soba-packageWhen it comes to comfort food, I’m still a Jersey boy at heart – give me a plate of pasta any day.  Although the long corkscrews known as fusili lunghi are my favorite, I’m an equal opportunity eater when it comes to shapes.  I’m not even particularly picky when it comes to toppings.  I enjoy a good garlicky pesto; a simple toss with olive oil, parmesan and black pepper; and a nice tomato gravy (we don’t call it sauce where I come from) from time to time.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I was struck by a feature in one of our foodie magazines (Everyday Food) highlighting soba.  These buckwheat noodles are prevalent in Japanese cooking, whether served in soups, salads or on their own with a dipping sauce.  Soba (and buckwheat in general) contain high quantities of cholesterol-lowering B-vitamins and rutin, an antioxidant.  So we decided to give it a try.

soba-soupWe found one recipe within the feature that caught our eye, a soba soup with shiitake and spinach.  Looking through our cookbooks, we also found a recipe in John Ash’s “From the Earth to the Table” for Japanese-style grilled salmon with a cold soba noodle salad.  We decided to check out both to experience soba in two very different ways.

One of the recipes was a home run; the other, not so much.

Which one was which (and the secret behind the soba that’s “No. 1 in Japan”) after the jump. (more…)

img_6669Whether you’re a Steelers fan, a Cardinals follower or just part of the 95% of all Americans who find the matchup for Super Bowl XLIII severely underwhelming, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be watching the big game this Sunday.  And while you wait for the next spot or <insert favorite Super Bowl ad here>, you’re probably going to be munching on something.  Forget mom and apple pie – I can’t think of a combination more American than snack foods and football.

So what better way to bring back Foodie Magazine Day than with a twist on a junk food classic that’s sure to get attention at your Super Bowl feast?

In the January/February issue of Everyday Food, we came across a recipe for loaded sweet potato skins that we just couldn’t pass up.  Eager to see if they lived up to the glory that is even your most average ‘tater skin, we decided to give them a try.

Check out the recipe and the results after the jump. (more…)

So maybe ‘Foodie Magazine Day’ hasn’t become quite the regular feature we originally envisioned it to be when we first started Capital Spice…

Is it our fault?  Is it your fault?  Why focus on pointing fingers when we can all celebrate the fact that it’s back!  (If you didn’t notice it was gone, play along anyway.)  

This time, we’re turning to the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated for an all-purpose brine that has yet to let us down.  Considering how often we roast chicken here at Capital Spice HQ, you can rest assured we’ve had ample opportunities for disappointment – but it just hasn’t happened.

More about Cook’s Illustrated and their “Universal Formula for Brining” after the jump. (more…)

Foodie Magazine Day!  Foodie Magazine Day!For my second “Foodie Magazine Day” post, I turn to Bon Appetit.  Maybe it’s the fact that this was our first real food magazine (thanks to a free year’s subscription that came with our purchase of the Bon Appetit cookbook), or maybe it’s the focus on more accessible (and therefore more appealing) recipes and experiences, but this remains one of my favorite sources for recipes and cooking inspirations.

In the June 2008 issue, Bon Appetit encourages readers to start a cooking club and provides a set of recipes that lend themselves to having the group cook them together in one kitchen (assuming all of your prep work is done ahead of time and your kitchen is bigger than most Capitol Hill condos, of course).  Although we weren’t planning to start a cooking club, the main course of the meal caught my eye.

Sliced duck breast, broiled plums and bacon-wrapped asparagusElizabeth and I both love the big flavor of duck, but we had only tried to cook it once before and we had purchased pre-packaged poultry for that attempt.  As part of our ongoing effort to do as much of our own food preparation as possible, I decided to visit nearby Capitol Hill Poultry in Eastern Market to pick up some duck and try it myself.  I bought the front halves of two whole ducks, bones and all, and brought them home.  I began to approach them the way I approach a whole chicken, cutting along the central bones, when I noticed that the breast halves seemed to sit along flat ridges.  Working my knife and then my fingers between the ridge and the muscle, I was actually able to pull the meat cleanly away without any of the laborious butchering I had been expecting.  After that, it was just a matter of trimming the breast halves to remove some of the excess fat.

More about my attempts to follow Bon Appetit’s lead and the recipe after the jump. (more…)

Like most good food geeks, we subscribe to several food and cooking magazines – Bon Appetit, Cook’s Illustrated, Food & Wine, Gourmet and Everyday Food.  Whenever the mail brings a new issue, I gleefully chant “Foodie Magazine Day!  Foodie Magazine Day!” like a drunken Adam Sandler, circa 1995.  And more often than not, the new magazine is perused in its entirety before the weekend is out.  So what do we do with all that glossy paper once we’ve read through?

Before we started Capital Spice, the answer was “not much.”  I would make it a point to save some of the recipes that caught my eye, but I didn’t always follow through on trying them afterwards.  But now, inspired by the guys at The Bitten Word, we’ve got an incentive to put our subscriptions to use on a semi-regular basis.

I give you the inaugural “Foodie Magazine Day” post – a write-up of our efforts to recreate a recipe taken from one of the magazines we subscribe to.  

In this case, the recipe is from the current issue of Gourmet.  To be honest, this is probably my least favorite of the foodie mags we get, because it’s really more of an aspirational magazine – features on culinary classes all over the world are nice, but of limited utility at this point in my life.  Even so, it provides some very creative (and high-end) recipes if you take the time to look for them.  And their focus on the exotic results in some menus that are guaranteed to stretch your culinary boundaries – though you may have to make a trip to a specialty store or two for some of the ingredients.  For this dish, I had to track down fresh curry leaves…after a few false starts, I found them at Eastern Market, where a produce stand at the rear of the hall carries a wide range of fresh herbs and vegetables year-round.

I followed the recipe for these aromatic braised chicken thighs to the letter, but I opted to forego the fried onion accompaniment.  I’ve included the full recipe, so if you try them together please share your thoughts on the onions!  We found the chicken to be moist and tender (the dark meat holds up to slow-cooking a lot better than white meat would have), and the fragrance of the simmering chicken really whetted our appetites.  Served with a cup of the ‘Seafood Refresco’ from Chris’s Marketplace, a favorite producer at the Dupont Circle and Penn Quarter Farmers’ Markets, it made a great weeknight dinner and provided plenty of leftovers for lunches.  My only complaint is that it’s not the most attractive dish in the world – the addition of the fried onions and rice in Gourmet’s images still results in a rather brown, monochromatic presentation.  If you want a more enthusiastic reception, you may want to serve this accompanied by a green salad studded with colorful peppers or radishes.

Recipe after the jump. (more…)