Kelly the Culinarian: October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Media meal: Classic 30-Minute Meals

Happy Halloween! It's a foodie holiday, really. I can't decide what I'm most excited about -- the costumes and candy today or the half-priced candy tomorrow.

Regardless, I know my birthday was last week, but it only comes once a year and I'm going to live it up. Let me share with you one of my favorite gifts that Tim got me for my birthday: Classic 30-Minute Meals by none other than Rachael Ray. I love Rachael Ray to begin with and have many of her books. When I had a television, I really enjoyed watching her shows. I think I only started watching the Food Network in college because she was on it.

This is the first hardcover book that I have from her collection and it's quite a find. It's a compilation of her greatest hits from other various cookbooks and travels. I've seen some of the recipes before, but it's nice to have them all in one place and categorized into sections like everyday, date nights and parties. The recipes are the same sort of thing you'd expect on her shows: fast and simple with recognizable and easy to find ingredients.
I also like the layout of the book (I'm a newspaper kid, what can I say, I notice these things). The font, colors and placement of many, many photos bring a scrapbook feel to the book. And I love having so many photos! I tend to cook better when I know what the final product should look like -- even if mine doesn't quite turn out like that. There are also pictures of her various shows and Rachael as a child. Only because she's a celebrity does all of that work in this book. I see you can snag a copy on Amazon for $14 or so, so check it out. It's worth the minimal investment.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Food find: Cavatappi pesto at Corner Bakery

Yeah, I know, Corner Bakery isn't anything special or original. But after the letdown at Clyde's, Tim and I needed something familiar that wouldn't disappoint. We went to the one in the National Press Club building so that we could walk by the White House afterwards.
I tried out the cavatappi pesto that is topped with Parmesan-crusted chicken served with a side of garlic bread. Tim got a tortilla soup and turkey sandwich that came with potato chips.

The pasta wasn't really served with a pesto. It was more a bechamel sauce with some herbs throw in for color. The Web site calls it "a rich pesto cream sauce" but the picture on the site also makes it look like there's some more herbs going on there. The garlic bread was also more of a toast. The chicken was delicious; slightly crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. It's not quite what I thought I was getting, but it was delicious nonetheless. Tim liked his lunch as well.

The restaurant has signed head shots of famous journalists, so at least the atmosphere is a little different than a standard deli chain. It was a good dining experience because the portions were normal, the service was good and the prices weren't astronomical.

It's nice to get what you expect every now and then.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Food find: Clyde's

I had heard so many awesome things about Clyde's that I decided to make it my birthday dinner destination when Tim was here. People rave about the atmosphere, the food, etc. Tim and I were a little underwhelmed.

We checked out the Gallery Place location, which is just off the Chinatown metro stop on the red, green and yellow lines. The first reservation we could get was 9 p.m., but we were willing to wait. Even so, we waited when we got there.

The service was not so attentive. It took us a while to order drinks; we ordered the house white that was pretty tasty but not remarkable. Trying to get a second round was impossible. When it came to the food, we stayed pretty basic. I got the smoked ribs with potato salad (I asked for mashed potatoes, but I didn't get it) and baked beans. Tim got the wild mushroom pasta made with assorted mushrooms, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. I'd love to tell you more about what was actually in the dishes, but the menus online do not sync with what was on the menus in the restaurant.

Here's the deal with the food -- It was nothing special and the portions were not all that generous. My ribs may look like a lot of food, but there was very little meat. The spices were delicious, but the sauces overwhelmed the smokey flavor and spice rub. And they didn't bring any extra napkins or anything for the ribs. The potato salad was disappointing simply because it wasn't what I ordered. I wanted to tell someone but I couldn't flag down a server. Tim's pasta dish was nicely done and had some tasty elements, but it was under seasoned. It also wasn't enough food for the $15 price tag.

As for the famed atmosphere, I felt like I was eating at a nicely decorated Chili's. The rooms were posh with stained-glass chandeliers, but the area was noisy and the crowd was a mix of people enjoying a nice meal with the family and Halloween party-goers complete with inappropriate costumes. It was just a weird combination of people and not the nice dinner I was expecting.

It also took more than an hour and a half for our simple little meal. We didn't get dessert because it was taking so long and our waitress wasn't even the person who brought us our food, check or anything else. For $60, I think we could have gotten a better meal elsewhere.

I was not pleased overall with the dining experience or the food, but I'm sad to admit I'll probably go back because they have a raw bar that I hear is pretty good. Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., said raw oysters and clams are half off. I have yet to get raw oysters and really want to give it a try, but only if it's half priced and I don't have to wait an hour. It would be more of a bar experience, which I think they have down to a science. Plus oysters must be served on an iced platter within five minutes of opening them, so I hope to give this place one more time to shine.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Drink discovery: Absolut news

As part of my birthday extravaganza, we went to the National Press Club's Reliable Source Bar Friday night for taco night. We usually get $3 coronas, but I was feeling festive an ordered the Absolut news, an adorably named cocktail off of the martini menu made with Absolut vodka, lemon juice and Cointreau. It was also garnished with a twist of lime. You can get a recipe for it here, although I'm not sure if that's exactly what I had because I don't recall that my cocktail had any soda in it.

Let me tell you, this was the most delicious $6 cocktail I've had. It tasted crisp and citrusy and went down smoothly. As one of my friends said "It's like if a Cosmo and a Mojito had a baby ... a delicious, alcoholic baby." Another friend tasted it and said "Oh yum, I like the news," which is funny coming from a reporter in the middle of a club for reporters.

Birthdays are delicious!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Food find: Grill to Salad

For my grand birthday lunch, a couple of us in the newsroom went over to Grill to Salad on G Street NW. We would have done something more exotic, but it's raining to the point of flooding in DC today, so it was best just to stay close. Plus, tonight is taco night at the National Press Club -- had to leave room for tacos.

Anyhow, this place is super impressive. There's a hot food buffet, a cold food buffet and a massive salad bar. Everything is sold by the pound ($6.99) and there's really any type of standard Asian cuisine available: lo mein, fried rice, Kung Pao chicken, General Tso's chicken, dumplings, spring rolls, sushi, rice ... I really can't remember everything we saw, it was just that expansive of a selection.

The salad bar is equally as delicious. There's anything you could need to make a killer salad and everything is surprisingly fresh. I had a bit of salad (have to stave off malnutrition) along with low mein topped with a piece of General Tso's chicken and two pieces of the sushi as well as some mixed pasta with pesto. The veggie roll there was pretty tasty. The lo mein was a bit greasy, but really, what can you expect? My salad was great -- the mesclun mix was fresh and tasty, the romaine crisp, the carrots crunchy and the grapes and tomatoes juicy. The pesto was delicious over the combination of types of pasta, including a some cheese ravioli.
I really must go to this place again, but it's a bit pricey. It's also super busy, ensuring fast food turn over.

More to come on birthday festivities!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Food Find: Raku in Dupont Circle

Thanks for all the well wishes everyone! I'll be celebrating my 23rd birthday Friday, the same day as Hillary Clinton 60th, although my birthday blow out won't be $1 million. In fact, it will be a quiet weekend of site seeing with Tim.

It's rainy and icky in Washington this week as fall is finally upon us. The other day a classmate and I were feeling particularly gloomy and decided to indulge in a little treat from the ocean -- Sushi! I haven't had sushi since my all-you-can-eat experience at Sushi Para in Palatine and I was itching for a DC sushi experience. Another classmate suggested Raku, which is at 19th and Q streets near the metro's Dupont Circle stop.

I read the reviews before we went and was terrified we'd have terrible service. And yes, we went in the middle of the afternoon, the least busy part of the day, and still had to flag down a waiter to get seated, but oh well. I also would have liked a refill on my water, but we were there for the sushi.

And the sushi was delicious. I got the volcano roll (avocado, salmon, crunchy bits, spicy mayo) and squid nigiri, pictured top right. I thought the volcano roll should have been spicier, but the roll itself was huge and mighty tasty. The squid was a bit chewy, but again, a nice bite with a satisfying portion of wasabi. My dining companion got salmon nigiri and another roll with salmon, tuna, crab and maybe cucumber ... I should write these things down. Anyhow, she loved it and commented on the flavors.
The interior of the place was really trendy and I'm sure it's busy on the weekends. The food itself was ready very quickly; the waitstaff just wasn't particularly attentive. The sushi was standard fare and nothing too spectacular, but it beats Whole Foods sushi or the like. It was also affordable, with my early dinner running $13 with tip.
I'll probably wind up back here again, but maybe I'll try a different one of their specialties to try and get a local flavor. The service isn't stellar, but it's not as terrible as the online reviews say. People, you get what you pay for and this is affordable sushi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kitchen gadget: Electric pepper mill

The forum went well; thank you to everyone who wished me good luck. However, I've now pledged my undying disdain of ATA after spending 10 precious hours in the airport. I could have driven from Chicago to Washington in that time.

But because I'm guessing no one wants to hear about the two meals I ate at the airport, I'll skip right on to this awesome gadget my sister got me for my birthday, which is Friday. It's a battery-operated pepper mill by Crofton. It says it's also a salt grinder, but salt has a higher level of moisture than pepper. This causes corrosion on the interior of the mill, so unless you have ceramic fixings, chances are you'll be eating flakes of rust or plastic with your salt. I'll stick with the pepper, thanks.

But this is quite a nice little machine. It uses for AA batteries and is adjustable for different grain sizes of pepper. It allows for one-handed operation and yields consistently sized granules.
I love gadgets and this one is awesome.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Announcement and awards

I'm leaving Washington today for Chicago and I won't return to blogging until Wednesday. I'm speaking at the Inland Press Association's Annual Meeting tomorrow morning about the future of the newsroom. It's a great convention and I've attended and spoke at a couple of their meetings, so I'm looking forward to the speech and being home.
Also, Sylvia of La Vida en Buenos Aires gave me the thinking blogger award. Thanks Sylvia, I'm glad people are learning from what I write! I'd like to pass this along to Sirisha Kilambi of Ambrosia ... Indian indulgences because I always learn so much about culture and food from her blog, so check it out.
Have a great couple of days everyone!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Apple crumble

What's a girl with an apple pie craving and no oven to do? Get creative.

I had two huge apples from Eastern Market, a Honeycrisp and a Mutsu, which are different colors and tastes that I thought would complement each other well. After doing a little research on the web, I decided to go with an unconventional, individual apple crumble pie.

Here's what you need for two servings:

2 large apples

3 sheets phyllo dough (you could also use a prepared pie crust cut in half)

1 packet sugar or sweetener

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch table salt or finely ground sea salt

1/4 cup butter

Because my pie wasn't going in the oven, I started by putting the apple slices in my electric skillet for about 10 minutes with a packet of splenda (that's just what I had on hand) to get the cooking process started. This helped soften the apples and shrink them down. While they cooked, I make the crumble out of the oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. I also trimmed the phyllo sheets into four sections, using two section per pie for a total of six layers of phyllo dough. I used it so I could get a quick-cooking crust that still had a flaky texture. I trimmed the phyllo to fit into my Xpress101 cooked, which I oiled with a bit of vegetable oil. Then I layered the apples and crumble on top and cooked until the crumble was warmed through and a bit brown on top, about eight minutes. There will be leftover crumble and apples for the next time. I served it with a tablespoon of vanilla yogurt.

This turned out quite delicious and took care of the craving. The phyllo created a flaky crust and the apples, because they were precooked, were soft and delicious, but still retained its original flavor. The crumble was delicious because some of the sugar had hardened, creating a great crunch.
If I can do this without an oven in 20 minutes, imagine how fast and easy this could be in a normal kitchen!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Food find: Bread and Chocolate

It's Saturday, which means I was back at Eastern Market again this morning. After my last visit, I was excited to go back. I found some delicious produce and baked goods for $11 -- pumpkin raisin muffins, yellow tomato, several kinds of apple, corn and black bean dip.

We also tried the champagne brunch at Bread and Chocolate, a Washington brunch favorite. I went there the last time I was at Eastern Market but wasn't hungry enough for the brunch. This time, however, I came prepared. We all got champagne and a beautiful melon cocktails with two types of melon balls soaked in honey and water, then topped with mint sprigs. We got our choice of eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, salmon topped bagels, pancakes, chocolate and banana french toast or a vast assortment of omelette's. I went with the cream cheese and avocado omelet, which was creamy, filling and delicious. By far the best looking dish at our table was the smoked salmon-topped bagel with capers, cream cheese, tomato and onion.

The food was delicious and for as busy as it was, the lined moved pretty quick. I would have liked my check more expediently, but oh well, they were busy.

Here's another slideshow of today's market finds and some of the stuff at Bread and Chocolate.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Different DC: Solar Decathlon

Warning: this doesn't have much to do with food, it was just an interesting event.
During my roasting summer days in Tucson, I tried my hand at solar cooking on my car's dashboard. But at the Solar Decathlon, held every other year on the National Mall, 20 universities throughout the world took that simple idea and made an entire community out of it.

University teams create proposals for completely solar-powered homes and pitch them to the Department of Energy. They pick 20 and give them $100,000 to start the process, but the houses range in actual cost from $325,000 to $2 million. I don't think they are necessarily designed to be reproduced, just to raise awareness. Then the teams spend the better part of two years designing, planning, building and adorning these houses. Three weeks ago, the teams descended on the Mall and reconstructed the homes there (most trucked or shipped the houses from home). For the last two weeks, the houses have been on display as they were judged in 10 categories including architecture, engineering market viability, livability and the ability to power a car using solar.

The team from Germany won, although some of my favorite houses didn't do so well. I really liked the house by Lawrence Technological Institute because it had separate, defined living areas. I know these are 800-ish square-foot homes, but I don't want to live in a studio after college. I also like the house from the New York Institute of Technology because even for a studio, it was very chic and you couldn't see everything in the place as soon as you walked in. Also, lots of thought was placed on the interior appearance and furnishing. The University of Maryland took second and while I didn't see Germany's house, I heard this one was far more impressive because of its flexible living spaces and finished-appearing design. Great place.

Another one of my favorites that didn't make the cut was the house from the Penn State, which employed some really practical energy-saving devices. For example, they made screen-like structures using grids with glass milk jugs. Beyond giving a whimsical look, these curtains are designed to be placed over the windows during the day to capture radiant heat and then rolled back into place near the walls to distribute that heat back to the house during the evening hours. And even though every team gave out some sort of hand out about their house, Penn was the only one to point out that they used recycled card stock and soy ink to produce their leaflets, which you see up top. There are also little cut outs of a silhouette of the house that guests are encouraged to plant. The chips are impregnated with wildflower seeds.

If only those chips grew basil or tomatoes, we'd be in business.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday are long days

Ugh, another busy day. Too busy to think. Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke today about her proposed presidential health care plan, should she get the office. If you watch the video here, you might see me in the crowd, hopefully not staring directly at the camera.

Also, please check out my latest installment on the Well Fed Network over here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Food find: The free food plate runneth over

Today was a great day to be in DC. I went over to the National Archives and saw the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. It kind of made me feel all tingly to see it up close and personal. In an age where we rely so heavily on technology and digital communication, it's comforting to know that we still cherish the written word, just pen and paper. Just like in the movies, the documents are displayed in dim light and lowered into a nitrogen chamber at night to preserve them.

On my way over there, I was super annoyed because helicopters were buzzing the area and I got stopped on Pennsylvania Avenue for an extended amount of time. I knew it was to make way for President Bush and his guest, the Dalai Lama, to proceed from the Capitol Building to the White House after the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor. But I didn't expect how huge the convoy would be -- the two helicopters, several cops on motorcycles, the limo itself, numerous Secret Service SUVs, more cops and an ambulance!

To cap off the day, I went to a panel discussion of a group of mid-career journalists who are all editors at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. They talked about the specific challenges facing women in the writing workplace, specifically the fact that sexism is still prevalent within the field and our sources. Another interesting point is the fact that perhaps female journalists are not assertive enough because of a lack of confidence. This manifests itself in a variety of ways -- getting nervous at a job interview, not asking and fighting for a raise, not tracking down a source, not pitching a story effectively, etc.

In addition to the great advice bestowed upon us, The New Republic sprung for some delectable bites. So there's watermelon, kiwi, hummus on pita chips, brie, Swiss cheese on crackers, veggies and fruit, chocolate covered almonds and these delicious brownie bites. The bites were so moist and rich. I also really like bite-sized food too. Also, I really enjoyed the chocolate-covered almonds, they were delicious and filling. And maybe I just haven't had snap peas in a while but these were divine. I'll be picking some up at the Eastern Market this weekend, that's for sure.
Good food, good sites and good advice. What more could a girl want?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Food find: President's reception

Tonight I went over to the Capitol Hill Club for a reception to honor Bradley University's newest president, Joanne Glasser. She's the 10th president and the first woman to act as president of the university. Since the university was founded by a woman, Lydia Moss Bradley, I'd say it's about time.

As an alumna, I couldn't be more excited to see someone else running the show there. She seems excited to actually do things on campus and bring about change without disturbing tradition. While she's cautious to say what she wants to achieve, at least she's out trying to get to know the alumni and students. I'm cautiously optimistic.

But on to the food! There was quite the spread of hot buffet foods, cold fruits and crudite along with cheese platters. There was also a cash bar, but I can't afford $6 beers. Following my previous theory about the relationship between style of food and the importance of an event, this was a pretty important night. As Glasser's first appearance on the alumni circuit, I would guess it was an important night in her views as well.

Beyond the melon, pineapple, strawberries, diced veggies and customary cheese tray, there were some interesting offerings. One that didn't photograph well was a crumbly, dry white cheese that I tried that had apricots in it and was deliciously sweet. There wasn't any staff around to ask about it, but I'd like to try it again. Since these weren't labeled and there was no one to ask, here are my best guesses at the exact ingredients: At the top of the photo is little bite-sized chicken satay. These tiny pieces of chicken were wrapped around a fresh sliver of ginger and poached, then topped with a bechamel sauce. Yum! On the left are two pastries made using several layers of phyllo dough and filled with a tomato and cream cheese sauce and some veggies, then topped with cheese. And at the bottom of the plate are mini crab cakes, which were served with a tangy cocktail/tartar sauce.
Everything was delicious and presented in an attractive and sophisticated manner, especially for buffet reception food. If I ever got invited to this club for a meal again, I'd certainly accept. If they can do a buffet and make it work, imagine what they could do with a sit-down dinner.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Lettuce wraps

Who knew that eating pizza and cookies all the time wasn't the best way to fit into a bridesmaid dress? Yeah, I guess I knew and just chose to ignore it.

With my growing waistline and shrinking budget, I whipped up this little recipe to help assuage both concerns. By shredding one large chicken breast and adding lots of veggies, I'm able to extend one chicken breast into several healthy and cost-conscious lunches.

Here's what you need:

1 head of iceberg or bibb lettuce

2 cups shredded carrots

1 bag sprouts (I used bean sprouts)

1 cucumber, pealed, seeded and cut into sticks

For the chicken itself:

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 chicken breast, cubed and marinated in enough teriyaki sauce to coat

1/4 cup chopped water crests

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 teaspoon diced ginger root (use the real stuff, people)

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 tablespoons lite soy sauce

Peanut sauce:

4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons lite soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, diced

Juice from half a lemon

To prepare: Heat oil in a skillet (or electric skillet in my case) and place chicken cubes in an even layer on the surface, occasionally turning to cook through for about seven minutes. Remove from heat and place remaining chicken items in the skillet to warm through. Shred chicken into small pieces and return to pan, heating all ingredients together until warm, about two minutes. For the sauce, heat all items together in the microwave in 15-second increments, stirring in between until the sauce is smooth. To assemble, use a lettuce leaf as a cup and layer carrots, sprouts and cucumbers to your taste in the cup. Top with a portion of the warm chicken and drizzle with a half tablespoon of the warm peanut sauce.

This will make about a week's worth of lunches, depending on how large the chicken breast and how hungry you are at lunch. It requires a bit of assembly, but it's better than any salad bar I've frequented and is much cheaper.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Breakfast spring roll with peaches

I wanted to whip something up for this month's A Fruit a Month competition, but my first round of ideas for cooking with peaches were immediately thrown out because of the oven situation. No pies, pastries or tarts. So I went with something a little nontraditional: A breakfast spring roll.

Spring rolls are Chinese pastries usually filled with rice, vegetables and chicken or shrimp. I made my version with granola, honey and thinly slice peaches.
First, I took a spring roll wrapper about 6 inches square and placed several pieces of peaches in a line with enough space around for wrapping. I topped it with a drizzle of honey and a tablespoon or two of granola. The honey helps keep everything together and adds some flavor. Next, I wrapped it all like a burrito and turned it over so that the peach side was on the top and allowed it to sear, sort of, on my electric skillet. I didn't use any oil and I wasn't looking for it to brown, I just wanted to take the raw taste out of the spring roll wrapper. The roll in the photo I sliced and served with apple sauce and vanilla yogurt for dipping, but there are many, many more possibilities here. Any number of fruits would be good in this preparation and the granola can be swapped out for another cereal or even some cooked oatmeal, for a hot preparation.

I don't like mornings but I sure like breakfast. This could easily be made to go, so no need to wake up early for this one.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Food find: National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is one of the most fascinating buildings on the mall, not just because of its architecture, but also it's minimal collection and amazing food court.

Founded by an act of Congress in 1989, the museum was built to preserve, honor and celebrate Native American history throughout the Western hemisphere. The building was designed by an architect who is a member of the Blackfoot tribe to honor nature and the surroundings. Stones were brought in from New Mexico to adorn the exterior and the landscape is filling with native plants.

What's odd is the emptiness within the museum. Although they boast a collection of 800,000 artifacts, the museum features many movies and other displays. If my practicum in anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago taught me anything, many of these irreplaceable artifacts are stored away to never be displayed at the request of the tribes. Regardless, there are some really interesting exhibits, such as this one about women's tribal wear, including modern outfits worn for tribal dance competitions and elaborately beaded dresses made of multiple animal hides once worn by the wives of high-ranking Native Americans.

The foodcourt at the museum is widely regarded as the destination for hungry diners with a flair for the exotic. Each section of the food court features a different region in Native American cuisine. You can pick up everything from blue corn bread to buffalo chili to razorback clam salad. The most mainstream thing you can get is a buffalo burger with sweet potato chunks, but why would you? There's just so much else to choose.

On my first visit, which I'm sure will be followed up by many other dining experiences, included this postelito with choclo corn, free-range chicken, potatoes, olives, chili and egg cooked in a pastry-try dough with a mild tomato-based sauce on the side. This little savory pastry packed a punch. Not only was a full of a variety of vegetables that all managed to still be cooked to perfection, but I was also left with a lingering spice that didn't burn my mouth but kept me from overeating. And the outside crust was delicious -- it was browned nicely and slightly flaky, but not so much that I expected fruit compote to come tumbling out. At $9, this wasn't an everyday treat, but I do plan to return to the foodcourt to try some buffalo or clams.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cooking with Dave Lieberman

Dave Lieberman is an interesting guy who made me lunch today. Well, me, and 20 other people at Macy's Metro Center. He came to DC to do a promotional event for both his cookbook, Dave's Dinners, and Macy's cookware line, Tools of the Trade. You had to buy $50 worth of this cookware to get an autographed copy. As much as I like him and his recipes, I don't need $50 worth of cookware in order to get his John Hancock.

In case you're not familiar with Dave Lieberman, he's a 27-ish-year-old cook who was on the Food Network's Good Deal with Dave Lieberman and according to some critics is the channel's attempt to reach out to younger audiences. In the midst of being a starstruck fan, I did get out a question about the show and he said that he doesn't see doing any more episodes of Good Deal because he feels like he's done everything he can with it. The show was one of my favorites -- he broke down complicated recipes and created champagne dishes on a light beer budget (but a nice light beer, none the less).

In the meantime, Dave is doing all kinds of other ventures, including the Web-based Dave Does for Food Network and In Search of Real Food for Yahoo! He also said he's working on a travel-based food show that highlights where your food comes from.

I've interviewed politicians, famous journalists and other celebrities that only newsies would swoon about, but I lost my cool on this one. I feel like such a starstruck teenage girl, but I'm only human. And, we were fed some delicious dishes from his cookbook.

We had his pumpkin and chipotle corn chowder with an onion marmalade toast topped with slices of Parmesan and country-style pate and a creamy chicken thighs and mushrooms over gemelli pasta.

The soup was delicious and spicy with a touch of pumpkin flavor that didn't overwhelm the rest of the flavors. The toast was delicious with the onion marmalade, which isn't a combination I would have guessed. The Parmesan was a great touch too -- tangy with a bit of bite. The pasta and chicken dish was also delicious and provided a great combination of carbs, veggies and protein.

We all got a copy of the recipes before we left. I won't post them for the sake of length, but e-mail me at kellymahoney[at] if you want them or check out Dave's book.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: 1-pound tomato three ways

First of all, I got a new fridge today! There’s also new lighting fixtures in the apartment that make it feel a little more homey. Tim adopted a cat as well, which we think we'll name Norris. It’s been an exciting day.

Secondly, after much consideration, consulting and pondering, I decided what to do with the 1-pound tomato from Eastern Market. I made a three-course tomato-centric dinner and every bite was delicious.

For a little tasting, I made a simple avocado and tomato salad dressing with lime juice, salt and pepper. When you’re working with quality ingredients, sometimes the simplest preparation is best.

Next, I made bruschetta. I toasted angle-cut pieces of the sourdough baguette I bought using my electric skillet. Then, I rubber a clove of garlic over the toasted surface to get some garlic flavor in there. I topped it with fresh basil leaves cut into little ribbons and more of the tomato, this time chopped.

For the main course, I made my most complicated kitchen-less dish so far. I cooked some whole-wheat spaghetti in the microwave. This required boiling the water in the microwave, then adding the pasta and salt and boiling for about eight minutes longer in the microwave.

The sauce was a simple concoction to let my fresh ingredients shine. I let two cloves of finely diced garlic cook in a tablespoon of olive oil with about a ¼ cup of chopped red onions until the onions were translucent, about three minutes. Then I added the rest of the chopped tomato, probably about ¾ of a pound. I let that bubble away and reduce for about 20 minutes before turning off the heat on the electric skillet and topping the pasta with it, then adding a bit of shredded Parmesan on top, for good measure.

This whole meal could have easily been vegan friendly with the subtraction of the Parmesan. I may have eaten a pound of tomato in this, but it was the best tomato I’ve had in a long time.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Food find: Eastern Market

I had heard so much about DC's Eastern Market that I was eager to head over yesterday morning. Located steps from the blue line's Eastern Market stop or a short walk from Capitol Hill, Eastern Market is a world famous as DC's last surviving 19th century market. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., farmers, merchants and craftsman gather to sell their wares. In the past, Eastern Market was housed indoors, but that building was gutted by fire recently.

But you'd never know it walking around the streets today. Most of the action has been brought to outdoors stalls, with a building housing meat and cheese vendors indoors. You can buy all kinds of fruits and vegetables here and most are available for tasting as well. We certainly got out five servings per day walking around this place. If I had a working fridge, I would have gone nuts here -- there were strawberries, cheeses and all sorts of goodies that I didn't think could survive at room temperature.

The vendors are also eager to tell you about their products. I learned so much about West Virginia apples and different kinds of pumpkins. This market really is an experience, especially with the music waftering through the basil and tomato-scented air.

I bought a 1-pound tomato, a huge bunch of basil, an ear of fresh white corn and a sour dough bagette. I spent less than $8 and the finds were all fresh and delicious. So what should I do with my softball-sized tomato?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Food find: Mickey Finn's

When I'm feeling homesick, food is always a comfort that brings familiar places into focus. Tonight I was thinking about Mickey Finn's, a Libertyville eatery and microbrewery that's been around longer than my family has lived in the North suburb.

It was only recently that I was able to drink the brews there, but I've been enjoying their eats for quite a bit longer. Recently, my mom and I had a quick bite there -- we got an appetizer of chips and salsa and split a cheeseburger. The chips were a bit hard and the salsa was mild for our taste, but it still tasted OK and we ate quite a bit of it. The burger was delicious -- it was still juicy when cooked medium-well and the toppings were all fresh and crunchy. The fries served with the burger were delicious; blistery on the outside from frying and hot and cooked on the inside with a pleasantly hot taste from the seasonings.

But on this particular visit, I came for the beer. I had the 847, which is the North suburban area code, and I found it to be satisfying but not filling. It's an American-style wheat that balances hops and malts. I also had the pale ale as well, which was slightly citrus-y and hoppy. I didn't really like the hoppy quality, but I'd have either of these beers again.
Mickey Finn's is just a hometown tradition that should be savored by Libertyville residents. It's a local eatery that we should support because of their tradition with the town, tasty bites and savory brews. I miss home tonight.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Food find: Skyline Cafe

So I haven't been cooking at all lately because of my kitchen/fridge situation, which has forced me to find many lunch alternatives to my standard must-be-refrigerated sandwiches and soups. Oh well, at least I'm getting out.

My recent find was the Skyline Cafe at 1250 H Street NW. Some people in my office brought back delicious-looking salads from this place, so I was really curious. The places features a huge salad bar along with Asian-style hot food buffet, both for $5.99 per pound. On my first visit, I don't know what possessed me to order a sandwich when all the delicious salad and hot food options were available to me. It was a mistake. I ordered the turkey brie, as did my lunch companion, and it didn't really meet expectations. The mustard was sugary sweet and the bread was dry and sandpapery and the brie, although I watched the guy slice it and put it on the sandwich, was not fresh-tasting or tasting like much of anything. Can you even see the brie in there? Maybe it would have been better hot.

But alas, my second visit was worth writing about. It doesn't look like much, but it was a tasty lunch. I thought I'd give this place another run, this time for the salad bar, which it's known for more than the sandwiches. It did not disappoint. First off, the choices are overwhelming. There's standard salad fare -- lettuce-based salads, cold pasta dishes, tuna and chicken salad, etc. But there are also more interesting offerings such as veggie spring rolls, cooked sushi rolls, dumplings over rice and chilled Asian noodle dishes. I tried a few different things, just out of curiosity. The cold noodle dishes were delicious, fresh and perfectly cooked in terms of the pasta. The sushi was made with regular rice, so it was not so tasty, but it was just avocado, crab and cream cheese. The dumplings and spring rolls were phenomenal. They were obviously made fresh and I was surprised by the quality. And I loved this tomato, mozarella and basil salad they had. It was fresh and tasty.

But it's easy to go overboard here. My plate wasn't even that full and I was over one pound by a bit. But it was still a worthwhile and fairly cheap lunch. Next, I'll have to try the hot food bar and report back.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Food find: Cafe Cantina pizza

Back when I was in Arizona, I had the hardest time finding decent pizza of any persuasion -- I tried gourmet pizza and New York-style pizza and Chicago-style pizza, but it was hard to find a pie that had a tasty, not-soggy crust with flavor and a tomato base that was sickly sweet or entirely too acidic. I wanted something that tasted even remotely like home.

In DC, this hasn't been a problem at all. My first day in the newsroom, I wandered around the block to find something tasty for lunch. I didn't get far with my nose was tempted by some fabulous-smelling pizza. The wafting scent had so many notes of cheesy tomato goodness that I just had to go into Cafe Cantina at 1325 G Street NW. The tiny cafe also shares space with Pizza Pino's, who's delicious pizza slices I smelled from outside. They typically have pepperoni, cheese and veggie available by the slice. For a huge slice of cheese pizza and a bottle drink, it was less than $5, which makes it a steal in DC.

And the taste delivered on what the smell promised. It was served piping hot and I dusted it with some Parmesan. The cheese was flavorful and had more than one variety. The crust was homemade in the shop, as I've seen them do many times in my visits since, and was chewy without being stale. It should be, since the pizzas are pumped out fresh. The tomato sauce was flavorful, but the Italian herbs didn't overwhelm the taste of the tomato. Overall, a delicious slice worth being a regular customer for and one slice was plenty.

I love DC.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cooking with Kelly: Seafood nachos

My fridge situation should be remedied by the end of the week, which means although I won't be doing baking at any point in my time here, at least I'll be able to cook things with perishable ingredients. Until then, I'm making do with what I have.
Perhaps I was inspired by my lovely taco dinner at the National Press Club, but I had a craving for all kinds of pseudo-Mexican food lately. Luckily, recreated regional food did not necessary require a fridge or stove.

First, I trekked off to the Soviet Safeway. I came back to tomatoes, onions, an avocado, limes, shrimp and tortilla chips. I would have enjoyed cilantro or jalapeno, but they were no where to be found.

With that, I made these guacamole and shrimp appetizers bites, which actually served as a meal for me. First, I marinated the shrimp in a bit of lime juice and steamed them through in the microwave. I did this in 20-second intervals to make sure I didn't overcook the shrimp -- you're looking for pink, not completely plastic in texture and appearance. I also used tiny shrimp, I think they were 350s, so it took no time at all to cook.

While that buzzed away, I used a fork to mash up an avocado with the juice from half a lime to prevent it from discoloring. I added half a chopped tomato and one quarter of a large red onion, diced finely. This provided a mild flavor, but heat could have been added easily enough by folding in an extremely finely diced serrano chili, minus the ribs and seeds (a poblano chili is another alternative -- adjust the amount of finely diced chili to suit your tastes. One is good for me, half of a serrano may be too much for others). A tablespoon of chopped cilantro would have also added a bit of spice, but not necessarily heat, that would have gone with this nicely.

For preparation, I used Tostitos Scoops chips for a cute presentation and layered a tablespoon of guac on the bottom, then topped with a sprinkling of the baby shrimp. It would be simple to add a little garnish of shredded pepperjack cheese, a small dollop of sour cream or a sprig of cilantro, if you would like to serve this to company. For a personal salad, you could put one scoop of the guac on a plate, top it with the shrimp and surround it with chips.

For me, the basic was just fine, although I would love if Soviet Safeway offered some cilantro or any type of fresh chili. I'm not that picky ...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Awards and Web sites

Today's a busy day of classes, interviews and stories here at the Medill News Service, so longer posts will have to wait. First, please check out my debut article on the Well Fed Network.
Also, the blogger behind East Meets West Kitchen gave me the Creative Blogger Award. I'd like to pass this along to Hillary at Episode II for her cute videos of her family.
Have a great Monday everyone!