- Clear Eyes, Full Parks, Can’t Lose
- What happens when the Senate is in session until 5AM
- This story about an elephant and her dog best friend
- Clark Brewer Photography
- The Annotated “Bills, Bills, Bills” – written by my talented friend Jia Tolentino
- Same Love by Macklemore
- This poignant response to the Steubenville rape case (and sexual assault in general)
- This twitter handle – KimKierkegaardashian
- Des Hommes et Des Chatons
Happy Friday! Updates on Istanbul soon to come, but for now enjoy these awesome tidbits that have been occupying my brain space lately:
- Beware the Ides of March
- The Big Picture
- Maisy and Lennon Stella – nothing like sisterly harmonies
- Speaking of sisterly harmonies – The Staves
- Now listen to my college a capella group sing Winter Trees
- 37 people who are worse at cooking than you
- A year of Sundays
- This well-curated online boutique
- Kid President is at it again
- The High Cost of Care
- Frozen Beergaritas
- Pope Francis pulling a Jennifer Lawrence
- This list I need to work my way through
A few weeks ago, I had Sunday dinner at my friend Maitland’s house. She and the five other girls I ate with do these dinners pretty regularly, but this was the first time I cooked with them. We decided to make fish tacos – something I had never made for myself before. They found all of the recipes and I just helped with the prepping and cooking. My main responsibility was the guacamole. This was easy for me because I love guacamole. It is so simple to make, and it is so much better fresh than store-bought. I basically just combine all of the ingredients and keep adding and tasting until I achieve the right balance.
The tacos were amazing. It was the first warm-ish day that we had had in DC, and these tacos tasted like summer. I could have eaten eight of them if I hadn’t been careful. All of the components were simple, and the combined result was delicious – the black bean mango salsa added just the right amount of sweetness; the cabbage slaw gave it a nice texture; the blackened seasoning on the fish was perfect (I loved the complexity that the brown sugar added – almost gave it a barbecue flavoring). I am sure I will be using these recipes again in the future.
Note: The recipes below might need to be fiddled with to yield the right amounts. I am assuming that they each make about 4-6 servings.
- Corn Tortillas
- Blackened Tilapia (recipe below)
- Black Bean and Mango Salsa (recipe below)
- Cabbage Slaw (recipe below)
- Guacamole (recipe below)
- Additional toppings – Salsa/Pico/Fresh Tomatoes, Sour Cream, Queso Fresco, Fresh Cilantro
Wrap ingredients in tortilla and enjoy!
Blackened Tilapia (from Cooking Light)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
Combine paprika and next 6 ingredients (through ground red pepper); sprinkle evenly over fish. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Enough fish for 8 tacos.
Black Bean and Mango Salsa (adapted from the Food Network)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 mango, finely diced (could substitute pineapple and it would be good, too)
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
- 1 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 orange, juiced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the beans into a large bowl and add the diced mango, red onion, cilantro, lime zest, orange zest and juices and drizzle with the oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Lightly toss, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Red Cabbage Slaw (from Food Network)
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 large carrot, cut into fine julienne
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Guacamole (I usually just wing it, so these measurements might be a little off. Honestly, just add a little more of each ingredient until you find the right balance. Lime and salt are key)
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lime
- 1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped (optional)
- Salt to taste
Slice avocados into quarters. Mix all ingredients together in bowl.
One of my coworkers recently left our office to work elsewhere, and so in the spirit of tradition, we threw her a going-away party. I love work parties. Birthday parties, going-away parties, engagement parties, parties surrounding sporting events – you get the picture. I love work parties for a lot of reasons, the main reason being that they allow me to bake three dozen chocolate chip cookies without the burden of having them stare me in the face every time I walk into my kitchen.
My coworker who just departed, Cass, is a huge fan of s’mores. Don’t ask me how that ended up determining the theme of the party, but it did, so we had a s’mores themed going away party. There were s’mores cookies, s’mores cupcakes, and some s’mores bars that I provided. The bars were such a hit that there weren’t even any left for me to try by the time I got back to the party. They were also so good that I decided to make a second batch the next night with my leftover marshmallow fluff (I mean really, though, what was I going to do with a half a jar of marshmallow fluff other than eat it with a spoon… not acceptable). These were meant for a party that my chief of staff was throwing for the incoming chiefs of the new Senate offices, but I “accidentally” offered them up to my coworkers before the party (read: I hadn’t gotten to try them yet and temptation got the best of me). Needless to say, my chief of staff claimed that I “stabbed him in the
back front,” to which my coworker Beth responded, “they were worth it, I regret nothing.” Needless to say, these bars are awesome and you should make them.
S’mores Bars (from Wit and Whistle)
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
- 1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.
Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together).
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars (seriously… you have to wait).
There is no one like my grandmother, Mema. She is a one of a kind, incredible lady. She recently had her 87th birthday, so to celebrate my two cousins, Anna and Phoebe, and I took her to New York City for a weekend. A couple of years ago the four of us did Paris together, and we make a pretty agreeable group. During our weekend in New York, we ate, saw the Blue Man Group, went to the Met, ate, walked around SoHo, ate, watched old movies, and oh yeah, did I mention that we ate? Highlights are below:
Friday night, my cousins and Mema picked me up at Penn Station and we took a cab to dinner at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village. The entrance to the restaurant feels like the side entrance to a carriage house – it is hidden under a staircase and you have to squeeze through a tiny door to get inside. Maybe they keep it difficult to find for a reason – apparently it is quite difficult to get a table, and I owe the experience completely to my cousin Anna who somehow seems to have all the ins after living in New York for half a decade. The interior feels like your grandfather’s study, decorated with dark, warm reds and low-wattage lighting, full of unique tschotskes that seem like they have been gathered over the years and just happened to come together perfectly in this musty, low-ceilinged space. The restaurant was bustling, and trying to talk to an 87 year old in a crowded restaurant can be impossible, but Anna was able to get us a booth in a quiet corner. We were right next to a fireplace and had a fabulous view of the other patrons.
But enough about the ambiance – on to the food: there were no photographs allowed, but I wish I could have taken embarrassing foodie pics in the restaurant – the dishes were complex and beautifully plated. I started with a roasted beet and fried goat cheese salad that had a balsamic reduction and some sort of nut (I really need to start writing these things down – I have eaten so much good food in the last few weeks that all of my meals are starting to blend together). The salad was divine – I think I could eat anything that included fried goat cheese, honestly. For my main course, I ordered duck served over wheat berries with pomegranates. The duck was cooked perfectly, and pomegranates added a perfectly sweet crunch. Dessert was the main event though – we had a warm chocolate cake with espresso gelato and a baked alaska that had a lemon chiffon ice cream inside. We left the restaurant fat, happy, and pretty intoxicated and returned to our hotel to turn in for the night.
Saturday morning we woke up (some of us with a hangover, *ahem… my cousin and grandmother who had two manhattans at the hotel before dinner*) and went to brunch at Balthazar – a traditional french bistro in SoHo. The restaurant had an animated, authentic Parisian feel – there were paper tablecloth toppers, mirrors on all of the walls, tiled floors, tables that were arranged almost on top of each other, and freshly baked bread on racks by the entrance. I decided to go with the Eggs Benedict, and thank God I did – it was perfect.
One of my dad’s favorite brunch dishes is Eggs Benedict, and my mom worked hard to perfect it when I was growing up. The main component that distinguishes a good benedict is the hollandaise sauce, a lemony butter sauce that tops the dish. I learned to make it from my mother, who learned to make it from Mema, and although it is a relatively simple sauce, it is easy to ruin. Balthazar’s was perfect – hollandaise can sometimes lack lemon flavor and turn out like a salty, buttery mess, but theirs was smooth with the perfect balance of creaminess, saltiness and acidity. I couldn’t find the recipe they use, but the recipe below is the one we use in my family – comparably flawless, I think.
Hollandaise Sauce (adapted from Adelle Davis'”Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit”)
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 generous pinch of salt
- 1 stick butter
On top of double boiler whisk together: 2 egg yolks, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 generous pinch salt
Place over simmering, but not boiling water and whisk in 1/4 stick butter
When butter is almost completely melted, whisk in 2nd 1/4 stick butter
When butter is almost completely melted, whisk in 3rd 1/4 stick butter
When butter is almost completely melted, whisk in 4th 1/4 stick butter
Just before last butter is completely melted, remove from heat. Overheating will cause the sauce to “break”. If this happens, vigorously whisk in 1 tablespoon of milk. Leftovers can be frozen and gently reheated.
The final culinary highlight of our stay in New York was the burgers we had Saturday night after seeing Blue Man Group. In the lobby of our hotel, Le Parker Meridien, there is a hole in the wall burger joint that is discreetly hidden behind a black curtain. The only way you might know it is there is by the line of people that overflows out into the lobby. The walls inside are wood panelled and covered with old movie posters and “Daniel wuz here”s written on every possible surface. I have eaten a lot of burgers in my life, and this was one of the better ones I’ve had. It might have been the pitcher of beer that we got to complement it, but the burger was awesome – cooked the way I wanted and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. What else could you possibly need? Maybe an ice cream sundae? Because we got that too. We went back to our room, settled in to watch Casablanca, which serendipitously just happened to be showing on tv, and ordered two ice cream sundaes from room service. A perfect end to a perfect night. We left the next morning and I couldn’t have had a better time. I am so lucky to have an adventurous grandmother who is constantly amazing me with her willingness and ability to do things that most 87 year olds wouldn’t even dream of doing – may I someday be just like her 🙂
We had our first dusting of snow a few weeks back and I have been wishing for more ever since. Glad DC won’t be getting slammed with Nemo this weekend, but I wish it would at least leave the area with a thin layer. Instead we’ve got rain. To brighten the coming weekend, check out the links below. I plan on posting about my past weekend in New York, as well as some new recipes soon – stay tuned!
- There’s more to life than being happy
- Going back to this wonderful place in less than a week
- The Ultimate Ugly Face Challenge
- “There’s something a lot greater than energy…than entropy. It’s the fact that, what’s the greatest thing? Love. That’s what makes it all, the ‘why’ we exist.“
- It is amazing all you can say in Fifty Words
- This music video – make sure to watch all the way through
- Ultrasound Parties – yes… this really happens
- Who Said It: Marissa Cooper or Franz Kafka
- Sports Illustrated Kids Award – just try to make it through this without crying
- Urban art soon to be in Richmond
- A Pep Talk
- These amazing photos of what happens when you put out a fire in the winter in Chicago
In addition to eating soup on Christmas Eve, my family has a tradition of roasting a turkey for Christmas dinner. We have had a turkey (or a cousin of a turkey) almost every year since my great-grandmother passed a little over 10 years ago, one of my favorites being the year when my aunt forgot to defrost the turkey and had to run out hours before the whole family came over in a desperate attempt to secure a defrosted bird. She struck out at most places, and finally got to Royal Farms (a Baltimore convenience store known for their fried and grilled chicken) in the hopes of finding at least a chicken, if not a turkey. When she got there, they only had prepared chicken and some raw chickens in the back to be cooked for customers. When they refused to give her a raw chicken citing health laws, my aunt pleaded, saying: “what would Jesus do?” Needless to say, they gave her the raw chicken with just enough time for her to cook it before the entire family arrived. A true Christmas miracle.
Anyway, this year we had the turkey defrosted well before roasting-time. As I’m sure you can tell from my previous Christmas posts, my mom was the head chef this Christmas and I, her sous-chef. She planned the menu and I helped execute. I had the job of reaching into the bird’s cavity and pulling the giblets out. Having never had my hand up a turkey’s rear end before, this was a novel experience.
We stuffed the raw bird with salt, pepper, red onion, lemon, thyme and garlic, and slathered it with butter. Then we draped a cheese cloth soaked in white wine and butter over the breast – a technique my mom came across that was supposed to increase the tenderness and flavor of the finished product (thanks Martha Stewart!!). This had the effect we had hoped for – the breast was so juicy and flavorful.
- 1 fresh turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 large bunch fresh thyme + 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 whole lemon, halved
- 1 red onion, quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- cheesecloth, folded in half to cover turkey breast
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack on lowest level.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add the juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves and the white wine to the butter mixture. Fold a large cheesecloth in half. Cut to cover turkey breast. Immerse cheesecloth in butter and wine mixture; let soak.
Remove giblets from the turkey; wash the turkey inside and out with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. If turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the turkey with butter and wine mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
Lift cheesecloth out of liquid and squeeze it slightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area. Place turkey in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush or baster, baste cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey with leftover butter and wine mixture. Continue cooking turkey and basting every 30 minutes. After an hour and a half to two hours, carefully remove and discard cheesecloth. Baste turkey with pan juices. If there are not enough juices, continue to use butter and wine. The skin gets fragile as it browns, so baste carefully. Cook 30-45 more minutes, or until a instant-read thermometer registers 160 – 180 degrees when inserted into thigh (avoid poking into bone) and the turkey is golden-brown.
When fully cooked, remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest 20 – 30 minutes. Slice the turkey and serve.
This Christmas, we decided to keep breakfast somewhat easy by having a sausage, egg and cheese casserole that could be made the night before, as well as some sticky buns that my grandmother ordered from Williams Sonoma.
We had cooked the casserole a few times before, and it was as simple and delicious as it had always been. Some casseroles have a tendency to be bland, but this one is the perfect combination of moist, spicy (by choice – you can choose your sausage based on level of heat), cheesy and flavorful. We prepared it the night before and let all of the ingredients soak into the bread overnight. Then we popped it in the oven Christmas morning, et voila!
Cheese and Sausage Breakfast Casserole (from Bon Appetit)
- 8 white bread slices, cut into cubes (we used an artisan french loaf – less of a sweet flavor which we liked)
- 1 lb bulk pork sausage, crumbled and cooked
- 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
- 10 large eggs
- 2 cups milk (do not use lowfat or nonfat)
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 tsp salt
Grease 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in prepared dish. Top with sausage and cheese. Beat together eggs and next three ingredients. Season with pepper. Pour over sausage mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Chill.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake casserole until puffed and center is set, about 50 minutes. Cut into squares.
Serve with Williams Sonoma sticky buns 🙂
I’ve just returned to DC after a few wonderful days in Richmond at my parent’s house for Christmas. It is the first year having Christmas at my childhood home – we usually celebrate in Baltimore but my grandmother recently moved into a smaller home and couldn’t host us all this year. So, my mom volunteered to host and my aunt, two cousins, grandmother and her dog, Miss Marple, were able to come down from Baltimore/NYC and spend Christmas with us in Richmond.
On Christmas Eve we traditionally have gone to a church service at my grandmother’s church and then come home to hors d’oeuvres, beef tenderloin, and a host of other dishes. However, over the past couple of years we have started having soup and a salad instead. This was mostly to cut down on the enormous amount of energy that my grandmother typically put into the meal, but didn’t hurt the waistline either so we decided to stick with it.
This year’s soup was a fish chowder that my mom created. I was initially wary of a seafood chowder since the only fish soups I’ve ever had were made by Campbell’s, but this soup opened my eyes to the potential of chowders. Full of fresh halibut, waxy yukon potatoes and other seasonal vegetables, it had a rich, creamy flavor with a depth and warmth that lent itself to the coziness of Christmas Eve. We ate it crowded around our dining room table (and I truly mean crowded – quite a few of us were straddling table legs trying to fit 7 at a table made to comfortably seat 4) with my mom’s Christmas flower arrangements in the center.
In addition to the soup, we served a salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, grapes, toasted pistachios and a lemon vinaigrette. It was refreshing and balanced the heaviness of the soup. We used my mom’s special lemon olive oil and it really made the dish. I would recommend purchasing some if you can find it, as it adds a less acidic lemon flavor to dressings and is a great base for sauteing vegetables or proteins.
Fish Chowder (adapted from Simply Recipes)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
- 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 cups clam juice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay (optional, can use a little paprika and a dash of cayenne)
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs halibut or other white fish, bones removed and filleted
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
Heat oil and butter in the bottom of a large pot (6-qt) on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and turn up the heat, cook, uncovered until the wine reduces by half. (If not using wine, add 1/4 cup of water with the clam juice.)
Add the potatoes, clam juice, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, and Old Bay spice. (The potatoes should be just barely covered with the liquid in the pot. If not, add water so that they are.) Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost done, about 10-15 minutes.
Add the fish to the pot of potatoes. Return to the stove. Cook on low heat, uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. When the fish is just cooked through, slowly add cream and stir to heat (watch the heat and make sure not to boil). Once heated through, remove from heat. The flavors will improve if the soup rests 30 minutes before serving.
Top each bowl with a dash of parsley and chopped bacon, and consume!
Grape, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad
For Salad (use the following in whatever amounts you would like):
- Red Grapes, sliced
- Goat Cheese, crumbled
- Pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
- Mixed Greens
- salt and pepper to taste
For Lemon Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
- 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- pinch of sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon olive oil (or olive oil and lemon zest)
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl or dressing container and mix. Top greens with all ingredients, add desired amount of vinaigrette and toss.
It’s the end of the world and we know it…
Here are some links to help you go out on a good note… Happy Friday/almost Christmas!!!
- There is always art
- Mean Girls of Capitol Hill
- These cakes
- A Meadow of Ice Flowers
- 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith in Humanity This Year
- Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings
- Gingerbread Downton Abbey time-lapse
- This Weather Forecast
- Two excellent DC restaurants where I ate this week: Rasika and Kushi
- The Colors of Travel, 2012