17 December 2009

The Art of Pie (Art, not Science)

On a recent dreary Saturday morning, already jam-packed with plans, I added one more layer to the docket: Visit the U-District Farmers market to commune with the farmers and load my tote with a variety of heirloom and organic apples.

Trying not to get too off-track (I'd calculated a max of 20 minutes to spend at the market before running to Starbucks for a cuppa and hitting the road for my next appointment), I intended to make a quick circle-tour of the stands, scanning the selections and jotting mental notes of where to return. Of course, the first stand teemed with apples and butternut squash - both on my list.

What the hell.

I leapt in and bought a couple of Golden Russets to start the collection, plus a squash to stow away for a post-Thanksgiving cous-cous dish.

From there, it was anarchy in the best way possible. Methodical plan out the window, I wend my to whatever spoke to me, loading my bag with the golden and red orbs. The Golden Russets rested next to Waltanas which sat atop some staple-favorite Honeycrisps which laid near the squash. This was the first step in the right direction. For, as pie maven Kate McDermott attests, the making of a pie is an art - not a science.

And this, dear reader, is what changed everything.

A few weeks prior, I'd taken Kate's Art of the Pie class - a 3-hour, hands-on pie-making clinic. Of all the formal cooking classes I've had yet, this one by far was the best. We learned the history and science of the apples going in to our pie. And we got to ask (and ask and ask) questions: "Why the King Arthur flour red-bag flour?" (It's silky and light.) "Why is everything kept cold?" (So when your hot hands plunge into the bowl, the whole mixture's temperature doesn't skyrocket and mar the integrity of your crust.) "How do you know it's done?" (Involve the senses. Bend your ear - carefully - over the pie; listen for the sizzle and the 'whump.' Turn your nose to the kitchen - sniff for the heavenly aroma of apples and spice and all things nice. Use your sight to observe the pie; is the pastry golden brown and the fruit/sugar slightly oozing from the vent holes?)

But the biggest revelation - dare I say epiphany - of the experience was tossing out preconceived notions that making pie is a precise, exact rite. Sure, Kate set out mixing utensils, should we choose to use them; but most all of our group elected the best utensils God gave us - our paws. Being this close to the pastry really helped me know when it was ready; rather than rely on a spoon and pastry cutter to know when the dough was holding together, I swirled and mopped the mixture with my mitts, adding a touch of water or a spoonful more flour, until it started to pull away from the sides of the bowl and cling together.

Same went for the filling: we used knives to cut/core the fruit and a few measuring spoons to dose out sugar/flour/spices. But it was never an exact science -- add a dash more nutmeg should you choose, or another pinch of salt. Don't sweat measuring your flour precisely, leveling it with a knife. Don't even think about grabbing a sifter.

In fact, the only science of the whole procedure was the appearance of a tool that looked like it belonged in a laboratory rather than a kitchen; this refractometer measured the sugar-content of each fruit, so we'd know how much additional sweetness to add to the filling.

I've long loved pies but long loathed the preciseness of baking. I've even set my identity by it. "I'm a cook, not a baker, because I don't like to measure," is a sentence often flowing from my mouth. Kate's class has changed me.

After all, it is meant to be a work of art, like the beauty of a marbled pastry, flecked with fat:

Or the chunky heaps of seasoned and spiced apples, waiting in a mixing bowl:

Or a pre-baked pie, glossy and glimmering with sprinkles of sugar:

And the way the pie deepens in color - maturing and settling with heat and time once pulled freshly from the oven:

So back to the Farmers market finds. Experimentation and playfulness (not strict order) lent a nice touch. The resulting melange of textures and colors and flavors was tart yet sweet, nicely balanced. (Not equipped with a refractometer, I taste-tested a slice of each apple before adding it to the bowl and dosed in sugars and spices according to my tongue.) Add to this my further experimentation with flours (I tried the King Arthur "white whole wheat") and a vegan shortening - not lard - and I truly made this pie my own creation.

I do not claim to be an expert by any means. The crust was a bit wheaty (I blame the flour) and next time I'd try a different ratio of butter to shortening (more of the former). Maybe even toss in a tablespoon of sugar to the pastry, for kicks. But I am an aspiring artist, trying out my own techniques and brush strokes, finding my voice, and feeling freer by the minute - loose of the previous constraints and shackles of the science. This is art.

02 December 2009

Let me count the ways

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This, oh Poppy, is how I love thee.

I've visited your graceful halls yet once -- a memory etched lovingly on my brain (and on my tongue).

I love thee for an aperitif -- a lemon verbena drop so sweet and verdant. A marriage of citrus vodka, limoncello, and lemon verbena with a sugar rim. I love that said cocktail is quite nice by its lonesome; even nicer when paired with a pile of sensuous eggplant fries.

I love thee for the veritable smorgasbord of small-plate appetizers, had for a few dollars apiece -- kind to the stomach and the wallet. Your lightly fried mussels, ne'er too gamy, matched nicely with a piquant dill aioli. Also, the crater lake blue, onion, and bacon tart (I nudged gently around the bacon; only a few bites "accidentally" dropped down into my fork and mouth).

But it is your dessert thalis -- multiple -- for which I love thee most. Dabbles and dibs of dainty sweet treats, each brilliant in its own right. Like the hand-forged ice cream (various flavors). Or the delicate lavender meringue 'kisses'; I don't even like meringue, and yet I went back for more and more. And oh! The tart apricot bar -- similar in consistency to another local confectionery, but miles ahead in flavor and texture. Harks and heralds to your pastry chef, Dana Cree, a maestro with a mixer.

And I love thee for your whimsical onsite herb garden, the setting for your back-door patio. A quaint, homegrown touch that makes me long for late summer when the sun sits low in the sky over Seattle until past 9 o'clock. Oh!, to sip cocktails and dine on your delicacies surrounded by the heady intoxication of fresh herbs.

You are a gem, dear Poppy. A bright-orange, fiery gem. I long to be dazzled by you again soon.

27 November 2009

A blessed bake-ation

Thoroughly enjoying the four-day-long vacation. Kicked it off Wed night by joining the masses and baking a pie for Thanksgiving. Apple. (More on this soon!)

Today, I holla for challah. This is the first time I've made this sweet-bread treat, and so far, so good. After a minor Cosby Show incident (flour all over the kitchen - and me), and discovering that Nirvana's Bleach (recently reissued by Sub Pop in honor of its 20 (!) year anniversary) make the perfect soundtrack/tempo for kneading, the braided dough is now rising in the fridge.

Tomorrow, I'll turn a bag of Meyer lemons into my first-ever batch of lemon curd. Thinking of trying Alton Brown's recipe, though if any of you have other suggestions please send them along.

All in all, I'm thankful for the time, means, and resources to spend a long weekend in the kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

24 November 2009

Plum Perfect

On a dreary Monday night (which, fortunately, was more like a Wednesday due to the short holiday week), I donned my Capitol Hill finest (all-black + tall boots) and hit the slopes to dine at Plum Bistro.

I'd been hearing over and over how great this all-vegan restaurant was, but banking on past experiences (see Teapot) + my love for Seattle vegetarian restaurant supreme Cafe Flora, I wasn't expecting much.

It was a revelation.

I'm still dreaming about the silk mashed yams with garlic that accompanied the delightfully spicy/sweet marinated tofu kebabs (nuggets of tofu alternating with perfect triangles of grilled pineapple).

Also, that heavenly creamy, spicy, rich, and ultra-satisfying Cajun Mac"n"Yease, served alongside a robust, meaty seitan version of chicken-fried steak.
I'm now on a quest to find that macaroni recipe.

For dessert, we sampled both the peanutbutter-chocolate pie and the strawberry crepes. Accompanying the pie was a whipped "cream" that stunned us all. Nary a member of our table believed it to truly be dairy-free, but the waitress swore it was soy. With taste and consistency like that, who needs cows? (For their milk. I love them for their docile presence!)

Suffice to say, it was downright delicious. I don't often trudge up to the Hill, for fear of hipster overload and no parking. But for Plum Bistro, I will return.

15 November 2009

Regaining inspiration amidst the grey rain. But are you following me on Twitter for quick dishes? @mozgal !

01 November 2009

Orange Things

26 October 2009

Decade-Long Anticipation: Kingfish Cafe

It was a date nearly a decade in the making.

On Sunday night, amidst the latest rain-and-wind storm, we made our way to north Capitol Hill for a toasty, down-home meal at Kingfish Cafe. Finally. I've literally been wanting to eat at this soul food treasure since the place first opened nearly 10 years ago.

Back then, when sisters Laurie and Leslie Coaston opened the joint, the line for a table was ages long. Friends raved about the food - but also warned there wasn't much, if anything, for true vegetarians to taste. Save for cake, which we'll get to in a moment.

Whether the menu has truly changed (along with my own tastes - I now eat fish), or whether friends simply weren't reading it completely, I cannot confirm. What I can confirm is my tastebuds were prickling with excitement over the multiple veggie and fish-friendly items on the menu.

Our table selected a starter of fried-green tomatoes. We couldn't resist their notion - so unexpected and rare in this part of the country. They came fried in a delicate cornmeal coating and smothered in a variety of spicy and cream sauces. Also, a few of the house-made hushpuppies joined the toms on the plate. They, too, were fried and smothered and delicious.

They also went well with my Two Sistas Cocktail - a sweet, but not overly so, blend of peach schnapps, vodka, and lime.

For my entree, I selected the mac and cheese. Our history goes way back. It's the only "vegetarian" item that reportedly lived on the menu for a while, so I've been dreaming of it for years. Folks debate whether it really is veggie; it wasn't marked explicitly as such on the menu, yet I didn't taste any meats. It could have a secret chicken-stock base, though if it did, I didn't notice. The thing came out on my plate cut the size of a brick. I didn't leave one drop.

My husband selected a spanking delicious trio of hoppin' john cakes - an assortment of veggies mashed and formed into circular patties, like 3 gardenburgers in a way. Both of our meals came with a sizeable salad on the same plate, making each of these a steal of a deal.

Our cohorts ordered some meaty items - the pork chop and the gumbo. I didn't sample either, but both looked divine. Especially that hurkin' huge chop.

For dessert, we'd been told "Get the Red Velvet Cake" by so many friends. What we didn't know, until after, is that it's wise to order this delicacy when you sit down - because the house sometimes runs out. True to form, we ordered the RVC, only to be immediately revisited by our waitress, who sheepishly let us know the last piece had just been cut and served.

The butterscotch cake, served in its place, was a mighty bit sweet for me, but the rest of our table devoured it. Good thing there were 4 of us. The piece of cake was gargantuan (I couldn't even frame the entire piece in my photo!). Dolled up with two huge piles of whipped cream that I initially mistook for ice cream, it was obvious that Kingfish Cafe is serious about its dessert!

This was a case of expectations being pleasantly met after a long, long bout of anticipation. I just hope it doesn't take me another decade to return.

21 October 2009

Visions of Thanksgiving Foods Dance in my Head

A chill is in the air. The leaves are morphing into russet-tinged cracklers under foot. Low, grey clouds stack the landscape with nary a peep of filtered sun shining through. Fall has arrived.

With it, my cravings for decadent, warm foods. On my notepad of "to do" items - a list that is supposed to be for work items, with jots of personal reminders - I've been scratching down ideas for holiday menus all week. The choices for Thanksgiving are already starting to overwhelm, and we're still a good 5+ weeks out.

We'll be at my family's house this year, and as usual I'll volunteer to bring at least a couple of dishes. What my assignment is, I don't yet know, but here's what I'm currently considering:

For the main dish, nutloaf - a recipe Nate brought back from a jaunt to England (along with my engagement ring) in 2002.

For a side, perhaps those sauteed and sweet Brussels sprouts I had a love affair with this summer, long before the leaves had started to fall.

Another side might be the custard-filled cornbread recipe from Orangette author Molly Wizenberg's debut book. I couldn't find Molly's exact recipe online, but this offering from the Food Network looks very close.

And then there is dessert. Usually I make a peanut-butter pie. It's obscenely simple and obscenely delicious.

Yet this year, all I can think about is butterscotch. That warm, slightly tangy, round flavor keeps sliding to the center of my mind. PCC must've been feeling rather clairvoyant because the co-op recently tweeted a link to a series of butterscotch-laden recipes. One in particular - a pie - stands out. I need an excuse to try it, so perhaps Thanksgiving it is.

19 October 2009

Monday Night Comforts

No one is a fan of Mondays. At least, no one in their right mind.

To ease the pain of starting the week, I can't think of a better setup than this:

Vegetarian chili, bubbling on the stove
Sweet cornbread, baking in the oven
Monday night football, playing out on the tele
Two orange cats, drifting in and out of slumber on the chair and floor, respectively
Inspired husband, writing feverishly in the other room

The only thing that would make this picture more complete is an orange fire, crackling in the background.

Oh, and maybe a tall glass of one of Owen Roe's delightfully eerie Rook wines, resting in a glass near my laptop.

With all these comforts, I just might make it through Monday - and even fall in grey Seattle.

14 October 2009

Excerpt from Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer

This weekend, the New York Times magazine commemorated all things food in a special Food Issue. Included is an essay from one of this generation's finest authors, Jonathan Safran Foer. (He's the author of Everything is Illuminated. I stumbled upon him years ago when he penned a piece for Real Simple magazine. It was a piece so moving that I cried - a feat which never happens when I'm reading. Like, ever. I knew Safran Foer was something special.)

Safran Foer knows his place on this planet. His boots are finally stuck in the mud of his past; his lineage, his self seeping into every story he tells. He is, in fact, one of the finest storytellers I know.

I so look forward to his newest book, Eating Animals, which is set to release in November. Here is an excerpt from the book that appeared in the NYT mag. If you're not already registered with the NYT, you'll have to do so - but it's absolutely worth a few moments of filling out a form to read this.

05 October 2009

For Las Vegans

This weekend brought a reunion of many sorts, fueled by a Saturday night show of reunited Seattle hardcore bands. There were so many familiar faces in the crowd and so many awesome memories of music and hanging out and falling in love (this is the scene that united Nate and I in the first place).

Also, so many memories of how to keep vegans from going hungry.

A tenet of the straightedge scene, in which I spent most of my late-teenage years enmeshed, is vegetarianism. Nearly everyone I knew back then was vegetarian or vegan. I myself didn't give up all meat until college (and have since reintroduced fish, dubbing me a "vegaquarian"), but during that era, the majority of my friends shunned meats and cheeses and eggs and dairy. I counted some of these folks among my finest friends, so I quickly learned to adapt recipes (applesauce for eggs, soymilk for cowmilk, oil for butter, and so on).

While it wasn't ever too difficult to eat (even in large crowds, on a strict after-school-job budget), being vegan now must be wicked easy in comparison. It's especially simple to fill a grocery cart, and a stomach, with veg selections from stores like PCC or Whole Foods. But now there are also a multitude of soy-based "meats," a wide selection of faux cheeses, and a swath of desserts to be found even in mainstream grocery stores.

Anyhow, a couple friends, one of whom is vegan, came into town for the reunion weekend, prompting me with some homework. I won't lie - this gave me a great excuse to drum up a list of veg-friendly restaurants to scope out. We ran out of time to try most of the places on my list (there are only so many meals in a weekend), but we did hit up a few highs and lows.

We ate a great brunch at Cafe Flora -- a classic (and probably my favorite restaurant -- vegetarian or otherwise -- in the city). There, I finally tested Cafe Flora's vegan cinnamon rolls, which were a hit (and didn't seem lacking in the least, even without swimming in cream and butter).

We also finally ventured to Teapot on Cap Hill. People have been telling me for ages that this is the best vegetarian restaurant in town. I have to resolutely disagree. Our almond "chicken" was more than mild -- flat, even, in a sea of pale, barely nutty faux gravy. The drunken tofu pot held an interesting mix of textures and colors, but again was as bland as our side of unbuttered brown rice. The restaurant's signature "jewel box" was tasty - chunks of zucchini and cashew resting in a hand-made box that looked forged out of seaweed - but it didn't make up for the rest of what was a disappointingly drab dining experience.

I think we should have gone to Plum Bistro, instead. Next time.

I didn't hit up the store with them, but my friends visited Sidecar, an all-vegan store on the Ave, and brought home a bag full of vegan goodies, including a new widely touted cheese product called Daiya that I'll need to try. There's also some soy-based ice cream sitting in my freezer waiting for a taste; I'm quite sure it'll be much better than the old staple of Mocha Mix ice cream we used to devour. (Incidentally, next to Sidecar is a vegan pizzeria that also sounds promising.)

I didn't get a chance to cook for the lads, but had I, I'd have made my favorite tortilla soup (sans sour cream; add faux cheese). Another for next time!

All in all, it was an awesome weekend that showed me how much has changed (recipes, dining options) and how much has stayed the same (especially the love for all my old friends).

25 September 2009

A Steal of a Deal

Woot! Urban Eats starts next week -- 3 courses for 30 bones. Anyone wanna join me?

24 September 2009

The Return of the Speakeasy

I wrote a few weeks ago about the opening of Tavern Law, a new speakeasy-type bar nestled into an inconspicuous shopfront.

Today's Seattle Times has a great article on the joint, as well as a listing of some other "undercover" bars around town. The irony isn't lost on me - giving press to these faux speakeasies, when real Prohibition-era speakeasies could never have survived a day had they been outed. But, it's good to have a handy guide of where to go for a classic, throwback drink.

I also learned about a bar-goers holiday that I'd never known about - December 5th, the day Prohibition ended in 1933. Perhaps I'll partake this year in tribute. That is the weekend of my birthday, after all - sounds like a fun way to celebrate! I see a theme-party coming on...

23 September 2009

The Holy Grail of Soups

From the very first time I visited Eugene, OR on my college-scouting mission, I knew I'd end up in school there. Sure, the town was cute and not too far from home. Yes, I had family living there, which made it feel not so lonely. The college itself was pretty great as well. But it was the tomato-cheese soup that sealed the deal.

Just off campus from the U. of Oregon sits an inconspicuous old home converted into a restaurant, sandwiched between a sorority house and a 7-11. It's really unassuming, yet is always jam-packed with students and town-dwellers waiting in line for a seat while discussing the latest Ducks game, or crowding around a table full of coffee-cups and intense, eager-freshman existential debate.

To be frank, alot of the food is quite mediocre. It gets the job done -- relatively cheaply and with large portions to boot. But overall, most of us could whip up a garden burger slathered in avocado and mayo, or a scramble of sun dried tomatoes/feta/and spinach.

But that tomato-cheese soup, oh my! It seems so simple - a tangy tomato base flecked with ribbons of basil or an occasional whole bay leaf. There's a tinge of fresh-pureed-tomato texture, though it's not at all what I'd call chunky. Except for the strips of cheese, this soup doesn't have a lot of texture. Yes, the cheese has a toothsome bite - it doesn't go all melty once it hits the hot soup. This fact -- that cheese -- kept me up at night for many an evening in Eugene (well, that and the 20-course-hour load of homework and a healthy tendency toward being a night owl). How does it stay intact?

Last weekend, my guy and I took a roadtrip back to Eugene to watch the Ducks vs the Utes and drum up a little nostalgia. We met up with another alumna friend of mine for the game as well as a post-victory stop at the Glenwood. (We actually went for breakfast, too, but I didn't get my soup so had to hit up the cafe again before leaving town.) The same mystery prevailed: That darn cheese was not melted. It swam daintily alongside the herbs in a pool of tomato bliss. In shreds.

It's driving me crazy.

So, I am taking the mystery to the blogosphere. If anyone out there can help me sort out this quandary -- better yet, provide me with the recipe, I may actually, finally get some sleep.

21 September 2009

Skillet St. Finally Vegetarian-Friendly?

Just a quickie here to tell you that it looks like Skillet St. Food has finally recognized that Seattle is a vegetarian-friendly place - and created their own veggie burger. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to Skillet with hopes of eating, only to have them dashed when all that's being served up is meat, meat, meat.

The new burger features a delish-sounding concoction of toppings: mushroom jam + arugula + cambazola atop a buttered Macrina soft roll. It's set to debut this week; perhaps my guy and I will check it out on Sunday pre-Seahawks game.

06 September 2009

Colville St. Patisserie

Enjoying a lovely Sunday a.m. Americano and peach brioche at Colville St Patisserie. The food in Walla Walla is amazing! A true oasis.

05 September 2009

Creek Town Cafe

May have died and gone to heaven surrounded in anise-sherry cream sauce over crab canneloni at creek town cafe in walla walla.

03 September 2009

Lining the Shelves

This weekend marks the six-year anniversary of when we officially moved in to our little abode north of Greenlake. Part of the reason that we bought a house in the first place, so goes the joke between my husband and I, was so that we'd never have to move again. All the sorting, packing, lifting, re-sorting, unpacking -- it's just too much.

Especially when one has an overflowing heap of kitchen gadgets, place-settings for three average-size families, and enough cookbooks to start a small food-only themed library.

As books go, I've always loved keeping them around. Scan the multitude of shelves in our house and you'll find remnants from school days (journalism and history text books intermingling with Dickens and Plato), legions of photo-rich travel guides, biographies in homage to many of our favorite bands (I count at least 4 on The Who alone), an entire shelf dedicated to writing and reference books for our home-office, and scores of tattered, trendy novels, flaunting their pool-side warp.

But it's the cookbooks that get me really riled up. When we remodeled our dainty kitchen a few years back, a built-in to house the cookbooks was a critical piece of the design (that and the built-in wine rack, but I digress...).

Today, those three dedicated shelves on the corner by the stove are tightly lined with colorful cooking guides of all shapes and sizes.

I try to keep some semblance of order to them, grouping like with like. Retro pie books (2) sit together on the top shelf next to a host of breakfast guides adjacent to the Spanish tapas book I picked up in Seville which rests alongside a leather-bound gentleman's cocktail guide from Restoration Hardware. (Ok, so it's possible the order doesn't make all that much sense.)

The next shelf down rests my go-to collection: The first-ever cookbook I received at approximately age 6 (which I still consult when making apple crisp). A bound collection of my family's best recipes (Every Christmas, mom adds to this collection, typing the best finds from that year and printing up copies for each of us to insert to our binder. It's hands-down the best gift every holiday.). The best vegetarian cookbook I've ever found, given to me by my college roommate during the first year we shared an apartment. Of course, Joy of Cooking.

The bottom shelf houses the over-sized gems: a hardbound copy of Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef, signed by the chap himself (swoon!); the Zuni Cafe book I've read cover-to-cover but haven't yet attempted to cook from; the hefty Vegetable "bible" my aunt gave me when I announced my vegetarianism; a profoundly detailed Baking Illustrated guide from the geniuses at Cook's Illustrated magazine (actually a gift to my husband, the baker, but I peek at it!); Cafe Flora's own tome; and a well-loved Sunset Cook Book for Entertaining from 1968 that contains my secret sangria recipe (guess the secret's out). I haven't even begun to tell you about the scores of Food + Wine magazines stashed beneath our bed.

Sometimes I sit, cross-legged on the linoleum floor, in front of the shelf and gaze at them, occasionally pulling out a book or two to flip through for inspiration. Or I just look at the pictures and imagine the feasts I could make. Or I reminisce about the memories -- where I first tasted a dish, where I picked up the book, the smell of that pie baking in the oven. And sometimes, like today, I begin leafing through the shelves, selecting a book here, a book there, piling one atop each other on the floor next to me until it's nearly half my seated height.

Today's stated goal was to devise a menu for a Monday-night dinner party, in belated observance of a dear friend's birthday. It's turned into me sitting amongst towers of books from all eras, lustily thumbing through the pages, dog-earing corners and sticking in tufts of scrap paper as a reminder. I can't imagine a better way to savor the morning. I'm so glad to have lugged all of these books around with me, all these years.

27 August 2009

Roosevelt Ale House is in the house!

So excited! The newly renovated space at 88th and Roosevelt is finally open! It used to be The Jones, which was tasty if pricey. For the past several weeks, mass construction has been happening -- lots of seats and tables and etc sitting on the front patio instead of patrons sipping drinks. The curiosity has been killing me!

Finally, a week or so ago, the haunt's new sign went up, confirming the rumor that this spot will now be known as the Roosevelt Ale House. (I think the Ale House has the same owners as The Jones, just a new name/face lift. This could be a very wise move, helping people continue to patronize local joints but not with such a steep bill at the end of the night.)

I'm so excited to have another pub-style place in the 'hood that hopefully will have faster service than, ahem, its competitor. We'll be trying it tomorrow with some fellow Maple Leafers so I'll keep you posted. Hooray!

Food & Drink Oregon Internship -- How to Decide?

I just received info about this contest from Alaska/Horizon airlines in my inbox. How to decide which to enter? Cheese & chocolate making sounds great... as does wine or spirit-making...Decisions!

25 August 2009

Summer's Swan Song: Fresh Corn Chowder

Yesterday might have been it. The sun shone brightly, the warmth creeping across my face as it streamed through the windows. Fresh corn sat on the counter. But there was a tinge in the air of things to come -- fall, specifically.

All good things have to come to an end, but it pains me nonetheless to see summer go until next year. Especially this one. It's been a doozy.

The one bright spot of the turn to fall is that fresh corn -- growing earnestly all season long on its stalks -- is now ripe and sweet and ready for enjoyment.

And enjoy it we did in this fresh-corn chowder recipe. It was absolutely smashing -- a perfect combo of sweet (I didn't char the corn, as I wanted to retain the kernels' sugars), a hint of spice (I used dashes of hotsauce rather than those fiery chipotles in adobo), and a more than pleasing texture (crisp, bursting nuggets of corn encased in a creamy, comfort-food stew). (Oh, for anyone veggie out there wondering about the bacon, Morningstar's faux bacon is a wonderful substitute!)

If summer's going to go, I want to send it off with a bowl of this chowder.

24 August 2009

Dining Out Delights: Tavern Law + Oddfellows

This Friday, I finally checked some places off the list that I'd been wanting to visit for some time.

The night began with a gamble: My cohorts and I wanted to explore the throwback bar Tavern Law--on opening night, no less. In a pleasant surprise, we got in straightaway (this was before 7 pm; by the time we shuffled out after 8, the place was getting packed).

I dug the vintage vibe and retro decor, especially the hidden upstairs room that made me feel like a 1930s girl in a speakeasy -- but much, much classier. Before taking us up the secret staircase, the hostess picked up a phone next to the stairwell to alert the barkeep at the top. I thought this a charming -- and practical -- touch. By the time we ascended the stairs (paneled in wood, decorated with old nudey-girl pictures), our seats were ready. As we sat sipping our cocktails, the retro wall phone chirped occasionally, the vest-wearing bartender peeking around the intimate room to see if any tables had freed for new guests. All very sophisticated.

The difference between the two storeys is in the menu: Downstairs you can order off the full menu (including nibbles) + partake of Tavern Law's recipes of signature drinks. Upstairs, there's nary a menu in sight. (No food, either, though on Friday the table next to us was feasting on a smorgasbord... I'm quite sure they were in the inner VIP circle.) To order a drink -- made of top-shelf liquors -- is a delicate dance between customer and waiter. I told the waitress that I was a gin gal, and she proffered up a couple of suggestions from her cheat sheet. We landed on a potion of gin + Lillet + a citrus twist, poured into an old-school champagne goblet that had first been washed with absinthe. The result was slightly sweet and tart; not at all 'foofy' yet very sexy. A perfect aperitif.

Next up, we strolled up to Oddfellows Cafe and Bar, one of the latest in Linda Derschang's empire. Not to play up the name too much, but it was rather odd to be in this space...A decade-plus ago, this was the setting for many post-punk/hardcore shows. I hold dearly in my memory the night I saw Treepeople play to maybe a couple hundred eager fans in this hall. Now, any rock-band sightings would be diners (or maybe servers).

The space is open, almost cafeteria-like, and casual-cool in the way Linda does best. We started off with some low-cost beverages (another staple in Linda's repertoire) and ordered a few items to taste off the menu. The tuna tartine sandwich was rather plain (tasty, mind you - just not anything out of the ordinary); the roasted-beet salad similar. No real complaints here, as the prices were more than fair. The only disappointment was dessert: We shared two (pictured above) -- a s'more concoction (brownie-like) and one of the house-made puddings (almond and berry). Both were dry and dull. I'd much recommend walking around the corner to the newly opened Molly Moon's ice-creamery instead.

17 August 2009

An Abundance of Cukes and Zukes! Zucchini and Fennel Gratin + Cucumber Collins

Right about now, I'm considering myself an especially lucky gal. My veggie garden consists of only one tomato plant (which has produced two - count 'em) toms to enjoy. But the crisper drawer in the fridge is overflowing with gifts from gardener friends. Green beans. Tiny onions. Fresh carrots. An abundance of cucumbers and zucchini.

This weekend, my dear friend Rebecca added an interesting item to the mix - a heady bulb of fennel. The smell alone was intoxicating, as was the question of what do do with it.

I thumbed through my go-to cooking bible (no, you don't need to call me Julie -- my resources is Joy of Cooking, not MtAoFC as Julie Powell dubs Julia Child's tome) to sort out what to do with this fennel. I'd envisioned something braised or roasted.

On the first page of fennel recipes, something caught my eye -- something that could use multiple veggies that spilled out of the crisper: Zucchini and Fennel Gratin. I scanned through the list of ingredients, and lo and behold, I had everything on-hand. Kismet!

So Monday after I closed the dayjob, I got to work on the food-job. It didn't take long to slice and dice the fennel (cleaning out its sandy layers - akin to the dirt that clings to the layers in leeks). I chopped some onion and set it to work sauteing with the fennel.
One word of warning - the recipe says to cook the fennel & onion mixture at as low heat as possible. My stove was on "low" and the mixture still seemed to brown too fast -- it could be because I had it on medium for the first 7 minutes or it could just be that my electric stovetop doesn't go as low as the recipe's writer intended (perhaps a gas stove would be more precise).

On to the sliced zucchini, paper-thin and sauteed on high for a few minutes to brown. This may be another spot where I went wrong. After the zucchini cooked, I set it aside as the recipe directed. But I filled a cereal-bowl with the warm veggies and let it sit until I needed it a good 60 minutes later; I think I should have waited to cook the zuke until closer to assembly time -- or, at minimum, spread the layers of cooked veggie onto a plate or baking sheet to stop the cooking. It turned a little soggy...

After removing the zucchini, I reused the same pan to cook some freshly chopped tomatoes - a couple borrowed from mom's garden! - with a taste of salt and pepper. I was happy to scoop the fresh tomato sauce atop the gratin at the end; otherwise this would've been a very green dish.

At this point, I realized that a cucumber Collins would complement this side-dish nicely. It is easy-peasy to make, and is yet another item that I must credit to Rebecca! For each drink, simply muddle a handful of cucumber slices (about 5) and add to a standard Tom Collins recipe. Or, if you're like me and don't have everything on hand (ahem, lemons), improvise! I made mine from 2 oz. Sapphire gin, 1/2 oz. simple syrup - always on hand in my fridge and ridiculously simple to make, and a splash of organic lime juice. Shake it up with the muddled cukes and strain into a glass, then top with lemon Perrier and a slice of cucumber for garnish.

As I tasted the fennel-onion mixture in preparation for assembly of the gratin, I realized I wanted it to be a tad sweeter. So I added a splash of vermouth. (Yes, I have vermouth on hand, but no fresh lemons for my drink. Go figure.) That must've been Julia speaking after all.

All in all, the recipe fell flat. The flavors were great, but the textures - not so much. Next time I'd definitely be careful about the cooked zucchini (I'd even suggest broiling it off the bat, rather than sauteing). I'd also add something with a bit more bite to the gratin - something crisp and crunchy, like those crispy canned onions that were so prevalent in the 80s. Fortunately, the Collins turned out just swell, letting me enjoy the feast of veggies if only in liquid form.

14 August 2009

15th Ave Coffee and Tea - Starbucks, transformed

Sitting here at the newly revamped "15th Ave Coffee & Tea" in Cap Hill. This is the former site of a traditional Starbucks (a store at which my guy worked for a number of months, in fact).

The place has been transformed into an independent coffee house style joint. No Sbux logos anywhere, for example. Varietal, artisan offerings (coffee & pastry). And there's even wine/beer - something I plan to sample later this afternoon once the workday winds down.

Haters had a lot to say before this place opened, but it is fabulous (and packed). My handcrafted cappuccino (made with Yirgacheffe instead of Espresso) is delightful, not to mention beautiful -- as was the almond-paste extra hefty piece of toast (devoured).

And there's free wi-fi (Finally "Starbucks" has learned that this was a way to keep people in-store. I've already had 2 beverages...).

This may well become my new Friday workspot!

11 August 2009

Just drove past a new Ezell's chicken in Shoreline. Oprah will be pleased.

05 August 2009

Drooling over the "Top Chef Masters" vegan concoctions for Zoe Deschanel. Am now so hungry and want them to come to cook at my house!

02 August 2009

Just OD'd at the Theo Chocolate Factory. If you go, sample the coconut curry choc & "big daddy" bar. More to come after I have some sustenance to offset sugar!

27 July 2009

If You Can't Take the Heat...

Stay out of the kitchen! That's the old adage, which I plan to highly subscribe to this week as temps soar above the 90s in Seattle for 5+ days. We're not a city known for our heat, which means we are not prepared (A/C is more scarce here than sunshine in January). No cooking will be done in this retro-throwback cocina this week.

Fortunately, Nate's fabu sister, ElFab, is visiting this week. She's my partner in crime when it comes to dallying about town, scouring for great dining and deals. I've already got a list going of the places we'll go and see. Now, how to cram this many meals into the week?

Molly Moon's
Red Mango
Cafe Flora
Rancho Bravo
Duke's Chowder House
15th Ave. Coffee & Tea
Theo Chocolate
Update! Just learned that Brandon Pettit's Delancey pizzeria may open very, very, very soon! Definitely added to the list!

If we get wacky, we may even make some Tipsy Mud Pie...no cooking needed for that one.

21 July 2009

Salmon Patties: Not Just for Burgers

I made a visit to the wallet-emptier store this weekend (no, not Target...though anytime I enter that haven, I come out $50 lighter). This time I mean Costco. I walked in hungry -- never a smart move.

I walked out with many random (yet tasty) treats, including a 12-pack of salmon burgers. This is actually the only item I went in searching for. I've had them many a time on a bun, and boy howdy! They are delicious.

On Monday night, I was looking for another way to wolf one of these bad boys down, but I didn't want another burger. Instead, I used the salmon patty as the basis for a simple pesto pasta. The result was wonderful!

I'd made some basil pesto late last week, which needed to be used. So I cooked up some rotini and tossed with with the pesto. Simultaneously, I sauteed a salmon burger, then sliced it into 1/2-inch strips and layered it atop the pasta. Voila!

17 July 2009

Cupcake Royale v 2.0: The Verdict

Sitting here at the Ballard Cupcake Royale and happy to report that Sue McCown's revamped cake recipe is indeed a success! This little baby cake (strawberry shortcake) is indeed moister, tastier, and much happier than previous versions of the cake. I guess now I can't refer to Royale as "the other cupcake place in town" anymore.

13 July 2009

Fresh Oregon Berry Pie

This weekend was all about the berries. Loads and loads of them, in fact. My dear college friend Becky was in town and had graciously offered to pick up Oregon berries on her way out of town for all of us living one state north. I placed my order for a flat of marionberries, anxiously anticipating a pie's worth. What I got was two pies' worth, stained fingers, and a couple of bellyaches from overindulgence.

When Beck arrived with the berries, I thought surely she was mistaken -- I had expected only about half the amount. She had also anticipated my error, and rather than bringing a full flat of marionberries, she picked out a half-flat of marions plus a variety for the other half, including delicate blueberries, mondo blackberries, sweeter-than-sweet raspberries, and unusual tayberries. Behold:

My eyes ogled the heaps of fruit. What in Martha Stewart's name was I going to *do* with all this fruit? I gingerly transported my loot home, spilling only a half-pint of blackberries in the open trunk of my SUV (I think a few may still be rolling around...), and I got to work. Plopped on the couch with a stack of vintage pie cookbooks, Joy of Cooking, and my binder of family recipes, I scoured through the listings for ideas.

What emerged from the pack was the simplest recipe - simple both in flavor as well as execution; perhaps the origin of the phrase "easy as pie." It's a blissfully benign mixture of a pre-baked pie shell mounded with fresh berries and a couple thin layers of cooked berry puree/sugar/cornstarch to act as the glue. Joy of Cooking dubs this "Fresh Strawberry (Or Raspberry) Pie" but I think you could substitute any fresh berry (or a combo) depending on what you have on hand. As Joy says, "This is only as good as the berries you start with."

It was so good, I made another this morning before I started my workday -- I'll take it to Family Dinner Night tonight in honor of Shelby's and my mom's July birthdays. It was also so good, I had a slice for breakfast...

Fresh Berry Pie - adapted from Joy of Cooking:
9" baked pie shell (see below)
6 c. unrinsed fresh berries, picked over (I used approx 5 c. marionberries + 1 c. raspberries; a few tayberries thrown in for kicks)
1 c. organic sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. salted butter, cut into slivers

-Do not wash marion-, rasp-, or tayberries. The excess water will mar the final outcome of your pie, rendering it soupy.
-Measure 4 c. of berries and set aside.
-Puree the remaining 2 c. of berries (a food processor works wonders); set aside.
-In a medium saucepan (under no heat just yet!), whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until blended.
-Now whisk in the water, and then stir in the pureed berries.
-Turn on the heat, medium to start. Stir in the lemon juice and slivers of butter.
-Whisk constantly, and bring the mixture to a simmer (medium heat). Really, keep stirring! You don't want the jammy mixture to cook too soon, scorching the bottom layer. You also don't want to have the heat up too high, or it'll bubble up and possibly burn you. Cook for 1 minute until thickened. The consistency is like a pliable, pourable jam.
-Gently shake half of the reserved fresh berries into the pie pan, arranging a uniform layer. Pour half the hot berry jam atop; shake the pie pan ever-so-gently to let the jam slip into the cracks. Cover with remaining berries and pour/spoon the remaining jam atop to cover and coat evenly.
-Place the steaming-hot pie into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set. Serve cold the day it's made with a nice steaming cup of coffee. Breakfast is the best time for this, in my opinion.

Easy-as-Pie Crust (aka Incredible Pie Crust!) - from mom. (Makes 2 8" crusts; can be stretched to make 2 9" crusts)
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
scant 2/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. cold water
medium-sized Tupperware-type bowl with lid

Place the flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl; stir to blend. Add the oil and water. Put on the lid (tightly!) and shake 5-6 times. You want to shake the bowl with a floor-to-ceiling motion. Remove the lid, and like magic the dough is ready to roll. (You may want to stir a few more times using your hands to pick up any remaining crumbs that didn't form into the ball of dough.)

Divide the dough in 2 pieces. Place each one before layers of waxed paper (cut to 9" square) and roll to size. Gently peel back the top layer of waxed paper; flip (dough-side down) over the top of a pie pin and let the dough fill the pan. Gently peel back the waxed paper. Along the rim of the pie pan, gently roll the dough under itself to hide any ragged edges.

Artfully "flute" the pie crust edges with your fingers. Use left hand's index and middle fingers to form an upside down "v"; press these fingers into the dough/side of the pan to make an indentation. Now, "v" still in place, take the right hand's index finger and insert it to the base of the "v" and gently tug dough away from the pie pan's side to flute the edges.

Too much work? Just plop the dough into the pan, letting it fall as it may, and label it "rustic"!

To bake: Preheat oven to 425. Prick the bottom and sides of your dough thoroughly with a fork (about 40 times; that is thoroughly!). This prevents shrinkage/puffing up. Bake 10-15 minutes or until just golden. Let cool.

06 July 2009

Mobile post - feta/tomato salad

Just had a divinely simple yet tasty warm tomato/feta salad -- and Nate cooked! Will post recipe stat!

Salmon + Feta/Caper/Tomato salad

I was already thinking about dinner and it was still hours away... Actually, I'd been thinking about this meal since I embarked on a recipe-organizing project a few weeks ago and stumbled across an old favorite.

(As an aside, take my mother's sage advice about 'organizing' recipes. Actually, for this, and numerous other, reasons - mothers have the best advice! Back to the recipes: If you ever decide it's time to re-categorize or re-file your stash of recipes, think again. My mother did this a few years ago, and swears she should have stuck to her old filing method because she's never been able to locate old standby recipes under the new system. I feel a similar pain whenever I take my favorite recipes out of the heap of paper that sits in my kitchen and try to file them in notebooks...otherwise known as the great black hole.)

The recipe, which came from my friend Allison way back in 2003, oozes with simplicity and big, boisterous flavors -- a perfect combo, in my book. It starts with a simple yet well seasoned slab of fish. Choose your favorite. We made salmon last night, but halibut would also go nicely. Season it up with dabs of butter and a heavy-hand of lemon pepper (my go-to ingredient of choice. I use it on everything!). Lay it on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 425 until cooked to your preference. Approx 8-10 mins. for every 1" of thickness of your fish.

The side "salad" is the part I'm really excited about. It was even better because it was made for me last night - Nate cooked!!! It starts with a tangy hunk of feta (not the crumbled kind), sliced into individual serving sizes (think the size of a large pink eraser - another of my faves!). Bread and saute that up and lay the melted gooey goodness atop the already-assembled mix of blanched green beans, thyme-seasoned sliced tomatoes, and baby greens. Drizzle with a lemon/pepper/olive oil/caper dressing and you're good to go.

Enjoy - perhaps with a glass of Pinot Noir (I recommend Castle Rock -- we had it at our wedding!) or Rose (This summer, I fell absolutely in love with this Sleight of Hand vintage; get your hands on a bottle if you still can)!

Full recipe:
Pan-Grilled Tomato and Feta Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing - serves 6
For the dressing:
5 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tsp capers, rinsed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Combine oil/juice in a jar and shake vigorously (or whisk it in a small bowl, as I'm prone to do). Stir in capers and parsley and set aside.

For the "salad":
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
1 4-oz hunk of Feta (not crumbled); you could also use Fontina here
3 large slicing tomatoes, cut into 3/4" thick slices
1 Tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
1 bunch arugula or 1 bag mixed greens
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
2 tsp olive oil

-First, clean and blanch your beans. (Boil a pot of water, perhaps with some salt added; drop in the green beans to cook until just tender but still a verdant green -- probably about 5 minutes. They should still have a bit of crispness to them when you taste a sample. Drain and rinse with cold water, or plunge in an ice bath, to stop the cooking.) Set aside.
-Cut up the feta into 4 slices; drain on paper towels.
-Heat a nonstick skillet over medium. Sprinkle tomato slices with thyme, salt, and pepper; place in skillet and cook until lightly browned on each side (about a minute per side).
-Arrange your greens on a plate. Place tomato slices on each plate along with green beans. Get creative with your design.
-Now comes the trickiest part -- coat the feta in bread crumbs, add oil to the skillet, and brown the cheese on both sides. It should be approx 2 mins per side. I say this is the tricky part because in my experience the cheese has never truly stayed intact as a slab... it usually turns into a gooey/crispy pile of browned cheese. I never worry about this because it tastes delicious - but be prepared. Perfection is probably not possible here. :)
-Add the cheese to your salad plates, perhaps alongside or atop the vegetables depending on your feeling for 'wilted greens.' Drizzle with dressing and serve.

26 June 2009

Fruit Salad Friday!

Every Friday of late, Nate's taken to concocting a simple pleasure - fruit salad. He dubs this "Fruit Salad Friday." (As an aside, I call this day "Vinyl Friday" because I always start the weekend with a spin or two of some of my favorite LPs in the late afternoon.)

Anyway, back to the salad. It's so simple, yet so perfect -- bite-sized chunks of crisp apple and chops of soft pear, tangled together. Canned mandarins make for a nice all-weather staple (They're also a bit of an obsession of mine - as a kid, I once asked for, and received, a can for my birthday). Today's salad took a special turn with the addition of home-grown raspberries. A bounty of them, in fact.

Sometimes we top plain yogurt with the fruits, drizzle with honey, and recreate our own Red Mango treat from home.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go flip Off the Wall. (RIP, MJ.)

23 June 2009

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup - An All-Weather Affair

It happened this fall on a cold and blustery evening. Enough was enough. Bastante! I exclaimed. The orange cats scampered from the kitchen as I pounded my fist on the tile counter and vehemently reached toward the mass of cookbooks stacked on the corner shelf.

Vegetarian tortilla soup would be mine.

For years, the tortilla soup craze had gone on around me. I, being a non-chicken eater, was left in the wake. If only I had known it would be darn easy to bridge the gap to a vegetarian version.

Since that night, this spicy, ruddy soup has been a staple in my cocina. The weather hardly matters: This one-pot meal tastes great on a chilly night as well as a sultry summer evening. The bold flavors in the base - tangy tomato and fiery chili pepper - mixed with soothing toppings like sour cream, chunked avocado, and a heap of black beans and rice are atop the near-perfect list for my palate.

My concoction, like so many of my recipes, is an amalgamation of many, joined in the pot. This one calls for a dash of Rachael Ray's 30-minute version, mixed with inspiration from local takeout joint Qdoba, plus a touch of my own cooking style flair. I hope you enjoy.


  • 1 package vegetarian chicken product (Smart Life makes a good option, available in the refrigerator case of many natural grocery stores. I also like Quorn's frozen "chicken tenders" option. Both are pre-chunked and ready to drop in to the pot.)
  • extra virgin olive oil (for sauteing)
  • 1 onion, sliced or diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
  • 4-6 slices of vegetarian bacon (Morningstar), chopped
  • 32 oz. vegetable stock (I prefer Imagine Organic's "No-chicken" broth)
  • 1 c. (approx; to taste) V8 juice
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 large can stewed, diced, or crushed tomatoes (Mexi flavor if they have it at your store)
  • (optional: if you like very spicy dishes, add 1 Tbsp chopped chipotle in adobo, with a dash of the adobo sauce; if you like some heat - but not the kind where smoke comes out your ears - try a dash of hot sauce)
  • (optional: 2-4 Tbsp chili powder; I add this if I have used plain, rather than Mexican flavored, tomatoes)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 2-4 Tbsp. (to taste) cilantro, chopped
  • tortilla chips or fresh tortillas (if using fresh tortillas, cut into strips, line onto a baking pan, and toast gently until crunchy)


  • grated cheese (or soy cheese)
  • sour cream
  • avocado, sliced or in chunks
  • diced red onion
  • salsa
  • black beans (warmed and seasoned); one ice cream scoop's worth is great, per bowl
  • cooked rice; again, one ice cream scoop's worth, per bowl
  • lime wedges
  • chopped cilantro


  • If using frozen "chicken," set on counter to start thawing.
  • Put on an apron. This soup can splatter and stain.
  • In a pre-warmed and oiled soup pot, saute onion until translucent; add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. If using vegetarian bacon, add with the garlic and saute together.
  • Pour in the broth, tomato juice, and tomatoes. Add the bay leaves, chili powder (if using), chipotles/hot sauce (if using), salt & pepper. Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. (At this stage, you can walk away and let this steep. Perhaps, as we do in my house, while "Jeopardy!" is on TV.)
  • Add chicken tenders approx 15-20 minutes before you plan to serve. This gives everything more time to simmer together and flavors to meld.
  • Just before serving, toss chopped cilantro into pot. Let simmer for a couple of minutes - keeping the cilantro a bright green color.
  • Get out your spoon; taste-test and add more salt/pepper/etc as needed.
To serve:
  • Ponder whether you want tortillas on the bottom, or top, of your soup (or both!). Then ladle soup into a large bowl.
  • Add whatever toppings you like. In our house, we like to pile the counter with all the toppings and assemble our own. Get creative!

18 June 2009

San Diego eats

Just had *the most amazing* gnocchi in san diego at Trattoria la Strada. Delectable dumplings in a light creamy tomato sauce. Tiramisu not half bad either!

quick catch-ups

In San Diego frolicking in the sun, so this post will be brief!

Last night I tasted blue crab for the first time (At least that I can recall; it's possible I had it as a child while visiting relatives on the East Coast. Mom can step in and correct me!). Heaped atop a Louie salad, it was, in a word, delicious! Nate even swears this East Coast crab is better than Dungeness... I'm not comfortable denouncing my NW roots just yet, but it was awfully tasty. Big chunks atop a crisp, cold salad of greens, cucumbers, avocado,screams summer -- especially paired with a spiffy, refreshing Rose. Followed by a soft-serve sundae in a plastic, mini Padres ball cap at Petco Park...Stayin' classy in San Diego.

Also, about those Trophy cupcakes I mentioned last week... Finally made it to Trophy Cupcakes in U-Village. Oh my! The shop is dainty and darling, with personality bursting at the seams. Lots of dashing white details; very frilly and feminine. I imagine a typical conversation with the perky staff: "My girlfriend is getting married and I'm throwing her a shower and we simply *must* eat cupcakes off china while sipping tea!" If that's your scenario, go for the triple-coconut cupcake: a base of coconut cake stacked with coconut-infused frosting, and topped with layers of shredded coconut atop. It's like landing on a cloud in Coconut Heaven.

Off to the beach!

11 June 2009

Sauteed and Sweet Brussels Sprouts

I've long thought of Brussels sprouts as a fall food... they're hearty, they're healthy, and, when cooked, they emit an earthy stench common of so many autumn produce staples.

And yet, this spring (creeping quickly into summer), I can't get enough of the little buds.

Growing up, I only knew one way to eat Brussels: steamed whole, with a little lemon juice on top to cut the intensity. That's still a great way to eat 'em--and, truthfully, the more healthy preparation.

But lately, it's all about the chop-and-saute method:

I take a handful of Brussels and chop them roughly (imagine you're slicing a carrot or leek--you want rings of Brussels), about 1/4" thick.

Toss into a pre-warmed/olive-oiled non-stick skillet and cook for approx 5 minutes. Keep it on medium heat to start.

Then get creative with sweeteners (just a touch) and spices. For the sweet, I've tried approx 1 Tbsp of honey or brown sugar, and think the brown sugar wins in flavor. For the spice, I like a dash of nutmeg.

Continue sauteing on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the Brussels give slightly to the touch (prod with a wooden spoon, not your finger, to avoid burns!). Think "al dente" texture for pasta.

Now, add a dash of wine or Marsala (maybe 1/8 C.) and let the alcohol cook off - approx 1-2 minutes. I like the rich flavor given by Marsala.

Season with salt/pepper, and serve.

Tasty as a side dish -- and, while I haven't yet tried it, I imagine this would also be delish when tossed with a whole wheat penne as an all-in-one meal.
Also go experimental with add-ins, like chopped pistachios, slivered almonds, or dried cranberries or raisins. Num!
(photo from Wikipedia)

10 June 2009

New Trophy Cupcakes locale - U.Village

It is with great excitement that I report the following: Trophy Cupcakes will finally open their new U-Village location tomorrow!

Festivities run throughout the day, with promises of a shop stacked full to the brim with the little cups of heaven. I didn't see anything about freebies, but I can't imagine they won't offer samples.

My husband is constantly baffled by how I, a non-cake-liker, can be so smitten with cupcakes. It all has to do with the ratio, my friends -- more frosting to cake = happiness for this gal. Plus, they're more moist. And there's that cuteness factor.

Trophy specializes in rich, creamy frosting and moist cakes of seasonal, spectacular flavors. (During Cinco de Mayo week, Trophy made a margarita flavor. It sounds odd, but trust me. The tart lime meets creamy, sweet frosting -- dusted with the slightest hint of salt for authenticity -- was divine. They also offered a wonderfully spicy Mexican hot cocoa flavor that week, which I guzzled in 2 bites flat.)
Some say the frosting is too sweet, but I'm willing to take my chances knowing the cake itself is so moist.

I plan to swing by U-V on my way home from work tomorrow to try this pineapple-upside-down flavor made especially for the opening.
(photo from Trophy's website)

09 June 2009

Gourmet Smores

Still thinking about those gourmet smores from this weekend's campout. Toffee chocolate was a bit too rich; added raspberries to the classic setup just divine. Mad props to Lys for the idea!