Oui, Oui, Sonsie

June 7, 2010 at 9:39 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

In the 25 and a half years of my life, I never thought there would be a day when food just sounded repulsive, a day when I had no appetite.  I have found such a day… about 10 days ago, I had to undergo the quarter-life ritual of wisdom tooth extraction.  It’s the first (and probably) only time I can say I had no appetite for a week and I am forever scarred from Strawberry Jell-O so the last thing I wanted to do was watching the Food Network or dream up delicious recipes to add to the blog knowing full well I couldn’t even chew them.

Woe-is-me…eeeh not so much.  I got to go to Providence for the rest of the Memorial Day weekend to cure me of the horrible case of cabin fever I was suffering from, and by Sunday, I could mush around enough to eat something other than yogurt and apple sauce.  I got to visit DePasquale Square on Federal Hill which is home to the best Italian food outside of your grandmother’s kitchen.  We took advantage of the beautiful weather and sat outside at Caffe Dolce Vita which has a huge menu and delicious food!  I ordered the eggplant rollatini which for the first meal in a couple days was like Heaven on Earth.  It was just mushy enough that I didn’t have to chew, but outside of that, I love everything eggplant, especially when its SMOTHERED in cheese!  This puppy had ricotta and mozzarella inside as well as fresh mozzarella melted allll over the top.  It was finished off with their homemade tomato sauce and baked in the oven.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it…

If you ever get a chance to get to Providence, do us all a favor, get to Federal Hill, I promise, you’ve never had Italian food like this….I mean, Frankie Blue Eyes’ favorite restaurant of all time is there!!!

Now, Caffe Dolce Vita was note worthy, but that’s not why I’m writing.  Last night, I had to be in Boston for work (yes, yesterday was a Sunday…no, I don’t want to talk about it).  It actually turned out perfectly because staff was not allowed in the actual dinner of the event…so naturally, I took this opportunity to log into my Open Table account, something I haven’t done since my trip to DC in January, and found restaurants near the Sheraton on Dalton St.  After perusing a couple of menus, I came upon a little place called Sonsie, and their caption? Luck, Love Life.  It became the first draw.  The second was the menu.  It’s an American restaurant with a bit of everything on the menu, fish, steak, pasta.  It’s also pretty moderately priced, which is also always a plus!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a serial menu stalker, I always scope it out before I get there…and then pretend to not already know what I want when I get the menu…buuuuut who doesn’t? Am I right? No? Okay…dagger.  Anyways, I had stalked the menu and knew there was absolutely no question I was getting their Bronzino dish.

Bronzino is a European seabass, so a white fish, and with the grilled fish, they served soft polenta, ricotta spinach and artichoke…and dear LORD!  It was fantastic.  We all know I firmly believe that a great dish is one where each element on the plate is good alone, but also tastes fantastic when you build the elements together.  This was one of those dishes.   The fish was grilled perfectly, the polenta stayed warm which prevented the top from hardening, and I had never had ricotta spinach, and I’m glad that’s changed because if I see it on another menu, it’s mine.  If you do get to check out Sonsie, I highly recommend this dish.

The ambiance is great too, Sonsie is nestled on the famous Newbury Street in Boston.  The floor to ceiling windows/doors open to make the restaurant floor level with the sidewalk which makes for great people watching.  Even the bar area is great with comfortable high chairs and signature cocktails.

Well now that I am able to eat again and enjoy my food, I’m glad I could share with you another delicious spot, except this time in Beantown!  Next time you’re in the area, stop by Sonsie, you should be preeeetty pleased.  This week I should get back into some home cooking so I’ll be sure to include some recipes hopefully later this week.  As always, thanks for reading and until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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“Everything but the squeal…”

May 25, 2010 at 3:18 PM (Uncategorized) (, , )

Doesn’t sound like the most appetizing phrase, ya know, not something that would make you walk in off the street, but the restaurant responsible for that saying is worth not just walking in off the street, but getting yourself all the way to Raleigh, NC.  We all know the South is known for is mastery of two types of food: soul food and barbecue.  This past Easter, instead of traveling home, I decided to take a trip to Raleigh to see one of my best friends of all time.  We grew up down the street together, and we knew that it would be a perfect weekend to get a couple of our old friends in town to see his new home.

Before going down, I was watching one of my favorite shows, Man vs. Food, on the Travel Channel.  If you’ve never seen this show…make sure you do something about that.  Now, I’m not a person that enjoys watching others suffer, but nothing puts a smile on my face like watching Adam Richman take down a pulled pork sandwich doused in “shut up juice” in Little Rock, AR or any of the other spicy foods he’s challenged to eat.  Anyways, I was watching and there happened to be an episode on about the Raleigh-Durham area!  The timing could not have been better.  On that episode, Adam visited a place called “The Pit” in downtown Raleigh.  Now, I’d been craving some pulled pork since my trip to Arizona in February and since the Southwest is not the place to find it, I knew we had to visit this restaurant.

Man was that the best decision we made all weekend!!  Now on the episode they didn’t do too much coverage of the layout of the restaurant so I was half expecting sawdust on the floor and the smell of bbq sauce and vinegar everywhere.  But that was not what we walked into- we walked into a beautiful but casual restaurant with a trendy bar and it smelled like…well…HEEAVENNNN!  My senses were heightened the second we walked in, the aroma was the perfect blend of slow cooked pork, corn bread, and bbq sauce.  You could feel the love that goes into their food before we even sat down.

Now even before looking at the menu, I knew I was getting pulled pork with a side of slaw and homemade mac and cheese.  That to me is hands down, the perfect barbecue dish.  And since there were so many options, I don’t think anyone at the table had the same thing!  Before our main courses, we did order their wings.  Let me preface this by mentioning that, to me, the best wings are smothered in buffalo sauce and spicy.  I’m not taking make you cry spicy, but maybe enough to clear your sinuses… and enough sauce to keep the ends of your fingernails orange for a day or two…those are the perfect wings.  The wings at The Pit…looked nothing like that, but that wasn’t going to stop my from tasting these bad boys.  These wings had a homemade dry rub on them and when I say they were the best chicken wings I’ve ever had I mean they were the best damn chicken wings I have EVER had.   They didn’t need to be dipped in ranch, or blue cheese, or anything, every bite you got a new tang on your tongue.  These wings were somewhat sweet and tangy and the meat just fell off the bone.  While the rub wasn’t like a sauce dripping down my fingers, I definitely licked those babies clean.

That was just the appetizer!!!  I stopped myself at 2 wings because I knew I had a whole plate of pulled pork with slaw and mac and cheese coming my way.  Before getting to the deliciousness that was my meal, I have to point out the wine I was drinking which was also pleasantly surprising.  It was a Zinfandel called “Hey Mambo” (Mambo, Italiano!  I feel like Cartman with Styx’s “Come Sail Away” when I say that wine name…I have to finish the line!)  It’s a fairly cheap zin that I hadn’t heard of before, but really very tasty and went very well with my meal.  Alright, onto the masterpiece put together by Pitmaster Ed Mitchell.  In the episode of Man vs. Food, you watch how Pitmaster Mitchell preps and slow cooks the pork.  It’s so perfect that Adam didn’t need more than a fork to get the meat away from the bone.  To pull the pork, they don’t chop it or shred it, they can literally just pull it off the bone by hand its so tender.  It’s one thing to watch them do that on television and talk about it, it’s an entirely different thing to have experienced how moist, delicious and tender the pork really is.  Every bite got better and better.

My definition of a fantastic meal is when each component on the dish tastes phenomenal on its own, but pairing it with something else on the plate makes it an entirely new experience.  This dish was exactly that.  The slaw, mac and cheese and pork all tasted so good on their own, but the slaw with the pork or the mac and cheese with the pork created new flavors.  Cole slaw is not something I usually order at a restaurant.  I prefer homemade slaw that isn’t overpowered by mayonnaise or has soggy cabbage.  This slaw was perfect, just enough vinegar, not too creamy, and a fresh, cool, crunch from the fresh veggies that complimented the warm, tender pork.  The homemade mac and cheese was something your grandmother used to make in her oven when you were 10, extremely nostalgic, the perfect comfort food.

Wow, I need a trip back down there ASAP!  1000 words about “The Pit” just made me insanely hungry for pulled pork…go figure!  If you are ever in the Raleigh-Durham area, do yourself a favor…GO TO THE PIT!  They’re waiting for you!  What was also surprising, was after that full meal (where I ate so much I could have been rolled out of the place) and 2 glasses of wine, my tab was half of what I was expecting.  Having lived in DC so long, I’m used to paying for a good meal… but this, I would have paid twice what it costs me to eat at the Pit it was that good.  Alright, I need to stop, I’m going to need to find second grade pulled pork if I keep this up…and that’s the last thing I need.

Thanks, as usual, for stopping by!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love and the Squeal**

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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

May 24, 2010 at 8:41 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’m now living in Manchester, NH where, let’s face it, there’s not a restaurant with a notable chefs name to it in a 50 mile radius, yeap, Boston is the closest place you’ll find that.  While that makes Manch-Vegas sound totally glib, I really think its a good thing because it keeps me from eating out as often as I did… my bank account thanks me!  It also forces me to cook at home more which is actually really nice, I do enjoy it!  My problem is planning out what to make for dinner each night, so I always find myself mid-afternoon trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to make so I’m not stuck eating cereal for dinner… not that there’s anything wrong with that…

In order to sort of prevent a total loss for dinner, there’s a few things I ALWAYS keep in the freezer.  One of which is something everyone should always have in their freezer…chicken.  It’s too easy just to get some cutlets and put each into separate freezer bags.  Single serving chicken…done!  What’s also nice is when I come home for lunch, I can take one out of the freezer and have it thaw by the time I get home from work.

So last week, I ran into that problem… no ideas until I was about an hour from dinner time.  This was one of those just take what you have in the fridge and doo eeettt, and a pretty successful one if I may say so myself.   All you need is a bit of butter, basil, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  The best way to prepare this would be on a grill, but a frying pan also worked perfectly.

In a bowl, melt the butter and add freshly chopped basil, Parmesan and a pinch of garlic powder.  Mix it all together then brush the chicken on both sides with the mixture and place it on either the grill or in your pan.  Continue brushing the butter and basil on the chicken as it cooks and that’s it!  It’s really quite delicious.

With this dish, I made broccoli by sauteing it in some oil with red pepper flakes.  This added a nice kick to the dish and I love preparing broccoli in a pan to get some of the florets with a nice crunch on top.  For the starch I roasted some potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Quick and easy and most of the elements you have in your pantry/fridge already!  The white wine I had was very complimentary to the dish.  It was a 2006 Viognier which tends to be a little sweeter than my taste of white wine but still tasty.  As long as the white isn’t Riesling, I’m willing to try it with a nice meal.

So coming into this week, I really had a case of the Mondays and was all but depressed that Lost was done.  Luckily for me, this was the only season I watched live and I plan on watching every season from the beginning again…and again….and probably again.  Don’t get me started I could write an ENTIRE blog (not just a post, a full on BLOG) about that damn show.  So good… anyways.  Today, Monday in the afternoon, I had my usual epiphany…what…the hell… do I make…for dinner?!  Again, I ran for the freezer right before I finished my lunch and pulled out some chicken to thaw.  Now that I had my protein picked out, it was time to decide what to make.

Another thing I usually now keep in my fridge is pizza dough since we all know I’m trying to perfect the pizza.  Well tonight, well I think I’m getting the hang of it.  I have finally figured out my retro-oven…I have beaten it!!!  When it comes to pizza crust anyways…

**Important Tangent!!!: Here I am typing up this blog post after enjoying some delicious pizza I just made and the preview for The Karate Kid is on.  Now when I hear Karate Kid, I think Ralph Macchio, wax-on, wax-off, STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD, NO MERCY SIR, bonnzzaaaiii! You get the picture… I don’t think of this:

Have any of you seen this preview yet?!?!?! Are they KIDDING?!  There’s remaking a movie, and there’s totally disrespecting and mucking up my childhood memories.  Thanks a lot Columbia Pictures. Tangent: fin.

So anyways, back to this thawed chicken and pizza dough now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.  Now there’s only one kind of pizza that chicken should show up on…okay only one outside of Matchbox’s chicken pesto AMAZINGNESS.  That one’s in a category all it’s own.  The other is a more common and loved pizza, the BBQ chicken pizza.  I had everything I needed to make this: chicken, pizza dough, BBQ sauce, red onion and cilantro.

I don’t need to spell out how to roll out the pizza dough, (though it has taken me a couple tries to finally figure out the quickest way to do that haha) so here’s a picture of the final product:

All it took was some BBQ sauce (and I like mine with a little kick to it), a nice mix of freshly shredded mozzarella and jalapeno pepper jack cheese, red onions and chicken.  The chicken I pan cooked in oil with just a seasoning of salt and pepper then shredded since I really don’t like cubed cut chicken (its a texture, consistency thing).  I added a drizzle of BBQ sauce on top of the pizza once everything was on right before putting it in the oven.

Now the one thing I would have changed is when I put the cilantro on the pizza.  Not thinking, I threw it on top before putting it in the oven, which cooked off some of the pungency and wilted it a bit, so if you don’t like a strong taste of cilantro this would work for you, but if you like a lot of cilantro, wait until after the pizza is done cooking and sprinkle it on right before you serve.

Well there’s 2 chicken dinners that are easy, cheap and quick…that’s what she said… yeahhh I went there.  Try them out, let me know what you think, what you’d change, add, make for a side dish.  I hope you enjoy them!  Until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

**Peas, Love, and Mr. Miyagi**

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Easy like Sunday Morning…

May 17, 2010 at 2:47 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

Growing up there was nothing I loved more than waking up on Sunday mornings…why?!  Because it meant PANCAKES!  Yes, warm, buttery, syrupy pancakes my dad would make before he left for the golf course.  Every year for my birthday he’d spell out Happy Birthday Stephanie in little tiny pancakes that’s how much I love them.  Naturally, when I was old enough (aka tall enough to see over the stove) I learned how to make them.  Now, I’m not saying my dad made the batter himself, we used the recipe right off the Bisquik box, however, he always added his own touch which made them the best.

Always wanting to try new things, I decided to add my own touch on these Sunday morning delights.  Now, banana pancakes are hands down my favorite pancakes in the whole world.  And when I make banana pancakes, I don’t slice the bananas, I don’t dice them, I mash them until they look like baby food so every bite there’s a bit o’ banana.  I know some people are cringing at that thought, you banana haters I’ll just…. I’ll just never understand.  I digress… banana pancakes are my favorite, but there’s one fruit that is always good when baked and I had to try them in pancakes.  So ladies and gentlemen…something easy, cheap and really not all THAT creative but rully freaking good, and I mean ruuulllllyyyy good…Apple Cinnamon Pancakalacies!

Like I said, recipe for the batter itself, I get right off the Bisquik box (I always cut this in half since I’m cooking for one so feel free to do that as well):

– 2 cups Bisquik batter mix

– 1 cup milk

– 2 eggs

Mix this all together until the batter is smooth.  I always use a granny smith apple because I think the sour from the green apple pairs so well with the sweet of the cinnamon.  Here’s my tip on how to make sure these pancakes are as tasty as possible… grate the apple, don’t dice or slice.  Take out a cheese grater and have at it.  This way, it’s easy to cook.  Usually when you cook with fruit diced in pancakes, the area around the fruit takes longer to cook, sometimes coming out still doughy and wet.  We don’t want that, so to make sure your pancakes cook thoroughly, I suggest the grater.  Add a dash of cinnamon– a little cinnamon goes a long way…

As your mixing in the apple and cinnamon, try a splash or two of vanilla extract and about a tbsp of honey.  They really lighten up the pancakes.

Now, I’m sure most of you have made pancakes before, but sometimes they’re a little hard to flip, even if you’ve done it time and time again.  The best way to know they are ready to flip the first time is when little air bubbles start appearing in the batter.  That’s when you know they’re ready to flip.  They should be cooked over medium heat to make sure they cook evenly.

All you need on top of those babies is some butter and some syrup.  Again, this goes back to my post on the maple salmon, PLEASE, I beg of you, do not ruin your delicious pancakes with the fake stuff…get yourself some real, New England maple syrup and go to town.  Now, if you don’t like syrup, these pancakes really don’t even need them!  The cinnamon provides a lot of sweet.  The best accompaniment with these flap jacks are some crispy strips of bacon!  The salt from the bacon is a great compliment to the sweet of the apple cinnamon.

Alright, I know it’s only Monday, but I’m already thinking about the weekend which means you should too!  Wow I’m a bad influence…  If you can, keep this little nugget in the back of your mind for an upcoming weekend and I guarantee you will enjoy them.  I’m thinking of taking a stab at homemade pizza again this week.. we’ll see how well that goes!  On that note, it’s time to sign off and hopefully dream up another delicious recipe to bring you this week.  Until then, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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I really gotta get better at this thing!

May 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM (Uncategorized) (, , )

Alright, alright, so I said the haitus was over… I was wrong.  Here I am almost 5 months to the day from my last post JUST opening this blog up for the first time since I wrote on Jan. 20.  I swear I need to get better at this thing.  Not just because I have ya know, you 2 readers (that means you Adam and Harry) but I really do have a passion for food and wine.  And I’d really like to get into it as a hobby, so until Food & Wine Magazine calls me to replace Gail on Top Chef  as a judge, I’ll just have to settle for a food and wine blog.

What helps is my dad has now recognized my passion for it… meaning he’s helping me learn the complexities of wine.  I went home to CT about three weeks ago where my dad has now made me the sommolier…I’m in charge of picking the wine.  He certainly knows more than I do, and hell, it’s his cellar so he knows what’s in there!  But I love the challenge.  He’s given me his password to Wine Spectator and I have been spending WAY too much time on websites like Snooth.com.  There I can rank, comment and even buy wine.  They sometimes like to put up recipes to pair with the wine they are showcasing that day/week.  Food and wine has truly been becoming a passion.  And yes I include recipes in this blog, but the more I think about it, the more I love just the taste of food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but we all know there’s no shot in hell for me to ever become Sandra Lee or Giada DiLaurentiis.

Unfortunately for me, I have moved to a city where the food is…well…alright.  Trust me, this isn’t the place celebrity chefs come to open restaurants.  There are a couple places I could write about (and will) but it’s one thing I do really miss about DC, the food.  Luckily for me, I live less than an hour from Boston and have a boyfriend who lives in Providence where the Italian food is just…well the best.  Manchester also has a Farmer’s Market, thank GOD! Lord knows I couldn’t survive without one, Eastern Market was the best part of my Sundays.  Anyways, I do plan on keeping this up now and will definitely be including recipes as I go along.  I did venture out and make creamy champagne pork chops the other night so I’ll have to crack that back out and include it in here.  I’ve also been trying to perfect the pizza and calzone (some of you know it as stromboli) so I’ll keep updating the attempts at that!

Hopefully this blog will catch on, maybe catch someone’s eye, because let’s face it…I’m an English Lit major who loves food and wine whose losing interest in her current career…any takers?! No?! Okay. Maybe later…until then, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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Hiatus…over!

January 20, 2010 at 9:50 PM (Uncategorized)

Sooo I know I took a REALLY REALLY long hiatus, but I swear I have a ridiculous good reason for it…I moved!  In a matter of 2 weeks, I moved my life of 6 years in Washington, DC to Manchester, NH for a new job.  I am really excited about the job and the new start, however, I know I’m going to miss the amazing food and markets in DC.  It’s something I’ll just HAVE to get over…besides, it’s only until next November!!!

So my two good friends, and only 2 readers Adam and Harry told me I need to start Perhaps Fritalian again because they really enjoyed my recommendations and recipes!  What’s great about me living by myself in Manchester is I’ll be doing a lot more of my own cooking, so I promise I’ll try to keep this up as regularly as possible.

Anyways!  I decided my kick off point for restarting the “Fritalian” was my visit BACK to DC where I got to take advantage of restaurant week and frequent (yet again) my favorite restaurant Cafe Atlantico.  What’s even more fun, is I finally got to return with Adam, the whole reason I know about this delicious delight in the first place!

Just like last time, I started with the amazing conch fritters that are accompanied by guacamole dumplings…so good. SO good.  For the main course, I had their version of a cubano.  It was fantastic, they even make a bar menu type sandwich gourmet.  The dessert is never my favorite part, but regardless it was so good ha!  If you haven’t checked it out yet DO IT!

So for a recipe, since starting to cook more at home I’ve been trying to perfect the homemade pizza.  Danny made some homemade pizza that was just to die for (and of course it was effortless for him) and it inspired me to try it.  So i tried it once with store bought pizza dough, caramelized onions, banana peppers, and shitake mushrooms and cheese.  Let’s just say, it was good, but not great.  So I tried a different, safer route until I can really get this down.  Trial #2 was much better and really turned out well.

Now we all know I’m not above store bought ANYTHING.  In fact, it usually keeps costs down and frankly, tastes better haha.  Instead of the ball of pizza dough, I bought Pillbury’s pizza dough that your roll out on the pan.  On this one, I just brushed the dough with olive oil (probably could have used a little salt and garlic) then put down the mozzarella.  On top of the cheese went the hot Italian sausage, green peppers and onions.  Into the oven on 425 for just about 10 minutes and VOILA!

Amazing.  I gotta say, it is really, REALLY good.  NOT perfect, but pretty damn close.  And yes, There’s a bunch missing because I couldn’t even wait until the cheese cooled down because it just looked so good:

See! It looks pretty there too.  I know I know.  Anyways, so to get it like this, its just so simple.  Obviously, the first step is to cook the sausage through.  While that is going on, roll out your pizza dough, slice your onions and green peppers, or whatever else it is you’d like to put on or substitute on here… because hell, its your pizza, you put on it what you want!

Next step, put the sauce or oil or pesto or whatever you want as the base on the dough.  Then goes the cheese!  On top of the cheese goes your toppings.  All meat should be cooked and veggies, raw.  They’ll cook in the oven.  Then I put it in the oven at 425 for 10 minutes and the cheese came out bubbling and browned on the edges, and the crust just crispy enough.

Its easy and cheap and quick enough right?  Now go to the grocery store and doo it.  Awesome, thanks!  See you next time kids, I’m gonna finish this glass of wine and continue to make fun of the American Idol tryouts.  Yes.  That is my life in Manch-Vegas.  Until then, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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Fall in the District

October 22, 2009 at 11:56 AM (Uncategorized) (, , )

So it’s officially fall in Washington, DC, meaning the weather jumps from 34 degrees one day, to 70 the next… its ridiculous.  Regardless of the weather, fall brings out my favorite smells and dishes!  It’s almost time for Thanksgiving which means all the food magazines are coming out with their “what to do with Turkey leftovers” editions, how to make cranberry sauce like you grandmother, and mashed potato secrets.  It’s also the time that the candle companies put out their autumn wreath, pumpkin, apple cider and fall leaves scented candles!  Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than that… or does it?

Fall also brings eggplant and pomegranate season!!!  Anyone who knows me knows that if pomegranate or goat cheese is involved, chances are, I’m going to order it.  Eggplant, while available all year round just seems like such a cozy meal for me, so I tend to gravitate towards it in the fall and winter.  At home, my favorite pizza is eggplant and onion pizza from Franco Gianni’s, which I was so excited to have last week one of my 2 recent trips up North.  Having the eggplant fresh on my mind, I decided while at the store getting my food for the week ahead and figuring out what to have for dinner that night, to get a baby eggplant and fry it with some mozzarella.  This dish is so tasty and another dish that you can make look expensive that is in fact, very reasonable.

Of course, as my starter, I made a delicious Caprese Salad:

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Just some tomatoes from the vine, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a ready made balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.  I guess I could honestly say, if asked the question “what’s one dish you could eat for the rest of your life and never get tired of?” it would be this.  Easy, cheap, everyone should know how to make it… and it always just looks so pretty.

I was snacking on this while tending to my eggplant which I started by slicing into about quarter inch slices leaving the skin on.  The skin is full of antioxidants and turns that beautiful purple color when its all cooked.  Before I move ahead, here are the other ingredients I used:

– baby eggplant

– fresh mozzarella

– vodka sauce

– whole wheat penne pasta

– fresh basil

– one egg

– Italian bread crumbs

– about 1/2 cup of flour

– oil for cooking

Now, while this dish is easy you have to be VERY careful when heating the oil.  I would suggest using a pot or a very deep frying pan since you’ll need to cover the bottom of it with oil that will obviously get very hot and will start to sputter when you first put the eggplant down.

Alright, so back to actually cooking, after you’ve sliced the eggplant, coat each side with flour, then egg, then the breadcrumbs.  When you’ve done that, cover the bottom of the pot or pan with oil and turn to a medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the pieces of eggplant in gently and with some sort of utensil (not your own fingers!)  Turn eggplant once at first, allowing each side to get a nice crunchy brown color (I’d say about 3-4 minutes on each side), then turn the heat to low, you can keep flipping after the 3-4 minutes on each side to brown it to your tasting.  Place the leftover mozzarella you’ve sliced from your Caprese Salad and place a piece on each of the eggplants.  You can let the eggplant continue to cook and the cheese to melt as you make the pasta.

Since I’m assuming you all know how to make pasta, I’ll skip the obvious.  I do however suggest heating the sauce in a separate pot (or in a bowl in the microwave if you’re so inclined) before adding it to the dish.  It will cool the dish down immensely if you do not.  When your pasta and sauce are ready, lay the pasta down, then the eggplant then the sauce and top with some basil.

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I was cooking for one, so I had plenty of eggplant leftover.  If you do have leftovers, here’s a great suggestion.  The next day, I got a nice fresh sub roll, toasted it, heated some more sauce, placed the sauce in the roll and placed my leftover eggplant and mozzarella in the sub.  It was my own eggplant parmesan sandwich and damn was it good.

Now that I’ve shared my recipe for this week I have to let you know I’ve completely caught up on Top Chef Vegas, FINALLY!  And thank God most of the people I can’t stand are gone… except… Robin.  She’s awful and she never shuts the hell up!  I have to say though, listening to Mike I. and Laurine talk about her just cracks me up.  I loved the episode where they had to deconstruct dishes, and of course, when Mr. Charlie Palmer was the guest judge.  I spend way too much time in his restaurant in DC as it is on the ground floor of my office building.  It was great to see him on the show especially since the Volt brothers both worked for him.  I also learned I need to get to the Pigs and Pinot party he hosts every year in Vegas… someone please start working on that? Thanks.

Alrighty, I’m going to start dreaming up the next recipe I could throw together for another post.  Since it is almost Thanksgiving as I said before, it’s almost time for my grandmother’s cranberry and apple casserole so keep your eyes out for it!  Until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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Bellissimo

October 5, 2009 at 1:13 PM (Uncategorized) ()

Well it’s finally October.

Jack-O-Lantern

Where the hell September and the rest of summer went, I have no idea.  But I’m okay with that!  This is my favorite time of year.  Time for Zeigler’s Apple Cider and Captain Morgan (great autumn/tailgating cocktail, hot OR cold!), autumn leaves candles, my grandmother’s “yucky” and pumpkin mac and cheese!

I know all those things sound so amazing, but unfortunately, today I don’t have a recipe ready for you.  However, I tried a new restaurant that deserves to be discussed; Potenza.  It’s on 15th and H St, NW right near Old Ebbitt Grill and the White House (some of you may have heard of that little landmark.)  A couple of friends and I needed to do some catching up, one of whom decided we should try this place.  Man, did she pick well!  It’s a very reasonably priced Italian restaurant that had great decor, wasn’t too loud, and impeccable service.  For those of you who have tried Zola on 8th and F in Chinatown, its owned by the same group.  If you do try this place out, see if you can sit in Daniel’s section, he was great.  He treated us VERY well.

The name Potenza is an area in Italy just Southeast of Naples and is actually where my family is from!!

potenza

The decor was a hybrid of an old, run down, hole-in-the-wall (the best kind of Italian restaurants) and a modern foodie hot spot.  It was never too loud, yet the every seat in the house was occupied.

To start, Daniel brought us some Fried Risotto Balls on the house.  Anything that involves fried and risotto, I want (yeah,  you thought I was going somewhere else with that, get your head out of the gutter).  We accompanied our food with a lovely Pinot Bianco (I can’t remember the name since I didn’t pick it, but its bottle number 150 on the wine list), a nice compromise for the variety of wine preferences sitting at our table.

I ordered the Isalate Caprese, of course, and it was delicious.  It came with yellow, red, and brandywine tomatoes, fresh mozzorella, fresh basil and a very tasty Balsamic reduction.  I highly recommend this to start.  For the main course I had the mushroom risotto with fresh Parmesan cheese…it was so good.  It was the melt in your mouth kind of silky risotto.  Others ordered the soup of the day, the tortelloni, and the manicotti.  Every one was very please with their choices.  Now, if you do try this place, there is something they do not tell on the menu, which is **you can order half portions of all the main courses except the manicotti**.  This was great news, since we all are big fat kids for life were really hungry and wanted to try an appetizer, we could actually do that now and not have to worry about how much food would be left over.  If you plan on getting an appetizer or dessert, I would recommend the half portion entrees.  They really were the perfect amount of food.

When it was time for dessert we ordered the tiramisu, assortment of sorbets, and cookies.  And just like our meals, everything was good, even the pizzelles on the sorbet were delicious.  Now as if Daniel hadn’t treated us well enough, he brought us complimentary dessert wine.  I’m not usually a fan of sweet wines, but this was a sparkling white (that I unfortunately did not get the name of) that was just sweet enough to compliment our dessert choices.

Even without the tremendous service, the food and drink are definitely worth a visit.  Potenza will be added to the list of favorite Italian restaurants in DC. Filomena and Pasta Mia still top the list by far, but Potenza is the top contender as a convenient, inexpensive alternative to those.  Write that down.  I hope you all enjoyed reading about Potenza, and that you check it out, and until next time, sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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Swimming Upstream

September 30, 2009 at 11:07 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Alright, alright, you know I’m trying to get used to this blogging thing, so I apologize again for the delayed new post.  My association had its board meeting last week so there was no way I had time to cook for myself.  Anyway!  I am here now with a new post, new review and a new recipe that is easy, cheap and delicious!

As I said, last week was my board meeting which went well, but on our last day, a couple of my coworkers and I wanted to thank one of our colleagues for allowing us to make him our bitch all last week.  So instead of sticking around for the “make your own deli sandwich” looking display, we headed around the corner to Bistro Bis located at the Hotel George near Union Station.  Bistro Bis has (obviously) French/Belgian cuisine and is known for being a place to spot top legislators and lobbyists due to its close proximity to the Capitol building.  And for those of you who actually care about seeing that stuff on your lunch break, I still wouldn’t recommend this place.

I had been here once or twice before and the food is decent, but it doesn’t stand out as being a place that is unique or worth the money.  If you really want mussels, go to Granville Moore’s on H street, NE (and on Monday’s they are half off!).  And if you really want Belgian cuisine, I recommend Brasserie Beck on 12th.

The food not being memorable was one thing, but the service was entirely different.  I understand that you’ll catch a place on a bad day once, and maybe it’ll keep you from there for a while, but this was so bad, I’m never going back.  Not only did it take our food an hour and a half to get to the table, but our server was horrendous.  We didn’t see him through most of our wait time, and when we did, he blamed our wait on the kitchen.  Now, I don’t know how many of you have worked in the service industry, but here’s what your job entails… making sure the customer is all set.  No one cares whose fault it is that you brought me the wrong wine, or that my food is cold, or that I’ve now been sitting here for over an hour for a $13 cheeseburger.  Your job is to come over to the table, apologize, and make sure we have everything else we need, not blame someone else.  Another faux pas, we didn’t see a manager until the food had actually come out… and they forgot part of our order.  Yeah, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Sooo needless to say, I will not be frequenting Bistro Bis anytime soon, or basically ever again.  There are too many other places where the food stands out and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that I would rather waste my time and money thank you very much.

Phew, now that I have gotten that rant out of the way, I have a delicious and easy recipe that is good for anytime of year.  I got this from my brother who can cook with the best of them.  He made it while I was home in August and it was divine.  It’s Maple Baked Salmon with rice pilaf and asparagus.

Now as I was getting everything prepared and ready to cook, I switched on the TV to see what could entertain my ears while I watch my food cook…low and behold, my favorite movie Across the Universe was on.  I knew it was going to be a good night.  I am a HUGE Beatles fan, and this movie did a great job telling a story through some of their finest song writing.  It’s wicked trippy, so for those of you who would like to stay away from the psychedelic, I would not recommend this movie… I also suggest we stop begin friends.  So, now that I’ve got my Beatles tunes through the eyes of Julie Taymor, my food prepped and my wine poured, its time to cook!

So about this maple syrup, I’m not talking about your Aunt Jemima or Log Cabin maple “syrup” aka CRAP.  What you need is the REAL New England Maple Syrup.  It’s going to be the most expensive piece of this meal you buy, but use it, (especially the next time you have pancakes), I promise, you’ll never want to go back to the rubbery stuff.  Everything else for the meal will probably cost about $10-15 depending on where you get your fish.

I got just over a half a pound of Salmon because I was cooking for one.  The best part about that size, I could have definitely cooked for two (that means leftovers woo!).  Also, just grab a small batch of asparagus and a box of rice pilaf and you’re ready to go!

Utensils you will need includes a pastry brush, casserole dish, frying pan, and a pot.

To get started, preheat the oven to 350.  While the oven is heating up, paint the bottom of the casserole dish with the maple syrup, just enough to cover the space the fish will take up while you bake it.  Then place the fish over that area and paint more syrup to the top and sides of the salmon.  If you like things sweeter, you can add a couple coats.  Once you have put the salmon in the oven, bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the piece you have.

Once the fish is in the oven, begin cooking your rice pilaf, this will also take about 20-25 minutes.  The directions are right on the box, so I won’t get into those details for you.

When there’s about 10 minutes left, put your asparagus on the frying pan and fry until soft.  You’ll notice they will start turning a vibrant, beautiful green as they cook.  You can cook them by covering the frying pan with a top and letting the asparagus sweat itself, or do what I do, which is toss them in a little olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper and let them cook.

When you’re all done cooking, making a nice display out of this dish is just too easy.  Spread some rice pilaf on the bottom of the dish then some asparagus stalks, then place the piece of fish on top of it all.  If you’ve cooked the fish enough, the skin will part from the meat as you slide the spatula in between them.

salmon

It looks so fancy, but is so easy!  Like I said, I cooked for one, but had enough of everything for leftovers for tonight, so cooking this meal for two will not cost you anymore than it cost me.

Now to recommend some wine.  I frequented my favorite wine shop, Au Domaine, where they just so happened to be having an Italian wine tasting (man was Saturday my lucky day!).  There, I tried a Pinot Bianco from the Northern region of Italy.  I knew this would be a great compliment to this dish since it has beautiful flavors, but dries the more you drink it.  This compliments the sweet of the maple syrup on the salmon.

vino

The picture of the label below is a little fuzzy, but the wine comes from the di Leonardo vineyards and runs about $10.99.  It’s a great wine to drink the day you buy it, or a couple weeks down the road and is well within a reasonable price range.

Alright kids, well I hope you enjoy this dish, I know it’s one I will be making again (and again and again).  Watch out for another post up here this week/weekend since I need to start expanding my stomach for the Sicilian food fest that is my trip Providence, RI next weekend.  Anyway, until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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It’s the pesto of cities.

September 14, 2009 at 1:23 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Hello alll!  I know, I know it’s been FOREVER (okay really only 26 days) since the last post, but I’m sure you survived…

Anyways, a lot has happened since my last post, I spent a week in the Caymans Islands which was fantastic, exactly what I needed before Congress came back to session and everyone started running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  I did nothing but lay on the beach… oh yeah, and swam with stingrays, snorkeled, jet skied, ocean kayaked, and shopped, but other than that, nothing.

I will not try to recap the couple of Top Chefs I missed while I was away, but I will restart with that this week.  I’m just pumped that all my guys are still on and doing really well.  And Preeti is gone who doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Ashley or Eve, but still bothered me.  Regardless, this season is freaking awesome and I’m happy it’s just really begun.

Since my last post, I’ve visited my FAVORITE restaurant in Washington, DC which is Cafe Atlantico (thanks Radman!).  They had extended their Restaurant Week menu so I had to indulge.  I went for a business lunch which happened to be the first time I hadn’t been there during the dinner rush.  The food was JUST as good (as were the mojitos!).  The starter was perfect for having just come back from the Caymans, Conch Fritters accompanied by guacamole dumplings.  They were to die for, I wanted to reach onto the tray of every waiter that walked by with them for more.  The main course I chose was a mushroom quesadilla which was another no fail choice.  Dessert (which is never my favorite serving) was chocolate lava cake that was quite delicious.  Overall another top notch experience at Jose Andres’ Cafe Atlantico.

Labor Day weekend brought a couple of blogworthy experiences as well.  We cooked all weekend!  Friday, I could FINALLY head to the new wine shop in Alexandria called Au Domaine.  A co-worker of mine used to travel around France with owners Rick and Barbara, who are fantastic people.  They came downtown for a tasting a couple months ago, where I purchased a six- pack of their wines.  Now, one of the reasons I absolutely love this place, is they only sell wines where the grapes have been grown, harvested, crushed, barreled and aged on the premise of the property who owns them.  They also sell amazing cheeses, sausages and oils.  It’s fantastic.  I went to get my six pack and picked up a rose and some garlic and olive oil goat cheese to enjoy ourselves Friday night.  Man, did Rick make some great recommendations, we devoured both the cheese and the wine, both getting better with every bite and sip.

Saturday we decided, instead of going out to dinner, we would make our own feast after getting all riled up watching college football.  Here’s where the really great recipes come in.  About a month and a half ago, while partaking in my usual Sunday ritual with Maggie (vegging on the couch while watching the Food Network until it’s dark), my girl Claire Robinson’s Five Ingredient Fix came on.  She was making rack of lamb with mint almond pesto… um…. hello?! I think SO!  I immediately added it to my recipe box and knew this was the perfect night to try it.  Anyways, off to Eastern Market we went to get our fresh veggies, cheeses and meats.

My contribution to the dinner was the rack of lamb with mint pesto with my dad’s mashed potatoes.  Now, this may sound like a really complicated meal to make, but it’s actually quite easy.  The 2 things you absolutely need for this though, and 2 things that you don’t find in too many twenty-somethings’ kitchens; a food processor and a grill pan.  Both of these you can find at Target for under $40 (or over if you think you’re Bobby Flay.)  I would suggest making the pesto first just to get it out of the way.  So here we go!

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, from about 2 large bunches
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 lemon, zested, plus juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 12 lamb rib chops, Frenched, about 2 pounds

Directions:

Put the mint, almonds, zest, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, add the lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the oil until thick and smooth. Add about 2 tablespoons water until a thick but spreadable paste forms; continue adding water until desired consistency. Taste pesto and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Generously drizzle the lamb chops with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Grill, turning once, 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare; remove to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the grilled chops with mint pesto drizzled over the top.

Now the mashed potatoes are even easier.  Guestimate how many people you’re having and I’d say buy 2-3 potatoes per person.  Then peel, cube evenly, and place into a big pot of water.  Boil the potatoes until they start floating on the top/soften to the point that sticking a fork into the cubes, they almost fall apart.  Drain the water, just enough to still cover the bottom, place potatoes back into the pot, throw in some heavy cream, butter, salt and pepper and start mashin’!  Depending on how chunky, creamy, garlicy, you like your potatoes, you can pretty much do anything with them.  I always throw in some minced garlic, but leave most of the buttering, salting, etc to each person.  Not everyone likes salty potatoes!

Alright, so that was a lot!  But I had to share that most delicious rack of lamb with mint almond pesto recipe.  It’s easy and just too good not to try.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my ranting and raving.  I’m sure you’ll hear from me again this week… Top Chef is Wednesday for goodness sake! Anyways, until then sicuro viaggi and bon appetit!

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