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Archive for February, 2013

This week, my review of a food truck called Busia’s Kitchen is featured in the Baltimore City Paper. It’s always so cool to see your work in print. Check out it here: http://citypaper.com/eat/busia-8217-s-kitchen-1.1446637. The mother-daughter team that runs the truck prepares traditional Polish recipes that their own Busia (a Americanized Polish term of endearment for Grandma) used to make. I feasted on pierogis (Polish dumplings), golabkis (stuffed cabbage) and more.

Below are some photos from my experience that didn’t make it into the City Paper. This food truck’s definitely got some personality!

Busia's Kitchen is open for business.

Busia’s Kitchen is open for business.

Is that the Busia?

Is she the Busia?

IMG_4053

Can’t find these prices in D.C.!

Busia's Kitchen Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

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The Feb./Mar. issue of RunWashington.

I don’t mention it too often on this blog, but in addition to writing about food and cooking, I’m a competitive runner. I’m currently training for mile/5k/10k races in the D.C. area. I ran Division III cross country and track at Johns Hopkins, and after I graduated, I just couldn’t stop running.

This month, I’m featured in  RunWashington, a magazine chronicling D.C.’s running scene. Mollie Zapata wrote a great article called, “Cookin’: On the Track and in the Kitchen,” profiling how I balance working as a cook and staying in racing shape. Included in the article is my recipe for Sweet Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup, which you might remember from a post I wrote several months ago.

Pick up a copy of the magazine at local running stores such as Pacers or Georgetown Running Company. I did my best to scan the article below –  I apologize for the poor quality (I blame it on my scanner!). Enjoy!

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Yesterday, I bought a pound of mussels at Giant for $5.99. Wow. That’s cheap, considering how much food costs these days. It’s more than enough to feed two people, too.

The mild, buttery flavor of mussels makes them extremely versatile. They can be paired with a myriad of ingredients, many of which you probably already have in your kitchen. Canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, white wine, beer, chicken stock, lemon juice are just a few of the items you can use.

It takes a little effort to clean mussels, but it’s really not that bad. Here’s how I do it: dump them into a colander/strainer  and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Then, check each mussel carefully, discarding any with broken or open shells (they could be spoiled). This next step is important: make sure to remove any thread-like fibers, or the beard. The beard peeks out from the shell and is rough to the touch.  In the wild, mussels use the beard to anchor themselves to rocks underwater, protecting themselves from crashing waves. That’s great, but you don’t want to eat that. Remove the beard by gripping the fibers with your fingers and pulling them until they release from the shell. Keep in mind, you may have to put some “mussel” into it (That was painfully punny wasn’t it?).

Cooking mussels is almost fail proof. Covering the mussels with a lid creates steam inside the pan, helping them to cook. The shells will open and you should see the mussels detach themselves a little, but not completely. Lift up the lid while they’re cooking and take a peek. When cooked, the mussels should be firm, but still a little chewy.

Try my recipe below. The spiciness of Old Bay combined with the acidity of tomatoes is a winner here. You’ve also got subtle sweet and bitter flavors contributed by the white wine and olive oil. I like to serve mine with crostini, or toasted, thinly sliced baguette. It’s a gourmet, simple meal that’s pretty easy on the wallet, too!

IMG_4061

Eat me.


Old Bay Mussels with White Wine, Olive Oil, Fresh Tomatoes and Parsley

• 1 pound mussels (store them on ice in your refrigerator)
• 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
• 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1-2 cups white wine
• 2 vine ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
• Salt and pepper
• Chopped or chiffinaded parsley, to garnish

Prep:

1. Clean mussels thoroughly.
2. Peel and smash garlic cloves, using the flat side of your knife or the palm of your hand.
3. Core and chop tomatoes roughly.
4. Pick parsley leaves and chop or chiffonade (roll up a small pile and slice thinly with your knife).

Cooking:

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add crushed garlic cloves and sauté over medium-high until browned.
2. Add chopped tomatoes, Old Bay and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine the ingredients.
3. Add the mussels and white wine. Cover with a good lid and let the mussels cook. Pour the other tablespoon of olive oil over the mussels after about a minute and cover again.
4. Remove from heat when the shells open and the mussels have detached themselves a little from inside the shells.
5. Serve with crostini (thinly sliced baguette rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and toasted at 400 degrees until golden) and enjoy. Make sure to scoop up some of the broth, either with a spoon or piece of crostini!

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A New York City Review: Bowery Eats

Having just walked two miles from New York’s Penn Station with a 30 pound backpack on my shoulders, a heavy pea coat in one arm and a large pizza cookbook I’d just bought from Eataly in the other (Impulse buy? I say YES.), I was more than ready to sit down. I arrived at Chelsea Market, a large indoor market with gourmet food shops and eateries, during prime lunch hour, when seating was scarce. I decided to kill some time in one of the shops, Bowery Kitchen Supply, until the rush died down.

Bowery Kitchen is a beautiful store that is loaded with every sort of home and commercial kitchen item you could imagine. I picked up a reasonably priced whisk and spatula (as if I could possibly carry more?). As I was standing in line, I heard a woman behind me shouting out order numbers and handing out sandwiches tightly wrapped in white paper. How had I missed this?

Bowery Eats.

Bowery Eats.

Apparently, I’d walked past this tiny deli several times without noticing it. Nestled alongside aisles of cutting boards, mandolins and commercial deep fryers is Bowery Eats. A rectangular chalkboard shares Bowery Eats’ selections. Be forwarned:  the menu is enormous and everything looks good.

For once, I knew exactly what I wanted. The French Tuna: white albacore tuna, black olives and capers tossed with olive oil, mixed greens, tomato and a vinaigrette on your choice of bread. The combination of well, everything, on this sandwich just sounded incredible. For my bread, I chose a whole-wheat baguette.

Several other options caught my eye: the Homemade Roast Beef with onion, watercress, tomato and homemade horseradish, the French Cuban with roasted pork, ham, Swiss, pickles and Dijon, and the Juan Manuel with chicken, prosciutto, Muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo.

It’s nice to know that if nothing appeals to you (which will probably not be the case), then you can choose from a large list of meats, cheeses, veggies, dressing, breads or wraps and create your own sandwich.

Thankfully, by the time I received my sandwich, Chelsea Market had emptied out a little and I was able to find a seat. Phew. It had never felt better to sit down. I unwrapped my sandwich and took a good look. Initially, the amount of tuna seemed sparse, overtaken by a forest of mixed greens and a whole lot of bread.

Greens galore?

Greens galore?

Fortunately, the bread was delicious: perfectly crusty with a nutty, subtle honey flavor. In fact, this bread was so good that it actually took away from the flavor of the tuna. I probably should have chosen a more neutrally flavored bread. Perhaps a wrap? That’s okay. I’d much rather have an ingredient that is too good any day.

The tuna, however, was the true winner in this sandwich. I wished there had been about twice as much (again, this could have been due to a poor bread choice). I did notice that the black olives were cut the same size as the capers, the kind of attention to detail I like to see. The olives and capers brought the otherwise bland tuna to life: the capers gave saltiness and the olives a slight bitterness that were balanced perfectly by the lemony vinaigrette. The greens gave vivid color, texture and a little crunch, too. On the other hand, the anemic tomato did absolutely nothing for this sandwich. Flavorless and even a bit mushy, this poor guy just didn’t make the cut. I know it’s not the right season for tomatoes, but that’s why we have hydroponics, right?

The French tuna sandwich has all the components for greatness, with varied flavors and textures. Just make sure you choose your bread wisely. Oh, and don’t show up with about 40 pounds worth of stuff you’re lugging around town. That probably didn’t help.

It’s too bad Bowery Eats isn’t exactly close to me in D.C. Even so, we’ve got our own share of sandwich gems here, notably Fast Gourmet near W and 14th Street. And the Chivito, their signature sandwich, really is that good. I guess you’ll just have to go and find out for yourself.

Bowery Eats on Urbanspoon

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Hello from New York City!

photo (14)

A tagine at Chelsea Market’s Bowery Kitchen Supply.

Right now, I’m at Chelsea Market in New York City. Look what I stumbled upon at Bowery Kitchen Supply – a tagine! If only I’d had one when I made my lamb stew a few days ago. I’m tempted, but I’m not sure I want to carry this thing around the streets of New York for the rest of the day. Not to mention I’m already carrying a heavy backpack (containing the laptop I’m typing on right now). Oh, and I’m also carrying a bag with a pizza cookbook I bought at Eataly, Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant/gourmet Italian market. The book is actually shaped like a pizza – how cool is that? Here’s a photo of it: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ly67rvbyZz1qhn421.jpg.

One of the best I've had (and that's saying a lot!).

One of the best cookies I’ve ever had (and that’s saying a lot!).

At Bowery Kitchen Supply, I picked up a large whisk and spatula. I’m also carrying two dangerously good chocolate chip cookies from The City Bakery. So far, so good.

I just finished a delicious tuna sandwich with black olives and capers from Bowery Eats. Stay tuned for a review!

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Lamb Stew with Moroccan Spices

Every time I  walk into a Whole Foods grocery store, I transform into a hyperactive eight year old during recess. I race up and down the aisles, imagining all the dishes I could possibly make. I love the fresh produce, the whole fish on ice and that magnificent salad bar. My excitement comes to an abrupt halt when I see Wild Alaskan King Salmon for $32. Ouch.

Yes, I know. I really shouldn’t be shopping at a grocery store where toilet paper costs $5.00 a roll. But hey, we all have our weaknesses.

On a recent trip to a Whole Foods in Friendship Heights, I discovered lamb shanks in the meat section. For about a pound, they were just under five dollars. Next to the shanks were lamb necks, which were only $2.50 for a pound. Lamb and cheap don’t belong in the same sentence, right? Unable to pass this deal up, I bought two shanks and four neck bones.

What to do with six, relatively obscure cuts of meat? Because lamb shanks and neck bones are rather tough and fatty, they must be braised or stewed until the meat easily falls off the bone. Oh yes. More fat means more FLAVOR!

I finally decided on my take on a popular Moroccan stew dish called tagine. Originating from North Africa, the meaning of the tagine varies by country. Moroccans prepare a tagine by braising tougher cuts of meat and vegetables in an aromatic sauce until tender. It is almost always served with couscous. 

The traditional cooking vessel, called a tagine pot, resembles a cone-shaped clay or ceramic cooking vessel that requires very little water to use. The tagine’s cone-shape locks moisture inside during cooking, ensuring a flavorful stew. In this recipe, I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Like the tagine, the Dutch oven can maintain a gentle simmer at low, even heat for a long time, making it a great choice for stews, soups or braises.

If you don’t own a Dutch oven, you can also use a deep pot with a good lid. Here’s the recipe below:

 Lamb Stew with Moroccan Spices

Adapted from The Midnight Feast

  • Blended oil (You can find this at your grocery store – it’s a combination of canola and olive oil. I use this because it has a higher smoke point, but still has flavor.)
  • 4 lamb neck bones (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 lamb shanks (about 1 ½ lb.)
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 large onionIMG_4034
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large can whole tomatoes
  • ½ quart chicken stock
  • Chickpeas (I prefer dried, but you can use canned)

Prep:

  1. If using dried chickpeas, make sure to soak them in plenty of water the night before.
  2. Peel and slice carrots. I sliced them a medium thickness and on a bias, but feel free to do it however you prefer.
  3. Chop onion, medium dice (if it’s too small, the pieces will burn). Peel garlic and smash the clove using the flat side of your knife.IMG_4031
  4. Combine carrots, onions and garlic in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Combine all spices in a bowl and set aside.

Cooking:

  1. Heat oil in a large pan. Season lamb neck bones and shank with salt and pepper. Over high heat, brown the meat.IMG_4037
  2. Remove the meat from the pan and place it in the Dutch oven. Pour out excess grease and add the carrots, onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, stirring or tossing to combine.
  3. Cook vegetables for 3-4 minutes and then pour over the browned meat in the Dutch oven.
  4. Add spices to meat and vegetables, stirring to make sure everything is coated evenly.IMG_4039
  5. Add chicken stock and the canned tomatoes and turn on heat to high. Bring to a boil and lower heat. While stew is heating up, use your spoon to mash up the whole tomatoes a bit.
  6. Cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours. The meat should easily pull away from the bones when it is ready.

    Now there's a healthy simmer!

    Now there’s a healthy simmer!

  7. Add the chickpeas to the stew. If you are using dried chickpeas, continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes to make sure they are cooked. They should be a little crunchy, but not hard.
  8. Using tongs, remove shanks and neck bones from stew onto a plate. Use a fork to gently pull the meat away from the bones (scrape any excess fat off of the meat). Add the meat back to the stew and stir to combine.
  9. Add golden raisins to stew. Season the stew with salt and pepper and add juice from 1 lemon.
  10. Garnish the stew with chopped parsley and serve over couscous. Enjoy!

    IMG_4046

    Yum.

I loved the combination of spices in this stew. Because I haven’t worked with ground coriander very much in the past, I was excited to get to know it a little better in this recipe. Ground coriander’s subtle tones of citrus worked with the cayenne and crushed red pepper to brighten up the stew’s flavor. The sweetness of the golden raisins was a nice touch, too.

If I made this stew again, I might try a boneless lamb shoulder, cubed and trimmed of all of its fat. If you’d rather use a different budget-friendly protein, look into eye of round steak (it’s very lean) or chicken thighs (not quite as lean, but still cheap!).

Sources:

http://fescooking.com/come-cook-with-us/the-art-of-moroccan-cuisine

http://books.google.com/books?id=RfFttBIADlEC&dq=moroccan+tagine&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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