Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dinner tonight: Creamy Carrot Soup

For a light, post-weekend-of-unhealthy eating Sunday dinner last week I made creamy carrot soup, served with simple salads and crusty wheat bread. I often avoid soup recipes because they seem like a lot of effort when you can buy a can for two or three dollars, but somehow I still seem to have amassed a whole slew of them in my recipe folder, and every time I look at them I feel guilty for having not tried them yet. So. Carrot soup can now be scratched off the list (and truth be told, it's not very often you see carrot soup on the grocery store shelves...).

As written, the recipe is okay. But with a simple addition, it was stellar! I doubled the ginger and added a bit more salt, since it seemed under-seasoned, but what really made the soup was a drizzling of balsamic reduction. It was so easy and made the soup really incredibly yummy.

If you've never made a balsamic reduction, it's super easy. Just pour some balsamic vinegar in a small pot, cook over low-medium heat (where it's steaming, but not boiling) until it's reduced down to about a third and clings to your spoon. Don't heat it too high, or you'll burn it, and don't cook too long, or your get sludge stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once it's ready, just let it cool (and it'll thicken a bit more) and drizzle artfully over the soup. Between the drizzle and the mint leaf garnish (which I also recommend), this recipe actually neared restaurant-quality!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Circa at Clarendon

My dad called me with a last minute request for a dinner date before he left DC...wanted something American and from which we could easily drive to the airport. I suggested we try Circa at Clarendon, which recently opened and I thought warranted a try!

Bottom line: Circa is the restaurant equivalent of a politically correct lullaby.

Everything about this place The menu is not exactly creative, but the dishes sound tasty enough. The execution also is fine, but missed the mark a bit.

I got the fennel and frisee salad, which had an anemic amount of "crispy prosciutto" and way too much radicchio (although the dressing was delish!); the butternut soup was, thematically, eh. Dining partner got the mushroom ravioli, which looked like an (albeit unoffensive) snooze-fest.

We asked for bread and got exactly 2 thin, wan slices.

And, while our waitress was a bit on the inattentive side, the plate-clearers were *entirely* too overly-aggressive. It's like they were hesitant to bring us food, but eager to take it away!


(portions x-posted to yelp)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dinner tonight: Green Curry with Bok Choy

Maybe in honor of St Patrick's Day, and partly because I needed a veg-heavy meal, this week I made green curry with bok choy. LOTS of green: the curry, the bok choy, the broccoli, the mint and basil.

Again, since my grocery ginger came home moldy, I used minced bottled ginger; HT was out of serranos, so I used jalapenos instead. No Kaffir leaves either, so that go omitted, and since I use regular soy I left out the added salt. I actually splurged and bought both the mint and the basil, because this seemed like a recipe that would really be missing something without them. (Although I had forgotten to add them until after I took this picture!)

Sadly, it wasn't all that great even with the pricey fresh herb toppings. The broccoli I totally didn't get in this dish. And overall, it was just another fine recipe, certainly not a very tasty homage to green! Considering how much effort went into it, I would say, don't bother. Boo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dinner tonight: Jeega Shrimp and Squash

I got another small, but beautiful butternut squash in my last CSA share, so I decided to try it with jheega shrimp and squash, which had been sitting, uncooked, in my recipe file for like, ever.

I added some sliced, wild mushrooms, also from the CSA, at the stage where the scallions go in, used mustard seeds instead of dry mustard, and bottled, minced ginger because the piece I brought home for HT ended up being moldy and gross.

This was fine, but not spectacular. A solid "meh." Although the flavors were a nice change of pace, definitely not something you'd normally have, unless maybe you're Indian and have a lot of things to celebrate (CL implies that this is a special occasion dish). Ironically, even though the recipe says "serve immediately," I thought it was better as leftovers. The second day of leftovers I added toasted sunflower seed because I'm training for a race and really needed the extra calories. That worked fine, but didn't really improve the dish as a whole any.

Take it or leave it. Not a CL win, but okay.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

EatBar: Chicken & Waffles

Death Row inmates, take note: EatBar's Chicken and Waffles is definitely last-meal-worthy.

I've been to EatBar probably a dozen times. Love the ambiance, and overall, the kitchen puts out solid food, but nothing mind-blowing.

On my most recent visit, though, I ordered the chicken and waffles. Holy plate of beauty! The waffle is light, fluffy, and maple-scented. The chicken--moist, deliciously crispy without being greasy, and in such a generous portion that it covers the entire waffle. Better still, the whole thing comes with a side of (thankfully non-bacony) collards, so you can fool yourself into thinking that it's not an entirely sinful meal. But it a deliciously good way.

And, because it's at EatBar, you can totally pair this with a nice glass of wine and only feel slightly foolish about it. (x-posted to

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What to do with creasy greens? -or- My Polyface eggs love affair comes to an end

This winter, I got a share in Farm-to-Family's CSA. They're a Richmond-based coop that recently started driving their bus up to DC to bring us delicious farm goodness! I was only able to do 2 pick-ups due to travel, etc. but the two I got were fantastic! This last one, especially, was a winter's bounty. Turnips, squash, mushrooms, apples, potatoes, bibb lettuce, kale, and creasy greens. Last time around, I got the most amazing Polyface Farms (of Omnivore's Dilemma fame), one of which you saw in the last post.

I had *no* idea what to do with creasy greens, and apparently neither did google or any of my facebook friends (okay, google had a few suggestions, but they all seemed to include ham hock. Ick.). Raw, they have a really delayed spiciness...kind of like if you combined watercress and horseradish. I decided (mostly because I was only cooking for myself) to cook off the cuff. Here's what I did:

Sauteed ~1 cup sliced onions until tender. Added the greens (2 bunches, chopped into 3 inch long pieces with the thicker stems removed) and a touch of water, sauteed until wilted. Finished with a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. I served the greens over Israeli couscous dressed with a tiny bit of olive oil and topped it all with my last, delicious Polyface egg. I really hoped to have a good picture for you guys, but, as usual, I screwed up and ended up breaking the yolk, so it's a bit of a mess.

But...yum! The greens were much less harsh cooked, and really were fairly indistinguishable from spinach in texture and taste. And if you haven't ever had a fried egg over pasta and greens, I totally recommend it because it's amazing. Of course, I'm partial to yolk, esp. local yolk (say that 3 times fast!) but still.

I ended up eating all the greens (read: 2 entire plants) in one sitting, but I figured it was okay because a) they cook down a lot and b) it's totally okay to overeat when it's on greens.

Sadly, I won't be able to do F2F this spring due to logistical issues, but I highly recommend it if you're looking for a CSA in the DC area! Suzi and Mark are super nice, and I think it's one of the best deals around.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dinner tonight: Eggs Poached in Curried Tomato Sauce

Oh you guys. Yuuuuum. Last night (and the night before) I had eggs poached in curried tomato sauce. It was so fantastically delicious, and so different from the usual dinner. Shown here made with a Polyface egg and kale chips, both from my Farm to Family CSA (more on that in the next post)!

I used veg oil instead of peanut, prepared minced ginger instead of fresh, and threw in some sriracha instead of jalapeno...the one I bought at the store never made it home, somehow. I'm just hoping it's not in some corner of my trunk rotting. I also prepared sans English muffins, since I had already eaten way too many carbs both days.

This is not a beginner recipe. It requires a fair amount of active cooking, and it's tough to cook the eggs just right. The second time I made the egg (made all the tomato sauce at once, but cooked the eggs each night) I was waiting for the yolk to cloud over and kind of cooked the white a bit too much (see picture above). But still, it was delicious...the runny yolky goodness mixing with the coconut milk and tomato was unexpectedly fantastic.

I do, however, think the recipe could be even better. The sauce is so bold that it really overpowers the egg. I think this would be better a) with salmon, or b) with lentils and over basmati rice. Let me know if you try either variation. I may at some point too...I'm already craving more curried tomato sauce!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dinner tonight: Black bean and chicken chilaquiles

I have been craving Mexican for like 2 weeks now, so Sunday night I decided to try to satiate the yen with some home-cooked black bean and chicken chilaquiles. Probably much healthier and way fewer calories than going out, plus there was no endless bowl of chips and salsa to feel guilty about the next day. (Sadly, there were also no margaritas!)

As usual, I made some substitutions, some intentional, some not. I didn't put in chicken at all, because I had no desire to shred two cups of chicken breast, and it felt like a flexitarian sort of day. I couldn't find salsa de chile fresco, so I bought "salsa ranchero," which came in the same size can and looked sufficient. The cheese is a longer story (feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't care. :) ). The HT by me, to my knowledge, does not carry queso blanco. At the store, I did a quick search on my phone to see what it was and what I could sub. Wikipedia said it's a soft, creamy, mild white cheese, so I thought at first that the Mexican-flavored Laughing Cow I had at home would suffice. Upon further research at home, though, I learned that it wouldn't...the appropriate substitute for queso blanco is Monterrey Jack, which I didn't have at home. I didn't feel like going back to the store, so on the way home from a movie before dinner P and I swung by Whole Foods. They had the jack, but they *also* had queso blanco! I was torn. In the end, I went the lazy cheapskate route and bought the pre-shredded MJ. It was made by cows who have been treated humanely, of course.

Yummy, yum, yum. P made a good point that this is essentially "Mexican lasagna." Comforting, easy to assemble, and totally fulfilled my Mexican craving. The flavors were nice and dark and smoky, and it was super-carby with the tortilla and beans. The one thing I would change is maybe put ~1/4 cup more broth in was a teensy bit dry for me.

Sorry. No picture. Camera was AWOL. Nice pic on the CL site though!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lamb Sliders

Okay, I'm not going to say much other than here it is, the much-requested and long-await recipe for lamb sliders! I promise you, these are awesome. Some even said the best burgers they've ever had. The chutney is basically a riff off of CL's peach chutney recipe, modified to thicken enough to top a burger. Enjoy, readers!

Recipe makes 6 servings, 2 sliders per serving

For chutney:

1 pound diced, peeled peaches

¾ cup finely chopped red onion

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons minced, peeled ginger

1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeno

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

For sliders:

2 pounds ground lamb

½ cup grated yellow onion

3 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon salt

Remaining ingredients:

12 thick mini pitas

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

To prepare chutney:

Combine first seven ingredients (peaches through jalapeno) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer 20 min. Uncover and simmer another 15-20 min, or until liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

To prepare sliders:

Combine all ingredients (lamb through salt) in a large bowl. Divide into 12 equal portions, and form into flat, thin patties, slightly indenting the center with thumb. Cook (grill or broil) patties 3-4 min per side, or until desired degree of doneness.

Open pita into two halves. Spread 1 teaspoon yogurt inside the top half of each mini pita. Place one mini Medi on the bottom half of each pita; top with generous helping of chutney, pinch of cilantro (about one teaspoon ), and top half of pita.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Moroccan feast!

Okay, okay, I'm sorry! I've been uber-busy and just returned from a week in the culinary wasteland of Jacksonville, NC, so I haven't had any time or inspiration to blog. In fact, I really shouldn't be writing this right now, but it's a good excuse to procrastinate from my take-home midterm. :)

Nearly two weeks ago now, P and I had Emily, Courtney, Ashleigh, Rob, and Mandy over for a Moroccan feast. I felt I had really been neglecting my friends, and this was the perfect way to make it up to them!

Mandy supplied grape leaves and baklava for apps, courtesy of Astor Cafe. Dinner was lamb tagine with prunes, kesra (Moroccan flat bread), and crunchy country salad (seen here modeled by the lovely Mandy!), all courtesy of Modern Moroccan.
I was worried there wasn't enough lamb, so I also threw together a side of warm bulgur, cooked with some grated orange peel and orange juice, mixed with toasted pine nuts and parsley.

Overall, it was a pretty good dinner. The lamb was super tender, although I had to uncover and turn up the heat substantially at the end to get the sauce to reduce down to wear I wanted it. I also added a bit more honey for flavor. I think we did something wrong with the yeast in making the kesra, because it seemed a bit heavy and never rose as much as I think it should have. That said, it was still pretty delicious...kind of like a slightly sweet soda bread. P did a great job kneading the dough! The crunchy salad was also pretty good, although we didn't think it really went with the lamb (as the recipe book said it would). I used half regular olive oil, half Meyer lemon olive oil, to pump up the lemon flavor. The bulgur salad was fine, but nothing special. But I'm glad we had the extra dish to make sure no one went hungry!

Dessert was an amazing mocha ice cream that Emily and Courtney made from scratch. I paired it with a cardamom chocolate bundt cake, with adapting a recipe from CL.

The best part of dinner, though, was of course, the company!