sauce workshop!

One of our wedding presents was a cooking class!  We were given a list of choices, and finally decided on a “sauce workshop.”  The workshop was quite an experience!  The beginning was a little funny as we all stood around waiting for everyone to arrive.  We read the handout, adjusted our aprons, and stared at each other around the room.  Once the class started, however, it was a FRENZY of action for two-and-a-half hours!  I thought about the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen,” and marveled at how it all worked out somehow.

The class was full of characters.  Across the room, there was a Matt LeBlanc look-alike who kept confusing me when I’d see him out of the corner of my eye.  Our instructor reminded me (in looks and personality) of a (much nicer) Sue Sylvester.  She meant business, and definitely knew her stuff.

The most interesting character was our third teammate, “Stephanie.”  I put her name in quotation marks, because that is what her name tag read… and so naturally, that is what we called her for the entire class.  It wasn’t until the end that we figured out that she had replaced a Stephanie who couldn’t make it last minute, and had just decided to wear that name tag (and answer to that name) anyway!

“Stephanie” was super cool.  She was shorter than me, a grandmother, and an amazing cook.  I told her she needed to start teaching these classes herself.  “Stephanie” was very respectful of the chef teacher, but was constantly telling us everything she would do differently, as well as any additional tips she knew.  She had a quiet voice, so we would strain to catch these great bits of wisdom.  I was THIS close to asking her for her phone number after the class, because I would love to cook with her on a regular basis!

The instructor taught us about the mother sauces.  Apparently, tomato sauce is a fairly recent change to the list.  The first dish we made was Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.  Even though it was a sauce workshop, we spent awhile making the crab cakes.  I definitely appreciated learning this, however, so no complaints from me!  Also, I actually found the same recipe we used here.

Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

Here are the other three recipes we made: Seared Salmon with Raspberry Beurre Blanc (maybe my favorite sauce), Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Seared Pork (this pesto was awesome), and Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce (the instructor ended up demonstrating this one since we were running overtime).

Seared Salmon with Raspberry Beurre Blanc

Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Seared Pork

Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

The class was great, and it really whetted my appetite (ha) to learn more about sauces.  Seriously, I had no idea that there was SO much to learn.  Here is one website I found that does a good job of explaining the basics.  I learned a lot of great cooking tidbits, like how to cook salmon in a pan, how to cook great gravy (hold back 2 degrees so that it can keep cooking off the heat, then strain it through paper towels), and the art of slowly adding ingredients.  Cooking classes are the best.  What a great present!

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salmon w/dill & cucumber sauce.

I mentioned yesterday having fresh basil from a church family’s home garden.  A mom I know from the youth group was incredibly generous to me, and gave me an ASSORTMENT of fresh vegetables recently!  Fresh basil, dill, chard, a green pepper, and two cucumbers!  She suggested that I make salmon with cucumber and dill sauce, so I picked up some salmon on the way home and made it happen that very night!

Salmon w/ Dill & Cucumber Sauce

I got a little carried away with the amount of sauce, and we ended up scraping some off.  The recipe I used said to serve the salmon in a “puddle of sauce,” but maybe I interpreted that too extremely!  In any case, the meal was very fresh-tasting and lovely.  We ate on our teeny tiny balcony as the sun went down!  As Sandra McCracken once said, “Contentment is like muscle strength.  Gratitude is the exercise.”  (I think she tweeted that a long time ago actually, but I’ll never forget it!)  So the blessings count that night went like this: we were thankful for love, fresh garden produce, salmon, health, the sunset, and having more than we need — in so many ways.

the livingsocial best of washington party!

Thank you, Washingtonian Magazine and LivingSocial, for putting on an incredible party last night!  What could be better than trying out numerous food and beverage samples from the top spots in the area, while looking glam in the National Building Museum?  Such FUN!  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Best of Washington Party at The National Building Museum

Salmon Sashimi w/ Tomato Salad & Basil - J&G Steakhouse

The "Best Of" Magazines

Foie Gras Panna Cotta w/Macerated Summer Berries, Micro Basil, & Candied Pistachios - Bastille

Assorted Cupcakes - Georgetown Cupcake

Smoked-Duck Lettuce Wraps - Jackie's

Lemongrass Sangria - Ping Pong Dim Sum

One of the bars.

Decorations, the fountain, and the bidding area.

Chris & I’s Favorites:  1789’s fried peach pies, BGR The Burger Joint’s Greek sliders, Bistro Bis’ Vidalia-onion vichyssoise, Cava Mezze/Cava Grill’s mini pitas, Citronelle’s tomato tartare, J&G Steakhouse’s salmon sashimi, Jackie’s Restaurant’s smoked-duck lettuce wraps, Kushi Izakaya’s drunken chicken, Perrys’ scallop sashimi, Ping Pong Dim Sum’s lemongrass sangria, Rappahannock River Oysters’ raw oysters, Red Hook Lobster Pound’s lobster rolls.

Regular ticket-holders could enter the party at 7:00pm, and “gold” tickets got in an hour earlier.  Chris and I started getting full around 8:30/8:45 or so, and felt affirmed in buying the standard tickets.  However, it was too bad that a lot of stations ran out very early… so maybe that could be a draw to buy the more expensive tickets next year.  We were especially sad to miss PassionFish’s Kamikaze Roll (so good!).  Another small complaint –  which was also affirmed by others on Twitter – was the incredible amount of desserts.  We wondered if it would have worked better if the dessert stations were all grouped in one section of the room.  A rearrangement of stations doesn’t solve the main issue though: most people weren’t expecting a dessert to be the only selection from some of DC’s top all-around restaurants.  In any case, the foods – both the savory and sweet ones – were very yummy! :)

All in all, we had a BLAST.  The party was so glam, we felt like we were in foodie paradise, and we were inspired to try out many new restaurants!  Next year, I plan to wear a looser dress, and I also plan to spread the word beforehand about how much fun this party is!

I missed the restaurants of Chef José Andrés at the event, but it actually turned out okay for us in the end… Chef José tweeted that it was his birthday, and that he was giving away free glasses of Cava after 9pm at all of his restaurants!  Chris and I took a short walk to Jaleo after the party, and enjoyed some Cava in celebration.  Happy birthday, Chef José Andrés!

Cava at Jaleo

Now I find myself very sad that the Living Social Best of Washington Party is over, but it will live on in photos and in fond memories of the taste sensations!  To find out more about the event, go here, here, and here.  By the way, one of my tweets is featured on their Tweets page!  :)

easy seafood meals.

This is a post about nothing revolutionary… just two meals I’ve made lately that are EASY and involve seafood.  First, salmon!  It is my goal to cook salmon once a week.  (We’ll see.)  Today I was skimming an article on the Spanish Mediterranean Diet (from one of Chef José Andrés’ websites), and it really affirmed me in this meal:

Salmon w/Broccoli & Brown Rice

I think I tend towards Mediterranean ways in general… it’s probably the Greek in me.  For this meal, I used organic broccoli, brown rice with NO added anything (so the rice took 45 minutes or so to cook), and Atlantic Salmon (thanks, Harris Teeter, for your half-price deal!).  The salmon marinade consisted simply of garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper… and I cooked the salmon in 5 minutes on our George Foreman.  I finally watched Food Inc the other weekend, and it inspired me to eat as purely as possible!!

Of course, to balance out Food Inc, I suggest watching this.  The other extreme… so funny.  :)

Here is the second seafood meal I made recently:

Garlic & Basil Linguine w/Shrimp & Spicy Tomato Sauce (w/Broccoli & Squash)

The caption describes what’s going on here.  The garlic and basil linguine is from Trader Joe’s (I love it, because it cooks in just around 5 minutes or so.).  I made the spicy tomato sauce (really an “arrabiata sauce“) from tomato paste, water, and tons of different dried spices.  I was going to put ground beef in the sauce for a standard meat sauce concoction, but Chris and I had just eaten Elevation Burger for lunch (YUM!  And so in line with Food Inc… grass-fed, free range beef, and fries cooked in olive oil!), so we decided to go with fresh shrimp in the sauce instead.  It was a lot lighter, but still filling.  Delicious! :)