not worth the purchase. Otherwise, prepped as is...I believe it took a few minutes fewer than the recipe calls for. The eggplant was delicious--spicy, sweet, substantial. But with some pretty major caveats. First, it was WAY too hard to find miso. I went to three different places (the Teeter, World Market, and Whole Foods) before I actually found it. Also, the cooking of this dish creates a really sweet, heavy smoke and aroma. While this is really exciting when you're anticipating dinner, it's not so yummy when it lingers and you're trying to get to sleep. Or when you wake up the next morning and it's still there (sorry Pat :( ). So, go ahead and make this if you a) know where to find miso ahead of time and b) have a VERY well ventilated kitchen. Otherwise, I recommend a pass.

The eggplant was just the side though. Our protein for the evening was scallops with green tea cream (see? Japanese theme!). These were pretty good. Rather than buy macha, I just ground some green tea in a mini-grinder. I totally undercooked the scallops (while perhaps irreversibly scorching the pan), so I would recommend cooking m-h heat at 4 min per side, rather than high heat at 2 per. And maybe a bit more macha on the scallops themselves. Pat really liked the sauce that accompanied them though, and I agree. It certainly added some much-needed character to the dish.

Overall assessment: not bad. There was really nothing bad about this dish, and yet, there were enough drawbacks that I wouldn't do it again. I could make a joke here about ex-boyfriends, but we'll just leave it at that. ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dinner tonight: Warm Past Salad with Shrimp

Last night, I made Warm Pasta Salad with Shrimp. Except I made it without the pasta...because I still have pasta guilt from my stint on the Atkins diet in high school. I know what you're thinking, "But she just made stuffed shells!" Somehow that's different. Because they're a vessel, rather than the main attraction? I dunno. Anyway, enough about my neuroses. On to the recipe review!

This recipe was surprisingly unclear for a CL production. It tells you to cook the shrimp and then stir in everything else, but at no time does it tell you when to remove the pan from the heat! I decided, after the spinach stage but before the vinaigrette stage, to keep the pan on the heat for another few minutes to wilt the spinach, then took it off once I added the mustard sauce. The other weird thing was that the recipe calls for minced red onion, but the picture clearly shows way bigger pieces. This led me to start doubting my cooking terminology knowledge, and I went to look up the definition of mince. It does, in fact, mean to chop as small as possible without pureeing. So whoever made the picture in the recipe clearly took some liberties with the directions. Not that we know anything about that, right? ;) And yes, as you see from my pictures, I did not mince either. If they cheated, so can I!


In any event, I wanted to like this. I really did. I liked all of the components. But somehow they just didn't come together. It is possible that my carby foe may have served just this purpose, but I'm doubtful...I have a sneaking suspicion it would just be one more component that didn't work as a whole dish.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dickson's Wine Bar

Saturday, Pat took me out to Dickson's Wine Bar on U St. It was much, much smaller than I expected, but we went pretty early, so we managed to get a seat. I should warn you that all of the tables are hightops, so ladies...maybe don't wear your low-cut jeans when you go.

Dickson's is great, conceptually. I love that everything, wine, liquor, and food, is organic or biodynamic (I had to look up what this is...it's like an even MORE granola version of organic--http://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html). I love that they make their own duck proscuitto. I love that they have 3 different types of banh mi.

Unfortunately, the execution does not quite live up to the concept. Maybe the selection of organic wines available to purchasers is sparse, maybe the sommelier is not the good...whatever it was, the wines we had (a sangiovese and a bonarda) were both flat, dull, BORING. Particularly disappointing at $11-$16 for a really miserly pour. Although it's a wine bar, I recommend sticking to the cocktails (which, incidentally, all have wine in them, and are also $11). I got the "Gold Line," which was refreshing, super original, and not at all too sweet.

The food similarly was weak on the execution. The pear and arugula salad, which came with piquant, crumbly parm, would have been so much better if it wasn't drenched in dressing. The duck proscuitto was alright, but the mustard horseradish sauce accompanying it was a bit heavy-handed on the horseradish. The greens that accompanied the banh mi were also overdressed. And then there was the banh mi. Delicious, scrumptious flavors in the pork belly sammy...but it was served on a sub roll, rather than a french baguette, and the pork belly, which should be melt-in-your-mouth tender, was not. At all.

Perhaps the other banh mi's are better, but if I go back to find out, it will probably be at someone else's behest. This restaurant did not at all offend me, and I'm happy we tried it out, but it did not live up to its potential. (portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dinner tonight: Squash-stuffed Shells

Now that's it's starting to feel like fall (some days anyway...today it's 73 degrees out!), I've been wanting to cook homey, comfort food. Stuffed shells came to mind, and I was going to make the regular kind, but then I found this great recipe for squash-stuff shells from Prevention magazine. Even *more* fall apropos!

I made this recipe as is, but used fat-free ricotta instead of regular and a bit less breadcrumb. "Chunky" pasta sauce was nowhere to be found, so I went with a cabernet marinara sauce. The shells were surprising easy to prepare, and the result was yummy! I think the sauce was a bit strong-tasting for the subtleness of the shells...were I to make this again I might actually just dress them with a little olive oil. But this was perfect for fall, and definitely comforting. And you can eat 6 of these babies for only 400 calories, probably fewer since I used the light ricotta.

I paired the shells with some swiss chard. Tore the leaves off the stems, sauteed in a bit of olive oil and coarsely chopped garlic over medium heat. Although the leaves looked wilted (like spinach) after 3 or 4 minutes, the chard was still chewy until cooked for another 10 or so. Added some water every once and a while to keep it moist, and seasoned at the end with kosher salt.

Sorry guys, no picture this time. It was delicious, but not very pretty!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dinner tonight: Big Sweet 'n Spicy Veggie Pot


This week was crazy busy, but I didn't want that to mean my healthy eating went out the window. I set myself up for success by prepping Hungry Girl's Big Sweet 'n Spicy Veggie Pot Sunday night, and throwing everything into the slow cooker Monday morning for a quick stop-by dinner before running out again for meetings that night (see? it's exhausting just reading about it!).

I'm not going to lie. The prep work is extensive. And I even cheated some--left the skin on the eggplant and skipped the cabbage entirely (I put in the whole b-nut squash instead). I was pretty excited about this dish, since I do love the Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake frozen dinner that inspired it.

The actual dish was...okay. I definitely featured a lot of my fav vegetables, and is VERY voluminous for the calories. And it got better as it sat in the fridge as leftovers. But still, I felt like there was something missing. Like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be savory, sweet, or tart. So, I was happy to use my slow cooker, and the leftovers all got eaten, but I don't think this will be a "must cook."

Quick foodie news update!

Readers--just wanted to let you know about two exciting, upcoming things.

First. My FAV restaurant, Rustico, is officially opening three blocks from my house on Tuesday (Oct 26). I can't make the opening night, but you can bet your duck-and-brie pizza Pat and I will be there on Wednesday! With, of course, a review to follow at some point once I get my life together and have time to catch up on all the posts I owe you all.

Second. I will be attending my first DC Food Bloggers HH in early November. Shocking, I know, but there are hundreds of food bloggers in DC...and I'm excited to have a chance to meet some of them. A recap of this is forthcoming as well. If you're in the DC area and would like to join me, let me know! I'm going either way, but it might be better if I'm not the loser blogger girl with a two-person readership sitting in a corner (***guilt-trip working? ;)***).

That's all for now...two recipe reviews are in our future!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jerusalem Restaurant

This month, the Foodie Girls field trip (yes, ladies, I have named our little group) was to Jerusalem Restaurant in Falls Church. It's in this random, sideways strip mall that's actually really close to my work. I would have never noticed it if it wasn't for Anita. But, being that it was ethnic food in a strip mall, I had high hopes.

I would say that these high hopes were modestly met. We started our dining adventures with two types of hummus--plain and topped with chicken shwarma--and a combo pie, which was a sampler of the savory pastries the restaurant appears to be known for (judging from their website and the spread at the restaurant, it looks like pastries of all types are their raison d'etre). The hummus was good, nothing unexpected. I liked the shwarma topping...the chicken was not overcooked, and dressed with some burny-tasting saucing...and we all know how much I love burny things! The combo pie was really disappointing. The pastries themselves were dry and not flavorful, and the insides were totally meh. The plate also came with a single fried kibbeh ball, which was much better. Crispy on the outside, warm and not at all mealy on the inside.
Throughout the apps and entrees, we also got endless baskets of pita. These were poofed up buns that taste reminiscent of pizza dough, like the kind you get at Zaytinya but more substantial. I think I ate at least two.

For our entrees, we ordered the lamb shank, vegetarian makluba, and musakhan, the last at the recommendation of many Yelpers! The lamb shank came in a stew of white beans and spinach. It was super tender, again with dark flavors. Absolutely delicious and definitely the best thing we ordered. The vegetarian makluba was...eh. The rice was well-cooked, but I prefer the seasoned rice at Bamian (I know this wasn't Afghan food, but still), and it was, I think, overly greasy. Although the eggplant in it was yummy, the cauliflower and carrot added nothing. The musakhan was pretty good. A quarter chicken covered with sauteed onions on a piece of deep-fried flat bread. The chicken was tender, but again, a bit greasy. I expected the bread to be greasy, and it was, but in a different way. Deliciously, sinfully, greasy. I hated myself for every bite of it, but it was totally worth the self-contempt!
After all that we were pretty stuffed, but of course, I had to go for dessert. I got a kinafa to go, which was this weird gelatinousy custard square topped with a layer of sweet carrot stuff and then crispy shredded carrot and chopped pistachio on top. Although I wasn't sure what to think about the first bite, it grew on me. It was a strange mixture of salty and sweet, mushy and crispy that I apparently learned to love enough to eat half of a 9 square inch piece in one sitting.

Overall assessment. Not bad. Don't expect to eat healthy, and don't expect to be blown away. But if you're looking to indulge calorically in some Palestinian food, this is a pretty good bet. And it's certainly not a money indulgence...including tax and tip, we only paid $13 each! (portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dinner tonight: Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia

Tilapia was on super-duper sale (which, in case you're not up on your pre-teen girl jargon, is way better than super sale) for like $3/lb this week, so I made Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia paired with broccolini and brown rice to sop up the sauce. The broccolini I just blanched in boiling water, then quick-sauteed with some oil oil and chopped shallots.


Another score from CL! This dish was really, very flavorful. I can see how even the author's small children ate it. No fishy taste, and the competing citrus tartness and spiciness in your mouth is fun. Although she was very creative with flavors, however, I don't think she's so good at recipe-writing. The biggest flaw was the broiling time. I don't know if this lady was broiling with bicycle power or what, but there is no way it takes 15 min to cook tilapia under the broiler. I set the broiler to low and it was still done in 6. Also, I think the recipe called for too much ground red pepper. I used less than half of what she called for, and it was still pretty spicy.

Because the fish cooked so quickly, I left it in the oven on warm for a good 15 minutes, because the side took way *longer* than it should have. I should have known better...I was in a hurry to get dinner on table, so I stared at the pot of water waiting for it to boil. Correspondingly, it took...FOREVER.

Overall, solid dish. Definitely not an homage to sophisticated palates, but flavorful, quick, and easy. And low calorie (225 for a 6 oz fish filet), which always gets extra points in my book!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sinful Sunday Brunch at Ashleigh's

This past Sunday, even though apparently Ashleigh had quite an eventful evening, she still managed to put together a delightfully tasty brunch in celebration of Maggie and Tosh being in town. The main attraction, of course, was not the food--Ashleigh and Patrick regaling us with stories of their night, and a viewing of Clueless, definitely won out for best part of the morning. However, the refreshments were also super yummy! And definitely worthy of a blog post.

In addition to some super-sweet honeydew, croissants, chicken salad, and coffee, there were both a sweet and a savory casserole. The sweet one, Peach French Toast Casserole came from a VA B&B recipe (not online, approximate recipe below); the savory one, Spicy Breakfast Casserole with Andouille Sausage comes from the web.




Peach French Toast Casserole

1stick butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cans of sliced peaches in lite syrup, drained
nutmeg
10-12 slices Pepperidge Farm Sweet Buttermilk or Hearty White bread
6 large eggs
1.5 cups milk or half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans
powdered sugar for garnish

Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in brown sugar until combined. Add sour cream, whisk until smooth and set aside to cool. Spray a 9x13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Evenly spread cooled butter mixture over bottom of dish. Arrange peaches over butter mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Cut up bread slices into one-inch pieces and pile on top of peaches to the edge of the casserole dish. Beat together eggs, milk and vanilla, pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat oven to 375F. Top with pecans (can toast them if you want). Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool slightly, dust with powdered sugar and serve.



And on top of that, Mandy brought a deliciously indulgent monkey bread (recipe below).


Mandy's Monkey Bread
2 cans jumbo refrigerator biscuits (8 each)
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed


Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces. Pour sugar and cinnamon into a plastic bag and mix. Add biscuit pieces, several at a time; shake to coat well.Place pieces in a buttered tube or Bundt pan until all are used. Bring brown sugar and butter to a boil in saucepan. Cool 10 minutes, then pour over top of biscuits. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool 15 minutes before removing from pan. Turn upside down onto a plate and serve.


I was feeling okay about all of these until I saw the ingredients. They were all fantastic, but it's a good thing Ashleigh doesn't host these every weekend! Next time, my house. And maybe a little less butter and sugar. ;) Thanks ladies!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dinner tonight: Proscuitto, Peach, and Sweet Lettuce Salad

Because I think I consumed about 5,000 calories worth of wine, beer, and supermarket cookies on Saturday, dinner Sunday was a light salad: Procuitto, peach, and sweet lettuce salad. I chose this particular one because proscuitto was on sale for half price! (That reminds me of a joke, which I can make because I'm Jewish. :) What's the ultimate dilemma for a Jew? A sale on pork.) Clearly, I experienced no such dilemma.

NEways...I made a few, minor changes to this recipe. Peaches are not in season, so I used 1.5 Barlett pears, and I really dislike ricotta salata so used goat cheese. I probably used a bit less olive oil than they call for as well. It bummed me out to buy sweet lettuce because I had to buy a non-organic kind, but once in a while this is okay.


Yum! This was a delightful salad. Very fresh, without being to summer-tasting. The mint is unusual but Pat and I both decided we actually really liked it! Plus, with the low calorie count, Pat could have two servings and we could each have a crusty Alexia wheat dinner roll with no guilt. Good, easy dinner when you need to make up for weekend transgressions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eat Like a Catalan

During our trip to Barcelona, we had the opportunity to sample (often, on multiple occasions!) some delicious traditional Catalan fare. For this post, I thought I'd list a few of these and give you some links so you, too, can enjoy fine Catalan cuisine and stop stewing in your jealousy, already. Sheesh.

Catalan Bread
This doesn't really require a recipe. Take some crusty white bread, slice it, rub a tomato over one side. Really, that's it. Still tasty though!

Paella
We went to the touristy restaurant, 7 Portes, that is supposedly known for its paella. It was a bit...underwhelming. Especially when the table next to us ordered the same thing, and theirs came with huge, honking crab craws, and mussels, and all sorts of massive seafood, and all we got were a couple clams and a single langoustine. The seafood was cooked well, and I liked that the rice was a little al dente, but it wasn't, overall, memorable--and not a HINT of saffron. I know, by weight, saffron is more expensive than gold, but COME ON. All you need is like 4 measly threads, which weigh like a microgram. Also, they ran out of black (squid ink) paella, which was what I really wanted, so I think I was a little disappointed from the get-go. In any event, here's a CL recipe for Traditional Spanish Paella. I don't think I've made this particular one, but it has saffron and proscuitto, so how bad could it be?!

Iberico Ham
Also no recipe. But it is delicious. Kind of like proscuitto. Actually, exactly like proscuitto. Although maybe a bit more expensive? You can get some here. On a related note, I had a sandwich for lunch one day that was made with "traditional Galician pork." which was fantastic. I don't know what makes pork Galician, but I did find a recipe for Galician Pork and Pepper Pie...

Patatas Bravas
These are like if home fries, regular fries, ketchup, and salsa had a delicious, spicy baby. I'm not sure how a four-way can make a baby, but my knowledge of such things is pretty prudish. In any event, they're delicious. Our first snack in Barcelona included them, and even though the potatoes were poorly fried and not crispy AT ALL, the sauce totally made up for it. On our last night we also had some...the restaurant kind of copped out by just using regular fries, but they added what seemed to be some sort of mayo or creme fraiche along with the sauce that made them delectable but also even worse for my guilt. CL's recipe for Patatas Bravas is pretty decent...I made it once for a football-watching party I think.

Yes, apparently they eat mostly carbs in Barcelona. I recommend you supplement these with a salad or some zucchini or something so your insulin levels don't go nuts and you don't end up like me, fiending so badly for some produce that you eat a really, really depressing iceberg lettuce salad or a disgusting spear of canned white asparagus.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

(Verbal) Food Porn and a Challenge

Today will be the first of (hopefully) several posts dedicated to our recent trip to Barcelona! Because we ate so much good food (and some not-so-great food, though nothing terrible), I thought I'd share with you three of the menus in which we partook. There are only pictures from one: we were already gauche enough just by nature of being American, didn't need to add to it by being the weirdos who took pictures of our food. However, I will share those later, because...here's your challenge readers: guess which one was Michelin-starred, and which was made almost entirely from canned food. Seriously!

Menu 1.
Fruit de mer, dressed with vinegar and red pepper
Duo of toasts: salmon, creme fraiche, and honey; cured beef, tomato jam, and yellow cabbage threads
"Pizza" topped with white sardines and picked vegetables
Black caviar with olive tapanade, creme fraiche, and croutons
Cheese trio with preserved lychee, candied chestnuts, and assorted pepper knots, flatbread, olive toast

Menu 2.
Blanched, spiced almonds; pimento and anchovy-stuff fresh olives; romanesco breadsticks
Shooter of sea salt, maple syrup, cream, and cava foam
Toasted bread and tomato salad with tomato sorbet and salt
Traditional garlic soup with white anchovy, croutons, marcona almonds, and grapes
Foie gras on cheddar cracker with chives and a toasted brown sugar glaze
Red mullet with creamy basil rice
Veal tenderloin in a foie-mushroom demi-glace, caramelized onions and black truffle napoleon OR roast suckling pig with an apple-squash puree
Cheese with marmalade tuille
White chocolate crumble and lemon poprocks topped with a lime sorbet and yuzu sabayon
Warm salted chocolate mousse with olive oil and bread crumbs

Menu 3.
Foie gras with apple and vanilla on a thin cracker
Cream of chestnut soup with chestnut puree and morels
Cracker with saffron-onion jam and mussels
Flatfish in a sopressata sauce with snow peas
Roast suckling pig on a banana puree with white beans
Raspberry sorbet with strawberry foam and freeze-dried raspberry crumbles
Trio of milk chocolate truffle, brownie with cardamom ice cream, and chocolate ganache pyramid


Mmmm...let the guesses begin!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dinner a past night: Thai-Coconut Bouillabaisse

After a brief (okay, longer than brief...things are crazy now that school has started and the new fiscal year has begun, gimme a break!) hiatus, we're back. I'll start with a review of Thai-coconut bouillabaisse, which I made for Pat's bday week.

This was another solid meh. It was fine, but not exciting. There are certain ethnic dishes that CL just does not do well. Thai is one of them...Indian is another. The only real changes I made to the dish were no red bell pepper (again, the cost!), all mussels instead of mussels and clams, and catfish instead of halibut.

First. I hate cooking mussels. I bought a bag of them, keeping them cool and moist and using them within 1.5 days of purchase. Guess how many were still alive at the time of cooking? 20%. Freaking one in five. In addition to most being smelly and dead, there were also not an insignificant number with cracked or shattered shells. You know that "fool me once" expression? I've been suckered in by these little guys probably 4 or 5 times. Which I suppose makes me a gargantuan moron. Sigh.

Second. The last part of the recipe says to remove the pot from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes to cook the shrimp and fish. Yeah, right. My shrimp were still all but raw after this little exercise. I ended up putting the whole thing back on low heat for about 10 minutes, at which point Pat was starting to give me hungry eyes, so I served it. I still think they were a little undercooked.

Third. The flavors were fine, but somehow never bold enough. I think I used twice the red curry paste called for, and I still think the whole soup was really blah.

Minor victory--the catfish worked really well in the dish, and I actually think it was the best part. Also, I had planned on putting in rice noodles, but when I opened up the pantry I realized I didn't have any. I think these may have really helped this weak dish.

Hoping to end my "meh" streak of CL recipes soon. Feel free to offer suggestions!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Four Sisters

Sietsema always raves about Four Sisters, so the foodie gals we met at the Artisa Kitchen dinner and I decided to see what the fuss was all about. I've been to Vietnam--I had a killer 30 cent banh mi sandwich, but I wasn't blown away by anything else...and we even made a point to avoid the tourist places!

My verdict -- don't bother going to Vietnam. Because Four Sisters is SO FREAKING GOOD, not to mention much closer (and honestly, the food is not *that* much more expensive).

To start, we ordered three apps. Shrimp toast looked yummy, but was way too greasy. Although I did respect the fact that they used that egg-yolk-and-olive-oil mayo that I had on a banh mi a few weeks before.

The summer rolls were a total bust. I've sadly had better rolls from the Teeter. These were pretty much all rice noodles and tasteless, and I thought the peanut sauce was a bit off.

But the baby clam salad ROCKED MY WORLD. It's a strange dish, but Sietsema recommended it, so we took a chance. The clams were tender, sweet-salty, and amazing, particularly when scooped up with a shard of giant black sesame rice cracker (here modeled by the lovely Kelli!). I could have eaten the entire dish by myself, but managed to restrain myself enough that the other ladies were also able partake. I think I might have had to sit on my hands though!



We went family-style for the entrees: caramel fish, pork with rice vermicelli and spring rolls, black pepper beef, shrimp with rice crepes, and chinese broccoli. Sorry some of the pictures are blurry...the girls were anxious to dig in so I was trying to be quick! This was WAY better than your standard Asian take-out. By a million gazillion miles. I was amazed by how much fish we got in that little clay pot and how tender it was. I thought it was a bit heavy on the fish sauce, but with rice to mellow it out a bit, it was perfection. The pork was out of this world. Thinly sliced and delicious over the vermicelli...even the deep-fried spring rolls were bursting with ground pork, with little filler. Yum-o.


The beef, which was recommended to us by the waitress, was also awesome. A little burny on the edges (which I love!), and so flavorful. It didn't even need the lime dipping sauce that came with it. The shrimp dish was not bad, but didn't hold a candle to the other three. The shrimp themselves were a little boring, although the crepes were pretty good with a bit of fish sauce poured on top. The broccoli was okay, but I thought a little undercooked and bitter. Pat said the leftovers of the broccoli were great, which leads me to believe it just needed to be cooked a bit more.


Yes, Four Sisters is everything we hoped it would be. And although we ate like queens, we paid less than $30 a piece! I will note that I was glad we ate outside...when passing through the interior to get out, I found the overwhelming smell of fish sauce to be a bit off-putting. (portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Dinner tonight: Summer Ragout of White Beans, Tomato, and Sweet Onion

Okay, okay, sorry I have been remiss in posting...I've been busy and lazy, so now I'm super far behind! This was actually dinner Monday night, but whatevs.

I thought I'd go out on a limb and try to cook something *other* than a Cooking Light or Food and Wine recipe, so Monday I made a summer ragout from the WashPo food section. It looked so yummy in the picture, and with only 180 calories per serving, I couldn't resist!


The results were...okay. Fine for me to eat, but I would not have served it to anyone. The fresh basil added a lot to the dish, but overall it was just kind of, meh. However, I can't necessarily blame the recipe, because I cheated A LOT. Instead of peeling, seeding, and dicing tomatoes, I just bought a can of diced tomatoes. And I am WAY too lazy to cook beans, so I bought canned cannellini beans instead. So. Maybe this is where the recipe fell flat. Although I cannot say for sure, because in my experience, tomatoes and beans in the can are close enough that it shouldn't have made a huge difference. I was also a bit disappointed with the volume I got from 1 1/3 servings (=240 calories), although it did leave me feeling un-hungry.

Those of you with a ton of free time on your hands (HA.)--I'd love to hear how this turns out sans cheating...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Evo Bistro

We had a Groupon that was expiring soon, so this past Saturday we made the trek out to McLean to dine at Evo Bistro. I had only been once before, with a large group, but had a good enough experience that I wanted Pat to have a chance to try it as well!

For starters, they have *significantly* expanded the size of the restaurant from last year...I think there are about twice as many tables now, and a lot more space. Which turns out to be a very good thing from a service perspective. My biggest peeve the last time I went was that my water glass was always empty, which I attributed to the tables being so cramped that the ewer simply could never access my glass! Problem solved.

We ordered: Piquillos Rellenos (Stuffed sweet Spanish peppers with mild mushrooms & goat cheese, pepper coulis), Buttifara (grilled Italian sausage with cannelloni bean stew), a sea bass special that came with chorizo, the Evo Crepe (Spinach infused crepe stuffed with all lump jumbo crabmeat), and the Escargot. I think. To be honest, we had been to a wine tasting that afternoon that ended up being much more epic that we had anticipated, so...Pat, correct me if I missed something or made something up! (hee) Most were okay, but did not blow us away. The rellenos were heavy on the goat cheese, the others were fine, but uninspired. The fish in the special was a tiny bit overcooked, and the chorizo did nothing for the dish. Way too salty, and took away from the delicate fish flavors.

But the escargot. OH, that escargot. I love me some snails, but these were by far and away the best escargot I had ever had. They were so good in fact that, much to Pat's chagrin, I told the diners at neighboring tables that they should order them, and insisted the waitress have some at closing as well. They were seriously that good. We managed to take a picture before I inhaled the last morsel, but as you can see, I'm looming in the background, ready to pounce. I would seriously go back for this dish alone.

For dessert, we had this pyramid-shaped chocolate cakey-thing with a hazelnut marzipan center, coated in chocolate. Generous portion, decently good.

So. Mixed reviews. Pretty good for suburbs dining, and better than some small plates restos I've been to in the city, but not top 5 meals. With the exception of my little mollusk friends...(portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Unhealthy, but creative, foodage

Remember the twinkiemisu? On Friday, my boss, Bill, decided to continue the Twinkie cookbook experimentation by making twinkie-henge and pigs in a twinkie. I could not, in good conscience, agree to post these because twinkies have *27* ingredients, the first four of which are enriched flour, corn syrup, sugar, and HFCS. However, I did agree to give him a shout out, because these were impressive compositions in their own right. But perhaps more appropriate for "This is Why You're Fat"?

Either way, shout out to Bill, twinkie chef extraordinaire!

Bamian Afghan

Friday night I picked up take-out from Bamian Afghan, in Bailey's Crossroads, for our usual Friday night take-out-and-a-bottle-of-wine tradition. This was the third time I've eaten here and even the brief encounter I had with the staff to pick up and pay was pleasant. They are SO nice there!

We ordered: bouranee baunjaun to start -- a stir-fried eggplant dish, topped with yogurt, which came with Afghan bread. This was pretty yummy, though a bit tart. The Afghan bread (which also came with my entree) portion was *very* generous: two gigantic ovals of wheat flatbread probably the length of my fingertips to my elbow! The bread was like wheat pizza dough, albeit a bit dry. (Though I would take this over greasy any day...)

Our entrees, which sounded different on the menu, were remarkably similar. I ordered the kabob murgh, which came as 8 hunks of beautifully browned chicken (although, again, slightly dry), along with a container of some sort of green "salsa" and a salad of diced cucumbers and tomatoes. To my surprise, since the dish came with bread, it was also served over their awesome cardamom-scented brown Jasmine rice. Not sure if this was a mistake or not, but trust me, I wasn't complaining. That rice is SO freaking good. Seriously, I think I had dreams about it that nice. Good dreams.

To round out the meal I also ordered the "two skewers of broiled vegetables." At $3.50, this was the only real disappointment from Bamian. It was totally stingy--two slices of green pepper, two quarters of white onion, and two quarters of tomato. Not impressive, and definitely not $3.50's worth of food. As Pat said, "this is pure profit." Pat ordered the Palau kabob with chicken, which was essentially the exact same thing as mine, but minus the bread and plus a portion of tomato-based meat sauce, with some hunks of lamb.

It took quite a bit of will power to not gorge on my entree in its entirety, but I managed to save enough for lunch on Monday. Which means I will be having cardamom-scented dreams again! (portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dinner tonight: Snow Crab Legs, Green Bean Salad with Mustard Crema, and Wheat Rolls

Snow crab legs were on super sale and of "very limited" supply at the Teeter, so of course I had to pick some up for dinner! Plus, it seemed like an appropriate end-of-summer dish as the oppressive DC heat finally begins to let up.

A common dipping sauce for crab involves mustard, and green beans are also a classic summer veg, so I thought Green Bean Salad with Mustard Crema would be a good accompaniment. They were...okay. For such a simple sounding recipe, it actually took forever to make. I blame having to trim 2 lbs of beans (I made 2/3 the recipe, and also did not include the almonds) and then wait for a massive pot of water capable of holding said beans to come to a boil. Although not bad, I think the crema could have used more mustard flavor, and perhaps a tad more salt. I also think the sauce was a bit heavy-handed...I would use half as much next time, and maybe water it down a little. Pat just didn't like the idea of mustard and green beans together. I will say, this dish is much better room temperature than cold (one of the recommended ways of serving)...cold, they're pretty bland.

We also had wheat rolls to sop up the crema. Usually, I buy these fantastic all natural Alexia dinner rolls from the freezer section, but this time they only had ciabatta rolls. So I bought HT bakery "take and bake" rolls instead and, well, baked them. Not bad, although not as crusty on the outside/squishy on the inside as their Alexia brethren. Bring back the Alexia, HT!!

For dessert, we split our first ever Hello Cupcake cupcake -- peanut butter chocolate. Pretty good, with generous (and SO delicious) icing. The cupcake could have been a little more chocolatey, but all in all, I would say it's a pretty close second to the G-town...which I now hear has bouncers and even longer lines, so we'll see how long it is before I return. Anyway, I still have three more Hello's in the freezer!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Raku

This Labor Day, Vanessa and I lunched at Raku, in Dupont Circle. Thankfully, unlike many DC area restaurants, it was actually open for the holiday. Overall, pretty decent. I would not consider it a dining destination, but the food was solid and enjoyably creative. Not bad for a dinner out with friends, perhaps.

We ordered: summer rolls, spicy green beans, the "Seoul" train roll (badum-chung!), and Double Salmon roll. The menu was pretty big, so we had many options to choose from!
Although we ordered the summer rolls with our drinks and they are considered an app, the green beans (which are a side) came out first. This was weird, but we were hungry so we were not all that put off. The green beans, although a bit greasy, were delish. Actually pretty similar to the Sichaun-style green beans I once made from a Sunset recipe online. (Yes, they are half-eaten in this picture. I forgot!! Again!!!)

Next came the summer rolls. I would have liked a bit more shrimp and fewer rice noodles, but again, pretty good! The wrapper was nice and moist, and the sauces were awesome--a duo of chunky peanut sauce and kaffir lime sauce. Which don't necessary seem to me like they would go together, but were fantastic...I might have scraped up the leftovers with a chopstick (because licking the plate, I decided, was a bit uncouth for a lunch date!).

Our sushi rolls were equally interesting. I'm not sure I was a huge fan of the double salmon (pictured on right)...the cooked salmon tasted a little fishy and kind of weird as sushi. The Korean-inspired Seoul train roll (pictured on left) was very yummy though. The kimchi, although also weird, was weird in a good way that the salmon was not. Would definitely order that again. Sorry for the blurry photo...I'm a terrible photographer.

Besides the weird side-coming-out-before-appetizer thing, service was decent and food came fast. Plus, we ended up staying and talking for like an hour after we had paid, and no one kicked us out or gave us dirty looks. Overall, nothing mind-blowing but not a bit disappointing. If someone suggested Raku again, I certainly wouldn't veto it. (portions x-posted to yelp.com)

Monday, September 6, 2010

As if football weren't great enough on its own

I love football. I love the time of year, shouting at the TV/in the stands, making up clever names for players I hate, and having an excuse to drink beer and eat poorly all day. Which of course means I also love TAILGATING!

We welcomed the start of another college football season this year in Charlottesville with some of Pat's friends (thanks to Tracy and Josh for being such great hosts!). To make it look like we weren't entirely freeloading, I contributed to the tailgate a Roasted Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad and Easy Lemon Squares. This also meant there were at least two low calorie, healthy options to help offset our gluttony.

Together, they took 2ish hours to make. I did most of the prep the night before, but waited to add the lime juice and salt to the salad until the very end, because I didn't want the acid and salt to make it mushy and tasteless. Modifications to the salad: no red bell pepper, because I'm still trying to get over the last time I bought one and paid *$4* for it. This is criminal I think. I also did not serve it over lettuce, because that seemed unnecessary. And used slightly less lime juice because I find that in general Cooking Light's recipes are a little heavy on lemon/lime juice. For the lemon squares I used egg beaters in place of two of the eggs, because that was what I had on hand. I also didn't do the powdered sugar step because that seemed stupid.

Both recipes were AWESOME. Seriously, I didn't try the salad until we got to the tailgate, and once we did, I might have been tooting my own horn a little. But everyone else seemed to really, really enjoy it as well. It was consumed both with scoop tortilla chips and as a salad; I preferred the former, Pat the latter. He thought the salad could have used a bit more lime. So I guess I made the wrong call on that one.

Not many lemon squares were eaten because, I learned the next day, most people didn't know what they were. I don't know about you, but my first reaction to food who's identity I don't know is to taste it, not avoid it. But that is why I have a food blog and they do not, I suppose! In any event, Pat and I each had one, and they were faboo. Super lemony, and the crust was not at all dry and crumbly like some of the reviewers on the cooking light website suggest. I think they did something wrong! :) A few more were consumed the next morning at breakfast, and we found a good home for the remainder, so no harm done.

These are both great recipes that I HIGHLY recommend. Crowd pleasers, to be sure. And, despite my disdain for repeating recipes, the salad may just become a potluck staple.