Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dish-trict is Getting Hitched!

My handsome groom and I will be out of commission for awhile - first in Ohio for the wedding, and then in Hawaii for some serious relaxing. Check back in a few weeks for write ups on our tasty travels!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Love Dish: Brown Rice with Butternut Squash, Wild Mushrooms and Salami

Don't be fooled by the title. This love dish (i.e., a dish that take a little more time to put together than your standard quick dish) is not your typical, boring, "I guess we should use brown rice to up our fiber intake" health fare.

I buy a particular kind of long grain basmati brown rice that has a wonderfully nutty aroma and flavor and never ever gets gummy. Seriously, I actually like eating it. So when it came to what to mix in, I dug around my fridge for stuff that would work well with that nutty canvas. I knew the earthy wild mushrooms I needed to use up would pair well, plus the salty-smokiness of all things pork was a no brainer (hence the tad overzealous use of it in this recipe). Finally, to really celebrate the beginning of fall properly, I threw in some sweet and creamy roasted butternut squash for good measure.

So like I said, no boring brown rice here - we're talking serious comfort food. And if it happens to help you with your, um, regularity issues, well, that's just an added bonus.

(Note: If you wanted to turn this into a quick dish, you could always use white rice and buy one of those packages of cubed squash, but really, why spoil all the fun?)

Brown Rice with Butternut Squash, Wild Mushrooms and Salami

For the rice:
1 cup long grain basmati brown rice
2 cups water

For the rest:
1 butternut squash, about 2-3 lbs
1 tbsp olive oil
3 slices pancetta, chopped
3 shallots, sliced fine
8 ounces assorted wild mushrooms, such as shitake, crimini and oyster, cleaned and rough chopped
2-3 ounces salami, chopped into small pieces
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Grated parmesan, optional

Combine the rice and the water in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, stir once, then cover tightly and cook on very low heat for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, split the squash in half, place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove and let cool.

In a large saute pan, add the olive oil over medium high heat. When hot, and the chopped pancetta and let cook, stirring often, til it starts to get crisp. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan and cook until tender but still firm, about 3-4 minutes. (You can add a little more olive oil to the pan if the contents starts to look dry). Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and chop the flesh into bite-size cubes. Return the saute pan to the the stove over medium heat and add the squash, salami and rosemary; cook to heat through. Add the rice to the pan and stir to combine. Re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with parsley and grated parmesan and serve.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Food Mag Recipe of the Week: Cilantro and Yogurt Sauce

This week's food mag recipe comes from the October 2008 issue of Food and Wine, which featured an entire spread of recipes from DC's own Vikram Sunderam (at left), head chef at Rasika. F&W created simplified versions of several of Sunderam's most popular dishes, including mango shrimp, lamb rogan josh, and this fabulous cilantro and yogurt sauce.

Now I just have to decide what to do with it...spooned over baked salmon? Tossed with steamed potatoes? Or just go all out and make Sunderam's chicken tikka, as well? Such a tasty dilemma...

(Photo: Washington Post)

Cilantro and Yogurt Sauce

2 cups cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
Kosher salt

In a blender, combine the cilantro, mint, jalapeno, garlic, cumin and lemon juice and puree to a paste. Add the yogurt and puree until smooth. Season with salt.

Sauce can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quick Dish: Skillet Potatoes and Green Beans

Great with fish, chicken or beef for dinner and then folded into an omelette the next morning, there's never a better time to whip up this mix of potatoes, beans and tomatoes than September when the farmers markets are at their peak.

Skillet Potatoes and Green Beans
2 tbsp olive oil
3 slices of pancetta, diced small (optional)
2 shallots, sliced fine
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 large very ripe tomatoe, diced
1/4 cup water
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 pound small new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until getting crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add the diced tomato and the water and stir to combine. Toss in the beans and the poatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat, and cover to let simmer/steam for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still firm. Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Dish: Wontons with Red Hot Sauce at Joe's Noodle House

While the décor isn't anything to write about, and the service, while efficient, is minimal, it's the best Szechuan cooking in the DC area that keeps me coming back again and again to Joe's Noodle House in Rockville.

A perennial cheap eats lister, Joe's, which is located in a nondescript strip mall on Rockville Pike, has scores of devotees to back me up on this claim. Like a lot of Chinese restaurants, the menu is large and can be a bit overwhelming, so take my advice and 1) bring a friend who likes to share, and 2) when it doubt, ask for recommendations.

I’m still working my way through the menu, but so far there’s been many standouts – beef noodle soup Szechuan-style, chopped leeks with pork, garlic and black beans, salty crispy squid, and cellophane noodles with ground pork, just to name a few. However, it’s the wontons with red hot sauce that I have dreams about. They arrive at the table piled atop one another in a bowl, sauce on the bottom, just waiting to be mixed together into a slippery, delicious mess. The pillowy dough is delicate and gnocchi-like in texture, the pork filling is juicy and tender, and the rust-colored sauce is smoky, salty, and singes your lips just as you hope it would. No matter how many times I go or how many dishes I order, the red-hot wontons are always included, and often the star of the feast.

Just remember that whether sitting down or taking out, you order and pay first at Joe's. The cash register in the back has a large sign hanging above to inform you, but many a first-time visitor (including this one) has missed it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Love Dish: Fig Galette with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Pancetta

I'm the first to admit, baking has always been a bit of a challenge for me. It's all that pesky measuring and exactness that I have a hard time with. However, within that intimidating realm of breads and cakes and pastries (oh my), the humble galette is one of the easiest, and luckily for me, also one of the best recipes you'll find. Small wonder it's one of my go-to dishes.

A galette is a flat, open-faced, free-form pastry. I first discovered this deceptively simple confection as I timidly paged through Baking with Julia, an excellent book on the subject that my father-the-baker bequeathed to me (a book which, I should mention, has done much to dispel my baking apprehension). I was immediately encouraged by the dough's simplicity and versatility - only a few ingredients are needed, and it works equally well for sweet or savory fillings. And, as Julia says, "The cornmeal in this wonderfully buttery dough not only gives it a bit of crunch, it makes it crisp enough to stand up to soft and syrupy fillings and sturdy enough to be rolled to extreme thinness." Translation: it's hard to screw up.

I started out by making both the tomato/cheese and the berry galette recipes in the book, and have since branched out to whatever I have on hand, particularly when there's a surplus of fruit sitting on my counter. (Speaking of which, The Houndstooth Gourmet has a great peach and raspberry galette recipe you should check out). My most recent version actually mixes sweet and savory, showcasing beautiful figs I found at the market with a sprinkling of blue cheese and a bed of sweet caramelized onions and smoky pancetta (see photos).

So as you can see, the possibilities are pretty darn endless. Try it out for yourself, and let me know what delicious combinations you come up with.

Galette Dough (from Baking with Julia):

Makes enough for 2 8-inch galettes

3 tbsp sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)
1/3 cup (approximately) ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 to 8 pieces

To make the dough by hand, stir the sour cream and 1/3 cup ice water together in a small bowl and set aside. Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir with a fork to mix. Drop the butter pieces into the bowl, tossing them once or twice just to coat them with flour. With a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour, aiming for pieces of butter that range in size from bread crumbs to small peas. The smaller pieces with make the dough tender, the larger ones with make it flaky.

Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixtuer over the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. (Note: I've never needed to add more than half the liquid before the dough comes together). The dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if it's not add additional cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time. With your hands, gather the curds of dough together. You'll have a soft, malleable dough, the kind you might want to overwork.

Chill the dough: Turn the dough out of the bowl and divide it in half. Press each piece of dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To make the galette:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into an 11-inch circle that's about 1/8 inch thick. Since the dough is soft, you'll need to lift it now and then and toss some more flour under it and over the top. Roll up the dough around your rolling pin and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

Spread your desired filling over the dough, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border. Fold the uncovered border of dough up over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up and work your way around the galette. Dip a pastry brush in water and give the edge of the crust a light coating. You can sprinkle the dough with salt or sugar, depending on the filling.

Bake the galette for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the galette rest on the sheet for 10 minutes. Slip a wide spatula under the galette and slide it onto the cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, cutting the tart with a pizza wheel or a sharp knife.

(The galette is best if eaten the day it's made).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Love Dish: Bacon-Wrapped Date 'Cannolis' with Pine Nuts

As I believe I have confessed before in this forum, I love stuffing things. So awhile back when I came across a recipe for Medjool dates stuffed with ricotta, I knew I'd love them. And then when I came across a recipe for dates stuffed with ricotta and wrapped in bacon, I knew I'd REALLY love them.

After I made them the first time, I was struck by how they looked a bit like mini cannolis, the Italian pastry which is also often filled with ricotta. Cannolis often come with pistachios or chocolate shavings - or pine nuts - pressed into the end for a flourish, so, what with my love of pine nuts in general, not to mention how well they would pair with the sweet/salty/smoky balance of the dates, I figured I'd try putting it all together. And not to brag or anything, but they're pretty freakin' awesome. (This also happens to be my entry into Endless Simmer's Pine Nut Recipe contest). I hope you like them, too!

Bacon-Wrapped Date 'Cannolis' with Pine Nuts
20 Medjool dates
10 strips of applewood smoked bacon
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup dry roasted pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut off the ends of each date and remove the pit (I do this by poking a chopstick through one end). Fill the corner of a sturdy plastic baggie with the ricotta, twist until taut, and snip off just the very end to make yourself a piping bag. Fill the cavity of each date with the cheese. Cut each of your bacon slices in half so you have 20 strips. Wrap a strip snugly around each date, securing with a toothpick.

Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper and spray with non-stick cooking oil. Arrange the dates on the cookie sheet so that one of the cut sides is facing up. Pipe a bit of the remaining ricotta onto the end of each date (the bacon will serve as a 'lip' so that the cheese will stay in place - see pic).

Press a few pine nuts into each end, and carefully place in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the bacon is cooked through and is getting crispy. Serve warm.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Quick Dish: Ravioli with Sausage, Corn, Ricotta and Basil

This post just goes to show you why all those food magazine cluttering your house are sooo worth the bitchy comments from your housemate. (Love you, Rory!)

So last night I was tired, broke and hungry. I needed to make something for dinner, but after a weekend away, all I had in the fridge was some corn from last weekend’s farmer’s market trip, two leftover chicken sausage links, some fresh artichoke ravioli from Trader Joe’s, and a half-eaten container of ricotta cheese. Slim pickins’ for sure, and definitely not ingredients I would normally think to toss together.

But then I remembered a recipe for pasta with corn, ricotta and roasted garlic I'd recently read about in one of the myriad food magazines gracing my coffee table. Pasta – check; ricotta and corn – check; and what do you know, the chicken sausage just happened to be ROASTED GARLIC chicken sausage. Kitchen karma. I threw it all together, tossed in some fragrant basil, crossed my fingers – and damn, did I make a good quick dish.

Ravioli with Sausage, Corn, Ricotta and Basil
1 10-oz package of your favorite fresh stuffed pasta – ravioli, tortellini, etc.
2 chicken sausage links, halved and sliced – preferably roasted garlic flavor, but a spicy sausage could work, too
½ cup ricotta cheese
Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put a medium saucepan of salted water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, basil and sausage links. When the water is boiling, add the pasta. (Fresh pasta only takes a minute or two to cook – you’ll know it’s ready when it floats to the top). Remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon and add to bowl with ricotta mixture; toss gently.

Add the corn kernels to the reserved boiling water and cook just to heat through, about a minute. Strain and add to pasta. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and toss gently. Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Series: Food Mag Recipe of the Week

Several tedious errands involving lots of waiting rooms meant I got to peruse my October issue of Bon Appetit within a few days of receiving it, rather than several months later as just one magazine in a pile of overdue reading. Which got me to thinking…I get waaay too many food magazines. The answer: no, not cancel subscriptions (as if!), but rather, commit to making at least one standout food mag recipe a week – and of course, share it with you. (By the way, The Bitten Word is a wonderful blog devoted entirely to this noble pursuit).

So, for my inaugural edition, here’s one for “leek confit” that I plan on making tonight, and most likely over and over again, courtesy of the lovely Ms. Molly Wizenberg (found in the October edition of her regular BA column).

Leek Confit

Makes 2 cups
Serve warm with fillets of salmon, in scrambled eggs or pasta, or on crostini with goat cheese.

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks, (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt

*Pssst – for a video how-to on cleaning leeks, which are notoriously dirty creatures, click here*

Melt butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks; stir to coat. Stir in water and salt. Cover pot; reduce heat to low. Cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm.

Do Ahead: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Rewarm before using.

Calling All Paella (and Freebie) Lovers

To kick off Taberna del Alabardero’s annual paella festival, DC’s premier Spanish restaurant is offering free samples at lunch this Monday, September 15, from 11 – noon.

Reason #38,491 I miss working downtown…

Friday, September 5, 2008

Speaking of Ray's...

The Washington Post reports today that Michael Landrum, the man behind the Ray's restaurants, plans to open a fourth location, this time (finally) in the District. However, rather than opening in swanky Penn Quarter or the 14th Street strip, this new spot, dubbed Ray's The Heat, is slated to open in "restaurant starved" Ward 7 - more specifically, in a strip mall located at Minnesota Ave and Benning Road NE.

Here's hoping this will be the catalyst for another blossoming DC "food neighborhood."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Give 'Em Hell (Burgers)

This just in from WP's Going Out Gurus - Ray's Hell-Burger in Arlington, that devilishly delicious, uber-casual outpost for juicy, cheese-gooey creations (like the one at left) will now be open for lunch on Fridays. Doors open at 11:45.

Read the details here, including updates on Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring (hint: Virginia won't be the only Ray's location where you can indulge your decadent burger cravings).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quick Dish: Indian Curry Potatoes and Peas

This is my version of a staple Indian side dish, though it’s so filling and flavorful it can make a meal on its own. You can nuke the potatoes instead if you’re short on time, but I prefer taking the extra few minutes for the texture steaming provides. Just don’t peel them – it’s healthieir (and easier) not to.


2 lbs potatoes (I prefer fingerling) steamed and chopped large
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or coriander
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine sour cream/yogurt, chili powder, garam masala, curry powder, turmeric and ground coriander in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and fry until golden brown, about a minute or two. Add the potatoes and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and sauté 3-4 minutes. Pour in the yogurt mixture and frozen peas. Gently toss to mix and continue cooking until heated through, about 3-5 minutes. When done add lemon juice and fresh herbs if desired.