There are only four weeks left in the semester! Luckily, the weather is improving and the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom this weekend. With the warmer weather and later sunsets, I have been walking to and from work for the past week. The city is very easy to navigate and almost everything is within walking distance. Both my roommate and I knew the internships we were seriously contemplating at the time we were looking for a place to live and we took this into consideration when looking at different housing options. If possible, I recommend you do the same. It is always nice to walk to work on a sunny day instead of taking the metro or the bus. It doesn’t hurt to save money either.
Nice weather is also the perfect opportunity to take a trip to the grocery store. The entire district has been abuzz since a new Trader Joe’s opened in the U Street corridor -- I’m not kidding! There is only one other store in the area, so this is a big deal for the chain’s fans. Although the store is only two stops away on the metro, carrying tons of bags is unwieldy and cumbersome. I joined the ranks of shoppers and the elderly who use grocery carts by buying one online. It may look dorky, but it’s been amazingly convenient and all my intern coworkers have been asking where I found it!
With the convenience of my cart, I easily stocked up on fresh produce and new ingredients to make some great dishes this past month!
I love breakfast and brunch, but it’s often hard to justify going out and spending $20 first thing in the morning on something you can do at home. It can also be hard to justify that stack of pancakes sometimes! My solution – I made corn bread and peanut butter pancakes that are gluten-free. Not only did I save money, but I saved my cholesterol level too.
These weekend cravings are the reason I keep all purpose gluten-free flour and cornmeal in the house. It has definitely come in handy when I need a pastry fix!
I forgot, however, to reduce the recipe size and ended up with leftover batter for days. I was eating pancakes for two weeks, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy them -- especially when topped with black currant preserves.
For dinner last week I made a multi-layer gratin with all the great items I picked up at Trader Joe’s. Unlike in California, the grocery stores here don’t usually carry produce that’s out of season, so I haven’t had very good luck finding certain fresh vegetables until now. I took advantage of the stocked shelves at Trader Joe’s to stock my fridge in kind.
I put some of my favorite vegetables in this dish, including zucchini and kale. I’ve also learned from past cooking endeavors that putting a layer of thinly sliced potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold) on the bottom and top of the dish help give the gratin structure and prevent it from falling apart.
I sautéed the kale and a chopped red onion until they were soft so they more easily fit into the glass baking dish.
Beneath the sautéed vegetables is a layer of potato slices and sliced zucchini. After sprinkling a heavy dose of shredded mozzarella cheese on the mix, I poured about ¾ a cup of cream evenly over the layers to give the dish some additional moisture while baking.
Once I added another layer of sliced zucchini and potatoes, I scattered some Parmesan cheese over the top level in order to give the potatoes a nice crispiness.
Although I like to experiment with my dishes and cook to my taste, it always helps to follow a good recipe. My dad sent me a wonderful clipping from the food section of The Los Angeles Times for cremini and shitake mushroom bisque. Unfortunately I don’t have a blender here and, after a brief and failed attempt to blend some mushrooms with a hand mixer, I decided to make the bisque chunky.
I sliced the baby bella cremini and shitake mushrooms and lightly pan-fried them with a diced onion before adding three cups of vegetable broth.
The recipe is for vegan bisque, but I had a lot of difficulty finding cashew cream and I ended up using a smaller amount of table cream instead.
After letting the soup simmer, I garnished it with freshly chopped chives and a little black truffle olive oil.
I had plenty bisque left over and easily took it to work in a Tupperware container to reheat at lunch. This was by far my favorite dish! I guess the LA Times food columnists know what they are talking about.