Monday, March 26, 2012

Easy Risotto

Risotto is surprisingly simple to make now that I've done it a few times. And there are so many different ways to doctor it up and show off your new recipe.

Here's a simple basic recipe you can use as a template:

1 cup of arborio rice
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 onion finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs of pecorino cheese, grated

Set the chicken stock to warm on a separate burner.

On another burner, fry the onion and garlic in a large saucepan.

Add the rice and toast it until it's a light brown color and starts to smell nutty, about 10-15 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Once this has finished, add the chicken stock, one ladle-full at a time.

After each addition of stock stir to be sure it is completely absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladle. The amount of liquid you have to add will vary - just stop when the risotto is cooked through and the grains are tender. There should still be a little bite to them, though, so don't let it become too mushy. The rice will tighten up as the risotto cools so you might want to add a little more liquid than absolutely necessary.

At the very end add 2 Tbs of butter and the pecorino and season again with salt and pepper.

Try the following additions:

- At the very end, a half cup of chopped sundried tomatoes
- Cube a butternut squash, coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it in the oven (425 degrees). Add this to the risotto before serving. Add a few pinches of nutmeg as well.
- Add 2 cups of cubed mushrooms in step two, along with the onion and garlic. With this add about 1 teaspoon of dried sage.
- Add 2 cups of spinach sauteed spinach (pictured above).
- Stir in 3 oz of goat cheese and sprinkle in 1/2 cup of fresh Italian parsley , chopped

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Frostings Cupcake Bakery

Cupcakes are pretty important in the dessert world. Back home, I know exactly where to go when I want my fix, but I haven't found a place here in Richmond. (see last post for a recap of some Georgetown cupcakes). The shops in Carytown have not impressed me: their cupcakes have looked dry and puny. But upon venturing out a little ways (to Short Pump), I think I found the answer to my cupcake prayers.

I've driven by Frostings a dozen times and never gone in. The other day, thanks to a spurt of spontaneity, I decided to stop by before grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. I initially intended to go in, scope the place out, and leave. But I was the only customer, the place is small, and the lady at the front counter was so friendly that I felt leaving without a treat would be just plain wrong.

The lady was sweet and engaging - she told me Red Velvet was the cupcake they hang their hat on, so I decided to get one of the those. What's interesting is you can get it with a cream cheese or a buttercream frosting. Since I know cream cheese is the traditional way, I decided to go for that. One look at the cake told me I was in for something good: it had that sheen that only the most tender and moist cakes have.

THEN the lady tells me Frostings has been on Cupcake Wars: and was a semifinalist! I look up and am embarrassed by my own idiocy...right above my head is a banner that says "Cupcake Warriors." I am so, so proud to be living here, I must say.

I got home and tried my best not to devour the whole thing in one fell swoop. This required some restraint, I must say. The cake was absolutely delicious - not overly sweet and not dry at all. The frosting was dense and creamy - and there was a lot of it. I'm not a huge frosting person, but I appreciated them not being skimpy.

The red in this picture is a little exaggerated because of the lighting; I didn't taste anything artificial in the cake at all. And I feel awful that my picture isn't representing the cuteness of the cupcake because it a) took a little tumble in the box and b) I got halfway through eating it before I thought to take another picture.

I know I'll be back and I'm so happy I finally found a cupcake place in Richmond that makes me smile.

Monday, March 19, 2012

DC Eats: Ethiopian Cuisine and Cupcakes

I feel like I'll never be able to figure out DC - not completely at least. There is just too much to do, too much history to learn, and too many eateries to try in a given day. I really need to be more organized about planning my visits to this city... but I just get too excited I try and wing it and that means visiting the same places because I know they've changed in the time I've been away. Starting today I am making a promise to myself that by the time I leave Virginia I will be more well-versed in DC navigation.

This trip to DC was really more a trip to Georgetown which I love exclusively for shopping at Anthropologie: it's the most organized and well-stocked of any of the ones I've visited. I never go there and don't find something - you can take that as a good or a bad thing. This time I left with a dress and a skirt. Skirt was $100 marked down to $20. Dress was full priced...but I'd already fallen in love so I treated myself.

Since I cut myself off after visiting Anthro, Weston was an awesome boyfriend and steered me in the direction of Georgetown Cupcake for a treat. I recently stumbled across the show "DC Cupcakes" on Netflix. It follows the adventures of the owners of Georgetown Cupcake as they go about daily life running one of the most famous cupcakeries in the country. Not gonna lie, the acting is pretty staged and the two owners bicker so much that it makes me question their maturity. That being said, the cupcakes look delicious and I've been talking about trying them for quite a while now. Weston got the hint ;)

The line was really short because it was a drizzly day - hooray! See, being from Michigan has taught me to brave the elements. We pulled up their menu on my iPhone (love this is so handy) and wrote down the flavors we wanted to try. Best Bf agreed to 6 which meant we could take some home for dessert, too.

Georgetown Cupcake touts their Red Velvet so I had to get one of those. Note the sparkles in the fondant cute is that?!?

We also got a couple seasonal flavors (Irish Cream and Chocolate Mint Crunch) and a few daily specials (Coconut, Lava Fudge, and Lemon Blossom).

I have to say: seeing 6 little cuties all lined up in a box makes me smile every time. What is WRONG with me? Wait, no...what is RIGHT with me? (tehe)

Their promise to use only the best quality ingredients is true to the core. I could tell the chocolate was good quality - it had a great depth of flavor and wasn't intensely sweet. The cakes were moist and light; I even saw speckles of lemon zest in the lemon cupcake. The frostings were to die for: I could definitely taste real butter (no artificial stuff) and the chocolate frosting was ganache heaven. The fondant decorations are such a great touch and they taste like marshmallow! I was not disappointed in any way. These ladies are businesswomen to the core and have been able to expand their company and not compromise quality or increase cupcake prices, so I have a lot of respect for them.

The only thing that kind of gets me is that they market themselves as having 14 types of cupcakes a day...but when you look at the menu and actually get a breakdown, you see that their regular flavors are actually just two types of cake (vanilla and chocolate) with the same frosting just colored differently or with a different topping. I didn't really expect them to churn out 1000+ cupcakes a day AND make 6 or 7 different batters - but the way they marketed this made me think they had more variety in flavor. I suppose this is a good thing if you want a pretty color palate - but it makes no difference in flavor, so I'd recommend trying their specials which seem to actually feature different cakes.

Our friend over at The Marinara suggested we try an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner, so we ventured out of Georgetown...way out, it seemed...and over to a little establishment called Etete. Now, neither of us had ever had Ethiopian so I texted my good friend from class who knows about the cuisine and she recommended we try the "tibs" - which I later discovered is some type of beef. We ended up getting a variety the waitress said was her favorite. They were quite tasty and had a good spice seasoning on them.

Ethiopian food also has a lot of vegetarian options (there were only about 5 meat dishes on the menu), so we got a vegetarian sampler as well. It blew me away: the lentil curry was spicy and had chopped up potato throughout, there was another yellow lentil dish, collard greens with flavors I wasn't expecting (nutmeg and cinnamon, I believe), a cucumber/tomato/onion/jalapeno salad, and cooked cabbage (my favorite).

The most unique item was the bread which was puffy and kind of spongy and yeast-tasting. It was perfect to dip in the curries and things, but I really have not seen anything like it in any other cuisine I've tried before. I'm going to ask my friend about it today in class since I'm really interested to know what it is exactly.

All in all, a wonderful trip made even better by the wonderful man traveling with me.
Thanks for making this a perfect Spring Break, honey.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Southern Hospitality Has Rubbed Off On Me

It's always nice meeting new people and earlier this week I met a really cool visitor from Seattle, Washington. It was his last night in Richmond and I felt super bad that he hadn't gotten a chance to see what an amazing foodie town we live in. So I invited him for dinner and decided Kuba Kuba would best showcase our glorious food scene.

Weston had just come in from Ann Arbor and so the three of us sat down at one of the rickety tables, ordered a beer (I discovered I'm quite fond of the Sierra Nevada), and chatted about our home states.

As I'm sure you all know, I always order the Cuban sandwich when I come here. Always. I try and get up the nerve to order something else, but can't do it because I know I'll be craving the sandwich a day later. This time I did it. This time I changed my order...for this guy:

The Pork Shank

It's huge, it's tasty, it's something to be reckoned. The amount of meat on this thing is impressive and I loved how they serve it on a bed of cannellini beans. If you haven't given it a try, I highly suggest you do.

Weston also went outside his usual order and got the Cuban Roast Pork with Black Beans and rice. The pork gets a 10/10. The rice a 6/10. It was a little mushy and the flavors weren't as bold as they usually are. I think it's because they'd had to make a second batch in the middle of the day and it hadn't been cooking as long. The pork has a great spice combo on it, almost briny. We shredded it and sauced it in a yummy homemade BBQ sauce the next day for a most delectable pulled pork sandwich.

At the end of the visit our guest seemed thoroughly impressed with Richmond and Weston and I had decided that a trip to Seattle is in our near future. That city seems terrific!!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


You know how there are some people that are just good people? Like, they go out of their way to get to know you and hear your story? One of my classmates, Reba, is all those things and more. I look forward to spending time together these next 3 years.

For her birthday, Reba wanted a bunch of us to get together for one of her favorite meals: pho. When I heard this I was soooo excited because I've been wanting to give this a try for quite some time. I heard about pho in December from my friend who came to visit. Then, Sharon started talking about. And before I knew it - I seemed to be hearing about pho everywhere!

So what is it exactly? Basically, pho is a savory broth filled with rice noodles and a bit of thinly sliced meat. Ideally, the broth is so hot that it cooks the meat. The fun part of pho comes in the "toppings." The broth comes to table with fresh bean sprouts, mint, chopped chili peppers (be careful with those babies), and lime. Sharon prepped me well and told me to get some hoisin sauce and sriracha. I'll tell ya what to do with those later.

But first, a few photos of the pretty flowers I bought and arranged for Reba. Pretty, huh? All those Martha Stewart videos paid off :)

When making an arrangement, I like to pick a classic color combination: white with a pop of color. I also love the white/green combo. When we got to Kroger, I was happy to see you could buy certain flowers by the stem - and they had some gorgeous looking "pincushion" flowers - very hearty and a treat for the eyes. I snatched up a couple of those and then supplemented the arrangement with white carnations (these last a long time, too). Finally, one of my favorite flowers - white lillies. I was able to grab the last bunch and since most of them hadn't bloomed yet, I knew that a) the soft green would accent the bouquet perfectly b) the flowers, once bloomed, would fill in all the gaps and c) this would make the arrangement last even longer!

Okay, on to the food! A few appetizers were ordered - not by me - but I was able to sample some of them. The shrimp taste was good, I have to say. The crispy spring role looked super yummy. And the fresh spring roll was just that: crisp, clean, and light.

This dish is one I didn't try, but doesn't it look wonderful? I think these were the pork chops and Carlo was looking quite happy while he devoured it :)

Nishal is vegetarian and she said her veggies and tofu meal tasted great - I think she finished it in about 15 minutes. The vegetables looked really fresh and crunchy. The only thing I was concerned about - just by looking at it - was that it was over-sauced.

Now, the star of the show: the pho. I loaded mine up with sprouts and mint - squeezed in a little lime, and then took some sriracha and hoisin sauce and stirred it in. I also put a little in a side dish so I could dip the meat in it. The hardest part about pho is eating it since you're using a spoon and chopsticks- eventually I came up with a method that worked. Everyone has their own process. I really liked the broth at the restaurant and I had a lot leftover. Once I brought it home and warmed it for lunch the next day it hit me how salty it was. Maybe next time I can try and dilute it. I've put my feelers out for some other pho locales to post on in (hopefully) the near future.

And we'll conclude with a couple more pictures of flowers - because I'm Persian - and Persian people looooove flowers ;)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Momotaro Sushi in Carytown

Last week I tried another sushi restaurant in Richmond - after taking a few days to let it sink in (I just had to get that hash recipe up!) - I am finally ready to write a thorough breakdown for you.

I have no pictures, so I'll try and make this post concise.

First impressions: sticky. Yep, I said it. Momotaro upon walking in just felt dirty. The floor is a weird beige color, it's dark, small, and just kind of grungy. I know that some of the best food comes out of places like this, so we took a seat and waited for the waitress. She was a little dismissive at first but warmed up after a while.

We ordered our staple eel roll, a California roll, a tuna roll, and a special avocado roll. This ended up not being enough so we got another California and a salmon roll. Still not enough, but there was no way I was spending more than $45 on 6 rolls. I must be spoiled because at Sadako you get a good 8 or 9 for that price. Breakdown on the rolls: SMALL - I'm just not used to teeny tiny rolls. What is up with this, Richmond? The eel rolls was not good which was a bummer for us since it's my fav. The eel just wasn't succulent, the sauce too sweet (I like a little more "umami" flavor), and it had nothing inside - like avocado or cucumber or something. But all the other rolls were delicious. They roll the rice in black sesame seeds which add a lot of flavor. I loved the specialty avocado roll - the flavors were perfect and the texture made my mouth happy. The California roll also impressed me. I think I was most shocked by the fact that the fish was so fresh and clean and tasty. Dare I say the tuna roll beats the one in Ann Arbor? This totally didn't match the grunge factor I felt walking in.

And that's when I realized something...sushi is one of those things where atmosphere does mean something. I can walk into a burger joint and look past the fly buzzing around my head - but not a sushi restaurant (which it did, here). Sushi is clean. The place I'm eating it in should be clean, too. So despite the fact that the sushi at Momotaro is quite good - I won't be going back unless I discover they've changed their cleanliness standards.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hash Breakfast

This hash has come to be known as a bit of a specialty of mine. I invented it one day because I was missing the days when Weston and I used to cook together. I'd usually take control in the kitchen, but there was one dish I never had the patience to make: hash. Weston, on the other hand, has an enormous quantity of patience (good thing for me) and so when a recipe requires one to sit over the pan and stir and stir...and stir, he's the man for the job.

Now that I'm alone, though, I had to take on that role. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I just parked my tuchus near the stove and studied histology while waiting for the potatoes to cook. I'd recommend making this meal in bulk because it is super tasty and for the amount of work you're going through to make it, you really should make a lot.

What you need:

1/2 pound of ham, cubed
5-6 potatoes, washed and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 jar roasted red bell peppers in water
2 onions, chopped
garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste

What you do:

With only a few ingredients, that makes caramelization and flavor development the key to a good dish.

Fry the onions until they are wilted and slightly translucent. Add the potato and fry and fry and fry until the potato is cooked through. This takes about 25 minutes. Alternatively, you could just pre-boil the potato and then cut it, but then you run the risk of over-boiling and having a big mushy mess.

After the potatoes are cooked, season with you spices and add the bell pepper and ham.

Continue to cook until the hash has a nice rosy tinge to it. This tells you the ingredients are melding together.

You can continue to fry until some of the potatoes develop a crunch (making this a crispy hash), or serve it as is. I dotted the top of mine with a little goat cheese which added a lot of flavor and a tangy pop.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Persian Chicken - Minus the Goodies

The other day I went on a cooking spree - I made the butternut squash that's been sitting in the fridge for some time. I originally wanted to put it in some risotto, but decided to roast it instead: yum yum roasted squash. I just peeled it and cut it into little pieces. Then I tossed it in olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. 425 degrees until cooked through and slightly crisp.

Then I got a little creative and decided to try my hand at recreating my mom's Persian chicken. This is usually served with yogurt sauce and caramelized onion, carrots, and fried raisins and nuts - which I did not have. So I just seasoned it with what she uses.

I sliced a couple onions and layered them into a Pyrex dish. After defrosting about a half pound of chicken thighs I put them on top, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, and turmeric. Then I baked it for about 20 minutes until the chicken was cooked through. The onions pick up all the yummy flavors of the chicken and vice versa.

It ended up being a super simple dinner and if I had some yogurt and nuts and raisins, it would be an over-the-top meal.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sensi - Take Two

A food journal of a recent second trip to Sensi. As usual the food was wonderful - even better than the last time, but the service aspect was sub par. We were checked on twice and there was an average 45 minute wait between courses (for a restaurant only half full).

We started the evening with a Cesar salad which was one of the best I've had in a while. The dressing was spot on and the sardines on top were flavorful and not too fishy.

Lobster bisque with Chesapeake crab. A wonderful bowl of soup - not too salty and with an enormous amount of fresh crab at the bottom. I loved the drizzle of olive oil on the top of the bowl. It was so yummy - I could have eaten a giant bowl...but more was on the way.

Risotto of the day: this time was goat cheese risotto with sundried tomatoes and lamb chops. This was TO DIE FOR. I was incredibly pleased with the flavor profile. The risotto was nice and al dente and the lamb was cooked medium rare as specified. There was more than enough to share so we were both pretty full after our salad/soup and the risotto.

Many minutes later...many many minutes, our entrees arrived. I ordered the rib eye with roasted vegetables and was incredibly pleased. The cut of meat was phenomenal - fresh and tasty. I ordered mine medium rare and so I was able to appreciate the flavor better. My most favorite part was the crust they has achieved by searing the steak and then finishing it off in the oven (I assume). The veggies were a but sub-par in comparison, but still good. The steak was served with a compound butter that I just scraped off - it didn't add anything and the cut was nicely marbled.

Weston ordered the lamb chops - a fine choice. The meat wasn't too gamey - as lamb can be - and very tender. The potatoes this was served with so, so good. They were drizzled with a sauce with Indian spices! So unexpected and yet, so perfect a pairing. I couldn't pinpoint exactly which spices they used, but I'm sure we'll be back so I can ask.

With my Groupon (I stock up on these when I can) - we saved $40 and then our water gave us the risotto for free because of another circumstance (the women's bathroom was having some problems) - so the final price was quite reasonable: $50, I believe. I can't wait to go back and try some of the other things on their menu. It hadn't changed much since the last time we came, but maybe they'll have some seasonal dishes once we hit spring.