Saturday, December 27, 2008

quince parfait, seattle snow job and more

I have neglected you little blog, through the holidays, but I've been busy cooking and eating. Time for catch up in list form:

1) I returned home from a trip with over 6# or quince, so after they scented my fridge with the most mouthwatering smell (I do suggest using a quince over baking soda!), I peeled, cored and cooked them to soft perfection in sugar syrup (1:1, water:sugar or honey), strained that off and reserved it for later, cooked the quince down to mush and pureed it. Then there sits the quince paste in the fridge, waiting to be spread on rosemary toast and made into QUINCE PARFAIT. To be fair it's bastardized version of a dessert in a Gerard Hirigoyen cookbook- The Basque Kitchen.

Dunk ladyfingers in the quince syrup very briefly (you could add a little dessert white wine to the syrup to give the dish kick) and put down a single layer in a ramekin, layer on quince paste, repeat and then top with a mixture of barely sweetened goat cheese and heavy cream (it should be the consistency of think oatmeal), Then top that with caramelized pinenuts. To pretty it up when you serve it, sprinkle a little powdered sugar.

2) That leftover quince syrup is delicious mixed with Rye Whiskey and serve on the rocks in a highball... start at 1:1 and then let the booze and the sweet duke it out according to your palate. We found the ptcher of the stuff jelled up, so I cut the drinks with a tad of citrus to thin. I used orange, lemon and lime juice all separately with equally delicious results.

3) Speaking of drinks, I invented another one- THE SEATTLE SNOW JOB, in honor of our recent, brief Ice Age. It sounds very much like we're about to move overseas, can't take our booze with us and are getting very creative with our cocktails... well, that's how it happens isn't it?
Seattle Snow Job
1 oz Orange Rhum or Brandy
1 oz Plum Eau de Vie (Clear Creek Distillery Mirabelle is what I used)
1 oz Benedictine
.5 oz Almond Syrup
1.25 oz heavy cream

Shake copiously with ice and serve up. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg or grated, toasted almond. Repeat for extra cheer.

4) Remember that Lamb I had to butcher in our sink? Well, with Sean gone to London last week, and him being the primary lamb vetoer, I decided to defrost that neck and make some stew, which became Lamb Tagine due to the excessive amount of prune, date and onion I had in the pantry. Plus it didn't hurt that I have homemade Ras al Hanout on the spice rack and I don't plan to move my spices either. So Lamb Tagine over cous cous was on the menu for Emily and I for a delicious lunch the day after my brilliant idea. It was delicious. My only regret was taht I didn't add any pepper to make it more spanky. Of well, there are many lambs in my future.

5) We had an excellent grass fed, Oregon beef standing rib roast for Christmas. I would go out on a limb and say it was the best standing rib roast I have ever had. Not the beef from Whole Foods we had last year which made me frown and shae my fist at those Whole Foods bastards; this was tender and flavorful and the crust was amazing (a mixture of rosemary, fresh black pepper and Maldon Sea Salt, all mixed up with dijon mustard and slathered on think just before searing in a super hot oven). Maybe the new stove made a difference, too.

6) Of course the best part of prime rib is the sandwiches made from the leftovers. Okay, maybe we don't have to say what the best part is, but if I made a prime rib and didn't have leftovers like this, I would be reduced to tears...
I took a roasted garlic loaf from La Brea Bakery, cut it in half horizontally, cored out he soft stuff and filled it with Eggplant braised with Tomato and Chili Pepper, mayo and thin slices of the prime rib. Ate them a few hours later on the road. Perfection.

7) Holiday baking and Holiday Bacon! Mustard Seed and Cheddar Crackers in abundance chez nous, Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies filled with Ginger Jam, Gingerbread Reindeer, Cinnamon Chocolate Eggnog and of course, some bacon from Monteillet!

Okay, gotta go out there and eat some more food, we're in Portland after all! At the vey least I'm having some canelles from Ken's Artisan Bakery.
Eat well!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Department of Food and delicious quince

I just got an email from a good chef friend in SF linking me to a very good Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, which had me whooping along in agreement by the end:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/11/opinion/11kristof.html?_r=1&em

Please read it and if you agree think about signing that petition...

Not since Carter did I feel so hopeful (okay, I was only 10 by the time his presidency ended, but he is the only Prez to get the nobel peace prize after all) about a president and therefore about our ability to be involved in what goes on in Washington.

Wouldn't it be great to see less money going to the production of high fructose corn syrup and other things on labels that make me put foods back on the shelves and make it myself (not that you could stop me from cooking).

Just one fun note/suggestion: maybe they could call this person the Food Czar?

Okay, now off my soap box and onto the food.

I spoke with my friend Matthew last night about a delicious cocktail he made using poaching syrup he had cooked some quince in. What he made the quince into is a whole other mouthwatering topic... I just happened to have a 6 pound bag of quince in the fridge, brought back fresh from Dayton after Thanksgiving. So now I have my own quart of poaching syrup, ready for the bottle of Rye and some curious drinkers at the ready. Perhaps Matthew, you could send me some more specifics on the drink.

One more thing I'm eating these days- Cuban Roast sandwich and corn from Paseo. I will miss these in London.

That's all for today. I'll post the skinny on that quince again soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

what I've been eating





Well, all that frenzy at first and then just no posts for almost a month. But what a month. Confirmation we'll be moving to London for a few years (more on that later), colds all around for everyone, a trip out to Waitsburg/Walla Walla/Dayton/Milton Freewater for Thanksgiving... So now in the spirit of catching up, and en homage to Nick Hornby's regular "What I'm Reading" column in the Believer, here's an overview of what's been in our fridge, cooked in our oven, seared on our stovetop, purchased in restaurants and on the street, etc etc etc.

1. Freshest of the fresh lamb. From our friend's farm out in Dayton- Monteillet. Sure they make the best cheese I've ever had in the US, but they also raise animals for meat. And what wonderful meat. Joan called me on a Monday and by that night I had a group of us putting in a very hefty order. One whole lamb, 4 pork shoulders, 5 chickens, some eggs and pounds and pounds of cheese later, I'm out in front of Tilth in Wallingford transferring food from cooler to cooler, money changing hands under the cover of night. Such a wholesome activity, but something felt very sneaky about it all, like we were in on some kind of secret no one else was to know. Of course, that small group of us got in on some things you can only get in some of the nicer restaurants in Seattle get, the ones who are committed to local eating. Final page in this story comes with a picture. I got home and pulled out the lamb for divying and lo and behold it was in only 3 pieces. So I had to polish up on butchering 101, using my sterilized sink as a prep area and very happily carving with my boning knife. I managed to make sense of it all, the ribs, the saddle, the shanks, etc...
2. Handmade Buckwheat Noodles with Preserved Gourd and soft Tofu. Topped with that lovely bright red Korean Hot Pepper paste or Ponzu or those crazy msg laden nori/bonito/sesame seed packets they make in Japan.
3. Well, it's a drink, but Presbyterians.
4. Petit Noirs confections, far more caffeine and sugar than I should have at night. I should curse Lan for being so dang talented but instead I praise her highly. Best toffee I've ever had in my life.
www.petitsnoirs.com Go there. Buy things. Don't worry about the shipping charges, they're worth it. Buy lots, because it goes so fast!
5. Monteillet cheese. I'm out of Larzac and craving more. Soon we'll be living just 2 hours from Paris and loads of this great cheese, minutes from Neal's Yard, just a few hours from Roquefort... but now, right now, I want some Larzac on a wheat cracker. Mmmm...
6. Squash. Acorn, butternut, delicata, kabocha. Tis the season. I think my fingertips are beginning to go orange.
7. Hibiscus Tea. I know, it's a drink.
8. This lovely citrus salad. With Cara Cara Oranges, Grapefruit, Lime, Cucumber, Fennel, Capers and copious Olive Oil. Winter olive oil is best. And a liberal sprinkling of fleur de sel. Slice all hard things very, very thin, wafer thin. Section the citrus so it is pulp only, arrange and drizzle oil and salt. A crank of pepper et le voila! Perfect.
9. Nuts. Holiday time, you have to have a bowl of unshelled ones out, don't you?
10. Vanilla confiture. Left by our friend Anne who has moved to London ahead of us. Wonderful on complex cheeses. Then again it could be delightful on Petit Basque. Mmmm...
11. Duck legs on Yellow Eyed peas.
12. Homemade Blueberry preserves sweetened with honey from our friends at Monteillet again.
13. And I will be eating soon- a gratin of dried Matsutakes (foraged by a friend's folks) and cauliflower.
I'll leave it at 13. My lucky number. I'm not totally caught up, and I'll try to be better about my posts. Aaah, life.

video

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Grand Yogurt Experiment!

Well, I've tried out the pilot light method for incubating my yogurt now and while I'm not terribly discouraged, I'm rather disappointed with the results.
I made a double batch so that I could compare notes with the batch made in my trusty, though cumbersome Yogurella (I cannot claim naming rights to this guy).
The results:
OVEN YOGURT
  • Firmness- very loosey goosey, more the consistency of undercooked custard than the firm yogurt I like
  • Mouthfeel- smooth enough, but without the firmness, not so great
  • Acidity- a little stronger than mild, definitely sat in the oven for too long
  • Look- not so pleasant once a spoonful was taken out, became shaggy and broke apart once 1/2 was removed
  • Flavor- still excellent flavor, but hard to overcome the lack of firmness
  • Separation- extreme, the whey was definitely separating out before even the first spoonful was removed
YOGURELLA
  • Firmness- good, held it's shape even after the first spoonful was removed
  • Mouthfeel- smooth
  • Acidity- mild, in fact, milder than the oven batch
  • Look- very nice, light color, inviting
  • Flavor- excellent flavor, the greek yogurt starter makes every batch taste so rich
  • Separation- only the slightest bit of visible whey
As I said, I am not deterred by my less than excellent results. I think that the oven method is great. I'll try my other oven or maybe leave the door ajar. And I'll definitely go less than 8 hours the next time.
I will get this right! Much as I love the name Yogurella, I'd rather go Luddite on this one and just use the most basic kitchen equipment. I am a purist after all!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Delicious Inspired Food

We just dined at Spring Hill in West Seattle last night and I have to say it was well worth the drive. First off, we had a charming waitress who happily chatted away with us about the virtues of using local ingredients, including using a very good water filtration system so that they could offer a filtered still water carafe and a sparkling one. Lovely! No need to have the stuff shipped in from France, Italy, The Alps or even farther. Sorry Panna, I will endeavor only to drink you when there are multitudes of italians jumping on their Vespas and hailing each other "Ciao Bella! Ciao Ragazzi!"
After the water congratulation-fest, we met our regular waitress who answered our every question, even the recipe ones, brought us our food at the perfect rate (of course the place was not packed, but even in some restaurants where you can hear the crickets, the servers seem to be incapable of doing this... no I'm not picky.) and she even had some friends in common with us out in delightful Waitsburg*
We had a delicious fresh Diver Scallop appetizer which had perfectly cooked apple, the skinniest cut leeks ever and a very nicely sharp apple cider gastrique. Perfect. Then we moved on to the Razor Clam Sausage with lightly pickled oysters. Who knew such deliciousness could be wrought from my grinder?
I had a delightful cocktail of Dry Fly Gin and Douglas Fir Eau de Vie.
We ate so many other things that delighted us: Braised Short Rib with a nice Celery Leaf Salad on top, a Duck Egg Yolk Raviolo (think consistency of brie, but flavor of warm egg yolk) with green herb oils, and finally, but among the most inspired, the ice creams we gobbled just before closing the place down- Salted Popcorn, Ovaltine and Cinnamon Toast.
We have some good friends who dined here before us, one of whom is a vegetarian, and they had the same delightful experience as we did. Seems consistent enough for me to be excited about our next outing to West Seattle for inspired locavore cooking.

*more on Waitsburg after Thanksgiving when we feast and wine our way through the Walla Walla Valley.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Delicious Inspired food

We just dines at Spring Hill in West Seattle last night and I have to say it was well worth the drive. First off, we had a charming waitress who happily chatted away with us about the virtues of using local ingredients, including using a very good water filtration system so that they could offer a filtered still water carafe and a sparkling one. Lovely! No need to have the stuff shipped in from France, Italy, The Alps or even farther. Sorry Panna, I will endeavor only to drink you when there are multitudes of italians jumping on their Vespas and hailing each other "Ciao Bella! Ciao Ragazzi!"
After the water congratulation-fest, we met our regular waitress who answered our every question, even the recipe ones, brought us our food at the perfect rate (of course the place was not packed, but even in some restaurants where you can hear the crickets, the servers seem to be incapable of doing this... no I'm not picky.) and she even had some friends in common with us out in delightful Waitsburg.
We had a delicious fresh Diver Scallop appetizer which had perfectly cooked apple, the skinniest cut leeks ever and a very nicely sharp apple cider gastrique. Perfect. Then we moved on to the Razor Clam Sausage with lightly pickled oysters. Who knew such deliciousness could be wrought from my grinder?
We moved on to perfect dessert and perfect dessert wine. I will return to Spring Hill as often as possible- they are a treasure!

I should go into more detail on Waitsburg and producers and venues we love out there, but for now, here is the short list (all must go and stay a while, or must buy a quantity to take home and consume):
Monteillet Fromagerie- make sure to make time for lots of cheese tasting, charming conversation and nice wine pairing with Joan.
jimgermanbar and Amo Art- house cured prosciutto, perfectly mixed drinks and gorgeous art.
The Whoopemup Hollow Café- delicious comfort food and Coca Cola Cake!
Laht Neppur Brewing Company- take home a growler or a mason jar of brew. Root beer, too.

and outside of Waitsburg, just across the Oregon border in Milton Freewater:
Petits Noirs- chocolate confections you'll dream about long after your last morsel has been devoured.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Notes from Mom

As it turns out, granola isn't on my mom's menu anymore, but its wonderful European cousin Muesli is.
Here's some notes Mom and I have been exchanging over this other breakfast yummy:
Also, a post script on the granola 'situation.' I no longer make this as I don't have the time nor can I afford the calories. I now opt for muesli. I buy the big box of Quaker Oats at Costco and each batch uses one bag. To that I add a couple of cups of raw almonds, a cup or two of raw hazelnuts, a TJ's bag of orange cranberries, a like amount of Montmorecie (sp?) cherries and a cup or so of TJ's dried currants. When Daddy serves it up, he adds TJ's Mediterranean yogurt, non-fat milk and sugar to taste. This is not a crunchy cereal but it does cut the time, fat and sugar out of the granola...and it's really good for you!

And:
I also sometimes add TJ's dried bananas (potassium) or candied ginger (good for digestion) bits for a little change up. The dried fruit is strictly to taste. I like the fruits I have chosen for health reasons. I used to use dried blueberries (antioxidant) but the flavor wasn't to my taste (I prefer fresh or frozen blueberries). The cherries are good for arthritis and the cranberries help the urinary tract and with the citrus is full of vitamin c... I know that you know all of this already.

As you can see I come by my attention to detail naturally.
Thanks Mom!!

Locavores

I just got a call from my friends Joan and Pierre Louis Monteillet who have a wonderful fromagerie out in Dayton.
http://www.monteilletcheese.com/

They used to be wheat farmers but now they are up to much more interesting things. First off, they make delicious cheeses, but they (like so many in their area) have had to do a little dabbling in other areas. Well, they do far better than dabbling though, they raise some of the best meat and eggs around.
As it turns out, Joan and Pierre Louis will be making a big round trip loaded up with goodies tomorrow and they called to see if I wanted in on a spring lamb. Not some spring lamb, but the whole 35 pound guy. Of course, being someone who likes to cook for multitudes, I immediately got on the horn and rounded up some other like minded locavores and in less than 8 hours we've divvied up all 35 pounds. Pretty impressive for city slickers!
I imagine there will be posts on what we made and how delectable all of our farm food was. Of course, Dayton is a bit more than 100 miles away, but at least our lamb didn't have to travel far to reach our tables.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I guess three posts in one day would make me an addict... but it just looks so empty

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very bad at leaving things empty or near empty. Well, except a nice cocktail glass...

So I promised an entry about yogurt and a yogurt entry I shall deliver!

When I was a kid my mom used to make us yogurt all the time in one of those Salton brand incubators. I think it made 6 jars at a time, so enough for a week. Of course, the grown me goes through that quantity rather quickly, so I've been poring over recipes and trying to come up with the most efficient way to make yogurt for our house that is tasty, uses local milk and requires the least amount of fuss.
In reviewing several dozen recipes online, I kept running across people who believe that there is deep chemistry involved in making this lovely little inoculated dairy treat. Not so. I tried recipes that fussed over getting the milk to an exact temperature, holding it there EXACTLY for 10 minutes EXACTLY and then quickly quickly cooling it to another temperature using an ice bath and a conductive bowl. The milk HAS to be pasteurized to begin with or else! No raw milk, even though by the very nature of scalding the milk it can no longer be raw... These people have far too much time on their hands. Obviously they don't have a series of 5-8 minute windows all day long in which to achieve great things while their baby is preoccupied.

I threw my hands up and decided to just go back to the plastic tub, which just bothered me using those big tubs up every week, even though I was recycling, it just seemed wasteful. Then I found, in my own recipe file, a card that just read yoghurt (I think I must have written this when I was feeling particularly groovy). It reads:

YOGHURT
1 qt. milk (whole or skim)
2-3 T of yoghurt

Put milk on stove. Let boil. Cool; then add starter (yoghurt). Needs 10 hours in incubator to grow. Refrigerate 3-4 hours.

That's it! Now, to clarify, let boil means scald, not boil-for-10-minutes-while-you're-in-the-other-room-watching-YouTube-videos. So bring to a boil then remove from heat. I put the whole mess into a 4 cup pyrex measure and then when it reaches 115-120 F I add the starter. This cools the milk faster AND provides a tidy way to pour the pre-yogurt yogurt into the glass jars of the incubator.
Now that I'm an old pro at the new method I'm going to play around with leaving out the incubator part altogether. Tonight I will try my hand at incubating in the oven with only the pilot light to keep it warm. Should work though!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Breakfast, a good place to start

I suppose the best way to start talking about food is to begin with breakfast. It's a meal I used to always skip, giving my stomach a chance to "wake up" but now it seems to have become part of a slow morning ritual for me and Eamon and on the weekends with Sean, too. Out of nostalgia, I asked my mom for her granola recipe a few months back but since the first batch have been unable to live without it. One day a month I spend a few minutes up to my wrists in oats, nuts, honey and other wholesome things and then a few minutes at the oven door stirring the whole mess. It's great to have every morning with our homemade yogurt, but especially delectable when it's still warm out of the oven.
I've posted the recipe for those of you who want to try this at home. Hope it's okay, mom! Maybe it's just me though, I have a pretty strong memory of my mom doing the same ritual with some variations- it was 1970s granola of course so there are some wild variations in my version... So in my version, wheat germ is traded out for my new millennium ground flax meal; not being a huge fan of sunflower seeds, I use whatever dried fruit I have handy or I buy dried cranberries, cherry or raisins; and 1 box of sesame seeds is 2 cups by my measure. I end up throwing in about 2# of nuts altogether and leaving out the coconut and caschews (sic)... oh and if you want to just put this altogether in the bulk section of your local grocery store, 1 box of oats is really 2 lb 10 oz. If you're feeling like really going for it, sub melted butter for the oil. I'm no doctor, but I imagine that would beef up the cholesterol count for those who have to mind such things (or you could just eat some mackerel at lunch to even the balance!).

For those among you who want to go whole hog on this small carbon footprint, good for your tummy breakfast kick: make your own yogurt. I'll have a post on yogurt very soon. I've been playing around with which started to use, how to prep the milk, raw vs. pasteurized, etc... There have been some successes and some thinly veiled disasters.

Stubborn chef finally talked into blogging

Okay, so I've used every excuse in the book, the most current being that I have a newborn baby and couldn't possibly have time to blog about food. Especially when there are so many others doing it so much more capably. However, last night I was convinced that I should start writing things down for the record, or at least just to share some of the things I've been cooking, eating, fantasizing about eating/cooking so that I don't keep having the same conversation over and over and over again. Keep your eyes peeled, my first effort will start small, probably just the ponderings over recently resurrecting my mom's granola recipe and making our own yogurt so that we can start the day with a smallish carbon footprint AND yummy food in our bellies. Who knows if that will be my first post that's less in diary form. Could be I'll start ranting about something else... you never know with me.