Sunday, January 25, 2015

#312 Easy Curried Lentils with Kale, By: V

I had the most wonderful day on Monday.  Yes, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and S and I had the day off from work.  As I mentioned in my last post, Monday was also the start of D.C. Restaurant Week.  S and I decided to enjoy restaurant week with a lunch at 701 Restaurant.  

So we went to the city, and the city was bustling and busy with people enjoying the day off and the gorgeous weather.   I say 'gorgeous', as in it wasn't below 40 degrees, and it isn't snowing as it was thisThursday.  The restaurant week menu at 701 was a three course spread.  We both started off with the Tuna Tartare, which was dressed in a wasabi vinagrette and topped with sliced asian pear.  The plate drizzled with a persimmon-yuzu sauce.  I generally prefer tuna tartare with a more spicy lime flavor running throughout, so this probably wasn't my favorite as far as flavor is concerned.  S agreed that this wasn't the best tuna tartare we've had, but it was ok.  

For his main course, S ordered the Skuna Bay Salmon which was served atop a mustard spaetzle mixed with pomegranates, kale and pecans - talk about a perfect Fall/Winter dish!  It was delicious!  

I ordered the Duck Tajarin, spaghetti with duck bolognese with two beautiful spoonfuls of goat cheese on the side.  Let me just say it was amazing! Promptly halfway through our dishes, we switched to enjoy the other person's order - these  things have to be done!

And then we come to the dessert course.  I ordered the Chocolate Pot De Creme which was served with ice cream, brownie bits and a salted caramel.  I was not impressed by this dessert - the brownie bits were dry and crumbly, but I have to say the salted caramel was made to perfection.  S ordered the Cheesecake (his favorite dessert) which came with a berry sorbet and peanut butter crunch.  I have to say the cheesecake seemed to be made of goat cheese and cream cheese, rather than cream cheese alone; that taste was certainly distracting and not in a good way.  

All in all the main course was the highlight of the meal.  Not sure that I would run back to 701, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to try the cuisine.  The restaurant group that owns this restaurant owns several other popular D.C. Restaurants (Rasika, Bombay Club, Bibiana, Ardeo + Bardeo, The Oval Room and Nopa).

After lunch was over we walked over to the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum.  That's by far one of the best things about Washington, D.C., you can visit all of the museums and sites for free.  It's great! We took in all of the beautiful sculptures and paintings.  It was a nice way to enjoy a day off from work.  Afterwards we enjoyed coffee at my favorite D.C. coffee shop, Chinatown Coffee Co. and headed home to get ready for what ended up being a long week.

Today I went to brunch with three girlfriends to Nopa Kitchen + Bar.  I had a delicious Bloody Mary (my favorite alcoholic brunch beverage) and a healthy Farro & Black Quinoa Rissoto.  

The quinoa dish had a flourish of sage-pumpkin seed pesto, kabocha squash, baby sweet potatoes, egg 63 and truffle pecorino.  What's egg 63 you ask?  I asked the same thing of the waitress.  Egg 63 is an egg cooked for one hour in 63 degree celsius water.  It was creamy inside and when broken into and stirred into the black quinoa and farro turned the entire dish into a creamy rissoto flavor.  This sounds like how I described my Creamy Lemon Orzo dish from last week! It's surprising how flavors work, and how a little thing like a poached egg can change a dish's texture and flavor.

After brunch I headed with a law school friend of mine, R, over to an articles club I just joined.  In lieu of getting through an entire book, one member hosts and assigns an article that the group will read and discuss, all over some wine and snacks.  It's a great way to meet new people and to debate, discuss and learn others opinions.  It was a generally fun and relaxing evening.  This idea came from a blog post on A Cup of Jo. The article we discussed for this month's club gathering, if anyone's curious was How To Be Polite.  Let me know what you think of it!

This week for dinner I made Steamed Fish and Easy Curried Lentils with Kale for dinner.
To make the fish I simply took cod filets and placed them on top of sliced red tomatoes all atop a sheet of foil.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of chardonnay or any white wine you may have around the house and seal the whole foil packet.  Let bake on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then open the packet and top the fish filets with a layer of panko breadcrumbs, then turn the oven to broil and cook for another ten minutes.  It's a simple and easy dish to make when you're loking for a quick dinner on the lighter side.

I served the fish with a side of curried lentils.  The lentils were quick and easy, and supery spicy, so feel free to ease up on how much garam masala and chili powder you use in your version.  Since the fish had a clean mild flavor, I thought I would spicen things up with a stronger lentil flavor.

Easy Curried Lentils with Kale

  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium pan add the oil and onions.  Turn the heat to medium high and fry until the onion softends.  Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala and red chili powder and mix together.  Make sure the mixture is blended, only heat through for about 10 seconds.
  2. Then add the lentils and stir together.  Then add the water and bring to a simmer.
  3. Let the lentils cook for 20-30 minutes.  Add water as it evaporates.  You can have it more watery or thicker to your taste.  Once the water has mainly all evaporated, add the tomato paste and raw kale (or spinach).  
  4. Stir thoroughly, the heat from the lentils will cook the greens through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn the heat off and serve.  You can also eat this dish with naan or rice.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

#311 Orzo Three Ways, By: V

Orzo is an Italian short-cut pasta that looks a lot like rice.  I often tell people that it's similar to Risotto, but I'd say it mirrors rice even more.  Early last week I grilled chicken for dinner and was planning on serving them with some linguine marinara when I realized I didn't have any linguine at home.  In a flurry I just decided to dump a whole box of Barilla orzo into a pot of boiling water.  Let's just say after about 9 minutes of boiling later (yes, it cooks that quickly), I had enough orzo to last for the week. So, it became my dinner that night as well as my lunch for the week.  In order to make the dish more interesting as the week progressed, I came up with a few variations.  Unfortunately I don't have pictures for all of them, but I hope you'll try the recipes out nonetheless.

That night for dinner since I was grilling a pretty spicy chicken, I decided to balance out the flavor by pairing it with a mild but bright flavor. The Creamy Lemon Orzo was a perfect match.  The tartness of the lemon with the creamy addition of the soup morphed the taste of the orzon into that of a creamy risotto.

Creamy Lemon Orzo


  • juice of 2 whole lemons
  • 1 can (10 3/4) oz. condensed cream of broccoli (or any creamed) soup
  • 1/2 box of Barilla Orzo
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozarella or grated parmesan

  1. Cook the orzo per the directions on the box.  Usually bring the water to a boil (covering the water with a lid and heating on high heat does the trick faster), add the dry uncooked orzo and cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes.  It should be al dente. 
  2. Drain and place the orzo in a large serving bowl. 
  3. Add your creamed soup and all of the juice from 2 lemons. 
  4. Then, while the orzo is still warm add in your mozarella or parmesan.  
  5. Add the salt and pepper to your personal taste and stir thoroughly.
Grilled Asparagus and Orzo

  • 1 bunch of fresh asparagus
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Caesar dressing (or Italian)
  • 3 cups dry orzo
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash the asparagus.  Cut the stem ends (about 1/2 inch) off all the asparagus.  Place them on a baking sheet (on top of aluminum or tin foil makes cleaning easier).  Drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper over the of the asparagus.
  2. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until slightly browned. Take out of the oven and let cool, while you prepare the orzo. 
  3. Cook the orzo per directions on the box (see 1 and 2 in the above recipe). 
  4. Once you can handle the asparagus, place them on a cutting board and chop each into two or three pieces.  Size should match the orzo.  Add the asparagus to the orzo. 
  5. Then add in the dressing.  You can make your own or use store bought. 
  6. Mix thoroughly and serve tossed into a green salad with chicken and feta.
Orzo with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Kale

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups dry orzo
  • 3 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash, peel and dice the sweet potatoes into about 1 inch cubes.  Place them on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with aluminum foil to minimize the clean-up).  
  3. Drizzle the olive oil over the sweet potatoes along with the paprika and thyme.  Toss the entire mixture to coat the sweet potato pieces fully.  Add the chopped kale and toss into the mixture also.  
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, make your orzo per the instructions on the box or as I outlined in my directions above.  
  6. Once the veggies are roasted take them out of the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Then add to the orzo and toss fully.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
In my picture below I just placed the sweet potatoes and kale right on top of the risotto.  But, stirred everything together at lunch right as I was about to eat.  It really doesn't matter how you go about doing this.  It's amazing how the kale gets crunchy almost to the texture of kale chips.  With each bite the creamy sweet potato and crunchy kale blend perfectly against the risotto's texture.  This is the perfect cold weather dish.  You can even add this mixture to uncooked kale or spinach, top with a grilled salmon or steak filet and you have a delicious cold weather salad dinner.  

Washington, D.C.'s Restaurant week starts in exactly two days.  I have plans for lunch on Monday already in the works, so look out for that review next week! If you live in or plan on visiting the D.C. area from January 19-25 check out some of the great restaurant options and take advantages of these awesome deals:  I plan on checking out 701 and Nopa Kitchen & Bar :) Already excited!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#310 Bon Voyage Brunch, By: V

Before N headed back to San Francisco I had her over for brunch with S and I.  I took help from the store and bought some Pillsburry Cinnamon Rolls and Hash Browns.  When N and I were little girls our mom would make cinnamon rolls every Saturday morning.  As an adult, the mere smell of cinnamon rolls reminds me of those Saturday mornings, and I know how much N loves them! Another N favorite, are hash browns, I modified the store bought hash browns by adding green peppers, onions and spices for added flavor.  Here's the full brunch menu:

Oven Broiled Sausage and Tomatoes
Spinach, Mushroom and Feta Frittata 
Pepper and Onion Hash Browns
Cinnamon Rolls
Berries and Nectarine drizzled with honey

N brought me some delicious ground coffee from a wonderful coffee shop we visited when I was out in San Francisco this summer (Sightglass), so I brewed up some coffee for all of us to enjoy.  We sat around and munched on all of the breakfast food, while watching a few funny YouTube videos that S just had to share!  It was the perfect way to spend the last day with N before she left for San Francisco.  

Pepper and Onion Hash Browns

Ore-Ida 2 lb bag of Diced Hash Brown Potatoes
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup onion (yellow or red), diced 
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp thyme

  1. To a large non-stick saucepan add 1/2 the bage of Ore-Ida Diced Hash Brown Potatoes.  Cook per directions on the bag.  You can also use fresh potatoes, but I would recommend piercing them with a fork and cooking them per your microwave directions for a baked potatoes, then cut them up and add them to a pan with about two tbsp of olive oil to cook. 
  2. In a small saucepan add 2 tbsp olive oil, green bell pepper, jalapeno and onion.  Let this mixture cook down until the peppers are softened and the onion is translucent.  
  3. Turn the heat off and add the spices.  Mix together and then add to the cooked hash brown potatoes.  
  4. Let this cook on medium heat for ten minutes just to allow the flavors of the spices and pepper/onion mixture permeate the potatoes. 
Turkey Links with Roasted Tomatoes

13.5 oz package of Hillshire Farm Turkey Polka Kielbasa (or any cooked sausage)
8 oz. Medley Tomatoes (variety of colored tomatoes or cherry tomatoes can be used)
2 tbsps olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to a high broil.
  2. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise.  Cut each sausage link in half.  
  3. Arrange the tomatoes and sausages on top of foil laid on a baking sheet. 
  4. Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes and sausages and toss them to coat. 
  5. Bake in the oven on a high broil for 20 minutes until the sausage skin has blistered.  
Spinach, Mushroom and Feta Frittata

8 oz. fresh mushrooms (I used baby portabella, but anything will work)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
non-stick spray
1 10 oz. box of frozen spinach
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 oz. feta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If your frozen spinach is not already thawed, thaw it in the microwave. Place the spinach in a colander and let it drain while you begin to prepare the rest.
  2. Slice the mushrooms thinly.  Place the sliced mushrooms in a skillet coated with non-stick spray, add the garlic, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper. Turn the heat on to medium-high and saute the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, until they are brown and any liquid released has evaporated. 
  3. Spray a dish with non-stick spray. Squeeze the rest of the water out of the spinach and spread it out on the bottom of the pie dish. Next add the cooked mushrooms and crumbled feta. 
  4. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs.  Add the milk, parmesan, and another small sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine. Pour this mixture into the dish over the spinach, mushrooms, and feta.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over top. Place into the preheated oven and bake until it is golden brown on top.  Bake for 1 hour and serve. 

This week we had some serious snow in the D.C. area.  Worked from home one day and slowly trekked into the office the next.  Even with all the messy roads I managed to catch dinner with a good friend at RANGE, a restaurant by Bryan Voltaggio, who placed second to his brother in the televised cooking competition, Top Chef (he was in Season 6).  RANGE serves modern American cuisine. The food was pretty good, although I heard through a law school classmate of mine that Voltaggio's restaurant, Family Meal, is much better.  This might be a place I'll have to check out! 

We started off my order a drink called What's With All The Tattoos? and what came to the table was certainly a surprise.  I asked the waiter how the bartender managed to get these images on top, and much like the writing floating atop my foamy drink says, the bitters placed on top of the drink formed this magnificent creation.  
For the first course I ordered the Bone Marrow topped with a mixture of shallots, pinenuts and raisins.  I scooped the marrow and placed it on the toasted bread - delish!  Yes, marrow can often appear unalluring, but the contrast of taste with the fatty marrow and the sweet/sour shallot mixture was great spread atop a piece of crusty bread.  

For the second course I ordered the Market Cod with cured lemon, fried capers and brown butter.  I was curious about the taste of fried capers, but it was absolutely great.  Crunchy on the outside with the bitter tang that I love in capers! My friend ordered the Pork Belly (pictured in the back), which came topped with a crispy pork rind, vanilla sauce and fennel.

We ended the meal with our own Molasses Cake topped with a spiced sorbet.  It came in a small sized cast iron skillet and was deliciously warm.

Monday, January 5, 2015

#309 Southwest Beef Stew, By: V

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!  This New Year's Eve was fairly relaxed, S and I went to dinner at the Curious Grape.  It was our first time there, and I have to say I was disappointed in the food.  I ordered the monkfish wrapped in phyllo and S ordered the lamb chops with chickpeas and carrots.  They weren't particularly delicious, so I won't be heading back, but afterwards we joined my roommate and another friend to watch Ryan Seacrest Times Square countdown and drink some champagne and lambrusco.  I recently was introduced to lambrusco, this fizzy red wine is especially sweet and delicious!  I'd highly recommend it, it comes in a white wine version as well.  It is basically an Italian sparkling wine. It was a nice ease into the new year, and I have to say the perfect way to begin 2015.  

Earlier in the week two friends of mine and one of their boyfriend's decided to head to Hank's Oyster Bar on Monday night for what ended up being a cold and rainy evening.  Luckily D.C. clears out during the holiday season, so finding parking and getting ourselves quickly indoors and outside of the rain was a speedy process. 

We settled ourselves into a cozy nook and immediately ordered a dozen oysters, with a happy hour deal of $1.25 per oyster, we had to give it a go!  Two of us (me included) enjoy the clean, non-creamy oysters, while the other two love the briny taste of some oysters.  By briny I mean that taste of the ocean!  So we ended up with a good selection, but obviously that wasn't enough to satiate our dinner appetites.  I ordered the Hog Island Style BBQ Oysters.  They were fantastic!  The shucked oysters are topped with a hot sauce flavored butter and sprinkled with panko.  Then they are grilled on a barbecue and served on a bed of tangy lemon vinaigrette tossed watercress.  The whole dish was delicious.  

Friday I met up with N (yes, she's in D.C. until Tuesday, and will then be heading back to SF).  We started with a nice glass of wine and tomato crostini at Seasons 52.  They even had a piano player at the bar to entertain the customers.  Then we headed over to the Mosaic District, to Four Sisters (an old family favorite!).  We shared the crispy spring rolls, garden rolls, and the delicious caramelized fish in a clay pot.  The fish came out sizzling like a plate of fajitas, but quite possibly even more delicious! 

During the week I made a large batch of this warm and smoky flavored Tex Mex Beef Stew for lunch. 

Tex Mex Beef Stew


1 tbsp coconut oil
2 garlic cloves 
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 small-medium sized carrouts, roughly chopped
15.5 oz can dark kidney beans
14.5 oz diced canned tomatoes
14 oz "stew meat" (beef cubes)
1.25 oz packet McCormick Taco Seasoning
1/2 bottle of beer or 6 oz of beer -- IPA adds a darker flavor to the stew
1/2 cup chicken broth 
1 cup water
salt and pepper 

  1. Turn slow cooker to high.  Add the coconut oil and beef cubes to the pot. 
  2. Use the flat part of a knife and smash each garlic clove.  Peel and chop finely.  Add the garlic and onion to the pot. 
  3. Drain all liquid from the kidney beans and add to the pot.  Drain half the liquid from the tomatoes, and add them to the pot.  Add the chopped carrots.  
  4. Add the taco seasoning, beer, chicken broth, water, salt and pepper.
  5. Stir thoroughly and cover with lid. 
  6. Cook on high for 1 hour.  Turn to low and cook for 1 more hour. 
  7. Place 1 tbsp flour in a bowl.  Ladle one spoon of stew broth and mix into flour unti their are no clumps.  Pour this mixture back into slow cooker and stir into the stew thoroughly. 
  8. Cook uncovered on low for 30 minutes. 

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