Roasted tomatoes with feta and chickpeas salad

This past week my grocery store had an amazing sale: 1 pint of grape tomatoes for 97 cents. That's pretty much unheard of.

And yes, of course, these tomatoes weren't nearly as good as the ones you'd find at a farmers' market, but I love tomatoes and bought 6 pints and was excited about all the possible ways of cooking/eating them.

In the end, I used some tomatoes in a corn/tomato/avocado salad, and the other ones I roasted.

Roasting tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness. You can roast tomatoes for a long time at a low temperature or roast them at a high temperature for a shorter amount of time.

Given that I'm not a very patient person and that I was making this dish at 8 pm on a Saturday, I opted for the second method: 425F for 40 minutes.

This Roasted tomatoes with feta and chickpea dish can be served warm, at room temperature or cold. It's a great side dish or a salad. Add some grilled chicken or poached salmon, and you'll have your entire meal.

I really hope you make this soon. Why not even take it on a picnic with you this Labor Day Weekend?

Roasted tomatoes with feta and chickpea salad

4 pints grape tomatoes (1 pint = 2 cups), pierced {thanks to Jael for this tip}
olive oil to drizzle
salt & pepper
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
10 thyme sprigs
1 pound can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 to 1/2 crumbled feta

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Mix pierced tomatoes with olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic cloves and thyme. Arrange in one layer on a cookie sheet and roast for about 40 minutes.

3. In a bowl combine chickpeas and feta.
4. Remove thyme sprigs from the roasted tomatoes. Crumble the thyme leaves into the bowl with chickpeas and feta. Squeeze out roasted garlic cloves.
5. Add roasted tomatoes with their juices. Mix.
6. Adjust for salt & pepper if necessary and add a bit more olive oil if you wish.
7. Serve over a bed of arugula.

I've had this dish for dinner, breakfast and lunch. I don't think I can get tired of it. Not only is it colorful, pretty healthy and easy to make, but it's pretty satisfying and has so many different flavors: the sweetness of roasted tomatoes, the slight bitterness of arugula and the saltiness of feta. What's not to like?

Have you roasted tomatoes? If so, do you use the slow/low method or the high/fast method? What do you then do with them?


Date, pistachio & scallion rice

This recipe is inspired by Amy of Word Kitchen. Earlier this month Amy tweeted that she was making Basmati rice with pistachios. I was intrigued and asked for directions.

Amy replied with the following:

lemme see: 1c basmati in 2 c water, fluff. Add 2T chop'd pistachios, 2T chop'd currants, thread of OO, some parsley, s & p...

I added this tweet to the list of my favorites and was looking for the perfect time to make this rice dish. After all, it had pistachios in it: one of my favorite nuts.

This weekend with scare of Hurricane Irene and knowing I will be spending an entire Saturday, if not the entire weekend, at home, I decided I'll try out the recipe.

Of course I did not feel like buying currants, so I thought why not use dates I already had?

Also, I had some scallions and decided to use those instead of the parsley.

And final confession: I'm not a 100% sure that the rice I had was in fact Basmati. But luckily, it all worked out.

Date, pistachio & scallion rice

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup Basmati rice
2 cups water
salt & pepper
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted, chopped
1/3 cup chopped dates
3 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Heat oil in a small pot. Add rice and mix to coat with oil. Brown for about 3 minutes.
2. Add 2 cups of water, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. Fluff the rice with a fork. Add pistachios, dates and scallions. Mix.
4. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

I snacked on this dish as I cooked a leg of lamb and then had it as a side. The combination of sweet dates and salty rice is great. And of course the crunch from pistachios adds yet another dimension to this dish. I think it'd be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table!

Options: you can also add the following to this dish
sauteed mushrooms
lentils (Thanks, Cindy for the suggestion)
water chestnuts

PS forgive the gloomy photos: there was very little light ;(


Scenes from Denver's Farmers' Market



Where to eat in Denver: Watercourse

I'm back from Denver. Did you miss me? :) Hope so.

In the next week or so I'll share with you some of my favorite meals from Denver, Colorado. Let me just say this: the food was incredible and the service everywhere was genuine and attentive. It was as if the chefs, waitresses and the front of the house staff actually loved their jobs and were excited to have you in their restaurants!

After several hours of delays with my flight from DC, then finally landing in Denver, meeting up with my friend Kenny and taking the shuttle to the hotel, I was pretty hungry.

Luckily, I had a plan. I typically have a plan whenever I travel: restaurants, museums, salsa dancing places, etc.

This trip my job was made easier thanks to quite a few recommendations from my Twitter friends, Kenny's research and my friend Wendy's suggestions. What can I say? I'm a lucky girl.

The first meal in Denver was at Watercourse Foods. It was a short walk from the hotel and promised to be a fun experience: just look at their website!

I must admit the rabbits in the murals freaked me out a bit, but I loved the serene blue color. I also really liked the handcrafted lamps in the restaurant.

Since the weather was spectacular (sunny, not humid and with just a little breeze), we decided to sit outside. As we contemplated the menu, I ordered one of my favorites as of late: hibiscus iced tea. The color is stunning and there was no need for added sugar. This definitely quenched my thirst.

The waiter came over and asked us for our orders. Apparently I completely took him by surprise when I asked him to tell us a bit about the restaurant. Is that really such a shocking question? After he recovered (perhaps he just did not understand my accent), he told us a bit about Watercourse. Here's some info from their website:
WaterCourse Foods is proud to serve a 100% vegetarian menu.
WaterCourse Food's philosophy, like our food, is simple and accessible. We have created an atmosphere that welcomes everyone. We prepare fresh ingredients daily to produce incredibly satisfying vegetarian comfort foods in a welcoming environment served by a friendly and efficient wait staff for a reasonable price.

Kenny ordered a Reuben Smoky portobello mushrooms topped with homemade sauerkraut, a special sauce and Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread with onion rings. Apparently he did not even miss the meat, and that's saying a lot. I tried a bite of the sandwich and not surprisingly loved it. Mushrooms is something I've been a big fan of ever since I was a little girl. Sauerkraut is something my parents have made at home ever since I can remember: the sandwich spoke to me!

Alas, although pretty, the onion rings were overly greasy. I stopped at one.

I ordered Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos Three tacos full of marinated sweet potatoes, black bean, peppers and onions and topped with cilantro lime slaw. Served with avocado, jack/cheddar blend, and homemade salsa.

First, can we acknowledge how pretty these tacos are? Although it's something I can easily prepare at home, the combination of black beans, salsa and guacamole called my name. I also really liked the cilantro lime slaw. I almost wish the portion only included two tacos because despite not eating the tortillas, I was pretty full. And someone has mentioned ordering dessert...

That's right: we ordered carrot cake for dessert. It looked overwhelming when it arrived at the table, but I'm not a light weight when it comes to eating. Alas when I bit into my first piece of the cake, a few things became clear: 1) this was not a cream cheese frosting 2) the cake was incredibly sweet 3) the texture was rather dense. I was slightly disappointed.

Still, even though the meal ended on a slightly sad note, this was a great indication of the rest of the eating out adventures in Denver. Stay tuned!


DC Food Tour of U Street

I'm back from a fun long weekend in Denver. The food scene there was amazing and the service was unbelievable. All the eating was balanced out by walking, sightseeing and two nights of salsa dancing. Other than a 6 hour delay in Kansas City on the way back to DC, it was a great time.

While I'm editing photos from Denver, I want to share with you yet another food filled afternoon I've had with DC Metro Food Tours a few weeks ago. My other two food tours were Little Ethiopia and Capitol Hill.

Sharone from DC Metro Food Tours contacted me to see if I'd like to attend their new tour of U Street in return for blogging about it. I said YES, but warned her that I'll be completely honest with my feedback.

So let me just start with a few negatives: first, it rained off and on during the entire food tour. Really? Could they not have ordered a perfect walking-around weather? Second, there were no cute single guys in my tour group. Where are the men? And finally, the amount of food left me completely not hungry for dinner. In fact, I did not eat until after 10 pm.

{I hope you are fluent in sarcasm!}

Here is the information about the tour:
The U Street Corridor, one of DC’s trendiest neighborhoods, has long been known for its rich African American history and place in the jazz scene, and today it’s getting more recognition for something else: it’s food. DC Metro Food Tours is presenting the U Street Heart and Soul Food Tour, its newest culinary experience set to highlight one of Washington’s most quintessential neighborhoods through its food, history, architecture, and culture.

The walking tours last about 3.5 hours and groups will enjoy a variety of dishes from selected
local restaurants that reflect their specialties and also deconstruct the culinary history of the area.
Guests will also explore the neighborhood’s evolution from its roots in racial diversity, to its rise
and prominence in the African American community, to its rebirth as one of the main cultural
and culinary epicenters of the city.

The U Street Heart and Soul Food Tour will begin on Saturday, July 23rd at 2:30pm. Food
selections will include Caribbean classics, traditional soul food from a chef highlighted on the
Food Network, innovative European inspired dishes using locally sourced products, high end
Cajun and Creole dishes and inventive cocktails.

Tickets are $68 a person and the tours will run Thursdays-Saturdays from 2:30-6:00pm.
The first stop on the tour was Oohh's and Aahh's. I've heard of this place for years, but this was the first time I actually went inside and tried the food. The atmosphere reminded me of visiting someone's house. It was casual, family oriented and there were no pretenses. We ate with plastic forks and spoons, but it did not matter: the food shined. The menu included Blackened Cat fish served with collard greens, yams, and mac n cheese with 7 cheeses (Provolone, Parmesan, Mozzarella, White Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Fontina and Manchego).

Although I wasn't a huge fan of the sweet potatoes, I thought they were too sweet, the macaroni and cheese were smooth, cheesy and not too heavy. The fish was seasoned to perfection, and the greens made a nice side dish.

The next stop was Islander. This was a completely new restaurant to me. Looks like they don't have a website, but they are located on 1201 U St NW. On the menu: Roti, served with goat curry and chick peas and plantains.

If you've never tried goat, you've got to! It reminds me of lamb and was incredibly tender. The chickpeas were clearly made from scratch and what is not to love about fried plantains? Just like in Oohh's and Aahh's, the chef came over to our table and explained the concept behind the restaurant and welcomed us. Such attention is definitely something you don't get on regular basis. While we ate, we chatted about our travel adventures, our favorite types of food and learned more about the history of U Street area.

Once outside, the sun made an appearance and we happily walked to our next destination: Eatonville. This was my second time at this restaurant: the decor is stunning, the service is impeccable, and the food is top notch.

On the menu: Gumbo-a stew of crab, rock shrimp and andouille sausage followed by Hush puppy served with Rock shrimp fondue, crispy shallots, and a roasted tomato coulis. And since we were a little group, the owners of DC Metro Food Tours treated us to cocktails!

And the final stop was 1905 restaurant. I've heard multiple people rave about this restaurant, but this was my first time checking it out. Isn't this precisely the point of a food tour?! Good job, DC Metro Food Tours!

Once inside, the restaurant was dark: a great place for a date or an intimate get together with friends. The bar was gorgeous. That's where we sat ourselves down and got ready for our last mini meal on the tour. The owner, Tony, chatted with us, explained the name of the restaurant (it's just the address!) and talked about the items on the menu and specials they have throughout the week.

On the menu: Lobster meatballs (Maine lobster in a tomato cream sauce) and House made bread pudding.  You know my obsession with tomatoes: I could have eaten the tomato cream sauce as soup: so good! And the lobster meatball did not disappoint either. There was hardly any filler: all you could taste was the lobster. The bread pudding was the perfect sweet ending to the day.

If you are curious about the history and food of DC neighborhoods, definitely book your food tour soon~