Friday, May 17, 2013
Tabbouleh is a grain and vegetable salad that makes an excellent side dish in hot weather, in addition to being a popular mezze dish. Although it's usually made with bulgur wheat, this recipe from Bon Appétit substitutes quinoa, which works just as well. As suggested by a recent Washington Post article, I like to soak my quinoa before cooking it.
Adapted from Quinoa Tabbouleh, Bon Appétit, June 2012
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and soaked for 15-20 minutes
1 cup water
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 large English cucumber
1/2 pint golden cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1. Bring quinoa and water to boil to boil. Cover, reduce heat an simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, mint and scallion to the bowl with the quinoa. Add dressing and toss to combine. Chill until ready to eat, at least 15-20 minutes.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
For my mezze dinner, I'd decided on hummus, baba ghanoush and quinoa tabouleh, but I needed an anchor: something a little more substantive to serve as the centerpiece dish. I asked the Washington Post Food section staff for ideas during a recent Free Range chat, which is how I came across yogurt kuku, a sort of frittata.
Kuku is a Persian dish, so, although it's a little ways from the Mediterranean, I thought the flavors worked well with the other dishes, and making it with Greek yogurt nudges it westward a bit anyway.
The Washington Post's recipe says to cook this at 250 F for 20-25 minutes. This cannot be right. The recipe says to bake the dish until the center is "just set," but after 25 minutes at that temperature it was still very liquidy. I found the original recipe by Iranian-American cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij from her book Food of Life, and she said to bake it at 350 F for 25-30 minutes, which sounds more reasonable (I brought this to the Food staff's attention, so hopefully it will be corrected).
Adapted from The Washington Post, as adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij's "New Food of Life"
2 to 3 tbsp. extra-virgin oil
1/4 tsp. saffron
1 tbsp. just-boiled water
1 1/2 tsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh snipped chives
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup Greek-style low-fat plain yogurt, plus more for garnish
1 to 2 tsp. blanched slivered almonds
1. Add the oil to an 8-inch round or square oven-proof baking dish. Place the dish on the oven's middle rack and preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. While the oil is heating, combine the saffron and water in a medium bowl, stirring to break up the threads. Add the eggs, flour, salt, pepper, chives and carrot, and stir until well combined. Add the yogurt and almonds, stirring to combine. Pour the egg mixture into the hot oiled baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is just set. Divide portions among individual plates and top with a dollop of yogurt.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.
The New York Times: “Putting Spring Vegetables to Work” by Dee Shoe.
Following on the recent one on artichokes, the Times offers another recipe photo graphic, this time featuring a variety of dishes with seasonal spring vegetables like Ramp Focaccia by Melissa Clark and Simple Spicy Asparagus in a Wok by David Tanis. Mark Bittman’s Braised Artichokes even make an appearance.
National Public Radio: “Bee Deaths May Have Reached A Crisis Point For Crops,” by Dan Charles.
More news about the bees dying off, and it’s not pretty. Last week I talked about Time’s story. This week, NPR looks at the issue and it appears to be even more dire: a survey of American beekeepers found that almost 1/3 of American honeybee colonies did not survive this last winter. Charles reports this spells trouble for crops like almonds, blueberries and apples that rely on bees for pollination. Some suspect pesticides, but it doesn’t seem like the chemicals’ role in this is very well understood. Seems like something that needs immediate study.
Los Angeles Times: “Food deserts may not be key in what people eat, study says,” by Mary MacVean.
I read about food deserts last year in Tracie MacMillan’s The American Way of Eating and they came up again earlier this year when the USDA released its food deserts atlas. This new study, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, finds a weak association with being overweight and the availability of nearby food outlets. They conclude that access to motorized transportation means shopping habits are weakly related to neighborhoods (i.e. people are able and willing to drive outside their neighborhood to get food). Nonetheless, they did find that having access to fast-food outlets within easy driving distance was associated with eating more fast food, so I’m not ready to give up on geographic factors as a role in the obesity epidemic just yet.
DC Eater: “Anatomy of a Noodle: Daikaya's Supplier Talks Ramen,” by Missy Frederick.
If you’re a fan of the chewy Sapporo-style ramen noodles at Daikaya, you’ll enjoy Frederick’s profile of the Japanese company that supplies the popular downtown ramen shop with its noodles. Lots of great facts here, like that there are 26 different types of ramen in Japan. Imagine eating your way through all that!
Wall Street Journal: “Springtime Superfood,” by Gail Monaghan.
I have a bag of watercress in my fridge right now, and after reading Monaghan’s piece about the flavorful and nutrient-packed spring green, I have some better ideas of what to do with it. She includes recipes for Watercress and Mussel Soup and two salads.
Washington Post: “Dinner in Minutes: Pan-Seared Garlic Ribeye Steak,” by Bonnie S. Benwick.
I’ve been in the mood for ribeye lately (in my review of Le Diplomate I ranted gently against the hanger steak trend, which I’m ready to be over). This Dinner in Minutes recipe from Benwick looks like just the ticket, a quick recipe packed with lots of garlic and smoked paprika flavor. It has some dramatic flair: the sauce finishes with a bourbon flambé!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Good buzz is the stuff of new restaurant dreams, and Le Diplomate has it in abundance.
The large Logan Circle bistro has been the talk of the town since opening a couple months ago. On a recent early Sunday evening the place was already packed, making me glad we had reservations.
French cuisine used to be the pinnacle of exciting restaurant food, but it's lost stature as Medterranean, pan-Asian and now farm-to-table have moved in to dominate our collective palates. So that the hottest new place on 14th Street--itself a pean of hot new eateries--is serving traditional French bistro fare instead of new wave Thai or super-seasonal modernism represents a risk that's clearly paying off.
The restaurant, located on a prime 14th Street corner, is a beautiful and generously apportioned space, with several dining rooms and a large patio.
|The infamous Le Diplomate bread basket.|
All visits here begin with Le Diplomate's extraordinary bread basket, featuring a perfect baguette with light, chewy crumb and a crispy crust. Also delicious are the cranberry-walnut bread and warm peasant bread with a slightly sour taste and thick crust. In an age where restaurants increasingly charge for things like bread or chips-and-salsa, it's amazing that such a standout item is provided gratis. It's a generous offering and a great way to begin the meal.
From there we moved on to fresh vegetables. Radish crudité is prepared simply: a variety of radishes sliced in half served with large-flaked sea salt, toasted brioche and chive butter. if you like butter, this place is for you, as just about everything is either cooked, spread or garnished with it. Salade verte features fresh lettuce dressed simply with a bright red wine vinaigrette, green beans and radish slices. The radishes were perhaps a little too plain, but the salad was satisfying.
Our entrees were mostly quite good. I loved my half roast chicken, which was quite flavorful with herbs stuffed under the nicely crisped skin and a wonderful rosemary-flavored jus de poulet ("sauce" for you non-French speakers). I also enjoyed the potato puree, although I suspect it was more butter than potato.
Steak frites features a pan-roasted hanger steak with crispy browned frites served with a side of mayonnaise. The steak was nicely seasoned but, although we ordered it medium-rare, it came out fairly tough, which is not uncommon for hanger steak, but I was hoping for something more tender. (Frankly, I'm ready for restaurants' hanger steak obsession to end. Can't we go back to ribeye?)
Our dessert was absolutely delightful: a dark chocolate napoleon constructed with a bottom layer of almond dacquoise, planks of dark chocolate and columns of dark chocolate mousse with a delicious side of chocolate ice cream and a little pool of caramel. I'm definitely looking forward to coming back and seeing what other artful treats pastry chef Naomi Gallego can create.
|Dark chocolate napoleon|
I found the wine list a little perplexing. I know it's expected that French restaurants' menus are written in French, but if the wine list's subheadings would've been in English I probably wouldn't have accidentally ordered a half-bottle when I wanted a full-size one (thankfully I noticed the mistake before our server opened it).
Speaking of which, our server was delightful, friendly and attentive. Sometimes the food seemed a bit slow to arrive, but hey, isn't that kind of French? And, as I mentioned, the place was hopping.
What you won't find at Le Diplomate: a celebrity chef, a trendy menu or molecular gastronomy. What you will find: delicious classics prepared well and served in an energetic setting that's a great space for spending a couple hours.
Le Diplomate, 1601 14th Street NW (at Q Street), Washington, D.C. (Logan Circle). (202) 332-3333. Reservations: Open table.
Monday, May 13, 2013
While I love hummus, I'm increasing also a fan of another mezze dip. Baba ghanoush is roasted eggplant dip that originated in the eastern part of the Mediterranean (the Levant). It's smoky flavor is one of its best attributes, and if you have an outdoor grill, roasting the eggplant over charcoal will help impart that flavor. If you make it indoors, like I did, using smoked ingredients like paprika, olive oil and smoked flavor will compensate adequately.
The eggplant roasts for quite a long time at a very high temperature. They are large vegetables after all and you want them to be extremely soft on the inside when you scoop them out. The skin of the eggplant should look darker, turning brown from its purple shade, and get sunken looking.
Like hummus, baba ghanoush can be served with bread or vegetables for dipping. I like to cut pitas into triangles, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle them with za'atar seasoning before lightly toasting them under a hot broiler.
2 medium-size eggplants
1/4 cup tahini
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbsp. smoked olive oil (or regular extra-virgin olive oil)
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Pinch of chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
Toasted pita bread or cut vegetables (for serving)
1. Preheat oven to 500 F. Pierce eggplants all over with a fork and brush or spray lightly with olive oil. Roast until skin has darkened and the eggplant is very soft and sunken looking, about 30-45 minutes. Split eggplants open and scoop out contents. Discard skins.
2. Place eggplant in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, smoked olive oil, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt. Turn food processor on and process until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with fresh chopped parsley.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
"Mezze" refers to small-plate dishes typical of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Because many of these types of dishes can be made ahead, mezze works well for entertaining. Throw together enough of them and you'll have a great meal, which is basically the concept behind José Andrés restaurant Zaytinya.
All this week I'm featuring recipes to make a great mezze meal, which also just happens to be vegetarian. That I didn't miss the meat is a sign of how satisfying a varied dinner made of these dishes can be.
Hummus is an essential mezze dish. I've already featured two recipes for it: a basic recipe and a more involved smoky-smooth version (the extra work is worth it, in my opinion).
This week, I'll have recipes for baba ghanoush, quinoa tabouleh and yogurt kuku, which is basically a frittata. Some other dishes that would well in a mezze dinner: chickpea patties, reconstructed hummus salad and Mediterranean salad.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Last week, the Washington Post Food section's spirits columnist Jason Wilson announced his retirement from the paper. For the past 6 years, Wilson has been a wonderful source of information about spirits and cocktails. I'll miss his regular columns but am glad to hear he's still writing for his website, Table Matters.
In his final column, Wilson offered two parting recipes for the rickey, the official cocktail of Washington D.C. Both recipes were based on previous cocktails Wilson had written about. My favorite of the two was the Nice, a rickey version of the Antibes.
Although I'd been dissatisfied with it in Gin & Tonic, I thought I'd give Columbia Distillers' made-in.D.C. Green Hat Gin a try in this drink. Thankfully, D.C.'s homemade spirit tastes great in its official drink.
By Jason Wilson, Washington Post
2 oz. gin (I used Green Hat Gin)
1 oz. Benedictine liqueur
2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz. sparkling water (I used club soda)
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the gin, Benedictine and grapefruit juice. Shake until cold, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water and stir. Garnish with a lime twist.