a collaborative blog for friends who love food.

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)