Lazy Shish Taouk Bites

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

I’ve only had two jobs in my life that were so unbearably horrible that I hate to think back on. The first was when I was sixteen — I worked at one of those tutoring centers in the San Fernando Valley. Not the good kind, where parents send their over ambitious children to get ahead… it was the opposite, where lazy parents sent their rowdy, manner-less kids to terrorize sixteen-year olds, like me. I lasted three months — and when I gave my four weeks’ notice, my manager took me outside and gave me this incredible look, and scolded me for not giving her enough notice. She was terrible.

The other was my first real-life job after graduation, when I was twenty-two. I was working for an agency selling Xerox machines, six months after the big recession hit in 2008. It. was. terrible.

It was one of those work environments that was really responsible for giving sales people a bad name. The managers preyed on their employees’ profits, the company tried to sell products that were clearly terrible, and literally every person in that office spent a good deal of time applying to other jobs. Anything. I was even interviewing at restaurants all over Los Angeles, and striking out, partially because I had left restaurant work already, for a desk job. What they didn’t understand was that I would have gladly gone back to a job that I really loved — waiting tables — to escape the terrors something I hated and just wasn’t cut out for.

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

Anyway, the three months I spent at Xerox weren’t a complete loss — I became friends with someone I’m still friends with today. In fact, she came to visit DC once (and we frolicked around Dupont Circle with Kristen in leotards) and we even traveled to Bogotá together. And when we were both incredibly miserable at Xerox, we would drive off to our sales territories together, do the minimum required to make a few sales/not get fired, and spend the rest of our time applying to jobs. A regular lunch spot there was a little Mediterranean sandwich shop which has since shut down — but I became friends with the owners, who were very Lebanese, so I got to exchange a little Arabic banter and enjoy their amazing Lebanese sandwiches.

I’ve since gone back to Monrovia, hunting for that shop, and that’s how I know it’s now gone. And I’ve been hunting for similar shops that mimic that impeccable flavor, but have really just failed.

So when Food 52 published a recipe for shish taouk, I couldn’t help but try it. And while I almost always turn to F52 as a cooking resource, this recipe was just a tad complicated and involved for me to carry out fully. So I broke it down, and simplified it into a meal that I could quickly throw together after a long day at work or a rough spin class at the gym.

And, being an apartment-dweller without a grill, I’m limited to a cast iron skillet and a George Foreman… so I opted for the latter.

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

Lazy shish taouk bites with whipped garlic and Greek yogurt, adapted from Food 52  Continue reading “Lazy Shish Taouk Bites”

DC Faves: Hank’s Oyster Bar

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

The first time I ever went to Hank’s Oyster Bar was just a few days after I moved into my apartment, which is about 100 feet from Hank’s, we called in a last minute, late night reservation, and pretty much ordered half of the menu for three people. We did collectively drink a few bottles of champagne that night, so I don’t remember much about that first meal (other than every moment of it being delicious), but it set the stage for my regular stop for drinks and sometimes dinner. I love the marble bar in the front room — it serves as a great starting point for date night, since I could continue elsewhere if the date was good, or retreat to my apartment if the date was bad — and the windows in the main room open up when the weather is nice, so it’s more like an open-air restaurant.

Last week, I was having drinks in the upstairs bar, hidden away, and we ordered the squash blossoms as a snack to accompany our whorishly dirty martinis — they were served stuffed with goat cheese, on top of watermelon cubes, arugula, and radishes.

Over the weekend, Rachel came to visit, so we opted for an easy stroll around the corner for a farewell dinner before she flew off to California again (rude). We lucked out with a table on the coveted patio as dusk hit, so I snapped a few photos while I still had an ounce of light. I saw someone walk by with a plate of squash blossoms from just a few days before, and salivated.

Pictured above is Megan’s punch, a light and refreshing alcoholic citrus punch, served in a tea cup. I’d drink 8 billion of those if I had the time, money, and tolerance. And below is the Hanky Panky cocktail, which is a mix of citrus vodka, housemade Limoncello and a splash of sparkling wine.

Overall, it’s one of my favorite casual date spots, whether you’re deciding if it’s worth a third date or you’re meeting a long-time bestie to vent about work drama over martinis. If you can get a seat on the patio on a crisp summer night, well, that’s my favorite. Have your choice of menus here.

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

Some people think it’s weird to order non-seafood at a seafood restaurant, but after years of working at a seafood restaurant, that’s just silly. I settled in with some spectacular molasses-braised shortribs, chilled beets, and fresh coleslaw. Other dishes below.

Fried oyster po’ boy }

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

Thai coconut mussels with coconut milk, ginger, and lobster stock }

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

Sauteéd softshell crab with local vegetables }

hank's oyster bar, dupont // sweetsonian

Orange Glazed Braised Beets

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet? Because I sure am.

I mean ready in the I’m-not-in-charge-of-dinner sense. This year, I will not be throwing a huge Thanksgiving dinner — last year was fun, but I have other plans in mind. They do happen to be secret though, because, well, a little mystery is always good.

If you do happen to be planning a meal or need a side to take with you, I highly recommend these beets. The orange flavor is subtle, mostly because beets are such a strong statement dish.

Hope y’all are having a lovely week! Xo.

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

I’m trying something new. Here’s a recipe card, in case you’d like to use this instead (and let me know if you like this better, so I know whether or not to keep making little design recipe cards!)

orange glazed braised beets // sweetsonian

Orange Glazed Braised Beets, derived from the New California Cook

Ingredients

  • 6 medium beets, trimmed, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ tablesoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • pomegranate seeds and orange zest, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine the beets, stock, vinegar, orange juice, and olive oil in a cast iron Dutch oven casserole over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low, and braise for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork.
  2. Raise the heat to high and reduce the remaining liquid until it glazes the beets, stirring occaisionally to coat the beets evenly. Add the butter, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat, and serve with orange zest and pomegranate seeds.

Lazy Meatball Shakshuka

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

It feels like shakshuka is just all over the blogosphere these days.

Luckily for me, shakshuka is something that actually fits into my diet. Yes, I’m a food blogger on a diet. How about that?

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

I guess I should tell you about this diet. It’s called the Dukan Diet — well, my own rendition of it, anyway. The main idea is that you stick to a high-protein diet interspersed with vegetables. It’s pretty amazing. I don’t crave sweets very much anymore, and carbs, well, they will be missed, but I do love protein and veggies.

I say the diet is my own “rendition” because there are two food groups that I simply cannot give up: cheese and cocktails. Yes, they are food groups. I’m just gonna keep it real with you.

This diet started last winter, when I was really amping up the freelance work. So basically, when my social/fitness activities were replaced with sleepless nights and caffeine binges, I realized I needed to change something. Either give up freelance and get back into my running obsession, or change my eating habits. Obviously, I chose freelance and the diet.

Diets get such a bad rep these days. Of course, there are so many negative connotations that do go with them. But to be honest, I like having goals in mind, and guidelines on what’s good and what’s bad and what’s too much and what’s not enough. I weigh myself every day. I’m guilty when I don’t work out, or when I cheat. I cheat more often than I should, and I don’t work out as much as I should. But you know what? The guidelines work for me. I like them.

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

 

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

I’ve been making meatballs from a great recipe blog that archives Dukan Diet recipes — and this recipe actually reminds me a lot of the Norwegian meatballs my friend Åse (pronounced oh-sah) made for us one rainy night in Bergen.

So I made a huge batch in the oven, and used a portion of the meatballs for this shakshuka. The original intent was to use the shakshuka for lunch (it packs really well and is a perfect work lunch), but I’ve made it for a couple of dinners and it’s always been a huge hit.

The meatballs are pretty neutral, so they’d go really well in this banh mi recipe, too.

Anyway, enjoy this recipe (especially if you’re on the Sarah Gerrity Dukan protein cheese and cocktail diet). If you have favorite meatball recipes, I’d love to hear some ideas — because I tend to make these ones in double batches for the entire week (or two or three).

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

lazy meatball shakshuka // sweetsonian

 

Onion Meatballs, from Dukan it Out

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground turkey
3 green onions,
1 small sweet onion
1 egg
1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the green and sweet onions in a food processor, and pulse chop until finely diced. Then, in a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, mixing with your hands to fully incorporate into a mixture.

Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick baking spray, and begin rolling the meat mixture into 1.5-inch balls. Space them about 1 inch apart, and then bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Lazy Meatball Shakshuka

10-15 onion meatballs
1 jar tomato sauce of choice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
4-6 eggs (use your judgement)
Olive oil, just a drizzle
Fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

First, heat a cast iron skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Saute your meatballs until the surfaces are a deep golden brown. Then, carefully pour your tomato sauce into the skillet, turning the stove heat to medium-low. If it’s too chunky, add water in 1/4-cup increments until you have a stew-like consistency.

Once the tomato sauce comes to a simmer, use a wooden spoon to create some pockets between the meatballs for your eggs. Crack the eggs one by one into the sauce, and baste the whites with the spoon. Once the whites begin to cook through, sprinkle the skillet with feta and parmesan cheese. Simmer until the eggs are cooke through to the consistency you prefer — I like the yolks runny, but you might want them stiff.

Sprinkle with fresh basil, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy.