Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple-Fennel Soup with Beans and Sausage

I find a lot of inspiration in the work of professional chefs, even if I haven't tasted their work. This is a prime example.

I clicked on this item about him from Eater DC which led me to this Washingtonian story about Chef Devin Bozkaya's (successful) audition to become the new executive chef at West End Bistro by Eric Ripert. In the story, he talks about food he's planning for the restaurant, including an apple soup with pork sausage and sage. I thought that sounded like a marvelous idea and wanted to try crafting my own version.

I used this Food & Wine recipe for Sweet Potato, Chipotle and Apple Soup as a reference, but the flavors in my soup are very different. Chris and I were very pleased with this. The thick pureed broth of onion, fennel, garlic, ginger, celery, sage and apple is particularly appealing. And despite all those flavors, the apple flavor is noticeable, albeit very subtle. I added the beans to give the soup some additional body and the fennel fronds to add some color, additional fresh fennel flavor and visual appeal. Vegetarians could easily adapt this by using vegetable broth and omitting the sausage (perhaps doubling the beans).

Apple-Fennel Soup with Beans and Sausage

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, cored and diced, fronds reserved and chopped
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece of ginger root, minced (about a tablespoon)
2 gala apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 1/2 lb. (about 2 large) russet potatoes, peeled and diced
8-10 sage leaves, minced (about 1 1/2 tbsp.)
Seasoned salt, to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (may substitute vegetable broth)
2 cups water
1/2 lb. mild Italian chicken sausages (may substitute another other Italian sausage; 1/2 lb. is two large sausages in casings)
1 16 oz. can cannellini beans
1 tsp. fresh ground white pepper
1 tbsp. honey

1. Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add diced onion, fennel, celery and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add apples, potatoes and sage and sauté another 5 minutes. Season with seasoned salt. Add chicken broth and water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer partly covered for 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

2. In a medium frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings, add to pan, and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is cooked through and lightly browned. Turn off the heat. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and add the sausage to gently warm.

3. Puree the soup until it is very smooth using an immersion blender or transferring it in batches to a blender or food processor, returning to the pot when done. Stir in cooked sausage, beans, white pepper and honey. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with a sprinkle of chopped fennel fronds.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cocktail: G&T Supersized

This drink takes flavors common to gin--juniper, found in many gins, and cucumber, which Hendrick's gin is known for--and "supersizes" them by adding extra doses. It's quite refreshing.

G&T Supersized

2 juniper berries
1/2 oz. juniper syrup (see recipe)
2 tbsp. peeled, chopped cucumber
1/2 oz. lime juice
2 oz. gin
4 oz. tonic water
lime peel (optional garnish)

1. Add juniper berries and juniper syrup to a highball glass. Crush berries into syrup with a muddler (don't muddle excessively). Add ice to glass.

2. Add cucumber and lime juice to a shaker. Muddle vigorously. Add ice and gin, and shake until cold. Strain into highball. Top with tonic and lime peel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 38

Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.

[Disclosure: Today's Food (Section) Fight! was written 3,000 miles from where I normally am. Hence it is based on online content, rather than the usual print editions, which were not available to me.]

Washington Post

(1) "What took me so long to make fresh pasta?" article by David Hagedorn. That's a good question, Hagedorn! Fresh pasta is amazingly good and surprisingly easy. Although his previous attempt to make fresh pasta didn't turn out well, Hagedorn enlists some expert help and churns out some pretty tasty-sounding dishes, such as Saffron Fettucine with Figs and Cambozola Sauce.

(2) "Book Report: Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian," review by Jane Touzalin. Chef Isabella, the D.C.-based former Top Chef contestant of Graffiato and Bandolero fame, just released his first cookbook, which Touzalin reviews positively. Sounds like quite a few Graffiato dishes make an appearance like the local favorite corn agnolotti and the pepperoni sauce that was also famously featured on Top Chef.

(3) "Persian cuisine with a cultural mission," article by Tim Carman. Carman profiles Peacock Cafe Maziar Farivar, who was tapped a few years ago by the James Beard Foundation to prepare traditional cuisine to celebrate the Persian new year. I particularly enjoyed reading about the multi-step traditional preparation for rice.

(4) "Lemon lentil soup," Dinner in Minutes recipe by Bonnie S. Benwick. As we turn toward fall, I'm looking forward to making some good, hearty soups. Benwick's suggestion of lemon lentil soup sounds just about perfect for the change in seasons.

(5) "Panko-crusted devlied chicken," Nourish column by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick. Sedgwick takes one of her mother's recipes and adapts it with an Indian cooking technique, French seasoning and Japanese bread crumbs.

New York Times

(1) "Making Vegan a Normal Meal," article by Jeff Gordinier. Although I'm not vegan (or vegetarian), increasingly we eat vegetarian at home, with meat being an occasional rather than daily feature. And such blending of omnivorous and herbivorous tastes is increasing catered to by restaurants. Here, Gordinier takes a closer look at Los Angeles restaurants that feature creative vegan cooking (parsnip bacon, anyone?) alongside fare for meat-eaters.

(2) "A Little Zucchini for Your Fried Cheese," a Good Appetitte column by Melissa Clark. Clark espouses her love of fried cheese, featuring the Italian fried cheese crisp Frico, adapted to accomodate sauteed zucchini slices.

(3) "Don't Be Afraid of the Eggplant," article by Julia Moskin. Some people's noses turn up at the mere mention of eggplant, whether it be their spongy texture or perceived bitter flavor. According to Moskin, eggplant is harvested younger now than in the past, so the salting and draining that used to remove the bitter flavor is no longer necessary. Besides, as I suspected, rinsing salted eggplant wastes the effort of draining it, since it soaks the water back up. The accompanying recipe for Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas sounds good.

(4) "Behind a Restaurant Emergency, a Troubleshooter," article by William Grimes. I've read there are over 4,200 restaurants in New York City (3,500 of which are in Manhattan). Many of those restaurants do a brisk business operating a lot of complex machinery in close quarters--modern ovens, ranges and refrigerators all just waiting to break down right as dinner rush starts. Grimes looks at the specialized industry of quick-fix repair technicians who do good business keeping that equipment up and running, an often risky task when the dinner service doesn't stop to accommodate them.

(5) "Taking an Ordinary Dish and Making It Heavenly," City Kitchen column by David Tanis. Tanis writes about creamed salt cod, a traditional French dish that often gets a bad rap for not being made well.


The Washington Post. Fresh pasta is one of my favorite things, so I was glad to see David Hagedorn embrace it. I might add Mike Isabella's cookbook to my Amazon wishlist and I'm definitely making that lentil soup.


The New York Times: 19

The Washington Post: 18

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Watermelon-Pepperoni salad

Plain watermelon is so good, one wonders what the point of finding other uses for it is.

Putting it in a salad turns the juicy, sweet fruit into a counterpoint for other flavors. It goes great with mint and feta cheese, but I recently decided to pair it with...pepperoni. Sound odd? Perhaps so, but the flavors worked great together, the spicy, slight sweetness of the pepperoni was an ideal match for the cool sweetness of the watermelon.

Watermelon-Pepperoni Salad

1/3 cup walnuts
2-3 cups of salad greens, such as arugula
2 cups 1-inch cubes of watermelon (about 1/4 of a standard-size watermelon)
2 oz. pepperoni, cut in half
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper

1. Toast walnuts in a small frying pan over medium-low heat until fragrant. Remove from pan, cool and coarsely chop.

2. Combine greens, watermelon cubes, pepperoni slices, feta cheese, grape tomatoes and toasted walnuts in a large bowl. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Golden Curry Chicken Salad

If this blog was Sesame Street, this would be the dish that was brought to you by the color orange. There are so many beautiful orange vegetables right now, that I thought it could be interesting to put a bunch of them together in a salad. Underscoring the theme was be a bright curry dressing.

I roasted the beets and carrots but left the bell pepper and tomato raw. In addition to their colors, these vegetables provide a variety of textures too.

Golden Curry Chicken Salad

6 yellow beets, about 2-inches thick
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch rounds (split carrots in half if particularly large)
olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast cutlets
olive oil, salt and pepper
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 cup golden grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled
1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Fresh-ground white pepper
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. honey

Toast, greens, pitas, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place beets in the center of a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle beets with olive oil and then seal the foil into a closed package. Roast beets until a fork pierces them without much resistance, about 40-60 minutes. Set aside to cool and then peel (the skins of roasted beets are loose enough to remove with your fingers) and chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Allow to cool completely.

2. Meanwhile, place the chopped carrots in a small roasting dish and drizzle with oil. Roast alongside the beets for about 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

3. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Cook chicken breasts about 10 minutes, turning halfway, until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool, then chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside to cool completely (refrigerate if not using right away).

4. To make dressing, add garlic clove to a small bowl, sprinkle with salt and mash into a fine paste (if you have mortar and pestle, use that). Add remaining dressing ingredients and stir until combined.

5. In a large bowl, combine the chopped beets, carrots, chicken, bell pepper, celery, tomatoes and parsley. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve over greens, pitas or toast.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cocktail: G&T, Cool As...

...a cucumber of course, which is muddled into this riff on a gin & tonic with chartreuse for extra sweetness and herbal intensity.

G&T, Cool As...

Makes 2 drinks

1/3 cup peeled, diced cucumber
Juice from 1 lime
2 oz. gin (Hendrick's)
1 oz. yellow chartreuse
Tonic water

Add diced cucumber and lime juice to the metal cup of a Boston shaker. Thoroughly muddle the cucumber into the lime juice. Add ice, gin and chartreuse and shake until chilled. Strain mixture into two lowball glasses with ice. Top each glass with tonic and stir to combine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 37

Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.

New York Times

(1 and 2) "When Words Fail," Critics Notebook column and "It's Been Awhile, Hasn't It?" Restaurant review by Pete Wells. Perhaps it's unintentional, but I see a subtext with the juxtaposition of these two stories: Daniel Humm, you have been warned. His Eleven Madison Park, one of only six restaurants in New York currently honored with four stars from the New York Times, recently unveiled a new concept, which is the subject of Well's Critic's Notebook column, a preview akin to what the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema does with his First Bite column. So it's a not a formal review per se (oh the bad puns of New York dining), but a preview. While Wells likes the food, for sure, he is troubled by the lengthy explanation that accompanies each dish, which he sees as sometimes detracting from what is being served. As an example, he describes a speech that puts you in the mood for steak tare tare, but you're instead fed a carrot dish inspired by steak. Regardless of how good the food is, sounds like the presentation needs work.

But is it enough to jeopardize its four-star rating? Well, I can't help but think the placement of a review of Le Cirque is a reminder to Eleven Madison Park that such things do happen. The French restaurant used to be one of Manhattan's four-star dining destinations until former Times critic Ruth Reichl busted them down to three stars after receiving horrible service, a rating maintained by her replacement (and Wells' predecessor) Frank Bruni. As if to score home the point even more, Wells busts them down to not two but a measly single star. Ouch! Sounds like the service has improved but the food has really suffered: "If you asked these ingredients to speak for themselves, they would shrug and stare at the floor." A great image that reminds me of how teenagers react when they've been busted.

(3 and 4) "Bubbling From the Ferment" article by Jeff Gordinier, and "For Gastronomists, a Go-To Microbiologist," article by Peter Andrey Smith. These paired articles delve into the science of cooking, with Gordinier's article looking at the work of food writer Sandor Katz and Momofuku's exploration of fermentation, while Smith's article profiles Harvard microbiologist Rachel Dutton, whose research into food quality--rather than food safety--has turned her into a useful resource for creative chefs. The latter article in particular suggests some good reads for those interested in molecular gastronomy.

(5) "Great Food Without a Chef's Edge," How to Cook Everything column by Mark Bittman. Bittman's usually entertaining column is particularly great today, as he explores how to adapt a dish by Jean-Georges Vongerichten for a home cook: Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Fried Sushi Cakes with Scallops, Honey Soy Sauce and Chipotle Mayonnaise. I've been thinking about trying to make mayonnaise and now I really want to do it. Have to wonder how much ribbing Bittman is getting today for writing a recipe that calls for egg "yoke" instead of "yolk."

Washington Post

 (1) "The sweet life," Smoke Signals column by Jim Shahin. Shahin's cover story is a delightful read about Chef Andrew Evans, who used to helm the kitchen at the Inn at Easton but now makes his home at a barbecue joint aptly named BBQ Joint. The accompanying recipe for Low- and Smoked- Meatloaf sounds amazing. I would LOVE to eat a smoked meatloaf. That Hillbilly Blueberry Pie sounds good too.

(2) "Kimchi fest puts a pretty face on S. Korea's dish," article by Tim Carman. Dovetailing with the Times' fermentation coverage is this fun story by "Timchi" (as he was dubbed in today's chat) Carman about the classic Korean dish. I'll admit to enjoying the side of Kimchi offered at Mandu, as well as the kimchi on TaKorean's tacos, although I think both of those are pretty mild version of the dish (i.e. not fermented, at least not for long).

(3) "Rice-Cooker mac and Cheese," Dinner in Minutes column by Bonnie S. Benwick. Wouldn't Benwick's dish make the perfect accompaniment to Evans' smoked meatloaf? I've never used a rice cooker, but I'm such a fan of mac & cheese that if I ever got one, I'd be sure to make this.

(4) "Hospitality delivered in heaping helpings," First Bite by Tom Sietsema. Sietsema profiles Southern Hospitality, the new southern restaurant in Adams-Morgan. Although he found the food hit-and-miss, I'm intrigued. I bet the fried chicken with mac & cheese would go down great.

(5) "Make your cooking a class act," by Jane Touzalin. I've been thinking about taking a cooking class. I never had, and I'd probably learn a thing or five. The paper gives a flavor of this year's offerings, which the full list available online.


The Washington Post. It's a tough call this week. As someone who follows the goings on of both Daniel Humm and David Chang, I found the Times' coverage quite interesting, but the Post's stories were more focused on cooking practical food, which I'm in the mood for these days. And I particularly liked the barbecue story, since it put me in the mood to grill next week, which I'll get to do while on vacation on the Oregon coast (which, by the way, means that there probably won't be a Food Section Fight next week, but I'll try to feature stories if I can).


The New York Times: 19
The Washington Post: 17

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

District Taco (Washington, D.C.)

District Taco's al pastor taco with guacamole, cheese and onions

I'm a die-hard Chipotle fan, but I welcome a little variety to satisfy my lunchtime Mexican cravings.

I'm pleased to add District Taco to my regular rotation. What started as a food truck 3 years ago now has two brick-and-mortar locations, one in Arlington, Va., and the downtown D.C. location, which opened in the spring.

Like Chipotle, District Taco lets you customize your tacos (or burritos) with whatever meat, vegetable and dairy fillings you're interested in, but provides a few more options, such as Al Pastor, carved rotisserie pork with pineapple. I ordered that, along with carnitas (slow-cooked pork) and pollo asado (grilled chicken). I had all my tacos filled with guacamole (delicious), shredded cheese and red onion, and helped myself to chiltomate salsa, cilantro and lime wedges from the gratis salsa bar.

Although you can get your tacos in flour tortillas, I highly recommend District Taco's corn tortillas. They tasted like they'd been made fresh and, smartly, they provide two, so that even if the inner one gets sogged by salsa and juicy meat, you can still eat it with your hands without making a mess.

I'm looking forward to trying their burritos and steak options.

District Taco, 1309 F Street NW (between 13th and 14th Streets), Washington, D.C. (Metro Center). (202) 347-7359.

District Taco on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 17, 2012

Salmon with Tomatoes and Zucchini "Spaghetti"

Looking for something new to do with zucchini and mint, I came across this recipe for Zucchini Strands with Mint. I thought doing something like this with some grape tomatoes could make an interesting faux pasta base for broiled salmon.

To cut the zucchini very thin, I used a mandoline equipped with an 1/8-inch row of cutting blades and the slicing blade set at 1/8-inch. If you don't have a mandoline, you could try a julienne peeler or even cut it by hand, although it will take awhile and the results probably won't be as uniform.

Salmon with Tomatoes and Zucchini "Spaghetti"

2 medium zucchini, ends sliced off
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 lb. salmon fillet

1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for spraying on salmon
Seasoned salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grape tomatoes
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint (plus more for garnish)
Juice from 1/2 lemon

1. Using a mandoline, slice the zucchini into 1/8-inch strips. Toss with 1/2 tsp. salt and set in a strainer over a bowl. After 20 minutes, gently squeeze to wring out additional liquid.

2. Preheat oven broiler with oven rack about 4 inches from heat. Place salmon fillet skin-side down on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet. Spray exposed flesh with olive oil and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Broil for 10 minutes, turning over after the first 5 minutes. Check doneness and broil and additional 1-2 minutes if needed. Remove salmon skin and any gray flesh.

3. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant but not browned, 1-2 minutes. Add grape tomatoes, zucchini strands and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 2 minutes. Season with fresh mint. Squeeze lemon juice over vegetables. Serve in a bowl topped with salmon and additional fresh mint.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini

The night I made Pasta with Pesto, I developed a backup plan to make risotto with pesto. And since I'd put so much thought into it, I decided to try it out too.

Why a backup plan? That afternoon, I'd asked Chris to pick up the pasta from the store on his way home. When he arrived--clearly grateful to be home--I didn't see a grocery bag. Rather than ask about it, and risk sending him back out to get it, I decided instead that I could make risotto with pesto, which would be just as satisfying as pasta. As it was, the grocery bag was in his backpack, but I still though risotto with pesto could be interesting.

Rice and pesto by itself begged for something else as a highlight. Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen has this recipe for risotto with roasted zucchini, which I thought could be interesting.  She roasted her zucchini for 12 minutes, but I did mine for a lot longer, about 25-30. Might just be my oven, but I wanted it a little brown, and it was nowhere near that at 12 minutes. This dish was great, but I think it could be even better with some additional flavors, such as bacon and toasted walnuts.

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc)
4 cups chicken broth (possibly less)
Salt and pepper, to taste
About 1 cup pesto (all the pesto from this Basic Pesto recipe)
3 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. In a large dutch oven or deep-sided sauté pan, heat butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and continuing cooking to lightly toast rice, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed (the bottom of the pan will be dry when the rice is pulled away with a spoon). Add 2 cups of corn broth to rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, waiting to add additional broth until each addition is fully absorbed. After about 2 cups more have been added (4 cups total). Taste rice--dish is done when the rice has the consistently of al dente pasta, which you may achieve before all 4 cups of broth are added (last time I made it, it took 3 1/2 cups). Do not overcook. Stir in pesto.

4. Once oven is hot, while risotto is cooking, roast zucchini: In a 9 x 9 baking dish, toss zucchini with 1 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes.

5. Serve risotto in bowls topped with roasted zucchini.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cocktail: Light My Fire

After the August Sunset, I've still been in an Aperol mood. The bittersweet orange flavor is just a nice complement to many other tastes. A half a shot of it gives an interesting dimension to a gin & tonic. I also love the fiery color, which is partly why I wanted it for this drink, which evokes "fire" by its color, smoky flavor and spicy jalapeño syrup.

When making the syrup, whose recipe you can find with The John Ross cocktail, be sure to taste a little bit of the jalapeño first to see how potent it is, because the intensity of the peppers can really vary. The pithy part that encases the seeds in the spiciest, and for making this syrup, I discarded about half of it so it wouldn't be too hot. The resulting syrup was hot enough to give a little kick but was not overwhelming.

Light My Fire

1 oz. mezcal
1/2 oz. Aperol
1/2 oz. jalapeño syrup (see recipe)
1 oz. lime juice (juice from 1 lime)
Lime wheel garnish (optional)

Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake until cold. Strain into rocks glass with ice. Garnish with lime wheel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 36

Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.

Washington Post

1) "Beyond true grits," feature story by Tim Carman. There's a southern influence to the lead stories in both the Post and the Times today. Carman's feature is about cookbook author John Martin Taylor, whose work helped rediscover the "low-country" cuisine of the Carolinas. The accompanying recipe for Roast Chicken with Groundnut (peanut) Dressing is making me hungry.

2) "Spinach and Bacon Chili," Dinner in Minutes recipe by Bonnie S. Benwick. I have a favorite chili recipe, but I'm always open to trying new ones, and this recipe sounds great. I'd love to try a chili with bacon in it.

3) "Sephardi, served with a side of Ladino," article by Vered Guttman. In addition to the above-the-fold southern connection, both the Post and Times ran below-the-fold Spanish-related stories. Here, Guttman examines the cuisine of a local group of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews, Ladino being a Castilian dialect of Spanish origin. Like the Carolinian cuisine story, it's accompanied by a set of related recipes, such as Stuffed Eggplant (Karniyarik).

New York Times

1) "Churning the Market," article by Julia Moskin. The most interesting thing I learned this morning: buttermilk at the grocery store isn't really "real" buttermilk. It's a facsimile developed from cultured skim milk and additives. True buttermilk--the leftover product from churning butter--is actually now rather rare, but Moskin profiles a small-time Maine dairy that still makes it the old way (and sells its product throughout the Northeast).

2) "Putting Spain Back in Spanish Food," article by Glenn Collins. D.C.'s, if not America's, most famous Spanish chef, Jose Andrés, has joined the International Culinary Center in Manhattan as its dean of Spanish Studies, a position from which he has already worked to develop a Spanish cooking curriculum for the school. I like the picture sidebar showing Andrés's technique for making a fried egg.

3) "Enjoying Results of Summer's Labor," City Kitchen recipe by David Tanis. As a big fan of panzanella, this recipe for Fattoush, a Lebanese bread salad, might be an interesting alternative.


The New York Times. It wasn't a banner week for either publication, and it was pretty close. It was probably Jose Andrés who tipped it toward the Times, which is ironic if you think about it. The Times is on a roll with its third win a row. C'mon Post! Time to catch up.


The New York Times: 19
The Washington Post: 16

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pasta with Pesto, Tomatoes and Pepperoni

Pesto is easily acquired by buying one of those 8 oz. tubs in the grocery store. But it's so easy to make. Just six ingredients. I'll admit to being lazy and buying it, but it's so much better made fresh.

Fot the pasta dish pictured, I tossed pesto with farfalle and leftover ingredients from the fridge: Italian sausage and pepperoni left over from a recent pizza, the latter sliced into ribbons, and some teardrop and grape tomatoes.

Our enjoyment of this pasta was perhaps disproportionate to the effort that went into it. It was really quite delicious.

Pasta with Pesto, Tomatoes and Pepperoni

1 lb. pasta (farfalle is pictured)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup golden grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup pepperoni, cut into thin strips
About 1 cup of freshly made pesto (use all of the pesto from the Basic Pesto recipe)
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Grated parmigiano-reggiano for spooning at table

1. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until softened. Stir in the cut tomatoes and pepperoni and cook until the tomatoes have softened a bit, but not fallen apart, about 5 minutes.

3. Toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce, pesto and black pepper. Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

Monday, September 10, 2012


It's not too late to enjoy fresh, homemade pesto, with fresh basil still available at the farmers market. It's the perfect foundation for a variety of meals--pasta, being an obvious one, but it's also great slathered on bread and even mixed into risotto.

Basic pesto is a simple blend of olive oil, basil, garlic, nuts, salt and parmesan cheese. Some recipes will call for other things, such as parsley in addition to the basil. And I found an America's Test Kitchen recipe that includes mayonnaise and spinach, but personally, I like to keep this simple, letting the basil and cheese be the star players with the nuts providing a savory side note.

The traditional nut in pesto is pine nuts; however, other nuts can be used too. I tried making it with walnuts and I noticed no major difference in flavor. With pine nuts becoming more expensive lately, this might be an attractive substitute.

In seeking a solid basic recipe for pesto, I consulted the usual suspects. Mark Bittman has a nice, simple recipe, although when I made it, I thought it was too oily. However, I do like that his recipe calls for adding some of the oil gradually with the food processor running, since the oil emulsifies the pesto, smoothing it out. Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukin's The New Basics Cookbook employs a similar technique and uses less oil, but doesn't call for nuts or cheese, treating these as optional add ins rather than essential ingredients. America's Test Kitchen's New Best Recipe cookbook calls for bruising the basil first (sounds interesting, but potentially not necessary) and toasting the nuts in a pan (a good idea).

Basic Pesto

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp. nuts (pine nuts or walnuts, pan-toasted if desired)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Place basil, half the olive oil, garlic, salt and nuts in a food processor. Process until well combined, scraping down the sides a few times as needed. Turn the processor on and add the remaining olive oil slowly through the feed tube. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheese.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

MaCorny and Cheese

MaCorny and Cheese pictured with oven-barbecued chicken and Texas caviar.

Corn pudding and macaroni and cheese are both wonderfully rich sides perfect for serving with backyard barbecue. They share some similarities too: both are baked with a milk and cheese sauce to make a firm casserole. I thought it could be interesting to try to combine them somehow. A culinary "mash up," if you will.

I consulted with the Washington Post Food section staff during one of their recent chats. Jane Touzalin suggested that I simmer the milk with corn to enhance the dish's corn flavor. She also suggested adding bell pepper. Both of these turned out to be successful additions, giving the dish a heightened corn flavor and a nice vegetal undertone.

This dish is made mostly like traditional macaroni and cheese. While the milk and corn simmer, the vegetables are sautéed, then removed from the pan to make the cheese sauce (for those who like French cooking terms, start with roux, then turn it into bechamel, and finally mornay sauce).

For the cheese, I wanted to strike a careful balance between making it satisfyingly cheesy without overwhelming the corn. I settled on a mixture of mostly fontina with some sharp cheddar, which worked great. 

MaCorny and Cheese
With thanks to Jane Touzalin, The Washington Post Food section

2 cups whole milk
3 ears of corn, kernels removed and 1 cob reserved, cut in half
5 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup plain panko
1 lb. elbow macaroni
1 medium or 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper diced and 1/2 green bell pepper diced (may substitute one whole pepper of either color)
Seasoned salt and fresh-ground black pepper
2 tbsp. flour
Dash of nutmeg
8 oz. fontina cheese, shredded
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Position oven rack about 5 inches from broiler.

2. In a medium saucepan with a lid, add milk and kernels from one ear of corn plus the two cob halves. Cover, bring to boil (watch to avoid boiling over), reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Discard cobs and strain out kernels (reserve the kernels for later). Set aside the corn-flavored milk.

3. In a small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Add panko and stir to coat evenly. Toast for a few minutes and remove from heat before panko starts to brown.

4. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions 1 minute short of al dente (pasta will continue cooking later in the oven). Drain and set aside.

5. In a large frying pan, heat 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add onion and red and green bell pepper and sauté about 8-10 minutes until softened. Add corn kernels and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Season with seasoning salt and pepper. Remove from pan.

6. Add remaining 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. four to large frying pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking until the roux starts to brown. Season with seasoned salt (lightly), fresh-ground black pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Whisk in the 2 cups of corn-flavored milk, continuing to cook as the sauce thickens. Add the cheese in batches and stir as it melts.

7. Combine the pasta, cooked vegetables and cheese sauce and pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle the panko on top and bake for 20 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until the panko browns, about a minute (watch carefully to avoid burning). Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Corn Risotto

It's a tough call whether I'm more inspired by the tomatoes or the corn at the farmers market this year. In many ways, I feel like the corn recipes I'm turning out are more interesting.

This corn risotto was inspired by a recent post on the Washington Post's All We Can Eat food blog. I thought it was a really good idea and, having had great success infusing milk by using corn and corn cobs, I figured making corn broth for risotto would work well that way too.

And I was right. The corn broth just by itself was delicious. I imagine it would be perfect for some kind of corn/seafood soup. If I wasn't headed away for the weekend, I would have saved the unused broth and experimented. And while the corn is still around, I just might try to whip something up.

Before I get to far ahead of myself, back to risotto. I like my risotto to be pretty firm and not too soupy, so I don't add extra butter or cream at the end, as I prefer the starchy creaminess that develops from the rice and stock with some parmesan tossed in at the end. If you like it richer, feel free to add those things at the end.

Corn Risotto

4 ears of corn, kernels cut off cobs, 2 cobs reserved and halved
8 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc)
Small handful of fresh tarragon leaves (about 1/4 cup)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano

1. In a large pot, combine 8 cups water with the kernels from 2 ears of corn, the 2 reserved cobs cut in half and 2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour. Remove the cobs and strain out the corn kernels. This will make about 2 cups extra corn broth that may be saved for another purpose.

2. In a large dutch oven or deep-sided sauté pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and continuing cooking to lightly toast rice, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed (the bottom of the pan will be dry when the rice is pulled away with a spoon). Add 2 cups of corn broth to rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, waiting to add additional broth until each addition is fully absorbed. After about 2 cups more have been added (4 cups total), stir in the remaining corn kernels (from two ears of corn) and half of the tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. Continue adding broth and stirring as it cooks. Taste rice--dish is done when the rice has the consistently of al dente pasta. Do not overcook. Stir in parmigiano-reggiano and serve sprinkled with remaining fresh tarragon.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cocktail: The Backyard

I call this drink The Backyard because it's made up of ingredients that remind me of my backyard as a child, specifically the juniper syrup, because we had a juniper tree; the mint leaves, which grew wild by the garage gate; and the smoked whiskey, since we barbecued out back frequently.

The Backyard

6-8 mint leaves
1 oz. juniper syrup (see recipe below)
1 1/2 oz. smoked whiskey
1 oz. lemon juice (juice from 1/2 fresh lemon)
2 oz. club soda

Add mint leaves and juniper syrup to shaker and muddle. Add ice, whiskey and lemon juice and shake until cold. Strain into lowball glass with ice. Top with club soda.

Juniper Syrup

1 tbsp. juniper berries
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Gently crush juniper berries (a muddling tool works well). Add to medium saucepan with sugar and water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let mixture sit for about an hour minimum (up to 4 hours). Strain and keep in refrigerator.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food (Section) Fight!: Week 35

Food (Section) Fight! is my weekly look at The Washington Post's Food section and The New York Times' Dining section with my verdict on which section had the better content for the week.

New York Times

(1) "Getting to Know You," article by Suzanne Craig. The Times went with a restaurant theme this week, examining different angles of New York restaurants' ups, downs and even insides. Craig's lead story looks at the business's increasing use of customer profiles based on personal data amassed from repeat visits and online sources like Open Table. In an era where the companies we do business with increasingly know more about us, restaurants it seems are joining in too, using such data to anticipate how to best treat existing--and even new--customers.

(2) "Six Burners, 60 Sq. Ft.," feature by Sophie Brickman. I loved this second-page article and infographic about the layout of small Brooklyn restaurant Battersby's kitchen. Makes me appreciate my own compact, galley-style setup.

(3) "Reinvention, With Card Tricks and a Drink Cart," feature by Jeff Gordinier. I recently read about how Eleven Madison Park is switching restaurant staffs with Chicago's Alinea for two upcoming periods to showcase the restaurants in the other cities. Seems that's not the only trick that James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Humm has planned, as his restaurant rolls out a new Manhattan cocktail truck, reinvents steak tartare starring carrots and offers "mystery desserts." Eleven Madison Park is revered as one of the country's finest, and Humm certainly looks to be working hard to keep it at the culinary forefront.

(4) "Sometimes Formica Beats White Tablecloths," How to Cook Everything column by Mark Bittman. Bittman may sound like a cranky old man ranting against four-star and hipster-hour-long-wait restaurants. But, I'm right there with him. As the former is too expensive and the latter too annoying, I too prefer casual restaurants (i.e. no tie) with good food and, preferably, a reservations system. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will start a quest to identify his unnamed favorite Japanese restaurant in Midtown.

(5) "Wine Salt: Easier to Make Than to Imagine," A Good Appetite column and recipe by Melissa Clark. Clark examines a wine-salt rub made from reduced white wine, thyme, sugar and salt, which sounds like an interesting way to flavor pork or chicken. The recipe is adapted from Pazzo, an Italian restaurant in Portland, Ore. (Personal aside: My burgeoning restaurant critic career--for my high school newspaper--ended at Pazzo, which I reviewed as a potential prom date locale my senior year).

Washington Post

(1) "Filling lunchboxes with buzz, tweets," Q&A by Jane Touzalin. It's back to school for the Washington Post Food section today! Touzalin sat down with Maria Trabocchi, special events director for Fiola and wife of the chef, to talk about what she packs for her kids' lunches. As you would expect, is not PB&J, but an ever-changing exotica of flavors. On this day, it was skate, prosciutto, tomatoes and stracchino on grilled bread. Apparently she went too far when she packed octopus. I love that she mentioned her Twitter feed, where she writes about the lunches she packs, and that she doesn't have very many followers (she's gained about 100 today).

(2) "With the kids back in school, a lesson in dinner planning," article by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick. Sedgwick tells us about how she never planned her dinners, at least she didn't consciously do so, but when July's derecho meant she had to toss everything from the freezer, she realized she'd actually been planning all along, by making and freezing extras that could be whipped up into quick dinners. Along those lines, she offers a number of great recipes, including Mexican Chicken Tenders and Rice and Beer-Braised Pork and Carrot Stew, which would be good for families or busy anybodies without a lot of time to make dinner.

(3) "Really, it's a piece of cake," Staff Favorites article and recipe by Jane Touzalin. This is a short little piece on page E5, but I love it. Touzalin talks about how her former coworker brought in this amazing dessert one day and she scored the recipe. She named it after the coworker, "Amy's Easy Apple Cake," and it sounds simple and delicious.

(4) "Roasted and Raw Carrot Salad with Avocado and Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette," Dinner in Minutes recipe by Bonnie Benwick. Benwick's salad of carrots, mixed greens and pine nuts sounds easy and delicious. She said it's good with cold soup--I bet my corn soup would be perfect with it.

(5) "One mission, many courses," article by Tom Sietsema. Restaurant critic Sietsema ventured into features territory with this week's centerpiece about how the State Department has enlisted a squad of America's biggest name chefs (including locals like Jose Andres, Vikram Sunderam, Bryan Voltaggio and Mike Isabella) as "State Chefs," serving as international ambassadors for America through food. Interesting idea, although frankly, it wasn't entirely clear to me from the story what the goal of this is. Still, food is an important part of culture, one that has often been ignored in the U.S. (although not so much lately). I hope it's a successful project.


The New York Times. Quite a few good stories in both sections this week, but the restaurant focus on the Times delivered my favorite stories.


The New York Times: 18
The Washington Post: 16

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Corn Pancake with Blackberry Sauce

The New York Times Dining section ran this recipe recently, which features two summer stars together in a breakfast dish. It's got great corn flavor and, since there is little added sugar, it's not at all overpoweringly sweet. Rather restrained actually.

I was afraid I'd ruined the dish when I realized that the pan I was cooking it in was a casserole dish rather than a gratin dish (which I don't have). In the end, it worked fine though. So if you have a gratin dish, use that, but using a casserole instead seems fine too.

Corn Pancake with Blackberry Sauce
Adapted from Puffy Corn Pancake with Blackberry Sauce by Melissa Clark for New York Times

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
5 eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Corn kernels from 2 ears of corn (about 1 cup)
2 cups blackberries
3 tbsp. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Add butter to a 2-quart gratin or casserole dish and bake until butter melts and starts to bubble, about 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour and cornmeal. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Whisk in the honey, salt and pepper. Stir in the corn kernels.

3. Remove the dish from the oven and add the pancake batter. Bake until the pancake is well browned around the edges, puffed up and golden on top, about 20-30 minutes.

4. While the pancake bakes, make the blackberry sauce. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat with the blackberries and sugar. Lower heat a bit and simmer ingredients until the blackberries have broken down into a syrupy sauce.

5. Serve the pancake in wedges topped with blackberry sauce.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sweet Corn

Photo by

These past few months, I've been into corn like never before. It started with the Momofuku corn cookies, and my love intensified with chilled corn soup and blackberry-vanilla ice cream pie with corn cookie crust.

Corn often gets a bad rap, especially when it's processed into high-fructose corn syrup. But that and other processed corn products are derived from field corn. Sweet corn, the version you can buy fresh and cook yourself, is really a different crop, a healthy food full of fiber and antioxidants.

This week's recipes will feature fresh farmers market sweet corn, which is plentiful and available now. I have a corn risotto with fresh tarragon, a puffy corn pancake with blackberry sauce and a special dish that combines the flavors of macaroni & cheese with corn pudding, which I call "macorny and cheese." Corny, I know.

To start, here's the simplest and one of the most satisfying ways to prepare sweet corn: classic corn on the cob. When picked at the height of the season, good sweet corn doesn't need butter or salt to make it taste good. So if you're used to drenching it as such, try withholding for once to let the corn's inherent sweetness shine.

The recipe is as basic as can be: you boil it. But it's not foolproof. Cooking it too long will make the corn mushy. A lot of recipes say to boil the corn about 7 to 8 minutes. I stop mine at 6 to ensure the kernels still have adequate structure. Al dente, if you will. Also, if you do feel the need to salt your corn, don't throw the salt in with the boiling water, as it can make the corn tough.

Corn on the Cob

Fresh ears of sweet corn, shucked

Add ears of corn to a large pot; do not put in more ears than can fit on the bottom of the pot without overlapping. Fill with enough water to cover the corn by an inch. Remove ears of corn. Set pot on stove and bring water to boil. Add corn and cook 6 minutes. Remove corn and serve.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Recipe of the Month: August 2012

Last month's most popular recipe is a dish perfect for the sweltering days at summer's end: a creamy Andalusian-style gazpacho, which I adapted (lightly) from America's Test Kitchen's recipe. Much of the dish's popularity can be attributed to America's Test Kitchen, which selected my gazpacho photo (above) for their Feed site's recent Twitter Fan Photos of the Week.

So it was another month then that The Happy Endings Whore's Bath cocktail had to settle for being my site's second most popular post. It surpassed 1,000 total views in August, still far and ahead the most popular thing I've written.

Two other popular recipes from this month: Cereal Milk Baked Alaska with Brown Butter Cake and Roasted Pattypan Squash with Basil.