Month: November 2011

FALLing in Love with Pumpkin

I always get really excited around this time of the year. Not only do I get to bring out all my scarves, boots and sweaters, but I also have the amazing excuse to eat as much squash and other fall-related produce as possible. I don’t know where my love of squash came from, but it’s here to stay. I found this makeshift recipe for pumpkin chili on Bon Appetit’s 11 Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin slideshow, so I decided to try my own version (with proper measurements) and see how it would turn out. All I can say is I’ve been eating it once a day for the past four days and still have yet to grow tired of it. The pumpkin flavor is mild but nothing says fall quite like a warm bowl of chili.

Pumpkin Chili with Spicy Pumpkin Cream 

Ingredients for the Chili (makes 8 servings)

1 lb ground turkey

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 tsp chili powder

2 tsp paprika

dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cans crushed fire roasted tomatoes

1/2 can pumpkin puree (this can be increased or decreased depending on your liking for pumpkin flavor)

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, brown the ground turkey over medium heat until cooked all the way through, making sure to break it up into small chunks. Add the onion, peppers and spices and cook until the peppers are just soft. Stir in cannellini beans, tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Simmer for 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Serve with spicy pumpkin cream and cornbread.

For the Cream (per individual bowl of chili):

2 tbs pumpkin puree

2 tbs greek yogurt or sour cream

Siracha, as desired

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Dollop on top of hot chili and enjoy!

Blue Duck Tavern: Save Room for Dessert

Ah, parents’ weekend. The three days out of the year when it is socially acceptable to be a college student and hang out with your parents on campus. Well, I don’t necessarily feel this strongly about my parents’ presence but I’m sure plenty of students do. This past Colonial’s Weekend, I was lucky enough for my mom to pay me a visit and treat me to some fantastic eats.

Now let me give you some background information on my mom. She, just like me, loves to eat and cook. She’s always scanning through cookbooks and trying new recipes (she’s been on a lavender kick recently and insists putting it in everything!). When she booked her plane ticket to D.C. back in August, the first thing she said to me was, “okay, well start looking for places to eat because you know reservations will fill up fast and I want to try all the good food.” And boy was she serious.

When it came down to making reservations, I kept three things in mind. I knew I wanted to eat at restaurants that 1) I had never been to, 2) were all different in cuisine and 3) that were less likely that I would spend my own money on. I fulfilled these goals by booking reservations at the acclaimed Indian restaurant, Rasika, Blue Duck Tavern at the Hyatt, and my favorite chef’s- Jose Andres- Mediterranean Tapas restaurant, Zaytinya. The meal that still sticks out to me even a week later is Blue Duck Tavern. I’m already longing to go back.

What was first most appealing to Blue Duck Tavern was the atmosphere. When you walk in the door you are not only greeted by a friendly hostess but you are also exposed to an open, natural environment with wooden furniture and a full view of the kitchen. I was obviously amused by this aspect, especially the fact that you have to walk through the pastry kitchen to get to the bathroom- you can only imagine how many times I excused myself to use the ladies’ room.

Essentially, the menu has three columns- appetizers, entrees and sides, since everything is served a la carte. You then have your break ups in appetizers with salads and meats, your break ups in entrees with beef, poultry, ham and fish, and your break ups in sides with starches and vegetables. It’s pretty much given that my mom and I will share whatever we order, so we started with the pumpkin soup and the roasted beet salad. For my main course, I ordered the single vegetarian option- sweet potato pasta with Brussels sprouts, juniper berries and mushrooms. The dish was rich and creamy and I didn’t even miss the meat. I wanted to savor every last bite, but forced myself to refrain from inhaling the entire dish, as I knew to save room for dessert. Being at Blue Duck Tavern, it was only appropriate that my mom ordered duck. While I do not usually like or eat duck, her dish was rich, silky and perfectly seasoned. I enjoyed the few bites that I did manage to steal.

After a few moments of digestion, we were ready to order dessert. We decided on the nectarine, blackberry and almond crumble with crème freche, and an order of honey vanilla ice cream, per our eloquent waiter’s suggestion.

When I say to you that this was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, I am in no sense exaggerating. The crumble was so moist and warm, and the contrast between the soft, sweet fruit and the crunchy, slightly salty crumbled crust was perfect. The crème freche, while tart and creamy, was a good counterpart to the sweetness of the fruit, but even better was the honey vanilla ice cream. Cold, silky and rich, this was definitely the highest quality vanilla ice cream I’ve ever been lucky enough to indulge in. the hint of honey was just strong enough for you to know it was there, but not too sweet that it still left you wanted to keep eating more.

I could eat this meal once a week, I swear to you. If you’re in DC, I would definitely recommend checking out Blue Duck Tavern.