Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Salsa, With Love

In eleven days, I will be on a real (!) honest-to-goodness vacation (!!) in PERU (!!!)

I haven't been out of the country for going on six years now.  I haven't gone anywhere for over a solid week (that wasn't home for the holidays) in just as long.  As they say:  It Is Time.

In part of my ongoing preparations for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and Peru in general, I've learned a few things:

A) Trust the friendly folks at REI. They know their stuff.
B) I need to go to the famed La Mar restaurant in Lima for ceviche or I will never forgive myself, and
C) Be good at salsa dancing. I hear the Lima crowd doesn't mess around.

With salsa dancing on the brain, it was just a short hop and skip over to my first salsa love: the kind you eat. I'm sure there are no surprises with this one but I LOVE SALSA.  I swear, if you get me a nice bowl of salsa and some crispy tortilla chips, along with a margarita or Negra Modelo, I'll be your friend for life. Unfortunately, good salsa is hard to find here in DC, so those of us with salsa-inclined brains have learned to make our own. 

Inspired as I was by this post on Cup of Jo from Homesick Texan, I jazzed this Roasted Tomato Salsa up a bit.  With a thickness lent from toasted pepitas ground up with the salsa, as well as chipotle, smoked paprika, or smoked sea salt, this salsa is served warm (fresh from a good roasting of the veggies in the oven) and is usually gobbled up within the hour.  Every. Single. Time. I never get any leftover for the week! Next time I'm tripling the batch.

Somewhat smoky and spicy, this salsa has proven itself to be my go-to in the past several months. And while I might have mastered one salsa, it's time to get back to practicing the dancing kind or I'll face epic wallflower shame in the bars of Peru.  Photos and recipes to come, te prometo.

Photo from the Wikitravel page on Machu Picchu.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And Then a Hurricane Struck

Being based in DC, and due to the tendency for us to generally freak out during any sort of weather display, I'll admit that I didn't take Hurricane Sandy too seriously at first.  And yet I spent the afternoon (and evening, and night, and next morning) at a friend's because I was too chicken to go home in the 90 mph winds and rain.  No, I stayed inside.  The lights flickered and their apartment leaked enough to fill a few buckets of water.  Throughout the night and next morning we stayed glued to the television and watched as Hurricane Sandy barely scraped DC and discovered that it had instead saved it's horrible strength for New Jersey and New York.

I cannot believe the images I have seen coming out of New York City and the Jersey Shore these past few days.  I cannot.  I cannot believe the stories of loss and heroism that I have read today.  I cannot believe these things happened a few hours drive from where we were hunkered down, but I must.  The death toll continues to climb, and our neighbors are struggling to repair the damage done to their homes, communities, their very lives.  We must help our neighbors, despite what our eyes may not believe, and what our ears might not understand.  We must help our friends in need.  Whether you know them or not, they are our responsibility.

Please consider donating what you can to help recovery efforts.

UMCOR (The United Methodist Committee on Relief) has a top rating by Charity Navigator, and you can donate to their Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts here.

As always, there's the American Red Cross, who needs not only monetary donations, but hundreds of blood drives had been cancelled due to the hurricane and they could use all the help you can give.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Golden Years

Now that I've entered my thirties (officially 30 as of last Thursday!) and am wiser and more articulate in this new decade of mine, things are clearer to me.

 For example, my palate has reverse-leapfrogged the last few decades and returned to me, at age ten, lover of BBQ and summertime.  At my awesome friend T's house, we threw a clambake, which I guess is a Chesapeake ten-year-old's version of BBQ? I can't tell.  Anyway.

The Anthropologie-inspired living room.  Also known as the calm before the crab storm.

Somewhere along the Potomac
 Oh! And we had a crab-steam! Or steamers? Whatever eating Old Bay-sprinkled crabs is called, with a mallet. Hey, I'm not from around here, mkay?)

They really are blue.  Who knew.
Alongside steamed Maryland blue crabs, I whipped up my mom's famous baked beans, a roasted tomato salsa, and jalapeno cornbread (southwest meets Chesapeake, folks), while Roni made potato salad, manned the clambake pot, and created a wicked green pea dip (all recipes to come, I promise you). And...this. A lemon ice cream cake.  Er, ice cream pie.  No. An icebox cakeFrozen pie?! What IS this deliciousness actually called??

I really can't describe, in easy dessert terms, what this is exactly, but I will tell you about it.  It has a crunchy baked crust of gingersnaps and almonds, and is full of only one thing: tangy lemon custard ice cream.  You freeze the whole shebang together, and badda-bing, bada-boom, once it's set, you have dessert, my friends.  But it is so much more.

Crunchy, slightly spicy in a gingersnappy-kind of way, the crust is heavenly.  And the ice cream?  This sweet, sour, summery, and creamy lemon custard?  Heaven.  But when you combine the two?  Hold on to your 30, or 20, or 10 year old hats, my friends because this one's a winner.  And I've decided to call it Lemon Gingersnap Icebox Pie.

It was a perfect afternoon, full of good friends, family, and laughs.  While it may have been raining outside, the inside of this spectacular house was full of jokes and sangria, iced-tea spiked vodka, lemonade, and the constant knocking sound of mallet upon crab.  I can't think of a better soundtrack to enter my thirties with.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Easy Does It

So these past few months has been crazy with work and work travel, so I am first apologizing for being all busy, and for being such a workaholic, my friends, and am instead offering up this Peach Bourbon Ice Cream as a token of my summer love to you all.

My re-entry into normal, civilized life is slowly happening.  I’m rediscovering what it’s like to take an hour to myself to read or think or just be.  I am also trying to worm my way back into my abandoned and forlorn kitchen.  I’ve found that said kitchen is more apt to forgive me if I come bearing gifts like Bell’s Oberon Ale, lemons, fresh lettuces, basil, and ripe peaches from the market.

Speaking of peaches, these days they are heaven-sent.  Piles of them at the market inspired a Sunday ice cream endeavor this past weekend amidst the birthday parties, brunches, and catchings-up with friends.  As always, I turned to David Lebovitz but thought the recipe needed a bit more than the plain old Peaches’n’Cream schtick.  So I used brown sugar and bourbon and voila, I now have Peach Bourbon Ice Cream at my fingertips and it is a lush, dreamy type of thing to have within reach.

Contemplating the power of thunder storms, the kindness of my friends, the support of my family and the dreams of a future seem all so much more lovely when scooped up and savored along with this ice cream.  If you are lucky enough to have an ice cream maker, go ahead and try your hand at this (feel free to omit the bourbon for my less alcohol-friendly readers), with perhaps a generous sprinkle of candied pecans or blackberries on top.  It’s an easy way to reacquaint yourself properly with the summer you might have been missing these past few months, and with friends old and new. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

With A Cherry On Top

I’d like to take a second to talk about pie.

Back in Arizona, we only reserved our pies for Very Special Occasions, like Thanksgiving.  I don’t even think Christmas regularly made the pie-rounds. Seriously.  Only Thanksgiving.  This seems to make sense in a place like the desert where pie, especially fruit pies, is just not that commonplace.  We were no Oregon or Michigan, what with their cherries and black berries and strawberries and blueberries (if you’re sensing jealousy here, you’re on the right track.)

Fastforward to me being an adult.  Or some version of whatever an adult is.  And I. LOVE. PIE.  I love it all the time, here, and there, sitting down, standing up, on a table or in a chair.

I just discovered two weekends ago that our farmers market sells two kinds of cherries. Regular cherries and something called “Pie Cherries.” Excuse moi? Cherries made for pie!? I didn’t even know what to do with myself for a few moments, I was so dumbounded.  As soon as I emerged from my cherrie-reverie (cherr-everie? It's a thing, I promise you), I bought a ginormous box of them and ignored all the naysayers that say pie cherries are too sour to snack on.  Please.  Tart is good and these cherries are bomb (and even more bombastic in this, what may just be the Best. Pie. Ever.)

I think you could probably tell at this point in my Tart Cherry Pie scenario that I had never made a cherry pie.  I can’t recall even trying a homemade cherry pie in the past (instead, they were always of the maraschino-store bought-variety).  This pie was sweet, tart, homey, and incredibly inviting, and while my latticework might need some…work, don’t hold it against the pie.  It was my own goofy hands that forgot to actually weave the lattice crust.  Silly hands.

I  loved having a lazy Sunday morning after an insanely busy June to listen to Radio Lab and pit pounds of cherries.  My table was a mess, my hands were expertly covered  in cherry-juice, yet I was very responsible about this pie and made the crust for the dough the day before (I planned ahead! Who? What!) and then journeyed through the streets of DC and the tunnels of the Metro to Veeb’s house for her Sunday Ice Cream Social Birthday Extravaganza.  And then said (still warm) pie was literally gone in 7 minutes. 

In short, it was a damn good Tart Cherry Pie. (The splash of bourbon I added only made things even more fantastic, I might add).  Cherry up, folks, before the summer gets too long gone.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Like A Child

There’s something deliciously comforting in re-creating treats from your childhood.  It’s better than a flashback; it’s more like a rediscovery of memories, of delights, of possibility.  For just a few seconds you glimpse your dreams from long ago, and instead of looking at them with that horrible adult eye of logistics and reasoning and numbers, you simply delight in your hopes.  You dream far and wide and look forward with excitement rather than planning and worry.  While gobbling up something familiar yet new, it’s better than before because it’s slightly more sophisticated, maybe a bit healthier, and it actually seems possible to move forward through your adult days with that restored wisdom of childhood.  

At least, all of that seems possible after a batch of Strawberry Rhubarb Poptarts

I got strawberries and rhubarb from the market.  Again, Kim Boyce’s rustic rye tarts went out the window and I instead scrambled to find a recipe for poptarts.  My favorite kind growing up were the brown sugar variety… the strawberry ones seemed too fake and chemically flavored to entice me enough to toast them  up before school.  Yet here I stand, Strawberry (with rhubarb! At least!) poptart in hand and damn if I’m not a little bit in love.

I couldn’t find an ideal recipe, no matter how I tried. So, I smooshed a couple together and got something pretty wonderful. For the dough I went off Smitten Kitchen’s poptart guide, though I used all-purpose, whole wheat, and rye flours (which I have completely fallen in love with, by the by. So creamy! So dreamy! Oh, rye.) I also couldn’t find a strawberry rhubarb jam that seemed just right…so, inspired as I was by a baked rhubarb/strawberry dish in this month’s Bon Appetit, I turned it into a jam instead (also, it has bourbon. Ahem.)

From one of my favorite movies, "Stranger Than Fiction."  This is when Will Ferrell brings Maggie Gyllenhaal "flours."  I'm officially on my way to multi-flour Gyllenhaal glory.

I will say that a measure of a dish's success is based almost exclusively on how fast it disappears.  Since I brought the poptarts to my dear friend Lina's housewarming party, (also known as L-Diddy, also known as my Indian Sister...and congrats again on the new marriage and house, Chris and Lina!) where I had several strangers come up to me to rave about poptarts with loud thank you’s and hugs, so I’d say that it was a success.  These little guys are  suitable for both special occasions and everyday breakfasting, but maybe not your toaster because these puppies are oven-toasted, thankyouverymuch.

Chin up, adults.  Have a poptart and remember what you were like as a kid.  Start that dreaming again, no logistics allowed, and let’s get ready for an epic summer, shall we?   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let's Have A Toast

I had a big plan to make some of Kim Boyce's rye-crust tarts with a strawberry rhubarb compote this weekend, but sometimes things just don't turn out the way you plan.

Instead, they turn out better.

Faced with half an hour to make a summery dessert I grabbed my ice cream maker, a lemon, the strawberries I'd intended for the tart, and...wait for it...champagne.  Opa!  Summer time!  Let's raise a glass, shall we?

Usually when I make a pint of sorbet or ice cream it lasts us for..a week, at least.  But this pint lasted...between three people... twenty minutes.  Actually, less than that, but who's counting?  I'm fortunate enough to have snagged a quick photo or I might have assumed I'd have dreamed the whole thing up.  Summer is here!  I can feel it in the air, and I captured this pic to prove I had in my hands, too, for a few minutes at least.

Strawberries, lemons, mint, champagne.  Could it get any better?  I think not.  Especially when this goodness is mushed about, frozen, and still tickles your mouth with the last bit of bubbly that makes champagne so extravagantly lovely and fun.   Friends, I have brought you summer, just in time, but now you can cheers with your spoons rather than glasses; besides, drinking champagne now seems so last season.  Let's dig into this Strawberry Lemon Champagne Sorbet with spoons instead.

Cheers, summer of 2012.  Cheers indeed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wild Things Cake

After these past few weeks in DC (besides a quick, glitter-filled, sunny stint in Vegas), I'm almost convinced that I unknowingly picked up and moved myself to the upper Northwest.  One day it's heavy rains and gray clouds, and the next is a breezy, crisp, sunny (not to mention perfect) day. 

I repeat.  Weather is so weird!  DC weather is the weirdest!

But these perfect peeks at the sun are absolutely the best.  Picnics, bike rides, farmers markets and more, all without the gross humidity and ungodly amounts of sweating.  It truly is a springly miracle and I don't mind a week of rain if I get sun for the weekend. 

I'm actually needing a bit of sunshine right now.  One of my favorite children's book authors, Maurice Sendak, passed away this week and I just feel a bit...afloat.  I didn't know him , but I felt like I did, and his drawings and stories were one of the strongest anchors of my childhood.  One of my favorite books, Where The Wild Things Are was a lovely, fantastical, imaginative story, and, I'm trusting, a reflection of the type of man he was as well.

I think I speak for all my fellow Wild Things friends by saying: "Oh, please don't go--we'll eat you up--we love you so!" 

I'd like to think that he might have enjoyed sharing a slice of this French Lemon Yogurt Cake with me, and we could talk about the importance of children's literature, general adventuring, wild rumpus-ing, dreams, and the various whatnots of our lives.

Or maybe you could enjoy some French Lemon Yogurt Cake with the people who inspire you in your life too.  This cake isn't very hard at all, and is actually perfect for picnics and your own adventuring, (with your favorite Wild Things, who always love a good cake, of course).

"Then from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat, so he gave up being king of the wild things."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crunch Time

It seems like every week that passes I’m more and more convinced (and surprised) by my crazy need for the crunch.

Since I was a kid I always put potato chips in my sandwiches or crispy fries in my burger (Hello! They needed that little extra somethin-somethin.)  My mom loved (and still loves) to call me out that I "just crunch too dang loud" when I eat chips.  Har har, Mom.   .... but seriously, I'm sure I do.  Call me crunchy, call me granola, but at least I have something to back it up: my ever-present, super-necessary, crunch factor.

I came across this recipe a few weeks ago in an Ayurvedic cookbook called Eat, Taste, Heal which has been fascinating on all levels, not the least of which are some pretty stellar cooking recommendations, such as these Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas

Weird? Maybe.  Crunch factor? Yes.  Awesome? Heck yes!

The thing is, these are as spicy as you want them to be, and include ingredients you should hopefully already have in your cupboard.  I mixed together what I had on hand:  turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, curry powder, cinnamon, garam masala, cumin, smoked paprika… then just cracked open a can of garbanzo beans, rinsed them, threw on a few tablespoons of my muy awesome spice mixture, and was done. 

After tossing the Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas onto the cooking tray and popping them into a low-heat oven for about 45 minutes I suddenly I had a pretty healthy (and tasty!) crunchy snack that was not a chip (I'm sorry chips, I will always love you, but sometimes I need something that's actually good for me).

These are great for munchies before dinner parties or get-togethers, and make for most-excellent travel snacks.  Also, this is budget-friendly (extra score).   So many positives, no negatives!  I love things like this: simple, crunchy, and ready before you know it.  Thanks ancient Ayurvedic wisdom!

Friday, March 16, 2012

How To Be A Baller

I’m pretty sure that everyone loves a good meatball. Except, of course, those who don’t eat meat which is quite a conundrum, but for those of you who are fish-friendly, Jamie Oliver has proven once again that he is a badass and a baller (and I've proven that my puns get worse with age).  Let me introduce to you Fish Meatballs or as the Italians like to say "Le Migliori Polpette di Tonno." Que sexy sounding, no?

Oliver (or can I call him Jamie? At this point, after so many recipes I’ve tried of his, I feel like we should be on a first-name basis) has pretty specific instructions in Jamie’s Italy to use Swordfish or Tuna (fresh, uncanned). However, sometimes a girl needs to think on her feet when her local Harris Teeter doesn’t seem to have any of those varieties, and instead I chose a steak-like Mahi Mahi, combined with a can of tuna, and the next thing I knew I had a bubbling pot of meat(fish)balls that was loved by all. Another amazing thing about these meatballs is that they have pine nuts (!) and cinnamon (!!) along with parsley and oregano and truly...I was in swoon-mode. So was everyone else at the Oscars viewing party I brought them to, where we had dishes like mine that I’d nicknamed “Moneyball Meatballs”, “Girl with the Dragon Rat-TATOO-ouille,” and “My Week With Marilyn Martini.” Aren't my creative friends super awesome?  I think so.

These meat(fish)balls weren’t difficult but meatballs are of the more labor-intensive variety of food to make anyway…but you can’t blame them, it’s just in their nature what with the sauce-making, the fish-cooking, the ball-rolling, the pan-frying and such. But the effort put into these meat(fish)balls are worth the work, I promise. Even more than having meatballs on top of spaghetti, I’d prefer mine in a crusty/toasty loaf of bread, with-- who knows?--maybe some arugula tossed in and I’d call it a damn good day.

Here’s a sweet little throwback for you guys: let’s all remember our favorite meatball song from childhood:

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door…

...and I forget the rest, but that comes with age too.  In conclusion, enjoy Jamie's Amaze-Balls Meat(fish)balls!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Benefits of Ottolenghi-Fying Oneself

Ladies and gents, I'm proud to announce that le chateau is becoming an Ottolenghi-fied household.

What is an Ottolenghi you might ask?  It's not some fun-sounding type of car (though I dream of the day I'll once again even have a car).  Nor is it a silly new exercise fad.  It's not an herb.  It's not some exotic fruit.  Ottolenghi is a last name (first name: Yotam) and he's kind of a BFD chef-man.  I really don't know that much about him, except the dude knows his veg.  Just look at his gorgeous new cookbook!  Plenty! With what appears to be baby eggplants and rosemary and some luscious yogurt sauce with pomegranate seeds, of all bright and beautiful things, sprinkled on top, standing proud on the book jacket.  And guys...that's just the cover of this thing.  I'm in love with this cookbook (and it's hard to make me fall hard for an eggplant) but fall I have, and love I'm in.

The roomie brought this into the house at the beginning of February, and thank heavens because February is absolutely my least favorite month of the year.  It's an entire month of living that saying "it's darkest before the dawn," which doesn't make for a fun 29 days.  Hours drag, and it seems like night will never end.  Wind blows.  I think I saw the sun last Thursday.  I'm over stews at this point.  I can only have so much veggie chili, you know?

But Ottolenghi came in and brightened the place up.  We made a cold noodle dish, Soba noodles with Eggplant and Mango, which doesn't sound appealing at all in February, but trust a girl here.  Chilled soba (buckwheat) noodles, tossed with pan-fried eggplant, mango, basil and cilantro, and a lime-chile dressing.  Goodness gracious.  I swear, it's been a while since I ate four helpings of a cold noodle salad (remember our Vietnamese Crack Salad obsession?) but this was such an interesting dish I couldn't stop myself, and relatively healthy to boot.  The sweetness of the mango combined with the tang of the dressing, the freshness of the herbs, the slippery coolness of the noodles and saltiness of the eggplant were powerful reminders of summer, of beautiful and and zippy flavors, and it helped all of February move just a little bit faster for this desert gal.

Oh, and Happy Leap Day!  Won't say that again for another four years, so hope this extra day was full of good things for you all.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On what makes a Fine Indian Woman

When I think of Aloo Gobi, for some reason I don’t think of home.  I think of the movie “Bend It Like Beckham” which taught me that once a gal knows how to make a good Aloo Gobi, you’re officially a Fine Indian Woman and will have no problem taking over the world, thankyouverymuch.

Aloo is potato.  Gobi is cauliflower, and when brought together with a bevy of fun spices it is absolutely delicious.  I punked out and bought some store-made naan bread that I warmed up in the oven, which is also where I happened to roast these veggies first instead of sauteeing them because cauliflower is pretty much only fantastic when you roast it (true story). Roasted Veggie Aloo Gobi! I can’t take all the credit for this (inspired as I was by a recipe I found from Gourmet), but still, it was up my Aloo Gobi alley and that’s where I followed it with excellent results.

The roomie tends to rag on me for not making more food from my Motherland, but here I am, with solid Chole PalakPulauRaitaLassiApple Chutneyand Aloo Gobi recipes under my belt and I can’t help but think that’s pretty damn good for a gal from the desert in Arizona. 

To my vegan and veggie-friendly friends, this is one of those dishes that, when served with some warmed up flatbread-of-choice, makes for a delicious, healthy, and pretty satisfying dinner.  And I challenge those of you scared of making your own Indian food to buy a few spices and try it out…it’s not scary, and the flavors are only overpowering if you over-season. I promise.

So eat up! Meatless Monday is coming up, and I hear it's all the rage these days.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Putting Things Off (A Perfect Example of How To or Not To Start The New Year)

I love New Years.  Isn't it great to look back and take full stock of your life, the good and the bad, and what you want in it, what you want out of it, and above all, how to go about doing it.  Fresh, new ideas.  Sparkling lights.  Mountains of champagne and spontaneous midnight dance parties at the stroke of twelve. Maybe even fireworks, if you're lucky.  Yes, new years is quite the time.

It's also the time to go about getting "healthier" whatever that means.  I've now been trying to start a "cleanse" for what was originally a two week time period.  I've now cut it down to a week, and since I apparently don't even have the time for that it's looking like if I can do a cleanse for two whole days thats about as good as it's gonna get.   I don't know what it's supposed to fight against, but apparently it's something to do with processed sugars, flours, dairy, meats, gluten, and all the good things I usually love to munch.  You'd think that one as determined as I could handle that.  And maybe I can, (this weekend perhaps?) but until then... let's have some doughnuts.  Apple Cider Doughnuts, to be exact.  And if we want to get fancy on the doughnut holes, lets just drape them in syrup and name them Maple Syrup Glazed Doughnut Holes.  Happy New Years to US!

We had our annual "O-Hole-Y Breakfast" this past December where I busted out a brand new doughnut on my unsuspecting guests.  And love them some doughnuts they did.  I really liked how these were cake doughnuts, and I didn't have to wait for yeast to help raise the dough...instead...I just got down to bizniz, and me and the doughnuts succeeded on all counts.

I recently read in a Bon Appetit about the obsession with Maple Syrup in the grand region of Quebec in Canada, and they mentioned dousing hot doughnuts in pure maple syrup and damn if those northern neighbors of ours weren't spot on in syrup-soaked-fried-bread.  Genius!  Inspirational!  Montreal, Quebec City...maple makers...I'll be visiting you soon, I promise.

It was a grand time had by all, and foods with holes continue to wow friends and family alike.  I also made them for Christmas morning brunch and they went over just as well in AZ as they do in DC, so do me a solid and try these doughnuts on an upcoming lazy (and freezing) Saturday morning.  You can high-five me later in the new year (but make sure to do it before the world ends this upcoming December, k?)

Happy 2012 and Happy Food Adventuring!