If you are a regular Macheesmo reader you might know that I don’t have access to a grill. It’s a serious problem. But I live in the middle of DC in a third floor apartment so there really aren’t a lot of options for me. Luckily, I have a number of friends that do have grills and occasionally if I twist their arm (I usually don’t have to twist hard) I can take over their kitchen/grill for a meal. (Thanks Liz!)
A few months ago in Gourmet they reminded me that you can grill short ribs and you end up with this lovely chewy meat. It’s how they traditionally prepare short ribs in Argentina. Rather than braising them for hours, they grill them. I spent a summer in Argentina with a friend, so I know how delicious these guys can be.
Short ribs on the charcoal.
The truth about these ribs are they are not for the faint of heart. These guys are for meat lovers. Short ribs are a fatty, tough cut of meat which is why they are traditionally braised for many hours. The Argentines push all of that aside though and grill them up for just a few minutes which results in a flavor packed piece of meat which is very chewy, but in a good way.
I don’t really go out to eat all that much anymore. I grab a sandwich for lunch pretty frequently, but I would say that Betsy and I only venture out to dinner once, maybe twice, a month.
Of course, I have Macheesmo to blame/thank for this. I’ve been cooking up a storm lately and it’s kind of rare that I have a night without a meal planned. That said, I actually really enjoy going out to eat (who doesn’t?) if not just to try some new food and get inspiration from professionals.
Unfortunately, I’m sometimes horribly disappointed. I have a pretty high standard when it comes to what I consider good food in restaurants. If I’m paying for it (and in DC that usually means I’m paying a lot for it), I expect it to be fantastic in quality.
That said, I almost never send my food back if I’m unhappy with it. While I expect good food, I don’t actually have high standards when it comes to whether or not I will eat it. It just means I probably will cross that place off my list. My two exceptions to this rule are steaks and eggs. If I order either of those two things cooked to a specific temperature and it isn’t correct on my plate, the kitchen is going to have to try again. Sorry boys.
It gets worse. After years of working in restaurants as a server and bartender, I can usually tell right away if my meal is going to be good or bad – excellent or forgettable – before I even take a bite. And so I present to you:
1) Iceless water. If you’re brought a glass of water without ice in it chances are that A) the water has been sitting in a prep area for a few hours, B) the house doesn’t care enough to provide you with cool water or C) their ice machine is broken. None of these are good signs for what’s to come.
A few weeks ago I went up to NYC for a friend’s birthday party (Hi Liz!). Being in New York reminded me of one of my favorite street foods. Whether it’s in New York or in Philly or anywhere else really, I’m almost always up for a good soft pretzel with a bit of spicy mustard.
After I got back I just had to give homemade pretzels a shot. Turns out these were a huge success.
There’s really only two secrets to making a really good soft pretzel and we will get to both of them. One of them is kind of optional even. But let’s get down to business.
I must admit, I’ve always been sort of afraid of scones. Not like, monster under the bed afraid, but just kind of too afraid to actually try them. I think the reason is because in my life, so far, I’ve had some really amazing scones and some really sucky scones. Very rarely is a scone in the middle. I was afraid I would fall on the short branch of that tree if you know what I mean.
But I put together some kitchen courage this week and gave some currant scones a shot. Were they the best scones I’ve ever had? Heck no. But they were pretty darn good.
I think I have conquered my fear.
An army of scones.
I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I wanted to make these scones is because I have about two pounds of currants left over from this deal.
I know that I have at least a few non-American readers here at Macheesmo (Hi World!), so you may not know this, but tomorrow is a pretty big deal. It’s America’s Independence Day! Even though we are still very dependent on a number of things, we are least freed from the steely grips of the British. (Hi British people!)
Not that I feel like my life is much different. I still pay taxes without any real representation thanks to the fact that I live in Washington DC. And no. I don’t count Eleanor Holmes Norton as representation. I want a Senator.
If there is one thing that I think most people can agree on it is that The 4th of July has to be the worst holiday ever to be vegetarian. I feel like there has to be more meat hitting the grill on this day than any other day in the US. If you happen to be flying over the US on the 4th, I bet you can smell it.
Down to business. I think some really good dishes have come out of you guys voting for things every week so I’m gonna to keep running the polls. Here are the last three dishes Macheesmo readers voted for (I always post the winning dish on Thursday): Stuffed Artichokes, Mango Habanero Chicken Simmer, and Cold Borscht Soup.
The Perfect Burger and All Its Parts – If there is ever a time to do some research on the perfect burger it is the day before 4th of July. A few very respected burger authorities discuss how to make the perfect burger including meat, cheese, bread selection, and condiments. A great read. (@ NY Times)
Pineapple Tequila Kabobs – If you are looking for something sweet to throw on the grill this weekend, these kabobs look off the charts. Grilled pineapple is one of my favorite things. (@ Kayotic)
The winning dish from last week’s poll was “Something Seasonal” by a pretty close margin, but I was happy to see that it won. Something seasonal is fairly easy in July, but I used it as an opportunity to make something that I’ve been wanting to make for a while: stuffed artichokes.
Artichokes are hands down one of my favorite veggies even with all their annoying prep work. I was skeptical that stuffing the artichokes would be better than just steaming the guys and eating them with butter, but I think I’m a convert.
I mean come on. Just look at these things.
Each one of these weighs like 5 pounds.
I’m not going to lie to you, this recipe takes some time to prepare. Not an insane amount of time or anything, but probably 30-45 minutes just because the artichokes are kind of cumbersome, especially if you haven’t worked with them before. Totally worth it though in my opinion.
Every month in 2009, I am writing a post detailing some specific things about food in the upcoming month.
Before I get to the food, I have to give a shout out to the Foodie Fights battle happening today. It’s a really close battle with some awesome dishes. Check it out and vote for your favorite at foodiefights.com!
It’s seriously summer now. There is no way around it. July is really the month of abundance and there are so many things that are ripe for the picking it almost isn’t worth trying to sum them up in a newsletter. I’ve picked some of my favorites though that maybe are a bit off the beaten path (not tomatoes!). Hopefully, it will give you some ideas for things to look out for in the markets.
What to Eat in July
Peaches – It’s possible that there is nothing I love more than a perfectly ripe peach. At the same time, I hate an unripe peach. Luckily, most the peaches these days are good and juicy.
Artichokes – Ahh the prickly bulb of deliciousness. People are scared of artichokes I think and maybe with reason. They are kind of a pain to prepare. But if you can manage to get through the prep, they are worth it.
Fourth of July - The real holiday this month is happening this weekend! There are a bunch of things you could make for the fantastic fourth. Some good burgers might work or maybe some Texas Caviar? Also, Bon Appetit had an excellent round up of solid Fourth of July dishes.
So that’s it for this food letter. I hope you all have had a good first half of 2009 – I know I have. Enjoy the summer!