Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Food Network Chopped-Style Cooking Date

Writing a blog can be a double-edged sword.

Writing a food/dating blog where I've put unnecessary pressure on myself when I'm cooking for a date AND have eliminated my random spontaneity because I've shared all of my secrets?

Well shit.

So naturally, when my date suggested we do a Chopped-Style cooking date, I knew I was in trouble.

"Come on.... It'll be fun," she challenged with a smirk.  "You'rrrrre Mr. Third Date Cooking," she coyly prodded with playful sarcasm.


It all started one Sunday morning a little while back. As we strolled through Eastern Market (just adding to the pool of prototypical young professionals with dog or baby or Starbucks coffee in tow), we began to weave our way through the white awnings and tents filled with fresh, local food.

(I will be honest. This was her idea. She gets 99% of the credit.)

"Hey Matt, you always talk about Chopped. Let's each find a farmers market ingredient and we'll each have to cook with the two items for dinner tonight!"

"Whoa. Brilliant."

Different. Exciting. And everyone wins when it’s playful competition which involves dinner, cooking, and wine. (*Remember playful competition, if you forgot, see this Tip of the Day: Competitive Skee-Ball)

So off we went.

I thought about my decision. Kale? Too boring and predictable. (I may have been addicted to kale at one point). Carrots? Too plain. (We're not fucking rabbits). Endive? Too hard. (It's not Iron Chef dumbass).

I went with Baby Bok Choy. Purchased. Done.

5 minutes later she came back with a smile and a plastic bag concealing her entrance fee to the competition.

Since, we're not professionals and this wasn't a true competition, we decided to share our choices. (And since my refrigerator and cabinets aren't stocked with every cooking ingredient, we would have to visit the grocery store prior to cooking).

"What'd you get? What'd you get? What'd you get?" She pressed.

"Baby bok choy." I deadpanned.

"What?!? Are you serious?"


"Check these out! Green tomatoes!"

(Wait, wasn't there a women's book about tomatoes?)


When I dropped her home, we decided that we would each separately go to the grocery store to purchase any accompanying ingredients. The rules were simple. We each had to cook a dish and each dish had to contain both ingredients.

I strolled through the grocery store thinking about the two vegetables.

Hmm...both green...going to need some color...

The bok choy has two components (the leaves and the stalks)...could I incorporate both?

I stared at the rows of produce, secretly hoping they would give me inspiration.
(Note: I now realize that while I was going for presentation and full ingredient usage, my date was secretly and smartly going the complete opposite direction. Taste. And wholesome-y goodness).

I finished collecting my ingredients and then headed to the seafood counter to pick up a protein. Chilean Sea bass was on sale. Fuck. Yes. (Although in this case, the Chilean sea bass was not the focus for tonight's meal)


She came over at 7pm and we started part two of the cooking date. We chopped, drank wine, and ate bread and hummus (See this Tip of the Day).


More sautéing.

Frying (wait she's frying?!?!)

And...time's up!

She ended up cooking fried green tomatoes (wait, I knew it was a book title!) with a baby bok choy and feta cheese chutney on top.

I made cold lettuce wraps with the bok choy leaves as the wrap and diced tomatoes, raw red onions, and cucumbers as the filling. Additionally, I attempted to sauté sweet fruit and served it in the bok choy stalks (like little spoons).

The verdict?

She killed it and definitely won (of course I blame the adage that "anything fried is awesome"). But it didn't matter - it was a great, spontaneous date idea, something fun and something different.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Magic of Truffle Salt

I used to hear the word truffles and instantly think chocolates...a box of truffles...usually for the dreaded Valentine's Day.

Chocolate truffles.

Dark chocolate truffles.

Crack-dusted, mint chocolate truffles filled with vanilla and finished with angels' tears.

Women just seem to fawn over them. And why not - you can't go wrong with chocolate.

But just recently, I've begun to slowly realize that actual truffles can elicit similar kinds of accolades. I'm beginning to acknowledge in my naive ways...truffles...are the fucking real deal. Who would've thought an underground fungus could be one of those sought after "foodie" treasures, prized for its delicacy, cherished by few.

As a side note, I'm actually not a go-crazy-at-the-site-of-truffles-on-a-menu type of person. But I'll tell you what, when a girl asks what you're cooking and you throw in the word "truffle." You've just upped the ante good sir. You're splashing the pot, but you know what? You can, it's your fucking game.

Hell, throw in the words "drizzled with a little bit of truffle oil" or "sprinkled with some truffle salt" and it's all over.

Or, surprise her.

When she says "Holy shit, thesemashedpotatoesarefreakingamazing! What's in them?"

And you nonchalantly respond, "Oh I added just a little truffle salt to spice things up..."

It's like you've just river'ed the nut straight flush over the poor soul (i.e. the rest of your guy competition) who's now betting into you with his seemingly perfect A's full.


I've piqued your interest.

Now what?

Well, for starters....please don't go out and buy a truffle and think this magical, burnt-cookie-looking thing is going to spontaneously cook itself. They're freaking expensive. (Natasha Shulinina from DC Foodies found a "cheap" truffle for $75 to cook for Valentine's Day)

So I'll provide you with two other options, truffle oil and truffle salt (though nowadays, truffle oil is usually void of actually containing truffles).  Try the truffle salt, Wikipedia's entry on truffle salt is two sentences long. Two sentences! So it's gotta be on the DL right?  Plus, the salt will be easier to work with, offers more versatility, and seriously, who puts truffle oil on popcorn?

I recently bought a 4oz jar of truffle salt for a friend and she's kindof gone off the deep end with it.  She may be obsessed.  Like counseling obsessed.  Truffle salt and popcorn? Sure. Avocado half with truffle salt? Why not. Eggs and truffle salt? Of course. She's probably brushing her teeth with it right now.

I could see it being awesome in:
  • Risotto
  • Toasted bread-a creamy cheese-fresh diced tomato bruschetta appetizer thing
  • Sauteed mushrooms and sweet onions
  • Popcorn
  • Scrambled eggs or hard boiled eggs
  • Roasted veggies with balsamic vinegar
  • Roasted beef or chicken

So order some. Try it out. Pimp out your new recipes. Life will be good.

Shout out to Janel at @DietitianJanel for pointing me towards truffle salt and pimping out Salt Works (where I ordered my black truffle salt).