Friday, November 27, 2009

Let them eat pie...

This year, in the midst of my chaos, I chose not to celebrate Thanksgiving. I did not travel to family. I did not except traditional dinner invitations. I did not feast on the norm. Instead of turkey there was tapas. Instead of pie there was paella. Instead of family there were friends. I thought this is what I wanted. I thought this would easier, less messy. I thought wrong.

After a day of craving I realized I want the pie. I need the pie. The pie is essential to me getting through the chaos. I cannot turn back the clock but I can look forward to the next holiday. I can embrace the caroling and the lights and the travel. I can be thankful for family and let them in.

And maybe, just maybe, I can continue to bake and perfect the most tasty pie to take home for the holidays. After all, isn't it all about the pie?

First step in the process...

Bourbon And Chocolate Pecan Pie
Adapted from Tyler Florence

Pie Pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup finely ground pecans
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 large eggs1 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup or sugar cane syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

To make the pastry: combine the flour, ground pecans, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix with a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in the ice water and work it in to bind the dough until it holds together without being too wet or sticky. Squeeze a small amount together, if it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Carefully roll the dough up onto the pin (this may take a little practice) and lay it inside a 9-inch pie pan. Press the dough into the pan so it fits tightly and trim the excess around the rim. Place the pie pan on a sturdy cookie sheet so it will be easy to move in and out of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the filling: melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, remove from heat and let cool. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl until frothy and then blend in the sugar. Stir in the syrup, vanilla, bourbon, salt, and the melted butter mixture until well blended.

Arrange the pecans on the bottom of the pie crust and carefully pour the egg mixture over them. Bake until the filling is set and slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a thin knife in the center of the pie, if it comes out pretty clean, you're good to go. Transfer the pie to rack and cool completely before cutting.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Day A Little Less Expected...

When I left for work at 8:00 a.m. I did not expect to be late. I did not expect to encounter two fires, a re-route and a missed train. I did not expect to stand in line at Starbucks for 10 minutes and I did not expect that they would be out of Christmas Blend. I did not expect for a co-worker to be fired and I did not expect to be blown off by someone that I was hoping to see. After all these barriers I did not expect for a day filled with anything but... but that is what the unexpected is all about, right?

Thanks to the fires and waits and the being stood up I am able to tell the tale of an evening filled with unexpected company, at an unexpected restaurant with unexpected cuisine. As as much as this planner hates to admit this, the best times are spent when all the plans go out the window... or in my case, catch on fire.

The only expected part of my evening was that it was spent on 14th Street, where I spend sometimes 4 out of 7 evenings. One unexpected phone call, a metro ride and a 15 minute walk led me to a spontaneous evening at Masa14, a restaurant new to the bustling 14th Street bar scene. I expected a wait but got a seat. I expected Spanish but got a fusion of Asian-Latin. I expected an overpriced, mediocre menu but saw small plates under $10 with creative ingredients and fresh flavors.

I shared Yukka Fries with a Spicy Lime dipping sauce that made eating fries seem a little more acceptable. I started with a Seaweed Salad that had amazing texture and flavor followed by a Tuna Sashami Flatbread that was adorned with wasabi aioli and arugula. The service phenomenally matched the food and my company was just as flavorful ... something I do not find in DC on an ordinary weeknight--- especially on a day filled with barriers. A day that started out challenging turned into wonderful... something this gal certainly did not expect!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Relationships, Food and Life Lessons...

As most of you know, food is such an intregal part of my life. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to share good food with people I care about. And most of all I love to share stories about all of the above. If you think about it, food is interwoven into all of our social make-ups-- memories, rituals, holidays and religion. For instance, next week is Thanksgiving and sure it is about the family and the thankfulness but it is more about the food and the sharing and the tradition. But that does not mean our meals will all be the same...

I just read a great little read, The Gastronomy of Marriage, an autobiography laced with cooking and relationships and a pending marriage- a memoir covering six months of the authors life. It is about the similiarities and differences found in all relationships... played out at the table.

As a food lover and writer, the author uses food and dining as the central metaphor and oh there are differences. She likes to have the menu planned in advance; he actually seems uneasy if it's not a last-minute inspiration. His family taught him the light, clear flavors of Chinese cooking, her Italian heritage taught her about rich sauces and deep warm tastes. Like all relationships I have been in, there are tensions, rewards and panic... but most of all there is a common love for food that keeps all the other items in check.

I was drawn to this book because of the food but it reminded me of a lesson we all need to remember: Diversify your tastes and celebrate your differences! So often we discount people because we have different palates. Just because Sam likes Sushi and Penny devours Pot Pie does not mean that they are incompatible. These differences are like spices. A pinch of this, three pinches of that, a little compromise and a lot of learning is needed to create their own meals, their own life ...and maybe, just maybe if stirred right that will be the most delicious meal of all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meltdown and no tuna melts...

Last night I was at my salon, Bang, which happens to be around the corner from my favorite Tuna Melt place--- you know, the one with the heavenly sour dough, having a new guy cut my hair. Anyone that knows me knows that my hair is my thing; hair, food and music. I am always searching for the perfect cut and the perfect hairdresser. Last night my hairdresser had a meltdown, mid-cut... and this was a far cry from perfect.

Over analysing over drinks and roasted vegetable salad (will power not want kept me away from the decadent Tuna Melt), my friend and I decided that D (the hairdresser) sees himself as an artist and the meltdown came from lack of forsight on what to do with my canvas. I began to empathise as I remembered a time I had a slight meltdown (or ten) while preparing my beloved store this time of the year for the holiday season. Nothing is more frustrating than getting designers block after moving all of the furniture in the middle of the floor, mid day and knowing you have to create something because your store is FULL with customers. Sometimes you have to just move forth and create, forsight or not. You fight back the tears and the fear of failure and you move forth! D finally moved forth and created. I am unsure whether either of us is truly happy with the canvas...what I am certain of is that he is glad the furniture has been moved. *As I reminisce I am missing all my ShopGals and all the support they gave me through my 10 (well maybe 10.5) meltdowns. I have a feeling that I will think of you often, if not daily over the next month. Love you madly!*

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chaos, Curry and My Cherie

I cannot smell Curry without thinking of my dear friend, Cherie. I also cannot get a massage, paint, eat on the floor or hear Nora Jones without her sweet face entering my mind. I have not seen her in almost four years but she is still an influence in my day-to-day.

You see, Cherie put curry in everything. When she made soup- curry. When she cooked Mexican- curry. I swear I had apple pie this gal made that had a hint of curry.

After a chaotic week (I know, it was only Wednesday) I was feeling a little nostalgic and in need of that peace my friend would bring me as we shared lunch daily in my business, circa 2003-05. Last night, as an ode to my Denver residing friend I made my version of Curry Lentil Soup. It has a little bit of her, a little bit of me and a lot of memories laced into every bite.

Red Lentil and Tofu Curry
Adapted from Gourmet
1 small onion, medium diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 pound firm tofu
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
1 tablespoons, fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon oil In a small sauce pot. Cook onion and garlic over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add ginger and cook for another minute. Add lentils and water and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are soft enough to fall apart, about 20 minutes.

While lentils are boiling, rinse tofu and trim ends off. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Gently press tofu between paper towels to remove excess moisture.

In a wok or skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Cook cumin seeds, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tofu cubes and gently stir fry (after you first put in tofu, leave it untouched for about 2 minutes to allow it to slightly brown, then stir.) Add curry and salt. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer tofu mixture into the lentils. Cook curry for another 4 to 5 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Salt to taste. Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice, toasts or crackers, baguette or multigrain bread.

I enjoyed this meal sitting cross legged on my floor, listening to the soothing voice of Nora and reminising about good times spent with great friends on Monroe Street in Radford, circa simplier times... or were they?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Supper from a Super Hero

So, I was once told that if I were a Super Hero I would be named Procrastinator X and I would flutter about with my sparkly cape (hopefully in a variety of colors with super boots to match) saying "I will get you... Tomorrow!"

As I work best under pressure (famous words of the eternal procrastinator) I found myself in a bit of a super hero moment last night. I replaced my wand with a spatula but I was putting off work like it was my business. Instead of at my computer I found myself in the kitchen cooking... something that was not on this Super Hero's agenda but sure turned out magical.

On the Magical Menu: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

4 cubed sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 onion, chopped and cooked
1 red pepper, chopped and cooked
1 can black beans
1 cup fresh corn
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Mix potatoes, beans, onion, pepper, corn and spices together. Fold into Spinach Tortillas.
Top with fresh salsa (I used the Trader Joes with Cilantro). Broil for 4 minutes. Cover with cheese (I used a Monterrey Mix). Broil for 2 more minutes. Serve with Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt.

Last week I made this for friends I accompanied the Enchiladas with an Arugula Salad with chopped mangos and a garlic lime dressing. And a lot of wine. SO GOOD!!!

I am a multi-tasking procrastinator so I also made Squash Soup, Wild Rice Salad and a big mess that I conveniently had to clean up. I then proceeded to make three friends mixed CDs w enclosed, detailed letters that I will place in the mail this morning. After all, who needs to start work right away... Of to save the world and the kitchen, one meeting and meal at a time.

xoxo- Procrastinator X

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Detoxification and Dinner

Wouldn't that be a good song or book title?
I always think of life experience and occurrence as a song, book or sitcom title. So far I have 5 different series (all running 7 seasons), 19 bookcases full and a 53 Mega Hits!

This week is all about the emotional, nutritional and physical detox. Seriously. After all of the people and the drinks and the food I am spending this week balancing out... starting with dinner. I am proud to say that it is only Tuesday and I have cooked three separate, very nutritional dishes and have packed my lunch daily. Unfortunately as I sit here I am drinking a glass of my favorite TJ's Bordeaux and have made plans for two nights this week. One life item at a time--- guess a gal needs some toxins, right?

Two detoxifying dinners:
Wild Rice Salad
In my new cookbook, Clean Cooking, (again, Thanks Mom!) I learned that wild rice is a grass and not a grain. This makes it a GREAT protein source as well as packed with fiber. This salad can be hot or cold and it so yummy! Adapted from New York Times recipe with my imagination--- basically, it VAGUELY resembles their recipe :)

1 cup wild rice, rinsed
Salt to taste
1/3 cup lightly toasted broken walnut pieces
1 can chopped artichokes
1 can garbonzo beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Juice of a lemon
Head of brocolli steamed and chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Bring the water and artichoke juice boil in a large saucepan, add salt to taste and the wild rice. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender and splayed. Add brocolli and artichokes for last 5 minutes. Drain and toss in a large bowl with the remaining salad ingredients.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Adapted from The Clueless Vegetarian

1 tbsp EVOO
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp curry
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 clove garlic
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 28-oz (796mL) cans diced tomatoes
2 19-oz (540mL) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp crumbled dried oregano

Heat the oil in your RED DUTCH OVEN:). Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the onions are soft - about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, curry and the cumin and cook for another minute or so. Add the vgetable broth and the cubed sweet potatoes, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost tender - about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with all the juice from the can, the beans, salt, and oregano. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then let simmer until the potatoes are completely tender - about 20 minutes. Puree 1/2 and serve with a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream.

Cooked listening to these new tunes (or old on new mixes)
Slow Down- Wallis Bird
The Great Salt Lake- Band of Horse
The Chain- Ingrid Michealson
Selfish Jean- Travis
Float On- Modest Mouse
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa- Vampire Weekend
Got To Have You- The Weepies
Back in Your Head- Teegan and Sara
Time to Pretend- MGMT
Mercury Falling- Sting
Throw it All Away- Brandi Carlise

Now, off to watch David D in last season's Californication... a great addition to Detoxification :)

xoxo- Detox Debbie

Monday, November 2, 2009

Very Cool Gift

So, some of my favorite gifts this weekend were time spent together, a mailed pumpkin, dark chocolate treats, mixed CDs and a great Kenneth Cole Bracelet. My most unique gift was Granola. Yes, Granola.

A dear, thoughtful and creative friend gifted me a "Make Your Own Mix"
at A very innovative company that I recently learned was almost a client of the PR Agency I work for. With my $15 I logged on to the site where they walk you through choosing a base granola (I chose an organic Mussolini) and then you get to customize it with all sorts of good things. Dried strawberries, blueberries, raisins, Goji berries, kiwi chips... the list of fruit goes on and on.

Then you get to the nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pepitas — over a dozen choices! Then there were the potential mix-ins: protein enhancers, coconut shreds, yogurt pretzels, even M&Ms.

I stayed away from the chocolate (I know, will power, right? ). I will report back on the taste but the concept is awesome. It was fun to shop for my ingredients online over coffee this a.m. Fun gift for health contentious friend or a student at school. Gift rating, A+... you are in the lead KTK... seriously :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fortune Telling, Fried Green Tomatoes and Five Mixed CDs

Whew, what a weekend! There was no carrot cake but there was much celebrating!!!

I had my fortune read by Miss Jessica, ate amazing fried green tomatoes and received five really great mixed CDs... that, a visit by two former Shop Gals, unique food, lots of red wine and time spent with the people that mean the most made for an amazing culinary and celebratory week. No worries to those of you not involved... I felt your love telepathically... and the fortune teller told me you were there in spirit!

Favorite foods consumed during my week long culinary celebration:
Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing- Founding Farmers
Wood Grilled Calamari with Lentils- Cafe Saint X
Roasted Beet Salad and Goat Cheese Salad- Bar Pillar
Porcini Risotto- Potenza
Roasted Chestnut, Ricotta and Artichoke Pasta- Posto
Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzels- Chocolate Paper

I also checked out a new bar located in Logan Circle called ChurchKey that has an UNBELIEVABLE beer selection with 75 brews on tap and hundreds in the bottle.

I do not need a fortune teller to tell me that if I keep up this restaurant tour I will need new jeans but it was totally worth it! I just left Trader Joes with healthy produce and grains and new recipes are soon to follow.

Today is Nov 1--- it is a new week, a new month and a new year for me. As I listen to my new tunes while perusing my great new cookbook (Thanks, Mom!), I make you a promise of more time spent cooking, consistent chaos and a continuation of carefully crafted recipes... after all, Miss Jessica said writing was definitely in the cards.