Monthly Archives: June 2008

Caldo Verde

It’s a Portuguese soup.  It’s also very tasty.  I got the inspiration for this from another blog, and I really wanted to try it due to it’s use of kale.  Kale is one of those things that if cooked right, is a very tasty and healthy green.  Unfortunately, people don’t give it second thought aside from garnishing a plate with it (think Shoney’s circa 1995).

I picked up the kale at the local H St. Fresh Farm market (along with the veg in the previous fish post).  This soup was really easy to make.  Ingredients:

  1. one large bunch of kale, cleaned, stems removed, torn with hands
  2. 2 boxes of chicken stock
  3. 2 onions
  4. 4 cloves of garlic
  5. 1 jalapeno roughly chopped
  6. 1 bunch of new potatoes (also from the farmers market – they were white new – red would be fine)
  7. thyme sprigs (3 to 5)
  8. bay leafs (3)
  9. smoked sausage (1lb) cut into 1/2″ chunks (chorizo or linguisa would of been better, but i did what i could).

This is a one pot meal.  Add olive oil, diced onion, and diced garlic into a hot large soup pot or dutch oven.  Saute for 4 minutes.  Add the jalapeno, the sausage, and the potatoes.  Saute for 4 minutes.  Add the kale, the chicken stock, and the herbs.  Bring everything up to a simmer, season to taste, and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove thyme, jalapeno, and bay leaves when you encounter them.  Serve with soft or crusty bread.

Mine was a bit salty, so next time I’ll grab the low sodium chicken broth.  An oversight on my part…


Catch of the day

I’ve always wanted the knife skills and abilities of a high class fish monger.  Thus, I decided to give filleting at home a try.  I went down to the Maine Avenue fish markets in DC (all you DC people know the chaotic bliss that this involves).  After casing the joint over and over, I decided to buy 2 medium red snappers and one medium sized blue fish.  All that for $13.  Not bad.

Once I get these little guys home, I pulled out a knife and went to town.  The snapper were cleaned already, so my work involved scaling the fish and cutting out the fillets.  If only it were that easy…

Next, I moved on to the blue fish.  I pretty much mutilated this little guy.  He wasn’t cleaned / gutted, so I had to do the dirty work myself.  This ended up in me mixing guts with good fish while furiously scraping with a spoon.  In the end, I ended up with a piece of fish that looked like it got run over by a truck.

In the end, I learned the following things.

  1. Buy fish whole.  It’s much cheaper (if you can get it).
  2. Have a sharp fillet knife.  I don’t.  I couldn’t skin the fillets because of this.  Nor could I make pretty cuts.  I did everything with my 7″ Santoku knife.  Not a good choice.
  3. Have a professional clean them for you.  Not necessarily a pro, but at least someone with some skill.

In the end, things turned out ok.  Margaret roasted the fillets in the oven with shallot, seasonings, and olive oil.  It was served with some farmer’s market loot, fresh swiss chard (yum!) and summer squash (chard was sauteed – with the stems – squash roasted).  It was probably one of the freshest meals I’ve had in a long, long time.  Definitely worth the extra effort.  Pictures for your eyes…

Little man, little mun

Margaret and I have a new fixation in our life.  Meet the newest addition to our family!  He is a 6 month old medium long haired / tabby cat that we adopted from the local humane society.  We brought him home (finally!) this Friday.  We’ll be spending the weekend socializing him, playing, and getting used to being pet owners.  Faithful readers of the blog, expect many a post from this weekend due to the fact I will be inside all day and cooking.  Hopefully a trip to the farmers and fish markets tomorrow will yield good results.  Cheers to the little guy!

What should we name him???

Pad mai Thai

Pad thai is one of those dishes that I absolutely adore, but I have yet to perfect it at home.  I can procure all of the key ingredients:

  1. rice noodle
  2. shallot
  3. garlic
  4. green onion
  5. bean sprout
  6. egg
  7. protein (chicken, shrimp, tofu, etc.)
  8. peanuts
  9. cilantro
  10. lime
  11. carrots

All of those things are essential to a good pad thai.  What’s also essential is a damn good sauce.  A real, authentic pad thai sauce should contain palm sugar, tamarind pulp, vinegar, and fish sauce.  I’d love to take the time to make my own pad thai sauce, but unfortunately, that would require a trip to the specialty asian food store in the burbs.  Given that it was a Friday night and I was hungry, I didn’t have time for that.  I took all of the 11 above ingredients (chicken for the protein) and cooked them up in a wok.  Everything was tossed with a simple store bought pad thai sauce (I just used the Thai Kitchen brand).  Granted, the sauce in a jar tastes NOTHING like the sauce you get at a thai restaurant, but hey, it does the trick.  It’s just to vinegary and has more of a citrus taste.  Real pad thai sauce has no citrus taste at all.

The pad thai was plated with some regular ole’ store bought egg rolls.  I’m excited that I have left overs for lunch tomorrow.

Eatin on the cheap. Part two.

Take this as another entry in my cheap dinners strain or what have you.  This week, the local grocer had a sale on another budget cut of meat, the london broil.  The london broil is a very economical, and if cooked right, tasty hunk of animal protein.  Actually, for those who are testing my knowledge, a london broil isn’t really a cut of meat.  It just refers to a preparation.  The meat can either be from the flank OR the top round (shoulder) section of the cow.  Either way, it qualifies as a london broil.  I think more often than not, they are shoulder cuts as the flank is usually more expensive these days.  I believe mine was from the shoulder.  Any who, london broil was yet another steak from my childhood, so it brings back memories of week night dinners with the family.

I marinated mine in some soy sauce, garlic, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and jalapeno slices for about an hour before cooking.  I preheated my broiler to high and let it stay that way for 15 minutes before doing anything (you HAVE to get a broiler super hot for it to do it’s purpose).  I placed the steak on a cookie sheet, popped it in the broiler for 6 minutes a side, and then I let it rest for 5 minutes (crucial if you want your steak to actually taste juicy).  It sliced it against the grain to a spectacular (and photogenic =) ) presentation.  I decided to make this a real American meal by serving it with baked potato and caeser salad.  Yum.

A good slaw is hard to find.

Really, it is.  They are either too sweet, too tangy, too creamy, or too bland.  Margaret whipped up this slaw for a grilling episode with friends last Sunday.  Just right it was.  Red cabbage, carrot, celery, mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  It was the perfect side to some big burgers.

The best fried chicken, ever!

So to celebrate a small occasion, I drug the Margaret out to the Hitching Post. The Hitching Post is a small family owned restaurant in the northern part of the city. Its focus is on the great soul food dishes that the husband and wife owners have been turning out for 40 years. From all the reviews I read, everyone said “split the half fried chicken dinner”. And boy, did this place make me rethink any previous notions I had of good fried chicken.

We walked in and looked at the menus after being seated. I immediately scanned the menu for the half fried chicken dinner, and I found it relatively quickly. For $11.75, you get “half” order of fried chicken and two sides. We decided to go with french fries and cole slaw. Oh, and some budweisers, please.

I was warned in advance that the chicken was fried to order, so it takes a while for the food to come out. It took about an hour, but it was well worth it. I watched as the owners cut up chicken, carefully dredged it, and then fried each individual piece. They also got 4 potatoes and sliced them up for the french fries. Certainly, this all takes time.

Finally, our food came out. My mental state was then thrown over board. Our server delivered not one, but TWO plates of fried chicken to our table. We had a total of 8 pieces. I don’t know what kind of chicken gives you 8 pieces in a half, but whatever. Then the sides came out. The cole slaw was creamy, but deliciously fresh and crisp. The fries, hand cut, were also delectable and piping hot, but of course, the chicken stole the show. It was crispy. It was seasoned well. It was moist. It was not greasy. It was heaven. Topped off with some hot sauce, it was a chicken lover’s dream. Then, the owner of the restaurant approached our table with ANOTHER PLATE OF CHICKEN. She brought out two drum sticks and said, “you all don’t have enough dark meat”.

Let’s recap. For $11.75, we got 10 pieces of perfectly fried chicken, 4 potatoes worth of fries, and a heaping bowl of slaw. Wow. Margaret and I each had enough food for lunch at work today. Amazing. What I also got in the price was a nice quiet hour with Margaret listening to the wonderful soul/R&B tunes on the stereo while waiting for our chicken. What a night!