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


Thai Pork Burgers

My dad is (still) on the Atkin's diet, so when I saw the packages of ground pork in the freezer, I knew exactly what to do. I was inspired by Brigitte Nguyen's Vietnamese Bistro Burgers from the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown, but I simplified the recipe to accommodate our pantry. Enjoy!

For about 8 burgers, you'll need:

+ daikon radish, peeled and julienned, about 1/2 cup
+ red bell pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
+ carrot, peeled and julienned, about 1/2 cup
+ 1/2 Anaheim chile, seeded and julienned
+ apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups
+ sugar, 1 cup
+ S&P
+ ground pork, about 2 pounds
+ soy sauce, 4 tablespoons
+ toasted sesame oil, 4 tablespoons
+ olive oil, for pan
+ hamburger buns

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan; add daikon, bell pepper, carrot, and chile. Liberally salt and pepper. Pickle the vegetables over medium-low heat for at least 20 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, incorporate ground pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper. Form the mixture into patties of equal size. Coat a large skillet in olive oil, and cook the burgers for 7-8 minutes per side, flipping only once. Remove from pan.

Assemble, placing a liberal amount of pickled vegetables atop each burger. Enjoy!


Clarified Butter

Melt butter over medium-low heat.  When a white film forms on top, carefully skim it away.  The product?  A bright, translucent butter, free of milk solids.

Asparagus Mousse

When I put together a recipe for this light vegetable mousse, I wanted the asparagus flavor to be strong, recognizable, and honest. I omitted one of the most common ingredients of savory mousses (mayonaise), added a splash of vinegar to brighten the dish, and let my all-time favorite vegetable shine through.

For about 3/4 cup, you'll need:

+ fresh asparagus*, one bundle
+ white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons
+ 1 egg white
+ heavy cream, 1/4 cup
+ S&P

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whip cream until thick; refrigerate both until needed.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, trim the asparagus of their woody ends and cut the remaining portion into 1 - 1 1/2" segments. Blanch until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Drain.

Puree cooked asparagus in a food processor. Add vinegar; lightly salt and pepper. Remove; cool.

Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the asparagus puree, to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites and the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I served this mousse as an amuse-bouche in a Chinese spoon, and garnished each with a disc of Parmesan "Lace" and a tip of roasted asparagus. Enjoy!

* I brought home a pack of beautiful, purple asparagus just for this purpose. They went into the pot a lovely deep purple, and came out ... green. I'd stick to white or standard green asparagus for this recipe!


Balsamic Watermelon with Parsley-Lime Emulsion

This was my first attempt at amuse-bouche (and my first excuse to use my new Chinese spoons). I combined the complex sweetness of watermelon and balsamic vinegar with the bright acidity of lime juice-- yum!

For 8, you'll need:

+ small (1" by 1") cubes of fresh watermelon, 8
+ balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons
+ fresh parsley, finely chopped, 2 tablespoons
+ limes, 3
+ olive oil, 8 tablespoons
+ S&P

Marinade the watermelon in the balsamic vinegar for at least 1 hour. Zest 2 limes, juice all three, and combine the zest and juice with the parsley. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the lime emulsion into the bottom of a Chinese spoon, and gently place a cube of watermelon on top. A stimulating, light beginning to any meal-- enjoy!

Blood Orange Sorbet

I came home from college last week, with a long list of pastries and sweet desserts that I planned to make. When my dad informed me that he was on the Atkin's diet (again), I realized that I'd have to revamp some of my menus. For this sorbet, I used sweet blood oranges and a (relatively) small amount of sugar. Enjoy!

Blood Orange on Foodista

For about 1 pint, you'll need:

+ blood oranges, 4 pounds
+ 1 lime or 1 lemon
+ water, 1 1/4 cups
+ sugar, 3/4 cup (Small? Okay, not really.)

Chill the metal canister of your ice cream maker.
Zest 3 of the oranges. Simmer the zest, the sugar and the water over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved and the water has reduced by half. Chill.

Juice all of the oranges, and the lime or lemon, making sure to pass the juice through a sieve. Combine juice with syrup; chill for at least one hour. Churn in your ice cream maker until thick and cold. Place in a plastic container, and freeze for at least 3 hours before eating. Garnish with thin strips of lime or lemon zest; enjoy!


Just Plum(b) Good: Asian Pork Tenderloins

These pork tenderloins are fruity and sweet, and amazingly tender. I wanted to braise sliced plums with the pork, but, since they aren't in season, I left them out of the recipe. Feel free to add them!

For four servings, you'll need:

+ 1 large lean pork tenderloin
+ soy sauce, 1/4 cup
+ dry white wine, 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup
+ brown sugar, 2 tablespoons
+ hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons
+ Thai chili oil, 1 splash
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ ginger, 1 one-inch segment, minced
+ plum jam, 1 12-ounce jar*
+ S&P
+ olive oil

Trim the tenderloins of excess fat and slice into 2" segments. Use cooking twine to help the slices hold their shapes. Combine the soy sauce, 1/4 cup of wine, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, chili oil, garlic, and ginger in a shallow dish. Add the pork tenderloin; cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours; flip, and marinade for at least 2 more. Reserve marinade.

In a large skillet, bring olive oil to medium heat. Lightly salt and liberally pepper the tenderloins, and sear for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Deglaze pan with reserved marinade, and gently whisk in the jam. Reintroduce the pork to the pan; cover, and braise for 20 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. Remove the pork from the pan (and cut away the cooking twine) and place in a serving dish. Add the reserved wine to the sauce and stir until thick. Pour over the pork. Enjoy!

* I recently made this with fig preserves, and it was also fabulous! Most sweet fruits will work in this recipe.


These light, airy cream puffs couldn't be more delicious-- or much easier!

For about 20, you'll need:

+ one batch of Pâte à Choux
+ ice cream or softly whipped cream
+ chocolate sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put dough into a pastry bag (or a large zip-top bag, with one corner snipped off). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and gently pipe 20-24 balls of dough (each about 1" wide and 1 - 1 1/2" tall). Bake for 30-35 minutes; cool.

When the profiteroles are cool, slice each in half with a serrated knife (your knife should be parallel with the cutting board) and fill with cream. Drizzle chocolate sauce on top, and enjoy!

Pâte à Choux

This simple pastry dough is used to make a variety of baked (or fried) goods, from profiteroles to churros.

For one batch, you'll need:

+ 1 cup of water (filtered, if not from a well)
+ butter, 6 tablespoons
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ sugar, 3 teaspoons (omit in savory variations)
+ eggs, 4
+ flour, 1 cup

Heat first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan, until butter is completely melted and water simmering. Remove from heat. Add the flour (all at once), and stir rapidly to combine. Replace on heat source, and stir until the mixture pulls away from the pan and forms a dough ball. Remove from heat.

Using an electric mixer, incorporate the eggs, one at a time.


Tangy Chicken Drumsticks*

* You could totally use this recipe with chicken thighs, breasts, wings or tenderloins-- but drumsticks were on sale at our TJ's, so that's what I used.

For 6 drumsticks, you'll need:

+ juice from 6 limes
+ soy sauce, 4 tablespoons
+ honey, 1 tablespoon
+ 6 lean chicken drumsticks
+ olive oil, 2 teaspoons
+ S&P
+ butter, 1 tablespoon
+ heavy cream, 2 tablespoons

In a shallow dish, combine lime juice, soy sauce and honey.  Add drumsticks, and toss to coat. Marinade for 2-8 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Gently pat drumsticks dry with paper towels.  Drizzle oil over each piece, arrange on a baking sheet, and lightly salt and liberally pepper.  Roast for about 45-55 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Transfer marinade to a saucepan; boil for at least 4 minutes.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and cream.  Pour over the chicken (leave the "handle" of the drumstick clean, if you want to eat these with your fingers!) and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Char-Steamed Corn on the Cob

You know it's summer when the local grocery stores start stocking fresh cobs of corn, and I couldn't resist picking up a few.

You'll need:

+ corn (about 1 ear per person)-- do NOT remove the husk
+ olive oil
+ salt
+ garlic (about 1/2 - 1 clove per person)
+ pepper
+ water

Mince the garlic. Using the salt as an abrasive and the back of your knife, make a garlic "paste" (click here for more detailed instructions). Set aside.

Peel the husks back, remove the silks (unless you're in the mood for surprise dental floss), and apply a light coating of olive oil. Season liberally with garlic paste and pepper; return the husks to their original position (you might want to use a piece of cooking twine to secure the husks...or even a strip of husk).

Add olive oil to a medium-hot skillet. Char the ears (just until smoky and dark brown on each side). Add water (about 1/2 cup) to the skillet. Pop the lid on and steam for 5-10 minutes, or until the kernels are bright yellow and tender. Carefully remove the husks, and dig in!


Asparagus-Prosciutto Tart

(I feel like I've been using a lot of frozen puff pastry lately, which is a little embarrassing, since I know how to make it myself. When I'm home with proper cooking tools, I'll post a recipe for homemade Pâte Feuilletée.) In this particular dish, the mild fontina cheese mellows out the saltiness of the prosciutto and complements the sweet nuttiness of the asparagus.

For one (approximately 11 inches x 11 inches) tart, you'll need:

+ one sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
+ one bundle of fresh asparagus (the thinner, the better)
+ fontina cheese, grated, 1/2 cup
+ prosciutto, about 7 sheets
+ olive oil, 2 teaspoon
+ S&P
+ balsamic vinegar, 5 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the woody ends from the asparagus, and slice the remaining portion into 1 inch pieces. Cut the prosciutto into thick ribbons (see this page on how to chiffonade).

Evenly spread 2 tablespoons of the cheese directly onto the pastry. Add the asparagus; drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper. Add the prosciutto and remaining cheese. Add a bit more pepper (you probably won't need any salt, because of the prosciutto), and slide it into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the pastry golden brown.

While the tart is baking, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half. When you remove the tart from the oven, drizzle the reduction on top. Enjoy!


Fruity Vinaigrette

One of the first recipes I ever put together (circa 2002), this sweet, tangy dressing lends flavor to simple salads. Enjoy!

For one batch, you'll need:

+ apple cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons
+ raspberry vinegar, 2 tablespoons
+ lime, orange, lemon or grapefruit juice, 2 tablespoons
+ honey, 1 tablespoon
+ S&P, to taste
+ olive oil, 1/2 cup

Combine the first five ingredients. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

This classic vinaigrette is full of robust flavor, so be careful to avoid overdressing salads and vegetables.

For one batch, you'll need:

+ balsamic vinegar, 8 tablespoons
+ S&P
+ olive oil, 1/3 cup

Combine vinegar, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Enjoy!

Light Asian Vinaigrette

I use this on fresh greens and on some vegetables.  Enjoy!

For one batch, you'll need:

+ rice wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons
+ apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons
+ garlic, 1-2 cloves, grated
+ ginger, 1 one-inch segment, grated
+ S&P, to taste
+ olive oil, 1/3 cup

Combine the first five ingredients in a heavy bowl.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil (this emulsifies the ingredients, making a light dressing).  Remember:  a little goes a long way!

New Potato and Green Bean Salad

This salad is a true classic, and it's easy to adapt to suit the rest of the meal. Enjoy!

For 6 servings, you'll need:

+ baby potatoes, 1 pound
+ green beans (fresh), 3/4 - 1 pound, ends removed
+ salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Slice the largest potatoes in half, and leave the smaller ones intact. Liberally salt the water, and boil the potatoes for about 20-25 minutes, or until al dente. Add the green beans to the same pot, and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain everything. While the vegetables are still hot, add a vinaigrette or light dressing. Enjoy!


Creamy Tomato Pasta with Chicken

What's not to love?

For 2 servings, you'll need:

+ 1 chicken breast
+ whole wheat penne (any short shape will do), 1/2 pound
+ fresh grape tomatoes, 1 pint
+ garlic, 2 cloves, minced
+ S&P
+ olive oil
+ red wine (I used Syrah, but basically any red will do), 2 splashes
+ heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
+ parmesan cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup (more, if you like)

In a skillet, bring 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium-high heat.  Liberally season the chicken on both sides with S&P.  Cook for about 6-7 minutes on each side.  Allow to rest, then slice thinly.

Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions.

After removing chicken from pan, deglaze pan with red wine.  Add the tomatoes, toss to coat in oil and wine, and cover.  Every minute or so, remove lid and give the tomatoes a gentle wiggle. When all of them are blistered (their skins are shriveled up), add the garlic and chicken.  Cook for just a minute; remove from heat, and stir in heavy cream and parmesan cheese.  Serve atop pasta.  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Puffs

These are so simple (and, I'll admit, a bit unoriginal) that I was almost embarrassed to post this recipe; however, they're just too yummy not to be shared!

For a plate of puffs (to serve several children or two famished "big kids" (yes, I refuse to admit that I'm a grown up), you'll need:

+ frozen puff pastry, thawed, 1 sheet
+ granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons
+ ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon
+ salt, 1 small pinch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut puff pastry into small pieces of roughly equal size.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over puff pastry, and press into the dough with the back of a spoon.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Enjoy- preferably with a glass of cold milk!


Apple Pork Chops

Pork chops that made my Jewish boyfriend ask for seconds.

For two, you'll need:

+ 2 frenched, thick-cut pork chops
+ 3 sweet apples* (I used Braeburns), cored
+ 1 small onion (white or yellow), petaled
+ brown sugar, 2 teaspoons
+ olive oil, 3 tablespoons
+ soy sauce, 6 tablespoons
+ apple cider, 3 tablespoons
+ chicken stock, about 3/4 cup

Cut a pocket in each pork chop, and insert one apple ring (about 1/4 inch thick, with the core removed) and one teaspoon of brown sugar into each. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the apple cider. Marinade the chops for at least 2 hours, in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the petaled onion and the remaining apples (cut into eighths, with the cores removed) in the bottom of a baking dish. Add chicken stock and remaining soy sauce.

In a skillet, bring remaining olive oil to medium-high heat. Salt and pepper each chop, and sear for about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to the baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes; enjoy!

* I cook almost exclusively with Granny Smith apples, because they're tart and substantial, but in this case, we're looking for a nice, sweet apple. Go ahead and use whichever variety you like best.

Apples on Foodista

Cinnamon Apples

I didn't realize that this delicious side dish was a specialty of the South until I couldn't find it on the menu of a local DC diner. Back home, these sweet, spicy apples may accompany any meal, and are particularly delicious for breakfast, served alongside toast.

I usually estimate one large apple per person, so multiply this recipe to feed your family and friends:

+ one large apple (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady apples are the best for this)
+ butter, 2 tablespoons
+ brown sugar, 3 tablespoons
+ ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon (you can use up to 1 teaspoon, but remember: a little goes a long way!)
+ salt, 1 pinch

Peel and core the apple(s); slice into 1/4-inch segments. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; add apples, and saute just until softened. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, and continue to cook until the apples are fully coated in sugar. Enjoy!

Apples on Foodista


Broccoli and Goat Cheese Spaghetti

A great vegetarian option, though you could certainly add chicken. Couldn't be much easier to prepare- or much faster!

Semisoft Goat Cheese on Foodista

For about four servings, you'll need:

+ 1/2 pound of whole wheat spaghetti
+ 1 1/2 - 2 cups broccoli florets
+ 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
+ 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
+ butter, 3 tablespoons
+ olive oil, 3 tablespoons
+ goat cheese (chevre), 4 ounces
+ S&P

Cook pasta according to package directions, just until al dente. Drain.

In a skillet, melt butter and saute shallot until translucent. Add garlic, and continue to saute until soft. Add broccoli and 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook until broccoli is tender. Add spaghetti and stir in goat cheese; mix until cheese is melted and coats the pasta. Drizzle on the last of the olive oil, and enjoy-- preferably with a big piece of crusty bread.


Smothered Chicken Cutlets

If you grew up in the South, you've probably had smothered pork chops more times than you care to remember.  I added mushrooms to mine, and used chicken instead, but it still reminds me of home.

For two, you'll need:

+ 2 chicken breasts, butterflied
+ flour
+ eggs
+ bread crumbs
+ S&P
+ olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons
+ fresh thyme, 4-5 sprigs
+ cremini mushrooms, sliced, 7-8 (you can use another variety of mushroom, if you want, but steer clear of white, button mushrooms-- they have absolutely no flavor)
+ 1 small onion, thinly sliced (white or yellow)
+ garlic, 1-3 cloves, thinly sliced
+ butter, 3 tablespoons

Set up dredging stations with the flour, eggs and bread crumbs.  Season the flour and breadcrumbs liberally with S&P.  Dredge the cutlets first in flour, then in eggs, and finally in breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess each time.  Pan fry the cutlets in olive oil on medium-heat heat, for about 4 minutes on each side.  Drain on paper towels.

In a skillet, melt the butter.  Add the onions; saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and thyme (don't strip the leaves off- we'll remove the stems at the end of the cooking process).  Add the mushrooms, and continue to saute until the onions are lightly caramelized and the mushrooms are soft.  Discard the thyme; S&P to taste.

Serve the cutlets whole, with liberal amounts of the onion-mushroom mix on top.  Enjoy!


Smith & Wollensky

Smith and Wollensky
1112 19th Street NW
Washington DC 20036

I came here for a school function expecting to be impressed. Unfortunately, the only highlight of the meal was the fact that I didn't have to pay for it.

First, we had Caesar salads. The dressing was fresh, pungent and tasty. That said, the salad was so overdressed that I felt like I was swallowing handfuls of anchovies and garlic. Not great, especially considering the salad goes for about $10 normally, but it could have been worse.

But, considering the fact that S & W is a steakhouse, I was still looking forward to the main course.
This was easily the worst filet I've ever had, and the biggest disappointment of the meal. Although the steak was nice and medium-rare to rare on the inside (just like I like it), there was no dark, flavorful sear on the meat, which was a rather unfortunate grey color on the outside. I don't like heavily treated filets, but c'mon, guys-- are salt and pepper really so much to ask for? This was served atop a bed of equally bland mashed potatoes. Even the tobacco onions were bland, as was the jus spooned around the plate.

When I got home and consulted Zagat, I was shocked to see that the filet usually goes for over $35 - what a waste of money!

Dessert was a boring apple streudal, served with a bit of creme anglaise. Not bad, but certainly not good enough to make up for the rest of the meal.

Smith & Wollensky on Urbanspoon

Food aside, the servers were quite attentive, and the restaurant had a welcoming, rustic atmosphere. I've seen better, though, and I've certainly eaten better. I won't be coming back.

Luna Grill & Diner

Luna Grill & Diner
1301 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington DC 20009

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this place yet! One of my favorite places to come for a quick, delicious and affordable dinner, Luna is located just blocks from the Dupont Circle metro stop. The dining area, though a bit cramped, is relaxed and inviting; check out the paintings on the walls, most of which are for sale. Luna also sports a full bar, and you can always spot at handful of people there at any time of day.

In terms of food, Luna does comfort food, and well. The rotating daily specials are always good (especially the Chicken Parmesan), but J usually chooses the "Create Your Own Pasta" option, which allows you to choose pasta shape, a sauce and as many toppings as you want. It's a great deal, and quite delicious, too. I tend to stick to a burger (with feta, of course) with a baked sweet potato. (The home fries aren't bad, either.)

Luna Grill & Diner on Urbanspoon

In case I haven't made myself clear, it's all good. And cheap.