Monday, August 31, 2015

Pasta with Quick-Cooked Tomato Sauce

Pasta with Quick-Cooked Tomato Sauce

It's hard to believe Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukin's The New Basics Cookbook is over 26 years old. The number one song in America when this book came out was Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," his first (and only) #1 hit. Back then an "app" was something you ate before an entree and a "tweet" was a sound a bird made. Nobody bought music from Apple (unless you count the record companies). Cell phones wouldn't find in your bag, let along your pocket.

Well, you'll be chirping with delight if you make this easy tomato sauce for pasta. After my mother's spaghetti recipe, this was the second pasta dish I learned to cook when I was in high school, and it's still a hit today.

I made a couple of minor alterations. The original recipe calls for a mix of fresh and canned tomatoes, but since it's summer, I went with all fresh. I also substituted fresh basil for the recipe's flat-leaf parsley and upped the volume of fresh herbs, since fresh basil is so wonderful with tomatoes and, after a failed first attempt earlier this summer, I have a beautiful basil plant growing on my balcony now.

Pasta with Quick-Cooked Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Quick Cooked Tomato Sauce from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Salt, to taste
1 lb. dried fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups fresh tomatoes, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup tomato paste
Dash of grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 yellow onion, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
Grated pecorino-romano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the fresh tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and increase heat to medium-high until the mixture bubbles, then decrease heat to medium. Simmer until the tomatoes are tender and falling apart, about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Preheat oven broiler with rack about 4-5 inches from the broiler. In a medium bowl, toss the slivered onion with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onion mixture on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet in an even layer. Broil about 5-7 minutes, stirring every couple minutes, until the onions are lightly golden brown (be sure to stir to prevent onions from burning--some will still be quite browned around the edges, which is fine). Set onions aside.

4. Stir the pasta and fresh basil into the pasta sauce and turn off the heat. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls topped with some of the broiled onions and grated pecorino-romano cheese at the table.

Friday, August 28, 2015

8-2-Eat: 8 Recipes for Fresh Summer Tomatoes

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. The last 2 weeks, I've shared a number of recipes for making use of fresh summer tomatoes. Here are 8 more of my favorites from summers past.

1. Tomato Bruschetta. Many of the best ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes are simple delights like tomato bruschetta--garlic-rubbed grilled bread brushed with olive oil and topped with tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. This recipe was accompanied by an article on the evolving use of the term "bruschetta."

Roasted tomato panzanella.
2. Roasted Tomato Panzanella. Panzanella, an Italian bread salad, is our favorite way to enjoy summer tomatoes. Although I usually serve it with raw tomatoes, sometimes I like them roasted too.

3. Greek Salad with Chicken. Classic Greek salad is a great way to showcase not just tomatoes but a variety of raw summer vegetables.

4. Freekeh Tabbouleh with Mint. Tabbouleh is usually made with bulgur wheat, but I love this version with the smoky-roasty flavor of freekeh, another wheat grain. Sweet sungold cherry tomatoes are my favorite tomato for this.

5. Peach and Tomato Salad with Tofu. This salad, a Hugh Acheson recipe, beautifully blends two summer staples into a spicy vegan salad (pictured above).

6. Ultimate Club Sandwich. I use a low-heat oven to dry out the tomatoes in this club sandwich, which also features avocado, bacon and Monterey Jack cheese.

Roasted tomato risotto.
7. Roasted Tomato Risotto. Most risotto recipes call for using chicken broth, but for more tomato flavor, I used my own roasted tomato broth in this recipe.

8. Tipsy Gazpacho Cocktail. I was inspired by the flavors of gazpacho in creating this gin cocktail made with roasted tomato syrup, a finalist in last year's Washington Post tomato recipe contest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Roasted Tomato Yaki Udon

Yaki Udon is a simple Japanese dish of fried udon noodles--those wide Japanese noodles that resemble linguine--usually served with a mixture of meat and vegetables. I thought it could be interesting to develop a version of Yaki Udon that uses tomatoes.

By now, a lot of you have probably heard of the so-called "fifth taste," umami. The term is Japanese and mean roughly "savory." Lots of Japanese dishes are loaded with umami flavor, which comes from foods high in glutamates like mushrooms, seaweed and certain types of fish. Dashi, for example, is a Japanese broth made from dried kombu seaweed and dried fish flakes known as bonito or katsuobushi. Dashi doesn't taste like much by itself, but the glutamate-rich broth is used to enhance the flavor of other ingredients (I've used it to poach salmon, for example).

Tomatoes, although not something we commonly associate with Japanese food, are also loaded with glutamates. This isn't so apparent with raw tomatoes, but when roasted, those savory notes really come through. I thought it would be interesting to make Yaki Udon using a roasted tomato sauce. A sort of "Japanese Spaghetti" if you will.

I roasted and pureed fresh tomatoes for this dish and then made a sauce with onions, scallions, garlic and shiitake mushrooms. Although spaghetti is commonly garnished with grated parmesan, I used black sesame seeds. Although it takes awhile to roast the tomatoes, this can be done ahead of time. Otherwise, the dish comes together quite quickly.

Roasted Tomato Yaki Udon

3 lb. ripe red tomatoes, cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks
4 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1/2 tsp. sea salt
10 oz. package dried udon noodles
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4-5 scallions chopped, white and light green parts separated from the green part
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced into 1/4-inch slices
2 tbsp. low-sodium tamari (may use soy sauce)
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2-3 tbsp. black sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine tomatoes, 2 tbsp. vegetable oil and sea salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Spread the tomatoes in an even layer in a 9 X 13 baking dish. Roast the tomatoes, stirring every 30 minutes, until the tomatoes have shriveled, browned a little around the edges and significantly reduced in volume, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Set aside to cool. Transfer tomatoes and any remaining juices to a food processor and pulse 5 to 6 times to make a chunky sauce. Store sauce in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the udon noodles and cook until the noodles are al dente, about 4-6 minutes (may vary by noodle brand, consult package directions). Drain noodles and set aside.

3. Heat remaining 2 tbsp. of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the white and light green chopped scallions and the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and their water has evaporated, about 4 minutes.

4. Add the noodles to the stir fry and stir to combine. Add the soy sauce and mirin (the liquid will help break up the noodles if they are sticking together). Stir to combine the noodles with the other ingredients and cook about 1-2 minutes. Add the roasted tomato sauce and the sesame oil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook just enough to reheat the tomatoes, 1-2 minutes. Add the sesame oil and chopped scallion greens and stir to combine.

5. Serve the noodles in bowls topped with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.


Dashi-Poached Salmon

Monday, August 24, 2015

Roasted Ratatouille Pasta with Garlic and White Wine Sauce

Roasted Ratatouille Pasta with Garlic and White Wine Sauce

Ratatouille is such a perfect summer dish. And easy too. Basically, you sauté a bunch of beautiful in-season summer vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions and serve them with fresh herbs like thyme and basil. I've done a simple version before. This is a little more complicated, but I promise it's worth the extra work.

"I am the Ratatouille Man."
I love the combination of vegetables in ratatouille, and I thought they would work well as a basis for a pasta. It's not uncommon to serve ratatouille over pasta (or rice), but I wanted to do a little more with it, making a sauce that integrates the pasta and the vegetables.

I first roasted the vegetables for quite a long time, as they give off a lot of liquid. After about 80 minutes they were quite soft and just starting to turn a little brown around the edges. As that was finishing, I made a simple sauce of garlic cooked in butter to which I added first a little tomato paste and then some white wine. This formed the base of the sauce into which I folded the roasted vegetables.

If you love vegetable pastas, this summery version is sure to please. It was a real hit in our house. I recommend serving it with grated cheese. Parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano would do, but I think the brighter flavor of pecorino-romano works well here.

Roasted Ratatouille Pasta with Garlic and White Wine Sauce

1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. dried pasta, such as fearful (I used tricolor)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup gruner veltliner wine (or other dry white wine)
Dash of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil ribbons (chiffonade)
Grated pecorino-romano cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Combine eggplant, zucchini, onion, bell pepper and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste and stir to coat vegetables with the oil. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast vegetables until shriveled and the edges are lightly browned, about 60 to 80 minutes, turning vegetables every 20 minutes. Remove roasted vegetables from oven and set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

4. Heat remaining tbsp. of olive oil and 2 tbsp. of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook another minute. Add the wine, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and increase heat slightly to bring to a bubble, stirring to combine the ingredients into a sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the roasted vegetables until combined. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked pasta and basil. Serve in shallow bowls with grated pecorino-romano at the table.


Basic Ratatouille

Friday, August 21, 2015

8-2-Eat: 8 No Heat Dishes

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. Today, I feature 8 dishes you can make without turning on the oven or stove--perfect for those really hot summer days.

1. Chickpea "Potato" Salad. I recently featured a roasted version of this, but the tasty original requires no heat to transform simple ingredients into an updated version of the picnic classic.

2. Smoky Smooth Hummus. Garlicky chickpea-and-tahini laden hummus is perfect for dipping pitas and cut vegetables into and it requires no heat for either the dip or its dippers.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
3. Heirloom Tomato Panzanella. An Italian salad of bread cubes (toasted generally, but if you want to absolutely use no heat you can just cut them up), tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

4. Creamy Andalusian Gazpacho. Yes, it's a soup, but it's a raw summery one requiring no cooking that celebrates all things great about tomatoes.

5. Spicy Pistachio Guacamole. I suppose it's hard to call this "no heat" with those slices of jalapeño, but it will still keep your kitchen cool (and taste delicious).

6. Classic Tuna Salad Sandwich. The tangy crunch of this sandwich classic is perfect on a hot summer day.

Cold Chickpea-Tahini Soup
7. Cold Chickpea-Tahini Soup. This is pretty much all the ingredients of hummus yet put together as a soup. If you like hummus--and who doesn't?--give this a try.

8. Flatbread with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce. This wonderful dish is sort of like an uncooked pizza: flatbread topped with yogurt-cucumbers sauce, smashed chickpeas and seasoned tomatoes. It's also addictively good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Manhattan "Chowder" Salad

Manhattan "Chowder" Salad

As a kid, I loved clam chowder, and it's still one of my favorites. It's a wonderfully creamy soup flavored with the briny clams, butter and (in the best versions) a little smoky bacon. But I'll never forget the time I ordered Manhattan clam chowder, not knowing it was something different altogether.

"What is this?" I'm sure I asked my mom.

What I think of as clam chowder is the New England variety, which is also popular on the West Coast: a creamy broth with onion and other vegetables, potato, clams and (if you make it right) bacon. Did I mention it's supposed to have bacon in it? My mom's version was so bacon-y, we called it her "bacon chowder."

And Manhattan clam chowder is not these things. It has a thinner, tomato-based broth instead of a thick, creamy base. Frankly, it's just not as good, despite the fact that it's composed of so many things I love: onions, celery, potatoes and tomatoes (plus clams, which I don't "love," but are good when used right).

With this in mind, I decided to take the parts I like about Manhattan clam chowder and re-fashion them as a salad. I kept the onion and celery, but included them raw. I fried the potatoes into cubes, which makes them a bit like croutons. Instead of tomato broth, I used raw beefsteak tomatoes. And I replaced the clams with salmon, which is much more flavorful for a salad. A garlicky white-wine vinaigrette pulls the whole thing together.

Manhattan "Chowder" Salad

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6-7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 oz. salmon fillet
2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces (may use other tomatoes, you want about 2 cups)
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/8-thick pieces on a sharp angle
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into strips with a julienne peeler or shredded
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slivers
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, very finely minced or pounded into a paste
1 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1. Fill a medium with 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the potato cubes and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Immediately drain the potatoes and set aside in the colander for 5 minutes.

2. Heat 2 to 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet (use enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet) over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, then stir the potatoes occasionally until they are browned and crisp on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate.

3. Preheat oven broiler. Brush a foil-lined baking sheet with olive oil. Place the salmon fillet skin-side down on the baking sheet and brush the salmon with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt (if you have it, smoked sea salt is great here) and pepper and broil about 5 inches from the broiler for about 5 minutes. Turn the fish over and broil about another 5 minutes until the salmon is cooked through. Remove and discard the skin and any gray layer. Transfer the salmon to a cutting board and flake with a fork into bite-size pieces.

4. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, celery, onion, thyme, parsley, aleppo pepper flakes and salmon. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar and 3 tbsp. of olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Divide the salad into shallow bowls and top each with a handful of fried potato cubes.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Flatbread with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce

Flatbread with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce

I love cooking with tomatoes during the summer, since they are so delicious, abundant and varied. I love making a quick pasta sauce with chopped tomatoes in a pan with other vegetables, herbs and spices. I love roasting tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper until they are shriveled and their savory notes are more pronounced.

But summer tomatoes are wonderful raw too. When the fahrenheit gets to be too extreme to turn the oven or stove on, a great no-bake recipe like this one I found in a recent issue of Bon Appétit really hits the spot.

This is almost like a pizza, which is perhaps what drew me to it. The dish starts with flatbread. Although the original recipe--from Joshua McFadden of the celebrated Portland restaurant Ave Gene's--includes a recipe for making the flatbread, it's quicker and won't warm the kitchen if you use something pre-made. I started with a plain Mediterranean flatbread from the grocery store similar to a pita but without the inside "pocket."

From there, the flatbread is topped first with a cooling yogurt-cucumber sauce, then partially mashed and seasoned chickpeas, and finally a layer of sliced and spiced tomatoes. The recipe below was enough for four flatbreads. I figured we'd eat two and have two leftover; I was wrong. They didn't stick around long.

I made a few modifications from the original recipe. Instead of fresh garlic, I used garlic powder in the mixture for spicing the tomatoes. The mixture is sprinkled over the tomatoes, and chopped garlic--being slightly wet--doesn't "sprinkle" as well as the powdered form. I also used Greek instead of plain yogurt, since that's what I had on hand. I could see this recipe taking well to a number of variations: whatever fresh herbs you think would be tasty, substituting cannelloni beans for the chickpeas, using more or less chili pepper flakes (or substituting aleppo pepper), depending on your taste for spice.

Flatbread with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from recipe for Falafel-Spiced Tomatoes and Chickpeas on Flatbread by Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene's, Bon Appétit, August 2015

Makes 4 topped flatbreads

1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground sumac
1/2 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning to taste
3 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced (shoot for between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch)
15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small shallot, thinly sliced (shoot for an 1/8 inch or thinner)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus extra
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
3/4 cup nonfat plain or Greek yogurt (the original recipe calls for plain, but I used Greek)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
Hot sauce (optional)

1. Combine garlic powder, sumac, chili pepper flakes, coriander, cumin and salt in a small bowl. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or Silpat. Spread the tomatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with the spice mixture and set aside for 30 to 60 minutes while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

2. Combine the chickpeas and vinegar in a medium-size bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mash with a fork until about half of the chickpeas are smashed. Stir in the sliced shallot, parsley and olive oil and set aside.

3. Combine the cucumber, yogurt and mint in a medium-size bowl and season with hot sauce (if desired), salt and pepper.

4. Assemble the flatbreads: place a flatbread on a plate. Spread about 1/4 of the yogurt sauce on the bread, then top with about 1/4 of the semi-mashed chickpeas and layer on about 1/4 of the sliced tomatoes. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and more salt and pepper, as desired. Serve room temperature either whole or sliced into wedges sprinkled with some additional parsley.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cocktail Bar: 2 Birds 1 Stone (Washington, D.C.)

2 Birds, 1 Stone

In addition to the increased availability of fantastic drinks, another great perk of the modern cocktail renaissance is the emergence of better-quality bars. In addition to the usual iterations: hotel, dive, sports, gay, etc. (here's a cheeky post on 14 variations), we now have cocktail bars, places that serve custom-made, quality drinks with fresh, interesting ingredients. Some people like to call them "speakeasies," but that label is too pretentious to me (except, perhaps, among those cocktail that really do fancy themselves as "speakeasies," which I try to avoid). To me, they are cocktail bars.

On the recommendation of the Washington Post restaurant critic, we made our way to 2 Birds 1 Stone after a recent dinner on 14th Street. Our first challenge: finding the place.

I knew that 2 Birds, I Stone was underneath restaurant Doi Moi, but I didn't know how to get in. We walked back and forth near Doi Moi's 14th Street entrance a couple times before heading down side street S. Behind Doi Moi's outdoor seating area, is a brick staircase leading down to a below-ground entrance. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll see a sign (pictured above) pointing the way.

Unlike the darkened interiors of similar bars I've been to (Pepe le Moko or Death & Co., for example), the interior of 2 Birds 1 Stone is bright and inviting: well-lit and predominantly white interior punctuated by exposed brick. The long centerpiece bar is surrounded by small seating nooks. Although it was busy when we arrived about 8 p.m., it wasn't crowded, and we were able to get two seats at the bar immediately.

Devil's Grin cocktail at 2 Birds 1 Stone
The bar, as well as the bars at restaurants Estadio and Proof are managed by Adam Bernbach, one of D.C.'s leading names in good cocktails. In 2 Birds I Stone, he's created the kind of cocktail bar I love to frequent: an inviting space with delicious, original drinks.

The frequently changing menu is hand-drawn (a gallery of previous menus is available on the bar's website) and features a mix of classic and original drinks. Chris ordered the Hideout, with with Za'atar-spiced bourbon, Aperol and dry vermouth. I love the idea of infusing spirits with Za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that commonly includes sesame, thyme and sumac, and the Hideout is a delicious drink.

I had the Devil's Grin, a tart and satisfying blend of High West Silver Oat Whiskey (a white, i.e. unaged, whiskey), Campari, amaretto and lime. The summery drink was featured on the Kojo Nnamdi Show in 2012, about a year before 2 Birds 1 Stone opened. If you want to try making it yourself, the recipe appears below.

Devil's Grin Cocktail
The Devil's Grin cocktail I made

Devil’s Grin
Adapted from a recipe as featured on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, by Adam Bernbach

1 1/2 oz. white whiskey (Bernbach's recipes uses High West Silver Oat Whiskey; I used Wasmund's Rye Sprit)
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz amaretto liqueur
1/2 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Lime wheel, garish

Combine the whiskey, lime juice, amaretto, Campari and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

2 Birds 1 Stone, 1800 14th Street, NW (underground beneath Doi Moi, entrance on S Street), Washington, D.C. (Logan Circle/U Street).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Greek Burgers

Greek Burger

Defining quintessentially "American" food can be challenging. Many of our most popular dishes have obvious connections to other countries. Pizza? Clearly Italian. Burritos? Definite Mexican influence there. Meat and potatoes? I think the Brits or the French would claim they did that first.

I would proffer that the hamburger is the most obvious candidate for a popular food that is undeniably American. Its name, derived from the city of Hamburg, suggests that the burger might be German in origin. However, history reveals it as an American dish that nods to German immigrants. The connection is to the Hamburg steak, a dish that became popular in New York in the late 19th century. At the time, Hamburg was as principal departure point for immigration to the United States, a trip that generally ended in New York. In Hamburg, it was common to find minced-meat steak dishes. Thus the dish, described in Wikipedia as seasoned minced meat served raw with onions and bread crumbs, became popular in New York City.

Once the steak started being cooked, it took only some genius to slap the patty between two pieces of bread to make a sandwich. Precisely who did this first seems to be up for debate, but it likely occurred sometime in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, and most of the claims point to an American origin for the dish.

Of course, today, the hamburger is a global cuisine. Although fast-food chains like McDonald's spread the fast-food version around the world, which, in basic form can be enjoyed for about $1, it can be enjoyed at all levels of restaurants up to the $1,768 Glamburger, made with every conceivable luxury ingredient. Presently, my personal favorite is the grilled prime beef burger with cheddar cheese and applewood-smoked bacon for $18 at Buck's Fishing & Camping.

As American as burgers are, they are also adaptable. The current fad for Korean condiments have led to burgers draped with kimchi and spiked with srirarcha, for example.

Here, I've given the burger a Greek-style treatment, using lamb instead of beef for the patty and serving it with pita bread, Tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and cucumbers. The recipe below is for cooking the patties indoors, but certainly if you have a grill, these would be awesome cooked over charcoal.

Greek Burgers

Makes 6

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped dill (reserve addition fronds for decorative garnish, if desired)
1/3 cup finely chopped spring garlic white and light green parts (may substitute scallions or sweet onion)
Seasoned salt, to taste
2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried oregano
Pita bread (white or whole wheat)
Tzatziki sauce (see recipe)
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
Sliced cucumbers (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

2. Combine all other ingredients through dried oregano in a large bowl. Using your hands, combine until the mixture is uniform. Shape into 6 balls, then flatten into patties.

3. Cook 3 patties at a time (or as pan size allows) for about 5 minutes until well browned. Flip over, and cook another 5 minutes. Serve patties with pitas,  tzatziki and, if desired, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cocktail : Silence Is Golden

Silence Is Golden Cocktail

This drink is inspired by the Death & Co. drink Waterloo Sunset by Joaquín Simó, named for a 1967 hit by the Kinks. The star of the drink is gin infused with the tongue-numbing flavor of Szechuan peppercorns, a Chinese ingredient best known for its role in Kung Pao Chicken. Simó combined it with additional non-infused gin, mint muddled in simple syrup, Dolin blanc, watermelon juice and lime and served it on the rocks with a mint sprig. It sounds like a delicious combination, but unfortunately, I had no watermelon on hand when I was looking for something tasty to make recently.

So, I refashioned the drink without the watermelon, turning it into an "up" style drink with ginger liqueur instead of cane syrup. Ginger, after all, is common to Chinese cuisine, so I thought it would be a good partner with the Szechuan peppercorn-infused gin, and ginger and mint play nicely together too. A couple dashes of grapefruit bitters add just a touch an extra touch of citrusy bitterness, compensating for the lack of lime juice which is only partially made up for by the lime twist garnish.

As for the title, "Silence Is Golden" by The Tremeloes was the #1 hit in Britain the week that "Waterloo Sunset" peaked at #2.

Silence Is Golden
Inspired by Waterloo Sunset by Joaquín Simó, Death & Co.

7 mint leaves
1/2 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
2 oz. Szechuan Peppercorn-infused Beefeater gin (*see below)
1/2 oz. Dolin blanc vermouth
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Lime twist garnish

1. Add the mint leaves and ginger liqueur to a cocktail shaker and muddle.

2. Add the gin, vermouth and grapefruit bitters. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled coupe (double-strain with a fine-mesh sieve if little mint particles bug you). Rub the lime twist around the edge of the glass, give it a squeeze over the drink with the peel-side down, twist and drop into the drink.

*To infuse the gin: combine 1 tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns with 4 oz. of gin (enough to make two drinks) in a small bowl (a 1-cup glass measuring cup works well). Allow to sit for 35 minutes then strain the gin with a fine-mesh sieve.


Death & Co. (The Book)

Death & Co. (The Bar)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Restaurant: Ghibellina (Washington, D.C.)

Restaurant: Ghibellina (Washington, D.C.)

D.C. summers are rarely pleasant. It's hot. It's humid. Short thunderstorms punctuate the sauna-like environment, promising to clear away the mugginess only to often up the moisture as the heat quickly evaporates the water--I've seen it pour and then the street is almost completely dry within an hour or two, filling the air with steam. This is swamp-life at its sticky best.

The lucky can escape to sunny but less humid vacation spots. The rest of us take solace in another form of escape: we pig out on the insanely good food that the summer harvest brings.

Italian cuisine is optimally suited for summer. Its love affair with the tomato is well-known, but Italian food is also good for sweet corn, greens of all kinds and fresh herbs. Accented with olive oil, world-class cheeses and a nice glass of Italian wine or an amaro-based cocktail, and you have the makings for a superlative summer dinner.

And that's exactly what we got at Ghibellina, a shining star among the constellation of restaurants that have recently made 14th Street NW their home. When I moved to D.C. 16 years ago, 14th Street had nothing of consequence on it. Today, a seemingly endless parade of eateries and shops have solidified the street as one of the city's top destination strips.

Ghibellina is named for Via Ghibellina, a street in Florence, Italy, where the restaurant's co-owners Ari Gejdenson and Ralph Lee once lived. The long, narrow street stretches from its western end where Gusto Leo, a trattoria/pizzeria makes its home, to Viale della Giovine Italia, a main thoroughfare on its eastern end. Thus, spatially, Ghibellina the restaurant is a good match for its namesake street: the narrow brick-walled restaurant stretches from its rear kitchen--dominated by a wood-fired pizza oven--to the bustle of its 14th Street patio. I traveled through Florence when I was a college student, and I remember it as my favorite place in Italy. It's easy to see why Gejdenson and Lee would be inspired by it.

Left/rear: Papino cocktail. Right/front: Giappone cocktail.
Coming in from the D.C. heat means a cocktail is definitely in order. Ghibelline's summer cocktail lineup boasts a lot of quality ingredients and refreshing fruit flavors. I opted for the Papino, made with rum, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit and bitters. Chris chose the Giappone, a tart but refreshing blend of rye, dry vermouth, lemon and cherry-ginger shrub.

Top: riso al salto (fried risotto cakes). Bottom: insalata Ghibellina
Ghibellina's Tuscan inspiration has been molded into a menu that will look familiar to D.C. diners, divided as it is into antipasti (starters), zuppa (soup), insalate (salad), pasta, secondi (entrees), contorni (sides) and pizza. When I told the waitress we wanted to order a selection from most of those groupings and share them, she replied that was an ideal way to experience Ghibellina.

For our starter antipasto, we chose riso al salto, fried risotto cakes with a crispy exterior and warm, creamy risotto center. The satisfying cakes are served with a tomato sauce spiced with coriander and topped with a few shavings of cheese. Our starter salad, the Ghibellina, was also very good. I loved the combination of arugula, pine nuts and roasted cherry tomatoes with emmenthaler--the Swiss cheese best-known as a fondue ingredient--and avocado, something I don't see much on Italian menus, but it was perfect.

Top: ravioli di mais dolci (corn ravioli). Bottom: finocchiona pizza.

As good as our starters were, our pasta and pizza selections were even better. It's hard to say which was our favorite. The ravioli di mais dolci (corn ravioli) gives Graffiato's corn agnolotti a run for its money in the contest for D.C.'s best summer corn-stuff pasta dish. I loved the toasted almonds that adorned the corn-and-ricotta-filled ravioli. The pizza was also delicious. We had the Finocchiona, which is topped with shaved fennel, spicy salami, tomato sauce and mozzarella and pecorino romano cheeses. Ghibellina serves its pies with pizza scissors, which makes cutting them into wedges easy (fun too). Here's a video with Ghibellina Chef Jonathan Copeland on why they serve their pizza with scissors. Copeland boasts an impressive resume, including stints at Palena and Society Fair locally and in The Spotted Pig and Franny's in New York. Clearly, Copeland knows Italian cooking well.

Ghibellina has an enticing dessert menu, but the hot day put is in the mood for its coldest option: a mix-and-match duo of gelato and/or sorbetto. We chose a vanilla/blueberry gelato and a dark chocolate sorbetto, both of which were excellent and hit the spot.

Of course, eventually our virtual trip to a little street in Florence had to come to an end, and back into the humid D.C. summer we went. However, this time we had the good memories of a wonderful dinner. It may have been miserable outside, but inside Ghibellina, we couldn't have been happier.

Ghibellina, 1610 14th Street NW (between Q and Corcoran Streets), Washington, D.C. (Logan Circle). (202) 803-2389. Reservations: Open Table.
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Monday, August 3, 2015

Asian Slaw with Ground Cherries and Chicken

Asian Slaw with Ground Cherries and Chicken

 Pretty much any American child knows that cherries grow on trees. After all, besides after 1) being the first U.S. president, 2) leading the American army in the Revolutionary War and 3) appearing on the $1 bill, Washington's fourth most famous act was chopping down that cherry tree (or rather 'fessing up about it). Thus, we all knew from a very early age that cherries grow on trees, before we knew that berries grow on vines or that potatoes grow on the ground (and sometimes in 2nd grade classroom water glasses).

Ground Cherries
Ground cherries, most still in their husks.

Along come ground cherries to throw a big ol' monkey wrench in our early education. Cherries? Growing on the ground?! What madness is this?!

Physalis is the genus name for a group of flowering plants, some of which bear edible fruit. Many of the fruit are referred to as ground cherries, and they are also related to the larger tomatillo, which shares the same papery skin. Ground cherries are smaller, resembling golden cherry tomatoes. They don't taste like tomatoes, however. They have a sweet flavor and tart tanginess reminiscent of pineapple.
Ground cherries with husks removed.
Because pineapple pairs nicely with Asian flavors such as soy and ginger, I thought these little beauties I picked up at the New Morning Farm farmers market recently would be good in an Asian-inspired slaw. They were delightful actually. If you see some at your market, I hope you pick them up, and please let me know how you use them.

Asian Slaw with Ground Cherries and Chicken

Makes 3 dinner portions

2 tbsp. olive oil
2/3 lb. chicken breast cutlets
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt, to taste
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
Half a head of green cabbage, shredded
1 yellow or orange carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips with a julienne peeler or coarsely shredded with a grater
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves (stems removed and discarded)
1/2 cup ground cherries, skins removed
1/2 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds

1 to 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (should yield about 2 tsp.)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. soy sauce

1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes. Pan fry until cooked through, about 10 minutes, turning the chicken breasts over after about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, then chop into 1/2-inch cubes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrot, onion, cilantro, ground cherries, peanuts, sesame seeds and cooked chicken. 

3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the slaw. Toss to coat. Serve in large bowls.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July 2015 Digest

Meatloaf Tacos at Tupelo Honey Cafe

Digest is a summary of all the articles from the previous month.

The Summer Farmers Market Bounty

Loaded Quinoa Bowl
From June until Thanksgiving, my neighborhood farmers market, New Morning Farm, shifts into high gear, swelling with the beautiful bounty of fresh summer produce. This month, I looked at ways to use the many vegetables currently available, such as sweet corn, zucchini, onions, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and more. As inspired by José Andrés' fast-casual vegetable-forward restaurant Beefsteak, the Loaded Quinoa Bowl is an ideal showcase for such vegetables, containing seven vegetables plus avocado. Pasta dishes like Fettuccine with Fresh Tomatoes, Zucchini and Sausage are simple, satisfying fare ideal for midweek meals.

With so much beautiful fresh produce available during the summer, sometimes it's hard to know what to do with it. A Turkey Shepherd's Pie is a great way to make use of a variety of vegetables. Of course, farmers markets don't just carry vegetables, but many other fresh foods too, including herbs. The Basil Smash cocktail features my favorite summer herb, fresh sweet basil. Still looking for more ideas? My 8-2-Eat posts included uses for summer sweet corn and fresh basil.

Alaska Adventure

Fish & Chips from Alava's Fish-n-Chowder
My husband, my mother and I cruised to Alaska last month, a wonderful week-long vacation that gave us an appreciation for the vastness and beauty of America's largest state. Eating in the various ports was the culinary highlight of the trip. The food on the ship was good, although rarely outstanding (and the cocktails were, sadly, a disappointment).

Back on land, I was inspired to make several dishes that pay homage to the state. I put together a Mocha Baked Alaska, that magical treat of a browned meringue encasing coffee chocolate chip ice cream perched atop chocolate cake. For drinks, I made the classic martini-like Alaska Cocktail and invented a frosty Glacier Cocktail inspired by our excursion where we flew up to and walked around on a glacier.

The Cocktail Chronicles
Cocktail writer and Imbibe magazine editor Paul Clarke's wonderful new book, The Cocktail Chronicles, connects the modern cocktail renaissance to its storied past. I reviewed the book and shared a number of its recipes for new and classic drinks. I'll definitely keep this book close, as it joins previous favorites such as The PDT Cocktail Book, The Bar Book and Death & Co.

Tupelo Honey Cafe
Southern cuisine gets the Spanish-style tapas treatment at this tasty Arlington, Virginia haunt. We don't cross the river much for food, but have now found a good reason to do so. Deep-fried avocado, meatloaf tacos and mac & cheese with shrimp were among the highlights of a very good meal.

Food Recipes
Mocha Baked Alaska
Cocktail Recipes
Basil Smash
  • Glacier Cocktail - an original frosty creation of white whiskey, blue curaçao, green Chartreuse and orange bitters inspired by Alaska's dramatic blue glaciers.
  • Alaska Cocktail - gin, yellow chartreuse and orange bitters make up this classic cocktail.
  • Basil Smash - a refreshing vodka/tequila and basil highball from Seattle bartender Anu Apte (from Imbibe)
  • Manhattan - the classic mix of rye, sweet vermouth and bitters (from The Cocktail Chronicles).
  • Twentieth Century - a classic drink made with gin, Lillet Blanc, white crème de cacao and lemon (from The Cocktail Chronicles).
  • Ephemeral - Old Tom gin mingles with blanc vermouth, elderflower liqueur and celery bitters in this cocktail by Portland bartender David Shenaut (from The Cocktail Chronicles).
  • The Graduate - another cocktail from a Portland bartender, this time Daniel Shoemaker, who created this drink for cocktail writer Paul Clarke made with Scotch, sweet vermouth, curaçao and tonic (from The Cocktail Chronicles).
Summer sweet corn