Love to eat

No Knead Rye

Posted: February 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Rye Bread

How is it that something so unfussy resulted in something so glorious? It has taken me quite some time to get around to trying the no-knead method of bread baking, but I finally managed to last weekend. I’m not sure that it will become a regular occurrence in our house, given how close we live to one of Seattle’s best bakeries, but it was well worth what little effort it took.  Basically, all ingredients (i.e. flour, water, yeast, salt) are stirred together in a bowl, left to rise for 12 to 18 hours, shaped, left to rise for another 2 hours, and baked covered in a cast iron dutch oven for about 60 minutes.

The bread didn’t come out as highly domed as I had hoped, but our old house runs on the cold side, so I think that the 16 hour rise wasn’t quite long enough. But beyond that minor flaw, the bread had a dark, crackly exterior and a chewy, lush, and bubbly interior.  We kept it under a cake dome, where it lasted through the week as we worked our way through thick slices with butter and jam and sandwiches.

17 Eggs: The Mozza Cookbook’s Fresh Ricotta and Egg Ravioli with Brown Butter

Posted: January 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

ravioli with an egg yolk

Last week it snowed in Seattle, which means all kinds of fantastic things: working from home under the electric blanket, listening to the list of closures on the local news, and being home early enough to cook dinner. Since Dylan and I were both home we decided to attempt an ambitious weeknight dinner — ravioli from The Mozza Cookbook.

Single-serving-sized ravioli with a runny egg yolk topped with a fried sage leaf and brown butter sauce felt a little two years ago to blog about, but I don’t care. We used fresh goat ricotta, sage harvested from our snowy yard, and an obscene number of eggs. All told, the recipe called for 17 eggs: 9 in the pasta dough and 8 to fill the ravioli. It was magnificent, but definitely not a typical weeknight dinner. We started cooking at 5pm and by 8pm we were eating the ravioli with a side of braised kale.

Avec: Our Favorite Happy Accident

Posted: January 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Eating | No Comments »

Avec Interior (Photo Credit: Doug Fogelson/DRFP)

Our friends in Chicago decided to tie the civil union knot on New Year’s Eve this year, so we went to Chicago to celebrate with them. So much delicious food was consumed. Being former vegetarians we were pleasantly surprised at the vast number of vegetarian choices, but we also indulged our carnivore-ness. Our best meals were happy accidents, as a few of our intended destinations were closed for a New Year’s break. Here’s the tasty rundown.

Fountainhead - We went there mostly for the beer, but the food wasn’t bad. I had a couple glasses of the St. Louis Guezue Fond Tradition and the roasted broccoli over quinoa and a red pepper puree. I’m a sucker for broccoli.

Pick Me Up Cafe – Sadly, the wait at The Chicago Diner was too long and we were on a schedule, so we walked over to the Pick Me Up Cafe instead. The Pick Me Up didn’t disappoint. I had the bbq seitan sandwich with fries and a side of broccoli (!). The sandwich was big, sloppy, and had to be eaten with a knife and fork. The side of broccoli was huge and came swimming in minced garlic. I didn’t mind so much, but I’m sure the poor ladies at the Urban Decay makeup counter several hours later did!

Karen’s on Green - We enjoyed a 5-course vegan dinner on New Year’s Eve: roasted brussels sprouts, sunchoke bisque with black truffle oil, a spinach salad, crab cakes with farro, and coconut macaroons. Simply listing the courses doesn’t do the meal justice, because it was all so delicious. The stand out dish was the “crab” cakes. I’m not 100-percent sure of what was used to mimic crab, but I suspect that it was rehydrated yuba, bound with pureed tofu, breaded, and seasoned with a generous amount of lemon rind. It was spectacular.

Karen’s Cooked – Karen is a vegan powerhouse in Chicago. We had no choice but to succumb to her powers and have brunch at her casual establishment Karen’s Cooked (not to be confused with her raw restaurant, Karen’s Raw Cafe). I highly recommend the bread pudding, but be warned, it is a gloriously large portion.

Gaylord - I’m certain there is much better Indian food to be had in Chicago, but Gaylord was a block from the hotel, which was about as far as we were willing to venture out that particularly cold and blustery night. They had a complimentary salad bar that featured carrot and cucumber sticks, roasted beets, chutneys, and a bright and spicy carrot pickle. We had the vegetarian thali with a great saag paneer that had a distinctly pleasant coconuttiness.

Bar Toma – Bar Toma was a paradox, as it provided much pleasure and much disappointment. In a fit of extravagance, I ordered for a starter the whole burrata with black truffles ($60!). It was served by no fewer than three people: one gentleman presented the luscious ball on a wood board and splayed it open for us, another gentleman brandished an oversized pepper grinder and gave it a few expert turns, and finally another more distinguished gentleman (he sported a chef’s coat, while the other two were in tshirts), proceeded to shower the cheese in black truffle shavings. Good god that cheese was creamy and it was the first time that I’ve been showered in freshly shaved truffles. So that was the pleasurable part of the meal.

It gives me much sadness to report that the pizza was a disappointment. While the crust was well seasoned, it was dense and rubbery. I had such high expectations. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Avec – So we wanted to go to Girl and the Goat, but they were closed for a New Year’s break (as we found was the case with many places in Chicago). Thankfully Dylan spotted Avec just a few doors down. It was a gem. The space was long and narrow, all wood panel and stainless steel, and suited our PNW sensibilities.

We sat at the bar, drank wine, and shared three small plates that blew our minds. First we had roasted brussels sprouts with crispy brisket, pumpernickel, roasted quince, walnuts and mustard vinaigrette. Every bite had a perfect balance of flavors and texture and oh gawd that brisket. Next was roasted squid with san marzano tomatoes, guanciale, fideo and saffron aioli which had a pleasing seafood funk, was intensely red and juicy, and surprisingly spicy. Last was marinated hanger steak with puy lentils, melted bone marrow, spinach, tomato, oranges and fried capers. The yumminess of this dish made us weak with joy. The steak was perfectly cooked, sinewy and seared to rare. The lentils were smokey and glossed with marrow. We want to live at Avec.

Jam – This was our last meal on the way out of town. We intended to go to Longman and Eagle for brunch but discovered that they were closed for a New Year’s break. Jam’s chef was at Charlie Trotter’s, so not surprisingly the food was good. The whole place was white, glass, and lime green and reeked of freshly squeezed oranges. I had the corned beef sandwich with horseradish cream on marbled rye with potato salad. Dylan had a smoked ham and gruyere omelette with roasted brussels sprouts (oh man, I just realized there were brussels sprouts consumed nearly every day we were in Chicago!).

Great Pizza at Home

Posted: November 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Back in April I had the good sense to sign up for the Great Pizza at Home class offered up at The Pantry at Delancey. Good thing I did, because those classes are getting harder and harder to get into. I tried to sign up for the Advanced Pizza Workshop, but within 30 minutes of receiving the email announcement for the class, it was sold out.

Six month after signing up, I finally attended the 3-hour workshop, lead by Brandon Pettit, and here’s s summary of what I learned.

Use Fresh Flour

Fresh flour tastes better. Whole wheat flour is probably already rancid by the time you get it home. You know that “healthy” taste that we attribute to whole wheat flour? — it’s the flavor of rancid flour. Store your whole wheat flour in the freezer to help maintain its freshness.

Washington state is one of the largest wheat producers in the world, so we have access to really fresh flour here. Italian flour is not necessarily better, as it is likely milled from wheat imported from the US. Stone Buhr flour is made from Washington wheat and is commonly stocked in grocery stores.

Good Flavor Takes Time

A flavorful pizza dough cannot be achieved in the 2 hours typical of most pizza dough recipes. The Delancey dough requires relatively little yeast and a slow rise. The dough is left to proof 16 to 20 hours, during which time it grows 2 to 2-1/2 times its original size. Pettit recommends Fleichman’s yeast for its flavor.

More Salt

Another typical flaw of most pizza dough recipes is inadequate salt. Salt slows the production of yeast, which produces better flavor.

It’s Not the Water

Contrary to what some pizza nerds believe, where the water comes from doesn’t really make a difference. According to Pettit, he’s tried the dough with water from locations all over the country and hasn’t been able to tell a difference.

Get a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven

Sadly, the single biggest takeaway from this class for me was that my home oven alone isn’t capable of producing the pizza I’m aspiring to make at home. We prepared and sampled the Delancey dough cooked in their wood-fired oven along side the same dough cooked in the Pantry’s home-style gas ovens. As you might have guessed, the wood-fired pizza was heavenly, while the other was, well, just homely.

A maximum temperature of 550-degrees is not hot enough to get the crispness, subtle smokiness, or the spotted underside that is characteristic of really good pizza. The pizza oven at Delancey is fueled by apple wood and reaches temperatures of 700 to 800-degrees.

Combinations of grilling pizza, cooking pizza on cast iron, and broiling were all discussed as ways to get the subtle char and a properly cooked top and bottom. Home oven hacks were touched on briefly, but I guess details on that topic are being saved for the Advanced Pizza Workshop.

The Recipe?

So what about the recipe? Well, Pettit is working on revising the recipe to work better in a home oven which I think is worth waiting for. While the dough was delicious from a home oven, it didn’t shine. My recommendation is to find the dough recipe from The Mozza Cookbook which has been modified to work in a typical home oven.

Sunday Pizza

Posted: October 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »


Pizza Crust from the Mozza Cookbook

During a good week, we might eat at home three times. On a typical workweek night I’m at the office late into the evening until my stomach protests. My refrigerator bulges with weeknight dinner possibilities that I just can’t seem to bring to fruition. Every week I tell myself, I’ll try to eat in a few more time this week.

What has emerged from my harried workaday Monday through Fridays are weekend-long cooking sprints, when I finally have some time to roast vegetables, blanch tomatoes, and coddle dough. Which has lead to Sunday pizza nights. I love pizza. Did I mention that I love pizza?

Early in the week my copy of The Mozza Cookbook, pre-ordered months ago, finally arrived and I spent the rest of the week anxious to get to that pizza crust recipe. Today was the day and the photo above is the best I could muster between greedy, crackly bites. The crust was pillowy, ethereal, with just the right amount of chew and crunch.

That being said, I did tweak the recipe in a few slight ways. First, I let the sponge develop for about 6 hours, instead of 1-1/2 hours, and I omitted the 1-1/2 teaspoons of wheat germ. I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase a pound of the stuff, only to use 1-1/2 teaspoons for the recipe. If I can manage to find other interesting uses for wheat germ, I’ll include it next timr to see if it makes a difference in flavor or texture. Also, I divided the dough into 3 parts rather than 6.

We dressed our pizzas with the Passata di Pomodoro, also from The Mozza Cookbook, whole milk mozzarella, and fresh marjoram from the yard. Our bellies were happy and full.

Soba Noodles with Beet Miso Puree

Posted: July 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

More CSA Adventures

I have had terrible luck cooking beets. They are always hard. I swear up and down that I cook them for an adequate amount of time, but I am cursed with turning beets to stone. I’m hoping to change my luck this year and so far so good.

It’s still early in the season, so the bunch of beets in my recent CSA box was manageable – four petite bulbs. Paranoid that just roasting them with the expectation that I’d be enjoying a tender beet salad would again be a let down, I searched for something different. I found beet hummus over at Not Without Salt.

At 11pm with beets roasting away in a bit of water and covered with foil, I distracted myself by listening to old Spilled Milk podcasts, allowing the beets a full 50 minutes of roasting. Ah ha! The beets were easily pierced with a knife and were tender. So I set forth with hummus making only to find (argh!) that I was out of tahini (bad beet luck strikes again!).

I did have miso. So to my four roasted, peeled, and chunked beets tossed into the food processor, I added a couple healthy tablespoons of white miso, a good tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, a teaspoon of lemon juice, a few glugs of olive oil, and black pepper.

The flavor of the puree reminded me of dressings used on soba noodle salad, which inspired this dish: soba noodles tossed with the beet miso puree, a bit of tamari, and garnished with green onion, kale kimichi and julienned radish. Yum. Yum. Yum. And it looks good too.

Tail to Trotter: Four days celebrating the hog

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

Massaging salt into pork belly. Yes, please.

Scallion and Kale Kimchi

Posted: July 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

The joys of figuring out what to do with the CSA and home garden bounty

I’ve always regarded green onions (i.e. scallions if you want to be fancy) as garnish, providing an oniony bite and burst of green to starchy dishes or eggs. It’s an ingredient that you don’t need much of and I’ve composted bunches in my life after garnishing aforementioned starch and egg. So when a sizable bundle was delivered in my CSA box, I decided it was time to figure out how to pump up the volume on my green onion usage.

To my delight I found Spring Onion Greens Kimchi at Food in Jars. I read a few more recipes and discovered YOU CAN KIMCHI JUST ABOUT ANYTHING. So I did a simple kimchi with my CSA green onions and tossed in some kale, just to be cool.

Food In Jars used this recipe from Tigress in a Pickle. And I did too for the most part, using the 1/2 cayenne and 1/2 sweet paprika modification. The resulting kimich is good, although a bit on the spicy side for me. It’s drier than store bought, jarred kimichi and the kale gives it a hearty chew. I didn’t have ginger when I made it and that component is definitely missed. Two weeks later and the color has remained a strikingly deep emerald.

Thinking About Going eCookbook

Posted: June 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

One hundred and five cookbooks and counting

Cookbook Shelf

I just ordered At Elizabeth David’s Table while looking at my latest addition Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch sitting lonesome away from the rest of the collection, because the bookshelf is full. I have 105 cookbooks … just counted! And with another one on its way and a growing number scattered about the house, I’m considering the eCookbooks.

My immediate reaction is “eww, I don’t like it.” Ironic, given I spent several months helping select recipes for a series of eCookbooks for work. Not to mention I can’t stand the little ‘e’ big ‘B’ (I also detest the little ‘i’ big ‘iNsertGadgetNameHere’). But what am I suppose to do? My obsession with cookbooks isn’t going away anytime soon and there are only so many bookshelves I can fit in the house, so I’ve decided to give the e-thingy a try.

I don’t own an e-reader device (aside from my cookbook collection, I try to keep collecting “stuff” to a minimum). So I installed the Kindle app for my Mac and purchased Andrea Reusing’s Cooking in the Moment.

Screenshot of Cooking in the Moment Kindle edition on MacMy first problem with the format is that there is no 2-page spread. You can attempt to mimic the 2-page spread by turning on the 2-column layout, but that just doesn’t work for content that wasn’t formatted for columns. For example, the photo accompanying “wilted ramps” is the photo for “campfire bacon and eggs” which appears on the proceeding “page.”

Maybe it doesn’t matter when you’re in the woods, staring at the laptop (right?), reading the recipe, and getting ready to cook up some bacon and eggs in a bag over some hot coals. You already know you want to make those bacon and eggs and we’re all smart enough to do the mental mapping that tells us: “Hey dummy, the photo is BEFORE the recipe. Get over it.”

Which makes me think about what cookbooks are to me. Sam Sifton in the NY Times recently nailed it. In a recent Sunday Book Review, Sifton says: “They’re mostly lifestyle catalogs, aspirational instruction manuals for lives we’d like to live.” I can’t see eCookbooks sparking that aspirational excitement that makes me dream about making those delectable dishes. I want to see the wilted ramps gleaming with oil and dotted with char along side the text that tells me all about how to recreate that moment in my kitchen. The Luddite in me wants the 2-page spread with the photo and text paired gawdammit.

However, the second part to Sifton’s assessment is that cookbooks are instructional. I guess that’s where an eCookbook can excel. It can relay textual information. I can add notes and highlight and see what others have highlighted. I can do text searches! Now, if I could do a text search across all of the eCookbooks in my “library” I’d be laughing.

So what I’m seeing here is an expensive proposition (or the evil genius of capitalism): I want both formats to address those dual needs. I want the rich and thread-bound pages to peruse on a Sunday morning while I sip coffee and think about Sunday dinner. And then, when I’m in the thick of preparing Sunday dinner, I want to be able to quickly click across recipes and see that note I made last time about adding more salt.

Or I’m just going to have to wait until focus groups have been conducted, data synthesized, design rejiggered, and developers develop and a product that can excite and instruct is born. In the meantime, it’s time for another bookshelf.

Liberated by a Little Bit of Knowing

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

Growing Edibles 2011

Garden bed with tom thumb lettuce and tomatoes

(photo taken 22-may-2011)

Having recently finished Seattle Tilth’s Comprehensive Organic Gardening class, I’ve been busy planting with that sense of abandon and liberation that I think only comes with knowing a little bit about something. For years I’ve admired gardens and pea patch plots that seemed a bit of contained chaos, with a bush of that here and a tuft of that there in a mysterious symbiosis. There was something going on but it was a secret, at least to me. So this year I buckled down and spent a few Thursday evenings and Saturday days getting schooled on the ways of organic gardening in Seattle.

And that lovely little bed is most definitely a product of that learning. In raised beds past, I grew one or two things in straight rows and had little faith that anything would grow, so I planted densely. But it grew and grew and grew and we found ourselves with a lot of those one or two things. 2010 was known as the year of cavolo nero. 2009 was the year of the beet. But 2011 will be a year of variety! I’ve planted tomatoes, bok choy, spinach, arugula, and butter lettuce in one bed, in diagonal and diamond rows all with a strategy. As the tomatoes grow, the little butter lettuces and bok choy will be shaded from direct sun. Arugula and spinach were planted in the voids of the tiny lettuces to help retain moisture, keep weeds away, and will be harvested before crowding out the growing lettuces.

Here’s the run down of the edibles growing:

  • 6 kinds of tomatoes
  • 2 kinds of cucumber
  • 2 kinds of brussels sprouts
  • 2 kinds of kale (no cavolo nero this year!)
  • 2 kinds of garlic
  • 2 kinds of leeks
  • tom thumb butter lettuce
  • romanesco broccoli
  • spinach
  • arugula
  • snap peas
  • snow peas
  • mustard greens
  • carrots
  • russian fingerling potatoes
  • shallots
  • nasturtiums
  • bok choy
  • shiitake mushrooms (indoors)

Despite it being a record-cold spring, we’re eating from the garden and hope to all year long. Last night for dinner we enjoyed dumplings made primarily from home grown veggies: homegrown mustard greens, green garlic, chives, and shiitakes with store-bought tofu.

I’m excited to write about the progress of the garden and the lovely things we’ll eat from it.