Capital Harvest on the Plaza: Come see my food demo this Friday!!!

When I met Ellen Gray (wife of Todd Gray and co-owner of Equinox) at the launch party for the Red Fruit Festival, she suggested that I should do a demo at the Capital Harvest on the Plaza. Not really having any details, I said sure.

A month later, I have a few more details :)

In fact, tomorrow (Friday, October 1st), I'll be demonstrating one of my recipes, Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Pistachios on the plaza of the Ronald Reagan Building at 12:30 pm. If you work in the area, please stop by, say hello and sample my cooking.

And since I have a full time job and can't take time off to do the prep for this recipe, Ellen said I'll get a "princess treatment"--Todd will do all the prep at the restaurant, and I'll just put things together on the spot. Who can refuse a princess treatment***? Not me!

Hope to see some of you tomorrow! Let's hope the weather cooperates.

*** Perhaps I earned the princess treatment after spending four hours at the kitchen of Equinox? I might write about that experience later ;)

Lunch at Againn

I've heard about Againn again, and again, and again. Yesterday, however, I finally got a chance to try out this Contemporary Gastropub for myself after hearing many of my friends rave about the food (and the drinks). I joined Lindley (disclaimer: she does PR for Againn and invited me) for lunch yesterday and we had a great time catching up and trying out several things on the menu.

If you know me, you know that I like pretty things with a modern twist. You'll find it not surprising then that I loved the decor in Againn. From the stainless-steel clean looking sign, to the blackboard with specials, to the black and white minimalistic decor and surprising fox heads in the lobby, Againn is a treat for  your eyes.

But let's be honest: we go out to eat for the food, not the decor. So let's get to the food!

I was happy to find out that Againn bakes its own bread, which was served warm and with soft salted butter. This is definitely a plus! I hate it when the bread comes out cold, especially when it's accompanied by butter that could break glass.

I intended on ordering an entree and calling it a day, but Lindley encouraged me to try an appetizer and agreed to share with me. Fine! :) I wasn't going to complain. We ordered a dozen of East Coast Oysters with shallot mignonette and lemon. Check out the mini yellow "dresses" the lemons are sporting!

The oysters were fresh, cold, perfectly shucked and disappeared within minutes.

We also ordered a side of Crispy Brussels Sprouts. If you are not a fan of these gorgeous vegetables, you must try this dish because you'll be converted. Guaranteed! These Brussels sprouts are cooked with Indian spices and are served with a curry mayonnaise. Since I love Brussels sprouts, Indian cuisine and mayonnaise, this dish definitely hit the spot.

(Just a quick photography note: I had to grab a napkin from a table nearby to put under the board that came out with the Brussels sprouts, because wood on wood photos are just sad.)

To continue the seafood theme, I ordered Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon with roasted mushrooms, confit potatoes and mushroom jus. The only thing about this dish that I did not like was the skin on the salmon. But no worries: I turned the piece of fish upside down and happily ate it. The fish was cooked all the way through just like I like it, but was moist and tender. The mushroom jus could have been served as a bowl of soup: it was that good!

And then there was dessert! Lindley and I decided to order two and share. First up, Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake with summery berry compote. The cheesecake definitely had a great lemon taste and was amazingly light. And I really liked the black and white plate that held this dessert. It's the little details that make a big impression!

The second dessert we chose was a Seasonal Fruit Cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Check out the individual dish that it came in! I must confess I was tempted to take the dish home with me...but don't you worry! It stayed in the restaurant. Together with coffee, the cobbler was a sweet and warm way to end a great lunch.

I learned something interesting about Againn: if you love Scotch, you can rent personalized scotch lockers. Not being a fan of Scotch, this isn't something that is of interest to me, but the idea of a locker in a restaurant is definitely clever!

What I was interested in, however, was the private dining room that has a large window that opens up into the restaurant's kitchen! I thought it was a really cool detail.

The private room also had a TV and a very impressive leather ceiling.

I'm definitely planning to come back to Againn again (sorry, I just could not help myself) to try some of the restaurant's other dishes such as Shepherd's Pie, House Made Bangers and Mash and Roasted Natural Hanger Steak.


Quinoa salad with beets, daikon radish and feta

Last week I prepared a Beet and Daikon Salad with Ginger Rice Vinegar Dressing as part of my freelancing for Robyn Webb. This was not the first time I ate raw beets: I've tried them in a Mark Bittman recipe, and created my own raw beet salad with fried goat cheese medallion for a cooking demonstration at a farmers market.

This time, I decided to use leftover grated beets and daikon radishes to make a hearty, nutritious and filling salad. The gorgeous deep pink color is just a side benefit ;)

Quinoa Salad with Beets, Daikon Radish and Feta


cooked quinoa
beets, peeled, grated
daikon radish, peeled, grated
cilantro, chopped
olive oil
salt & pepper
feta, crumbled


1. Combine quinoa, grated beets and daikon radish and cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
2. Top the salad with crumbled feta. Serve either at room temperature or straight out of the refrigerator.

Have you tried raw beets yet? If so, what's your favorite recipe that uses them?


Pie Baking with Domenica Marchetti: Apple Pie

Remember I wrote about making a berry & peach pie with Domenica Marchetti? Well, here's part 2. Because we did not just make one pie, we made two!

For this apple pie, we used a pie dough recipe adapted from Jacques Pepin. And, because I don't have a big food processor at home, I made the dough by hand: it was not difficult at all!

Pie dough recipe (for a 9-inch two-crust pie)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
about 6 tablespoons ice-cold water.

Here's what you do: combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and with your fingertips mix the butter into the flour till you get the consistency of dry oatmeal. Add water a bit at a time until the dough comes together: don't overwork it! Form the dough into a disk, cover in wax paper and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

For the apple filling, we combined several varieties of peeled and thinly sliced apples, 1/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg.

Here are the apples mixed with the flour, sugar and spices. They smelled amazing!

You roll out half of the dough, fit it into a pie plate, crimp the edges and pile on the apples.

Instead of topping the pie with another crust or doing lattice topping, we decided to be a bit more creative. Domenica had maple leaf cutouts in different sizes and that's what I used to cover the pie. How pretty does this look?

The pie came out of the oven and had to cool down a bit. It looked gorgeous, and despite 80+ degree weather, made me think of Fall.

I did not get to try this pie because Domenica took it to a family dinner, but if it tasted nearly as good as it smelled, I'm sure it was a winner.


POM marinated pork tenderloin with shallots and carrots

Last Saturday I was pleasantly surprised to receive a package from POM Wonderful, the people behind the pomegranate juice. You see, growing up in Russia, I absolutely loved eating pomegranates, but it wasn't till my family moved to the USA that I tried pomegranate juice. I was smitten. In the past, my favorites were the original pomegranate juice and the cherry one. I am definitely not a fan of the blueberry variety or the coffee one.

This time, POM Wonderful sent me six bottles of Pomegranate Cranberry juice that is not even out in the market yet! Yes, I feel very special! The combination of cranberries and pomegranates, both of which are sweet and tart, is absolutely amazing. It makes me think of Fall, Thanksgiving, and I know I'm doing something good for my health while drinking this delicious juice.

I wanted to make something special with the juice, although it's perfectly fine to just drink it straight out of the bottle.

Here are some of the recipes I've made in the past:
* blueberry & pomegranate popsicles
* and a few others ;)

This time, I decided to do something savory!

POM marinated Pork Tenderloin with Shallots and Carrots

1 pork tenderloin
4 shallots, peeled, quartered (or use a large red onion)
1 cup POM cranberry juice (or cherry or plain)
1 teaspoon dry thyme
black pepper
a few pinches of cayenne
4 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal

1. In a bowl combine pork tenderloin, shallots, POM juice, thyme, black pepper and cayenne. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

2. Remove the pork tenderloin and shallots from the marinade, but don't discard it!

3. Preheat the oven to 375.

4. In an oven-safe pan, heat a bit of oil. Add shallots and pork tenderloin and sear on each side.

5. Drizzle carrots with oil, season with salt and add to the pan with pork tenderloin and shallots.

6. Roast the pork and the vegetables for about 30 minutes (more of less depending on how pink you want the pork to be). Occasionally, open the oven and spoon the juices at the bottom of the pan over the pork and vegetables.

7. Remove the pork and the vegetables from the pan and lightly cover with aluminum foil. {Note: at this point the carrots will still be a bit firm: that was fine with me. If you want your carrots to be softer, parboil them before roasting or roast them for 15-30 more minutes...just take the pork out!}

8. Strain the marinade and add it to the pan. Rapidly boil the marinade until it becomes syrupy.

9. Drizzle the cranberry-pomegranate syrup over the pork, carrots and shallots and serve!

This dish is great hot, at room temperature or even cold. I used some of the leftover pork, chopped it and browned it with onions and then added a few eggs: great for lunch or breakfast!

Thank you POM Wonderful!!! I will definitely try to come up with a few other recipes using this sweet product.


Mark Bittman's inspired Ginger Fried Rice with Fried Egg

I'll admit that when it comes to certain things, I'm late to the party. For example, it took me years to get a cell phone, cable TV and to start paying for Internet. But once I did, I can't imagine my life without these things.

Same can be said about this recipe by Mark Bittman. The recipe uses day-old rice, ginger, garlic, leeks and soy sauce. And then, as if all those flavors weren't enough, the dish gets topped with a fried egg! When the recipe came out in January, it made its rounds in the blogosphere. But it took me several months to make it. I can't remember why I did not post it here...perhaps the photographs weren't successful.

This past Sunday I finally decided to make my personal version of Bittman's recipe. I had leftover rice from Chinese take out, used green onions instead of leeks, added cumin seeds and red pepper flakes, and changed a few steps in the directions. Enjoy!


2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 scallions, sliced
1 cup leftover rice
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoons soy sauce


1. Heat half of the oil in a pan. Add ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic and ginger have browned, but be careful not to burn!

2. Remove ginger/garlic/cumin seeds/red pepper flakes from the pan. Add a bit more oil. Add scallions to the pan and saute for 3 minutes.

3. Add rice, most of the soy sauce and sesame seed oil and cook until the rice is heated through. Mix in majority of the ginger/garlic, and add to your plate.

4. Fry an egg.

5. Top the rice mixture with a fried egg and the remaining soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger/garlic mixture. Enjoy!

Ooh, the oozing out of the egg yolk!

This dish is great for a hearty breakfast or lunch. You can add other vegetables such as red peppers and maybe even some shredded carrots. But this version is good as is.

It might be difficult to tell if I liked this dish ;)


Red Fruit Festival

I have a bit of exciting news to share with you. I submitted a recipe for Roasted Tomato & Dark Cherry Balsamico Soup to the Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival , and it actually made it to the finals! What does it mean? It means that this coming Friday I will be paired up with Chef RJ Cooper and we'll be competing for a prize in the Appetizers & Soups category.

If you are in DC and love tomatoes and wine and want to support me and Mary, who is luckily competing in a different category from me, come to the festival on Friday and vote for us!

And here are the other recipe finalists:

Main Courses:
Mary Cunningham’s Grilled Heirloom Tomato Pizza,
prepared by Chef Jerry Edwards
Amy Angelo’s Lasagna Stuffed Tomatoes,
prepared by Chef Beej Flamholz
April Fulton’s Tomato Tarte,
prepared by Chef Xavier Deshayes

Appetizers & Soups:
David Tarre’s Nuovo Caprese with Corn-Fried Mozzarella,
prepared by Chef Todd Gray
Rosemary Lawler’s Cream of Tomato Soup with Seafood,
prepared by Chef Kaz Okochi
Olga Berman’s Roasted Tomato & Dark Cherry Balsamico Soup,
prepared by Chef RJ Cooper

Beverages & Sauces:
Amanda Hine’s Grilled Peach With Tomato Raspberry Sauce & Basil Whipped Cream,
prepared by Chef Matt Hess
Christiana Aretta’s Green Tomato Ketchup,
prepared by Chef Aaron McCloud
Maria Alvarez’s Simo’s Bloody Mary,
prepared by Mixologist Brendan Dorr

Mario Raymond’s Panzanella with Lemon Rosemary Sorbet,
prepared by Chef John Walsh

McKenzie Severson’s Caprese Cupcakes,
prepared by Chef Brad Spate
Jessica Sidman’s Green Tomato Marbled Goat Cheese Ice Cream,
prepared by Chef Mike Lund
Maggie Sklar & Sandy Ibrahim’s Sundried Tomato Goat Cheesecake,
by Chef Michelle Poteaux

For ticket information, go here.


Pie Baking with Domenica Marchetti: Berry & Peach Pie

This post has been months in the works! Here's what happened: I was watching an episode of Top Chef when contestants had to make pies and tweeting at the same time. Many of my fellow twitter-ers were flabbergasted that some of the Top Chef contestants have never made pies in their lives. I twitted (tweeted?) back saying that although I'm not a Top Chef contestant, I don't remember the last time I made pie and could use a lesson. That's when Domenica Marchetti tweeted back and one thing led to the next, and last Sunday I ended up in Domenica's lovely home for a great barter deal: she would teach me how to make pies and I would share with her my knowledge about photography!

You see, Domenica is a cookbook author, freelance writer and contributor to Washington Post. I knew I was in good hands. She was also super friendly, patient and fun. I'm afraid I might have gotten a better deal out of this barter agreement ;)

But back to the issue of pies.

We decided to follow a recipe adapted from Betty Crocker for one of the pies, and make another with a recipe adapted from Jacques Pepin. One crust was made in the food processor, and another I made by hand.

This post will cover the Betty Crocker recipe I made in the food processor. Stay tuned for an apple pie with dough made by hand!

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 5 tablespoons ice-cold water

1. Cut the butter into small cubes.

2. Put the flour and salt into a bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
3. Distribute the butter around the work bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.

4. While the motor is running, drizzle the water through the feed tube and process just until the mixture begins to come together.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a disk. Domenica said she always uses wax paper for wrapping the dough because that's what her mom does. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

For this pie we decided to use peaches (3) and frozen berries: blueberries, raspberries and blackberries (about 1 cup each).

I know this photo below looks horrid, but just use your imagination: the frozen berries were gorgeous. They reminded me of Christmas ornaments.

Unfortunately, we did not have an hour, and so when we took the dough out of the refrigerator, it was still a bit too soft. Still, we managed to roll it out and fit it into a pie dish and crimp it.

We then combined peaches and berries with 1/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg.

Domenica taught me how to make lattice to top the pie, and I think I did pretty well for my first time.

Are you ready for some pie!?

The entire house smelled like butter, sugar and fruit. It was magical.

I had to take my pie on the Metro and felt bad for other riders who stared lovingly at the pie but could not have it! (Evil laugh!)

Of course the best way to serve a berry/peach pie is with fresh vanilla ice cream.

Although the filling was runny, the flavor more than made up for it! The crust was flaky and buttery.

Big THANK YOU to Domenica for a great afternoon. Please check in next week to see a beautiful apple pie we made.

What's YOUR favorite pie filling?