20 November 2006

DC Bites

posted by gastrogirl @ 10:30 to section Dining

Last weekend, I took a much-needed break and drove to Washington, DC. In between doing the usual touristy stuff (museums, monuments), I made some effort to seek out some restaurants recommended by various internet sources and review sites. For the most part, they were all excellent and I surely gained 5-10 lbs by chowing down on wonderful food. Luckily, walking around museums helped relieve my guilt. :) What follows are some short opinions about the restaurants we visited. With the exception of one, which was less than $10, all the places we ate at would probably fit into a medium-budget range, with dinners averaging around $15-20 per person.
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16 November 2006

Wheat Berries

posted by gastrogirl @ 11:26 to section Cooking

wheatberry_salad

Things have been extraordinarily busy with me, so there hasn’t been much posting. There should be more entries soon, with Thanksgiving next week and several holiday parties on the way. I’ve also signed up for Blogging by Mail, Holiday Edition , and am looking forward to giving (and receiving!) fun food items in the mail. In the meantime, I’ve been making simple meals: salads, pasta…stuff that can be made quickly, will feed me for a few days, and won’t require too much time in the kitchen.

I think wheat berries are really overlooked in the US, at least outside of health-food stores. These chewy little nuggets, which are whole unprocessed kernels of wheat, are a terrific source of B vitamins and fiber. They are a medium shade of brown and have a nutty flavour which is particularly welcome in winter and autumnal dishes. They are lovely in salads and stuffings, and you could even have them for breakfast- drizzle with warm milk or cream, add a bit of honey, and top with fruit. The only negative is that they do take a rather long time to cook – between an hour and an hour and a half (they don’t need to be watched, though – just set a timer and do something else for a while). Many recipes call for soaking overnight, but I’ve found that to be unnecessary as long as they’re cooked long enough and in a proper amount of water.

For each cup of wheatberries, boil them in at least 4 quarts of water, as you might for pasta. If you use too little water, they will happily soak it all up and form a burnt crust on the bottom of your saucepan, causing a horrible stench which will ruin even the unburnt top layer by smell alone. Overcooked wheat berries, on the other hand, will lose their shape and become mushy. The goal here is to retain a pleasant chew without making your jaw ache. After boiling, drain them and use as you wish. They will also keep, refrigerated, for about 5 days or may be frozen for up to 2 months and thawed in the refrigerator.

The quantities are pretty loose for this salad I made, so feel free to mix things up a bit and make it your own…

Wheat Berry Salad with Pecans and Dill
2 cups hard winter wheat berries, cooked in boiling water for 1-1.5 hours, until tender but chewy
1 small red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove minced garlic
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a few tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together, adjusting amounts to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature. This will serve about 4-6 as a side dish.

4 November 2006

For love not money

posted by rlink @ 12:38 to section Cooking

I’ve done my time working in a commercial kitchen, but I still have several friends who have made a career out of it. One of them in particular recently relocated to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh. He’s done time in the kitchen at Casbah, was one of the original cooks at Eleven, and ended up becoming the executive pastry chef at Café Frick before deciding that he wanted to learn a new cuisine and needed to move to another city to do so. He even took a temporary position as the exec pastry chef at Casbah while he was in the months-long process of appartment hunting and moving to Philly, because they had lost theirs and asked him nicely.

Now, fine dining in Pittsburgh can’t even hold a candle to most typical restaurants in a city like New York or Philadelphia, but that is the topic of another post that has been languishing in draft status for a month. It’s important to mention, though, because this friend was told that, despite having some of the best credentials Pittsburgh has to offer, he would never be able to land a job cooking in a major Philadelphia restaurant, let alone be able to hack it if he did get hired somewhere. Ignoring the naysayers, he shot for the moon and only interviewed at two places: Pod and Morimoto.
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