Saturday, August 21, 2010

Washington, DC

I always forget- until I'm back- how pretty our capital city is. The grand marble columns... the wide boulevards... the perfect vistas. The glory of planned cities! On our last visit, we got to do some tasty touring as well as eating, and I wanted to feature two restaurants, one new, one a classic- that we sampled!

Masa 14

The concept of this restaurant is latin-asian fusion tapas- an interesting idea, and one which produced many tasty dishes, though I had two fairly consistent comments: too much salt, and too much sauce. Everything was just slightly saltier and "wetter"- for lack of a better term- than was really necessary. And this is a tad bit a shame, because otherwise, the food was really delicious- and this seemed unnecessary!! So, overall, good stuff, but perhaps ask them to hold the salt and sauce on the side....

We tried a sampling of dishes, not even sure if this covers them all- and accompanied them with tasty margaritas and mojitoes.

The baby spinach salad with mushrooms, red pepper, and black bean dressing was fresh and featured great flavors, but as mentioned previously, had waaaay too much dressing.

The wild mushroom flatbread with oaxaca cheese, red pepper and avocado was actually one of my top favorites- the flavors balanced nicely and it was not over-seasoned. I also was surprised to like the crispy crab wonton rolls with cream cheese, corn, mushroom, shiso, truffle, and spicy ponzu- I think the cream cheese and crab combo for me works well. Finally, the wok seared cauliflower with ginger and an (extremely spicy) chile de arbol was another top favorite, as was the fried tofu with spinach, and sweet and spicy sauce.

Less successful as a complete dish was the green tofu curry with potato, carrot, and cortija cheese. The curry itself was tasty, and creamy- but I found the cortija cheese to seem forced 'fusion' flavor where perhaps a splash of lime would have served better. The feta-like cortija cheese and creamy coconut curry seemed completely at odds, and luckily was easily picked off.
Ryan also tried the pork belly steamed buns, which seemed like the perfect combo of all of his favorite things- but was disappointed by the pork and the bun- which instead of looking like a traditional asian-style steamed bun, looked more like a pita-bread taco shell... Finally, the yucca fries with chimichurri and garlic- lime aioli dipping sauce should have been amazing, but was sooo salty, that the flavors of the delicate yucca were hard to detect.

Overall, my feeling is that as at many tapas restaurants, it is a process of finding the small plates that you like. I'd try this spot again in the future, but I'd also make sure to tell them to lay off the salt.....


Probably well over 15 years ago- seriously- I had my first-ever taste of gazpacho at this DC classic spanish tapas restaurant. In my brain, the gazpacho here has yet to be paralleled in the states- for the traditional, real-deal thing. And, 15 years later, the memory proved true- it is indeed the best classic American take on this classic.

We also tried an eggplant and red pepper salad, as well as papas arrugas- potatoes with green mojo sauce- only like my favorite thing... ever. Sooooo good.I mean, how can a green sauce made with cilantro, cumin, and garlic ever taste bad? Oh, by adding some sherry? nope, still awesome....

If you are ever in DC, make sure to come by this amazing spot. Of course, now I know it is owned by the world-renowned chef Jose Andres, but that only makes me all the more proud to have such an advanced palate back at 8, lol.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Apricot Jam

I am not the biggest apricot fan, but I had to do something with the 15 we got from our last CSA pickup.... so, I took my first attempt at jam. The hardest part is knowing when it is done cooking to the "jelling point". I pulled mine a bit early, and the jam is not super thick, but not watery, either. Probably should have let it go more like 50-60 minutes. I will continue to perfect the jelling method, and keep you posted..... but flavor-wise, this bad boy was the type of jam I've only dreamed of- sweet and tart, citrusy and summery, like a mouthful of sunshine!

apricots- halve and remove pit
3/4 cup sugar, more to taste
juice of 1 lime
splash honey
splash orange juice
pinch salt

Bring ingredients to a continuous boil. Stir frequently, and taste and adjust flavors. Skim off foam. Test for doneness by dipping a metal spoon in and seeing if liquid slowly drips from tip. It took me about 40 minutes to an hour for a smallish batch- give or take. Pour into a jam jar, allow to cool uncovered at room temperature and then refrigerate!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A tuscan classic!

2-3 Extra ripe tomatoes
1/2 white or red onion
handful of basil
bread- italian or french style, the older the better- if more than 4 days old, rinse or soak in water for a minute and gently squeeze
salt & pepper
olive oil and red wine vinegar

Mix ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Burgers, For you meat-eaters out there....

My husband makes a mean burger. I remember from my meat eating days that even I enjoyed his handiwork, and I was never much of a fan of the form. So, for the meat lovers out there, this is how it is done!

1 lb pound- grass/veg fed beef, lean, or ground chuck
2 pieces white bread, no crust
4 dashes worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
1/2 shallot
1 clove garlic
handful chopped chives
about a tablespoon of milk (add additional, if needed, just enough to moisten)
1/4 stick butter

1. Mix bread, worcestershire, salt & pepper, shallot, garlic, chive, and milk in a bowl.
2. Mash with fork into a paste. Crumble the meat in and form into patties.
3. Melt butter and brush on both sides.
4. Grill for 4-5 minutes per side, if that.
5. Toast buns and serve with your favorite fixin's!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Insalata Caprese: An Italian Classic

This is such a great summer dish, and with heirloom tomatoes- heaven.

Buffala Mozzarella-
(spring for the pricey stuff, totally worth it when featured in a salad.) We get ours from fresh direct- lupara Ovoli, imported- runs about $8.00 for a ball. Let sit out prior to serving to warm up.
Fresh Basil- get it as fresh as you can!
Tomato- red, yellow, and nice and ripe. Make sure you keep them on a counter to stay soft and warm, no refrigeration!!

Cut the mozzarella and tomato into thin slices. Layer on a plate with the basil. Sprinkle with pepper, fresh or dried oregano. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.

If you want to fancy it up, serve a grilled peach or a few spears of asparagus with the dish- despite stepping away from tradition, totally delicious. Parsley and onion are other options, or even a splash of citrus in the olive oil. A small amount of salt can also be used, but tread lightly, as the mozzarella is naturally salty!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Grilled Corn

Ah, summer corn. We've been getting a ton, and grilling it up. We've found the following method to be simple and produce some seriously delicious kernels, so enjoy!

Based off Bobby Flay's style!

1. Pull down the husk carefully without removing- and gently pull out the silks. Take off dead ends of husks, if any.
2. Pull the husks back up into place and wrap in tinfoil.
3. Cook about 20 minutes on a covered grill, turning every few minutes. Check for golden color to know when done!

Garnish with fresh lime or butter and serve! I Whipped up some garlic butter as a topping- just put 1/4 stick in the food processor with a clove of garlic, and whip into a ball!!

Make sure you use the garlic butter within a few days, or it will go bad!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nantucket Zucchini Casserole

This made the perfect hot dish for a picnic in the park- I served it with some fresh crusty bread and an arugula salad.

2 medium zucchinis, one yellow, one green, if available
1 medium yellow or red onion, or 1/2 and 1/2, as I did
fresh thyme
cheddar, monterey jack, and mozzarella cheese
croutons or bread crumbs
chicken or vegetable stock
salt & pepper
Corn kernels

Layer the ingredients in a casserole dish and top with the bread crumbs or croutons. Bake @ 425 for about 40 minutes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rustic Blueberry Peach Tart

My first attempt at a tart! I was really pleased with this recipe- another one adapted slightly from Vegetarian TImes- and excited to put some super-ripe peaches to good use!

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 oz light cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
2-3 tblsp cold water

5 cups peaches- peeled, pitted, sliced
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
squeeze fresh lemon juice
2 tblsp corn starch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

For dough: mix dry ingredients with butter and cream cheese, splash with water and knead with hands until soft enough to form a ball. Refrigerate 30 minutes to an hour.

Prepare filling and allow to sit for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. We did 400, since our oven runs a little hot.

Place a piece of wax paper on a large baking sheet and flour. Using hands, roll out dough into 12 inch round and tuck up the sides to create a lip. Pour in the filling.

Bake about 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake 20 minutes more, or until crust is crisp and brown.

Tip: every time you open the oven door, 50 degrees escape! This could be good, if things are too hot- or bad, so try not to check things too often.

As always, tart is done when filling bubbles!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Coal Cracker Food

So I presently have a full head of cabbage in my possession from this week's CSA batch, and it is time to revisit my roots, I think, and put these foods to work in some "Coal cracker" recipes (PA Coal region slang for miners).

I recently had some close Jewish friends in stitches over the foods I particularly enjoy- mainly eastern european and german in origin- that in NYC is more associated with Jewish culture than not. Take for instance the pickled egg- a thing of glory, if you ask me. Ryan was repulsed to discover me eating hard boiled eggs at a rather fancy and upscale wine bar one night, but hey, who can resist a nice salty egg with their booze? Clearly, this is an acquired taste, but one I am proud to have.

Ah, the glory of childhood classics, cooked up with some good memories.

I'll be toasting my Grandparents with these tasty morsels- and thinking of Coaldale, people who say "Jewalry" instead of jewelry, call the comics "funny pages", fireflies "lightning bugs", get "roochy" in the bed at night, and carry "pocketbooks" instead of purses! Hope you are brave enough to try these tasty morsels yourself!


So my first attempt at old school cooking led me to realize a few things: holy butter, batman, and can I get a side of salt with that? All joking aside, it kinda dawned on me during this cooking exercise that the majority of the flavor in classic dishes come from fat and salt- so I definitely took a more modern approach. Therefore, the ingredients and techniques below are starred if they detour from the classic version! This makes about 2-3 servings, I paired it with some toast. PS: It is also quite bland looking with all the white... not pretty, but definitely tasty.

1/2 head of cabbage, remove outermost layer and core by cutting it out. Chop roughly
1/2 white onion
1/2 stick of butter* (original calls for WHOLE stick)
2 cloves garlic*
salt and pepper
chicken or vegetable stock*
Egg noodles * (Broad noodles are traditionally used)

Bring water to boil and cook egg noodles, about 8 minutes, then drain. In saute pan, cook onion and garlic in butter. Add in chopped cabbage, stir together, and then pour in stock and allow to simmer, 5-10 minutes, until cabbage wilts and softens. Salt and pepper generously, add in pinch of paprika, and mix noodles in. Top with a little bit of butter, Serve!