U5?

Finally made it to the DC Fish Market on Maine Avenue last month.  I have only lived here how long (next year will be 15 years) and have been meaning to get there.  It’s full of great fish vendors and tons of stuff to check out.

IMG_1157 IMG_1158 IMG_1159So much amazing seafood!

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My friends and I decided we’d each grab something to contribute for dinner that night.  After surveying, I decided on shrimp, and I couldn’t just grab everyday shrimp, that would be too easy for a fish market.  I saw these big guys that I could not turn down — U5s.  If you’re not completely sure what than means, it’s that there are 5 or less shrimp per pound!  When you see ‘normal’ shrimp selection in the grocery store, there/they are 21-25, 31-40, in most cases.  But really, U5?  The pictures do them no justice.

IMG_1169 IMG_1176 When we got to the kitchen, I could pretty much cozily fit the three of them that I purchased for the three of us in one pan.  Just seared them with some olive oil and garlic.

IMG_1194 IMG_1200We also picked up some oysters and a red snapper.  Great dinner!

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New Pinotage

Pinotage is one of my favorite wines with that smokey nose and taste.  Then, the subtle leather notes, as well.  And, whenever I can find it in the States, it is always a bonus.  Sometimes it can be hard to get, or you always find the same ones.  So, when in CO the past week or so, I got totally different distributors than what I am used to in DC, MD and VA.  I came across a Pinotage I had never seen before — Barista (2012) Pinotage.  The name itself does it justice — Barista — coffee.  It also has the traditional notes of Pinotage with the smoke, subtle leather and some fruit.  It was in the mid-teens, price-wise.  If you’re looking for a looking for a new wine and/or are a fan of this varietal, totally try it (assuming you can easily find it).IMG_1781[1]IMG_1780[1]

Baby Eggplant

Was roaming around the produce section at Sprouts the other day and saw these random purple, oblong-ish things that I didn’t recognize at first.  Stopped and then determined what they were.  Whoa — baby eggplant.  So neat.  They were 1.5″-2″ long and just too good to pass up.  And, they were a whopping 5 for $1.

IMG_1777[1]To cook, decided to slice them in half, longways, season with some Italian herbs, drizzle with olive oil and put on the grill.

IMG_1779[1]Cooked for 10+ minutes, turning once.  So good.  You could eat them in one bite, scoop out the middle, pop the inside out by pressing from the skin.  They had just a bit of a different taste from regular eggplant.  They would be perfect to serve as appetizers because they can totally be finger food.

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Salt Block

Got a salt block from Salt Works for Christmas a few years back and decided to put it back to good use.  Salt blocks can be used for either cooking food or serving cold food on to get a bit more flavor (without heating it up).  I normally do the former.

IMG_1733[1] To do that, you heat it up very slowly over the course or 45-60 minutes.  You can do it on a gas or electric stove, with some considerations in mind, based on what the salt block makes contact with, so that it doesn’t crack. Over the course of heating the block, we increased the heat on the (gas) stove incrementally over the course of about 45 minutes, in 10 minute intervals.

IMG_1732[1]When you put the meat on the block, it picks up just a hint of salt on the exterior and then you get the balance of the meat flavor on the inside.  We decided to cook a nice tuna steak the other night.  When we felt the block was hot enough, we brought it to the table and threw the tuna steak on there.  Of course, after you spend all this time prepping this piece of salt, it takes zero time to cook the meat.  But, that’s why we love cooking — the prep!  Took less than a minute or two to get the tuna to where we wanted.  Even cooked a bit more than (I) wanted, but it was fun to watch.

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Cicerone

While continuing my great getaway in Colorado and enjoying some brews at Fort Collins Brewery yesterday, it came to me — if the wine industry has sommeliers, does the beer industry have the same?  So, of course I can’t stay quiet when I have such a question.  I asked our bartender what he knew about the topic, and he provided the info. You definitely learn something new everyday.

Those who taste and critique the brews aim for/earn the title of Cicerone. Other than the basic name, let me help you find out a bit more about it.  All info below is taken directly/verbatim/copied & pasted from the Cicerone Certification Program website.

cicerone_logoLogo source: cicerone.org

What is a Cicerone?

The word Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) has been chosen to designate those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.

What is the origin of the word Cicerone? 

Cicerone is an English word referring to “one who conducts visitors and sightseers to museums and explains matters of archaeological, antiquarian, historic or artistic interest.” A Certified or Master Cicerone® possesses the knowledge and skills to guide those interested in beer culture, including its historic and artistic aspects. These titles now designate a person with demonstrated expertise in beer who can guide consumers to enjoyable and high-quality experiences with great beer.

In the wine world, the word “sommelier” designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. At one time, some beer servers adopted the title “beer sommelier” to tie into the credibility of the wine world. But in the years since its founding, the Cicerone Certification Program has become the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service.

Honey Smoked Salmon

Keep hearing these non-stop, repetitive ads for this smoked salmon.  I have worked in radio marketing/advertising and will say they are quite effective.  I also can’t even imagine the cost of them.  Well, the exact brand that is being advertised is Honey Smoked Fish Company ‘available at (all local stores),’ mostly in Colorado.  Was at Costco and had to look for it.  Reasonably priced so decided to pick some up.

IMG_1745[1]You have the normal lox, you have smoked salmon, but I will say, there was something about this stuff.  Totally worth the ads getting stuck in my head swaying me to pick some up.  Could not stop nibbling on it!  Hopefully you live where it’s available and can grab some.  It is available to order on their site, but much more expensive than in store.

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Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Was at a friend’s place a couple weeks ago and she made this mouth-watering salad.  Decided to make it as part of Christmas Eve dinner last night.  It’s definitely one that you have to take seconds, or thirds of.  I think it’s from the dressing.

Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Cranberries, Toasted Almonds + Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Salad
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup Bulgur Wheat (I used quinoa — you can basically use any grain)
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries (the store didn’t have them, so I used dried cherries, just as good)
1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
Fresh cilantro, chopped (use as much or little as you’d like)
2 scallions, sliced thin crosswise

(last night I made half the recipe — it makes a ton)

Vinaigrette (this is the part that’s the best)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice + lime zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, smashed (though you can always use more!)
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
Pinch salt and fresh ground pepper
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Bring the 2 cups of water and salt to a boil and add the bulgur. Turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-15 minutes until water is absorbed and bulgur is soft but still has a bite to it.

Toss all the salad ingredients in a big bowl until combined.

In a small bowl, combine the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour half of the dressing over salad and stir to coat the salad in dressing. Taste and add more dressing as needed.

Good warm but it’s best after it sits in the fridge for an hour or two.

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So, so good.  And, it’s dairy free and gluten free!  You can even play with all the ingredients that go in the salad.  Give it the taste that you want.  I could not stop nibbling on the stuff.

Woop Woop

Sounds like I’m cheering, right?  Well, I guess I sort of am.  Found a great new (to me) wine last night.  Was having leftover ‘roo burgers so decided to pick up an Australian wine to pair with them (had beer the first time around).  Wanted to get something I hadn’t tried before.  Found the Woop Woop Shiraz at the store.

Totally not what I was expecting for a(n Australian) Shiraz.  I would say its color was very dark for the varietal and it was also thick/syrupy (best description I can give).  The first thing I got on the nose was pepper, then a light bit of fennel, finally various berries.  Same with the taste.  But, again, the pepper was the most prominent.  What was very interesting is that the wine changed throughout the evening.  Always had a bit of a different character.  Definitely worth checking out, and well priced — low-mid teens.  Also, quick note, it was a screw top, which is becoming much more common.  I call the things easy access.

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Tomato and Arugula Pasta Sauce

Got to enjoy a pasta sauce I hadn’t had for awhile the other night.  It has tons of veggies and is super simple to make — Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes and Rocket (Arugula) or Spaghetti con Pomodori e Rughetta from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed.

Ingredients:

1 lb spaghetti

10 oz red ripe plum tomatoes — I use a lot more

4 cloves garlic

2 oz rocket (arugula) — about 1/3 cup chopped — I used about 2-3 times this much

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & Black pepper

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Directions:

Skin the tomatoes by first plunging them into boiling water for a few minutes (I have always skipped this step).

Chop finely (I keep them in chunks) and place in a large bowl together with the finely chopped garlic and coarsely chopped rocket (arugula).  Add the olive oil and S&P to taste and leave for at least 2 hours.

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Post 2-hours:

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I was in charge of the sauce…got to enjoy some nice homemade pasta.

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Cook the pasta as usual, drain and stir in the sauce.

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Kangaroo Burgers

Am finding more good new stuff to try.  In this great local store called Sprouts, while walking through the meat department I noticed some kangaroo (easy way to get to Australia, right?), distributed by Durham Ranch.

IMG_1615[1]After trying warthog and ostrich earlier this year in South Africa, I had to consider this.  I picked up the package to inspect.  Very lean so decided to give it a try.

IMG_1617[1]Looked up some recipes that evening and most said just to add some spices, an egg and breadcrumbs.  Did that and the patties are cooked rare-medium rare.  With all said and done, very good!  Very unique, mild flavor.  Tough to give it an exact description for taste because it doesn’t taste like anything else.  You can tell it’s wild game, but it doesn’t come across ‘gamey.’  I definitely recommend picking some of this up if you enjoy trying new food!