POM Wonderful

Imagine my surprise when last week I received an email from POMBlogger of POM Wonderful asking if I used their product in my Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce recipe, and if not if I would like to receive a sample. Of course I said I would love a sample.

Fast forward a week...Last night I received a box of eight 8 ounce bottles of POM Wonderful juice: what a wonderful treat (I really was only hoping to receive one bottle)! So far I've just added the juice to flavor my water, but I will try to come up with something a bit more creative.

For New Year, Anna, Adrienne and I are going over to Jenn's...perhaps I could bring a bottle of champagne and add the pomegranate juice to it? There are so many ideas!!!

Special Thank you to Cindy for coming up with a Pomegranate theme for this Thanksgiving dinner and to Anna for coming up with the recipe.

My First Attempt at Making Gnocchi

Sometimes [ok, quite often] I get an idea to do something and obsess about it until I actually do it. Other times, I just obsess and do nothing about it. But this is a food blog, so back to that.

For the longest time I've wanted to make gnocchi. I'm not quite sure why...I've only had them a few times and wasn't head-over-heels in love with them, but wanted to try to make them at home. When I found For the Love of Gnocchi!!! post by Avesta, I decided it was time to make it happen.

I halved Avesta's recipe; below is my version of her gnocchi recipe.

Gnocchi with Semi-Home-Made Tomato Sauce

For the gnocchi
3 potatoes, peeled, quartered
1-2 tablespoons salt
ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour

For the tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
a few sprigs of thyme
1 large can of tomato sauce (I used prepared spaghetti sauce with meat)
1/4 cup heavy cream (this is an optional step...I had some cream leftover from making French Yule Log and decided to use it)

1) In a medium saucepan heat the oil. Add garlic, carrots and thyme, and cook until the vegetables are soft. Remove the thyme sprigs, add tomato sauce, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer.
2) Meanwhile, cook potatoes in the salted water till tender. Drain, put the potatoes through a ricer (Thank you, Anna!) and let them dry out on a cookie sheet.

3) In a large bowl, beat an egg, add potatoes and ground pepper and mix it together.

4) Add the flour to the potato/egg mixture and incorporate it without overworking the dough. (Photos of my hands courtesy of Anna)

5) Divide the dough into manageable chunks, forming each chunk into a log shape and rolling it into 1/2 inch tube on a floured surface. Cut the logs into 1/2 inch pieces. Anna tried to show me how to roll the pieces using a fork, but I decided to go with a rustic look. (Ok, I was just too lazy and was running out of time because I had to go and assist with a cooking class at Sur La Table).

5) While you are bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, add cream to the tomato sauce and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
6) Once the water boils, drop your gnocchi in batches and cook them for only 2-3 minutes. Once they rise to the top, quickly remove them from the pot and drain on a paper towel.

7) I must confess that on their own the gnocchi were slightly flavorless, but once I added the creamy tomato sauce, I rather liked them! Too bad I did not have any cheese. Instead, I sprinkled the entire dish with some fresh thyme.

This recipe made a lot of gnocchi. I ended up freezing some of the uncooked ones on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then moving them to a freezer bag to be enjoyed later.


A bit of publicity

A while ago, I received an email from Key Ingredient asking if they could feature my recipe for Cherry Tomato-Studded Jalapeno Corn Muffins. Of course I agreed! You can see write up of the recipe on their blog.

Next, they will feature my Coconut Shrimp Soup recipe!

Can you tell I'm super excited?

It's time for dessert!

After Ethiopian lunch with Jenny and Anna, we all decided it was time for some dessert!

At first, we went to Mocha Hut, but they did not have any desserts other than biscotti! Seriously? That wasn't going to fly :)

I wasn't impressed with the Cake Love in the past, so did not feel like going there either...that's when I thought of Busboys & Poets. I could not remember exactly where they were located, and was glad that Jason was only a phone call away with the address!

This lounge/cafe/restaurant has such a warm and funky atmosphere: it makes you want to sit there for hours! I've had their food a few times: they have delicious brunch menue, home-y mashed potatoes and meatloaf, and a great vegetarian sandwich! But this time we were interested in coffee and dessert.

We ordered carrot cake and a chocolate cake to split amongst the 3 of us: we should have invited a few people over to share, as there was plenty of food. Between the two, I actually preferred the carrot cake: the chocolate cake was overwhelmingly dense, but that did not stop us from finishing most of it.

Oh, and surprise, surprise, there are even people photos! The one girl who doesn't look like the others two is Jenny :)

Ethiopian Food with Anna and Jenny

Anna's friend Jenny was visiting her family in MD (she lives in TX) for Christmas, and it was the perfect chance for all of us to get together. Good thing we all like food and do not shy away from interesting cuisines. One of the reasons I like living in DC is the diversity: be it people or food or both! This time we decided to check out Dukem, and Ethiopian restaurant in U Street neighborhood. Both Anna and I have had Ethiopian food before, but have never been to Dukem. For Jenny, however, this was her first taste of Ethiopian cuisine.

The restaurant was pretty empty on a Friday afternoon, and we were able to choose our own table. It took a while for our waitress to take our drink order, and every time she stopped by our table, we got a whiff of her strong flower-y perfume: not the best combination with the flavors of the food.

For the appetizers we ordered something similar to Indian samosas stuffed with ground beef: they were flaky, oily, hot and delicious!

For the main course we decided to share a vegetarian platter, even though our waitress thought it would not be enough food for the three of us. She wasn't exactly right. The "pancakes" served with the entree were quite filling.

What are those piles of food to the left? There were several lentil dishes, a tomato and cucumber salad, a potato salad, stewed cabbage with carrots, and something resembling greens.

The food was rather mediocre, but what was more disappointing, was the slow service! Again, they were not busy at all! I think we sat waiting for our check for more than 30 minutes! Of course we had plenty to catch up about, but still....

At the end, since Anna and I did not have cash, Jenny graciously paid for lunch and we were out of there without ever receiving the bill.

The final verdict? I would try some of the other local Ethiopian places next time.

And then we were in search of dessert....

Daring Bakers Challenge: French Yule Log

This month's Daring Bakers challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.

They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Let me just say that I was terrified when I read the instructions for the French Yule Log. Not only would it require 6 parts and almost 2 days, but I'd have to make caramel: a frightening task. However, having skipped November challenge, I did not want to fall behind, and decided the 4 day weekend would be a good time to make this challenge (good thing I don't celebrate Christmas!).

This is not a rolled log: instead you make 6 components and layer them in a mold (I used a bread pan) and then freeze it overnight before glazing the entire concoction and then freezing it again.

The six components were:
1) Dacquoise Biscuit: I made mine with almond meal
2) Mousse: I made mine mango flavored! (the store was out of normal mangoes, so I had to buy the ones already caught up, and simply pureed them)
3) Ganache Insert: I used dark chocolate and mixed it with home-made caramel, per instructions. Making caramel was scary, but I did it!!!
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert : I attempted to make mine with the home-made crispy crepe, but I must not have spread it thin enough and ended up keeping it in the oven for too long and burning it! Instead, I used Honey Bunch of Oats!
5) Creme Brulee Insert: I used orange rind to flavor my creme brulee. It took almost 2 hours in the oven to set instead of 1, but the final result was good.
6) Icing: I used dark chocolate, of course.

Sorry, I did not take any photos of the process: I was too busy washing the dishes, cooling things down, and trying to keep my composure. I was very relieved and happy once the yule log was completed. And as far as the taste, I was happy with the results. I think the ganache layer was overpowering, and am happy I decided to do mango mousse instead of a chocolate one.

Saturday Anna and I went to visit Cindy and her family and to share some of the cake with them. There are still a few slices left in my fridge :)

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Hanukkah at Cindy's

I'm sure I have mentioned my adopted family: Cindy, her husband, and their 2 girls. I've known them for the last 7 years, and am considered to be their adopted older cousin.

What does that role mean? It means they are free to make fun of me, occasional baby-sitting (although that hasn't happened in quite a while) and invitation to holiday meals. I've spent numerous Thanksgivings and Jewish holiday dinners with Cindy's family, and whenever Anna is visiting me, she always comes along (of course!).

This past Monday, Anna and I went over to Cindy's for Hanukkah. We were in charge of a vegetable dish, dessert, sour cream and apple sauce, while Cindy provided the rest.

For dessert we brought Coconut Macaroons with Dark Chocolate and Almonds, and for the green side, Anna made a salad with pears, peanuts and mustard-y dressing. [I think eventually she'll post a recipe on her site.]

Cindy made two kinds of latkes: the regular ones and the sweet potato latkes with cinnamon: delicious! I absolutely love potatoes, and these were crispy, but completely cooked through. Cindy said the key was to soak the potatoes in water to let out most of the starch. You then dry them well before adding the other ingredients and forming the latkes.

Cindy also baked eggplant together with greens and mozzarella cheese: perfect for our vegetarian Hanukkah! Special thanks to Cindy's husband and the girls for helping!!!

This was such a fun night: good friends, good food, and we even played "would you rather" game :)


Croutons & My Mom's Split Pea Soup

Last week at lunch Laura was eating a split pea soup. The soup reminded me of how much I love the split pea soup my mom makes: it's so not the same as the soup you buy in cans here in the States. My mom's soup is a combination of peas, carrots, potatoes and onions: it's delicious on a winter day, especially when served with home-made croutons. That's exactly what I decided to make over the weekend: Home-made Croutons & My Mom's Split Pea Soup. I called my mom and wrote down her cooking method for the soup, but at the end did not have the time or the patience to follow through with her instructions a 100%, so what you see below is my own version.

For croutons:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Cut a few slices of wholewheat bread into large squares. In a bowl, drizzle the bread with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder.
3. Bake the bread for about 20 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through the baking process.

For the soup:
1 cup split peas
1 gallon water (I used part water, part chicken stock)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt & pepper to taste
parsley, minced

1. Boil about 4 cups of water; pour the water over the peas and let them sit covered for about an hour.
2. In a large pot bring to a boil another 4 cups of water (or stock), add the peas, lower the heat and let the peas simmer for about an hour, until they are tender (my mom cooks hers for 2 hours, until the peas lose all of their definition and turn into a mush). Keep an eye on the peas to make sure there is enough liquid.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saute pan; add garlic, onions and carrots and saute for about 7-10 minutes.
4. Once the peas are cooked, add the remaining liquid, bring to a boil, add cubed potatoes, and bring back to the boil. Remove any of the foam formed by potatoes, lower the heat, and let the potatoes cook until almost done.
5. Add garlic/onion/carrot mixture to the soup, bring the soup back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until potatoes are completely cooked through.
6. Serve the soup with croutons and minced parsley.

Thoughts: This definitely wasn't the same as my mom's soup: hers is way better. But the flavor was similar. I think I either added too much water, or (okay, this is for sure) did not cook the peas long enough. The soup thickened up after sitting in the refrigerator for a day, but not to the level of thickness my mom's soup usually is. Live and learn!

Since this is another post about my parents' cooking (see the one about trout that my dad guest-blogged), I decided to include a photograph of my parents. This photo must have been taken shortly after their wedding in 1978. My mom was only 25 and my dad was 29...how the times flies! I think this is one of my most favorite photographs of the two of them.

Oodles of Noodles with Anna and Radha

This past Sunday, Anna and I met up with my friend Radha, the one who hosted an awesome Indian dinner party, for lunch and a movie. For lunch we checked out a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in China Town (in DC) recommended by Anna's friend Wendy.

Right in the window of Chinatown Express you can see the noodles and dumplings made by hand (and the ducks hanging by their heads!). I was tempted to stand and watch the guy doing his magic, but we were all hungry.

The inside of the restaurant is rather unremarkable, but we were there for the food, not the decor. The service was quick and courteous. We started with a big pot of tea (sugar was on the table!) before checking out the menu.

The restaurant had a few specials on their noodle soups and dumplings. Anna and Radha decided to choose noodle soup, and I decided to pick dumplings.

For $5.95 you get a choice of Noodle Soup with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables. And for $5.50 you get 10 dumplings with your choice of leeks with pork, seafood, or vegetarian filling. I asked for a few of each.

Anna and Radha ordered a few appetizers of Spring Rolls and Egg rolls. Surprisingly, both were fried! But (or "thus"?) both were delicious: fresh, crunchy, and well flavored! Then Anna had a beef noodle soup, and Radha had a chicken noodle soup. The portions were HUGE! Both girls added some hot sauce and other condiments to enhance the flavor of the broth, but they were super happy with their choices! The noodles were incredibly soft and tender: you could tell they were made by hand just moments before being cooked. [Anna took her leftovers home, where for dinner she fried them up with a few eggs and frozen peas!]

I started my lunch with a hot & sour soup. It was good. Alas, my dumplings were disappointing. Yes, I pouted. The dough was too thick and sort of stale. The pork filling was tasty, but the vegetarian one was flavorless. I ate most of them, but was not happy with my choice. I think I would have rather gone to Chipotle :)

After lunch we went to see Seven Pounds. It was pretty good...the scene when Will Smith's character was doing manual labor was hot, absolutely hot.