Sunday, March 11, 2012

Muscato Sangria

I know it's only March, but with our near-nonexistent winter, I am thinking of summer already! Last summer, my partner made a fabulous sangria (several times) using muscato wine and summer fruit. If you haven't had it, a muscato wine is made with muscat grapes, which naturally have a sweet, orangey flavor, which make it an excellent base for sangria.

There's not real recipe here, just a bottle of muscato (don't spend a lot, your making sangria after all) dumped in a pitcher with slices of whatever fruit is in season. Right now oranges, lemons, and limes would make an over the to citrusy sangria. In a few weeks, strawberries will add a hit of spring to it. At high-summer, peaches, plums, and nectarines make the absolute best!!

My dirty, little sangria secret is adding a half cup (ok, a whole cup) of vodka to the to the pitcher (your the only one who knows its there. For a lighter drink, do 1/2&1/2 sangria and soda water over ice. My last tip is make it a day or two ahead so the fruit marinates and gives up its flavors. Enjoy!

Cook's Note: One of my favorite dessert wines, Essensia, is made with muscat grapes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Winter Roots Tagine

As a way to make our meals more healthful and be a little more environmentally friendly, I've been trying to cut some of the meat out of our daily meals. I'm starting to do "Meatless Sundays", "Less Meat Wednesdays", and "Sustainable Seafood Thursdays". In a few weeks, when the farmers' markets open, I am going to do "Locavore Tuesdays" too. The rest of the days of the week, I try to source my groceries as locally as possible and as organic as possible. The new Yes! Organic grocery store in our neighborhood has been a boon. (

Along those lines, I made a great Winter Root Tagine with couscous last night (to offset the delicious flatiron steak we had the night before from the Springfield Butcher (

In addition, my partner was in New York last week and brought home a bunch of exotic spices from Kalustyan's (, including a packet of Tagine spice mix.

My tagine was inspired by the Root Vegetable Tagine recipe at epicurious, but only loosely as I used my new spice mix and a 3lb bag of seasonal root vegetables from Yes! that included a couple orange and yellow carrots, parsnips, and white and red turnips. I stirred in some butter at the end for added richness, but you can leave it out if you want to go vegan.

Winter Root Tagine

Prep time: 30-minutes (its a lot of peeling and chopping)
Cook time: 45-minutes
Serves: 4

3 pounds mixed root vegetables of your choice (carrots, yams, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, etc.), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Tagine spice mix (or 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, mixed together and ground in a spice grinder.)
3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon course-ground black paper
1 cup vegetable
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter


  1. Heat half of the olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and spice mix and sauté until the onion softened and beginning to brown and spices are toasted and fragrant, about 7 minutes.

  2. Move the onions to one side of the pan and add the remaining olive oil and half the root vegetables and red pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes without stirring, allowing the vegetable to begin to brown.

  3. Stir in the remaining vegetables, garlic, ginger, broth, and water and bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft (but not disintegrated). Stir about every 15 minutes and adding more broth or water as needed. As the vegetables cook some of them will break down and thicken the sauce.

  5. When done, stir in the butter and serve over couscous or rice.

Cook's Note: For added protein you can add ½ cup dry lentils or a can of chick peas at step number 3 above. If using lentils, they will absorb a lot of moisture, so be sure to check the stew doesn't get to dry while cooking, add more broth or water as needed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Salmon in Parchment

I love salmon. It works so well with almost any type of cuisine and cooking method. Terrific in the summer on the grill with veggies or in a Cioppino stew in winter. Plain and simple or all jazzed up its a champ!
One of my favorite methods of cooking fish is in parchment. It's pretty easy, but looks impressive. Below is a recipe I adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. I substituted broccoli for the cabbage and scaled it down to two servings. Enjoy!

Salmon in Parchment

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3 large carrots, julienned
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
4 salmon fillets (1 1/2 pounds)

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Add 3 large julienned carrots and 1/2 head shredded Napa cabbage; toss to combine.
3) Set four 15-inch squares of parchment on work surface. Use a slotted spoon to mound carrot mixture on one side of each sheet; reserve liquid in bowl. Roll 4 salmon fillets (1 1/2 pounds total) in reserved liquid. Place a fillet on each pile of vegetables; season with salt and pepper.

4) Fold parchment over contents; pleat edge to seal, forming a half-moon. Bake on a baking sheet 20 minutes. To serve, cut paper with kitchen scissors to open.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brunch at the Yellow Door: Ruffly Eggs (with Dorie)

I first read about "ruffly eggs" on Dorie Greenspan's web page at and immediately wanted to try them. It's basically a egg poached in a little plastic wrap bag. The ringer is that you can add just about anything you want to the bag to flavor the eggs. My favorite is a big pinch of chopped herbs and a drizzle of truffle oil. I've also made them with a little salsa and shredded cheese (sort of a poached huevos rancheros) and with leftover chana masala with Sriracha sauce for added kick. They are not much more complicated then making a soft boiled egg and as Dorie puts it, they're endlessly play-aroundable.

The delicious croissant is from Le Caprice, a new French bakery, at 3460 14th Street, NW.

Ruffly Eggs with Herbs and Truffle Oil

This recipe is for one serving, but it's easy to scale up to more. Dorie says her chef friend prepares them Saturday night, puts them in the fridge, then cooks them for Sunday brunch at his restaurant.

2 large eggs
Olive oil or butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped, fresh, mixed herbs (basil, chives, parsley, rosemary, whatever you have)
1 teaspoon white or black truffle oil (more or less to taste)
Salt and pepper
Additionally you'll need plastic wrap, kitchen string, and a small bowl.

1) Put a medium size saucepan of water to boil (a 2 quart is more than enough for 2 - 4 eggs)
2) Cut two pieces of plastic wrap, each large enough to generously wrap around each egg. Very lightly coat the the top of each piece of plastic with oil or butter, and then fit one wrap into the small bowl.
3) Add one teaspoon of the herbs sprinkled evenly in the button of the bowl. Drizzle a 1/2 teaspoon of truffle oil over the herbs. Gently crack an egg and into the cup, taking care not to break the yolk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4) Draw up the corners and sides of the plastic, getting as close as you can to the top of the egg, and twist to tighten the plastic. Tie the string around the neck of the plastic to secure it. Repeat with the other egg.
5) Lower the heat under the pan to a light simmer and gently drop in the eggs (...not fear, the plastic won’t melt). Poach the eggs for about 5 minutes, then carefully lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel to briefly drain. (If the white doesn’t look set, poach a few seconds longer.)
6) The easiest way to unpack the eggs is to put them on the plate and to snip the plastic just under the string almost all the way around the bag. Gently lift the plastic wrap by the neck, coaxing the egg out a small spatula if necessary. Dorie says, it’s not a problem if it’s upside-down, it’s just that the ruffles are prettier on the top. Serve immediately.

Cook's Note: I love these for brunch with toast or a croissant, but they can be used in the same way as poached eggs; great served on a salad or as Eggs Benedict. They really are endlessly play-aroundable!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

About: “I’m giving ‘er all she’s got, Captain!”

This Christmas my partner gave me what I first thought was a model of the USS Enterprise. I ooo’ed and aaa’ed in all the right places as I opened the box and saw the gleaming chrome miniature starship. But at the same time, I thought this is an odd gift; while I am big fan of Star Trek, I don’t have models and such sitting around the house. Then I took it out of the box and laughed hysterically! It’s a pizza cutter in the shape of the USS Enterprise!

From, it’s the perfect gift for that special someone who is a foodie freak and a scifi geek!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Our little caravan hugs the beaches along Tunisia’s coastline. Though hot, the sea breezes are magnificent and the Camels seem to prefer the sand. We are in the tiny beach town of Plage de es Chaffar on the Gulf of Gabès. A town of only a fewer than 2000 people but has plan for expanding its tourism. It is known by the locals (and bargain-hunting French students) for its fine sand beaches and excellent kite-surfing.

Like every evening of our trek, Mr. Chebba has coordinated a rendezvous with the two small trucks carrying the bulk of our supplies and luggage. When we arrive in camp each evening, the workers have already erected the bedroom tents and are working on the main pavilion. They are breezy structures of creamy canvas and white linen. At the end of a long day of camelback riding a cool shower and clean dishdasha are heaven. Now it’s off to the pavilion for drinks and dinner.

Speaking of dinner… tonight is Makhouda D'aubergine, a Tunisian style frittata with eggplants, onions, and parsley from the Yellow Door garden. This is an easy recipe great for dinner or brunch. I found it at

Makhouda D'aubergine (Tunisian Eggplant Frittata)


1 large globe eggplants

1 tblsp salt, for sprinkling

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onions, finely chopped

1 red bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and diced

8 large eggs

1 handful chopped fresh parsley (about 1/2 cup packed) or cilantro

4 garlic cloves, minced

6 ounce gruyere cheese, shredded

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons harissa or hot pepper paste or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste

1-2 teaspoons Tunisian spice blend (bharat) (or a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon rosewater, and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt)

lemon wedges for garnish

Serves: 6

Prep Time: 45 mins

Total Time: 2 hrs


  1. Peel and cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch dice. Sprinkle generously with salt and place the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Rinse eggplant and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cook the eggplant, onion, and pepper, stirring occasionally until golden and soft, about 20-25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400ºF
  4. Transfer this mixture to a colander to drain off as much of the oil as possible.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the eggs and add the herbs, garlic, cheese and bread crumbs.
  6. Add the eggplant mixture.
  7. Season with the bharat, salt, and a small spoonful of the optional harissa or cayenne pepper.
  8. Grease a 2-quart soufflé dish.
  9. Pour the egg mixture into the dish and bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and puffed in the center, 40-45 minutes (a knife inserted into the center should come out clean).
  10. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a serving platter (you can also just leave it in the dish).
  11. Cut into wedges or squares to serve.
  12. Serve hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges on the side.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Algeria – Spicy, salty, and delicious!

We’re traversing the Tell Atlas Mountains in northern Algeria now. This vast range stretches from Morocco to Tunisia. Unlike the empty expanses of sand in southern Algeria, this is beautiful mountain country with a Mediterranean climate. Our camels look out of place in this almost-Alpine-like setting, but they are sure footed and reliable (but also perpetually grumpy).

We’ve been eating well of the local foods; more tagines and plenty of grilled vegetables, meats, and fish. Almost every meal is accompanied by a fiery, salty condiment called harissa. It is a mixture of fresh hot peppers, roasted red peppers, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and spices. It’s used as an ingredient in sauces and marinades and as a relish along side meat or fish; it’s sort of North Africa’s version of pesto. Depending on how hot your peppers are a little can go a long way, but be fearless!

This harissa recipe comes form my Modern Moroccan cookbook by Hassan M’Souli. I only made about a quarter of a batch. You’ll notice in the picture of the ingredients, that my cilantro looks a little odd. ...that’s because its basil. I forgot to buy cilantro, so I used basil from my garden; it worked fine. Also, the recipe has you roast and peel your own red peppers. I used jarred roasted peppers. Lastly, I did not have a preserved lemon, so I used the juice and zest from a fresh one.


Yields 4 cups

1 lb small hot red chili peppers, stems removed

2 large red pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded

1 preserved lemon

3 cloves garlic

½ bunch cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon salt

Olive oil, to cover

Mince the chilis, roasted peppers, preserved lemon and garlic by hand or in a food processor. Mix in the cilantro, cumin, and salt. Transfer to a storage jar and let stand for one hour. Then add enough olive oil to cover the mixture. It will keep nearly indefinitely in the refrigerator.