Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Summer Strawberry Shortcake Cookies!

This month for Cookie Carnival, we welcomed in summer with Martha Stewart's Strawberry Shortcake cookies! Oh yes, sounds heavenly doesn't it? I was excited to try this recipe. The cookies in Martha's mag looked so plump and luscious... well, I have to admit, my cookies didn't turn out quite so plump... or luscious. My cookies had spread out and were flat... BUT, the taste was remarkable. Very fresh, very light, and very summery.

I have to tell you though, the batter was probably my most favorite part of the whole thing. I could have eaten the whole bowl of batter by itself! (I might just do that one time).

I baked up only half the recipe because the recipe recommended not keeping them for more than one day. This worked out well -- came out to about 12 cookies.


Ingredients: (for 3 dozen)
  • 12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl.

3. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.

5. Using a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes.

6. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

7. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

YUM! Try them out!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Gazpacho!

The second half of this month's Barefoot Bloggers brings us GAZPACHO as selected by Meryl from My Bit of Earth. That "perfect" summer soup -- chilled fresh veggies all mixed together to bring joy to your tastebuds. Well, that is, if you like cold soup? I never really was a fan of cold soup. To me, I thought that soup should be hot and if not hot, well, at least warm.

In any case though, as the days are getting hotter here, I welcomed the chance to try gazpacho again. And I wasn't disappointed! I actually quite liked this soup. My husband raved about it and took some with him when he went to go visit his mom -- and she loved it too. I liked how Ina left the soup chunky so you could actually taste each of the different vegetables.

I also definitely agree with Ina's recommendation -- the longer you let the soup sit and blend all together, the richer the flavors. The colors were bright and cheery and so was the flavor.

Would I make it again? Sure! It was rather easy to throw together and I think it would be fantastic at a summer barbecue party. Do I find myself personally craving it? Well, probably not. But I wouldn't be opposed to having it again.

As for variations, I read the other day about a more "southwestern" spin on gazpacho that I think would be dee-li-cious. Next time, I think I'll doctor up the gazpacho with some avocados (some pureed, some chunky) and fresh corn. And maybe, a bit of Tabasco or hot sauce for that extra kick. Yum.

The Recipe: Barefoot Contessa's Gazpacho

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh Brownies, Oh My.

So back in May, one of the Barefoot Bloggers' recipes was Ina's OUTRAGEOUS BROWNIES selected by Eva from I'm Boring. May turned out to be a hectic month so I never got to them, but finally did in June. And, OH...MY...GOODNESS. These WERE definitely outrageous and are definitely on my must make again list. This recipe churned out so MANY brownies that were rich, chewy AND cakey at once (if that's possible), and oh so chocolatey. My husband and I both brought a batch to work and they disappeared quickly.

I must admit, this was my first time making brownies from scratch. And it was definitely worth it. The taste of the brownies was quite different from a box mix, the coffee added another layer of depth to the brownies, and the brownie making also made our house smell like wonderful chocolate for days (not to mention my office!).

I omitted the walnuts in fears that people may be allergic. I ended up just adding a bit more semisweet chocolate chips instead ;) Also, I didn't have nearly a big enough pan and although I bought two smaller pans to put the batter in, I accidentally put all the batter into one pan. This was no problem though! It took awhile longer to bake, but the brownies came out very nice and thick. I think I would do it this same way next time.

Here's the recipe so you can try it too!


  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2 inch sheet pan.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


(Not much of the sushi was left when it occurred to me that I hadn't taken a pic yet! So here is what was left at that point...)

Success! The day that I posted about wanting to check out all the Washingtonian Magazine's Cheap Eats, I just happened to be planning a dinner with one of my college friends, J. She was sold on going to try Kotobuki -- we were both in the mood for sushi -- and decided to meet up there. Kotobuki is located in NW DC, in the Palisades area (just West and North-ish of Georgetown). The area is mostly residential, with several highly regarded restaurants (Makoto and Blacksalt being two of them). Of course, this day it was a typical DC summer day with strong afternoon thunderstorms. After battling traffic across the city, I finally made it there (a little bit late...) and somehow managed to parallel park my car a block or two from the restaurant (loads of street parking, but sometimes it takes a little bit of effort!).

J was waiting at the restaurant, keeping our place in line. Kotobuki is on the second floor of the building that also houses Makoto. It is a small restaurant, probably about 10 tables and also a sushi bar. We were quickly seated (the place was packed, but luckily a few tables opened up when I made it there). The menu is pretty barebones - but not in a bad way! The focus (I think) is on fresh fish and serving up more traditional rolls/sushi as oppose to inventing some sort of fusion sushi. Albeit, there are many sushi rolls and nigiri options!

J and I ordered a platter full of sushi to share -- yellowtail with avocado, spicy tuna, soft shell crab roll (for the Maryland girl in me), eel and avocado roll, uni (sea urchin -- I had finally tried it with my mom a few weeks back who is uni-obsessed! and J had never tried it so it was a must...), and scallop nigiri. The uni was VERY fresh -- deliciously creamy and sweet, like custard! I also loved the scallop nigiri -- I'm always a big fan of the raw scallops with a little bit of wasabi planted on the sushi rice. Just a little bit sweet and so smooth. The maki sushi was good as well, although we thought that the rolls started to taste very similar after awhile (which is strange right since the rolls were quite different...).

The big selling point to Kotobuki is good sushi for good prices. I was surprised to see otoro sushi on there for $6.50. All over the city, otoro is usually SO MUCH more expensive. Another selling point, I've heard, are their kamameshi dinners. You pick the protein and it comes in this pot cooked up with rice. You also get several small dishes to go with it and miso soup and it is all very affordable.

It is true that the service isn't particularly friendly. But, good Japanese food at a good price is hard to come by in DC (oh, I mean, good Japanese food is available, but at a much higher price!), so it is worth the trek over to Kotobuki.

4822 MacArthur Boulevard NW

2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20007

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Curried Couscous

For this week's Barefoot Bloggers' recipe, Ellyn at Recipe Collector and Tester selected Ina's "Curried Couscous" (from Ina's original Barefoot Contessa cookbook!). I've always been a fan of couscous, so I was curious to try out this recipe (and actually surprised I hadn't tried it already!). I was quite pleased with how easy it was and how fast it was to cook up... In fact, I've already made it TWICE in the past week. More details below:

Barefoot Contessa's CURRIED COUSCOUS


  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small-diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
  • 1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup small-diced red onion
What to do:
Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.


A perfect meal for the summer -- very light and great by itself or combined with your favorite protein.

Because I tend to prefer my carrots cooked, the first time I tried this recipe I sauteed the carrots briefly. The second time I tried the recipe, we didn't cook the carrots -- this added more of a crunch to the couscous. I preferred the cooked carrots version, but both were good!

Also a quick note on the "yogurt sauce" -- I taste tested this before pouring it on the couscous. I was surprised by how salty it tasted -- but don't be alarmed by this! In fact, don't change anything about it. Just pour it on your couscous and the flavors all come out well balanced. The couscous itself lacks any flavor, so the strong flavors from the sauce blend well into the couscous.

Great choice! We're planning on making this dish again, but trying it with different herbs and spices. For instance, we're thinking of making an Italian version of it with basil, tomatoes, and such. Yum. If (and when) we do that, I'll post here! Cheers!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eating through DC's Cheap Eats

I can't help it. Despite the economy, I still looove going out to eat. So when the newest issue of the Washingtonian magazine's Cheap Eats came out, I immediately opened it up to see who made it on the list. There were so many "newcomers" to the list -- a number of which I've been wanting to try (Ray's Hell Burger! Surfside!) and quite a few taken off the list (some that I've frequented -- Matchbox, Moby Dick House of Kabob, Pizzeria Paradiso...). In any case, seems like this is a good opportunity (and excuse!) to try some new places (and new types of food).

So here's my goal for the year (at least until the next Cheap Eats list comes out) -- try ALL the DC Cheap Eats. Although there are 100 restaurants on the list, there are only 21 restaurants in DC -- this seemed like a much more feasible number than the full list! Plus, I've been to six of the 21 restaurants (see below) (and 12 restaurants out of the 100 restaurants in total...), so that leaves me with 15 more restaurants??

And without further ado, here are the 21 restaurants:

Breadline (already eaten at!)
Café Divan
Comet Ping Pong
Figs Fine Foods
Good Stuff Eatery (already eaten at!)
Himalayan Heritage
Malaysia Kopitiam (already eaten at!)
Moroni & Brother's
Oohhs & Aahhs
Pete's New Haven Style Apizza
Tackle Box (already eaten at!)
Taqueria Distrito Federal
Taqueria Nacional
Teddy's Roti Shop
Thai X-ing
2 Amy's (already eaten at!)
Zorba's Café (already eaten at!)

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Weekend in Cape May!

To celebrate our one year anniversary (one year already!), Mr. J and I visited beautiful Cape May, located at the tip of south New Jersey. I had never been to Cape May, but was happy to find a beautiful beach town, complete with Victorian mansions, shops filled with fun knickknacks, and scenic streets to just wander down.

We sampled a few restaurants while we were there... which are described below. Some of the best food we had was actually at the B&B/inn we stayed at - the John Wesley Inn - where the innkeeper cooked up breakfast for us and the other guests. One of the highlights for me were thick, fluffy Belgian waffles topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberries and a side of peppery bacon. Yum.

And although these two aren't "reviewed" below, two other pitstops for us were Morrow's Nut House (salt water taffy, red hot dollars, all sorts of candy!) and... Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen is by no means a Cape May original, and there were PLENTY of ice cream places to choose from (there was one in particular we were looking for that Mr. J remembered from his childhood that made their own ice cream with all sorts of interesting ingredients, but we couldn't find it). But we both love Dairy Queen and very much enjoyed the Brownie Batter blizzard :)

And as for those other places we tried...

For our first dinner in Cape May, we visited the Mad Batter. Our innkeeper recommended it to us (and we had heard about it from a few other people!) so we thought it would be a good option. The Mad Batter has these adorable yellow and white awnings, covering a front porch that is perfect for people watching. Although the wind picked up and a storm was brewing, we sat on the porch (the storm did eventually arrive, at full force, but we were protected by the Mad Batter's porch's "walls").

The entrees were more expensive than we expected, but quite good, so we were pleased with the value we were getting for our money. The menu itself didn't offer too many dishes, but there were definitely many specials being offered. I had the crab bisque to begin with (this was my favorite part -- very creamy, not bland like many bisques, and large chunks of lump crab meat, yum...) and the hanger steak with potatoes & bacon (tasty, but I would probably opt for maybe a salad or other appetizer to go with my soup next time). We also shared (ok my husband mostly ate) the thai-honey chicken wings (yum, big juicy wings, not too spicy, kind of spicy and sweet) and he had the vegetable wellington -- layers of vegetables wrapped in a puff pastry and surrounded by fresh tomato sauce and slices of cheese. I think the vegetable wellington was a better option than the hanger steak.

The service was great -- very friendly and helpful. We decided to wait out the storm, eat slowly, and have a few beers...In any case, we were happy with our first dinner in Cape May. We'd likely come back, but probably try a few other places first.

Henry's was our choice for a lunch spot during our Cape May stay. It is the perfect location. We had spent the morning at the beach and planned to spend the rest of the afternoon there, so we decided to pop into Henry's for our lunch break.

We sat out on the porch with a view of the beach (and watched the dolphins swim by!). The service was friendly. The food was decent -- a good selection of sandwiches, seafood "baskets," and such. I had been craving deep fried seafood for some reason so I ordered the shrimp basket. It came with a good amount of deep fried butterflied shrimp, large handfuls of seasoned fries, and cole slaw. The deep fried clams looked excellent as well. We saw a few people order sandwiches -- in particular, the patty melt caught my eye. A good juicy beef patty in between two slices of toast.

Henry's is great if you are looking for a place right on the beach. The food isn't outstanding, but it was decent "beach" food!

After a full day at the beach, we decided to grab something casual for dinner. We had walked by the Ugly Mug the day before, liked the name, and thought it would be a fun relaxed place to go. Plus, we thought we'd like a drink or two to go with our dinner (and didn't have anything to BYO to the BYO places...). So we found ourselves at the Ugly Mug.

We sat "outside" (under the awning on Washington St). Perfect for people watching. The food has a wide selection of "bar food" -- many different kinds of burgers, sandwiches, and such, as well as some seafood items (we are at the beach after all). We split the clams on the half shell (decent size, tasted fresh) and each got a chicken cheese steak (mine with mushrooms). Everything was good ... the chicken cheese steaks were HUGE, pippin' hot, and pretty juicy.

We recommend it for a place to just kick back and relax.