Oct 5, 2010

Simple Sesame Noodles

On Mondays I'm usually feeling either still full from the weekend ("Diet starts on Monday!") or not motivated to cook anything too complicated. I was recently browsing one of my go-to recipe websites, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and under her section of favorites, I came across a recipe for Simple Sesame Noodles, which was the perfect Monday night dish.

It looked easy, delicious, and most importantly -- I already had all the ingredients I needed:
  • Spaghetti noodles (this recipe is probably better with an Asian-style noodle, but trust me, the spaghetti will do!)
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced (I used only one and it was plenty, but it's up to you!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Pure Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hot Chili Oil (ok I lied, I didn't have this ingredient, but I subbed in Sriracha, which is probably even better!)
  • 4 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Hot Water
  • 4 whole Green Onions, sliced thin
All I did was mix all the ingredients together (minus the green onions and spaghetti), then after the spaghetti was cooked, I poured the sauce over top, gave it a good mix, then topped it all off with the green onions and a couple extra squirts of Sriracha. Also, since I happened to have some broccoli on hand, I steamed some up and added it to the spaghetti before the sauce went in. It added some nice veggie crunch and made the dish seem more like a complete meal.

I really dig the soy sauce-sugar-rice vinegar-sesame oil, which I've used before in other recipes, but never with noodles. I actually have some unused sauce left over, which I can easily use as a marinade for fish or meat, or to make this dish again! 

Sep 27, 2010

Chili & Football!

Though most of last week was still quite summery with temps in the '90s, when I found out it would be in the low '70s and rainy on Sunday, I thought that was enough of a weather change to make my favorite fall/football meal -- chili!

To make things more exciting, the Colts game was actually aired locally, so we set up both our TVs in the living room to convert our place into a sports bar. Great idea, right?

Our sports bar set up

Also, puppy Reilly -- in her new Redskins gear -- made her first visit to our place to enjoy the afternoon (and eat hot dogs for the first time!)

While in the past I've used our crockpot to prepare this chili recipe, I a) woke up too late for the 6 hours of slow cooking it would require, and b) wanted to use the beautiful Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart round dutch oven (in Caribbean teal!) that John got me for my birthday.

I went with Paula Deen's Taco Soup recipe which has always been tasty and involves some nice shortcuts (e.g. Taco seasoning!) that don't sacrifice any flavor or deliciousness.

Huan brought up hot dog supplies and also some pâté chaud (courtesy of My Chau!) to complete the Sunday feast. We ate the chili out of a bowl, with Fritos, for our late lunch/snack portion of the day, then for dinner we finished off the chili on hot dogs.

... and on a dog!

Despite another disappointing Redskins loss, it was a nice afternoon of football and food... two of my favorite things!

More images available on Flickr.

Aug 31, 2010

My Chau's Baby Back Ribs

One of the great parts about living close to my parents is that my mom always wants to send me home with tons of food, whether leftovers or ingredients for future dishes. As a Costco shopper, she usually has tons of things in bulk that she's more than happy to share with me. This past weekend, in addition to random necessities like crushed red pepper and garlic, she gave me a rack of ribs in a marinade, ready for cooking. How could I turn it down?

As ribs go, these aren't your traditional American BBQ ribs; rather, the use of fish sauce (nuoc mam) makes this a Vietnamese recipe and it is mmm mmm good!

The marinade is prepared as follows (recipe courtesy of My Chau):
  • dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1 cup warm water
  • add 1/3 cup fish sauce (nuoc mam - Squid brand preferred) and 2 tbsp of chopped lemongrass
  • adjust marinade sauce to your taste (add sugar, water or nuoc mam as needed)
  • add ribs to marinade and leave overnight
  • in the morning, flip the rib over to marinate the other sid
  • before cooking, take ribs out of fridge to allow them to reach room temperature
  • cook the ribs for one hour at 350 degrees in the oven (flip the rib rack over halfway through cooking)
  • after an hour, turn the broiler on and broil about 10 minutes or until the ribs have a nice warm brown color

Once the ribs have cooled, slice them up and enjoy with your favorite sides!* The ribs were perfectly cooked: the edges were crisp, but the meat came easily off the bone. This was a perfect Sunday night dinner and I'll be sure to make it again! Thanks, mom!

My Chau's lemongrass baby back ribs

*my favorite sides would usually consist of white rice or some other carb, but we had some veggies on hand and I decided to be good and eat those instead!

Aug 30, 2010

It Must Be Love

Today marks the official start of the U.S. Open, one of my favorite sporting events ever. The tournament always coincides with Labor Day weekend, and while I haven't made my way up to Flushing Meadows in a few years, at one time it was a family tradition to travel up to New York to catch a few of the live matches. More recently I've been spectating from the couch, but even then, I have plenty of fond memories of watching (or even live-gchatting the matches, as is often the case) this tournament with my family, an avid group of tennis fans.

This year, the NY Times has led into the Open with some great coverage of the men and women's game and some great player profiles. I don't know about you, but I'm rooting for Rafa to get his first Open win this year to complete his career Grand Slam.

Finally, I hate to admit it, but I'm a total sucker for the "It Must Be Love" promo videos they've been showing. I get chills every time I see one! Such a cheeseball.

Aug 29, 2010

Rebel Heroes (Banh Mi food truck)

Rebel Heroes appeared on the scene back in April when I first posted about the food truck frenzy taking over the city. Their tag line, "revolutionizing the sub with our Banh Mi food truck" definitely intrigued me, and I was curious as to how it would measure up to a $2.50 Banh Mi from Eden Center. However, I never followed Rebel Heroes on Twitter because they were based out of Arlington and never came into DC (so what if I'm a city snob?).

Rebel Heroes food truck

Last week, when I was in Clarendon taking my sad MacBook to the Genius Bar, I finally had the chance. Even though my stomach was feeling a little off and I wasn't quite hungry for dinner, as soon as I saw the truck parked, I knew I'd have to make a stop.

The Rebel Heroes menu is divided into two sections: The Old Guard (which includes traditional banh mi offerings, such as roast pork, pork meatball, and chicken), and The Rebels, which are based off banh mi but updated either with different ingredients (as I understand, the main update is the addition of swiss cheese) or preparation (some of the sandwiches can be pressed).

Rebel Heroes menu (pardon the glare)

Naturally, I went for what seemed most traditional - the roast pork banh mi from The Old Guard menu, for $5.50. The service, while friendly, did seem to be a little chaotic, but it could have been due to the fact that they were about to close up shop in addition to trying to be quick/rush the food. It turns out I got the second to last sandwich of the evening, so no matter the issues, I was happy to walk away with something to try.

The sandwich itself, while not identical to what you'd find at Eden, was very satisfying and delicious. The combination of the house mayo, cilantro, jalapenos and pickled veggies really came together nicely. I especially enjoyed the addition of scallions, which added extra flavor and crunch to the sandwich. The only thing that seemed lacking was that I could barely taste the meat. The pork was sliced very thinly and there wasn't much in the sandwich, so the meat itself took a back seat to all the supporting ingredients.


I'd be curious to try one of the "Rebel" varieties to see how the basics of banh mi translate to other sandwich varieties. While nothing beats the bang-for-your-buck banh mi from a traditional Vietnamese mom and pop shop, if Rebel Heroes was parked downtown, I could definitely see myself rotating it into my regular set of lunch options.

Aug 26, 2010

We, the Pizza

I'd been pretty excited to try former Top Cheftestant Spike's new pizza joint since I heard it was coming to town, but I also wanted to wait out the hype that comes with any new DC opening (and with "celebrity" chefs in particular). Last night I finally made the trip to the Hill to give his pizza pies a shot.

Upon walking into We, the Pizza, I felt like I could have been in Good Stuff Eatery (which is directly next door). The decor and arrangement and feel is nearly identical. However, the ground floor of We, the Pizza felt hotter than it was outside - perhaps due to the multitude of pizza ovens they have set up. And after finishing the meal upstairs and coming back down to leave, it seemed as though something had been burning because the whole ground floor was smoky and hot.. not ideal.

The good news was, there was hardly a line at all so my dining pals and I ordered immediately. Since I'd reviewed the menu prior to arriving (duh), I already knew what I wanted to try.

I ordered two slices on my inaugural visit: the White Pizza (Today’s ricotta, fontina, roasted garlic, Parmesan, mozz, sea salt, olive oil, fresh Italian parsley) and the Roasted Potato and Pancetta Pie (Roasted local spuds, pancetta, caramelized onions, our tomato sauce, mozz, fresh rosemary). Each came in at $4 a slice, which seemed a little steep, given they weren't astronomically large and that they priced a basic Pepperoni slice (which John picked) at the same rate.

Things didn't start off great when, upon taking the first bite of his Pepperoni slice, John said, "This tastes like Alberto's," which is a late-night basement pizza joint that serves up similarly priced slices (but at least twice the size). I mean, we love Alberto's, but I think We, the Pizza was going for more sophistication.

We, the Pizza

The potato pie was nothing to write home about. Given it was the first potato pizza I'd ever eaten, I was expecting to be blown away by the flavor, and I felt it lacking in salt or seasoning, which was surprising given that's precisely what you'd expect from pancetta. The only thing that really jumped out was the rosemary, which appeared in sporadically huge chunks and was thus overpowering to the point that I had to take some off the slice.


The white pizza was probably the best of the night. I'm a sucker for that salty, garlicky flavor, and this one really hit the spot. The only complaint I have about it was that by the time I got to it, it was about room temperature. As someone who likes my food piping hot, I felt like they could have reheated the pizzas in the oven for a tad longer. I'd rather have the possibility of burning the roof of my mouth from that first bite than eating lukewarm food.


All told, the pizzas were good, not great, and while most of my issues are minor (pizza not hot enough, no ice in the soda fountain, smoky kitchen area), they add up to just a mediocre experience. It seems like We, the Pizza has a bit of an identity crisis - in its attempt to serve up simple, New York-style slices while also trying to be slightly "gourmet," it gets stuck somewhere in the middle. If I lived on the Hill I could see myself stopping in for a random slice when in search of a quick dinner, but I'm not sure I'll be so quick to travel across town for it again.

Aug 18, 2010

Rainy Day Rec: Ray LaMontagne

For the past week, I've been streaming Ray LaMontagne's latest album, God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise, courtesy of NPR's wonderful First Listen. The album was officially released yesterday, and I finally got around to downloading it from eMusic tonight. The first song I played? "New York City's Killing Me," my current favorite -- and the perfect rainy Wednesday tune for winding down. Now, putting my feet up and pouring a glass of wine... Happy hump day, everyone!

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