June 2009


Consider yourself warned by the title, but hopefully we haven’t ruined this week’s episode for anyone!

For Washingtonians tuning in to the Next Food Network Star in the hope of cheering on local chef Teddy Folkman, it has been a rough couple of weeks.  For some reason, we never really got to see the camera-friendly Teddy who earned his way onto NFNS with a great performance in his Throwdown with Bobby Flay.  Instead, we cringed as viewers across the country were introduced to a caricature whose over-the-top antics marked him for an early exit.

I guess we should count our blessings.  If Teddy had found his groove and won it all, who knows how often we’d see him in DC as he made his way from New York to Aspen to Los Angeles like so many other celebrity chefs?  Even so, it felt like the ride ended too soon to show what Folkman was really made of, both in the kitchen and in front of the camera.

Here at Capital Spice, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Teddy for another interview (like we did before the premiere).  This time, he called in from Disney World (not just for Super Bowl winners anymore!), where he was in the middle of a week-long family reunion.  We talked to him about his experiences with NFNS, some future plans brought about by the show, and – yes – his performance on last week’s episode.

Check out our Q&A after the jump. (more…)

tiki mintSome of our endeavors during the June Cookbook Challenge have had the added benefit of giving us an excuse to use gadgets and serving implements that have been sitting around our apartment for years just waiting for their moments to shine.  The creme brulee torch is a great example; so are Elizabeth’s tiki glasses.

We found the Suffering Bastard in The Great Tiki Drink Book, a  terrific resource for all things tiki.  Though the name was originally attributed to a 19th-century misunderstanding in Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, it seemed all the more appropriate after watching last night’s episode of the Next Food Network Star.  And the fact that it doesn’t contain any rum made it a good choice for us as we sought out a recipe to make from the book.

Now we could have easily gone with one of the many tiki-related recipes for appetizers and other food items that are located at the back of the book, but we felt that it was important to share a drink recipe instead.  So we broke out the tiki glasses and – having remembered just how awesome these bad boys really are – immediately promised ourselves that we would have friends over for tiki drinks on the deck sometime very soon.

shakerTo make the Suffering Bastard, we combined 1 1/2 ounces gin (Tanqueray here), 1 ounce Bourbon (we went with Maker’s Mark, our favorite), 3 ounces of ginger ale and the juice of 1/2 lime in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Giving the contents five or six good, hard shakes, we poured the liquid into one of the fierce tiki glasses and then garnished it with a sprig of our Shenandoah Growers mint.

The drink was surprisingly refreshing, with the astringency of the gin balancing nicely with the round sweetness of the ginger ale.  The effervescence of the drink was also a pleasant surprise: instead of the big, heavy bubbles you usually get in soda, the Suffering Bastard had a lighter, fizzier feel to it.

Now to try some of these other recipes so we’ve got even more reasons to put our tiki glasses to use this year…

nfns5 leftIf we had any question about the ‘narrative effect’ that goes into the editing of a show like The Next Food Network Star, this episode helped to put them to bed once and for all.

As you may recall, we left our aspiring TV personalities on something of a sour note, with just about everyone mad at Teddy for his actions and Teddy fighting tears.  Naturally, you might assume that such powerful emotions would carry over into the very next challenge that would be thrown at the group…right?

Not so much.  The distrust and (frankly) dislike of Teddy seems to have melted away as we head into the fourth episode of the series.  The remaining seven contestants (“the last seven people in the world” to have this opportunity, as Bobby Flay reminds them later in the episode) are going about their business as if none of the oh-so-dramatic events of last Sunday’s episode ever happened.

With Teddy Folkman out of town for a family reunion, we watched this week’s episode from the comfort of our own couch.  No commentary from fellow fans and well-wishers to accompany this one…but at least it was a quicker trip home at the end of the show!

IMG_6242The episode begins in earnest when the competitors assemble in the test kitchen to face Bobby Flay and another challenge: design a gourmet burger to appear on the menu at Bobby’s Burger Palace – a chain that Flay has been opening throughout the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT).  We’ve actually had burgers at the Eatontown, NJ branch, so we can say from experience that most of the dishes that the contestants turned out would have been right at home alongside the Miami, the Philadelphia, the Dallas and the Napa Valley Burgers that already appear on the menu. 

Michael channelled Little Italy with a Mulberry Street Burger that included chunks of mozarella tucked inside the patty itself and a garlic bread bun.  Melissa’s Burlington Burger recalled her college days with melted Vermont cheddar and turkey chili atop the burger.  Teddy drew inspiration from the fresh Amish-grown produce that he works with in his restaurants, paying tribute to those farmers with a Pennsylvania Burger topped with heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula, and other fresh flavors.  Jamika thought of New Orleans as she whipped up a spicy cayenne burger atop a flayed sausage link.  Debbie and Jeffrey stuck with their California comfort zones – a bulgogi burger for Debbie and a sweet-heat offering from Jeffrey.  Katie stuck to her green guns as she put together a San Francisco Farmers’ Market turkey burger…a risky move, as turkey burgers generally need to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods of time to avoid drying out.

So who ended up going home at the end of the show (SPOILER ALERT)?  And whose burger will be making its way to Connecticut?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

Cocktail and BookNot all of the recipe compilations we’re working through for the June Cookbook Challenge are food-focused.  We’ve also got our share of cocktail recipe books, and we committed to working our way through all of those during the month, as well.

One of those books, Highballs High Heels, describes itself as “a girl’s guide to the art of cocktails.”  Good news – these are definitely not gender-specific drinks (though the names and descriptions are definitely geared toward young women who like to entertain).  They pack a decent punch, and they run the gamut from the sweet and fruity to the strong and bracing.

Looking to enjoy a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, we opted to try something called the “Bikinitini.”  It’s got cucumber sticks for garnish – talk about refreshing!  This frozen beverage makes a great alternative to a margarita, and it goes down way too easily.  Enjoy them by the blender-full!


4 ounces vodka
2 ounces triple sec
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
1 cup peeled, seeded and cubed cucumber
4 fresh mint leaves (optional)
2 cups cracked ice

1 small cucumber, cut into long,thin sticks for garnish

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the cucumber sticks.  Blend until thick and slushy, with no ice chips remaining.  Divide the mixture among four 6-ounce cocktail glasses.  Garnish each drink with a cucumber stick or two.

Cornbread 075About a week into the June Cookbook Challenge, Elizabeth took a look at my nightstand and noticed Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson.  Specifically, she noticed the tagline indicating ‘120 adventurous recipes that explore the riches of our first food.’  She pointed it out to me with a grimace: “Another cookbook?”

“No way,” I said, realizing we already had 29 books to work through over the course of the month.  “It’s food writing.  A history book.”  She wasn’t buying it, so I asked her to pick a page number at random.  Naturally, her choice took us right to a recipe…so much for relying on chance. 

And thank goodness!  After resigning myself to the fact that I had inadvertently brought one more cookbook into our house, I set about finding a recipe to make.  In a section of the book focusing on cultured milk products (primarily yogurt), I found a recipe for çilbir and I figured I struck gold.

Details on çilbir – what it is, how you make it, and why you should – after the jump. (more…)

Plated Potato SaladFrom time to time during our June Cookbook Challenge, we’ve found a few of our cookbooks to be – well – a bit more challenging than others.  In some cases, a book’s narrow focus made us put it off until we were ready to face a stir-fry or a chocolate-based dish.  In others, we just couldn’t find a recipe that caught our eyes despite going page-by-page through a book.

Roast Chicken and Other Stories, despite its description as “the most useful cookbook of all time” by Waitrose Food Illustrated, was definitely one of those latter cases.  On the surface, it would appear that Simon Hopkinson’s approach to his recipes would be truly tempting to us.  Organized into ‘chapters’ by some of Hopkinson’s favorite ingredients (garlic, leeks…cod? liver?), the book combines anecdotes and tips with a few representative recipes for each.

Maybe it’s because we’re not British…or maybe it’s just the fussiness (heaviness?) that characterizes most of the recipes in the book, but we had a really tough time finding something that we were excited to make.  Finally, a trip to the H Street Farmers’ Market turned up some beautiful new potatoes and we decided to take a stab at one of the few recipes in the book that didn’t include copious amounts of butter or oil: potato salad.

Boiled with MintIn fairness, we were REALLY impressed with the way this recipe turned out.  The salad is light and tangy, with a great combination of flavors that complement the waxy potatoes nicely.  But is one recipe reason enough to hold onto an entire book?  Michael Ruhlman’s quote about food writing comes to mind: it’s like digging for gold; you don’t keep the dirt.

I’d say it’s far more likely that we’ll copy this winner of a recipe to an index card, file it and consign the book to the “donations” pile.

Potato Salad

1 1/2 lb waxy potatoes (Jersey Royals or red and white new potatoes recommended)
salt and pepper
4 mint sprigs
1 Tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil (the original recipe called for 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 of olive oil, but we opted for half as much oil and went with olive oil exclusively)
4 spring onions, finely chopped

Potato SaladBoil the potatoes in well-salted water with the mint.  That’s it…no time, no temperature.  I boiled over high heat for about 20 minutes because the potatoes were small.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the oils slowly, to create an emulsion.

Drain the potatoes and, depending on taste, peel the potatoes or not.  While still hot, dress the potatoes together with the spring onions in a bowl that will allow maximum movement for even distribution of the dressing.  Eat lukewarm.

Extra news this week to make up for last Saturday’s absence…

Starting this off on a serious note. Due to the double-punch of rising costs and rising food needs in the community, Bread for the City a DC food pantry, is over their food budget by over $10,000 for this month. They need help. Please donate

Fans of the Arlington Rap know Remy loves Arlington. But did you know he also loves eggs?
The Real World DC cast has arrived. DCist gives us a rundown of where you might run into these exhibitionists and which DC favorites may be a safe haven.   
Planning any visits to Argentina? Be sure to try a choripan, their version of a hot dog. Or if you’re just hiking the Appalachian Trail and need some camp food, you can make it yourself. We Are Never Full shows you how.  
Wonkabout gives us a rundown of small plate restaurants in DC. 
How’s this for hospitality? A Hamptons restaurant manager retracted an awning in the middle of a rainstorm in an effort to disperse diners who were queued up to get inside. Check out the video from Gawker.  Classy.
Favorite fictional chefs from TV and movies.

Check out this recipe for sweet basil and mint iced tea. Plus the photos are glorious!  
“200 places to eat before it’s too late”authors are interviewed by the WSJ. 
Research indicates Briton’s are consuming more comfort food these days as a response to the recession. The most popular British comfort foods are bangers and mash, fish and chips, and baked beans on toast. Jesus Chrysler, if that was my comfort food I’d be depressed, too. 
A deep dive into Pintango organic gelato process.   
At eater’s guide to BBQ in Kansas City. 
Per Brightest Young Things, Adam Bernbach, the beloved former bartender at Bar Pilar, has returned to DC and joined the team at Proof
Rooftop bees get to work on menu items at the Fairmont in DC. 
What are the 10 cocktails everyone should know how to make?   
PQ Living hails Central’s banana split as the best deal in town.

Who wears short shorts and loves McDonald’s? Britney.
Denny’s plans its third Rockstar menu, this time featuring bands like Good Charlotte and Sum 41. 
Tips on cooking with beer (as an ingredient… not just holding it in your hand at the stove).  

Ever wanted to make injera – that spongy bread you get in Ethiopian restaurants – at home
Endless Simmer takes issue with the new-hot-now New York food scene. 
Recent E.Coli outbreak may have been caused by consuming yummy, yummy cookie dough. I bet it was worth it.    
If you had to choose one, would you rather give up donuts or bagels for the rest of your life? SoGood wants to know.  
The top 5 failed McDonald’s menu items.  Oh Arch Deluxe, you silly burger.
Arugula Files gives you the scoop on some summer salads.   
We Are Out of Here eats their way through the Eden Center and climbs out of a food coma to share their reviews. (HT to DC Blogs from the link)
Kit Kat receives accolades at the Cannes advertising festival for their edible postcard in the Japanese market.   
NPR muses on the recession-proof success of the Cheesecake Factory.

Asparagus with ShallotsI’ve always been a fan of asparagus, but I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a discriminating consumer.  Wan-looking imports drooping at Safeway?  Yes, please.  Pencil-thin stalks on sale at Harris Teeter?  Sign me up!  I did draw the line at canned asparagus, but that’s pretty much it.

Finally, Elizabeth sat me down with a few stalks I had recently purchased in a grocery store and a few more that we bought at the H Street FreshFarm Market one spring, and she implored me to put them to a taste test.  It was a revelation.

Suddenly, no store-bought asparagus would do…I knew what the vegetable could taste like, and I refused to settle for less.

These days, I’m quick to pick up the green stuff as soon as it starts appearing at the markets in early spring.  I stick with it as the stalks get fatter (and sweeter), and I’ve even ventured into the realm of purple asparagus on one or two occasions.  It’s a flavor I just don’t get sick of.  I know – that puts me squarely in the minority.

But I found a recipe in our Bon Appetit Cookbook, a massive volume that has compiled an exhaustive collection of the foodie magazine’s best recipes, that is sure to boost the appeal of asparagus to all but the most resistant diners.  It combines the sweetness of reduced balsamic vinegar with the mild oniony flavor of shallots and the rich silkiness of butter to create a sauce that really complements the natural flavors of the asparagus nicely.

I started with 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and two finely chopped shallots, which I brought to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Letting the liquid boil off, I reduced it to about one tablespoon in remaining volume.  It took close to ten minutes.  This would be the basis of my sauce.

Then I cooked one bunch of trimmed asparagus in a saucepan with three tablespoons of butter (at room temperature), three tablespoons of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  I covered the pan and boiled the veggies over medium high heat, but only for three or four minutes.  After that, I took off the cover and allowed the liquid to evaporate completely – it only took about three more minutes.

I added the balsamic-shallot mixture to the asparagus and then tossed everything together.  A few grinds of fresh black pepper and we were ready to enjoy this new take on asparagus.

Considering the size of the Bon Appetit Cookbook, it’s surprising to me how rarely we come across a dish that misfires.  Whatever we decide to try, Barbara Fairchild and her staff at Bon Appetit always seem to steer us in the right direction.

Glazed TenderloinThough most of our cookbooks are professionally printed, we’ve also got one or two of those spiral-bound deals put together by neighborhood groups and clubs and sold as fundraisers.  You know the ones I’m talking about – whether it’s the Junior League or the Cub Scouts or the VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary, you’ve probably been approached to by one of these at some point.

Ours comes from the Friends of the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City.  “A Taste of Kansas City: Then and Now” combines recipes submitted by Friends, volunteers and restaurants throughout the Kansas City area.  There are dishes from some of Kansas City’s iconic eateries through the years (Plaza III, the Green Parrot, Prospect of Westport), and the recipes are divided by category.

Thickening Orange SauceThroughout the June Cookbook Challenge, we’ve looked for opportunities to match recipes from our cookbooks with an abundance of meat we had been accumulating in our freezer – like a pair of pork tenderloins.  Looking through “A Taste,” we found a recipe for a cumin-crusted pork tenderloin with an orange-jalapeno glaze that sounded like a great combination of spice and sweetness.  And to make it even more appealing, we had all but one ingredient already in the house.

To make the glaze, we cooked three cloves of garlic and one minced, seeded jalapeno pepper in one teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat for about a minute.  Adding 1 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup cider vinegar, we brought the mixture to a boil and then lowered the heat to let it simmer for close to an hour.  When it came off the heat, we stirred in 1/2 cup molasses and added some salt and pepper to balance out the flavor.

Ready to BroilWhile all that simmering and reducing was going on, we rolled the pork tenderloin in a blend of one tablespoon ground cumin, two tablespoons crushed black pepper and one tablespoon of kosher salt.  It took a little work to make sure all of the surface area of the tenderloin was covered, but what emerged was a crusted loin that was ready for the broiler.

We broiled the loin on ‘low’ for about a half an hour, watching to make sure that it didn’t burn or dry out.  Per the recipe, we brushed on the reduced orange-jalapeno glaze during the final three minutes of cooking.  When we pulled the pork from the oven and sliced into it to check it out, it still showed a bit pink.  Eager to get dinner on the table, we sliced the tenderloin into pieces and laid them on the roasting pan with some additional glaze so they could quickly finish (about 5 minutes more) without having a chance to get tough.

To accompany the glazed pork loin, we served some farmers’ market asparagus with a balsamic-shallot butter sauce.  That recipe, which came from the comprehensive Bon Appetit cookbook, will go up later today.  The combination worked well together, though we found the dusky spice of the cumin a bit aggressive on the pork.  Overall, it was another great meal that came about because of the cookbook challenge.

For the June Cookbook Challenge, we knew some books were gimmies. They were just too reliable, too aligned with Cornbread 077how we like to cook. When it came time to crack open Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, a straightforward, Quaker-like cookbook of clean, healthy cooking so sparsely illustrated that the editorial staff of Cook’s Illustrated would swoon, do you think we said “give us a tough one! Make us sweat!”  and rose up to the challenge of a dish that truly takes mastery?

Hell no we didn’t! We are 3/4 of the way done and the last thing I want after along day of work is to come home to tackle – then screw up – a recipe full of fresh, seasonal ingredients.  Now in fairness, this is pretty much what Waters preaches: eat seasonally, buy locally, prepare simply, and you will enjoy nature’s bounty. Or, in the immortal words of Gansie from Endless Simmer, “Don’t fuck with it.”

And there are few seasonal dishes I want to mess with less than simply prepared dish of fava beans. Like an old hound dog waiting on the porch, my love of fava beans is unfaltering. I love everything about them. I love their bright green color than yelps “spring! healthy! fresh!” I love the texture I get when I bite down into one that has just baaaarely been cooked. I love that they are only in season briefly, so I have an excuse to be a bean glutton. I love don’t mind that they are the beans of diminishing return you have to shell twice to get to the good stuff, even though you buy them by weight. I inhale them.

For this particular fava bean adventure, we went with a fava bean ragout. Which is less the slowly simmered, spiced meat destined for pasta ragout I’m most familiar with and more a quick sautee of veggies. Easy peasy.  When diving into the recipe, I realized we were missing a few ingredients so there was definitely some last minute improvisation. The recipe we ate was fava beans sauteed in the good olive oil with garlic scapes, salt, and pepper. It was divine. Yes, I cheated based on what we had in the house. But Alice would have wanted it that way.

The full blown recipe is below.

Fava Bean Ragout, from The Art of Simple Food 

Shelled: 2 pounds of fava beans

Cook in boiling water for 1 minute or so and then cool in ic ewater. Drain and pop the beans out of their skins.

In a heavy saucepan heat:

1 TB olive oil or butter


2 small spring onions, trimmed and sliced crosswise. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 minutes. Add peeled fava beans.  and

1 small green garlic, trimmed and sliced crosswise

Pour enough water to come up 1/4 inch in the pan. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 4 minutes or until fava beans are tender. Add:

2 TB olive oil or butter
2 TS choppped parsley or chevril

Swirl to combine. Season to taste.

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