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"A rose is a rose is an onion." -Ernest Hemingway

30.4.09

Pesto Pasta with Balsamic Bacon

Yessir, folks.  Balsamic bacon, and that's all I have to say about that.


For about three servings, you'll need:

+ 8 ounces of whole wheat pasta
+ 1/4 cup of pesto*
+ 4 slices of bacon
+ balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons
+ parmesan cheese, grated, to taste
+ S&P


Put bacon and balsamic vinegar in a plastic bag; marinate in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place bacon on a baking sheet, and roast for 5-6 minutes.  Drain on paper towels; when cool, crumble.

Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente (usually about 7-8 minutes).  Immediately after draining, toss with pesto and fold in cheese and bacon.  Add S&P to taste.  Enjoy!


* Since coming to college, I've been using store-bought pesto, which is generally pretty decent.  I usually avoid jarred pesto in favor of the fresher options in the deli section.  When I'm home for the summer (with access to a food processor), I'll perfect my pesto recipe and get it up here!

28.4.09

Oyamel

Oyamel
401 7th Street NW
Washington DC 20004


I simply cannot say enough good things about this place, located close to both Metro Center and the Archives/Navy Memorial stops on the Metro. This is truly tapas done right -- for a reasonable price.

Immediately after entering this restaurant, which offers a healthy mix of authentic Mexican decor and elegant simplicity. Oyamel is classy yet comfortable, its food lovely (and dramatically presented). The service is often a bit hit-or-miss -- but the food never disappoints!

After enjoying tortilla chips with a smoky, delicious salsa, we ordered five small plates (split between two people):

Ensalada de Chayote [squash salad]: the most original, inspired dish I've had in a long, long time. Thinly sliced chayote and nutty queso fresco-- topped with a hibiscus dressing. Couldn't be better, unless the portion was larger!

Ceviche de atun Pacifico [tuna ceviche]: slightly spicy, smooth and refreshing, though the texture could have been better: it reminded me more of tuna salad than ceviche!

Pollo con mole poblano [chicken with mole]: a fairly large portion for tapas, with a smooth, rich mole-- a real winner!

Costillas de Cordero a la Parrilla [lamb chops with a green herb sauce]: by far, the best of the meat dishes. The sauce (cilantro and garlic were the central flavors) was smooth and robust, the lamb tender and perfectly prepared.

Arrachera con salsa molcajeta [skirt steak with salsa]: the spiciest of the dishes we ordered, but tastefully so. J loved it (good skirt steak is a bit hard to find outside of the Mid-West).


Desserts (somewhere, my other friend Sarah is grinning):

Mine: goat milk caramel sauce and crumbled shortbread, topped with lime zest and fresh mango, plus a quenelle each of passionfruit sorbet and coconut sorbet. Light and delicious-- for me, the highlight of the meal!

His: dark chocolate torte, topped with homemade vanilla ice cream and a creamy mole. We both loved the torte and ice cream, but the mole was slightly bitter and heavy on the anise.

The Coffee: traditional Mexican coffee, full of spice and with a touch of sugar. Oyamel won double points with me when they served the coffee in a dramatic cup with (the clincher!) warmed heavy cream. Kudos!

Oyamel on Urbanspoon

I had more fun here than I've had at almost any other restaurant in DC. I mean, what really beats elegant fare-- in a relaxed atmosphere?

26.4.09

Saucisson en Croute

This rustic, French dish is really just a classier version of what we Americans call Pigs-in-a-Blanket, and the recipe couldn't be much easier.

For eight, you'll need:

+ 4 chicken sausages* (get the fully cooked kind) or 1 small kielbasa
+ 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
+ 1 egg


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the egg in a bowl; set aside. If using chicken sausages, slice each one in half. If using kielbasa, slice it into 8 3-to-4 inch slices. Cut the puff pastry into 8 rectangles of equal size, and shape one around each sausage segment. Arrange evenly on a baking sheet, making sure that none of the sausages are touching. Brush the tops with egg wash.

Bake for 25 minutes. Turn the broiler on (and the oven off, if your oven allows both to be on at once), crack the oven door, and broil for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before eating; enjoy!

Great as a finger food at a party, served with country-style coarse mustard, or alongside a cool salad or side dish. (I served mine with Balsamic Cucumber-Apple Relish: 2 cucumbers (halved, seeded and diced), 1/2 green apple (cored and diced), 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of honey and liberal amounts to S&P, to taste.)


* There are some chicken sausages in most grocery stores now with a huge variety of flavors: I used a smoked chicken sausage with apples and Chardonnay.

25.4.09

Chicken Tenders

About a hundred times healthier than what you'll get at the drive through, and very versatile.

For 2 servings, you'll need:

+ one package of chicken tenderloins (normally, I'd refuse to buy these because they're often a bit overpriced, but they make this recipe a cinch...regular chicken breasts work, too, though)
+ flour
+ eggs
+ bread crumbs
+ S&P
+ olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees to F, and lightly oil a baking sheet.
Remove fat from tenderloins, and cut into 2-3 inch strips. Set up three dredging stations:

Flour (about 1/3 cup) in one deep plate, liberally seasoned with S&P.
Eggs (2-3, with a splash of tap water), beaten, in a bowl.
Bread crumbs (about 1/3 cup) in another deep plate, liberally seasoned with S&P. If you want to personalize your chicken tenders, add grated cheese, herbs or even a touch of lemon zest.

Coat each piece of chicken in flour; shake to remove excess. Move on to the egg station, again, allowing the excess to drip off. Finally, evenly coat the chicken in bread crumbs.

Bake for 10-13 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Enjoy with catsup, honey mustard, barbeque sauce-- or just honey.

Grown-Up Turkey Sandwiches

You'll need:

+ whole wheat rolls
+ hummus (with roasted garlic, if you can find it)
+ baby spinach
+ fontina cheese
+ bacon
+ deli turkey (get the good stuff, kids, not the watery kind)
+ pesto


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake bacon (heehee) for 5-6 minutes, or until brown. Allow to drain on paper towels.

Assemble. (I'll spare you the tedious details, I think you can put together a sandwich.)

Parmesan "Lace"

You may have had these crisp wafers on mashed potatoes at your favorite steak house. They add the perfect salty bite to otherwise mild dishes-- and aren't bad as a snack, either.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grate desired amount of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese directly onto a baking sheet in the desired shape(s). Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and pliable. Remove and cool on a flat (or curved, if you wish) surface. Enjoy!

23.4.09

April Pasta

I put this together with some pretty random ingredients we happened to have in the fridge, and it was a hit. The marinade for the chicken was inspired by J, who used to dip his chicken tenders in honey as a kid. The prosciutto and feta add a salty bite to what is, otherwise, a relatively sweet dish.

For 2 giant servings, you'll need:

+ 2 chicken breasts, trimmed
+ 1 lemon
+ 3 cloves of garlic
+ olive oil, 4 tablespoons
+ honey, 3 tablespoons
+ 3 thin sheets of prosciutto
+ 1 bunch of asparagus (get the skinny guys, for this)
+ whole wheat pasta (penne or another short shape), about 2 cups
+ butter, 3 tablespoons
+ feta cheese, crumbled, 1/4 cup

For the chicken:
Remove the tenderloin from each breast. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the chicken breasts, and beat (using another pan-- a cast iron skillet works really well) into cutlets.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey and juice of 1/2 a lemon. Crush 2 of the garlic cloves, and add to the oil. Drizzle over chicken; allow to marinate for at least one hour.

For the rest:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet, and place the prosciutto slices on it; bake for 5-6 minutes or until crispy. When cool, give it a rough chop. Set aside.

Remove the woody stems of the asparagus; discard (or save, to make vegetable stock or even asparagus soup). Cut the asparagus into thirds, on the bias. Crush last clove of garlic; set aside.

Bring a pot of water to the boil; salt liberally and cook pasta until al dente (usually around 7-8 minutes, but keep an eye on it). Add the chicken (with the marinade) to a baking sheet, and bake for 5 minutes. Turn heat to 450 degrees F, and bake for another 3-5 minutes (start keeping time as soon as you change the temperature; do not wait for the actual oven temperature to rise). Remove from oven, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice into bite-sized pieces.

Melt butter in a skillet; add the asparagus (and remove the crushed garlic clove). Saute on medium heat until tender. Remove garlic. Add the cooked pasta and chicken; toss.

Sprinkle crispy prosciutto and feta cheese over pasta; serve. Enjoy!

20.4.09

Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Yum.

For 18, you'll need:

+ old-fashioned oats, 3/4 cup
+ all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups
+ baking powder, 1 teaspoon
+ salt, 1 large pinch
+ butter, 1 stick, melted
+ sugar, 1/2 cup
+ brown sugar, 1/2 cup
+ 1 egg
+ 1 bar of chocolate, roughly chopped-- whichever variety you prefer


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder; fold in oats. Set aside. Whisk together sugar, brown sugar and melted butter. Add 1/4 of the dry mixture, 1/4 of the chocolate chunks and the egg to the butter and sugar; fold. Repeat until ingredients are completely combined (you may need to add the oil here, to make incorporating the dry and wet ingredients easier).

Measure heaping tablespoons of dough, and shape into balls with (clean!) hands. Place balls 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 17 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Simple Apple Tart

This rustic, classic dessert* is a breeze to prepare.

For one tart, you'll need:

+ 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
+ 2 Granny Smith apples
+ 1 lemon
+ sugar, 3 tablespoons
+ butter, 1 tablespoon
+ apricot jam, heated and strained (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel, core and thinly slice apples. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over them to prevent browning. Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar over the puff pastry. Arrange apple slices (in neat rows, or not, it's up to you) evenly on the pastry. Sprinkle remaining sugar on top of the apples. Bake on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. If you want to add a French flair to your tart, brush the jam over the apples. Enjoy!


* J and I like this for breakfast, too. Add some bacon, and it's a great early-morning treat!

Apples on Foodista

19.4.09

Roasted Baby Potatoes

These potatoes pair perfectly with filet mignon or chicken, and they make a lovely addition to any meal.

To feed four normal or two excruciatingly hungry people, you'll need:

+ baby potatoes (red, white or golden), 3/4 - 1 pound
+ olive oil, 4-5 tablespoons
+ garlic (1-2 cloves), finely minced
+ fresh dill (3-4 tablespoons), minced
+ S&P



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
If any of the potatoes are significantly larger than the others, you should halve them. Otherwise, leave them all whole. Don't forget to prick the whole potatoes with a fork, to avoid explosive tubers. Whisk together oil, garlic and dill in a large bowl. Add potatoes, and toss to coat. Evenly distribute on a baking sheet, and liberally salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes. After 15 minutes in the oven, give the baking sheet a good shake and turn each potato with a pair of kitchen tongs.

Filet Mignon

Yeah, I'm not really sure how poor college students can afford beef tenderloin, either.

For two, you'll need:

+ two fillets, 1-2 inches thick
+ S&P
+ oil or fat, for cooking

       Remove fillets from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before cooking, allowing them to come up to room temperature.  Liberally pepper (do NOT salt, yet) both sides of each steak.  Bring a skillet with a thin layer of oil (or bacon fat, which is what I prefer) to medium-high heat.  Sear the beef for approximately 4 minutes on each side (for medium-rare).  Salt after removing from the pan, and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

12.4.09

Scones

This is a great, adaptable recipe for moist scones.
For about six large scones, you'll need:

+ flour, 1 2/3 cups (plus extra for dusting board)
+ granulated sugar, 1/3 cup (plus extra for sprinkling)
+ baking powder, 4 teaspoons
+ salt, 3/4 teaspoon
+ 1 large egg
+ heavy cream, 4 tablespoons (plus extra for top of scones)
+ cold butter, 4 tablespoons, minced


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, blend flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, beat egg and cream together. Cut butter into dry ingredients, using a fork or pastry blender. If you're adding additional flavorings* to your scones, do so at this point. Slowly add the egg and cream into the flour and butter; you'll probably have to use your hands.

Roll the dough to the thickness of 1/2 - 3/4 inch. Using a biscuit cutter or glass, cut the dough into even rounds. (Or, you can separate the dough into equal-sized balls, and shape them yourself. One less thing to wash, right?) Place scones on a baking sheet, leaving adequate room between each one. Brush extra cream over each, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden-brown and firm. Enjoy with coffee or tea, for breakfast, or as a snack!


* These flavorings can range from classic (dried cranberries or raisins) to a bit more original (chocolate chips & orange zest, or fresh ginger & honey).

Chocolate Torte

For two individual tortes*, you'll need:

+ dark chocolate, 4 ounces
+ butter, 5 tablespoons
+ granulated sugar, 1/3 cup (divided in half)
+ 2 eggs, separated
+ cream of tartar, 1 large pinch (I know, I know...)
+ optional flavoring: the juice of two blood oranges (cognac is a classic flavoring, too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two large ramekins or two cups of a jumbo muffin tin.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring constantly. (To be honest, you can do this in a microwave, too. Simply place the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe container and microwave in 15-second increments, stirring between microwave blasts to prevent scorching.) Allow to cool.

Whip egg yolks at half of the sugar together, until mixture is light yellow, voluminous and, when poured from a spoon, creates a wide "ribbon." Set aside. In another (clean) bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat. When soft peaks form, add the sugar, and beat into stiff peaks.

Gently combine the cooled chocolate mixture. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate, and evenly distribute between ramekins (or muffin tins). Bake for 40-50 minutes. You'll know that they're done when a crust (often with a crack) forms-- it'll settle when the torte cools. If you baked your torte in a muffin tin and plan on removing it, do NOT do so until it is completely cooled.



If you plan on presenting the torte as an elegant dessert at a party, you might want to use a chocolate ganache. However, I served mine with hand-whipped cream (flavored with the juice of a blood orange). Enjoy!

* To make a large torte to serve to a group, triple the ingredients listed above, bake in a 9" spring-form pan, and bake for up to an hour.

4.4.09

"Sweet and Sour" Green Beans

(J picked the name.)

For two (extremely large) servings, you'll need:

+ fresh string beans, 3-4 handfuls
+ 1 lime
+ garlic, 1-2 cloves, grated
+ ginger, approximately 1/2 inch, grated
+ olive oil
+ S&P



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Snap the woody stem off of each bean; you can remove both ends, but it's not necessary. Spread beans evenly on a baking sheet; drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Squeeze the juice of the lime onto the beans, and evenly sprinkle ginger and garlic. Toss everything together with (clean!) hands. Add S&P to taste (you won't need much!) and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Check them frequently. Enjoy!