You Gonna Eat All That?

A fork in one hand, a pen in the other.

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Catching Up

As I downloaded some pictures from Saturday night's dinner I discovered some meals from weeks past that I forgot to post. So today I am playing catch up.

I'll start with Saturday night's dinner. Halibut, Saffron rice and Chinese long beans.The halibut came from Trader Joe's. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, cayenne, basil, oregano, garlic and thyme. After heating up the skillet with some grapeseed oil I dredged the fish fillets through the seasoning mix and cooked them 3-4 minutes on each side.

The Chinese long beans were washed, sliced into 2-3 inch segments and gently steamed for 4 minutes then drained. In the same saute pan they were steamed in, I added grapeseed oil, 4 smashed garlic cloves, 5 dried red chili peppers and some crushed Szechuan peppercorns. Once the oil was fragrant I added the beans and sauteed over high heat until they were cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile the saffron rice was busily cooking away on a back burner. Biscuit Boy was in charge of the rice. He prepared it by soaking about a 1/2 tsp of saffron threads in warm water. Meanwhile he sauteed some thinly sliced shallots in a pot. Once they were soft, he added the saffron infused water, salt and rice. Dinner in less than 30 minutes.

Next up was Thai Fried Rice. We made this about 2 weeks ago. We picked up some nice looking shrimp from the market along with some cashews, and fresh basil leaves. Three key ingredients for our fried rice.

To prepare this dish, we used 1 cup of uncooked rice. Cook with 2 cups of water. While the rice is cooking, peel and devein the shrimp, season with some salt and pepper and sautee. Set them aside when done. Next set aside about 1/2 cup of cashews, tear up about 1/2 cup of the basil leaves, crush a few dried chilis, slice some mushrooms, finely sliced about 2 cloves of garlic and dice some onion. Set everything aside.
When the rice is done, place it in a large skillet coated with some cooking oil. Add the cashews, chilis, garlic, onion, mushroms, soy sauce and fish sauce. Toss around until everything is well incorporated. Add the basil leaves, give it all a few quick stirs and place it in a serving bowl.

Scoop the fried rice into individual bowls, add some of the cooked shrimp and enjoy.

Finally we come to Steamed Mussels in Green Curry broth. First rinse off the mussels and remove any remaining beards. Check for any chipped, broken or open shells. Discard these.

In a large sautee pan, add green curry and coconut milk (we used premade green curry that we buy in small cans from any of the local Asian markets in the area). Bring to a gentle boil and add the mussels. Place a lid on the sautee pan and let them cook for about 5 minutes or until the shells have opened. Stir in some fresh basil leaves then spoon the mussels into a large bowl and pour the broth over the top. Serve with some nice crusty bread (for sopping up the broth).

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Random things

I realized that I've been neglecting my blog. It's been a busy week and weekend for us. Work all week then a fun-filled Saturday at the library have kept me hopping. Then we had our 7th wedding anniversary on Monday.

Let's start with my goofy dog. As I sat here the other morning at my desk, Sophie (aka Biscuit Pup) was wrestling with a big dog biscuit. In the midst of her chewing something outside caught her attention and she barked .......with her mouth full of biscuit. At first it didn't register with me but when I realized that the dope barked while she was chewing a dog biscuit, I laughed out loud! Ever the protector, she wasn't about to let whatever distracted her get into the house and if that meant barking with her mouth full then so be it. If Emily Post had a dog, it would be appalled at Sophie's manners.

On to the library Program. A co-worker writes and produces Murder Mystery programs that are set in libraries. He's written several and they are fantastic. I actually got to play one of the suspects in one we did back in March. The one held this past weekend was a brand new one and was set in Key West. In a round about way, I was placed in charge of the food. The first thing that came to mind was conch fritters and Key Lime pie.

Has anyone in the DC area tried to buy conch recently? It's damn near impossible unless you want to buy it in bulk. I only needed a pound or two. The smallest quantity I could get my hands on was 5 pounds and it was pricey. And not wanting to break the food budget all on conch, I conceded.

The menu came together nicely without conch fritters and everyone at the program seemed to enjoy the food. This was the food and drink tables just before we let people in.The food items were cheese bites (cheese straws cut into little bites instead of strips), nuts, fresh fruit, Key Lime tarts, veggies and chocolate dipped coconut patties (regular and Key Lime flavor). The tarts were wonderful and were a big hit. A co-worker from the host library made them herself and she got lots of compliments. I made the cheese bites and added extra cayenne pepper to give them a bit more kick. They were gone by the end of the program. Another hit with the crowd was the fruit tray. We refilled it twice. Coconut bites went well but we still has about 1/3 left over. And it seems our program attendees were not big veggie eaters. Almost all of the veggies went untouched. The staff at the host library will get their fill of veggies this week since all the leftovers were left for them. Hope they enjoy it!Our beverages choices were virgin Strawberry Daiquiri's and virgin Margarita's plus iced tea, lemonade and water. (Since it was in a county facility, we had to skip the booze in the drinks.)

And finally, our wedding anniversary, May 22nd. Seven years. Anyone from the family still in the betting pool? haha We got married in Chattanooga, TN (Biscuit Boy's home town) in the same church his parents were married in. Since it was in May and the weather was good, we got married in an outdoor courtyard. It was a perfect day with only two minor glitches. One: I didn't think to wear sunscreen. An off the shoulder, low cut dress with no sunscreen meant one well done bride. I didn't even realize it until that night when I looked in the mirror. Ouch. The second glitch was forgetting a cork screw. We got to the reception where all the guest were sitting around waiting on us but nobody was drinking. That's when we discovered why. It wasn't them being polite, it was nobody knowing where the corkscrew was hidden. A quick run to the quickie mart by the best man remedied that.

We had narrowed our dining choices down to two places. Corduroy or Restaurant Eve. We've been to Corduroy several times and love the place. But Restaurant Eve, which is always getting rave reviews, has been on our list of must try places for some time. So we weighed the options.....a place we knew well with a level of comfort from having eaten there son several occasions or a new place with great reviews but not sure how relaxing a meal we would have. In the end we chose Corduroy. I don't think we would have been disappointed either way but it was that level of familiarity that won out. And we were not dissapointed. We got a recommendation on champagne from Don Rockwell. Thanks! It was some of the best I've ever tasted. We shared a fresh asparagus salad. Delish! I dined on Wild King Salmon on Garlic Mashed potatoes and a morel mushroom chardonnay sauce and Biscuit Boy had Brandt Beef Strip Loin with Gruyere Potato Cake and Mushroom Sauce . Both outstanding dishes. And my first taste of the delictable morel mushroom. A strawberry tart with "Happy Anniversary" written in chocolate along the edge the plate was dessert. We had a wonderful evening. And as always, left feeling relaxed, full and wanting to go back.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Kao Soi (a.k.a. Thai comfort food)

We both love Asian food, especially Thai. One of our all time favorite places to eat is Rabieng which serves more country style Thai food. Their menu has items we’ve never seen anywhere else and it’s all good. Check it out for yourselves.

Among the favorites on their menu is a dish called Provincial Chicken. The Thai name for the dish is Kao Soi (pronounced cow-soy). It’s in a word, soothing. Tender chunks of chicken simmered in a curry sauce laced with coconut milk and served over thin egg noodles. It’s then garnished with crispy fried egg noodles, chopped pickled cabbage and red peppers.

Combine our love of cooking and ethnic foods with my job as a librarian and you get an endless supply of cookbooks in my house at any given time. In addition to the ones I own, I’m constantly bringing home new ones from work to look through. Occasionally we’ve found one we like so much, we go out and buy our own copy. One such cookbook is Quick and Easy Thai: 70 everyday recipes by Nancie McDermott.

I got a copy from the library last Friday and was reading through it while we drove into DC for dinner. It looked promising. The beautiful color pictures throughout the cookbook can easily make one hungry. I read out several recipe titles to Biscuit Boy who agreed this was a nice cookbook. Then I saw it, a recipe for Kao Soi. Our beloved Provincial Chicken there in all it’s glory! A mental head slap when I realized the picture on the cover of the cookbook was the Kao Soi and dang it looked good.

On Sunday, we made it and it was delicious! Warm, soothing, and rich in flavor. This recipe’s definitely a keeper and will be one we will make many more times.
Here’s how ours turned out. And with Nancie McDermott's permission (Thank you Nancie), here is the recipe:

Kao Soi

2 tbsp. veg oil

1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

2 tbsp red curry paste or panaeng curry paste

3/4 pounds boneless chicken, cut in big bite-sized chunks
or boneless beef, such as tri-tip or flank steak, thinly
sliced crosswise into 2-inch strips

2 Cups unsweetened coconut milk

1-3/4 cups chicken broth

2 tsp. ground tumeric or curry powder

2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce or soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 pounds fresh Chinese-style egg noodles,
or ½ pound dried Chinese-style egg noodles,
angel hair pasta, or spaghetti

1/2 Cup coarsely chopped shallots

1/2 Cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/2 Cup thinly sliced green onions

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and then add the garlic. Toss well and add the red curry paste, mashing and stirring to soften it in the oil, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook 1 to 2 minutes, tossing now and then to brown it evenly and mix it with the curry paste. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, turmeric, soy sauce, sugar, and salt and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil and adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook about 10 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Stir in lime juice, remove from heat, and cover to keep curry warm while you prepare the noodles.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of rapidly boiling water, until tender but still firm, as little as 2 minutes for fresh noodles and 7 minutes or more for dried. Drain, rinse well in cold water, drain again, and divide the noodles among individual serving bowls. Ladle on hot curry, and sprinkle each serving with the shallots, cilantro, and green onions. Serve hot.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

WDB (Weekend Dog Blogging)

It's a bit out of focus but trying to catch Sophie sitting still long enough to take a picture is a pretty tricky thing to do since she hates cameras. Unless.......SQUIRREL!!! I SEE A SQUIRREL!!!

Biscuit Boy was outside last night waiting for me to get home from work so we could head to dinner. Usually Sophie sits there in the window and watches you leave. Not this time. She saw this squirrel run up the tree and it got her complete and undivided attention. She barely noticed me drive up. Crazy dog.


Les Halles - Review

It's been a long week. We needed to go out for a nice relaxing dinner. After intense negotiations, we chose Les Halles. It's a place we've talked about going to for some time. Biscuit Boy came home from work early and was able to take Sophie out for a quick walk before we headed out.

When we got into DC, we noticed a larger than usual number of police cars stationed on almost every corner in the area around the restaurant. My first thought was extra police being out because it was Cinco De Mayo to catch a few party hardy folks with one too many margaritas under their belt. But then I thought, no....I bet there's going to be a motorcade. The White House is a few blocks from Les Halles and the number of police cars was a bit excessive.

So after about 10 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to find a parking space, we decided to let the Valet park. We walked up to the hostess and she offered us an nice outside table with a great view of our valet-parked car. Dang it all, there were parking spaces right across the street that we never saw! Ce la vive.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and we were both starting to unwind as we sat at our nice outdoor table and contemplated what to order. Biscuit Boy decided to get the Moules Frites Mariniere. Me, the Steak Frites. We also ordered the Escargots for an appetizer. We enjoyed escargot greatly on our cruise back in October and wanted to see how these compared.

We sipped on our wine and enjoyed some crusty French bread and before long the escargots arrived. Six little compartmented little escargots swimming in their own pool of butter, garlic and parsley, yum. I liked them well enough but thought they could stand more garlic. The ones one the cruise were a bit more tender than these were too. But it didn't stop us from eating them all before we could snap a picture of them.

Soon after we had finished the escargots, our entrees arrived. First to be set on the table were the mussels, a huge bowl of them. The frites were served in a separate bowl. What you can't see in this picture is the incredible broth in the bottom of the mussel bowl. Oh my God it was good. Just give me a bowl of that and a loaf of French bread and leave me alone.

Next my steak frites, a thin slab o' beef with the fries and a little bitty salad that looked more like a garnish.The steak was very flavorful and tender. The frites were crisp and fresh. I ate about half of the steak and put the rest aside so I could help Biscuit Boy finish the mountain of mussels. Guess what I'm having for lunch today.

Shortly after our food arrived, the hoard of police cars suddenly came to life. It turned out to be a motorcade. Since the camera was still out, Biscuit Boy snapped a few quick pictures and the assemble of vehicles whizzed by. Not sure if it was the prez of the VP but it was an impressive sight even if I can't stand the idiot Bush and his trigger happy VP.

With that little bit of excitement over with, it was back to the task at hand, dinner. We managed to finish all the mussels and had the rest of my steak and our leftover frites boxed up. I wanted dessert, Biscuit Boy only wanted coffee. I conceded. After all, we had just had a lovely, relaxing dinner, the weather was great and we were in no hurry so why quibble over dessert. A pot of French pressed coffee would be nice. That is until the waitress came over and asked if we would like dessert. We said no, just coffee please. But she countered back in her sweet French accent, "We have a lovely petit four plate that is perfect for sharing over a pot of coffee and it's very light." A quick look at each other and we said sure, why not.
The plate was so pretty with 6 miniature desserts sitting there waiting to be eaten. Clockwise from the top is a macaroon, a sponge like cake with apricot filling (at least I think it was apricot), tiramisu, triple chocolate mousse cake, a cream puff with chocolate filling and in the center a strawberry nested on a pillow of fresh whipped cream.

And it just like the waitress said, perfect for sharing and very light. We lingered over our coffee and nibbled on the desserts until it was all gone. And reluctantly, we got our check and headed home. It was a very relaxing night and made some of the rotten parts of the week melt away. We'll be back there again soon.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Chicken Shawarma

Looking through the fridge this weekend I found a jar of tahini paste that was about half full. Hmm....what can I do with this? I already made some hummus with it and wanted to try something new.

A quick search on the Internet came up with a few temptations but the one that caught my eye was a Chicken Shawarama recipe with a garlic-tahini sauce. It was on Food TV so I figured it was a pretty reliable recipe, right? Uh, well almost.

The recipe actually had two parts, one for the marinade for the chicken and the other for the garlic-tahini sauce. I noticed the following disclaimer at the bottom of the page: "This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results." That should have told me to look at some more recipes before I went any further, but I didn't because I also read the recipe's one review that mentioned the marinade needed more garlic. Well that seems like an an easy fix. Guess I'll give it a try. The marinade smelled wonderful and went together very quickly. I placed the chicken in a bag poured in the marinade and set in in the fridge to marinate overnight. So far so good.

But when I went to make the sauce, something wasn't right. In fact, it was downright awful! The recipe called for three cups of water to be added to a mixture of tahini, garlic and lemon juice. And having never made this before, I decided to follow the recipe.

How can I describe the result? Imagine if you will a frothy thin watered down greul with a faint hint of sesame. Yeah, it was bad.

After tossing that mess down the drain, I did what I should have done earlier, check some more recipes. And sure enough, I found several that were vastly different from the Food TV version. Using a combination of a few recipes I made a sauce that was pretty tasty.

Here's my garlic-tahini sauce recipe. I have no idea if it's even remotely authentic so if anyone has a better version, I'd love to have a copy.

Garlic-Tahini sauce
1 cup tahini sauce
2 tbsp. garlic powder
8 oz plain lowfat yogurt
1 tsp. parsley flakes
salt to taste
water, as needed

Combine the tahini, garlic powder, yogurt and parsley in a bowl and whisk to blend. Add salt to taste. Add water as needed to get a spoonable consistency.

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