Archive | May, 2010

Battle Shallot & Apricot: Judgment Day

26 May

As last week’s winner in Battle strawberry Wonton Wrapper P&K was asked to judge this week’s Foodie Fight, Battle Shallot Apricot. For those of you that missed it, Foodie Fights is an online Iron Chef type competition. P&K won last week with Ceviche with Strawberry Salsa and Wonton Chips. 

All the entries in this week’s battle looked great but in the end I went with Jazzman831’s Savory Smoked Chicken Tart with Shallots and Apricots. A herb crust, smokey chicken, goat cheese layer and caramelized shallots and apricots… how do you beat that? Apparently you make a ‘Shallicot’ feast which is just what this week’s winner Brake for Bread did, with my pick Jazzman coming in second.

Great job everyone! Can’t wait for next week’s Burger Battle!

You can check out Foodie Fights here.



25 May

The first time I walked into Kushi for dinner at 11:00 pm I wasn’t even sure they would still be open, much less still seating. Instead of the few lonely patrons I expected however, the restaurant seemed to be just getting started. The music was loud and the tables full of twenty and thirty-somethings enjoying late night sushi and sake. The restaurant, as it turns out, is open till 1:30 am. Late night Japanese street food? Sounds good to me.

Serious Sushi

Seated, and starving, we consulted our waitress on some unfamiliar items on the menu. We order a mixture of maki and items from the charcoal grill. Our sushi arrives first, fatty tuna and scallion and salmon and avocado. They are dainty rolls that showcase the very good  fish inside. Salmon paired with avocado takes on a creamy texture and the fatty tuna makes you wonder how the mealy tuna one is often served comes from the same school of fish. This is some of the best, if not the best, traditional sushi that I have found in this city.

Grilled to Go

As we work through the sushi our grill items arrive, petite skewers of meat smelling of charcoal. We order a range: wagyu beef, duck sausage, pork belly and chicken meatballs. I was surprised when, raw fish addict that I am, I enjoyed these just as much as our sushi. Each skewer was delicious but the favorites at our table were the wagyu and the duck, so tasty I would have been happy to eaten four or five more portions. We rounded the meal out with the grilled rice ball of the day. The dish is crispy on the outside and harbors a surprise with a mushroom filled center.You know a restaurant is doing well when they even manage to make rice exciting.

Kushi? I can’t wait to go back for more!


20 May

There are a few places in the District that I visit with almost ridiculous frequency. The kind of place whose name pops up on my credit card statement every week. The kind of place where I’m pretty sure I cover their water bill on a monthly basis. One of these very select few is Taylor Gourmet Deli. I love me some Taylor’s. If you have never been to one of their two delis (there is one in the Atlas District and one in Chinatown), go.

Top Sandwich

Taylor’s was founded by two Philadelphia natives who were tired of the lack of hoagie options in the District, so they decided to make a go of hoagie production themselves. They bring the bread in from Philadelphia and source all their meats and cheeses from Italy. This is a sandwich shop that takes its hoagies mighty seriously.  Just to make me love them more they also take being green seriously. EVERYTHING in their restaurant is repurposed, from the 5-gallon bucket light fixtures, to the garage door that serves as the front of the space, allowing them to open it up when the weather cooperates. Hoagies with principles, I like that.

So Tasty Right Now

I have never tried a sandwich that I disliked at Taylor’s (and they have a lot of them) but I do play favorites and one of them is the Columbus Boulevard. It features salty prosciutto, roasted red peppers and mozzarella. The saltiness of the prosciutto is cut by the fresh mozzarella, which is far from the tasteless rubbery stuff so many places use, and the brine from the peppers is all soaked up by that famous soft bread. Win. This winter I discovered their hot roast pork hoagies and have been ordering the Pattison Avenue ever since. Shaved roast pork, topped with spicy broccoli rabe and sharp provolone that is aged long enough to legally drink… to that I say, Yes and Please.

Baby Pasta

Taylor’s doesn’t stop tempting you there. As the weather gets warmer I’ve gravitated toward their pastina salads with heaps of arugula with teeny tiny pasta in a simple vinaigrette. My favorite, the Fairmount Park, adds gorgonzola, sundried tomatoes and red onion. Top it with grilled chicken for $2 extra and you’ve got a salad big enough for two meals (though to be honest I never make it quite that far). Their fritto menu of fried treats is also worth a look: fried risotto, mozzarella and ravioli, they are quite tasty especially after a night of one drink too many.

Just to cap all that off they also have an Italian market place where they sell beer, wine, gelato and the like. To me the reason Taylor’s does so well is that they keep it simple, really good sandwiches, a few good salads and some extras; and a local institution that stands behind a simple (yet very tasty product) is defiantly a win in my book.

Ceviche with Strawberry Salsa and Wonton Chips

18 May

This week Pickles and Kumquats is competing in Foodie Fights, an online Iron Chef type cooking battle. Secret Ingredients? Strawberries… and wonton wrappers? I will admit this week’s battle ingredients on Foodie Fights had me pretty stumped. I have never made anything in a wonton wrapper and the strawberries in my household are most likely to be eaten directly from the container, perhaps dipped in a little chocolate for good measure. However, creativity in the kitchen is always fun and (hopefully) tasty, so on went the thinking cap and multiple sweet and savory ideas later I came up with one that I was actually excited to make. Ceviche with Strawberry Salsa and Wonton Chips.

Wonton Wrappers and Strawberries? Check and Check!

When the weather warms up ceviche is one of those dishes that I cannot get enough of, so it seemed like the perfect choice as we roll into summer. Fresh seafood, a good dose of citrus and sweet strawberries scooped up in a salty wonton chip. Sounds good to me!

First up: A Little Arm Work Out

When making a ceviche you are cooking your seafood of choice in citrus juice therefore you are going to need enough liquid to cover all your seafaring friends. This is a lot of juice! I used a half cup each lemon and lime juice and a full cup orange juice, which translated to three lemons, four limes and two huge navel oranges. So get out your juicer and be prepared to squeeze citrus fruit until your arm is sore! Once you’re all squeezed out pour your seafood (in this a half pound each case shrimp and lump and claw crabmeat), and your citrus juice into a bowl, cover and throw it in the fridge. Believe it or not the citric acid in the juice will actually cook your seafood!

Keep Juicing...

Next: Get to Chopping

After all that juicing it is time to do a good bit of chopping to make the strawberry salsa. So grab your knife and dice up half a red onion, a third of a cup cilantro, two Serrano chilies (or not if you don’t like the heat), one cup avocado, a half cup seeded roma tomato and one and a half cups fresh strawberries. Once that’s all chopped up mix it in a bowl together and set it aside to let the flavors get all cozy-like and blend together.

Sweet Salsa!

And Now: Get to Waiting

There are different schools of thought as to when a ceviche becomes a ceviche rather than just a bowl of raw seafood. Some say 30 minutes, some say 3 hours. My dining companions were not so excited about digging into a bowl of blue shrimp so we went with the 3 hour option and wait we did.

And Then: To the Fryer!

When your ceviche has turned opaque it is just about done, and almost time to eat. I can’t think of a better way to scoop up those sweet and savory morsels than with a crispy fried wonton chip. To make your chips heat four cups vegetable oil to 350 degrees and cut each wonton square into two triangles and then fold each triangle in half so that the wonton is doulbled over, this ensured a strong chip that won’t crumble as you scoop u tasty tidbits. Add each wonton to the oil frying for approximately twenty seconds each side, until they are crispy and golden. Remove the chips from the oil with a slotted spoon and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.


Drain the excess juice from your ceviche and mix the strawberry salsa in with the seafood. Now grab one of those crisps, scoop and enjoy! The flavors are bright and fresh. The sweetness of the strawberries cut the acid from all that citrusy seafood and tasted simply splendid on the flaky wonton crisps. A Summery dish that is definitely worth a little prep and a little wait. Yum!

Taste Sensation!

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Mother’s Day Brunch: Risotto Nests

14 May

In my family when a special day or holiday with your name on it rolls around, be it a birthday, graduation, whatever, the question is never what do you want to do to celebrate. The question is what do you want to EAT to celebrate.  It is how we show our love and appreciation, it’s how we celebrate; we cook, we feed people, we eat. So last weekend Mother’s Day called for turning out some tasty tidbits in honor of my mom.

We went with the brunch time slot because, well who doesn’t love a good brunch, and mother’s day is a very brunch-y holiday. When scanning recipes for dishes to make one kept popping out at me ‘Primavera Risotto Nests,’ which is essentially a risotto riff on pasta primavera, mounded into a nest shape with a poached egg all nestled inside. Sounded like a winner to me, so onto the Day of Mom menu it went.

And how was it? So very tasty! Like the pasta primavera you know and love, only richer and creamier and cuter, all dressed up with its poached egg inside. Would I make it again? Well technically I didn’t make it this time, Rob did (THANKS), but I would be more than happy to have him make it again. Risotto nests are good stuff!

Final thoughts… HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Primavera Risotto Nests with Fried Eggs (Recipe calls for fried, I poached. You do what you like)


Bon Appetite, May 2010

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
2 cups chopped button mushrooms (about 5 ounces)
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable broth, divided
3/4 cup 1/3-inch cubes carrots
2 cups diced trimmed asparagus (about 9 ounces)
3 cups (or more) water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/2 cup shelled fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for drizzling
4 large eggs

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir until translucent at edges, 5 minutes. Add wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed, 1 minute. Add 1 cup broth. Simmer until broth is absorbed, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, asparagus, and 1 cup broth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to add remaining broth, then water, 1 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, stirring often and letting almost all liquid be absorbed after each addition, about 25 minutes total.

Stir 1 cup cheese, peas, parsley, and mushrooms into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggs, without turning, until whites are cooked through and yolks are cooked to desired doneness.

Mound 1 cup risotto on each of 4 plates. Using back of spoon, make hollow in top of each mound. Top each with egg; drizzle with oil. Serve, passing additional cheese.

Spring… in a Bowl with Bacon

12 May

Though the weather has taken a turn in a cooler and gloomier direction this week, the beautiful weekends we’ve had the past few weeks have made me want to get in the kitchen and whip up fresh and Springy meals to be enjoyed on decks and roof tops.  Sitting on my roof with a bottle of wine and a home cooked meal is my favorite new way to eat out.

Recently Rob and I made a pasta dish that would be perfect dining al fresco. Fettuccine packed with fresh veggies and herbs: asparagus, peas,  green onions, basil and parsley (oh my), all in a light and lemony cream sauce, and there is bacon (and lord knows you give this girl springtime and bacon and you will have one very happy camper).  We really enjoyed it. So as soon as these rain clouds clear hop in the kitchen and whip it up yourself then get outside and dig in on your roof… front porch… deck… picnic table… neighborhood park… balcony….

Spring in a Bowl

Fettuccine with Peas Asparagus and Bacon
Bon Appetit, May 2010

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


12 ounces fettuccine or penne
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided


Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese

Sei: Sushi in White

11 May

When I think of Sei I think of three things: 1) sushi (duh) 2) some serious cocktails 3) WHITE. White walls, white chairs tables, booths, white floors and white plates. The bar is always packed, noise levels tend to be high and the crowd is young and well-healed. It may be the single most conceptualized restaurant in town. Fortunately Sei does not limit its creative energy crafting to modern, Asian igloo interiors; their sushi and their eclectic cocktails are some of my favorites in town.

The ‘modern Asian fusion’ menu has a lot to offer: apps, small plates, big plates, specialty rolls and nigiri. Though I’ve had luck with some of the small plates in the past my preference is to order from the sushi selections on the menu. They tend to serve their fish with a twist, mixing fresh fruit, hot peppers and old bay into their rolls. The S.O.S. roll for instance combines salmon with strawberries and orange and is tasty sweet. Often such fusion dishes are disappointingly overworked and gimmicky but SEI gets theirs right. The flavors are interesting and often delicious.

A perennial favorite is the fish and chips roll which features flounder, malt vinegar, a wasabi tartar sauce and in a touch of whimsy ‘fries’, in the form of tiny shoestring potatoes. I’ve never been to the restaurant without ordering it and I am always glad I do. In another tasty play on words the surf and turf roll tops each bite with a slice of just-seared Kobe beef and takes the typical steakhouse entrée somewhere fun and new. Even something as simple as a seaweed salad gets dressed up with a little side carafe of a quite tasty creamy ginger dressing.

Sushi Time

One thing you can’t leave Sei without sampling is their cocktail menu.  The selection is diverse and inventive with something for everyone. On my last visit my first cocktail tasted like dinking a liquid (alcoholic) cucumber, very smooth and refreshing. The second, the liquid wasabi, featured sake infused with ginger, lime and habanero . The combination is both spicy and sweet and also a little bit addicting. The only problem with such a wide variety of tempting beverages? At $10 a piece they quickly escalate your dinner tab in a place that is not cheap to begin with.

Sei is definitely not your everyday sushi spot. But if you’re in the mood for sushi in stilettos it is the first place I’d head to in the District. (Just don’t wear white when you go, the wait staff might not find you!)