Simple Happiness

Some of my friends think I’m crazy, some of them are in complete agreement. Going grocery shopping is fun. And going to Wegmans is even better! There isn’t one near me; I have to drive at least 25 or so minutes to get to one. But once there, it’s just pure, simple happiness. So much produce, bread, cheese, meat, seafood, other stuff. They just have everything, you can’t go wrong…bliss.

I hope one gets built in upper NW DC where the Fannie Mae building is. I was so hoping one was going to come to North Bethesda. I could have walked to it. Though walking home from Wegmans could be tough after shopping. That could also help limit what you buy, I guess.

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Quinoa Goes Poof

Was at a friend’s place and saw a small chip-like bag sitting around and had to inspect.  Based on the name, it had to have something to do with quinoa.  The name was I Heart Keenwah.  In the bag, quinoa puffs.  Poofy little things, and this bag was sea salt truffle flavor.  These things are addictive!  Nice crunch, nice and airy.  And, all things considered, not bad for having 3 servings in the bag.  Am totally going to have to go buy some.  And based on the website, they have some other cool products!

 

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Zquila

While traveling I of course had the opportunity to check out some new restaurants.  First stop was in Ft. Collins, CO at Zquila.  The name alone drew my attention.

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Despite the cold weather, one must order a cold drink at an establishment like this with ingredients similar to the name.  Margarita on the rocks, no salt, please.

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At first glance this drink looked odd, too clear.  But at first sip I was sold.  I could have had a few more.

Ordered some guac to hold the table over and then since it was a cold day opted for some soup;  went with tortilla.

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It was a bit greasier than I expected but still very delicious.  Nice mix of chicken and veggies.  Perfect for a cold day.

This restaurant is totally worth checking out.

Sashimi-me

Hot days mean cool dinners.  When Bon Appetit arrives at my door it means reading the index of recipes first to see what needs to be made!  The recent issue has so much good stuff it was/is hard to pick.  But with the recent temps of 90+, little cooking is ideal.  So the recipe of Snapper Sashimi with Seaweed and Fennel could not be turned down (the hardest part, honestly, was going to the grocery store after sitting at the pool for awhile).

Ingredients (oh the fun…)

-2 teaspoons dried cut wakame seaweed (I went to Whole Foods.  You can either buy a bag of these things for about $8. Or, after talking to one of the guys who works there, we decided that I could try using one of the little seaweed snack pieces, that look like green stained glass, that cost $1.99 cost the entire box…hmmm…
-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 teaspoon finely grated peeled horseradish (I can’t eat the stuff so can’t tell you what it tastes like with this, but I am sure it add tons of great taste)
-1 teaspoon soy sauce
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
-Small pinch of sugar
-Kosher salt
-¼ small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (just random, there were no regular size fennel bulbs, just these tiny guys, maybe the size of 2 or 3 grape tomatoes, pretty cute, then they have tons or fronds. I saved those, heck yeah!)
-2 small radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
-½ pound skinless, boneless red snapper fillet, sliced ¼ inch thick (Let’s talk about Whole Foods and fish. The recipe also says “The type of fish you use is less important than its quality. Black bass, striped bass, and fluke all translate well.” They didn’t have any of those on a Friday evening. It’s ‘rush hour’ — I didn’t know what to do, not did the guy working. He deduced that I could try Cobia. I just still just a bit taken aback that Whole Foods didn’t have any of the prime seafood it called for)
-½ cup chervil leaves (Another problem, Whole Foods had no chevril leaves, ok, I live walking distance from it and did not want to drive to get anything. The produce guy said the best substitute would be flat leaf parsley)
-1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
-Flaky sea salt

IMG_3546Getting all this together was pretty easily, definitely fun.

Directions:

-Soak wakame in 1 Tbsp. cold water in a small bowl to rehydrate, 5–8 minutes; drain.  Ok, it was sort of slimy afterwards — very cool.

IMG_3549(Don’t forget to take those radishes and that fennel to the mandoline).

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Combine lime juice, oil, horseradish, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sugar in a medium bowl; season with kosher salt. Add fennel, radishes, and seaweed to dressing; toss to combine.

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Arrange snapper (or fish at hand) on a platter. Spoon dressing and vegetables over and top with chervil and fennel pollen, if using; season with sea salt. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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WOW!  The Asian-flair of flavors all came together to hit the palate and gave an amazing taste.  I also happened to serve this on a platter I bought in Japan so of course it made it taste even better!  So good.  Will definitely try it with bass, too.

Za’atar

Have you ever gone to a Lebanese restaurant for dinner and they bring you the great pita bread and olive oil to munch on?  But that olive oil also has something extra in it?  When at Lebanese Taverna a couple weeks ago I finally asked what that stuff is.  That magical ingredient is Za’atar.  The waiter told me it’s easy to find at specialty grocery stores.  So I stopped by Rodman’s in DC and found a huge (of course) bag of it.  I am in heaven.  I have put it in olive oil like in restaurants, sprinkled it in and on top of hummus and also used it as ‘just’ a spice on meats and salads.  Can we say addiction?

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Allergy, Intolerance, other…covered

When visiting Ireland, it was amazing to see how attentive they were to people’s food allergies, intolerances, or anything else.  This is one menu I really noticed.  Others would have labels and legends for what each item on the menu contained (dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, etc).  And if somebody wasn’t sure, they would immediately go to the kitchen to find out.  They would go out of their way to make the dish work for you and if they couldn’t, they’d suggest the best alternative.  Why can’t all our places be so good?

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Edible Insects

Was flipping through a copy of National Geographic the other day and came across one of their Future of Food/Food by the Numbers pieces (there have been several).  This was quite interesting about how insects are essentially multi-purpose; used for both feed and food.  They are used to feed cattle and in some places they (grasshoppers in particular) are a delicacy for humans!  That’s in Uganda where they cost 40% more than a pound of beef.  Will be interesting to see what happens in the US with this in the future.

Check out the video.  National Geographic also has several other great pieces on various food topics  Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the NatGeo museum before the exhibit closed to see all of this in person, but it received great reviews.  If you live in DC, or visited the city, and made it to the museum, would love to hear what you thought about the exhibit.

natgeo                                                                       Photo Source:  nationalgeographic.com

Posole

It’s winter, which means it’s soup time.  Was debating what to make the other night and came across a recipe I love that I hadn’t put together for awhile — Posole (from Cooking Light).  The true meaning of the word/name is hominy, so that is obviously a must in the ingredients.  There are many ways to make it/variations on the recipe.  The key is that it has to be made during the the cold weather season.

Ingredients

1 pound tomatillos (I normally use green salsa but the store was out this time so actually had to use what the recipe called for)
6 cups Brown Chicken Stock (not sure what brown vs. ‘normal’ is, and I just use broth)
2 cups chopped onion
3 pounds chicken breast halves, skinned
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and quartered (I usually just use Tabasco and/or chili powder)
1 (30-ounce) can white hominy, drained
1 teaspoon salt

—>below are all garnishes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
8 lime wedges

Preparation

Remove/discard husks and stems from the tomatillos. Cook whole tomatillos in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender; drain.

IMG_1911[1]Place tomatillos in a blender; process until smooth; set aside.

IMG_1913[1]Place stock and the next five (5) ingredients (stock through hominy) in a large stockpot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from bones (I have always used boneless — and skinless); shred. Stir in pureed tomatillos and salt; cook for five(5) minutes or until heated.

Stir in chicken, and serve with cilantro, sour cream, and lime wedges, if desired.

IMG_1917[1]Delicious!  I served it with some guacamole, salsa and chips.  I also have plenty to eat for several days or freeze to keep on hand.

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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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!