12/30/09

Lunch at Maoz with Twitter girls

Here's another post that is possible because of Twitter. It is through Twitter that I initially met Sylvie and Elyssa. Both are fun girls who have food blogs: what else do we need to have in common? :)

Yesterday the three of us ignored the cold and windy weather and met for lunch at a recently opened Maoz in Dupont/Farragut North area. It was Sylvie's and mine first time trying out Maoz, but Elyssa has eaten at this place multiple times and has been raving about their amazing garlic mayonnaise.

This is an all vegetarian restaurant focusing on falafel sandwiches. Falafel!? Falafel is made from chickpeas, formed into balls and fried. The first time I had falafel was during my first trip to Israel, about 10 years ago. There, they serve it in a pita, with hummus, tahini sauce, Israeli salad and topped with fries: HEAVEN!

The only falafel place I've been to in DC is Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan: I love their food, but it's not the most convenient place for me to get to when I all of a sudden have a craving for falafel.

Long story short, I was excited to try the food in Maoz. The space was rather small, but with beautiful wood communal tables and benches (for some reason the length of the tables and benches did not match up!?), bright colors, and friendly staff.

And the food! The menu is pretty basic, but that lets them be good at what they make. Elyssa recommended a Junior Meal Deal, and I decided to get sweet potato fries for an additional $0.50 instead of regular fries.

What happens is you order, pay, and then you get either a white or wheat pita with falafel balls in it. It is up to you to fill your pita with whatever you wish: the choices are vast!

Tabbouleh and Israeli Salad

Marinated eggplant (the pink looking vegetables), chickpea salad, olives and pickles

Cilantro sauce, pickled cabbage, spicy chili sauce and fresh tomato salsa (Not pictured: sweet potatoes, beets, cauliflower/broccoli salad and coleslaw)

Then you can get ketchup, tahini, yogurt sauce or GARLIC MAYONNAISE to pour on top of your stuffed pita or to put into mini cups for your fries.



And here is my creation. Yes, I stuffed my pita pretty full :)



Thoughts: This is definitely a great place for a quick, relatively healthy, inexpensive and delicious lunch. I was surprised that hummus wasn't one of the toppings available on the salad bar, but other than that, the options were great. I was tempted to go back for more marinated eggplant (my favorite), but wasn't sure if that would be against the protocol.

I liked Sylvie's and Elyssa's regular fries better than my sweet potato fries. And Elyssa was right: the garlic mayonnaise is good enough to swim in: good thing I wasn't planning on kissing anyone afterwords.

Have you ever tried falafel? If so, what's your favorite way to eat it? What toppings are a must?

12/28/09

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I've had a bag of Brussels sprouts sitting in my refrigerator for more than a week. For some reason I just did not feel like cooking it. But then I'm also getting tired of throwing away food, so a few days ago I forced myself to cook the Brussels sprouts.

The easiest and most delicious way to cook these mini-cabbage looking things, in my opinion, is to roast them.

Note: see the pretty copper dish below? My friend Radha gave it to me for our holiday gift exchange. How adorable is it!? I think you'll be seeing it quite a bit.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gorgonzola

Ingredients
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cherry balsamic vinegar (use plain balsamic vinegar if that's the only one you have)
salt & pepper
Gorgonzola

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 475.

2. Combine Brussels sprouts with olive oil, cherry balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

3. Roast the vegetables on a aluminum foil lined cookie sheet (in one layer) for 30 minutes.

4. Serve the Brussels sprouts topped with Gorgonzola.

As soon as the cheese hits the Brussels sprouts, it starts to melt: ooh so good. The dish is great served hot or even at room temperature.

What's your favorite way of cooking Brussels sprouts?

12/25/09

Pho-like Matzo Ball Soup

Last Friday I decided to go to the grocery store to get ready for a huge snow storm we were supposed to have in DC area. To be completely honest, I did not believe we'd be snowed in, but thought it'd be best to be prepared. I decided to buy a mix to make Matzo Ball Soup, but with a twist. What's the twist? I used spices you would typically find in Pho! One of my photos was used in Washington Post: score :)

Pho-like Matzo Ball Soup

Ingredients

4.5 ounce Manischewitz Matzo Ball & Soup mix

3 quarts water

1 egg

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

4 cloves

2 star anise

2 inch piece of ginger, cut into a few pieces

2 teaspoon sugar

1-2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

1 cup snowpeas, halved

1 cup shredded Napa cabbage

2 peeled carrots, made into ribbons using a peeler

Directions:

1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil with a spice package from the boxed mix, sugar, chili sauce and coriander, cloves, anise and ginger. (Note: put coriander, cloves, anise and ginger into a big teaball or cheesecloth so you can easily remove it).

2. Meanwhile, combine the matzo ball package with an egg and oil. Mix. Let sit in the refrigerator for 15 min.

3. Once the liquid part of the soup is boiling, form about 14 balls (wet your hands with water to make this process easier).

4. Drop the matzo balls into the liquid, turn the heat down, cover and cook for 15 min.

5. Add snowpeas, cabbage, and carrots, Cook for 5 more minutes and serve!


Also, I'm going to submit this recipe to Natasha's 5 Star Makeover.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it! I'm spending a day volunteering at the DC Jewish Community Center, seeing a movie with my friend Radha and then getting Chinese with Radha, Drie and Mas.

12/23/09

I'm in Washingtonian and Washington Post

I wanted to share some very exciting news with you!

If you happen to follow me on twitter, are Jenn or Jenny (thanks for helping me edit my answers), my twin sister or a few of my close friends, you might already know this. But I tried not to blabber about this too much (I even did not tell my mom!).

Today I was featured in Washingtonian's The Blogger Beat. I had a great time working with Emily and Chris Leaman, and can't wait for all of you to check out my Q&A here. Below is a quick preview of the interview. Enjoy! (Special Thank you to Jenna for nominating me.)

Photograph by Chris Leaman

By Emily Leaman

Blogger Olga Berman braves the snow for a quick photo shoot. Photograph by Chris Leaman
Olga Berman launched her blog, Mango & Tomato, in May 2008 to document her adventures in the kitchen. She’d been posting on another site for nearly a year, but after discovering a burgeoning food-blog scene in Washington, she decided she wanted to join in.

She posts recipes, recaps of food events, restaurant reviews, and some drool-worthy photos of her kitchen successes. Berman also participates in cooking challenges and contests with other bloggers and documents her creations at Mango & Tomato.

Berman, a Bureau of Labor Statistics employee, grew up in Moscow and moved to Seattle when she was 13. After graduating from the University of Washington, she got a job at the Department of Labor and moved to the DC area. She has lived in Arlington for seven years.

We caught up with Berman to get her best recipes and tips for succeeding in the kitchen. And because she’s a frequent traveler, we found her favorite food destination. Read on for her answers.

AND if that wasn't enough, Washington Post included a photograph of my soup and a little write up in their Cooking for the Snowpocalypse feauture! I will be posting a recipe this Friday or weekend, so check in soon!

Pho-style Matzo Ball Soup. (Olga Berman -- Mango & Tomato)

12/22/09

Italian Sausage Wontons

A while ago I received an email from Nasoya asking me to make a little video for them to use on their website. I was really excited and asked my friend Radha for help. She came over on one Sunday and taped me: it only took 3 tries! So far, I've been having difficulties getting Nasoya to put my video on their site, but you can see it here (or scroll to the bottom of the post!).

And now, the recipe: Italian Sausage Wontons

Ingredients:
1 pound Italian Sausage
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
2/3 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Nasoya wonton wrappers
oil
Tomato sauce

Directions
1. Combine Italian sausage with green peppers, red onion and Parmesan. Since the Italian sausage already has enough spices, there is no need to add more.
2. Using a biscuit cutter, cut circle shapes from rectangular-shaped wrappers.
3. Add about a teaspoon of the mixture to each wrapper, "paint" the edge of the wrapper with water, fold it in half and make little pleats.
4. Once all the wontons are done, heat oil in a pan, add the wontons in one layer and brown for about 4 minutes.
5. VERY CAREFULLY add about 1/3 cup water into a pan, quickly cover it, lower the heat and steam for 5 minutes.
6. Test one wonton to make sure the filling is cooked.
7. Serve the Italian Sausage Wontons with tomato sauce and extra Parmesan cheese.

This was a very easy recipe to make and quite filling!


12/20/09

St Jude & Citronelle

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited to the famous Citronelle for a dessert reception and a toy drive/fundraiser for St Jude. I took my friend Radha with me and we got to sample a few desserts.

To be honest, the desserts looked better than they tasted, but it was still a fun outing.

Look at the spread! One of my favorites was a chocolate cream puff with mini chocolate-y things on top.


The other good dessert was a pear tart on the left. The fruit tart on the right was mediocre: the dough was really hard, so I just ate the berries.


I did not try the apricot tart on the left, but the cute looking "egg" dessert was good. The inside had lemon curd, which looked exactly like an egg yolk; the outside was merengue.


After 3 desserts I was actually full, so did not get to try the cheesecake or the lemony looking dessert below.

12/18/09

Hanukkah Ginger Cookies

This past Monday I had plans to go to my friend Cindy's house for Hanukkah. Unfortunately, Cindy's entire family was not feeling well, and we had to cancel our plans.

Below are the ginger cookies I made prior to the cancelled plans: Hanukkah Ginger cookies. Of course there is nothing Hanukkah-ish about these cookies other than the fact that Cindy said she and her kids love them: I aim to please!

I used a Martha Stewart recipe, but ran into a problem when I noticed that my brown sugar was as hard as a rock. I decided to use Splenda brown sugar that I had left over from testing Robyn's recipes for the Diabetic Forecast magazine. The packet instructed me to use 1/2 the amount you'd normally use if you were in fact using brown sugar (I probably should look up a synonym for "use").

ARGH: the dough came out much dryer than I expected, but I proceeded to make the cookies. They came out rather "crisp," but not being a fan of ginger cookies, I wasn't totally sure of how they were supposed to come out.

Turns out, as Anna told me, sugar keeps things moist. Since I used half the amount of sugar the recipe called for, my cookies came out on a dry side.

And now a note of THANK YOU to Twitter: I posted a question about how to revive brown sugar, and someone suggested putting a piece of bread into it: worked like a charm!! You can also microwave hard brown sugar for 15 seconds at a time. I will have to keep this in mind for my future baking adventures.

Back to cookies...I wanted to decorate them and found Betty Crocker Decorative Icing in the store. The container came with several different tips and was blue in color: perfect for Hanukkah. But OMG it was such a pain in the you-know-what. The icing when it did come out, was really thick and not easy to work with. And the nozzle was really hard to push (in order for the icing to come out). My advice: do NOT buy this.


These are my best cookies:


12/16/09

Latkes with Red Onions & Parsley

Before anyone says anything, I know that prosciutto is not Kosher, and that eating meat with milk products is not Kosher. Luckily, I don't stick to these rules.

And now to an awesome latkes recipe with red onions and parsley, served with browned prosciutto and sour cream.

Ingredients
2 Yukon potatoes, peeled
1/4 red onion
1 egg
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced parsley
oil for sautéing
toppings: cubed and browned prosciutto, sour cream, more parsley

Directions
1. In a food processor grate potatoes and onions. Squeeze out all the liquid.
2. Mix potatoes and onion with an egg, salt & pepper and parsley.
3. Heat oil (I used avocado oil) in an iron skillet.
4. Form latkes and cook 4-6 minutes on each side. (For best results, use a fish spatula to flip them).
5. For a meat free and kosher dish, serve with sour cream and parsley.

6. If you love pork, add some browned prosciutto!

Happy Hanukkah!

12/14/09

Daring Cooks: Salmon en croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

I was very excited about this challenge because 1) Simone is my on-line food blogger friend and has even guest blogged for me! 2) I really like salmon 3) this recipe looked fancy but very approachable.

If you want a full recipe, let me know. I sort of winged it :)

Basically I made a mixture from cream cheese, spinach, watercress and garlic. I then put a piece of salmon on top of rolled out puff pastry dough (from a previous Daring Bakers challenge).



I then closed the dough around the piece of fish and made a few decorative details using a cannoli tube.



Finally, I made a few slits in the dough to let the air out and glazed the whole thing with an egg wash. The salmon baked for 30 min at 390.




Overall, I was happy with how this challenge came out. If I make this another time, I'd definitely add more seasoning to both the salmon and the filling. The dough was also just slightly undercooked, so maybe cooking it an extra few minutes would have helped.

12/12/09

Watermelon Radishes

Last Sunday I ventured out to Dupont Farmers market, and one of the things I bought were these watermelon radishes. I've never seen radishes that looked so pretty! They must be named for the bright pink color. I just could not resist.



Curious what I made with the radishes? So far, I've only used one to make a Watermelon Radish & Watercress Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing.

Ingredients
watermelon radish, peeled, cut into matchsticks
watercress
dressing: 2 parts olive oil, 1 part honey, 1 part mustard

Directions
1. Combine radish and watercress.
2. Whisk together dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad.



I need to thank Anna for suggesting I add something sweet to the dressing (honey) to cut the "bite" of the watercress and the radish.

12/10/09

Lunch at Bourbon Steak

I was so excited when I was invited to have lunch at Bourbon Steak with Sangeetha (who does PR for Bourbon Steak), Liliana (who does PR for Four Seasons) and Sarah of The District Domestic. This was my first time dining at Michael Mina's restaurant and I could hardly wait.

From Pfau Communications:

Washington, DC (December 8, 2009) – Busy professionals can now look forward to ‘Business at BOURBON STEAKover Burgers’ as Michael Mina’s Georgetown restaurant. The new menu will be offered Monday to Friday from 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, and will allow guests to enjoy some of the restaurants most popular sandwiches in a prompt yet posh environment.

Served exclusively at the bar, Executive Chef David Varley’s new prix-fixe menu lets guests choose from a selection of different burgers, and pair it with one accompaniment for $21 per person. Also included in this price is a non-alcoholic drink and BOURBON STEAK brownie, made in house by Pastry Chef Santanna Salas.

The lunchtime deal offers a wide selection, from the Oak-Fired Prime dry-aged steak burger, with house made pickles, Cabot clothbound cheddar and a secret sauce, to the Glazed Salmon, made Bahn Mi style, with garden cilantro, jalapenos and shredded carrots. Non-meat eaters will enjoy the Vegetarian Falafel Burger, with tahini, tomatoes and parsley - a recipe passed down from Michael Mina’s mother.

The burger accompaniments include the Trio of Duck Fat Fries served with a choice of dipping sauces, the Beer Battered Red Onion Rings and the Market Greens.

As we sat and chatted at the bar trying to decide what to order, we had warm spiced nuts as a snack: such a nice touch! I had to remind myself that it would be rude to pick out all of the cashew nuts.

To go with the meal, Duane, our friendly bartender, made a fabulous non-alcoholic West Indian Limeade drink: not only was it pretty, but it was sweet and refreshing.

For my meal, I ordered OAK-FIRED PRIME dry-aged STEAK BURGER with pickles, cabot clothbound cheddar, and secret sauce. I asked for the burger to be cooked medium rare, which really showed off the flavor of the meat. I really liked the cabot cheddar (something I've never tried before. Surprisingly, I did not even miss not having tomatoes on my burger.

To go with the burger I chose TRIO OF DUCK FAT FRIES with herb-ketchup, sour cream & onion, michael’s bbq sauces. Not only was the presentation adorable, but all three types of fries and their accompanying sauces were spot on. I'm proud to say I did not finish them all!

Sangeetha ordered (and was nice enough to let us all try) VEGETARIAN FALAFEL BURGER (Michael’s mother’s recipe) with tahini sauce, tomatoes and parsley and BEER BATTERED RED ONION RINGS with pickle ketchup. The falafel burger was actually made from fava beans, which produced a softer texture than the typical falafel made from chickpeas. The onion rings were beyond belief good. I liked that they were made with red onions, and the texture of the dough was light and crispy.

All of us also decided to share GLAZED SALMON “bahn mi” style with garden cilantro, jalapeños, and shredded carrots. This was another flavorful dish. The salmon was slightly undercooked and benefited from pickled carrots. It'd be hard for me to choose whether I liked the burger or the salmon the most.

And then there was dessert: BOURBON STEAK brownie, made in house by Pastry Chef Santanna Salas. This was just the right way to end the meal: small pieces of fudgy brownie with mini chunks of chocolate inside and some ice cream on top.

To go along with the dessert I asked for a cappuccino topped with house-made marshmallow dusted in hazelnut! How pretty is it? I could not decide which photo I like the most, so you are getting two.


If you work around Georgetown area, definitely stop by Bourbon Steak for lunch. I'm pretty sure, just like me, you are going to love the food.

Question: what are your thoughts on the new size of photos I'm using: too much? Just right?

12/9/09

Miniature Potato & Smoked Salmon Appetizers

A few weeks ago I received an email from 6th & I Historic Synagogue in Washington DC about Holy Chef! Battle of the Spuds:

Do you think you have what it takes to reach sacred levels of gastronomy and be hailed as a notorious “holy chef”? Join Sixth & I for its inaugural cook-off event and prove it! In celebration of Chanukah, we will pay homage to the ever-popular and starchy special ingredient, the POTATO. With over five thousand potato varieties worldwide, chefs may opt to cook any dish as long as it involves the tuberous “patata.” Think latkes, gnocchi, potato vodka…the possibilities are endless!

Not a chef? Come test your foodie knowledge and sample the divine dishes. Rate them based on taste, creativity, and of course, overall holy awesomeness.

I decided to sign up to be one of the chefs! Given that there will be nothing but microwaves at the event, I thought a cold potato dish would be better, than trying to reheat something on premises. I was inspired by the ever popular bagel with cream cheese and lox, to create Miniature Potato & Smoked Salmon Appetizers

Ingredients:
12 mini red potatoes
salt
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
4 ounces Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped dill
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped smoked salmon
garnish: dill, quartered cherry tomatoes

Directions:

1. Cook potatoes in a pot of salted water for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. Make sure a knife goes through a potato without any resistance.
2. Once potatoes are cooked, cool them in cold water. Cut potatoes in half and if necessary slice off a piece from the bottom of each half to make sure the potatoes will not tip over on a plate.
3. Using a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the potatoes.
4. Combine cream cheese, Greek yogurt, capers, chopped dill, smoked salmon and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Fill the potato halves with the mixture from step 4.
6. Top each filled potato half with a quarter of a cherry tomato and a fresh dill sprig.

Alternatives:

1. Instead of adding smoked salmon into the cream cheese mixture, use it as a topping.
2. Feel free to use any other herbs: basil, parsley, thyme.
3. Try adding a bit of lemon juice and/or lemon zest into the cream cheese filling.
4. If you are not a fan of capers, try using black cured olives.
5. Of course you can use the filling on top of your favorite bagel.

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