Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In a good way

Photos from our weekend in Seattle. (Well, phone photos.) We drove up for the Timbers vs. Sounders MLS match, but made plenty of time for food excursions beforehand. Friday afternoon, we grabbed sandwiches at the small downtown salumeria/eatery, Salumi. They make their own salami and cheese. I had finocchiona and provolone on a ciabatta-type roll with a generous spread of olive oil. I keep thinking about it. I'll be back up there next weekend, so I might have to get some salami to bring home.

Because it was a mild spring day, Josh took me to the Space Needle for the view, then we wandered around the park and walked the labyrinth. That evening, we ate at Delancey in Ballard with some friends. It reminded me of Ken's Pizza in Portland, in a good way: tasty basic pizzas, greenly delicious salad/roasted veggies, solid seasonal desserts. I liked that the pizza crust was more chewy. And I always like a white pie. Ricotta should be on pizza more often.

Saturday morning we had brunch at the Volunteer Park Cafe. I had quiche with salad and a maple fig scone. That place is cute and buzzing with hip neighborhood activity. Josh and I sat at a big communal table and read an old Rolling Stone. I would probably be a regular if I lived nearby. And the park is right up the street, with lovely walkways, the Asian Art museum, and a conservatory. I saw some of the largest cacti I've ever seen. And orchids that looked like giant spiders.

We had a snack of Alaskan salmon mid-afternoon, courtesy of Josh's friends. Then we beefed up for the soccer match. I had a great burger at Brave Horse Tavern in Lake Union. The beer list was pretty good. But the coleslaw cabbage was so finely shredded, it was mushy. In fact, "shredded" is not the right term. "Ground" would be a better description. Ground cabbage. Another funny thing about the restaurant is it's manufactured sense of character. New windows made to look old, fake horseshoe decor, rustic chandeliers, etc. The neighborhood is being done up to look like Portland's Pearl District, with similar updated warehouse buildings and identical streetcars. Hopefully it will have the same successful renaissance - with a little more sincerity. At least the tavern burger is the real deal.

And then we stood in the rain for two hours, cheering on our team. My water-resistant jacket could not resist the downpour. Glad I had all that food to keep up my energy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A heart makes love

Valentine's Day came and went, but not without some sappy recognition on my part. Josh planned some romantic pre- Valentine's activities, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Being a homemade, crafty type, on the day of, I taped red hearts all over his mirror, gave him a cheesy card I made about "spooning," along with a wooden spoon for cooking, and had him over for dinner to make heart pizzas. Before we all gag on the cheesy heart-shaped food idea, let me just tell you that those heart pizzas were delicious. I prepped a bunch of toppings, including fennel, sausage, onions, parsley, red sauce, and lots of cheese. And because they were small, it was necessary to consume many of them.

No special Valentine's dessert, in any shape. However, the following week, we made basic sugar cookies and I added garam masala for a little twist. Indian sugar cookies? Why not?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Toasted pasta

Browsing through the cookbook section at Powell's, I flipped through a British cookbook compilation (maybe the Guardian's?). It was a quick browse, but I did glance a recipe entry from Ferran Adria: Toasted Spaghetti with Clams. It was one of the smallest entries in the book. Not only did his name catch my eye, but also the recipe title. Toasted = good. Spaghetti = good. Clams = good.
I didn't have clams. But I had olive oil, spaghetti noodles, parsley, and garlic. And I had a tin of sardines. Basically, the recipe calls for toasting the spaghetti noodles in a pan with olive oil. Break the noodles in half or thirds. Place in a heated pan with olive oil coating the bottom. Turn noodles with tongs while cooking. When lightly golden, add chopped parsley and garlic, maybe some chili flakes, and water/broth. Cook until pasta is al dente, adding water as needed. Then add clams - or in my case, sardines.

I have tried this three times. I have liked it each time. Once I only used dried herbs and it was lovely. Each time, I have had some overly toasted noodles. But I often had burnt toast as a kid, so it doesn't bother me much. The noodles have a toasted taste, as well as a toasty texture. Enjoy a twist on an old standby.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I've been remiss

'Tis the season for forgetting everything but sweets and twinkling lights. I have been cooking very little the last few months. I've baked even less. But with the holidays in full swing, I consumed more than my fair share.

My friend Drew was recently in Paris. When he asked what I wanted from France, I said mustard and chocolate. And I happened to mention that if I was ever in Paris, I would want to visit Denise Acabo's chocolate shop, A l'Etoile d'Or. Drew brought me a wonderful, truly amazing dark and milk chocolate layered Jour et nuit Bernachon bar - only available at their shop in Lyon or from A l'Etoile d'Or in Paris. Exclusive. I have been savoring it, but definitely don't want it to go bad. My apartment is usually only 60°F, so it will last a while longer... My other early Christmas present was a lovely pot of dijon mustard. And I have put it to use. Mostly with carrots. I have sautéed carrots and added dijon - three times in the past few weeks. A little bit of lemon would be nice at the end. Maybe on the fourth time around.

I will share some holiday food photos, including my first attempt at making my aunt's almond roca recipe. The recipe was written on an old piece of paper, fading and spotted with oil, missing a few words here and there. Even without a candy thermometer, it worked out fine. Chopping the almonds was the hardest part. Sweets and twinkling lights. I find myself wishing I could have them all year long. But I do remember how silly Christmas lights look in August. And peppermint bark would seem out of place. But right now they are just right.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good to go

I shelled beans for the first time recently. I was at the farm stand, making my usual rounds, going through the French green beans before heading over to the beets, fennel, then the squash. Out of the corner of my eye, a woman walked in and headed over to a huge bin of shelling beans. She filled a bag, then another. Curious, I walked over to finger a pod. She asked, "Have you cooked with these?" I had not. She replied, "Oh, they're the best. They cook up real good and you can even freeze them and use them a year later." I certainly like the best.

When I looked these beans up online, I learned they are called "cranberry beans," due to the fuchsia shell. Inside, the beans look like speckled Easter eggs. And when they cook, the rosy spots evaporate and leave a cream-colored bean. They are tender, buttery and easy to work with. I put a twist on a traditional mirepoix by using fennel instead of celery. A little chicken stock and we were good to go. Fresh bean soup.

Comfort food season is here. Josh and I have been experimenting with our favorite standby dishes. In the last few weeks, we have turned out a decent pineapple fried rice, cheesy enchiladas, creamy polenta, and a sweet/spicy sausage pizza. What should we make next?

Friday, September 24, 2010

There you have it

Everyone is talking about the end of summer, the beginning of fall. I'm not ready. I was so, so ready for summer - and then it came late. I want one of those autumns where it is 85 degrees in mid-October. Kind of like those surprise days in May, when it gets over 90. It just makes the easing in and out better. And most of all I need a little more heat because my tomatoes are just ripening. Finally.
Of course, I haven't been waiting around for my tomatoes. Anyone and everyone with fresh ripe tomatoes will get my attention in late summer. Someone brought in a bag of cherry tomatoes last week. I sat down next to it and made a significant dent in the supply. (Also note that another coworker brought in smoked salmon, so there was more of a reason to stake out territory.) And yesterday, I bought the reddest, juiciest cherry tomatoes to make this pasta goodness.* Why does chewy baked cheese taste so good with crunchy, garlicky bread crumbs?
*I intended to link you to the recipe, but I don't remember where I read it... Basically, it is a few cloves of chopped garlic, mixed with roughly equal amounts bread crumbs and shredded parmesan, and olive oil to combine. I used 3/4 cup each. Spread the mixture over halved cherry tomatoes in a baking dish and cook until the tomatoes are soft and sweet, the cheese is chewy, and the bread crumbs are crisp. I did 10-15 mins at 375.

At the same time this was being prepped, Josh and I put together this apple crisp. However, don't ask what kind of apples we used. His friends handed us a bag of smallish, crisp apples and we happily consumed them. We didn't have walnuts. And we didn't have lemon juice (white wine works just fine) or whipped cream to top. But it was just fine without. In fact, apple crisp for breakfast the next morning, with a little milk... Also just fine.

So maybe with the magic of apples, I will be ready for fall. And crunching leaves under foot. And squash and scarves. However, if those tomatoes ripen, I will be back outside for one last summer salad.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Perfect Pork Chop

My birthday came around this month, and with it many memorable moments and plenty of delicious meals. Josh hosted a lovely lawn party with friends and family. I had intended to play bocce ball, but the heat led me to merely sit and drink cold beverages, eat summer potluck dishes, popsicles, sorbet...

On my birthday proper, I ate out all three meals. Bakery bar for breakfast - grilled seasonal vegetables on a biscuit and egg sandwich. Pok Pok for a light lunch - papaya salad, sticky rice, and Thai chicken wings. And Olympic Provisions for dinner - a charcuterie plate, romano beans with fresh ricotta and toasted almonds, heirloom tomato salad with olives and feta, and the most tender, juicy pork chop ever. For dessert, we had peach upside down cake.

Josh and I decided to try our hand at pan cooked pork chops. We wanted that crisp glazed exterior and tender interior. After a little research, we settled on the most basic, no fuss instructions. I bought two Iowa pork chops and we went to work. Mashed potatoes and corn rounded out an all-American meal. And brought continued birthday bliss.