Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dinner tonight: Creole Flouder and Stewed Okra with Tomatoes

I bit the bullet and bought okra again at the farmer's market last week. Last time we had some delicious, Indian-spiced okra, but I ended up with sore fingers from all the okra pricklies. This time I tried to stay away from the really big pods, so the spiky little hairs were smaller and I fared much better.

Since okra was the feature of dinner, I put the most effort into our side dish: stewed okra with tomatoes. I changed this recipe slightly: omitted the bacon and used canned, stewed, no sodium tomatoes instead of fresh. Overall, it was okay, although WAY too sweet and needed more hot sauce. We thought it was strange that a dish with no sugar could be so sweet, but I guess it was the combo of the Vidalia and the stewed tomatoes. Maybe sub a regular, yellow onion instead. However, this would probably be a great veg dish for kids, if you convince them to taste it in the first place! I served P's okra over some leftover rice from takeout a couple days prior--no food goes to waste in the Daly household!

The flounder was really an afterthought: I just sprinkled it with a Creole spice mix and baked it at 425 for ~18-20 min.
Eh. Not a bad okra dish. But I'd recommend the Indian spiced recipe over this one any day. (do a search on the right if you want to find it!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Seedy Underbelly of Citrus

Friends, I'd like to take a moment away from our usual recipe and restaurant reviews to make a public service announcement.

Generally, I encourage consumption of all fruits and vegetables--the more, the better! They're chock full of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and all other sorts of good stuff, and as they say, you're unlikely to binge on apples. HOWEVER. There can be a nefarious side to fruit. For limes, this is phytophotodermatitis, "a cutaneous phototoxic inflammatory eruption resulting from contact with light-sensitizing botanical substances and long-wave ultraviolet (UV-A 320-380 nm) radiation." Translation: limes + sun = badness.

I learned this recently after making lime pie ice pops for July 4th dinner at the beach. After squeezing a gazillion limes (and yes, washing my hands), we went down to the beach. And what I initally thought was a sunburn turned out to be much itchier and long-lasting! (Don't worry, after diagnosis, my prognosis looks promising. :) )

So, let this be a lesson to you all. Squeezing and sunning do not mix! The next time you decide to enjoy a margarita pool side, be careful not to have been warned.

(Incidentally, the pops were AMAZING. The only problem is that they didn't exactly want to come out of the molds. I suggest making this recipe in frozen pie form, miniature or regular-sized crust.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cafe Milano

This past weekend we went to Cafe Milano in Georgetown to celebrate Diana's birthday. And you know, I was pleasantly surprised! Perhaps it was the perception-expectation gap, but I thought it was a downright solid meal. I hate to make yet another comparison to Kinkead's, but CM was to Italian was Kinkead's was to seafood. (See my earlier review if this doesn't make sense! :) )

They put us in a weird spot in the center of the restaurant, which was kind of awkward and super noisy. Our waiter swung between being very attentive and not, but overall did alright by us.

Of course, most important is the food. The bread--I had read a couple yelp reviews that said the bread was amazing. I thought it was fine. A little heavy, but overall not bad. The olive oil was totally pedestrian, which was a bit of a disappointment for such a well-known Italian resto. There are SO many good oils out there, this should not have been hard to do well.

Things looked up from there. P and I split the baby artichoke salad, and they divided it between two plates (which is not done often but which I sincerely appreciate). The salad was a bit aggressively dressed, but not offensively so, and the flavors were simple and clean. My entree was the whole wheat tagliatelle with asparagus, oven-roasted tomatoes, and ricotta; the pasta is made in house and was cooked to perfection: on the chewier side of al dente. They were also generous with the vegetables, which was certainly a welcome change from the usual vegetarian pasta dish. P got a special for the evening, the roasted sea bass with peppers, which was super flavorful, if a teensy bit overcooked. (We think both dishes sat under the heat lamp for a while--my pasta was so hot when I got it I nearly burned my tongue). The portions were a decent size too: enough so you could clean your plate and not feel like a pig but also not go home hungry.

A few folks ordered dessert, and they brought Diana a gratis bday pound cake. These I was totally underwhelmed by, but these days I expect to by disappointed by restaurant desserts. So, no damage done there.

Definitely better than Dino! (portions x-posted to

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dinner tonight: Pancetta with swiss chard and soft polenta

I finally, *finally* made it to the farmers market last weekend--after a long hiatus--and did major damage: a ton of peaches, golden plums, blueberries, flax bread, pattypan squash, and rainbow chard. The chard was the focus of last night's dinner, which I prepared as pancetta with swiss chard and soft polenta.

! This was a total CL win--super delicious, easy, and just slightly over 300 calories a serving. Of course, one of the ways CL manages to keep its stats so low is with portion control...and trust me, it is VERY difficult to control your portions on this yummy dish! Fortunately, the polenta is very filling.

It's easy to make the polenta and topping simultaneously (which really you need to do so the polenta doesn't get hard and gross), as long as you make sure to prep and stage everything ahead of time (mis en place, for you cooking snobs) . I ended up using way more liquid than the polenta recipe called for, adding little by little as time went on. Use your judgement with this one--the polenta should be similar to risotto in viscosity--spreads out somewhat on the plate while still holding its shape.

Also, I generally hate bacon in my food, but you absolutely cannot leave out the pancetta in this dish: the salty and crispy complement the slight bitterness and goopiness of the greens.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Freaking Delicious Frozen Dinner

So, on a whim the other day, I picked up a Cedarlane Pesto and Four Cheese Baked Eggplant Stack from the frozen meals section. It had great stats (280 calories) and all natural. I was intrigued since I'd never seen it before, so I thought I'd give it a whirl (even though it was pretty pricey for frozen food at $5).

Wowowowow. This was AMAZING. I had to keep checking the side of the box, because I just couldn't believe it had less than 300 calories. Delicious, satisfying, almost indulgent. I know this pic looks messy but, c'mon, it's a frozen meal! It tastes so very much better than it looks.

I recommend pairing this with a veg or a salad, since there's not a ton of green veggies, but you certainly don't need them to feel full.

Totally go out and get some of these fantastic stacks...just leave some for me!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pig and Fish (Rehoboth Beach, DE)

Pig and Fish reminded me a lot of a more casual version of Kinkead's: seafood-focused; big, bold flavors; very generous portions; not super-refined. Unfortunately, it's priced a lot like Kinkead's too (and somehow it feels worse paying that much for a meal when you're not dressed up ;) ).

Overall, our food (and drinks) were delicious and well cooked. The pork taco app was flavorful and juicy, the fried green tomatoes were crispy, and both had a kick. Most of the table got the Southern-style preparation of either the firmer white fish (I cannot for the life of me remember what kind it was, although I'm sure P will remind me as soon as he sees this) or the tripletail...I recommend the triple tail. The grits were so good I ate all of mine *and* some of P's. Another diner got the crabcakes, which were HUGE and really sweet and delicious. The sangria was also generous and huge, although maybe could have been a little stronger.

The one thing this restaurant suffered from, I think, is poor decision-making. The fried green tomatoes I mentioned earlier? These were actually fried *red* tomatoes. Which is SO not the same thing!!! I wish they had simply taken this item off the menu if they didn't have the produce, because I felt that trying to switch out one for the other was an affront to my intelligence and/or palette. The other poor decision they made was deep frying the crabcakes. A pan-frying treatment would have served the quality of the crab much better.

Oh yes. Although service was with a smile, it was sloooooow. Even at 6 pm, with half the tables still empty.

Please don't let these last two things keep you from Pig and Fish, though, just be forewarned. Generally, you will be well and plentifully fed if you go! (portions x-posted to

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dinner tonight: 15-minute, low-cal pulled pork dinner (for real!)

If you love mustard and pulled pork, first, pat yourself on the back for having such good taste! Then...MAKE THIS.

I was always really intrigued by those pulled-pork-in-a-plastic-bucket things they sell at the supermarket--bbq pork is on my death row meal list, and the thought of not having to leave the house to have some is incredibly tempting. However, I've sworn off high fructose corn syrup, which is a major component in the sauce they use in these things. So--no pulled pork convenience for me.


Enter the Sunday circular, and a coupon (yay coupon!!!) for a new product: Lloyd's pulled pork, without the sauce!

I bought said pork, and used my coupon. Double win! I prepared the pork as directed, then mixed it directly into a pot of mustard barbecue sauce (pulled from this CL recipe). For the sauce I omitted the bacon (to save calories and time, plus I don't like bacon in things) and the onions (I was fresh out), so basically just mixed all the condiments and spices together and heated everything up. If I had onions, I would have simply thinly sliced and sauteed before added the remaining ingredients.

To further cut back on calories and avoid carbs, I served the pork on top of packaged three-color slaw (just the veggies, no mayo or anything) dressed with a couple splashes of white wine vinegar.

All told, this clocked in at under 300 calories a serving, I'd bet more like 250-275. That is, if you can limit yourself to just one serving, which is hard because it is SO FREAKING GOOD. P said, "I think this is better than like 90% of the barbecue pork sandwiches I've had in my lifetime." And then proceeded to tell me how our future children will be fat when they get to college because they'll think all awesomely delicious food is as healthy as what I feed him.

Really guys. I know meat in a box can be scary. But trust me on this one.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I will say this. You will not leave Dino hungry. The portions are generous, although I wish they had been generous portions of better food: Dino is more disappointment than delicious.

It all started with a Tasting Table email about Dino's 6th birthday dinner special: 4 courses for $39, and with words like rabbit and prosecco, how could we resist?!

Service was slow, from the bartender to the food runners (I think we waited 30 minutes between our apps and pasta course), although the water guy was on top of things. We started with the cichetti, which was just sad. All of the bread was soft, the greens were *incredibly* bitter, and it was really just blah. And salty. I didn't eat half of mine, although I did savor the shrimp head on one of Pat's cichetti, which was very good.

Our pasta courses were equally not particularly well executed. Pat got two enormous duck canelloni, which I think had cardamom or some other very unique spice in them. They were decent, although a little dry. My pasta was so salty I think my blood pressure will be high for the next month as a result. Honestly, if you're going to put anchovies in pasta, you probably don't need to finish it with sea salt. It was a shame, because the pasta itself was cooked perfectly. I only ate half the bowl. Which trust me, is a very rare occurrence!

We were most excited about the secondi: rabbit for me and whole branzino for Pat. The rabbit was very lean and pretty good, although a bit overcooked. The same was true for P's fish.

Desserts were sad as well. Not bad, per se, but the tiramisu could have been a lot more boozy, and the nico just looked like a big, plastic rectangle. (the gelato was slightly better than plastic. slightly.)

As usual for our restaurant misses, the dinner was not awful. It just wasn't very good, especially for the price. I only wish we had bought the living social deal the day before so we could have wasted $30 less on this meal. (x-posted to

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dinner tonight: Easy Peasy Fish Tacos

I've had a half a box of hard taco shells for approximately a century, and they were taking up a lot of room in my teensy pantry, so I decided to use those two facts as an excuse for fish tacos. Yes, I realize that fish tacos are usually made with soft tacos shells. Hush.

Totally made this up on the fly--they were incredibly easy and not bad! P had three, so he was either really hungry or actually enjoyed them too. Here are your steps for easy peasy fish taco construction:
1. Spread a thin layer of spicy sauce in the bottom of the taco shell: sauce is just 1/4 cup of greek yogurt mixed with ~half of a chipotle chile in adobo sauce (you can buy a can of these and then just keep leftovers in a bag in the freezer).
2. Hunks of fish (we used mahi), seasoned simply with S&P and pan fried ~6 min per side on medium high heat.
3. Slices of avocado
4. A handful of tricolor slaw mixed with a couple drops of white wine vinegar.

The trick to all this is definitely the chipotle chile. It adds so much smoke and heat (yes, even with just a half a pepper) that everything else only needs minimal seasoning.

I paired these with corn on the cob, roasted in the over and ALSO super easy! You literally just put the whole ear, husk and all, on a oven rack, preheated to 350 degrees, and cook for 30 min. It might even be easier than boiling.

Happy summer eating!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Astor Cafe

I LOVE that I can order from Astor online without actually having to interact with someone. And I love how friendly the staff are. The food, however, I just liked.

We ordered an assortment of takeout to split: spicy chickpeas, sauteed eggplant, combo kabob, chicken kabob, and falafel platters. The chickpeas and eggplant were both delicious, as was the hummus that came with the platters. The kabob meat was fine, the salads were a little sad (although totally normal for a kabob place).

I had really hoped that Astor would finally end my long-lost search for decent falafel in this town. Sadly, it did not. These were underwhelming and weirdly green inside.

Will I have future cravings for Astor? Probably not. But it'll certainly do in a takeout pinch. (x-posted to

Friday, July 1, 2011

American as Cupcakes

In honor of the anniversary of our nation's independence (yes, I know this isn't until Monday, but I will be too busy celebrating to post then!), I present to you the following. Together, they form a cohesive argument for why cupcakes are superior to pie. At least, if you judge superiority by patriotism.

I submit for you, exhibit A: why pie is decidedly UN-American.
And exhibit B: why cupcakes are so patriotic that they are fighting terrorism in your defense.

Readers, make the right decision this 4th, forgo the patriot poser and be sure to end your BBQs and celebrations with a freedom-defending dessert!