Friday, May 25, 2007

CSA Bounty

Ya want food porn, ya got food porn! Here's the many lovely things we got from our CSA.


Ok I'm a convert. These turnips have a spicy arugula flavor when raw but are sweet like Vidalia onions when cooked. The greens form the turnips are delicious stir fried.


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Pretty, aren't they?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gettin' Fresh

So last Tuesday we went to the farm and pick up our CSA share. It was a gorgeous (if warm) spring day and we got a nice bounty of fresh veggies that we gorged on later that night. Our share of food contained:

3 scallions
1/2 pound of (choose any - arugula, spinach, kale, and collard greens)
We opted for the arugula and spinach since they seemed like spring greens
1 small head of Boston lettuce
1/2 pound of carrots
1 pint of strawberries (which were teeny weeny)
3 turnips

We got to pick: Onion chives, garlic chives, sweet marjoram, oregano, parsley, lavender, mint, tarragon
- We ended up picking LOTS of the garlic chive blossoms, oregano, and lavender along with a WHOLE QUART of strawberries!!! (many of which ended up in our tummies before we even got to he car)

As an added bonus we picked the most brilliant red poppy that was hanging out in a fallow field.

When we got home I made the most Martha Stewarty arrangement of herbs. The purple blossoms of the garlic chives were surrounded by the oregano and tarragon. We did put the vegetables to more than aesthetic use. I made a salad of the arugula and spinach and turnip with a lemon vinaigrette. All of the little strawberries were screaming to be eaten. J pureed his with coconut sorbet while I whipped some cream with a little vanilla and powdered sugar.

Last night I made biscuits with the chopped chives. Tonight I am planning on doing a stir fry with the carrots, turnips, turnip greens, and garlic chive blossoms.

J took many many pictures of our bounty and he better post them!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend 'o fun Part 3

Before I begin with the final installment of the weekend 'o fun. Momma D admonished me to include one of the best part of Saturday night's meal - the cheese plate. J and I went to Whole Foods and got an incredible array of cheeses: a light cheddar with lemon zest, one laced with peppadews, a soft chevre, and a goat's milk gouda. J arranged these with an array of fruit including mango, pears, and apples. The fruit and cheese went really well with the freshness of the whole meal.

So for the Sunday of Mother's Day, J made reservations to go to Michel Richard's Citronelle. We were late in the game and it was one of the few places still taking reservations for brunch. For those of you who may forget, the Sunday of Mother's Day was gorgeous. A little chilly but blissfully sunny. It made wearing a suit on the weekend almost bearable. While I didn't necessarily need the tie to conform with Citronelle's jacket required policy, I thought "in for the penny."

What amazed me about the Citronelle space was how unpretentious it was. It was stylish but not that crazy over the top decor that many restaurants of that cailber are. The staff was friendly and fluent in French. We were seated at a table next to the entrance and what was intersting was that there were exactly enough place setting and chairs for your party. No more and no less. We splurged and ordered Mimosas for J and I and sparkling water for Momma D. The mimosa was delicious. Whatever champagne they used was utter perfection. Crisp without being metallic and complemented the acidity and sweetness of the orange juice perfectly. Then I saw the sommelier with his big ol' top sommelier medallion and realized that the yummyness of the mimosa was no accident.

Michel Richard was right there at the buffet line greeting people and thanking them for coming. I broke out in a goofy smile as I got to bathe in the Santa Claus happy aura that Michel Richard radiates. He looked genuinely happy people were eating his food. Considering a chef of his statue is usually off starting restaurants and signing books, Michel Richard seemed totally human presiding over the buffet line. It's a interesting statement about our society when chefs have become celebrities unto themselves. I'm all for it since people who have had to work their asses off for 18 hour days schlepping bags of flour and getting yelled at to pay their dues certainly should have their props. I was all smiley and tongue-tied but J had his wits aobut him and congratulated Michele Richard on his well-earned James Beard award. J was rewarded with a smile and a pat on the back from Richard.

The other thing that was interesting was that Richard's family came for brunch and they sat at the center table. It was a motley group with older people who only spoke French to slouchy teenagers to a turned out young lesbian in a natty tie. Momma D chatted them up in the buffet line and found out they came to Citronelle ALL THE TIME! I am so jealous.

So what about the brunch? Don't come expecting culinary "innovation." There was primarily traditional brunch food perpared to perfection. I've never seen the dinner menu so I wouldn't know whether the brunch is Richard's A game but the brunch was a back to basics kind of thing, smoked salmon, fishes with sauce, roast chicken, etc. But oh what basics! The humble shrimp with cocktail sauce was sent to new heights with shrimp that was tender, moist and flavorful. The smoked salmon was delightful, delicate and not overpowering pair with the traditional accoutrements of chopped onions, chopped egg whites (separate from the chopped egg yolks), capers and tomatoes.

The potato crust salmon sent me into paroxysms of delight. The potato crust added a buttery texture to the savory salmon. The halibut with saffron sauce was similarly excellent. And as wonderful as the seafood was, the meat was even better. The roast chicken had a aroma of lemon. It didn't hit your tongue, it just wafted up to your nose.

The desserts truly showed off Michel Richard's start as a pastry chef. They were all excellent with the exception of the cocoa dusted grape which tasted weird. But really all of that is obliterated by the THE EGG!!!!! We love the dessert egg with a fiery passion. It's a bit of whimsy that just made our day. Basically it's a hollowed out egg filled with a smooth sugary meringue the consistency of whipped cream and just when you think that is the egg, you get the surprise filling of lemon curd as the egg yolk. FREAKING BRILLIANT!!!!

As you can tell, a good time was had by all. This was not cheap by any means but it was a special occasion place and Momma D's visit is a special ocassion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weekend o' Food - Part 2

Saturday night I put together the most coherent menu I've ever made. Momma D requested that we make a meal for her and she belongs to a Gourmet club at her retirement community so the bar was set high. J and I wanted to make a meal that was over the top. It all started with the mango mousse recipe in Martha Stewart Living (the color issue). With a mango mousse and a macadamia nut crust, this was THE recipe. Light, refreshing and indulgent. It lived up to its promise of being extremely easy to make and crazy good. I am giving it its own entry but rest assured, its amazing. I decided to class it up a notch by making Nigella Lawson's macadamia nut brittle. This brittle is so easy I didn't use a recipe, I just roughly chopped macadamia nuts, melted sugar until it became a light amber and poured the sugar on top of the chopped nuts sitting on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Don't worry about using a candy thermometer or any such nonsense, just melt the sugar and watch it like a hawk. If I were to do proportions it would be 1/2 cup of macadamia nuts to 1 cup of sugar.

So with the mango mousse tart as the centerpiece, I built a menu around that. With a tropical theme, I went Iron Chefish with macadamia nut crusted chicken breast with a mango-pineapple salsa. As a side dish, I would make a napa cabbage slaw with a sesame dressing. I got my inspiration from Cafe Asia's divine Asian coleslaw. And in a huge bit of inspiration from Kylie Kwong, I made Asian brined cucumber. The true fun of the evening was actually PLATING the meal. I am fairly indifferent about presentation but Saturday night, I went all out. I used our nice square Asian plates and matching napkins. For once, the food looked as good as it tasted.

Here's the recipes:

Macadamia Crusted Chicken with Pineapple-Mango salsa
6 Chicken breasts pounded (you can find pre-pounded ones at Whole Foods)
2 cups of homemade breadcrumbs (it makes for a coarser crumb)
1 cup ground macadamia nuts
2 eggs

Mix breadcrumbs and ground nuts in a bowl. Dredge chicken breasts in the egg and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Let site for 5 minutes. Heat up a skillet with thin layer of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, pan fry the chicken for 3 minutes a side. Don't worry about not cooking it through. Place the cooked chicken on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Pineapple mango salsa
1 cup of chopped FRESH pineapple (I have to be a purist about that)
1 cup of chopped fresh mango
2 finely diced jalepeno
1 scallion finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili paste
1 clove of garlic, minced

Throw everything into a bowl and mix. Let sit for at least a half an hour.

Asian Salad with Sesame Dressing

1 head of Napa cabbage finely shredded
2 large carrots, grated
1 scallion, chopped

For the dressing
1/2 cup of tahini
1/4 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar (or lime juice)
2 tablespoons sweet Thai Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce or fish sauce
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/4 cup of vegetable or peanut oil
1/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of chopped ginger
3 cloves of garlic

Throw everything into a blender and blend until smooth. Add more water if the texture is too thick. Toss with the vegetables.

Asian Brined Cucumber
1 English hothouse cucumber with the seeds scooped out (just a preference as I hate seeds), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of rice wine

Throw everything into a bowl and toss together until sugar and salt dissolves. Let sit for at least 15 minutes and then pour out the liquid (actually the liquid with some peanut oil is a great salad dressing)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Weekend of Food - Part 1

So this past weekend was my birthday where I turned a year older than dirty whore (flirty jive?). With the confluence of my birthday and Mother's Day on the same weekend, my mother-in-law, Momma D flew in from Texas to join in the festivities.

It turned out to be a weekend of food. Friday started off with a dinner for 15 at Malaysia Kopitam. There's been mixed reviews about this place but they were wonderfully flexible about accommodating our large and unwieldy group. Say what you want about reheated entrees, Malaysia Kopitam really knows their rice noodles. Not only that, they serve this sticky rice in a banana leaf packet that is to die for. This was a theme for me that night as I ordered their salmon cooked in a banana leaf as well. This was firm but wonderfully tender. The flavor of the salmon was exceptional. Other standouts included the greasy, street food quality roti.

At my insistence, we took a contingent to the Black Cat to dance. I have been itching to go out dancing for months as I talked with the Timily's and realized the ONLY time any of us danced as at weddings. I talked with Slim and Married Boy who both have extensive knowledge of the DC nightlife and charged them to find a place where I could dance in my running shoes that played music that I could sing along to. They recommended the backstage room of the Black Cat that had a small dance floor and access to the bar and pool area for the non-dancers. We arrived at the scandalously early time of 10:30 pm and were rewarded by having the entire dance floor to ourselves. We love the DJ as he seemed determined to play fun remixes of 80's B-side songs. Among the quasi hits were songs from New Edition (!), The Cure, and Madonna. By 11:45 pm, the dance floor was full of people dancing their hearts out. Apparently, this DJ plays the first Friday of every month so count me in for June!!!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Eastern Market - A Friend In Need

Eastern Market - A Friend In Need

Time and time again, I am reminded of the powerful connection between food and community. We eat together to celebrate, to mourn, to comfort, to nourish. We eat to catch up with an old friend, to celebrate the arrival of a guest visiting from many miles away and to just make it through another day when we need sustenance. We do eat alone, but often we use a meal together to connect to and enjoy one another.

Community presents an opportunity to build tiny or tremendous connections. It's where we have the great opportunity to become students of our interactions with many different teachers, to become part of something bigger than ourselves.

Eastern Market has for years been the best of food and community for me. Not flawless, not without challenge or evidently controversy, but, at its core, a unique place of escape from the work-weary world of modern life and whizzing digital input.

Here, my friends and neighbors have shared in the beauty of food, the excitement of a delicious bargain, a new taste or a reliable standby. From quick hellos to conversations that drag a bit too long, we run into each other and make exchanges great and small. But it all roots us. Some would argue that it all nourishes us.

Monday morning, I walked into the office to a disturbing "Did you hear?" Never a good sign. An hour later, I stood before a battered and burnt Eastern Market, one of many customers, neighbors, and friends coming by to pay our respects. I had to see for myself. It was worse than I imagined.

Hadn't I just been there on Sunday? My freezer and refrigerator were full from my trip. Many words came to mind once I stored everything away: fresh, quality, delicious. What would I make tonight?

Eastern Market has provided my family with wonderful food and a sense of community for more than 8 years. Until recently, we lived just a few blocks away. What a treasure to be able to take a nice walk on a crisp morning and come back with a few bags of fresh produce, meats, fish, and the occasional cookie or three.

Fresh cut flowers, a wrapped up sandwich from the Market Lunch, a container of baba ghanouj.

For the life of me I can't recall bringing anything home that I did not think was first rate. A huge bag of stunning Valencia oranges, freshly peeled garlic, a bag of magic lettuce that would somehow keep for nearly two weeks.

And I usually saw a colleague, a parent of a friend, a business owner I knew, someone I just met at a meeting, an artist I admired.

I stood there and worked over the entire horrible situation. Was everyone ok? What on earth were all these wonderful people going to do without their shops and the friends and neighbors who were in some way their families? After all, they have had a hand in preparing our tables for some of the great occasions of our lives, the delicious stolen moments when Washingtonians stop living their heads long enough to prepare a dinner party for people we enjoy, the quick fly-by snack when we're pushing the stroller or walking the dog.

Flowers to brighten the house when an out of town guest visits or just because. A cake for that last minute staff celebration. Thick, smoky bacon that makes breakfast with the newspaper an experience and makes the weekend real. An artichoke to eat or to pose on the still life plate.

The people are paying their respects. Those who know the vendors offer hugs and assurances. We are here for you. We must rebuild.

24 hours later the press conference begins and I see more vendors from the South Hall, community leaders, neighbors who have been eating food from the Market for ten, twenty, thirty years. People who gave up their cars because they could walk to the market. People who rarely enter a chain grocery store. We are hanging on the words of the Mayor, our Councilmember, the Fire Chief.

The sign says we will rebuild. The Mayor agrees. The community speaks too. The media. We are left with hope and the feeling that we must come together even more deliberately than our Market trips. We must be vigilant in supporting this community and using our best ideas and abilities to lessen the impact.

Eastern Market matters to us. It's not just where we buy food. And that should be enough. But it's more than that for the neighborhood and for those who love it. It's a beautiful reminder of the power and the possibility of human connection. It's family business given the best opportunity to thrive. It's a community saying we value all of this.

There are so few spaces in public life where we can all be together, greet our neighbors, get to know the people who grow our food. We need these moments, and those of us who have come to love it need Eastern Market. There is a simple but vital interdependency here that I cherish.

We want our friends and neighbors who have taken care of us for so many years to be taken care of. In some small way, in spite of all the cynicism in the world and all the exciting and challenging back-and-forth that happens in the halls of the great buildings nearby, many of us know these vendors as family. At the very least we are grateful for what they do and what they produce.

Eastern Market will be back and we will be there. Republicans and Democrats, politicians and nonprofit workers, artists and farmers, parents and children, tourists who visit occasionally and neighbors who visit daily.

We just aren't going to give that up.

How can you help?

1. Many of the vendors lost an incredible amount of food and equipment in the fire. Most have lost their livelihood. The Capitol Hill Community Foundation has set up a fund for the merchants and their employees.

2. There will be a fundraiser at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday night (5/2) at Marty's, 527 8th St SE (zip is 20003).

3. Come to Market Day on Sunday. This is an all-day festival with great bands and entertainment. It's always a great time and a huge turnout would be wonderful.

4. Do not forget to visit the other shops and restaurants in the area. Petite Gourmet, The Forecast, The Village, Montmartre, Fairy Godmother, Tortilla Cafe (also owned by the Canales family that ran several stands in the South Hall), Blue Iris Flowers, Murky Coffee, Uncle Brutha's, Bread and Chocolate, Ben and Jerry's, Dawn Price Baby, Marvelous Market, and more. These places will surely be affected by loss of foot traffic and offer some great food and gifts!

5. Keep the story alive. There will be a lot of attention at first, but let's visit the market, shops, and vendors in the coming months. If it really takes two years, it is going to take some serious effort and promotion to keep these shop doors open. Keep bringing out of town guests.

Here's to Eastern Market and all it represents!