Monday, March 16, 2009

i have no shame

Did you know you can buy these things at Staples? I've been looking for canned cheese balls forEVER, due to our local grocery stores exceedingly discerning taste, we have not been able to find them. Yeah, so I bought these on Saturday. Along with some print cartridges. And, some paper. Cheesy poofs, ink, paper...Thanks, Staples, for always having just what I need.

strange bedfellows

Chocolate + Short Ribs + Pasta

Sounds weird, but it was pretty awesome. I have to hand it to Giada, she knows what she's talking about. Here's Giada's recipe (which we followed pretty much to a t, except that 1) we braised ours for 7 hours, needed that much time. 2) added 1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes at the end for brightness):


* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 ounces chopped pancetta (about 1/2 cup)
* 2 1/2 pounds short ribs
* Salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 carrot, chopped
* 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes (whole or diced)
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 bay leaf
* 2 1/2 cups beef broth
* 3/4 cup red wine
* 1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle
* 4 to 6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate


Place the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and pulse.

Once the short ribs are browned, carefully add the mixture from the food processor to the pot. Return the pancetta to the pot and stir. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, beef broth, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta and 2 to 3 minutes for fresh. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid 1/4 cup at a time, if needed, to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

return to our roots

Last night's meal was at Agraria on the Georgetown Waterfront. Reviews weren't stellar, and I've definitely fallen victim to paying way too much for not even close to enough quality on the waterfront, so I was hesitant about Agraria. Happily, all my fears were unfounded, and our group enjoyed an hours-long meal, relaxing at the bar...

Agraria: Developed by the North Dakota Farmers' Union, Agraria serves original, modern dishes inspired by ingredients that are farmed using sustainable methods in a contemporary and comfortable setting.

3000 K St NW # 101
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 298-0003‎

Don't miss: Tuna & Salmon Tartare, Salads.
We enjoyed: Seared Scallops, Grilled Salmon, Butternut Squash Ravioli, and I had the Grilled Polenta (which came with a lively caponata, steamed spinach, and a peppery arugula oil)
Best qualities: Waterfront location, fresh ingredients, quiet atmosphere, fantastic bar.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

foodie phobias

Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" episode in Spain struck a chord with me. At one of Spain's most progressive restaurants, he is offered two menus: "Control" and "Surrender." He chooses "Surrender" - and says "Cooking is about control...eating is about surrender."

Admission: I might be a little bit of a control freak in the kitchen. (Read: I have major issues). But until I heard Bourdain say it, I hadn't thought of it that way. It's a known fact among my close circle of friends that my foodie phobias and quirky eating habits are endless (i.e.: will not eat paella, the meats fight; will not eat ground beef in public places, surface area of raw meat seems too risky). Worst of all of these is that I have a hard time eating at friends' houses--even though I make them eat at my house all the time. I don't know, really, when this started, or even why. But it did, and it's sad.

Until today, I thought I was more or less alone in these feelings (general guilt for fear of said friends thinking I think they're incapable -- I swear, not the case, I'm just weird...). The following article poses the idea of communal-ish cooking in the name of economy and convenience (and local products! and sustainability! or something!) ANYWAY, it set off a chain reaction on the interwebs which I identified with. For your time-wasting/human interest pleasure, here are the stories:

The Ethicurean: Learning to Share, "Dinner at your Door"

"The concept is that if four families split the workload of four nights of cooking, so that only one family cooks each night, then each family will benefit. The family whose turn it is to cook may expend extra effort on their co-op cooking night than they would when cooking for themselves, but each family will gain three days of luxury time and the benefit of homemade meals delivered to their doorstep."

...That post sparked this skeptical response from Mark Bittman, NYT Food Columnist:

New York Times: "On Cooking Together"

"These days, people who are interested in cooking have a better sense of what’s good and what’s not. But I still think cooking is best learned and executed by a single person, or maybe a couple, and that there is no way that a group of, say, four families –- unless they’re exceptionally close and well-suited to each other –- could possibly cooperate long-term on a project like providing cooked meals for each other regularly."

...which sparked this Jezebel response!

Jezebel: "When A Food Control Freak's Worst Nightmare Becomes A Reality"

"The reality sounds...messy. Beyond vaguely frightening notions of commune-style dumpster-diving (which I'm very sure has nothing to do with the actual book), such concepts strike fear into the heart of the kitchen control freak. To such, ahem, people, there is nothing more frightening than being at the whims of another's tastes and palate."

"And to me, my bowl of oatmeal, my cup of soup, my dinner are practically sacramental: one area over which I can exercise my own tastes and whims."

Yeah...well, neuroses love company, right? Heh. Anyway, I do feel really bad about being a control freak in the kitchen, and I am making an effort to relinquish these tendencies. So, I apologize to my friends if I've made you feel like a lesser chef. I want to be better, and as Sadie at Jezebel concludes:

"[W]e are obviously the ones who need exactly this sort of thing: relinquishing control, learning to share, growing and changing with the aid of freer spirits."

To my friends: I hereby resolve to be more open to new kitchens, less prone to declare meats fighting, and freer with my praise of your many many skills.

currently reading

By Bill Buford

New York Times Review
Bill Buford takes a stab at chefing (from kitchen slave and up) in Mario Batali's kitchen at Babbo in NYC. Highly engaging account of his failures and successes.

Thanks, Julie, for lending me this gem for my trip home.

on the road

Went home over the weekend, and indulged a bit. Of course, there was awesome food at home (Aunt Lil & Lorraine's Manicotti, home cooked breakfasts, and my never-empty wine glass, coffee cup)...But, when I wasn't eating there, we ate kind of here-and-there, and I made some interesting choices which left me doubled-over in discomfort the entire trip home. But, I have to say, it was worth it. I don't have a sweet tooth, per se, but I do have a fast food tooth(?) that needs to be satisfied every now and then. Below, a sampling of my food on the road. P.S. Don't judge:

Arby's Chopped Salad: Farmhouse Crispy Chicken
I ate two of these puppies (different days). Here's what it is: bacon, fried chicken, cheese, Ranch, and some iceberg lettuce. Props to Arby's for making the best bacon in any fast food establishment.

This lovely garnish topped my "Southwestern Chopped Salad" at Mesa Verde in the Denver airport yesterday. I am relatively sure this is what sealed my fate for a flight o' pain last night.

Ah, Holdrege Pizza Hut buffet, you never let me down. Usually they have this awesome BBQ pizza that I don't think they sell at other locations, but they didn't have any this time around. BUT-they did have some new Pasta Hut creation - I think this is the mac and cheese with ham variety. Annnnd, it was awesome. I'll be ordering this to a Friday night at my house and not admitting it to anyone in the VERY near future.

I'll be back to cooking shortly. In the meantime, I want to leave you with this messsage: there's nothing wrong with eating two fried chicken salads, a Pizza Hut buffet, and a Bloomin' Onion all within 24 hours. I lived to tell you about it, didn't I?