Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ingredient 25 - Watermelon

Writing this blog has provided me with the motivation to cook with ingredients I have been meaning to try.  This last week I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and sought out an ingredient I had intentionally never tried.  Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that until this week, I had never eaten watermelon.  When it comes to fruit, I am a picky eater.  I absolutely hate bananas.  Even the smell bothers me.

However, I am happy to announce my experience with watermelon was pretty good.  I enjoyed the flavor.  Watermelon may not be my new favorite fruit, but I would eat it again.  In addition to eating it plain, I made a lovely watermelon, arugula, and feta salad that was refreshing and simple.

Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad    
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4 to 6
1 5oz package arugula
2-3 cups cubed watermelon
1 8oz package feta crumbles
1 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice – 2 lemons if squeezing fresh juice
1/3 nice olive oil
1 tbp sugar
Salt and pepper

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Begin by preparing the dressing.  If you choose to juice fresh lemons, use a strainer to keep seeds and pulp out of the mixture.  Whisk the juices, sugar, and oil together in a small bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Next, wash and roughly chop the mint leaves.

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Prepare your watermelon.  If processing a whole watermelon, cut off the ends and remove the rind in strips.  YouTube has some great instructional videos.  I watched a few to familiarize myself.

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Once you have cubed the watermelon, prepare an assembly line for easy preparation.  Each salad is comprised of 1 cup of arugula, 3/4 of a cup of watermelon, 2-3 tablespoons of feta cheese, and 2 tablespoons of chopped mint.  Drizzle the dressing on top of the plated salad and enjoy.

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I really enjoyed this salad, it was refreshing and flavorful.  The sweetness of the watermelon was balanced by the peppery arugula, and the saltiness of the feta. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Union Market

I went to Union Market for the first time this weekend.  My friend Rachel suggested visiting and her suggestions are always great so I knew I was in for something good.

The recently revitalized Union Market, located near Gallaudet University on 5th Street NE, started out as Centre Market.  Located where the National Archives stands today, Centre Market was the largest market in D.C.  When preparations for the Archives  started In 1931, the vendors re-located to Union Terminal Market in Northeast.  After the city banned the outdoor sale of meat and eggs in 1962, the market lost foot traffic and became a center for wholesale operations until the late 1980's when said operations moved to the suburbs.

Today the market has numerous artisan vendors and eateries.  I started my afternoon with some empanadas from DC Empanadas, the veggie was my favorite.  Stuffed with curry and potatoes, the empanada was very similar to a samosa.  Holy cow do I love samosas!

The other food vendor I visited was Buffalo & Bergen, a  classic New York style soda fountain.  Yes, they had egg creams, and I had a chocolate one in honor of my mother.  For those not in the know,  an egg cream is a beverage consisting of milk, soda water, and vanilla or chocolate syrup. 
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After the consumption of delicious food and drink I got down to the business of browsing and shopping.  It is a good thing that Dave and I drove to the market because we came home with a new cutting board, a baby gift for a friend, a 6 pack of D.C Brau, a local beer, a watermelon, a jar of pickles, a bag of Ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend, and a loaf of challah, egg bread.  

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Next time I visit, I plan to check out the Rappahannock Oyster Co. and Dolcezza Gelato.

Union Market is open 11 to 8 Wednesday through Friday and 8 to 8 Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Yesterday, on my last day of vacation, I went and checked out the decadent doughnuts at Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, 1308 G St. NW.  I first heard about Astro while skimming the Washington Post.  The food writers went in search of the best doughnuts in D.C. and Astro's Creme Brulee and PB and J took first and third.

When I first looked into visiting Astro, the shop was only open on weekdays (7:30 to 5:30) but has since started serving on Saturday (9 to 3), hooray!!!  Astro's doughnut selection varies by the day but select favorites are available daily.

Dave and I sampled three different doughnuts: the Creme Brulee, the PB and J, and the Brooklyn Blackout.  The first two were filled yeast doughnuts and the latter a cake doughnut.  All the doughnuts were fresh and made from high-quality ingredients.  No greasy aftertaste with these babies.  Of the three, the Brooklyn Blackout was my favorite.  It was wonderfully chocolaty and soft without being overly dense, totally sublime.  Dave favored the Creme Brulee; he loves doughnuts with vanilla custard.

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Astro has no seating so you take your doughnuts to go.  We were going to enjoy our doughnuts in nearby Lafayette Square, but rain forced us to take refuge in a Starbucks. 

I definitely recommend a trip to Astro if you are going to treat yourself to a doughnut.  They are worthy of the splurge.

What is your favorite doughnut or doughnut shop?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ingredient 24 – Coca-Cola

This week's ingredient was Coca-Cola, the wine of the South.  I have consumed my fair share of Cokes over the years but I have never done more than pour it over ice or add it to ice cream to make a float.  In my humble opinion, Coke and chocolate ice cream floats are way better than root beer floats.
Anyways, back to this week's preparation, Atlanta Brisket, beef brisket marinated in Coca-Cola.  The recipe for this patriotic meal came from my friend and loyal reader Maya.  She is always forwarding me recipes from Tasting Table and Epicurious.

Did you know the Coca-Cola Polar Bear is the CEO of Happiness?  Coke was first invented in 1886 by pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton.  At that time, carbonated beverages were believed to be health tonics, curing aliments like morphine addiction, headache, and impotence.  The secret formula for Coca-Cola was kept in the main vault of the Sun Trust Bank in Atlanta for 86 years.  In 2011, it was moved to a vault in the Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta Brisket
From Jean Anderson and Epicurious December 2012
5 pounds fresh beef brisket
2 liter Coca-Cola
Kosher salt
Black pepper
3 tbp vegetable oil
2 cups reserved Coca-Cola
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 8oz can salt-free tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
3 large yellow onions
3 large bay leaves

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Begin By trimming the brisket of excess fat.  I lucked out and was able to skip this step thanks to the accommodating butchers at Whole Foods.  Once trimmed of fat, place the brisket in a nonreactive roasting pan. 

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Pans made from copper, steel, and aluminum are reactive while glass, stainless steel, and enamel are all nonreactive.  Nonreactive pans should be used when cooking with acidic or alkaline foods.  I put my brisket in a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.
Pour the Coke over the brisket and cover.  Place the marinating brisket in the fridge for 24 hours, turning once halfway through. 
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Once finished marinating, remove the brisket from the Coke and pat dry with paper towels.  Save 2 cups of the Coke for the sauce.  To make the sauce simply mix the tomato sauce, onion soup mix, and ketchup into the reserved Coke.

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Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet, high heat.  While the oil is heating, season the dried brisket with salt and pepper.  Once the oil is hot, sear the brisket on each side for 3 to 4 minutes.  My pan was not large enough to sear an entire side of the brisket in one go so I did each side in two stages.  The brisket was heavy and a bit awkward to maneuver so 2 pairs of tongs and a person to help turn the meat is advisable.  A pancake griddle might make the searing process easier and faster.  However, if considering this method be careful with the amount of oil you put on the griddle.  Starting a grease fire is no fun.

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Once seared place the brisket in the roasting pan and cover in sauce.  Half and slice the onions into 3/8 inch pieces and place on top of the brisket along with the 3 bay leaves. 

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Cover the pan and bake at 325 for 4 hours.  Check the roast once or twice to make sure there is liquid in the pan, if needed poor in some Coke or water.  After taking the brisket out of the oven, let it cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Serve with coleslaw or on a bun as a sandwich.  However you chose, it will be tasty.  I will be making this brisket again.  However, next time I will not bother to line the pan with aluminum foil.  I thought lining the pan would make cleanup a breeze, but the sauce ended up getting under the two sheets of foil.