Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Anything is good if it's made of chocolate"

A few short weeks (okay a month, I'm behind, AGAIN) I would have agreed with Jo Brand. I now know that it's a lie, lie, lie!

Since we were busy little cooking bee's in February, my brilliant idea of a chocolate themed dinner got pushed to March. Obviously a full meal of chocolate would be fantastic, right?

Wrong. It started innocently enough. Homemade ravioli , with ricotta and chocolate, in a sage and butter sauce (Thanks Mario Battali).

Doesn't that dough look innocent? It was. And doesn't that filling look normal?

See... it even looks okay on that nice little plate there. It wasn't.
Let me assure you: do not attempt this at home. I'm not going to say it was the first cooking club fail. Fail is a strong word. First cooking club "bad idea" is probably a better description.

The only way I suggest trying this again is if Mario himself makes it for you. (You hear that Mario? Feel free to come cook for me whenever you want).

But, in true cooking in the hood style we're not quitters. We had plenty of other things to keep us occupied. Champagne does go well with chocolate, even if the chocolate isn't very good.

Let's hope my next pick for a theme has a better result.
PS. Please note. I refuse to share the actual recipe. Google it if you are that interested.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

welcome to de island, mon.

For our January meeting...we decided to take a vacation. A fantastic, amazing, tropical vacation. We'd all survived SNOWPOCALYPSE 2009 and frankly are all damn sick of this cold, depressing weather. Bring on the rum, coconuts, and grass skirts.

When I came across this recipe I was skeptical at first...sweet potatoes and pinto beans? Really? But with a title like "addictive" and hoards of positive reviews, I decided to give it a shot. And guess what, they're pretty damn delicious.

*a great thing about is they have a servings converter. I carefully calculated 5 servings and promptly disregarded all proportions.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 12 (10 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
  • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Heat oil in a medium skillet, and saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in beans, and mash.

  • Gradually stir in water, and heat until warm. Remove from heat, and stir in the chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper and soy sauce.

not the most appetizing pictures...but i swear the spices make your kitchen smell like HEAVEN.
  • Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the warm flour tortillas. Top with cheese. Fold up tortillas burrito style, and place on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, and serve.

Welcome to your island vacation. (The mojitos, margaritas, tequila sunrises, and red stripe were crucial in our travel plans.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Go Go Go!!!

Help Karen Help Haiti!
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HOP TO PEOPLE!! Make it happen :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

One cold November day, I received a mysterious card in the mail. Bill? No. Credit card offer? No. Then what could it be? I anxiously tore it open while still in the elevator and gasped with surprise and sheer glee: a BID. Not just any bid, a neon pink bid card inviting me to join the most prestigious club in all the land: Cooking in the Hood!

The theme for December was easily agreed upon: BOOZE. Being the new girl, I had to do something pretty great. Well, aside from consuming alcohol, what's the next best thing you can do? Set it on fire.

I read a few different recipes for saganaki, the famous flaming Greek cheese (ironic now, isn't it, with the whole bid process. i digress) and picked my favorite parts of all the recipes. So here we go:

Kasseri is the most widely-used cheese for this--it should be a hard cheese, but melt nicely.

Cut into slices and place in shallow bowl.

Soak in brandy for 2 hours

When ready to serve, dredge in flour

and FRY in a hot skillet. (30 seconds to 1 minute on each side--you want a crust and it to start to get melty)

Oh, oil your pan first so the cheese doesn't stick.

I then transported the cheesy goodness to the secret Cooking in the Hood clubhouse, and rewarmed in the broiler.

As soon as the cheese is hot and melty (again, in my case) pour 2 tablespoons (or a generous shake from the bottle) on top of the cheese and light a match.

photo credit: ms. ashley

Prepare yourself for thunderous "oohs" and "aahs."

photo credit: ms. ashley
Now there are a couple tricks to this, which lead to why we don't have better documentation of the fire:
1. make sure your brandy is warm--room temperature is fine, but it needs to not be cold or it wont flame.
2. the heat from the cheese also help warm the brandy up to flamable temperatures so as soon as the cheese is out, the fire-lighting process must initiate.
3. nothing actually excuses the fact that i have no pictures. i am, after all, a terribly successful food blogger.
shameless plug. i'm okay with it.
Squeeze some lemon on top to extinguish any lingering flames and serve immediately.

As the newbie (or pledge, depending who you ask), I'll be hosting January's meeting--can't wait!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cheers from the hood....

Let's say you spend 5+ hours on a train, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, where there are not enough seats for tickets sold (Good job Amtrak!) and crying children all around you.

Let's also say, you didn't listen to your mother and bring food on the train. You're hungry and cranky, and have to wait in a cab line of enormous lengths at Union Station.

But it's all okay!!!

Why you ask?

Because your fellow hood members are standing by with cake and champagne to greet you!

A celebration and toast to a year gone by and a year ahead, it was made with Lmac's grandmother's checkerboard cake pans and lots of love (and patience i think). Vanilla dyed pink, and chooclate cake, with chocolate icing. Who wouldn't love that?

Balance it with a glass (or two) of champagne, and it's a dinner fit for a queen. Take that Amtrak

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Very Merry Thanksgiving for Two

Let me begin by apologizing to my fellow Cooking in the Hood members. Somehow the pictures from the inaugural cooking club have disappeared, somewhere between the camera and the computer. There's a good possibility Bacon Boy pulled them off the camera and promptly did nothing with them. So, my apologies for the lack of pictures (or entry, really) from our authentic Italian feast – it was so long ago at this point, I can't do the meal and the wine consumption the justice they deserve.

To make it up to you, may I present: A Thanksgiving for Two (or 10), as prepared by me and BB.

Our (Mostly) Vegetarian Menu:

Turkey (prepared completely by BB - previous work seen here)
Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding, made with a Blue Hubbard squash, instead of butternut
Brussels Sprout Slaw with a Mustard Vinaigrette and Maple Glazed Pecans
Cranberry Mustard Relish
Corn Linda (a Thanksgiving must have in our house)
Mashed Potatoes
Homemade Rosemary Bread (BB's creation)

This was our fourth Thanksgiving spent in DC together, and sadly, our third one spent without other guests. Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, and spending a very quiet weekend with BB, but there comes a point when you make too much food for two people, who are eating leftovers every day for a week. But it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the overindulgence and gluttony, right?

Well, it's certainly not helped when a recipe you are following seems to quadruple as you prepare it, as was the case of the Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding. This recipe came from the November issue of Bon Appetit, a trustworthy source. It even had an entire article devoted to this one particular recipe. I'm always looking for a new main dish for me, and this covered two requirements – a filling main dish and stuffing (or dressing, for you Midwesterners out there). It was added to the menu, without a thought.

It started at the Sexy Safeway, when we had to ask them to restock the kale, for the pound listed in the recipe. Of course, then the butternut squash they had were puny and soft. Crisis averted, I chose a fun, new squash from their pile of winter gourds. Then they were out of baguettes, so we opted for a loaf of French bread, to be mixed with a Quinoa Multigrain loaf. We've both lived in the city long enough, we know better than to expect any grocery store we go to actually have everything on our list, especially in our neighborhood, so we're both pretty adept at change.

The real issues came during the preparation. First, the lovely Blue Hubbard has some of the thickest flesh I've ever seen on a squash. The blister I got on my finger from peeling the thing can attest to that.

Then there wasn't nearly enough of the custard for the bread to soak. And did you know that washing, de-ribbing, and chopping a pound of kale reduces your already tight counter space to just about zero? Move on to the sautéing of the kale and shallots. This resulted in a few burned leaves (and most of the shallot), and the realization that following the recipe might not be the best idea anymore.

The final straw was in the building of the dish. The recipe clearly calls for two layers of everything. I'm not sure exactly what kind of magic casserole dish they were using in the Bon Appetit test kitchens, but mine was full at one layer and comical at two.

Forty-five minutes later, our meal came together beautifully. Is there a better feeling than pulling all your dishes out at the same time, everything hot and ready to eat? I say no. Everything was delicious, as usual, even the ever expanding Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding. Of course, we ended up freezing half of it, and still had to throw some out. Moral of the story: don't always believe the serving size listed in a recipe. Maybe next year we'll have company and won't have to worry as much?

Don't worry, you're all invited.
- Lauren McK

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


In honor of the fall season, this month's cooking in the hood theme was squash. Without any prior coordination, we ended up each using a different kind of squash, which gave us some excellent variety and also just looked gorgeous.

Since the point of our cooking club is to try out recipes we've never done before, I usually head over to epicurious- my go-to for finding new, unique recipes. I almost always find something delicious, and this time was no different. After searching for squash recipes, I stumbled upon a Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne that I decided to make for the main course.

This was not the easiest recipe I'd ever attempted- nor was it the cheapest ($10 for a bag of hazelnuts is a bit much), but it was worth all of the effort. I read through the notes (which I always find very helpful) and decided beforehand on a few minor tweaks.

First off, it is much easier to peel and slice butternut squash after microwaving it for a minute or so. Still, slicing such a large, thick vegetable can be a little tough, so be careful!

I used a bit more garlic than it calls for in the roux, added a bit more sage as some of the commentors suggested, and also left all of the hazelnut skins on, toasted them, and chopped them briefly in a food processor. I think it turned out great, and everyone loved it (unless they were just drunk). The additional sage added some wonderful flavor, and I really loved the texture of the hazelnut skins- it gave the dish a really rustic look. I served the lasagne with a Syrah, which worked out very well. All in all, this is an excellent fall rich, flavorful fall recipe that I will definitely be making again, and would highly recommend to anyone else!