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If you feel like taking a break from ingesting nothing but gin and tonics and popsicles, which is a totally reasonable way to pass these 90 degree days, I find a pesto in the food processor is a reasonably cool addition. Recently, I tried a parsley pesto from Bon Appetit, which involves almonds and chives, and I added roasted broccoli into the mix. A totally serviceable supper with sliced tomatoes, but nothing compared to this herb pasta with shallots and lemon. That broccoli was better used in this veggie pasta sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta salata. Then again if you’re cooking pasta sauces, let the market be your guide using a few key tips from Supertastes.
Since being self-banished from my old regular spot, Trio, I’ve been impatiently waiting for Le Diplomate to start serving lunch. But a girl’s got to eat, so I’ve been making the rounds. Falling into the al fresco dining category, the 17th Street staples Agora and Pizza No. 17, which has a few interesting additions to its pizza and sandwich offerings. Try the mortadella and mozzarella sandwich. The more dubious category of child-friendly has given me so-so meals at Commissary and Tortilla Coast.
As Michael Pollan hawks his book encourages people to get back into their kitchens, my mind wanders to simple treats that will let me spend more time outside in this beautiful spring weather. Maybe picnics are my inspiration or maybe it was a recent visit to Glen’s Gourmet Market in Dupont Circle. Newly opened in the former “secret Safeway” location at S and 20th Streets, this shop is certainly not a one-stop grocery experience. The deli and the produce suffer at the expense of super trendy food genres like sauces (hot, bbq, marinade) and things pickled. The store, which sells products produced “locally”–that is from NY to VA–also specializes in the ever-growing prepared food market.
The Washington City Paper is just out with its Best of D.C. lists and already they are out of date. The addition of Le Diplomate to the city scene could change a few of them–best burger, best brunch? At the very least, I’m sure the editors will add Best French to their categories (there’s Best Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Irish, but no French, which says plenty), but I’d suggest they also add Best Dining Experience and Le Diplomate would run away with it.
By far my favorite food genre, soups are perfect for this time of year. One day chilly, the next sweaty, I find a lovely pureed vegetable soup that can go hot or cold to be genius. Just saute a chopped onion in a little butter and olive oil and then add, all roughly chopped, 2 bunches of asparagus, 1 head of broccoli, a couple of potatoes, and 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, or a combo of stock and water. Bring it to a boil and then simmer 35 minutes. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender and heat through, adding a healthy dose of hot sauce. This is a great mid-week meal served with cheeses and bread.
The first thing we think of when the world starts to warm is, of course, asparagus. It’s finally here, so as you get to roasting the spears or blending them into soup, consider also this simple, creamy pasta sauce of ham and spargel.
I said to a friend the other day that all I want to do in the evenings is a little yoga and then read Wolf Hall. I was explaining why I haven’t been writing much and since saying it nothing has felt more true. With one baby off to bed and another on the way, food has taken a back burner. It doesn’t help that I think the New York Times and Washington Post food sections are suffering under the leadership of Mark Bittman and Joe Yonan. Or that I’ve recently tried several M.F.K. Fisher books and couldn’t get into them. But mostly my taste isn’t what I’d describe as super these days.
And when you find one, you can go every Sunday for brunch or every Friday and Saturday late night or several times a week for lunch. The best diners do all the classics well, but win you with their range and versatility. The Greek diner near my college, for example, had addictive tzatziki and superb silver dollar pancakes and inexpensive pitchers of beer. Heaven.
I read last week’s food sections from the comfort of a poolside chaise in Miami, but even that tranquil setting couldn’t buffer me from the annoyance I felt at the big food-editor-of-the-Washington-Post’s “coming out” piece–as a vegetarian, that is, though Joe Yonan did compare it to his earlier coming out. (I wonder if he was plugging his new book that time.) But the bad taste didn’t end there. Using Anthony Bourdain as his villain, Yonan countered the argument that the worst dining table crime is to tell someone’s grandma you’re not eating the meal she cooked because you’re a veg with this: “I think the absolute rudest thing you can do is to show a lack of respect for someone else’s decision about what they are going to consume.” So this is just another rant from the infamously thin-skinned Post food editor, and I’d say who cares except that a guy who doesn’t eat like 96% of us shouldn’t be the editor of a mainstream food publication/section. Alan Richman at GQ just ranked Johnny Monis’ Dupont Circle Thai Little Serow the most outstanding restaurant of 2013. Shouldn’t the Post’s food editor be able to eat there (not to mention love it)? (And is it just me or was Mark Bittman trying to distance himself from Yonan when he called himself a “true omnivore” in the Times Magazine this weekend?)
I will take Jane Black’s do-gooder public service pieces over Mark Bittman’s smug moralizing any day. In the Washington Post, Black writes about healthy shopping classes taught at grocery stores across the country. In the New York Times, Bittman weighs …