Dinner and daydreams

Sometimes, when we are particularly tired of our current jobs, or when we have thrown a particularly successful dinner party, we daydream about what it would be like to open a restaurant or food truck. While we always agree that we would want the establishment to be tiny, the type of cuisine we would feature or what meals we would serve vary. I usually fantasize about a little bakery loosely modeled on a place we fell in love with when vacationing in Austin years ago. I would serve granola and a tightly curated list of pastries in the mornings, pie and large pretzels in the afternoon. I joke that I would name it after our hypothetical future cat, Mr Snuggles, and ideally bring said hypothetical cat to work with me to help entertain patrons (health code laws have no place in daydreams). Dennis usually dreams about a dumpling place, but with a multicultural twist. Occasionally, though, we dream about a joint venture, a homemade noodle place in either nearby Adams Morgan or along 14th Street that we would name ‘Noods, Noods, Noods.’

For those who don’t live here, Adams Morgan is a mix of a neighboorhood – filled with quiet brick rowhouses on one street and bars that cater to the fresh-from-college set next to jumbo-slice pizza places on the next. We envision our noodle bar in the middle of it all, catering to young families looking for a quick dinner in the early evening and partiers looking for something to soak up the booze by night. We would advertise with a giant neon sign featuring our name and a huge arrow, beckoning toward the door. If you have ever been around Adams Morgan or 14th Street past 10PM the brilliance of this concept will be clear. In a nod to Dennis’ vision we would feature noodles from several culinary backgrounds – we would have someone pulling traditional Chinese noodles by hand in a large glass front window, below the sign, but would also feature traditional Italian pastas. We would rotate toppings with the seasons, featuring fresh primavera styles in the spring and summer, heartier sauces in the fall and winter.

Given the detail of this fantasy, you may think that we regularly churn out bowls of silky homemade noodles. Alas, we do not. Though we both love homemade pasta, it is simply too much mess, time, carbs for an average weekday. Homemade sauce though, I always make time for.

Red sauce

  • 1 large can whole tomatoes (28 oz, I believe)
  • 1 large yellow onion, julienned or diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ~3T red wine
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, to taste

Add ~2T of canola oil or butter to a medium pot. When pot and oil/butter are heated thoroughly, add the onion. Cook until onion is lightly caramelized. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring frequently. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, loosening all browned bits. Add the tomatoes and their juices, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher (warning about using the potato masher – they will shoot juice all over the kitchen if you don’t use a gentle hand). Add fresh herbs. Bring mixture to a simmer and let cook until thoroughly heated and until somewhat thickened (aim for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to fully meld). Remove from heat, add salt to taste. Serve over pasta, or just eat straight from the pan with a spoon (not that I’ve ever done that…).

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A mixture of several things in no particular order

When I reminisce about my time in New Orleans, one of the things I miss the most is having impromptu cook outs in the backyard with friends. One of our friends, Thomas, had the perfect backyard for such occasions. His house was actually raised one story up in the air. His backyard contained a menagerie of chickens, ducks, dogs, and a guinea fowl (which we ended up eating, but that’s a story for later). He also had an enviable garden brimming with assorted herbs and vegetables. A few banana trees ringed the perimeter whose leaves we harvested to protect delicate foods from the heat of the grill. To top it all off, underneath his raised house was an area that served as a clubhouse of sorts and was the perfect hideaway during tropical thunderstorms. It was walled off with wooden screens, and he had strung lights all around the inside. It had a beat-up couch and, of course, a custom table used for games of the alcoholic variety.

I have to thank Thomas for introducing me to this particular recipe as I had never heard of it prior to him having me chop copious amounts of garlic and parsley to create the magic that is chimichurri. Chimichurri has got to be one of my top 5 favorite sauces. It is so ridiculously versatile – Sarah and I put it on beef (the original usage), chicken, eggs, fish, sweet potatoes, etc. When I cooked for my resident class during our beach retreat, I made a large bowl of chimichurri to serve along with some grilled chicken kabobs. It adds a perfect amount of freshness and heat to almost anything. Chimichurri originally comes from Argentina, and the name is believed to be derived from the Basque tximitxurri , meaning “a mixture of several things in no particular order.” I’ve since riffed on Thomas’ recipe and made my own version that I thinks bears homage to the spirit of the name.

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

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Ingredients:

  • Flank steak                                1 lb
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chipotle chili powder

For the chimichurri :

  • Parsley                                       1 cup, chopped
  • Cilantro                                      1 cup, chopped
  • Garlic                                          3 cloves, minced
  • Jalapeno (optional)                   1-2, seeded and chopped
  • Lime                                            2, juiced
  • Olive oil                                       1/4 cup
  • Water                                           3 T
  • Vinegar                                        1 T
  • Sugar                                            1.5 T
  • Salt                                                To taste
  • Pepper                                          To taste

Let’s start with the chimichurri. If you want to take the easy way, you can always just put everything into the food processor and run it. I happen to like the end texture that comes with chopping everything yourself. Chop your parsley, cilantro, and jalapeno. Mince your garlic. Add everything into a bowl. Add lime juice, olive oil, water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix well and really try to incorporate everything into one big slurry. Set mixture in refrigerator to cool.

In the meantime, allow your flank steak to come to room temperature. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chipotle chili. Heat up a large grill/grill pan on high. Lay your seasoned flank steak on it and cook for 2 minutes on one side. You may press down lightly on a few sections of the flank steak with your tongs to get those nice grill marks. Immediately flip and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. It is important to only cook the flank steak for 4 minutes total. If you over-cook it, it turns incredibly rough and chewy. Remove from grill/grill pan and gently score the top of the flank steak with a small knife. Spoon over some chimichurri and let the flavor incorporate into the meat. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Enjoy and use the leftover chimichurri on everything else.

-D