Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back to Bacon: Summer Corn and Shrimp Chowder with... Bacon!

Sorry for the extended hiatus- now that I've finally recovered from finals, hopefully I can get this blog going again! I actually did quite a bit of cooking during the finals-prep month, but after plowing through hundreds of pages of Federal Personal Income Tax and Property law, the thought of writing anything extracurricular was definitely beyond my capacities. But, that means that I have some good stories and recipes stored up, so here we go.

This chowder is one of my favorite soups to make at home, and also comes with a great set of vacation memories. I went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina last Memorial Day weekend and stayed at a fantastic hotel called The Sanderling, in the gorgeous and pristine Duck area of the Banks. As with any trip, I eagerly checked TripAdvisor and local websites for food and restaurant recommendations, and kept coming back to one repeated tip- "you MUST try the corn chowder at The Sanderling!" Obviously, I went to the hotel's restaurant on the first afternoon (my blood sugar was low, I needed soup!) and thankfully, the corn chowder lived up to its hype. Even better, there was a recipe posted online, so I made the chowder immediately upon returning to D.C. and have continued to do so all year.

The online recipe is not the best in terms of attention to detail- the first time I made this, I diced the requested red bell pepper and then realized it was still sitting on the counter when the soup was done, since there was no mention of when to add it in! So I've adapted it somewhat, as well as removed the crab meat option and doubled up on the shrimp. Nothing against crab meat, but I just prefer shrimp with all of these gorgeous summer vegetables.

  • 3 slices of bacon, small diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, small diced
  • 1 medium onion, small diced
  • 1 carrot, small diced
  • 1 small green pepper, small diced
  • 1 small red pepper, small diced
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 10 oz can of cream style corn
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 splashes Tabasco
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 splash Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ lb. small-size peeled and deveined shrimp (frozen work great here)

Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon pieces and cook until crispy. Add onions, celery, peppers, and carrots; cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add butter and let melt. Add flour and stir well until all of the butter is absorbed by the flour. Add both types of corn, stock, cream, and seasonings. Mix well and allow chowder to simmer 20 minutes. Just before serving add shrimp and stir well; they will cook in about 2 minutes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

LDB Spring Finals Hiatus

It's that glorious time of year again... the countdown to spring semester finals has officially begun, so I'm going to put the blog on a little hiatus. See you after May 9th!


A little fun advice to tide you over...

Monday, April 6, 2009


I know, I know- I have been really bad lately about updating. And to make it worse, I haven't even cooked that much in the past week and a half to update about! But I promise, I have a really good reason- two, actually...

I got kittens! Gus (left) and Sebastian (right). Needless to say, between adjusting to the two of them and my usual school/work loads, things have been pretty chaotic around the apartment and haven't left much time for cooking. I made a delicious pasta primavera with roasted vegetables from the original "Everyday Italian" cookbook for some friends the night before we ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler this Sunday, but didn't even have time or energy to take pictures! Such a bad blogger, I know... but how could you resist this?

Unfortunately, this week doesn't look to be much better in terms of chaos, but I'll try to make it work! First up is Passover on Wednesday- I'm bringing two side dishes to my friend Jill's sedar. So far, I'm thinking Ina's sauteed grape tomatoes with herbs and this recipe for braised spinach with shallots and pine nuts. Any other good suggestions for tasty and Passover-friendly vegetable sides?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés: French-Style Open-Faced Sandwich with Leeks and Soft-Scrambled Eggs

My secret "escape plan" from my often monotonous days of work and law school is somewhat of a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less tempting. It's especially seductive in this crazy economy, when law students are no longer in demand, and I begin to question if there's a point to my years of studying, researching, and writing endless exams and papers on minute points of law. "If I get laid off...", I muse (often during class or a particularly mind-numbing research project at work), "I'd go to Paris and enroll in culinary school, resurrect my crappy high school French, and obtain fabulous style and joie de vivre."

Obviously, I have been reading too many books like this one- but it's a nice dream. One great aspect of living in D.C. is that I can pretend, on beautiful sunny days like this past Sunday when spring finally made an appearance, that it is a European city. To keep up this buoyant desire, I like to stroll down to the Dupont Market like it's one of the famed Parisian food marchets and buy fresh ingredients to make a delicious, sophisticated lunch.

This weekend, one of Molly's recipes (shocking, I know!) jumped out at me for this exact quality. I had never soft-scrambled eggs before, but the combination of fluffy curds and tender sauteed leeks seemed so perfectly French- flavorful, simple, yet luxurious.

I bought some leeks and farm fresh eggs at the market, reveling in the gorgeous spring weather that brought what seemed like every resident out of hibernation and into the sun. Then I went home and fixed this sandwich, and it was just bliss.


For the leeks:
3 small leeks
A nub of butter
1 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt
½ Tbs crème fraîche (note: I did not have crème fraîche when I made this, but I mixed my leftover leeks with a tablespoon of heavy cream the next day- it was astoundingly good. Next time, I will use the crème fraîche from the start!)

For the eggs:
2 large eggs
2 tsp water
1/8 tsp salt
A small nub of butter, melted

For serving:
Two or three bias-cut slices of baguette, or a large slice of country-style crusty bread, toasted
Freshly ground pepper


Begin by preparing the leeks: trim the root end off each leek, and slice them across their width into roughly ¼-inch-thick coins. Place the cut-up leeks in the basket insert of a salad spinner, place the basket in the bowl of the spinner, and fill the bowl with cold water. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes in the water; then use your hand to swish them around, loosening and removing any dirt that may be hidden in their layers. Remove the basket from the bowl, dump the water out of the bowl, return the basket to the bowl, and spin the leeks dry. [Alternately, if you don’t have a salad spinner, simply soak and wash the leeks in a bowl of water, and dry them with paper towels.]

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, the sugar, and the salt, and stir to mix. Cover the skillet to allow the leeks to begin to sweat a bit, and, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary if they begin to cook too quickly, allow the leeks to cook for about 15 minutes, until they are fragrant, soft, and almost melting. Add the crème fraîche, and cook the leeks a minute or two more, stirring in the crème fraîche as it melts. Set the skillet aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, salt, and melted butter. Pour this mixture into a small saucepan, and place it over low heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to coagulate ever so slightly and form tiny oatmeal-like lumps, begin a little dance of removing the pot from the heat and replacing it so that the eggs don’t cook too quickly, and reach all over the corners and bottom of the pot with your whisk. The eggs are ready when they resemble loose oatmeal; the process should take between 5 and 9 minutes.

Place the slices of toasted bread on a plate, and spoon the scrambled eggs on top of them. Top the eggs with a layer of leeks. Serve immediately, with salt and pepper as needed.

Serves one, with leftover leeks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Boat Food: Surf and Turf x 2

Last week, I was lucky enough to escape to Florida for a mini-spring break trip- it's not the worst state to be from when you get sick of northern winters! After a few great days at my best friend Mel's house in Jupiter, we drove up to Stuart to spend the weekend on my dad's boat- the infamous Cat Sass (say that slowly, and try not to laugh too hard).

But anyway, this is a food blog, so let's talk about what we ate! Friday night, my dad brought out these bad boys from the freezer- spiny Florida lobster tails he'd caught in the Keys last summer.

How to improve on perfection? Well, I guess some filets wouldn't hurt.

Dad threw the lobsters and steaks on the grill, I roasted some asparagus and made a chopped salad, and Mel overcame her seafood aversion in honor of the lobsters. It was the perfect boat meal!


Saturday night, Dad was eager to show off his new toy- a quesadilla maker. Uusally I'm not one for gadgets solely devoted to one thing, since my teeny D.C. condo kitchen is rather limited on storage space (although I make an exception for my ice cream maker!), but I had to admit that this was a good find. We had some leftover steak and lobster, so I sauteed some onions and peppers with the meat for the quesadilla filling.

Dad took over to show off the quesadilla maker's skills, and look how gorgeous that is- surf n' turf quesadilla!

In case you're in the market for one now, Dad stresses that you must get the model with the chili pepper on top- apparently the others are just sub-par. I'm not sure if the quesadillas would be quite as amazing as they were after a beautiful Florida day out on the water, but it's worth a shot!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Orangette in D.C.; Chana Masala

I guess it's not very "Irish" to make Indian food on St. Patrick's Day... but I'm not very Irish either, so I'm alright with it. Plus, today was a very happy "food nerd" day for me, and not in the corned beef and cabbage sense. Molly Wizenberg, the author of my very favorite food blog, Orangette, was in town to read from her (amazing) first book, "A Homemade Life"!

I absolutely adore Molly's gorgeous writing and her clean, simple recipes. I've made countless dishes from her blog- banana bread with chocolate and candied ginger, fresh mint ice cream, brown buttered corn, French leek and soft-scrambled eggs sandwiches, and of course the infamous sweet and spicy bacon- and can't think of one that disappointed. She has an especially amazing way with humble vegetables, like brussels sprouts or cauliflower, and her recipe index is a perfect resource for trying something new.

Just a quick summary of Molly's story and her fabulous blog, for those unfamiliar- after growing up in an Oklahoma food-loving family, she struggled to meld her love for cooking and food into a sustainable life and career plan (um, sounds familiar!). She sadly lost her father to cancer during her first year of graduate school- warning to those reading the book, I sobbed reading her wrenching and eloquent descriptions of her father's last weeks- and then spent time in Paris, where a friend suggested she start a "blog" about cooking as a way to write more.

A few years later, she has an award-winning and highly influential food blog, a delightful-sounding husband who she met through the blog (possibly the cutest story of all time), and a fantastic book, with hopefully more in the future.

As we waited in Borders today, I paged through the recipe pages I'd bookmarked, looking for the first dish to make from the book. I decided to start with "Brandon's chana masala", in order to accomplish one of my resolutions of cooking Indian food at home for the first time- plus, it sounded delicious and simple.

After purchasing a bottle of garam masala spice, I now have all of the requisite spices and only need canned tomatoes, chickpeas, onion, and garlic in my pantry to make this anytime. Although it's not the quickest of dishes, requiring a lot of stirring and waiting patiently for the water to absorb into the ingredients, it's certainly worth the wait.

The process is simple- browned onions mix with spices and water, then tomatoes and chickpeas join in and cook together. The end result is humble in appearance, but when you dig in, you realize the complex layers of flavor from the spices.

I mixed in some Greek yogurt to finish, and it was the perfect compliment to the cayenne pepper's heat. Molly notes that her husband's preferred serving is to omit the yogurt and squeeze a few lemon wedges over the dish, which I will have to try tomorrow (leftovers!).

So, thank you, Molly and Brandon- for your fantastic blog, your wonderful book, and now, your chana masala recipe!


Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional


Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

Yield: About four servings

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oriecchette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

I've been hesitant about posting this recipe, because honestly... I really didn't like it that much. It's rare for me to make something that completely falls short of my expectations since I know my own taste pretty well at this point, but this was sort of a bummer.

But, there's really nothing wrong with it... I think (and please, hold the "that's what she said" comments for this next statement!) that it was really just too much of a strong sausage-y dish for my taste. Hehe. Ok! Moving on...

My main motivation for trying this dish was that I have never cooked with broccoli rabe, and it seemed like a no-brainer. I love broccoli, greens, and pretty much anything remotely related to Italian cooking, so this hit the trifecta.

(that is a whole lot of broccoli rabe)

Oh- the recipe. I used Giada's recipe, but since I can't fathom using a turkey product when there could be pork involved, I used regular spicy Italian sausage.

(That's what she... no.)

First up, I washed and chopped a huge mess of the broccoli rabe, then gave it a quick bath in boiling salted water. So far, so good.

(veggie spa treatment)

Next up came the sausage, and then this recipe hit its first snag for me. Everywhere I looked, recipes for this dish asked for the sausage to be cooked with the casings "removed", and I quickly realized that this was no easy task. It's hard for me to get too grossed out cooking, but let's just say that dissecting sausage innards is not high on my favorite activities list now.

(sausage guts... yum)

I tried using this link as a reference guide, but... I wouldn't recommend it. This is not a process for the faint of heart!

Finally (or so it felt), the sausage dissection was complete and the recipe went easy enough from there. I sauteed the sausage innards (sorry, I can't stop dropping gross descriptions!) with garlic and red pepper flakes, and at the same time cooked the pasta in the broccoli rabe water. This was my first time cooking with oreiecchette- or "orecchiette", per the box, who knows- and it is a delicious, hearty pasta.

Once the sausage and pasta were done, you just get everything into the sausage skillet and mix it together with a bit of pasta water and Parmesan cheese.

So... it's a good dish, just not one that will make my "repeat over and over again" list. I think the sausage is a very strong flavor, and the equally strong, slightly bitter taste of the broccoli rabe seemed to fight with it instead of meld harmoniously like I'd envisioned. I think I'll experiment further with broccoli rabe, since that was my favorite part of the dish- any ideas would be very welcome!

  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound spicy Italian-style sausage, casings removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 1 minute. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool, saving the cooking water. Bring the reserved cooking water back to a boil.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned and juices form, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, when the reserved cooking water is boiling, add the orecchiette and cook until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Drain the broccoli rabe and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture and toss to coat with the juices. Add the pasta to the skillet. Stir in the Parmesan and about 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and serve immediately.