Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2012

A Meatless Monday Meal Without Planning

Another Meatless Monday has come and gone and the best laid plans of Al and Cyn....well, you know the rest. Over the weekend, like we usually do, we talked about a couple of possible dishes. First, there was going to be a lentil and pasta dish that sounded very yummy. It was from a recipe I found on Lidia Bastianich's website. For those of you who may not know who Lidia is, you need to check her out here. If you ever have the opportunity to go to one of her restaurants, do. One of the five best meals I've ever had was at her flagship restaurant in NYC, Felidia.

At some point, I think it was Sunday afternoon, the plan had morphed into a vegetable lasagna that Cynthia has been dying to make. By the time we went to bed that night, we hadn't reached consensus and I gave Cyn the green light to surprise me. Fast forward to Monday and that's when everything changed.

It was a beautiful 65 degree day in Northern Virginia and while I was at work, Cyn couldn't resist getting …

Really, really local food

One of the best ways you can go local and 'get in touch' with where your food comes from is to grow it yourself. Almost everyone at some point or another has brought home a little pot of herbs as an impulse buy from the supermarket, tried to nurse a Christmas rosemary through the winter, or been seduced by the seedling tomato plants at their local garden center. All get snapped up for the promise of helping make a tasty meal even tastier and the satisfaction of having grown it oneself.
Some of us like to take that promise of food nirvana and turn into a hobby. WARNING: this hobby may turn into a slight obsession, primarily after sampling your first heirloom tomato, still warm from the sun. Or opening your coldframe in January or February and harvesting mixed greens for a sublime salad, the produce so fresh and tender, it needs little more than a sprinkle of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of your favorite oil.
Mesclun mix is a lovely combination of greens, lettuce…

A Vegetarian Sheperds Pie Even A Cattleman Can Love


Most weeks I let Cynthia pick what we have for Meatless Monday dinner. I'm never disappointed, This week however, over the weekend I asked her to make a lentil Sheperds Pie. I had been bouncing around the internet and had seen a couple of different vegetarian recipes. We both love traditional Sheperds Pie, so it seemed a good idea to try a vegetarian version.

As she typically does, Cynthia decided to use the recipe as the only slightest of suggestions. What we ended up with was a lentil and mushroom Sheperds Pie that was richly satisfying and gave both a mouth feel and taste that was distinctively "meaty" but was completely vegetarian.

Here's what she came up with.
Ingredients 1 1/2 cup French green lentils
1 small onion
4 cloves 1 garlic clove 8 oz package of baby portobello mushrooms, diced
2 tsp grape seed oil
1 small shallot 1/2 tsp thyme  1/4 cup Maderia
1 oz sweet butter 2 carrots, 1/4 inch diced 1 leek, white part in 1/2 inch dice, green part fine chopped 1 …

"He who controls the Spice, controls the universe!"

Do you know the quote? It's from the 1984 movie adaptation of the novel Dune, the seminal SciFi novel written by the great Frank Herbert and spoken by his creation Baron Harkonnen. The spice he refers to is an illicit geriatric drug the gives the user a longer life span and heightened awareness.

For the purposes of this post, I'd like to paraphrase a bit and say that:

"She who controls the spice(s), controls the food."
Here, spice is neither illicit nor a drug, and I don't know if it will increase my life span but it certainly does provide me with heightened awareness (of the food).

Used correctly, spices elevate food from sustenance to the realm of pleasure and can activate any or all of the 5 elements of taste perception: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami.
There seems to be a belief, held by many, that "spicy" food means "hot" food. Although peppery hot food is certainly spicy, not all spicy food is hot. Far from it. There are literally t…

Building a Better Taco - From Leftovers!

Some of the best meals come from leftovers because, at least in my opinion, many foods seem to reach their peak of flavor a day or even two after cooking. In our house, with only the two of us to eat what we cook, there are almost always leftovers - this makes me happy.

The other day I wrote about the Spicy Pork Tenderloin that we had for Valentine's Day dinner. There was plenty of pork left over that we knew would only get better after a few days. On Thursday we decided to make tacos using the pork, but in keeping with our commitment to less meat in our diets, we decided to use  the pork more as a flavoring than as the featured element.

So, we waded into the refrigerator and started pulling out a little of this and that to construct our tacos. It didn't take long to realize we would need tortillas and that we didn't have any - that's when Cyn decided to make them from scratch. It was actually a pretty simple matter of combining flour, salt, non-hydrogenated vegetable …

Valentine's Day Dinner - Spicy Pork Tenderloin

One of the many perks of being married to my beautiful and talented wife is her ability to produce a restaurant quality meal at home. So, when she told me I could have anything I wanted for Valentine's Day dinner, I quickly asked for for the Spicy Pork Tenderloin she had made several times in the past. The recipe is based on one from the Gourmet Cookbook, one of Cyn's favorite cookbooks that complies many of the best recipes from Gourmet Magazine.

I love pork, in fact, I love almost anything from the pig (OK, maybe not scrapple). For me, it's more than just "the other white meat". It is a perfect canvas for a wide variety of dishes that run the gamut from subtle to in your face . This one is clearly in the latter camp. Here is her version of the recipe.

Adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients (for pork)
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Cyn's house made curry powder (you can use a store bought curry powder too)
2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 po…

Dairy Free Mexican Chocolate Pudding...

You've read it here before. I'm not much of a dessert guy. It's not that I don't like sweets, I just prefer savory foods and I have to put a lid on the calorie count somewhere. Last night however, as part of our weekly Meatless Monday dinner, Cyn made a dairy free, vegan, Mexican chocolate pudding that was pretty amazing. Once again she has managed to successfully sneak tofu into my diet - and get me to like it! If you love rich chocolaty desserts, you'll love this.

1 14 oz package of silken tofu
12 oz of semi sweet chocolate chips (she used Ghirardelli)
1/3 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil)
2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chile powder

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, coolfold in the tofu, simple syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon and chile powderblend on high speed for 1-1 1/2 minutes (using a hand mixer may take a little longer)refrigerate the mixture in a container until fully chilled and setThis recipe …

Forbidden black rice with scallions and sweet potatoes...

It was another Meatless Monday and Cyn was looking for something new to make for us. We've committed to trying to not go back to the "same old" things each week. After all, one of the benefits of Meatless Monday should be to expand your horizons into new vegetables, grains and other non-meat products.

One of her favorite sources of inspiration is This time found she stumbled onto a recipe which included a somewhat unusual ingredient - forbidden black rice. Forbidden rice is a strain of Chinese black ricewhich is considered to be both food and medicine in China. Forbidden rice takes on a dark purple color when cooked because it is rich in anthocyanins, which act as powerful antioxidants. The rice contains more vitamin B, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc than white rice.

The ":forbidden" name comes from the belief that, in ancient China, this strain was reserved for the Emperor and his subjects were forbidden from consuming it…

Tomato Pie, Porkroll and Oyster Crackers

I'm originally from Trenton, NJ. I don't say I grew up there because I run the risk of being reminded that I haven't quite grown up yet, but that's another story and not at all the subject of this post.

Trenton is the state Capital but has always suffered by being somewhat equidistant from New York and Philadelphia. It's not famous for very many things. There's the "Trenton Makes, The World Takes" bridge

spanning the Delaware River. That catchy slogan refers to the fact that Trenton, in it's heyday, was a highly industrialized center of manufacturing specializing in pottery, suspension bridges, iron, steel and rubber products, mostly, those days are gone.

There was the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, where George Washington crossed the Delaware river from Pennsylvania to surprise and defeat the Hessians. This was Washington's first victory and may have been the turning point of the Revolutionary War. Trenton was even briefly the Capi…

Tallula's in Arlington, VA

So, it was the first Saturday of the month already and we needed to pick a restaurant from the Top 50 in Northern Virginia list. Originally, we had settled on a restaurant in bucolic Clifton, VA called Trummer's on Main, but after looking at their most recent online menu we felt uninspired and went back to the drawing board. Cyn did the research while I shivered in the arctic temperatures of Amsterdam. Her suggestion? A restaurant called Tallula in Arlington, VA, much closer to Washington, DC. I think it was the gnudi that got her. More about that later.

Tallula turned out to be a rather discreet atmosphere, almost club-like, with lots of wood and low lighting. I liked the feel as soon as I walked in. Since we both had appetizers, mains and desserts, I thought it might be fun to alternatively record our thoughts on each course.


I settled on a roasted sweet potato soup with whipped goat cheese, chorizo oil and pumpernickel croutons for my first course. Since I like my hot soups …

A quick and easy Meatless Monday meal...

Sometimes you're in a hurry, or you get home late from work and haven't planned dinner. The fridge looks pretty sparse or you just don't feel like peeling, washing, shopping, sauteing or any of the other cooking chores that need to be done.

Well, that happens to us sometimes and when it's Meatless Monday, we have a fallback plan. Grilled cheese! Everyone likes grilled cheese, right? We do too, but not that white bread slathered with butter and filled up with Kraft singles that our Moms (bless them) made for us.

We like to keep a pretty wide variety of cheeses in the house at all times. In fact, here's a picture of what is on hand today. I pulled them all out of the refrigerator to take this shot.

Another "must have" for us in some sort of frozen rolls, you know, just in case. We find that the Alexia brand Ciabatta rolls with rosemary and extra virgin olive oil toast up beautifully. In fact, we're not big users of prepared foods but everything we'v…


That's right, Wagamama. It's a British based, Japanese inspired, pan-asian chain of restaurants located mainly in Europe (there are two in the US, both in Boston). They serve fresh, affordable and delicious food in a casual and fun atmosphere. In Japanese, Wagamama means a 'naughty child'. Willful and determined, the child that is said to be 'wagamama' demands constant attention and is unable to comprehend why its desires cannot be instantly gratified. I suspect this is clearly where the brand gets some of its cheekier elements!

In my opinion, there is no better place to have a meal with friends, particularly on that first night in Europe when you're trying to beat the jet lag. It's bright, loud, fun and fast. I took a party of ten to the Wagamama in the Leidseplein area of Amsterdam last Sunday.

The menu is full of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai foods that you will probably be familiar with. They also serve beer, sake and wine. We ordered a lot of…

Meatless Monday in Amsterdam

When I realized that I was going to be in Amsterdam on a Monday, I immediately started to wonder what the challenges of staying meatless might be. For those of you that travel, I'm sure you know that meals can often be scripted, restaurants can be chosen for you and food options can sometimes be limited. Now don't get me wrong, Amsterdam is a completely cosmopolitan city with a very broad and exciting food scene. I just didn't know in advance where I would be eating my three Monday meals.

Breakfast was easy. I ate at the hotel buffet and able to stick with fresh fruit, cereal and yogurt. OK, I admit there might have been some aged Gouda cheese that migrated onto my plate. I'm in Amsterdam after all. Have to eat the Gouda while over here.

Lunch was during a scheduled meeting, brought in by the meeting organizer. I had called ahead to one of my European colleagues and mentioned I was not eating meat on Monday's and after explaining that no, I wasn't a vegetarian,…