Monday, October 20, 2014

Moroccan-Spiced Meatloaf

A great place to find inspiration for new dishes is from other food bloggers. A couple months ago, I was chatting with Cathy Barrow of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen on Twitter, and somehow we got on the subject of meatloaf.

I hadn't made the classic dish for quite some time and was looking for ways to put a new spin on it. Cathy suggested using oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs, which she said should be soaked in milk. That sounded like a great idea. The oats got me thinking about cinnamon and raisins, which made me think about pushing the meatloaf in a Moroccan direction, spice-wise. So in went ground cumin, turmeric and paprika.

This meatloaf turned out with a wonderful, moist texture. The oatmeal really disappeared into the rest of the ingredients, and the spices and raisins gave it a nice spicy-sweetness.

Moroccan-Spiced Meatloaf

3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for spraying the baking dish
1 yellow onion diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb. ground beef or meat loaf mix (I use Whole Foods' mix of ground beef, pork and veal)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, beaten

1. Preheat 350 F. 

2. Combine the oats and milk in a small bowl to soak.

3. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool.

4. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the large bowl with the sautéed vegetables, then add the milk-soaked oats. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until well combined, then transfer to a 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with olive oil. Shape the mixture into a long loaf and bake for about 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 F. Allow to rest about 5 minutes, then slice until 1-inch slices.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Taking a Week Off: Fall Recipes

Looking for fall recipes? I've got lots here. Pictured is the Fall Grain Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes.

I'm taking a week off from Cook In / Dine Out this week, so there will be no new recipes and no edition of The Feed on Wednesday.

To tide you over until I return on Monday, October 20, here are some great fall recipes.


Like spaghetti squash? Check out my recipe for Stuffed Spaghetti Squash or, if you want to play up this squash's pasta-like quality, try Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Brown Butter. Butternut squash more your style? Check out this Fall Grain Bowl with Butternut Squash. It's also good in a soup, like Smoky Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. But my favorite way to serve it is in Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Sausage Lasagna. Don't forget this classic: Stuffed Acorn Squash.


I recently did a whole week on apple recipes, including Apple-Potato Soup with Chicken-Apple Sausage, Triple Smoky Apple-Blue Cheese CrostiniRoasted Stuffed Caramel Apples. Previously, I've shared recipes for Grown Up Applesauce,


Speaking of squash and apples, the both show up in this Fall Kale Salad along with pecans and dried cranberries. Barely cooked squash is the star in this Shaved Delicata Squash Salad. And if you still have figs, I definitely recommend the Beet, Fig and Prosciutto Salad or Watercress and Fig Autumn Salad.


Colder weather always puts me in the mood for the woods, which I tried to capture with the Scent of the Woods cocktail made with eu de vie of Douglas Fir. Bourbon lovers should definitely check out the St. Germain Cocktail, which nice balances the caramel notes of bourbon with floral St. Germain. For apple lovers, there's the Honey Bourbon Apple Cider and How Do You Like Dem Apples, which features three apple ingredients. Pumpkin may be overplayed this year, but I still love these Pumpkin Cocktails.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cocktail: Scent of the Woods

Scent of the Woods Cocktail

I love drinks with smoky, woodsy flavors. Rosemary is a good vehicle for this, since the spiky herb is redolent of pine. This drink honors a different evergreen tree: the great Douglas Fir. While you will find a lot of pine trees in the drier central part of Oregon east of the Cascades, in the wetter west part of the state, fir trees rule, particularly Douglas Fir, which is the state tree. We had them in my front and back yards growing up. They smell wonderful.

The Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Oregon makes a variety of eaux de vie (that's the plural of "eu de vie"), a type of clear brandy typically infused with fruit, although as Clear Creek has shown, it can be infused with other flavors too. The distillery's founder, Steve McCarthy, worked 10 years to perfect the Eu de Vie of Douglas Fir used in this drink. It adds a nice subtle note of fir.

I considered mixing this cocktail with whiskey, although most of the recipes I found online that used this brandy mixed it with gin. So I compromised with barrel-aged gin, a sort of whiskey-like gin that's brown and aged but not as assertive as whiskey. The St. Germain gives the drink a nice touch of citrus and floral.

Cocktail: Scent of the Woods

2 oz. Few barrel-aged gin
3/4 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz. Clear Creek Eu de Vie of Douglas Fir
Lemon twist

Combine the gin, elderflower liqueur and Eu de Vie of Douglas Fir in a cocktail mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

My coworker, who graciously contributed the large round zucchini I roasted and stuffed recently, also gave me a spaghetti squash. I cooked this vegetable last year and served it stringy, playing up its spaghetti-like quality. This year, since I had such luck stuffing the other squash, I decided to give that a try here too.

I went with a different flavor profile, a classic Italian mix of sausage, onion, bell pepper and tomato sauce with mozzarella. As I've found with these types of dishes, it works better to roast the squash and cook the stuffing separately, bringing the two together in the end just to heat them through and melt the cheese.

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Adapted in part from a Bon Appétit recipe

1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
Vegetable oil (for brushing the squash if roasting, not needed if cooking in the microwave)
3/4 lb. mild Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
Salt, to taste
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped sage
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Cook the squash: Cut the squash in half the long way (i.e. from the stem end to the base). Brush a baking dish with vegetable oil. Place the squash halves in the baking dish, cut-sides down. Roast in the for 50 minutes until the cut edges are lightly browned and the squash is softened. Allow to cool a bit. (Alternatively, you can use this method to cook the squash in the microwave, and it will be done in half the time).

3. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, remove it from the pan and place it in a large bowl. Add olive oil, then, when hot, add the onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and a pinch of red chili pepper flakes, then add the thyme and sage. Sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and add to the bowl with the sausage. Add the nutmeg and marinara sauce and stir to combine.

4. Place the cooked squash halves in a baking dish, cut-side up. Fill the hollow cavity with sausage-tomato filling, mounding the filling. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven until heated through and the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tomato sauce

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
14 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, a couple minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-6 minutes.


Giant Stuffed Zucchini

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Brown Butter

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Feed: October 8, 2014

Fall Grain Bowl with Butternut Squash
Grain bowls may sound boring, but with a little thought, they make a colorful, delicious dinner, like this Fall Grain Bowl with Butternut Squash.
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

Washington Post: "Lessons from Farmers: What I Learned about Cooking — and about Respect," by Jim Webster.

Webster, co-author (with Mario Batali) of the new book American: Farm to Table, discusses how some of the best cooking lessons he learned while working on the book came from farmers, not the chefs, reflecting on what he learned about respecting the seasonality of ingredients, the value of pigs that are humanely raised (and then slaughtered) and getting to eat some amazing squash tacos. I was pleased to see his story included Jim Crawford of New Morning Farm, from whom I buy vegetables (almost) every Saturday morning during summer and fall, and even into winter. 

Washington Post: "Mark Bittman’s ‘How to Cook Everything Fast,’ Reviewed," by Tim Carman.
You can count me among the many fans of Bittman's How to Cook Everything series of cookbooks (which also come in handy iPhone versions). His latest book emphasizes cooking fast, an important skill for a busy cook with less than hour to get dinner on the table. For example, Carman writes about how Bittman encourages cooks to prep while they cook, which is something I do all the time.

Washington Post: "Weeknight Vegetarian: A New Technique for Defusing Those Soy-Sauce Sodium Bombs," by Joe Yonan.
Yonan shares a very simple trick that could be revelatory for those with high blood pressure who enjoy Asian dishes: substitute Chinese black vinegar for the soy sauce. Genius.

New York Times: "Grain Bowls: How to Make Your Own," by Melissa Clark.
Grain bowls...sounds a bit boring, doesn't it? Yet, I've made some pretty great ones and you can too argues Clark in this piece about had far they've come in recent years. The "burrito bowl" at Chipotlé, the fast-casual empire's best-selling dish, is after all, a grain bowl.

New York Times: "Restaurant Cocktails That Aim Too High," by Pete Wells.
There's a cocktail crisis in New York. Not in the nifty craft cocktail bars, which continue to churn out amazing drinks (just got my copy of Death & Co.'s new book yesterday), but in the restaurants, where the demand for original cocktail lists is apparently outstripping the supply of talented bartenders to make sure they taste good.

Vox: "The Problem with Home-Cooked Meals," by Sarah Kliff.
As a food blogger, I clearly have no problem with home-cooked meals. So Kliff's article caught my eye--I wanted to see what possible objections she could raise. What she found, based on others' research, is that for many lower- and middle-income households, home-cooking is a tiring, stressful experience, but they do it anyway, since they can't afford not to. So the issue isn't really about home-cooking as it is about achieving "ideal" home cooking, that is meals made with organic, non-processed ingredients--healthy, but time-consuming and often expensive. It's a great reminder about the myriad of factors that influence our food choices.

The Guardian: "Quinoa, Chia Seeds and Kale: Superfoods or Supermarketing?" by Sarah Shearman.
Salmon, kale and blueberries have gotten a lot mileage out of being labeled "superfoods," but so have a lot of other foods, sometimes dubiously. Shearman takes a look at "superfoods" as a story of successful marketing and not always good science.

Get in My Mouf: "Pumpkin Sage Empanadas," by Evan Shaw.
I'm thinking of going more international with my Thanksgiving recipes this year. These delicious-looking pumpkin-sage empanadas are exactly the kind of thing I'd like to have gracing my table.

Sweetgreen's New Fall Menu: An In-Depth Analysis

Sweetgreen new fall menu

It may be a cliché, but as a D.C. professional, I'm pretty hooked on the fast-casual lunch. I'm lucky that there are quite a few of them near my office--including two Chipotlé locations. But the one that gets the most of my midweek business is Sweetgreen.

If you're not familiar, Sweetgreen was started in 2007 in Washington, D.C. by three Georgetown University students and has since expanded to 27 locations in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. If you visit other fast-casual restaurants, the concept is similar: lots of fresh ingredients, many organic and/or local, assembled any way you like. What sets Sweetgreen apart is that its food is not only delicious, it's also healthy. Plus, I find their friendly service to be a cut above what I get at most other similar restaurants.

Yesterday, Sweetgreen made a rather dramatic overhaul of its menu. Where previously they offered eight signature salads plus one rotating monthly seasonal salad, they revamped the menu to consist of six signature green salads, three signature grain salads and three seasonal salads that will rotate each season (with an extra rotation in the summer to take advantage of summer's ever-changing produce bounty).

I'm very excited about this change. Although I loved the monthly special concept, it could be a drag if the monthly salad wasn't something you liked. I wasn't partial to last month's crab salad, for example, so all September I didn't visit as much as I did during, say, last November, when the monthly salad featured agave-roasted turkey, sweet potatoes and cauliflower, which I couldn't get enough of.

Whether you're a regular like me curious whether your old favorites are still there or a newbie that hasn't experienced Sweetgreen yet, here's a rundown of what to expect next time you visit so you can plan ahead, complete with calorie counts, which are calculated based on a "light" amount of dressing (so obviously more calories if you go "medium" or "heavy").

Seasonal Salads

There are three, and they all sound great. The Roasted Turkey and Fall Vegetable Salad (405 calories, pictured at top) is a fabulous flavor combination of  mesclun, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes and cranberry vinaigrette. The sprouts could have used a little longer roast, but the potatoes were perfect. Since the menu was just updated yesterday, it's the only one I've tried so far, but I'm definitely looking forward to trying the other choices: Apples, Pears and Organic Cheddar Salad (425 cal.) with mesclun, kale, basil, candied pecans and balsamic vinaigrette, and Curry Cauliflower & Quinoa Bowl (560 cal.) with farro, arugula, cilantro, dried cranberries, roasted chicken, sriracha and cucumber tahini yogurt. I don't ever get the soup, but there are also two seasonal offerings: Organic Lentil Chickpea and Organic Butternut Squash Soup.

Signature Green Salads

I know some people get really attached to these signature salads and always order the same one. Rest assured that three of the most popular--the Kale Caesar (430 cal.), Guacamole Greens (540 cal.) and Spicy Sabzi (430 cal.)--are still on the menu and haven't changed, although you may notice their calorie counts are slightly different. A Sweetgreen representative told me this is because they reformulated the dressings a bit to improve their taste and quality. Gone from the menu are the Misoba, Santorini, Chic-P and District Cobb, although fans of the Chic-P and District Cobb will see that two of the new salads are very similar:
  • Avocobbo (705 cal.). This is basically the old District Cobb but with blue cheese dressing instead of goat cheese and agave-dijon vinaigrette. It includes kale, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, raw corn, avocado, bacon, egg and chicken.
  • Hummus Tahina (610 cal.). This bears a lot of resemblance to the old Chic-P salad, a mediterranean-inspired mix of kale, tomato, red onion, cucumber, pita chips, hummus, falafel and cucumber-tahini yogurt.
  • Red Thai (375 cal.). Like the old Santorini salad, this is made with citrus shrimp, but that's the only thing it has in common with that salad. Red Thai also includes arugula, mesclun, sprouts, carrots, cabbage, spicy sunflower seeds, cucumber, basil and spicy cashew dressing.
Signature Grain Salads

Where before the only grain salad always on the menu was the Earth Bowl (775 cal. and still around, although now it also contains chickpeas), there are now also the Harvest Bowl (685 cal.: wild rice, kale, apples, sweet potatoes, almonds, goat cheese, chicken and balsamic vinaigrette) and Wild Child (545 cal.: wild rice, spinach, cilantro, peppers, raw beets, shredded cabbage, carrots, raw seeds, avocado, miso-sesame-ginger dressing).

Make Your Own

Given that the menu salads have changed, the ingredient options have also changed to reflect all of the aforementioned salads' ingredients. The dressings lineup has also changed a bit:
  • In: cucumber tahini yogurt, blue cheese dressing, spicy cashew dressing
  • Out: cucumber basil yogurt, truffle oil, champagne vinaigrette, lemon tahini, agave-dijon vinaigrette 
  • Still around: pesto vinaigrette, sriracha, carrot chili vinaigrette, cranberry vinaigrette, lime squeeze, lemon squeeze, balsamic vinaigrette, lime-cilantro-jalapeño vinaigrette, balsamic vinegar, caesar, miso sesame ginger, extra virgin olive oil
I have no complaints about the new expanded menu and look forward to trying all the new offerings. And I suspect my old favorites, the Kale Caesar and Earth Bowl, will remain in the mix as well. 

Sweetgreen, Multiple locations, including 1065 5th Street NW (Mount Vernon Triangle), Washington, D.C. (202) 289-4674.
Sweet Green on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Food & Drink Podcasts

Food and Drink Podcasts

I've been slow to catch on to podcasts, the web-based format of audio programs available from iTunes and other outlets covering a myriad of topics and produced by professional or amateur "podcasters." Then early this year, my friend Jason told me he was starting one with a friend to cover food and fashion. Then a few months later, my friend Eddie started one on food and drinks with his friend Neil. Suddenly, I've found myself enjoying the medium, an entertaining way to learn new things about food and drinks.

The three podcasts discussed below have a different vibe but a similar format: two friends coming together to talk about their shared love of food, drinks and more. I really like the the dual-host format since the interaction makes the content richer than if it was a single person lecturing on these subjects. It also provides a context for the hosts to talk about more than just the subject at hand, adding a warm personal touch.

Food, Fashion and Fun

"I'm Jason with the appetite. And I'm Jaisyn with the eye for fashion," begins each episode of the A La Mode Podcast. My friend Jason Shriner, who teaches baking classes and blogs about baking on his website, The Aubergine Chef, started the podcast earlier this year with his friend Jaisyn Markley, a stylist and designer. Jason covers mostly food, while Jaisyn covers fashion and style (as well as technology, a fun sub-focus); however, they are not adverse to covering whatever else comes to mind. They also pepper their podcasts with tidbits from their personal and professional lives, giving their show a nice personal warmth, like sitting in on two friends catching up over coffee.

Although their podcasts don't always have a main theme, they do sometimes focus on topical issues. On a recent episode for example, they visited the Naughty Girls Donut Shop in Front Royal, Virginia. Jason had heard about the shop after seeing an article that the shop was subject to boycotts over its name, a reflection of the shop's "risqué" 1950s pinup decor (keep in mind that what was "risqué" 65 years ago probably counts as formal wear in some quarters today). Wanting to support a fellow baker, Jason, along with Jaisyn, visited the bakery and sampled chef Natalie Ramos' baked goods. Another of my recent favorites was their episode where they discussed their favorite cocktails, a nostalgic and entertaining rundown of drinks they've enjoyed for years and the stories behind them.

Bergstrom, Bitters and Byrrh

Speaking of drinks, I've become a willing student of the vast knowledge of all things wine, cocktails and more shared on the My Poor Liver Podcast. This Portland, Oregon-based podcast is hosted by my friend Eddie Creech and his friend Neil Thompson, who works in the Liner & Elsen Wine Merchants store in Portland. Their podcast is a wonderful balance of education and entertainment. Eddie and Neil have developed an engaging and witty repartee, playing up their roles as gay suburbanite dad and gay urbanite traveler, respectively. This creates a natural context for them to share new discoveries: Eddie mixes up the "cocktail of the week," while Neil talks about the restaurants he visited on a recent trip to Vegas, for example.

They've also begun interviewing local talent, providing a fascinating view into the buzzy Oregon food and wine scene through discussions with winemaker Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines and chef Anthony Cafiero of Ración. My favorite thing about their podcast is the knowledge they share about booze, which is vast and expert. They've had wonderful discussions on apéritif winesvermouth, Italian winesgingin, and more gin (after several episodes in a row of gin-based cocktails, they've promised a moratorium in favor of other spirits--we'll see if that lasts). They also make a lot of great recommendations, which is a double-edged sword for me: I'm always hearing about cool things I want to try, but since they are podcasting from Portland and I live in D.C., I'm at a disadvantage. However, it does teach me to keep my eyes peeled (I recently picked up from Schneider's on Capitol Hill a bottle of Byrrh at their recommendation, a red wine-based apéritif made with quinine). I also must thank Eddie and Neil for being supporters of my blog, as they have featured the Last Word cocktail and my Les Misérables Oscar Cocktail in recent episodes. Now it's my turn to share one of their drinks: check out Eddie's St. Germain Cocktail.

Avocados, Anchos and Appetites

Wanting to find a food or drink-related podcast closer to home, I asked the Washington Post Food writers during one of their weekly chats for recommendations. Editor Joe Yonan suggested Big Appetites, a newly launched podcast from local D.C. talents Sally Swift and Pati Jinich. This short-format podcast (each episode is 15 minutes, compared to the 45-60 minutes typical of the other two podcasts) focuses on cooking. Swift is the producer of the radio program The Splendid Table; Jinich is the creative talent behind the Mexican cooking television show and blog, Pati's Mexican Table. Together on Big Appetites they've discussed their love of avocados, chile peppers, tacos and vanilla, sharing their expertise and enthusiasm for each subject.

I'm always on the lookout for other great food and drink podcasts. Do you have one you really like? Please share it in the comments below.

Related: St. Germain Cocktail