Monday, November 23, 2009

Roasted Parsnip Bread Pudding

Being a bread pudding fan, and in general a fan of savories over sweets, I tried this recipe from Martha Stewart.  It uses parsnips and thyme for an earthy fall flavor.  What makes it a pudding rather than a stuffing is probably the base ingredient list: brioche, cream, and eggs.   I subbed out half the cream for milk, and even so this recipe is still best saved for when you really need a comfort food or are having trouble finding a vegetarian stuffing that hits the spot.  To my surprise I think that I prefer the richness of a bread pudding in a sweet version.  Save the killer parsnip-thyme combo for a more conventional stock-based stuffing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


What is there to say about granola?  Let's see.  It goes with fruit and yogurt.  It's got a healthy vibe to it due to it having whole oats, and nuts, and seeds and things.  It's about $5 a bag in the store - expensive in my book.  It's why they call tree-hugging liberals "crunchy."  And I eat it with a banana and cup of Dannon yogurt every day for breakfast.

This granola is Emily's creation, based on this recipe.  It's not hard to make your own based on what you like, and to get the right amount of sweetness.  This one has lots of oats and pepitas which we had lying around the pantry, and used maple syrup as a sweetener.  She also fired up the yogurt-maker this past weekend.  We'll often pile a bowl full of fruit, some granola or cereal, a bit of jam or preserves, and pour homemade plain yogurt over the top and call it a quick, easy, satisfying meal.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Fusion of two great desserts: pumpkin pie and bread pudding has been achieved in the laboratory.  Emily made this recipe using brioche made from scratch.  If you like the crispy bits, take a scrape off the top.  If, on the other hand, you like warm custardy comfort, take a deep scoop.  Pumpkin pairs very well with bread pudding, and this is worth a try.  On the other hand, what doesn't pair well with bread pudding?  Home-made brioche does take this up a notch - and the best part is that you have leftovers that can be frozen for french toast the next time you have a leisurely breakfast.  Don't neglect a tasty bourbon or something similar... just the right amount adds great flavor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Butternut Squash Pasties

There is something magical about meat pies.  Eating this recipe, I think the magic for me is in Emily's pastry dough and not the meat.  This is a vegetarian version of the Cornish Pasty (PAST-ee), but it still has some of that signature taste I might have thought was due to tasty meat, but in fact found here with the butternut squash.  The recipe is here.  You can see a bit of the filling cooked in a ramekin to the side.

We watched a couple of youtube videos of Cornish "nans" making pasties.  The fascinating bit was how they seal the dough so it looks rolled over itself.  Shown here, it's the same technique as is used in Bolivian saltenas and it always baffled me how it was done.  Next time, I want to try crimping on top of the pie using this technique so it sits upright rather than on its side.  I think that will result in a neater pie that more evenly stretches the dough.  (I would also like to try reducing slightly the amount of butter in the crust... not too much though.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pomegranate Rice Balls

We are going to friend's for Thanksgiving, and this is a test run in the search for the perfect appetizer to bring.  It caught my eye in Martha Stewart's December issue because of the pomegranate.  Basically, it is a ball of risotto with fontina cheese and pomegranate that is breaded and fried.  It came out well, the main problem being that the pomegranate won't stick to anything!  I lost some in the bowl forming the balls, some on the tray waiting, some in the bread crumbs, some in the egg wash, and some in the frying pan.  The ones that managed to make it onto the plate gave a nice fruity burst to the risotto.

I think this is a keeper for Thanksgiving.  My strategy for improvement next time is going to be to press in pomegranate and cheese into a tray of the risotto while it cools.  Then I can slice it into squares once it is cold and hopefully lock the pomegranate in place.  It will also fry faster in a square than in a ball shape (which is meant for deep frying).

The squares worked out really well... I could have packed more pomegranate in than I did.  The whole process was much neater, faster, and more even.  I also upped the flavor in the risotto by using a little chicken broth instead of plain water.  Here's the revised recipe, let me know how it works out.

Pomegranate Fontina Rice Squares
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2009
Makes about 32 largish squares

Plenty of vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
3 chicken bouillon cubes
4 oz grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 oz diced fontina cheese
1 pomegranate, seeded
4 cups fine breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten with a little water

1.  Use a large heavy bottom saucepan for the rice.  First heat 2 Tbsp veg oil over medium heat and cook the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the rice and stir, toasting for 3 minutes.  Add wine.  Raise heat to med-high and cook until wine has reduced by half, 3 minutes.

2. Add 2 cups water and rosemary sprigs.  Throw in one of the bouillon cubes.  Stir and cook, paying close attention to the rice.  Let the rice absorb the water, then add two more cups and a bouillon cube.  Martha says about 6 cups, but really you have to keep tasting it to get it the way you want.  It should look creamy and cheesy even before you add the cheese.  Risotto is supposed to be "toothsome" but nit have a hard center.  I still haven't quite figured it out, but you should know it when you taste it.

3. Add Parmesan and butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and pour out the mixture onto the sheet.  It should be thick.  Spread it into an even layer about 3/4" thick.  Let it cool a little bit on the counter.  Then grab your pomegranate and cubed fontina and pour it out over the rice.  Press the seeds and cheese into the rice as best you can and smooth over the top when you are done.  You really want as much pomegranate as you can cram in without it looking like it will fall apart.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

4. Prep your frying area.  Get the bread crumbs and egg wash set up.  Put a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of veg oil in a  pan and heat over medium high heat.    Take the rice out of the fridge and slice into squares.  Dredge in bread crumbs, then egg, then bread crumbs again, and put in the frying pan.  Give it about 2 minutes a side or until nicely golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate, then to a serving tray.  Sprinkle a little coarse salt on top and maybe some parsley or whatever you have for color.

These are tasty, but also quite filling.  Sorry there's no picture of the square version, but they were looking snazzy at Thanksgiving neatly tiled in a rectangular silver tray.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stuffed Roast Sweet Potatoes

This shot is from a picnic lunch at the Arboretum.  Roast sweet potatoes make a great lunch or quick dinner.  They are simple to roast - drop them in the oven at 350 for an hour or an hour and a half - until they start to ooze sweetly and then even a little longer.  I have never over-roasted one.  They save in the fridge for a quick re-heat in the microwave.  The skin separates nicely from the flesh so they are easy to eat neatly with a fork or by hand.

This topping we found is genius.  Either halve the potato or set it up so you can mash in the sauces if you want.  Find an asian sweet chili sauce (Trader Joe's has one) and pour generously.  Sprinkle with soy sauce.  Add some fresh basil or greens and bean sprouts if you have them.  Squeeze a little lime on top and you can eat these all week.  (Emily is going to.)  Simple, quick, cheap, addictive.  Let me know if you discover any other great stuffings.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sopa Tarasca

This is a bean and tomato soup recipe from Michoacan, Mexico and brought to us by NPR's column.  As Emily pointed out, I think I have an affinity for pureed beans in soups.  They give a creamy fullness to soups that is heartier than cream and probably better for you.  And they pair especially well with a gentle round heat from chiles, whereas cream tends to counteract heat.  I think that is the reason this recipe is so good - the single ancho chile that it uses.  The other thing I changed about the recipe was the tomatoes.  Fresh tomatoes from the store, especially in wintertime, are pathetic and flavorless.  I used about half the tomatoes from a 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, and all the juice from the can to cook them in.  As for the toppings, I had some red pepper, and also sliced and pan fried some corn tortillas, and used the sour cream I had on hand.  Technically this soup is not vegetarian because I threw in some chicken boullion cubes instead of just water at the end.  I would contend that those cubes have so little actual chicken in them that if the FDA set a legal limit to call something "vegetarian" it would probably be under the limit.  But hey, you could always try a vegetable stock or just water.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apple Pate de Fruit

Emily's latest creation is a really good apple fruit roll-up.  Cut with a cookie cutter and served with cheddar cheese, it it quite tasty.  Actually, it makes me rethink my dismissal of the fruit roll-up as kiddie snacks.  Recipe here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simple Grilled Veggies with Polenta

When I do get a chance to grill, I put as much stuff as I can over the coals because I can always use it later, and you can't get the smoky flavor many other ways.  So beside the octopus were a poblano pepper, a red bell pepper, portobello muchrooms, pipian squash, and cauliflower.  Today I reheated them in the oven and mixed up some polenta to go with.  Polenta is really nothing more than cornmeal, so it's on hand and easy to do.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

DC Favorites 2009

Here is my full list of the "best of" yummy things in DC.  Coming soon to a Google Map.

There are no hard and fast rules to this list, but:
  1. The intent is to as much as possible identify particular items, not simply restaurants, that are great
  2. Nothing should go on here unless it as been ordered on at least 2 occasions and been great both times
  3. There must be one "best" - e.g. there can't be two best brick oven pizzas
  4. If you try something off this list, let me know if you agree of have had better!
Here it is:
  • Chinatown Express (6th and H): Steamed Pork Buns
  • Pan American Bakery (Columbia Pike): Bolivian Saltenas
  • Pho 95 (Rockville Pike): Pho Bo Vien
  • Jaleo (7th and F): Tapas
  • El Pollo Rico (Virginia Square): Charbroiled Chicken
  • Nando's (7th and H): Butterflied Chicken
  • 2 Amys (Cathedral): Brick Oven Pizza
  • Maine Ave Fish Market (Waterfront): Fried Catfish Sandwich
  • Teaism (8th and D): Chicken Bento Box
  • Panera (Anywhere): Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
  • Giuseppe's (Rockville): Pizzeria style Pizza
  • Lebanese Taverna (Pentagon Row, Woodley Park): Kibbeh, Lebneh
  • Vegetable Garden (Rockville Pike): Vegetarian
  • Cracker Barrel (Anywhere): Turnip Greens and Biscuits
  • Burma (6th and H): Salads
  • Tako Gill (Bethesda): Sushi appetizers
  • La Flor de La Canela (Gaithersburg): Ceviche Mixto
  • Breadline (Farragut): Bread, French Ham Sandwich
  • Le Pain Quotidien (Old Town): Sourdough Rye Bread
  • Southside 815 (Old Town): Carolina Pulled Pork Nachos

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Octo Feast

Inspired by some excellent marinated octopus we had in Portland Oregon several years ago, the recent NPR article that contained this recipe, my trip to the Eden Center, I had to try an octopus recipe.  The recent discovery of grills-in-the-park in Arlington and 70 degree weather last Saturday made this possible.  I have spared you pictures of the cute baby octopi that defrosted so nicely.  Needless to say I had to clean them myself.

Nine octopi were marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette and made three kebabs.  They cooked for three minutes a side just until the tips were charred.

Yummy.   I didn't get the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness I hoped for, but they were pretty tasty and not rubbery.  If these guys weren't overfished I would do this more often.  But seeing as these guys came from Thailand, I'm probably not going to do this again for a long time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turkish Eggs

What you are looking at is two soft-poached eggs surrounded by a garlicky plain yogurt and drizzled with a spicy sage butter.  You can see the sage leaves and the paprika that come from the butter sauce.  On the side is the pita bread you use to mop this deliciousness up.  The eggs are soft-poached for only three minutes, and the spices are warmed to release their flavor in the hot butter.  Recipe is here. Would be great for a brunch.  We happened to have it right before darting off to the Kennedy Center.  Beware garlic breath!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Corn Lemongrass Soup

Winter is almost here and we're doing at least one soup a week.  They freeze well too and will come in handy later.  This recipe is an interesting combo that Emily tried out.  Unfortunately we couldn't find the fresh lemongrass and relied on some stuff out of the tube.  I know Harris Teeter usually carries it, but we struck out at Shoppers and Safeway, and hitting a third store would have been too much.  So we were left with a delicious butternut squash - corn soup.  Using a pemmer to puree the soup in the pot helps reduce the number of dirty dishes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spanish Tortilla

The Spanish tortilla is kind of hash browns and eggs combined into one, with onions cooked in.   It has lots of oniony flavor that doesn't really have the texture of eggs or potatoes, but something in between that I really like.  This recipe is from Cook's, and is the first one I have tried, despite wanting to make these for a long time.  The basic technique is to cook the onions and potatoes together, letting them steam and mingle, before finally pouring in the egg mixture at the last minute.  Great for a brunch or a Spanish breakfast.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

This is one of my creations, based (very) loosely on an attempt to recreate a spicy beef noodle soup I had in Allston, MA several years ago. I made my own beef stock from a couple pounds of beef back ribs. I followed my basic stock recipe for chicken applied to beef. Brown the meat, cover with water, add onions and garlic and a celery stalk, and simmer gently for as many hours as you have. After a couple hours I rescued the meat from washing out and pulled it off the bone, separating out the lean bits for later use in the soup. With the stock made, I bought wheat-based Chinese noodles, mustard greens, scallions, and garlic for the soup. When it was time to make the soup itself I added everything together, flavored the broth with soy sauce and fish sauce and served. Some extra sriracha sauce kicks it up a notch. The mustard greens turned out very well here.

Alongside this I made the Davod Lebovitz scallion pancake recipe. All I will say is that it shows lots of promise, but I need to try it again to make sure it's thin, and easy to eat.

Pizza with Mushrooms and Ricotta

Emily keeps getting better at pizza-making. This wet-doughed version had a wonderful thin-thin crust, with a generous puffy crust at the edges. The toppings were fresh basil, fresh mozz, and a mushroom-ricotta mixture leftover from a ravioli stuffing. Oven temp was reduced slightly to 460 degrees for this version.


Trimmings from the windowsill forest made this pesto. The recipe is inspired by David Lebovitz, but with a few key modifications. A blender was used. Walnuts were substituted for pine nuts. And some windowsill parsley was thrown in. I am a fan of walnuts in pesto because I like their hearty flavor. Jar this stuff and it is useful for all kinds of things...pasta, pizza, bread, or what have you.

Pear Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

This moist gingerbread cake bakes in a pan - the same pan that cooks the pears in brown sugar topping. Here is the recipe that Emily made. Bosc pears hold up nicely to cooking and are currently in season, so they are perfect for this recipe.

Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms

I picked this Mark Bittman recipe because I love Bok Choy and I had some oyster sauce to use up, which Bittman uses as the main sauce for this stir fry. The dried shitakes from the Eden Center were fragrant and woodsy, and in general very good, but they couldn't make up for the lack of fresh, crispy shitakes (the store didn't have any). Perhaps I ruined it, but there are tastier ways to make bok choy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Grape Tomato Pizza

At any pizza place that claims to be good, I always order a pizza Margherita, or something very close in order to judge the quality of the pizza without cover of super salty olives, spicy sauces, or thai-ginger chicken. When done well, you can't beat Margherita. Emily did very well with this one. Thin, crispy crust. Fresh basil picked from the window sill. Sweet grape tomatoes wilted in the 475 degree oven heat. A touch of olive oil and some mozzerella cheese and a slightly garlicky tomato sauce. Simple. I recommend a pizza stone. We leave it in the oven most of the time, as it adds some thermal mass to the oven and evens out the temperature fluctuations you get from the oven cycle and opening and closing the door (which you should do as little as possible.)

Barley Risotto with Mushroom and Carrot

Barley, quinoa, wheat berries, there are many other whole grains out there that taste great. Next time you are making a risotto, try pulling out the barley instead of the arborio rice. Emily whipped up this dish based on Deborah Madison's barley risotto in "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." I have found that this book is a staple, and really is for everyone, veg-head or not. I find that barley keeps a wonderful chewy bite that is even better than rice.

Spiced Chickpea and Tomato Soup

This is a thick, spicy tomato soup that is great on winter days. The recipe is from Martha, but it's an older one so you can find it online. It relies on canned crushed tomatoes, which are one of the great, reliable sources of tomato flavor, even in summertime - and pureed chick peas for body without cream. Don't skip the dollop sour cream, it is very nice. I will be eating this again soon.

Chinese Pork Noodles

There are many things to discover in pork stir fry. I have loved lo mein since I was a kid. Now I often find it too greasy, so this was an attempt to make it at home. Shopper's is great in latin american international, but their asian selection leaves much to be desired. These are egg noodles, but a bit too thin. The tenderloin is marinated in a brown rice wine and is quite tasty. There is also a whole Napa cabbage in here which gives it some nutritional value. Next time I will amp up the veggies and cut down a bit on the pork, but another solid asian recipe from Cook's.