Rocken old school Turkish and Lebanese flavors done right at Agora

On a recent visit here to DC for work, I got a chance to visit with some friends. On Friday night after a long workday my pal picked me up and we decided to take a walk for dinner. Not having reservations we were not really sure what we would find at 8 o’clock at night. We came by the restaurant, which he had tried before and spoke highly of, so figured we would give it a shot. Even without reservations, they really did great effort to fit a deuce in. Which in a busy city like DC or San Francisco you more often find the less then engaged hosts working the door barely raise an eyes when they say no reservation? 30 to 45 minutes wait and then they look back at the book. 
We were seated fairly quickly and by 830 had something to nibble on and wine at the table. The waitstaff could not have been more friendly or conscientious; while it was clear who was our waiter was, they definitely had a tagteam approach with other waitstaff walking by, offering to clear or bring something. So you had a feeling of being attended too without being smothered.

Dishes are tapas style which means several opportunities to taste lots of things We managed to polish, off between the two of us, six different dishes. I think the average they recommend is 2 to 3 per person. But ask the wait staff. They were great at suggesting (and telling me what I missed to note for next time). The octopus by the way was fork tender! Something not as easy to manage as sime think. The flatbread was crisp and lamb rich. Overall a win win place for drinks, md week dinner with pals, girls night out or special occassion. 

1527 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Web: http://agoradc.net/

Menu: http://agoradc.net/menus/dinner-menu

The battle ranges on…

  So I went with two new versions today;

The pale colored one (lower right) is a Black Pepper, Vanilla & Orange peel version adapted Valerie Bertinelli’s Helen’s Black Pepper Biscotti which I saw on the Food Network recently and was curious about. I just omitted the Walnuts.

 

They have a light taste with the black pepper finish and don’t taste overly sweet.  In this one, watch the second bake time if you don’t want them too brown. 
The darker ones (upper left) are a chocolate-coffee with mini M&M’s biscotti recipe that is traditionaly marbeled and adapted from a cookie card of my Mom’s. But I found it online here: http://www.recipecircus.com/recipes/VICBOOP/BISCOTTI/MARBLED_BISCOTTI.html but instead of marbled I went all chocolate and added more cocao powder to whole batter.

  
These came out denser than previous times and cracked while baking but that could be due in part to the dough being chilled. Flavor wise they still rocked!

Hard verses firm

Started checking out the difference between “american” style biscotti v. “italian” style recipes. 

No butter or oil yields a harder bite to the cookie and allows for thinner cuts and longer bake.
Today’s version: an adapted recipe for italian style Dried Cherry, Orange peel & Anise version.

  

Cookie time

Started checking out the difference between “american” style biscotti v. “italian” style recipes.

No butter or oil yields a harder bite to the cookie and allows for thinner cuts and longer bake.
Today’s version: an adapted recipe for italian style Dried Cherry, Orange peel & Anise version.

The long awaited Easter Bread Recipe ( My Mom’s Version)

img_0499Note: This is a large batch dough and can be both messy and sticky while making. You can use a mixer or processor as well as mix and knead by hand ( just plan to get “close & personal” to your dough if you do)
  • 1 dozen XL eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar (you can add up to 3 cups – mostly to your taste)
  • 1 tblespoon of sugar (this for the Yeast to proof)
  • Grated rind of 2 lemons and 1 orange (or two if they are small)
  • Juice of 2 Lemons and 2 Oranges
  • 1/4 lb of Bakers Yeast (active live yeast) or 6 packets of Active Dry Yeast (not rapid rise)
  • 1/2 c of Olive Oil
  • 12 cups of flour (more or less)
  • 1/2 stick of butter ( melted)
  • 1 cup warmed milk (118 to 115 degrees)
  • Parchment paper
  • 2 -3 Sheet try pans unless you plan to do them in batches.
  • Big Bowl!
  • clean towel and blanket ( yes a blanket)
Melt yeast in warm milk with the tablespoon of sugar, stir and set aside
Beat eggs w/remaining sugar till well incorporated
Add butter, yeast, lemon juice and grated lemon & orange peels mix together well.
If you have a large surface area you can mix old school style and pour flour on the table, form a mound, make a hole in the center and add liquid mixture gradually as you work by hand.
or
Use a bowl or mixer and add flour 2 cups at a time to liquid mixture.
The dough will go from liquid to sticky mess so you will want to be prepared.
Around the time you hit the 10th cup of flour, you will want to start to work the dough with your hands as you add the remaining flour*.
Coat your hands from the 1/2 of Olive Oil to keep it from sticking (Don’t use flour on your hands) and knead dough.
When you can shape a soft dough round that isn’t so sticky and stays together – you are done.
*Depending go the egg size – you may need less or more flour so take your time.
Oil the inside of a large bowl ( those old fashioned tupperware ones are great by the way). Place the dough in the bowl. Cover and “burp” if using tupperware or cover with plastic wrap. Drape a towel over the top and then fold the bowl into a blanket and set out of a breeze overnight or 6 -7 hours.
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Note:
Now the timeline we use is: 10:00 pm make dough,  7:00 am unwrap and punch it down for the first time, rewrap and let rise again for 2-3 hours, then shape into individual loaves and let rise uncovered for up to 1 hour more.
If you portion out the dough into 1/2 lb portions you can get  5- 6 loaves. If you want to do a large braid, use about 1-1/2 lbs (1/2 per lb), But its up to you. I think 1/4 ld loaves would be nice gifts too.
Role each portion of dough out into a 12- 14 inch role, then either braid or circle around itself ( or any other shape you like). Place on parchment paper lined trays.  You can also place a raw egg (especially pretty with colored eggs) in the center while they cook.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I noted my oven runs hot so I used 325 for the second batch and let it cook an extra 5 minutes.
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Bake for 30 minutes or until a nice golden brown.

Some days it’s dangerous to leave me alone with a vegatable peeler. Played a home version of “Chopped” Saturday night;  vita-A slaw; carrots, sweet peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, w/ a lemon, maple syrup, and homemade pear jam dressing 

   
 and baked “roll-ups” with mayonaise, grated cheese and parsley “sauce”, chopped tomatoes, sliced roast beef and atopped with a pepper jelly and tomato paste glaze and melted cheddar