Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stewing Things Up

Ah its a cold Sunday in October and I am ready for some stew-something that I made for the first time this week. I was pretty surprised how easy it was to make stew (though time consuming in this case). I shall tell you how I made my stew- but I am sure you'll think I am a little crazy if I do so and most likely wont try this on your own.

Basically my whole inspiration for stew-making was the large cut of rump that I had cooked earlier in the week which has come out tough and a big chewy due to my impatience in cooking it-therefore setting the oven at much too high a heat and coming out with a tough dinner. I had decided to try my hand at tenderizing these delectable morsels and so stuck them in a pot with a few cups of chicken broth, a few cups of white wine, some splashes of balsamic vinegar, teriyaki sauce, and lots of spices-particularly my New Orleans spice mix, cumin, a bit of tumeric, paprika, chili powder and garlic salt and a few dashes of oregano. I then dumped in a bag of raw uncooked beans and let the pot simmer for about 4 hours (maybe 3 and a half) until the beans were tender enough to eat. I then put in some frozen vegetables-a mixture of carrots and green beans-and thinned the soup out with a bit of extra water, chicken broth and some fresh herbs from my garden (oregano, basil and sage). Voila! A stupendous stew.

Now, most stews it seems you just throw in whatever you have and boil it with some spices and a bit of love and you still get tastiness (heck thats what I did). I did, however, find a good more intense but delicious looking recipe on the internet:


* 8 slices of bacon
* 2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
* salt & pepper, to taste
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 3 leeks, chopped and well rinsed (use the white part and an inch or two of the green)
* 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch julienne
* 2 turnips, peeled and cut into pieces
* 2 teaspoons of sugar
* 2 1/2 cups of homemade beef stock
* 2 1/2 cups of red wine (preferable Burgundy, but drinkable)
* 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
* 2 tablespoons of butter
* 2 tablespoons of red currant jelly
* 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
* 2 cups of pearl onions, red or white
* 8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (wild mushrooms if available)
* 8 -10 red new potatoes, quartered
* 6 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1/2 of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Prep Work

Lot's of prep work so get busy and do it before you even think of starting this recipe. The more you prep before starting the actual cooking, the easier everything else goes. Nothing is worse than starting a recipe and having to stop everything to peel and chop an onion. Start by cutting the beef chuck into 1-inch cubes. Next chop the onions.

The leeks must be well rinced before using so you can wash them first and then chop or chop and wash. Makes no difference except you want to be sure to get rid of all and any of the sand that is common with leeks. When chopping, use all of the white part and about an inch or two of the green.

Peel the carrots and cut them into 1 1/2 inch julienne. Peel the turnips and cut into pieces. Have your beef stock and wine ready to go. Finely chop the fresh rosemary and parsley.

The pearl onions will need to be peeled. It's a pain in the but job but someone has to do it. Prepare the pearl onions by boiling them for 5 minutes, rinse, drain, and peel. Reserve them with the rest of the vegetables.

Slice your mushrooms, quarter the potatoes and finish by mincing the garlic.

1. Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan until the fat is rendered. Remove the crisp bacon and transfer it to a large heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid. (approximately 5-6 quarts)
2. Sauté the beef in the same pan until all sides are browned. Don't crowd the beef or it will steam and not brown properly, so cook it in batches if necessary. Season with a little salt and pepper. When finished, transfer to your large cooking pot.
3. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, and turnips to the sauté pan, add sugar and cook over medium high heat for approximately 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables and reserve in a large bowl.
4. Add the butter to the sauté pan and sauté the mushrooms over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to the reserved vegetables.
5. Add the wine to deglaze the sauté pan, then the beef stock, and then whisk in red currant jam, tomato paste and rosemary. Cook for a couple of minutes and add to the pot with the meat and bacon.
6. Add the potatoes and garlic to the meat, bacon, and cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.
7. Add the reserved vegetables, half the chopped parsley and continue cooking until the meat is tender. (approximately 30-45 minutes)
8. Serve using the remaining parsley for garnish.

This is great with some French bread and a bottle of Burgundy wine especially on one of these cold nights.

Can be found at:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Crazy Cupcakes and Rushashonah

For those of you who follow the food section in the Washington Post (one of my favorite things to read) you will discover that their writers are also on a quest to find the perfect cupcake over a six week period of 'Cupcake Wars' and waddayaknow their first week of the wars they wrote about a showdown of CakeLove versus Sticky Fingers (sounds like a WWF wrestling match-cheesy-or in this case sweet-names and all). Annnddd hodamn "Count us among all those who complain that despite Brown's fame, CakeLove's cupcakes are too dry. Neither cake nor frosting had enough flavor, and the frosting was generally stingy." Am I right or am I right? The dryness is the problem here. Apparently all of Sticky fingers' cupcakes are vegan, as are all of their other baked goods. The Washington Post reviewer, however,, gave this one another low mark due to dryness and general overall untastiness. I guess the t-shirts for the store is right-make CakeLove not War. This was no WWF wrestling match.

OK-2nd week. Buzz vs Pastrise by Randolph. Buzz sounds haldway promising since they said that they had a mixed bag of cupcakes where some were fusfficiently moist but others were a dissapointment. Randolph=stale flavors.

3rd week- Baked & Wired vs Lavender Moon Cupcakery. Finally a good one! B&W recieved some rave reviews about a mosit peanutbutter snickers like cupcake. (1052 Thomas Jefferson St., Georgetown) I MUST go. The LMC review just confused me. It just sounded like the tasters were not adventurous enough to appreciate. Pshaw.

And now we've gotten to the last week-week 4. Just Cakes vs Couture Cupcakes. I so wanted to visit Just Cakes when I went to visit Justin in Bethesda during his lunch break but it had taken so much tiem to find a parking spot with so little pocket change for meters that we ran out of time. Sadly enough, they scored quite low and were described with words like, dry, crumbly and stale. Perhaps its a good thing we didn't stop in. Couture cupcakes sounded mediocre, getting what sounded like a mized review. Perhaps worth a try.

Anywho, this week is Rushashonah so I went home last night to celebrate this Jewish holiday with my family. There are only three times a year my mom cooks-Rushashonah, Yom Kippur and Passover. Every other day of the year its frozen tv dinners or something from a bag/box. Upon arriving home it was decided that I should help prepare everything that was left because I am the 'cook' of the family. My mom let me make her famous kugel recipe which, I think, is the best kugel recipe around-and let me tell you, I have tried a lot of different kinds of kugel over the years. For those of you who don't knwo what kugel is its basically like a sweet, cinnamony bread pudding that is made with noodles. A great Jewish tradition.

Dairy Kugel Recipe

1/2 cup sugar
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz egg noodles
4 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups of raisins

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil the noodles in a pot of water. Cream together the cream cheese and sugar in a large bown. Add the eggs and the milk. Add the noodles and raisins to the mixture. Mix ingredients together until well combined. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Sprinkle a genrous amount on top. Let the kugel bake in the over for approximately one hour or until firm.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On a positive note with some icing on top

Following up on my last blog post I would like to recommend some quality Indian restaurants that are well worth the money and the trip.

1. Rasika-by far the most creative Indian restaurant I have ever been to. Order the fried spinach leaves as an appetizer-they are heavenly and will melt in your mouth. Located in DC and and moderately priced.

2. Tiffins-located in college park this very traditional Indian restaurant has quality dishes and you are bound to love anything you order. I recommend the chicken tikka masala (the best I have ever had) and any dish with a coconut based sauce.

3. Uudapi Palace-a vegetarian Indian restaurant, also in college park and owned by the same people. I love the comfortable ambiance and the care they put into their dishes.

I never did write about this in my last entry but Justin and I visited Cake Love after our Indian dinner in Silver Spring. I absolutely adore cupcake shops. Cake is amazing. Heck, I am listening to a book on tape about cake (called eat cake by Jeanne Ray) right now. I feel like I have been on a never ending quest in life for a good cupcake-a thing almost possible to find. Cake love seemed a bit too pretentious for me-their high prices, only moderately creative flavors and stuffy warnings about being SURE to serve their quality cupcakes at room temperature. The first words that came out of Justins mouth after swallowing a ginormous cupcake bite was 'its too dry'. And it was true. I feel like some people think that if they make their cupcakes moist they will be taken for muffins; but no I want a moist cupcake. I want some deliciously moist cupcakes that will make me sigh with contentment and not leaving me yearning for something better. Unfortunately, Cake Love did not satisfy my cupcake desires and I will have to continue my quest. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Where's the Indian cuisine in Silver spring?

Well, this weekend being a special occassion (year and a half anniversary with my boyfriend) Justin and I decided to spend a night out on the town and take ourselves to a place that serves our absolute favorite cuisine-an Indian restaurant. We have been on a tight budget lately so we set about sorting through my coupons from the entertainment book to see if anything was appealing (it was surprisingly hard to find a place that wasn't a fast food restaurant or a chain in this book)and we came upon Bombay Gaylord. The coupon seemed decent so we turned to the trusty old internet and found out that it was one of two listed Indian restaurants in Silverspring, along with Ghar-E-Kabab which didn't sound very Indian or very appealing. Justin and I were more than willing to give it a shot (mostly I went along with it because I knew that The Taste of Morocco was nearby and I am always more than willing to go to a place that incorporates dates into their dishes, mmm).

Though not directly in the downtown Silver Spring shopping center it was a mere few blocks away and as we were walking from our parking spot we passed by two delectable looking restaurants (both of whose main focus seemed to be chic bars) Olazzo and Nicaro. Being a foodie I couldn't resist stopping at each one and reviewing the menu. Olazzos menu looked like a classic Italian menu with no creative flair that I could see. Necaro mouth was watering reading the menu and my heart was breaking over the prices of the main entrees. Justin pulled me away and we kept on going until we reached Bombay Gaylord. The place was empty. It was saturday night, 7, 7:30 ish, prime time for dining and there were no customers. I quickly grabbed a menu, perused it, and then ushered Justin out to reassess our options and take a little walk around the block. After a not so quick stop at the Halloween store in downtown silverspring and despairing over the fact that I had already been to all the good restaurants there I decided to head back to Bombay Gaylord and have a taste.

The place was a little busier, two more tables having customers, so we sat down and tried to decide exactly what we wanted. The menu was the same thing you would see at any other Indian restaurant but lacking any kind of house specialty or dish that really caught the eye. Justin opted for the lamb vindaloo because it was described as having a sweet and sour yogurt sauce-something you dont normally associate vindaloo with. I asked the waiter what he recommended and before I finished my sentence he was pointing at the chicken tikka masala. I know this is a good dish, I have gotten it at other restaurants. Though I usually prefer to get something new I listened to the waiter and ordered the dish. The two samosas-vegetarian and meat-came out first. I was surprised how good the meat one was since I am not used to seeing ground beef on Indian menus. The crust of the samosas were tasty and the meat was well spiced while the inside of the vegetarian samosa was still cold from the freezer/refrigerator. I was sad when they were gone-particularly because I appreciated the green sauce and pickled carrots that came with them. The mango lassi that I ordered was unusually sour, as if they had used greek yogurt to it. Justin loved it and I liked it too-it was very different and filling.

The main dishes arrived soon after we were finished with the appetizers and I was surprised to see my very red chicken tikka masala had a grilled smoky look to it. The sauce also tasted pleasingly smoky and very different from other chicken tikka masalas I have had. I wouldn't necessarily say I liked this one better but I did like it. Justins lamb vindaloo was sufficiently tender but the sauce was much more sweet than sour and looked more like a tomato gravy than a yogurt sauce. I don't think I have ever seen a more fried, flattened naan than the one we ordered that was supposedly stuffed with potato and some other unidentifiable greens. Poor Justin, I should have ordered the meat stuffed one instead but it would probably have been jsut as flat and greasy, just better spiced. I was expecting a bit more spiciness and flavor to accompany my dishes but somehow it didn't feel Indian enough, like this was an Indian restaurant catering to american tastes (hence the smokiness of my dish, the greasiness of the bread and the beefy menu).

When the waiter brought us our bill we were about to say something and he said-'let me guess, a coupon?' before we even had hinted at the fact. I suppose most people go there and come back only if they have a coupon. This says a lot when there are only two Indian restaurants in Silver Spring.

In the end I came to terms with the fact that our meal was at least half of what it would have cost to go to Nicaro for dinner, that we were probably more full than we would have been if we had went there and we had plenty of left overs to feed both of us for another meal. Though a good deal with a coupon I felt like I could have made similar food myself in my very own kitchen. I have thus convinced Justin to take me to Indique or IndeBlue for our next Indian adventure. I can't wait!