Thursday, August 27, 2009

BB: White Pizza Topped with Baby Spinach & Lemon Vinaigrette

Perfeecttt for a summer day was the latest Barefoot Bloggers recipe. In fact, BOTH August recipes were very apropos for the end of summer (check out the mango banana daiquiris from earlier this month!). Andrea from Nummy Kitchen had us Barefoot Bloggers try the lovely Ms. Ina's white pizza with baby arugula. The way I described it to my friends was: "a white pizza with fontina, mozzarella, and goat cheese, brushed and drizzled with homemade garlic oil (garlic, hot red peppers flakes, and thyme steeped in olive oil) with a bed of baby spinach (in my case) and lemon vinaigrette on top." My friends all drooled in response.

Now, the actual pizza though that I created was still quite delicious. But, a little blander than I expected. I think that I needed to knock it up a notch with a bit more red pepper flakes (or I also think that my red pepper flakes may not have been fresh enough) -- or I would have taken the leaves off the fresh thyme while steeping in the oil, so more of the thyme made it on to the pizza.

I used baby spinach instead of arugula -- I definitely think that the arugula would have offered a fantastic bite to pair with the mellowness of the pizza. My supermarket was fresh out of arugula though, so I went for the baby spinach.

My favorite part of making the pizzas was making the DOUGH. I had never made fresh pizza dough from scratch and found it so much fun. Mr. J helped me with it -- he used to work at an Italian restaurant and was quite used to make pizza dough. The pizza dough came out incredibly fluffy and was very tasty -- will definitely make the dough again and perhaps top it with other items.

Mr. J helping me knead the dough

And if you are a fan of cheese sticks or "cheesy bread" -- this pizza makes the perfect leftover item for you! We didn't eat all six of the pizzas in one sitting (hah), so the next day, we warmed up some marinara sauce and dipped pieces of our pizza into the sauce. Delish. (I really love anything with melted cheese)

(And as a small aside, I have to say that I was thrilled that both of the August recipes came from the Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basic cookbook... I had purchased the book earlier this summer and have been dying to try recipes from it. This was the perfect excuse!)

Without further ado, here's the recipe! Enjoy!


For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
Good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the topping:
3 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
11 ounces creamy goat cheese, such as montrachet, crumbled
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces baby arugula
1 lemon, sliced

Mix the dough: Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

Knead by hand: When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic.

Let it rise: Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make garlic oil: Place 1/2 cup of olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Be sure your oven is clean!)

Portion the dough: Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place the doughs on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Stretch the dough: Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 2 circles on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.)

Top the dough: Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.

Make the vinaigrette: Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Add the greens: When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and a slice of lemon and serve immediately.

TIP Make sure the bowl is warm before you put the water and yeast in; the water must be warm for the yeast to develop.

TIP Salt inhibits the growth of yeast; add half the flour, then the salt, and then the rest of the flour.

TIP To make sure yeast is still "alive," or active, put it in water and allow it to sit for a few minutes. If it becomes creamy or foamy, it's active.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MIAMI: Where in the World Wednesday

After sampling all the local delights in Seoul, we fly off to one of the U.S.'s party spots and beach towns - MIAMI. Today, we have the luck of having TWO guides to show us around -- one of my best friends Michelle and her wonderful boyfriend Joe. They provide some interesting insights for us, and I definitely learned some new things about eating in Miami.

As a sidenote for you readers, Michelle and Joe answered these questions separately without reading each other's answers first... so it should be interesting to see where they are in agreement with one another!

Let's meet the couple!

Michelle: I've lived in Miami for 3 years now (long enough as far as I'm concerned!). I've lived in South Miami for 2 years and now I'm in Brickell. It's the financial district. Very yuppyish. Other places as in during my lifetime? Let's see, I lived in Cleveland for 10 months. Then Philly for 18 years, then Baltimore, then back to Philly, and now Miami!

Joe: I have been living in Miami for 14, going on 15 years....crap. I have spent this time in the N. Miami Beach area, a wonderful place filled with interesting, snobby (rich, annoying, self centered) people. During my 26 years on this planet I have lived in three cities, the first 12 of which were spent in NY, Merrick Long Island to be exact. At the ripe old age of 12, I moved down to Miami to enjoy the sweet life of sun, rain and rain. The next stop in my three city tour was Boston. I spent 4 years in Boston during my stint in BU. Ahh the good times. After this time I came back to Miami to finish up school at FIU, guess I liked the rain, oh and the hurricanes, those are fun too. And now as Michelle has pointed out, I now have to stop procrastinating and answer your questions about the food in Miami.

(1) How would you describe food in Miami in 10 words or less?

Michelle: Inconsistent overpriced cuban beans touristy mediocre unimaginative (can you tell I don't love it??)

Joe: Cuban, expensive, iffy (you never know how good your food will be), and cuban, everything (beans, rice and plantains)

(2) Has the food in Miami has been greatly influenced by certain cultures/ethnicities/religions? If so, which ones?

Michelle: Hmmm...I'm sure there's one culture...can't think of it...hmmm....oh yea, CUBAN! I have never in my life seen more beans and rice and plantains. There's also a significant Brazilian influence. I can only eat so much rice and beans!

Joe: No influence at all, there is a bit of an American influence on the mostly Cuban cuisine I guess, but aside from that not much else.

(3) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of Miami for a friend that was visiting you from somewhere else, what would you include in it? (Feel free to include perishable items!)

Michelle: Beans, rice, plantains, a burger from the restaurant 8 oz, some curry from Moon Thai, did I say beans? A mojito!

Joe: Rice, beans (black or red), plantains, pork and bananas, orange empanadas (from the Full Moon Cafe, I believe that is the name of the place) and churros (available at any street corner or quick stop).

[Ok, so I accidentally misnumbered my questions and left out a question 4. I thought I'd share their responses with you to my lack of question 4 though :-P
Michelle: You messed up on the numbers, not me ;)
Joe: Phew, thanks for the break, this is tough. I needed the rest.]

(5) Is there anything about food in Miami that you think would surprise people that have never been to Miami?

Michelle: It's not very good! I think that is the most surprising thing. For a pretty major city the place doesn't have a lot of great places to eat. Most of the food on the Beach is very touristy. It's getting better but it's not that great. The biggest problem here is the lack of fresh produce and other fresh ingredients. You'd think that Florida, with all the sunshine, would have a plethora of great stuff, but it doesnt. Everything is shipped in from up north by train and by the time it gets to us it's not so wonderful.

Joe: Yea, its not very good. With the exorbitant prices and all the publicity we get, you'd think the food would be better, but its not. Very strange. And let's not forget the terrible atmosphere in most, pretty much all, of the restaurants. With all the wealthy prissy people here completely absorbed with themselves, no establishment is safe from a hissy fit by a 30 year old child.

(6) Is there a particular drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) that you can typically find everywhere in Miami?

Michelle: Mojito and a Caipirinha. A mojito is obvious. A Caipirinha is a brazilian drink, quite tasty. It's a bitter brazilian alcohol ( Cachaça), sugar, and lime.

Joe: The drink found everywhere in Miami is the great bottle of Mexican piss, Corona and Corona Lite, for those of us who think that you need a Corona to be on the beach.

(7) Are there any dishes that are served at certain holidays in Miami (or Florida generally) that you think would not normally be served in other areas of the country?

Michelle: I havent spent much time in Miami during the holidays. I don't know what people eat here for the holidays actually. Though the nice thing is that everything is open around Christmas because it's tourist season. So even during Christmas and on New Years Day, the stores and restaurants reopen around 2pm to give the tourists something to do!

Joe: Nope, Miami has nothing original.

(8) Say that you’re taking me around Miami, where would we go for breakfast and what would we have? Where would we go to cap off the night for late night eats and what would we have?

Michelle: For breakfast we would go to Big Pink. Its an all pink diner on the beach. Very tasty. It's been there for ages. I remember actually going there on a family vacation before I moved to Miami. We would have french toast, for sure. We'd be able to split it because it's huge! For late night it's a tough call. There's Pizza Rustica, the most expensive yummy pizza on the beach. It's more like yummy focaccia than pizza. There's also a great chinese place on the beach, Sum Yum Gai which has the best mongolian beef I've ever had.

Joe: For breakfast I would probably take you to Balans, they have phenomenal corned beef hash. [my commentary: Joe! Apparently you DO know me well... I love corned beef hash and would have it for breakfast all the time if I could! :)] They also have some pretty good eggs. Though Miami is not particularly known for its breakfast. Oh and not to forget it, there is my former place of employment, Tasti Cafe in Miami Beach, although it is a little pricey and kosher, the food isn't bad and always fresh, plus they make some real good tuna fish, and their cheesecake is amazing and made fresh. As a night cap I would have to go with the late night classic of Steve's Pizza. It is by far and away the best pizza in all of Miami.

(9) Where was your last amazing meal in the Miami area and what was in it?

Michelle: Id say it was Senora Martinez. [My commentary: Omg, Michi, just looking at the website made me drool... Can we go there the next time I visit, please?] It's a tapas place run by Michelle Bernstein. We got this duck sausage that is absolutely out of this world. It's a duck/foie combo sausage. Unreal. Also got the bone marrow. I'd had bone marrow in Spain and this was even better than that! Plus they have a great cocktail there that's got basil and strawberries and balsamic vinegar in it.

Dessert from my meal with Mich and the girls at another of Michelle Bernstein's restaurants (Michy's)

Joe: Cafe Vialletta, as given to me by Michelle. They had some great pasta dishes, which is surprising for Miami which is pretty much known for its rice.

(10) If you were cooking up a meal for each other, what would you make? (whether this has to do with Miami or not!)

Michelle: Depends on what I've got...I've always got some sort of fish around. Mahi mahi is a popular choice. Also crabcakes will be on tomorrow's menu. I may be far away from Baltimore but I can't ever let go of my love of crabs.

Joe: Most definitely steak. Mich loves her steak, nice and bloody too. If the cow is still attached even better. Maybe a burger if I'm feeling adventurous, corn and veggies are always needed as sides to this meal, and if I want to make her scream with joy its the sweet mashed potatoes with marshmallows both inside and on top. Mmmmm mmmmm good.

(11) Given the current economic times, where would you for a meal and a drink for $15 or less?

Michelle: Realistically, there isnt really anywhere in Miami to get a decent meal and drink for $15 or less. A drink alone is $15. If I want to spend less then I just cook at home. It's an expensive city to go out in.

Joe: Mc Donalds, Burger King. And only those establishments if they do not reside in South Beach, cause in South Beach a Big Mac costs $6, and thats without the fries or drink. As for drinking for under $15, don't ask for anything with hard alcohol, that doesn't exist, any drink in Miami with the hard stuff will run you around $18 without tipping.

(12) What restaurant would you take someone to for a romantic date and why?

Michelle: I think Perricones. It's a tasty place with all kinds of yummy pastas and good wines. It's not too pricey for a change. It's also got a beautiful garden area with white lights and all that cute cheesy stuff. It's nice because it's not too stuffy so you can go as just 2 but I've also been there in a group of 25.

Joe: For a romantic night out...I don't know. And now Michelle is mad at me cause I don't know anywhere to go, thanks...

(13) Everyone that isn't from Miami thinks of Miami as one of the ultimate party towns... Where's the best place to go for fun partying but also good food? What would you have there?

Michelle: Well I love dive bars, so I'd pick SandBar in the Grove. Best Mahi tacos in the WORLD! I recommend the blackened mahi version over the fried. I think on Tuesdays you can get 3 tacos and a beer for $12, but I haven't been there in awhile so that might have changed. It's a sports bar, and there are always a lot of college kids in there.

Joe: For a good night I would go to Tavern Opa. It is a fun and pleasant atmosphere where you can dance on tables and break plates with the best of them. But be sure to only go to the Opa in Hollywood, the Opa in South Beach sucks. It is overcrowded and their service sucks.

(14) What's the best place to catch up with friends over food and/or drinks?

Michelle: Clarke's. It's a small and nice irish pub south of 5th on the Beach. Once you head south of 5th it's a lot less touristy, so there's more of a local flavor. Got a great burger and a pretty good beer selection. The appetizers are also great. They have an amazing mac and cheese. It's just dripping in cheesy goodness.

Joe: To catch up with a friend I would go to the Hardrock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. They have bars, clubs and food

(15) Finally, where can you find the best mojito (or insert here other popular Miami drink)?

Michelle: I love the mojito at Nikki Beach. It was the first mojito I'd had in Miami right after I moved here first year of law school. I loved it and all other mojitos have been compared to that one.

Joe: What is a mojito?? I have yet to really find a place with good drinks, I am mainly a beer drinker. Though the Yardhouse in brickell does have a nice beer selection, as well as a few bars which make their own microbrews.

THANK YOU to Mich and Joe for their food thoughts! I love all the local recommendations and the (honest) insight into what eating in Miami is really like...

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Oh how behind I've been in updating! What now seems like many moons ago, I finally had the chance to eat at SURFSIDE in Glover Park. (YES! Another DC Cheap Eats off my list...). For MONTHS, we would drive past Surfside, with its bright cheery blue and yellow storefront, and I would just look longingly at it. Reviews I read had described Surfside as almost like a beachtown restaurant in the middle of the Nation's capital. I loved the "vibe" that Surfside was supposed to have. And then, I was never one that could resist tacos... particularly tacos made with fresh ingredients, a "Californian" flair, and packed with one or another seafood option.

So finally, Mr. J and I found ourselves up at Surfside for lunch one summery Sunday. We were pleased to find parking only a block away from the restaurant -- Surfside is located on a block that is chock full of restaurants (especially ones that have popped up in recent years) plus a very popular Whole Foods, plus numerous residences.

Surfside was actually quite empty when we got there. In contrast to the bright exterior, the inside was a bit dim, but lit by some natural light filtering in. It was a mellow and quiet. I was glad that I read a few reviews on Yelp before coming, or else I would have had no idea what to do next. Surfside has a pretty extensive menu of options and you place your order at a counter and then you get a little buzzer to alert you when your food is ready. In front of the counter are stacks of "forms," on which you check off what you want (one of their "specialties" or design your own).

After much deliberating, we decided on an order of guac and chips (how can you resist?), the "Maui" tacos (two grilled fish of the day tacos in corn tortillas with black bean and corn salsa, guacamole, cilantro and lime sour cream) and the "Cozumel" tacos (two grilled marinated chicken tacos in flour tortillas with grilled red onion, poblano peppers, mole negro and queso fresco). Each set of tacos came with red beans and rice... We were given our little buzzer to take with us that would alert us when our lunch was ready.

We journeyed upstairs to the roof deck to stake out a spot. It was a pretty hot day in DC, very sunny, very little breeze, but luckily, the deck was largely covered. Being in between lunch and dinner hours, the deck was pretty empty. Just a table of chatty, happy, relaxing friends, a girl reading a book, and another couple enjoying lunch. Our buzzer soon called us back downstairs for our food -- a word to the clumsy... send the least clumsy of you down to get the food, because there are quite a few stairs between the deck and the main floor!

Needless to say, we had ordered an apparently massive amount of food! The guacamole was quite tasty. I liked my Maui tacos but wasn't thrilled. I found it a little bit on the bland side, but they did taste quite fresh and light. Mr. J enjoyed his Cozumel tacos, smothered in yummy mole sauce.

Now I haven't been back since, but wouldn't mind trying Surfside again. I've heard great things about their "Nevis" tacos -- two grilled shrimp tacos in corn tortillas with yellow rice, pineapple jalepeno salsa, cilantro, guacamole and lime sour cream. Also, with so many other tacos, quesadillas, burritos, salads, and entrees to choose from, I'm sure to indulge my Southwestern food cravings here again soon.

2444 Wisconsin Ave.
Washington, DC 20007

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

South Korea: Where in the World Wednesday!

This week's "Where in the World Wednesday" jets us off to SOUTH KOREA. My good friend Zac moved to Seoul two years ago after living in the two Washingtons (Washington State and Washington D.C.) for most of his life. His two years seem to have been very well spent extensively sampling all of the delicious eats Seoul has to offer. He is now my Korean food guru - thanks Zac for sharing your knowledge with us! (Perhaps a South Korea part two is in order?)

(1) How would you describe Korean food in 10 words or less?

Spicy, savory, haphazard, frequently-pickled, unexpected, served-fast, goodness (with kimchi).

(2) Are there any dishes that you think are traditionally Korean? Do you have a favorite?

Kimchi, which is of course a side-dish, is the thing that immediately comes to mind as being distinctly Korean. Kimchi is served at almost every meal in one form or another (yes, there are many many different types). If you are desiring to make kimchi at home in its classical form (with cabbage), you need to take some cabbage, mix in some pickling salt, water, some garlic, ginger, kochu (hot korean pepper) vinegar, ginger and scallions, pickle the cabbage mix in the other stuff, bury it in the ground for several days and then dig it up and place it in an odor-proof fridge until eating. Practice this about 40 times (or get a real recipe off the internets) and you should be ready to go. Actually, there are many different approaches to making kimchi and I cannot speak with any experience as I have never made my own. Most Koreans these days don't even make their own kimchi, since it is easy to buy and cheaply-imported from China.

(3) Do you find that the food in Korea has been greatly influenced by certain cultures/ethnicities/
religions? If so, which ones?

In fact, no. I would say that Korean food is quite distinct. There are some dishes that have been taken from Japan, particularly stuff involving seafood--blowfish stew comes immediately to mind--but even with those the Korean version is really its own thing. That being said, if you are looking for foreign food in Seoul, Chinese and Japanese are definitely the most common, but I would say their impact on actual Korean cuisine has not been significant.

(4) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of Korea for a friend that was visiting you from somewhere else, what would you include in it?

A gift basked is limiting since I have to skip over all kinds of fresh seafood, not to mention Korean BBQ and all the delicious stews that make up a large part of Korean cuisine, but there is still plenty of Korean goodness to pack in there. Top of the list would be kimchi, of course, in its cabbage and radish variations at least, dduk (Korean rice cakes), kim (dried seaweed), kochu (the aforementioned hot peppers), sam-jjang (a salty red soybean paste for dipping the kochu), dried squid, pajeon mix (Korean pancakes--savory, mix at home with spring onions and octopus) and some asian pears and grapes so large you have to squeeze the flesh out and chuck the skin. Of course we would also need some Korean alcohol, soju, the every-man's rice spirit, and makgeoli, traditional cloudy rice-alcohol that is really sweet and drank from a bowl.

(5) Was there anything that surprised you about Korean eats when you first moved there?

Many things, but the first time I ate live octopus was the biggest shocker. Live octopus comes in two main varieties: either cooked on a hot plate in front of you or its simply cut up and left to squiggle around on your plate. The latter can be a bit tricky to grab with the chopsticks, depending on the speed with which it is making a break for the open table. Its also a little unsettling the first time you eat it, since you need to dunk it in oil to keep it from suction-cupping its way around your mouth or your throat (SCARY!). Indeed, the stories of strangling on unchewed live octopus are legend, particularly amongst foreigners. Even though this happens very rarely, I wouldn't recommend eating it like this.

Despite being a bit out of the ordinary for most people, sannakji is in fact really delicious once you get used to it.

(6) Say that you’re taking me around Seoul, where would we go for breakfast and what would we have? Where would we go to cap off the night for late night eats and what would we have?

Breakfast is not a big thing in Korea: ramen, rice, kim-bap or other little things. Coffee culture is getting to be the rage these days and lots of urban-Seoulites are going to Starbucks, Coffee Bean or similar establishments for coffee and pastries. Waffles have also seeped into the culture, though they are not considered breakfast. Western brunch spots are also appearing around town, a favorite past-time of mine.

If we skip to lunch though, the options abound. A very typical lunch would be spicy korean stew (jjigae), of which there are numerous options: kimchi jjigae, soy-bean paste jjigae, soft tofu jjigae and pudae (meaning: military base) jjigae, to name a few. The latter is famously made with spam and hot dogs, amongst other things, which came from the US military bases back when South Korea was a poorer country. All of them make a great lunch!

For dinner, its Korean BBQ!! Beef is my favorite, Korean beef (han-woo) is the best, but it is some of the most expensive beef you can find. It is usually served with soup and tons of side dishes. It is fun to grill kimchi (the more sour the better) and garlic with it, then wrap it up in lettuce of a sesame leaf with some onion and rice eat it all in one bite. That is a rule! Other favorite Korean BBQ food includes sam-gyeop-sal and doaeji galbi, two different pork dishes. For only one day though, we would have to have Korean beef.

(7) Where was your last amazing meal in Korea and what was in it?

Grill eel, which is one of my all time favorites, at a little restaurant behind the Seoul Plaza Hotel. It is best eaten with friends (like all Korean food) so you can enjoy the full meal, which is usually one eel covered in sweet sauce and another covered in hot sauce. It is served with some soup and a wide assortment of side dishes. All Korean food is served with heaps of side dishes, including your kimchi and a variety of other tasty treats.

(8) On a normal evening, what would you have for dinner?

Any of the above stews or other soups, Korean BBQ, sashimi (mainly tuna), bo-sam, etc etc. Seoul is an eater's paradise. There is really too much to name.

(9) If you could pick one food item that you had in Korea that you could have with you always, what would it be?

Sour kimchi! I eat it more than any Koreans I know.

Thanks again Zac for all your interesting food tidbits!! Until next week... where will we go next?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Inaugural DC Beer Week

Rio Beer
Not from DC... But an international beer!

Yes, you read that right. The INAUGURAL DC BEER WEEK. Starting on Sunday, August 16th and running through the 21st, DC will be hosting its very own Beer Week to celebrate both domestic and international brews, including Abita (yes, my friend Anjali, Abita!!), Allagash, Chimay, Dogfish Head, and Rogue.

Wondering what this week will include? Each day offers a chance to learn about beer, to taste beer, and (for what I'm looking forward to) to enjoying different types of beer with fabulous food. Some of the highlights:
Sunday: "Unity Jam" at Rock & Roll Hotel ($20 for 10 4oz sample pours of rare craft beers).

Monday: Allagash Beer Dinner at Granville Moore's (the place featured on "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" for their mussels) -- five course, six-beer dinner for $75.

Tuesday: Rogue Oregon Oyster and Ale Festival at the Reef (oysters and beer? YUM)
Oh how August is just filled with DC restaurant-ness. The following restaurants are participating in DC Beer Week:

For full details, check out their website. If you check out any of these events, I want a full report (or at least some details of how it was :))!

BB: Mango Banana Daiquiris

Ahhh, summer. There's something about fruity drinks any time of the year that adds a bit of celebration to a day, but they are especially fitting during the summer. The first recipe of Barefoot Bloggers for August were these MANGO BANANA DAIQUIRIS. Thank you to Veronica of Supermarket Serenades for selecting this recipe!

Some ripe mangos, some banana, a dash (...or a bit more) of rum... where can you go wrong? Well, in my case, I went wrong with the lime juice. The secret hidden ingredient in the recipe. Don't get me wrong, this was still a very tasty beverage. But I think I may have been a bit heavy handed with the lime juice as that the lime flavor overtook much of the mango/banana flavoring. No worries though, we still enjoyed the drinks quite a bit. And next time, I'll just be a little less zealous with my citrus additions.

Enjoy! (By the way, these were so simple to make, perfect for having a party and just blending up a batch)

serves 4
2 cups chopped ripe mango (1 to 2 mangos, peeled and seeded)
1 ripe banana, chopped
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
1/4 cup sugar syrup*
1 1/4 cups dark rum, such as Mount Gay
Mango slices, for serving

Place the mango, banana, lime juice, sugar syrup, and rum in a blender and process until smooth. Add 2 cups of ice and process again until smooth and thick. Serve ice-cold in highball glasses with the mango slices.

*To make simple syrup, heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Chill.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jordan: Where in the World Wednesday!

How is it Wednesday already?? How time flies by!

My friend, the lovely Miss Jamie, is our guest tour guide today and brings us to Jordan. Although presently residing in Northern Virginia, Jamie travels a lot and in the past few years, her travels have brought her to extended stays in Jordan. On her trips, she has stayed in the capital, Amman, and some of her other favorite spots have been were Petra, the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum. Thanks so much Jamie for taking part in Where in the World Wednesday!

(1) Describe food in Jordan in 10 words or less:

Traditional mezza style. Delicious and healthy! Lots of chick peas.

(2) Are there any dishes that you think are traditional of Jordan? Have you come across any favorites?

Traditional Jordanian dishes include hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush, falafel, and chicken/beef shawarma. I love them all! My favorite is simple hummus with olive oil and bread as a starter and chicken shawarma for the meal.

(3) Do you find that Jordanian food is influenced by certain ethnicities or cultures or religions? If so, which ones?

Jordanian food is similar to the foods of its neighboring countries. They have a lot of mixed BBQ and kebabs which is actually Lebanese in origin.

(4) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of Jordan to take home for a friend, what would you include in it?

Hummus, olive oil, bread, various Jordanian cheeses (unfortunately I don't know what any of them are called but they have a lot of different types of white cheeses) and lots of Jordanian pastries and candy. The most popular one is called Kanafeh, which is a flaky stringy pastry.(7)

(5) Have you had any particularly memorable Jordanian food experiences? Anything you've heard about that you want to try?

On my first trip, we stayed over night in a traditional Bedoin camp in Wadi Rum, a desert in southern Jordan. Our hosts made us a feast for dinner including chicken that was baked in coals and then buried 3 feet in the sand. The chicken baked this way for about an hour. It was the best chicken I've ever had, the meat literally melted off the bones. I guess baking it in the sand and pressure allowed the chicken to marinate in its own juices making it extremely tender and savory.

Thank you Jamie for taking part!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

BB: Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

Oh so behind, again, in posting for Barefoot Bloggers! The end of July meant for very tasty peaches and blueberries... perfect for this Peach and Blueberry Cobbler selected by Aggie of Aggie's Kitchen for the second July Barefoot Bloggers recipe!

I love both peaches and blueberries. Love love love. So the idea of warming them up, making them oh so gooey, and bringing out their best flavors sounded divine to me. After just a few minutes after popping this cobbler into the oven, our house smelled SO GOOD. Cinnamon-y, peach-y... everything warm and comforting with a touch of summer.

Now, I decided to make my cobbler in one large ceramic container instead of the individual ramekins. This worked out just fine -- all the fruits cooked up very nicely. But this resulted in lots of excess crumbles... I ended up dumping part of the crumbles because it just seemed like too much for the top of my cobbler. But I was wrong. I think if you were to do this, you should probably use all of the crumbles. Because when I would reheat up bits and bites of the cobbler a few days later, the crumbles would just get lost in all the fruit -- more crumbles I think would have solved this problem ... at least in part.

I quite liked this cobbler. Loved all the flavors involved. I would try it again -- and probably try mixing up the fruits a bit depending on the season.

The Recipe: Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

For the fruit

  • 2 lbs firm, ripe peaches (6-8 peaches)
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

For the Crumble

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

3. For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it’s in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and back for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you want to make these early, store the unbaked crumbles int he refrigerator and bake before dinner. Serves 5 to 6.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: Where in the World Wednesday!


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"Where in the World Wednesday" brings us today to the west coast of Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula. Our guide today is Martha, who creates beautiful pottery in her studio in Costa Rica (see above for some of her pieces!). Martha moved to Costa Rica in 2005.

She told me that the Nicoya Peninsula is one of the 5 blue zones where people are said to live the longest on earth. The research conducted on the blue zones was shot in the mountains in this part of Costa Rica.

Martha was so kind to answer my questions about Costa Rica! I visited Costa Rica in 2007, but only a brief trip to Arenal and Tamarindo. But that was enough to whet my interest (and my appetite!) about Costa Rica...

(1) How would you describe "Costa Rican" cuisine, particularly in your area?

The Nicoya Peninsula is part of the Guanacaste province. Until it was annexed to Costa Rica in, I think 1824 it was a separate country and has a little different culture and cuisine. It could be compared to Texas in the US. It is a ranching area, where stick to your ribs food is customary.

(2) Are there any dishes that you think are traditionally Costa Rican?

Costa Rica is especially fond of chicken. They fix it many different ways. Typically very well cooked, we might call it overcooked. Cooked to death. Rice and beans with everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, with salsa, of course.

And for drinks, they usually have fruit juices. I especially like Tamarindo, it is fruity and sweet. Mixed fruit drinks are popular, using watermelon with citrus.

Here in Junquillal, to make money, some of the local ladies cook and sell door to door. I have tasted pastries that the locals truly relish and I can hardly stand to eat. Their idea of sweet is nothing like in the US, they use lots more cinnamon and less sugar.

Tamales are a big deal, made and shared at Christmas the way we do Christmas Cookies in the US. They are made with corn meal, meat in the center, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled till done.

(3) Do you have a favorite local dish or restaurant?

When I go to town, I love to eat at Rico Pollo Rico (Rich Chicken) where you get great fried chicken and fries. They always give you mayonnaise and ketchup for dipping. (?)

Another restaurant I like is a "tipica soda", meaning Costa Rican restaurant, called the Tortilla Factory. They serve great food with hand made tortillas cooked in an outdoor wood heated oven. The rest of the food is cooked inside the restaurant on wood fires. Huge pots full of rice, beans, chicken, beef, pork, vegetables and they like cheese on the side, of course sour cream and HOT salsa.

I lived in North Carolina for 35 years prior to moving to to Costa Rica. Fried food and "pulled" barbeque were the staple. Probably why I like my fried chicken here in Costa Rica. But miss the fried flounder you get at the fish camps in NC. I miss hush puppies, but the corn tortillas are great!

4) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of Costa Rica for a friend that was visiting you from overseas, what would you include in it? (also assuming that none of the food items would go bad in the basket!)

Certainly would have to include coffee. The best I have ever tasted. There are several great brands, I like Rey in particular.

Bananas and pineapple are grown here and very cheap. But the favorite fruit among Costa Ricans is the orange. You can find them sold on street corners everywhere, with a man using an orange peeler, taking off only the orange skin, leaving the white part. They sell them in bags, peeled. You punch a hole and suck the juice out, squeezing it until finished. The skins are everywhere. When I first came here, I couldn't figure out what I was seeing on the beaches, and on the streets. But it beats plastic bottles littering the streets.

(5) Do you find that the food in Costa Rica has been greatly influenced by certain ethnicities? If so, which ones?

Typical Central American food, like in Mexico. I'm not sure though if that is influence, or normal for the continent.

(6) Where could you get a good meal and a drink for the equivalence of US$15 and what would you get?

I hear many speak about the great seafood they get locally at reasonable prices, less than $15 a person. A typical Costa Rican restaurant is very inexpensive. But international restaurants tend to be quite expensive. Here in Junquillal, a couple can spend as much as $175 for an Italian meal, which I heard tasted very good.

Thank you Martha for participating!