Monthly Archives: July 2011

Pasta Salad

D.C. is back to 100-degree days. It seems like this summer is much hotter than last, and I am avoiding warm food whenever possible. If you’re ever in the District, I highly recommend stopping by one of the many Sweetgreen locations if you are in need of something cool. Their salads are always delicious and fresh, and I love experimenting with their locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients and inventing new salads. The best part about Sweetgreen, however, may be the fact that you can treat yourself to some fat free froyo with fresh fruit after having a nutritious salad. It’s the perfect lunch during heat waves!

In my mother’s house, there is one pasta salad that everyone wants during the summer. Actually, I’d be pretty content to eat it year round, but my mom always makes it for us to take for lunch in the summer. It’s got everything you need: protein, carbs, a healthy dose of vegetables, plus fresh herbs and the zing of red wine vinaigrette. This has become a staple in my own kitchen, and I love knowing that I have leftovers of this salad in my fridge.

Once you chop your vegetables, this comes together very quickly. You can either make your own vinaigrette (2 parts red wine vinegar to 1 part olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste) or use a store bought one (my mother swears by the one made by Wishbone). Try serving it over a bed of baby spinach leaves to get in an extra serving of vegetables. Happy eating!

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Anniversary Lobster

Next week is Brandon’s and my wedding anniversary.  On the actual day, we will be on a trek through the Andes in Peru (exciting!), so we decided to celebrate this past weekend.  When we got married four years ago, we honeymooned in Bar Harbor, Maine, and while there, we, of course, enjoyed a fabulous lobster dinner.

On our honeymoon

When I was trying to figure out how to celebrate our four-year anniversary, I was trying to think of something special that we don’t do very often.  I mean, we don’t exactly shy away from making a fancy dinner on any normal weekend (e.g., here, here, and here).  Then it occurred to me: lobsters.

It ended up being perfect.  Brandon and I were both pretty tired and didn’t want to make something that required much effort, and although lobsters are, as Brandon put it, “a special occasion meal,” they actually don’t require much work.

We grabbed some ears of corn, red potatoes, and bread from the grocery, and then we went to pick out our lobsters from the neighborhood fish market.  The fish monger grabbed two lively specimens, and we toted our squirming bag home.

Somebody was pretty curious

Now, the only issue with me fixing a lobster dinner is my lack of a lobster pot.  I mean, I literally have almost every gadget and kitchen appliance known to man, but a lobster pot is, well, a bit large, and I just don’t have the space to store one in my tiny NYC apartment.  However, the largeness of a lobster pot is necessary for a traditional lobster boil.  You just don’t want to cram those crustaceans into any old pot. They need their space.

Instead of boiling the lobsters, I decided to steam them, and instead of using a pot, I decided to use a pan.  I recently steamed fish using a roasting pan and some foil, so I thought, why wouldn’t it work with lobster?  Well, it did.

Brandon and I enjoyed a delicious set of anniversary lobsters, some bubbly, and some chocolate for dessert.  What could be better?  Here’s to many more years of marital bliss ❤ Continue reading

Peach Pie

The District is suffering from quite a heat wave. As most of you know, there seems to be a “heat dome” making its way east after tormenting the Midwest. According to the Washington Post, heat waves and compressed air particles are to blame, along with streams of hot, humid air moving north, but, regardless of the cause, this heat is unbearable. If I could submerge myself in an ice bath and consist on a diet of smoothies and ice cubes, I would.

There are redeeming features to this time of year, however. The most important one of all is that stone fruit season is upon us! In terms of fresh produce, this is quite possibly my favorite time of year. While I hate summer heat, I adore the variety of fruits and vegetables that the season brings, and nothing makes me quite as happy as a grocery bag full of peaches, plums, and nectarines. My mom loves stone fruit even more than I do, so our house is always well stocked with a variety of juicy fruit.

Ever since I was a senior in high school, I have made peach pie at least once every summer. I don’t know how or why this tradition started, but I get antsy when July is coming to a close and I have yet to bake one of these. The recipe I use is incredibly simple and took less than an hour to assemble. The recipe for the crust comes directly from Williams-Sonoma and doesn’t even need to be chilled; the filling is always the result of randomly dumping in the ingredients that I have on hand. I almost added blueberries in this time around, but we’re pie-purists in my house and the blueberries were saved for pancakes this weekend.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this recipe. As with all fruit desserts, taste the fruit before you add sugar. Happy eating!

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Southwestern Chicken Salad

I don’t love salads.  I wish I did.  I know I need to eat more vegetables, but I tend to like warm meals more than cold ones.  However, on a day like today—nearly 100 degrees—I needed something cold for dinner.  After a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, I was more than happy to eat something cold and light, so I made this lovely southwestern chicken salad.

This salad is not just any old, boring salad.  It is spicy, sweet, and chock full of yummy toppings.  This time around, I topped my romaine with grape tomatoes, avocado, banana peppers, cotija cheese, and chicken.  But in the past, I’ve made it with corn, shredded cheddar cheese, skirt steak . . . whatever I’ve had on hand or what looked good in the grocery.  Ooh, crushed tortilla chips would be great too!

The best part of this salad, and what makes it sweet and spicy, is the dressing.  It is made up of lime juice, honey, EVOO, and . . . chipotle peppers in adobo.  These peppers, which can be found in small cans in your grocer’s “international aisle,” add both spice and smokiness to this otherwise fairly traditional salad.  If you are sensitive to spice, start out by just adding half a pepper.  If you love spice, like I do, add two or three.  The peppers, with the addition of the sweet honey and tart lime juice, make the most delicious dressing.  To be honest, I make this salad as a vessel for the dressing.  It is addictive. Continue reading

Cheater’s Italian Sausage Meatballs

Sorry for being MIA for a week. My body got a little annoyed with me last week and decided not to cooperate. The result was an appetite for only the blandest of foods. That being said, I’m finally back in the kitchen and have been in desperate need of something flavorful to eat. So, case in point, I’ve been craving meatballs. I have no clue why, but that, my friends, is the only thing that I wanted when I felt better.

Traditionally, these are simmered for hours, seasoned with fresh herbs and, in some cases, have a nice handful of pine nuts sprinkled into the mix. Now, I normally make meatballs using ground chicken. This, while leaner, can be a time consuming process as I prefer to bake them and make them with a balsamic glaze (I’ll post that recipe next time I whip some up). But, on the average weeknight, time consuming recipes are just not going to cut it.

Late last week, my mom and I picked up some ground Italian sausage, and, last night, I finally put it to use. These are quick and easy, and, since the meat came pre-seasoned, half the work was done for me. All I had to do was add in some aromatics, and these were good to go.

I opted not to add mine to a sauce, but, if you want to cook these only part of the way through and finish cooking them in a rich tomato sauce, I’m sure that would taste great. I wound up having mine in a pasta dish with mushrooms, broccoli, and grape tomatoes. Cleaning out the fridge? I think yes.

So, not the healthiest dish today, but it sure is satisfying in a pinch. Happy eating!

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Beer Can Chicken

Sometimes a cooking method sounds crazy, but there is a reason behind the madness.  Beer can chicken is a great example of this.

In February, while visiting a friend in Colorado, I first came across this unique way of cooking a chicken.  We were skiing with some friends, and after a long day on the slopes, one of our friends put together a “beer can chicken.”  It seemed strange.  I had never seen this technique before, and I was certainly skeptical, but the end result was incredibly moist and flavorful—a great end to a long day of skiing.

A beer can chicken is a chicken that is cooked while sitting on a beer can—I know, creative name.  The beer in the can turns into steam that both cooks the bird and keeps it incredibly juicy.  I’m sure some flavor from the beer is transferred to the chicken, but you do not need to worry about the roasted chicken tasting of lager.  The main purpose of the beer is to keep the meat moist.

Last week, my husband, Brandon, and I tried our hands at making our own beer can chicken.  We He rubbed the chicken down with a mixture of spices, garlic, and lemon, and plopped carefully set the chicken on top of a half-full (Brandon was all too happy to “prepare the beer” by “removing” a few ounces from the can) beer can.

With it being grilling season, this recipe would be delicious barbecued, but we were too lazy to prepare our charcoal grill and roasted the chicken in the oven (see note below).  Before placing the chicken in the oven, we threw some oiled carrots and quartered onions into the bottom of the pan.  Before serving, I toasted up some bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and when we took the chicken out of the oven, we set the chicken on the “croutons” and let them absorb the bird’s juices (this might be my favorite part of cooking a whole chicken).  Yum.

The end result, in Brandon’s words, was the “best chicken we’ve ever made.”   Continue reading

Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa Salad

I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day! My family had a pretty chill day just hanging out and–in my little cousin Hannah’s case–basking in the glorious of the local park. Hannah’s terrified of loud noises so there were no live firework displays on our agenda. That being said, my mom lives on the 21st floor of an apartment building, so we get to see all of the local fireworks displays in our area (even a bit of the District) from our balcony. Hannah preferred to stay inside, however, and watch it on the television.

During the warmer months, I find myself craving salads and an abundance of vegetables, meaning that I have to make an extra effort to make sure that I’m getting the proper amount of protein. One of my favorite ways to get some extra protein is through quinoa. I love having it in salads, as a pilaf, or even for breakfast à la oatmeal.

Today’s recipe is my attempt at recreating a quinoa salad that my housemate Doria makes. Doria’s a vegetarian and has a solid stock of vegetarian and vegan recipes that I would gladly opt to eat over a slab of meat. This is one of her staples, and all of us housemates used to steal spoonfuls from the bowl when she wasn’t looking. This was her contribution to our house picnic at the end of the school year, and we all enjoyed eating up the leftovers. With hints of cumin and cayenne pepper, it’s a great recipe to try making for a Meatless Monday dinner.

If you want to learn more about the Meatless Monday movement, be sure to check out their website. It’s a great way to cut out saturated fat from your diet, and to add in more vegetables, all while helping out the environment. As always, happy eating!

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Steamed Whole Red Snapper

I get it.  Many people find it unsettling to see their food “looking back at them,” but fish is fish—filleted or whole—and eating whole fish is both economical and delicious.

My husband, Brandon, is a lover of whole fish.  He especially loves smaller fish, like mackerel and anchovies.  We often buy a couple, rub them down with lemon, salt, and pepper, and just throw them on the grill.  These fish are particularly delicious and extremely high in omega-3s.  They are also low in mercury and are delicious on their own or on top of a salad.

Last weekend, we decided to go a little larger and buy some red snapper.  We had been wanting to try a recipe for steamed whole fish in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School cookbook, and the red snapper at our local Whole Foods looked really good (i.e., clear eyes, firm flesh, and no fishy scent).

Martha’s recipe had some Thai-inspiration—which I am absolutely partial to; I LOVE Thai food—and the end result was flaky and yummy.  It was also easy to prepare, easy clean-up, and super healthy.  We will certainly be making this again. Continue reading

Tandoori Chicken

All right, folks. I am officially taking on Indian food. I present you today with my first Indian dish EVER: tandoori chicken. And it is damn simple. I tell you, I have been a fool not to try making this before, but, as always, it’s nice to have some assistance from one’s mother when venturing into unknown territory.

First things first, I bet at least some of you are wondering what tandoori chicken is. Well friends, this particular dish gets it name from the tandoor oven in which it is traditionally made. Its paste is made with a variety of chili powders and spices, and the resulting dish is a fiery red. You can use the marinade on other types of meat, but, in my opinion, chicken always turns out best, followed by pork. You can either bake the meat or cook it in a pan. I think it tastes great either way, but, for the purposes of this recipe/my being incredibly hungry that evening, I used a pan.

What makes this recipe fantastically easy is that you can buy tandoori paste in the store. Sure, you can make your own, but this stuff tastes just as good with a few modifications. And, at less than $4 for a bottle, one can easily have it on hand and ready to use at a minute’s notice. My mother prefers the variety manufactured by Patak, and that can be found in any Indian grocery store or in your local Giant/Safeway in the international food aisle (I’ve checked).

The chicken turned out incredibly moist; we ate it with a side of lemon rice (cook basmati rice; saute some shallots, add in your rice, and toss with cilantro and lemon over medium heat – also delicious in Chipotle-style burrito bowls). I hope you decide to try making Indian food as well; I know I’m quite happy that I did. Happy eating!

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