Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Feed: April 30, 2014

Wine and toast
Worried about that "yoga mat chemical" in your food? Better stop eating these things--they're loaded with it (or rather, maybe you shouldn't worry so much and read Tamar Haspel's story below to find out why).
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

Don Rockwell: “(Response to Discussion Thread) ‘Palena, 2007 James Beard Award Winner Frank Ruta Rocks Cleveland Park - Final Service Was Saturday, April 26th’” by Poivrot Farci (Julien Shapiro).
The closing of Palena in Cleveland Park wasn’t just a big deal to me. Lots of people have been paying tribute to Frank Ruta’s restaurant. Shapiro’s wonderfully thoughtful essay takes the point of view of a former Palena employee, showing that it’s not just the diners but also the industry that feels this loss. Seriously, other notable restaurants have closed since I’ve lived in D.C. Never has one elicited this much emotion.

DC Eater: “Mathew Ramsey, the 'Burger Pervert,' Talks Technique,” by Eater Staff.
Never has the term “food porn” found a more fitting home than as a descriptor for Mathew Ramsey’s beautiful, cheeky burger creations. Eater DC profiles the self-professed “burger pervert,” whose blog, features amazing looking hamburgers with names like Cali-corn-ication and Melon Monroe. He puts up a new creation every week. If I wasn’t craving a good hamburger before reading this, I’m simply salivating for one now.

Sippity Sup: “Kombu Seaweed Martini, Whaddaya Think?,” by Greg Henry.
Last week, I wrote about Henry’s book Savory Cocktails and shared a couple recipes from it. Reading his blog this week, I couldn’t pass up also noting this amazing sounding Kombu Seaweed Martini, which he describes as “mildly salty and subtly sweet…tastes just like the ocean.” His description of umami is probably the best I’ve read for this “new” fifth flavor.

Washington Post: “Unearthed: Processed Foods: The Problem Probably Isn’t What’s in Them. It’s What’s Not in Them,” by Tamar Haspel.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the “yoga mat chemical in bread” scare recently. So I’m glad I didn’t get all fired up about that before reading Haspel’s ever-sensible Unearthed column, which debunks some of the hysteria around that and other certain chemicals in food. Processed food isn’t fully off the hook though, as Haspel goes to examine where a certain amount of skepticism about processed food can be healthy for a host of reasons.

Washington Post: “Carla Hall Serves Up an International Peace Plan with Her Newest Cookbook,” by Tim Carman.
Carman turns out an engaging profile of D.C.’s most famous chef that doesn’t work in a restaurant: Carla Hall, former Top Chef contestant and co-host of The Chew, who also has a new book out.

New York Times: “A Gust of Sesame and Saffron,” by Julia Moskin.
I’m increasingly intrigued by Middle Eastern and North African flavors, the subject of Moskin’s story about how those flavors are increasingly at home in New York restaurants. I’m looking forward to diving into the Ottolenghi cookbook I got as a gift recently.

Washingtonian: “Taste of the '60s: The Way Things Were,” by Ann Limpert, Anna Spiegel.
This was actually published in November, but with Mad Men back on television for awhile, the timing is right to enjoy Limpert and Spiegel’s story comparing common restaurant traditions from 50 years ago with today (example: essential chef accessory: then – a tall toque; now – a pig tattoo).

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants
This annual tradition is back and guess who’s back on top? That’s right. Rene Redzepi’s Noma is, once again, the world’s best restaurant. Eleven Madison Park is the top U.S. establishment at #4.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions, Sugar Snap Peas and Ricotta

Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions, Sugar Snap Peas and Ricotta

If you are not vegetarian, do you find cooking for vegetarians challenging? During spring and summer, when there is so much wonderful fresh produce available, I find I cook more vegetarian anyway, having put the slowly cooked meats of winter on hold for awhile. And with a delicious pasta as your entree, you won't miss them.

This deliciously light spring pasta made the perfect meal for a recent dinner with friends, one of whom is vegetarian. It's a pretty simple recipe and great for serving company, since you can do the prep work in advance and then it comes together quickly right before you serve it.

Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions, Sugar Snap Peas and Ricotta
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions (or 1 large sweet onion), diced
Salt, to taste
12-16 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb. orecchiette pasta (may use other pasta of similar shapes, like small shells)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (I use homemade, which is really easy with this recipe)
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon peel (grated with a microplane)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick steep-sided sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion sand sauté until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Decrease heat to medium and continuing cooking until the onions are a golden color, about 15 to 20 minutes (add a tablespoon or two of water if they dry out too much and start to brown).

2. While the onions caramelize, cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.

3. Add the peas and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the pasta and reserved pasta cooking water and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Stir in the ricotta cheese, basil leaves and lemon peel. Serve pasta in shallow bowls topped with freshly ground black pepper.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Farewell Palena

Palena restaurant
Palena, circa 2006

The rumors started Thursday. By Friday afternoon, they were confirmed. And by Saturday night, Palena had served its last meal.

Restaurants close all the time. It's a competitive, cutthroat business. The remarkable pace of new restaurant openings in D.C. means there's a certain amount of churn. Often, this isn't that big a deal.

But when a landmark goes down, it's different. And that's exactly what's happened with the closing of Palena, one of D.C.'s most acclaimed restaurants.

Buckwheat pancakes during a recent Palena brunch.

Named after the Italian hometown of chef Frank Ruta's mother, Palena opened its doors in 2000, occupying about half the space it later filled on the northern end of the historic Park and Shop strip mall in Cleveland Park. At the time, Palena was a collaboration with pastry chef Ann Amernick, also a White House alum, who ran a bakery in Cleveland Park for awhile (known for its limited doughnut runs). The bakery closed in 2004, and Amernick later departed Palena to focus on other work.

In an era where D.C.'s restaurant scene has become dominated by media friendly names like Jose Andres, Bryan Voltaggio and Mike Isabella, Ruta shied from the spotlight, letting his cooking speak for itself. Food enthusiasts in D.C. and beyond took notice: Palena became known for its excellent cooking with Ruta winning the James Beard Award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region in 2007.

Palena's menu leaned Italian but wasn't a slave to it. In fact, the two dishes that became the restaurant's signature pieces--roast chicken and cheeseburger--aren't particularly Italian. I've eaten both of them many times and love them dearly. I'm getting misty thinking about how--unless Ruta pops up somewhere else--I may never get to enjoy them again.

My first visit to Palena was a birthday dinner in 2004 (in fact, the same day that I had lunch at Corduroy, as I mentioned recently in my Baby Wale piece). My husband-to-be and another couple designed a fun day for me that involved burgers for lunch at dinner at notable restaurants with fun activities in between.

Although primarily a fine-dining destination, Palena served a limited menu in its more casual bar, which became increasingly popular as word spread about its burger and other fine offerings (like the fry plate, which unfortunately left the menu in recent years). Since the bar was unreserved, you had to show up early if you wanted a table.

Palena's burger was a thing of elegant simplicity, the only toppings being a garlicky mayonnaise and a slice of truffled cheese. The meat itself was exquisite. In 2012, Palena took top honors in my Burger Madness contest to find D.C.'s best burger, and I was not alone in awarding this distinction to Palena, which frequently made or topped lists of the best burgers in the United States.

Palena's famous roast chicken

In 2010, Palena expanded significantly by taking over the adjacent market. Ruta added a wood-fired oven for making pizza and about tripled the casual dining space, turning the former bar area into a full-blown cafe with an expanded menu.

Although it had been around for awhile, it was around this time that we discovered Palena's other notable dish: the roast chicken. It's hard to say whether I loved Palena's burger or chicken more, but I think I might have to go with the chicken, which was absolutely divine. Brined in a spice mixture and roasted to crispy-skinned perfection, there was no better chicken. Seriously. I've had the roast chickens from Zuni Cafe, the NoMad and Central, all of which are also very good, but Palena's was the best.

I enjoyed Palena's chicken so much that I embarked on a project to replicate it at home, inspired by a discussion thread on Don Rockwell's site. The amount of effort that went into making it made me appreciate Palena's chicken all the more. Palena also inspired my efforts for fresher Caesar Salad and a dry vermouth cocktail. Restaurants with memorable food are wonderful, but restaurants that also inspire me to get cooking are in a class of their own.

I've never been really sad about a restaurant closing before. Sure, I was disappointed when Yanni's, our favorite Greek restaurant in Cleveland Park, closed its doors, putting an end to our lovely weekend lunches along its sidewalk. But losing Palena feels different. It was more than just a neighborhood gathering spot or a place to get a good burger. Palena celebrated a lot of what I like about good food and did so in a manner that kept the spotlight on the produce and service. As of now, the bright light that has been shining on D.C.'s restaurant scene just got a little dimmer.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Greg Henry's Savory Cocktails

Greg Henry's Savory Cocktails is quickly becoming one of my favorite go-to cocktail books. I read about this book last year and put it on my wishlist. Then I got really lucky and won it in a giveaway from Vanilla Sugar Blog late last year. Excellent!

While many cocktail books are organized around spirits, or just present their drinks alphabetically, Savory Cocktails is organized by flavor profile: sour, spicy, herbal, bitter, smoky, umami, rich and strong. Notice there's no "sweet," since Henry's aim is to highlight cocktails with more savory profiles. Sweet is basically default with cocktails anyway: almost all cocktails have something sweet in them, such as liqueur, syrup, sugar or sweet wine.

Henry's a big fan of Bittermens Orchard Street celery shrub. Sort of like bitters, shrubs are old-fashioned "drinking vinegars" that were popular in colonial times and have made a comeback recently thanks to the cocktail renaissance. Bittermens designed their celery shrub as an homage to the 1930s era celery soda, Dr. Brown's Cel-Rey Soda. Because of its popularity during the tenement era, they named the concoction Orchard Street, which is where the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is located.

Henry developed the perfect showcase for the shrub with his Celery Shrub Cocktail, a mix of Scandinavian aquavit, which Bittermens recommends with its celery shrub, an Italian amaro and celery shrub. The cocktail's pronounced bitterness is offset with just enough sweetness to make it an enjoyable, refreshing cocktail that feels just right for spring.

Savory Cocktails also includes Bittermens' recipe for the Scandi Gibson, a spicy-savory take on the classic gin cocktail reimagined with aquavit, Cocchi Americano, celery shrub and Bittermens' other shrub product, Hellfire habanero shrub, a personal favorite I've used in the Margarita on Fire, Smokin' Hot Tomato, Breaking Bad's The Heisenberg and three Dallas Drinks: The Drew, The Emma and The Nicolas.

celery shrub cocktail
Celery Shrub Cocktail

Celery Shrub Cocktail
From Greg Henry's Savory Cocktails

2 oz. aquavit
1/2 oz. Cardamaro or other other herbaceous amaro (I used Cynar)
1/2 oz. Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub
Lemon twist (garnish)

Combine aquavit, amaro and shrub in a cocktail mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until chilled and diluted, about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.

Scandi Gibson
From Greg Henry's Savory Cocktails, adapted from the Bittermens recipe by Avery Glasser as served at Amor y Amargo, NYC

2 oz. aquavit
1 oz. Cocchi Americano
10 drops Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub
20 drops Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub
Cocktail onion (garnish)*

Combine aquavit, Cocchi Americano, habanero shrub and celery shrub in a cocktail mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until chilled and diluted, about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or coupe and garnish with cocktail onion.

*Note: lacking cocktail onions, I tried making this instead by muddling the green part of a scallion in the cocktail mixing glass. This imparted just a hint of onion-y flavor that actually worked rather well.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cook In 101: Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cook In 101 focuses on basic recipes and cooking techniques to help novice cooks get into the kitchen and make delicious, healthy meals in a reasonable amount of time.

Cook In 101 is supposed to focus on healthy recipes. I would argue that can include cookies (in so far as you subscribe to the idea that a healthy diet is one that includes sweet treats but in moderation). 

For the novice baker, there's no better place to start than with a batch of classic chocolate chip cookies. They're simple, use few ingredients and everybody loves them. Some cookie doughs require chilling, forming into a log and cutting--these you just spoon onto the baking sheet and pop in the oven, making them a prime example of a "drop" cookie.

chocolate chip cookie dough
Chocolate chip cookie dough, once mixed, is ready to be portioned onto baking sheets.
Let's take a closer look at this recipe. Most cookie recipes have a few elements in common. They generally contain fat (usually butter) and sugar, which are often combined together in a process some recipes refer to as "creaming." This step usually incorporates any other non-dry ingredients as well, such as eggs and vanilla extract. Adding these ingredients together first allows you to really beat the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy--the added air makes the cookies have a lighter texture without which they'd be pretty dense. 

The other half of the cookie equation is the dry ingredients, which are typically mostly flour with small amounts of salt and leavening ingredients (baking powder, baking soda or both). These ingredients should be stirred together separately and then added to the creamed mixture of butter, sugar and eggs. 

The last step is adding the additional flavorings that make cookies distinctive. In this case, it's the chocolate chips. Although Nestle's Toll House Semisweet Chocolate Morsels are the classic choice (chocolate chip cookies were invented at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts by Ruth Graves Wakefield), I prefer the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. Their flatter design allows the chips to spread out when the cookies spread during baking, creating little layers of chocolate within the cookies that I really like. Although nuts or oats may also be added, I wanted to keep these very simple, which results on more focus on the chocolate chips themselves (for something a little more complex, check out Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Cookies).

When spooning the dough onto the baking sheets, keep in mind that the cookies will spread out as they bake, so you need to leave space between them, usually about 3 inches. When I made this batch, I evenly spaced about 12 balls of dough per cookie sheet. Aim to make each ball of dough a little larger than a golf ball. Some of the cookies ran together a little bit, but that's okay. As they cool, you can carefully break them apart. It doesn't affect their taste at all.

When baking the cookies, be sure to keep your eye on them. Recipes include cooking times as guidance, not as absolutes. My recipe below says 10 to 12 minutes, which was my experience, but yours might be different, depending on your oven, altitude and whether you like browner or lighter cookies. The more important instruction is what the end product should look like: browned around the edges and lightly browned on top. This produces a cookie with crunchy sides and a chewy middle.

When they come out of the oven, let the cookies cool for a few minutes between you do anything with them. They're still very soft and will fall apart if you try to transfer them to a cooling rack or plate too quickly. As they cool and the sugars crystallize, they become harder and can be moved. I definitely recommend eating some as soon as they're baked. Warm cookies are amazing, and they will be softer just baked than they will be a day later as the sugars fully crystallize. Store then in the fridge and enjoy for up to a week or so.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies


Measuring cups and spoons
Large mixing bowl
Stand mixer with paddle attachment (if you don't have this, use a hand mixer and a second mixing bowl)
Wire whisk
Wooden spoon (for stirring the dough)
3 baking sheets
Silpat (silicone baking mat that fits inside a baking sheet) or parchment paper
Cooling racks


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli bittersweet 60% cacao chips)

1. Adjust oven racks to top and bottom third. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sugars and vanilla and beat until combined and creamy. Add the eggs one-at-a-time and beat in until combined.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Transfer the creamed butter-sugar mixture to the bowl with the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until evenly mixed into the dough.

4. Line three baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 to 3 inches between dough balls. Aim to put about 12 cookies per standard-size half sheet (13 X 18 inches). Bake until browned around the edges and lightly browned in places on top, about 10 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool on the rack a few minutes then carefully transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Feed: April 23, 2014

Le Diplomate bread basket
The amazing free bread basket at Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

New York Times: “City Kitchen: How to Make a Perfect Piece of Toast,” by David Tanis.
This week’s Dining section is all about bread, with a portfolio of articles that tackle artisanal bread making, Chad Robertson’s famous Tartine bakery bread in San Francisco and the infuriating practice of restaurants no longer offering free bread. My favorite piece though is Tanis’ column on making the perfect piece of toast. It’s such a simple thing, but you know there are ways you like it and ways you don’t. It’s the first thing many of us learn to cook (and for a few, the only thing). Glad to see it getting some ink.

Bread Furst: “Dipa Did It,” by Mark Furstenberg.
Speaking of bread, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the opening of the new Bread Furst bakery in my neighborhood, which hit an unfortunately snag recently when it couldn’t get power or gas connections. In swooped a lawyer who’d taken interest in the business to help it clear these final hurdles. Bread Furst owner Furstenberg has been blogging about the process of getting the business going, which has proven a fascinating insight into the tremendous work that goes into getting a food-oriented small business up and running.

Washington Post: “From Rose’s Luxury Chef, Burnt Romaine Becomes a Party on a Plate,” by Joe Yonan.
A Caesar salad with grilled lettuce is a delicious thing. I first tried it years ago at Casey Jones in La Plata, Md. For this week’s Washington Post Magazine Plate Lab, Yonan uncovers the secrets behind a similar salad at Rose’s Luxury, which has Mexican twist I think I’d really like. Yonan shares another great salad for this week’s Weeknight Vegetarian: Radish and Arugula Salad with Honey, Almonds and Mint.

Washington Post: “Beer Madness: Devils Backbone Vienna Lager Takes the Title,” by Greg Kitsock.
Congratulations to Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, winner of this year’s Beer Madness contest. I’ve had this beer before, and I agree it’s really good. I’m usually not a lager guy, but I like the darker profile of Vienna lagers, which I first came across while enjoying some amazing pizza at Toronto’s Beer Bistro.

Association of Food Bloggers: “Shooting in Manual: The Ins and Outs of Food Photography.
If you’re a food blogger or just interested in food photography, this is a great article with encouragement to turn off that “auto” setting and learn to use your camera’s manual features. I have a nice DSLR camera, but I’m guilty of rarely exploring past the “auto” setting (it does take such good pictures on auto). I'd love to experiment with these techniques.

Quartz: “Chipotle Continues to Refine The Science of Burrito Velocity,” by Roberto A. Ferdman.
Even when the line is really long, Chipotle will get you your lunch pretty quickly. Ferdman examines how the restaurant has engineered efficiency into its experience.

Fast Company: “The Aeropress Inventor's Secret to a Perfect Cup of Coffee,” by Chris Gayomali.
I recently discovered the Aeropress as a really great way to make espresso without an expensive espresso machine. Gayomali interviews its creator, Alan Adler. As far as coffee gadgets go, this is one of the most accessible both because of its low price and ease of use.

Eater NY: “High Restaurant Vacancy Rate Plagues the West Village,” by Robert Sietsema.
New York’s West Village is home to some great restaurants (like Commerce), many of them tucked away in small spaces and odd corners. Although you’d think such a hot area would be hard to get space in, there’s apparently a glut of vacant restaurant spaces at the moment.

Eater DC: “Making Homemade Pasta with Matt Adler,” by Missy Frederick.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m really glad Frederick posted this as a picture essay, otherwise it would be really long! This is the latest in Eater DC’s “Chef in the Kitchen” series, where they present photos of a working chef. In this installment, Osteria Morini chef Matt Adler makes a spring gnocchi with speck, sugar snap peas and sage. It looks delicious. And his gnocchi look so perfect! (Guess that’s why he’s a chef.)

It’s Mom Sense: “How Dirty Is the Dirty Dozen?” by Sara.
You’ve probably heard about the dirty dozen, the list of conventionally raised fruits and vegetables to be avoided because they contain the greatest amount of residue pesticides. Sara of It’s Mom Sense looks at the issue from the point of view of parents, who may feel additional pressure to avoid conventional produce for the sake of their children’s health which, given the price of organic produce, may lead some parents to forgo produce altogether. She argues that pesticide levels in conventional food products are at or below levels deemed safe by government regulators and thus health concerns may be exaggerated, a point the Washington Post also made in a recent article comparing conventional and organic food products. So parents shouldn’t feel bad about giving their kids conventional produce, is what she's saying. While this may be true, Sara ignores the issue of what pesticides do the environment, which ultimately affects our health as well. Something else to consider in making this calculation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Restaurant: Baby Wale (Washington, D.C.)

Ten years ago, we ate at Corduroy for lunch for my birthday. So I suppose it's appropriate that 10 years later we enjoyed my birthday dinner at Corduroy's casual offshoot, Baby Wale, which opened last year.

Baby Wale is right next door to Corduroy along the strip of 9th Street that lines the west side of the D.C. Convention Center. As stunning a space as Corduroy, Baby Wale is beautiful too and totally different. The restaurant itself is quite expansive, providing the benefit of tables that are given plenty of space. The wavy bar is particularly cool and rather large, running a distance of nearly half the restaurant. Plenty of happy hour patrons could be accommodated here, sipping on Baby Wale's menu of classic cocktails with modern twists like the gin rickey, D.C.'s signature drink.

Given that Baby Wale is technically a wine bar, we went with wine by the glass. The choices are interesting, although surprisingly limited for a wine bar; there were just four by-the-glass reds the night we stopped in. If you want to spring for a bottle, there's a much more extensive list, although I feel like one of the beauties of a wine bar should be ample by-the-glass selections to allow you try new and different wines.

Buffalo mozzarella porcupine

Baby Wale's food menu is also short, but I wouldn't dare call it limited. Although just a page of offerings, the eclectic menu ranges from a dressed down New Jersey hot dog to a dressed up duck confit cassoulet. There's even a few pizzas in the mix, a handful of sandwiches and even Japanese tonkatsu.
Caesar salad

We started the evening with a buffalo mozzarella porcupine. Although not the most exciting flavor combination, it easily wins points for a cute name and presentation: a ball of fresh mozzarella encased in crispy shreds of phyllo dough served with basil and tomato sauce. I really liked the Caesar salad which, in the vein of great Ceasars popping up all over the city, doesn't shy away from a bold anchovy dressing.

Roast chicken for two
For our entree, we went with the roast chicken for two, which comes with a side of braised arugula with shallots. The ample portion of chicken was delicious: tender, juicy and flavorful. You can always tell the difference brining makes in restaurant roast chicken, which is clearly the case here. While it doesn't scale the heights of roast chicken at say Palena or Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, it's definitely a worthy bird.

Since we had birthday cake, we skipped dessert, which is also pretty limited--just chocolate custard and cookies, although the cookies coming out of the kitchen did look really good.

The service at Baby Wale was attentive, but not intrusive, which we appreciated. They also handled a billing issue well. Apparently we were overcharged and didn't realize it before we left. We got a text a few hours later about it, and a few days later the charge was adjusted down. Just as I think diners should fess up if they notice an item is left off their bill, it's nice to see that restaurants that own up to billing mistakes too.

Baby Wale, 1124 9th Street NW (at M Street across from the Convention Center), Washington, D.C. (Shaw/Mt. Vernon Square). (202) 450-3311. Reservations: Open Table.

Baby Wale on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Regular Cook In / Dine Out readers may remember that I have a tradition of making my own birthday cake. Last year, it was a Chocolate Truffle Cake, the year before, Lemon Cake with Honey-Mascarpone Frosting. Chris always offers to buy me a cake, but I'd rather make it myself, since it will turn out better, I can make something more interesting at a reasonable cost and I enjoy it. Pluses all around.

This tradition actually started during my childhood--around my tween years as I recall. That's when I first started getting into baking. Back then, it wasn't from scratch, but learning to bake from cake mixes isn't such a bad thing if it gets kids into the kitchen.

For this year's birthday cake, I wanted to make a from-scratch version of one of the "box cakes" I remember loving as a kid: a triple chocolate cake that consists of three layers: a bottom layer of chocolate cake, a middle layer of thick chocolate sauce and a fluffy top layer of chocolate mousse. Yes, there was such a boxed cake back in the day. Unfortunately, I cannot remember nor find on the web what it must have been, so you'll just have to trust me. That version surely involved three separate envelopes, their contents mixed with water and the cake baked.

For this more complicated but (hopefully) tastier version, I combined components of three recipes: 1) Regan Daley's chocolate cake, which I made with Peanut Butter Frosting a couple years ago and is my all-around favorite chocolate cake recipe for its simplicity and amazing taste; 2) a simple ganache for the middle layer; and 3) my friend Jason Shriner's (a.k.a. The Aubergine Chef) cooked chocolate mousse recipe, which I adapted from his recipe for a similar layered chocolate mousse cake.

The cake and ganache are simple to make, but the mousse requires some degree of finesse. Of course, it would be easier to make chocolate mousse with raw eggs, which would require lots of whipping and no cooking, but raw eggs carry the risk of salmonella, which can knock you down even if you're not in a high-risk group (i.e. elderly, compromised immune system, etc.). I'd actually been interested in a cooked chocolate mousse for some time, so was quite pleased to learn about this recipe--one of the first things Jason and I talked about when we met last summer.

A double boiler can be purchased, but also easily improvised by placing a heatproof glass  mixing bowl over a medium saucepan. This recipe uses a double boiler extensively for making the chocolate mousse, and here I also used it for making the ganache.
The mousse requires the use of a double boiler: a pan of boiling water with another pan or a heatproof bowl set above the boiling water. Rather than the direct heat of the stove, the double boiler uses the steam of the boiling water to heat the mixture. Thus, it's a more gentle heat useful for cooking things like eggs and chocolate that can quickly overcook and become ruined. You can buy a double boiler, but I think it's just as easy to make one by using a glass mixing bowl set above a medium-size saucepan.

Cooking the egg yolk properly was the most difficult step.
Folding the mousse.
The trickiest part of the mousse recipe is cooking the egg yolks. Four egg yolks isn't a lot of volume, so I found it difficult to get accurate measurements from my instant-read thermometer while cooking them. During the first try, I overcooked them (they became hard and no longer stir-able), and by then the steam had made the thermometer crap out, so on my second try I winged it by cooking the egg yolks until they had thickened and turned a bright yellow but were not getting hard. It would probably be easier to use a smaller double boiler for this, since the thermometer could get a better reading if the egg had more depth in the bowl.

Cake with ganache.
Cake with mousse on top: I told you it wasn't the prettiest cake, but look at the first photo of how lovely it is once sliced.
The second trickiest part is shaping the cake. I'm no perfectionist when it comes to how desserts look. I'm much more interested in how they taste (hence, you'll probably notice that I'm not into detailed cake decorating). So I wasn't too concerned that the chocolate mousse was a bit lop-sided on top. The tricky part is that once the mousse is mixed, it's not particularly stiff. It will stiffen up in the fridge. After I had chilled the mousse for 30 minutes, I put the first application on the cake, but it started to run down the sides quite a bit. So I chilled it for another 10 minutes before adding more. Thus, the somewhat mushroom shape to this cake, which didn't bother me in the least (it tasted amazing), but if you're more particular about this, you might want to wait until the mousse is fairly stiff before putting it on the cake or somehow construct a form to hold the mousse in place (although doing so might smear the ganache that has dribbled down the side).

Another birthday cake and (not pictured) satisfied birthday boy.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
Cake recipe adapted from All-in-the Pan Chewy Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Butter Icing, In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley; chocolate mousse recipe adapted from Cooked Chocolate Mousse Cake from The Aubergine Chef by Jason Shriner.

Chocolate cake:
(Makes 1 8- or 9-inch round cake)

Butter (for greasing cake pan)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cool water


1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch

Cooked chocolate mousse:

4 large eggs, divided into yolks and whites
3/4 cup (5 oz.) sugar, divided
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream

Make chocolate cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cake pan, line bottom with parchment and flour, tapping out excess.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Make three wells in the mixture, one larger than the others. Add the oil to the large well and the vinegar and vanilla to the two smaller wells. Then pour water over the top. Stir the ingredients until thoroughly moistened but do not beat.

3. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Bake about 30 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, run a knife around the edge, invert cake pan and discard parchment. Place cake on a cake plate.

Make ganache:

Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer (alternatively, you can make the ganache in a double boiler, which I did only for the sake of not having to wash another saucepan, since the double boiler is needed for the mousse). Remove from heat, add chocolate and whisk until smooth (the hot cream will quickly melt the chocolate). Set saucepan on a wire rack to allow ganache to cool to room temperature (be sure to allow ganache to cool enough so that it thickens, but be careful about cooling it in the refrigerator, as it can get too hard). Pour ganache on top of cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Refrigerate cake until the mousse is ready.

Make chocolate mousse:

1. In a small heatproof bowl suitable for a double boiler, whisk together egg yolks with 2 tbsp. sugar. Set bowl over a small saucepan filled about halfway with water (water should not touch the bowl once the bowl is set in the pan) and bring water to a boil. Cook egg-sugar mixture, whisking frequently, until thickened and temperature on an instant read thermometer is at least 150 F, no more than 165 F (be careful not to overcook or the yolks will solidify). Set bowl aside to cool (do not refrigerate).

2. Whip heavy cream in the bowl of stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) until it reaches soft to medium peaks (run a spoon through the mixture to make a peak and the peak should fall over). Transfer whipped cream to another bowl (you need to stand mixer ready for step 3).

3. Combine egg whites and remaining sugar in another heatproof bowl (you can transfer the egg yolk mixture to a different bowl if you don't have a lot of heatproof bowls set over the pan of boiling water. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 150 F (up to 165 F) on an instant-read thermometer. Set bowl aside to cool (do not refrigerate). When cooled, whip egg whites in the bowl of stand mixer until medium peaks form.

4. In a heatproof bowl set over the pan of boiling water, add the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted, then add the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the butter as it melts. Add the cooked egg yolk and stir to combine (the mixture will thicken). Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool (do not proceed to step 5 if it is still hot).

5. Scoop a large handful of whipped cream and add to the chocolate mixture. Using a clean spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate. Continue folding large globs of whipped cream into the chocolate until it is all mixed in (should take 4 or 5 additions total). Using the same method, fold in the cooked egg whites. Place mousse in the refrigerator to cool for 30 to 40 minutes (mixture should be firm enough to hold its shape but not fully set).

6. Scoop the mousse onto the ganache-coated cake and use a offset spatula to mound it evenly. If the mousse is still too thin to do this, return the mousse to the fridge for another 10 minutes. I tried putting the mousse on the cake a little too soon and some ran over the side. It still tasted delicious, but didn't look quite as pretty as I was hoping for. Chill the cake until the mousse is set, another 2-3 hours.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Panko-Crusted Chicken with Artichokes and Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

Have you noticed that seasonal spring vegetables are a theme this week? Monday I shared a recipe with peas. Tuesday it was mushrooms and radishes. Thursday it was sugar snap peas. And today I have artichokes.

We ate artichokes fairly frequently when I was young. It's a lot of fun to pull the leaves off one-by-one and dip them in something like mayonnaise or lemon-butter. I wasn't really into the heart back then (I usually gave it to my mother), but now, of course, it's great.

For this recent dinner, I served simply steamed artichokes alongside panko-crusted chicken. The chicken are breaded with the tried-and-true formula of first flour, second egg and lastly the panko breading, which I've mixed with a little grated parmesan.

I wanted a dipping sauce that would work well with both the artichoke and the crispy chicken. Although I considered making a pan sauce, I decided that wouldn't go so well with the artichoke. Instead I mixed up this honey-mustard Greek yogurt dipping sauce, which was perfect.

Panko-Crusted Chicken with Artichokes and Dipping Sauce

Serves 2

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 lb. chicken breast cutlets
Honey-mustard dipping sauce (see recipe below)
Steamed artichokes (see recipe below)

1. Combine the panko, parmesan, salt and pepper. Spread on a plate. Spread the flour on a separate plate and pour the egg onto a third plate.

2. Heat oil over moderate heat in a medium frying pan.

3. Pat the chicken breast cutlets dry with a paper towel. Dredge the chicken first in the flour, then dip in the egg and finally in the panko mixture, making sure to get the chicken evenly coated. Fry the chicken in the hot oil until the breading is lightly browned and the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes, turning over half way.

4. Serve with the dipping sauce and artichokes.

Honey-Mustard Yogurt Dipping Sauce

1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. fresh chopped dill
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine garlic with a pinch of salt and grind to a paste using either a mortar and pestle or a glass measuring cup with a heavy spoon or cocktail muddler (or, alternatively, use a Garlic Twist). Transfer  garlic to a small bowl and stir together with remaining ingredients. Serve in ramekins along with the chicken and artichokes.

Steamed Artichokes
Some people cut off the top third of an artichoke or, in a process I'm sure takes a lot of time, snip the last half inch from each leaf. I don't do either of these things, as I really don't see the point. I've never injured myself while eating an artichoke. Frankly, I think you'd be more likely to stick yourself while doing all that prep.

2 artichokes, rinsed in cold water, stems and any very small outer leaves removed

Set a steamer insert inside a large saucepan. Fill with water below the level of the steamer. Place artichokes in the pot stem end up. Cover and bring to a boil. Steam the artichokes for 25 to 30 minutes until the stem end is tender when pierced with a fork.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Couscous with Sugar Snap Peas

Couscous with Sugar Snap Peas

I ate a lot of couscous in the early '00s. The Near East brand boxes that come with seasoning packets make couscous a fast and easy side dish (I was a particular fan of either the Parmesan or the Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil flavors). Now though, I hardly ever have it. I thought revisiting the dish might be a good opportunity to break out of my usual flavor profile.

My creative cooking tends to hover somewhere between American and Italian it seems. So, with this couscous dish, I wanted to push beyond those boundaries. Couscous originated in northern Africa, so I wanted to spice profile of this dish to be more aligned with that area while also taking advantage of seasonal sugar snap peas, which are so good right now.

I was pleased with the results of this dish. The couscous was fragrant but not overpoweringly spicy. The raisins added a bit of welcome sweetness that played well with other ingredients. We ate this in large portions as a salad, but it could certainly made a great side--I bet it would be perfect with lamb.

Couscous with Sugar Snap Peas

12 oz. sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut in half
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced (use 1/2 if it's a large sweet onion)
Salt, to taste
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
10 oz. plain couscous

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add the sugar snap peas and cook 2 minutes. While the peas cook, prepare an ice water bath, then transfer the peas to the bath to stop cooking. When cooled, drain and set aside.

2. Bring the chicken broth to a boil (bring to boil while performing step 3).

3. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, pine nuts, nutmeg, cinnamon and curry powder. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant. Add the raisins and fresh mint.

4. Add the boiling chicken broth and cooked peas to the saucepan with the onions and seasoning. Stir in the couscous, cover the pot and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then uncover and stir to fluff. Serve in bowls.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Feed: April 16, 2014

The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

Washington Post: “Egg Cookbooks: Time to Crack Open the New Ones,” by Bonnie S. Benwick.
This weeks Washington Post Food section is an eggstravaganza of coverage about the incredible, edible you-know-what. Benwick ticks off a list of good cookbooks devoted to the subject, along with some recipes, like the eggy brioche from Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient. Benwick also has a separate piece on egg tips and trivia. There’s also a story by freelance writer Emily Horton about hard-boiled eggs.

Wall Street Journal: “Master the Egg,” by Michael Ruhlman.
Speaking of Ruhlman’s new book, he provides this preview for the Wall Street Journal and talks about how mastering the egg is the key to mastering the kitchen. He quotes Alton Brown who called the egg “the Rosetta stone of the kitchen.” He offers the egg omelet as the perfect example of something every good cook should master and includes an interesting recipe (although not to my style, as I prefer my omelets flipped).

The Guardian: “Organic Food: It's Not Just for Yuppies Anymore,” by Tracie McMillan.
McMillan, author of the superlative The American Way of Eating, covers the news of Walmart’s recent announcement it will carry organic groceries for my favorite British newspaper, The Guardian. Her angle is what the announcement means about assumptions regarding low-income Americans—a big portion of Walmart customres—and their preference for organic goods, which is apparently stronger than among wealthier Americans. Although as McMillan notes, preference doesn’t always translate to action, especially when income becomes a limiting factor. Walmart may help change that.

NPR: “The Secret to These Sauces Is Nuts,” by Claire Adas.
Like Ms. Adas, I’m a nut for nuts, so I got pretty hungry reading her descriptions of all the wonderful ways you can use nuts in food. Her focus is on sauces, and her nut aiolis sound amazing.

Saveur: “Best Food Blog Awards 2014.”
The food and travel magazine hands out its awards for the best food blogs of the year, as chosen by readers and editors. Lots of great picks in the food and drink categories. Congratulations to the winners.

I Am a Food Blog: “Peeps Coconut Cake with Mascarpone Frosting,” by Stephanie Le
One of the blog winners, the editors’ choice for best food blog, was Stephanie Le’s I Am a Food Blog. She’s got a super cute and tasty-sounding coconut cake with mascarpone frosting and peeps.

SF Gate: “Whole Foods wins tahini taste test by landslide,” by Sarah Fritsche.
With warmer weather approaching (can’t believe it froze in D.C. last night!), I’ll be ready to make hummus soon. Good tahini is essential for a creamy smooth consistency. Fritsche assembled a panel of tasters to find a favorite; their selection may surprise you (hint: it’s a store brand).

The Huffington Post: “The 22 Most Hipster Foods on the Planet,” by Alison Spiegel.
I don’t really consider myself a hipster. I’m too old, and I was never cool enough (just very briefly in the late ‘90s). But as a “foodie” (another term I’m not really that into, but it fits), there are quite a few things on this list I’m guilty of fawning over, including food trucks, Brussels sprouts, bacon, and tacos. Just don’t give me any PBR; I’ll stick to craft IPA thank you. Oh wait, that was on the list too.

A La Mode Podcast: “Episode 7 - Sugar Coating,” by Jason Shriner and Jaisyn Markley.
Here’s something different for The Feed: a podcast. My friend Jason (a.k.a. The Aubergine Chef) and his friend Jaisyn recently started this podcast focused on food, fashion and whatever else strikes their fancy. In this episode, Jason talks about the BBC documentary Sugar v. Fat (check out the twins featured in it), while Jaisyn discusses accessorizing your outfits (sweet on the inside and outside). They also touch on Kinetic Sand, making smart wireless phone service choices, and provide general updates on what they've been up to lately.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chicken with Mushroom-Wine Sauce and Roasted Radishes and Carrots

Sautéed chicken breasts with a simple pan sauce is a great way to quickly get a tasty and elegant-looking dinner on the table midweek. Awhile ago, I made Sautéed Chicken with Pan Wine Sauce. This is a similar preparation with the added interest of mushrooms and a foundation of roasted small root vegetables.

Up until this recipe, I can't recall much experience with radishes besides sliced for salads. They're wonderful roasted though; their sharp flavor mellows out beautifully. The simple recipe below for roasted radishes and baby-cut carrots complemented the chicken and mushrooms perfectly.

Chicken with Mushroom-Wine Sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. chicken breast cutlets
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Roasted radishes and carrots (see recipe below)

1. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Spread the flour on a plate and dredge the chicken in the flour, tapping to remove excess.  Transfer the floured chicken to the hot frying pan, season with salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink in the middle, about 10 minutes, flipping at the halfway point. Remove chicken from pan; leave drippings.

2. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until softened and browned. Add the white wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape any remaining bits from the bottom of the pan. Add about half the parsley and cook until the wine has reduced by roughly half.

3. Serve chicken breasts over roasted vegetables topped with mushroom-wine sauce and a sprinkle of the remaining fresh parsley.

Roasted Radishes and Carrots
Adapted from Roasted Radishes and Carrots by Melissa D'Arabian for Food Network

16 radishes
20 baby-cut carrots
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Roast at 450 F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Orange-Ginger Salmon and Peas with Onion, Mint and Fennel Pollen

During the spring, I love to serve broiled salmon with seasonal green vegetables like fresh peas. Here, fresh orange juice unites the salmon and peas, with the former also flavored with fresh ginger and a dusting of fennel pollen.

Orange-Ginger Salmon with Onion and Fennel Pollen

Serves 2

Olive oil spray
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced into rounds
3/4 lb. salmon fillet, skin removed
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
Seasoned salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Pinch of fennel pollen
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Spray a 9 x 9 square baking dish with olive oil. Place about half of the onion slices in the bottom of the baking dish. Lay the salmon on top of the onions. Place the other half of the onions on top of the salmon.

3. In a small bowl, combine the ginger, salt, pepper and orange juice and pour over the salmon. Bake until the salmon flakes with a fork and is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Divide the salmon into two portions and top with a sprinkle of fennel pollen and fresh parsley.

Peas with Orange Juice and Mint
Adapted from a recipe from Saveur

Serves 2

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups frozen or fresh green peas
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Melt butter in a medium (10-inch) frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add peas and stir to coat with butter. After about a minute, add the orange juice. Continue cooking until peas are cooked to desired texture, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh mint.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dallas Drinks: The Nicolas

Dallas Drinks The Nicolas

Dallas Drinks is a co-creation with Dallas Decoder, honoring the characters of the TNT drama Dallas, which continues the Ewing family saga. See all of the Dallas Drinks here.

Monday is the mid-season finale of TNT's Dallas before the show breaks until its return in the summer, when the final seven episodes of the third season will air. Dallas Decoder and I are in such suspense over this season. Will John Ross seize total control of Ewing Global? Will Sue Ellen regain her sobriety? How will Pamela react to finding out about her husband's extramarital liaisons with Emma? So many questions! I'm sure some will be answered Monday, but certainly others will linger while new ones emerge. This is Dallas after all, the show that made cliffhangers a prime-time staple.

To celebrate next week's episode, Dallas Decoder and I have teamed up for another Dallas Drink, this one inspired by season 3's new regular, Nicolas Treviño, played by the dashing Juan Pablo Di Pace. Nicolas is a mysterious, complex character and so is his drink. Inspired by the mole sauce we saw Nicolas prepare this season, the drink combines the flavors of smoky mezcal, nutty amaretto, spicy habanero and a dash of chocolate. We think Nicolas is irresistible; we hope you agree this drink is too.

And speaking of smoky, the upcoming episode is titled "Where There's Smoke." You can watch Dallas Monday night at 9 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. CDT) on TNT. It's sure to be a hot one!

Dallas Drinks: The Nicolas

1 1/2 oz. mezcal
1 oz. amontillado sherry
1/2 oz. amaretto liqueur
5 dashes chocolate bitters
2 dashes Bittermens Hellfire habanero shrub
Lemon twist

Combine mezcal, sherry, amaretto, bitters and shrub in a cocktail mixing glass with ice. Stir until combined and chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon twist.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Crispy Breaded Asparagus

Crispy Breaded Asparagus

"Asparagus fries!" exclaimed Chris when I set a plate of these on the table in front of him recently. That's pretty much the idea behind this festive preparation of the quintessential spring vegetable.

Line up plates with the three breading ingredients: flour, beaten egg and seasoned panko-parmesan mixture
Wanting to add something crunchy to my usual broiled asparagus, I did a search for asparagus recipes that incorporated panko and came across this simple dish from blogger Kevin Lynch's Closet Cooking. The recipe uses the classic three-step breading technique of flour, egg and bread crumbs (in that order). The results were pleasantly crisp, while the parmesan added an extra bit of flavor.

Crispy Breaded Asparagus
Adapted from Crispy Baked Asparagus Fries by Closet Cooking

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed (bend the asparagus until they break and discard the thicker, tougher end).
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Set a wire cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Combine the panko, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and spread on a dinner plate. Spread the flour on a second plate and the egg on a third plate. Dredge each asparagus spear in the flour, then dip in the egg, allowing excess to drip off, then roll in the panko mixture to coat.

3. Arrange the spears evenly on the rack above the baking sheet. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.