10/31/12

DIY Sofa Table Project


Remember my DIY Pallet Coffee Table? TodayI bring you another DIY project. How is it food related? Well, I partially build this Sofa Table so that I could have a place to rest cups/glasses/plates when I eat my dinner sitting on the couch and watching TV.

The project actually started when I noticed that my AC unit was leaking. Oh the joys of home ownership! I had to move my couch away from the window and make sure the hardwood floor was ok. And then I decided to use the space between the couch and the window wall and build the sofa table!!

So I took a few measurements, asked my friend Cindy to drive me to Home Depot, and got to work.


Basically, I decided to make two shorter tables instead of one long one. It was a great decision: 1) easier to build 2) sturdier 3) easier to move around when needed.

I got all the wood cut according to my measurements at Home Depot for free. All the materials for this project (including an electrical sander) cost me about $100. Not bad for a custom piece of furniture.

What you need: wood, L brackets, screws, sand paper, electric screwdriver (I already had one), wood stain and gloss. I bought wood glue, but could not figure out how to open it, so it did not get used. I also bought little "feet" to put on the bottom of the table in order not to scratch my floors.


Here's what I did:

1) sand all wood pieces
2) attach the feet to the bottom of the pieces that would be the legs for the sofa table
3) pre-drill the holes for L brackets and then attach them to the top and leg pieces of the sofa table



Do you like my little assembly line??!! Doing this project inside my condo was not easy, but not having another option I managed.

4) stain the tables


5) apply the gloss finish (I had to do this multiple times even though the fumes were horrendous)


Ta da!!!


So now I have a place to set my dishes and to display my plants/flowers!



You can barely seet the table looking straight at the window. At first it bothered me a bit, but now I'm completely used to it.


This was a fun project for sure.

Lessons learned: always double check the number of screws you buy for a project. I was 10 screws short and had to go back to purchase them.

Have you done any DIY projects lately? 

PS I wanted to share a quick design project: I turned my existing book shelf upside down to use on the wall by my front door. I added a framed poster (thanks, mom!) and accessorized the shelf with cookbooks, photo frames and flowers. 


10/29/12

Seared Tuna, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad. Plus, a Review of New West KnifeWorks


Earlier this month I received a gorgeous gift from the New West KnifeWorks: The 8. What's The 8?
"The 8 inch Chef Knife is for those who love only the best.  "The Lightspeed 8"  This knife was deliberately designed for folks who find a traditional 8 inch chef cumbersome or intimidating.  The graceful blade shape, tapered tang and super thin blade grind makes this nimble knife come alive in your hand."
Although I don't find a traditional chef's knife intimidating at all, I was interested in trying out a slimmer one.  Plus, look at the gorgeous handle of the knife! I knew it would not only look great in my kitchen, but feel comfortable in my hand.

The knife came with a caution: EXTREMELY SHARP. This is due to its blade:
"Blade shapes and grinding methods create a functionality unparrarelled in performance in kitchen cutlery.  The Fusionwood 2.0 plunge ground blade and tapered tang is fusion of Asian and European blade styles.  It combines the heft of a European knife with the cutting ability of a super thin Asian blade."

To test and showcase this knife's sharpness and sleek design, I decided to create a Seared Tuna, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad. This salad requires slicing, segmenting and handling delicate ingredients. And guess what? The knife performed great!

Because of its light weight and slimmer blade, The 8 is perfect for handling tasks such as segmenting a grapefruit and slicing an avocado into even and thin planks. It also handled a seared piece of tuna well.

Seared Tuna, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

Ingredients for 2

olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
6-8 ounce tuna steak 
1 red grapefruit
1 avocado
2-4 cups arugula
2-4 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Directions
1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.
2. Season your tuna steak with salt and freshly ground pepper and sear it for 2-3 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the steak and how rare you want it to be in the middle.  
 

3. Segment the grapefruit, making sure to collect any of the juice that comes out during this process. Here's a  little video I did on how to segment citrus a while back.


4. Halve an avocado and remove the pit. The 8 handled that really well! Using a large spoon remove the flesh of the avocado from its shell and slice thinly.

5. Slice your tuna steak on a diagonal.


6. Dress arugula with olive oil, salt & pepper, and some of the grapefruit juice you accumulated from segmenting the fruit and put on a plate.

7. Layer sliced tuna, avocado and grapefruit segments on top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.


The salad is not only easy to make, but it's also good for you. As a bonus, it's so pretty with its pink and green color combination. It almost makes me think of Spring!

Although I used The 8 mainly as a slicing knife in this recipe, it is also perfect for chopping.

If you want to learn more about this and other made in the USA New West KnifeWorks knives, check out their Facebook page and try your luck to win their 4 piece knife set!

On a somewhat unrelated note, I hope everyone stays safe and continues to have electricity. Hurricane Sandy is making me quite scared!

Disclosure: I received The 8 for a review but was not compensated in any way for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

10/26/12

All You Can Eat & Drink Brunch in DC: Zengo


Earlier this month I was invited to check out a new BRUNCH menu at Zengo by Heather Freeman PR.

Because I've eaten at Zengo multiple times and really enjoy their happy hour specials, I was looking forward to trying an all you can eat and drink brunch menu ($35).

All you can eat/drink menus are best when you have a few friends joining you: that way you can try a larger variety of dishes without being completely full. I was in luck: it just happened that my good friend Jenny was visiting from New York City with her boyfriend Chris, and they agreed to meet me for brunch.

Since we were meeting at 11:30 on a Saturday morning, I was starving: after a Friday night salsa dancing I had no time for breakfast.

Hugs were exchanged, "so good to see you" was uttered, and then it was time to look at the menu!

Ok, let me be honest: of course I checked out the menu SEVERAL times the night before and already knew what I was going to order :) I like to plan ahead.

We started with drinks: Jenny ordered a sake sangria (sake, red wine, triple sec, fruit juice, blackberry liquer), Chris had a bloody mary, and I chose a guava mimosa. We were all happy with our choices. The best part is that you can switch your beverage choice midway through the brunch! My second (and final) cocktail was passion fruit mimosa, and I really liked..that is until I noticed that Zengo also had pomegranate mimosa...but by that point I could not handle another one (light weight!).

We chose which dishes we wanted from the menu while catching up, sipping our drinks and coffee. Our waiter was really knowledgeable about the menu and was able to recommend the number of dishes to order and told us about his favorites.

Below are OUR favorites.

bay scallop ceviche: thai chile / avocado / peanut / mint /crispy shallot {The scallops were pretty small, but had great flavor from Thia chile and I'm a big fan of any dish that has avocado.}

ceviche dorado: mahi mahi / aji panca / kimchee / cucumber / cantaloupe {If you saw my latest oatmeal post, you know how much I ♥ kimchee!}

angry zengo roll: tuna / wasabi tobiko / avocado / cucumber / sesame chipotle rouille {This was a fun roll: fresh tuna with a bunch of interesting additions. Plus, it was reall pretty.}

shrimp-vegetable potstickers with red chile-dashi sauce


achiote-hoisin pork arepas: corn masa / avocado / crema fresca {This was actually my favorite dish out of the bunch! You get so many different flavors and textures in one bite: perfection!}

short rib hash: poached egg / yuca / poblano rajas / caramelized onion


salmon benedict: poached egg / kimchee / chili hollandaise {My favorite part about this dish was the chili hollandaise: that would be good on pretty much anything!}


beef tenderloin palomilla: peppers / onion / cognac pepper sauce {I don't remember being asked, but the meat was served medium rare, which is exactly how I like it. The peppers and onions added a nice kick to the dish.}

lobster-chipotle grits {These were creamy and flavorful, but I did not taste any actual lobster chunks...perhaps the grits were just flavored with a lobster broth?}

churros with mexican hot chocolate {How can you go wrong with fried dough? I just wish the hot chocolate had a thicker consistency.}


Would I recommend Zengo for a DC brunch destination? Absolutlely! I'll have to go back and check out a few of the dishes we missed this time around.

Disclosure: we were treated to brunch and Chris left a tip. All opinions are my own.

10/24/12

Visit to Sabra Factory in Richmond, VA: Sabra Tastemakers

Remember I wrote about my weekend in Richmond, VA? Well, it's time to give you a recap of the reason I went to Richmond in the first place: a tour of Sabra factory! {For those who may not know, Sabra is the maker of hummus. They also make guacamole, salsa and several dips and sides.}

I was super excited to be invited to be one of the Sabra Tastemakers. Early Saturday morning a car picked me up and whisked me to Richmond, VA. This was a new experience for me and I LOVED it! The driver even made sure my friends Jenn and Luis were home and let me in before he drove away. That's the service I could get used to!


 

After a fun weekend visiting my friends, I was dropped off at Marriott, checked into the lovely room and got ready to meet the other tastemakers for dinner at Can Can. {Be sure to check out the blogs of the other Tastemakers! http://shewearsmanyhats.com/, http://mommacuisine.com/, http://www.eatingbirdfood.com/, http://www.smithbites.com/, http://runeatrepeat.com/, http://nibblesandfeasts.com/, http://ramshackleglam.com/}


I was one of the five (or so) people who ordered the Pan Roasted Trout with grilled figs, fennel, leeks, potatoes and bok choy. It was a stellar dish. Alas, it was dark in the restaurant and the photos would not have done it justice.

After a glass of wine, goat cheese cheese cake and decaf coffee, I was ready for a good night of sleep before the visit to the Sabra factory.

The morning started with breakfast and a few presentations from Sabra employees about the brand's history, where it's heading, and it's focus on nutrition.

Turns out, that despite the fact that hummus is perceived as being healthy, there's been little research done about it. Sabra is planning on changing it!

Hummus is plant based, is very minimally processed, high in fiber and comes in a variety of flavors: all the things that are supposed to make you like it even more!

Additionally, chickpeas (the main ingredient in hummus) are low on the glycemic index and do not cause spikes in your blood sugar. There is also evidence that they can lower your bad cholesterol.

So hummus is definitely good for you. For me, however, what matters most is the taste!

I had no idea the variety of flavors Sabra made available for its consumers.


But before we got to taste hummus, we had a mini photography presentation from SmithBites.
Here are a few pointers:

* smaller plates work best for photo shoots

* pay attention to details

* remember that what matters is your own style: take inspiration from others, but concentrate on the colors, composition, textures that you like

* the Smiths showed us a technique called tethering where you connect your camera to your computer and can automatically see what you are shooting on your computer's monitor. I need to try it!!!

* don't be afraid to play with your food and try different camera angles

And then it was time for lunch!!!

We came to the room with a huge spread of the various products Sabra makes. Of course I knew about hummus, but I had no idea they also make salsa, baba ganoush, spinach/artichoke dip, and a variety of other non-chickpea products.



We all picked up little special tasting spoons and went to town!

My favorites were these flavors:

Asian fusion
Chipotle
Jalapeno

I also LOVED the grilled eggplant. I hope my store starts carrying a bigger variety of hummus products.



What shocked me was that you can make desserts with hummus! I was honestly very skeptical, but really liked them. Below is a recipe courtesy of Sabra:

Chocolate, Coconut and Caramel Hummus Pastries
Caramel can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Purchased caramel can be used if you do not
have the time or temperament to make caramel on the stove top. Filling is best made the day it is
served.

Do not fill cups more than an hour before serving.

Caramel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling
1 cup Sabra Classic Hummus
¾ cup toasted coconut
1 cup finely grated premium chocolate (60% cocoa butter or more)

20 prebaked phyllo pastry cups
1/4 cup toasted coconut

To make caramel:
1. PLACE sugar and caramel in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until
sugar begins to brown. Watch very closely, stirring infrequently. When sugar is a deep
brown (but not burned looking!), remove from heat. Immediately and carefully add cream.
2. STIR well. Add butter and vanilla. Stir until well blended.
3. POUR into a storage container and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make filling:
1. MIX all filling ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To Serve:
1. SPOON a rounded teaspoon into phyllo pastry cup. Top with a rounded teaspoon of caramel.
Sprinkle with toasted coconut.
2. PLACE on serving platter. Drizzle pastries and platter with caramel. Serve immediately.


And then it was time to tour the factory! Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos inside, but it was incredible. As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by the scent of warm chickpeas. Sabra starts with dried chickpeas, cooks them, and then incorporates them with the other ingredients that make up the hummus (tahini, oil, etc). The hummus gets divided into containers and topped with ingredients such as roasted peppers, pine nuts, etc. depending on the flavor of the final product. I know this is a cliche, but it's so true: the factory runs like a well oiled machine.

Check out the bright yellow plastic toe protectors we had to wear!

Before it was time to say good bye, we had a spice presentation from the Spice Station. Not only did we get to learn and smell different spices (pictured below are sumac and coriander), but we also got to take home a collection of spice tins, which I can't wait to use in my recipes!



And then it was time to say good bye! My drive back started with the rain and ended in sunshine.


This was a wonderful weekend!!

Have you ever visited a food factory? Which one?
Do you like hummus? What's your favorite flavor?

Disclosure: Sabra provided transportation, hotel and meals during my visit to the factory. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are strictly my own.

10/21/12

Borsch Recipe: Russian Recipes Revisited (RRR)


Borsch is one of my most favorite Russian dishes. I say Russian because that's where I grew up and was introduced to this recipe: please don't leave comments how it's a Ukrainian dish. We can all share it ;)

I've made borsch several times, so why blog about it again?  Well, I have a good reason.

I was asked to do a demonstration on how to make borsch at the Jewish Museum of Maryland! Of course I'm slightly terrified, but I also think it will be a blast. If you are able to attend the event, I would love to see you there. If you can't, do me a favor and make this recipe and let me know how it turned out.

Also, this blog post will be part of my new Russian Recipes Revisited series. My friend Mary (aka arugula files) dared me (forced me?) gave me an assignment to post a Russian recipe once a month for twelve months. Since Mary has rarely steered me wrong, I will give it a try!

Finally, according to my dad, there is no t at the end of borsch so that would explain my spelling ;)

Ok, let's start cooking.

Borsch
Serves 6-8
Takes about an hour from beginning till the end.

Ingredients

8 cups water

salt

2 bay leaves

1 large Russet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks (about 2 1/2 cups)

2 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 medium sized beets, peeled: cube 2 1/2 beets and shred the remaining 1/2 (you'll want about 2 cups cubed beets)

2-3 carrots, peeled, cut into moon shapes (about 1 cup)

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

salt & ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

toppings
chopped dill
sour cream

optional
sugar
lemon juice


 

Directions
1. In a large soup pot, combine the water, season it with salt and add the bay leaves. Add potatoes and cook until they have soften slightly (about 15 minutes). Add cabbage and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add carrots and cubed beets and saute for 5 minutes.
3. Add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and saute for 10 more minutes.
4. Add the tomato paste and let it cook with the vegetables for 5 minutes.
5. Now it's time to put everything together: Once the potatoes and cabbage are tender, add in the cooked beets/carrots/onions/garlic. Allow the soup to come to a boil.
6. Add the grated beets and bring the soup back to a boil. The raw beets will intensify the color and flavor.
7. At this point, you can add a bit of sugar and/or lemon juice, depending on your taste. I didn't add either.



Serve the soup with dill,


Or top it with both dill and sour cream. You can also use Greek yogurt, mayonnaise or even a bit of buttermilk. Not a fan of dill? Add parsley!


How pretty does this look?? Just like any soups, this one will get even better as it sits in the refrigerator overnight.


Will you make it!? I dare you :)

Check out this link Russian Recipes Revisited for Russian recipes I've already blogged about and let me know if you have any specific ones you'd like me to feature!