• 04Nov

    Nadine Khalaf Aldridge

    Nadine Khalaf Aldridge is worth getting to know.

    She’s a bright, charming, generous foodie who plates damned sexy food.  It’s tempting to shorten this bio and let her work speak for itself, because it’s that good.   “Go forth, fellow foodies, and admire her gorgeous creations on Instagram or on Facebook, or her cookbook-worthy recipes at foodienada.com.  Peace out, we’re done here.”

    But if you enjoy her work as much as I do, you might be curious about her personality, journey, or inspirations.  I had the privilege of spending over an hour with her on the phone and came away smiling, thinking, “Gosh, I’d like to be friends with her.  It’s like we’ve always known each other.”  She’s engaging, genuine, down to earth, and fun.  When she’s not at home making culinary magic, she’s at work as a communication and marketing analyst.  Her education wasn’t in the culinary arts, though.  It was in biology and chemistry in undergrad, and then French literature for her master’s.

    I wondered how her degrees influenced her food blog.  Perhaps her writing is better because of the French lit, but I get the feeling it’s her personal qualities that have had the biggest impact.  She was born in Achrafieh, Lebanon and grew up during the civil war there.  She wanted to help by becoming a soldier or a doctor, so it’s no surprise that when we fast-forward to when she started instagraming her beautiful food and her followers asked a couple times a week, “how did you make this?!”, that underlying caring quality expressed itself again: she wanted to help, so she volunteered her recipes.

    She’s a giver.  I love givers.

    Shrimp Salad

    Shrimp Salad

    We should thank Nadine’s parents for raising this giving, wonderful daughter, but can we credit them with inspiring her to cook, too?  I think so.  When her mother was bedridden, eight-year-old Nadine would make her dad salad, potatoes, and steak in a pan.  Seeing his reactions made her want to learn how to be a good housewife/cook who could take care of her family.  She would continue to take instruction and learn from mom.

    At twelve years old, her family immigrated to Virginia, then moved to San Diego, and finally settled in the great state of Texas.  Nadine’s favorite part of the state is Dallas because it’s full of national and international transplants.  There’s enough diversity and academia there to keep it interesting.  Did her cuisine yearn to be Texan too?  After reflecting, she says no; her mom and her Lebanese upbringing were the biggest influences, along with trips to Europe and France in particular, where she refined her palate.  California’s style of cooking—using tons of fresh produce—was also crucial.

    Being a huge fan of Alton Brown and Jacques Pépin, I had to ask Nadine who her favorite celebrity chefs were.  It turns out we both love Mr. Pépin.  Also on her list are Mario Batali, Michael Symon who’s very talented, Ina Garten who never went to culinary school, and Joël Robuchon, who’s an amazing French chef.  When asked “why Joël?”, Nadine’s reply: “I would love to eat at one of his restaurants.  His mashed potato is equal parts butter and potato; you just want to swim in it!”  Her favorite kind of cooking show is one where they’re cooking something complex or difficult, not just peeling carrots.  I apologize to all the expert carrot peelers for our lack of appreciation of your skills.  There’s irony here, because—and I’m blushing/giggling/shaking-my-head as I admit this—I actually enjoy peeling carrots quickly and perfectly, with minimal waste.

    At this point, we’re beginning to understand Nadine, the person: what she values; what she likes.  What about the story behind the blog?  How did she go from posting photos on Instagram to having an elegant presentation of the underlying recipes?  At first, with around 15 followers, it wasn’t hard to share recipes.  As the number grew (today at over 2000), more people asked for them and retyping became difficult.  It was also hard to share when she’d never really measured the ingredients.  The natural next step was: be deliberate about documenting the recipe (and measuring!) and centralize the result in a blog.  But she didn’t stop there.




    Roasted Potatoes


    Cheese Tarts

    She did extensive research about blogs and about photography.  Hints like, “take photos in natural sunlight,” and details about blog layout and how to best convey her passion.  And that’s what it became: a passion.  In her words, “sharing something I love with someone else, whether I know them or not.”  But it’s still more than that.  Eventually, when she has hundreds of recipes, she’d like to leave it to her daughter as a keepsake.  May the d’awwing commence.  She reminded me of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture which is similarly inspiring.

    After hearing about all this cooking and blogging, my thoughts went to the only place they could go: who eats all that gorgeous food?

    Most of the posts are made for brunches of about 10-12 people.  A small number are for occasional things like Father’s Day or her husband’s birthday and about a third are done on the weekends, when she cooks for her family and has time for the extra effort of measuring.

    She has a few go-to ingredients, starting with the simplest (yet one of the hardest to measure, because it gets added gradually): salt. She uses extra virgin olive oil for pretty much everything (even Tex-Mex!), lemon juice/zest, fresh herbs as often as possible, and organic tomato paste, which is one of the few things she’ll buy jarred.  Her absolute favorite ingredient to use on potatoes or French fries is Piment d’Espelette.  It’s like a sweet pepper, but a little spicy.  Mostly delicate.  I can’t wait to try it.

    Flank SteakOne of her favorite things to make is flank steak.  I’m drooling at her photo even though I’ve never tasted her cooking because her plating is so exceptional.  She can’t possibly cook all these amazing things for every meal though, right?  So I asked her what she cooks most often, day-to-day.  “It’s a lot more Lebanese food than anything else.  More Mediterranean.  Tabbouleh maybe 3-4 times a week, hummus a few times a week, salads for dinner, lots of stews.”  On the weekends is when she goes all out.  And this is a working mom, remember.  Respect.

    I had to put my admiration aside to ask what she’s planning for the future.  In the short term, she wants to learn more about how to make the blog look better.  She’s not ashamed of the work she’s done—she did it all herself—but, for example, she wishes she’d taken photos in better lighting.  She might want to learn more about the technical details of blogging, including HTML/CSS, how to market it, and this whole “trendy social media thing” (my words, not hers).  Longer term, she dreams of going to a farmer’s market, making something, inviting friends or strangers over for taste testing, then writing cookbooks.  Maybe full time.  Maybe sneak off to culinary school too.  How cool would that be?!  I kind of want to ask Gordon Ramsay for help.  Let’s make an episode with Nadine for one of his shows and dedicate it to plating.  Best food porn wins.

    I feel fortunate to have met Nadine.  She invited me to dine with her someday, and I look forward to that day gleefully (flank steak, I’m looking at you).  My only regret about this interview is that I didn’t ask her husband for any juicy tidbits that she “forgot” to mention.  Like maybe a secret love of eating plain mayonnaise out of the jar at 3AM while watching Married With Children reruns.  There’s still time.  I’ll call him as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading about Nadine as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.

    —Mark Feghali (MFF)

  • 07Sep

    It has been another great week! Above are some foodie highlights.


  • 23Aug

    As sometimes happens, I was unable to stop myself. I didn’t need ground meat of any kind – I’m more of a whole-animal-parts guy – but it was there. Ground venison. I had to. The problem being, of course, that there’s no way I’m wasting that in a burger or ragu or whatever that’s going to totally just treat it like any other unidentifiable ground critter.

    Googling around, I came across this recipe for Korean style ground venison that looked like a nice way to get the needed fat and salt into the meat but also let its essential woodsy-ness come though. Also unable to help myself, I made a few adjustments.

    I used:20150817_193728

    1 pound ground venison
    2″ fresh ginger
    4 cloves garlic
    1″ fresh tumeric root plus an extra couple slices for later
    2 squeezes of raw agave nectar
    1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce mixed in 1/4 c water
    About 6 grams of coconut oil (maybe 1/2 tsp?)

    (Other stuff I’ll explain in a second…)

    1/2 a sweet onion
    1 jalapeno (diced)
    1/2 lb shitakes (clean and slice to taste)
    3-4 scallions (just the greens)

    Slice the onion and start it slowly caramelizing.

    Puree the ginger, garlic, and tumeric in a blender (except the extra slices). Brown the meat, add the spice mix, agave, and soy water. When the meat is almost cooked, add the ‘extra’ tumeric, finely diced. When all done, careful not to overcook, remove it to a bowl with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer.

    Now, your onions should be nice and caramelized. Add them, the mushrooms, and the jalapeno. Sautee that until done (just a few minutes), and remove with your slotted spoon to a serving plate. Plate the meat with the mushrooms (I did side-by-side, as you can see), and then jack up the heat under the remaining juices to create a glaze. Pour the glaze over both sides of the dish, and serve, topped with sliced scallion greens.

    It’s also low-carb and gluten-free and all that if you’re neurotic, but I ate the leftover meat with forbidden rice, and it was awesome too.



  • 27Jun

    Being a junkie for greens runs in my family, and my mother’s new garden plot has been churning out prodigious quantities this year – lacinato kale and rainbow chard, particularly. However, one thing that she does that drives me bonkers is that she trims and only eats the leafy bits – she wastes those lovely crunchy stems (ditto with beets, radishes and carrots – she never uses the greens)!! I’ve taken tons home from family dinners to use myself. I usually crisp-fry them or just add to other greens I’m making, but recently stumbled across this fantastic idea over on the Food52 blog – chard stem hummusHelping my mom cook the other night I couldn’t help but secretly smile as I berated her for again ‘wasting’ the lovely chard stems and beet greens (we made a raw chard salad with fresh lemon and crispy onions, roasted beets, and prosciutto-wrapped halibut). I was taking all those lovelies home, and I had plans for them.

    Being me, of course, I couldn’t possibly follow the recipe exactly. I used:20150627_122124

    • 100 grams chopped chard stems
    • 100 grams chopped beet stems
    • 2oz (1/4 cup) tahini
    • 2oz (1/4 cup) olive oil
    • 2 tbs. fresh lime juice
    • 4 cloves garlic

    First, I washed and chopped the stems, and threw them in a pot of about 4 cups boiling water, to which I also added a tablespoon of salt and half cup vinegar (doing this adds a bit of flavor and improves the texture of the greens for blending). While boiling, I smashed and peeled the garlic, and measured everything else into my blender. After 15 minutes, my stems were soft, and I strained them into the blender, adding about a tablespoon of the liquid to pull in more flavor. I blended it until not-exactly-smooth to yield the comedically pink condiment you see at right.

    How’s it taste, you ask? It’s good. Really good.  Can-I-fit-my-whole-head-in-the-blender-to-lick-it-clean? good. And that’s just the ‘base’ version – I’ve played with is a bit, adding sumac, cayenne, cumin, and in one attempt flax seeds, all of which can dramatically change the flavor to fit whatever dish you’re pairing with the hummus.


    – MAW

  • 19Dec

    bridge-option-new-8-copyBest of contains 225 recipes for special occasions. This feel good cook book is perfect if you are craving a bite of nostalgia. If you are hosting a party, going to a potluck, wondering what to do with your leftovers from a previous event, or even want a recipe for making an edible holiday treat to give to friends or family, this book has your solution. The recipes are straightforward, and for the most part are simple and pretty easy. Many dishes utilize items often kept in the pantry.

    The book has a retro feel and is written in a conversational style, allowing you to hear the voices of the authors. The Bridge ladies included some of their favorite quotes throughout the book and most of them gave me a good chuckle. I look forward to cooking and baking my way through this book. The baking section is especially interesting to me as it contains things that I’ve never made or eaten before, like Victorian Orange Peel Cake  (I think this is going to be on the menu for New Year’s Eve). I was also very  impressed by the edible gift chapter.  I love giving (and receiving) homemade presents for the holidays, and this book has some great ideas and recipes to make a really nice, delicious, thoughtful gift that is under $10.00  per person.

    My absolute favorite recipe that I made from this book  so far was the  Gingered Carrot Puree. The flavors in this dish are wonderfully bold without hitting you over the head. The sweetness of the carrots and the bite from the ginger marry very well together. The end result is a velvety puree that is  quick and easy to make. I loved this so much I’m pretty sure that I could live off of this gingered carrot puree alone.

    Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

    Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

    I made the Honey Garlic Chicken Wings for a potluck. They came out with a gorgeous golden brown glaze on the skin. The wings were tasty.  Hoisin Sauce, soy, honey, garlic and rice vinegar play off of hot pepper sauce. The recipe suggests an amount of hot pepper sauce, but says to do it to your tastes. I’d recommend doing at least the amount in the recipe because the flavor balance won’t be there without that heat.  I kept them very mild,  and the end result was a sweet, garlicy wing. The flavor was maybe a seven and a half  out of ten, but because they were so mild, they were very easy to keep eating. If I was making them just for my household, I’d have made them a little spicier for  better sweet/salty/ spice balance. This is a good make ahead item, I’d get the wings sitting in the marinade overnight next time before cooking to get even more intense flavor into the wings. As a plus, when you bake these and boil the marinade, your entire house will smell amazing.

    I  made the  Fantastic Fudge Brownies recipe. The end result was a rich fudge brownie, topped  with icing. They were a hit at a ten-year old’s birthday party as well as my husband’s office. To my personal taste, they were a little too sweet and too rich. Maybe I’m more of a cake-y brownie gal than a fudge brownie one.

    I also made the Peppermint Brittle recipe (also in the gift section). This is a super easy, fast recipe that allows you to make a really nice gift for someone in about ten active minutes of cooking and an hour to cool it down.

    The book also has a Microwave Peanut Brittle Recipe. It takes 8 minutes plus about an hour to cool to make some pretty delicious peanut brittle. I did make this (and forgot to photograph it), and sent it with my hubby to give to co-workers for holiday presents. It tastes good and goes from hard to very sticky once in your mouth. Caution to those with dental work.


  • 12Dec

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWildfire (Tysons Galleria) wants to share some holiday cheer with DCFüd readers. A great way to do so is with Eggnog, so they have shared their recipe with us. You can also try this luscious, rich Eggnog Bread Pudding as the holiday dessert special the week before (leading up to) Christmas, paired with an espresso cup of freshly made egg nog. It’s a spoonful of holiday cheer times two! There’s no way to overdo a good thing at holiday time!


    1 cup brown sugar

    1 cup granulated sugar

    4 eggs

    1tablespoon. vanilla extract

    pinch nutmeg

    1 qt. eggnog

    2 cups whipping cream

    1 loaf (1 lb. 12 oz.) challah, cut ¾” thick

    Mix brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg, eggnog and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl to make a custard. Cut bread slices into 16 cubes per slice. Gently fold bread into custard. Let stand 20 minutes. Place the mixture into a 9” x 13” pyrex pan. Smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap and foil.

    Place bread pudding into a bain marie (water bath) and bake at 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes until done and temperature is 190 degrees.

    Let rest for 15 minutes, then cut into 4 x 3 into 12 squares. Serve at room temperature.

    Each serving can be garnished with 1 oz. warm caramel sauce, a scoop of whipped cream, a dusting of nutmeg and powdered sugar. At Wildfire, Eggnog Bread Pudding is served with an espresso cup of fresh eggnog.


  • 13Oct

    Organic tequila, roasted pig, and wrestling masks: Need I say more?

    Last week at Oyamel’s menu preview of their upcoming Day of the Dead Celebration event, I entered Oyamel’s establishment and found festive bartenders donning wresting masks while pouring Oyamel’s specialty Day of the Dead cocktail drinks. I knew it was going to be a good night.

    But what exactly is The Day of the Dead? It is a Mexican holiday tradition that recognizes Mexican friends and family members who have passed away. This year, Oyamel honors El Santo, or Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, an actor and Mexican folk icon, but he is best known as Mexico’s legendary luchador wrestler.

    Oyamel’s Head Chef Colin King recently came back from a trip to Mexico and personally created the Day of the Dead menu items inspired by El Santo’s favorite dishes. They are as follows:

    Puerco en Chile Morita:
    Local pork spare ribs that are braised and lacquered in a chipotle chile morita salsa. The balance between the subtle yet steady flavors of the pork and the exceptionally fresh salsa was very well executed. This was one of my favorite dishes from the night.

    Bistec con Pasilla:

    This local hanger steak is placed over a sauté of cactus paddle, sweet potato, and seasonal squash mixed in with salsa pasilla negra, a cured egg emulsion, and pickled chile dressing. It was cooked beautifully with the right amount of rareness in the meat and the flavors are a bit louder than the Puerco en Chile Morita but rightfully so.

    Ancas de Rana en Mole Verde:

    Cured frog legs coated in a crispy batter served over a green mole of tomatillos, sesame seeds and serrano chilies with a frisee salad. I was not particularly fond of the batter but once I got through it and indulged into the frog leg, I must say, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it tastes just like chicken.

    Huatape de Hongos:

    The locally foraged wild mushroom is served with a green chileatole consisting of epazote, sorrel, and jalapeno. This was surprisingly a favorite of my boyfriend (who attended the menu preview with me). This is a delicious vegetarian choice (or any choice for that matter).

    Pescado Veracruz:

    Now this was one of the more popular items of the night. The wild-sourced snapper was tender and juicy in a Veracruz-style sauce that consisted of tomato confit, caramelized pear onion, garlic, capers, and olives. Another favorite of mine other than the Puerco en Chile Morita.

    Mole de Olla con Rebo de Res:

    This was my third favorite dish of the night. The locally sourced braised oxtail is succulently tender and complemented by a vegetable stew served with pickled vegetables. The tang from the pickled veggies was an excellent choice to balance the braised meat.

    But that’s not the end of the Day of the Dead menu specials! Oyamel’s Beverage Manager, Jasmine Chae, is responsible for specialty cocktail drinks that complement El Santo’s movies featuring El Luchador, a clean-tasting organic tequila made by David Ravandi. El Luchador itself was inspired by the famous masked wrestlers of Mexico so it only makes sense that they are also the official sponsor of this event.

     El Santo Contra los Zombies or Santo vs. the Zombies:
    Inspired by the movie Santo vs. the Zombies, the Zombie cocktail rounds up El Luchador Organic Tequila, 123 Organic Tequila Blanco, 123 Organic Tequila Añejo, D’Aristi, orange liqueur, orange, lemon, and pomegranate in a nice large cocktail glass. For those who appreciate the sweetness of fruits without compromising its cocktail kick, this Zombie is for you.

    Santo en Atacan las brujas or The Witches Attack:

    Inspired from Santo’s role in the film The Witches Attack, this simple yet refreshingly delicious cocktail was my favorite choice of poison for the night. The Witches Attack consists of El Luchador Blanco Organic Tequila, grapefruit-lavender mint syrup, and soda. It’s dangerously good; you have been warned.

    Now that you have a sneak peak at what is to be offered at Oyamel’s Day of the Dead Celebration Event, you can purchase your tickets at: nvite.co/oyameldotd. (Editor’s note: This link did not work for me, so I’ll followup for the correct one.)

    The event will be held at Oyamel (401 7th Street NW, Washington D.C.) on Monday, October 20, 2014 from 6pm to 9:30pm and tickets are $60. Specials remaining will be available from October 20th to November 2nd.


    -EHY (Elina)

    Oyamel on Urbanspoon

  • 16Jul
    Frozen Fattoush, last year’s Top Tomato contest winner. (Deb Lindsey/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

    Frozen Fattoush, last year’s Top Tomato contest winner. (Deb Lindsey/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

    Thanks Contest Cook for info on this one.

    “Enter your best original recipes tomatoes in the Washington Post’s Top Tomato 2014 contest. You’re only allowed 13 ingredients, and salt and pepper do count in this contest! If you plan to enter a recipe for soups or sauces, or for a tomato sandwich, make sure it’s very special. Open to amateur cooks only. You do not have to live in the Washington area.

    Prizes: The best recipes will appear in the Washington Post’s special tomato issue on August 20, 2014. More prize details haven’t been released, but last year the top 3 winners received prizes in the $50-$100 range.”




  • 12Jun

    Please vote for my two recipes in the “V Culinary Challenge.” Mine are the Vidalia Onion Cobbler and Vidalia Onions & Colby Jack Fried Empanadas. Both of these recipes came out delicious, so I entered two dishes. You need to “like” the Vidalia page in order to vote for anything. Then select “Vote Now,” scroll down, and vote for both of them. Thanks!

    The recipes are below: Read the rest of this entry »

  • 15May

    IMG_2701Guest blogger Maya reports great success with this family recipe – however, she warns that you *really* need to take your time with this, especially taking care to cook slowly and not let things burn. Indian cuisine, she reminds us, requires constant attention and no multi-tasking.

    This is why it’s her recipe, not mine.   😉

    The Shrimp:

    • 1 – 1.5 pounds large or extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined.

    The Marinade:

    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground peppercorns
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)

    To make the marinade, place all of the ingredients in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and refrigerate.

    The Sauce:

    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup canola oil (don’t use olive oil – flavor is too strong)
    • 24 curry leaves, roughly torn (optional)
    • 4 dried red chiles
    • 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns
    • A 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
    • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
    • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (OR 4 chopped salad tomatoes)
    • 1 teaspoon Sambhaar powder, or 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
    • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
    • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro


    Set 1/2 cup of water next to the stovetop. Heat the oil with the curry leaves (if using) and chiles in a medium pot over medium-high heat until the curry leaves start to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ground peppercorns and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the ginger, onion, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is browned, about 8 minutes, sprinkling with water and stirring whenever the onion and ginger begin to stick to the bottom of the pot.

    Add the garlic, coriander, and turmeric and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes to the pot. Cook, stirring and scraping the browned bits up from the sides and bottom of the pot, for 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. [if using fresh chopped tomatoes instead of canned, will take a bit longer than 5 minutes to cook it down. Use really high heat and stir often, adding 1/2 cup water if it gets too dry.]

    Stir in the Sambhaar and cook for 1 minute, and then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil and add the shrimp and any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer and cook until the shrimp are curled and opaque, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and enjoy!


    – MAW

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