Monday, February 19, 2007

Weekend update.

We had a nice weekend down in DC, hanging out with a few of our friends. Two of them live in Alexandria, VA, so we stayed at their apartment, and we hit up the Library of Congress and the National Archives. I've been to the Archives, but never the Library of Congress. Both are very cool, but they're pretty much quick stops, since there really isn't MUCH to see. I happily took the time to check out the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Magna Carta.

Seamus was at my dad's house, playing all weekend with their Boxer and Great Pyrenees, so when we got back last night, he was completely exhausted! My parents found out that Seamus just doesn't stop, not for nothing...well, other than food and water. I swear, if water was expensive, this dog could drink me out of house and home! Unfortunately, for the most part, more water tends to end up on the floor, than in the his body.

So...Monday was my birthday. I turned 24; an age at which nothing happens. I mean, at 21, you can drink and all, 25, you get that nice car insurance discount. At 24, nothing. Well, I am closing on my house next week, so that's cool, but really, nothing's happening.

Anyway, I had been craving potatoes au gratin for quite some time, and the wife doesn't like to eat foods that aren't...healthy. So, I figured that my birthday was just about the only day of the year that I could demand them. Of course, I probably shouldn't be eating potatoes au gratin, since I've gained about 15 pounds since the wedding that I've been trying to work off, but eat I did. I made a couple of nice, thick steaks, and she cooked up some roasted asparagus (which has come to be one of my favorite foods). All she does with it is break the ends off, wash them well, then take a Pyrex pan with a tablespoon of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil...I know, I had to learn it, too), coat the asparagus, then salt and pepper them well. 400 degrees in the oven for 15 minutes, and you've got one of the tastiest foods I can think of. Plus, you have the added benefit of having urine that smells all weird-like.

Wifey got me the most kick ass present in the world; a cast-iron smoker. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to cook. I especially like to grill and smoke meat. My ribs are fantastical. So, that was the first thing she thought of as a gift, taking into consideration that we were buying the new house. She tried to pick it up from Home Depot in her Mazda...I know...she asked for help at the Customer Service counter, and they told her she'd need to come back with something bigger. So, when we move on Tuesday, we'll go pick it up before we drop the truck off at UHaul. Also, she stopped at Buca Di Beppo, and amazing italian chain restaurant, and grabbed me my favorite desert, cheesecake. Theirs comes with raspberry topping and hazelnuts, and I was in my glory. They also were kind enough to throw and entire loaf of bread into the bag for her, for free. When I say a loaf, imagine a piece of bread, 6" thick, and with a diameter of about 18". Yeah, this thing was bigger than a damn pizza. It is so good, though.

Speaking of food, I came up with a dish that is amazing. I don't know what to call it, and I know it's been made 1000 times before, but I'd like to think I'm the first person in the world to come up with it. Essentially, it's nothing more than chicken with bruschetta over it. Here's the recipe, if you're interested.

You'll need:
6 or 7 plum tomatoes (about 1.75 lbs)
1/2 a purple onion, diced finely
4 cloves of garlic
a handful of fresh basil
2 tablespoons of EVOO
1.5 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
1 lb of fresh mozzarella (although the wife prefers Sorrento's part skim mozzarella)
4 chicken breasts, cleaned
garlic powder

Start out by cleaning the tomatoes and discarding the seeds and internal structure. Dice them up finely, and dice up the onion. Put in a non-reactive bowl. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a good amount of salt and pepper. Mince finely, the four cloves of garlic and add. Chop the basil as fine as you can get it, and add it. Basil gives it a great fresh flavor. Mix it all together very well, taste it, and add EVOO, vinegar, and salt and pepper as necessary. I prefer my bruschetta to be a little more salty, but you'll know when it's right. Stick that in the fridge to marinate.

Take your chicken breasts, and season them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Put them on a hot grill until they are cooked through. You can also stick them in a pan with some EVOO, but that changes the flavor and adds more fat and such. I prefer them grilled.

Take a medium sized Pyrex pan, 10" x 8" should be fine, and place the cooked chicken breasts in the pan, then cover with some thick slices (1/8" or so) of mozzarella. Cover that with the bruschetta, add a few leaves of basil on top, then place in an over at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. When it comes out, everything will be ridiculously hot, so let it cool a bit.

When it's done, serve it up with a nice baquette or italian bread.