Sunday, October 17, 2010

A good little Korean girl

So per my last post, I've been craving Korean food. I've been going out to Korean restaurants, buying kimchee which I'm delighted to have in my Safeway, and generally gorging myself on the salty delights that typically appear on a Korean dinner table.

I was also inspired by my good friend Katie, who really challenged herself during a food blog competition to make something near and dear to my heart and stomach, bibimbap. She was tasked with making a dish that represented a new culture to her, and she chose Korean food! She also made bulgogi, which I think of as the quintessential Korean entree. I'm really proud of her, and though I didn't get to try it I'm willing to bet money that it was delicious. Katie's a fabulous cook.

While I was searching for recipes for Katie, I kept coming across recipes for oi sobaegi (cucumber) kimchee. I couldn't believe how easy it looked! I had most of the ingredients already in my pantry, so I decided to do a little experimenting of my own. The result was great oi sobaegi kimchee, but a little stinky in my fridge. Next time I'll need to triple bag the jar before I put it in!

So today when I was thinking about lunch I decided to pull some favorites out of the fridge and make a delicious Korean fall meal. The result: Miso soup with meaty chinese mushrooms, leafy greens tossed in spicy pepper paste (gochu), anchovies stir fried in gochu, soy sauce and sugar, pickled sweet radish (taquan), and of course, cucumber kimchee. Now here I sit, stuffed to the brim after a lunch that would make my grandmother proud, make my grandfather hungry, and give my mom a headache because of all the salt!!!

Oi kimchee:

10 Korean, pickling or kirby cucumbers*, with ends sliced off
1/4 cup salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup kochukaru (Korean chili pepper)
1/2 cup Asian chives, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used regular chives, or you can use green onions)
1/4 cup fish sauce or liquid from brined sauce
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2 Tbsp sugar

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, leaving on end in tact. Rotate and cut again lengthwise, so you have four sections of the cucumber connected at the bottom. Fill a large bowl with water and dissolve the salt in it. Soak the cucumbers for 30 minutes. In the meantime, mix all other ingredients in a bow.. After 30 minutes, stuff each of the cucumbers with the mixture (there will be some leftover) and pack tightly into a glass container. Be sure to find a container that will hold all of the cucumbers but won't have too much space when full. Then put about a cup of water in the bowl that the mixture was in and dissolve the rest of the mixture. Dump that over the cucumbers, seal up the container (has to be air-tight), and keep it at roomtemp at least overnight. I kept it out for 2 days because I like my kimchee sour!!!

This is all that was left of my lunch:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Asian tour

Lately I've been craving asian foods. Anything. Whether it's the familiar Korean home cooking, a spicy noodle soup, or a nice curry that warms the tummy, I have been devouring all kinds. And I couldn't be happier!!! Of course I've been eating kimchee with ALL of it!!!

It all started with a tiny green eggplant. I spotted them in a farmer's market in Delaware. Kermit eggplants, as they're apparently called, are a frequent ingredient in thai curries, so I thought I'd give it a try. Turns out thai curry is incredibly easy to make.

Gaeng Gai

3 cups water
3-5 sprigs basil
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/2 lb eggplant
1/4 cup bamboo shoots
1 tbsp curry paste or 2 tbsp curry powder
1 cup coconut milk (can use low fat)
1 chicken breast, thin slices

cook onions until soft, remove from pan. Add chicken to pan, until barely cooked. Add onions back in, half of coconut milk, and curry. Stir until everything is combined. Add in rest of coconut milk, water, fish sauce, eggplant, bamboo shoots. simmer until curry has desired thickness. The longer it simmers, the thicker it will get. Add basil at the last minute, quickly stirring in to preserve color. Serve with rice.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Way to This Woman's Heart

Oh, guys. I just polished off a 1.25 pound, fire-grilled lobster drenched in garlic butter at the Barking Crab in Boston, the city that will become our new home at the end of the year. Husband looked on with a mixture of love, awe, and disgust as I sent butter, cracked shell, and juices flying all over the place in my attempt to dig out every last morsel of meat.

If he was baiting me, it worked. Hook, line, and sinker.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blueberries with Barbados Cream

I'm indebted to Nigella Lawson's grandmother. Not only is she a crucial link in Nigella's existence on this very Earth, but she also handed down a simple recipe for creme brulee's lighter, less assuming cousin, which costars in this perfect ending to a summer meal.

Blueberries and Barbados Cream
Serves 4

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Greek/strained yogurt
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups blueberries

The night before (or morning of) your dinner, combine the cream and yogurt in a mixing bowl and whisk until thick but not stiff. Scrape into a shallow serving bowl about 8 inches in diameter and sprinkle with enough brown sugar to cover the top of the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8–24 hours. When you're ready to serve, bring the cream to room temperature and dollop over blueberries.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Famous Duos

Lamb and mint. Like Boris & Natasha, bourbon & ginger, and pink & gray in the 80s, they just belong together. Nothing really beats mint jelly, but in the summer, I like to take advantage of fresher offerings and make a mint pesto to slather on my lamb.

This recipe calls for roasted lamb loin chops, which I like because they provide a controlled, little portion of meat (and fat!) to have with a heaping salad. I usually eat just one, but if you're having friends over, plate two per person.

Or even better, if you're luckier than we are and have a grill, get a big rack of lamb rib chops and fire 'em up.
Summer cooking at its finest.

Roasted Lamb Chops with Mint-Pistachio Pesto
Serves 4

3 cups packed mint leaves
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
half a zucchini, grated
8 small lamb loin chops, about 2 pounds total
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

To make the pesto, combine mint and garlic in a food processor. Run it while slowly pouring olive oil through the tube until pesto reaches desired consistency. Add pistachios and run processor for another 15-20 seconds. Stir in the grated zucchini.

Preheat oven to 375°. Score the fat of the lamb to prevent curling and season the chops with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy, oven-proof pan over high heat, and add oil, heating until it ripples slightly when pan is shaken. Working in two batches, sear all sides of the lamb. Remove from heat and coat chops with pesto. Move pan to oven and cook until the meat's internal temperature reaches 145° for medium-rare, or 160° for medium, about 12–15 minutes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Love

Dear Summer, never end. Yours for life, Sarah.

My love for the season runs deep. For instance, I'm sweating my ass off as I write this, having just returned from the farmers' market, but you won't hear me complain because I'm too busy crushing on the bounty that awaits me in the kitchen. I plan to treat it well, making the most simple of meals that highlight these veggies, fruits, and herbs in their glorious, ripe state. The less cooking the better.

One of our favorite meals this season combines a beautifully basic Greek salad—which I learned to make on the island Amorgos—and roasted lamb loin chops with mint-pistachio pesto, finished off with cool blueberries topped with a dollop of Barbados cream. This menu is equally perfect for company and the weekly rotation.

Over the next few days, I'll post recipes for each dish. I'm starting with the Greek salad, which made Husband rethink his stance on salads altogether.

Greek Salad
makes 4 side dishes

Cut two riper-than-ripe tomatoes into wedges and slice a large green pepper into thin rings. Slice a cucumber thinly. If you'd like, dice up about 1/4 cup of red onion. Mix the veggies together with Kalamata olives and drizzle with a generous helping of olive oil, then some red wine vinegar. Season with salt and your choice of dried oregano (about 1 tsp) or fresh dill (about 2 tbsp).* Then, the best part: top with a big tangy, salty slab of Feta and eat!

*Or, if you're Virginia and like neither herb, try mint.

Monday, July 5, 2010


My ode to Summer continued this weekend as a few good friends helped ring in July with deliciousness. Friday night we discovered a true gem. Joe's Noodle House. Szechuan cooking at it's finest, including some mysterious ingredient that made our tongues numb. We couldn't decide if it was the actual peppers or some other ingredient like ginger. It was kind of weird, especially when you drank water after numbing the mouth. Worth it.

The best way to cool off the mouth? Agua fresca. My lovely friend Katie recently made some of the nectar of the gods, agua fresca, and posted it on her blog. Then my friends made some watermelon agua fresca, and I knew I was in love again. For the rest of the weekend I blended, strained, mixed and swooned. Fireworks. Stars. Hearts.

I also took a trip to the mexican market and bought awesome cheese to top off some juevos rancheros that I enjoyed with the Suburban Duo (they live in the suburbs, after all). Mmm. Tostados, refried beans, perfectly poached eggs, salsa, cheese, sour cream, patio, sun, agua fresca.

Waterfront, deck, refreshing viognier, perfectly crispy-skinned fish followed by luscious strawberry shortcake=perfect way to begin the weekend. We couldn't believe that after so many years of all of us living in DC we hadn't discovered Indigo Landing. And it seemed as though we weren't alone in only took 5 minutes to get an outside table. What could top that?

Crabs. It's that time of the year, and thanks again to the Suburban Duo, a feast of steamed old bay crabs, grilled calamari, huge succulent clams and some stubborn oysters all showed up at my door (because I was late and they were kind enough to come to me. Bless them). An afternoon spent picking crabs and indulging on riches from the sea=great 4th of July.

So what now, you ask? Well, since I've made a summer's resolution to be better about posting on the bloggy blog, I'm sitting enjoying yet another agua fresca accompanied by a delightful summer salad of fresh cucumber from my co-worker's garden, juicy ripe tomatoes, little balls of mozzarella, a couple pieces of avocado and lots and lots of fresh basil.

It's gonna be a good month.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gimme gimme chimi chimi!

It was hotter than the face of the sun last weekend, but we grilled anyway. That's how dedicated my friend Dave and I are. Well, how dedicated he is, anyway, he's the one that stood over the flames. I guess he might as well get used to it (hee hee). I, on the other hand, waited until the one day this week when the temperature was below 80. It was beautiful out tonight, so I decided early in the day that I was going to be spending some time at the grill on my roof.

I like it when my food has a lot of bright flavors. To me that means lots of herbs, citrus, and spice. For some reason when thinking about what would be the perfect dinner for such a lovely break in the oppressive summer heat, my mind went to chimichurri sauce. I've never made a chimichurri sauce, so I stole a few minutes from work to look it up, and confirmed my suspicion that I would love it. What's not to love, really? A zesty sauce over some lemon-marinated grilled chicken along with some sweet corn sounded like just the ticket.

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After a quick bike ride home, a stop in the store, and some short prep time (involving a kitchen appliance, always a plus), I was ready to grill. And not a moment too soon, because after I put my chicken and corn on the grill, with a dollop of chimichurri sauce on top, neighbor after neighbor started pouring onto the roof. Blinking into the setting sun, we all caught up on neighborhood news, life updates, and of course, grill recipes. Once again, ah summer.

Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

Marinate chicken for 15-30 minutes in 1 part olive oil, 1 part lemon juice and a tsp or two of garlic powder

Chimichurri Sauce:
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
3 tbsp capers
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp horseradish
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. I also added extra horseradish because I like it spicy. I made a lot to use some leftovers and freeze the rest.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer's here

Sorry guys. I've been bad about sharing. I've had so many food adventures, I promise I'll write them down. But tonight, I just wanted to share one thing.

Strawberry popsicles.

See full size image

So delicious. So summer. Remember when you used to have those homemade popsicles with the little straw at the bottom so you could catch all the melted juice? I ate mine too fast for that to be needed.

Monday, May 31, 2010

May Favorites

Homemade Tangy Frozen Yogurt. A recipe has filtered through the Internet like a game of telephone. It started with David Lebovitz, then Heidi at 101 Cookbooks posted the recipe, and commentators left all kinds of wonderful suggestions for variations. Boston Globe picked it up, playing with proportions and creating four tasty flavor combinations of its own. I've adopted the honey-lemon version as my go-to summer 2010 treat. Don't laugh: it makes the most refreshing breakfast served over berries from the market. If you love Pinkberry, Red Mango, Tangysweet, Mr. Yogato, and the like, this recipe is for you.

Potato & Vanilla Mousse with Caviar. Three weeks after tasting it, I'm still dreaming about this dish from Cafe Atlantico's latino dim sum brunch.* That, and the seared cigala with vanilla oil. Come to think of it, I'm obsessing over vanilla—this recipe from the Washington Post is next on my list.

Fried lemon slices at Palena. Really.

Farmer's Market pasta toss. Sautee 2–3 cups of veggies scored at the market in 1/4 cup of garlic-infused olive oil, liberally season with salt and crushed red pepper, toss with a pound of pasta, and top with chopped fresh herbs and citrus zest. I made a refreshing version this weekend with zucchini, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, celery leaves, and orange zest.

*I swear it has nothing to do with the smokin' hot Spanish waiter who served it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spring on a Plate

The firsts of springs are such a thrill, especially after last winter's icy, gloomier-than-usual reign. About six weeks ago, Whole Foods started selling the first halibut of the season. Fresh peas made an appearance in delicate, delicious raviolis and agnolottis on menus all over the city. Then the farmer's market opened, with its beautiful, thin stalks of asparagus, zippy greens, ripe strawberries, and peonies that bloomed for weeks. Last weekend I scored the first of the market's squash blossoms—our most rabid spring-produce obsession—and knew just what to do with them. This dish is great for company because it's a luxurious, self-contained meal that can be assembled and chilled for up to 4 hours before popping it into the oven.

Halibut Fillets in Parchment with Asparagus and Stuffed Squash Blossoms*

Adapted from Bon Appetit

16–20 squash blossoms, stamens and calyxes removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
4 15x15-inch squares parchment paper
4 5-ounce halibut fillets, rinsed and pat dry
1 large bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 navel oranges, one juiced and one sliced
4 large sprigs tarragon

Preheat oven to 400°. Gently open squash blossom petals and inspect for bugs. Swish in a bowl of cold water, pat dry. Stuff each blossom with a spoonful of ricotta and set aside. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sautee until tender, about 7 minutes. Set aside. Place parchment squares on work surface. Butter half of each parchment square; top buttered half of each with 1 fish fillet. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; top each fillet with a spoonful of sauteed leeks, a sprig of tarragon, and a slice of orange. Arrange asparagus and 4–5 squash blossoms around each fish fillet; pour 2 tablespoons orange juice over each. Fold parchment over fish and asparagus, folding and crimping edges tightly to seal and enclose filling completely. Place on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spacing apart.

Bake fish packets 17 minutes. Slide packets onto plates and serve.

*In the fall, we use pomegranate seeds in lieu of squash blossoms for a seasonal variation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

14th and U, I love you!

After reading about Wendy's mouth-watering dinner created straight out of her fresh produce box, I was more than psyched to make my first pilgrimage of the year to our wonderful little farmer's market at 14th and U last Saturday. I picked up all kinds of goodies, including a few ingredients for last night's meal: hot! hot! hot! mustard greens, sweet Italian sausages from Truck Patch, and my favorite goat cheese, Monocacy Ash from Cherry Glen Farm. Combined with a few other elements, they came together to make one of our most beloved dishes—Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese—with roasted sausages* on the side. Not only is the risotto bursting with complementary flavors—sweet and earthy ones from the beets, tang from the goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, fiery spice from the mustard greens—it's also a rock-n-roll magenta color. We happily gobbled up the leftovers tonight, but that means no more for tomorrow!

Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese
Bon Appetit, February 2007

1/4 cup butter
2 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped white onion
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups low-salt chicken or veggie broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups chopped mustard greens
5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add beets and onion. Cover; cook until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Mix in rice and cook for a minute. Add broth** and vinegar. Increase heat; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until rice and beets are just tender and risotto is creamy, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and mix in greens and goat cheese.

*Like, really really roasted, within an inch of their lives. Thanks a lot, Jamie Oliver. 25 minutes? Next time I'll try 15. (I still love you.)

**Add 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the rice has absorbed the liquid if you want to feel like you're completely ruling the risotto. I've made it both ways and find the end result nearly identical, I hate to say it.

Photo via La Tartine Gourmande. (Sorry, I can't bring myself to stop eating and start photographing my dinner. It just seems weird.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fresh Food After Weeks of Fast Food

We spent weeks eating fast food while we were moving across the country and getting settled into our new house. Finally we were able to start cooking real food. Every Friday afternoon Door to Door Organics delivers a produce box and we discover the surprises inside.

This meal was Leek and Potato Soup, salad with fresh fruit and blueberry honey balsamic dressing, and a glass of Pimm's with fresh chopped fruit. After weeks of eating fake food this tasted truly divine! Even with the 25 minutes of simmering the soup was really quick to make. The only thing that could have made it better would have been regular potatoes, but the produce box had purple potatoes so the Leek and Potato Soup turned an unappetizing shade of gray. Fortunately, it tasted better than it looked!

Blueberry Honey Balsamic Dressing
(all amounts are approximate)
3 parts extra virgin olive oil
2 parts balsamic vinegar
1 part blueberry honey
1 part lemon juice
Leek and Potato Soup
From Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day - the best veggie cookbook for engineers - I love the way it's organized
4 medium leeks
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Trim and discard the dark green tops and tough outer leaves from the leeks. Remove the roots along with a thin slice of the nearby white part. Halve the leeks lengthwise and then cut them crosswise into this strips. Wash the sliced leeks in a large bowl with several changes of clan water or until no grit falls to the bottom of the bowl.

2. Heat the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and saute over medium heat until tender and golden, about 10 minutes (do not let the leeks brown).

3. Add potatoes, stock bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

4. Use the back of a wooden spoon to crush some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the texture of the soup [I skipped this because I think smooshed potatoes are one of the worst textures and I really didn't need it to turn even more gray]. Leave some of the potato chunks intact. Remove the bay leaf ans stir in the parsley. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April Favorites

April, it's been a whirlwind romance. You whisked me off to New York, LA, and Santa Barbara and even took a little time out to meet my parents here in DC. But things are moving way too fast, and Husband is unhappy sharing me like this. Time to say goodbye; bisous! I'll remember you every time I go to:

Vinegar Hill House in DUMBO. The menu is constantly changing to reflect the seasons and local farm offerings, so I won't recommend specific dishes. Just know that everything they serve is going to be delicious and special. And by all means, order a bottle of the Pithon-Paillé Savennieres, which is killer and hard to find stateside.

Natural Cafe and Arigato Sushi in Santa Barbara. Two tasty little spots on State Street. For lunches at home, I've created my own version of Natural Cafe's Old Town salad, which combines mixed greens, brown rice, avocado, shredded carrot, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and a slammin' honey lemon vinaigrette (1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey). So healthy and satisfying.

Num Pang in Manhattan. I could eat the mind-blowing Cambodian sandwiches from this
gourmet hole-in-the-wall every damn day and never tire of it. So spicy, tempered by the fresh cilantro, cucumber, and sweet carrots. And the bread. My god, the bread. Get the ginger barbecue brisket if they have it on special, or the grilled king mackeral with leeks if you want to be sorta kinda healthy. The grilled asparagus is charred to perfection, and the corn on the cob is slathered in a mean chili mayo with coconut flakes. Really, get anything. It's going to be good.

Finally, April, you know I must mention the salted butter caramel ice cream. Yes, I'm prone to hyperbole, but you and I both know it is likely the best caramel ice ever invented. Thank you, David Lebovitz (and Adrienne, for suggesting the recipe).

Top photo via Patrick Andrade; bottom photo via David Lebovitz

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In my mind, I'm going to Shenandoah

In my fantasy world, I'm not sitting in my living room in Husband's flannel pajama pants, contemplating whether to turn the heat on. No. I'm back in Shenandoah, on the glorious deck at Linden Vineyards, sipping a glass of their zesty, slightly tropical Seyval and snacking on herbed goat cheese and the most perfect baguette I think I've ever tasted. Or am I more in the mood for their gigantic, earthy, tobacco-y Petit Verdot, which reminds me of Piedmont? Or the seductively floral, off-dry Riesling? Decisions, decisions.

Afterward, I'll hike Big Devil Stairs, stopping for a long picnic just above the waterfall, then turning back for an exhausting but awesome climb back to the parking lot.

You might want to do the same this Saturday, when the Eastern Seaboard gives this cold weather the boot and turns warm and sunny. It's pretty dreamy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nutritionist-Approved Breakfast

As the product of countless bowls of (sugar!) cereal—actually, I can guess: nearly 10,000—I've always been a little confused about what constitutes a healthy breakfast. Growing up, my brother and I would play "garbage collection" at the grocery store, throwing boxes of Lucky Charms, Super Golden Crisp, Rice Krispies, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch into our cart—aka the trash truck. We didn't realize at the time that our game was an apt metaphor.

After college—when my breakfast of choice was Cocoa Krispies mixed with the plain version for fortification—I decided it was time to switch to "adult" cereal. Yet as it had been with sugary brands, every morning around 10:30 or 11, I'd experience a blood sugar meltdown and go from satiated to starving in seconds flat.

Lucky for me, my best friend has a nutritionist and could pass on some advice for a better morning meal. "Protein, protein, protein!" she told me, recommending two eggs any way. Since making the change, my appetite and mood have leveled out considerably, and I'm betting my blood sugar and insulin levels have, too. Some days I throw in leftover veggies or sauces from the last night's meal, but most days, I whip up an omelet with sundried tomatoes and thyme. A delicious, savory meal far better than anything that comes from a cardboard box, right?

Sundried Tomato and Thyme Omelet

2 eggs
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

In a small bowl, beat eggs using whisk or fork until whites and yolks are well blended. Mix in sundried tomatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper.* Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little egg mixture to the pan to make sure it sizzles on contact. Once the pan is hot enough, add the rest of the egg mixture. As the edges set, lift them with a spatula to let the raw egg run underneath. Once omelet has set, fold in half, slide onto a plate, and serve.

*Purists should add a teaspoon of milk.

Photos via and

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

For the Love of Lamb

This is long overdue, but have I told you how much I love lamb? Such a sophisticated taste, such a playful dinner star, how could I not? The past 6 months have been full of cooking firsts for me. First time I had a 12 course dinner (worth every penny), first time I cooked duck (it’s all about the braising), and first time I roasted a leg of lamb. First time I made lamb at all, actually, and now I’m addicted. And like any good addict, I’ve got a dealer, Lamb King (LK). So as long as LK keeps dropping off the lamb, I’ll keep cooking it up.
My first foray with a 4 lb leg of lamb was this January. Sarah and I had a genius idea: Moroccan. Over the course of 4 days we learned everything there is to know about Moroccan flavors, including how to make the essential, the beautiful, my new favorite, harissa. A quick little lemony, harissa marinade sounded like heaven. To go along with it my thought-I’d-hate-it-but-now-I-love-it mint dressing, cous cous with figs, and plenty of wine and good friends. And had Sarah and I remembered to actually stop watching movies and start the dinner on time, we may have eaten before 9 p.m.
Lamb #2. I can’t actually take credit for this. I received a call from LK. Friend was having tapas-style dinner to celebrate his bday, and requested something lamby. Lamb kabobs just fell into place with a nice mint marinade. Alas, cannot remember which recipe we used, but it was basic: lemon, garlic, mint, lamb on skewers and grilled with a bit of smoking wood on the fire.
Last Thursday was another feat. I had promised Friend a Passover-friendly dinner party, LK promised another leg of lamb, but it was a weeknight. I shouldn’t have worried. My lovely lamb didn’t let me down, it never could. While guests lounged on the roof deck with goat cheese cucumber apps and gin and tonics, my lovely lamb roasted beautifully directly on the oven rack (blasphemy, says LK, but it cooked much faster) after bathing for 24 hours in a mint lemon garlic marinade. Mint dressing. Smoky quinoa (it’s a berry, not a grain). Roasted asparagus. Flourless lavender chocolate torte. Perfection.
Moroccan leg of lamb
1 9-to-11-pound bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and membrane
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fruity-tasting olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon harissa (Moroccan chili paste), more for serving
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1. Score meaty side of lamb in a diamond pattern of ¼-inch-deep cuts about 1½ inches apart. Season with salt and pepper, and place scored-side up in a large roasting pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, harissa, coriander seeds and cumin. Pour marinade over lamb and massage into crevices. Cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate 2½ hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1½ hours before cooking to return lamb to room temperature; in last 15 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Remove foil from pan and place pan on middle oven rack; turn heat down to 350 degrees. Roast, basting lamb with pan juices every ½ hour, until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat reads 130 degrees, about 1¾ hours total. Remove from oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Serve with harissa and mint dressing.
Mint Dressing
2 cups tightly packed mint leaves, washed and dried
2 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
½ cup fruity-tasting olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
In a food processor, combine mint, shallots, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Favorites

I thought I'd bid adieu to March with a post on some of my favorite discoveries in the past 31 days.

First, CF Folks. Do you guys know about this place? It's been around forever, next the Palm on 19th Street. It's a teeny, down-home lunch counter (complete with a salty owner & sweet servers) that served a perfectly grilled duck breast the day I went, from a former Oval Room chef. I've only been once so far, but I'm nevertheless convinced it's heaven on Earth. Actually, I lie. Stay away.

Dolci Gelati. When Galileo closed for renovations a couple years ago, pastry chef Gianluigi Dellaccio started his own local gelato factory. The result—Dolci Gelati—is f*cking divine. Go grab a pint at Whole Foods, Yes!, Taylor's, Dean & Deluca, or have a cone from the gelato cart at the Zoo. Especially recommended: bacio, strawberry lavender, and creme brulee.

Meatballs in tomato sauce over polenta. Our friend Kate made this for us at the end of February, and as soon as I no longer felt too stuffed to move, I was already craving more. So I made my own, sort of, using Whole Foods meatballs (I know! But they were nearly the same (overly expensive) price as the ground beef!), and Fresh 365's "Grandma's Gravy" recipe, which is my new go-to tomato sauce. It rocks in its simplicity and flavor.

The wine bar at ACKC. Yeah. They've opened one and stocked it with wines that will pair well with their lovely chocolates. Some things in life are better than sipping champagne and eating rose-infused chocolates at a table on their sidewalk on a spring day, but are there many? I'm not so sure.

Grilled fish of the day and a Sam Smith Organic Lager at CommonWealth. The perfect meal for a weekday date night. Bonus: once you walk into CommonWealth, you'll forget you're in the Suburbs-in-the-City hell that is 14th and Irving.

This weekend, Husband and I are off to L'Auberge Provencal in Shenandoah for hiking, wining, and dining. I also visit Mashka (smooch) in New York and Danni (damn, gina!) in LA/Santa Barbara, AND host my parents (bless you) this month, so April will be adventurous.

What else should I get into?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Royal Order

In the fall, I was inducted into a royal order of princesses, presided over by two sisters: my mother-in-law Princess Madonna and the Queen Mum, aka Aunt Mickey. To give you an idea of the sassy spirit of these ladies, HRH (Her Royal Highness) Madonna got her name after she was hypnotized on a cruise ship and performed a certain non-kosher Madonna song in front of a crowd of hundreds.

Next to sisterhood and high-seas adventures, one of the best things about the Royal Order is its official cocktail, the Toasted Almond Martini. The Queen Mum introduced me to this frothy, sweet, addictive concoction earlier this month, when we were down in Birmingham celebrating Husband's grandfather's 90th birthday. Talk about a hostess with the mostess.

At the risk of spilling family secrets, I'm going to share the recipe with you. Offer your guests a few of these, and they'll feel like royalty.

Toasted Almond Martini

1/2 shot vodka
1/2 shot Kahlua
1/2 Amaretto
2 shots half-and-half

Shake with cubed ice. Strain. Pour and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.

What are your favorite cocktail recipes?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lunching at the White House

There I was. Palms sweaty, heart beating a little faster than normal, and the constant reminder to myself to use my inside voice. I was not just anywhere. I was in the White House.

Wait, back up. How did I get there? It started a few weeks ago when I got an email from Joe: Can we treat you to lunch on the 15th at the White House Mess? Why, I asked. Um, because it's your birthday and you're turning 30 and it's the White House so you don't ask why. Stage 1: disbelief.

Then came Stage 2: bragging. Everyone that I knew would actually care found out that I was going to the White House. And that I might see someone famous.

Stage 3: anxiety. What does one wear to lunch at the White House? What if I talk to loudly? What if I run into someone famous but I can't remember who they are and I just stare? Surely they're used to people staring.

Stage 4: chaos. I'm supposed to be there in 30 minutes. How do I even get IN to the White House? Which entrance? Will it take long? What if I walk in the wrong door? What if I get tackled by the secret service? Joe's going to be REALLY embarrassed.

Stage 5: relief. Sarah's going to pick me up on the way. If anything goes wrong I blame it on her.

Stage 6: starstruck. So here we are again. Palms sweaty, heart beating faster. David Axelrod just walked by. There's wood paneling everywhere, flowers on every desk. Digital pictures of Obama yawning in the garden. And everyone is so quiet. Must use inside voice. Must use inside voice.

Stage 7: delight. The food. It was good. Sarah got the seared tuna salad. Joe and I got the jerk crusted sea bass. They were served on the biggest plates I'd ever seen, the sea bass perched lightly on top of a bed of lemon scented rice with some baby zucchini on the side. Joe had the good sense to order chocolate decadence for dessert, with vanilla ice cream. Aside from Joe's slight embarrassment that Sarah and I added a little lavender sugar that she gave me to the dessert, I managed to make it through lunch without any major incident. The room was smaller than I imagined, adding to the appeal of the place. Perfect to bump into a high level white house advisor. Only Special Assistants and above have "privileges" there, you know.

(The menu of the day and a box of presidential M&M's)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy birthday, Virginia!!

May it be filled with flaming communal punch bowls.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can Salad Be Decadent?

Yes, yes it can.

In my version, the green beans and radishes are optional; avocado is (always) mandatory. I served this salad last night with an Alsatian tart from Trader Joe's, along with TJ's brilliant $3.99 Vinho Verde. Very Spring Is in the Air.

Some of you may find it noteworthy that this recipe urged at least one woman to jump into the lap of the chef and declare her love.

Balthazar salad with lemon truffle vinaigrette, via Orangette.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Perfect Crispy Pot Stickers

When I was a kid my family knew the owners of this awesome Chinese restaurant. There's a pretty big Chinese population in Korea, and my grandfather was the doctor of a famous family of Chinese chefs. When the son decided to move to the US, he contacted my grandfather and moved to St. Louis to set up shop. The son used to test recipes on my grandmother and her friends at lunch parties, and our family always went there for big dinners for years. They always had our favorites: crispy sweet and sour beef, happy family, home made kim chee (which was the real reason we went there), and pot stickers. They had the best pot stickers of all Chinese restaurants in the area. The recipe had been passed down from first son to first son for five generations. They would bring out a huge plate of sizzling pot stickers and ceremoniously pour over a bit of soy sauce and a bit of vinegar. The combination just made the whole dish pop, and when the pot stickers were all gone I'd pour the soy-vinegar mixture over my rice. Mmmmm.

When I was a little older, in high school but before we had cars, my friends and I would end up back at my house a lot of weekend nights. I think I was the least embarrassed by my parents and, more importantly, my mom would make pot stickers. She'd steam them, but serve them with the soy-vinegar mixture. To this day my friends still talk about how great that was at the end of a night "out."

But man those things are hard to make from scratch. SO time consuming. The women in my family would sit around the table and make them together and gossip all afternoon, but I just don't have the time these days. But luckily there are some pretty good frozen brands. Safeway carries a good one with pork and chicken. But the trick is all in how you make them. I believe I have perfected the process of the frozen pot sticker, and I'm going to spill the beans.

First, use a non-stick pan that has a tight lid. Very important. Then, using a mild or unflavored oil (like vegetable oil).

1) Heat two tablespoons in the pan on medium high.
2) Place about 6 frozen pot stickers directly in the oil, or however many fit on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 2 mins.
3) Then add in 6 tablespoons of water all at once and quickly cover the pan. Let the pot stickers steam in the water for 6 minutes.
4) Then take the lid off the pan and continue to cook until all the water evaporates from the pan and the bottom of the pot stickers are browned and crispy.
5) Serve with a mixture of half soy sauce and half vinegar with chopped scallions.

The perfect little late night snack, and easier to make than it looks. I hope you try it and when you bite into that first pot sticker that's perfectly steamed through but crispy on the bottom, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Next-Day Sorbet

Four months into marriage, I'm finding a boatload of advantages. Somewhere between Husband doing the taxes (theoretically? please? because you're the numbers guy?) and honeymoon sex is a kitchen full of fun new gadgets. The slow cooker flexed its muscles during a snowy, dreary winter. The mini-chopper has saved many tears over onions. The mandoline, I still haven't figured out, but Husband is a whiz at it. And I was thrilled when Virginia, Patron Saint of Sunday Suppers, suggested we bring sorbet to her most recent dinner party, giving us a chance to bust out the ice-cream maker.*

The menu was Asian themed, including pot stickers, E's delicious soy-saucy kale (recipe, please?), an insane Swedish-Chinese-American pork tenderloin that I hope Virginia will share with us, and DIY summer rolls. Husband and I put our heads together: I thought of fruit; he one-upped me with chocolate; we both thought of ginger. And thus we went about making a dark chocolate ginger sorbet.

I nearly swooned when I tasted our rich, feisty, fiery concoction—only it was 4:30 pm, the day after the party. Because an hour before we were due at Virginia's, I took the ice cream maker out of the cupboard and realized I needed to freeze the FREEZER BOWL (he-llo) for 6–22 hours. Lesson learned, again: Always read the full recipe, including operating instructions for any new appliance you're using. Luckily, my raging bad mood was cured by a delicious dinner with friends, capped by Häagen-Dazs passion fruit ice cream, a kick-ass accidental discovery. Not that it beats our sorbet, which is for days when you want to just to become one with chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Ginger Sorbet

Makes 7 cups

4 cups water
1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2–3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced
1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

Combine water and sugars in saucepan and dissolve sugar over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa. Stir in 2 tablespoons ginger, taste, and add another tablespoon if you like. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in vanilla extract. Chill for 2 hours.

Stir chilled mixture, and freeze it in the ice-cream maker, following manufacturer's directions (ahem). Mine was ready to eat in 25 minutes and stored well in an air-tight container in the freezer.

*Appropriately given to us by my mom & dad, who eat ice cream every night and have cholesterol levels lower than my bowling score. (No, you're right, not that low.)

Photo via Trisha | The Zest: Cooking Like I Mean It

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Snow shmow.

I was stuck inside a lot this winter. Snowmaggedon, Snowpacolypse, and Snoverkill. Yes, DC got a record number of FEET of snow. Luckily, I live above a grocery store that not only cleared the sidewalks for me, but continued to restock throughout the storms. So when others couldn't venture out much less get to the store, it was like winter wonderland for me. The aisles were clear, the shelves were stocked, and there were no lines.

During one of these surreal experiences I decided to make an oldie but a goodie. Something my grandmother would make so when I walked in the door my tongue would melt into the back of my mouth in anticipation. Something my brother taught me to make during those few months that I crashed on his couch after moving to DC. Something some would call boring, but I call heaven.

Pot roast.

I didn't really use a recipe, I just threw some things together hoping to channel grandma's instinctual knowledge of the roast. I browned the roast after dredging with salt, italian seasoning, and a good helping of black pepper. I simmered some onions and garlic in a bit of red wine, and then put the roast back in the pot for a few hours, and let the aroma waft through the apartment. I didn't use that much wine. The roast lets off enough liquid to make a pretty substantial sauce.

About 3 hours in I added a bunch of chopped carrots. I waited until later to add them because I didn't want them to get so mushy they'd fall apart. But see how much liquid came from the roast? I cooked it down for another hour or so, and the meat was literally falling apart. Mmmmmm.

All in all, a success. Paired it with horseradish mashed potatoes and a salad. Perfect meat and potatoes meal for this little midwestern girl! And so perfect for my first food post here. I'll have to make it for Grandma the next time I'm in St. Louis and see if it makes her proud!

Like we need a reason.

This past winter in DC was phenomenal. Not only did we have a TON of snow (record-breaking, and much more than those wussies up north), but I had dinner parties galore. After each one my poor friends had to endure my endless descriptions of the perfect menu connectedness, the amazing harissa we made, or the absolute perfect little raviolo with the egg yoke oozing out. I finally realized that glazed-over eyes probably means I should share my obsession with food in a more self-selecting way. And give my equally-obsessed partners in crime a place to share their adventures as well.

I also have many friends who fancy themselves food critics. I hope you'll share your notes here on what venues proved true to the hype, which ones fell flat, and which ones are bound to be a hit so we better get in while the gettin's good.

So please, blog away. I'll share some things, I hope you'll share some things, and in the process we'll feed our obsession.