Friday, September 30, 2011

Skillet Diner

I love, love, love some good street cart food action, and with the current (hopefully changing quickly!) Seattle regulations on street carts it can be painfully difficult to track down some of these tantalizing trucks. There are events, that bring them all together but nothing permanent, or even semi-permanent. Therefore, it is extremely exciting when my favorite trucks open entire restaurants. With full menus, indoor seating, open 7 days a week, in the same physical location. The beautiful air stream trailer housing Skillet, still makes its rounds but the diner is so good, so good. With all of the classics from the cart and much, much, more.
Skillet takes everything that is amazing about a diner, leaves behind the grime and produces some quality meals. They have taken innovative spins on the favorites and they serve almost beverage in mason jars. Beer, water and milkshakes all come is these classic glass vessels. Water carafes are left for your convenience on the table. There are cozy booths and a long counter lined with blue swivel seats that have a view of all of the action in the kitchen. Large windows let in a lot of natural light and make the space feel inviting and friendly.
Breakfast is full of homey homey goodness. Extremely fluffy griddle cakes came with house-made brown sugar syrup, lemon zest butter and peach compote. The biscuits and gravy come with a delicate white gravy flavored with onions, celery, carrots and maple chicken sausage. My neighbor seated at the table next to me ate the amazing pork belly waffle as we drank our coffee. This large cornmeal waffle is topped with a fried egg and a generous square of tender pork belly.
Dinner selections cover the diner basics, burgers, and fried chicken. But they are hardly ordinary. Mac and cheese comes in quotes because it is a fancy, fancy version with roasted butternut squash, candied walnuts and a bleu cheese crumble. There is also poutine, a rabbit duo, beautiful salads, roasted beets and more. We started with the kale caesar salad that was topped with the best fresh anchovies I have ever had. The sauteed rainbow trout was served with some huge pickled Washington cherries and a yellow peach and herb slaw. We also had some more traditional, aka fried, diner food. The fried chicken sandwich at Skillet has a fennel seed crust, with a liberal scattering of whole fennel seeds. It is topped with a jalapeno aioli and hearty kale instead of plain ole mayo and weak lettuce.
Skillet Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

Tis' green tomato season. Always a hard one to admit, but as my mother has said at least once a summer for my entire life, "the tomatoes just don't get ripe around here before school start." She used to live in California, and made salsa every late summer before heading back to the public school classroom full-time. It just doesn't work like that is Western Washington, and as the kids head back to school, tomato plants everywhere are heavy with unripe fruit that will rot or freeze before it matures into a brilliant red. NPR found some fancy uses for these unripe, but very much edible tomatoes. However, fried green tomatoes are my go to, for this green garden snack. To break with the traditional, try a few of these for breakfast topped with grated Parmesan cheese and a fried egg.
Fried Green Tomatoes adapted from Tyler Florence

1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch cayenne
3/4 cup buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large unripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, ends removed. 1/2-inch thick wedges.
1/4 cup vegetable oil, add more as needed
Hot sauce, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, garlic powder and cayenne.
2. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl and season with salt and pepper.
3. Dip the tomatoes in the buttermilk and then toss them in the cornmeal mixture, coating both sides.
4. Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is hot, pan-fry the tomatoes until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Do in batches until all tomatoes are fried. Drain the tomatoes on paper towels.
5. Serve with hot sauce and lemon wedges.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spicy Sauteed Corn

I love stumbling upon recipes that I can make instantly. When everything you need is patiently sitting in the refrigerator just waiting for this same recipe that can pull them all together into something amazing. This is one of those simple recipes, that takes just about no time at all, but makes every single ingredients infinitely better than it was before. The sugars in the corn caramelize, creating delicious crispy brown bits. The Jalapeno and green onions tame down the sweetness of the corn with just enough heat, the salt enhances everything and the lime cools down and brightens at the same time. Great side dish, or hey, taco, quesadilla or burrito filling. I don't think I can ever eat regular steamed corn again. This is just too good and too easy to not make.
Spicy Sauteed Corn adapted from Orangette

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kernels from 3-4 ears fresh corn, or 10 to 12 ounces of thawed frozen kernels
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed if desired, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

1. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until bubbling.
2. Add the corn, scallions, and jalapeno, stirring to coat with butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn begins to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes. (You might hear some kernels popping toward the end.)
3. Add the water and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any tasty brown bits. When the water has boiled off, add salt to taste.
4. Remove from the heat, and stir in the lime juice. Serve immediately, with additional lime wedges.

Yield: 4 side-dish servings.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

End of Summer Photo Dump

I have accepted the end of summer, Fall is upon us. The rain has arrived in Seattle, rain coats ans scarves have been dug out of closets, schools are back in session, state parks have officially lowered camp site prices for the off-season. As the season of picnics, bountiful farmers market produce, long warm nights, berries, stone fruits and camping comes to and end I have discovered a back log of photos that never made a story, but were all great adventures surrounding great meals in the last weeks of summer. So as I accept the end of summer and get excited about all of the great things fall has to offer, I will share these photos.

Homemade pirogi were one of the first meals to break in my new home. The kitchen was dusted with flour as dough was rolled out, stuffed, boiled and fried. A couch surfing friend joined us and a fabulous flight of wine tastings were prepared by my new housemate. Delicious way to warm up a new home.

The guys who lived next to my first big college house, can cook two things: egg curry (an excellent story for another day), and nachos. Nacho night is held for special occasions, such as birthdays in this case, or on a night where everyone can be reunited. These are no, last-minute-use-whatever-is-in-the-fridge-nachos. Lists are prepared, ingredients are all ready in individual bowls. This month: buffalo wing nachos and traditional topped with bacon, ground beef, cheese, jalapenos, olives, sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

And end of summer dinner party provided an opportunity to used the abundance of vegetable that have been falling into my lap. Garden fresh tomatoes, carrots, kale, zucchini and more seem to be everywhere. I shredded as much as I could to quickly boil with orzo. Summer crostinis and posole were also present and this potluck style feast.

The last camping trip of the season at Deception Pass State Park proved and excellent opportunity to stop at a total roadside seafood dive that made some amazing clam chowder and fish and chips. While we cooked our hot dogs and s'mores over a much anticipated campfire, a little propane and a great skillet let up fry bacon and eggs for a classy camping breakfast accompanied with french press coffee.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Clams in Spicy Coconut-Lime Broth

With all of the clams surrounding me this summer, I cannot believe it took until September for me actually cook my own. My parents were in town this weekend, and while my crustacean wary father was occupied with work my Mom, brother and I cooked up a seafood feast for ourselves. I did a little research pre-clam shopping because even though we had all been anticipating this clam meal for the entire preceding week, nobody had a broth idea, and I wanted to do something more interesting than a delicious but basic white wine, garlic butter concoction. We settled on an old Bon Appeit recipe, but altered it as three people with their particular preferences will. Bell pepper for color, scratch the clam juice, Thai basil makes everything better, etc... This broth is not kick-you-in-the-pants spicy but is packs a warm flood of flavors. Ginger, jalapeno, lime and Thai basil vamp up rich coconut milk and surround the clams in a delicious pool of rich, flavorful, tangy broth. We sucked down pounds of clams, dipping our toasty bread into as much broth at we could soak up. There is nothing better than sitting around a table, getting your hands dirty over some great food with the people you love the most, even if you have to scamper to work right afterwards.
Clams in Spicy Coconut-Lime Broth adapted from Bon Appetit

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 large shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger
1 jalapeno chile, seeded, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
1 1/2 tablespoons shredded Thai basil
2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened, full fat
1 can coconut milk, low fat version (or 1 can of water)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 green onions, sliced
1 rustic baguette, sliced into 1 inch rounds

1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
2. Add chopped shallots and saute until tender, about 3 minutes.
3. Add ginger, jalapeno, red bell pepper and Thai basil. Saute for another 3 minutes.
4. Add all coconut milk, water and lime peel, bring to a boil. Add the clams. Cover and cook until clams open, about 7 minutes (discard any that do not open).
5. While clams are cooking, preheat oven to broil and toast baguette rounds on a cookie sheet just until they turn golden brown.
6. Stir in lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer clams and sauce to a bowl; sprinkle with green onions and serve with toasted baguette rounds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Zucchini Cornbread

The bounty of summer harvest is in full swing. Local tomatoes are finally ripening, everyone has copious amounts of zucchini and my favorite, giant squashes are being passed around from grower to anyone they can convince to take them. I need no convincing, when a great friend of mine handed my an epic, giant, beautiful squash I was ecstatic. The giants of the garden are not the best for stir frying or pan frying because the skin gets tough and the seeds get huge, but there is so much delicious flesh on these babies it is sad to see it go to waste.
So while I am still in love with the large squashes, I will undoubtedly burn out on them after a few weeks of eating squash everyday, but for now I have acquainted myself with my handy hand grater and I shredded up this giant squash. The juicy strands of squash would make great latkes, but they can also be used just like zucchini in baked goods. In cornbread the squash adds moisture and beautiful green flecks that make this a great summer side dish. I mean really, with all the produce available now, a slice of cornbread is all you need alongside a huge garden salad, or a fresh saute of all the vegetables in your fridge.
Zucchini Cornbread adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated zucchini, or summer squash
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3" loaf pan.
2. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until butter solids at the bottom of the pan turn golden brown and the butter begins to smell nutty, about 3 minutes. Scrap butter into a medium bowl, let cool. Whisk in buttermilk, eggs and zucchini.
3. Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture, fold just to blend, mixture will be very thick. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.
4. Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean. 50-60 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan, let cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair 2011

The Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair was yesterday and it was heaven on earth.
There were small people petting small animals.
There were booths and demonstrations where you could learn how to raise your own goats, chickens, ducks and bees in the city.

There were herb crowns!
Apples were crushed on site to make the first and best apple cider.
Seeds were swapped.
There was an all organic farmers market.
There was music galore and some songs about creepy garden creatures.
There was a show off between sweet street carts Parfait and Sweet Treats. I had to have some peach sorbet.
And there was a children's garden full of fun crafts, face painting and plenty of places to get little hands dirty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pickled Carrot Sticks

I am heartbroken to report that pickling for the first time was an utter failure. The majority of the pickles that we have taste tested are inedible because they are extremely salty. I almost added the salt of my own tears to the brine when this was discovered. I still don't know why they turned out so poorly, we are trying to salvage them. We made pickle soup last night, and we might soak the rest in fresh water, or turn them into kimchi! So out of disaster come many new projects that hold enormous potential and hope. The true saving grace of this pickling project was the carrots. We used a different recipe, tested ahead of time by extremely trustworthy Deb. They quick pickles are absolutely delightful, I just finished off a jar while writing this, and I am tempted to crack the next one open as well. They are crisp and vinegary with a subtle sweetness and they are a delicately flavored with fresh dill and garlic. They are ready in a mere day and will last for a month, if you somehow let them sit around that long. I know mine will be gone in the next few days. Also, we used purple and orange carrots, the purple carrots are what gave our brine that lovely pink hue. If you only use orange carrots, this coloration will not occur.
Pickled Carrot Sticks adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet Magazine

1 pound carrots, cut into 3 1/2- by 1/3-inch sticks. (I used purple and orange carrots)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup cider or plain vinegar (the former makes a sweeter, milder brine)
1/4 cup sugar
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
3 sprigs of fresh dill
1 1/2 tablespoon salt

1. Place the carrots in a heatproof bowl or quart size mason jar.
2. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour pickling liquid over carrots and cool, uncovered.
3. Chill carrots, covered, at least 1 day for flavors to develop. Carrots will keep, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month.