Sunday, July 12, 2009

Culinary Madness at Fort Myer Army Base

As I mentioned in a previous post, my friends and I like to get together to do a little thing we call "Culinary Madness". This food-focused extravaganza can take place anywhere at any time and involve any number of people. This time we had an unusual locale: Fort Myer, an army base located next to the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just across the river from Washington DC and about a 3 mile walk from my apartment. Fort Myer is home to the Old Guard, a prestigious group of soldiers who perform the funerals, stand watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and participate in many other ceremonial duties at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of our close friends happens to be an Old Guard soldier who was not allowed off base on this lovely weekend in late June. What made this particularly frustrating for him is that his only sister was in town specifically to visit him, yet he could not leave Fort Myer to spend time with her. So instead we brought the fun to him in the form of a Culinary Madness BBQ!

That morning I had visited the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market, where I picked up new potatoes, cross cut lamb leg steaks, zucchini and sweet onions. The fruits at the market looked tempting and I bought the season's first peaches, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and the juiciest most delicious apricots I've ever eaten.

A stop by the grocery yielded the rest of our ingredients. Back at my apartment I cut the leg of lamb steaks (which are basically a cross section of the lamb leg) into kebab pieces and marinated them in garlic, fresh rosemary, olive oil and salt, a touch of cumin and a dash of smoked paprika. Then we loaded everything into my friend Sophia's car and drove across the river and through the security checkpoint up to our friend's barracks. There we found the bbq pit and set out to make the best grilling action that Delta Company had ever seen!

Our work space consisted of a wrought iron table next to the grill:

Check out the new potatoes, which we dressed simply with salt and olive oil and cooked in foil packets on the grill:


This is our soldier friend's famous fruit salad which he concocted with the Farmers' market fruits. Macerated in a touch of sugar and topped and with whipped cream they made for a fantastic dessert.

Sophia's plate. Note the yogurt-mint-garlic sauce to complement the lamb, and our handy wine "glasses".

The siblings chowing down on some kebab with music from our barracks-blaster aka a blackberry perched above them:

Me dancing to techno and cutting veggies for the kebabs:

As we were cooking people from the company circled around and some ended up sampling our kebabs. Here our friend (to the far right) and some of his buddies pose with lamb.

It was a good day: we had great food and enjoyed the outdoors and our friend got to see his sister:

Enjoying good Food, Friends and Family, that's what Culinary Madness is all about!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Healthy Garlic Bread

Ok, those of us in love with the allium family know all about the glory that is garlic bread, right? Hot, crispy around the edges, dripping lashings of butter, fragrant with garlic, just asking to be torn to pieces and stuffed into one's hungry maw....

But one thing garlic bread isn't is healthy. Most recipes call for tons of melted butter. This one is made with heart-friendly olive oil, scads of Garlic, fresh herbs and large grained sea salt. If you are watching your sodium intake just omit the salt, its still delicious!

Healthy Garlic Bread
Serves 6 as a side dish. The choice of herbs is up to you, I list here the ones that I am partial to. This is a wonderful recipe to showcase fresh herbs from the garden.

1 (preferably whole wheat) baguette, split length-wise and then cross wise into 6 pieces total.
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 to one large head garlic, minced or squashed
1 small handful basil leaves, minced
1 or 2 sprigs rosemary, minced
2-3 sprigs of oregano, minced
1 heaping teaspoon large grained sea salt (optional)
Optional: while not quite as healthy, the addition of 2 tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan or reggiano cheese contributes another layer of flavour to the garlic bread.
several grindings of fresh black pepper.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the bread and mince the garlic and herbs.
2. Mix the garlic and herbs with the salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Stir in cheese if using.
3. Place the bread face up in a bake pan and using a pastry brush or a spatula, spread the cut surfaces with the garlic-herb-oil mixture.
4. Place the garlic bread in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges get golden. A couple seconds under the broiler can toast the surface further if desired.
5. Serve immediately. Perfect with a fish or steak dinner along with a side salad or grilled vegetables.