Tag Archives: cheap

A Tale of Two Burgers

31 Oct

The monster that is a Ray's Hell Burger, with grilled onions and cheddar cheese

I’m a big burger fan (in case you haven’t noticed I’m a pretty big fan of most food so this shouldn’t come as a surprise), and while I don’t consider myself to be a burger snob who will only eat the highest of high quality burgers, I can appreciate both a so called “gourmet” burger and a more run of the mill fast food burger.  This post is a comparison of two very different but both delicious burgers, the first from Obama favorite Ray’s Hell Burger, located a convenient 5 minute walk from my apartment, the second from Fuddruckers, a much better than average fast food burger chain that I had sadly never heard of before moving to DC (on researching I found that they don’t have any locations in New York other than Albany, which basically doesn’t count).

Ray’s has become a frequent destination of mine because as I mentioned it is literally the closest restaurant to my apartment, and it’s a great place to take people when they visit, since most people have heard of it but might not have trekked out to Rosslyn to try it.  The first time I went there was over the summer with Gina and my friend Aaron (Hi S!), and needless to say I was not adequately prepared for what was about to happen.  Even though Aaron and I are both self-proclaimed fatties who occasionally (ok, this has happened a lot) eat a meal meant for a family of four between the two of us, neither of us came close to finishing our massive 10-oz Ray’s burgers.  Gina fared better because she had been there before, and I now know how to prepare for a Ray’s visit.  Here is a general list of Ray’s Rules:

1) Don’t eat for most of the day before.
2) If you order fries, make sure to share with at least one other person.  The burgers are so filling you don’t really need them.
3) Resist the temptation of overloading your burger with more than 3 toppings. They will fall off.
4) Cut your burger in half before attempting to eat it, it makes it much more manageable.

Oh and the burgers? Yup, they’re awesome.  Always perfectly cooked, seasoned, and super juicy, I can see why Obama chooses this as an introduction to the USA for foreign dignitaries.  And I am very lucky that I live so nearby, as you definitely need to go more than once to sample the many toppings and the different seasonings on the burgers.

Fuddruckers burger and fries

Fuddruckers is a less intense burger experience, but good enough that I still go out of my way to eat at the DC location in Chinatown whenever I can.  You can pick the weight of your burger, which is a useful feature, and you add all the toppings like lettuce, etc, yourself, which means it doesn’t automatically come with things you don’t want.  I usually go with the 1/3 pound patty with either American or Cheddar cheese.  These aren’t the monster burgers of Ray’s, which is arguably a good thing- they are thinner patties and grilled to order so they are also very fresh and well cooked.  The bun is pure buttery deliciousness, and the seasoned fries are well worth getting.  In a place like DC, which is home to Five Guys among many other burger spots, Fuddruckers isn’t a high-profile burger place, but it is one of my personal favorites.  Fuddruckers and Ray’s are so different it’s hard to compare them, but if you like burgers in general these are both places to try soon.  And if you go to Ray’s, please call me so I can come help eat your leftovers.


Grilled Chicken Pesto Pizza

24 Oct

Pizza just out of the oven. Look at all that cheesy goodness.

Who doesn’t love pizza?  I’m one of those people who will eat basically any type of pizza, ranging from the cheapest arguably-inedible frozen grocery store pizza to authentic Italian pizza from a little old man who’s family has been making it for generations.  Really though, I’m in the camp that says anything slathered in sauce and cheese will taste good.  Which is why I was very excited when I made the discovery recently that it is very easy for one to make at home, especially if you use pre-made dough, which you can get at places such as Trader Joes or Whole Foods very cheaply.  I’ve made a couple of different versions, but the one I made most recently was with pesto, mozzarella, and grilled chicken, and I used Trader Joes Garlic and Herb pizza dough as the base.   It was very yummy, and as a bonus those with tomato aversions like my old roommate Jill (Hi Greebs!) can still eat it because pesto is used as the main sauce.  I grilled a chicken breast and cut it up to add to the pizza, but it would be very delicious without, and you could of course use marinara or plain tomato sauce on this as well if you would like.  The best thing is, you can reheat this in an oven very easily the next day or two days later and it still tastes great.  Or if you are lazy and very hungry you can just eat it cold straight from the fridge.  I don’t judge.

Mostly-assembled pizza

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pizza

Equipment: Oven, grill pan/frying pan, sheet pan, knife

1 package pre-made pizza dough
1 chicken breast
2 tablespoons pesto
5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and Pepper

If using pre-made pizza dough (I used the garlic and herb version from Trader Joes this time), let it sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes so it is easier to work with.

While the dough is out, prepare your chicken. Heat a grill pan or grill and place the chicken breast between two pieces of parchment and pound until it is a uniform thickness (about 1/2 an inch thick or less). Salt and pepper both sides, and add paprika to both sides if desired. Spray pan with non-stick spray or oil, and grill for 7-10 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to plate and let cool while you prepare the dough.

Preheat the oven to 475F. Drizzle some olive oil onto a sheet pan. Stretch out the dough using your hands- I usually hold it from one end and let it drop down and then keep stretching it this way until the middle parts are quite thin. When it is stretched, place on the sheet plan, you can continue to work it into the shape you like once it is on the pan. Spread the pesto over the dough first, and then evenly place the slices of mozzarella over the pesto. Slice your chicken into thin strips and place over mozzarella. Finish with a good grating of Parmesan cheese, and place pan in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbling but not overcooked or hard. Take out and enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

18 Oct

I love hummus. This is both because it is super easy and cheap to make yourself, and because it is addictively delicious.  It is not uncommon for me to “accidentally” eat a whole bag of pita chips with copious amounts of my hummus in one sitting.  And then have dinner an hour later. Stop judging me, I know I’m not the only one who does that.


More expensive but less yummy hummus

Hummus seems to have become very trendy in the US recently, and there are all sorts of odd varieties now available.  My love of hummus, however, started when I was at boarding school in the middle of the countryside of England (think Hogwarts with less magic and more drinking).  Although boarding school food is usually thought of as being overwhelmingly inedible, my school actually was known for having very good food. And they fed us roughly 5 times a day, which was awesome.  On Wednesdays they did a special salad bar with fancier salads and more variety than usual, and it included hummus.  In A2 (otherwise known as upper 6th form in England, senior year in America) we were allowed to get on line for the dining hall before the younger years, and we would get on line 20 minutes early to make sure they didn’t run out of hummus.  Seriously, it was that good.

I’ve only recently started making my own hummus in my apartment, but its so easy and so much cheaper than buying the $7 tubs of it that I swear I will never buy it in stores again.  And the fun thing is you can put basically whatever you want in it and it will still taste good!  The only thing you need is a food processor (I have this mini one in blue: http://tinyurl.com/33lr2qv).  I personally like adding roasted red peppers from a jar and lots of basil, but if you make a plain hummus with just garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini, garlic, olive oil, and a couple of spices, you can add sundried tomatoes, different herbs, the world is your oyster!  I wouldn’t actually add oysters though; I don’t think they would work so well.  Here is a loose version of the recipe I use, but I end up changing the spices and add-ins almost every time I make it:

Red peppers

Fresh basil. Yum.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Equipment: Food processor*, spatula, knife

1 can garbanzo beans
1 large or 2 smaller garlic cloves
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (a few big pieces from a jar of them)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Big handful fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste


First wash the garbanzo beans in a colander, then add the peeled garlic and a few chickpeas and some oil to the food processor and blend to break up the garlic.  I find doing this first takes away the raw garlic bite as it gets more blended.  Then add the rest of the garbanzo beans, the olive oil, and the tahini and blend until quite smooth.  Chop up the peppers roughly and add those along with the cumin, paprika, and basil.  Blend again until these ingredients are incorporated, and salt and pepper to taste before doing a final blend.  You may need to add more or less olive oil depending how smooth you want the final hummus or how well your food processor works.  Hummus keeps well for at least a week stored in a sealed container in the fridge.

*Note: If using a mini-processor, this recipe will just fit in it in one batch.  But I recommend adding the chickpeas about half at a time so the processor doesn’t decide to die or vomit hummus all over your kitchen.