Friday, July 31, 2009

never a problem

I had injera (spongy, heavenly, slightly sour Ethiopian flatbread) in excess of what I needed to sop up the rest of my Ethiopian leftovers. This was absolutely not a problem!

I found somethin’ good to put on top :D DSCF1653

Stumbling around Ethiopian food on recipezaar fortuitously led me to this recipe. Fortuitously because we had farmer’s market okra in need of usin’!

Bamya (interestingly enough, also the Greek word for okra!) Alich’a. Absolutely delish.


I followed the recipe pretty exactly, only halving it. I will say that the half recipe called for a whole jalapeno, and I only had half of one, but it was still MEGA SPICY. I would probably recommend taking the seeds OUT of your jalapeno: the mother and I like our spice, but we were still gulping down water. Nonetheless, it was delish.

To get some more protein in, I made something I ogled over at Kristen's blog: chickpea patties!

Easy peasy! I tossed these things in the food processor:


Along with salt n peppa and cumin. And onto the griddle they went!


Nummy, crumbly, and oh so easy!

And now I am due for a weekend. TTFN!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


So I’ve been eating these ravenously all week (yay for easy recipes that make twelve servings!), but am just getting around to actually posting them!

I give you… delicious, sweet n savory, crusty, and, get this, healthy, empanadas!


Spooning happily on the plate.

So here’s what I did. I assembled my veggies:


Based on some browsing, I decided to include half a sweet potato (yum!) half an onion (pretty obvious) and half a jalapeno (straight from the farm stand!).

I browned up those guys in just a little bit of veggie oil (adding the jalapeno last, for eye-killing vapor prevention).

Then I drained some beef… GROSS OUT SHOT!


When I’m home, I tend to be vigilant around the meat products, and make sure that when I cook things like ground beef, I use a method that allows fat to DRAIN (grilling, browning and draining, etc.). Because my mom is a gal who likes to save a buck, she buys Costco beef. A pound and a half of the stuff yielded, as you can see, almost a CUP of DRIPPING SATURATED FAT. AAAAAGH!

Anyway, back to the filling.


Nice, huh? I browned and drained the beef, put about half of it (so about 3/4 of a pound, uncooked) back in the pan with the veg, and made it more filling-y with a dab of tomato paste and the last of the V8 (1/4 cup or less). Then I added lotsa cinnamon and cumin!

Assembly time!


My mom was kind enough to make the dough when I was off at the gym. We used this recipe, and I can’t say enough good things. Very tasty, very healthy (lookit all the whole grains! We used stone ground cornmeal, too), and soooo user friendly. The rolling process, pictured below, was a breeze!


Put the dough circle in your hand, then scoop (I used a 1/4 cup measuring scoop, which was perfect) the filling into the center, and bring the sides together to make a half circle.

There was a bit of a filling shortage, so I used the leftover dough to make CHEDDAR AND CHUTNEY MINI EMPANADAS!


So, so delicious! My mom uses that combination on baked potatoes, and it is SO GOOD!

Here are the final ones, hot outta the oven:


Oh crusty goodness! The crust is delicious and savory, with wonderful flavors coming from the garlic powder and the cornmeal (I cannot get enough cornmeal!) It’s also very filling and crusty and comforting, while at the same time retaining a lightness of texture and crispness.


And a word on the filling—well, two. First word: it’s delicious! It’s savory and sweet, tangy from the jalapeno and spices, pleasantly chewy from the sweet potato. Second word: it just gets better! Every day I keep the empanadas, they get tastier! And they reheat with a simple zap in the micro!

So, and sorry this post is so monstrous but as you can tell I’m in love with these things, here is the dinner I was able to throw together tonight (after arriving home at 9, after commuting, after almost 11 hours of work!)


Que bonita!

The side salad was just beautiful fresh tomato, beautiful fresh avocado, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.


I almost deleted this cause I know there are a ridiculous number of pictures, but doesn’t the plate look kind of like a nose with a smile underneath? Anyone?!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

lucky girl

I am so spoiled: I got to go out for dinner, and for FUN EXOTIC CUISINES, no less, two times this week!

After working til 8 tonight (oi oi oi), the dinner destination was Dama, an Ethiopian restaurant I found through my trusty Yelp. It’s on the somewhat sketchy part of Columbia Pike (Northern Virginians know to what I refer) in an assuming strip mall type area, but there lined up are the Dama cafe, restaurant, and market. The restaurant was adorbs!


Being my ridiculous self, I was delighted (which you can’t really tell from this picture) that most of the clientele definitely seemed to be Ethiopian. More than that, it was clearly a family owned restaurant (adorable little children kept running around), and the whole time my cousin and I were made to feel incredibly welcome and cared for.

And the food… oh the food. Is there ANYTHING more fun than sharing Ethiopian food? Eating with heavenly, HEAVENLY bread (injera! Sweet injera! Nothing rhymes with injera for me to write you an ode, but if I could I would!)


The dishes on the rim of this massive platter make up what the menu referred to as my “vegetarian”, and, this is great, “plate”. Yeah, that’s a plate. Sure. From the side (the three o’clock of the plate) is plain salad (the only nonexciting thing- could’ve been a garden salad at your run of the mill place); collards (!); chickpeas with a really great flavorful sauce; red lentils in a wonderful smokey oily chili sauce; at the top some kind of bean blend (I think she said it was lentils and chickpeas?) which was the. best. ever. Super sweet and rich!; and finally a dish of carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, which sounds like the most boring thing ever but Ethiopian-ified was unreal.

I am having a hard time describing these because the beauty of Ethiopian food is that the ingredients are very simple and wholesome. The flavor comes through with incredible seasoning and preparation.

And injera. Oh injera.

They gave extra! <3<3<3


In the center is a serving of some of my cousin’s bread salad, which came in a massive side bowl:


More heavenly injera, sweet ripe tomatoes, tasty herbs, and chilis, which gave it a kick! I got one in the back of my throat, WHOO!

Some noteworthy closeups:


Spicy richly oily red lentils! Heaven!


Collards. Oh sweet collards.

Just in case that wasn’t great enough (and I seriously STUFFED myself. It was a long, tiring day at work, it was the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever tasted, and it is just SO MUCH FUN to eat with your hands with bread as your utensil), there was the attached bakery.





The incredibly sweet and friendly woman behind the counter said that the pastries were generally not super traditional Ethiopian, but were all baked on site based on their own recipes, and that they were known for the fact that most of their dishes were vegan (which I think may have to do with the fact that- like me!- many Ethiopians are Orthodox and have to follow fasting rules, when we theoretically give up all dairy… which I am more lax about!)

But let’s just look at those cookies, shall we?


So I went to BUY a SINGLE cookie for my mom. Here’s what I ended up with instead, FOR FREE:


YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY! Light, flaky, buttery (despite the lack of butter!) cookies. Some with apricot filling :D Some with powdered sugar :D

Basically, I need to get back to Dama ASAP.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

new york bagel…

… inside an omelet!

I came home from work and was hunnngry and tired and lazy. I was only cooking for myself, as my mother is out and she’s the only one who really holds us to regular meals (my sister just eats basically nonstop). So, I went ahead and made something easy, quick, and delish!

So New York bagel… without the bagel!

DSCF1617A two-egg omelet filled with smoked salmon, tomato, avocado, and dabs of neufchatel cheese.

Accompanied with gorgeous corn on the cob (okay, not the New York bagel connection, but in need of use from the farm stand) and yogurt, on my grandmother’s exceptionally beautiful plate:


Omelet closeup:


My filling runneth over! This combination was TO DIE FOR. The salty/savory smoked salmon, the acidic and sweet brightness of the tomato, the rich avocado, and the occasional creamy burst from the cream cheese made for a DELICIOUS, HEAVENLY combination wrapped inside lovely fluffy eggs. And this meal took like 10 minutes to make, p.s.


The corn also gets a special shoutout because it was as SWEET AS CANDY! Seriously, I have never in my life had such sweet corn. I ate it like a woman possessed. The corn was so sweet that I ended up putting the sweetened yogurt back after I’d eaten my omelet and corn and just having plain yogurt, which totally hit the spot.

Monday, July 27, 2009

international delights

Man I ate well today!

Breakfast I was excited because we currently have Greek-style (I will never call the stuff outside Greece fully “Greek” again) yogurt, courtesy of TJ’s. I decided to recreate one of those awesome breakfast buffets.


Plain nonfat (a heresy in Greece!) yogurt with honey, a beautiful MASSIVE kiwi, dates, almonds, and the last of the mini bread leftover from the tea sandwiches (I weighed them out of curiosity- 3 slices equaled one ounce, so one serving) with preserves on top. I had tea on the side- I knew the coffee wouldn’t compare :(

The verdict? The figs, almonds, preserves, yogurt, and honey weren’t as good as Greece! Of course! But they were nonetheless not bad at all. And the kiwi was as fresh and delicious.

Lunch I migrated to Mexico:


A leftover homemade empanada (these bad boys are getting a post of their own, this is just a teaser), and tomato and avocado salad (more yummy deformed tomato!)

But dinner. Ohhhh, dinner! Long story short-

1. I live in Annandale, Virginia, a city known as “Koreatown”. There are a lotttt of Korean people, ergo there is really really really good Korean food. Everywhere.

2. It was my stepmother’s birthday last week, which my stupid father forgot to tell us at the time (well, admittedly, he was distracted) and she is a lover of tofu.

So we went to LIGHTHOUSE TOFU!


Okay, so the outside is, to be kind, “unassuming.”

But the inside is presh!


Cute tables, happy clientele that was almost exclusively Korean (yeah, I’m silly, but I have found that it’s often a sign of good eats to come!)

The wall had a pattern of writing that my stepmother, a fluent and native Mandarin speaker, said was a mix of Chinese and Korean. It was cute!


They bring everyone out barley tea to drink, which is refreshing and delicious and just a wee bit… musty? If you’re a mate fan, you will likely like this. We perused the very brief menu.


They have some basic Korean stuff (like bulgogi, which my tofu-hating father got) but the main attraction of this place, as evidenced by the title, is tofu- hot tofu soup, to be precise, which is what my stepmom, sister, and I ordered. While we waited, they brought out this crazy stuff:


It is basically liquid salad. Cold, spicy, acidic soup with yummy yummy cabbage in it.

Then, as at almost every Korean place, the panchan (complimentary appetizers):


Spicy garlic relish and delicious sweet-spicy cucumber salad


Bean sprouts and, of course, kimchi.

But we wanted the tofu show!

And it arrived, in a steaming cauldron with rice and raw eggs on the side:


The trick with Korean tofu soup is to crack the egg in as quickly as possible so the steaming fabulous cauldron vat of goodness cooks the egg. It’s not tradition to break the yolk, but it tastes better, imo. My Asian stepmother did it, so I didn’t feel too gringo!

Here’s the soup up close:


While this soup is particularly warm and comforting in the winter, ESPECIALLY if you’ve got a cold, I love it year-round. The tofu is creamy and soaks up the flavor, the broth is spicy and flavorful and complex, and it’s fun selecting your fillings (there was a range of permutations of meats, seafood, and vegetables; and you could get it on a scale of “mild” to “spicy spicy”. Not being quite brave enough for “spicy spicy”, I got the regular “spicy”, which nonetheless got my sinuses going!)

Moreover, I love living in a neighborhood where for the same price as somewhere crappy like TGI Friday’s or the like, you can get a nice casual weeknight dining experience (and incidentally, the service was great! Everyone is always very doting and helpful to the unpracticed) and the food is WAY tastier, likely way healthier and not mass processed, and you also get some culture along the way!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I got home from work in a not-bad mood on Friday. I couldn’t remember the last time that happened! Then I remembered how great it was to be in a good mood! So I kept it up :D The weekend included seeing The Ugly Truth (if you are easily offended, don’t see it, but I kind of LOVED IT!), hangin’ poolside, working out, bubble bath, a GREAT new book (The Cellist of Sarajevo- anyone read it?)—good things, in other words. We did start cleaning out my grandpa’s apartment, which is a little on the surreal side, but it was also sort of therapeutic to sit around with my aunt, swapping stories, laughing… good stuff.

So back to my good mood—how can my mood not be good? Look at all my tomatoes!


Incidentally, these are from three different sources, but all are local! The huge deformed (and thus delicious- we already broke into this guy!) one is from the Potomac farm stand. The regular ones are from the Ballston farmer’s market. And the cherry ones are from my sister’s godmother’s back patio, and are sweet as candy!

More goodness- cookies!     


My mom’s having a work retreat, and being a VERY nice coworker, decided to make everyone cookies (we were also visiting family this weekend, and brought some for them… basically at one point there were six dozen chocolate chip cookies in my house. Vair dangerous.) I suggested this recipe, which I’d been eyeing for quite some time.

It said they were crisp on the outside, soft in the middle.



And, um, I hear the dough was pretty good too x_x Actually, I restrained myself and grabbed a biteful JUST as I was running out the door to the movies, because I have no restraint around cookie dough, so I had to eat it and immediately escape. My  mom, though, really went to town!

In the healthier but still sweet department, we had some super ripe peaches that would’ve been fun to grill but I lacked the energy to fire up the charcoal, plus it’d be stupid to do for just peaches. Thus, the saute. Heat up a wee bit of butter in a pan, toss in some super ripe sliced peaches and their juice (slice over a bowl)


Sautee til caramely, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar and lemon juice


And serve!


Delicious and easy.

Also sweet? My favorite salad dressing du jour!


We are not a family for bottled dressings, or for creamy dressings. However, this stuff is CRAZY TASTY! We got it quiiiiite awhile ago coming home from the beach and just got around to opening it, and it’s wonderful and sweet and tangy and flavorful.

And yeah, high in fat. But if you’re sprinkling a small quantity of it on raw vegetables, bee eff dee.


Crazy tasty salad!

Finally, another thing making me happy is something that always makes me happy- using up leftovers in a delicious way!


Leftover chicken became peanut chicken soba salad. Seriously, Cooking Light really delivers. I very rarely have one of their recipes that is not excellent. This was colorful, tangy, and texturally and tastily fun to eat. And healthy, no less!