Friday, June 15, 2007

Dinner Around the Globe...?

This last Sunday we had another elaborate family meal, but we did something we don't usually do: we had a variety of dishes instead of sticking with a central theme. Each course was from a different part of the world, which I guess could be a theme in itself but its cuteness/creativity is lost in the fact that it was an afterthought. Ah well, onto the food. The menu for our "around the globe" dinner was:
  • Cocktail: Ocean Club Specials (The Bahamas)
  • Truffle pate and crackers (France)
  • Ceviche (South America)
  • Moroccan Lamb (Morocco)
  • Cumin Almond Rice (Morocco)
  • Green Beans with Orange and Rosemary Gremolata (Italy)
  • Ice cream (Amazon region and Thailand)
Our cocktail for the evening is a classic around our house: The Ocean Club Special. This is a drink that our parents had while staying at the Ocean Club Resort in the Bahamas back in the day (like, 30 years ago now?) and have been recreating at home ever since. The ingredients are pineapple juice, creme de banana, coconut rum, and white rum, and the proportions are 3:1:1:1, respectively. We happened to have some pineapple rum in the house so we used a little of that this time as well. This drink is AMAZING and it's a great party drink (it can easily be made in large batches). We served ours with a maraschino cherry on top.

With our OC Specials we had a little snack of truffle pate and great mediterranean crackers from Calvert Woodley, our favorite place to stock up on wine and cheese, located in Woodley Park in northwest Washington, D.C. Visits to Calvert are always a lot of fun, especially since we get to see "our guy" Pepe, who always has a warm welcome for us (and lots of delicious recommendations!). We love Pepe!

Next, we had ceviche. The hardest part of preparing ceviche (in my experience) is making sure the fish is "cooked" enough by the acid in the citrus juice. The recipe we had said it would take 45 minutes to cook about 1.5 pounds of snapper, shrimp, and scallops, and that is NOT what happened. We had the fish marinating in lime juice for hours in the fridge (and we even changed the lime juice!) and it still wasn't cooked enough. Since refrigerating marinades slows the process down, we left the ceviche out at room temperature for the last 45 minutes before we were supposed to eat it, and that actually worked very well to finish it off. Although it is not "safe" to leave fish out for too long, the last few minutes seemed okay and got the job done. Plus, we like to live on the edge.

To the cooked fish, we added a mixture of jalapeno, cilantro, green papaya (it's pretty sour, not sweet like a ripe papaya), hot sauce, and capers, amongst other ingredients I'm sure I'm forgetting. It was delicious (especially because the fish was finally cooked!) but VERY spicy - Dad didn't check the jalapenos before putting them in!

Next was the main attraction: Moroccan Lamb. We were originally going to make shish kebabs but we decided we would just grill the lamb and forget about the skewering. Dad butterflied a leg of lamb (meaning he cut the meat so it went from the shape of a roast into a much flatter piece of meat so it could be grilled more easily). Then, the lamb was marinated in orange juice, lime juice, garlic, chipotle peppers in adobo, olive oil, and cumin. Again, I think this recipe was modified a bit so all of the ingredients may not be listed.

After marinating all day, we grilled the lamb. Dad used the instant-read meat thermometer and it worked great (as usual) - the meat was perfectly cooked!

We served the meat with cumin rice, a recipe from Rachael Ray (Note: we're not big fans, but she does have a decent recipe here and there. The trick is to just look up her recipes online, or watch her on MUTE!). We wanted to recreate the yummy, oily rice topped with almonds that is often served in middle eastern restaurants. The rice didn't turn out exactly that way but it was still a wonderful recipe that we will be making again. Basically, you boil water, then add cumin seeds, currants, lemon or orange zest, and butter to the water, and then add the rice and return the water to a boil. (She calls for both currants and golden raisins but we nixed the raisins.) Cook for about 20 minutes, then top with toasted sliced almonds and chives (though we used flat-leaf parsley instead). Note: The recipe says to stir the rice occasionally, which was unusual because generally you are supposed to leave rice covered when it is cooking. However, we followed the recipe and stirred. In the end, the rice was a little gummy and we think it was because of the stirring. We think. Despite the gumminess, it was DELICIOUS. The rice was infused with the flavor of the cumin, and the currants provided the occasional bite of semi-sweetness. Yummm.

For our vegetable, we made Green Beans with Orange and Rosemary Gremolata, a recipe we've made before, including during Thanksgiving 2004, a 35-person Thanksgiving extravaganza! A story for another time, for sure. Anyway, it's an Epicurious recipe and it's really wonderful. First, you cook the cleaned and trimmed green beans in boiling water until they are crisp-tender (be sure to rinse with cold water to stop the cooking). Next, you make the gremolata with garlic, rosemary, orange peel, lemon peel, and flat-leaf parsley. Cook up the gremolata in butter (reserving a bit for garnish). Then you are supposed to add chicken broth, orange juice concentrate, and lemon juice, but we faked it a bit and just added lemon juice, orange juice, and a little water. No biggie. Then add the beans and cook for a few minutes to heat the beans through and coat with the sauce. Garnish with the reserved gremolata. So good!

Here's what the finished plate looked like:

Of course, we ended the evening with some Haagen Dazs, but this time it was two flavors from their Reserve collection: Amazon Valley Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle. The chocolate one was good - very intense, not too sweet, and a complex chocolate flavor. The toasted coconut ice cream was INCREDIBLE. I am a chocolate and peanut butter kind of girl, but this ice cream is at the top of the list for favorite ice cream flavor EVER. The coconut ice cream has bits of ginger-infused sesame brittle in it along with bits of coconut. HOLY CRAP THIS IS GOOD STUFF!

Hopefully next time we can keep with a theme a bit better!

Happy eating,
E & X

ps. We couldn't resist putting in a few pictures of Gellie the Wonder Dog from the evening, as he is our constant companion and a great source of entertainment during Sunday dinners:

A Donut by Another Name

by Xani

Lake Charles has had some surprisingly good eats. Great donuts yesterday morning, great steak last night (post coming soon!), and this morning, something I had never had before: Kolaches.

Essentially this is a savory donut stuffed with various fillings. Our gracious hosts at The Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness had a whole bunch of there set out for today's breakfast. I had never even heard of them before! They had various fillings: Sausage and Cheese, Ham and Cheese, and one that someone told me might have been sausage and jalapeno. The jalapeno one sounded interesting, but at 8 am, something told me it wasn't the best idea. I went for the sausage and cheese kolache.

Very tasty. The fried dough exterior was soft and not too greasy. The sausage inside was very flavorful and the cheese was warm and melty. Just right with a hot cup of joe.

I never thought this trip would introduce me to a whole new kind of donut! Thanks Lake Charles!!


P.S. Sorry for the mediocre phone pics-- I have to make do when I am on the road...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

MoBlog from Lake Charles, LA

Being on the road so much gives me plenty of opportunity for 'research.' Pretty standard coffee, excellent custard-filled donuts. X

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pappardelle with Papa (and Mama)

By Erin

Last Sunday, it was just me and the BCD parents since Xani was in Massachusetts/Connecticut for business (and to see other Podolnys, including our fellow blogger cousin, Alexis, and to eat heart-stopping hamburgers). Here was the Italian-themed menu of the evening:
  • Cocktails
  • Mom's Famous Caesar Salad
  • Garlic Bread
  • Pappardelle with Dad's homemade spaghetti sauce and Italian sausage
  • Ice cream
For our cocktails, Mom had a cosmopolitan, and we used Dad's recipe: two parts vodka, one part triple sec, one part cranberry juice, and the juice of one lime. Shake with ice and serve with a twist of lime.
Dad had his usual (Johnny Walker Black on the rocks with a twist) and I had Lambic Belgian Beer, framboise (raspberry) flavored. Yum. (Note: I loved this beer so much that I ordered it at The Brewer's Art, a Belgian bar/restaurant in Mt. Vernon, later in the week - it was just as delicious but very expensive!)
After cocktails we got started on the cooking. For the first time, I tried my hand at my Mom's famous Caesar salad dressing. It is by far the best Caesar dressing I've ever had, and for those of you who've had it, you know I'm not just exaggerating!

Now, I would normally disclose the full ingredient list, amount of each ingredient, and the methodology for the recipe. However, this is a top secret family recipe so I will only dislose the ingredients. (We lawyers are paranoid about our intellectual property!) If you really want to know, email me and maybe I'll tell you.

Anyway, for the dressing, we used garlic, anchovies, dry mustard, hot sauce, parmesan cheese, eggs, olive oil, and lemon juice. Then I tossed the dressing with romaine hearts. (Tip from Mom: make sure the lettuce is very dry when you serve the salad to keep the greens crisp and to not dilute the dressing.) We did not have any croutons but we had crunchy garlic bread (see below) so that was a fine substitute.

Next, we made the pappardelle with sauce and sausage. I really should say "pappardelle" because my Dad has a trick where he "makes" pappardelle by breaking up lasagne noodles into approximately 2-inch lengths, and then cooks in salted boiling water like you would with any pasta. Amazingly, it is pretty much just like real pappardelle!

I hate to say it again, but my Dad's spaghetti sauce is yet another top secret family recipe! The ingredients are olive oil, garlic, bell peppers, carrots, celery, onions, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, hot pepper flakes, and I'm sure a bunch more ingredients I am forgetting. In any case, it is GOOD. The best spaghetti sauce I've ever had.

My Dad uses Mario Batali's sauce application technique where he cooks the sauce (or in our case that evening, heats the sauce through) in a shallow pan, and then adds the almost-cooked pasta to the sauce and tosses it together to finish cooking the pasta and incorporate the sauce. This results in perfectly cooked pasta with a light coating of sauce (instead of a big pile of sauce on top of the pasta), which is how it is served in Italia (or so I'm told).

We also sauteed up some sausages Dad got from the Lexington Market, a wonderful Baltimore landmark and one of the oldest markets in the country (it began in 1782 in the same site as it is located today).

We served the sausage on top of the pasta, with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Lastly, we made garlic bread. It's a very simple recipe: we defrosted a few slices of sourdough bread that we had in the freezer, then rubbed garlic on the bread, drizzled it with olive oil and hit it with a little salt, and then put in the broiler for a few minutes. Tip: WATCH THE BROILER LIKE A HAWK! It is Xani's arch-nemesis after one too many scorched crostini. But Dad is an old pro and the bread came out great.

Keeping with our new tradition, we had some Haagen Dazs Extra Rich Light ice cream for dessert. Maybe the HD people will see this and send over some free samples since we are plugging them so much [eyebrows raising]?

It was another lovely meal with Mom and Dad - I am so lucky to get to cook with them every week!

Happy eating,


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