Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Fusilli with Shrimp and Arugula

January 31, 2008
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Continuing the shrimp pasta theme, this is a much lighter (in both flavor and caloric content) recipe courtesy of the lovely Giada. You could eat this one cold or hot–and if the bitterness of the arugula is overpowering (as it was for my boyfriend), add a little grated parmesan! Cheese is never a bad idea…

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1 cup dry white wine
    1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
    12 ounces fusilli pasta
    3 cups (packed) fresh arugula

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and white wine and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the wine reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook just until they are pink, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the fusilli in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the fusilli. Add the fusilli and arugula to the skillet. Toss to combine. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and serve.


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Recipe: Shrimp and Pasta in Tomato-Chile Cream Sauce

January 30, 2008

Dinner on Saturday night was a new and delicious recipe–from the playbook of Mr. Bam! himself. I’ve never attempted an Emeril Lagasse recipe, and it turned out incredibly well. The Essence seasoning gave the shrimp a great flavor, and the jalapenos added wonderful heat.

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons Essence, recipe follows
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeno
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Set a large 1-gallon stock pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Place the linguine in the pot and stir the pot until the water returns to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Set a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once the butter has melted, season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Essence and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the shrimp until well browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and jalapenos to the pan and saute until the onions are softened and lightly caramelized, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cream, remaining 1 tablespoon of Essence, remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce until the cream is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan, and add the tomatoes, linguine and the reserved cooking water to the pan and cook, tossing to incorporate for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and add the Pepper Jack, Parmesan, parsley and basil and toss to blend. Serve immediately.

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. It will make about 2/3 cup, so you can use the remainder as a rub on pretty much any meat.


(Extended) Restaurant Week at Corduroy

January 27, 2008

Wow, how is it possible that I’ve lived in DC for 3 years and yet NEVER set foot in Corduroy until last night? Based on Tuesday’s spectacular meal, I am kicking myself for not eating there sooner and more frequently.

I will definitely look forward to seeing the new digs–the current space is pretty bland. However, that is where my complaints end. The service was wonderful, and it was obvious that our waiter respects Chef Power and enjoys working for/with him. Our server even said that Restaurant Week had been great, which elicited a surprised reaction from my dining companion (she’s been to far too many restaurants whose staffs openly despise the promotion, I suppose).

For starters, I opted for the oysters on the half shell (a $3 upcharge). The apple-shallot mignonette sauce added just the right amount of acidity and flavor, and it still let the great briny taste of the oysters (which happened to be of the Island Creek variety) shine through. My gal pal had the parsnip soup, which had some chervil oil and a wonderful creamy texture. I believe she used the crusty bread to sop up every last morsel!

The main courses were truly outstanding, and probably our favorite part of the meal. I had the boneless lamb, cooked rare, with garlic creamed spinach. I am not usually a lamb fan, but the server highly recommended it, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. The meat was tender and flavorful and prepared absolutely perfectly. The creamed spinach was probably the best I’ve ever had–in most versions, all you can taste is the cream and/or the cheese, but Chef Power’s rendition had a wonderful spinach flavor and a lovely garlic punch. When I commented to the server about how tasty it was, he said, “The chef really knows how to use seasonings and make different flavors come through.” To say the least! My friend ordered the beef cheeks “osso bucco” style, and oh my gosh, it was delicious. To say that it was tender and flavorful would be the grossest of understatements. The meat was served atop a bed of white beans (can’t remember what variety) and with a small pile of thin string beans. Needless to say, the bread was once again required to soak up all of the wonderful sauces from our quickly-emptied plates.

My girlfriend wanted to skip dessert, but I convinced her to order one anyway so that I could sample two. We opted for the hazelnut bars and the chocolate tart with caramelized bananas. The former was obviously a riff on Michel Richard’s “kit kat” bar, and my friend really enjoyed it–though, to be honest, I liked the version I had at Central better (Corduroy’s version seemed much more dense). The latter was a tart of white chocolate that actually reminded me of a custard; it was served with chocolate ice cream and the bananas, and it was really really good. Once again, plates cleaned.

I can’t believe that, after splitting the check down the middle (I had a glass of sauvignon blanc and my friend had a pilsner) and adding a large tip, my tab was still only $50. Corduroy is an incredible Restaurant Week value, and I can’t wait to sample more of Chef Power’s creations once he settles into his new location. Bravo!

So many restaurants, so little time (to write about them)

January 25, 2008
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Over the past month or so, I’ve had a TON of interesting dining experiences.  Rather than format individual posts, I figured I’d slap my thoughts down right here.  For your reading pleasure, of course!

Proof (Friday 1/4)–Ah, I love this place!  The atmosphere is hip, the bar is hoppin’ (no wonder, with all of the great wine selections), and the food seems to get better every time I visit.  The boyfriend and I shared the charcuterie board (which was HUGE, and a great value at $28)–I’ve never had so much cured meat in one sitting!  Everything was really delicious, especially the house-made pate.  Next we shared the cauliflower soup with crispy oysters–the former was AMAZING, and it actually didn’t need the latter (which had a cornmeal batter that wasn’t to my liking).  The scallop entree was lovely and perfectly cooked, but the desserts really left us with smiles–the sticky toffee pudding cake was delectably sweet without being cloying, and the goat’s cheesecake was divine in both texture and flavor.  Combine all that with some very well-recommended wines, and you’ve got a wonderful evening!  I’m returning to Proof tonight, and I can’t wait–it’s such a great addition to the DC restaurant scene.

2 Amy’s (Tuesday 1/8)–My first visit, and it was tasty–my margherita extra pizza (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil) was the table favorite–but the experience just didn’t live up to the fanaticism that surrounds the place.  Our server was excellent, and the wine and beer selections were really nice, but the pizzas (of which we ordered four) fell somewhat short of expectations.  The crust was alright–certainly not raw or significantly underdone, but definitely not as firm and crisp as I usually prefer.  The toppings were obviously of high quality, but their proportions seemed to be off–too much cheese on some, too little on others.  Sister had a special mushroom pizza, sister’s boyfriend had the calabrese pizza (tomato, onions, anchovy, mozzarella, parsley, and olives), and my boyfriend had the ripieno extra stuffed pizza (ricotta, grana, salami, prosciutto, pancetta, and tomato).  We all tasted everything, and the response was pretty consistent–good, but not mind-blowing.

Bistro 7 (Saturday, 1/12)–This is one of Philly’s famed BYOB restaurants, and my girlfriends and I really enjoyed ourselves.  The space was smaller than I anticipated, but that gave it a really homey, comfortable feel (though I have no idea how the chefs worked their magic in the teeny tiny kitchen).  Highlights of the meal were the duck mousse from the charcuterie plate (smooth and incredibly delicious), the gnocchi (light and pillowy, just the way they should be), and the duck legs (crispy, flavorful skin, and moist, tender meat).  The lentils that accompanied the duck were significantly undercooked, and the dessert was a total miss (it was a pear tart with savory, pepper-infused creme fraiche, and it just didn’t work for me), but the service was good and the fresh bread was wonderful.  Mostly, though, I enjoyed drinking a lovely bottle of Grgich Hills chardonnay without paying the ridiculous restaurant markup.

Creperie Beau Monde (Sunday 1/13)–Also in Philly, this place was recommended to me by my sister and her boyfriend.  All I can say is–YUM!  They had a zillion varieties of crepes, both savory and sweet, and I definitely would have tried more if my stomach had stretched a little farther.  I started with French onion soup, which was really well done–the perfect amount of cheese, and a hearty onion flavor.  Then, I had a mushroom crepe, which was done with buckwheat.  Very tasty.  The star of my breakfast, however, was the Nutella and banana dessert crepe.  Oh. My. GAWD.  I’ll go back just for that.

Bourbon (Wednesday 1/16)–I’ve had drinks at this Adams Morgan bar before, but I’ve never ordered food.  I opted for the ostrich burger, served rare, and a side of tater tots.  It was probably the best “bar food” I’ve ever had.  I’ve heard that Bourbon does a really good brunch–that’s definitely on my to-do list!

Vidalia (Saturday 1/19, Restaurant Week)–For appetizers, I opted for the veal tongue and my boyfriend got the bison carpaccio/tartare. The former was out of this world–incredibly tender and flavorful, it almost reminded me of a really good pupusa (due to the flatbread on which it was served and the cabbage “slaw”). The bison was also a winner, though I didn’t get much of it because it was wolfed down too fast! For entrees, I went for the rabbit saddle and boyfriend got the cassoulet. I’ve had rabbit before at Vidalia, and this version just didn’t wow me–it was tasty, and the carrot-ginger puree was a wonderful touch, but the meat was cooked more than I would have preferred (my sister got the same thing and asked for it to be cooked rare, and the server indicated that it couldn’t be done that way) and the spaetzle didn’t really contribute anything to the dish. The cassoulet was great–we couldn’t decide which part of the pork was our favorite (I think mine was the shoulder, but the sausage was also nice). The beans were hailed table-wide as the best part of the dish–yummy! For dessert, we returned to our favorites–the pecan tart for me (fabulous, as always) and the peanut-butter crunch for my man. Service was good, if a bit frazzled (hey, it was Saturday night of Restaurant Week, that’s to be expected). Wine recommendations, from both the server and the bartender, were spot-on and reasonably priced. As I left, I was even invited back for one of the wine tastings (in a way that didn’t feel like I was being sold something)–what a wonderful strategy to get people back in the door! I will certainly return to Vidalia as many times as possible before I leave DC–it remains one of my faves in the city.

I also visited Corduroy recently, but that meal deserves a post of its own (especially since it was my first experience there).  So, there you have it!  After tonight’s return trip to Proof (hooray!), I plan on eating out less and cooking MUCH more.  Stay tuned!

Recipe: Black Bean Soup with Crab and Andouille Sausage

January 22, 2008

One day recently, I was in search of a quick and hearty meal that would satisfy the first time around AND reheat well.  Enter the Crock Pot!  I search the Food Network recipe database and came up with this doozy of a soup.

The pros: It’s definitely easy, and it will definitely warm you up on a cold day!  The black beans fill you up, the sausage (I used chicken andouille) has a great kick, and the cumin gives the whole shebang a lovely smoky flavor.  It’s also tasty over rice or couscous.

The cons: The crab is expensive (jumbo lump cost me $18.99 per cup), and it’s really unnecessary–especially since the andouille sausage has such a strong taste.  The soup is a little on the thin side, and I found the quantity of tomatoes to be insufficient (but I really like tomatoes, so this may not be a con for everyone).

The verdict: Without the crab, and with a little taste-tweaking, this soup is an affordable and CRAZY easy option.  Enjoy!

  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
    4 cups chicken broth
    1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
    1/2 pound diced andouille sausage
    1/2 cup diced onion
    1/2 cup diced celery
    1/2 cup diced carrots
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    2 bay leaves
    Salt and pepper
    2 cups lump crabmeat
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro

In a slow cooker, combine beans, broth, tomatoes, sausage, onion, celery, carrots, cumin, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Mix well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with crab and cilantro.

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Recipe: Turkey Burgers with Portobello “Buns”

January 15, 2008
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This is another Rachael Ray recipe, though I modified it significantly due to my boyfriend’s intense hatred of mushrooms. The burgers were pretty thick, so I had to cook them longer on the grill pan AND finish them in the oven (even before I put them in the oven to melt the mozzarella). However, they were spicy and moist, and they tasted great with the portobello (I can’t vouch for how the wheat bread bun tasted, but Jason’s plate was empty, so I think it turned out alright). The smoked mozzarella was out of this world–I don’t think the burgers would have been as satisfying with regular mozzarella, but you could certainly go that route based on your tastes and your on-hand ingredients.

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground turkey breast
    Salt and pepper
    1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup grated pecorino
    Extra-virgin olive oil
    2 large portobello mushroom caps (I used these, but Jason opted for wheat bread)
    Coarse salt and black pepper
    1/2 pound fresh smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine meat with salt and pepper, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion, garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire, crushed red pepper flakes, and cheese. Score and form meat into 4 large patties, 1 inch thick. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on top the patties then fry 5 or 6 minutes on each side in a hot skillet.

Place portobello caps on a small baking sheet gill side up and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on them. Roast the caps 12 minutes. Remove them from the oven and season them with salt and pepper. Turn oven off. Top each burger with mozzarella and place back in still-warm oven. Melt the cheese 1 minute. Transfer burgers on “bun” bottoms to plates. The picture doesn’t really do the burgers justice–they were pretty damn good.


Recipe: Vegetable Stew

January 8, 2008

After two gut-busting restaurant dinners in a row, I couldn’t wait for my triumphant return to the kitchen. Even though we were in the middle of a warm front and it didn’t quite feel like winter outside, I decided to make a hearty vegetable stew that would fill us up without fattening us up (relatively speaking, of course). The inspiration actually came from a “30 Minute Meals” episode I watched last week–I was very skeptical about the results (I mean, come on, it’s Rachael Ray), but the stew ended up being very flavorful. It was a little thinner than I’d prefer, but it’s so quick, easy, and veggie-tastic that I can overlook that minor flaw.


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic (2 chopped, one whole)
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 chopped eggplant (peeled or unpeeled, it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 chopped zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup torn or chopped basil (10 to 12 leaves)
  • 4 1-inch thick slices whole-grain crusty bread
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino

Preheat broiler.

Heat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, bay leaf, chopped garlic, and onions, and let them sweat out while you prepare the rest of the veggies. Work next to the stove and drop as you chop, in order of longest cooking time: potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add tomatoes and stock and cook 5 minutes more, to heat through. Turn heat off and stir in basil.

Char bread under broiler and rub with cracked garlic then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, top with cheese and pepper, and return to the broiler for 30 seconds to brown cheese. Serve cheese whole-grain toast with bowls of vegetable stew.

Recipe: Hanky Panky

January 8, 2008
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I love college football.  As a gal who spent her seven years of higher education in the Southeastern Conference, I’m used to seeing the best of the best of the gridiron.  I’m also used to the best of the best as far as football snacks are concerned.  Chips and homemade salsa?  Good, but fairly amateur.  Pigs in the blanket?  Tasty and warm, but not exactly a snacking epiphany.  My favorite of all time is the manly snack with the sissy name–Hanky Panky.

As easy as it is delicious, Hanky Panky satisfies every sports munchie requirement–bite sized, cheesy, and meat-tastic.  Once you taste ’em, you won’t care what you call ’em!

  • 1 lb hot bulk sausage
  • 1 lb ground round
  • 1 lb Velveeta cheese
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • Pepper to taste

Cook and drain meat.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Add other ingredients.  Spread on 8 English muffins, cut in halves and cut each half into triangles.  Freeze on tray and place in plastic bags.  To serve, place under broiler until hot and bubbling.


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Recipe: Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

January 3, 2008
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Any dessert that combines chocolate and mint is a winner in my book. York patties, peppermint bark, Andes mints–I love ’em all! So, after eating some mint chocolate chip cookies at my office holiday party, I set out to find a version of my own.

This recipe was also inspired by Slashfood, and I modified it to suit my tastes and my on-hand ingredients. The flavor was great, but the cookies came out a little too cakey for my liking. Perhaps I’ll fiddle with the proportions and try to fix the texture problem–or, I’ll just work mint flavoring (either with candy or peppermint extract) into the traditional Toll House recipe. One thing about super-chocolatey cookies always rings true, though–they do not photograph well!


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
    1/4 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    1/2 cup cocoa powder
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 cup crushed Andes mints (or any other peppermint candy you like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave at a low heat. Stir in the cocoa powder and both sugars, then stir in yogurt and vanilla extract. Working in two or three additions, stir in the flour and mix until just combined. Add in the crushed peppermint.

Drop 1-inch balls of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press down slightly to flatten. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until set and slightly firm at the edges. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen.

Recipe: Black and White Oatmeal Cookies

January 2, 2008
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I absolutely LOVE chocolate chip cookies. Maybe it’s the comfort food factor, or the way they make the kitchen smell, or the memory I get of me and my grandmother baking them together. Either way, I have a soft spot for the classic cookie–soft (but with slighly crisp edges), gooey, and warm from the oven. Yum!

While the quintessential Toll House variety will always be king, I like discovering new riffs. Thus, when I saw a recipe for black and white oatmeal cookies over at Slashfood, I couldn’t wait to try it. In addition to being a little heartier and more texturally complex than a regular chocolate chip cookie, this version utilizes both white and semisweet (or dark, if you would prefer) chocolate. Double chips = double delicious!

Here’s my recipe, which is slightly modified from this one. They turned out great!


  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 1/2 sticks butter (softened)
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons milk
    1 egg
    1 cup milk chocolate chips
    3/4 cup white chocolate chips
    1 cup quick cooking oats

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine baking powder, flour, and salt on one bowl. In another larger bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add egg and mix. Slowly add the flour mixture and the milk and mix well. Add oats and chocolate and white chocolate chips and mix well.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Cook for 10-14 mins until edges are brown and center is still soft. Let cool.