Monday, August 30, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Turkey Sausage Lasagna

Also known as Julie's Favorite Lasagna Ever.

Don't you want a piece right now?  Mmm...I know I do.  And this is why I'm happy we have leftovers.

Sunday night I made Turkey Sausage Lasagna, a recipe from Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa).  I don't actually own any of her cookbooks (though I probably should, as she's one of my Food Network favorites), but a friend made this recipe for my husband and I a few years ago, and after declaring it the best lasagna I've ever had, I asked for the recipe.  And she very kindly gave it to me.  I have since made this recipe for my parents, my in-laws, my husband (repeatedly), and even for Christmas Eve.  It's that good.  (Note: if you hate goat cheese, fresh herbs, and delicious food, do not make this recipe.  You will not like it.  And we can't be friends.)

Conveniently, the recipe is available on the Food Network website.  Click here to see Ina's original Turkey Sausage Lasagna.  I made slight alterations based on preferences (I prefer the hot Italian turkey sausage) and what I had on hand (lots of fresh oregano).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

DC Treat: Cacao by Jacques Poulain

My work team's summer intern (a foodie after my own heart) informed me last week that a new bakery had opened in Cleveland Park, one of the nicer neighborhoods in Washington, DC.  She told me that they had nearly authentic chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat), which certainly piqued my interest.  If you've ever had real croissants, chocolate or otherwise, in France, you know that there are very few bakeries Stateside that even come close to replicating that deliciousness.  I'm sure it's the butter and the flour that makes the difference.  But this is why I have insisted on having at least one (if not two) croissants every day when I'm in France.  This might sound like a disaster for the waistline, but seriously, the last two trips I've either lost a couple pounds or just maintained, despite all the ridiculous eating.  (Ice cream and croissants every day?  Wine with lunch and dinner?)  Now you know why I love France so much.  Ha!

In all seriousness, the huge faux-croissants you find at your local grocery store or Costco-type place just aren't even worth it once you've had the real deal.  So having a reliable source tell me I could find almost-real croissants just a few miles from home?  I immediately emailed my husband and asked if he was up for an adventure on Saturday morning.  And so our visit to Cacao by Jacques Poulain was determined.

Yesterday morning we got dressed and headed into DC (taking care to avoid the crowds of visiting Tea Party folks in town for the Glenn Beck rally).  We found parking on Connecticut Avenue, right across from Cacao, which is next door to Indique, for those familiar with the area.  Such good parking seemed like a good omen.

Cacao is more of a chocolatier than a true bakery.  The cases were filled with all kinds of decadent French treats.  But we were on a mission and headed straight for the croissants.  We got the traditional butter croissant, a chocolate croissant, and an almond croissant.  All three were delicious.  And had so much butter in them that the two extras we bought for some friends soaked through the little paper bag in no time.  Let me be clear: this is a good thing.  Verdict: the next time I get a craving for a taste of France on a Saturday morning?  We'll be headed back to Cacao.

But the real surprise of the morning?  The French macarons.  There was a case full of them, and apparently Cacao is known for theirs.  To be clear, a French macaron is nothing like the coconut macaroons you find in the U.S.  A French macaron is a sandwich cookie made entirely of eggs, sugar, and almond flour.  Delicious.  The filling may be jam, buttercream, or chocolate ganache.  They are delicious.  We saw them all over France, particularly in Paris.  They come in a wide variety of colors and flavors.  And did I mention they're delicious?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Step-by-Step Recipe: Stuffed Zucchini and Bell Peppers

For my first official recipe post, I wanted to make sure I made a recipe I was familiar with, so I didn't end up posting something inedible or unappetizing.  Some might consider that cheating on a food blog.  But I figure it's just smart.

So last night I made Giada's Stuffed Zucchini and Bell Peppers.  I made just a few alterations to the recipe, so the recipe listed in my blog reflects those.  If you want to make Giada's 5-star version, go to the link above.  The items I altered are starred below.  Notes: normally I use fresh parsley from my garden whenever I can, but mine hasn't done so well this summer, so I haven't even had a single harvest.  As for the peppers, I just bought the "traffic light" set from the grocery store, hence green rather than orange. As for the marinara, I usually use jarred, since I always have some on hand.  But this time I used the leftover sauce from Pioneer Woman's chicken parmigiana, which I made recently.  Lastly, the Giada recipe calls for just one large 13 by 9 baking dish, but I find that everyone won't fit without squishing it all together, so I just use my rectangular and my square baking dishes and it's all fine.

I'll do the step-by-step (with pictures!) first, then list the complete recipe at the end, so you can copy and paste if you're interested in trying it out.  So first things first, the mise-en-place.  This is a snobby French term for laying all the ingredients out so you're not still chopping when you should be stirring.  This is not completely done, obviously, as the onion isn't grated yet, and the peppers aren't prepped.  As PW would say: Don't be like me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Restaurant Experience: PS 7's

Last night my husband took me out to dinner at PS 7's, a high end eatery in downtown DC, not all that far from where I work.  We went because the restaurant had [kindly] chosen to extend its Restaurant Week deal for an extra week.  [For those of you not in the know about DC Restaurant Week: two weeks each year, once in winter and once in summer, many of the high end restaurants will participate in a special deal.  For this particular RW, lunch at a participating establishment was $20.10, and dinner was $35.10, for three courses (excluding beverages).  It's a good deal and a great opportunity to try out some of the premiere restaurants in DC for a little less cash.]  Last week was the official DC restaurant week, and it was very difficult to get reservations at the "good" places, and so we didn't really even try that hard.  (Also, having been in the DC area for a while now, Restaurant Week holds a little less thrill than it used to.)

I'd eaten at PS 7's (thusly named after the chef/owner, Peter Smith, and the address, 777 Eye St., NW) once before, with some of my colleagues for my birthday in June.  (I have great colleagues who also enjoy great food!)  I enjoyed it then, and was looking forward to enjoying it even more with my husband and a glass of wine. I started off with a glass of French rosé wine, because it was from Provence and all that talk of lavender ice cream had given me a craving for all things Provençal.  The wine smelled like France to me.  (This is a good thing.) 

For our first course, I had the heirloom tomato salad, with saffron tomato brulee, pantaleo cheese, Thai basil, 25 year balsamic.  (My husband had the warm spinach salad.  Because if you add spinach leaves to bacon, cheese, and fried onion strings, it's a "salad.")  It was good, but pretty acidic.  But I had some of their delicious fresh bread (cottage cheese bread, rosemary and lemon foccacia, and apple bacon biscuits) and butter to counteract that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Favorite _____: Ice Cream

So I had a headache last night and ended up not cooking.  Since no one would care to see pictures of the take-out Chinese food I ate (though delicious), and I didn't bother to take any, I had to think of something else to post.

I may try to do a "My Favorite" series, depending on inspiration.  As summer is drawing to a close (or at least I hope it is) here in the DC area, I thought starting with ice cream was apropos! 

I actually have several favorite ice creams.  In no particular order: Baskin Robbins Pink Bubblegum flavor (ahhh...childhood), Ben & Jerry's discontinued Festivus flavor, and good old fashioned chocolate custard (when dipped in chocolate and consumed at the beach, of course).  And let's not forget any flavor of ice cream ever made by my Grandpa Skeen.  His peach is quite good, but the year he made black raspberry is fondly remembered by all Skeen offspring!

All of those ice creams aside...the BEST I ever had was in France this past May.  For anyone who has been to France, ice cream (or glace as they call it) is sort of a tradition.  You get one to eat while walking through the park.  You get one to eat while walking along the beach.  Perhaps it's because the servings are so much smaller (in general) that the French can get away with eating so much ice cream?  Or is it that everyone else in line was American like us?  Ha! 

We had tasty ice cream in Paris on our honeymoon in 2009.  We had yummy ice cream in the small village of Gigondas (known for their red wine) in the Cotes du Rhone area of Provence (salted caramel and real coffee flavor--mmmmm!).  But the BEST?  Had to be at the famed Fenocchio in Old Nice.  It was so good we ate there three times during our 4 days in Nice.

It was busy, even at 11 o'clock at night.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Diving into the deep end, even though I can't swim.

I'm going to give this whole food blogging thing a try.  I've been encouraged by friends and family, who have seen my many food pictures and ramblings on Facebook (and some who have sampled my food and declared it good). And let's face it--it's not like this is a high risk endeavor.  I fully expect that only a handful of people who actually know me will follow this, and I am okay with that. 

Expect my first actual food post in the next couple of days.  I'm excited!