Archive | April, 2010

Tuna and White Bean Salad: A San Francisco Treat

30 Apr

I am a bit of a cookbook addict. Give me a nice cookbook with big, pretty pictures and I’ll curl up with it like a good novel. I am like a kid in a candy store in the cookbook section of a bookstore and I have amassed quite the cookbook collection. The only problem… I don’t often cook out of them. One of the reasons I started this little blog was to force myself to start making some of those recipes that  I’ve endlessly flipped through.

One book on my shelf that has been particularly neglected is the William-Sonoma San Francisco cookbook. It’s a beautiful book that is half recipes, half guide to the city’s culinary scene, filled with interesting anecdotes about the city and food from the region. I have read it many times. Have I made anything from it… not so much.  So last week I pulled it out and settled on Seared Tuna with White Bean Salad for a light and fresh dinner.

And how were the results? Tasty. Though the white bean salad, even with all the fresh herbs, red onion etc was still a little bland to me. The next day however, the leftovers tasted much better. Maybe the flavors just needed a little time to marry up? Either way this is a pretty easy light meal for spring or summer and there is nothing wrong with that.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Warm White Bean Salad

From the WIlliam-Sonoma San Francisco Cookbook


For Cooking the Beans

1 cup dried cannellini beans
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 4 or 5 chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into 4 or 5 chunks
1/2 yellow onion
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
fine sea salt

For the Bean Salad

1 large tomato, cored, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 ahi tuna steaks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. To cook the beans, pick them over, discarding any misshapen beans and grit. Rinse well, place in a bowl with water to cover generously, and let soak overnight. Drain the beans, put in sauce pan, and add carrot celery, onion, and garlic and water to cover by one inch. Place over medium low heat and bring to a simmer slowly. Cover and adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes or longer, depending on their age. Remove from the heat, season to taste with salt, and let cool in the liquid until just warm. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, onion and garlic.

2. To make the bean salad, drain the warm beans, reserving the liquid for soup. Put the beans in a bowl and add the tomato, red onion, garlic, basil, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar. Stir gently, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. To prepare the tuna, using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, finely grind the fennel seeds. Rub the tuna steaks on both sides with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel seeds.

4. Choose a heavy frying pan large enough to hold all the tuna steaks in a single layer without touching or use two smaller pans. Place over high heat until hot, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the tuna steaks, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until nicely colored on the bottom and cook about halfway through, 1 minute or longer, depending on thickness. Turn and cook until the steaks are moist and pink, about one minute longer.

5. Divide the tuna among warmed individual plates. Surround with the warm white bean salad. Serve at once.

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P&K Wishlist

30 Apr

P&K Wish List

I eat out a fair amount, definitely more than your average bear, and perhaps more than is reasonable for a fairly recent college grad with downtown DC rent payments and a few student loans. The DC dining scene just has so much to offer these days and it’s exciting to go out and try new places. Even with all the dining out I do there are still about a bazillion places I want to try. Some are DC institutions that I’ve just never made it to, a couple come with ‘dream the impossible dream’ price tags, some are new openings,  a few are hole in the wall types and some beckon with dining deals that are too good not to take advantage of (recession much?). So here is my short list of places to try (narrowed down from that bazillion), hopefully I’ll be reporting on a few of them in the not so distant future!

Komi (someday…)

Sushi Taro (the Omakase experience)

Palena

Central by Michel Richard

2941

Sushi Ko

Rasika

Pho 14

2 Amy’s (Yep, never been… and I grew up here!)

Dino

Kushi

Mourayo

Volt

Etete

Kotobuki

Taqueria Nacionale

Fire Fly (mostly because their Sunday brunch comes with $1 mimosas and how could $1 champagne beverages in a restaurant decorated like an enchanted forest not be a win?)

Brunching at Matchbox

28 Apr

Sundays. Time for brunch. What else? Recently my go to brunch has been Matchbox in Chinatown. I like Matchbox for a whole host of reasons. 1) Seating options. Matchbox has a lot of them: an outside patio, cozy brick walled dining rooms, a bustling bar and green house like dining room with a glass ceiling. Whatever your mood or the weather, they’ve got what you’re looking for. 2) It’s a hop skip and a jump from my front door. A major plus because Sundays are lazy and I don’t like to have to commute to my eggs. 3) The food. It tastes good. Enough said.

OK maybe not quite enough said. I like their brunch menu because it has a little of everything. On the lighter side there are dishes like fruit and yogurt with house made granola and frisee salad with poached eggs. Leaning toward lunch and they have their entire regular menu available, pizza and sliders etc. Looking for something in the way of bacon, eggs and potatoes and they’ll serve it to you in a cast iron skillet jazzed up with fresh herbs and such. Can’t decide whether you want brunch or one of the restaurants signature wood fired pizzas? There is the chorizo and goat cheese roll, a delicious breakfast  calzone type dish filled with spicy chorizo, asparagus, goat cheese and tomato sauce. It’s the kind of place where there is always something new to try.

Tower o' Crab

On a recent visit we started with crab and avocado salad, a little tower of the two sitting on a pool of tarragon aioli with crostini for scooping up every creamy, crabby bite. Next up my main course was a prosciutto  and gruyere waffle sandwich with a honey Dijon dipping sauce, the perfect option for when you just can’t decide whether to go sweet or savory. My only complaint was that the dish, billed with an accompaniment of fresh melon, emerged with two lonely looking raspberries and in my book two berries does not a side make. I mentioned this the our waitress and moments later the kitchen sent an entire fruit salad dressed in yogurt, more than making up for the menu misunderstanding. I also thoroughly enjoyed the bites I stole from the boyfriend’s Bloody Mary burger, a cheddar plus gouda cheese burger topped with bacon, a fried egg and a spicy tomato aioli, breakfast and lunch in one very tasty (and very indulgent) package.

Waffle Dippers

Then there is the cocktail menu. Matchbox offers eleven distinct brunch cocktails of the bloody or champagne variety. The Matchbox mimosa for example adds a little Patron to the classic champagne and orange juice combo and is topped with a strawberry, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Breakfast and Lunch on a Bun

In short: Sunday. Time for Brunch. Matchbox? Yes please.

http://www.matchboxdc.com

Hipster Rolls: Sticky Rice

23 Apr

If I had to pick just one thing to eat for the rest of my life I think it just might be sushi. My  life might be a short one due to mercury poisoning  but at least it would be filled with good eats. Point being, I love sushi, a lot. One of the things I miss about California is widely available, reasonably priced sushi. It’s everywhere out there, here not so much. I am always on the hunt for new sushi spots  and recently tried one that I‘m surprised I’ve never ventured to before: Sticky Rice.

Sticky Rice, in the hipster haven Atlas district, serves its sushi with a sense of humor. On this occasion, our plaid bedecked waiter plopped himself down at the empty table next to us to take our order like he was just passing through to chat for a minute. Our selections he informed us were ‘awesome.’ While we waited for our rolls we worked our way through a big bucket of the restaurant’s other specialty, tater tots. I don’t think I’ve had a tot since my days in school cafeterias. Perhaps I should work them in more often though because tater tots are in fact awesome. Theirs are crispier than the greasy lunch tray version and come with their ‘secret tater tot sauce’ which is delicious (I’m guessing the secret has something to do with a little mayonnaise and Sriracha).

TOTS!

Sticky Rice is not the place you want to go to if you are looking for traditional sushi. Instead the rolls tend to be behemoths, the fish married with cream cheese and jalapenos, rolled in wasabi peas or almonds and deep fried for good measure. That is not to say the rolls are not delicious, often they are. Hits from this visit included the Godzirra roll (their spelling not mine), one of the behemoths featuring shrimp, avocado and cream cheese topped with spicy sauce and tempura crunchies and the Fantabulous Amazing Roll whose amazingness is comprised of crabmeat cucumbers and cream cheese topped with tuna sashimi. Would the people of Japan recognize these as sushi? Perhaps not. Are they tasty? Absolutely.

Sushi and tater tots… who knew?

Saucy Sushi

http://www.stickyricedc.com

Brunch and Barley

20 Apr

Let’s talk about brunch. I love it. What could be better than rolling out of bed on a Sunday and going out for a leisurely midday meal that almost always involves two of my very favorite things: cocktails and bacon? Nada Mucho. I go out to brunch on a pretty (read: very) regular basis and thus am rather familiar with the District’s brunching scene. Recently however, I found a new favorite: Birch and Barley.

Birch and Barley, still a relatively new spot in Logan Circle, has only been serving brunch for a month or two. And word is out and people are going, when I called early Sunday morning they said they were totally booked but would take walk-ins. So in we walked and in we waited. But who’s going to complain about waiting at the upstairs bar, Churchkey? Not this one. One extra zippy Bloody Mary later we were seated.

The new trend around town in brunching seems to be house-made donuts and Birch and Barley happens to be one of those places where, ‘you have to get the donuts.’ So we got the donuts, three kinds in fact: a bittersweet chocolate glazed number, a very good lemon poppy seed and… a toffee bacon donut, light and airy with a sweet toffee glaze and salty bites of crunchy bacon. To me this was like the breakfast pastry version of ‘you had me at hello.’ So good.

Yep, that's a Bacon Donut.

Next up we decided to share the fig and prosciutto flat bread and the cobb salad. The flat breads are cooked in a wood burning oven giving them a nice smoky char and are served on wooden paddles. This one incorporated a lot of my favorite things plump roasted figs, salty prosciutto and creamy gorgonzola all drizzled with a port reduction sauce. It is definitely something I would order again and was great for sharing. Often a cobb salad is a cobb salad, pretty standard. Theirs was delicious. I’m thinking the secret was in the dressing, creamy salad-hugging goodness. We washed all this down with blood orange mimosas, one of four different types on the menu.

Figgy Flatbread

As much as I love brunch I’ll admit that for a lot of restaurants it is a throw away meal. Often the fanciest of dining establishments will turn out the same fairly standard omelets and benedicts that your neighborhood place will, maybe with a fancier garnish. Birch and Barley gives brunch the respect it deserves; turning out tasty, at times inventive dishes that leave you wanting more.

http://www.churchkeydc.com

College Town Comida

20 Apr

When one thinks of college food the stereotypes that inevitably spring to mind are: cereal, Cup o’ Noodles, delivery pizza, dorm food and more cereal. I was lucky enough however, to go to school in Berkeley, CA where my diet, apart from the ever-present Honey Bunches of Oats, also regularly included fresh sandwiches and salads from locally owned cafes, sushi, Indian, Mexican, Thai etc. I would be ecstatic to see any of my Berkeley favs migrate east. Until then I’ll just have to keep visiting.

On my last trip out West, I took a little trip down memory lane with the lovely Jessica and her family in the form of dinner at a little Italian place called Filippos. Filippos was a short walk from each and every one of the bevy apartments I inhabited during my four years in Berkeley. It was cozy, cheap and turned out reliably tasty food and some good brunch options, so it was visited with some frequency.

On this visit however the familiar spot brought something new to the table, $5 bottomless glasses of house red and white: win. (Dear Filippos, Why did we not employ this concept while I was attending school?? Would have appreciated, for serious). We ordered an appetizer sampler of bruschetta, calamari and mini pesto caprese salads which had some hits and misses but was great for sharing.

For my main course I went with the fettechini al salmon. The pasta was made fresh from spinach and was served with spring peas, sundried tomatoes and flaky smoked salmon, all tossed in a light and lemony dill cream sauce. One thing I definitely appreciated was that they didn’t drown the pasta in cream sauce, leaving the dish light and tasting of Spring. The food doesn’t leave you saying ‘wow’ but its good and it hits the spot.

All in all, Filippos is a good neighborhood Italian spot, with friendly service and wallet friendly dining that tastes good. And that, in school or out, is definitely something I can appreciate.

I Left my Fork In San Francisco

12 Apr

I love San Francisco. The winding (or should I say rolling) streets, the laid back vibe, the laid back weather, the fact that no matter where you are you are likely to have a gorgeous view of some body of water be it the Pacific or the Bay.  It is a city of little surprises and it is a city of really good food.

I do love the dining scene in DC but after four years living in and subsequent visits to the Bay Area here is what I have discovered. Both DC and San Francisco are great culinary cities. The difference in my opinion is that in DC you PAY for food to knock your socks off. My list of really-really good cheap eats in this city is not a long one where as in SF every corner of the city seems to have some adorable little cafe turning out good food at reasonable prices. Fresh ingredients, simple preparations, they just seem to get it right out there.

Last week I wondered out West for a visit and after a lovely stay in Sonoma I spent the remainder of my time in the Bay Area, a little SF and a little East Bay. Earlier this year I had read an article in Food and Wine entitled ‘The 10 Best Bars in the World’ and one of the ten, Rickhouse, happened to be in San Francisco. We decided to check it out. Rickhouse is a relatively new bar from the owners of Bourbon and Branch. The outside of the bar is unassuming. The inside is all rough wood and old barrels; the staff dons bowties and suspenders. It is like stepping into the prohibition era. An era, I should mention that apparently a whole lot of people like to step into, the place was packed. It took us forever to get our first cocktail but once we did we located the back room where it was easier to order and to sip.

And the cocktails? Amazing. I love a good cocktail but my issue is that most cocktail lists are heavy on the fruity or sickeningly sweet side. Please dear God, not another Flirtini! Rickhouse’s cocktail menu, for me, is like the stuff of dreams. Nearly every offering is infused with some herb or savory element. We had cocktails with basil, cucumber, foamed egg whites and more basil. The bar specializes in bourbons and whiskeys but the bartenders were happy to whip up quite a few vodka/gin/tequila drinks for those who like me who aren’t exactly friends with dark liquor.

This is definitely a place I’ll make a point to visit on my next trip out. So good.

Now a question: What does one need after a night of perhaps one too many basil infused cocktails? Answer: Brunch! So after our evening out in SF Jessica and I pulled ourselves out of far too comfy hotel beds and trekked to North Beach in search of eggs. North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy, has about a billion little cafés to choose from and on this occasion we selected Café DeLucchi just off of Washington Square.

Caffé DeLucchi is a little corner spot that blends local ingredients with Italian sensibilities. Their brunch menu had so many tasty looking options it took us forever to decide what to order. Breakfast paninis and pizzas, Benedicts and pancakes, eggs galore… and then there was the lunch menu.  In the end I decided on something one doesn’t encounter on many brunch menus, breakfast polenta.

Bacon & Eggs...& Polenta

I might just have to eat breakfast polenta more often. This version was comprised of a big bowl of soft, creamy polenta with gorgonzola and clover honey melting throughout, topped with extra thick applewood smoked bacon and a pair of poached eggs. It was quite the sweet and salty delight and really hit the one-too-many-cocktails nail on the head. My only complaint was that there could have been more of the add-ins. I ate a few too many bites of plain polenta, a bit more cheese or bacon and a little less polenta would have evened things out nicely. Though I think everything could benefit from a bit more bacon.

So maybe that’s just me?

http://www.rickhousebar.com/

http://www.caffedelucchi.com