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October 24, 2009

Baked Ziti with Pancetta and Broccolli

Fall is here and it is the perfect time of year for comfort food. This recipe is cheesy, rich and deliciously satisfying for a cool fall day.

1lb box of ziti
Head of brocolli florets
2 cups of shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup of shredded white sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups fat-free half n' half
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 oz of pancetta, diced
2 Tablespoons of Flour
1 Tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, fry the pancetta pieces until they are cooked through, but not too crispy. Remove to a plate and set aside. In a large pot, boil the noodles until cooked, but somewhat firm- about 8 minutes. Strain and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the flour and mix, creating a thick roux. Add the half n' half and whisk until smooth. Heat until it starts to thicken, whisking occasionally. Once the cream mixture is hot and starts to thicken, start sprinkling in the cheeses in small amounts, whisking constantly. Reserve about a cup of the cheese for topping.

Add the broccoli, pancetta and thyme to the cheese mixture. Salt and Pepper to taste. Fold the noodles into the cheese sauce and place in a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

October 9, 2009

Cool Stuff: Pumpkin Ice Cubes

Getting ready for a Halloween party? Check out these cool ice cubes that will light up your cocktails with a strobe light.  $12.95 at Sur La Table .

Sur La Table
5211 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20015

October 8, 2009

My New Favorite DC Restaurant: Bibiana

For my birthday I wanted to go out with some friends to a restaurant that would remind me of Florence. I read about Bibiana opening downtown and decided to give it a shot. When we arrived, I noticed the modern, stylish decor with massive silver chandelier balls and the walls covered in black and white photography including Vespas and the leaning tower of Pisa . Our table wasn't ready so we sat in the lounge area in front for a glass of prosecco.
After we were seated at our table, I was rather impressed with the menu . In traditional Italian style there were multiple course offerings. We opted to share a few appetizers for the table. We ordered Arancini (saffron rice fritters), Fiori Di Zucca (fried squash blossoms) and Polpettine (veal meatballs). All three were delicious. The Arancini were crisp on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. They tasted like fried mac n' cheese and it was amazing. The meatballs were salty and tender and the squash blossoms were crispy yet juicy and bursting with flavor.
Two hours after arriving, we received our entrees. Yes, two hours. That would be my only complaint. They must be going for the authentic European dining experience. Luckily, it was worth the wait. For my entree, I ordered the Calzoncelli (pasta filled with pancetta in a brown butter and sage sauce). The pasta was tender and tasted fresh. The sauce was delicate and flavorful and it was perfectly complimented by the shaved parmesan on top. The portion sizes were not overwhelming (for a change). I managed to clean my plate, which I almost never can do when dining out.
Don't think for one second I didn't taste some of the other dishes on the table. My friends know me well enough that I need to try everything I see. My sister in-law had the Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia (black spaghetti with blue crab in a spicy olive oil sauce). It was intimidating to look at- the pitch black pasta with lumps of crab on top. I expected it to be really fishy in flavor, but it was anything but. It was incredibly fresh- not even a hint of fishiness. The spicy aftertaste was a perfect compliment to the light and refreshing seafood pasta.

I also tried the Agnolotti (pasta filled with sheeps milk ricotta, lemon marjoram and spinach.) I could not get over how light this was. I felt like I would be able to eat five pounds of it. The lemon and marjoram made the dish very refreshing. Another friend ordered the Anatra (roasted duck breast). This was hands-down the BEST duck I have ever had. It was tender, juicy and crispy on the outside. It was like duck bacon. Outstanding. Seriously- outstanding. My husband had the veal loin special with polenta, osso bucco and wild mushrooms. It was tender and cooked perfectly. The wild mushrooms were earthy, but not overpowering and the polenta was creamy and smooth.

Even though it was my birthday, I couldn't bring myself to order dessert. I was very full, but mostly because I didn't want to wait for it. After all, It was after 11 and the city was waiting for me. Bibiana was as close as you can probably get to a modern yet authentic Italian dining experience in DC. I can't say I've been to every Italian restaurant in DC, but I'm willing to try. The service was professional and knowledgeable. The servers gave completely honest opinions on the dishes and they were very helpful with wine pairings. Bibiana is stylish, delicious and now my new favorite restaurant in DC. I will be back... when I replenish my bank account and fast for a few weeks.

Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca
1100 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Cool Stuff: Mustache Mugs

Ever want to know what you look like with a handlebar or Charlie Chaplin mustache? I haven't either but these mugs are pretty cool and would make great conversation pieces at the office!

Find out more about these quirky mugs from Ibruegger at or check out the Peter Ibruegger's site for more info.

October 5, 2009

Capellini Carbonara

Yesterday was a lazy Sunday. I had no desire to go to the store and no desire to order food from one of the four places that deliver. I scrounged around my kitchen for ingredients hoping there was something I could whip up. I luckily had some capellini, eggs, bacon and onion so went with a Capellini Carbonara. I had never made it before, but it turned out to be quite delicious!

1 lb box of Capellini
7-8 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
1/2 white onion
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs
olive oil
1/2 cup fat free half n' half
salt & pepper to taste
couple sprigs of thyme

In a large skillet, fry the bacon slices most of the way through- but not until they are fully crispy. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of salted water until boiling. Remove the bacon slices to a plate and drain most of the grease from the pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat on Med/High. Dice the onion and add to the saute pan. Cook the onions until translucent, but not browned.

When the water is boiling, add the Capellini and boil for about 8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the noodles will get mushy. When finished, strain the noodles and add back to the bowl. Add 3 large eggs to the noodles. (The hot noodles will cook the eggs.) Chop the bacon into small pieces and add the noodles. Add the onion and parmesan and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Finish by adding cream and folding into the noodles. Top with thyme leaves and enjoy!

Pimm's Cup

I was at a friend's wedding two weekends ago and discovered a drink so delicious that it is now a new go-to. It's called the Pimm's No. 1 Cup . Pimm's is a dark colored english gin with smooth and spicy flavor. It's one of the staple drinks of Wimbledon as well as popular at polo matches. To have a Pimm's No. 1 Cup you simply mix with lemonade and garnish with a cucumber slice. The flavor of the cucumber really comes through. This drink is smooth, refreshing and VERY easy to go down. Warning: drinking several of these may make you snooty, dry-humored, speak with a british accent and dance like you invented music to the song Freedom '90 by George Michael.