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!

Doing Our Part – Blueberry Vinaigrette

This Saturday I participated in a park cleanup project for National Public Lands Day.  The Access Fund and Mid Atlantic Climbers helped organize a series of necessary work at Carderock Park in Maryland.  The group was comprised mostly of climbers which made it a great event to meet some new fellow adventurers for hitting the rocks.  Together we re-mulched all the trails, restored the shoreline walls, and covered misleading false trails.  It was great, but exhausting work.  Though I would like to say that Boca burgers suck and are a crime against vegetarians everywhere!

Mulching At Adopt A Crag Heavy Lifting At Adopt A Crag

Frozen blueberries were on sale this week so I couldn’t resist (they go great in smoothies, by the way).  The weather’s been really great so far so for me light dinners are still in and I decided to try something different for a vinaigrette using these newly acquired berries.  I have to admit, the result didn’t blow me away but it was a nice change.  If you’ve got any suggestions or ideas, throw em my way.

Blueberries Blueberry Vinaigrette

Blueberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup fresh blueberries (or if frozen, thawed)
1 shallot; chopped
1 garlic clove; chopped
1/4 white wine vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt

Combine all your ingredients in your blender. Enjoy.

As Heather mentioned, this weekend was my birthday and I had a blast. Some friends and I went out to Coopers Rock, West Virginia for some camping and climbing. I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a cake on their birthday, but after Saturday I may have to amend that to cakes and smores. Mmm…

Lychee Puree

I finally got a chance to make something with the lychee my sister gave me as a gift, and after a weekend of eating from bags (I swear, I eat worse camping than I do at home) I opted to go the healthy route with a salad. I posted a somewhat similar recipe not too long ago using apples and lemon as the dominant flavors, but went much more mild this time around. Lychee’s creamy flavor is soft and subtle so this won’t hit you like a punch, but still good for something different.

Baby Spinach Salad with Lychee Vinaigrette

Baby Spinach Salad with Lychee Vinaigrette

4 ounces lychee; peeled and seeded
3 tablespoons white whine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces spinach; roughly chopped
8 ounces mandarin oranges
2 bartlet pears; chopped
1 carrot; grated

Blend the lychees and strain. Mix the juice, vinegar and olive oil to form your vinaigrette. This is pretty thin, so feel free to add more oil if you want it thicker. Toss your spinach and fruit together then add the vinaigrette. Enjoy.

Have you cooked with whole wheat pasta? I must admit, I’ve done very little with it. It got a pretty bad wrap when it first came out. I believe I heard the comparison to cardboard being thrown around more than once, which isn’t a great selling point. But whole wheat pasta has come a long way (or so I’ve heard) and sometimes there’s nothing simpler than boiling some noodles in a pot (what? I’ve been sick. leave me alone).

Whole Wheat Rigatoni

I remember having this really delicious whole wheat pasta salad a few years back at a park cleanup project I attended. Sadly, I don’t know how it was made but it is what I attribute the inspiration for today’s recipe to. This dish also introduces something I cook very rarely with: sun-dried tomatoes. It’s something nice to have in the pantry when you’re looking to add a little more tomato flair to your meal. I used sun-dried tomatoes without oil, but feel free to use the kind with. Just keep in mind the amount of additional oil you add.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Broccoli

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Tomato and Broccoli

1/4 extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 handful fresh basil; roughly torn
2 garlic cloves; minced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes; chopped
4 oz mozzarella cheese; shredded
Juice of half a lemon
2 tomatoes; cored and scored with an X on top
3/4 lb whole wheat pasta (I used rigatoni but I suggest fusilli)
1/2 lb broccoli; large florets chopped in half
Grated parmesan (optional)

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch your tomatoes for 30-40 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon or tongs. Once cool enough to handle, peel and cut along the equator. Remove the seeds, roughly chop and set in a small serving bowl. Mix in the oil, red wine vinegar, basil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and lemon juice.

Bring the pot back to a boil and cook your pasta per the package’s instructions. When you have about 5 minutes left, add the broccoli. Strain when ready and place in a large bowl. Add the “dressing,” mozzarella and toss to coat. Add parmesan if you so desire, serve and enjoy.

It’s been a…. trying few days for me. Somewhere between the grocery store and my bed I lost my wallet Friday night. In case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to lose your wallet, let me enlighten you. It sucks. A lot. Not the end of the world, of course, but the task of replacing all my cards has me dreading this week…

Cabbage and Rice Noodle Salad

Another inconvenience about losing your wallet is no money. As I write this, I have exactly five dollars with me (and an almost empty tank of gas). So dinners this weekend were whatever I had in my kitchen. An interesting challenge. I do occasionally run into the finding-an-ingredient-after-it’s-spoiled situation, so this was a good way to be proactive on my current supply. So what to do with a bunch of random ingredients? Throw em in a wok and see what happens!

Cabbage and Rice Noodle Salad

Cabbage and Rice Noodle Salad
I only used half a small cabbage (1 lb) but would recommend trying a whole cabbage if you want more greens.

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 small cabbage (approximately 1 lb); sliced thin
3 shallots; diced
2 red chiles; diced
3 cloves of garlic; minced
4 oz thin rice noodles
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Cook your rice noodles as directed and set aside; usually boiling for only a few minutes. Par-boil your cabbage for 2-3 minutes and immediately chill in water and drain. Pat in some paper towels to dry. Stir fry your shallots and chiles with two tablespoons oil for a few minutes until the shallots begin to brown. Add the garlic and additional oil and continue cooking briefly until fragrant; 30 seconds to a minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Add your remaining ingredients, tossing to coat and combine. Cook for a few minutes, adding salt to taste. Once everything is hot, combined and delicious, serve and enjoy.

I’m a little torn when it comes to the summer months. One one hand, I love the weather, the warmth (HATE the cold) and all you can do in the great outdoors. On the other hand there’s the, lets call it cooking restrictions. Maybe restrictions isn’t the right word, but basically the discouragement of cooking with a lot of heat. A couple boiling pots and some roasting in the oven can kick summer heat into overdrive.

summer citrus salad1

So we turn to salads and this is one is quite tasty. It’s a bit different from your usual, being not so heavy on the greens and having no vinegar whatsoever. But its simplicity and uniqueness really make it stand out. Any apple will do and if you don’t have agave nectar, start at one tablespoon of sugar and work your way up to a taste that hits the spot for you.

Summer Citrus Salad with Spinach

Summer Citrus Salad with Spinach

1 apple; peeled (optional) and chopped into small 1/4 inch pieces
2 celery stalks; chopped
2 handfuls of baby spinach (about 2oz); chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon fresh parsley; chopped

Combine all your solids (apple, celery, spinach, walnuts) into a bowl and mix. Combine your remaining ingredients separately and pour over your salad. Toss to coat and enjoy.

Eastern Market is a bit of a cultural icon in the DC area; being one of the oldest farmers markets in the DC area. In 2007 it was ravaged by a 3-alarm fire; practically destroying the south hall, the only original building remaining. This was quite the loss for the community. Sure, there are plenty of markets in the area and they’re all great, but the Eastern Market is THE market of DC.

As the Saints Go Marching In

People have been hard at work to restore the building and this past weekend Eastern Market had its grand reopening. The old building was back in action with all the old vendors (and AC!) and was packed with people. I came out and enjoyed the festivities, picking up some fresh produce for the weekend’s meals.

Children and Bubbles

If you ask me, local in season tomatoes just taste better and when you have a simple recipe like this quality ingredients are important. This summer salad is not your conventional salad; no lettuce to be found here. It’s a nice variation.

Tomato and Onion Salad

Tomato and Onion Salad
Be sure to use fresh, high quality ingredients for this simple recipe.

4-5 small tomatoes
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon high quality vinegar (champagne, white wine vinegar, etc)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut your tomatoes into quarters and your onion twelfths. Combine all your ingredients in a medium bowl and mix to combine well. Serve with a grinding of black pepper and enjoy.

You’re looking at day five of our Rainbow Week series. Click here to start on day one.

Rainbow Week is running strong with day five and what a ride we’ve had. We’ve done baked goods, we’ve done fruits; how about a main course? That’s right folks, we’re giving you the full gamut! Of course, I’d be remiss if we did something easy. I mean, sure, I could just boil some colored pasta, throw in some cream sauce and call it a day; but that’s not why you come here, right? Didn’t think so.


Now, my health-obsessed mind just wouldn’t be happy unless our rainbow dinner was healthy. So, we’re going with salad, but a different kind of salad. I’ve never been one for seafood, but my mother recently returned from a trip to Alaska with a cook book for me and, apparently, if there’s one thing you can get a lot of in Alaska it’s seafood (I guess it has something to do with all the water or the sub-freezing temperatures). No cookbook should just sit collecting dust so I decided to broaden my horizons.


Lettuce provides the green, radicchio the purple, salmon the red and lemon the yellow. I like this dish because it has a low skill requirement, which is great for my seafood newbie-nees. I tried adding corn for the yellow at first but this really didn’t work out. Instead, go with lemon over lemon juice for a more visually appealing effect. Note, that this is a LOT of salmon I used in the picture below. This amount could easily be split between two for a lighter dinner.

Poached Salmon Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Poached Salmon Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
Adapted from What’s Cooking, Alaska?
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-3 sprigs of tarragon; leaves removed
6 peppercorns
1 lemon cut into quarters
1 salmon fillet
1 quarter radicchio; sliced thin
Several handfuls of salad greens (I used romaine and spinach, but mesculn would work great as well).

Throw the water, white wine, tarragon stems, peppercorns and lemon into a large pan or pot and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for 10 minutes to reduce (if too much boils away, just add more water). Add your salmon fillet and simmer, covered, for an additional 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover and let the fillet cool. Once cool, wrap in plastic and chill for 1-2 hours or until ready to serve.

While chilling, prepare your salad greens along with our earlier honey vinaigrette recipe using the tarragon leaves from earlier (chopped). Once ready, top your salad with your salmon and spoon as much dressing atop as you’d like. Enjoy.

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans

So remember back when I said I had seen a great recipe for a layered tortilla pie, but then I lost it? Well a few weeks ago I found the recipe and wow it was good. What really made it different and delicious was the way the black beans were cooked – soaked in beer!

black beans

It occurred to me on Friday that this style of cooking beans would be amazing in a taco salad. I’d never actually made a taco salad before, and without the assistance of a giant taco shell to throw everything in I’m not sure how authentic it is, but I thoroughly enjoyed the final product. The husband loved it, I loved it, it got me to eat lettuce (even if it was only iceberg lettuce) and all was right with the world.


This is also one of those meals that I think you could stretch to feed any amount of people. I’ll warn you that the two of us had a lot of leftover black beans, but I knew that going in to it and actually wanted leftovers to throw in tortilla shells and try other things. If you’re serving one or two people and you don’t want leftovers, just cut the black bean recipe in half. Of course, if you do this you’ll have to finish off half a can or bottle of beer on your own instead of using the whole can for the beans… hopefully this isn’t a problem for anyone.

taco salad with guac

The chicken plays a relatively minor role here, and if you’re a vegetarian or just not that into meat I think you could leave it out and still have a great dinner (or very large lunch!). The black beans really make up the main flavor. You can definitely taste the beer that they’re soaked in, and I think it’s excellent. I’m actually tempted never to make black beans again unless they’re cooked in beer. You don’t even need to use a fancy one – we just used a can of Bud Light. It works; trust me!

taco salad

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans
(black bean recipe adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast)

1 head of ice berg lettuce, rinsed and shredded
1 can refried beans (15 oz.), heated in a small saucepan
bag of tortilla chips
1 lb. chicken, marinated in some lime juice, salt and pepper, then grilled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

For Guacamole:
1 medium Haas avocado, peeled and sliced
1 chili, minced with seeds removed (or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
dash black pepper
dash cayenne

For the Black Beans:
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less for less heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans black beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
12 oz. beer
1 can whole kernels of corn (15 oz.), drained

To make the black beans – Add onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to a large skillet on medium for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add rinsed and drained black beans and beer to the skillet and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce to medium-low and simmer until most of the beer evaporates; approximately 15 minutes. Stir in corn and remove from heat.

To make the guacamole – Peel and slice avocado and place in a medium size bowl. Add minced chili or red pepper flakes, sweetened lime juice, salt, minced garlic, black pepper and cayenne. Mash avocado with the back of a fork while combining ingredients. Don’t mash too much, you want it to be a little chunky.

To put the taco salad together – Create a layer of tortilla chips on the the bottom of several dinner plates or one very large serving plate. Next smooth heated refried beans over the tortilla chips. Add a layer of shredded lettuce, followed by the black bean mixture and chicken, then topped off with another layer of lettuce. Add dollops of guacamole to the sides of the plate or in separate bowls for serving.

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.