7/31/09

Matt's In The Market. Hello from Seattle.

Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for not forgetting about me while I'm in Seattle ;)

It's finally not 90+ degrees outside, and I'm enjoying cable TV and free WiFi in my parents' house while my parents and siblings are out earning money.

After flying in to Seattle Wednesday at 10:30, Anna picked me up and we headed to Pike Place Market to meet our friend Sandy for lunch. We all worked together at a banking summer program about 9 years ago, and every time we are in Seattle, we try to get together.

I decided to go to Matt's in the Market, which Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic, recommends all the time for those traveling to Seattle.

First thing first, the place was air-conditioned: big points after a super hot weather outside. They also use all fresh produce directly from the market.

The atmosphere was casual, friendly and care-free. I think my favorite decor idea was the multi-colored tomatoes lining the counter. Trust me, I was very tempted to grab a few of them.





For lunch, I ordered Braised beef brisket sandwich (Columbia city brioche bun, butter roasted onions, arugula, horseradish aioli) and Cantaloupe-heirloom tomato gazpacho.

I absolutely loved my lunch. Anna and Sandy, unfortunately, weren't as satisfied with their food choices. Sadness.

The gazpacho had a sweet taste due to the cantaloupe and the slightly acid taste from the heirloom tomatoes. It was a perfect refresher! The beef brisket in my sandwich was tender and not too fatty. The horseradish aioli should be bottled and sold everywhere: a perfect bite with some creaminess!

If you are ever in Seattle checking out Pike Place market, definitely stop by Matt's and sample one of their sandwiches.

As for the rest of my time in Seattle, Anna and I have gone salsa dancing, visited our grandparents, did some shopping and met our other friends from the banking program for dinner. And that's just in 1.5 days!

Chat with you all later!

7/30/09

Guest Blogger Hana: Chilli-Mac for Grownups

While away in Seattle, I asked a few of my favorite bloggers to be my guests and post recipes that include either tomatoes or mangoes or both. This recipe comes from Hana who writes From Donuts to Delirium: My Life as a Housewife. She's absolutely hilarious and wrote her own intro:

Hello Daaaahlings,

The lovely Olga has asked me to write a post while she is away. My name is Heavenly Housewife and I write a blog called From Donuts to Delirium: My Life as a Housewife. It’s all about moi, so you can believe it is a good read. I like to think of myself as the housewife version of Marie Antoinette, gorgeous head included, thank you very much. Please visit me sometime as I am always up to some kind of shenanigans. It’s a wonder how someone who is so bone-idle manages to get into so much trouble.

Food and my Hubby are my greatest passions. I love everything about food, from cooking and baking, to eating out, to attempting to grow edibles in my back yard, and even food shopping if you can believe that. Well, that’s when I’m not shopping for couture.

The following is a dish I blogged about a few months back. It happens to freeze well, and it makes for good Hubby fuel. Just the other day I had to explain to Hubby dearest how there was a divine little Dolce & Gabbana purse I saw in Harrods. It looked so good on my arm. I had to inform my darling that overtime was in his future. If you would like to send your partner off to work with this in their little lunch box, here’s how:

Chilli-Mac for Grownups

Ingredients:
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 beef stock cube
1 teaspoon sugar
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 400g can of red kidney beans
1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder (to taste)
1 tablespoon of dried marjoram
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
500g elbow macaroni

Directions

1. Fry the onion and red pepper in the oil until they begin to brown. Once colored, add garlic. Stir for 1-2 minutes, then add ground beef.
2. Crumble beef with the back of the spoon until it is all separate and browned.
3. Next add chilli, paprika, and cumin. Continue to stir for a couple of minutes.
4. For the sauce, crumble the stock cube in 300mL (half a pint) of hot water. Pour this mixture into the browned meat. Next, add your canned tomatoes, tomato puree, marjoram and sugar. Let this simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Drain and rinse kidney beans before adding. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. At this point you may either want to reduce your mixture or add water, depending on your desired consistency. Let the chilli stand about 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to mingle.
6. While the chilli is standing, cook elbow macaroni to package instructions. Add the cooked macaroni to the chilli mixture and thoroughly combine.

7/29/09

Announcements & Book Give Away

Hi, dear readers.

I wanted to inform you that I will be visiting my family in Seattle July 29 through August 7th. But don't frown, I will be posting five fabulous recipes from five fabulous bloggers during that time. And who knows? I might post a few things of my own!

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a book give away. A few weeks ago I received a copy of The Frugal Foodie Cookbook to review. I read the book and liked certain things and did not like other things.


For example, terms the author used such as veggie, sammi and foodie completely got on my nerves (bad). She did offer, however, many helpful hints and fun food quotations (good).

The recipes were easy to follow (good), but the steps weren't numbered and there were no pictures (bad).

Still, I think some of you (especially those who stay at home with kids) might find this book helpful. If you would like to enter for a chance to win a copy of the book, leave a comment with your most helpful frugal food tip in the comment area (sorry, only those who live in the US qualify).

After I get back from vacation, I will choose and announce the winner!

"talk to you all" soon! In the meantime, feel free to read my contributions to Robyn's blog and my DC Examiner articles.

And finally, for those of you who live in DC area, I will be displaying my photographs (and hopefully selling some of them) at Touchstone Gallery August 12-September 4th. Hope some of you would be able to come and see the show.

7/27/09

Daring Bakers: Milan Cookies

Milan cookies The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

This is my one year anniversary of being a member of Daring Bakers: time flies. I have vastly enjoyed being a member of this amazing group, although some of the challenges were more fun than the others ;)

I have always thought these cookies were called Milano, but I guess Milan is also an acceptable name for them.

I invited my friend Theresa to come over and help me make these. Let's just say it took us several attempts to figure out how to pipe these out: I wanted them to be round instead of oval, and we got a few that were perfectly shaped...others weren't so much. Still, we managed to match them up. The best part was decorating these cookies. Of course I chose dark chocolate, and also decided to use pistachio nuts to add a bit of crunch and saltiness. Pistachios went great with the richness of the cookie and the slight bitterness of dark chocolate.

Milan Cookies Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 20 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies (I actually halved the cookie recipe, but made full recipe of chocolate filling!)

Milan cookies Milan cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
Cookie filling
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I just used chocolate chips, so no need to chop!)
• 1 orange, zested
Optional: pistachio nuts, chopped

Milan cookies Milan cookies

Directions
1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar. (I just used my hand-held mixer.)
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

Milan cookies Milan cookies

6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.
11. Optional: spread a bit more chocolate on top of the cookies and add chopped pistachio on top. Or just drizzle with the chocolate filling (I put mine into a plastic bag and just snipped a little piece of the corner off.)

Milan cookies Milan cookies


I doubt I'll ever make these again (it is so much easier to just buy them at the store), but they definitely did not disappoint!

7/24/09

Carrot Soup with Indian Flair

Last week I decided to finally use a bag of carrots sitting in my refrigerator for longer than I care to remember. I also happened to find a red onion and a bit of cream (the cream was left over after a Daring Bakers challenge...I don't usually have cream in my refrigerator). Soup is what I decided to make.

Carrot Soup with Indian Flair

Ingredients
2 teaspoons neutral oil (vegetable/sunflower, etc)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 inch ginger, peeled, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
6 carrots, peeled, chopped
8 ounces vegetable stock
8 ounces water
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cream
optional: 3 tablespoons cream and cilantro for "cilantro cream"

Directions

1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add the first five ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add carrots, mix with the rest of ingredients. Add vegetable broth and water, bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.
4. Add the contents of the pan to a blender. Add two tablespoons of cream and blend together. Season with salt and pepper.
5. You could stop at step number 4 or in a separate blender puree additional cream with fresh cilantro to use as a topping for your soup ("cilantro cream").

A few notes

1) you can make this soup entirely using water
2) feel free to just garnish the soup with chopped cilantro and not "cilantro cream"
3) depending on how thin you want your soup to be, you might need to add more liquid
4) this soup is great as leftovers--in fact, I had it over brown rice the following day because it thickened up while sitting in the refrigerator

And just for Anna, this recipe makes about 3 cups of soup.

Currant Scones

I'm sure you have all been patiently awaiting a recipe for Currant Scones after reading (and I'm so happy you liked it!) the 5 Minute Black Currant Jam post. Well, here it is. It's the recipe I slightly changed from Epicurious.


Currant Scones

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
orange zest from 1 orange
lemon zest from 1 lemon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup dried currants
1 cup chilled buttermilk
optional: extra buttermilk and sugar

currant scones Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 400F.
2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3) Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in orange and lemon zest.
4) Add cubed butter and using your fingertips mix it into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse oatmeal. Add currants and mix.
5) Gradually add buttermilk, while mixing with the fork.
6) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly until everything is combined (but do not over-knead).
7) Form the dough into a 1 inch thick round and cut it using a biscuit cutter (original recipe had you cut the round into 8 sections). I managed to make 15 scones out of this recipe.
8) Optional: brush the scones with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with additional sugar. Make sure to leave some space in-between the scones, as they will expand during the baking process.
9) Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

currant scones
PS. Serious Eats chose my photo as one of the photos of the day!

7/22/09

Black Currant Jam in Five Minutes

Monday when I came to work, my co-worker Danielle, asked if I'd like to have a container of black currants from her aunt's farm, Dragonfly Farms Wine Vinegary & Flower Farm. Of course I said yes! I did not have any fruit for that day and was excited to snack on the berries.

Then I remembered that black currants are quite tart and decided that I should use them in cooking instead. I called my mom and asked for a quick jam recipe. My mom was more than happy to oblige. She actually used to have a few bushes of red and black currants and used to make jams from them (as well as many other fruits and berries a lot...in fact, years and years ago when we lived in Russia, we had a huge pantry filled with canned fruit and marinated vegetables).

black currantsblack currants


Five minute Black Currant Jam

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons water

1 cup black currants, stems removed, washed well

Black Currant Jam in Five MinutesBlack Currant Jam in Five Minutes


Directions
1. In a small saucepan combine sugar and water over medium heat.
2. Once the sugar "melts," add black currants, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for five minutes (thus the name of the jam!).
3. Let the jam cool completely, transfer it to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Black Currant Jam in Five Minutes Of course you can make this jam with any other fruit or berries. Once I made this jam, I decided I had to make scones too! I will post those later this week, but if you cannot wait, here's another scone recipe I made a while ago.

Another great idea for this jam is to mix it with some sparkling water, champagne, or add it to your hot teas!

7/20/09

Panko Crusted Pork

I'm so happy I don't keep kosher. Because if I did, how would I be able to eat all the wonderful pork products? Right, I would not.

When it comes to cooking pork, however, I've had my share of struggles. Finally, however, I have managed to cook a perfect pork tenderloin (idea 1, idea 2, idea 3). But those are pretty expensive. This time, I decided to experiment with Panko Crusted Pork.

Ingredients
flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup Panko crumbs
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
2 boneless center cut porkchops (about 1 inch thick)
sunflower oil

Directions
1. Set up shallow wide bowls: first one with seasoned flour, the second one with the beaten egg, and the third with panko crumbs and Parmesan.
2. Pat your porkchops dry with a paper towel, then dip them into flour (both sides!) and shake off the excess flour.
3. Dip the chops into the egg mixture and then into the panko/Parmesan mixture.
4. Meanwhile, heat sunflower oil in a stainless steal pan (do no use non-stick).
5. Cook porkchops for 4 minutes on each side (do not feel tempted to move them around!!!). Let them rest for at least 5 minutes.
NOTE: the pork will still be slightly pink inside!

I was insanely pleased with how the pork came out! Juicy, flavorful, crispy on the outside!!! I served the porkchops on top of a lettuce/tomato/cucumber/red onion/cilantro salad.

If you have any other wonderful ideas for cooking boneless porkchops, please share them!

7/18/09

Home-Made Spinach Pasta with Tomatoes and Capers

For the last seven years, as long as I was in DC, feeling well, and had no spectacularly amazing plans, Monday nights I spent salsa dancing. It was my thing.

Unfortunately lately, those dancing nights have become more frustrating than fun. And so this past Monday I decided to stay home, make dinner, drink wine, and watch The Bachelorette.

For dinner, I decided to make Home-Made Spinach Pasta with Tomatoes and Capers. The recipe is insanely simple, and you can use store-bought pasta if you don't feel like making your own. To go with the pasta, I picked up a bottle of Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde: it's one of my most favorite wines: fresh, slightly bubbly and goes well with most food.

Special Thank You to Jenn for the fabulous tomatoes.

Home-Made Spinach Pasta with Tomatoes and Capers

Ingredients for the pasta (I used only 1/2 of the recipe for this recipe; stay tuned to see what I did with the remaining pasta!)

1/3 cup spinach leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 egg

1.5-2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the sauce

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

4 small tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 teaspoon capers

4 basil leaves, torn

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

1) In a food process puree spinach, oil and water.

2) In a bowl whisk an egg, add pureed spinach/oil/water and combine.

3) Add flour and salt and mix until a dough is formed.

4) Using a pasta machine roll out the dough and cut it into desired shape. [See my issues with my pasta machine]

5) Start boiling salted water for pasta. In the meantime, heat oil in a pan and add garlic. Cook garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes and capers. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat off.

6) In the salted water, cook pasta for about 3-5 minutes. Drain, add to the sauce.

7) Heat the sauce and pasta for 1-2 minutes, add basil and lemon juice, adjust the seasonings and serve!

Note: If you have cheese, USE it!Home-Made Spinach Pasta with Tomatoes and Capers

7/17/09

Woo Hoo: Chosen Again

Happy Friday, indeed! Serious Eats chose my Peach & Blueberry Cake as on of their photos of the day!

7/16/09

Migue's Magnificent Mini Donuts

The weekend of July 4th I went to Eastern Market with Angela, Anna's friend from Birmingham, and a few of her friends. First we had lunch at Banana Cafe, then walked around the newly opened pavilion at the Eastern Market, bought some jewelry, etc. Then Angela and her friends left, and I decided to walk through the flea market area of Eastern Market. That's when I smelled something!!!

Migue's Magnificent Mini DonutsIt wasn't a bad smell: it was an amazing smell of fresh fried dough and the sweetness of sugar! Migue's Magnificent Mini Donuts totally lived up to the name: they were mini and they were magnificent.

It's unusual to have a food vendor at the flea market part of Eastern Market, but such a welcomed idea!

The donuts are made right in front of you. The dough was first mixed in a KitchenAid and then it went through a complicated looking device where it was formed into the mini donuts and then was fried in hot oil: who can resist this?

Migue's Magnificent Mini DonutsMigue's Magnificent Mini Donuts

A bag of seven mini donuts is only $2, and you get to top it with powdered sugar, chocolate syrup or a few other extra toppings.

Migue's Magnificent Mini Donuts

Next time you are at the Eastern Market in DC, definitely buy a few of these fried sugary treats!

7/14/09

Peach and Blueberry Cake

Peach and Blueberry Cake I have made my mom's apple cake recipe a zillion times. My mom, obviously, has made the recipe a zillion times. It's a combination of eggs, flour, sugar, apples and a few other simple ingredients.

I don't know why it has never dawned on either one of us to use anything but apples in this recipe. [My friend Jenny, however, told me that she has made my mom's recipe using blueberries instead of apples in the past! Who knew?]

A few weeks ago when I was meeting Anna's friend Angela at Eastern Market, I was reading Southern Living magazine, which had a recipe for peach and blackberry cake: it looked gorgeous! Then, I saw beautiful peaches and blueberries at the market. Then, when I went grocery shopping, peaches and blueberries were on sale: everything was coming together and I decided to alter my mom's apple recipe to make Peach and Blueberry Cake instead.

Ingredients
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon yogurt
½ lemon, zested
2 peaches, cored, sliced
1 cup blueberries


Peach and Blueberry CakePeach and Blueberry Cake

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 375.
2) In a large bowl beat 3 eggs.
3) Add 1 cup of sugar to the egg mixture and blend together.
4) Pour 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into white vinegar - the two ingredients will react and bubble - add to the bowl with eggs and sugar and mix.
5) Slowly incorporate the flour into the above mixture.
6) Add 1 tablespoon of yogurt and the zest of 1/2 lemon to the batter and mix.
7) Carefully incorporate peach slices and blueberries.
8) Spray a baking dish (I used 1.5 quart souffle dish) with oil or butter the dish.
9) Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake 45-80 minutes (it all depends on how deep your dish is: the cake is ready when a toothpick comes out dry).
10) Let the cake cool, and flip on a serving plate (if baking in a bundt pan).

ready for the oven

Peach and Blueberry CakePeach and Blueberry Cake

after baking

Peach and Blueberry CakePeach and Blueberry Cake

serve with some powdered sugar

Peach and Blueberry Cake
I really liked how this cake came out! If your fruit and berries are very sweet, you can decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe. This is good for breakfast, as a snack or as dessert. Feel free to use any other stone fruit or berry combination.

Thanks, mom!

7/12/09

Grilled Cheese, Black Ham & Tomato Sandwich

Friday I needed something quick and easy for lunch. Since I was home, I decided to do something a bit more special than a simple sandwich. Grilled cheese is good, but grilled cheese with Black ham and a few slices of tomatoes is even better!


Grilled Cheese, Black Ham & Tomato SandwichIngredients
2 slices wholegrain bread
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices Black Ham
4 thin slices of tomatoes
sunflower oil
Grilled Cheese, Black Ham & Tomato Sandwich
Directions
1. Heat a bit of sunflower oil in a non-stick pan.
2. Assemble your sandwich: bread/cheese/tomatoes/ham/cheese/bread.
3. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to add a bit more oil to the pan right before flipping the sandwich.
4. Serve immediately with spinach/olive oil/sherry vinegar/red pepper flakes salad.

What's your favorite grilled cheese sandwich?

PS. I am feeling better and am back at work today (Monday). Thank you so much everyone for asking!!!!

7/10/09

Cabbage with Bacon and Onions

Hi, guys and girls. I'm home for the 3rd day in a row...still sneezing, coughing, etc: not a pretty picture!

But in the meantime, I thought I'd share with you a super easy recipe for Cabbage with Bacon and Onions. This dish came about because I had a head of cabbage sitting in the fridge and a few strips of bacon: voila!

Ingredients
5 bacon slices, cut into pieces
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1 head cabbage, quartered, core removed, thinly sliced
salt & pepper to taste
optional:
soy sauce, hot sauce, mustard

cabbage with bacon and onionsDirections
1. Heat the pan. Add bacon and onions and cook for 8 minutes. If there is a lot of fat on the bottom of the pan, remove some of it.
2. Add cabbage, mix with onions and bacon, cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes.
3. Add 1/3 cup water, mix everything together, cover and cook for 3 to 10 minutes, depending on how soft you want the cabbage to be.
4. At this point you can add soy sauce, hot sauce, mustard, or just eat as is.
5. Serves 4 people.

cabbage with bacon and onionsThis was a very easy dish to prepare, yet packed with flavor!

1) How do you cook your cabbage?
2) What do you think of these new large photos? Too much?