April 30, 2010

Worst. Italian. Restaurant. Ever.


I am slightly embarrassed that Marshal Mike and I went to the following restaurant, but I decided that it was so bad that you all had to know not to ever patronize this sorry excuse for a restaurant.

Apparently the translation of Ristorante Murali is "Worst Restaurant Ever." Seriously, we felt like tourists in a foreign country (no, not Italy) that stumbled upon the first restaurant near the train station (or something like that). The decoration is really cheesy and that should have set off my bullshit alarm, but unfortunately my hunger overshadowed my bullshit monitor.

First of all, the glass of Orvieto I ordered tasted like white grape juice. Now, I like white grape juice, but not for $7.50 a glass and not disguised as wine. Then the bread basket arrived:
Really? There are no words.

I love bread. I will eat all bread put in front of my face. I will not eat this bread. It was the whitest, most tasteless carbohydrate block I have ever tasted. There was clearly no salt in the bread dough and the texture was all wrong. The obligatory dish of olive oil did not help it at all.

To start we shared an arugula parmesan salad. It wasn't the best we've ever had, but it certainly wasn't the worst. Things were looking up! Except for the girls sitting next to us. One was telling the other all about her dating exploits. The last guy she went on a date with was obsessed with alien conspiracies. Apparently organized religion exists because humans need to make sense of aliens. What? Oh, and he was short and couldn't hold up a conversation unless he was talking about aliens. And she always wears 4 inch heels, so a short guy with no personality was just not going to cut it. Please stop. Now.

So back to the food. The waitstaff brought my pizza next. I let it sit for a couple minutes in the hope that MM's gnocchi would be quick to follow. No such luck, so we decided we should try the pizza while it was still warm(ish).
 Yes, it is as bad as it looks

As MM so acutely pointed out: "Mama Celeste is in the back and she microwaved this pizza just for you." Oye. This was supposed to be pizza margherita. It was pounds of mozzarella on not that great sauce. The crust, however, was crispy and tasty. Shocking, I know. Pretty much the only redeeming quality of the entire restaurant. We kept thinking we were on one of those trick TV shows, where someone jumps out of the side of the frame exclaiming that we were actually eating frozen food from the supermarket. Aren't we shocked? No, not really.

After we each ate one piece of pizza, MM's gnocchi arrived:
Doesn't even look appetizing...

Oye again. These poor gnocchi do not deserve the name. They were gummy and heavy and had no taste. And the sauce "tasted like they opened a bottle of Ragu and dumped it over the top." (Can you tell MM loved this place, or what?) So he choked down most of the gnocchi (literally making a gagging face as he ate them). We could not get out of there fast enough. The girls next to use were still blabbing about their dating mishaps over coffee. Why you would want to stick around in that place is beyond me.

Moral of the story: if you ever find yourself in the Pentagon City area and are hungry, do not go to Ristorante Murali. Instead, call me, we live very close and I can make you something (anything) that will be better than the crap churned out at this place.

April 28, 2010

Best Jarred Pasta Sauce

Sometimes you want dinner that will come together in about 20 minutes and be delicious. Last night's dinner was one of those meals. And in the process, I discovered the most delicious jarred pasta sauce I have ever tasted. I am not sure what it was that made it so delicious, but it certainly was. Unfortunately Marshal Mike is still recovering from his nose surgery, so he couldn't really taste it. "It tastes great, but I can't really taste it." What?
Now, this sauce is not cheap. It is listed for $9.49 on the Lucini website. I bought it on sale at Harris Teeter and I don't remember how much I paid for it (I am a sucker for things on sale), but I will certainly buy it again. I used half a jar of sauce and half a bag of Trader Joe's mini ravioli (also worth a try if you have never had them) and it made three servings. So provided I can get three servings out of the rest of the jar, that works out to about $1.58 a serving. Not too bad, when you break it down like that.

I added in cubed mozzarella and fresh basil to the warmed sauce before mixing it with the cooked ravioli. Simple, quick and satisfying.
 Basil plant is doing well!

April 20, 2010

Baked Pasta with Peas and Prosciutto

We are only in town for a couple days this week before heading to St. Louis for Lilly's wedding, so last night I was trying to use up some things in the fridge. I ended up with a delicious baked pasta (again, I am sorry, I neglected to take a picture).


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced (how long have you been in the crisper drawer??)
3/4 lb rigatoni
1 15oz can diced tomatoes (not drained)
1 15oz can tomato sauce with Italian herbs
1 1/4 cup frozen peas
3 oz Prosciutto di Parma, chopped
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Heat olive oil until shimmering in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until just soft. Add carrot and saute another couple minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just al dente. Drain.
4. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to onion and carrots and simmer until the pasta is done (about 10 minutes). Stir in peas and drained pasta.
5. Transfer to baking dish (I used a 11x7 inch dish) and distribute prosciutto over the top. Then sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

I meant to sprinkle some chopped basil on the top when it came out of the oven, but it was about 8:30pm and I just wanted to eat! I suppose that explains why I didn't think of taking a picture.

April 19, 2010

New York

I was in New York City this past weekend spending some QT with my friend, Jo. (Marshal Mike was busy playing Army, so I only saw him sporadically.) We ate at some delicious restaurants, but I didn't take a single picture! I carried my camera the whole weekend and not one picture, which means I will have to recreate our meals with words.

Friday night we had dinner at Blue Ribbon Bakery. It was really delicious. We were seated in their downstairs section (our table was just about right where the photographer stood to take this picture).
(This photo from NYMag.com)
In looking at their menu online, I think it is slightly different from the menu we saw, and I can't really remember what came with each dish. I had the Grilled Red Trout with wild mushrooms, green beans, almonds and bacon. The fish was cooked perfectly and the other components worked really well with it. Marshal Mike had the Filet Mignon with potato cake (the online menu has items that I don't think his dish had) and some delicious sauce. It was truly outstanding, and he orders filet in just about every restaurant we go to. Jo had the Red Snapper special that came with Israeli couscous and vegetables. Also delicious. 

After dinner we went across the street to Blue Ribbon Wine Bar.
I wish it was this empty when we were there! (Also from NYMag.com)

Jo and I had the most amazing cocktail called the Hummingbird (St. Germain, cava and soda) - I am looking forward to trying to recreate it. It was pretty sweet, so we considered it our dessert!

Saturday morning Jo and I went to Colicchio & Sons for brunch. We both had the ricotta and spring vegetable frittata with truffle honey and arugula because it sounded too delicious to pass up. And it sure was. I wish I had a picture of it - a gorgeous golden yellow frittata studded with green vegetables. Yum!

Saturday night we met up at the Modern at MoMA (after walking up and down the street trying to find their super-secret entrance, which isn't actually super-secret, but we had trouble finding it anyway). We sat in the bar area and decided to get a couple small plates to share. But first, the bread. In the bread basket were the most adorable mini-baguettes. A little bit bigger than your finger and oh so delicious. The perfect amount of crusty on the outside, soft and airy on the inside.

So the food. We shared an asparagus salad with arugula, almonds, goat cheese, these weird sorta fried things on top that we decided tasted a little bit like fried eggplant. I think it had some other components too, but my memory fails me. The second starter was an upside down tuna tartare with fennel, cucumber and something else. Luckily, I was able to find a picture:
(From the Amateur Gourmet blog)
The thing on top was crispy, so you had to break it like creme brulee. It was really really delicious. 

Next was Slow Poached Egg "In a Jar" with lobster, asparagus and sea urchin foam:
(Thank you again, Amateur Gourmet)
It was so creative and truly wonderful. Crunchy asparagus, perfect lobster and the egg imparted a subtle creaminess once it was broken. 

Next was grilled scallops with roasted beet jus, hazelnuts and something else I have forgotten. They were also perfect. (Can this place do no wrong?) We ended the night with a coffee caramel dome with raspberry sorbet and amaretto gelee. By this point, I don't need to tell you it was delicious. The only down side was that after we finished our savory courses, it appeared our server had ended his shift or fell into the walk-in or something. He was no where to be seen. (Some other chick brought out dessert.) It took a little wrangling to get our check, but we finally did.

All in all it was a feast of a weekend. When I got home last night I made a pretty disgusting pasta dish from Real Simple: Ravioli with grape tomatoes and wine. Sounds like it should be good. It has wine in it, how could it be bad? Well, don't waste your time with this recipe, the results will underwhelm you.

April 15, 2010


With my husband on Army travel this week, I haven't cooked very much, so I thought I would post my gorgeous shoes I am wearing for my friend Lilly's upcoming wedding.
Aren't they stunning?

I am utterly in love with them. And I can finally look people in the eye when standing next to them. Hooray for tall shoes!

Peony Update #2

I am happy to report that the peonies are coming along very well. Here are the two "Valentines" peonies:
Notice the little bud on this one! So exciting! 

And the Home Depot bulbs have finally started to grow:
Slowly but surely!

April 13, 2010

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce and Roasted Broccoli

Sure isn't winning any beauty contests...

But it tastes delicious! One of these days I will learn how to take halfway decent pictures of food. Until then, we'll all have to suffer. 

We eat rosted broccoli with just about everything in our house. When done right, it is the perfect combination of crispy almost burnt parts and salty goodness. 

This whole meal was almost a disaster due to little miss smarty pants (aka me) forgetting that the banana bread made a gigantic mess of the oven. After a couple minutes of preheating, I smelt something weird. I opened the oven door and smoke started billowing out. Nice. Luckily it stopped after awhile and the weather had been so nice that all the windows were open anyway. The smoke detector didn't even go off. Small victory, I know. But I'll take it. The poor cats went running. (At least I know they will try to get out of the house if it catches on fire? Or they will go hide someplace I won't be able to drag them out of. Most likely the latter will happen.)

Anyway, this recipe is great and comes together pretty quickly. 

Roasted Broccoli
Serves 2

2 small heads of broccoli, cut into florets
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (This broccoli is pretty adaptable. The pork needed a 400 degree oven, so that's what the broccoli got as well and they still turned out fine.) 
2. Combine broccoli with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a bowl. Add salt and pepper (I generously salt the broccoli, but do to your liking.) Mix so all florets are coated.
3. Transfer broccoli to 8 or 9 inch square baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. 
4. Meanwhile, added minced garlic to small bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil. 
5. After 15 minutes, stir broccoli and add garlic olive oil.
6. Roast for another 7-8 minutes or until broccoli is nicely browned/slightly blackened.

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Real Simple
Serves 2
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless pork chops
Salt and pepper
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup dry white wine (I halved the RS recipe, which accounts for the weird measurement)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in an ovenproof 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Put the skillet in the oven to finish cooking, 5-7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in another skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream and simmer until the sauce just thickens. Stir in the mustard.
3. Top the pork with the sauce.

April 12, 2010

Banana Bread

I had three bananas sitting on my counter threatening to turn into a big pile of black mush, so I decided to make banana bread this past weekend. I have lots of different recipes for banana bread and decided to use one from the Arugula Files blog that I had printed months ago. She adapted Mark Bittman's banana bread recipe and added a sugary buttery crumb topping. Let's just say that I am still cleaning up the mess this bread made. 
Looks harmless, right?

The buttery sugary topping overflowed the loaf pan and dripped all over my pizza stone that was on the rack below it (I usually take it out of the oven when baking other things, but decided to keep in this time - big mistake) and the bottom of my oven. Nasty greasy mess. The recipe says to bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top is browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Well, it all looks brown because of the crumb topping, so that is not a helpful indicator. Many toothpick pokes at 50 minutes came out clean, so I pulled the bread out. The end pieces are delicious, but the middle ended up being a battery uncooked mess (dear toothpick, why did you fail me?). And the topping has since sunk into the goopy mess.

If I were to make this again, I would certainly use less topping and cook longer. But I think I will try a different recipe next time. This one tasted too bread-y to me. Maybe I would like a banana cake, instead of a bread. But then I would have to feel guilty eating it for breakfast!

Banana Crumb Cake Wonderment
from the Arugula Files Blog


1 stick butter, room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour (Mark Bittman's original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour - if I had looked that up prior to making this, I probably would have use the ww flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts (I omitted)
1/4 cup coconut (I was weary to add coconut, but it was quite delicious)

Crumb Topping
1/2 stick butter, room temperature (use less - your waistline and your oven will thank you!)
3/4 cup brown sugar (again, use less)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used about 1/4 teaspoon and it was almost too much)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 in loaf pan.
2. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream the butter and beat in the eggs and bananas. (I did this in my stand mixer.)
3. Stir butter/banana mixture into the dry ingredients; do not mix more than necessary.
4. Gently stir in the vanilla, nuts and coconut.
5. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. ("Pour" is not quite the right term, I would say "transfer". This batter is so thick that it does nothing resembling the common useage of the word "pour".)
6. Mash the topping ingredients together in a bowl with a fork and add to the top of the batter.
7. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.

April 10, 2010


Hi, I'm Gaby. Mom is letting me guest blog today. 

My sister Chloe and I had an exciting day (that's Chloe in the sink - she's weird sometimes), so I thought I'd tell you about it.

The windows were open because it finally cooled down (Chloe and I were awfully cranky when it was so hot the past couple days), so we got to watch birds all day. Well, we watched for a little while. Then we were exhausted from bird watching, so we napped for a couple hours.

After napping, I decided that I should rearrange Mom's jewelry on her dresser. She loves it when I do that and always talks to me very loudly when she finds out about it. Can't wait for her to get home!

Then I pulled some food out of the automatic feeder. Chloe thinks it is annoying to have to do that, but I think it is fun. I do it even when there is food in the bowl! Chloe played with the water bowl while I was eating. She got water all over the floor; Mom's going to have lots to do when she gets home. I needed another nap after eating, so I stretched out in the afternoon sun.

Then I decided that I had such a rough day that I needed a beer to relax.
Look at my cool Red Sox bottle opener:
I love the Red Sox. I am so glad baseball season has started again. The Red Sox are going all the way this year. Oh look, Mom just got home! I have to go show her what I did today!

April 9, 2010

Springtime Pasta

My poor husband had to work very late last night, so when he called to request something he could re-heat for dinner that had Italian sausage in it, I had no choice but to stop at the grocery to pick some up. I knew I wanted to use up a couple carrots and a bunch of asparagus that had spent plenty of time getting to know each other in the veggie drawer, so I ended up with this pasta dish. The taste reminded me of a primavera sauce minus a couple veggies, plus a quick bolognese. It was delicious.


1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 lb. pasta (I used ziti and rigatoni because I wanted to use them up)
1-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 links sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Dried Italian seasoning
Grated or shredded Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the asparagus until crisp-tender (about 2-3 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the pasta in the same pot according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Saute garlic and onion until onion has softened. Add carrots and saute a couple minutes.

3. Once the vegetables have softened, add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into bite-size pieces. Cook until the sausage is golden and cooked through.

4. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Add a couple shakes of the Italian seasoning.

5. Simmer tomato vegetable sauce until it reaches desired consistency. (I added the tomatoes to the vegetables at the same time I added the pasta to the boiling water, so they each cooked for about 10 minutes.)

6. Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato vegetable sauce. Stir to combine. Top individual dishes with parmesan.

Serves 4

April 8, 2010


Everyone has certain things they are obsessed with. For example, some people may say I am obsessed with Giada de Laurentiis (those same people also happen to call her "little big head"). I just think that she develops easy and delicious Italian recipes (my favorite type of recipe). Her Food Network shows are engaging, set in gorgeous kitchens and always use such beautiful dishes, bowls, etc. I may have also dragged my husband to the past three DC appearances she has had in the past two years, but lots of other people were there too. And I may try to find her house when we are in Santa Monica this July, but I am sure lots of people try to do that, too. Right?

I digress. This post is actually supposed to be about my husband's obsession with hibachi. Every time we talk about what we should have for dinner, he gets a glimmer in his eye and I know he is going to ask to go to hibachi. Luckily, there is a so-so hibachi restaurant very close to our house. Unluckily (for me, anyway), we go about 2-3 times per month. Don't get me wrong, the staff is always very nice, the Sapporo is always cold, but there is a limited number of times a month I want to smell like I have been fried with butter, oil and soy sauce on a flat-top grill. That number being very small. But marriage is a compromise, and my husband loves hibachi. I usually end up ordering sushi, but last night I tried a noodle dish that wasn't bad. Here is a picture of Marshal Mike's hibachi steak:
Unfortunately he thought the steak was tough. I hope they can remedy that the next time we are there, which will be in approximately 1.3 weeks.

Giada photo from Food Network

First Peony Post

Peonies are my favorite flower and they aren't the easiest to find in flower shops around here. When you do find them, they are rather expensive. So this year I decided I would try to grow them on our deck.

I have three large pots:
  • In one went four bulbs that I bought from Home Depot in February - two white and two magenta;
  • The other two pots each got two bulbs (not sure of the color) that my thoughtful husband bought me for Valentine's Day (although they were on back-order, so I just planted them at the end of March).
The bulbs my husband bought me are doing really well:

The DC sun has been doing its job!

The other ones have just barely broken the surface (no picture, because really, there's nothing to look at). I am worried that I planted them upside down, but hopefully they will eventually find their way to the surface!

April 7, 2010

Fettuccine with Broccoli, Bacon and Lemon

Memo to self: Take pictures of the food you cook so as not to bore your readers to sleep. This photo courtesy of Epicurious.

Last night's dinner was a result of trying use up items in the fridge. I more or less followed the below Bon Appétit recipe and it was delicious! We will certainly make this again.

My notes: I only had regular bacon on hand, so I used that and crumbled it after it cooled and was crisp. I used less butter and olive oil than called for, and the excess was not missed. My lemon had already been stripped of its zest for an Easter Ricotta pie I made over the weekend, but we thought the juice imparted plenty of bright lemon flavor by itself.

Lemon Fettuccine with Broccoli and Pancetta "Croutons"
Bon Appétit | June 2008

by Rozanne Gold

4 servings

4 ounces 1/4- to 1/3- inch-thick slices pancetta (Italian bacon) or thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch cubes
5 1/2 cups 1-inch broccoli florets (from 1 pound broccoli crowns)
9 ounces fresh or dried fettuccine
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Sauté pancetta in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until almost crisp and brown. Transfer to paper towels.

Cook broccoli in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to medium bowl. Add pasta to same boiling water; cook until tender, stirring occasionally.

Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add next 5 ingredients. Toss over low heat to coat. Add pancetta, broccoli, and cheese; toss to blend. Season pasta with pepper.

First Post...Better Make It Good

Some ideas come fairly easily, others may take awhile. And some come where all good ideas should come: riding on the Metro (aka the "Ghettro"). (While I realize that may not be the most PC term, if you have ever ridden on DC's Metro system, you know it deserves that term.) Anyway, riding home on the Metro last night, my friend Nicole came up with the name of this blog as an homage to my home state, Rhode Island, the biggest little state in the union. (Her husband, Joe, had a close runner up.) So my thanks to Nicole for naming my blog!