Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Photo Dump

The Calf & Kid got me with their hunks. I have a chunk of gruyere, tin willow tomme and six month old manchego awaiting tasting in my fridge.
Musashi's keeping Wallingford full of quick, crowd-pleasing sushi.
Starting leeks from some locally saved leek seeds was a highlight of learning about starting a garden inside at a Seattle Tilth class.
I made it to Skillet twice this month. Both times the spicy lamb and chorizo sloppy joe made the order, mmm sloppy goodness.
Fresh Spanish chorizo from Rain Shadow Meats was the star of the best breakfast tacos this month. Combined with kale, red peppers, jalapenos, green onions, potatoes, red onions and sharp cheddar cheese.
Early this month, I had a lovely light brunch with my mom at the Kingfish Cafe. We split the catfish and dungeness crab cakes with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

I have been eating a lot of pasta and peas lately. For a quick lunch at work I just through some cooked pasted in a tupperware, top it with frozen peas, a shmear of pesto and a sprinkle of cheese. Once at work it just needs to be heated up and you have warm cheesy peas and pasta. I have fallen in love with the frozen peas. So tender and juicy, I know a lot of people who don't like peas and I just don't understand it. This gnocchi dish is the fancy, adult version of my lunch time pasta and peas, and yes, yes it is way more delicious. Lemon always makes things better, and the cream sauce with simmered garlic and red-pepper flakes is to die for. This dish is still super fast, just heating and stirring. I love using gnocchi, they are like little pasta/potato pillows but I don't see why any kind of pasta couldn't be used in this recipe. If you have rigatoni sitting around use that, the peas sneak inside the pasta making it even more delicious. And don't forget to have some cheese on the table, it never hurts to sprinkle on some more cheese.

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas adapted from Gourmet

Serves 4 as a side, or two hungry people for dinner

1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, smashed
3 cups packed baby spinach (about 3 ounces)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound dried gnocchi
1/4 cup grated parmesan

1. Simmer peas with half and half, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a skillet or sauce pan, covered for about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (follow the instructions on the package) Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain gnocchi.
3. Add spinach to the sauce mixture and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice.
4. Add gnocchi to sauce with cheese and a little bit of reserved cooking water. Stir to coat, thing with additional cooking water if necessary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Massaged Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad

Ahh the kale salad, so hearty, so tasty and versatile to boot. This is a great farmers market salad, these greens are still available from many local farms throughout the winter. I love the shredded brussel sprouts, in this salad. They are similar in texture and flavor to kale but they had more color and depth. Plus it is really fun to shredding up the tiny cabbage like balls, watching them unfurl into thin curly ribbons. There is no doubt that kale and brussels can be pretty tough when eaten raw, but that is where the massaging comes in a works miracles. The presence of a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil combined with some massaging pressure, softens the leaves. They turn into a more delicate and tender salad that is coated with delicious flavors. The true beauty of a salad like this is that even though the leaves will become more tender, they will also stay hearty enough so that the dressing doesn't completely saturate the salad. Unlike pre-dressed salads that will become total mush, this salad can be kept (dressed!) in the fridge for a few days. Making it a perfect salad for a lunch on the go, or a pre-made dinner side. Any manner of vegetables, dried fruit or nuts can be added to this salad as desired.
Massaged Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad adapted from Bon Appetit and Seattle Tilth

4 cups or 1 large bunch kale (any variety will work)
1 cup Brussel sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
Fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Coarse salt to taste
1/2 of a small apple, thinly sliced (optional)
Sliced and toasted almonds (optional)

1. Tear the kale from stems. Thinly slice the kale and the Brussel sprouts into ribbons. Combine in a large bowl.
2. Drizzle the greens with olive oil, lemon juice and coarse salt. Massage vigorously with your hands for several minutes and let sit for a few more minutes until the kale and Brussel sprouts are softened and wilted.
3. Toss in the apple slices and almonds if using. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Salad will last for a few days in the fridge.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Staple and Fancy

Housed in an amazing old building with some serious architectural history, Staple and Fancy Mercantile cooks up some seriously delicious food. We splurged on the four course family style meals that relieves the guests of any decision making. The kitchen makes all the choices for you and sends over plate after plate of amazing food. All we had to do was order a bottle of Pinot Noir and wait for the food to arrive. It is the best plan ever, here is surprise and anticipation that is unlike any other dining experience. And not only is it a cure for the indecisive, but we got to try so many ingredients that we would never think to order, or buy and cook ourselves. I am going to stay short on the descriptions, I don't really feel like repeating how amazing everything was cooked, but I will say that this appetizer course really is the best thing I have ever experienced, it was an almost never-ending parade of unique, tasty morsels. It alone proves that Ethan Stowell is absolutely correct when he says, "you really should do this."
Appetizers were to die for, tuna crostini, fried oysters with spicy remoulade sauce, bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salami and prosciutto, clams with pancetta, garlic and peppers, sushi grade escolar with avocado puree with cucumbers, mozzarella with shallot relish, Treviso salad with anchovy paste and shaved pecorino.
Beef tongue ravioli with hedgehog mushrooms and sage was served as our pasta course, house-made pasta was a given.
The main course was beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce with roast potatoes and cippolini onions with mustard seeds.

For dessert we had a pecan tart with caramel sauce and the most delicate bourbon ice cream.
Staple & Fancy Mercantile on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Strawberry Conserve

I knew I shouldn't buy them, but they were so pretty. They were so juicy, so alluring, and so tantalizing in the dead of winter. they were far from being organic and even farther from being local., but I caved. there were four pounds of red morsels that smelled just like summer. And as i stood there debating if I should fall for this grocery store Valentine's Day ploy, I recalled this delectable recipe. It took a borrowed iPhone to get the exact details but I remembered hearing about these strawberries swimming in their own thick syrup and I wanted my own.
I knew these strawberries would need to be preserved in some way. There was no way they would last more than a few days and I wanted to stretch their lifespan. This was an absolutely simple recipe that I was able to fit into a crazy, hectic day. There is literally just a few minutes of cook time and a few minutes of clean up. The most time consuming part is prepping all of the strawberries, but that is half the fun. The results are tender strawberry chunks soaked in a bright strawberry syrup that can be drizzled over all sorts of delicious things. The berries could be topped with whipped cream. The syrup could be used in some fancy cocktails or to spruce up some sparkling water. I hope I can make these strawberries last until these beauties are actually in season around these parts.
Strawberry Conserve adapted from the lovely people at The Canal House, Bon Appetit and Orangette.

4 cups fresh strawberries (about 1 pound), hulled, halved (and preferable organic)
3/4 cup sugar
Peel (with white pith) of 1/2 lemon

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy, wide pot. cover and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally for 2 hours.
2. Bring strawberry mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring gently until strawberries are tender, about 3 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries to 1 pint jar.
4. Continue simmering the sauce until it thickens into a syrupy consistency, 1-2 minutes.
5. Discard lemon peel and pour syrup over strawberries.
6. Seal and let cool to room temperature. Chill for up to 1 month.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Moroccan Pickled Golden Beets

There is nothing can deter my love for pickled things. So delicious. I had my first go at serious pickling last summer. It turned into one of those horrifying, devastating projects that was remarkably beautiful and so salty they were inedible. It was devastating. But back on the horse, I am planning a huge garden of cucumbers, green beans and peas that I want to preserve into the winter. So a new book has graced my bookshelf, and the pickling projects have begun. These beets were a test run and a simple quick pickle recipe that yielded amazing results in just a few hours. Toasty crushed cumin seeds and garlic add really special flavors to the red wine vinegar that quickly turns tiny beet cubes in a flavorful pickled treat. I love these beets tossed with salad greens but they are also excellent by themselves tossed with a little olive oil.

Moroccan Pickled Golden Beets adapted from The Joy of Pickling

Yield: 2 1/2 to 3 cups

4 medium golden beets
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
Olive oil for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Wash and trim any green parts from beets. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast until tender and easily pierced by a knife, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool.
2. While the beets are roasting, gently toast the cumin seeds and crush them with a mortar and pestle.
3. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel with a vegetable peeler and dice into about 1/4 inch pieces.
4. Put the beets and garlic into a quart sized mason jar.
5. In a small nonreactive saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, and cumin to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over the beets.
6. Let the jar stand at room temperature, turning the beets occasionally, for several hours. (If you won't be eating the beets the same day, store the jar, covered, in the refrigerator.)
7. Just before serving the beets, toss them with the olive oil.

The beets should keep well for at least 2 weeks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Flaxseed

A great, great friend of mine had her first baby this week and it was thrilling, absolutely thrilling. The anticipation, the joy of new life and happy new parents. My day has improved infinitely whenever I think about holding that tiny, beautiful, cooing baby surrounded by love, joy and hope. I can't even imagine what it is like to have it with you all the time. I keep going back to thrilling, and I bet exhausting but still intoxicating with love and new life. The baby came a few days early, which I do believe was as a nice relief to my lovely couch bound friend. I spent an afternoon with her last week, in an attempt to make being on the couch all day a touch more bearable. I came with a bag full of chick flicks and the fixings for this outrageous idea I had heard about called “breast milk cookies”.
I don’t really remember where I read about the small company producing them, but they are just regular cookies (no breast milk added), with natural ingredients that promote the production of healthy nutrient filled breast milk. Oats flaxseed and brewer’s yeast have some pretty amazing health benefits for the lactating, and in fact, for the rest of us. Since oats and flaxseed super easy to pick up at the grocery store I figured we could spend the afternoon making our own, while Sarah Jessica Parker and friends flaunted around in ridiculous outfits in the background. I didn't have time to track down brewer’s yeast, but I think I will have to locate it for the next batch, since the baby is now here and ready to drink her fill. Even without it, I think we all enjoyed the cookies immensely, I used a delicious recipe from Molly Wizenberg and we spiked it with enough flaxseed that we all agreed these were definitely “health cookies”. I am sure that there will be many more batched of these cookies to come. Maybe spiked with nuts, or delicious dried fruits, anything to improve dinner time for my smallest new friend.
Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Flaxseed adapted from Orangette

Yield about 2 dozen plus cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Grease cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugars until well blended. Beat in the vanilla and egg, mixing until light and creamy.
4. Mix in the sifted ingredients, working until blended.
5. Stir in the chocolate chunks and oats.
6. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to one hour.
7. Roll tablespoon full of the dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on a cookies sheet. Press the cookies flat with a spatula. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool and enjoy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Roasted Pork Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Post Pok Pok lunch, I have been craving the delicious rich, tangy, sweet and salty flavors of Asian cuisine. While I still think that nothing can compare to the dishes coming out of that seasoned kitchen, these meatballs are darn delicious. Juicy, zesty lemon tang, tiny bit of heat from the green onions, cilantro, garlic and mystery depth from the fish sauce. They are a perfectly simple fix that can be made from a small, home kitchen, with a few basic Asian ingredients that can be picked up at even the most mediocre of grocery stores. And lettuce wraps are also great dinners with a lot of people. The cooks just do the prep and then everyone can assemble their own plate, additional bonus, picky people can just take care of themselves and serve up sad lettuce cups without any vegetables or green things. As a matter of fact, we did serve this dish to about twenty people, hence why the picture below looks so large, it was. Your bowl of meatball fixings will be about a fourth of the size. But the explosion of juicy flavor will be just as large.
Roasted Pork Meatball Lettuce Wraps adapted from The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as an appetizer

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
8 green onions, minced
5 cloves of garlic
Zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 Asian fish sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 bunch of radishes, trimmed and sliced into matchstick slivers
1 cup English cucumber, sliced into matchstick slivers
2 cups shredded carrots
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Iceberg or butter lettuce leaves
Cilantro leaves
Sliced green onions

Nuoc Cham Sauce for serving (See Below)

1. In a large bowl, combine the pork, green onions, garlic, lemon zest, cilantro, sugar fish sauce, and salt. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate so the flavors have time to marry, at least 3 hours and up to 24.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Oil a baking sheet.
3. Stir the cornstarch into the meat mixture. Form the meat into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Cook the meatballs until browned and cooked through, turning once with a spatula, 12 to 15 minutes.
5. While the meatballs are cooking mix the radishes, cucumber and carrots in a bowl with the rice vinegar.

To serve: Top the lettuce leaves with two or three meatballs, some of the carrot mixture, a sprinkle of cilantro leaves, green onions and Nuoc Cham Sauce.

Nuoc Cham Sauce adapted from The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup very warm tap water
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the water. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
2. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Refrigerate until ready to use.

The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.