Dinner in 15 Minutes
Arugula, Watermelon, Feta
and Shrimp Salad
The problem with most summer salads is that they lack substance.
This quick mix of refreshing chilled ingredients offers an intriguing contrast of textures along with some staying power thanks to the cheese and seafood. Serve with country bread.
1 bunch arugula, washed and dried
3 to 4 thick slices watermelon
4 to 6 ounces feta cheese
Olive oil to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 to 11/2 pounds peeled, cooked shrimp, preferably chilled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash and dry the arugula. Tear it into large pieces and divide among 4 plates.
Seed the watermelon, if necessary, and cut it into bite-size chunks. Divide the watermelon among the plates of arugula.
Crumble the feta into large chunks over the watermelon.
Drizzle olive oil and a few drops of vinegar over each plate and top with shrimp. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving: 285 calories, 30 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 246 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 650 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber
-- Renee Schettler
When the Kitchen Takes Its Toll
Lugging a 20-quart stock pot from stove to sink and carrying buckets into and out of the walk-in are just as likely to induce overuse injuries as sitting in front of a computer banging on a keyboard all day.
So on Aug. 30, the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, a group that promotes the education and advancement of women in the restaurant industry, will present "Getting Physical: Preventing Musculoskeletal Injury for Women in the Culinary Arts" with Ken Harwood, physical therapist and director of the Practice Department of the American Physical Therapy Association.
The class will consist of a lecture on basic ergonomics and risk factors followed by participatory exercise.
Class is $20 for non-members; $10 for students. 6-8 p.m. The Center for Hellenic Studies, 3100 Whitehaven St. NW (at Massachusetts Avenue). Parking available. To register, call 877-927-7787 or see www.womenchefs.org.
THE SECRET LIFE OF LOBSTERS
Author: Trevor Corson
Publisher: HarperCollins, $24.95
Lobster is served three ways in this fascinating book: by fishermen, scientists and the crustaceans themselves. On boats are fishermen whose families have, in some cases, trolled waters for decades, setting traps and learning firsthand the ways and whereabouts of lobster. In laboratories are researchers with, for example, itty-bitty blindfolds, testing a lobster's ability to recognize other lobsters by smell, not sight. And at the deepest level, at the bottom of the ocean, are mysterious, complex creatures: males spar with each other like prizefighters and females drug their mates into sexual submission.
Corson, who worked aboard commercial lobster boats for two years, weaves together these three worlds. The human worlds are surely interesting; but they can't top the lobster life on the ocean floor. Weird stuff goes on down there.
EQUIPMENT | Chopsticks
We turn to chopsticks for leveling measuring cups, snatching tempura from hot oil, tossing stir- fries, getting the last of the coffee grinds from the grinder, scraping purees from the bottom of a blender jar, re-emulsifying vinaigrettes just prior to serving, stirring liquid into dry ingredients, drying rinsed-out resealable plastic bags when plunked in a pint glass and a number of other things that just seem right to us at the time, including whapping errant hands that get in our way.
INGREDIENT | Hoja Santa Leaves
A heart-shaped, dinner plate-sized leaf is making its way onto restaurant tables in downtown Washington.
The large, tender leaf of the hoja santa plant, native to Mexico, is traditionally used as a wrapper, much as one might use a corn husk or a banana leaf. It imparts a subtle though curious flavor that is easily discerned but not so easily described.
At Cashion's Eat Place in Adams-Morgan, chef John Manolatos says it has a eucalyptus-like tang. He uses the leaves as a buffer from the flames for grilled shrimp or as a moisture-trapping component for chunks of beef shoulder braised with bananas, jicama, corn and red chilis.
Chef Mark Hellyar of Restaurant Nora describes the hoja santa effect as more aromatic than flavorful. In his halibut wrapped in hoja santa leaves served with a Veracruz sauce, though, he does detect a slight hit of tarragon. Or was that a basil burn?
And at Mendocino Grille, the leaves make a fashion statement as a "lay down" on the cheese plate. (Chef Drew Trautman deems it to be a hint of mint.)
The beguiling leaves are are grown locally by Michael Pappas, owner of Eco Farms in Lanham. Pappas describes the flavor as a subtle sassafrass smack and prefers to wrap sea scallops in the leaves prior to steaming.
The leaves are available for $1.50 at Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op (201 Ethan Allen Ave., Takoma Park; call 301-891-2667).
The Ancient Five-Second Rule
"Food that fell to the floor during a meal was believed to belong to the gods, and it was considered bad luck to sweep it up during dinner. The ancient Romans even decorated their dining room floors with mosaics depicting realistic-looking scraps of fallen food."
-- From "The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes From Ancient
Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook," by Francine Segan
(Random House, 2004)
Just before serving a cold soup, always taste it to make sure there's enough salt. A soup that seems properly seasoned when it's hot can be bland when tasted cold. The cold deadens our taste buds. Many cold soups also benefit from a last-minute addition of vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice.
From "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen," by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
THURSDAY: South African wine dinner at the Bailiwick Inn. $99 in advance excludes tax and tip. 7-10:30 p.m. 4023 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax. Call 703-691-2266
TUESDAY: Tour de France wine dinner at Bistro 123. $69 excludes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 246 Maple Ave. East (Rt. 123), Vienna. Call 703-938-4379.
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