Love to eat

Growing Shiitakes

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

Shiitake kit on arrival

 

It is a wonderful, magical thing. They will grow and you will have shiitakes.


It Makes Food Taste Better

Posted: March 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

I can clearly see the food plated on the 80′s china with what appears to be geometric vomit spattered around the rim of the plate and the same food plated on standard issue white porcelain. The makings of a study right up my alley, but I can’t recall exactly where I read it. The study found that the same food presented in two ways — your parent’s wedding china from 1979 versus plain white makes a difference in how food is perceived. Not a big surprise, but now scientifically validated: food on white plates just plain tastes better. And so in an effort to eke out a little more deliciousness from home cookery we’ve traded in the outdated, patterned Mikasa china purchased when I was way too young to know better for restaurant supply white, 10″ dinner plates, bowls, and salad plates. Long overdue.

It was a big transition, one I’ve been thinking about for some time and in so many ways seems much too mundane to reflect on. But how many times in a lifetime does one switch out their dining ware? Twice, maybe thrice? I drooled over Heath for months, but dammit all, it was just too expensive. So I went with restaurant supply plates and bowls, spending less than $200 for 12 place settings. I splurged and bought two mugs and a shallow serving bowl from Heath.

And does the food taste better? Why yes, it does and looks better. Strangely, it sounds better too. There is a sound that sturdy, workhorse restaurant plates make that is industrious and musical. It is the sound of meal after meal after meal – perpetual. And the Heath … I run my finger nails across the empty belly of that shallow serving bowl and it sings.

I look forward to many home cooked meals during which the dining ware is not a distraction.


Christmas Eve Thali

Posted: December 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

10 Perfect Little Dishes

Thali Plating

Getting ready to plate

My family really celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. We gather at my folks house in the suburbs, feast on a big meal, drink, and engage in merriment until midnight. At midnight we open gifts and engage in more merriment well into the night. We tumble into our guest beds and sleep off all that merriment. It’s perfect really.

The meal usually involves a roast and a collection of disparate pot luck dishes. All delicious, all in abundance x 2, but maybe a little disjointed. This year, my sister and I took over the family meal. We wanted to push our cooking limits, while having a restrained, balanced, and delightful meal. We settled on preparing a 10-dish thali. Thali is an Indian tradition of serving food in small dishes on a large round platter. Our thali was inspired by this tradition and the meals we’ve had at Jerry Traunfeld’s Poppy, here in Seattle.

Planning took a few weeks. We sat down one evening and perused towers of cookbooks and our favorite sites for dishes. We knew we wanted a main dish and 9 accompanying dishes: 4 hot and 5 cold. Of course there was resistance to the idea. Over the years many family favorites have developed, some were worried about not having their cherished favorites and others were skeptical of the small dish concept. But it was our goal to please and we made sure to include the favorites, while exploring new territory.

Thali

A complete thali serving

Here’s what we settled on:

Main Course

  • Prime rib with sauteed greens
  • Smoked mushroom lasagna

Hot Plates

  • Cauliflower gratin
  • Tomato soup with a cheese straw
  • Potato and pea samosa with fruit chutney
  • Seared scallop with a caramel orange sauce

Cold Plates

  • Curried grain salad
  • Fennel salad with pomegranate and sumac
  • Beet and goat cheese napoleon
  • Pickled raisins
  • Marinated carrots with cornichon, pickled red onion, and radish pickle

Dessert

  • Tapioca with a pepparkakar cookie
  • Lemon tart
  • Buckeyes

Drinks

  • Mulled cider
  • Champagne whiskey cocktail

We tested several recipes beforehand and made refinements for the final meal. (One lesson learned from testing: you should not bake a samosa.) Dishes and components that could be prepared ahead were started early in the week. I bought the thali settings at my local restaurant supply store: pizza pans for the platter and a collection of small saucers, soup spoons, metal condiment bowls, and small ramekins. We mapped out a detailed schedule for the week and an hour-by-hour schedule for Christmas Eve day. Our plan, the execution of the dishes, and the meal were a success!


Made and Ate This Week

Posted: October 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

The Bounties of the CSA Box: Oh, what to do with cabbage, eggplant, fennel, and parsnips …

Farfalle with Chanterelles, Summer Squash, Corn, and Brown Butter Sauce

In

  • Broiled rainbow trout with a quick tomato sauce (tomatoes from the yard, onions, oil cured olives, fennel seed, fennel liqueur, red pepper flake), and sauteed haricot verts
  • Farfalle with chanterelles, summer squash, corn, and brown butter sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs … adapted from Sunday Suppers at Luques
  • Long cooked romano beans … from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
  • Carrot soup … adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
  • Stuffed savoy cabbage … adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
  • Morning Glory Muffins … from King Arthur Flour: Whole Grain Baking
  • Eggplant salsa … one of my favorites!?

Out

  • Veggie dog with lettuce, tomato, sauerkraut; garlic fries; and Kettle corn … ballpark food!
  • Vietnamese pancake, fresh spring rolls, vermicelli bowl … Green Leaf

Sesame Eggplant Salsa

Posted: October 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | 1 Comment »

I’m always suspect of a person who flat out says I don’t like X or I don’t like Y. Immediately I am on the defensive for X or Y — “what is it you don’t like about X?” … “well, then, have you tried X this way? or Y that way?” That said, I’m for the most part convinced that I don’t like eggplant. There hasn’t been a preparation that really does it for me. Eggplant parmesan doesn’t count, as anything breaded, fried, immersed in tomato sauce, and baked with cheese is delicious. This “salsa” is one of the exceptions to the sourpuss that usually ends up on my face when eating the typically seedy, slithery, bitter thing that is eggplant.

Sesame Eggplant Salsa

Adapted from Bon Appetit

2-1 to 1 1/4 pound eggplants
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup (packed), plus 1 tablespoon minced green onion
2-1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves minced
2 teaspoons of chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
3/4 cup (packed), plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Pierce egglplants all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they are very soft and deflated, about 1 hour,  turning once. Cool slightly.

Cut eggplants in half; scrape flesh into a strainer set over a large bowl. Let eggplants drain 30 minutes. Coarsely chop the eggplant (or if you prefer a smoother consistency, pulse in a food processor).

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup green onions, ginger, garlic, chili-garlic sauce; saute just until onions soften, about 45 seconds. Stir in brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Mix in eggplant and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes, 3/4 cup cilantro, and sesame oil. Cool to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Serve with crackers or pita chips.

Makes about 4 cups.


Made and Ate This Week

Posted: September 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »

A Week of Tomato Goodness

Harvested about six pounds of tomatoes from the garden, plus a few from the CSA which meant a lot of tomato processing this week.

Tomatoes

Tomato Rainbow

In

Home-cooked goodness in no particular order

  • Homemade fettucini with homemade tomato sauce and sardines … the dismal, wet summer produce rather mealy tomatoes, but after a good stewing with carrots, celery, oregano, and garlic the sauce was perfect.
  • Kale chips seasoned with nanami togarashi
  • Whole rainbow trout roasted with lemon and herbs + roasted potatoes + sauteed haricot verts
  • Dill pickle chips … Dylan’s first pickle-making adventure was a success!
  • Slow roasted cherry tomatoes … in red, black, orange, and yellow
  • Buckwheat pancakes … the batter reminds me of a dark chocolate milkshake with a healthy dose of coffee grounds, but tastes like nothing of the sort. These are definitely a household favorite.
  • Savory biscotti … there will undoubtedly be more to say about these crunchy bits of wonderful.

Out

Not a lot of restaurant action this week

  • Arancini (saffron risotto with a cheesy core of caccio cavolo), Sturgeon with lentils and a poached egg, and Grandma’s greens (stewed kale served in an amazingly rich anchovy broth) at La Medusa
  • Insalata Tricolore (arugula, cherry tomatoes, ricotta) at Via Tribunali … lordy that ricotta was sweet and rich
  • Nicoise Salad (smoked halibut, cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce, and baby fingerlings tossed with tapenade) at Spring Hill … it was good, but the halibut was slightly over salted for my taste
  • Broccoli melt + beet salad + chips at Homegrown … broccoli on a sandwich is a no brainer for me.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Posted: September 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | 1 Comment »

Fascinating. Buckwheat is a seed? Not a grain? Yup. It’s also related to rhubarb? Crazy! Plus it’s good for you, especially if you skew towards vegetarianism.  it’s one of the of the few plant-based foods with all nine essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein. No need to add a side of beans to these pancakes.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Adapted from King Arthur Flour: Whole Grain Baking

1 cup whole buckwheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus enough milk to make 2 cups (or 2 cups of straight up buttermilk, but who has buttermilk?)
1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine the buckwheat and all-purpose flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg lightly with the molasses. Whisk in the milk and lemon juice mixture and melted butter. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir the batter swiftly with a few strokes until the dry ingredients are moistened.

On medium to medium low, heat a nonstick or cast iron pan until it’s hot enough that a drop of water sputters across the surface (if using a cast iron pan, brush it lightly with vegetable oil). Spoon batter on to the pan, 1/4 cup at a time. Cook until bubbles begin to form around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute.

Note: The batter is dark colored, so be vigilant as it is difficult to tell if the pancakes are over cooked.


Scarlet Runner Beans

Posted: September 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »

So Gorgeous, Will Try Again Next Year

Shelled Scarlet Runner Beans

Scarlet Runner Beans

Early in the spring I planted about five scarlet runner beans in a nasty little corner of my yard next to a chain link fence. My hopes weren’t particularly high and rightly so. The slugs and snails attacked the leaves as soon as they were big enough to feast upon and I did little to stop them. But the heartiest of the plantings produced a few gorgeous beans. I gasped when I popped open the leathery pod and found these purple and pink beauties. I half expected unicorns to be nestled alongside the carnival colored beans. The beans were large — nearly an inch long — and when braised in wine with fennel and cherry tomatoes, had an incredibly rich and velvety texture. Next year these will definitely be a star in my garden. Watch out slugs.


The Independent Pizzeria

Posted: September 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Everyday | No Comments »
The Menu

The Menu

The Pizza

The Pizza

My New Favorite

I feel guilty saying it, but I have a new favorite place for pies in the city. Flying Squirrel had been it and I so want it to be it. It’s in my hood, it’s run by some of sweetest folks around, and their pizza and sauce is awesome. But dammit, The Independent Pizzeria is jaw dropping.

TIP’s crust is light, airy, and has the puff of a Neopolitan style, but it is crunchy AND chewy. It has the dotted char and a course, freckled texture that adds to the crispness. There is so much restraint in the sauce and the toppings that it makes me momentarily proud to be Catholic — indulgent and delicious, but not too much so.

One can see for themselves that restraint and mastery, watching the pizza maker behind the counter in the open kitchen. And even though there’s a pink-maned My Little Pony perched on the counter between bottles of olive oil and miniature jars of red pepper flake, you can tell he isn’t messing around.


Made and Ate This Week

Posted: September 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cooking | No Comments »


Notable eats both in and out this week

Pomodori al Forno

Pomodori al Forno

Out

  • Escolar with avocado and speck from Anchovies & Olives … buttery and decadent; however, it was better the week before with the spicy coppa and watermelon salad.
  • Bigoli with anchovies and chilis from Anchovies & Olives … fishy, salty, spicy with big, hearty pasta in my favorite shape – long.
  • Huevos rancheros and spicy hashbrowns at Coastal Kitchen … not the usual soggy, gloppy mess that I’ve come to expect from huevos rancheros. Instead it was crisp, rich, and eggy with an earthy spiciness that reminded me of mole and just enough tang.
  • Tomato soup and potato roll from the Dahlia Bakery … I love this soup and the roll is pillowy heaven.
  • Petrus Aged Pale with frites at Brouwer’s Cafe … frites — enough said; but this beer was tangy, carbonated amazingness.

In

  • Pizza of course … three flavors: spicy broccoli; kale with smoked cheddar; and pesto with golden beets, goat cheese, and pomodori al forno (slow roasted tomatoes).
  • Pomodori al forno … having harvested a modest supply of tomatoes from my garden, I was anxious to try this recipes I’ve been dreaming about since 2008.
  • Oatmeal peanut butter sandwich cookies … I’ve been obsessed with a similar cookie from the Dahlia Bakery, but at $2 a piece, I’m looking for a good recipe I can make myself.
  • Kale chips … I freakin love kale and I love chips, so what could be better? Add to that I have a bounty of kale this year, so thank goodness for kale chips. A huge bunch of kale can be easily reduced to a crispy, salty, seaweed-like snack.