Archive | June, 2014

Treat Yourself: French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese

30 Jun

Surprisingly, the air conditioning in my turn-of-the-century home has been functioning so efficiently that I forget it’s probably over 90 degrees outside.  Both soup and a molten grilled cheese are normally associated with a brisk fall evening or a snowpocalypse, but I say NAY to stereotypical seasonal restrictions! Wrapped in a cozy blanket basking in the AC, I recently dined on the most indulgent and delicious grilled cheese I’ve ever had.  I’m a huge fan of French Onion soup in general, so when I found a recipe for incorporating the same concept into a SANDWICH, I knew it had to become a reality ASAP. Pro tip: make sure you’re starving.

Grilled cheeses are pretty straight forward and cheap, but this recipe calls for an additional preliminary step of braising a bunch of delicious onions.  Your grocery list should still be very reasonable.  Assuming you have olive oil, butter, and some wine, your list is basically garlic cloves, onions, bread, cheese, and thyme.

To make the wine-braised onions, you’ll need:

  • about 1 small clove garlic per 2 onions
  • onions (cook about 3-5 at a time, as you will find many uses for leftover caramelized onions)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • bay leaf (which I didn’t use)
  • fresh thyme
  • red or white wine (I suggest red, you only need a 1/4 cup worth, so just finish off that random bottle in your house)


Cut the onions in half lengthwise, then slice thinly again lengthwise.

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For every 1 large onion, heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Add the same amount of butter, allow to melt, then add minced garlic. Allow the garlic to soften (but not color), then add the onions. Stir to coat the garlic and onions in oil+butter, add a bay leaf and a small sprig of thyme, then turn down the heat to medium low (so onions don’t burn).

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Continue to cook the onions until they are soft and deep golden brown, 30-40 minutes (depending on how many onions you cook).  After this point, add about ¼ cup red or white wine (again I suggest red for some pretty coloring), and allow to cook down with the onions, another 5-7 minutes.

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The intoxicatingly rich smell of these bad boys is enough to get your mouth watering.  Once finished, set aside for grilled cheese assembly.

For the sandwich (makes one, I doubled the recipe for a hungry roommate), you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon each grapeseed (or olive) oil and butter, for frying
  • 2 slices of french baguette or french bread (I used wheat sourdough)
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter (I used way more than this.  I eyed the amount to my heart’s content)
  • enough shredded gruyere cheese to generously cover both slices of bread (the grocery store just had a block of gruyere, but I definitely recommend using the shredded if you can find it)
  • about ½ cup wine-braised onions, or basically as many as you can fit on the ‘wich
  • your extra thyme leaves

Spread each slice of French bread with softened butter, both sides. Add half the shredded cheese to one, pile braised onions on top, sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper, then add the rest of the cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, and gently press together. Pictured is the sliced gruyere cheese and some fresh parmesan, because why not.

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Add grapeseed/olive oil into a pan, then add butter and turn on high heat.  Place sandwiches in the hot pan and cook until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown on both sides.  WARNING: flipping these things is a feat.  I ended up needing a spatula, tongs, and another set of hands.  Good luck…. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE!

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Put on some stretchy pants and enjoy this summer indulgence because frankly, life’s way too short not to.

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USA! USA! – Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

22 Jun

Who’s ready to watch the USA dominate in today’s World Cup match against Portugal!? I know I’m excited. You’re hopefully equally as jazzed and headed to some viewing party, whether it be at a bar or a friend’s house with a massive TV.  If you’re doing the latter, why not bring something delicious to score some points of your own!  The below recipe is a tried and true success.  I made them this past Friday for a going away celebration with coworkers, and our office’s head honcho gave them an A+, which is no easy feat. Eight cheap ingredients, forty minutes of prep and cook time, and you’ve got yourself the most amazing poppers you ever did see.

You’ll need:

  • 12 jalapenos, halved and seeds removed
  • 1 box puff pastry (2 sheets)
  • 8 ounces (one container) cream cheese
  • ½ cup bacon pieces (you can buy these already cooked and chopped in a bag)
  • 1 cup cheddar, shredded
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • Olive oil

Makes 24 poppers.  I bought the 12 jalapenos at $3.99 a pound, so it’s not too pricey to double the recipe.  Cut the stem off the jalapeno, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds.

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In a bowl, mix together cream cheese, bacon, cheddar, and garlic. The recipe says to roast the garlic for 30 minutes prior, but due to time constraints I simply chopped up the four cloves and threw them in a pan with some olive oil to brown.  Spoon cream cheese filling into jalapeno halves.

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On 9×12 inch baking sheets, lay out the thawed puff pasty sheets.  Cut into 3×3 squares to make 12 squares on each baking sheet for a total of 24 squares.  Place each jalapeno in a square and wrap puff pastry dough so entire popper is hidden.

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Whisk together egg and 3 tablespoons of water.  Brush mixture on top of each popper.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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Take a glorious bite!

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Put in tupperware to transport.  If they’ve cooled substantially, ask your host/hostess if you can put them in the oven to warm up for 10 minutes at 200 degrees.  Prepare to wow the crowd!

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Bacon-Wrapped Maple Wings with Grilled Pineapple

18 Jun

So hilariously enough, when my culinary interests peaked along with the sales of the famous Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, my parents bought me a “50 Shades of Chicken” cookbook.  It’s narrated as a saucy parody, but is chalk full of recipes and techniques. One of my favorites is the maple-glazed wings with bacon (the narration entitled “Bacon Bound”), the obvious reason being the use of a key word in my vocabulary, bacon.

You’ll need:

-1/4 cup maple syrup

-1/4 cup soy sauce

-1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts

-1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine or apple cider vinegar

-1 teaspoon black pepper

-15 chicken wings (about 3 lbs), patted very dry with paper towels

-8 strips bacon

Serves 4 to 6 people, or just me, myself and I.

In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, soy sauce, scallions, vinegar, garlic, and pepper and mix well.  Add the chicken wings and toss them gently so they are covered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Slice the bacon in half lengthwise to yield long thin ribbons (“perfect for restraining your bird”).  Remove the wings from the marinade and wipe off any clinging garlic or scallion pieces.  Tightly tie up each chicken wing in a bacon ribbon and lay the chicken wings, tips up, on a large baking pan.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish and continue to bake until golden and crisp, another 10-15 minutes.

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For a burst of contradicting flavor, pair with grilled pineapple! Buy a whole one, cut across for chunks that are an inch or two thick.  Cut around chunks to remove the outside.  Toss on the grill for a few minutes on each side.

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And if you’d like to surprise a fellow carnivore with a lovely present, shop for the cookbook!

Nommin’ Out: Dino’s Grotto

15 Jun

Happy Sunday! Planning an outing this week? A date or a ladies happy hour perhaps? Look no further than Dino’s Grotto, one of Shaw/U Street’s latest awesome additions on 9th street.  Previously located in Cleveland Park, Dino’s revamped restaurant features two levels, a robust and ever-changing Italian menu, and saucy wine descriptions.  My roommate read about Dino’s new location in this Thrillist article, so a group of us chicas checked it out last week for dinner and drinks.  And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.  Also, the happy hour is pretty terrific for all you winos out there.  Each glass is a healthy 8 ounce pour and $3 off during happy hour, which goes until 7pm.  I spent $12 on 3 enormous glasses of wine, which is borderline unheard of in the District.

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Below are some favorites from their rapidly-changing menu.  Thank goodness my friends are patient, and let me try and snap a perfect pic whilst staring longingly at their untouched food 🙂

The Burrata (Air freighted from Italy olive & red pepper purees – oven roasted tomato)

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Calamari Salad


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Duck Fat Potatoes (incredible)

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Meatballs (Truck patch pork, dartagnan veal, ricotta, bread, egg, spicy tomato sauce)

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Stuffed Squash Blossoms

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Mozzarella in Carrozza  (Fried italian mozzarella di bufala sandwich, egg, spicy sorrento tomato sauce)

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Now go figure out a time this week to check it out!

Summertime Salmon Burgers

1 Jun
Well we’re officially post-Memorial Day! Coupled with 80 to 90 degree daily weather, I think it’s safe to assume we have approached the summer season! Despite the impending humidity and overheating in pencil skirts, I am definitely looking forward to spending time outside on my deck, grilling up delicious meals for friends and family.  My usual go-to meal is some sort of delectable burger, mixing and matching fresh ingredients to jazz up my red meat.  But as we know, too much of anything isn’t a good thing.  So in an attempt to take a healthier, less fatty route,  I whipped up this salmon burger recipe last week- gotta love my girl Martha Stewart’s culinary insights! It takes less than 30 minutes and serves four.  Pair it with these awesome grilled stuffed zucchini boats for a nutritious, flavor-packed meal!
You’ll need:
Salmon Burgers with Yogurt Dill Sauce
  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillet, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons plain dried breadcrumbs
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted (I used whole-wheat Naan bread)
  • Romaine lettuce, for serving
Stuffed Zucchini
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • small handful chopped kalamata olives
  • small handful of chopped green onions
  • small handful of goat cheese
  • about 1/4c basil pesto
To make the burgers, start by dicing the salmon filet.  The best way to do this is to use a sharp knife and slice the salmon lengthwise in 1 inch strips, then cut crosswise to make 1 inch by 1 inch cubes.  It’ll be easy to make the patties without crushing the fish.
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In a medium bowl, combine the salmon, horseradish, lemon zest and juice, egg, scallions, breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; mix gently with a fork.
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Turn on the grill to high heat.  Grab handfuls of the salmon mixture and make four even patties.
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Almost ready for the grill!  But first, let’s make the zucchini boats.  Cut each zucchini in half the long way.  Take a spoon and scoop out the insides, leaving 1/4 inch perimeter around the skin so the boats keep their shape.  Then cut across in half.
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In another medium bowl, combine the garbanzo beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives, green onions, goat cheese, and pesto.  Mix together and taste to your liking.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the chopped fresh dill and yogurt and set aside.
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Now, place the salmon patties on the high heat, and grill for 5-7 minutes on each side or until done. Simultaneously grill the zucchini boats by placing them scooped-side down for 5 minutes, then flip over for an additional 5 minutes or until tender.  As burgers come close to being done, halve the Naan bread and place on the grill to heat up.  Remove the zucchini boats from the grill and fill in with your goat cheese veggie mix.  Remove patties from the grill, place on Naan bread with romaine lettuce and a huge dollop of the dill yogurt mix.
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HOW GOOD do these look?! And I have to say, the salmon burger was equally as delicious as its red meat counterparts. Now get to grillin’!

So close to wine

Discovering new Foodventures with each bite

Madison Sheffer

a creative communicator

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