It’s official: I’ve moved! This is my first post from my new home in Washington, DC, writing about food I’ve made in my apartment in Georgetown. The neighborhood is very pretty, full of quaint old brick houses and an amount of greenery that is mind-boggling to a New Yorker. Once you step off the main drags of M Street and Wisconsin Ave, it’s like being in the suburbs. I’m more or less unpacked, and despite a small snafu that has left me sleeping on the floor for a week, I’m all settled in.
So now, for the food. I went to see one of my favorite bands, Arcade Fire, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion with some of my friends. And guess what? Spoon opened for them (no, that’s not a cooking pun)! Both bands are fantastic, but Arcade Fire performs with so much joy and energy (and an insane number of instruments). In case you need convincing, check out this clip from their Thursday night show in NYC:
In honor of the concert twofer, I’m giving you a recipe twofer of some nibbles I made for our pre-show picnic. The heat and humidity here have been so intense that I wanted to make something light and refreshing—in this case, a cool cucumber mint soup, and a chilled orzo salad recipe I got from my mom. They’re the perfect summertime foods because not only are both served chilled, but they require minimal or no cooking (because who wants to stand in front of a stove when even sitting still causes you to break out into a sweat?). It’s easy peasy.
Well, it was supposed to be. Enter what I like to call the Great Feta Quest of 2010. The orzo pasta salad recipe calls for feta cheese, which I always like to have on hand because I use it so often. I’d purchased some from Trader Joe’s when I was doing the shopping to stock my new kitchen (holy hell, that was an expensive day). When I opened it for the first time to crumble it into the orzo, I took a little nibble as I am wont to do when cooking … and spat it back out. I don’t know what was going on in that feta tub, but it was really, REALLY gross. It went back to TJ’s (they have a great, no-hassle return policy), and in an effort to save myself bus fare I thought I’d grab some feta from the Dean & Deluca down the street from me. The taste was also less than impressive, but it was palatable. The price? Not so much. Anyone who is willing to pay $19 a pound for feta cheese is off their rocker. I ended up hopping on the bus after all, heading up to Whole Foods to get the 365 brand block feta in brine, which I will now do all of the time. So two hours and five pounds (lost due to sweating it out in 100+ degree heat) later, I had my feta and my easy peasy (sans the easy) salad. Fortunately the soup was much simpler to make, since all it requires is tossing some ingredients into a blender. Just a note that will make sense once you read the recipe: when picking out a Greek yogurt for the soup, choose the super-thick Fage or Trader Joe’s brands since the cucumbers release a ton of water.
Without further ado, the recipes. Pictures are thanks to my friend Laura and her iPhone, since I’m a moron and forgot my camera in Connecticut.Orzo Salad with Feta, Spinach and Lemon via my mom, who taught me how to cook and the importance of good food makes enough to serve 5-6 hungry adults
1 ½ cups orzo, uncooked (I like Barilla) 3 cups spinach, julienned good quality extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp fresh lemon zest 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I like the 365 brand from Whole Foods)
Cook the orzo according to the instructions on the box (and salt the water!). Drain, toss with olive oil to coat and let cool completely. Add more olive oil if the orzo looks as though it is clumping or has dried out during the cooling process. When it has cooled, add in the remaining ingredients, tossing until thoroughly mixed. Serve chilled. Will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.Cool Cucumber and Mint Soup (adapted from Whole Foods) Serves 4
2 cups Greek yogurt (I like Fage or Trader Joe’s 2%) 2 English cucumbers, peeled and de-seeded 1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped 1 clove garlic ¼ white onion, chopped sea salt and pepper, to taste drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients (except olive oil) in a large bowl or food processor. Blend, in the food processor or with a stick blender, until smooth. Serve chilled, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and some mint sprigs. Or if you’re really classy like me, in a red Solo cup.