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Dinner in a Thai Man’s Basement

2 May

By Green Gourmet L

The best way I can describe this place is a portal into Narnia. If you aren’t looking for it, you could easily miss the sign hidden behind the vines for Thai X-ing.

But if you know what you seek, once you walk inside you are transferred to a far-away place where the food is amazing and the servers treat you like family. This restaurant is literally located in a basement (the owners live and even have extra tables in the apartment above).

A few tips in advance before you go:

  1. Wear socks or get a pedicure. If you end up sitting upstairs, you must take your shoes off.
  2. Make a reservation. I called a week in advance, and the earliest they had was 8:15 on Tuesday night. Here are the website and phone number: 202-332-4322.
  3. Bring your own ____. Beer, wine, soda. Whatever you like. They put a pitcher of water on your table, but beyond that you’re one your own.
  4. They serve a chef’s tasting menu which is $30 Tuesday-Thursday, $40 on Friday/Saturday, and a Vegetarian/Vegan menu on Sundays for $30.
  5. You don’t have to stuff yourself silly. We asked for to-go boxes and had a wonderful dinner at home the next night.
  6. There is a metro stop not far away and I saw many buses going by. We elected to take a cab home. This is not in the best part of town and I would not recommend walking home alone after dark.

Now for the food. If you go for the Chef’s Tasting, this is the best way to experience all that Thai X-ing has to offer. They will bring out between 5-7 courses depending on how many people are in your party. And the ingredients are so fresh, the dishes are very well balanced, it is by far some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had.

Course 1

Tom Yum soup. This soup is hot and sour and filled with delicious fresh seafood and herbs. This was my favorite course since I have never had soup that tasted this fresh- stalks of lemon grass, sprigs of cilantro, and a hint of fish sauce. They must simmer the broth all day long to get this depth of flavor.

Course 2

Papaya salad. Spicy but refreshing. My friend who loves spice thought this was quite authentic. I was glad it was a smaller portion, because a little goes a long way.

Course 3

Red curry with salmon and pumpkin. This was the most unique dish we had all evening. I have never had pumpkin cooked in this way, but it had such amazing flavor and texture. I am definitely going to attempt to make this at home at some point. The red curry was spicy but well balanced with just the right amount of sweetness from the coconut milk. Yum!

Course 4

Pad See-Ew. Chicken, egg, veggies, noodles, and sauce. Sounds simple, but I heard rumors that they make their noodles in house, oh yeah. We were pretty full by the time we got to this course, but this was even better for leftovers the next day. Don’t be afraid to take some home!

Course 5

Sticky rice with mango and coconut milk. A perfect way to end this dinner. This sticky rice is not too sweet, filled with fresh mango, and had an interesting starchy component (which the server said was green pumpkin). We all cleaned our bowls and even though I was full to the brim, I was wishing there was more!

After dinner, chef Taw Vigsittaboot came out and greeted our table. He was even kind enough to let us take a picture of him in his modest kitchen.

This was definitely an experience to remember and if you like Thai food, this is a MUST when you’re in DC. Enjoy your Thai adventure and don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

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Indian Spice: Chickpea Coconut Curry

16 Mar

by Green Gourmet L

I have the extreme pleasure of assisting at a cooking school in DC. It’s so fun for me because I get to attend an $80 cooking class for free. Not only do I get to pick up on new techniques, the chef cooks the recipes for the assistants at the end and we get to ask questions (food related or otherwise)!

One of my favorite chef’s that I assist for is a quick-witted, gay, Indian man who always cooks barefoot. His cooking style is very relaxed (clearly) and his recipes are to die for. Unfortunately, the written recipes are usually not the easiest to follow, so I’ve had to adapt based on what worked for me. The other night, he made a chicken dish for our class, but he said that you could easily make it vegetarian by substituting chickpeas. I’ve already made this at home twice and HAVE to share it!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chickpeas that have been soaked, rinsed, and drained
  • 2 cups light coconut milk
  • 2 TB ginger/garlic paste (see below)
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 4 TB oil
  • 2 tp curry powder
  • 2 tp paprika
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 TB cilantro

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and saute whole spices (cinnamon and black peppercorns) for 3-5 minutes.

Add onions and saute until onions are light brown about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Make ginger/garlic paste by placing 2 large cloves of garlic (without skin) and 1 1/2 inch of ginger (with skin) into food processor. Grind until a paste forms.

Add ginger/garlic paste to pot and cook for about 1 minute.

Add curry powder and paprika, mix well, and cook for about 1 minute.

Add chickpeas, coconut milk, and tomatoes. Adjust for seasonings and add salt/pepper.

Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes until chickpeas are completely cooked through, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve over rice. Enjoy your authentic Indian cuisine and don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

Pita Chips and Spicy Hummus

2 Mar

by Green Gourmet L

Have you noticed that hummus is now everywhere? In every different flavor you can imagine? Roasted garlic, red pepper, black bean, eggplant, cilantro, and sun-dried tomato! Have you noticed how much they charge for the smallest tub? $3.99 or even $5.99 for some of the specialty kinds. It’s funny to shell out money for hummus, week after week, when you can make 10x the amount at home for the same price. All you need are the right ingredients for the perfect, melt in your mouth, Middle Eastern street-food favorite. This recipe is for the plain version and then you can jazz it up with whatever eggplant/cilantro/tomato combo you like. For me…I’ll stick with extra spicy. Yummmm.

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas (rinsed) or 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (cooked and drained) *see below
  • 2 TB tahini (sesame paste, can be found at most grocery stores)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 TB yogurt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2-4 TB of water (or chickpea cooking liquid)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

If cooking your own chickpeas (which I highly recommend), soak overnight in a bowl. Make sure there are at least 3 inches of water above the top of the chickpeas. Once soaked, drain and place into a medium pot. Add new water that comes 3 inches above the chickpeas.

Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Skim any foam that forms on the top. Save some of the cooking liquid for your hummus. When done, chickpeas should be tender but not mushy.

Place chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor or blender. If you like yours spicy (like me), I add one whole chili pepper in adobo. It has that smoky heat that is really great in hummus.

Add the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and yogurt. Blend. Begin adding your reserved chickpea liquid (or water) one TB at a time until mixture is creamy. Pour into a serving dish and top with additional olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper. By the way, wouldn’t this hummus be fabulous with some home-made pita chips? It couldn’t be easier!

For Pita Chips:

Preheat broiler and line baking sheet with foil. Cut pitas into 8-12 pieces and separate each piece in half.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Add whatever spices you like (garlic salt, paprika, cayenne, etc).

Cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.

You just saved money and now you can make as much hummus as you like! Don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

Mujadara- Lebanese Rice Pilaf

10 Feb

by Green Gourmet L

Sometimes you just need a good cry. And when you do, this is the dish to make. It starts with a 3lb bag of onions. Between slicing, sweating, chopping, and carmelizing, you will get out any tears that may be pent up.

Mujudara is a Lebanese dish made from these aforementioned tear-inducing onions, rice, lentils, and spices. This dish is so simple that you would expect it to be boring. Not in the least! It’s actually one of my go-to Lebanese comfort foods. I even brought it to a potluck with great results. One of the best things is that it’s wheat and dairy free, vegetarian, vegan, and corn/soy/nut free. Anyone can eat it, and they will love it.

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings

  • 3 pounds (or about 5 medium) white onions, sliced moderately thin (reserve 1/2 onion)
  • 2 TB butter (substitute 2 TB oil  if doing dairy free)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • splash of vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils (not french lentils!)
  • 2 cups long grain white or brown rice
  • 1/2 tp ground cinammon
  • 1/2 tp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • flat leaf parsley for serving

Directions

Melt the butter, oil, and 1 tp salt in a large pan, and add the onions.

Cook on medium-low and stir occasionally until very soft, about 45 minutes. Yes, it’s a long time and yes it’s worth it. You need a good cry, remember?

Turn heat to medium high and keep cooking and stirring often until deeply browned and sweet, another 20 minutes or so. Deglaze the pan with a splash of vinegar and mix into the onions. After the onions are completely cooked, you will only have about 2 cups of the most delicious carmelized onions you’ve ever had. Totally worth it.

In a separate pot, add 1 TB of oil and the remaining 1/2 onion (chopped) and cook over medium high until onion is browned.

Add lentils, water, and salt/pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add rice and cover/simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Important note: If you are using brown rice, you need to add this when you add the lentils so that the rice cooks for 40 minutes.

When everything is cooked, fold the onions into the lentil and rice mixture. Add your spices.

Adjust the seasonings and top with chopped parsley. You may choose to serve this with labneh (yogurt sauce, similar to sour cream). Stay tuned for a great recipe for Labneh! Enjoy this trip to the Middle East and don’t forget you read about it on Green Gourmets!

Tofu Banh Mi (Vietnamese for Delicious Sandwich)

2 Feb

by Green Gourmet L

I’m not sure that my translation is accurate, but one thing I know is, dang y’all, this is one good sandwich. The first time I tried Banh Mi, I made it with pulled pork (without sauce) from a BBQ place in Columbia, SC. I have been hooked ever since, but I was hoping to make a knock out vegetarian version too. This is a perfect dish to make now, since it requires both carrots and daikon (a Japanese radish) that can both be found at your farmers market. Maybe make some sweet potato fries on the side and you’ve got yourself a sustainable meal you can be proud to serve for lunch or dinner. Speaking of sweet potatoes, have you seen these?

Fingerling sweet potatoes! I love them!

Yet I  digress…Banh Mi. This is a traditional Vietnamese baguette that is transformed into a cheap, street food when you add meat, vegetables, spicy mayo, and cilantro. The Green Gourmets came up with our own version using leftover French baguette. Get all of these ingredients ready, because you are going to want seconds!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium carrot shredded
  • 1 small daikon shredded
  • Splash of rice wine vinegar
  • Small jalapeno, sliced
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 egg
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 baguette
  • Mayo (I use vegenaise)
  • Sriracha
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Directions

Using a grater or food processor, shred your daikon and carrot into a bowl.

Splash a bit of rice wine vinegar on top, stir, and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.

Drain your tofu for at least one hour. To drain, I make a layer of  paper towels, tofu, paper towels, and a heavy plate or bowl resting on top to press the water out. Check at 30 minutes and add new paper towels. Cut your tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Set up a breading station with a bowl of seasoned flour (1 c flour with salt and pepper), a bowl of 1 egg whisked, and a bowl of 1 Panko bread crumbs.

Heat about 2 TB vegetable oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Dredge each tofu slice in the flour, egg, and breadcrumb mixture and add to the pan. Note: This recipe will make 8-10 pieces of pan fried tofu , which you can also just dip straight into your favorite sauce (hmmm…honey mustard). Good vegetarian substitute for chicken fingers!

Cook in batches over medium heat until tofu becomes brown on the outside and completely heated through, about 1-2 minutes per side. You may need to add more oil so that the bottom of the pan does not become try (this will cause the tofu to burn).

Make your spicy sauce by combining vegenaise (or mayonnaise) with sriracha to taste in a small bowl.

Slice your baguette in half along the side, but not all the way through.

Smear your bread with your spicy sauce and add your pan fried tofu.

Add a good scoop of your carrot/daikon slaw and more than a few sprigs of cilantro. At the point, you also may want to add sliced jalapenos (if you like heat). I also put some roasted red peppers and lettuce on mine, because…why not? Drizzle the whole sandwich with soy sauce. Demolish.

Hope you enjoy this vegetarian street food, and don’t forget you read it on Green Gourmets! To print this recipe, click here.

Moroccan Tagine

1 Feb

With Green Gourmet K on temporary leave (we miss you already!), the Green Gourmets will occasionally be publishing some guest posts from our foodie friends and family. Here is a lovely Moroccan Tagine from Guest Poster K- enjoy!

by Guest Poster K

I have loved food for a long time, and I take pride in being able to put together a meal not just for myself but one worthy of sharing with friends on a pretty tight budget. But as the issues and calamities of our food system are getting more attention (deservedly so), the choices we make at the market are not always so simple. It is easy to get bogged down by too many choices, and trying to decipher what’s the right choice. Do I go local versus organic all while trying to keep my budget in check? There are times when I haven’t planned ahead and haven’t made it to the market, need to go to the gym, still have to buy groceries and am left standing among aisles of food comparing what the USDA approves as organic with the foods I grew up with. After all of the confusion, it’s easy to lose a bit of the joy that good food brings to our lives. But then sometimes all of the factors come together in just the right way for aperfect meal. So here’s to Aunt Sally…

Inspiration for this meal came from my good friend Patrick’s Aunt Sally and her guiding influence on his life, a desire to preserve lemons, and the need to test a beautiful tangine to determine its status as cookware or simply decorative. In my freezer were two beautiful, bison osso bucco cuts from Gunpowder Bison, waiting since the fall trip to the country for the right occasion to present itself. The recipe below is a close adaptation from, Moroccan Cuisine by Paula Wolfert.

Directions

Soak a cup of prunes in cold water. Set aside.
In the tangine over low heat, melt 3 ½ oz of unsalted butter, 3 tbsps olive oil, a pinch of saffron, 1 tspof ground cinnamon, 1 tsp of ground ginger, 3 tbsps grated onion, and 4 sprigs of cilantro tied together with twine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the mixture begins to meld together, place the meat in the pot. Cook for a few minutes on each side then add enough water to almost cover the meat.Note this is not the same as braising since the ceramic tangine can’t get hot enough to brown the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for an hour.

During this time we made the start of preserved lemons in preparation of our next Moroccan feast, (stay tuned ) and ate some wonderful pate.

Once the meat has simmered for an hour, add a thinly sliced small to medium onion, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add drained prunes, along with 1-2 tbsps of sugar or honey, ¼ tsp cinnamon. Uncover the tangine and simmer until the prunes soften and the liquid reduces to two-thirds, about 30 minutes.

At this point if you haven’t already, pour some wine and enjoy the incredible aroma that is now filling your house. You have a choice at this point to either catch up on daily trivial life pursuits or solve the world’s problems.

When there is about ten minutes left in the cooking time for the tangine, cook the couscous. For two people we added 1 cup of Israeli couscous to 1 ¼ cup of stock, with an extra pinch of saffron becauseat this point you are fully embracing this experience. In a large skillet sauté peeled, quartered apples in some butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

We used two Pink Ladies and two Granny Smiths from Eastern Market farm stand. These varieties can be found late into the winter season and provide just the right balance of sweet, tart, and crispness to hold up in the pan yet add a subtle creaminess to the palate ofthe dish. I saved half of the apple peels to add to salads and composted the rest.

Dinner is served!

We enjoyed this seasonal meal with a lovely Bordeaux picked up for the bargain price of $7.99. The robust flavours filled our bodies and spirits just as icy rain began to fall outside. And I was given a renewed sense of what Slow Food truly is, good, clean, fair, and enjoyed from preparation to finish with friends. A glass of Italian dessert wine and gingersnaps rounded out the finish. So cheers to Aunt Sally and Buon apetito a tutti.

Restaurant Week DC- Zaytinya

28 Jan

by Green Gourmet L

I was fortunate enough to take a snow day yesterday (yay!) which included a lunch at Zaytinya and our own semi-private viewing of the movie Social Network. Great food, great movie, great day off from work. Zaytinya is one of those restaurants that is constantly talked about in magazines, online, and around DC, so I figured we needed to check out what all the fuss was about. It’s a Lebanese/Greek/Turkish fusion restaurant that serves mezze plates (small plates made for sharing). Luckily, we were able to get the extended Restaurant Week menu for lunch for the price of $20.11 (get it?). Since my family has Lebanese roots, I grew up eating hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, and I am a bit skeptical about “fusion”. But this place had all of that…and more!

Pre Course

Not really a course, but could have stood alone. This “Z” is the olive oil and pomegranate molasses vinegar dip for hot, fresh pita right out of the oven. I could definitely have eaten this for my whole meal and been completely happy. And the pita just keeps coming. How hard is it to make pita? I will definitely be attempting this at some point soon.

First Course

Baba Ghannouge made with fire-roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, and garlic. This definitely rivals my dad’s Baba (sorry D!) because it had a nice, smoky flavor without being the least bit bitter. We gave this one an A- on the Green Gourmet scale.

Fattoush is usually a summer salad made from pita chips and veggies (similar to an Italian panzanella) with a vinagrette. This one had tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, radish, pita chips, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate vinegar dressing. The pomegranate seeds really took this salad up a notch, since it gave just a hint of sweetness.

Second Course

Lamb Bahar- spice rubbed lamb kebab over tabbouleh with tahini sauce. If you aren’t familiar with tabbouleh, it is a salad made of bulgur, parsley, mint, and lemon juice. Every Lebanese home cook seems to have their own favorite tabbouleh recipe. Mine has more bulgur and less parsley. Oh, and by the way, this lamb dish was by far our favorite of the meal.

Sea scallops in a yogurt/dill sauce. The sauce was thick, creamy and had the perfect combination of dill and lemon. Made me think I was in Greece on a patio overlooking the Aegean Sea. Yum.

Third Course

This is probably one of the best duck quesadillas I’ve ever had. Cinnamon spiced duck confit, crispy lavash bread, haloumi cheese, served with lebneh (yogurt) and cucumber/mint salad. You can’t go wrong with duck fat and cheese.

Shish Taouk- grilled chicken, sumac onions, and garlic toum. Toum is the Lebanese version of aioli, usually made with oil, salt, lemon juice, and of course garlic. If I had fries, I would have unabashadely dipped them into this sauce. I also wanted to wrap all of this up in my pita and make a killer sandwich.

Dessert

Dessert courses always seem to be “hit or miss”, and this was no exception. Well, one dessert was a hit and one was a miss. I guess it can’t be all perfection right? First, the hit:

A parfait of marinated apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet, and pistachio powder. A nice, light end to a multi-course lunch. And unfortunately, the miss:

Turkish Delight. Walnut ice cream with goat’s milk yogurt mousse and honey gelee. I don’t really like the candy, but I thought I might like it deconstructed in ice-cream form. But, alas, I sure don’t. However, I will try anything once.

And I still ate every last bite!

If you haven’t been to Zaytinya, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a little on the pricey side, but this lunch gave me ideas of what I want to add to my Lebanese cooking repertoire. Stay tuned for delicious home-cooked Lebanese dishes, and don’t forget you read about it on the Green Gourmets!