August 26, 2014

Union Market, Washington, DC

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If I lived in DC I’d go to Union Market once a week and stock up on stuff and eat, a lot. During our 4 day stay in the capital city, we were lucky enough to have our hip, cool cousin show us around a bit. On our last day we ventured over to the Union Market. I was told it was a must see before we left the city. Kind of like an indoor Brooklyn Flea without the vintage wares, Union Market was uber cool and full of delicious bits to see and enjoy.

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Here’s a little look at what was inside…

The Righteous Cheese people. Isn’t this the coolest sign ever?! They had a wonderful assortment of artisanal cheeses. Check out their site to see why they’re Righteous. They offer gift baskets and cheese trays and they also have a cheese blog and newsletter. Hail to the cheese people!!!

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Bountiful fresh produce and flowers, and the most unbelievable breads. I was kicking myself that I didn’t buy a few loaves of these rustic beauties to bring home. Low carb, no carb, blah blah blah – this is not the place. Just look at that bread! Nom nom nom!

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It was a split decision on where to have lunch. Alan and I opted for bagels & lox from Buffalo Bergen and our daughter picked a muffaletta from Red Apron. Buffalo & Bergen had a New York City old-fashioned soda shop feel. I had to try their rhubarb soda and Alan had a real vanilla cream soda. I assume this is how they made them in the “old days,” with heavy cream… back when folks weren’t calorie conscious and enjoyed the finer things in life with reckless abandon. It was delicious!

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The Red Apron is a hot spot in DC these days. Looking for killer charcuterie? They have it! Check out the muffaletta. Perfectly crispy bread, gooey with cheese, chopped olives and Red Apron’s own meats. I stole a bite and it was great.

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There was a small stand with a wonderful assortment of spices. I regret leaving without some new spices more than the miss on picking up some bread. They had lots of unusual blends. The Za’atar caught my eye, I love this Middle Eastern mix. I generally make it myself (here’s link to my recipe), but theirs looked awesome! I liked how most of the spices were in these little plastic bags. I fill my spice jars at home and the little bags make for easy storing of extras. If you’re looking for a great way organize your spices, here’s my trick.

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Desserts! We picked up a couple of cupcakes to go from Curbside Cupcakes… delicious! Look at the pretty sweets from Curbside below. Unfortunately, as often happens with foods I want to photograph, the cupcakes were eaten before I could snap a picture. There was also a fancy chocolate vendor and of course, gelato from Dolcezza Gelato. I picked dark chocolate and pistachio, yum.

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One of the things that I love about these city style markets are the giftables. Each vendor sells something unique and personal that is perfect to give as a special gift. I always love all the packaging, too. In addition, they had a knife vendor selling all kinds of cutlery and they also did professional knife sharpening. Very cool.

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I see another trip to Washington in my future and next time I will be prepared with a cooler and my reusable shopping bags in hand. Minus the humidity, Washington is such a great city. The Union Market is like a hipster style market in the middle of our nation’s capital. When we were leaving, they were setting up for a beer festival outside. Really? I need to live here. Awesome!

July 8, 2014

4plates Niçoise Salad

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I’m resurrecting this recipe. I posted it a couple of years ago (with much less enthusiasm) and made it again last week for dinner, sparking my memory and love for the Niçoise salad. It’s the best salad ever! Of course if you don’t love tuna, olives and anchovies you might want to give it a pass, or you can just pick around and eat the potatoes and green beans. Creating perfect forkfuls that include a tidbit of each element of the salad, stacked artfully and dipped in Dijon tarragon vinaigrette is a scrumptious bite of heaven. Sigh.

As proof the Nicoise is my true love, I can easily rattle off a list of restaurants where I’ve ordered it. One of my favorites is from Rue 57 in New York City, followed closely by the Hotel de Russie in Rome. Given the opportunity to eat awesome Italian food in Italy, I picked this salad (no regrets). In fact, I ordered a Niçoise salad twice during our Italy trip. There’s something about the fresh tarragon, salty anchovies and olives with potatoes and crispy green beans, it’s irresistible to me. One of the things I love about Rue 57, is they let you choose between canned tuna or fresh tuna. I prefer canned tuna for this salad. Save that fancy fresh tuna for sushi. Pommes frites and a Bloody Mary with a Nicoise Salad? I’d be satisfied if this was my last meal. We’ve been watching a lot of Orange is the New Black and I have prison on the brain. So for the moment, consider “last meal” to be my death row reference. For the record, I’d never survive prison, even if they let me work in the kitchen. Oy Vey!

Rue 57, NYC

Rue 57, NYC

 

Les Halles, NYC

Brasserie Les Halles, NYC

 

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy (can’t remember the restaurant)

 

Hotel du Russie, Rome

Hotel de Russie, Rome

This is my adaptation of the Niçoise salad. Change it as you wish, just make one! I have to say that as good as this salad is, the salad dressing is fantastic! It will last for a few days in the refrigerator, and it’s really good on sandwiches or even to dip veggies in for a snack. Don’t let a drop go to waste!

INGREDIENTS

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FOR THE SALAD (Serves about 4)

  • 1 small head red leaf lettuce, torn or cut into ribbons
  • 12 or more cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • Half a small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
  • 1/2lb green beans
  • 12 or so baby red or gold potatoes
  • Generous handful of nicoise olives (you can use kalamata if you can’t find nicoise olives)
  • 2 cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 can anchovies in oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • Fresh tarragon chopped, 2 tbsp or more if you’d like

DIJON TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Throw all the dressing ingredients in a food processor except the tarragon. Process until emulsified and smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped tarragon, stir together. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

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For the salad:

  1. To blanch the green beans, bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice and water, set it next to the stove (see above). Drop the green beans in the boiling water and allow to cook for just 2 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the green beans from the pot and place them into the ice water bath to seize the cooking and keep their bright green color. I lay the green beans on a paper towel to dry.
  2. Throw the potatoes in the same pot you used for the green beans and boil until tender, 10-15 minutes depending on their size. The potatoes are perfectly cooked when they feel tender when pierced with a fork (not a knife). Drain the potatoes and toss with a little kosher salt & pepper and some chopped tarragon, set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Assemble all the ingredients for the salad on a large platter. Sprinkle some chopped tarragon and capers over everything. I always serve the tuna and anchovies on the side, along with the dressing.

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Enjoy!

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