Indian Steak Gyro

I know, I know – gyro’s are Greek but that is the best way I can explain this delicious vindaloo inspired steak sandwich.  I cook flank steak…a lot.  It’s a pretty lean and inexpensive cut of meat so I am always looking for different ways to cook it.  When Food and Wine magazine ran a vindaloo flank steak recipe I tried it that very week.  For those of you that don’t eat a lot of Indian food vindaloo is a spicy dish from Western India.  Chilis and vinegar make this a punchy sauce that is usually stewed with chunks of lamb or chicken.  Patrick and I like vindaloo sauce so much we order a side of to mix into our dishes at our neighborhood Indian spot Cusbah, where the waiter’s tee shirts read, “I survived the vindaloo.” wpid-20150519_135707.jpgThis marinade is really more of a paste and the recipe makes quite a bit.  I only used half on our steak and froze the rest to use later – the paste would also be fine in the fridge for several days.  I decided to serve it gyro style rolled up in store-bought naan (I have actually made homemade naan before which isn’t too difficult, just not really feasible for a weeknight meal) and served with a my own yogurt sauce.  This sauce is terrific on lots of things – lamb burgers, grilled chicken, even as a dip for crudite.  Also if you are intimidated by the heat factor of the vindaloo, the yogurt sauce will go a long way to offsetting it.  Alongside the gyro I made this awesome Food52 recipe for stir fried cabbage inspired by none other than  Madhur Jaffrey, the mother of Indian cooking in America.  A lot of her recipes can be pretty involved (but worth it) but this one is incredibly easy.  If you don’t want to go with the gyro then this steak would be just as good served on its own along basmati rice or lentils and some roasted cauliflower. wpid-20150601_185750.jpg Indian Steak Gyro (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Vindaloo Flank Steak by Food and Wine Magazine

Special Equipment:  blender or food processor

Ingredients:

  • 8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (if you don’t have seeds use ground cumin but skip the toasting step and just add it to the blender)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger. peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 large flank steak, approximately 1 pound
  • 2 packages store-bought naan (4 pieces)
  • 5 to 6 ounce container nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint (or dill or 1 tablespoon each)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a small saucepan, heat the chiles, cumin seeds and peppercorns over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring the chilies occasionally.  They will get a little darker which is a good thing but be sure not to burn the chilis or the cumin seeds.  If you re using ground cumin just toast the chilis and peppercorns.  Add a 1/4 cup of water and the vinegar, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cloves and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring just to a boil.  The vinegar is going to make quite a potent smell when heated so stand back so you don’t get a steaming face full of vinegar!  Once its boiling turn off the heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes until everything has softened.  You can toss the cinnamon stick at this point or leave it in, in a happy accident I left mine in and it pureed up no problem and the taste was great. wpid-20150519_141031.jpg wpid-20150519_151455.jpg Transfer everything to a blender or food processor and add the ground cumin if not using the seeds.  Puree into a paste.  At this point you can store the paste for several days in the fridge or six months in the freezer.  Spread the paste all over the steak on both sides and let marinate on a plate or baking dish for at least an hour and up to 6 hours.  If you only have an hour let it marinate at room temp so the steak isnt cold going into the grill. wpid-20150519_152414.jpgLight your grill and heat it to medium high.  Grill for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your steak and how you like your steak done.  Let rest for 5-8 minutes, then slice thinly.  While the steak rests, brush the naan with olive oil and grill for 1-2 minutes per side to get a little char and warm them through.  Also make the yogurt sauce by combining the yogurt, garlic, mint and parsley in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper.  To serve slather the naan with the yogurt sauce and pile in slices of steak.   Red onion and or arugula would also be nice in there.

Indian Steak Gyro

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Special Equipment:  blender or food processor

Ingredients:

  • 8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (if you don’t have seeds use ground cumin but skip the toasting step and just add it to the blender)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger. peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 large flank steak, approximately 1 pound
  • 2 packages store-bought naan (4 pieces)
  • 5 to 6 ounce container nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint (or dill or 1 tablespoon each)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a small saucepan, heat the chiles, cumin seeds and peppercorns over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring the chilies occasionally.  They will get a little darker which is a good thing but be sure not to burn the chilis or the cumin seeds.  If you re using ground cumin just toast the chilis and peppercorns.  Add a 1/4 cup of water and the vinegar, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cloves and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring just to a boil.  The vinegar is going to make quite a potent smell when heated so stand back so you don’t get a steaming face full of vinegar!  Once its boiling turn off the heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes until everything has softened.  You can toss the cinnamon stick at this point or leave it in, in a happy accident I left mine in and it pureed up no problem and the taste was great. Transfer everything to a blender or food processor and add the ground cumin if not using the seeds.  Puree into a paste.  At this point you can store the paste for several days in the fridge or six months in the freezer.  Spread the paste all over the steak on both sides and let marinate on a plate or baking dish for at least an hour and up to 6 hours.  If you only have an hour let it marinate at room temp so the steak isnt cold going into the grill. Light your grill and heat it to medium high.  Grill for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your steak and how you like your steak done.  Let rest for 5-8 minutes, then slice thinly.  While the steak rests, brush the naan with olive oil and grill for 1-2 minutes per side to get a little char and warm them through.  Also make the yogurt sauce by combining the yogurt, garlic, mint and parsley in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper.  To serve slather the naan with the yogurt sauce and pile in slices of steak.   Red onion and or arugula would also be nice in there.

English Muffin Toast

There is something so intimidating about using live yeast.  It makes you think that it will go horribly wrong, that you have to know exactly what you are doing and frankly takes more science know how than I have.  In order to conquer my fear I tried taking a bread making class with my friend Erica so we could get in person instruction (ie hand holding).  We went to Hill’s Kitchen – my absolutely favorite store in all of DC that also teaches cooking classes in a studio above the store – and took lots and lots of notes.  It’s a great place to take classes wpid-20150531_113055.jpgbecause it’s also hands on and by the end of the class we had each made a mound of lovely soft pizza dough.  We happily went on our way, secure in the knowledge that we had conquered our shared fear of yeast, with ambitious plans to start baking our own bread.  We met up with our men and headed out for a night of pizza, appropriately enough, and drinks.  About halfway through dinner Steve, Erica’s very observant husband, pointed out that both of our purses had expanded to about 3 times their original sizes.  We had put our pizza dough wrapped carefully in plastic bags into our purses and forgotten them.  Well wouldn’t you know that the dough rose again in our Kate Spades!  I was completely thrown off and didn’t attempt anything with live yeast for a while.  However, there are easy recipes that don’t require a class or really any science skills at all, that result in lovely home-baked goods – this recipe is one of them.  I had seen various mentions of English muffin bread on pinterest and elsewhere and it was just too tempting.  I went with King Arthur because they have really simple instructions and some of the best baking expertise out there.  This bread has this lovely english muffin type flavor and texture but it comes in a bread loaf form.  Perfect for just some butter and jam it would also be the terrific start of a sandwich.  I am proud to say that I am now no longer scared of yeast (though I still wouldn’t recommend letting dough rise in your handbag). English Muffin Toast (printable version at the end of the post) Inspiration:   English Muffin Toasting Bread by King Arthur Flour Special Equipment:  stand mixer (preferable), candy thermometer Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (it will be a little more than one envelope)
  • 1 cup milk (whole is better)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and then toss in the cornmeal.  Shake the pan around so that the cornmeal sticks to all the sides of the pan then knock out any remaining cornmeal into the sink.   wpid-20150531_112749.jpg Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast with a whisk in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Measure out the milk, water, and oil and combine in a microwave safe bowl (or just use the glass measuring cup like I did) and place in the microwave.  Heat at high for 30 seconds, stir the liquid and then put it back in for another 45 seconds.  Stir again and take the temperature with the candy thermometer.  You want it between 120 and 130 degrees.  I needed to microwave one more time for 30 seconds to get the right temperature (so 30 seconds, 45 seconds and 30 seconds).  Your timing might be slightly different, just remember to stir the mixture before you put in the thermometer.  The original recipe says you can go off of touch but when it comes to yeast I think its best to be accurate.  Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and then mix with the dough hook at a high speed for approximately 1 minute.  If you don’t have a stand mixer you could probably do this by hand by kneading it but man I have no idea how long that would take.  I suggest cozying up to a friend with a stand mixer and barter some of the english muffin toast for use of the mixer.   wpid-20150531_113734.jpg     wpid-20150531_113846.jpg The dough will come together pretty quickly and be soft and a little sticky.  Dump the dough into the prepared loaf pan and press it in until its level if you need to.  Cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise for about 45 minutes to an hour (took me an hour).  When its done it should just peek out over the rim of the pan.   wpid-20150531_124547.jpg During this hour preheat the oven to 400 degrees and then when ready bake for 22 to 25 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  The bread is great toasted but not so much warm from the oven so let it cool completely and then serve with butter and jam. 

English Muffin Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Print

Special Equipment:  stand mixer (preferable), candy thermometer

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (will be a little more than one envelope)
  • 1 cup milk (whole is better)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and then toss in the cornmeal.  Shake the pan around so that the cornmeal sticks to all the sides of the pan then knock out any remaining cornmeal into the sink.  Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast with a whisk in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Measure out the milk, water, and oil and combine in a microwave safe bowl (or just use the glass measuring cup like I did) and place in the microwave.  Heat at high for 30 seconds, stir the liquid and then put it back in for another 45 seconds.  Stir again and take the temperature with the candy thermometer.  You want it between 120 and 130 degrees.  I needed to microwave one more time for 30 seconds to get the right temperature (so 30 seconds, 45 seconds and 30 seconds).  Your timing might be slightly different, just remember to stir the mixture before you put in the thermometer.  The original recipe says you can go off of touch but when it comes to yeast I think its best to be accurate. Pour the liquids over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and then mix with the dough hook at a high speed for approximately 1 minute.  The dough will come together pretty quickly and be soft and a little sticky.  Dump the dough into the prepared loaf pan and level it off if you need to.  Cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and let it raise for about 45 minutes to an hour (took me an hour).  When its done it should just peek out over the rim of the pan.  During this hour preheat the oven to 400 degrees and then bake for 22 to 25 minutes until golden.  remove from oven and let cool.  The bread is great toasted but not so much warm from the oven so let it cool completely and then serve with butter and jam. 

Bayless Creamed Onions and a Shopping List

I have a lot of cookbooks – a lot of cookbooks.  Some are well used, pages curled with splatters and stains, the cover taken off years ago.  Some remain pristine on the shelf because of overly complicated recipes or a lack wpid-20150529_163834.jpgof inspiration.  But when Rick Bayless’s new cookbook arrived in the mail the other day I quickly ripped though it and declared More Mexican Everyday a game changer.  I immediately saw how I could incorporate basics from the book into my cooking routine, had a million flags on recipes I wanted to try right away and was even more excited that I am going to get to eat at one of Mr. Bayless’s restaurants soon.  What I love most about this book is that it focuses on traditional mexican recipes but in a very approachable way with alternative ingredients suggested and swaps for more seasonal ingredients so you can use the same base recipe throughout the year.  It’s exactly the kind of instruction and support that I had hoped to bring with A Capitol Contessa.  Another exciting thing about this book is the focus on vegetable preparations.  Every fiesta friday that rolls around I struggle to come up with vegetable sides and instead often rely on the carb heavy rice and beans.  This book explores recipes with traditional mexican vegetables like chayote and tomatillos, as well as more innovative approaches to veggies like eggplant and artichokes.  These knob onions (as he describes them) are super quick and easy and could easily be mistaken for a standard creamed onion if not for the subtle flavor differences brough by charring the onions, the addition of aged mexican cheese and the chipoltes.  I think this would be a really fun change up on your thanksgiving table instead of the standard creamed onions but they are really terrific now when spring onions are super sweet and able to be found locally.  It’s totally up to you if you want to add heat to this – I think its terrific either way and not all Mexican food needs chili to power it.

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Bayless Creamed Onions (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Rick Bayless’s More Mexican Everyday
Special Equipment:  none

  • 4 to 6 bunches of spring onions (Bayless calles them knob onions)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche or mexican crema
  • 1 chopped chipolte chili or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons grated queso anejo or another aged cheese like parmesan, something with a nutty flavor profile

wpid-20150529_170802.jpgPreheat your oven to 425 degrees.  To prep the onions you want to cut off the green parts right where it meets the white part.  Clean the white part, peeling off any brown or sad looking bits.  For the greens take about a 1/4 of the best looking ones and chop.  In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Toss in the white onion parts and cook for approximately 5 minutes, tossing them around occasionally, until they are starting to brown.  Throw the skillet into the oven and cook for 15 minutes, tossing the pan every 5 minutes or so.  CAREFULLY (yes I did grab the pan and forget it was in the oven and burned my hand – thanks for asking) take the pan out of the oven and toss in the greens as well as the creme fraiche and chili if you choose to use it.  Salt and pepper the onions then toss with the grated cheese.

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Bayless Creamed Onions

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 4 to 6 bunches of spring onions (Bayless calles them knob onions)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche or mexican crema
  • 1 chopped chipolte chili or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons grated queso anejo or another aged cheese like parmesean, something with a nutty flavor profile

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  To prep the onions you want to cut off the green parts right where it meets the white part.  Clean the white part, peeling off any brown or sad looking bits.  For the greens take about a 1/4 of the best looking ones and chop.  In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Toss in the white onion parts and cook for approximately 5 minutes, tossing them around occasionally, until they are starting to brown.  Throw the skillet into the oven and cook for 15 minutes, tossing the pan every 5 minutes or so.  CAREFULLY take the pan out of the oven and toss in the greens as well as the creme fraiche and chili if you choose to use it.  Salt and pepper the onions then toss with the grated cheese.

For this week’s shopping list and menus I am trying to use more ingredients multiple ways so you can get a lot of use out of them.  I am hoping the more I do this the more natural it will become but bear with me!  Please send anything you would like to see on the menu and I will make sure to incorperate them.

Shopping List for June 5-19

Items are tagged with the day of the week they are used so if you don’t want to cook that day just scratch it off

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (Mon)
  • unsalted butter (Mon)
  • 2 onions (Mon/Thurs)
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms (Mon)
  • garlic (Mon/Thurs)
  • Marsala wine (Mon)
  • 8 ounces marscapone cheese (Mon)
  • dijon mustard (Mon/Wed)
  • parsley (Mon)
  • 12 ounces pasta (Mon)
  • 1 3/4 pounds green beans (Mon/Thurs)
  • 2 pork tenderloins (Wed)
  • coriander seeds (Wed)
  • 3 pints cherry tomatoes (Wed/Thurs)
  • basil (Wed)
  • white rice (Wed)
  • 2 pounds skirt steak (Thurs)
  • 1 jalapeno (Thurs)
  • cilantro (Thurs)
  • roasted peanuts (Thurs)
  • 1 orange (Thurs)
  • Sriracha (or other hot sauce) (Thurs)
  • fish sauce (Thurs)
  • sherry vinegar (or any other vinegar) (Thurs)
  • 1 lime (Thurs)

Homemade Ricotta

I admit sometimes I can go a little overboard.  A four course dinner, homemade rolls and party favors.  Not one, but two specialty cocktails.  My husband and close friends often point out there is no need for 6 appetizers, let alone all of them made by scratch.  So when I said I was going to make my own cheese, I knew I would catch a certain amount of grief.  So worth it!  It’s like a mad science experiment in your own kitchen and the result is super yummy cheese – sold.  The process is easy but it’s definitely the kind where even the most experienced cook would second guess herself.  So apologies in advance for the not terribly interesting pictures but they do speak a million words in terms of how the ricotta is supposed to look.  At one point I almost chucked the whole thing away because I thought I had messed up but I am so glad I didn’t.

these 4 ingredients make cheese?!?!

these 4 ingredients make cheese?!?!

What to do with all this ricotta you ask?  I made it to use in a stuffed shells recipe (which was not blog worthy I am sad to say) but I think it’s delicious simply spread on grilled bread or on a homemade pizza (as in the featured picture), with eggs, dolloped on pasta with pesto…honestly the options are limitless.  It lasts for 3 weeks in the fridge so it’s a great make ahead appetizer – make the ricotta one weekend and then bake it in a dip the following.  It would be easy enough to cut in half if you aren’t as crazy for ricotta like me.  Note – I was not always a big ricotta fan but I have discovered that it was because I was eating super processed, tasteless supermarket ricotta.  Once I had some from the H Street Farmers Market it was a revelation in soft, buttery cheesey goodness.  Homemade is even better and you have control over the firmness – this go around I made it not very firm at all since it was going into a baked pasta recipe but if I were eating it on its own I would have let it drain for several more hours to reach the perfect (to me) consistency.

Homemade Ricotta (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Fine Cooking Magazine

Special Equipment:  cheese cloth, candy thermometer (I used one but according to the original recipe you can skip it – the milk is ready when bubbles form at the edge of the pot)

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

DSC03167Cut 3 or 4 pieces of cheesecloth slightly larger than the size of your colander or alternatively do what I did and take a huge piece and just fold it over 4 times.  Run it under the faucet to get wet and then wring out the cheesecloth and line a colander.  Place it in a larger bowl or in your sink.  I did a bowl but had to empty it a couple of times so if you can spare your sink for several hours it’s probably the best way to go.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a large pot (your pasta pot would work well here). Pour in the milk and cream and slowly warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it’s 185 degrees.

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The original recipe said it would take 20 minutes, it took me 30, just be careful not to get impatient and jack up the heat.  You want a slow gentle heat.  Once its at 185 degrees take it off the heat and stir in the salt.  Then you want to slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk.

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Ok here is where it gets exciting – start to stir the whole thing gently.  Nothing will happen immediately so don’t start vigorously stirring.  Give it a minute or two and suddenly you have curds!

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After 2-4 minutes you have all the curds that you are going to get and that is when you are likely thinking you just wasted a whole gallon of milk.  The curds are quite small and not cheese like at all but don’t dispar.  Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander, they will start to collect and all the sudden it looks like a bowl of cheese!  Ladeling can be tedious but don’t skip this part otherwise all your curds will go right down the drain.

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Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to  cover and let it drain away.  If you are going to let it go a long time make sure to use the bowl method so you can place it in the fridge.  If under 3 to 4 hours then the sink will be fine.  You can drain it for as little as 30 minutes and up to a day depending on how firm you want it.  As you can see quite a bit drains out.

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Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

after 2 hours

Homemade Ricotta

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Print

Special Equipment:  cheese cloth, candy thermometer (I used one but according to the original recipe you can skip it – the milk is ready when bubbles form at the edge of the pot)

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Cut 3 or 4 pieces of cheesecloth slightly larger than the size of your colander or alternatively do what I did and take huge piece and just fold it over 4 times.  Run it under the faucet to get wet and then wring out the cheesecloth and line a colander.  Place it in a larger bowl or in your sink.  I did a bowl but had to empty it a couple of times so if you can spare your sink for several hours it’s probably the best way to go.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a large pot (your pasta pot would work well here). Pour in the milk and cream and slowly warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it’s 185 degrees.  The original recipe said it would take 20 minutes, it took me 30, just be careful not to get impatient and jack up the heat.  You want a slow gentle heat.

Once its at 185 degrees take it off the heat and stir in the salt.  Then you want to slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk.Ok here is where it gets exciting – start to stir the whole thing gently.  Nothing will happen immediately so don’t start vigorously stirring.  Give it a minute or two and suddenly you have curds!After 2-4 minutes you have all the curds that you are going to get and that is when you are likely thinking you just wasted a whole gallon of milk.  The curds are quite small and not cheese like at all but don’t dispar.

Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander, they will start to collect and all the sudden it looks like a bowl of cheese!  Ladeling can be tedious but don’t skip this part otherwise all your curds will go right down the drain.Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to  cover and let it drain away.  If you are going to let it go a long time make sure to use the bowl method so you can place it in the fridge.  If under 3 to 4 hours then the sink will be fine.  You can drain it for as little as 30 minutes and up to a day depending on how firm you want it. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Ginger Beef

The restaurant industry in DC has been absolutely transformed over the last decade.  Once known for stuffy steakhouses filled with lobbyists, Washington can now boast to have one of the hottest food scenes.  In fact in 2014 Bon Appetit named Capitol Hill’s own Rose’s Luxury the best restaurant in the country!  So why, oh why, is it so hard to get some decent chinese food???  Any of you who have been to DC’s Chinatown will know that its laughable to call it so, unless making Ann Taylor Loft and Starbucks have their signs in english and chinese somehow makes it authentic.  I was spoiled by years of great dim sum in Boston’s Chinatown and visits to San Francisco and New York.  There are amazing Vietnamese and Korean places but not so for chinese food.  So if you have a craving for some yummy chinese take out the best option is really to make it yourself.  Honestly even if you do live in a place blessed with decent chinese, cooking it yourself is often quicker than waiting for delivery and certainly a lot healthier.  One of my favorite make at home take out options is this ginger beef recipe.  The mix of pickled ginger (that funny pink stuff served with sushi) and fresh ginger is great.  Ginger root can be sort of intimidating at first but don’t be scared off by its gnarly exterior.  Cut off the peel with a small paring knife (though I see lots of people telling you to scrape it off with a spoon) and you expose the spicy, fragrant, edible part.  Ginger can start to get shriveled up after a while so if you aren’t using it frequently try freezing it.  Once you have peeled it throw it in a freezer bag for months – bonus that its much easier to grate and cut when frozen.

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This stir fry is great because you can add in any vegetables you like, I used snow peas but sugar snap peas, bell pepper, green beans, any would work.  You can increase or decrease the amount of ginger or chili sauce depending on how hot you want it or do what I do and make the full sauce recipe but only half the beef so there is lots of it to sop up with rice or noodles.  Either way its a fast, delicious meal that is great as leftovers – just like good chinese take out should be.

Ginger Beef (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Beef Stir Fry with Fresh and Pickled Ginger by Food and Wine magazine
Special Equipment:  none

  • 3 tablespoons sherry (any kind works – I use cream sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese chile-garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh ginger
  • 1/2 red or white onion sliced
  • 8 ounces snow peas
  • 2 tablespoons pickled ginger, sliced into strips

In a bowl, whisk the sherry with the soy sauce and cornstarch (this is called a slurry – no idea why). Add the steak and turn to coat with the marinade.  Let it sit while you prep the rest of the ingredients.  In another bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the broth, sherry, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, chile-garlic sauce and cornstarch. wpid-20150527_181706.jpg Heat a skillet over high heat for a minute or two.  If you have a wok use it by all means but a skillet can do the job and won’t take up as much space.  I find nonstick is the best for stir fries as you can use less oil – the hands down best pan is Swiss Diamond.  Pricey but totally worth it and often hugely discounted at William Sonoma Outlets if you are near one.  Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and let it get hot.  Add the beef using a slotted spoon so you just get the beef and not the marinade it’s sitting in.  Be careful here – when the beef hits the hit pan it might spit and splatter a bit so make sure you are wearing an apron.  Let the steak sit for 1 minute so it can brown then move it around the pan till its cooked to your liking – only another minute should do if you have cut it thinly.

wpid-20150527_183156.jpgScoop the steak out of the pan and add a little more oil if you need.  Add the fresh ginger, onion, and snow peas and cook for about 2 minutes, just so the onion is no longer raw.  Toss the steak back in along with the pickled ginger and the sauce you made earlier.  Cook it down and stir it around until everything is combined and the sauce has thickened a bit, probably 1 minute more.

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Ginger Beef

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 3 tablespoons sherry (any kind works – I use cream sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese chile-garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh ginger
  • 1/2 red or white onion sliced
  • 8 ounces snow peas
  • 2 tablespoons pickled ginger, sliced into strips

In a bowl, whisk the sherry with the soy sauce and cornstarch. Add the steak and turn to coat with the marinade.  Let it sit while you prep the rest of the ingredients.  In another bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the broth, sherry, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, chile-garlic sauce and cornstarch.  Heat a skillet over high heat for a minute or two.  Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and let it get hot.  Add the beef using a slotted spoon so you just get the beef and not the marinade it’s sitting in.  Be careful here – when the beef hits the hit pan it might spit and splatter a bit so make sure you are wearing an apron.  Let the steak sit for 1 minute so it can brown then move it around the pan till its cooked to your liking – only another minute should do if you have cut it thinly.  Scoop the steak out of the pan and add a little more oil if you need.  Add the fresh ginger, onion, and snow peas and cook for about 2 minutes, just so the onion is no longer raw.  Toss the steak back in along with the pickled ginger and the sauce you made earlier.  Cook it down and stir it around until everything is combined and the sauce has thickened a bit, probably 1 minute more.

Intro to the menu calendar and a cocktail for the weekend

I cook almost every single day.  To people who know me well that doesn’t come as much of a surprise but anytime I meet someone new they marvel at the thought.  How do you have the time?  Where do you get the energy?  Don’t you ever just want to call takeout?  The answer to that last one is yes – for sure.  Everyone has days where the thought of putting something in a pan seems impossible.  However, I have to say even on rough work days, or at the end of a busy weekend, I am usually happy, even eager to cook.  Sure I have to check my blackberry while cooking but trust me I have mastered simultaneously stirring and typing.

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the last resort…

Stop looking at cooking as a chore and start thinking of it as a creative outlet and a way to decompress.  The key to changing that mindset is setting yourself up for success by menu planning. When building the week’s menu I go through recipes I want to try and think about what we already have in the fridge that I can incorporate.  We have some standbys that show up often but generally I like to make something new at least a couple of times a week (because I am a masochist).  If you are just trying to get in the groove of weeknight cooking go with tried and true meals you feel confident making.  I also put thought into the week as a whole.  Sure we might have chicken multiple times a week but no one needs to have it two days in a row so I stagger the proteins.  I also mix it up when it comes to cuisine – if we are having beef tacos one night I wont make turkey chili the next day.  Ok so now you have a couple of meals planned – next you have to make sure to have everything on hand.

I loathe grocery shopping.  Part of it has to do with the quality of grocery stores in Washington (seriously Safeway you are out of milk??) but it’s also a total bummer after a long day of work having to wield a huge cart down ridiculously narrow aisles, just to get home and have to put it all away and then start cooking.  That is wpid-20150604_065257.jpgwhy I try to shop once a week, usually on the weekend, and make it last. When considering produce, use the most perishable items early in the week and leave the heartier stuff towards the end of the week (or frozen) to ensure that you have fresh veggies each night.  Also buying in bulk is your friend, especially when it comes to meat.  We head to Costco, buy meat for a family of 18 and then vacuum seal them in more reasonable portions to be defrosted for weeknight meals.  My freezer (ok freezers, we have 2) are stuffed to the gills but it makes shopping and cooking much easier (also means you are ready for last minute dinner parties and the apocalypse).

I started to put our dinner menu on a shared google calendar so I could keep track and so Patrick could see what wpid-20150604_071952.jpghe will be eating each night.  When I decided to start the blog my friends Dave and Ashley lobbied in the best DC way to get our menu calendar on the blog – so here it is.  Every Friday I will update the menu calendar page with some weeknight meals for the following week and post a shopping list for the ingredients you will need on the blog.  Some assumptions will be made (you all have salt, pepper and olive oil right??) but it should set you up pretty well to not have to think at all and still put several healthy, homemade dinners on the table.  Once I have a good inventory of recipes on the blog most of the dinners will circle you back to a previous post but for now most of them will take you to other sites.  Even if you don’t want to make the recipes provided it will give you a sense of what types of things really can work on a weeknight and some ideas of sides etc to round out a full meal.

Mi Vida

Let me know how you like it and if it’s getting you cooking more during the week.  Its been a month of A Capitol Contessa and over 1,600 visitors – cannot thank you all enough for reading and following.  Please send the blog along to friends and family – the more readers I get the more good ideas for posts I have!  And don’t worry – I havent forgotten that its Fiesta Friday.  I will not leave you high and dry without some inspiration.  We tried the Mi Vida from Food and Wine several weeks ago and were very happy indeed.  The smokiness of the mezcal goes really nicely with the grapefruit and the pink peppercorn and sugar rim takes it to the next level.  If you don’t have pink peppercorns just do sugar – black pepper wouldnt work as well and wouldn’t be as cute!  I also cheated and used Tropicana grapefruit juice instead of fresh and it was still delicious.  Happy weekend!

Shopping List for June 8-12

Items are tagged with the day of the week they are used so if you don’t want to cook that day just scratch it off

  •  4 chicken breasts (Mon)
  • eggs (Mon)
  • breadcrumbs (Mon)
  • grated parm (Mon)
  • salad greens for 4 (Mon)
  • 3 lemons (Mon/Wed)
  • 2% milk (whole if fine too) (Mon)
  • instant dry polenta (Mon)
  • cream cheese (Mon)
  • 2 pounds cod fillets (or other white fish) (Wed)
  • white wine (Wed)
  • mixed olives (Wed)
  • parsley (Wed)
  • baby spinach (Wed)
  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes (Wed)
  • 2 poblanos (Fri)
  • 1 onion (Fri)
  • frozen corn (Fri)
  • light sour cream (Fri)
  • 1 1/2 pound skirt steak (Fri)
  • white rice (Fri)

Take Your Travels Home – an Italian Dinner Party

In April I travelled to Italy for 2 weeks with my mom and Patrick.  We started our trip in Bologna, which is in the region considered the “food belt” of Italy, and then made our way down to Florence and Rome with stops in Ravenna, Parma, and Siena.  At first we started counting how many delicious bottles of wine and bowls of pasta we consumed but it was starting to get ridiculous by day five so we stopped.  Needless to say we ate very well and have a true appreciation for the amazing fresh food products there.  Whenever I am travelling in a place like Italy, busting with fresh vegetables and cheeses in all the lovely outdoor markets, I am desperate to just cook and cook.  Until I get a villa in Tuscany that’s probably not in the cards but I do bring as much back with me as possible.  I try to pack as light so we have room to bring back the good stuff you just cant get here in the states – its tough leaving that extra pair of shoes behind but its worth it when you can drizzle fresh green olive oil straight from the fields.

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Our amazing friends watched the kitties while we were gone and I figured what better way to thank them then dishing up some of the goodies we smuggled in along with a menu full of our favorite dishes.  I also had brought home some beautiful entertaining pieces like this amazing cobalt blue acrylic pitcher.  In Florence I purchased small Chianti bottles and then repurposed them as salt and pepper shakers.  To add a little elegance to the evening I bought place cards from one of the beautiful paper stores in Siena.

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Of course lots of delicious Italian reds were drunk and both Dave and Ashley and Devin and Erica went home with hand painted olive dishes from Florence as a thank you.  Honestly, no one wants to sit through a slide show of your vacation no matter how awesome it was – but here is a delicious and fun way to share your experiences with folks back home.

Menu

Cheese plate with Parmesan and fennel sausage from Florence

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Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce

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Porchetta Style Roast Pork

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Fennel Salad

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Affogato with chopped chocolate covered espresso beans

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The cheese and sausage we got from the incredible Mercato Centrale in Florence.  I had been there once before and described it as my version of heaven but they have managed to make it even better.  The first floor food market, which has been in operation for hundreds of years, has everything you can imagine from cured meats, to vinegars and fresh vegetables.  However, now you can take an escalator to the 2nd floor and a whole new layer to the market opens up.  It’s as if the next generation of the families that operate downstairs decided they needed their own new hip spot to play.  There is a cooking school, a small Eataly outpost and amazing spots to have pizza, a beer or watch cheese being made.  The bolognese was inspired of course by our time in Bologna but honestly it was not the best version I have ever made.  The taste was really rich and deep but I didn’t love the texture so stay tuned and hopefully I will find a version I like that’s blog worthy.  The porchetta is my attempt at a version we had at Il Latini in Florence.  This is a unique Italian experience that’s a little confusing at first (definitely get a reservation) but so incredible.  Food just keeps coming and coming including this ridiculous meat plate with porchetta, Florentine steak and a whole duck!  It was delicious and one of the best nights we had.  I threw in a fennel salad with lemon dressing just to lighten things up, basically fennel sliced thinly with a little red onion, lemon, olive oil and shaved parmesan.  To finish things off we had Sambuca we brought from Rome and affogato, the world’s easiest dessert.  Scoop vanilla gelato into bowls and pour over hot espresso – done.  I added chopped chocolate covered espresso beans for crunch.  It was a great night and a terrific way to remember our trip.  Buon appetito!

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