When East Meets Chef

My masterpiece

Picking a book for my book club tends to be a slightly contentious undertaking each meeting. Although we are a small group, our different tastes in literature can provide us with a challenge in deciding what to undertake next. While a book club is a great excuse to read and catch up with friends, I also see it as an opportunity to test my culinary skills.

The hostess of each meeting is charged with providing the entire meal for the group. Personally, I love tying my meal to the book as closely as possible. Sometimes this is a daunting undertaking – A Million Little Pieces proved too much for my culinary creativity. Luckily, last month I had Reading Lolita in Tehran as my inspiration. The internets came to my rescue and provided me with an easy, scrumptious stew to serve my book club: Khoresh-E Bademjan.

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Did a Pig Just Fly by My Window???


Or did 80 Proof cook an entire meal and is now writing a post about it?

It’s true folks, just this past Monday night, I spent over an hour in the kitchen, dicing, searing, and serving a meal for two. I will fully admit that I did not make this recipe up, in fact I downloaded it from epicurious. (BTW, you might notice a new tag called, follow the leader, which in the future will detail our attempts at cooking other people’s recipes.)

We love eating fish, but our local stores, Giant included, have just a woeful selection. If you are in the mood for sea creatures your choices revolve around 8 kinds of shrimp or crabs, salmon, or tilapia. Freaking tilapia. It tastes fine and is easy to season and cook, but 12 times in row gets a little stagnant. Since Gansie was already planning on shopping at Whole Paycheck, she picked up some catfish. Truth be told, it ain’t that different from tilapia, but enough to make us happy.

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When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip


For me, the hardest part about eating has always been making decisions. Our multicultural, food-on-demand society gives us so many options that it’s often difficult to choose. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a menu with hundred of options and having no idea where to begin (OK, there are probably worse things, but this really pisses me off). That’s why I get stoked about any new innovation that successfully combines more than one great food item, allowing us to, dare I say, eat two birds with one stone.

In the great tradition of vanilla-chocolate-swirl ice cream cones, lemonade-iced tea, and the triple-decker club sandwich, we now have hummus-baba ganoush. It’s OK, take a minute to catch your breath and process that.

Just recently I had a conversation about how it’s impossible to decide whether I like eggplant-y baba ganoush or chickpea-based hummus better. Now I learn The Tribe, the same company that makes all those great flavored hummuses (correct plural? hummusi, maybe?) like dill, roasted garlic, and spicy chipotle, has started producing hummus-baba ganoush. One dip, both great tastes. There’s no info on their website yet, but I swear I had some yesterday, and it really does capture the essence of both dips. Pure genius.

While it may not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just yet, or convince Americans to put down the mayo-heavy spinach dip, my personal little foodie world will never be the same.


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After a good few years of anticipation, I finally made it to D.C. institution Marrakesh this weekend, courtesy of Travis’ bachelor party. This Morrocan place is an event restaurant – speakeasy-style entrance to a cavernous space, sexy belly dancers, endless shots for the bachelor – but I was obv. most excited for the seven course meal. 

While Marrakesh puts on a party and a half, I have to say I wasn’t blown away by most of the food. Some fairly standard couscous, hummus and baklava, with slightly more impressive lemon roast chicken and almond-honey lamb. The standout course was the B’Stella, pictured above in before and after mode. It’s the kind of loopy dish that would make you think someone had a few screws loose if they served it to you in their home, but a fancy restaurant can pull it off. Phyllo dough stuffed with chicken, egg, onion, nuts and topped with kilos of powdered sugar.  No utensils, just dig in and go.  A gooey, glorious mess. More pics from Marrakesh after the jump.

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