Friday, August 29, 2014

Freekeh Tabbouleh with Mint

After reading about Freekeh in the Washington Post this last spring, then grilling the Food section staff about where I could find it and what brand to buy, I've been experimenting a bit with the grain these last few months.

What is freekeh? It's a type of green wheat grain (yes, all you gluten-free folks will want to leave now) that's been roasted, imparting a subtly smoky flavor to the grain. I absolutely love finding new and creative ways to add smoky flavors to my dishes, so I knew that freekeh was destined for my kitchen.

Like a lot of other smoky-flavored foods, I've learned that not all freekeh is created equal. The freekeh I bought at Whole Foods, for example, wasn't particularly smoky. I was discussing the issue with a coworker who loves to cook, and she offered to look for it in the Middle Eastern market near her house (what a great resource to have near your home). A couple weeks later, she showed up in my office with a bag of it, which was such a nice thing to do.

That's the freekeh I used in this dish, and it has a noticeable, but not overpowering, smoky flavor. It's a nice way to change up tabbouleh from the usual bulgar wheat. Since freekeh is generally sold cracked, it really is quite similar to bulgar but with more flavor.

This is a pretty standard tabbouleh otherwise: a generous amount of fresh parsley and mint, plus lots of fresh lemon juice. For the tomatoes, I used the crazy-sweet sungold cherry tomatoes from New Morning Farm (the same ones I talked about Tuesday in the pasta with pancetta, roasted tomatoes and fried sage dish). A couple of unexpected ingredients show up in the dressing--allspice, cinnamon and honey--courtesy of a recipe I found from Cook Almost Anything.

I was able to return the favor of my coworker who brought me the freekeh when recently she suffered a freak kitchen accident (the details of which I won't go into here) and had to be home-bound for an extended period. I made a batch of this tabbouleh, and another coworker who lives near her took it to her. That's one of the cool things about being friends with people who like good food: the exchange of it is always a simple and welcome way to show you care.

Freekeh Tabbouleh with Mint
Adapted from Freekeh Tabbouleh by Cook Almost Anything

1 cup freekeh, rinsed and picked through of anything that shouldn't be there
2 1/2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups sungold grape tomatoes, havled
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh spearmint

1 lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp. allspice powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine freekeh and water in a medium saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the grains are tender. Drain and set aside to cool (note: some whole-grain freekeh varieties may take longer to cook).

2. Combine the cooked freekeh, sungold tomatoes, onion, cucumber and chopped herbs in a large bowl.

3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss to combine.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Greek Salad as Tomato Soup

Greek Salad as Tomato Soup

It's official. Momofuku is coming to D.C.! Finally, David Chang, who is from Northern Virginia after all, will make the nation's capital part of his food kingdom that includes a collection of notable restaurants in New York (Ko, Má Pêche, Ssäm Bar, Noodle Bar, Milk Bar--home of the famed Corn Cookie) and a few other cities (Toronto, Sydney), plus the Book & Dax cocktail bar and the totally hip food magazine, Lucky Peach.

I'm celebrating the impending arrival of Chang's cuisine by making this recipe that appeared recently in Food & Wine. If you're in the habit of making gazpacho around now when fresh tomatoes are at their peak, this alternative cold tomato soup might be a welcome way of changing up your cold-tomato-soup routine. Chang's idea was to reinvent Greek Salad as tomato soup. All the elements are there: cucumbers, onion, olives, feta cheese and, of course, tomatoes.

The soup is wonderfully colorful. Because the fresh tomatoes are pureed in a blender, they get a bit frothy and pink. I used sungold cherry tomatoes, adding a little yellow-orange to the color palette. I made a few small changes: instead of garnishing the soup with baby greens, I used a few small basil leaves. I also didn't have sherry vinegar on hand so I used white balsamic vinegar. And, for kicks, I used white pepper instead of black.

Greek Salad as Tomato Soup
Adapted from Tomato Soup with Feta, Olives and Cucumbers by David Chang for Food & Wine

6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup pitted Niçoise or mixed olives
2 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (this was a substitution for the sherry vinegar the original recipe called for)
Kosher salt, to taste
1 small cucumber (such as kirby), thinly sliced
1 tbsp. honey
5 ripe red tomatoes, chopped
Freshly ground white pepper
4 oz. sungold cherry tomatoes, halved
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Handful of small basil leaves

1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, olives and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 7-9 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in both vinegars, season with salt, and allow to cool to room temperature (this step may be done ahead).

2. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber with 1/2 tbsp. of the honey and season with salt.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tbsp. honey, 2 pinches of salt (or more/less to taste) and freshly ground white pepper to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the soup into shallow bowls. Top with the onion-olive mixture, halved cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, feta and basil leaves.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Feed: August 27, 2014

It's still summertime, not too late to enjoy a few more Negronis.
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

Eater: "Napa Quake May Cost Over $1 Billion in Damages to Vineyards and Restaurants," by Khushbu Shah.
Thankfully, nobody was killed in this week's Northern California quake that struck Napa. Sadly, however, is the significant loss of damage to the area, including to many great restaurants and the irrecoverable loss of a lot of really good wines.

Thrillist: The 21 Best Mexican Restaurants in America, by Adam Lapetina.
Chris and I love dining out at Mexican restaurants. Considering that we've only been to 2 of the 21 on Lapetina's list, we've got some serious eating to do.

CNN Eatocracy: "Salad Daze: From Leafy Greens to Meatloaf Chunks," by Kat Kinsman.
Kinsman asks a great question with this piece, "what counts as salad?" She explores how far the definition has been stretched, including, yes, a meat salad.

Washington Post: "Rose’s Luxury Chef Aaron Silverman Masters the Art of Serious Play," by Tim Carman.
I love visiting hot new restaurants, but I don't like waiting for hours to do so. So don't expect to see a piece on Rose's Luxury on Cook In / Dine Out anytime soon...but I won't rule out never, as chef Aaron Silverman's food does sound amazing. The restaurant, which debuted in D.C. late last year, has captured national attention and is serving food few people discuss as anything less than memorable.

Prevention: "10 Eating Rules Almost All Nutritionists Agree On," by Robin Hilmantel.
I don't believe in fad diets and I don't buy "diet" foods. Nonetheless, I consider myself a healthy eater (mostly), and we subscribe to all 10 of these rules, the best list for eating well that I've seen.

The Bold Italic: "A Four Year-Old Reviews the French Laundry," by Jessica Saia and Isla Bell Murray.
This piece, on a 4 year-old's reaction to each course served during the tasting menu at what many consider America's top restaurant is adorable. Now, I don't know if it's $300 adorable, which is the approximate per-person cost of eating dinner at The French Laundry (not counting drinks, although I'm assuming she didn't partake), but adorable nonetheless.

New York Times: "The Galette Forgives You," by Melissa Clark.
Less work than a pie or tart and more free-form than either is the galette, something I'm really in the mood to make soon (I'm thinking apples).

New York Times: "A Negroni Summer," by Alex Williams.
The Italian summer classic is having its moment. Williams documents its recent rise. Also check out the recent video on making them.

Food & Wine: "How to Buy Bitters for Your Home Bar," by Justine Sterling.
If you enjoyed my recent series on drinks made with cocktail bitters, Sterling's article is a good place to start if you want to grow your own collection of mysterious little bottles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Penne with Roasted Sungold Cherry Tomatoes, Pancetta and Fried Sage

Penne with Roasted Sungold Tomatoes, Pancetta and Fried Sage

Last week, I featured a series of great tomato recipes. So, guess what? This week...I'm doing it again. Tomatoes are so good right now that they're worthy of a bonus week of great recipes.

Sungold cherry tomatoes from New Morning Farm
One of my favorite varieties of summer tomatoes are the Sungold cherry tomatoes I buy from my neighborhood farmers market, New Morning Farm. They have such a wonderful flavor: richly tomato and very sweet. Sometimes so sweet it's like eating candy in vegetable form. Seriously. They are amazing.

Roasting the Sungolds gives the tomatoes some additional depth while concentrating their sweetness. They're perfect for pasta when cooked this way.

This pasta was inspired by a recipe I saw in the latest issue of Food & Wine  for bruschetta topped with ricotta, roasted cherry tomatoes and fried sage. I made some great roasted tomato and ricotta bruschetta earlier this year, but thought the flavor combination of the tomatoes, sage and pancetta would work just as well in pasta, minus the ricotta. Frying the sage makes it a little crispy around the edges, while also nicely flavoring the oil it's fried in.

Penne with Roasted Sungold Tomatoes, Pancetta and Fried Sage
Inspired by Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta with Pancetta by Susan Spungen for Food & Wine

12 oz. sungold cherry tomatoes (may substitute other types of cherry tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. dried penne rigate pasta
4 oz. diced pancetta
Handful of fresh sage leaves (about 20-30, depending on their size)
Grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine cherry tomatoes and sliced garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of salt and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to combine, then transfer to a Roast tomatoes 325 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain and set the pasta aside.

3. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Clean out the pan, then add 1/4 of olive oil. When hot, add the sage and fry until bright green, about a minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried sage to a  paper-towel-lined plate.

4. In a large bowl (or, conveniently, the pot the pasta was cooked in), combine the pasta, roasted tomatoes and any of their juices, browned pancetta, fried sage, a few tablespoons of the olive oil the sage was cooked in, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add about half of the pasta cooking water and stir to combine the pasta and other ingredients. Add additionally pasta cooking water as needed to achieve a slightly saucy texture. Serve pasta in shallow bowls topped with grated parmesan.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dallas Drinks: The Miss Ellie

Dallas Drinks The Miss Ellie

Dallas Drinks is a co-creation with Dallas Decoder, honoring the characters of the television show Dallas--both the classic series and the newer TNT Dallas, which continues the Ewing family saga. See all of the Dallas Drinks here.

Dallas characters have a knack for getting in trouble. And who do they often turn to for help getting out of it? Miss Ellie, the wise matron of Southfork ranch, who more often than not know exactly what needs to be done. Thus, the vodka in the Miss Ellie cocktail is infused with sage and sweetened with the citrusy-fresh taste of St. Germain elderflower liqueur. 

Dallas Drinks The Miss Ellie

1 1/2 oz. sage-infused vodka (see note)
3/4 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Sage leaf, for garnish

Combine vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a small sage leaf.

Note: To infuse the vodka, combine 8 oz. vodka and 10 sage leaves in a jar. Seal the jar and leave in a cool place to infuse for at least 24 hours (longer will make the vodka more flavorful, but be careful not to go too long).

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sandwich Mashup: PB(LT)&J


Around here, we love a good sandwich and enjoy playing around with the classics. PB&J is a childhood classic we indulge every now and then. And BLT is a more grown-up classic we also enjoy.

This, however, is something different: A sandwich mashup!

By combining elements of both these great sandwiches, I've come up with something that will blow your sandwich-craving mind.

The key ingredient in this dish is the tomato-bacon jam. After having the bacon marmalade at Range, I was inspired by try something similar. Adding tomatoes gives the jam some additional depth, although I still added sugar to make it sweet enough.

Otherwise, the sandwich is made from homemade peanut butter, arugula and whole-grain bread.


Makes 2 sandwiches

Four slices of good-quality whole-grain sandwich bread
4 tbsp. peanut butter (I recommend homemade, from this recipe)
1 cup of baby arugula leaves
4-6 tbsp. tomato-bacon jam (recipe below)

Toast bread. Spread first piece of toast with peanut butter, then top with arugula and tomato-bacon jam and the other piece of toast.

Tomato-Bacon Jam

1/4 lb. hickory-smoked bacon, cut into 1/4- to 1/2- inch pieces
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 lb. ripe tomatoes, diced (I used a mix of diced red tomatoes and golden grape tomatoes)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook bacon until brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels.

2. Drain off most of the bacon grease, leaving a coating on the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to just below medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is very thick, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer jam to a bowl.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Homemade peanut butter

If asked to name my favorite condiment, I'd probably have to say peanut butter. I love it. I eat it by the spoonful from the jar sometimes.

My favorite is Jif Extra Crunchy. Natural peanut butters aren't generally my favorite, since I find the oil separation thing annoying, although I do love natural peanut butter spread on apple wedges. One of my favorite snacks.

This homemade peanut butter is great because it's all natural but not as oily as what you might buy. It's really easy too. All you do is grind the nuts in a food processor, letting it run a really long time until the nuts form a paste. Then you can adjust the texture with added oil and make it sweet if you like with sugar or, my preferred, honey.

Homemade Peanut Butter

2 cups unsalted dry roasted peanuts
1 tbsp. peanut or canola oil (or more, as desired for texture)
Pinch of salt or more to taste
Heaping tsp. of clover honey (or more, as desired for sweetness)

Add peanuts to food processor. Turn on and process, leaving the machine on as the peanuts transform to a fine crumb and eventually a thick paste. Turn the machine off, scrape down the sides, add the oil, salt and honey and turn the machine back on, continuing to process until the mixture achieves a smooth consistency. If too dry, add more oil and, as desired, more salt and honey to taste.