a collaborative blog for friends who love food.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

hot meat vending machine...WTF?

I’m in to technology and what not, but this crosses the line. Chicken is one of those foods people eat all over the world. From beaks burned off, quadrupled breasted GMO hens to stringy “free range” chickens running around the front of a mud hut in Kenya, people enjoy chicken. It might even be the case that chicken is the most cross cultural meat enjoyed by humans, given that beef and pork is much more expensive and not ever country has access to fish.

Also, chicken eggs are consumed globally for a cheap and easy source of protein. Many microfinance clients in impoverished countries buy chickens with their 50 dollar loan to sell their eggs. But Tyson’s didn’t get no microfinance loan for this bad boy.

What you see above is the picture of a chicken (and pizza) vending machine that I encountered at a hospital in the Washington, DC area. It offers hot chicken sandwiches (on sourdough nonetheless), chicken wings, pizza and hamburgers for about 4 dollars.

As you can see below the chicken is frozen inside the vending machine. Once ordered it is transferred to the oven and “cooked” until ready. Once it is ready it is dispensed at scolding hot temperatures for the consumer to “enjoy.”

There isn’t much to this blog post except outrage and embarrassment. You see, I’m a firm believer in food not only as sustenance but as culture. My food culture is offended by the very idea of a chicken sandwich vending machine because it undermines the food values I hold dear, such as fresh and enhancing human relationships. Therefore, I find it silly that less than 20 feet away a nice man on an open grill prepares the exact same dishes with clean hands and a smile. What might not be different is the quality of the food but his smile is so appetizing. Man with a nice small vending machine anyone?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

To simply share a squash...

I find an unusual source of inspiration for my cooking in the Mennonites. You may be wondering what place they have in a food blog, but cook a recipe from one of their many cookbooks and you’ll understand. I first stumbled upon one of these cookbooks when my aunt passed down to me a box of kitchen items that belonged to my late grandmother. I eagerly read through the recipes, the unique quotes, tips, and stories as if it were a piece of literature. However, I never did take the time to cook from it until I found myself at dinner with friends who planned to prepare stuffed acorn squash from the Simply in Season cookbook (http://www.worldcommunitycookbook.org/).

Patience is required to reap the rewards of this dish. You begin by scooping the seeds from the squash halves and softening the inside of these edible bowls by roasting for 40 minutes. In the meantime, sausage, apples, herbs, raisins and walnuts are combined and eventually placed into the bowls. The entire dish is then put back in the oven for another 20 minutes so the flavors meld together, the aroma tempting you the whole while. When we finally sat down to eat, we excitedly took in the smell, the sight, the taste of our meal--but it was the sharing of the meal, with friends and family, that gave it the true Mennonite quality.

Their cookbooks are rich with recipes like stuffed acorn squash, and furthermore the books are more than just a collection of recipes. They are unique in their educational and stewarding approach to cooking. They set out to empower chefs with the tools to prepare local, in-season foods in a manner that reduces waste and overconsumption. If you are looking for a cookbook to invest in, give the Mennonites a chance.

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 4 medium-sized acorn squash
  • 1 lb. bulk turkey sausage
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ c water
  • 2 c bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Black pepper

Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° until almost soft but not mushy, 40-50 minutes.

While squash is cooking, sauté sausage in frying pan just until cooked through. Add seasoning, celery, onion, apples, raisins, walnuts and water. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Mix in sour cream and bread crumbs. Stuff into cooked squash and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Fun Food Fact: After WWII, the Mennonites were providing 40% of America's non-govt. food aid even though they made up less than 1/10 of 1% of the US population, and they are still going strong http://mcc.org/whatwedo/food

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gasp! Goodbye, Gourmet

Another casualty of the recession and the general decline in print journalism: Gourmet magazine will be ending publication after it's November issue is released. A major decline in advertisers over the past year has resulted in Conde Nast publishers axing what is notably the most widely-respected food publication after 25 years of circulation.

The blogosphere has responded in full force since the official announcement was made last week:

Gourmet showed us the real possibilities of food: It wasn't just to nourish the body or excite the palate, but to engage the mind and imagination, to magnify our experience, bringing us more fully into our senses, allowing us to be more completely alive." -Diana Abu-Jaber, NPR

Gourmet challenged American palates to explore everything from the most exotic to the most humble and down-home. I, for one, have learned about everything from Korean banchan to how to bake better bread, and my life and the lives of those I feed are better for it. -Amy Griffith Redfern, Christian Science Monitor

My perspective? Food magazines have encouraged and fostered my love for the culinary arts. Whenever I travel, my guilty pleasure is to spend 5 or 6 dollars on a glossy issue of Gourmet. Reading a food magazine is like a cookbook coming to life. I love food writing (hence, the motivation for this blog). The images draw me in to learn about new ingredients, techniques and recipes beyond anything I've seen or eaten before. Sure, there are lots of websites and blogs which capture some of the same spirit. But no online content will replace the feel of a fresh-off-the-newsstand copy of Gourmet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

mariscos: san diego for fish tacos

In Spanish mariscos means seafood. In San Diego mariscos means the best fish tacos and ceviche tostados your dollar twenty five can buy. At the corner of 28th and Ocean View Blvd sits the famous Mariscos truck hustling their famous fare day and night. My friend Dave and I split the ceviche tostado mixta which is a fried tortilla with shrip, fish and octopus (pulpo), raw red onions, fresh lime, cilantro and avocado slices seasoned to perfection. Octopus is supposed to be chewy and a bit annoying to get down your throat so it seems ironic to say this but this octopus was tender. Instead of a whole pack of gum at once, it was more like two or three pieces. Not to mention the savory flavor relaxed my pallet while the lime and cilantro invaded my noise.


Next up were our fresh fish tacos- fried fish, raw red onions, fresh lime and cilantro smothered in creama simply melt in your mouth. We cracked open a Mexican Coca-Cola to wash it down; the important difference is that Mexican Coke has real sugar (azucar) in it.

After reclining for a digestive moment I knew I’d have to get more. Dos taocs de pulpo sin creama (as I’m lactose intolerant) I ordered in my gringo Spanish. Three minutes latter I was in octopus bliss.

If you’re ever…ever…in San Diego make a stop at Mariscos to enjoy the food. If you're there on a Sunday afternoon you may be blessed by the spirited and out of tune signing of the believers across the street.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who needs a Fairy Godmother when you have Dairy Godmother?

If you’re lucky enough to taste fresh, authentic frozen custard in this lifetime, you have tasted a piece of heaven. Frozen custard is like the Rolls Royce of ice cream. Its texture is silky—and no I don’t mean soy milk silk. Custard is far from vegan-friendly. I mean the richest, creamiest, softest, edible silk you can imagine. Frozen custard hides under the radar of most dessert connoisseurs, but establishments like Culvers and Ritters are seeking to make this divine dessert accessible to all. The frozen custard culture finds its origins in the Midwest, notably Wisconsin. It takes ice cream to a new level by using butterfat, egg yolks and a slow-churn process that minimizes the incorporation of air, creating a new definition of creamy.

Today we uncovered a foodie treasure in the “Dairy Godmother,” right here in the DC area. The Dairy Godmother is off the beaten path, nestled in the cute, up and coming neighborhood of Del Ray. Each day they serve up fresh frozen custard in chocolate, vanilla and a rotating third ‘flavor of the day’. It was fate (aka my roommate Sapphira) that brought us to Dairy Godmother on the day they decided to feature the flavor kulfi. This may very well be the best fusion food ever known to mankind. Kulfi is an Indian ice cream made with cardamom and almonds, and turning this flavor into frozen custard couldn’t be a more successful blend of East and West! Check out Dairy Godmother’s website for more unique flavors.

Fun Food Fact: Frozen custard won’t be found in the frozen section of the grocery store. It’s made fresh so it can be served instantly, at a warmer temperature than ice cream. This reduces numbing of the taste buds and allows your mouth to really taste the richness of the flavors.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chip Tuesday: Popchips!

Last week, I was in Minneapolis for a conference and by day three, was feeling like quite a heifer. Nothing gets you fat and bloated more quickly than eating three course meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while also sitting on your butt all day listening to panel discussions about the future of religion reporting in the United States. I think we were all really depressed by the current state of newspaper journalism and nothing was stopping us from eating everything the conference folks fed us. I swear to you, after a full mediterranean lunch complete with roasted lamb, hummus, pita bread, rice and salad, the servers brought out a full 5 inch banana cream mini pie for each person.

After that lunch, I decided, enough! I canNOT eat like this anymore. Instead of attending the catered buffet dinner that evening, I opted for a Jamba Juice. I had seen one earlier that day while exploring downtown Minneapolis' SkyWalk system. Probably because of the unbearable winters, every building in downtown Minneapolis is connected via SkyWalks. You can see these walkways above the streets all throughout the city. On my way to peruse the bargains at Off Saks Fifth, I noted the Jamba Juice and Caribou Coffee.

Still stuffed from the lunch before, I approached the Jamba Juice counter with excitement. Fresh fruit! So exciting! And then, out of the corner of my eye, a little bag beckoned to me.

With a name like that, how could I say no?

These were great and almost exactly what I needed for my appetite at the time: they are much more like rice cakes in texture. Imagine very very thin rice cakes that look and taste like potato chips! The seasoning was very mild and pleasing. My only complaint? More chips per bag please! I mean seriously, I could probably eat two in a row which means that your average big eater would be happier with like 2.5 or 3 bags in one sitting.

But in the name of health, I suppose everything should be taken in moderation, even delicious Popchips.

'til next time!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chip Tuesday: Kettle Brand Lightly Salted

On my personal blog, I posted about my newfound love of disposable cameras. I recently bought a simple, cheap Kodak 24-exposure disposable camera, used up the film during a trip to nyc, dropped it off to be developed at Target, and picked them up the next day like we all did in the olden days.

The photos turned out fantastic (take a look). I love the nostalgic feel of the color saturation of the photos and I had almost forgotten the thrill you get when you go to pick up your film and open the envelope to view your photographs for the first time. It's enough to make me want to get a film camera!

Which brings me to the topic of today's Chip Tuesday post: The Classics. Nothing beats the classics. A simple black dress with an up-do will always remain the chicest ensemble a woman can don. Give me Mark Twain over Dan Brown any day. And I will value a handwritten note over the longest, email far more and for far longer, no matter the content.

A friend recently sent me a note typed on her new vintage typewriter. The thought of her rolling her paper into the teeth of the typewriter and clicking out every letter of every word tickled me to the innermost! The Classics! Nothing beats them!

That's why no matter how far I venture to the furthest reaches of chip flavordom, I will always find myself drawn back, like Odysseus longing for Ithaca, to the classic Kettle Brand Lightly Salted potato chip.

A bag of these suckers always reside in my desk drawer so that at any given moment, in a fit of hunger, fury or desire, I can grab a perfect potato chip at arms reach. Much like the aforementioned classic black dress, these babies go with pretty much anything: sandwiches, soup, salad, hummus, chili, burgers, hot dogs, etc. So if you're looking for a chip flavor that will last, a flavor and brand that you can pass down to your kids for generations upon generations, I highly recommend this brand and this flavor. It will never ever disappoint.

**apologies for the generic photo. I didn't have a digital camera on hand.

Craving coconut?

So I’ve been craving coconut rice for DAYS…

I have been trying to make it to the local African foods store to purchase my oversized canvas bag of basmati rice that will last me months, but have been too busy (lazy) to make the trip.

Tonight, nothing was going to stop me from getting my coconut fix. I had some brown rice just hanging out in the cupboard and even though brown rice is not my favorite, I was going to make this happen.

Now, when I make coconut rice, I reduce the amount of water by a ¼ and replace it with coconut milk. Well for those who use coconut milk enough know that over half the can was left.

What was I to do with the remaining coconut milk? Put it in the fridge and let it spoil as usual? No! Not this time.

I reached in the fridge and brought out my produce from this weekends Mt. Pleasant farmers market trip. I diced up red onion, green pepper, cucumber, a delish orange tomato, green beans, and of course garlic.

I tossed the garlic into a skillet, (a wok would also work) with a little garlic infused olive oil. Sautéed lightly, then added my remaining can of coconut milk to a pan. Now I chopped up too many veggies for the amount of milk that I had, so I opened up another can. Oops! :o) Then came the veggies. I gently placed my fresh produce into the pan.

Since I eat little to no meat, my concerned roommate (Vintage Jeannie) thought it was essential to add a can of chickpeas, and she was absolutely right, it added tremendous flavor to the curry!

Then came my favorite part, SEASONING! I grabbed my preferred seasons out of the cabinet and went to town. Using primarily red pepper (berbere to be specific), curry powder, and homemade masala from my friend’s mom, I created a spicy yet satisfying flavor. BAM!

Now I don’t really measure. However, I would say I added about 1-2 Tb of red pepper, because I like spice. Probably another 1 Tb of curry, and 2 t of masala. I let it all simmer for about 20 minutes. Then poured over my brown coconut rice and enjoyed a sassy curry that will make your mouth water. Literally, from the spice. Delish!

Friday, September 4, 2009

fried, fatty and fabulous: state fair 101

I am insanely proud of my home state and can boastfully declare that I have only missed two years of the "Great Minnesota Get Together", aka the Minnesota State Fair. Over the 20+ years I've been a state fairgoer, I have seen many changes. However, there are a few things which I have come to rely on:
  1. It is always twelve days long and closes on Labor Day, signaling the official end to summer.
  2. I will see at least five people that I know among the masses (and four of them I will avoid by ducking into the nearest booth or building).
  3. I will eat fried, greasy food until I cannot breathe.
Yes, the key to an enjoyable state fair experience is overindulgence. But hey, the fair only
happens once a year. So bring on the hydrogenated oils. I'm downright ritualistic when it comes to foods I consume at the fair, and here's a sampling of my faves:

Cheese curds: These blazing hot, stringy and gooey cheese morsels are fresh nuggets of goodness. They are dipped in batter and fried, served in a little paper basket and best eaten immediately. Some deranged fairgoers douse these dairy delights with ketchup, but this is not a mainstream practice. Pure, unadulterated indulgence.

The wacky "new foods" of the fair: Each year I feel the need to investigate what the buzz is all about when a new food is introduced at the fair. A sampling of past years' bizzaro foods: pickle dog (pickle spear smeared with cream cheese and wrapped in pastrami), fried Oreos (friedfoodfail), and "pig-lickers"- a cone of chocolate-covered bacon.

Fresh cookies: Melty, gooey Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies served in a plastic pail (about 6 dozen in a bucket, but who's counting?) and all-you-can-drink milk for $1.00. Heavenly!

I could go on and on, but I'll save my other fair food musings for future posts. Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

oh where have all the malts gone?

Why are there no vanilla malts in the mid-atlantic? And why do people always seem to think of their grandparents when I mention malts? After a malted milk powder search of several grocery stores near my WDC home, I came up empty handed. I had to travel all the way home to Michigan to find this tasty treasure. To my surprise, I not only found the regular old malted mix but rows full of chocolate and strawberry too! Is the malt a food particular to only certain regions of the country, or is it a vanishing product of the 50’s soda fountain shop era? Well whatever the case, I say bring back the malt!

What is malted milk anyway?
Malted milk powder is a mixture of grains (barley and wheat) combined with whole milk and evaporated to form a powder. The powder used in the frozen treats we know of as malted milkshakes is referred to as non-diastatic because it has no enzymes. However, diastatic malt powder, with all its enzymes that break down starch into sugar, can be used in baked goods to help them rise or in fermenting beverages. Nutritionally malt powder is neither here nor there, but it deserves a place in everyone’s diet nonetheless. Try mixing it in baked goods for a flavorful sweetness and extra shine. Sprinkle it over your ice cream sundae as a topping. Or…try a malted milkshake.

Classic Vanilla Malt

  • 2 large scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 tbls malted milk powder
  • 1/3 cup milk

Blend above ingredients and enjoy!

*Fun Food Fact: In America we know malted milk balls as Whoopers, but in England they’re called Malteasers (teehee)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chip Tuesday: Boulder Canyon Balsamic Vinegar & Rosemary

This weekend I ventured up to New York to take in the sights, eat the food, and attend one day of the U.S. Open. On Sunday night, in preparation for the tennis festivities of the next day, le boyfriend and I went to his local corner market in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn to pick up some sustenance. Being the tennis nut that he is, Christopher has attended too many U.S. Opens to count, so he knew all the tricks to having the best experience. One key step? Packing your own food. The food on the grounds is insanely overpriced, not that good for you, and not worth waiting in long lines for, so instead, we opted for ham and cheddar sandwiches, fresh melons, peaches, granola, and, of course, chips.

There's one corner market in Ft. Greene that I love. Not only is it run by Koreans (gotta support my peeps!), but it is insanely clean, has one of the best tea collections I've ever seen, and also carries an impressive selection of chips. Knowing Chip Tuesday was approaching, Chris and I carefully scoured the bags to find the next contender for our running tradition. As soon as I saw this bag, I knew it was the one.

Now having been burned by exotic flavored chips before (sweet maui onion, anyone?), I was a little nervous about these. Frankly, one little potato discus can only handle so much flavoring, you know?

Willing to take the risk, we decided to pay the $2.79 and try them. We got home, quickly ripped open the bag, and popped the first chip.

It - was - delicious.

The scent of rosemary hits you first. It's strong, but not overpowering. The chips are surprisingly light in flavor. You let the rosemary and salt, oil and potato impress you for a little bit. And then you realize that this is also a frou frou kind of salt & vinegar chip, but the balsamic is just a little more refined than the aforementioned low-brow, absolutely delicious guilty pleasure that leaves your nose and eyes watering for its strong flavor. Instead, the balsamic is mild with a slight kick at the end.
All in all, the chips made for a complex, tasty, pungent addition to our ham sandwiches, which we ate before watching a rousing match with my new favorite tennis player, the 5'5" Belgian pro, Olivier Rochus. He may be short but he packs quite a lot of punch and heart in that frame of his. And the same could be said of a Boulder Canyon Balsamic Vinegar & Rosemary chip.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

poach that thing

Someone once told me that the egg was one of the most perfectly, succinctly nutritious foods on earth. Being a wannabe nutritionist and total foodie, I was eager to graduate from the scrambled egg phase of my cooking ability, and what could be more elegant than a poached egg? To the common cook they seem intimidating, something you treat yourself to at a pricey brunch, definitely not something you prepare Rachel Ray style—30 minutes or less. However, thanks to a fine cookbook called How to Boil Water (or more aptly “how to poach to perfection”), I am now a master of the poached egg. A delicate, gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth treat, the poached egg is easily royalty cuisine for the commoner.

The how to:

3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 large eggs

  • Fill a nonstick skillet with 2” of water, barely brought to a simmer
  • Add the vinegar
  • Gently crack the eggs (one at a time) into a wide mug and slide into the water
  • Cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny (about 4 min)
  • Lift eggs from the water with a slatted spoon and place on a paper towel before transferring to the plate

My favorite poached egg dish is what I call the healthy eggs benedict. Take a toasted whole wheat English muffin, top it with tomato slices and the poached eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Dress it up with a balsamic vinaigrette (1 part EVOO, 1 part balsamic). Hands down this dressing beats hollandaise sauce in the calorie AND flavor category.

*Fun Food Fact (FFF): Peewee is an official grade of egg denoting an egg that is 1.25-1.5 oz.

table side guacamole: a bougie mistake

My food politic is local and organic, when affordable, but my guilty pleasure is avocados. I know they don't come from as far away as Costa Rica to my DC grocery store this time of year, but they still travel from Mexico or California- about 3000 miles away. On occasion (and especially in the summer time) I make guacamole. It is so fresh and so good that I make a lot of it to share with friends.

My recipe includes:
2 fresh avocados
Salt to taste
Raw garlic to taste
Lemon/lime juice to taste

You can smash the avocados with a fork or leave them chunky...slap it on anything (including your finger) and you're good to go. I'm a purist but you may prefer to add some raw red onion, cilantro or tomatoes.

This recipe may cost you up to 7 bucks and a low as $2.50 if you get your avocados on sale or at that Latin market. All told, its worth the dough.

Another guilty pleasure is eating outside on a humid day at one of the many great Mexican restaurants in DC. But I never get the table side guacamole. Avocados are expensive (up to $2.99 each) but the price tag for table side guac is re-dick. If you go to Oyamel, which I highly recommend, you're looking at $13 for table side guac, which is crazy. As you can see in the picture, the cost must be to cover the fake grass they put the bowl on and the very expensive or hard-to-clean bowls they put it in (read: sarcasm). Of course, the elbow grease of the cute server making your overpriced pleasure may be worth it, too. Nonetheless, if you're in to making bougie mistakes, this is definitely the one for you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chip Tuesday: Original LantChips

This past weekend, Sassie Cassie and I went on an epic trip to Ikea. In need of random furnishings, rugs, and accessories for our cozy new home, we decided to borrow a coworkers van, get up early, and go to yuppy mecca, pay homage to the scandinavian demigods who create furniture that can be built and broken down with great efficiency, and come home to make our lovely home even lovelier. It was a good plan.

If only things had run so smoothly.

On the way there, driving on the highway, Sassie Cassie approached stopped traffic but was not able to slow down. "Omigod you guys, the brakes! the brakes are not working!" She immediately swerved off an exit and pulled the emergency break. She handled it like a champ, but we were definitely shaken up. Nervous laughter, a detour back onto the highway, a tenuous exit and we were finally at Ikea all in one piece.

Nothing like facing the hooded face and shiny sickle of black death to get you in the mood for some crispy chips that affirm that you are indeed still alive with every crunchy bite. So where else did we go but the Ikea food court? Is there anything better than commercial scandinavian food? No, there isn't.

Behold, I give you Ikea's LantChips.

Thankfully, I didn't have to use a cute little wrench to put this bag together. The flavor is spot on, not too salted, just greasy enough. The texture of the chips are much like kettle-cooked chips-- thick skin, very potato-ey, but not as greasy or heavy as American chips. As a person of the Asian persuasion, I was grateful for the mild flavor. Eaten with a big cup of Lingonberry juice on ice, it was, HAUW YOU SAY ... PERFEKT!

Till next time, everybody.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ode to red velvet cake

The first time I tried red velvet cake was at a Thanksgiving family dinner. It wasn't very memorable nor was really red in color. The taste was fine, but nothing that blew me away.

Since I moved to DC (and thanks to Ms. Anna Almendrala) I have learned to appreciate the beauty of the red velvet. It's most popular in the south and people are fiercely protective of family recipes. The cocoa-based cake ranges in color from dark reddish brown to candy apple red, thanks to food coloring. It is typically served in multiple layers topped with a buttercream or cream cheese frosting.

My favorite place to get a red velvet fix in DC is, where else, but Red Velvet, a tiny cupcake retailer near Chinatown.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cunningham Farms sweet potato butter

It all started when my partner's parents were visiting for Christmas one year. They are methodist missionaries in rural Tennessee and focus on building leadership among youth and economic development with farmers who can't sell their tobacco anymore. They started the Clinch Powell Community Kitchen and the Applicacian Springs Coop to support farmers who were making value added food products (i.e. jams, jellies, salsas, etc.) to generate income. Every time they visted they'd bring me a box of the products the farmers were making and every time I'd request sweet potato butter.

About three years ago I asked for a case of sweet potato butter and I was told that the farmer stopped making the product but I could buy the expired jars. I started asking questions and the last question I asked was can I buy the business. To my surprise the Coop owned the rights to a sweet potato butter recipe, which I bought. Then I grabbed two trusted friends to start this business and social enterprise.

Cunninghams Farms isn't a farm in the proper sense of the term farm. Our mission is to create jobs in rural Tennessee, where there aren't many by producing sweet potato butter. Every few months we hire people my mother-in-law identifies as really needing a job and pay them a living wage to cook up so good old sweet potato butter. I also get my hands dirty and one of my faviorate expereinces was peeling 600 lbs of organic beauregard sweet potatoes. It is a farm in the sense that we create community by meeting needs with friends, family and around the table.

There is so much to tell about this project. Suffice it to say that Ben Olsen of DC United is a fan of the butter (see picture below) and Zingerman's will be carrying the butter in their holiday catalog. Check us out on Facebook or our website for a pie recipe and let me know if you'd like to come down and help cook up a batch!

(Ben Olsen autographed jar!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

wine tasting appetizers

My husband just celebrated a birthday and what does that mean in our household? Wine tasting!
Our usual set up is a blind tasting where everyone who attends contributes a bottle and then there’s a competition to guess the varietal of the wines. This year we requested a French Rhone, a Sonoma Zinfandel, a Super Tuscan, an Argentinean Malbec, a French Viognier, and a Spanish Albarino. If you’re ever looking to try one of those types of wine, that’s the region you should be looking to.

People bring additional types and not all make the cut, so I do my best to prepare appetizers that will pair nicely with several different wines.

Two of the easiest and tastiest dishes that I made:
- For the whites – the crab dip was very easy to make, tasted great, and went quickly. I barely got a scoop on my plate!

- For the reds - I have to say that for the preparation, appearance, and taste the stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta were probably the biggest success.

Crab Dip

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dry vermouth (I used sherry instead)
3/4 cup cream cheese (6 ounces), softened
1/4 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise (used miracle whip lite and still tasted great)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons minced chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
Salt and cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any bits of shell (only had 1 lb. of crab meat and it was plenty!)
2/3 cup coarse dry bread crumbs
Pita chips or toasted baguette slices

In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until just beginning to brown, 4 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese, crème fraîche, mayonnaise, mustard, chives and tarragon. Season lightly with salt and cayenne and scrape into a large bowl. Stir in the crabmeat, breaking it up slightly with a spoon. Spread the crab dip in a shallow baking dish or 12 shallow ramekins.
Preheat the broiler. Position a rack 10 inches from the heat. In a small glass bowl, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a microwave on high heat. Stir in the bread crumbs and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle the crumbs over the crab dip and broil until the dip is heated through and the topping is golden, about 2 minutes; shift the baking dish for even browning. Serve warm with pita chips or toasted baguette slices.

Make Ahead
The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight. Return to room temperature before broiling.

Stuffed Dates wrapped in Prosciutto

1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese, a room temperature
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 Medjool dates (12 ounces), pitted
8 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise

Special equipment: 16 toothpicks or cocktail picks
In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses and basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Gently pull the dates apart and stuff with about 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Close the dates around the filling. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each date and secure with a toothpick.
Arrange the stuffed dates on a platter and serve.

Chip Tuesday: Sweet Maui Onion

**This is the first in a series of installments called "Chip Tuesdays." Every Tuesday, someone will review a flavor or brand of chips. Why, you ask? Well, because ... chips are the bomb.

After heading down to the optometrist near George Washington University yesterday, I walked out of the medical center with a pair of dilated eyes and a rumbling stomach.

That's when I decided, well by golly, it's almost Chip Tuesday so I better get a move on and eat some chips. I went to the deli next door -- you know, the insanely bougie kind that you would only find downtown, with $8.95 paninis and $1.50 bananas that are still green. My disdain for the place was immediate. That is, until I saw their glorious rack of chips.

Imagine if you will an entire wall rack filled with various kinds of chips. The exotic flavors were abundant: thai chili and lime, southern barbeque, curry, etc. My faint heart leaped for joy. I reached for the bag that appealed to me most: Sweet Maui Onion.

Purchased with an Odwalla smoothie, I was good to go. I hopped in a cab, ripped open the bag, and popped the first chip in my mouth.

Delicious. Amazing. Flavor explosions in my mouth. I couldn't get enough. Sweet overtones of carmelized onion and mango, with a solid base of onion salt, wrapped around perfectly crunchy, kettled cooked chips ... it was as if I had been fed only liquids for my entire life and this was the first time in 26 years that I was given solid foods.

I couldn't even bare to look the cabbie in his rear view mirror as he asked for directives. I just kept stuffing the chips in my mouth, one after another, crunch crunch crunch, mumbling the cross streets I needed to get to with my mouth still full.

And then ... I stopped.

You know how sometimes you just don't listen to your body? I was so hungry and enjoying the crunchy texture of the chips so much that I had completely ignored my taste buds, which, after a while, screamed out, OMG STOP! TOO MUCH!

That's right folks. The romance was that brief. I went from LOVE to HATE in a manner of minutes. The flavor was so overwhelming that I almost gagged. And that's what these chips will do to you. Some bags, you can never have just one (sun chips plain, pringles sour cream and onion, kettle cooked salt and pepper), but others ... one or two is about all you can take.

By the time I got back to the office, I couldn't even look at them. I felt so betrayed.

Sweet Maui Onion, you were not all you said you'd be. You made empty promises. You built me up and then you tore me down. So in the trash you go. It's like I never even knew you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

a delectible summer dinner...

Do you love crab cakes but are discouraged by their prep?

Fret no more! Crab cakes are easier than you think.

As a mid-westerner, I have always been intimidated by preparing seafood. But, thanks to my friends Google and The Food Network, I have constructed my own spicy crab cake. Quick and easy, with just a little zip!

  • 1 pound crab meat, picked free of shells
  • 1/3 cup crushed crackers (recommended: Ritz)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Old Bay
  • 3 eggs
  • 3-6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
(you can add in peppers for additional flavor)

Mix crab, crackers, and onion together in a large bowl. Then add in mustard, hot sauce, and Old Bay. Finally, add 3 eggs, one at a time to make the mixture sticky, but be sure not to overwork.

Make into patties and refrigerate for 1 hr. For best results, refrigerate overnight. You can also keep frozen for up to one week.

When ready to cook:
Heat oil in a skillet and fry crab cake for 3-5 minutes on each side. Should make 10 crab cakes, depending on how large you make the patties.

Stay tuned for a light and sweet Mediterranean salad to go along side your spicy crab cake. A perfect summer dinner that will leave you wanting more!

i love LocoPops

For my inagural post, I want to rave about a recent treasure I discovered on a trip to Durham, NC. These gourmet frozen treats, called LocoPops, are intensely flavored and available in fruit-based or cream-based varieties.

These treats are North Carolina's version of paletas and come in unique flavors. When I visited, there were two dozen to choose from: jalapeno-lemonade, pomegranate-tangerine, Mexican Chocolate, and mango-chile, to name a few. I had the dairy-based Mexican Chocolate- think "south of the border Fudgecicle." It was kicked up with cinnamon and cayanne pepper and it was creamy beyond belief. I also loved the Mighty Mojito, tart and minty (sans the rum). And the best part? A small LocoPop is $1.50, and a large just $2.25.

Unfortunately, LocoPops are unavailable outside of the state, but let's hope that someone else brings the ingenious idea of played-up paletas to the DC area soon.

(photo credit: bittermellon on Flickr)