1/30/12

Cheesy Scones from Pinch My Salt

I love scones. So far, however, I've only made sweet scones: the ones with dried cherries and orange zest are my favorite. But guess what? They can also be savory!

I've been meaning to make savory scones for a while, but for one reason or another haven't gotten my act together.

Then, a few months ago, I pinned a recipe for Cheddar, Parmesan, and Cracked Pepper Scones on my Cooking Inspirations Pinterest Board.
The recipe came from Pinch My Salt, a great blog by Nicole. I met Nicole while on a media trip for POM Wonderful. Nicole has the most gorgeous hair I've ever seen, is incredibly friendly, and has a beautiful blog. We've kept in touch since the POM weekend, and I was 100 percent confident her recipe would not disappoint.

This past weekend, my friend Melissa, who writes a very funny blog called Love Hurts. Bacon Heals, came over for a cooking get together. We decided to make Nicole's scones and come up with a recipe for chickpea soup. I'll share the recipe for the soup on Wednesday, so please come back to check it out.

Since I followed Nicole's recipe for scones almost 100 percent, I'm not going to copy it here. Go check it out on her blog.

Here's what you do: First, mix cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and ground mustard. Then, work in cold pieces of butter. Add shredded cheddar and Parmesan.

In a separate bowl, mix together buttermilk, egg, and sriracha. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and combine.


Then turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a one-inch thick circle. Instead of cutting the scones into triangles, like Nicole's, I decided to use a round biscuit cutter. I think they look incredibly cute that way!


You then brush each scone with a combination of melted butter and smoked paprika, and sprinkle each with Parmesan.


The scones bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Here's what you get.


You guys!!! This was an awesome recipe: very easy to put together, and the results were delicious. These scones were light, cheesy and so pretty. They were a great accompaniment to the soup.


Thanks Nicole for the recipe, and thank you Melissa for a cooking date!

1/27/12

Winter Fruit Salad with Sparkling Wine & Apricot Juice Dressing

Happy Friday!!!

To finish the week of easy recipes, I bring you Winter Fruit Salad with Sparkling Wine & Apricot Juice Dressing.

It will take you longer to say the name of this recipe than it will take you to actually make this recipe...almost :)

I love salads, but the types of salads that I love have more in them than just lettuce and dressing. I like stuff in my salads. In the summer, I add corn, tomatoes, avocado and olives. In the fall, I like to add beans, sweet potato or butternut squash.

But what about winter? Citrus and persimmons are your friends. This time around, I decided to use red grapes, apples and champagne mango.

If you don't have champagne mango, or a lovely friend {hi, Cindy!} who brings you champagne mangoes from time to time, use a regular one.

The dressing is incredibly easy to put together: use either leftover champagne or sparkling wine. If you can't find apricot juice, use peach juice or even orange juice.


Winter Fruit Salad with Sparkling Wine & Apricot Juice Dressing

Ingredients
mixed salad greens
red seedless grapes, halved
apple, cut into planks
champagne mango, peeled and diced

dressing
2 teaspoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons sparkling wine
2 tablespoons apricot juice
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a large salad bowl, mix together salad greens, grapes, apples and mangoes.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing  ingredients.
3. Add just enough dressing to slightly coat your salad.



Why I love this salad:
~it's super pretty
~it has different colors, textures and flavors
~it's really good for you
~it takes only a few minutes to put together
~the dressing is good on any other salad
~you can use whatever fruit you love
 

What type of fruit do you add to your winter salads?

1/25/12

Easy Sunday Dinner: Potato Balls in Tomato Sauce

Today I bring you another incredibly easy, almost-no-recipe-required dish: Potato Balls in Tomato Sauce.

Whenever I have a choice of pasta, rice, or potatoes, 99 percent of the time, potatoes win. I love them in salads, soups, mashed, fried, or roasted. I could eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When I was little, my paternal grandmother made knishes with a filling of boiled potatoes and sauteed onions. I know it's basically just three ingredients (potatoes, oil, onions) seasoned with salt and pepper, but it's one of the best combinations!

When a few friends came over last Saturday for a cooking date, we decided to make baked pockets: each one of us was to contribute a filling.

I decided to make a filling reminiscent of my grandmother's knishes as my contribution. I also thought it would be fun to make tomato sauce for our baked pockets and simply added a few ingredients to a store-bought tomato sauce.

I had leftovers of both the potato mixture and the tomato sauce and decided to make a simple dish from them: Potato Balls in Tomato Sauce.


Potato Balls in Tomato Sauce
Ingredients
5-7 medium sized potatoes
olive oil for sauteeing
1 large onion, diced
28 ounce can tomato sauce
1-2 tablespoons Southwestern Chipotle spice mix
sugar to taste
2-4 thyme sprigs
sour cream

Directions
1. Cook potatoes in salted water until tender. Peel and mash.

2. Meanwhile, heat your skillet. Add oil, allow it to heat, and add onions. Saute the onions until they are golden brown. This might take about twenty minutes. Add to the mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

3. At the same time, in a medium-sized pot, combine tomato sauce with Southwester Chipotle spices, sugar and thyme sprigs. Let the sauce bubble.

4. In a separate skillet, heat enough oil to cover the bottom. Form golf-sized balls from the potato/onion mixture and saute in oil until slightly brown and warmed through. {You might want to do this in a nonstick skillet. I browned mine in Le Creuset, and most of them stuck to the bottom.} Throw in a few sprigs of thyme and allow them to crisp up.

5. Serve the potato balls in a puddle of tomato sauce. Garnish with crispy thyme sprigs and sour cream. {I came up with the idea of sour cream after I took the photographs, so just use your imagination!}


This dish reminded me of gnocchi with tomato sauce, but was so much easier to make. I had this dish for lunch, but it would be a super quick dinner idea on a weeknight, or a simple weekend meal.



What's your favorite dish to make with potatoes?

1/23/12

Super easy appetizer or snack: warm olives with garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes

This past Saturday, a few friends came over to my place for a cooking date. We planned to make baked pockets with different types of filling, have some bubbly drinks and catch up.

Since I was playing hostess, I decided to serve a few snacks/appetizers while we were making our main dish.

I bought hummus, brie and olives. The hummus was served straight up, the brie was paired with pepper jelly, and the olives were turned into Warm Olives with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes.

This olive appetizer was such a hit, that I decided to recreate it on Sunday so I could take photographs and share it with all of you! Hope you feel special ;)












Warm Olives with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes

Ingredients
large pitted green olives
lemon juice
lemon zest
olive oil
garlic, sliced
red pepper flakes
fresh thyme sprigs

{Yes, you noticed there are no measurements: it's really up to you how much of each ingredient you want to use. There is (really) no way you can mess it up.}

Directions
1. Add all the ingredients to a small pan, reserving some of the lemon zest.
2. Cook everything together on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns golden brown and the olives start to blister slightly.



Serve the olives immediately topped with the reserved lemon zest!


I was thinking it might be fun to add crumbled blue cheese to the olives at the very end, but, of course, it'd make this appetizer quite messy!


Stay tuned for two more SUPER easy recipes I'll be posting later this week: Potato Balls in Tomato Sauce and Winter Salad.

1/20/12

Dinner at The Federalist in DC

When I received an invitation to dine at the relatively newly reopened The Federalist in DC, I honestly wasn't sure if I wanted to say yes. Here's the thing: whenever I travel and stay in hotels, I rarely eat at the hotel restaurants. Instead, I prefer to check out free-standing restaurants; they somehow seem more authentic.

But then I've really liked some of the hotel restaurants in my own city: Urbana, Blue Duck, and Brabo, just to name a few. So why not try one more? I said yes!

The Federalist is focused on resurrecting the culinary traditions of the Mid-Atlantic region. By exploring the food culture of a blossoming nation, we have created a restaurant menu that is inspired by 18th century American food lovers and executed through local Washington, D.C. producers and purveyors. The menu features heirloom varietal vegetables and dishes inspired by the early American-European union, as well as the flavors of the vibrant spice route. Our focus is preparing thoughtful yet accessible cuisine.
My dining companion was Andressa, who does PR for Destination Hotels & Resorts. Luckily, she was charming and chatty, and so it wasn't awkward sharing a meal with someone I had just met.

The dinner menu had everything from beet salad to chicken roulade to roasted Atlantic cod, not to mention soups and appetizers. I admit I had a very hard time making my selection. Again, I was in luck: Andressa was willing to share food for tasting and suggested we order a few extra things from the kitchen so that I could sample a larger variety of dishes. I was game.

As I drank my French martini, our incredibly knowledgeable waiter, Joe, told us about his favorites on the menu. His colorful descriptions of the dishes, however, made the decision even harder!

In the end, these are the dishes we ordered:

Jumbo Lump Crab Cake served with celery root slaw, Romesco sauce and brioche tuile.

When the dish was brought out, the first thing I noticed was the bright orange of the Romesco sauce. It wasn't just pretty--it also gave a nice punch to the dish. The crab cake fell apart when we tried to cut it in half, which is a great thing: it means there was very little filler in it. It was almost all crab! The celery root slaw was crunchy and well-seasoned.



For my own appetizer, I had Rappahannnock Stingray Oysters served with French Breakfast Radish and a Long Pepper Mignonette. These oysters came from a river that's half fresh water and half salt water, giving the oysters a very fresh taste. I've never had oysters topped with radish before, but I really liked this idea. It added some sharpness, but not as much as a horseradish would. I just wish the oysters were better removed from the shell before they were served; I had to use my fork on a few of them )not a big deal).


We also ordered a few Rhode Island Diver Scallops to try. These were served with braised bacon, Hubbard squash, compressed apples, frisee and brown butter. The puree of Hubbard squash was perfectly smooth with a slight sweetness to it. I think The Federalist should offer it in a soup bowl! The scallops were cooked through, but not chewy, and went great with the saltiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the apples.


Andressa ordered a Charcuterie Board which included a selection of house made charcuterie, mustards and jams. My favorite was the chicken pate, which tasted like it had a bit of goat cheese mixed into it. I'm not sure if this was the case, though.


By the time my entree came, I didn't have very much room. Maybe it was a good thing. My Martin's Beef Flatiron served with wild mushroom fricassee, pommes alumette and herb butter was disappointing. The meat was tough, the potatoes were undercooked, and the mushrooms were incredibly oily. After a few bites I was done and declined to take the leftovers home.


Andressa's Ale Braised Martin's Beef Short Rib, served with kohlrabi, Swiss chard and onion mostarda, was a thousand times better! I just wish the presentation was a bit more refined. I don't have a photograph because all you could see was a big chunk of beef, but it was a well flavored and tender piece of beef. I know because Andressa shared!

And then we were talked into ordering dessert. We easily said yes...must have been that red wine talking we had with our entrees.

Andressa ordered Lemon Verbina Panna Cotta with a honeyed amaranth bar, and roasted pineapple and lime-espelette granita. I had a bite of the panna cotta and it was lovely--mild flavored, smooth and incredibly refreshing.


I went for something a bit more decadent. Ok, a lot more decadent: Valrhona Hot Chocolate with a fresh yeast doughnut and house made marshmallows.



My favorite part of the dessert was the rich hot chocolate with the homemade marshmallows. I could probably have it daily. Of course, then I would not fit into any of my clothes. Although I did enjoy dunking the doughnut hole into the chocolate, I could not eat the rest of the doughnut. I suggest the Federalist serve this dish with doughnut holes: cuter, easier to eat and great for sharing with friends.

Overall, it was a delicious meal. I would recommend checking out The Federalist for its drinks and appetizers. They also have a gorgeous semi-private room that's decorated in everything orange. My sister would flip over it: she has the biggest crush on the color orange. It would be ideal for showers or intimate dinners.

Disclosure: my meal was courtesy of The Federalist. However, I was not under any obligation to write about the restaurant, nor paid to do so.

PS Prior to dining at The Federalist, I noticed that their online menu was missing prices. I mentioned it to Andressa, and the issue has been fixed!!

PPS We also shared a side of Seared Brussel Sprouts served with house made jowl bacon and Toigo apples. They were incredible reheated for breakfast the next morning.

1/19/12

Sunday Roasts: Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Peas

First, thank you to all who left such nice comments on my previous posts: I'm feeling better!!

Now to this post: Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Peas. A few months ago I received a copy of Sunday Roasts cookbook for a preview. I love when such things happen: I come home to find a yellow envelope sitting by my door with a gorgeous cookbook inside!

This book is stunning. The pages are smooth and heavy, the photographs by Susie Cushner are beautiful without being fussy, and the recipes range from meat, poultry, and seafood to sides.

You'd think that while being home sick I'd choose something with beef or chicken. Instead, I was craving something lighter, more colorful, and with a bit more nutrition. That's why I chose Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Peas. I followed the recipe pretty closely. Instead of using four fillets, I used a large piece of salmon. It worked out well. Also, my store did not have watercress, so I left it out.

{Note: the book is not black & white. I just had to edit my photos this way because otherwise they had a horrid blue tint to them.}



Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Peas
slightly adapted from Sunday Roasts

Ingredients
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
kosher salt
olive oil
4 salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each and 3/4 inches thick
6 teaspoon lemon juice
black pepper
16 ounces frozen peas, defrosted

Directions
1. In a food processor, combine the first five ingredients.
2. Place a rack at a center position and preheat the oven to 450F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and oil well.
3. Place salmon fillets, skin-side down, on the baking sheet and sprinkle with with lemon juice. Allow the fillets to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Spread the butter mixture (making sure to set aside three tablespoons of it for the peas) over the salmon and bake for about twelve minutes.



5. Meanwhile, heat the peas and toss them with reserved butter mixture. Season with salt.
6. Serve salmon on top of peas.


Don't you just love the colors in this dish? It screams Spring to me, and was such a great meal during the cold of Winter. You can serve this with boiled potatoes or rice. Or eat this as is with a piece of crusty bread.


I'm looking forward to making more recipes from Sunday Roasts!

1/17/12

What to eat when you are sick: Kimchi Soup Recipe

You guys! The three-day weekend turned into a five-day weekend.

Do NOT be jealous. I've been home sick since Friday. Thankfully, I have enough sick hours and don't have a job where I must come in even when I'm not feeling a hundred percent.

I've been coughing, sneezing, taking long naps, spending countless hours watching TV, and of course tweeting.

Unlike most people, luckily, my appetite doesn't suffer when I'm sick. After a few days at home, I began running out of food to make. I bundled up and made my way to the grocery store.

I decided I needed something hot and spicy. Since soup is a great meal that's what I decided to make.

Growing up in Russia, many of the soups were cabbage-based, either fresh cabbage or sauerkraut. To change things up a bit, I decided to use kimchi and make Kimchi Soup!


Kimchi Soup

Ingredients
32 ounces low fat chicken stock
32 ounces water
4 medium size Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into one-inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal
salt & pepper
14 ounce jar of kimchi with the liquid
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Directions
1. In a soup pot combine chicken stock and water, add potatoes and cook until they are almost fork tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet. Add onions and saute for seven minutes.
3. Add carrots to the onions and cook for another ten minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.
4. Once the potatoes are almost fork tender, add onions/carrots, kimchi and defrosted peas to the soup pot.
5. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes.
6. Serve the soup in deep bowls, topped with fresh parsley.
 

This is an incredibly easy, but very satisfying soup to make. It's great the next day as leftovers: the heat from the kimchi continues to develop.


Make this soup: you are going to love it!

What do you cook when you are sick? (Or do you order in?)

1/14/12

Brunch at District Commons in DC

I love brunch. You get to sleep in, dress up a bit, and meet your friends for good food and sparkly drinks: what's not to like?

Last Sunday, I met my friends Melissa, Nikki and Jenna at District Commons for brunch.

Although Melissa and Jenna have had brunch there before, it was Nikki's and my first time.

After a night of salsa dancing, I was hungry and hurriedly looked at the brunch menu while catching up with the girls.

Right away I knew I'd have to try one of their Blood Orange Mimosas. After all, with a purchase of an entree, they are only a dollar each: you can't beat that.

Then it was time to make the food selections. The menu includes flat breads, salads, omelets, and more substantial dishes like shrimp and grits.

While I don't like ordering the same dish as my dining companions, I just had to get J&B Breakfast Hash Braised Beef Short Ribs with Yukon Potatoes and Sunny Side Up Eggs. Nikki and Jenna made that choice first :)

While we waited for the food, we sipped on coffee (pictured below is Jenna's cappuccino served with a mini Snickers: so cute!) and dug into Pretzel Bread.





The bread was hot out of the oven and was served with soft butter. It definitely alleviated my hunger. The mimosas were gorgeous and sweet, but I'm not sure how much champagne they had. You see, I usually start feeling the effect of champagne after one mimosa, but after drinking two, I felt like I was mostly consuming juice.

Since I haven't had brunch in a while, I decided to go all out and also order a half-dozen oysters. They were divine.


Melissa ordered an Arugula Salad with Pimento Cheese Fritters and Green Tomato Vinaigrette as her starter. She was kind enough to let us try the pimento cheese fritters: oh my, they melted in our mouths. I think District Commons should sell them by the basket!


Then it was finally time for our main courses! Melissa chose a Lox Flat Bread. It was enough for a crowd! Alas, I was too happy with my own entree and too full to try it.


And here is J&B Breakfast Hash Braised Beef Short Ribs with Yukon Potatoes and Sunny Side Up Eggs. I was so happy to bite into one of the potato cubes and find that it was perfectly cooked through! The egg yolks oozed out as soon as I broke them with a fork, and the beef short ribs tasted like they had been cooking for hours: tender and juicy.


We were really happy with our food and had no room for dessert, but the management sent us a mixed dessert plate. Guess we've been excitedly tweeting about our visit to the District Commons and they took a note of that: a very generous touch.


Overall thoughts: gorgeous space, a solid variety of menu choices, somewhat a slow start to placing our orders and receiving food, but the food itself was satisfying; I'll definitely be back!

1/11/12

Bai Drink Giveaway

Last month I had a chance to try out a new beverage called bai.

Bai is a new all natural antioxidant beverage that contains one gram of coffee fruit. That's the same fruit from which coffee beans come.

Each bottle of bai delivers the same antioxidant as a cup of blueberries!

Currently, bai is available in the DC area at CVS and Dean & Deluca stores, but two lucky readers of Mango & Tomato will receive a case of bai to taste test for themselves {scroll down for directions}.

Bai comes in a variety of flavors, including Jamaica Blue Berry, Mango Kauai, Kenya Peach, Tanzania Strawberry, Ipanema Pomegranate, Sumatra Dragonfruit, Costa Rica Clementine, Panama Peach, and Congo Pear.

Surprisingly, the mango flavor wasn't my favorite. I found it too sweet.

The flavors that I loved the most were Jamaica Blue Berry and Ipanema Pomegranate: they were light, but fruity and very refreshing.


For a chance to win your own case of bai, just leave a comment below telling me which flavor you think you'd like the most. I will announce the winners on January 16th. {The giveaway is only for US residents}

For additional chances to win,
1) Follow Mango & Tomato on Facebook
2) Follow bai on Facebook
3) Share this giveaway on Twitter {with a link}
{leave an additional comment below for each extra chance to win}

Note: I am not receiving a monetary reimbursement for this post.