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May 31, 2010

Beer Can Chicken and Cucumber Salad

Happy Memorial Day! My long weekend was filled with friends, fun and a lot of food. Throughout the weekend we grilled flank steak stuffed with prosciutto, fontina and basil, chicken kabobs and swordfish kabobs. We rounded out the weekend with beer can chicken.  This has to be one of my favorite ways to eat chicken.  The beer evaporates into the chicken leaving it moist and full of flavor. Feel free to experiment with the spice rubs and beer choices. We opted for a cucumber salad as a refreshing, light and tangy side dish which is great on a hot day.

Beer Can Chicken
1 whole chicken
1 Tablspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablspoon poultry seasoning
1 can of beer
1 lemon, sliced
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of thyme

Heat two outside burners on a grill to medium-high heat and leave the center burner off. Remove the gizzards from the chest cavity, rinse the bird and pat dry. Combine all of the spices in a bowl then rub all over the outside of the chicken. Open a can of beer and pour half into a shallow, disposable tin. Add lemons, rosemary and thyme. Insert the half full beer can into the cavity of the bird and sit the chicken upright in the tin tray. Place the entire bird on the tray sitting upright over the center burner that is not lit. Close the grill and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of about 165 degrees in the breast (about an hour and 15 minutes).  Remove the chicken from the grill and carefully remove the beer can with tongs and discard.  Allow to rest about 10 minutes before carving.

Cucumber Salad (makes a large bowl, great for a party)
6 cucumbers
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
3 small tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup champagne vinegar (you can add more or less to suit your taste)
1 full package of fresh dill (or one bunch- approx. 4 Tablespoons chopped)
feta, crumbled
salt & pepper to taste

Slice the cucumber extra thin to the point they are almost transparent and place in a bowl. Add the vinegar, red onion, salt, pepper and dill. Soak at least one hour (but even better overnight). When ready to serve, add the tomatoes and feta.

May 26, 2010

Blue Moon Time

Sorry beerb1tch. I just really like it! At least be proud it's not a Miller Lite tonight. I'm a bourbon drinking girl who drinks girlie beer. Go figure. I am working on it though. I have been making a conscious effort to try more beers, try better beers and to stop hitting the panic button and ordering a watered-down cheap skunk brew when there are always better options. I think I have reached the acceptance stage of my recovery.

May 24, 2010

Devouring California

I'm back!  So, I clearly didn't make any mobile posts from the road.  Sorry.  I did, however, eat well on my trip.  Most notable of my meals was a restaurant called Evvia in Palo Alto, CA.  It is a very classy Mediterranean restaurant serving signature Greek dishes with local interpretations.

We had a pretty busy day of touring the city and traveling.  We had every intention of going home to change for dinner but decided to go as-is and grab a beer first. Mind you, as-is meant that my friend, her husband and I were a matching trio of jeans and chucks.  Peeking through the window everyone was gussied up in dresses and dinner jackets, but we went for it.  Thankfully, no one gave us a second look.  So clearly, we were just that cool. 

While waiting for our table, we headed to the back bar for some bourbon, passing a giant cozy hearth and a long farm table near the center of the dining room.  There was a warm glow in the room and the air was filled with mouth-watering aromas.

Once we were seated, we decided on going tapas style and ordering a plethora of appetizers instead of entrees.  The server was probably slightly annoyed that she had to keep coming back to see what we wanted to stuff our faces with next, but she didn't show it.  Everyone there was extremely nice and accommodating.  We ordered so many dishes I can't keep track.  We started with a grilled octopus that was smoky and flavorful.  The texture was surprising- you would expect it to be slimy or rubbery but it was actually closer to the texture of lobster tail.

We also  had herb dumplings with field mushrooms that were tender and earthy.  Next up were lamb sausages with tzatziki, grilled swordfish skewers and dolmathes.  The food kept coming and was superb.  The only dish we weren't overjoyed with would have to be the grilled artichokes with greek yogurt.  The flavor was delicious, but we were a little put-off by the choke that they left on it.

We ended the evening with a bottle of wine and a rich, creamy rice pudding.  We may have all been in pain, but it was worth it.  The food at Evvia was delicious, the service was friendly and the atmosphere welcoming and relaxing.  We closed the place out, being some of the last patrons to leave.  It was a great way to end a great trip.  Thank you Mr. & Mrs. L, I look forward to coming back!

420 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA

May 18, 2010

Dijon and Herb Pork Tenderloin

This will likely be my last post for a few days because I'll be travelling the the left coast but if I get a chance I'll try to do a mobile post from my phone.  I'm not making any promises though, so don't shed too many tears. I have to admit I'm leaving for the long weekend on a delicious note.

I was feeling creative tonight trying to think of a new way to make pork tenderloin other than teriyaki or pre-marinated versions. I rummaged through my cabinets and refrigerator and ended up with one of my favorite creations I've had in awhile. I'm not going to lie- it was really good. The rosemary, garlic and Dijon gave it a tangy, earthy flavor that seeped into every bite. As an added bonus, it's really easy to make.

Ingredients (serves 6)
2 pork tenderloins
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim any excess fat or silver skin from the tenderloins. In a bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients to make a paste. Brush the mixture onto the tenderloins, coating both sides. Place in a glass baking dish and bake until the internal temperature is 155 degrees, about an hour. Remove from the oven and set aside on a cutting board to rest 10 minutes before serving.

May 17, 2010

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki and Feta

Here is an extremely flavorful and easy way to change up your standard grilled burgers. It takes minimal effort and is a great way to add variety to BBQs when you have friends over. It's also a very easy option for a weeknight dinner. I use store-bought Tzaziki and Naan to keep things simple. (Whole Foods or Balducci's almost always has both.) The lamb is extremely juicy and tender and the spices pack it full of flavor.

Ingredients (makes approx. 4 burgers):
1 lb. freshly ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion- very thinly sliced
6 oz of good quality, fresh feta (in water)
1 package of Naan (usually contains 4-6 pieces)
1 8oz. container Tzatziki

In a bowl, gently combine the lamb with the spices and garlic. Be careful not to over-work the meat. Form into patties. Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the lamb for approximately 4 minutes per side for medium. Do NOT press the burgers down on the grill- you will lose the flavorful juices! Drain the feta and pat dry. Slice the feta and place on the burgers just before they are finished. (It's ok if it's crumbly, just try to keep them towards the center of the burger.) Remove the burgers from the grill and set aside to rest a few minutes. Put the pieces of naan on the grill to warm them- just about a minute. Remove, tear in half placing each on a plate and top with a burger and some red onion. Spoon tzatziki over the top and serve. These are served open-faced and you fold the naan around the burger.

May 16, 2010

More Modern Kitchen Gadgets

In my constant quest for finding things to buy online that I don't need, I am always coming across modern, cool gadgets for the kitchen. I'm a sucker for modern design. For someone who loves entertaining, it's always fun to bring out conversation pieces for guests. Here are a couple of items I cam across this weekend:

Index Chopping Boards by High Fashion Home
It's important to keep you boards for veggies, meat and fish separate. Here is a unique, clean and simple design to keep your boards organized and keep you from getting salmonella.

Pick Your Nose party cups from
Why? Because you have a sense of humor and so
do your party guests

Sushi Time modern sushi serving platter from Nova68
Elegant, simple and modern design to equally match the artistry of sushi

Apple Slicer from the MOMA Store
Not only does this make slicing apples easy,
but it keeps them from browning if you decide you don't want the whole apple!

May 13, 2010

Rasika- Modern Indian Cuisine

Photo from

Ever since I went to Bibiana last year for my birthday I have been wanting to try Rasika- the modern four star Indian restaurant owned by the same restaurant group of famed Ashok Bajaj. It should be noted that not only did Bajaj win the James Beard award in 2009 for Outstanding Restaurateur, but Rasika's Chef Vikram Sunderam also won a James Beard award for 2009 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Impressive to say the least! As you can imagine, reservations are not easy to come by. I booked this reservation 2 months in advance and it was for a Tuesday night. I have to tell you, it's worth the wait.

You walk in and are instantly calmed by the warm smell of spices and soft light reflecting off the divider of dangling crystals. The tones are rich and colorful, mimicking the spices of the dishes, with a saffron colored wall and hanging red jewels. The waitstaff is extremely friendly and professional. There are many of them floating effortlessly through the dining room making sure the evening service is flawless. (I hate when you go to a nice restaurant that is understaffed and the server looks stressed and flustered.)

The food reflected the same amount of warmth and professionalism as the atmosphere. We started with the Palak Chaat, an appetizer of crispy fried spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind and date chutney. It was phenomenal. You bite in and first taste a sweet crunch which then actually melts in your mouth.

For entrees, I was indecisive as usual. So many dishes appealed to me. Our server had a simple solution- half portions of two different entrees! I've never done that before, nor had that option ever been offered. She was so accommodating. We ended up with a table full of food including the Black Cod, Raan-E-Rasika and Chicken Green Masala as well as a side of Cucumber Raita and Naan. When they delivered the food the aroma made my mouth water. The Black Cod was delicate and flaky with dill, honey, star anise and red wine vinegar. It was light, buttery and tangy. The Chicken Green Masala was tender and spicy, yet not overpowering. The Cucumber Raita was a nice complement as it cooled my palate after the spice builds up bite after bite. The Raan-E-Rasika was a beautifully Frenched lamb shank with rich red colors from saffron, black cardamom and dark rum. It was extremely tender, yet not fatty like you often find with a lamb shank. There wasn't even a hint of gaminess- clearly very high quality lamb.

Everything about this dining experience was fantastic- from the ambiance and highly professional staff to the tender, high quality, perfectly prepared dishes. I was even surprised at the reasonable prices for a fine dining establishment. I'll be going online to make my next reservation very soon.

633 D Street, NW
Washington, DC

CORRECTION: So...... I made a boo boo. I was clearly drunk on Indian food and wine when I wrote this because I made a...(wait for it...) mistake. Oops! I wrongly stated that Bajaj and Vikram both WON Beard awards but in fact they were nominated. The awards for 2009 went to Myriad and Chef Jose Garces. So that I do not do anyone else injustice, feel free to get the full list of 2009 winners here. Kids- lesson be learned... vino and blogging don't mix! Thanks!

May 8, 2010

Grilled Halibut with Roasted Red Pepper Puree

I've said it before and I'll say it again- halibut is the best fish evarrrrr! It is one of the best parts of summer. I always feel as though I have to buy it every chance I get or order it in restaurants when I go out as the season for availability is not long here in DC (at least not long enough as far as I'm concerned). It's mild, flaky, buttery and can be prepared about a million different ways.

This recipe is one of my new favorites for this fish. The sweetness of the roasted red peppers really compliments the tender, flaky fillet.

Serves 2
2 8oz halibut fillets (deboned)
1 red pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice from 1 lemon

Grill basket for fish

Heat the grill on medium flame. Place the red pepper on the grill and cook until blackened on all sides. You will need to watch this closely, turning it to ensure all sides blacken evenly. Remove from the grill and place in a bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool about 10 minutes.

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the halibut. Season with salt and pepper and place in the grill basket on the grill over a medium-high flame. Grill for 6-10 minutes, turning only once to avoid breaking. You must watch the fish closely, being careful not to overcook. You will know it is done when it flakes apart with a fork and the interior is white, not translucent. 

Peel the outer layer from the roasted red pepper and rinse any remaining charred bits of skin. Cut the core of the pepper out and rinse away seeds. Place the pepper in the blender with the kosher salt and lemon juice and puree. While the blender is on, very slowly drizzle in olive oil until the pepper makes a frothy sauce (about 2 tablespoons, depending on the size of the pepper).

Plate the fish and spoon the sauce over top. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Hooray! It's the second largest drinking day of the year next to St. Paddy's Day! And it's...Wednesday. El sigh. Well, there is always happy hour. This area has a plethora of Mexican or tex-mex restaurants so it's a pretty safe bet that something will be going on at any one or all of them. Below are just a few and here is a list of many more. Go enjoy some guacamole and margaritas and celebrate the victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862! (yeah- there's a history lesson for you boozebags. Use it as conversation piece while sipping Dos Equis.)

401 7th Street, NW
4:30-6:30 Sun.-Fri $4 margaritas, ponche &
select draft beer, $4 tacos, half off wine
by the glass

Lauriol Plaza
1835 18th St, NW
Not sure what their special is, site just says
(Cinco de Mayo is Coming!) Um, OK. I assume
they will have specials as with their sister restaurant
Cactus Cantina at 3300 Wisconsin Ave, NW

Rosa Mexicano
575 7th Street, NW
Cinco de Mayo Festival- live music,
special menu, giveaways

May 2, 2010

Grandma's Sunday Apple Pie

I know I haven't had a post in over a week- but it's for a good reason. Unfortunately my grandmother passed away at 89 years young. She always said she wanted to die at 89, the same age her mother was when she passed, and also thought it would be neat to go on her birthday. A strong woman with amazing will, she did just that.

I was really close to my grandmother- she was more like a mother to me for most of my life. Throughout the years I've lived at her house and she in mine later on. She was always there for me and was the person who first introduced me to the kitchen.

My grandmother used to bake pies nearly every Sunday. When I was about five years old she taught me how to make my first pie. She saved miniature tins from frozen pot-pies and gave me her leftover pie dough. She always wore an apron and kept children's aprons that I'd wear whenever it was baking time. She showed me the steps, making the dough and letting me roll it out. She let me make any kind of pie I wanted. My first pie consisted of apples, raisins, cheese and chocolate- which is unfortunate for my father who had to be the taste-tester and put on a smile saying "mmm, delicious!" I was covered from head to toe in flour and it was wonderful.

Over the years my pies got better and my grandmother taught me more recipes. She was always there to give me advice, even if over the phone, on how to tweak my cookie dough or make my macaroni and cheese creamier. In her later years when she could no longer cook, she was happy to hover over me in the kitchen making sure I didn't miss a step.

I will always miss the woman who inspired me to love cooking and making others happy with food. I know she will always be with me with every meal I make and every pie I bake- although I have no doubt it will never be a match for hers.

She kept her pie recipes in her head, so I baked one using the Good Housekeeping basic recipe with some minor tweaks of my own.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
6-8 tablespoons cold water

Cuisinart or pastry blender
rolling pin

6-7 cups peeled, cored, chopped Macintosh Apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons butter

PREHEAT the oven to 425 degrees.

FOR THE CRUST: Combine the flour, shortening and salt in the mixer. Pulse to combine, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until flour resembles coarse crumbs. Remove from mixer and form into a ball. Cut the dough in half, reserving half of it for the top. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough into 1/4" thick circle. Roll half the circle onto the rolling pin, using the pin to lift the dough and place into a pie dish.

FILLING: Combine the apples with all remaining ingredients except the butter and milk. (TIP: Add the lemon juice to the apples as you chop them to prevent browning). Toss the mixture, making sure to coat the apples evenly. Pour filling into the pie crust. Dot the top of the filling with the pats of butter.

ROLL out the remaining pie dough into a circle, as you did the first one, and place over the top of the pie. Pinch around the edges to seal. You can cut shapes out of the top before placing on top or just cut some slits into the top with a knife to allow moisture to escape.

BRUSH the top of the pie with milk for a golden brown crust- but don't brush the edges or they will burn.

BAKE for 40-50 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at least 20 minutes before serving.