Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jose Andres "Made in Spain"

While we were flipping through the channels this Saturday night, Vin and I came across chef Jose Andres' PBS series "Made in Spain." Having just eaten at Jaleo that night, we had to see the man behind the food we loved so much.

"Made in Spain" is a hilarious, delightful, and delicious look at la cocina espanola (the spanish kitchen). Jose is so exuberant and enthusiastic about food that its hard not to smile the entire time. In this episode, Jose talked about a drunken goat cheese from the region of Murcia that Vince had ordered on our first trip to Jaleo. It was neat to see how the food gets prepared and even more interesting after you have already ordered it! (My dad has also bought this wine-cured cheese from Murcia in Miami, good taste, Dad!).

We also loved Jose's unique turns of phrase and charming accent. One of our greatest aspirations at home is to make "A truly astonishing dish!" Hopefully, the tips and recipes on Jose's "Made in Spain" website will make that possible:

Empire State Postcard

January 1st is one of the best days to visit New York City. The revelers have gone home, the streets are quiet and you feel like you have the place to yourself. This year we rang in 2010 in NJ, and set off to the Big Apple with Vince's parents as our first adventure of the year. We caught a glimpse of the ball in Times Square and then sauntered over to the Empire State Building for a view of the city. Neither Vince nor I had ever been up the monumental building so we decided to go all the way to the top. The view was fantastic even though it was cloudy. Here are a few shots Vince took. The first one is from the 102 floor observatory and the second is from the 81st floor.

That's the Chrysler building, looking fabulous as the sun started to come out. After the elevators, lines, and gift shop, we needed some fortification, so we headed out to the Heartland Brewery conveniently located right next door. They offer these neat little beer samplers, and as you know from our trip to Cape Cod, we love these! The beers were all really refreshing, but my favorites were the lights and the darks. I'm not one for wheat beers. The Indiana Pale Ale and the Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout were really yummy.

We finished off the day by getting a last glimpse of the Christmas decorations at Macy's, The Tree at Rockefeller Center and a late lunch at HK in Hell's Kitchen (great deal on Belini's ok food).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Truly Tempting Tapas

At the request of someone who will remain nameless (you know who you are!), I'm going to tell you about some really delicious food today. I had forgotten all about it until a Bon Apetit (yes, I'm starting to love that magazine) recipe reminded me and made me crave last Friday's dinner all over again.

For you long time DC residents, this will statement will come as no surprise: Jose Andres' Jaleo serves really, really amazing tapas and incredibly reasonable prices. Vince and I went for the first time with some friends of ours before catching a play at the Shakespeare theater, conveniently located next door. We were seated very quickly once our party arrived and we had a blast at dinner.

But enough about that and on to the food. We ordered ten dishes, each bursting with flavor and goodness. I can't go into each one, but I'll tell you about my favorites. Number one in my book were the bunuelos de bacalao, codfish fritters. I have these guys all the time, but I have never had a fritter quite so light airy and full of flavor. I'd love to see what JA can do with conch.
Number 2: Apple and fennel salad with manchego cheese. Three of my favorite foods on one plate and a perfect balance of sweet and savory. This one I have to try at home. Number 3: Patatas bravas. First, I love the Spanish spelling of the name for potatos, so much more dignified than the Cuban papas. These were hearty, fried fingerling potatoes sliced and covered in a tomato sauce and garnished with a delicious aioli.

There were also scallops on squash puree, some wine cured cheese, wild mushroom risotto, beet and citrus salad, and an excellent sangria.

All in all an excellent night of dining and one that I would love to replicate at home! Tapas party anyone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bananas and Yogurt

I think I am finally getting the hang of this yogurt thing. The key (for me at least) is honey. Half a teaspoon of honey plus any fruit and the yogurt is heavenly. It's also a pretty quick combination. If I had a real job, I think I might spend some time pre-packaging these yogurt concoctions into tupperware and taking them in as breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon snack.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pears and Yogurt

In an effort to eat healthier, I have introduced yogurt into my diet. I see the commercials all the time on tv, in magazines, even the newspaper, but I was hesitant to try it. Mostly because dairy, with or without active cultures, often does a number on my innards. Goat' s milk products are usually much better, but Trader Joe's is the only place that I've found to sell goat's milk yogurt. However the 32 oz. package necessitated a level of commitment I didn't have - until now!

This week I took the plunge and bought the big package of plain yogurt and some blackberries. The first attempt was a sad one, plain yogurt with just a bit of honey. Totally gross. Second attempt, yogurt with blackberries. Better, but still quite acid. Finally today, I got it right. I chopped up a ripe Bosc pear (the brown ones) and drizzled it with a teaspoon full of honey, then I added about a 1/2 cup of yogurt and stirred it all together. Delicious! Absolutely, the most refreshing breakfast I've had in a long time. I think the key was a good fruit to yogurt ratio. I'm still not a huge dairy lover, but if there is more fruit than yogurt, then it is satisfying. I think next time, I'll add in some slivered almonds or chopped walnuts to add protein and crunch.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Making food taste good

I'm a big believer in making a big batch of something and then freezing up a few portions to have easy meals for later. However, sometimes this goes awry. Like the time that I made a huge portion of red beans that tasted absolutely terrible. Well, not inedible, but tasteless. This caused some strife in the house as I obviously couldn't throw 3 freezer bags full of perfectly edible food away just for lack of taste.

So, I experimented. The first batch we ate plain, yuck! Healthy, but gross. I tried adding more salt, but that only made things marginally better. The second batch got bacon, a good plan, but I burned the bacon, making salty and smoky into black and bitter. Ok, round three (I told you I made a ton of this!), bacon again, not burned. and Safeway's salsa verde. Much improved. Mostly because the salsa verde was over-powering all the bean taste.

Finally, I got it right. I buckled down and thought about the problem. When I made my mom's bean recipe, I didn't have a ham hock. It's a smoky thing that gives the beans all their flavor. While I didn't have a ham hock, I had something with a similar flavor profile: chorizo cantimpalo. Even better actually. So I dropped the beans in the slow cooker, added the chopped chorizo, some chopped carrots and potatos, let it simmer for 8 hours and voila! Deeee-licious beans. Holy crow, I could have served these to royalty.

So the moral of this story dear readers: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. It's bound to get tastier sometime.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bananas and Brie

This holiday season our go to appetizer was a little something I whipped up with leftovers one day for Vince. It's a sweet and savory combination with just a little bit of crunch that will have your guests coming back for more. All you need is French bread, brie cheese, ripe bananas, brown sugar, butter, and a splash of brandy! It's a little like bananas foster, but with a creamy cheesy twist.
2 ripe bananas, sliced into ovals
1/4 dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
2 tbsp Brandy
1 loaf of French bread, sliced into rounds
1 wedge of brie cheese
Slice the French bread into 1/4 inch round and toast in a 250 oven for 10 - 15 mins. In a sautee pan combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon over low heat. As the mixture begins to thicken, add the sliced bananas. Add the brandy and allow the mixture to coat the bananas and soften them. After about 10 minutes turn of the heat and assemble the appetizers. First, place a slice of cheese over the French bread, then add the brandied bananas. Best served warm.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to Make Beer Bread

If you are looking for a quick and easy bread recipe that is full of flavor, look no further. My sister, Mimi, passed this recipe along from one of her boyfriend's roomates at UNC. I made it awhile back and just found the recipe as I was doing some January cleaning. Here it is:

Beer Bread:
1.5 cups of whole wheat flour
1.5 cups of white flour
4.5 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. salt
12 oz beer

Assorted nuts, dried fruit, seeds, etc.

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then pour in the beer. Mix it all together. It will be a very sticky dough. Now you can add in a variety of seeds, dried nuts, and dried fruit if you want to make it a heartier bread. I recommend sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and maybe some chopped dried apricots.

Pour dough into a greased loaf pan and back for 50 to 60 minutes.

This bread will make your entire house smell good and tastes great with butter.

Monday, January 11, 2010

PB & J Oatmeal

First and foremost, Happy Birthday, Tito! Secondly, I have just hit upon a new breakfast sensation. As part of the New Year's resolutions to get fit, loose weight, etc, etc, I am trying to get into eating oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is good for you. It has fat grabbing properties, and it can keep you full for a loooong time. I made a big batch last week and have been slowly working my way through it, reheating a little bit at a time for breakfast. Usually, I have it with a bit of honey and cinnamon, but today I thought I would up the protein content by adding in peanut butter and jelly. This has the potential to be really good, if I get the proportions right. Today's oatmeal is too peanut buttery, and I think grape jelly might work better than apricot. But until next time, happy eatings.

P.S. Even though its cold, we are getting an insane amount of sunshine in Virginia. I almost feel like I'm in Miami, until I go outside in shorts and flip flops, only to run in shivering and chattering. Ok, so I exaggerate, but the sunshine is awesome!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

How to Make Avocado Salad

Two avocado posts in a row? Yes. Two avocados at their peak point of ripeness = two posts. Thank goodness we didn't have any more! I just whipped up a batch of avocado salad and was amazed at how quick and easy it is, not to mention how healthy. All you need are avocados, limes, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. The last four are kitchen staples in our house, always on hand, so it is no trouble to pick up two ingredients at the store for a serious nutritional punch. Putting the salad together is also easy. 1. Peel and cube the avocados. 2. Thinly slice the onions into rounds. 3. Squeeze limes over all. 4. Sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. 5. Eat immediately or let sit, covered in the fridge for a few hours. I recommend letting it marinate for optimum flavor.

Nutritional Info:
Avocados: Very high in monounsaturated fat (the good kind), NO cholesterol, high in folate (pregnant ladies take note)

Onions: Fiber, may protect against stomach cancer, folate!

Olive oil: need I spell this out?

Limes: Vitamin C (duh!)

Grand total: serious nutritional punch and awesome flavor

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How to Make Guacamole

There are hundreds of different ways to make guacamole with the same basic ingredients: avocados, onions, lime juice, and jalapenos. While usually a fan of the traditional, I tried something different this week with the now-ripe avocados we got from a family friend in Miami. (For the record, avocado season is usually over by late august, but my grandfather's best friend, Duque, has the greenest thumb in Miami and some late bearing varieties.) I mention that they are now-ripe because when we transported them to Miami, they needed to be packed in our checked luggage. Why? Well, they were as hard as rocks and the TSA considered them a security threat. That and Vince's heavy glass beer drinking mug he got as a present. But, I digress. This guacamole I came up with is light on the spice and more refreshing in flavor than some guacamoles I've had. All the amounts are approximate and you can adjust them to your taste.

1 ripe West Indian avocado (or 3 hass avocados)
1 lime (squeezed)
3 scallions
1 garlic clove (made into a paste with 1 tsp. salt)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and smash with a potato masher or fork. Season to taste and enjoy with your favorite chips!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

DIY Pasta Bar

Vince and I got to make Christmas dinner this year. A very nice casual affair because we had a wedding to go to the next day. While the rest of the family relaxed (or played with their toys), Vince and I got to work on a pasta bar using the farm fresh veggies that my mom gets from a friend at work. In our corner we had a pound of spaghetti, some mature arugula (read very bitter), tomatoes, thai basil, shallots, garlic, chicken tenders, olive oil and some white wine. Vince made a base sauce with garlic, olive oil, butter, and thai basil, which tasted about the same, but turned the sauce purple (very cool). We mixed that with the spaghetti then set about making the add ins.

Ok, so the add-ins were made first, but the order has been rearranged for the sake of clarity. Add-in number one: Sauteed arugula with olive oil, white wine and shallots. Add-in 2: cubed chicken breasts with white wine, olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper. Add-in number 3: Sauteed tomatoes with shallots, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. We served the pasta and garlic sauce in the pot and arranged side dishes with the add-ins. Everyone could mix as much or as little as they wanted of every ingredient and no one had to complain about eating green things.

The secret to making a pasta bar cohesive is to have repeating ingredients in every component. For our pasta bar, the usual suspects were the white wine, shallots, and garlic. This dish has endless variations and if you increase the portions would make a great luncheon buffet or casual dinner.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again. Time for taking stock and making promises. The usual New Year's suspects always seem to include eating better, vowing to lose weight, or attempting to broaden your mind (while reducing your mid-section). All are admiral goals, albeit too soon abandoned. This year, while I may also secretly by adhering to the usual suspects, I plan on having a few new resolutions: to enjoy life more, to live for the minute not for the hour, to worry less and to pray more. As 2009 showed, life is full of ups and downs, thankfully more ups than downs, and I plan to go into 2010 focusing on the positive. This little blog is one of my outlets for the joy in life, and I hope it brings you happiness (and some good eating) in 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Popeye's chicken

is really quite tasty, especially when eaten on the way home from New Jersey at the Maryland House. Popeye's two-piece and biscuit is also a send off to the wanton ways of holiday eating. Tomorrow we diet!

Happy New Year everyone! 2010!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Airport Date

For starters, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! 2009 was a great year and 2010 looks to be even better. This holiday season brought a lot of travel our way and the discovery of the airport date.

What is the airport date you may ask? Well, it begins with an extended layover or the anticipation of long lines and security delays at the airport. You arrive early at the airport with your significant other and find that the lines aren't nearly as bad as you thought. With time to kill, you peruse the airport options and find that there is a sushi restaurant right by the security line (Reagan, terminal B). You sit, enjoy some spicy California rolls and a bit of sake. Now fed and relaxed, you sail through security with ease, grab a magazine in the terminal and snuggle up for a leisurely read. Alternatively, you may come to the airport already fed. In this case, I suggest a jaunt through the independent bookseller's stall (Miami International, Terminal D). Choose a couple of books to read with your significant other. We like to take turns then swap. Grab a coffee and some pastries, or even some light libations, before you settle in for some lively banter and people-watching.

As you can see, we discovered this form of entertainment serendipitously. A delightful surprise when we were most expecting discomfort and pain from our journey.

P.S. If my diction seems a bit funny, you can attribute it to a recent reading of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, picked up at MIA. Hilarious and contagious!