Friday, March 27, 2009

Curries Abound!

The Pedant and I went to Barnes and Nobles last weekend to get some travel books for our trip to Iceland, Norway and Copenhagen. I did the foolish thing of saying we don't need more cookbooks - we have enough. Which is like telling a little child not to touch the hot stove because it's hot. The child wants to touch it to defy the authority and prove his or her superiority over the heat. TP and I bought a cookbook to help satisfy our love of them. And support the economy. And support our support of the shrinking economy and cook at home more. So we opted to get a cookbook of a cuisine we didn't currently have, Indian. We stumbled upon Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries (since 650 would have been too little) and didn't even realize until later it was endorsed by one of our favorite NPR hosts! YAY! Also the book is very informative, comprehensive and very funny.

So we made 2 things from it this week. And they were good. The roundup:

Black Eyed Peas with Mushrooms

It was a tasty dish and very simple. Cook mushrooms. Add spices (mustard, cumin, ground ginger, Cayenne, paprika, salt, fresh cilantro). Add black eyed peas. Let thicken. Enjoy. And we did. Only problem was I messed up a bit. I didn't measure the spices and I probably put in a little less than I should have. It was flavorful, but just lacked something. Plus, I used crushed red pepper flakes rather than Cayenne so the heat wasn't too much. That being said, a real winner.

Tea and Ginger Chickpeas

This was outrageous. Really perfect. We made a sauce with Darjeeling tea which gave a different dimension to the whole dish. Plus it had the perfect blend of spices from some Serrano chilies. It was perfect. I can't explain that more. (Plus, TP did most of the cooking for it, so I don't know exactly what was in it.) I am very excited to make more food from the cookbook.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Unhealty Update

Avoided Cadbury Creme Eggs! Mostly because I was really tired and didn't want to wait on line. Laziness trumps.

Did have a snack when I got home - a little bit of the Spicy Basque stuffing with a dash of EVOO to cool down the spice. Very nice. Although in retrospect, not as nice as a Cadbury Creme Egg. Another day, another attempt at avoiding the purchase of these amazing things...

The Healthy and the Oh So Unhealthy

First, the healthy. Last week, I had dinner with a friend at a very tasty Lebanese restaurant. We shared a few mezzas - grape leaves, fatteh, and she got a lamb dish and I got a dished called Baked Cheese (tangent from healthy - it was not. It was literally baked cheese. And so good.) And then we shared a Goat Cheese and Orange salad. From the website: "Mixed greens with orange, dates and walnuts. Tossed with citrus vinaigrette and Nigella seeds." It was done perfectly. Very tasty! So I've been on an orange in salad kick. Last week for a snack I sectioned an orange into some romaine lettuce with EVOO and fat free feta cheese and sesame seeds. It was perfect. Last night for a quick dinner I made a salad with shredded cabbage (that's like 2 weeks old...but still good!), romaine, baby spinach, black beans and beer (leftover), FF feta, a poached egg (my first official one! it wasn't too bad!), EVOO, wine vinegar, orange sections and some salt. It was very good. Sweet, tangy, salty, perfect.

Now, the important stuff. The Unhealthy. I love Cadbury Creame Eggs. With a passion. Because they are awesome and delicious and perfect. Just the right mix of unhealthy cream to not the best chocolate. And you get to suck out the center. I usually have one (or 2?) a year. I had one Sunday. It was perfect. Only problem: I WANT MORE! Like, an entire stack of them. I want a Cadbury bunny to lay them for me. And, I have to go to CVS to pick up a prescription for The Pedant later so I may not be able to resist...but I will try. Since I hit some frozen cookies that were lying around the freezer pretty hard last week. But, oh, such decadent cream!

Monday, March 23, 2009


A long overdue post...

Things on the food front have been good - The Pedant and I have made some tasty dishes lately. A few weeks ago we made a Mark Bittman salad with Israeli Couscous, preserved lemons (which are so, so much better after sitting for a month or so), chick peas, golden raisins, pine nuts, fresh parsley, capers and a vinaigrette. We fudged the recipe a bit, mostly because we didn't have a pound of couscous, but rather 8 ounces (a lie, I found another bag 2 days after making the salad). Plus, we used a whole can of chickpeas rather than 1/2 a cup for extra protein. But the result was wonderful. A real winner. Tart and fresh. We plan to make it again next week in our quest to use up grains before passover (and cook things that don't use the oven and don't make a giant mess on the stove). This weekend we made a spicy basque bread stuffing that was very tasty. We used a really good 9-grain bread that kept moist all week long before we actually made it. It was a slow cooker recipe, so we, of course, added MANY more spices than it called for, although too many cloves. But it is still pretty tasty. For lunch yesterday we made the ever popular Bittman's Beer and Black Beans and then made a scramble with them and feta. Always a winner.

Friday was a celebratory dinner since I got into Library School (yay me!). We went to Cheesetique in Alexandria and had a really great feast. We started with drinks while waiting for a table and salavating over their amazing cheese bar. I had a glass of the White Rioja which was splendid. TP had their apricot fizz which he enjoyed. Then to dinner!

We shared a cheese plate: Goat D'Affinios, Whiskey Cheddar and Ossau Iraty along with fig and orange jam. Oh, my, are cheeses good! The whiskey cheddar was not to sharp. The Goat cheese was perfect and the Ossau Iraty, a raw sheep's milk cheese was divine - strong, not too pungent, hard, not too hard. With 2 more glasses of wine: a perfect dry Riesling for me and a Vouvray (I think) for TP we had a great time.

Main Courses: I had ordered the baked mac & cheese but sadly they were out. I enjoyed the quick with artichokes which was really tasty, although too much food! I should have ordered something smaller - it was a little too much after all the wine and cheese. TP got grilled cheese and tomato soup which was a hit. Not too greasy, very cheesy and the soup was perfect. Of course, we shared a chocolate mouse for dessert which was excellent. Turns out, we didn't need it. The servers give you small cups of dark chocolate chips after dinner. Amazing. This place is a definite winner!

More on dinners this week later - we bought a curry cookbook and are making 2 dishes this week.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Salad Unholy Mess

Tonight's dinner was from our monastery salad cookbook, and it was called a "salad picardie," evidently because it's from the Picardy region of France (and wholly unrelated to any spaceship captains played by Patrick Stewart).

It was also a recipe to spray stuff all over the kitchen.

First, the main ingredients were tough to toss. Shredded cabbage, thinly sliced red onion, cauliflower florets, and cubed cucumber really want to throw themselves out of the bowl as if they were lifeboat-less passengers on the Titanic rather than combine into a useful salad base.

Second, I can't peel hard boiled eggs. Fortunately, they're supposed to be chopped, so crumbly egg was not a problem.

Third, the roquefort, which is supposed to crumble, didn't. At room temperature, it assumes the same consistency as Play-Doh®. Have you ever crumbled Play-Doh®? I haven't been able to. I tried "flaking" the cheese from the measuring cup with a fork, which transferred uneven clumps of soft moldy cheese to the fork. And then I shook the fork vigorously, throwing cheese clumps across the kitchen and anywhere but in the bowl.

Fourth, after adding the chopped nuts and the dressing (that was easy), I had to toss again. The salad still wished to flee.

Fortunately, enough salad stayed in the bowl for the Sherbs and I to have dinner. It was quite a tasty salad, if a complete production.

Cheese, Pasta, Lentils, Wine - Perfect!

Friday evening, I had another Vegetarian Times win. In the latest issue, they have a whole thing on cheesy dishes redone healthy. 2 weeks ago for lunches, The Pedant and I made their enchiladas - their secret was fat free cottage cheese rinsed and drained so it resembled cheese curds. It was a fantastic dish. (Also, we added more salsa verde because we can take the spice.) They also have a baked macaroni and cheese which I made for dinner Friday (and we've been subsequently eating it all weekend). It was very tasty - made with a roux and skim milk and only 1 cup of cheese for a pound of pasta. Their secret was panko to give it a crisp top. If, nay - WHEN!, I make it again, I would actually use a dash bit less panko. It was almost to crumby. I would probably add the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese that's put into the cheese sauce on top to create a decadent cheesy crust with the panko. (Also, I would take it out of the oven when it says to, not leaving it in for an extra 5 minutes - the bottom was a little browner than needed.)

Dinner last night was from our new favorite salad book. It was a lentil salad with cucumber, onions, celery and parsley with a lemon/red wine vinaigrette. It was really tasty. Simple and delicious. We added some spinach artichoke poppers and chocolate for dessert, plus a glass of Virgina Rose wine. Perfect Sunday dinner.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cookin' With Beer, continued

Made Bittman's spiced squash tart last night for a gathering tonight. Hope it works out; I tried to slice the squash as I was cooking the onions and I think I burned the garlic.

As the Sherbs pointed out, we went on a bit of a beer foods kick recently, which is kind of funny as the Sherbs doesn't like beer and I rarely drink it. Not only did we make tasty beer-sauced mushroom tempeh (which really could be anything in the mushroom gravy; white wine would work just as well, as would a tasty stock), we made our regular favorite, beer-glazed black beans.

The beer and black beans we made was pretty tasty, in my view, but using Heineken (and some Rolling Rock when we ran out of Heineken) instead of a darker brew gave it less of a malty, wheaty taste, and highlighted the spice more. Still good, but not with a hint of caramelized porter sweetness.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hearty Stew!

Another Vegetarian Times Win: Mushroom Tempeh Something with Lager (I can't remember the exact title!). Basically, a delicious stew with cremini and shiitake mushrooms, tempeh toasted in oil and given a bit of flavor with soy sauce, lager and time. It was really tasty. A bit bitter for my tastes, but mixed with the brown rice we made it was excellent. Hearty, thick, comforting. And after going to work in snowstorm yesterday, just what The Pedant and I needed!
[Note: When linking to the Heineken website, I needed to be of "legal drinking age." Odd! Furthermore, their website sucks. I was going to link to the lager we used but I can't find it, navigate or handle it. Lame.]

Monday, March 2, 2009

Don't that beet all?

The Sherbs has pretty much covered all of our meal at Founding Farmers, save two things:

1) My salad, which had pretty much everything in it. Mixed greens, slivered almonds, tomatoes, grapes, olives, cheese, and a champagne vinaigrette. Really delicious.

2) My closing cocktail, which was a Hemingway-inspired mix of champagne and absinthe. It was green and thujone-tastic. Seriously, though, it was cool, crisp, and would make a great apertif at parties, although, given its combination of anise flavors and tartness, less is probably more.

Last night we had a salad from one of my new favorite cookbooks, Twelve Months of Monastery Salads Where You Can Totally Halve the Amount of Oil in the Dressing. One of the more attractive Benedictine salad recipes was a "Dutch egg salad," which we had to try.

The salad involves beets, endive, cheese, shallots, and hard-boiled eggs in a dijon/yogurt dressing. Other than painting half the kitchen pink while chopping and boiling the beets, the food prep was uneventful. The end result: tasty, save for one too-sharp shallot. A keeper of a salad.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Local Food Locally

Yeesh! It has been too long since my last post. New Month Resolution: Post more! Especially since The Pedant and I, like everyone else in the country, have decided to eat out a bit less. We did so on some very good and mediocre restaurants in the month of February so the month of March will be devoted to making lots of good food at home. So hopefully I'll update more about our adventures (especially dinner tonight - it sounds tasty).

Last night was one of those very good restaurants in the month of February. It happened to be our semi-anniversary and we kind of needed an excuse to go out to a superb restaurant. Founding Farmers was all booked up for restaurant week, so I made a reservation for 9 (the earliest I could get that wasn't 5!). The restaurant focuses on local food and organic foods (the former is more important to us, and this summer we will be sharing information about cooking from our CSA!) and it seemed really interesting. After both of us had a very intense hour at the gym (and burned only about 1/8 of the calories we'd eat later...but...) we headed over the restaurant and had a spectacular meal.


We were about 25 minutes early and headed over to the bar for a drink. TP had "The Constitution" and I enjoyed "La Paloma" which was tequila, grapefruit soda and agave nectar. It was very tasty and very good. The hint of tequila in the background mixed with the tartness of grapefruit was very interesting and tasty.


We each got a salad that was very tasty. The house salad was presented very well: the red onions, tomatos (which TP ate because tomatoes are icky), and croutons were topped on an iceberg lettuce half and the green goddess dressing was divine. Literally, goddess-like. It was made from an avocado cream base and decadent.


Since we were celebrating, TP and I shared a glass and a half (such an interesting idea and great for sharing if you don't want a bottle and aren't huge wine drinkers!) of the Horton Viognier from VA. (It was only one of two Virgina wine options, and for a restaurant dealing with local food, that's a bit sad, but fine...). It was a very good viognier: not too clawing or dry. We both agreed not quite as good as Pearmund's.

Main Course:

TP wanted to get Fried Chicken and Waffles which just sounded good so to save him some calories I volunteered to eat his mac & cheese and some of the waffles. I opted for the Roasted Vegetable and Avocado sandwich (sans tomato). Basically, a divine sandwich which came with homemade potato chips. The bread was really wonderful. The veggies were roasted well, but not too overdone. The mac & cheese was just so amazing - a cheese sauce made with high quality cheese. The waffles (I could only eat 1/2 of one in the end!) were light and airy, but crisp and crunchy.


Good decaf coffee went well with their carrot cake. We split an ENORMOUS piece which wasn't too sweet and had the best frosting. It was like a butter cream base that just had a hint of cream cheese so that it wasn't sticky, but light and airy. We then sat around and digested for a good 30 minutes. We definitely weren't going to be able to walk the 4 blocks to the metro we were so full!


Going back soon but for less food. The salad was a meal itself! Plus it wasn't too pricey so it's definitely a keeper.