Tuesday, July 29, 2008

From the Internet to the Television

Thank you all for visiting my blog! For my returning visitors, good to have you back and for everyone who is new, Welcome!

I write this blog because I love to eat, and what is more, I love the stories behind my food. I'm passionate about flavor and I want to share that with as many people as possible.

This week, I was interviewed by NBC4, for a piece in the Health Section. Anchor Doreen Gentzler investigated confusing food labels at the grocery store and her cameras peeked into my kitchen for a college student's perspective on buying organic.

I'd love to hear your comments, questions and suggestions about my blog. I want to write about what you want to know about!

Thank you again, and Keep Eating!


Java Green for your Greenbacks

If you want your milk from a nut and your meal completely raw, be ready to shell out some serious change. But you'll get a product that is natural as can be. Eating the food at Java Green is like putting pure energy and health straight into your mouth. Java Green Eco Cafe, the vegetarian, organic, and fair trade focused restaurant in Washington DC’s “Golden Triangle” business district is a haven for vegans and vegetarians but has tasty treats for everyone. Except perhaps your wallet. So, before you settle down for a Raw Vanilla Latte at $8 and a $9 dollar Bi-Bim Bob Salad, you better know what you're getting.

First, what is so special about this place? Well initially, it lets you be pretentious about environmental issues by contributing 2% of your final bill to green-friendly charities. But on a less sarcastically scathing note, this little café is focused on the right things: your health, the community’s health and the planet’s health. Not to mention, I've met the owner, and he is just as sincere and good natured as one could possibly hope. He really wants you to be healthy.

Second, if you’re going to dine, understand what you’re eating. What the heck is raw bread? The raw diet consists of totally unprocessed uncooked foods, so a raw bread is sprouted grains densely compacted together. "Bird Food!" DJ, the owner told me. The same concept applies for the frappes on the menu, a regular frappe is made with soymilk which is processed (cooked) and a raw frappe is made with nut milk. DJ explained this concept to me: the nuts (usually almonds) are soaked then ground and strained. Some sweet agave nectar and spices are added to give the protein filled liquid a kick. You can actually get this in the store if you really fall in love with it. It is similar to soy milk but rounder feeling in the mouth.

Lastly, lets get to my meal. I've made friends with one of the chefs, Joe, and he put together a sampling of four raw salads: kimchee, Kale, Cucumber Radish, and Seaweed. I loved the kale, the sweetness of the marinade did not mask the crucifer’s pungent flavor, but rather heightened its intensity. White sesame seeds were a nice earthy accent. The radish salad capitalized on the daikon’s mild flavor. Please don’t bother with the kimchee here. Decent, but not breath taking. And the seaweed, well, its an aquired taste and texture.

Somehow, after I'd filled up on veggies, I managed to eat a cookie the size of my face. Vegan of course. Without the benefit of butter, the cookie was crumbly, but the vegan chocolate was deliciously rich and creamy.

So, Java Green….worth it? Yes! Stop in to try something unusual and appreciate if for what it is (not to mention the enormous health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle). And it really is good all around, fresh fresh fresh and burgeoning with flavor. But don’t make a habit out of it, it really is wicked expensive.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cooking tips I learned, or relearned this weekend.

I decided to do a little baking and settled on Irish Soda bread: quick, easy and toastable. Yet leaving my GW digs in two weeks, I didn’t want to stock up on ingredients. Hampered by circumstance and forced to make due, here is what I learned.

Baking powder can be substituted for baking soda; it takes about three times as much baking powder as baking soda to get the same rising effect.

Buttermilk isn’t a common item at college supermarkets….obviously. So I made my own: 1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar into one cup milk and let stand for ten minutes. It isn’t as thick, but gets the job done.

That’s all; sweet and to the point, just like the Soda Bread.

(Info from Cooks Illustrated. If you don't have a subscription, I highly recommend it. Science, Cooking, Eating. What better?)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Richard in the House!!!

Today I must take a moment to digress from food in favor of fitness. Yesterday, I met a guru. He’s loud, he’s most definitely proud, and I’ll be damned if you don’t feel great about yourself after 5 minutes in a room with him.

Ladies and Gentlemen may I present Richard Simmons, with guest appearances by the United States Congress! Today, Simmons testified in front of the House Committee on Education and Labor to champion his life long cause: the battle against obesity and low self esteem.

Immediately after the hearing, Simmons traded the brown pinstripe suit for a red bedazzled tank top and led a “fitness rally” on the steps of the Cannon building. Lawyers, congresspeople and tourists alike raised hands in the air and shook their groove thing to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Dancing in the Streets.”

And then, dear readers, He kissed me. I may never wash my left temple again! (Tee hee, just joking!)

Let me leave you with a quote from Mr. Simmon’s testimony:

“When you’re feeling great about yourself, when you have self esteem and self respect, there isn’t anything you can’t do!”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Food of the Week: Lentils

On Sunday nights, I like to get in the kitchen and play around a bit. When I do it right, Ill have dinner and a perfect lunch for work. This weekend I bought a bag of green lentils. They looked like small mossy pebbles newly unearthed from the muddy earth.

Basing a weeks worth of meals around the lentil is kind to your pocket book and gift to your body (and it prevents that ill-conceived sandwich of left over hoisin bok choy and hickory turkey made in a rush at 7 am.)

Lentils are one of the oldest cultivated foods; archeologists have found lentil seeds in the Middle East dating back 8000 years. A member of the bean family, lentils are chock full of protein and fiber, about 17 grams of each per cup. The lentil is a complex carbohydrate which provides long lasting energy. Complex carbs are simple carbs chemically bonded together. Our body gets energy when those bonds are broken; because this process is slow, each lentil lunch fills me up and keeps me powered long into the afternoon. Eating lentils is also a great way to show your heart some love. High levels of magnesium and folate found in the legume are essential for good cardiovascular health.

The great beauty of the lentil is its versatility. Personally, I simply emptied the bag in to a pot, covered them with an inch of water (this depends on the type of lentil you choose) added a bouillon cube and let heat do the rest. Then, I doctored them up with red onion, feta and a light vinaigrette, but you can do so many other things too! Check out these easy options.

Salmon with Lentils and Mustard Herb Butter -- Classic French dish, and oh so flavorful
Lentil Salad with Tomato and Dill-- A wonderful excuse to go to the farmer's market midweek!
Curried Lentil and Spinach Soup -- Cold in that air conditioning? Try an easy soup!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Food of the Week: Celery

“Ellie, can you overdose on celery?” The voice on the other end of the phone line asked. “I was reading about hedge funds all afternoon and I realized I’d eaten almost 10 stalks!” Never fear my dear friend; there is more to celery than “ants on the log.”

The stalky veggie first hit the history books as a medicine. The ancient Romans thought it could cure constipation and hangovers. Just to the east, the Egyptians used the shaft to treat masculine deficiencies and the subterranean tuber (known as celeriac or celery root) for feminine disorders. Perhaps King Tut beat Dr. Freud to the pychosexual punch…

Now, nutritional science has shown that our ancestors weren’t wrong to use celery for its medicinal purposes. With nearly 45% of your daily Vitamin K and 15% Vitamin C, this veggie enhances your immune system, eases internal inflammation and even defends against bad cholesterol. Celery is filled with special compounds called pthalides which relax muscles around individual arteries allowing the blood to flow unrestricted thereby lowering blood pressure.

There are many great ways to include celery in your diet. Not discounting peanut butter and raisins, I think we dig up some more creative ideas. Celery and tomato is a natural marriage, think V8 Juice with a celery stirring stick (Vodka’s not a bad addition to this one). Try celery leaves in a salad or add some slices to a tuna sandwich. Don’t forget that celery yield great flavor to any dish so consider tossing in a few pieces in olive oil along with some onion for a soup, stir fry or pasta.

If you really want to get adventurous, try some of these recipes!

Celery Apple Gazpacho

Celery, Avocado and Bell Pepper Salad with Black Olives

Pineapple Celery Punch

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ceiba: A Review

July 28th, 2008: Mother and Daughter Do Dinner Downtown
The experienced diner knows that going to a restaurant is a gamble; will the chef live up to the expectation? Will each dish be as good as the last? Will you want that next bite? An enthusiastic eater on the other hand, sips her Spanish wine and munches on her freshly baked flat bread with seasoned pumpkin seed spread ready to enjoy the meal. I am both, food lover and opinionated eater. But I always give credit where credit is due, and last week chef owner Jeff Tunks blew my socks off at his Latin American Restaurant Ceiba. From start to finish the meal was lovely. Accompanied by my stylish and adventuresome mother, we tasted the heat and passion of Latin America through five self-designed courses.

We opened our meal with a sampling of ceviches each its own unique dish. I favored the Clasico, fresh lime juice, red onion, cilantro and picante pepper—crisp, fresh and pure. The lightness of this course lifted my palate, preparing it for what came next, arguably one of the best dishes I have eaten in the last year.

Tunks' chili relleno, is a masterpiece. The chef stuffs a large poblano pepper with three kinds of cheese and confit rabbit meat, then sets the lightly fried package atop “blistered tomatillo salsa and grilled corn-black bean relish.” Not one flavor is out of place; the dish sings in perfect harmony. The Conchinita Pibil Yucatan Style ran a close second to the relleno. It boasted incredibly succulent pork, sweet pan-fried plantain and a thick corn pupusa to soak up the juice. A red onion slaw played a cooling staccato to the dish’s warm Latin rhythm.

After salivating over the final drop of my relleno, and before I’d tasted the soft pork, the grilled octopus course was a disappointment. Smothered by a black olive aioli, the normally flavorful sea creature lost its essence and became mealy. The dessert too, didn’t live up to its potential— the smoked apricots should have permeated the eggy flan, but they were sadly cast to the side letting the rather run of the mill custard try to lead the dish. These two dishes however, could hardly detract from the evening.

Ceiba will go down in my books, and the chili relleno may even garner a place on my personal “best dishes ever” list. I’d love to make a return trip: the decor is inviting, the service is top notch and the food bursts with flavor. See if you can spot me some night, I’ll be sitting by the window munching on their homemade caramel corn as I wait for my check.

Click here to see the menu

701 14th Street, N.W.,
Washington DC 20005
(202) 393-3983

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Grill from Ipanema: Review

June 28, 2008: Future Leaders of the World Unite to Dine

After a hot day wandering the city through the mall, markets and museums, the cold citrus-y caipirinha tasted divine. Around 8:00, I met my roommate and three of her friends at The Grill from Ipanema, a Brazilian restaurant in Adams Morgan. The caipianha is to Brazil as the mojito is to Mexico. Muddled with lime, sugar and ice, the drink gets its kick from cachaça, a distilled liquor made from local sugar cane. Making the cachaça is not unlike making wine; the best types are aged for many years in oak barrels. In the States, cheap versions are everywhere, so look for quality brands like Leblon, named for a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro or Agua Luca.

From the beginning, it was a great place to start a night. The waiter and I conversed in a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and English as I ordered jacaré au pantal or alligator with mustard, and Frango ao alho or chicken with garlic rice, collard greens and feijão. The dishes arrived after warm bread rolls and political conversation had cultivated new friendships around the table. The alligator, lightly breaded did indeed taste like chicken, but over salted. I discovered that the Feijão was a combination of red beans, yucca flower, the egg, sausage, onion and parsley not unlike a southern gumbo.

The A Bacate Marajó was easily the best; the meat of half an avocado was scooped out and mixed with big shrimp, green chilies and tomatoes then replaced into the empty shell. The ingredients played off each other beautiful, the smooth weight of the avocado tempered by the shrimp and tomato and zinged up with the chili created a round mouth feel but it was light enough that I wanted that second, third and fourth bite. Yum!

The Grill from Impanema is the ideal place to start an evening. The atmosphere is warm, the people friendly and the drinks potent. The night isn’t about the food, which takes a back seat to the environment. Although the flavors on the menu are exotic to the American tongue, the kitchen is missing that extra something that would kick this restaurant to new gastronomic heights. While I think I’ll be trying new options next time I’m in the neighborhood, I will hold fond memories the alligator and of my waiter!
Comer feliz e goza a noite!

The Grill From Ipanema
1858 Columbia Road, N.W
Washington, DC 20009