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October 16, 2007

Food Blogging

I'm feeling a little trivial and unserious today, so here's Mario Batali telling you how much sauce to put on your pasta. Also, if you live in DC, you should really check out the tri-color pasta sold at Vace, which is some of the best stuff I ever tasted.

Update: In comments, John asks for the best ethiopian food in DC. My hunch is to go with Dukem on U Street, but others should chime in.

October 16, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Ezra,

What's the best DC Ethiopian place? I've heard good things about Dukem...

Posted by: John-Paul Pagano | Oct 16, 2007 1:39:19 PM

Dukem is my favorite, but I'm not a huge ethiopian fan, and so haven't really canvassed the area.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 16, 2007 1:42:45 PM

Ah, the joy of being married to someone who lived in Italy for years (and, as an Italian lit professor, goes back at least once a year). We will very rarely even have an American-style sauce on our pasta. Usually just some vegetables and garlic pan fried in some nice olive oil, with some pasta tossed in.

Though seeing Iron Chef Batali prepping the pasta reminds me how little I like carbonara.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 16, 2007 1:48:55 PM

I can't match it up with the Ethiopian places in the District proper, but I recommend the Ethiopian food at the improbably named Caboose Cafe in the Del Ray section of Alexandria.

You know that spongy bread that everything is served on in Ethiopian restaurants, that you use to pick up your food with? (Injera? That's what my Googling turns up.) Theirs is really quite good, which lifts the level of the entire meal. Most Ethiopian restaurants I've been to, it's been merely tolerable, as if all it was expected to contribute was to give you a way to pick up your food.

Their lamb, beef, tekel gomen (cabbage) and kik alitcha (split pea side dish) are all quite good. The chicken is ok but nothing great.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Oct 16, 2007 2:02:14 PM

Injera, that's it. There's a place here in NYC that uses teff and Aunt Jemima to make it; weirdly, it comes out quite well.

Posted by: John-Paul Pagano | Oct 16, 2007 2:07:12 PM

My first visit to Babbo coincided with my last pregnancy, Son Three, in 1999. And I have to tell you, it's a good thing I had that sort of appetite going at the time. His food was wonderful, even winning over The Most Critical of All Food Critics to whom I'm married.

When I can't sleep (which is most nights), I sometimes watch Iron Chef. I've yet to see anyone make an entire meal that was as creative, as gorgeous-looking, or as logical in such a short period of time (yeah, I know, they have lots of prep help, but still) as Mario seems to be able to turn out with one hand tied behind his back.

My mother-in-law taught me one of the simplest ways to make a quick, tasty supper: you toss the hot pasta with some excellent olive oil, a little of the pasta water, a sprinkling of coarse salt and some red pepper flakes, and big shavings of the very best aged Parmesan you can get your hands on. If you have time, of course, you can sautee some thinly-sliced garlic in the olive oil. And if you have a jar of Sicilian anchovies sitting around in the cupboard, chop those up and toss them in, too. But that's starting to get time-consuming, and sometimes pasta with good cheese is all you want. Oh yes, and hot bread. And wine, well, yeah.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 16, 2007 2:14:00 PM

Etete on 9th - just a few blocks from Nukem Dukem, but way better ambiance.

Posted by: Jeff | Oct 16, 2007 2:16:52 PM

mmmm . . . carbonara.

Posted by: nolo | Oct 16, 2007 2:17:44 PM

I can't believe people are considering eating Ethiopians food. They have so little, why take it away?

Posted by: Patton | Oct 16, 2007 2:37:40 PM

Second Etete on 9th b/w U & T for ambience + quality. They have particularly good kitfo (raw ground beef with spiced melted butter and seasoned cottage cheese on the side). For the best quality food, and zero ambience, go to Zenebech Injera in Shaw (608 T Street). It's basically a little storefront, and it's not even obvious that it's a restaurant when you walk in. There are two tables if you want to dive in while the food is fresh, but they also do carryout which holds up surprisingly well if you're not traveling too far with it. Very good lamb tibs, kitfo, and vegetable dishes; all ludicrously cheap (most expensive items are $8.50), and each dish is really at least 2 meals. Hat tip to Tyler Cowen: http://www.tylercowensethnicdiningguide.com/2007/04/zenebech_injera_1.php

Posted by: sherwood | Oct 16, 2007 2:45:48 PM

Sherwood (and Ezra and everyone), thanks for the suggestions! Can you get the kitfo and ayeb (cottage cheese) combo at Zenebech Injera? That's my all-time favorite.

Posted by: John-Paul Pagano | Oct 16, 2007 3:08:41 PM

"My mother-in-law taught me one of the simplest ways to make a quick, tasty supper: you toss the hot pasta with some excellent olive oil, a little of the pasta water, a sprinkling of coarse salt and some red pepper flakes, and big shavings of the very best aged Parmesan you can get your hands on. If you have time, of course, you can sautee some thinly-sliced garlic in the olive oil. And if you have a jar of Sicilian anchovies sitting around in the cupboard, chop those up and toss them in, too. But that's starting to get time-consuming, and sometimes pasta with good cheese is all you want. Oh yes, and hot bread. And wine, well, yeah."

You don't have to do thinly-sliced garlic with that, if you want to save some time. Use a small sauce pot instead of a skillet, and cut the garlic into quarters or sixths (the pieces should be about the size of a pencil eraser). You should have enough oil to just barely cover the garlic pieces. By deep frying them, you get the same garlic flavor infused in the oil as you do by pan frying sliced garlic. Plus delicious deep-fried garlic pieces. If you want protein, throw in some immaculately-drained canned (water) tuna--but make sure to use a little more oil.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 16, 2007 3:09:37 PM

zenbech does do the kitfo and cottage cheese, and quite well, although etete edges them out in style points by serving it with 3 different kinds of spiced cheese.

Posted by: sherwood | Oct 16, 2007 3:21:47 PM

I need to do a marinara how-to post this weekend. Someone remind me, okay? Seriously, I have it down to an art, to the point where I am called an "honorary Italian", which is almost unheard of among my in-laws.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 16, 2007 3:35:38 PM

I won't claim certainty, but I'm pretty sure Patton was trying to be funny on purpose.

It was a nice change from the drivel we usually get from him.

I think we should encourage this new direction.

Posted by: Thlayli | Oct 16, 2007 4:24:08 PM

Only Ethiopian place I went to was in Detroit (The Blue Nile). It was a fine thing, although they gave so many different items it was hard to like it all. I tend to prefer Indian restaurants, anyway.

Anyway, if I'm ever in the area, I'm sure I'd need to avoid shell-shock somehow and find a Southern-style restaurant. Anyplace have catfish and greens with pork in DC?

Posted by: Glenn Fayard | Oct 16, 2007 4:52:07 PM

throw in some immaculately-drained canned (water) tuna

Water-packed tuna isn't worth eating, in my opinion. Use tuna packed in olive oil, and don't drain it much. The stuff from Spain, Portugal, and Italy is really expensive, but they've got some lovely yellowfin ventresca in olive oil at Trader Joe's (West End) that's relatively cheap ($4.99 for a 6.7 oz jar, as I recall). It comes from Costa Rica, and is sold under the brand name of Tonnino.

Posted by: Herschel | Oct 16, 2007 4:56:02 PM

Herschel, yes. You can usually get decent oil-packed tonno in Italian grocery stores; I wasn't aware of the Costa Rican one (thanks!). They all come with the mercury worry, not to mention the depletion of the species concerns, so it's not something I make a habit of adding to my pasta. It's very tasty when I do, though.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 16, 2007 5:54:43 PM

I prefer to marinade the tuna myself. I buy standard Starkist/COS water-packed tuna, drain it so it is bone dry, and the shred and marinade with good olive oil, salt, pepper, maybe some finely diced onion. But it in the fridge for 2-3 days, and it tastes much better than oil-packed stuff out of the can. And at about $3 a can too.

Plus, when cooking, you really need super dry tuna. The oil from oil-packed tuna will often give the sauce (or whatever) a bit of an off taste.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 16, 2007 5:57:39 PM

"They all come with the mercury worry"

Mercury isn't as big of a concern for canned tuna. It usually consists of the smaller caught fish that don't make good steaks, and these typically are low in mercury vis a vis "fresh" tuna. It's safe enough that when my wife was pregnant, her OB/GYN said up to three cans a week is perfectly safe.

Species concerns are an issue, but if God wanted us to save the tuna, why did he make them so tasty?

Posted by: Joe | Oct 16, 2007 6:05:44 PM

Meskerem is far and away my favorite Ethiopian restaurant in D.C.

Posted by: bread and roses | Oct 16, 2007 6:21:51 PM

Plus, when cooking, you really need super dry tuna. The oil from oil-packed tuna will often give the sauce (or whatever) a bit of an off taste.

The first of these statements is merely bewildering. Huh? The second is false when you're dealing with high-quality tuna in high-quality olive oil, which is what I was talking about. Tuna packed in vegetable oil, which has gotten hard to even find, is another story.

Posted by: Herschel | Oct 16, 2007 6:33:06 PM

If you're going to eat tuna in any way other than in a tuna fish sandwich, you should use fresh tuna. No argument possible.

Posted by: ostap | Oct 16, 2007 6:36:02 PM

If you're going to eat tuna in any way other than in a tuna fish sandwich, you should use fresh tuna. No argument possible.

This is so far from being true that anyone who would make this assertion is probably an Ann Coulter admirer. Really good ventresca in olive oil is actually better than any fresh tuna.

I have to say, though: Arguing about food on Ezra Klein's blog! This is as good as it gets!

Posted by: Herschel | Oct 16, 2007 6:46:58 PM

"The first of these statements is merely bewildering. Huh?"

When you are using tuna in (for example) a pasta sauce, you want the tuna to absorb the flavors of the sauce. When the tuna is coated in the olive oil that it was packed in, it is very difficult for it to do that, especially when cooking in a non-oil-based sauce (e.g., a tomato-based sauce). You don't have those same concerns with water-packed tuna, but, of course, adding tuna water to the sauce makes it taste pretty gross. So you use water-packed tuna but then press out the water.

As for vegetable vs. olive oil, I wasn't so much remarking on the flavor of the oil itself. Most high quality oil-packed tuna is delicious out of the can (though again, I prefer to do my own olive oil marinade). I was talking about what happens when you introduce heavily-flavored olive oil marinade to a sauce. In my experience, the heavy tuna flavor in the oil usually doesn't mix well with whatever sauce you have cooking (and I usually do a putanesca [sic?] or an oglio with some spinach). If it's a putanesca, the can oil really dilutes the saltiness of the olives in the sauce, and gives it s fishy hint that isn't good or bad, but it's just a bit off. If it's an oglio, it gives it a heavy fishy flavor, which doesn't really go well with the spiciness of the garlic and crushed red pepper.

And whomever said that you should use fresh no matter what, that's just silly. Fresh tuna is good raw, but cooked virtually any way it tastes almost identical to canned. Especially in sauces. And why you would spend 3x as much on something that tastes the same as the cheaper product is beyond me.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 16, 2007 6:53:20 PM

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