Good eats in Washington D.C.

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Yummy foods in Asheville, NC

I flew to Asheville this weekend to hang out with my parents. The lasting impression I have is that it’s a foodie haven. My mom and I walked along Broadway Saturday morning for a place to eat and ended up at a tapas restaurant called Curate. Below is the drink I ordered. We also got a salad with eggplant, roasted peppers, onions and micro greens and tortilla espanola (one of my favorites).

For dinner, we went to a vegan restaurant called Plant my parents patronize whenever they visit. The desserts were sublime: key lime parfait and a trio of Mint Chocolate Chip, Thunder Road and Banana-Macadamia soy ice cream.

Cooking for 25… Happy belated birthday, Aunt Ginny!

My Aunt Ginny’s birthday party was last weekend, and my mother and I (and several amazing helpers) concocted and executed a menu for 25 people:

Appetizers:

Mini Sandwiches: Egg salad, Tuna salad and Avocado-Cucumber
Onion Dip

Potato Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Darlene)
Pasta Salad
Shrimp and Orzo Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Candace)
Arugula Salad (my mom made this is and it was far and away the most popular dish; almonds, green apples, fresh Parm, evoo and s&p – adapted from a Whole Foods salad)

Main Dishes:

Chicken-Zucchini Skewers
Poached Salmon w/ Avocado Sauce and Dill-Tomato Sauce

Desserts:

Birthday cakes!

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Tuna Salad Sandwich Rounds (20-24 rounds)

Ingredients:
2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained
3 tbsp mayo
1 large roasted red pepper bottled in oil , rinsed, drained, and finely chopped
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon (I used less)
Salt and pepper
Unsalted butter, softened
24 thin slices whole grain bread (or whatever kind you like; we used a mixture of white and wheat)
Small bunch fresh parsley, very finely chopped

Method:

Mix the tuna and next 3 ingredients in a bowl; season to taste. Chill for 15 minutes up to overnight. When ready to prepare, Scoop salad onto rounds of bread, top with remaining rounds and lightly butter the edges of the sandwiches. Roll in fresh parsley. Stack, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Egg Salad Pita Pockets (20-24 pitas)

Ingredients:
8 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped finely
4 tbsps mayonnaise
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
24 mini pita pockets (we used a mixture of white and wheat)
unsalted butter, softened
watercress sprigs for garnish

Chicken kebabs

Makes 6-8 kebabs (we quadrupled this recipe… it was epic)

1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 zucchini, sliced very thinly lengthways
6–8 metal or wooden skewers or sticks of fresh rosemary, lower leaves removed, tips kept on

Marinade
1 handful of fresh coriander
1 handful of fresh mint
3 cloves of garlic
6 spring onions
1 red chili
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Blanch the zucchini strips in salted boiling water for 30 seconds then drain and allow to cool.

Blitz all the marinade ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor, then loosen to a paste with a little olive oil. Add the marinade to the chicken pieces and mix well. Allow to sit for up to an hour. Then weave the zucchini strips in between the chicken pieces on the rosemary sticks or skewers. Grill for around 8 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.

If you need to keep warm, sprinkle with a bit more oil and cover loosely with foil.

**Recipe from: JamieOliver.com

Poached Salmon with Dill-Tomato Sauce

Sauce (for 1lb salmon)
1/4 cup light mayo
1 tbsp low fat milk
1 tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 small tomato, diced

Poaching (in the microwave!)
sprayed or lightly oil-coated ceramic or glass dish
2 salmon fillets
3 tbsps water, if more salmon use more water
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
4 lemon slices
Cover dish and salmon with plastic wrap; poke holes to vent.
Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, turning 1/2 way through (unless, of course, you have a rotating tray in your microwave). Fish should flake easily with a fork.
Let stand 2 minutes, serve with sauce.
Thanks to my Aunt Ginny for this recipe! So easy and so delicious.

Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives & Ricotta

Coarse salt
8 ounces gemelli (or fusilli or penne)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed (optional)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain. Drizzle with just enough oil to coat, so the pasta doesn’t clump.

Pulse sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and garlic in a food processor. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss together pasta, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, olives, basil, and salt. Transfer to serving plates. Top with a scoop of ricotta, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with pepper.

**Recipe from: Zested (the picture here is prettier than mine… check it out)

Photos:

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It was a wonderful party. I got to see my cousin Anna for the first time in years, and our two new baby cousins were there looking precious and perfect. And my Aunt Ginny, who has been there for me my whole life, was I hope at least a little surprised that we were all there!

New cookware, new recipes: Mac & Cheese and Cajun-spiced Flounder

Fun fun fun! The other day I decided to take a whole evening to cook. Not go to the gym, not clean, not get ahead on work for the next day… just cook. I got to use new cookware and new recipes, and everything turned out wonderfully! Enjoy!

Brian’s mother Diane found the Dutch oven (right) in a hole-in-the-wall shop in Baltimore and bought me one for a gift. I purchased my first and only piece of Le Creuset ware (left) on Rue La La, my daily temptress.

Skillet Cajun Spiced Flounder with Tomatoes (from SkinnyTaste)

(source)

Ingredients:

Olive oil
Flounder fillets (I used 2 large, 8 oz. pieces of fish – any other flaky white fish would do as well)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
5-6 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
Approx. 1 tbsp. cajun seasoning (I made my own: paprika, cayenne, oregano, garlic powder and S+P)

Method:

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet large enough to hold all the fish comfortably. I got to use my new Dutch oven!!! Cook the garlic and onion for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, peppers and spices and saute until the tomatoes and peppers begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Next, add the fish fillets and submerge in the sauce as completely as you can.

Let the fish simmer for 12-15 minutes until done. It will easily flake with a fork.

Enjoy! Here’s the original recipe from SkinnyTaste.com.

Macaroni and Cheese (from What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby)

I was SO excited to make this. I’d been staring at the recipe in the cookbooks for over a year and decided it was high time to give in.

Ingredients

1 medium-sized onion
1 bay leaf
3 cups milk (I used 2 cups whole and 1 cup 2%)
1 tsp salt
12 oz macaroni (any tube-shaped pasta will work fine)
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
7 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
fresh nutmeg (optional)
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Method

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the macaroni. While the water heats up, add the milk, the onion (roughly chopped) and the bay leaf to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium hit until little bubbles just start to form (see photo). Remove from the heat and let sit and infuse for 10 minutes or more.

Add the salt to the pasta water and then the macaroni. Return to a boil and cook until almost done (8 minutes or so) then drain, reserving about a cup of pasta water.

Once the milk has infused, remove the onion and bay leaf with a slotted spoon discard. Then stir the butter and flour into the milk and cook over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk until sauce has thickened (the cookbook says 5 minutes, it only took me about 3).

Preheat the oven to 350. Add the mustard, nutmeg (if using, which I did… yay Penzey Spices) and about two-thirds of each of the cheeses to the sauce. Stir well and season to taste. If the pasta has stuck together, add a bit of cooking water to loosen, then pour the pasta and sauce into the baking dish, stirring well.

Sprinkle the remaining cheeses over top and add the tomato slices. Top with a bit more salt and pepper and then bake for about 30 minutes.

Mmmm… Enjoy!

Virtual Traveling: Homemade Japanese Feast

Last weekend, my dear friend Elisabeth and her partner Taha came to visit for the Cherry Blossom Festival held annually in Washington D.C. The weather prevented us from picnicking on the mall, but that did not stop Elisabeth displaying her impressive culinary skills in my kitchen.

The Menu

-o- Miso soup
-o- Seaweed salad

-o- 3 kinds of salmon maki
-o- Salmon rice balls

-o- Chicken gyoza
-o- Soba noodles

Check out the feast she prepared for us! Brian and I contributed sake and the fish plates… he also attempted to build a sushi-rolling mat from bamboo skewers and dental floss.

Elisabeth even brought Japanese cookies for dessert and Japanese gum for palate-clearing.

(Image source: Serious Eats)

A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… Classic April Fool’s Day pranks on YouTube (and more), New trend: dyeing chicks instead of eggs?

-o- Happy day after April Fool’s Day! -o-

History of April Fool’s Day from The Washington Post.

– NPR‘s list of headlines, products of several members of the staff, that could have made it as the April Fool’s Day headline. The winner? “NPR Source: Tweets Will Shrink to 133 Characters.”

Google News picked up a prank news item and ran it as a legitimate piece, according to Mashable. Here’s the article and the screenshot from Gawker.

– The most serious literary figures, such as Virginia Woolf and Edgar Allen Poe, came up with some pretty playful pranks. Check out “April foolery of the literary heavyweights” by John Dugdale of The Guardian.

– Also: Classic April Fool’s Day pranks on YouTube, from Mashable.

-o- Longest kickball game EVER -o-

Seriously. A game of football in Connecticut with players from several parts of the United States set the Guinness World Record for the longest kickball marathon. Why the epic game? To support cancer research. Here’s the article from the AP. Pretty cool, huh?

-o- Hiring slump at an end? -o-

According to this Reuters article, the time of long, tough job searches riddled with rejection and disinterest is coming to an end… at least for recent college graduates.

Here’s an excerpt from the leading paragraph of the piece:

“Sean Chua expected the hunt for his first job after college to be tough. After all, he watched his brother struggle to find a position when he graduated back in 2008. But his fears were unwarranted. The 21-year-old justice major at American University sent out only seven resumes before getting an offer earlier this month from IBM for an IT consulting job, making him a beneficiary of a turnaround in the labor market for U.S. graduates.” – Jilian Mincer and Jennifer Merritt, Reuters

-o- What came first, the dyed chick or the dyed egg? -o-

Anyone have a problem with coloring chicks for Easter? Here’s a New York Times article discussing the controversy over these dyed baby birds.

(Image Source: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)

-o- What to do with all those leftover Easter eggs? -o-

– Here are some cooking ideas for leftover eggs from Epicurious. Among them? Scotch eggs.

Scotch Egg

(Image source: Zach DeSart, Epicurious.com)

-o- Recipes of the Week -o-

My friend Lindsey is coming over tonight and we are making Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine and a side with goat cheese, red peppers and maybe baby spinach. Currently I’m ogling these Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers from FoodieMob and these Mini Cheese Stuffed Peppers from The Simple Skillet. How does one decide between goat cheese and the winning mozzarella-ricotta combination? I also love the look of this simple spinach sauté from Beantown Baker.

Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine

(Photo credit: Romulo Yanes, Epicurious.com)

A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… ‘Supergiant’ shrimp-like crustaceans discovered, 10 free (and useful) iPhone apps

-o- Adele sweeps the Grammys, the community honors Whitney Houston -o-

Adele wins six awards, tying with Beyonce for most awards for a female artist in a single evening. Here’s The New York Times article on the award-winners.

Adele triumphs at Grammys with six wins

(Source: Reuters)

You can watch Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston here on Idolator.

-o- Romney scores much-needed victory in Maine, but Santorum and Gingrich are still in the race -o-

Was this really a good week for Mitt Romney? Piece from The New Yorker, “Romney’s Unconvincing Victories.”

-o- Similarities between Chipotle and Apple -o-

D.C.’s lunch scene is dominated by three main types of eateries: the sandwich, soup and salad place (Au Bon Pain, Corner Bakery, Pret a Manger), the prep-your-own place (Chipotle, Chop’t, etc.), and the food truck. Sure, there are pho die-hards, sushi die-hards, etc., but I’m sticking with these three for now. That said, why aren’t business models like Chipotle’s touted in business journals and magazines to the extent that a tech company’s like Apple’s is? Read this Slate article for more.

ALSO, Chipotle aired their first national ad last night during the Grammys. Here’s the video, via Mashable. It may look familiar to you; the ad (or a version of it) has gotten over 4 million YouTube views.

-o- 10 free and useful iPhone apps -o-

Not that I need any more apps on my phone, but I have to admit I’m coveting a few of these. Here’s the Mashable piece.

Also, best new apps this week, compiled by Sarah Kessler, also on Mashable.

-o- VA school board to vote on banning “cross-gender dressing” -o-

I feel like someone has to say it: why oh why do people continue to think they will win the lawsuits that result from these rules? This particular vote wants to stop boys from dressing like girls… um, 14th amendment?

Read the blog post on  The Washington Post for more info.

-o- During all this birth control debate, have women been called upon to speak on the news? -o-

Not according to Mother Jones: Networks call on men almost twice as often as women to speak knowledgeably about the debate. Here’s the statistic.

-o- A Guide to Euphemisms from The Economist -o-

Fascinating: an exploration on the prevalence and nature of euphemism in Chinese and English cultures. Here’s the item from The Economist.

-o- Oh my goodness, what is that? -o-

Superhuge shrimps found. Article (and video!) on CNN.

Supergiant amphipod picture: crustaceans found in deep ocean trench off New Zealand
(Source: Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, on NationalGeographic.com)

-o- Girl Meets Bowl, Closet Cooking, Scrumptious Pumpkin -o-

If you can even think about eating after seeing those giant shrimp… or maybe they made you hungry?

I found three fun new blogs to follow this week. Girl Meets BowlCloset Cooking and The Scrumptious Pumpkin.

What caught my eye on each of these?