Hello everyone!  The weather in DC is totally screwing with me lately; fluctuating from cold to chilly to pleasant in a matter of days.  My culinary barometer doesn’t know whether or not it should be pointing in the root and squash vegetables of winter or forge on with the lighter meals of summer.  I’ve decided to let time being the deciding factor.

All the essentials

Work has been craaaazy lately, with over time becoming the norm rather than the exception.  A bit frustrating at times but with a recent automobile “incident” and Christmas just around the corner, the extra cash is appreciated.  (And yes, we have begun planning Bake-A-Thon 2009!)

Being the cheapskate I am, I rarely work with fresh herbs.  With a gift of some potted plants I’ve been trying to turn that around.  Ever worked with dill?  I don’t think I have.  The most exposure I’ve had to the stuff is snickering at the local  grocery store while reading the dried herb container labeled “Dill Weed”.  (hah!  still cracks me up)  It’s a hard flavor to describe, reminding me a bit like a mild cilantro but also maybe parsley like.  I also had a brief flash of cucumber!  The lemon and garlic, however, kick its influence up.

Romaine with Lemon Dill Dressing

Lemon Dill Dressing
Add this to a simple salad of lettuce; perhaps with carrots or scallions.

1 tablespoon fresh dill fronds; chopped
1 garlic clove; minced
Juice of one lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Combine and enjoy!

Day 4 of Halloween Week – Eyeball stew!

I came up with my costume for halloween! I have decided on Inspector Gadget. I must say I’m quite proud of my stroke of genius. Costumes from your past really are the way to go, if you ask me. I went as the chef from the Muppets a few years back and it was a blast. Of course, last year’s Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) was not so successful, but I attribute that largely to the fact that my hair wasn’t yellow so much as it was green. Curses!

Eww Split Pea (Slime) Soup

Work has been crazy these past few weeks. I started a new project which I really enjoy (for the most part) but right now I feel like one of those babies you throw in the water to “teach” to swim. This week, for example, I have worked 32 hours and talk of coming in on Saturday has already come up! This, unfortunately, has eaten into my culinary (therapy) time.


I really wanted to make a “blood soup” for theme week (I’m sure your mouths are watering), perhaps something along the lines of a borscht but with less cream, but there was too much left to chance. With my limited free time I needed something I had more confidence in so I turned to the noble yet somewhat unloved green split-pea. These things, when pureed look gross enough by themselves. But with eyeballs? Yuck!

I tried using olive slices with no luck as they easily fell out during cooking. I recommend using whole olives instead. With these you can put them in before or after cooking, if no one minds you handling their food (or they don’t know!). 😛

Eyeball Slime Soup

Eyeball Slime Soup

Make split pea soup from just about any recipe where it’s primarily composed of the peas (not a lot of other colorful veggies). Be conservative on the water for a thicker (slimier) consistency.

After rolling dumpling batter into balls, press whole olives in them. Be sure they’re in their well, repressing the batter in so it secure and well formed. Cook as usual. Place your “eyeballs” in your soup and enjoy!

I never saw the movie Ratatouille when it came out, despite its rave reviews and the insistence of my friends. “You love food! Why haven’t you seen it!?” Add it to the long long list of movies I’ve never gotten around to. After insisting I see the movie, many people insisted I make the actual dish it’s named after, believing the veggie maniac in me would love it. Oh, how little they know me!

Anti-Zucchini Ratatouille With Rice

The dish in the movie was not actually ratatouille (gasp!). It was in fact a dish called confit byaldi, which is a variation of the original French dish (actually, it’s a variation of the classic confit byaldi, so really it’s a variation of a variation, but I digress). There were a bunch of tweaks here and there to the recipe but one of the most notable for me was the prominent role zucchini played. Summer squash and I, we’re not friends. You add that sucker to just about any dish and it’s a good chance it’ll ruin it for me. I once made a vegetarian chili with a good deal of this foul ingredient and it was so bad I had to throw it out (and I hate wasting food).

Mmmm Veggies

I do, however, enjoy winter squashes; being far less bitter than their warm weather counterparts. I decided to try a variation because the idea of a meal so rich in delicious vegetables was very enticing. So I threw in acorn squash and while I was at it I replaced the juicier tomatoes with cherry tomatoes (which, I acknowledge, is a bit of a pain in the butt to chop when you have a pound of them) so the individual ingredients could have a chance to express themselves. Maybe it’s just me, but often I feel like tomato sauce is just too strong to play nicely with mild flavors. Don’t like your meatloaf? Drown it in ketchup!

Buncha Cherry Tomatoes

I was pretty pleased with the results, though I doubt this could be considered any more authentic than the movie version. The vegetables definitely kept their identity and the versatility of this dish is a big plus. You can use it as a side, the main course, over rice, over couscous… If you prefer a more “wet” dish, just replace the cherry tomatoes with plum or canned.

Onion and Cherry Tomatoes Anti-Zucchini Ratatouille

Anti-Zucchini Ratatouille

1 eggplant; chopped into 1/2-1 inch cubes
1 acorn squash; cut into fourths
2 bell peppers of any kind (I recommend at least one sweet: red, yellow, orage)
1 lb cherry tomatoes; chopped
2 onion; chopped
4 garlic cloves; minced
Leaves from one sprig of thyme; chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf.

Preheat the oven to 450. Place your eggplant in a bowl with about 4 tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of salt (this is approximate, assuming a pound of eggplant) and mix to combine. Spread onto baking sheets so they have a little space between them. Using a brush (or your hands), lightly coat the acorn squash with olive oil and place in its own baking pan. Deseed and cut in half your beller peppers and place in their own baking pan. Roast everything for 15-20 minutes until the bell pepper skins are beginning to loosen. Leave the acorn squash in for another 10-15 minutes until the flesh is tender. Let everything cool until it can be handled.

Chop the bell peppers and place in a bowl along with the eggplant. After removing the skin from the squash, chop and add to the bowl. Set aside.

In a large (LARGE. Everything’s gonna end up in this sucker) pan under low to medium low heat, cook your onions and garlic with the herbs and spices with two tablespoons of oil until the onions are very soft; approximately 8-10 minutes. You’re cooking under low heat to avoid browning, so be sure to watch and stir on occasion.

Add the tomatoes, raise the temperature oh so slightly and cook until the tomatoes have begun to soften but still have their shape; approximately 10 minutes. Add your bowl of vegetables along with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook to reduce some of the liquid out and so that all the ingredients have a chance to mingle; approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat, server and enjoy.

I really really (really) love this time of year. Not only do I hate the cold, but there is so much more to do in the warmth. Hiking, climbing, swimming, the list goes on. Edwin was not meant to be contained indoors! The only issue I have with the summer is the shift towards colder meals. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good salad, but otherwise I prefer my dinners hot.

Chopped English Cucumber

Of course, I try to keep an open mind so I thought I’d give a cold soup a shot. English cucumber is a seedless variety of cucumber that has an edible skin and is often considered less bitter than most. It’s also friggin’ long; several feet. It’s the most common ingredient in a cold cucmber soup, today’s dish. The major ingredients are the cucumber (duh), dill and yogurt. I decided to add corn and tomato because, well, I like a soup with substance and a pureed soup makes me feel like I’m eating water.

Dill Fronds

This is definitely not the most appealing-looking soup I’ve made, but appearances can be deceiving. It’s got a light flavor and the cucumber and yogurt combine surprisingly well. On top of that, this is one of the few soups that calls for little to no salt. Oh, and did I mention it’s by far the easiest soup I’ve ever made? Give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup
Feel free to substitute the shallot with garlic, onion or scallions.

1 english cucumber; chopped
1 small or medium scallion; minced
1 handful dill fronds
2 cups yogurt (regular works fine, but consider greek if you’d like a thicker consistency)
1 cup corn kernels
1 plum tomato; diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients except the corn and tomato into a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with the corn and tomato on the side as a “garnish.” Enjoy.

Make It Quick! – Ginger Sesame Dressing

They say that variety is the spice of life, and is true on so many levels. Variety on my place is the key to Edwin’s happiness; especially when he’s had a long day at the office. When I have a long (late) day at the office I find myself turning quite often to salads. I suppose I could resort to leftovers, but since I’m often relying on these for lunch, twice in one day does not a happy Edwin make.

Minced Garlic and Ginger

I know quite a few dressing recipes and today’s is in my top five. I really love sesame oil as an accent to a dish and the salad is no exception. With just a little chopping, you can have a dressing that goes great with lettuce, sliced bell peppers, julienned carrots and sliced celery. Of course, when I’m feeling especially lazy I’ll just do the lettuce!

Sesame Ginger Dressing with Lettuce

Ginger Sesame Dressing
I like the thicker effect of dark soy sauce for this dish, but by all means go for regular soy sauce as well.

1 clove garlic; minced;
1 teaspoon minced ginger
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar or agave nectar

Combine all into a small mug or bowl and whisk until well combine. Add to salad and enjoy.

Spring is officially here, and I took full advantage of it this weekend. Some friends and I got together to spend most of Sunday climbing at Carderock, Maryland. The weather was beautiful, the climbs were great… you couldn’t ask for more. It made me a bit sad to leave and prepare for the work week, but another gorgeous weekend will come.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

As the climate changes, so does the type of food we cook. Soup is one of the big things for winter (one of the few things I enjoy about the season) but as the weather warms, often what we eat cools. Salads are big and a salad is what I made that evening; albeit not the traditional leafy kind. This baby has red lentils as the star and I was pretty happy with the results.

Red Lentils and Red Bell Peppers

Like the rest of the lentil family, the reds are a great source of protein. They also have a mild earthy flavor and cook in very little time. The red bell peppers add their sweet compliment and the red wine vinaigrette enhances without overpowering. Be sure to drain the lentils well, though! Otherwise you might end up with something that’s a cross between soup and salad.

Red Lentil Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

Red Lentil Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
Be sure to drain your lentils well or you will get a rather watery salad. Bleh.

3 cups dried red lentils; cooked and drained
2 red bell peppers; diced
4 garlic cloves; minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
2 table spoons olive oil

Stir your lentils and red bell peppers in a large bowl. Combine the rest of your ingredients separately to form your vinaigrette, whisking to ensure well mixed. Pour your vinaigrette onto your lentils and bell peppers, mix well and enjoy.

Khitcheri – Time For Some Detox

The problem with baking (well, ok, ONE of the problems) is leftovers; because when you have leftovers, you inevitably end up consuming them when you really should be consuming something else. Oatmeal for breakfast? Nah…

Lentils and Basmati Rice

That was the story of my Sunday after baking a coconut cake for a friend’s birthday on Saturday. It leftovers were just a little too awesome to resist so in an attempt to balance the scales (and just placate my own mental anguish) I decided on something much simpler and lighter for dinner.

Kitcheri is a simple dish, Indian in origin. It’s been attributed to having a cleansing effect on the body; something I felt I could use. Don’t expect to be bowled away by this dish. It’s flavor is mild and subtle. Enjoy it when you’re in the right mood.


1 cup green lentils; rinsed
3/4 cup brown basmati rice
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 onion; chopped
2 garlic cloves; minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger; minced
2 teaspoons coriander
4 cups stock (or water)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
parsley as garnish (optional)

Soak the lentils and rice for 30 minutes.

Under medium heat, roast the cumin seeds with one tablespoons of oil for 20 seconds. Add the additional oil along with the onion, garlic, ginger and coriander. Sweat for 2-3 minutes. You should smell the ginger and the onions should begin to look translucent.

Add the water, turmeric, lentils and rice. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is soft; adding salt to taste. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve with parsley as a garnish. Enjoy

Simple Yet Delicious – Adobo Black Bean Soup

On inauguration day, while over 1.8 million people flooded capital hill and surrounding area to witness history in the making, I was working far away in Reston. Yes, I missed all the glory and truth be told, even if I had the day off I would probably have just slept in; maybe baked a pie (fact: baking a pie is never a poor use of one’s free time), but definitely keeping myself as far away from DC as possible. There are a lot of great things about living inside the beltway, but every now and then there are events that strongly compel you to stay out of DC (the cherry blossom festival is another taxing escapade).

Sweating those aromatics

I’ve never been one for politics and while I am hopeful for the possibilities our new President brings, there was no friggin’ way I was putting up with THAT insanity. And it was cold. Good lord, do I hate the cold… It was still a noteworthy day for me though because I came across some delicious black bean soup at Whole Foods. Due to my lack of time management, I had not prepared a large pot of soup for the week and was forced to brave the elements in search of lunchtime nourishment. I was pleased to find this soup and had to recreate it!

Adobo Black Bean Soup

This soup…. is not the soup I had on Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong, this is good soup and I’m enjoying it quite a bit; but it is not the soup I had at Whole Foods. This soup is milder and less sweet; and still delicious. It’s got a bit of a spicy tweak to it, but not so much as to overpower the taste. Give it a shot. And if you’ve ever tried to make Whole Food’s version, let me know.

Adobo Black Bean Soup

Adobo Black Bean Soup
Inspired by Whole Foods

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves of garlic; minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 tablespoons adobo sauce
2 cups dried black beans; cooked and drained
1 teaspoon cocoa
2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
4 cups water
Salt to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil on medium heat and sweat the onion, bell pepper and garlic until onion is soft and slightly translucent; approximately 3 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin, adobo seasoning, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Stir briefly and let cook for approximately one minute. Add everything else and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.