italian boy

italian boy

Friday, August 28, 2009

REVIEW: matchbox, dc

is amazing. Now that they've expanded they can accommodate huge parties, they have outdoor seating, cozy nooks inside, bright light and fresh AC for the hot DC summer and the wood burning pizza oven if you're visiting in the winter. The menu at Matchbox is almost too big to choose from but there is certainly something for everyone. I have yet to taste their infamous sliders but their pizzas are great. Quite creative but honestly a bit on the oily side. Not so oily to discourage you but I'm used to true Italian pizzas not leaving a mark on the plate (or small puddle) when their fired in a wood burning oven. We had the "fire & smoke" pizza (fire roasted red peppers, spanish onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic puree, smoked gouda, fresh basil ) which was absolutely fabulous and the tuna tartar (fresh tuna, ginger & onion, crispy wontons , honey-garlic & soy lime reduction) which was exceptional as well (the sauce was a bit overpowering- personally I like to taste my tuna - but they thoughtfully drizzle it on the side). If you're in Gallery Place and can't decide where to eat go STRAIGHT for Matchbox.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

REVIEW: Italian sub @ Washall's, DC

So, I'm a firm believer New Jersey provides the best Italian subs in the country- you can find one of these salty vinegary delights in basically any strip mall up and down the state. The District of Columbia, however, begs to hold a candle in comparison. I heard there's a good Italian store on some side street off NY Ave which is completely not metro accessible (so who cares) but its been a small mission of mind to find the most authentic New Jersey Italian sub. More often then not the bread is wrong, or they use an Italian vinaigrette instead of oil and vinegar, or the meat selection is completely off... BUT I do have to say a close match- and probably the best I've had in the city for a looong time is at Wagshall's Market and Delicatessen in Spring Valley. Yes its a hike but great food, quality prep and a landmark in the city. If you're ever there be sure to stop by.

Monday, August 24, 2009

linguine with a fresh crab sauce

If you like fresh crabs as much as I do you should DEFINITELY try this. Every summer I'll go crabbing with my father and we'll make a huge seafood feast. Get one (or two, depends on the appetites and the what else you plan on eating that night) fresh live crab per person (you can have the person at the fish market kill and clean them for you or you can do it yourself). Remove the top part of the shell, the lungs (devils fingers) and wash out everything else inside. Then start a regular plain tomato sauce with garlic or onions, fresh tomatoes (or a can of diced or crushed if thats all you have), and after the sauce has started to cook for a bit add the crabs to the mix. Cover them if you have to and simmer for 15 or so minutes. Usually we do linguine or tagliatelle, but plain spaghetti are fine as well. This is a fabulous fresh seafood sauce, a distinct flavor and a nice mix if your used to having plain steamed crabs with old bay. If you'd like, add shrimp or even clams to the sauce as well for a more varied seafood plate.

REVIEW: Pho 14

(sorry, camera phone) Is pho the new craze? Well for me it might be. Pho is a traditional beef and rice noodle soup with aromatic spices from North Vietnam. Here at local family owned Pho 14 [1436 Park Rd. NW Washington, DC 20010 - (202) 986-2326] they have a number of soup varieties along with DELICIOUS rice and noodle entrees and a number of other small plates... and at SUCH a reasonable price. Dishes are large and a dinner for two with an appetizer can easily be $30 including tax and tip. Check it out!

minestrone

This is an Italian vegetable soup. Traditionally vegetarian but no one's going to call the cops if you wanna throw in a couple chicken legs. Normally this is a soup eaten in spring and summer when vegetables are plenty. In a large pot start with a bit of olive oil and salt and sautée chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Once they begin to soften, add a diced potato, a small pumpkin or squash if you have one- and fill the pot with water. As they start to cook chop the rest of the "softer" vegetables like peppers (sweet and hot), string beans, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms. You can add whatever you like, if you put one of every vegetable from the produce department you'd have a perfect soup. Keep it on medium to low heat and when everything is tender, remove from the stove and serve. My mother likes to serve a ladle or two over a handful of small pasta and always with a few HEAPING tablespoons of freshly grated cheese. VERY healthy,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

slammin red lentiles

This is totally dinner and lunch for the next day for just a couple bucks.... In a large shallow skillet toss in some onions and garlic with a touch of olive oil. Add some [optional] stew or fajita sliced beef (you can substitute with bell peppers), and on low heat cook until the meat browns and the onions become translucent. I like to add a good mouthful of red wine (kidding, 1/2 a cup, let that reduce and then quickly add a cup of water and pour in a bag (about 1/2 a pound) of washed red lentils and stir constantly until fully incorporated- be sure to add enough water so everything is just submerged. Cook this for 15- 20 minutes on low, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to be sure nothing sticks and when the lentils seem to have absorbed all the liquid and are tender to the taste, remove from heat, add a handful of fresh parsely, some black pepper if you like, even some sour cream if you'd like this a bit richer, serve and enjoy.

summer cucumber dill salad

Simple simple simple. Peel a cucumber or two, remove the seeds if you prefer- slice them, chop some red onions, add some light vinegar, olive oil, dried or fresh dill, salt and cracked pepper. PERFECT on a hot summer day.

grilled or roasted eggplant appetizer or side

Choose some nice medium sized eggplants (the really big ones often times are bitter and have larger seeds), peel them with a potato peeler and slice them across into discs about 1/4 inch thick. Lay them flat on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and sprinkle with salt and a drizzle some olive oil and stick them in the broiler -OR- season them the same way and lay the on the cooler parts of a hot grill. Cook them [in either case] until they just start to char then remove from the heat, let them cool in a bowl, add some freshly chopped parsley, a fair amount of chopped garlic, some fine sea salt it you have it, olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. DEEEELICIOUS!

berries and cream

A decadent way to enjoy your summer berries- choose the ripest ones in season, divide them among 4 or 5 wine glasses then in a separate mixing bowl add a small carton of whipping cream and 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the cream and sugar by hand for maybe 2-3 minutes until it JUST thickens and comes to a peak. If the texture starts to change and it get a bit gritty stop cause you went a little too far but its still fine. Pour over the berries, garnish with mint and refrigerate for an hour or two till you're ready to serve.

roasted tomato and onion salad

Healthy, simple and a fun twist to your meal. Quarter a couple plump, ripe tomatoes (try different types, sizes, colors and shapes) then slice up some onions and lay them flat on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle salt and throw'em under the broiler till they start to roast and slightly char. Remove from the heat and let them cool, add a few more drops of oil, some vinegar, loosely chopped basil and serve. Prepare this a couple hours in advance or 5 minutes before. Leftovers are great tossed in a salad or over pasta. For an extra kick, add a hot pepper or two for the added heat!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

chilies rellenos (peppers stuffed with all kinds of goodness...then fried)

This isn't very difficult- just a couple more steps than the norm. Use whole fresh Poblano (Ancho) or Anaheim peppers. They're available at almost all grocery stores. Wash them well, make a small vertical slit near the stem and put them on the grill on low heat, in a nonstick pan on low-medium heat or in the broiler away from the flame. Keep turning them until most of the pepper is blistered. Remove from the heat and start to cool. At the same time in a food processor eyeball 1.5 parts of your favorite cheese (pepper jack, chedder, even mozarella- depends on how 'sharp' or 'smooth' you want it) and one part boiled potato (the potato will add much desired texture, flavor and will slow the cheese from running- a trick often not used in restaurants). Some cilantro, garlic, and jalapeños if you so desire. Blend them together till you start to get a smooth thick paste/mixture then divide that evenly among the peppers. Trying to squeeze everything through the small slit you made earlier (its OK if it tears larger just try and keep the seam going vertically), stuff the peppers as much as you can without letting them burst. Then gently roll the stuffed chilies in one or two beaten eggs and then into all purpose flour and carefully lower them seam side down into a shallow pan with 1/2 to an inch of hot oil. Keep it there about 2 minutes until golden brown and repeat with the rest. Try to serve these hot, guacamole or a green salad is a great compliment. I also added yellow rice and chicken kebabs (see previous post) as well. Its a couple more steps than my usual meals but so worth the effort and very impressive!

kebabs

Use lamb, steak, chicken, shrimp or even leave it all vegetarian. Cut everything into bite size pieces. Marinate or season them well, skewer them and throw'em on the grill, griddle or even in the broiler. If you're not positive when they'll be done, make one extra "test" kebab that you can gently remove pieces while cooking to check their progress. I always thought a perfect kebab had few contrasting yet complimentary flavors and textures. Like shrimp and pineapple, or steak and mushrooms, or even grilled peach, melon and tomato kebab for dessert! Experiment and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Radius in Mount Pleasant

We took a walk over to Radius pizzeria in Mount Pleasant yesterday and I've decided to make the official switch to Radius for my #1 pizza delivery. With their pies only a dollar or two more than the industrialized delivery brands, the toppings are fresh, local and even taste healthy. There was ZERO oil leaching out through the slices, a testament to their quality ingredients and preparation. For that extra dollar, its worth ordering something you don't have to feel guilty about. For a sit down pizzeria experience though, I might have to stick with Redrocks (or 2 Amy's) for now. Generally I give a thumbs down to a restaurant who adds a surcharge to substitutions or the similar since I view that as poor customer service- but Radius more than makes up for theirs with the cozy friendly atmosphere, great happy hour specials ($5 for a slice and a pint) and great food. PS, they have 1/2 price pasta specials and their fried calamari was quite good- no heavy, overpowering batter here!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

mr. chen's NOT SO organic

So every now and again, in a very ritualistic manner, I like to order a huge helping of General Tsao's chicken, fried rice, hot and sour soup, dumplings and an eggroll. Usually eaten on the floor with a bottle of cheap wine and a trashy movie. I've been dedicated to Mr. Chen's Organic ("*Organic vegetables are subject to availability and may be substituted.") for the last few years but boy oh boy have they been messing up. Not only do they serve you last nights tough reheated chicken if you make an 11:30 am order on a Saturday morning, I found a large, very long, thick black hair on the BOTTOM of my chicken the LAST time I ordered. This was AFTER I finished eating EVERYTHING else!... I then ran to the bathroom and literally puked out the entirety of my meal.

They are OFF my list. I heard North Sea is organic and Panda Express in my neighborhood is new, very clean, with an open kitchen. Yuck yuck and yuck, Mr. Chen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

granita di caffe

This is one of my mother's favorite summer treats. She makes a pot of espresso, let it cool a bit then pour it in a large glass or bowl and sticks it in the freezer. You can add a little sugar if you like but the bitter coffee is just so refreshing in the heat. My mother says that basically every time she remembers (every 15, 20, minutes or so) she takes out the espresso and stirs it with a fork. Continue to do this over the course of preparing brunch or dinner, and by the time youre ready for dessert you have a perfect granita di caffe (which sounds mush better than a coffee slushy). My cousin Toscia varies her method of preparation by pouring her espresso in a bottle and in the freezer and vigorously shakes that every 25 minutes or so. It's fun to garnish your granita with some vanilla or hazelnut gelato, or maybe even a chocolate covered coffee bean but any way you do it, this becomes a perfect dessert after a great meal.

grilled tequila lime calamari

If you like fried calamari you'll LOVE grilled calamari. If you're not used to the way squid looks, then you can buy them already chopped in rings, you can cut them yourself, or even open up the long head and make calamari steaks-- my family prefers them whole. My favorite marinade is the juice from a lemon or 2 limes, a few heavy shakes of paprika and cayanne pepper, a generous amount of crushed garlic, and at least half a cup of tequila (I've done this same recipe with whiskey instead and gotten a completely different but delicious result.. both are great and worth trying). Marinate the squid from 30 minutes to two hours, then after your grill is good and fired, place the squid over the heat. If you have lots of small pieces be sure to use a grill basket so you wont loose any in the fire and brimstone below. Cook them as charred as you like and serve with some more fresh lemon juice. This smoky aromatic treat is sure to impress anyone at your table.

fare la puttana

There's a couple different stories on how this puttanesca sauce got its name. Some are silly and most don't even make sense... since the main ingredients for the sauce (tomato paste, anchovies, olives dried hot pepper and capers) are all salted or preserved ingredients that act as staples in any Italian kitchen- I was told when you wanted to make this sauce, you could do it any time you wanted and "si va fare la puttana" or you go do like the prostitute and you go from here to there to there, taking a pinch of all the ingredients to make what you want. Its a fiery briny salty sauce that brings water to my mouth just thinking about it. At lunch or at midnight, whenever you crave this, in the time it take to boil pasta, in a shallow pan cook tomato paste (or diced fresh tomatoes), garlic, olives, capers, anchovies (you can leave them out if you insist), and lots of hot pepper. As always I like to loosely chop lots of fresh parsley over the top.

About Me

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Hi there, my name is Giacomo and I enjoy things delicious. Long story short, my parents moved from Italy to NJ where I grew up (and loved it) but found myself in Washington, DC fourteen years ago and haven’t yet found an excuse to leave. Food has always been a huge part of my day and life… from happy times, sad times, holidays, drunken escapades and all the rest in between, I’ve usually spent a good portion of that time putting something in my mouth. I guess I started this blog a little while ago to keep track of what I was cooking and places I’d eat-- simply because my friends were always asking “how do you make this” or “where do you get that” but surprisingly over time I guess real people started reading too. SO, take a look around and let me know what you think. You’ll see that the backbone of lots of my food is Italian but I manage to cover most bases. Thanks for stopping by. BUON APPETITO!

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