Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
Last football season, we made things a little more interesting (for me) by cooking a signature dish from each city whose team took on Dan’s beloved Steelers. Â Given the varied and ecletic mix of food in D.C., we had a tough time coming up with a dish when the Steelers played the Washington Redskins. Â We ultimately settled on wings in “mumbo sauce,” after discovering that many take-out joints around the District offer this unusual sauce with chicken wings. Â We enjoyed our homemade version very much, and were more than delighted to find it as appetizer on the menu at a fun restaurant near our hotel when we visited D.C. last weekend.
Upon the wise recommendation of a friend (thanks Chris!), we went out of our way during our D.C. trip to stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl, in the U Street area. Â We were not disappointed. Â Order the “half-smoke” with everything, and you will not be disappointed either. Â It was probably one of the best chili dogs we’ve ever had (even considering Dan’s award-winning chili!), and it was well worth the short metro ride to check it out.
Based upon the also wise recommendation of another friend (Hi Jim!), Dan brought home a few kolaches from a Czech bakeryÂ that was on his way home from a work trip to Austin. Â The sausage kolaches were amazing, and the pepperoni version was so good that we wanted to drive back for more. Â But the best part was seeing the bakery open and thriving, amid the devastation from the recent explosion in the little town of West, Texas, where it is located. Â Which just makes us want to go back there even more.
We joined about 40-50 other people volunteering at the North Texas Food Bank today, for yet another rewarding experience. Â Today’s task was portioning fresh tomatoes into bags to go to various food pantries. Â As a group, we processed 12,800 pounds tomatoes in a little over 2 hours. Â Learning that a few hours of labor translates into a healthy addition to more than 10,000 meals for hungry people in our area equals a pretty darn good end to the week. Â If you feel similarly inspired to help the hungry — hungry kids in particular — you can vote for the NTFB to win $45,000 for their School Pantry program.
Back in the fall, after our summer garden bounty ended, we went to our local plant nursery in search of a vegetable that might do well during the fall/winter season in our area. Â We planted a couple of broccoli plants, and were quite pleased to see them thrive and yield several harvests in February and March. Â Because I have the palate of a child when it comes to veggies (a child who hates vegetables), I don’t like cooked broccoli when it has a strong vegetable flavor. Â For that reason, we usually cook broccolini (when we can find it) instead of broccoli — broccolini has a more mild, sweet flavor than broccoli. Â It also has thinner stalks and smaller florets and looks like it could be young (early harvested) broccoli, but it’s actually a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale. Â (And neither should be confused with broccoli rabe, which is a leafy green from the same subspecies as the turnip, and isn’t related to broccoli at all. Â Thus concludes our “The More You Know” PSA, Vegetable Edition.) Â Upon realizing that our home-grown broccoli was actually broccoli, and that we couldn’t turn it into broccolini simply by picking it early, we decided to use our first harvest in a dish incorporating a sauce, just in case the broccoli had too strong of a veggie taste for me. Â So we adapted this recipe for “broccoli beef,” stir-fried with an Asian sauce. Â Turns out that home-grown broccoli has a pretty mild flavor (or at least ours did) that works equally well in a stir-fry as it does simply sauteed with olive oil, white wine, red pepper flakes, garlic and a bit of lemon juice. Â But stir frying the broccoli with thinly sliced, marinated sirloin in the spicy, tangy Asian sauce was probably our favorite use of our broccoli crop. Â It was so good that we plan to grow twice as many broccoli plants this coming fall.
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Although it may be available year-round in some places, Spring is the official season for asparagus. Â So now is the time to spend less money on fresh, better quality, possibly even locally-grown, bunches of this delicately thin, slightly bitter vegetable. Â Our go-to method for cooking asparagus usually involves tossing it with a little olive oil and salt & pepper, then grilling it for a few minutes until it is barely tender. Â As with most cooked veggies, we prefer asparagus al dente or “crisp tender” — cooked through but retaining a bit of crunch. Â For the times we don’t feel like grilling (or more likely, the (many) occasions when our propane tank is empty and we’ve forgotten (again) to replace it), this recipe is a good alternative for cooking the asparagus in the oven and achieving that crisp tender texture we prefer. Â Adding melted Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar elevates the flavors even more, for an elegantly savory Spring-time side dish.
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Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
It feels a bit strange writing about favorite things amid tragic events that happened this week in both Boston and West, Texas. Â But at the same time, one of the greatest comforts in the wake of tragedy is spending time with loved ones. Â We’ve been so lucky to get to spend the past few days with some of our favorite loved ones — Dan’s brother, his sweet wife and their 2 amazing kids. Â We met up with them in D.C., and sightseeing through our nation’s capital with our sweet, silly niece and nephew has been a joy, as well as a most welcome distraction from current events.
No matter how many times we’ve seen it, visiting the Lincoln Memorial never ceases to be a moving experience. Â Even when the place is teeming with tourists, we have a quiet feeling of reverence when looking up at this massive statue of one of our greatest presidents and reading his eloquent and inspiring words inscribed on the stone walls.
A new movie theater just opened near our house that has ruined us for all other movie theaters. Â “Look Cinemas” is more than just a place to see a movie, and they aren’t kidding when they boast about their “state-of-the-art theaters, acclaimed restaurants and enhanced concessions,” with “reserved seating in a spacious and luxurious environment.” Â We saw the movie “42” there last weekend (great movie) and were blown away by the leather, fully-reclining seats; delicious food options (we had a sushi appetizer, chicken sliders and the famous “damn good” fries); and impressive full bar. Â Our “dinner & a movie” Friday nights just got a lot more sophisticated.
For anyone interested in a feral kitten update: Â we captured the 3 little wild ones and set them up in a luxury suite in one of our guest bathrooms for a few days. Â We attempted to “work with them” to try to get them “comfortable with human contact,” so that they could be “tamed” and presentable for someone to adopt them into a forever home. Â Let’s just say that our feral kitten makeover didn’t really go so well, mostly due to their tiny ringleader we call “Spitty,” who valiantly resisted pretty much all attempts at said human contact by hissing/spitting and making himself as ferocious as a little kitten could possibly be. Â But, all is well — we found a (no-kill) clinic/shelter to accept them and properly prepare them for adoption, and our good friend Paula took one for Team Kitten, gathered them up and delivered them to the clinic while we are out of town. Â Many thanks to her, and best of luck to our fuzzy little friends.
We’ve hardly ever met a pizza that we didn’t like — all different kinds — from homemade, to our favorite local joint for NY-style pies, to a different favorite place for Neapolitan-style pizza, to the deep dish without which our trips to Chicago would not be complete. Â We eat a lot of pizza, but don’t always have the time to make homemade dough, or the inclination to go out and order pizza from a restaurant. Â We’ve used the pre-made pizza crusts available from the grocery store (they work especially well when grilled), but were intrigued when we found a recipe using lavash flatbread as the base of the pizza instead of traditional pizza dough. Â The original recipe (found in Cook’s Illustrated’s magazine “30-Minute Suppers”) was for “buffalo chicken lavash pizza,” which was delicious (chicken cooked in buffalo sauce, then shredded for the pizza topping along with blue cheese, mozzarella, celery and green onions), but the main take-away for us was the technique of turning lavash into a thin, crispy pizza crust perfect for delivering whatever delicious toppings you choose into your pie-hole. Â Since then, we’ve made several different kinds of lavash pizzas (including a breakfast version), and most recently, we topped the lavash with leftover smoked turkey and other ingredients for a BBQ turkey pizza and our version of a white pizza. Â No matter the toppings, using lavash is the fastest, easiest method we know for making really good, flatbread-style pizza at home.
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Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
We found a new (to us) Thai place last weekend that we really like. Â Malai Kitchen is probably still our favorite, but Thai Star is much closer to our house, and the food, service and atmosphere were good enough to warrant many subsequent visits. Â The homemade dumplings were amazing, and both soups we tried were delicious, but the Tom Kha (coconut soup with lemongrass, herbs and chicken) was by far the best. Â For our main courses, Dan had a gorgeous and delicious tilapia dish with tons of fresh veggies and a spicy tamarind sauce, and I had the spicy, savory sukiyaki noodle dish. Â The menu is huge and there are many more dishes we look forward to trying. Â We dined on their cute and cozy patio that was surprisingly quiet and relaxing, given that it overlooks the parking lot of the strip mall where the restaurant is located. Â All the wait staff we encountered were attentive and knowledgeable. Â I thought it was a particularly nice touch when the (I assume) manager brought out a vase with flowers for the table next to us that was clearly a group of women gathered for a girls’ night out. Â Well done, Thai Star — we’ll be back!
Speaking of being back, one of our all-time favorite shows has returned! Â Mad Men Season 6 started on Sunday, and we’re excited for another season filled with 1960s debauchery in the cut-throat world of Madison Avenue advertising.
In Crazy Cat Lady news, we found 3 kittens trapped near a vent for the crawl space under our house. Â Somehow we will resist the cuteness, and will be working with an organization that has a cat “rescue and re-home program” to find them suitable forever homes, somewhere other than our own house. Â I repeat: Â We. Will. Resist. The. Cuteness.
We attended a surprise birthday gathering for a friend last night at, of all places, the Bon Jovi “Because We Can” concert. Â Whether you’re a fan or not, the dude puts on an entertaining show, and it was a really fun evening.
We celebrated another birthday this week as well — Happy Birthday to our newest nephew A!! Â He was born a little earlier than ideal, but he and his mom are thankfully doing well, and the world is a better place sooner, now that he is here.
Every once in a while, we have a meal or even just a bite of something at a restaurant that is so good, we are compelled to try to recreate it at home. Â I was at a wine tasting recently, and had one of the best bites of lamb I’ve ever had. Â It was an appetizer of tiny lamb chops that had been cooked in some sort of savory glaze. Â Usually, the first place we start when attempting a restaurant dish at home is the restaurant menu, which hopefully lists at least some of the ingredients in the description of the food. Â But, unfortunately, the lamb I had that night is not on the menu from the restaurant that hosted the tasting. Â Despite that, and the fact that he wasn’t there and didn’t taste it himself, Dan managed to come up with a deliciously similar version, based solely on my feeble description of the dish and his excellent grilling skillz. Â The best part about these lamb chops that taste fancy enough to be served at an upscale wine tasting? Â They are ridiculously easy to make at home.
Continue reading “Guinness-Glazed Lamb Chops”