Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thank You, Rick Bayless

Recently, I've found a nice little food community on Twitter. Local DC bloggers, fellow foodies and even a few celebrity chefs to share recipes (140 characters or less!), restaurant recommendations, food tips, ideas and twitpics of our latest creations. A few days ago, Rick Bayless (of Frontera Grill fame in Chicago and recent winner of the third episode of Top Chef Masters) posted a picture of his ever growing mint garden. I, having an abundance of mint growing from my indoor Aerogarden, tweeted Rick asking if he had any interesting or innovative ways to use the herb. To my complete surprise (and humble elation), he replied:
@jenwexler Mint faves right now: agua fresca (mint, cucumber, lime, pineapple), fresh fava or pea soup with mint and grilled green onion.
After I caught my breath, I resolved to make Rick's suggestions this weekend (and hopefully tweet some pictures back to him!). Both recipes were new to me, so I set out to do a little internet research - getting general proportions of fruit to water for agua fresca (a light fruit drink available in stands throughout Mexico) and the best way to combine peas, mint and onion in soup form. The improvised results were outstanding and have been officially added to my repertoire. Thank you, Rick Bayless.
Agua Fresca with Mint, Cucumber, Lime and Pineapple
(makes 2 1/2 quarts)

1/2 medium size cucumber (peeled and seeded)
1/4 pineapple (8-10 medium cubes)
1/4 lime (juiced)
handful of mint leaves

Combine cucumber, pineapple, lime juice, and mint leaves in blender. Strain liquid through fine mesh sieve into a pitcher. Fill remainder of pitcher with water. Serve over ice.

Chilled Pea Soup with Mint
(serves 3-4)

2 cups of English peas, shelled
1 leek, white and green parts, sliced thin
1 large clove garlic, sliced thin
1 garlic scape, sliced thin
2 cups chicken stock, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
truffle oil, for garnish

Heat olive oil in heavy stock pot. When warmed, add leeks and garlic scapes, sauteing until soft (10-15 minutes), avoid browning. When leeks are softened, add peas and garlic, being careful not to burn garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken broth and cook peas for 5-8 minutes until just tender. Transfer soup to food processor, add mint, and puree to desired consistency, adding remaining chicken broth as needed. Transfer pureed soup to a clean bowl and set over an ice bath, to preserve the soup's bright green color. Serve chilled sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper, and a swirl of truffle oil. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Linked to from: Agua Fresca on Foodista

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Million Little Pictures/ Art House Co-op

I came across Art House Co-op while researching for a project at work. Art House "creates massive, nationwide art projects that tie hundreds of artists together." Their projects create a sense of community and are designed to allow anyone to participate. The one that I've signed up for is A Million Little Pictures. For $18, I was registered to receive a disposable camera with flash. The goal: to document my life in 24 frames, then develop the pictures and send them to Art House in Atlanta for an exhibition opening in September. Through each set of photos, 1000 people's lives from all over the world will be chronicled. 

A daunting task to say the least. 24 pictures to document my 32 years. Or, I could give people a glimpse into my life, zooming in on something I find important. And how to distinguish my photos from the 999 other participants? Well, naturally, I'm thinking food. My favorite foods? My favorite dishes in my favorite places? The ingredients that make up my favorite meal? Now the possibilities are endless!

I promise to post the results here once I'm done. It shall be a culinary adventure, indeed. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where Should You Eat Tonight?

"Where should we eat tonight?" If this is a common question in your household - it can also take variations such as "Where do you want to go for dinner?", "What are you in the mood for?" etc. - then check out this tool. It is especially good for all of you foodie gamblers out there, since it takes the form of a slot machine (with sound, to boot!). And I bet, if you were to really stick to it, you'd try a whole bunch of new restaurants not normally on your list. Type in your zip code, select a neighborhood, cuisine and price range (or not), and roll the dice. Voila! A restaurant suggestion at your ready.

Washington DC restaurants on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From the Market Part 3 - Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Garlic Scapes

I am so glad that I was convinced to make this dish twice in one week, because the pictures from this round turned out much better than the first photo shoot. 

Whenever we receive an issue of Cook's Illustrated in the mail, it is usually a fight to the finish as to who can get his or her hands on it first. We like to pick out recipes trying to show each other up with complicated techniques or meals that take the better part of the day to make. And this month, when I saw a recipe for Spanish Tortilla, I knew it would be the one that I try.

Turns out, its really not difficult and takes less than an hour to make. The result, though, is impressive and quite tasty too. The best part about a Spanish tortilla is that it is excellent in its original form (potato, onion and egg) but can also serve as a blank canvas for experimentation - in this case, adding garlic scapes and buffalo chorizo spiced with chipotle
Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Garlic Scapes
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2009 issue)

6 TBS + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds potatoes (Yukon Gold)
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
8 large eggs
2 links of chorizo (casing removed) or 8 oz of cured chorizo, cut into small cubes
1 garlic scape sliced into thin rounds (or two scallions sliced the same way)

Toss 4 TBS of oil, potatoes, onion, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper in a large bowl making sure that potatoes are coated and separated. Heat 1 TBS oil in 10" non-stick skillet on medium high. Add chorizo and saute until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low, add potato mixture to skillet and set bowl aside without washing. Cover and cook, stirring every 5 minutes for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes offer no resistance when poked with a paring knife.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt in reserved bowl. Fold in garlic scapes. Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining TBS of oil and heat until oil just starts to smoke. Add egg and potato mixture, stirring and folding constantly for 15 seconds. Smooth top of mixture with rubber spatula. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook, gently shaking pan every 30 seconds for two minutes until top of tortilla begins to set and bottom is golden brown.

Using rubber spatula, loosen tortilla from pan, shaking back and forth until tortilla slides freely in pan. Slide tortilla onto a large plate. Invert another plate on top of tortilla, flip, and slide tortilla back into pan, cooked side up. Tuck edges of tortilla back into pan with spatula, cover and cook, gently shaking pan every 30 seconds for two minutes until second side is golden brown. Slide tortilla onto serving plate and allow to cool at least 15 minutes. Cut into slices or cubes to serve.
I personally prefer my tortillas room temperature and they are even great cold the next day.


From the Market Part 2 - Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree

The Internet is truly an amazing thing. Scratch that, Google is truly an amazing thing. I had some freshly shelled peas from the farmer's market that were close to reaching their three day limit. My husband and I were in the mood for salmon. A quandary on how to combine the two + Google = one delicious meal.

Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis and the A modern take on a traditional fish stew, this was probably one of the prettier meals I've put together; I'm afraid the picture doesn't quite do it justice. It was a great mix of textures with the crisp lemon broth with sauteed shallots, smooth pea puree mixed with parmesan, and the golden crusted fillet. The tangy lemon, savory peas and sweet salmon lends flavor for any mood, too.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

From the Market Part 1 - Scrambled Eggs and Herbed Cheese

Scrambled farm fresh eggs with Keswick Creamery Herbs de Provence Bovre cheese. The bovre is creamy and crumbly at the same time, similar to goat cheese, and loaded with fresh herbs, including lavender. I added it at the very end and allowed the heat to melt it in.

Dupont Circle Farmer's Market

So I may now be a little farmer's market obsessed. After picking up a few tops from Ann Taylor Loft, I stumbled upon the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market. While hearing about this market for years, I typically visited Eastern Market for my mega fresh produce shopping. I could not get over what I have been missing! And (almost) in my backyard. 

To add to yesterday's bounty, I picked up:
  • tomatoes on the vine
  • Yukon gold potatoes
  • assorted mushrooms
  • onions
  • gazpacho
  • buffalo chipotle chorizo (from Cibola Farms)
I plan to make a Spanish style tortilla with today's buffalo chipotle chorizo and yesterday's garlic scapes. And for side dishes, yesterday's asparagus (roasted) and today's assorted mushrooms (sauteed).

This morning I added some of yesterday's Keswick Creamery Herbes de Provence cheese into my scrambled eggs. Delicious! I'll post some more pics and recipes soon of how I use all of this good food in the coming week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

14th and U Farmer's Market Bounty

I got to the 14th and U Farmer's Market for, I'm embarrassed to say, the first time this season, and came back with some great produce and ingredients to experiment with this week:  
  • asparagus
  • garlic scapes (for sauteeing in olive oil and adding to rice, spinach etc.)
  • sweet shelled peas
  • a variety of squash and zucchini (one sweet, two standard and two for stuffing, maybe with my garlic scapes, above)
  • strawberries
  • herbs de provence cheese
  • and, of course, a whoopie pie! (already gone...yum)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes

Yum, yum, yum! This was my first attempt at cheesecake, albeit in miniature form, and I must say I was quite impressed. The recipe comes from Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski

These bite-size morsels of deliciousness were very easy to make and the fresh strawberry topping added the perfect fruity finish. Of course you could really use any fruit or berry, softened in the same manner, for the topping. Strawberries worked well for summer, but I bet pear would be delicious in the fall.

Next time I make this recipe, I might consider adding a chocolate or graham cookie crust at the bottom of each paper liner. Chilling helped hold the whole thing together, but I think a crust would help even more. 

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes

1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS sugar
1 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 1/4 lb cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 TBS all-purpose flour

makes 24+ mini cupcakes

To make the topping, combine 1/2 pound of the strawberries with the sugar in a non-reactive saucepan. Use a fork to gently mash the strawberries. Cook over medium-high heat until the strawberries are softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 pound strawberries and lemon juice. Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely. (The topping can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a 24-cup miniature muffin pan with miniature paper or foil liners. To make the filling, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each; add the flour and beat until combined.

Divide the cream cheese filling evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake until the cheesecakes are just set in the center, about 15 minutes. Let the cheesecakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Using a small offset spatula, transfer the cheesecakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Refrigerate cheesecakes in an airtight container at least overnight or for up to 3 days. Spoon about 1 TBS of the strawberry topping onto each chilled cheesecake and serve right away.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Berry Salad with Balsamic Sugar Sauce

We've had a few hot (and thunderstormy) days around here lately and I felt like I needed a little pick-me-up. There's nothing quite like being oh so ready for sunshine and the weather having different plans. I craved something that felt like summer and that provided refreshment from the hot and muggy outside. Fresh, chilled berries seemed like just the cure!  

I did a little internet search and came up with this recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) and I substituted blackberries for the raspberries because I couldn't find them and used a touch less sugar than the recipe calls for. It was just what the doctor ordered and a huge hit with my friends, too. I've made this twice now and it is just as good alone or as a topping for tangy Greek yogurt. I bet it would be delicious with ice cream, too.
Berry Salad

1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 TBS good balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
fresh mint for garnish

Place 6 glasses in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, combine the berries, vinegar and sugar. Stir gently. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Spoon the berries into chilled glasses and garnish with mint.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pasta with Tomatoes and Spinach, Basil and Walnut Pesto

It's been a common theme around my house lately: grab whatever ingredients are laying around and make something for dinner. Tonight's ingredients - pasta and spinach. I considered pasta with olive oil, wilted spinach and garlic, but thought that may be too much of the same taste. I was hoping I could find some chickpeas in the cabinet and use them somehow in a sauce, but no such luck. Along they way, I discovered the very end of a bag of chopped walnuts and aha! The idea for spinach, basil and walnut pesto was born. 

For those who have been following along, you know that I have an Aerogarden. A very fruitful one. So, I welcome the opportunity to use up some of the fresh herbs it grows. Adding spinach to a traditional pesto recipe yields a lighter taste and substituting walnuts for pine nuts gives the sauce an earthy flavor. I threw in some tomatoes for varied texture at the end.
Spinach, Basil and Walnut Pesto

spinach leaves
chopped walnuts
olive oil
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Pulse all ingredients (in your preferred quantities) in a mini-prep food processor to your desired consistency.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin