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Washington, DC, United States
"A rose is a rose is an onion." -Ernest Hemingway

31.3.09

Charlie Palmer

Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington DC 20001

With a glorious view of the Capitol and located in the heart of DC, Charlie Palmer's is worth the price-- if your wallet can handle it.

Simple, elegant and the epitome of classy, this restaurant has good service (despite being packed), superb food, and a lovely atmosphere. J and I skipped out on appetizers, but were brought complimentary amuse-bouches, which featured asparagus, sea bass and cilantro. For the main course, J stuck with a gorgeous, aged, European-cut Filet Mignon (topped with a yummy roasted onion)-- and a side of the creamiest, most delectable Horseradish Sauce I've ever tasted. I ordered the Venison Loin, complete with sweet potatoes and bacon-- subtley gamey and extremely tender. For dessert, I ordered the Meyer Lemon Tart, J the Chocolate Peanut Terrine.

J said, "This is rich people food, Sarah!" I rolled my eyes, but it was true: this was not one, but several steps above a delicious dessert on a plate. (It's amazing what a few drops of sabayon and a tuile will do for a dessert.)

Charlie Palmer Steak on Urbanspoon

It's great for sighting politicians and think-tankers, but be warned: this is not the place to take a political junkie (like J!) if you're looking to chat.

30.3.09

Banana Nut Muffins

J loves banana bread and peanut butter, so I tried a new spin on banana muffins for his birthday.

For 12 standard or 6 giant muffins, you'll need:

+ 3 tbsp butter, melted
+ 1 tbsp vegetable oil
+ 1/2 cup peanut butter
+ 1 egg
+ vanilla extract, 1 liberal splash
+ granulated sugar, 5 ounces
+ 2 bananas, very ripe
+ 2 tbsp honey
+ 2 tbsp brown sugar
+ 3/4 cup oats (instant or old fashioned)
+ 1 tbsp baking powder
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ 1 cup all-purpose flour
+ 1/2 - 2/3 cup Toasted Pine Nuts (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mash bananas with honey and brown sugar, using a fork.
Whisk vegetable oil, peanut butter and melted butter until smooth. Add vanilla, egg, sugar, baking powder and salt; combine. Stir in oats and flour; fold in bananas and pine nuts.

Evenly distribute batter between muffin cups; bake for approximately 20 minutes, checking frequently. Enjoy!

Toasted Nuts

This recipe works for a varieties of nuts, though roasting times may differ slightly; watch carefully!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread raw nuts on a cooking sheet, and bake for 5-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Check them frequently: the nuts burn quickly, and then you'll have to start over. Enjoy!

29.3.09

La Tasca

La Tasca
722 7th Street NW
Washington DC 20001

J and I came here for tapas on Friday night. This restaurant+bar is located just a block from the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop. We made reservations, and, judging from the length of the line, it was a good idea.

The food was good, albeit not great, and the prices were fair. The high noise level (to be expected at a restaurant that doubles as a bar, and offers live entertainment) made conversation nearly impossible. Our server was polite and attentive, but the hostess was awful. The decor was charming in its own way, but also reminded me of a cheap Mexican restaurant down the road from my high school in Virginia.

La Tasca on Urbanspoon

If you're looking to move up in the areas of taste and atmosphere while remaining close to La Tasca, Zagat recommends that you check out Jaleo, just 3 blocks away.

If you're willing to travel, however, I still stand by my old tapas favorite: Bodega (located in Georgetown). You'll pay a bit more, but it'll be worth it; the food is extraordinary and the atmosphere enchanting.

22.3.09

Chicken Pot Pie

I kept this recipe surprisingly similar to the ancient one my dad has always used. It's simple, familiar and comforting.

For four 1o ounce servings (in ramekins), you'll need:

+ 2 chicken breasts, trimmed
+ 1 1/2 cups of green peas, fresh or frozen
+ 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
+ 2 shallots
+ 2 cloves of garlic
+ olive oil
+ Worchestershire sauce, 4 tbsp
+ S&P
+ butter, 4 tbsp
+ heavy cream
+ dry white wine
+ frozen puff pastry, thawed
+ parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Blanch carrots (if using fresh peas, go ahead and throw them into the pot, too); set aside. Add olive oil to a skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Lightly coat chicken breasts in Worchestershire sauce; liberally add S&P. Pan-fry covered, until just cooked, approximately 7 minutes on each side. Set aside, and cut into large chunks when cool.

While chicken is cooking, mince garlic and slice shallots. After removing chicken from pan, add a liberal splash of wine to deglaze; whisk to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Lightly saute garlic and shallots; melt butter into sauce.  Finish with cream, salt and pepper. Fold chicken and vegetables into sauce stir until just coated.  Evenly distribute mixture between ramekins, and top each with a round of puff pastry.  Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of each one, and bake until golden brown (anywhere from 10-20 minutes).  Enjoy!

15.3.09

Grapefruit Chicken

Raise your hand if you like Lemon Chicken, but find it a bit boring. This marinade offers a fresh, new taste with a similar flavor profile.

For four servings, you'll need:

+ 2 chicken breasts, pounded into cutlets
+ 1 grapefruit 
+ Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tablespoon
+ olive oil, 6 tablespoons
+ sesame oil, 1 tablespoon
+ butter, 1 tablespoon
+ S&P

In a shallow dish, combine the juice of the the grapefruit with the Worcestershire Sauce, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and the sesame oil; pour over chicken and marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to medium-high heat. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of each cutlet; cook for approximately 4 minutes on each side.  Enjoy!

Lime Tartlet

This is my twist on my mother's infamous Frozen Key Lime Pie. (If I can ever convince her to share the recipe, I'll be sure to post it.) I cheated and used miniature store-bought graham cracker crusts, but you can easily make your own mini shells- or use one large one.

For the shell, you'll need:

+ graham crackers, approximately 2 cups
+ butter, melted, 1/4 cup (1 stick)
+ granulated sugar, 1/4 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Crumble crackers into a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Add sugar and butter; pulse until combined. Press firmly into tart shell, pie shell or muffin tins (for individual tartlets). Bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool completely before using.

For the lime filling, you'll need:

+ 4-5 limes (1/2 cup of fresh juice and all of the zest)
+ 1/4 cup of butter, at room temperature
+ 1 1/2 cups of sugar
+ 4 eggs
+ large pinch of salt

Cream butter, sugar and zest. Add eggs (one at a time), lime juice, and salt. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan; cook on medium-low heat for 10-20 minutes, or until thick. Stir CONSTANTLY, unless you like little bits of scrambled egg in your dessert. Spoon thickened mixture into pie crusts, and allow to set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

14.3.09

Panache

Panache
1725 DeSales Avenue NW
Washington DC 20036

This is one of our favorite DC restaurants; J and I come here as often as possible.
Located across the street from the now-infamous Mayflower Hotel and less than five minutes from the Farragut North metro stop, Panache offers a wide array of dishes, some familiar and others bold, but all well-balanced a delicious.

The atmosphere is trendy and chic, with outdoor dining available in warm weather. The restaurant is inviting and comfortable, but, if you eat late (especially on Friday and Saturday nights) be prepared to talk over the music--and possibly the drunks seated at the next table.

However, if the noise decreases your enjoyment in any way, Panache makes up for this with great service and attentive, informed and friendly servers.

In terms of food, Panache offers an impressive array of hot and cold tapas, which can double as appetizers with a regular entree, as well. Particularly delicious: the beef carpaccio, and the prosciutto and dates salad. Yum! The selection of entrees is diverse, and the ones I've tasted, great-- but J and I usually stick to the Filet Mignon. You can't go wrong with the Pesto Chicken Fettucine, either.

Panache on Urbanspoon

If you're looking for great food (at a relatively affordable price) at a trendy, upbeat establishment, you'll love Panache.

Feta-Stuffed Cucumbers with Olive Tapenade

For me, one of the best parts of coming home from college is the kitchen -- and the free time to cook. In my family, we love goats (we've had several living in the backyard since I was 10) and goat cheese (especially feta)-- and from there, this recipe was born.

For four servings, you'll need:

+ 1 English cucumber
+ 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of feta cheese
+ 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of cream cheese
+ 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
+ olive oil
+ 1 lemon
+ kalamata olives, jarred and pitted (1/2 cup)
+ fresh oregano
+ S&P

For the tapenade:
Peel 3 cloves of garlic and place in food processor; pulse for 5 seconds or until coarsely chopped. Add the olives; pulse. Add the zest of the whole lemon and the juice of half of it. Drizzle in olive oil while blending in the food processor until the mixture is uniform but still slightly chunky. Finish with black pepper to taste, and set aside.

For the cucumbers:
Peel and coarsely chop 3 cloves of garlic; saute in a skillet with olive oil until lightly brown. (Watch them carefully; burnt garlic won't enhance the flavor of the dish at all.) Add to food processor; crumble in feta and add cream cheese. Pulse for 10 seconds, or until just blended. Add the juice of half of a lemon, liberal amounts of pepper, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of oregano (just the leaves, which you can strip from the stalks with your fingers). Pulse until smooth; transfer into a piping bag or strong zip-top bag with one corner clipped off.

After washing, remove the ends of the cucumber and cut in into fourths. Remove the core and seeds-- you can do this with an apple corer or a small paring knife. Roll a paper towel into a thin cylinder, and, as best you can, blot the excess water from the inside of the cucumber. Stand the segment up, and add the filling. Cut into segments; serve alongside or atop tapenade.

Balsamic-Strawberry Tartlet

Light, delicious, and a breeze to make-- a classic!

For four servings, you'll need:

+ pâte brisée, 1 1/2 batches
+ fresh strawberries, 1 quart
+ granulated sugar, 1/2 cup
+ balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup
+ dry beans

Hull and quarter strawberries; set aside in a bowl. Add sugar and vinegar; stir, making sure each berry is covered. Cover bowl and leave in refrigerator for at least two hours.

After making dough and allowing it to chill for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator; roll out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a 6-inch plate or bowl, cut dough into four circles and mold into large muffin tins. (You'll need less dough if you use a standard-sized muffin tin.) Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of each shell. Line each shell with aluminum foil, fill with dry beans and bake for 20 minutes or until light brown.

Fill tartlet shells with strawberries. Enjoy!

12.3.09

Pâte Brisée

More commonly referred to as "pie dough," pâte brisée is excellent for a host of dishes, from galettes to empañadas.

For one batch, you'll need:

+ flour, 1 1/4 cups
+ butter, 6 tablespoons, minced and chilled
+ shortening or lard*, 2 tablespoons, room temperature
+ ice water, 1/4 cup
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ sugar**, 1 teaspoon

In a food processor or with a pastry cutter, combine the dry ingredients with the butter and shortening to achieve a texture similar to sand or cornmeal. Add water; gently mix until a ball forms. Remove from bowl or food processor, shape into a flattened round with clean and lightly floured hands. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

* If you happen to be short on shortening (which, in the South, is a rather huge offense), you can simply use 8 total tablespoons of butter. In my experience, your dough will be less flaky than if you used two different fats. For the most part, however, it'll be fine-- but I will judge you, if only a little.

** If you're using the dough in a savory application, feel free to omit the sugar. It won't make or break the recipe!

10.3.09

Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen are cookies traditionally served on the Jewish holiday of Purim. This holiday commemorates a time when the the Jewish people in Persia were saved from extermination; the name of this sweet treat comes from Haman, a cruel advisor to the king. Their name literally means "Haman's Pockets," and their triangular shape mimics that of Haman's three-cornered hat.


To make them, you'll need:

+ 1 cup granulated sugar
+ 1/3 cup vegetable oil
+ 1/2 cup (1 stick) of margarine or butter
+ 3 eggs
+ approximately 4 cups of flour
+ 1 orange
+ 3 teaspoons of baking powder
+ 1 teaspoon salt
+ filling (see recipe below)

Cream oil, butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix well; squeeze juice from the orange into the wet mixture. Add baking powder and salt; gradually add flour. Work dough until it reaches a consistency similar to that of shortbread dough, or wet sand. Set aside.


Hamantaschen may be filled with just about anything sweet, from fruits to nuts. I took the traditional mohn (poppyseed) filling and gave it my own touch:

+ poppy seeds, 2.5 tablespoons
+ raisins (approximately 1/2 cup)
+ prunes (approximately 1/2 cup)
+ honey
+ brown sugar, 1-2 tablespoons
+ 1-2 lemons
+ water

In a microwave safe container, combine poppy seeds and 2.5 tablespoons of water. Microwave for 7-8 minutes; remove and set aside. Coarsely chop raisins and prunes; add to poppy seeds along with brown sugar. Mix well. Squeeze lemon juice into mixture; add honey until it has a consistency similar to jam.


Flour hard surface. Roll dough into a sheet, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Using a glass or small, round cookie-cutter, cut the dough into circles. Add a heaping teaspoon of poppyseed mixture to the center of each circle. Bring the right and left "sides" (if you can imagine a circle having sides) up and pinch the end to seal. Bring the bottom flap up, and pinch to seal.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until just brown. Enjoy! (Makes around 40 cookies.)

Poppy Seed on Foodista

8.3.09

Macaroni and Cheese

Simple and delicious! I took my mother's time-tested recipe and added my own personal touch. I baked mine in two 10-ounce ramekins, but you can use a casserole dish if you want.


You'll need:

+ short pasta (macaroni, penne, etc.) -- I used 20 0unces)
+ sharp white cheddar, grated (for 2 10-ounce servings, I used 8 ounces of cheddar)
+ parmesan, grated (I used 4 ounces in the sauce, plus another 2 tbsp for the topping)
+ goat cheese, crumbled (chevre-- I used 4 ounces)
+ heavy cream, 1/4 c.
+ S&P
+ bread crumbs, 2 tbsp
+ butter, 1 tbsp
+ flour, 1 tbsp

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a pot of water to a boil, liberally salt, and cook pasta until al dente -- about 6 minutes. Strain.

In a saucepan, make a roux using the butter and flour. Before allowing the roux to brown, add the heavy cream; do not allow the cream to boil. Gradually add cheese, whisking constantly, until melted; salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat; fold in pasta and coat in cheese sauce.

Evenly distribute pasta & cheese mixture between ramekins. Sprinkle bread crumbs and reserved parmesan on top; bake for 15 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and bread crumbs are toasty. Enjoy!

Semisoft Goat Cheese on Foodista

-> As a side, I made zucchini slices: J and I cut two zucchini (on the bias) into 1/4" slices and sauteed them in 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil with 2 cloves of minced garlic. We lightly salt-and-peppered them-- delicious!

7.3.09

Sticky Cinnamon Buns

They may not be the prettiest things, but they're delicious!


+ 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry
+ brown sugar (3/4 c.)
+ cinnamon (2 tbsp)
+ nutmeg (2 tsp)
+ heavy cream
+ butter
+ pecans (candied, toasted or otherwise)

(You can do this as far in advance as the night before, but at least 30 minutes before baking.)

Thaw puff pastry at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, or until pliable. Flour your work station to prevent sticking. (Work with one sheet at a time!) Brush a thin layer of heavy cream onto one side of the pastry; evenly cover with half each of the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using (clean!) fingers or a paring knife, flake 1/2 tbsp of cold butter over the sugar. Break the pecans into small pieces, and evenly disperse over the sugar. Roll puff pastry tightly into a log. Flour the outside; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Repeat for the second sheet of puff pastry.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a square baking dish (I used an aluminum 8x8x2). In a small bowl, blend 2 tbsp of room temperature butter, 2 tbsp of honey and 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

Slice the ends off of each log; discard. Slice each log into 5 segments of equal length; stand spiral-end-up in the baking dish in a checkerboard formation. Top each of the 10 rolls with a teaspoon of the honey-sugar mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. (Check them regularly.) Enjoy!

6.3.09

Tackle Box

Tackle Box
3245 M Street NW
Washington DC 20007


Located next-door to elegant sister-restaurant Hook, Tackle Box is a great, casual seafood shack in Georgetown, complete with picnic benches, white-washed walls and cheap, delicious food. I had the $9 Tackle Box Meal: choice of one fish, one amazing side and a sauce. My bluefish was tasty, only improved upon by the tartar sauce. The sauteed green beans were crispy and bright- very good! I was impressed and excited by the presence of sweet tea on the drink menu-- it really lent a new degree of authenticity to the menu, especially for a native of the South.

Tackle Box on Urbanspoon

And let's face it-- $9 is less than you'll pay for the first course in most Georgetown restaurants.

5.3.09

Pesto-Feta Stuffed Chicken

I created this to use up leftover pesto; it works with lots of different ingredients.

+ chicken breasts (one per person)
+ feta cheese (in block form)
+ pesto (homemade is better, store-bought will suffice)
+ garlic (one clove per person, minced)
+ olive oil for frying



       Trim chicken breasts.  Since most breasts adhere to the "triangle" shape (thick, wide at one end, thin and skinny at the other), you might want to consider cutting the "skinny" end down a bit.  Using a paring knife (a chef's knife is just too big, unless you're using ostrich breast), cut a pocket.  Now, it might be easier to cut along one of the long sides, less of the stuffing will leak out if you cut along the thick, short end.  Without cutting through the sides or the end, make the pocket as big as possible.

       Cram the minced clove of garlic into the chicken breast; you can use (clean!) fingers or the back of a spoon to make sure it's evenly distributed.  Next, add a slab of feta, and finally, a good spoonful of pesto.  The pesto, in particular, should be pushed deep into the pocket to prevent leaking.

      Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken breast.  Cook in olive oil in a medium-hot skillet, approximately 6 minutes on each side.


The end.  Enjoy.

Chicken Milanese

Decided to make dinner for J last night.
Realized that leaving the dorm in search of groceries was almost dead last on my list of things to do.

Tossed together a salad, scrounged up the necessary ingredients, and served up a delicious and simple Chicken Milanese with Garlic-White Wine Sauce.

Seriously, kids...I used less than ten ingredients.

Chicken Milanese for one:

+ one chicken breast
+ milk
+ flour
+ bread crumbs
+ S&P
+ vegetable oil

          Cut chicken breast in half (the short way).  Insert into a plastic bag, and beat the hell out of it with a skillet. (We're going for small cutlets, kids.)  Apply S&P to bread crumbs and directly to chicken.  Dredge chicken in flour.  SHAKE OFF EXCESS.  Dip in milk.  Coat in bread crumbs.  Bring veggie oil to medium-high heat in a skillet.  Pan-fry chicken for 3 minutes or so on each side.

Garlic-White Wine Sauce

+ garlic, grated, minced, whatever; 3 cloves (or less)
+ vegetable oil
+ dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
+ mascarpone cheese

       Saute garlic until soft, fragrant and delicious.  Add white wine; crank the heat up.  Once the wine has reduced, remove skillet from heat and melt in a couple tablespoons of mascarpone.  Pour directly over chicken and add S&P to taste.


J says that it's a close second to my Pesto-Feta Stuffed Chicken.  Recipe should be up soon!