Friday, May 27, 2005

A Recipe that Takes Three Days to Make

Saturday - J makes guacamole and salsa for Craft Corner Deathmatch party. I chop three times as much garlic than he needs. Use that funky Saran Wrap stuff to store extra garlic.

Sunday - Feeling lazy after the party. Make a balsalmic vinaigrette for salad-in-a-bag. End up making three times more than you need. Store in a jam jar. Here's my recipe, I'm sure you have your own.

Balsalmic Vinaigrette:

3-4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of balsalmic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
A few shakes of red pepper flakes
Enough olive oil to make the mixture viscous (somehwere around 1/4 cup)

This is all about the whisking. First you macerate the garlic in the salt to release some more of the garlic flavor. Then you add the vinegar, maple syrup, and red pepper flakes and whisk. And then whisk in the oil slowly until the mixture becomes more viscous. I am somewhat sparing with my oil. I don't understand the 3 to 1 oil to vinegar ratios so many salad dressing recipes have.

Eat salad. Watch Desperate Housewives. Scream at Lynette to get a damn job already.

Before going to bed, have the urge for salmon. Take salmon out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge overnight.

Get home from work. Pour vinaigrette over salmon in a bowl. Toss and then cover with that funky Saran Wrap stuff. Go tell J that salmon is marinating and that if he wants some he can do my patented sear 'n bake method. I developed this method for entertaining so that you can sear if first and then bake if off when guests come. The result is a perfectly moist flavorful salmon.

Sear and bake method
Take marinated salmon. Heat nonstick pan on high heat. Sear salmon on both sides (1-2 minutes per side). Place in a 425 degree oven for ten to fiften minutes depedening on the thickness of the salmon.

Work out. Come home to seared salmon that partner was kind enough to make for you while you were working out. Dress salad greens with what's left of the vinaigrette. Serve with salmon.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

DIm Sum, I Sum, You Sum, WE ALL SUM

So why do the best Chinese restaurants have the cheesiest names? Case in point, J and I went to dim sum Sunday at Hollywood East. How are we supposed to know that that is some of the best dim sum in the greater Washington, DC area? We normally go to China Garden in Rosslyn but Tom Sietsema and the Chowhound boards were aglow with the yumminess of the steamed buns at Hollywood East. And doesn't China Garden just sound like a divey take out place? Come on people, we need Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Names. How about Bamboo Phoenix Peony Jade Palace? Or Golden Dragon Orchid Lotus House?

Anyway, name aside, that's some good dim sum. And grew up eating dim sum every weekend of my youth. Located in Wheaton, it's a trek from the metro. While we were expecting a hellish China Garden wait, getting there at around 12:30 on Sunday, we were promptly seated. However, it took a little coaxing to get our water, tea and chili sauce (a must for my heat loving palette). We asked like THREE diferent people. The carts came before the water, tea and chili sauce. But the food rocks. We had the usual har gow and shu mai and they were excellent. The shrimp rice crepe and turnip cake were also wonderful although Holly East used oyster sauce as opposed to the usual hoisin as the dipping sauce. But then there were all of these other dumplings that had so much flavor in them without being just salty. It's hard for me to tell people what to get because I just look at what's there and point but needless to say it's all well made. I will opine a bit about th steam chicken buns which were divine. Flavorful and not greasy, it's everything I would want in a steamed bun. So much that I forgoed having my usual char sui bao.

But next time, I'd like to have good dim sum at the Golden Dragon Jade Phoenix House of Peony Blossoms.

Monday, May 16, 2005

My Grandmother

What she thought over cookies

I'm working on putting my thoughts together for a memorial book about my grandmother who recently passed away. In the coming weeks, my family will be gathering to celebrate her life. A lot of my memories of my grandmother involve food. She was no stranger to restaurants, to cooking for days on end for an event, to mixing groceries together for an evening meal. It's clearly part of our family culture to cook and entertain.

Maybe someday this will be more eloquent, but for now, here are a few memories and my list of the places in the DC area she would have enjoyed.

Cajun Night

I must have been about 14 and she had come down with a mad PBS crush on Justin Wilson, the cajun cook. She decided we should do a big old meal for the family. Now, I don't recall anyone ever particularly liking cajun food at that point, but that was beside the point. We were, for the most part, adventurous eaters, so why not.

Now it's been many years at this point, but, if I remember correctly we made chicken in wine, a turnip souffle, and hand-cranked vanilla ice cream with a Benedictine and raisin sauce. There were definitely other dishes, but these were the most memorable. I remember thinking it was so subversive to make the sauce with Benedictine! It was delicious!

Something was wrong with the turnip souffle. It still tasted good, but we left something out. It was the eggs or the turnips. It ended up being more aptly called "side dish."

In DC, I have yet to have a wonderful cajun dining experience. We did have a few nice meals at the cajun place in Woodley Park. I think it's called Lex Cajun Grill. Definitely worth going to, but when I crave cajun, I think I'll stick to making my own. We are always hunting for the best etouffe and gumbo recipes. I think she would like the ones we've tried.


She lived at Irene's. My god, did that place have another name? Peking Something? Irene's was the longtime Chinese place in the strip mall up the street from her house, and later her apartment a block away. Irene was a tough woman from Taiwan who did not take any guff, could match my grandmother's feistiness word for word and headline for headline, whose husband did the cooking and knew his way around a sweet potato and a pile of green beans.

We usually went for lunch. Nothing spectacular but usually good enough. Fried rice, green beans, a spiced chicken, and her favorite-- almond cookies ( I think it surprised her the day I brought her a box from the Asian Market. Sure, they weren't served warm off the hot bar, but there was a whole box of them!

Later in life, as my grandmother got slower, Irene would bring her food, or take her home. She loved Chinese food. If she had come to DC and wanted Chinese, I would have taken her to City Lights of China on Connecticut. She was amazed by tofu and they have some admirable tofu dishes. I think she would also have gotten a kick out of Rockville's Vegetable Garden-- the vegan Chinese place near White Flint Mall. The mock orange beef is yummy although no masterpiece. I think it would have suited her just fine.

Falafel House

I found this place through friends whose older brothers had started hanging out there years before. Falafel House was an amazing restaurant serving some of the best middle eastern food I have had to this day. Delicious falafel, garlicky hummus topped with a thin coat of olive oil and a few olives, deeply spiced shawarma and a lemon lentil soup you would dream about and taste for days after even a small bowl. The baklava was delicious but they also had this honey-soaked shredded wheat dessert that was amazing.

The most charming thing about Falafel House was that the owners took a particular shine to my grandmother, and she to them. She would stay for hours, talking to MAry, one of the owners, and reading the newspaper.

In DC, I would take her to Levante's. It's not as homey, but I've has some good meals there. I'd also serve up my own hummus which she really enjoyed when I would make it for her. I'm looking for another great middle eastern place. Any ideas?

As for places where the people recognize you and will chat a bit, I would have to suggest Aatish down on the hill. They have delicicious Pakistani food, but the manager Rafik knows his clientele quite well and has made several spot-on suggestions for me.

Dale's Snow-Cones

I think this is more a memory for my mother than for me, but I do remember going to Dale's and craving the delicious, and to me dangerous, FIREBALL flavor. It was green. It just made it that much cooler. I'm pretty sure my mom, aunt, and uncle grew up going there too. I was reminded of Dale's years later when my folks lived by a drive-around place that sat just off to the side of a 7-11 where you could get snow-cones and barbecue. From the same place. Damn Gina.

I think DC could use a snow-cone place. Maybe a cute little stand just off of Dupont Circle or Eastern Market. My favorite flavors, coconut (blue!), wedding cake, banana, cherry, and of course FIREBALL! Does anyoneknow of any places?

Fried Chicken and Chili Cream

She was really known for some signature dishes -- her vegetable soup, her chili cream, and her fried chicken. I'll see if I can find the chili cream recipe. It's a lot of chili, a lot of cream, and a lot of cheese. It's enough to destroy my lactose intolerant gut, but it is definitely one of my favorites from childhood.

This woman knew how to fry a chicken. Seriously y'all. I grew up not really liking any fried chicken but hers. Flaky crust, well seasoned, tender and delicious.

I hear good things about the Fried Chicken at Georgia Brown's. I haven't had it having only recently decided to eat more meat, but friends and family have and have said good things.

I suppose that's it for now. I'll be adding more to this as I think of things. WE have a couple of reviews to write to catch up with our adventures. Look for those tomorrow night.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Power to the people MAN!

As a follow up to the first crusade, the esteemed Ms. Kuller has offered to refund my friend's class and change the course description. WE WON!!!!! Therefore I am taking down the post since it would just be petty to keep that hanging out on the internet.

On an unrelated note, yesterday was my birthday. When J asked me where i wanted to go for our "just the two of us birthday," I promptly said "2 Amys!" Saturday, we will be hosting the DC Craft Corner Deathmatch, complete with boorish host and scowling assistant. An avid reader of both egullet and chowhound, I am somewhat perturbed by the stories of bad service at 2 Amys. We might be really lucky, but we've never had a problem both times we went. Even thought it was a zoo, we were seated in 15 minutes and had constant attention from our waitstaff. It was the same prompt, considerate, friendly service we had the first time.

Now onto the food. It being my birthday, I decided to be a little decadent and order a shot of limoncello to sip on. Good call, because it highlighted the summery meal we ordered. Of course we were going to order the foodgasmic Pipe Dreams goat cheese and fig jam and the suppli di telefono. The name of which doesn't describe the luscious balls of rich gooey cheeseness. As we had a tapas party earlier this month complete with serrano ham, we decided to forgo the cured meats and ggo with the roasted eggplant with buffalo mozarella balls. It was lovely and summery but I think mozarella is such a mello cheese hat you can't go gaga over it. But the pizza we did go gaga over. We got the norcia pizza which is the basic pizza with 2 Amys pepperoni and roasted peppers. I love this crust. It's solid and crunchy without turning into a cracker and still bready.

For dessert I went with the panna cotta and J had the lemon sorbet. As Ina Garten would say, "best of class." And then we amended it to be "best in show."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Don't Hate Us

Because we regularly go to mediocre restaurants with bad service. We did that last night. And we have done that many many nights. For some reason we keep on going back to Marty's on 8th Street. Over and over again. There's a lot of Marty's shame. Have you seen the decor? It has posters of fighter jets and battleships. I am so not kidding. While the servers aren't hostile, I think befuddlement is a regular state of being. They regularly get things wrong with our order. For example last night I asked for a box for my leftover quasi lasagna. The server took it away. Never to give it back. Not that I wanted it really but I hate wasting food. And beleive me, it's not like the food is anything to write home about. Unless the letter you are writing is an ode of mediocrity. It's your basic burger, big salad, and a few grilled chicked and pasta dishes place. Barely adequate is a fair assessment. So what is the siren song of this place? It's relatively quiet, you never have to wait and it's open until 2am ON WEEKNIGHTS.