Summer Vegetable Pastas

20 Jun

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream

Taking a break from the plethora of potluck recipes (don’t worry, they will be back- I made amazing grilled ricotta chicken and homemade guacamole for our BBQ this weekend), I thought it would be nice to showcase some summery pasta dishes, using the fresh spring vegetables that are miraculously avaliable everywhere now.  Plus, clearly I can’t go a week without making some kind of pasta concoction, and I figure the addition of mounds of veggies helps me justify eating half a pound of pasta in one sitting.

So many vegetables- Pasta wtih Snap Peas, Asparagus and Goat Cheese

The first recipe is for pasta with prosciutto, snap peas, cream and mint, and I immediately bookmarked it when I saw it on Food 52 a couple of weeks ago.  Not only did I already have prosciutto in the fridge, but I love snap peas, AND it gave me an opportunity to use the first of the mint in our ever-burgeoning herb garden.  It may seem like this has a lot of things going on, but all of the flavors compliment each other nicely, and the snap peas add a crunch which is unexpected in a pasta dish.  I enjoyed that the mint added an extra fresh springy flavor, but if you don’t love mint in savory dishes this would be almost as delicious without it.  Despite having quite a few ingredients, this really just requires some chopping and then throwing everything into a pan, and it came together in pretty much the time it takes to boil and cook  the pasta.

After my discovery of this great combination of flavors I used leftover snap peas and some asparagus I had in the fridge for another summer-inspired pasta dish.  I was out of prosciutto and omitted the cream in this dish, but added goat cheese and fresh basil (also from our herb garden!) for an even simpler version.  Both recipes come together in under half an hour and are great uses of summer vegetables, so go down to your farmers market and get shopping!

Our herb garden! The basil is doing slightly better than the parsley. The mint is separate as apparently it is mean and overtakes everything.

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream
Adapted from Food 52
Serves 4

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto shank, finely diced (regular thin prosciutto works too)
4 shallots or 1/2 onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh snap peas, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3/4 pounds small pasta such as farfalle, penne, or orechiette
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by chopping your vegetables. Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  Add pasta whenever it is boiling, but start to get your sauce ready in the meantime.  Do this by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan- when it is warm add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not burnt.  Add prosciutto and cook an additional 3-4 minutes (if using thin prosciutto cook only 1-2 minutes).  Add the shallots or onions and cook until they are beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

With about 3 or 4 minutes left until the pasta is ready, add the peas to the frying pan.  After 2-3 minutes add the cream and quickly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the cheese, stir in, and reduce heat to low.  Drain the pasta when it is ready, and toss everything together in a big bowl. Add the chopped mint, garnish with more Parmesan cheese, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta with Snap Peas, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
6 oz fresh snap peas (really however much you want- I used half of a 12 oz bag), chopped
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends discarded and then chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put salted pasta water on to boil and chop your vegetables.  Add the pasta to the water when it is boiling, and heat up olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Next add the snap peas and asparagus, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to the vegetables.  Turn down the heat if the vegetables begin to brown while you wait for the pasta to cook.  Drain pasta when it is ready, reserving some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss with the vegetables, goat cheese, basil, and Parmesan.  If the sauce needs thinning add some of the pasta water, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with more Parmesan to garnish.

Strawberries, Two Ways

18 Jun

Summer in a cake

While we’re on the theme of excellent dishes to bring to barbeques/potlucks, both of these fit the bill. I hope you’ve been checking out your local farmer’s market recently, and if you have you probably have lots and lots of strawberries (and not too much other fruit yet, unfortunately). The first dish, a strawberry-balsamic flatbread-y thing, is awesome because it allows you to use up those strawberries even if you don’t want to make a dessert! The dough was also so much fun to work with– really pillowy and soft, it was very easy to knead, so don’t be put off by that. I did end up thinking the bread was a little dry, however– I might reduce the baking time next time. I also don’t think the bread itself would suffer from adding a few more flavorings (though this could be because I forgot to add the salt till the last minute. D’oh). But even as is, this was a delicious addition to a potluck my friends and I had last week.

Foccacia/flatbread/delicious thing

The second dish is a super simple strawberry cake. Though it takes a little time to bake, it’s perfect if you want a dessert to use up a ton of berries and wow your friends (or yourself), without spending a long time messing with pie crusts or anything like that. My batter was a little thick and absolutely COVERED in berries, so I was a little unsure that it would rise up as shown in Deb’s pictures, but it turned out looking absolutely amazing. My one tip would be to layer up more on the edges than in the middle… the middle became basically a pool of strawberries on my cake, which was delicious but perhaps not optimal.
So hurry down to the farmer’s market (or, ok, the supermarket) and snap up some strawberries before the season’s over!

Cramming in as many strawberries as possible

Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Adapted from Joy the Baker)
Equipment: baking sheet
Ingredients:
5 teaspoons (about 2 packages) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups of flour, divided into 1 cup increments
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
zest 1 orange
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries (less than a pint)
coarse sea salt
1/2 cup goat cheese
balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh mint or basil

Method:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir with a fork to dissolve and break up any clumps.  Add one cup of flour and blend together until smooth (can use the fork).  Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. If your oven has a “proof” setting, and there is no warm place in your house, you can use this.

After the mixture has risen, remove the covering and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sugar, and orange zest.  Add one cup of flour and stir to blend.  Add the remaining cup of flour and salt and work together into a dough with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/3 cup more flour and knead.  Dough will be slightly sticky, and that’s alright.

Clean out the large bowl and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Place dough in the bowl, and flip it over so that it’s entirely coated in oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead for just a minute, before pulling and stretching the dough into a 16×9-inch rectangle (a little smaller than a standard baking sheet). Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

When dough has risen, use your fingers to make random indentations in the puffed dough.  Drizzle with olive oil (carefully, it is difficult to not have it all go in one place!).  Top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden, crisp and baked through. As noted above, if you want it a little softer, perhaps bake for a little less time. If one side is browning faster than the other, rotate the pan once, halfway through baking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Chop mint or basil and crumble goat cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and then sprinkle with herbs and goat cheese. Slice into twelve pieces with pizza cutter. Serve immediately, it only really keeps for a day.

Simple Strawberry Cake (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Equipment: Electric mixer (hand or stand), 9 or 10-inch springform or cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (can substitute 3/4 cup for barley flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries

Method: Hull and halve the strawberries, set aside. Butter your 9 or 10-inch springform/cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan (or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan).
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and one cup sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in egg, milk, and vanilla until just combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled, this is fine. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour (or spoon, in my case) into prepared pan. Spread mixture evenly, if needed, and arrange strawberries on top, cut side down, in as close to a single layer as you can get. (I had to overlap them a bit, and ended up using just shy of a pound because I felt there were enough on there.) Sprinkle remaining two tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 F and bake for another 50-75 (my time) minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter. I found I was still getting some crumbs sticking to my tester after quite a long time, but eventually decided that was just due to the moistness of the cake. Let cool in pan on a rack, and serve. It should keep for two days, lightly covered, at room temperature.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad

12 Jun

Dinner! Or lunch! Or a snack! This works for everything.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats and immediately bookmarked it because it is made almost entirely of ingredients that are lurking somewhere in the depths of my very messy fridge or cabinets.  I don’t usually eat canned tuna, but after this I was reminded how versatile and tasty it is- I got the good-quality stuff packed in olive oil, but I’m sure regular old canned tuna would work just fine.  This isn’t a recipe for you if you don’t like quite strong flavors, as it includes red onions, capers, and the tuna, but since the potatoes make up the bulk of the salad the other ingredients aren’t too overwhelming, and all complement each other nicely.  This was delicious as a dinner served warm, and every bit as good straight out of the fridge the next day.  I simplified this a bit from the original, which called for multiple bowls and carrots and onions pretty pointlessly boiling with the potatoes to flavor them.  I’m making this salad again right now for lunch this week, and added some asparagus that I bought today to the mix to spice things up a bit and make it even more summery.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2-3 (The original says 4, so apparently I eat twice as much as they anticipated.)

Equipment: Saucepan, bowl, knife
Ingredients:
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 can tuna in olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped capers
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Small handful arugula
1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil with a bay leaf if you have one.  Boil until tender, then drain and slice.  Toss with olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl.  Drain tuna and add to the bowl, along with the chopped onion, capers, asparagus, and parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more olive oil or vinegar if needed.  Add the arugula and toss together.  Serve warm or keep in the fridge and serve cold.


Greek Summer Salad

5 Jun

Greek salad with peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta

As the season of endless barbecues approaches, it is always good to have a couple of stand by dishes that are easy to make and easily transportable.  I like bringing side salads that are more substantial than simply lettuce and dressing, such as potato salad or this pepper/cucumber/tomato salad.  I love this twist on a classic Greek salad, which only requires chopping up a few ingredients and throwing them in a bowl.  It is especially good for bringing places because the lack of lettuce and marinade-type dressing means it doesn’t get soggy, and actually gets even more delicious in the fridge overnight as the flavors all meld together.  The dressing is a very fresh red wine vinegar version, made even better by first using it to pickle the onions, which really takes out the bite of raw onion that not everyone is a fan of.  My only regret in making this twice in the past month for various barbecues is that it gets eaten up so quickly that I wish I had saved some in the fridge just for myself.

Greek Summer Salad
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Equipment: Bowl, knife, salad servers (or a couple large spoons to mix everything)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 a red onion, diced quite finely
2 or 3 bell peppers
1 cucumber
1/4 pound firm feta cheese
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the red wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a smallish bowl until the salt and sugar have dissolved.  Add the diced onion and set aside for a few minutes.

Core and seed the bell peppers, cut them into 1/2 inch pieces, and place in a large salad bowl.  Chop the cucumber and feta into similar sized pieces and put them into the bowl as well.  Drain the onions from the vinegar mixture, but reserve the vinegar for the dressing.  Add the onions to the salad bowl, along with about 1/4 cup of the vinegar mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together and adjust the dressing to taste- I usually use most of the vinegar mixture in the end. Serve immediately or let rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Resturant Review: Serendipity 3 in Georgetown

2 Jun

These are only the appetizers. Oh boy.

Brace yourselves, friends, because this one is going to be a doozy.  The newest Serendipity 3 opened in the heart of Georgetown on Memorial Day, and I was lucky enough to be invited to a friends-and-family preview night on Saturday.  One of my friends got four of us in for dinner, and, since we are all both foodies and fatties, we proceeded to devour a 3-course-plus-cocktail meal.  It was unfortunate that our next destination was up a very long hill.  Note to self: don’t eat that much ice cream before going anywhere other than your couch.

Weaver: "Wait. Will you take my picture already?" Thanks for the free food!

Weaver: "Wait. When are you taking my picture?" Thanks for the free food!

For appetizers we got the crab and artichoke dip, and a truly inspired choice of onion rings.  We all gasped as the tower of perfectly battered and fried rings descended upon us.  These were seriously the best onion rings I’ve ever had- cooked through and soft in the middle, with a crunchy thick shell, Parmesan cheese over them and dipping sauces on the side.  The crab dip was slightly overshadowed by the onion rings, but it was also great- lots of big chunks of crab in a not-too-creamy sauce with a nicely browned top.   For mains I got the Full Monty- chicken breast with bacon, pepper jack, arugula, and BBQ sauce on ciabatta bread. It was quite good- my only complaint was that the bread was a bit dry and I ended up eating much of the sandwich without the it.  Also it could feed a family of four.  The equally-large-portioned spaghetti and meatballs was also yummy, with ricotta on top of the meatballs and thick spaghetti.  The veggie burger and crab cake sandwich that rounded out our table were received very favorably as well.  On the downside, the sweet potato fries that were an option with sandwiches were not the best I’ve had (our batch wasn’t very fresh)- you would be better off getting the steak fries, which were tasty.

The Full Monty Sandwich.

After all of this, you would think we might call it quits before dessert.  But as anyone who has heard of or been to a Serendipity knows, dessert is their claim to fame, and their trademark “Frrrozen Hot Chocolate” is the most

Dessert!

famous offering.  We got one of the regular frozen hot chocolates and the red velvet sundae.  The hot chocolate was delicious- it’s just what you would imagine, basically hot chocolate mix mixed with ice and topped with whipped cream.  I like that it isn’t the consistency of ice cream, more a blended chocolate drink that makes it easier to eat/drink.   The red velvet sundae was an aggressive dessert choice- it is literally a huge piece of red velvet cake, on top of a also huge sundae.  To take this over the top, even the sundae glass is resting in a pool of hot fudge.  This was more intimidating than the hot chocolate, but very good, although the cake itself was a bit dry (since it rested in a pool of chocolate and ice cream, this didn’t matter too much).  Serendipity was a delicious and indulgent dinner, but make sure you bring at least two or three friends to share all the courses with if you want to be able to walk afterwords.

PS. Oh, did you think I forgot the drinks?  Come on now.  All of them were pricey but good, and unsurprisingly over-the-top.  I recommend the champagne with elderflower and an edible hibiscus in the bottom.  I think it was called the Fourth Prince. Opulence at it’s finest.

This blueberry mojito came with lots of fruit-accessories. I was skeptical. But it was good.

First Attempt at Empanadas

1 Jun

Not the prettiest empanadas around

I think there are definitely some foods that are easier to cook if you grew up watching them being made in your kitchen. I may not have picked up the exact recipe for risotto from my mom, but I made a pretty good version on my first attempt because I knew what the technique was all about from watching her make it many times. Empanadas, however, had never been seen in our kitchen until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to try making them. My parents noted that they are essentially Cornish pasties, a British staple, with a different dough… but that didn’t help much, as we’ve always bought Cornish pasties instead of making them. So I was on my own here, hoping the sauce was the right consistency and inexpertly rolling out discs of dough to inconsistent thicknesses. I’m sure they would have been prettier (and maybe tastier) if I had had years of experience watching and helping someone make them, but I think they turned out pretty delicious regardless, and hopefully I will just get better at it. Next time, I would probably chop the chicken finer and thicken the sauce even longer, as I felt I ended up with mainly big chunks of chicken in these, instead of all the other delicious things.

Making things round is hard

Empanadas, and especially these empanadas, are definitely not a quick dinner. The dough can be made ahead of time, and I would suggest making the filling well ahead of time, as well, so that you are not sitting around hoping it will hurry up and cool already. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen/Gourmet made extra dough for the amount of filling. I went the opposite route and made more filling than dough (because I couldn’t be bothered thinking through too many conversions). I still came out with 12 empanadas, which left lots of leftovers after 3 of us ate them for dinner, and the filling was delicious on its own for lunch. I also accidentally had Mexican/fresh rather than Spanish/dried chorizo. It worked fine but required pre-cooking, which the Spanish would not.

The finished filling

Chicken, Chorizo and Olive Empanadas (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 12 empanadas, with leftover filling
Equipment: Baking sheet, preferably with silpat; large skillet with lid
Ingredients
Dough:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 stick (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

Filling:

About 2 pounds chicken. Whole legs (including thighs), or whole bone-in breasts, split.
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 oz (1/3 cup chopped) dried Spanish chorizo, or 2-3 links fresh Mexican chorizo
1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 egg for egg wash

Make Dough: Up to six hours ahead of time, sift flour with salt into your largest bowl. Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes, and work into flour with fingertips or pasty blender until it resembles coarse meal, with some (roughly pea-sized) lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, mixing with fork until just incorporated, the mixture will look shaggy. If bowl is big enough, gather dough in bowl and knead gently once or twice with heal of your hand until it just comes together. If your bowl is not big enough, do this step on a lightly-floured surface. Form dough into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1-6 hours.

Make Filling: If using fresh chorizo, remove from casings and brown in large, heavy skillet over medium heat until some fat has rendered out. Drain fat and remove chorizo. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the large, heavy skilled over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning over once, about 6 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Halve onions lengthwise and then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Mince garlic cloves. Saute onions, garlic and bay leaves in fat remaining in skillet, stirring frequently, until onions are softened, 4-5 minutes.

Add chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add olives, wine, and broth and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Return chicken to skillet along with any juices accumulated on plate, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer chicken, covered, turning over once, until tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

Transfer chicken to a clean plate. (Sauce in skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it’s not, briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.) (Gina’s note: no idea if my sauce was the right consistency, but it seemed pretty thin even after simmering for a few minutes.)When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and coarsely chop meat. Stir chicken into sauce and discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then cool filling, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

Form Empanadas: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Divide first dough into 12 equal pieces and form each into a disk. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto center and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or tines of a fork. Transfer empanada to a baking sheet, lined with a silicone mat or waxed paper. (Mine stuck fiercely to parchment paper.) Make eleven more in same manner.

Beat an egg with 1 tbsp of water. Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Resturant/Fast Food Review: Shake Shack

26 May

A very full plate.

If the past couple of weeks is any indication of how my summer is going to go, I feel I will be contributing much more to the restaurant/happy hour review section of this blog than anything else.  I’ve only made dinner once this week due to beautiful summer DC weather and friends working near me, which means we are taking advantage of every happy hour or dinner avaliable to us.  This is certainly not something I am complaining about, especially since it means I have an excuse to try all of the places I’ve been meaning to go to, or, as was the case last night, to go to new places around town.

Shake Shack has somewhat of a cult following in New York, and although I’ve never been to any of the NY

Necessary close-up shot of the burger

locations, I have always heard wonderful things about it.  DC is a city that has many, many burger places, and more popping up every other week it seems (I also recently went to Thunder Burger in Georgetown, delicious in a more upscale burger way), but Shake Shack comes with a reputation that made it a must-try for me.  Luckily, it met and even exceeded my expectations (and given that I live next door to Rays, I have high burger standards).  The meat-cheese-bun-sauce ratio on the classic Shack burger was perfect, the American cheese and grilled meat melting into the much-talked-about buttered potato roll, which, I have to say, was one of the best hamburger buns I have come across.  The fries were great too, crinkle cut and salted to perfection.  One friend who I went with said she had found the fries overcooked the first time she got them, but credited this to the craziness and long lines of the opening week a few days earlier.

The intimidating cheese-explosion Shake Stack (this was pre-explosion of the cheese-stuffed mushroom)

The regular burger and cheeseburger don’t come with any toppings automatically, but the Shack burger does come with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and the special tangy Shack Sauce.  Another tempting item is the vegetarian ‘Shroom burger- a breaded and fried portobello mushroom stuffed with copious amounts of cheese.  If you are really ambitious you can also get the Shake Stack, a cheeseburger PLUS the mushroom stuffed with even more cheese.  I didn’t try this but definitely will some point soon- as my roommate so eloquently put: “it looks like your burger is spitting up cheese”- never a bad thing in my book.  On the Shake side of things, you can get regular shakes, or “concretes” which are more like blended ice cream you eat with a spoon.  I got the Washington Monu-mint flavor (flavors tailored to the city you’re in, adorable), which combined chocolate ice cream, marshmallow mint swirl, and cookie dough pieces.  I inadvertently ordered the larger size, which was way too much ice cream for one, but luckily the perfect amount to share between three very hungry girls.  Although it was quite the combination of flavors, it was delicious, and the Presidential Sweet with peanut butter and chocolate is also said to be excellent.  Since the DC location is 2 blocks from my office, I predict many more trips in the coming weeks and months, and I fully intend on trying pretty much everything on the menu (except maybe the ice cream dog treat- but even that sounds pretty good.)

Delia’s Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

23 May

Finished chocolate bread pudding

We had a rare visit from some extended family members this weekend, and took the opportunity to celebrate Father Spice’s birthday a few days early with a big dinner. Unfortunately (for me, that is), he isn’t a huge fan of cake, or most sweets, so the dessert was the trickiest part of the menu to plan. We considered a classic British summer pudding, but currants are difficult to find at the best of times in America, and apparently impossible this early in the season. So we decided to go for the not-quite-seasonal, but certainly delicious, chocolate bread pudding.
This recipe is from Delia Smith, basically the British equivalent of Julia Child. Whenever we’re cooking a big dinner at home, someone immediately suggests consulting “Delia.” As this recipe indicates, her recipes might not always be the healthiest, but she never lets us down.

I won't tell if you munch on those crusts

A couple notes on the recipe: I roughly increased it to fit our oval baking dish, about 12 inches lengthwise. I used four eggs (up from Delia’s three), but some of them were quite small and I think it would have been fine with three. The booze flavor does come through quite strongly, so if you’re not using it I would definitely add something like a teaspoon of vanilla. And lastly, this is definitely a make-ahead dish (perfect for dinner parties), as you want a lot of time for the sauce to soak in to the bread.

First layer of bread down

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding
Serves 10
Equipment: Double boiler or saucepan with heatproof bowl, ovenproof dish preferably a bit smaller than 9×13
Ingredients:
1 loaf good-quality white sandwich bread, 1 day old
7 oz (200 g) Dark chocolate, 75% cocoa solids
2 1/2 cups (625 ml) heavy cream
6 tbsp dark rum or amaretto
3/4 cup (155 g) super-fine/caster or granulated sugar
1 stick (113 g) butter
Good pinch of cinnamon
3 extra-large eggs
To serve: Chilled heavy cream
Method: Lightly butter your ovenproof dish. Remove the crusts from your slices of bread, and cut each slice into four triangles. Set aside. Place the chocolate, whipping cream, rum, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a double boiler or a bowl tightly fit over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolate have melted and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture will not be homogenous. Remove the bowl from the head and stir well to amalgamate the ingredients better (the chocolate will probably have sunk to the bottom).
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. (I poured a little bit of the chocolate mixture into the eggs to temper them because I was worried the next step would cook them, but Delia doesn’t find this necessary.) Pour the chocolate mixture into the eggs and whisk very thoroughly to blend them together.
Pour about a 1/2 inch layer of the chocolate mixture into the base of the dish, and arrange half of the bread over the chocolate in overlapping rows. Next, pour half of the remaining chocolate all over the bread is evenly as possible. Arrange another layer of the bread triangles over the first. You may not use up all the bread. Finish by pouring the rest of the chocolate evenly over the top layer, and then gently press down the bread with a fork so that it is evenly covered in chocolate.

Ready to absorb all that chocolate-y goodness

Cover the dish with clingfilm and allow to cool at room temperature for about 2 hours, then transfer for the fridge to continue soaking for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours (longer is better).
When ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C). Remove the clingfilm and bake on a high shelf for 30-35 minutes. It is done when the top is slightly crunchy, but the inside should still be soft and squidgey. Let cool for ten minutes before serving with cold heavy cream.

Rhubarb-Onion Compote plus Top Chef tour

18 May

Rhubarb compote, pork chop, and roast veggies. Yum.

I am a huge rhubarb fan, and have been craving some delicious rhubarb baked goods since the season started. But last night we were having pork chops for dinner, and I thought I’d pick up some rhubarb to try it out in a savory dish. We often make an apple-onion compote to go with pork chops, so I thought I’d sub in rhubarb for the apple and see how it turned out. I was pretty pleased with the results, though it hasn’t quite satisfied my craving for strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb-Onion Compote
Equipment: Heavy-bottomed saucepan, knife, wooden spoon
Ingredients:
1/2 tbsp butter
1 medium-sized onion
About 7 stalks rhubarb
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar, or to taste (I used turbinado/raw sugar)
1 tsp ground ginger
Method: Roughly dice onions. Discard ends of rhubarb and chop into half-inch pieces. Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook over low heat until they are starting to soften, a few minutes. Add rhubarb, balsamic, and about a tablespoon of sugar, and ginger. Turn heat to low, and simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the bottom isn’t burning. Add a splash of water if things are starting to look dry, but rhubarb has a lot of water in it. Taste after fifteen minutes. If it is too tart, add more sugar. Rhubarb is quite tart, but the onion provides some sweetness as it cooks. It is done when the onion has lost all of its crunch. Serve over grilled pork chops.

In other food-related news, the Top Chef tour stopped at the Stew Leonard’s near us today, so I went to check it out. The basic idea of this tour is that they have two previous contestants, who come up and have fifteen minutes to make a dish using certain ingredients (they were given some time to prep beforehand, so this wasn’t exactly like the high-stress quickfires on the show). Then judges decide which chef wins. There were two judges from Foodspotting already there, but they picked one from the audience as well. Thanks to my Top Chef trivia knowledge, I got picked! The two chefs were Ash and Angelo, and the food was delicious. Angelo, of course, went all Asian-inspired with a mock kimchi and a spicy chocolate sauce on his beef (the sauce was incredible, but kind of overpowered everything else). Ash made a very fresh herby salad, with an amazing aioli that he made in front of us. We went with Ash as the winner, though I might try out that sauce of Angelo’s when the recipe goes up online. It was fun being able to chat to the chefs and eat the food that I’m always craving when I watch the show… definitely check out if the tour is stopping by near you!

Here are some pictures from the day:

Angelo's dish, a bit more Top Chef-y

Ash's winning dish

Ash makes his aioli

Angelo doing some blending action

Shakshuka (Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

8 May

Does this look like Mickey Mouse to anyone else?

I am a big fan of cheap dinners that use mainly ingredients I already have in my cupboard, and this is one of my favorite go-to weeknight dinners for when I want something more exciting than pasta or a baked potato.  It is an Israeli dish of a spicy tomato sauce with poached eggs and feta cheese, and is seriously delicious.  I suppose the addition of eggs make this a brunch-appropriate meal, but I will eat eggs any time of the day, and have always made this for dinner.  It really only takes about 15 minutes to throw together and another 20 or so to cook, so is easy enough to make whenever you want.  I usually make a big batch, and eat it a couple nights a week, heating up the sauce and adding more eggs as needed.   You can also use any leftover sauce with pasta, cous cous, or as a pizza sauce if you don’t want the eggs every time.  The spice level can also be adjusted to your tastes- I usually err on the side of caution and only add 2 jalapenos, but if you’re making a big batch I would recommend adding one more, as the peppers really lose their spice once chopped up and cooked.

Shakshuka
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen/Saveur Mag

Poached eggs simmering away

Serves 4 to 6

Equipment: Knife, large saucepan, wooden spoon, bowl

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim or 3 Jalapeno chilies, stemmed, seeded and chopped finely
1 small to medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced thinly
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (diced works too)
6 eggs (or as many as needed)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Pita bread for serving
Salt

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add chilies and onions and sautee until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, another 2 minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid in a large bowl and crush with your hands (this is a seriously good stress reliever).  Add the crushed tomatoes and liquid to the saucepan, along with 1/2 cup water, and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Season with salt, then crack eggs over the sauce.  Cover saucepan and cook until the whites are set and yolk still runny, about 5 minutes.  Spoon out eggs and tomato sauce onto plates, and sprinkle the feta and parsley over each plate. Serve with pitas for dipping, or alternatively cous cous on the side.