Monday, May 28, 2007

Prickly Pear Cactus Mojito

As I had mentioned a few weeks ago, Kevin and I went to Tucson and while we were there I brought back a souvenir ingredient to try out. Here it is, we made a southwestern twist on the classic mojito. Instead of simple syrup, we used prickly pear cactus syrup! The syrup gives the drink a wonderful magenta and a mild fruity background. It's a very nice, refreshing combination, you should try it!

1 1/2 tablespoon prickly pear cactus syrup
6 to 8 spearmint leaves
juice of 1 lime (about 2 ounces)
2 ounces rum
1 to 1/2 cups cubed or crushed ice
2 ounces club soda

In a tall glass, place the mint leaves, lime juice and the cactus syrup.
Muddle the leaves for 20 seconds to release the mint oils using either a muddler or a wooden spoon.
Add the rum, and stir.
Fill the glass until 3/4 full with ice.
Top off with the club soda club soda.

Makes 1 mojito.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We're on the Foodie BlogRoll!

I don't know if you have noticed, but we've added a wonderful little widget to the right, called the Foodie Blogroll. It all stemmed from a wonderful idea started by Jenn of Leftover Queen, to get a bunch of great food oriented blogs to link to each other. It's only a week old and it seems to be growing at an astounding rate! I invite all of you to check out some of the blogs listed. We're happy to be on the list, and many thanks to Jenn for all her hard work in gathering all these blogs together and maintaining the list!

Click to Join the Foodie Blogroll

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant - Falls Church now open!

Attention all metro DC vegetarians! (And omnivores as well!)
Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant has just opened a new location in Seven Corners, Falls Church. This new location is bigger, sleeker and just as wholesome as the Fairfax spot! Opened this past Tuesday, expect small hiccups, but as always very tasty fare. We had the pleasure of dining there tonight. The dining room was hopping for a Monday night, we think this location will serve the community well.

All the meals served at Sunflower are vegetarian and deliciously prepared pan-Asian specialties with wholesome ingredients and no artificial flavors. Omnivores usually can find something tasty to eat on the menu without missing the meat. This new location boasts several private booths and a couple of rooms for private parties. There were several new menu items, appetizers such as the Japanese BBQ Kebob, a nicely grilled flavorful medley of veggies and meat substitutes served on a bed of greens. Kevin had the mu tea, and a jinenjo soba noodle dish. I ordered perhaps my favorite dish from them so far, a Sunflower Specialty called the Songbird, fresh chunks of soy protein and wheat gluten lovingly dressed in a sweet spicy sauce. Paired with the smokey, fruity longan and jujube tea, the meal was fantastic. Even in its first week of operation, Sunflower exceeded all expectations. The Fairfax location has a much more homey feel, but we like the fact that this restaurant is only a mile away from us! Now we have even more reasons to frequent this wonderful vegetarian restaurant. Check it out!

Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant
6304 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA

Note: The Sunflower website has not been updated with all the information about the Falls Church location, or the expanded menu.

Photo image by alitaylor on stock.xchg

Thursday, May 17, 2007

We got a CSA Share!

Across the city, farmer's markets are opening and Kevin and I have been pretty keen on trying to wake up early on Saturday to hit them up. The key word is 'trying'. After our exhausting work weeks, and trying to relax with friends on Friday night, and needing a break from the annoying alarm clocks, it has been pretty hard for us to get up early enough on Saturday mornings to head down to the farmer's market.

But all is not in vain! Fresh local vegetables are now within our reach, because we signed up for a CSA share! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Participating farms divvy up their crops into shares for consumers like us to purchase. By signing up, we get to have fresh vegetables delivered weekly (for about 5 months) to convenient pickup locations. We also guarantee the farmer a more stable income despite what Mother Nature may have in mind. The vegetables arrive at their peak and when in season. CSA shares are a great way to support local farms, eat more local foods and get the freshest produce. More and more farms are participating each year, so look in your local area for listings.

If you're in the DC metro area, here are some helpful links.

Northern Virginia CSA Farms
DC CSA Farms
Maryland CSA Farms

Our share is with an organic farm in Virginia called Bull Run Mountain Farm. This is our first foray into the world of CSA, and we're very excited. We're hoping that having all these fresh vegetables available to us will help us eat more healthily, and surely these foods will affect the recipes that we blog about here.

ps - Even with all these veggies, we still want to wake up and get ourselves down to the Farmers Markets eventually!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Kevin's been spending a few weekends volunteering at the WETA-FM 90.9 telethon drives. While he was there he got me a gift! Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Because of my lack of upbringing with American home cooking, I am not sure if I can fathom how influential this book was to American cuisine. Originally published in 1961, this book was a huge breakthrough. The writing is clear and concise, the information is so useful. Thinking about all the other books I've perused, I can't think of any other cookbook that has laid things out in such a sensible manner. It is not surprising that this book has become the standard in cookbook writing. The recipes are so tempting, with variations of preparation and presentation. All without the aid of color photographs!

Never having been to France, and having only eaten French meals at a few restaurants, my depth of knowledge on French cuisine is slim. (Does watching Julia and Jacque count?) Needless to say, I've learned a lot about French cuisine from this book. Every kitchen should have it. And of course, if you own it, perhaps this post will serve as a reminder to dust it off and make some recipes out of this oldie but goodie.

Look forward to adaptations on some of these French dishes on the blog!

We went on vacation and we forgot to tell you! Oops!

Sorry about that, we're back now. We spend a week in Tucson, Arizona to attend a beautiful wedding and see Kevin's wonderful parents and brother. (Congratulations Micah and Laura!) I brought home a surprise ingredient, which we'll be making something with shortly, too, so stay tuned for that. It was great weather out there and we got back last week, and then have such great weather out here. We will be attending another wedding this weekend, so recipe posts are going to be slim for a little bit. In the mean time, we're going to alter format slightly and start incorporating posts featuring cookbooks, ingredients, local businesses and other blogs. Recipes too, of course, but other content to shake things up a bit! Hope you like it, and let us know if there's anything you want to see on the blog. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Potsticker Dumplings

Kevin has had a hankering for dumplings lately. It's so easy to buy vegetarian dumplings frozen from the store or order them in a restaurant, but also very disappointing to find that they usually are filled with flavorless cabbage and disgusting MSG. Well, we've had ENOUGH! We are making our own potsticker dumplings. It's a little time consuming, but well worth it. They will have NO CABBAGE AND NO MSG. Just wonderful flavors and textures that we like, and we're making a ton so that we can freeze it and have plenty for future meals. Plus, you can steam them, pan fry them (like we did here) or deep fry them as crispy wontons. In this recipe, we add enough seasoning to the filling that a dipping sauce is unnecessary, you may adjust for your own palate. An interesting touch I learned from my mother is to include jicama into the mix. Jicama provides a slightly sweet and light crunch that really takes these dumplings to another level. The filling recipe can also be used for eggrolls, steamed buns (banh bao), etc. This is also a great recipe to get kids in the kitchen, I remember my brother and I having fun filling the dumplings and rolling up eggrolls. They're fun to make and fun to eat!

For the filling:
32 ounces firm tofu (drained, crumbled and pressed to remove as much water as possible)
2 medium onions finely diced
1 large carrots, grated
10 ounces of various mushrooms (oyster, enoki, etc), finely chopped
1 medium jicama finely diced
1/4 cup fresh leafy herbs such as wild betel (la lot), thai basil, or cilantro, finely chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce or plum sauce
2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce or other hot chili sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon grated ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Place the crumbled tofu into a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, jicama and herbs to the tofu and mix well.
In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha sauce, and ginger.
Pour the soy sauce over the tofu and mix to distrubute the sauce.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Making the dumplings:
150 potsticker/gyoza/wonton wrappers (about 3 packages)
1 filling recipe above

Lay a pot sticker wrapper on a flat surface. Brush edges of the potsticker with the water. Place 1/2 tablespoon of filling in the center of the potsticker. Fold the wrapper over the filling, making sure there are no air bubbles. Press down the edges to seal. Set aside dumpling and continue to use the rest of the wrappers and the rest of the filling.
To freeze the dumplings for future use, arrange the dumplings in one layer on parchment lined baking sheet so that the dumplings are not touching. Place baking sheet in freezer. The dumplings are ready to put in a freezer bag once fully frozen.

Pan frying the dumplings:
vegetable oil
dumplings from recipe above

Add about 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a skillet on medium flame, and shimmy the pan to distribute the oil throughout. Add about 8 dumplings to the hot pan in a single layer.
Cook for two minutes or until nicely browned (takes longer if using frozen dumplings). Turn the dumplings and cook one minute to brown the other side. Add about 2 tablespoons of water to the pan, and immediately cover skillet with lid.
After a minute or two, all the water should be absorbed and cooked away. Remove dumplings to serving plate.
Repeat pan frying for the rest of the dumplings.

Makes about 150 dumplings.