Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Girls Cooking Night 3: Greek

The latest girls night theme was Greek. Above are the makings of our Greek salad which were devoured before Marian could actually make them into a salad. We liked to think of it as a "deconstructed" Greek salad.

My contribution was the spanakopita -- which I had never made before, but was surprisingly easy. Just mixed chopped spinach with feta, ricotta, scallions, with salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste. I cut the salt from the recipe way down since feta's already pretty salty. Then it's just the layering of the phyllo, each layer brushed with melted butter. It took a whole stick of butter, but then again that was for the whole pan, so when you break it up into 12 slices, doesn't seem that bad. I lost count, but I did roughly 7 layers below, then filling, then seven layers above.

Brownie contributed the lamb kofta, which I thought was cooked perfectly - just a little pink inside, nice and juicy. It went really well with Marian's homemade tsaziki which sounded complex -- who knew spanakopita was easy and tsaziki was hard! Debbie made the shrimp scampi over couscous, which was delicious. And finally for dessert was Kim's baklava with almonds which was totally decadent.
Because phyllo rolls came in 2, and because when I brought back the leftover spanakopita redneckhunter devoured it (this from a guy who thinks green things are evil), I actually made it again Sunday night. I'm splitting a farm share this summer and I've been told to expect lots and lots of kale. I'm foreseeing experimenting with other phyllo "green thing" pies. If the only way to get redneckhunter to eat them is to mix them with cheese and encase them with pastry and butter, well then I guess I just gotta do it...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Capriotti's of Delaware

Growing up in Delaware, THE sandwich shop to go to was Capriotti's. Now they've got over 40 locations not only in the DE-NJ-PA-MD area, but all over Las Vegas (where the Capriotti family goes on vacation) and in Arizona, California, and Florida. They roast all their own turkey and roast beef, and I've heard they fly in Amoroso's rolls from Philly and meat and cheese from NJ to all those non-East-coast stores.

Last time we drove through on our way from NJ to MD, we stopped in for our 2 favorite sandwiches: redneckhunter's is the Capistrami -- hot pastrami, cole slaw, swiss cheese, and Russian dressing, mine is the Bobbie -- basically Thanksgiving dinner on a hoagie roll - real turkey (carved and chopped, not deli meat), stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo.

I love that the "small" subs are 9 inches, and they only go up from there -- 12 and 20 inches!


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back to Trinidad Gourmet

As promised, I returned to Trinidad Gourmet a few times to explore their menu.
First up (above) I had the Curry Goat Roti - oh my gosh- delicious. The roti was clearly fresh with what seem liked corn meal in it's layers. This was topped with curry potatoes and chickpeas, and then covered with delicious, fall off the bone goat. I was lucky to get some tendon as well.
Accompanying this, I got this great hot sauce. I think it had scotch bonnet. I also got some amazing tamarind chutney to die for.
While eating there, Chuck, one of the owners proceeded to describe pretty much all the dishes on their menu. I really need to come for breakfast sometime.
I took home for a snack later a beef pattie and the Aloo Pie. The Aloo pie is a bread, fried so it's crispy outside, then sliced open and filled with potatoes and chickpeas. It was really delicious.
Last night, I happened to be across the street from the place again for a concert, so I decided to grab the oxtail stew combo plate for dinner. I got a side of pumpkin as well as rice and peas. Again, the dish was great and the meat was cooked perfectly.

Trinidad Gourmet
418 E. 31st St.
Baltimore, MD 21218

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Dinner at Duangrats, Falls Church, VA

This weekend, Fougoo and Redneckhunter were in town, so we went to Virginia to eat at Thai restaurant Duangrats in Falls Church.
We started with spring rolls. They were pretty standard, but yummy.

We then got the Bean Thread Vermicelli Salad. This was spicy and had a nice chili-lime flavor to it.

We then started on our entrees. This is the Provincial Chicken- it consisted of a sweet curry broth with dark meat chicken and two kinds of noodles- crispy and soft. Nice light flavor.

This dish was called Moopah. It was wild boar with eggplant in a mild chili sauce. I liked the sauce and the texture of the boar was like a gamey pork.

On special they had essentially an oyster omelette with vegetables. It came with an actual Thai Sriracha sauce- not the rooster. It was less tangy than the Rooster- more like a Heinz 57 Sriracha. It went really well with the oyster and egg.


5878 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
(703) 820-5775

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pujol, Mexico City

Brownie is guest blogger for today:

In preparation for our Mexico City trip, I scoured the Chowhound Mexico board to see where to eat, for street food, for taquerias, and for our one really fine meal. Consensus for the latter was divided between Aguila y Sol and Pujol. After reading both menus, we decided to go for Pujol, based mainly on my obsession with Huachinango (red snapper) and Pujol’s preparation looked more interesting. Because we were still on East Coast time and because as far as we’re concerned a 7pm reservation is fine by us, we arrived at the restaurant a good 30 minutes before any other parties, but this was fine, as we then received all the waitstaff’s attention, but not overbearingly so.

After ordering, we were given the amuse, which was far and away the largest amuse I’ve ever had. Sure, the container was big, but there was so much of this weird foam concoction. At least four times the amount you’d get anywhere in NYC, which would’ve been cool if this hadn’t been one of the saltiest things I’ve ever eaten. It was a deconstructed quesadilla and as such, had a base layer of a cheese foam, atop which lay a foam of masa, topped off by lime foam. Interesting idea and pretty to look at, but wow was it salty! I know I’m repeating myself here, but can’t stress this enough…and it worried me about the rest of the meal.

We started with the Mil Hojas de Atún, which might make you think you were getting, say, a millefeuille of tuna or poké, though it was basically just tartare, with 1/4in square chunks. There were pieces of some sort of chewy thing, was it squid? No, it was cheese, possibly fried, since it was called chicharrón de queso. I guess the Mexicans have no fear of mixing cheese and seafood, something I’ve always avoided, but in this case, given that I forgot it was cheese and mistook it for squid, I guess it worked out OK. There were the cutest, teeny tortilla chips and a great salsa verde. Either the salsa or the whole dish itself was oversalted, giving more weight to my quesadilla suspicions. I know this sounds like I didn’t enjoy this dish, but actually I did; it was just salty.

The other app was a ceviche, which was either totally awesome and we’re so glad we had it, or it gave us a parasite and we may never forget it…jury still out on that. Still, flavor-wise, it was one of the hits of the evening. The fish was possibly cod or sea bass, drizzled with a pepian verde (pumpkinseed) sauce and a laced with a mezcal foam—yes, they’re still way into foams, but appropriately flavored, they can be tasty—and a housemade ketchup. We really enjoyed the fresh flavors of this, it definitely sparkled with citrus tanginess and the fish sure tasted good on the way down.

For our mains, well, here was the big disappointment: they were out of my beloved Huachinango! So we settled on the tuna medallions, which were, weirdly crusted in bacon bits and then seared and placed atop lentils with lardons and garnished with yet another foam, this one a browned butter. This was pretty darned salty, as you can imagine, but in that bacony salty goodness kind of way…

Our other main was actually just the scallops app, as we were really not in the mood for the heavier sounding meat dishes, nor the Bass al pastor as it echoed too many notes from the ceviche. The scallops were transcendant and for them alone, I’ll probably remember this as a top-ten all time meal, even though, in retrospect, it’s really not. There were two perfect scallops, large, firm, juicy, and sweet and yeah, pretty much as sensuous as that sounds. These were topped with a little frizzle of epazote, which is kind of like sorrel, in that it’s green and yet citrusy. They were accompanied by two little triangles of what they called pan de elote, which is basically cornbread, only this had the texture of baked polenta with the sweetness of really awesome cornbread, possibly made from actual corn, rather than solely the meal. The pan was paired with a tangle of huitlacoche. It was kind of clever, really, separating the corn and its fungus and yet serving them side by side.

For dessert, we had the Chocolate Triple, which was their riff on the now standard molten chocolate cake, only this one had, as accompaniment, a not-so-standard scoop of roquefort gelato. It really tasted like roquefort and worked really well as a counterpoint to the richness of the bittersweet chocolate.

Upon talking to the maitre d’, it was explained to us, as far as I could understand, that what the chef at Pujol is doing is deconstructing and reconceiving traditional Mexican dishes. Hence the seabass al pastor—comes with the traditional accountrements of tacos al pastor, only it’s fish and really aesthetically presented. This was successful sometimes and others, like the foam quesadilla extravaganza, not really. Thinking about traditional Mexican foods, I’m not really sure where fish and bacon come together, but maybe I’m just underinformed. The ambience was lovely, kind of reminded me of Annisa, beige walls, black and white photos, all sleek yet warm. Maybe on my next trip to D.F., they’ll have that Huachinango on the menu.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Making Pho Part Two

With the main chore of making broth done already, on the night of the party, all I had to do was slice thin pieces of raw beef, and arrange the mint, basil, cilantro, and bean sprouts.

I reheated the broth putting the tendon and meat that I'd picked off the bones back in, and adding fish sauce. I cooked the noodles, and served up portions of noodles, raw beef, and slivers of shallots, ladling hot broth on top which cooked the raw beef just enough.

Brownie made summer rolls with tofu, cilantro and rice noodles. I think the pho and rolls were just enough food. It left room for the mango and sticky rice and flourless chocolate cake and ice cream we had for dessert -- sorry no pictures, we were too intent on eating!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Making Pho Part One

So our next girls' cooking night theme is Vietnamese. I love pho, but have never made it at home, so it was worth a try...

I started with about 4 1/2 pounds of beef neck and rib bones, some onions, ginger, star anise and cinnamon. The recipe I found said to leave the skins on the onion and ginger. Some recipes called for parboiling the bones and charring the onions on the stovetop first, but after my jalapeno smoke-out incident, I opted instead to follow the recipe that called for both meat and onions to go into the oven first for 40 minutes.

My favorite pho addition is tendon, but I've never prepared it not even seen my mom prepare it. She'd cook tripe from time to time, but never tendon. So it's a total shot in the dark -- first off I wasn't sure if I should cut the tendon up into cubes first, then boil it, or boil it whole, then cut it up. I opted for boiling whole, removing it when I removed the onion etc., then cutting up then boiling longer in the broth. I figured it'd be easier than trying to scoop out and save chunks of tendon from among the onion and ginger...

So 40 minutes in the oven, and my partly roasted beef already smelled really good. I added enough water to cover, threw in my tendon, and brought the whole thing to a boil. And then started skimming the scum from the broth -- I don't know why, but this is always my favorite part of making soup. I used to always beg my mom to let me do it when I was a kid.

Thirty minutes into cooking though, and my tendon has tightened up into an almost bone-hard white mass... hmmm... Having no idea what's supposed to happen, I can only hope that a few more hours will soften it up to its wonderful translucent gelatinous goodness. The pot's on to simmer for 3 hours -- we'll see what happens...

Thankfully 3 1/2 hours later, and the tendon has miraculously softened up! I chopped the tendon and ran the broth through a fine strainer and then into the fridge until girls night!