We have joined a CSA this year - it stands for Community Supported Agriculture and what it means is that you buy a share in a local farm and they deliver produce to you weekly. The CSA that we joined is Dragonfly Farms and you can read all the information about it here. We got our first share this week and, as you can see, it was packed full with good stuff!
Beautiful! What was in the crate:
1 head of butter lettuce
1 head of Romaine
a big bag of spinach (10-15 oz)
a bunch of asparagus
2 green/spring onions
several stalks of rhubarb
a pint of hothouse strawberries
4 tomatoes on the vine
a pint of English peas
I had been wanting to explore Georgetown for quite some time when I saw I an article in the Washingtonian that inspired me to just go out and do it. The article was focused on Georgetown and highlighted several favorite spots - it even included a map! So on a GORGEOUS day, I hopped on the Metro to Rosslyn, map in hand, and walked across Key Bridge to begin my adventure.
My first stop was to Crepe Amour for breakfast.
It is a tiny, but cute, little place with a modern feel.
The chalkboard menu features a number of savory and sweet crepes - some simple, some unusual (mac-n-cheese, anyone?).
I opted for a simple butter, powdered sugar, and fresh lemon version that was the perfect combo of sweet and sour. I also had a lovely caramel latte.
DEAN & DELUCA
Next, I headed down the street to foodie-heaven grocery Dean & Deluca.
It is a good thing that I don't live a convenient distance from this place or I would spend all my money here. They have some amazing local and imported products from wine to pasta to cheese to whole lobes of foie gras. They have fantastic ready-made food, as well as a sandwich counter, espresso bar, gelateria, chocolate counter, and outdoor cafe (with outlets for your laptops).
I wandered around the back streets and canal area, finding some lovely architecture.
Eventually, I found myself down by the waterfront at a nice little park. I had a great view of Key Bridge on one side and the Kennedy Center on the other.
BAKED & WIRED
After spending some time by the water, I wound my way back up to the coffee and sweets shop cleverly titled Baked & Wired.
Here, baked goods are displayed under a whimsical sea of glass containers.
I decided on an ooey, gooey, caramel apple bar
I happened upon a little Mediterranean cafe and coffee shop that happened to have something I have been searching for - bubble tea with fruit gel as opposed to tapioca balls. I love bubble tea, but can't stand the chewiness of the tapioca. I prefer to get the coconut, pineapple, or lychee flavored gels instead. But I had yet to find a place out here that had them, until now. They also have paninis and crepes.
For lunch, I headed to the Georgetown location of one of my FAVORITE pizzerias - Pizzeria Paradiso. They serve Neapolitan style pizza and have an extensive beer list.
My all-time favorite pizza - Margherita with fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (substituted for an extra $2).
THE GREAT CUPCAKE WAR
Georgetown has many famous bakeries, and the treat du jour seems to be cupcakes. I decided to compare two cupcakeries head to head to see which was better.
The first contender - neighborhood favorite Georgetown Cupcake
The second contender - newcomer Sprinkles
From Georgetown Cupcake, I ordered the Lemon Blossom (lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting, it got a little smushed), the Coconut (coconut cake, vanilla cream cheese frosting, shredded coconut), the Chocolate^3 (Valrhona chocolate cake, chocolate ganache icing, chocolate sprinkles), and the Salted Caramel (caramel cake, salted caramel buttercream icing, caramel drizzle).
From Sprinkles, I ordered the Lemon Coconut (vanilla cake with lemon coconut cream cheese frosting) and the Dark Chocolate (dark chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate frosting and sprinkles).
The Sprinkles coconut lemon had more coconut flavor than lemon, I couldn't taste any lemon actually. The frosting was creamier than the Georgetown cupcake, but Georgetown had a much stronger coconut flavor. The Georgetown lemon had a nice, mild, lemon flavor.
The Georgetown chocolate cake was dry and there was not enough ganache to make up for it. The Sprinkles chocolate was moister with a nice, rich chocolate flavor in both the cake and the frosting.
The Georgetown Salted Caramel was the best of the batch, but it wasn't "salted" enough to my taste.
Neither shop had perfect cupcakes, in my opinion, but they are both good and came out pretty equally.
And with that, my journey through Georgetown has ended. I hope to return again and check out some of the spots I didn't make it to. Next time, though, I will remember to wear sunscreen - I got pretty burned!
Leeks are a fantastic spring vegetable. They have a light onion and garlic flavor, similar to shallots, but much milder. Their smaller cousins, ramps, have a more intense flavor but a shorter peak season - take advantage of them when you can find them. I like to add leeks to pizzas, pastas, soups, and casseroles. Here I combined them with spinach and shrimp in a lovely spring pasta dish.
Swish the leeks around with your hand, then let the dirt settle to the bottom of the bowl - the leeks will float. Scoop the clean leeks out from the top of the water and let drain in a colander for a few minutes.
Add shrimp and lemon zest and cook until opaque.
Shrimp, Leek, and Spinach Pasta
adapted from Real Simple
12 oz gemelli, fusilli, or some other short pasta
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), cut into half-moons
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
grated zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz baby spinach
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot, do not rinse.
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened, 3 - 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and lemon zest and cook, tossing frequently, until the shrimp is opaque throughout, 4 - 5 minutes more. Add the cream and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pasta in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until slightly thickened, 1 - 2 minutes. Add the shrimp mixture and the spinach to the pasta and toss to combine.
I had some left over ingredients from some of my dishes this week: a leek, some shredded zucchini, and some basil. I didn't want these to go to waste so I decided to throw them all together into a quiche - adding a little bacon for flavor and because, well, it's bacon.
I blind baked a pie crust, then sprinkled it with cheese to seal the crust and keep it from getting soggy. I would have liked to use mozzarella or Gruyere, but all I had on hand was Mexican 4-cheese blend.
Bacon, Zucchini, and Leek Quiche
1 refrigerated pie crust
1/4 lb of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, diced
1-2 medium zucchini, shredded or grated
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut into half moons
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1-2 tbsp basil
3/4 cup shredded soft cheese (mozzarella, Gruyere, cheddar)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place pie dough into a 9inch pie pan and press into the bottom. Cover the dough with foil, pressing into the bottom and edges, and fill with pie weights, beans, or rice. Bake for 12 minutes, remove the foil and weights, bake another 5 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool slightly. Sprinkle 1/4 of the soft cheese over the bottom of the crust to seal it. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, place the bacon pieces in a cold skillet and set over medium high heat. Cook until crispy, then set aside on paper towels. Pour off most of the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan. Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded zucchini, the leeks, and 1/2 tsp salt, cook a few more minutes.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, basil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the vegetable mixture, bacon, remaining 1/2 cup soft cheese, and Parmesan to the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pie shell, cover the edges with foil, and bake 35-45 minutes - until the center is set. Cool on a wire rack 10-15 minutes before serving.
When I first saw this recipe, I was thinking - that is a lot of butter, and what's with the Mt Dew? But seriously, this is the most dangerously addictive, unhealthy dessert. It is rich and complex and fantastic. The Mt Dew cooks down into a tangy caramel sauce that is absolutely scrumptious. The recipe makes 16 dumplings, but unless you are feeding an army, you do not want to make that many. They lose their crunchy topping when reheated, and that is one of the best parts. So you only want to make enough to eat immediately - for us, that is 2 dumplings each (or 1/4 of the recipe).
*EDIT* Here are some pictures of the finished product!
All baked and bubbling.
Melting together with some vanilla ice cream. *END EDIT*
adapted from Pioneer Woman
Time: 1 hr Serves: 8
2 granny smith apples
2 cans (8oz) crescent rolls (Pillsbury)
2 sticks salted butter (or add 1/2 tsp salt to 2 sticks unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 can (12oz) Mt Dew Soda
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and core the apples, cut into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place each roll in a buttered 9 x 13 pan. Melt the butter, then add the sugar and barely stir (you want the mixture to by lumpy, that's what makes the tops crunchy). Add the vanilla, barely stir, and pour entire mixture over apples. Pour the Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan, and sprinkle the tops with cinnamon. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the top.
I was watching The Food Network - my favorite channel - when I saw Rachel Ray make this dish. It looked so good that I made it the next day! It is a healthier version than the traditional battered-and-fried, dripping with cheese version. The pepper had a lovely charred, roasted flavor and the rice was vibrant and herbaceous. I don't like spicy food or cilantro so I made a few adjustments (bell peppers instead of poblanos, no jalapenos, parsley instead of cilantro), and it came out wonderfully. I also replaced 1 cup of corn from her vegetarian version with a cup of shredded chicken. You can certainly switch that back to make it vegetarian again.
Charred "Chili Relleno" with Green Rice
adapted from The Food Network
Time: 30 min Serves: 4
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 bay leaf
2 cups white rice
4 large green bell peppers
2 cups frozen corn kernels
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained well (use fire-roasted if you can find them)
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken **see below
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2 lb spinach leaves, deveined and coarsely chopped
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat broiler or grill pan to high. Place peppers under broiler or on hot grill and char evenly all over, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 3 1/2 cups of the stock in a sauce pot with a bay leaf to boiling. Add rice, cover pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer 18 minutes or until tender. Place the parsley, spinach, scallions, lime zest, 1/2 cup of stock and a tbsp of oil in a food processor and process into a coarse green paste. Stir the paste into the rice during the last 3 to 4 minutes of its cooking time.
Meanwhile, defrost corn and dry by spreading out on clean kitchen towel. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over high heat. When the oil smokes or ripples add corn and onion and toss until the vegetables char at edges and onions are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high and add in garlic, tomatoes, and chicken and season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes, remove from heat. Sprinkle the lime juice over the corn mixture.
Split the charred peppers open (but not in half) and scoop out the seeds. Place peppers in a shallow baking dish and stuff each split pepper with lots of the corn mixture, top each pepper with 1/4 cup cheese and place back under the broiler to melt and char the cheese.
Serve the peppers with a big pile of the rice.
**Cooked, shredded chicken is a staple ingredient for me. I always have it around, whether from a rotisserie chicken or poached breasts. I can throw it into any number of dishes to round them out. My favorite method is to poach chicken breasts, then freeze them - thawing and shredding or chopping them when I need to. Below is the method I use to ensure they turn out flavorful and moist.
Place chicken breasts into a large stock pot or dutch oven. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover. Add a couple sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, a few pepper corns, some salt, some halved onions, and roughly chopped celery and carrots. Bring to a boil over high. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat so that it is barely simmering. Simmer for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the chicken sit in the hot liquid for another 15 minutes. Check one breast to make sure it is cooked through. Remove from the liquid, allow to cool completely, then use immediately or freeze.
Pork loin is a relatively inexpensive and lean cut. It takes many flavors well, making it a blank canvas. I like to buy a large loin (10 lbs or so), butcher it myself and freeze 1/2 - 3/4 of the meat - that way I always have some on hand. Below are two fast and easy recipes for boneless chops. As always, have your chops sit out at room temperature for 20 min before cooking to avoid tough meat.
Pan-fried Pork Chops with Mustard-Caper Sauce
adapted from Williams Sonoma
Time: 45 min Serves:4
4 boneless pork loin chops, 1 inch thick
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup semidry white wine
1/3 cup capers
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
Season the chops with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 170 degrees F, place a platter in oven to keep warm. Place a large fry pan over medium-high heat and add half of the oil. Add two of the chops and don't touch them for 3 min, turn and cook another 3 min before transferring to the platter. Repeat with the remaining two chops. Pour off the oil, add the wine to the pan and deglaze. Add the capers and cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, vinegar, pepper to taste. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, whisk in mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon over the chops.
Cranberry Stuffed Pork Chops
Time: 20 min Serves: 4
4 boneless pork loin chops, 1 inch thick
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 tbsp apricot preserves
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine cranberries, preserves, and coriander in a bowl. Cut a deep pocket into each chop, stuff with the cranberry mixture, season the outside with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in an oven safe skillet over medium-high. Brown the chops 2 minutes per side, then transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 4-6 minutes.
Shrimp cooks very quickly, so it is great to use when you need dinner in a hurry. Baking shrimp with wine and garlic adds a lot of flavor while cutting down on active prep work.
Baked Garlic Shrimp
adapted from Real Simple
Time: 25 min Serves: 4
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
4 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
2 tbsp white wine
salt and pepper
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. In a baking dish, combine the shrimp, garlic, white wine, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. In a small bowl, combine the butter, panko, and parsley. Sprinkle panko mixture over the shrimp and bake until the shrimp are opaque, 15 to 18 minutes.
Ah, spring - new beginnings, new growth, and the start of peak veggie season. I am a vegetable fan, but I despise the plain steam treatment, so I am always looking for new ways to incorporate vegetables into fun dishes. Zucchini and spinach are two of my favorites because they are incredibly versatile and easy to add to any dish. One of my favorite spring dishes combines them with pasta and a Gruyere sauce for a creamy, cheesy, and flavorful veggie casserole. You can add in shredded or diced cooked chicken for more protein, if you wish.
Start with fresh, medium sized zucchini - they have fewer seeds and more flavor than larger ones. Also look for vibrant skin - younger, fresher zucchini will have a more tender skin that is easier to eat. Leave the skin on - it has a lot of nutrients!
Spring Shells and Cheese
adapted from The Food Network
Time: 1.5 hrs Serves: 6-8
2 lb medium zucchini
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups whole milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 lb medium pasta shells
4 shallots, minced
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
4 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 oz baby spinach
Grate or shred the zucchini (do not peel) into a colander. Toss with 1 tablespoon salt, then place in the sink to drain for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, nutmeg, cayenne, 2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the raw flour smell cooks out, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, about a cup at a time. Then add the thyme, bay leaves, and lemon zest and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain into a bowl, discarding the herbs.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini mixture to the pasta along with the egg yolks and all but 3 tablespoons of both cheeses. Stir to combine, then add the spinach.
Transfer the mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses. Bake until browned on top and heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Another easy way to incorporate zucchini into a family friendly dish is to bake it with flour, cheese, eggs in a pie dish. This rich, dense, savory pie is sure to be a hit. The original recipe called for Provolone cheese - you can certainly use that, or Mozzarella, but I prefer Gruyere. I also like to add more basil than originally called for.
adapted from Real Simple
Time: 1.5 hrs Serves: 6
3 cups grated zucchini (about 1.5 lbs)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp grated Parmesan
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving 1 tbsp of the Parmesan. Spoon the zucchini mixture into a greased pie plate. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown, sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.