Monday, June 29, 2015

Ancho Chile Chicken and Slaw Tacos (Silent Interlude)

Ancho Chile Chicken and Slaw Tacos (Silent Interlude)

In 1984, the Marvel G.I. Joe comic put out issue #21, titled "Silent Interlude." Unlike other all other G.I. Joe comics (or most other comics in general), the issue featured no words, just pictures. This is my attempt to create a "Silent Interlude"-style recipe, adapted from Cooking Light's recipe for Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream. I'll be taking a break from the blog for about a week, so I thought this "silent" approach appropriate until I return.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Three-Peas Farro Risotto with Bacon

Three-Peas Farro Risotto with Bacon

Early summer means lots of fresh peas. I've posted about sugar snap peas this year, and wanted to get in one more recipe before we move on from this vibrant fresh staple.

This farro risotto recipe plays on concepts from two previous recipes: the Farro Risotto with Pancetta and Kale and the Peas 3-Ways Risotto, melding what I like best about those two dishes into one delicious whole.

Chewy farro, a wheat grain, is a good substitute for arborio rice in a risotto. I buy it semi-pearled, so it cooks faster than other wheat grains. It's chewy texture and earthy flavor goes nicely with hickory-smoked bacon and provides a contrast to the fresh pea flavor of this dish, which is delivered three ways: pea-flavored broth, sugar snap peas and a topping of sautéed pea tendrils. Before those peas are gone from the markets, this is one great dish for singing their praises.

Three-Peas Farro Risotto with Bacon

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (may also use vegetable broth)
1 cup water
2 cups shelled fresh English peas
4 oz. hickory-smoked bacon, diced (I recommend Benton's)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro (rinsed)
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1 lb. sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and peas cut in half
1/2 grated cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. pea shoots

1. Bring chicken broth and water to a low simmer. And peas and simmer while you prep the other ingredients and start the risotto.

2. Heat a Dutch oven or large sauté pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisped and brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove excess rendered fat to leave about 1 tbsp. in the pot.

3. Add 1 tbsp. unsalted butter to pot. When melted, add onion and sauté until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add the farro and cook, stirring occasionally to toast, about 5 minutes.

4. Add cooked bacon back to the pot, then add the white wine. Stir frequently as the wine cooks down until the point when a spoon swiped across the bottom of the pot leaves bare pot that isn't immediately covered with liquid.

5. Strain out the peas from the chicken broth and discard them. Start adding the warm broth by the ladle to the farro, stirring to incorporate and cooking until each added ladle of liquid is incorporated so that the bottom of the pot can be seen when a spoon is swiped across it. After about half of the broth has been incorporated, stir in the sugar snap peas. Continue adding broth until the grain is tender but still chewy (you may not need all the broth). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the grated parmesan cheese.

6. While the risotto cooks, heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add pea shoots, season with salt and cook until wilted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

7. Serve the risotto in shallow bowls topped with a few of the sautéed pea shoots.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Restaurant: Roofers Union (Washington, D.C.)

Restaurant: Roofers Union (Washington, D.C.)

Themes have become more common among restaurants trying distinguish themselves from the ever-expanding pack. Whether the theme serves the restaurant well is another matter. Comet Ping-Pong effectively leveraged a theme that seemingly has nothing to do with pizza into both a clever design aesthetic and a fun distraction while you wait for your pizza. On the other hand, the Pennsylvania theme of Second State didn't make much sense vis-a-vis its not-very-Pennsylvanian menu.

Roofers Union, opened last year, continues the upward march of dining in Adams-Morgan. Once best known for the jumbo slice and the long line outside Pasta Mia, Adams-Morgan has always been stuffed with restaurants but finding really great ones was often challenging. In recent years, it's become easier with additions like Jack Rose Dining Saloon and the superlative Mintwood Place.

While naming your restaurant Roofers Union might draw association to D.C.'s actual roofers' union--the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers--the theme actually works great for this three-level space, a vertical union of food and drink as well as indoor and outdoor space. Here, they take you up to the roof and beyond.

Top: view from the dining room. Bottom: view from the roof.
A small bar space fills the first level, while the much larger main dining room is located upstairs and decorated in keeping with the trade labor theme. If available, try to snag a table along the row of large windows overlooking 18th Street to enjoy the great view. There's a second bar here too, but that's not where the fun ends. Go all the upstairs to the large rooftop deck, where there's another bar (duh) and even better unobstructed views of the city. Is there a better restaurants space in Adams-Morgan? I really doubt it.

Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley oversees the kitchen, as she also does at Ripple in Cleveland Park. If you've been to Ripple, you'll recognize Roofers Union's focus on quality fresh ingredients. Matching Roofers Union's more casual atmosphere, the food is also comparatively simpler, with a short menu of classics like steak frites, mussels and burgers. There's currently a seasonal vegetable risotto with peas, carrots and heirloom grains.

Italian sausage on pretzel roll with fries
Sausage is Roofers Union's speciality. It's made in-house and served in pretzel rolls accompanied by hand-cut fries (or greens if you like, but the fries are great). We sampled the Italian and chicken sausages and really liked both of them. The Italian sausage is mildly spicy and served with onions, bell peppers and melted provolone. The chicken sausage has a summery herbal flavor and is tucked into its pretzel roll with sautéed mushrooms and Teleggio cheese.

Before indulging ourselves with sausage and fries, we tried to be a little responsible by starting our dinner with salads. Mixed greens with tart picked vegetables and honey-dijon vinaigrette is a good, solid starter. I love seeing pickled cauliflower on a salad. If you like cauliflower, there's also a roasted cauliflower salad served with fresh herbs and goat cheese.

Given that Roofers Union has three bars, you should expect a good bar program here. About 20 beers are offered on top, arranged on the menu by flavor profile. About that many choices are offered in cans. There are many local selections and few if any choices that I'd say are "big names," making this a great place to try new beers.

Craft cocktails are also a specialty, and the menu features a rotating array of creative drinks. I had a spicy/herbal concoction with made-in-D.C. Green Hat gin. Chris had a summery Old Fashioned that tasted like it was made with Aperol. Unfortunately I didn't write down exactly what we had, and Roofers Union's website does not keep its seasonal cocktails menu current, but we really liked both drinks.

With its big windows and rooftop, Roofers Union seems like a particularly great place to visit during the summer. We dropped by early before a Washington Improve Theater show at the nearby D.C. Arts Center and really enjoyed the food, ambiance and friendly service.

Roofers Union, 2446 18th Street NW (one block south of Columbia Road), Washington, D.C. (Adams-Morgan). (202) 232-7663. Reservations: Open Table.
Click to add a blog post for Roofers Union on Zomato

Friday, June 19, 2015

8-2-Eat: My 8 Favorite Places to Get Pizza

Arcuri Smokey Pizza

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. Today's list is my 8 favorite places to eat pizza, representing great D.C. pizza places and restaurants in other places we like to visit. They are listed in order from closest-to-furthest from home.

Smoky, Comet Ping-Pong
1. Comet Ping-Pong. We're awfully spoiled to have the wonderful wood-fired pizzas of Comet Ping-Pong just a few blocks from home. Chris's favorite is the Smoky, featuring bacon, smoked mushrooms and smoked mozzarella, while mine is the Stanley, made with fennel sausage, roasted peppers and Comet tomato sauce.

2. Arcuri. On a nice day, we might take a longer walk down to Glover Park and end up at Arcuri, another great neighborhood pizza (and more) restaurant. Here my favorite is the Smokey (pictured at top), made with pepperoni, guanciale, smoked mozzarella and scallions.

3. Wiseguy NY Pizza. I'm also awfully spoiled t have Wiseguy within walking distance of work. This is D.C.'s attempt at authentic New York-style pizza. And, while I know New Yorker's can be awfully snobby about their pizza, it's hard to argue against the great slices at Wiseguy. My favorite is a toss-up between the topping-loaded Supreme and simple Margherita.

4. Grotto Pizza. We eat Grotto Pizza just once a year, but it's a wonderful tradition: our first meal of our first day on our annual trip to Rehoboth Beach. That first bite of Baker's Choice topped with sausage and pickled sweet peppers...that's when we know we've arrived at the beach.

Salsiccia Dolce, Spunto Thin Crust Pizza
5. Posto/Vezzo/Spunto This Crust Pizza. This chain of thin crust pizzerias in Manhattan serves Roman-style pizza made with a super-thin cracker-like crust that we really love. The fresh toppings are always good. Although Posto in Gramercy was our first and favorite outlet, we've found Vezzo in Murray Hill and Spunto in the West Village to be similarly excellent. The Salciccia Dolce with sweet Italian sausage, caramelized onion and fresh basil is our favorite.

6. Juliana's Pizza. While the Posto & Co. pizzerias make Roman-style pizza, Juliana's makes a true New York-style pie, and it's quite good. Don't be fooled by the longer line at neighboring Grimaldi's; be smart and eat at Juliana's. You may have to wait there anyway too.

7. Giordano's. Chris and I are pizza fiends. We devour our pizzas. There is often little, if any left. But one time in our lives, the pizza defeated us and that was at Giordano's in Chicago. Their Chicago-style pizza is thick--like 2 inches thick. Seriously! I think we each ate just one slice and gave in. I remember it being really good though, thick bready dough covered with ozzy mozzarella and piping hot tomato sauce. We thought we knew Chicago-style from Armand's (if the Tenleytown location were still around, it would surely be on this list), but this was another thing altogether.

Italian Combo, Upper Crust Pizza
8. Upper Crust Pizza. When we're on the Oregon coast, this Rockaway Beach pizzeria is our pick for really great pizza. It's not Neapolitan, New York, wood-fired or Chicago style. It's just great traditional American-style pizza from an old-school family-run pizza restaurant. As much as Grotto means summer at the beach in Rehoboth to us, Upper Crust means the same in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. Wouldn't be the same without it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mangia Dry Rub: Broiled Salmon with Sautéed Golden Zucchini

Mangia Dry Rub: Broiled Salmon with Sautéed Golden Zucchini

Good food needs to be seasoned. A dish untouched by salt, pepper, herbs and other spices is just a bunch of ingredients. Seasoning is what brings those ingredients together, uniting them into a cohesive whole--something that really sings.

It's appropriate then that Mangia, ostensibly a company that makes and sells tasty dry rub seasoning blends, is really much more than that.

Mangia Dry Rub

I've gotten to know Mangia through the company's active participation in social media--first through the weekly #FoodieChats Twitter chat (Mondays, 8 p.m. Eastern) and then through Mangia's own online chat, the Mangia TV Vamp Cooking Vamp (Mondays, 7:30 p.m. Eastern), hosted by Mangia's Bob Heffernan.

Did I say Mangia calls their video chat a "vamp?" The term comes from jazz and popular music, meaning a simple introductory passage generally repeated and often improvised. Bob told me the term reminds him of his own approach in the kitchen, which I can definitely relate to. You have your go-to recipes, but you're always tweaking--often in the moment.  Dishes you make again and again are never exactly the same.

The vamp is part of Mangia's effort to be more than just the creator of a great product. Sensing the need for more community building, Mangia strives to be a lifestyle brand that helps build and strengthen connections forged around food and community. The vamps, which usually last a half hour, give Bob a chance to connect directly with an audience--a fun group of food enthusiasts he's started calling "Mangia Maniacs."

I've been an active participant in the vamps since they started late last year, and I've enjoyed the chance to connect with Bob and other food-minded friends as Bob leads us through a cornucopia of food subjects from the importance of mise en place to hosting a Game of Thrones-themed dinner party. He even hosts guests, such as Bacon & Legs writer Fontina Turner. Unlike a podcast, the vamps are live, and therefore unedited, given them a warm spontaneity lacking from many edited programs. And Bob's infectious enthusiasm for food and community permeates each program.

Mangia Fish Mojo Dry Rub up close.

And then, of course, there are the rubs. While not a focus of the vamps, they are often mentioned. Mangia's line-up includes rubs geared toward fish, shrimp and barbecue. Although branded as "Cajun" rubs, they are versatile seasoning blends with a wide array of applications. Personally, I don't do hardly any Cajun cooking (something I need to eventually rectify), but I've enjoyed using the rubs for other purposes.

The Fish Mojo Dry Rub is my favorite. It's a wonderfully balanced spicy-sweet blend with garlic, onion, paprika, black pepper, cayenne and turmeric. I've tried lots of different things with it, including mixing it with pecans and parmesan for a baked fish dish. My favorite way to use it though is to just keep it simple. In the recipes below, I've sprinkled the rub on broiled salmon with rosemary, broiled asparagus and sautéed golden zucchini. These are simple week-day recipes beautifully enhanced by the Mangia rub. As I've mentioned, we eat a lot of salmon, and my husband isn't always the biggest fish fan. But he was picking the bits of Mangia-seasoned salmon off the baking sheet last time I made the Fish Mojo Broiled Salmon. It's pretty darn good.

Living in a city apartment means I don't have a grill, but I imagine Mangia rubs would be great sprinkled on grilled steaks, ribs or vegetables. There are many more recipes for using the rubs on Mangia's website.

Mangia's rubs are available online and from a limited number of Illinois retailers. The rubs are made at Lamb Farms, a residential and vocational community for people with developmental disabilities located in Libertyville, Illinois.

A former long-time Illinois resident, Bob moved to Bend, Oregon last year. This gives Mangia connections to the Midwest and Northwest, but ultimately, Mangia is about connecting with people from all over. "We want to help people get back to gathering on a more regular basis around great food and drink," said Bob. He said they have lots of ideas for more products and are seeking partnerships with like-minded brands to build their store while also working to push the boundaries of social media and online engagement.

Just like seasoning brings the ingredients of a dish together, Mangia is striving to bring food-minded individual together to nurture a thoughtful and fun online food community. The world will certainly be a tastier place for it.

Fish Mojo Broiled Salmon

Makes 2 servings

3/4 lb. salmon fillet
Olive oil spray
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. Mangia Fish Mojo Dry Rub
1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1. Preheat oven broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with olive oil spray.

2. Place salmon fillet skin-side down on prepared baking sheet. Spray with olive oil, then spread the rosemary on top. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. Fish Mojo Dry Rub. Place salmon under broiler and broil for about 5 minutes. Turn the fish over and broil another 5 minutes. Remove and discard the skin and check the fish for doneness (broil another 1 to 2 minutes if not cooked through). Divide fillet in half and transfer to two plates. Sprinkle with chives.

Sautéed Golden Zucchini

Makes 2 servings

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 golden zucchini, cut into coins about 1/8 to 1/4 thick
1 tbsp. Mangia Fish Mojo Dry Rub

1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.

2. When the pan is hot, add the zucchini and distribute in an even layer. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. Fish Mojo Dry Rub. Cook, undisturbed, about 5 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the zucchini and cook on the other side another 5 minutes until both sides are lightly browned. Remove from pan and transfer to two plates.

Simple Seasoned Broiled Asparagus

This is just my basic recipe for broiled asparagus but seasoned with Mangia Fish Mojo Dry Rub instead of the usual salt and pepper. It goes great with the salmon above.

Makes 2 servings

1 bunch of asparagus, rough ends trimmed off
extra virgin olive oil spray
1 tbsp. Mangia Fish Mojo Dry Rub

1. Preheat oven broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Spread asparagus in an even row on the baking sheet and spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with Fish Mojo Dry Rub. Broil about 7-8 minutes, stirring asparagus after 4 minutes. Serve immediately.