Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Devine Gastronomique!

Two weeks ago my dad sent me an email asking me to make reservations at the fanciest restaurant in Seattle. Without a seconds delay I picked up the phone and called Rover's, crossing my fingers that they would have reservations open for less than a week away. To my luck, they did! It was one of those utterly divine, life-changing experiences that has left me to re-acclimate to normal food again. We all got different menus; my dad had the Julia Child tribute, Alex had the Menu Degustation, and I had the Grand Menu Degustation. The wait-staff provided an impeccable show of gastronomical intelligence with high class French composure. The delivery of each course came with grace and a hint of theatre. The presentation on each plate was exquisite, playful, and utterly perfect. Needless to say, the food was incredible. As part of an Amuse Bouche, we all got a small cup of soup so smooth it reminded me of why Thomas Keller says to strain soups 20 times, it's worth it. I had the most amazing oysters, and I don't consider myself a person that likes shell-fish. One was warm with a buttery sauce and one was cold with a fennel-vinegar gelee and caviar. They were crisp to the tooth and silky smooth on the tongue with absolutely no "fishy" or ocean flavor to them. Amazing. A first for me at this dinner was Escargot, out of the shell and dancing around my plate amid colorful sauces. Just like the oysters, I was pleasantly surprised by crisp texture and a wonderful delicate flavor. Then there was venison, so moist and tender I didn't need the provided steak-knife. A sorbet cleansed the palate mid-meal with little beet pearls, apparently made by bubbling beet juice into almost cooled agar. Dinner was concluded with a "Symphony of Desserts" followed by macaroons and passion fruit gelees. Absolutely phenomenal, I would definitely put it on par with Daniel in New York.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Northeast meets Northwest

I met up with an old friend on Capitol Hill last night at this fantastic little place called simply, Smith. It's a cozy pub with lots of dark hardwood, dusty books, taxidermy animals, and portraits on the walls. Their happy hour is phenomenal; we got a PITCHER of Allagash white ale for $10!! Not to mention they also had Ninkasi IPA and a handful of other excellent beers on tap. Their food menu was filled with all sorts of tasty, French-inspired pub foods. Since my friend grew up in Montreal, she ordered Poutine, which is according to her, the official dish of Montreal. Poutine is french fries smothered in an au jus style gravy with melted cheese curds on top - delicious! We also got some good homemade mac n' cheese. It wasn't long before we were both in a glorious carbohydrate coma!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Puff Pastry Improv

A few months ago we ended up with a pile of puff-pastry dough scraps at work that I gladly brought home and threw in my freezer for later use. After nearly an entire quarter of lunches comprised of sandwiches or salads made from the same ingredients (the "salad" is really just a sandwich without bread), I decided it was high time that I make something else to take to school with me each day. Last week inspiration struck: Samosas! Granted, I don't think I've ever made an actual samosa, nor did I consult a recipe, so perhaps these are not samosas at all. I started by fine dicing or mincing a few carrots, parsnips, butterball potatoes, red onion, garlic, ginger, peppers from my canned pepper medley, frozen green beans, and celery tops (like parsley!). I sauteed everything in bacon grease, used the singer method to make a roux and then used a splash of water to make it saucy. I threw in some frozen corn and a cooked and chopped sage & garlic chicken sausage at the end. Each piece of puff-dough got a spoon full of this mixture and sealed shut with some egg wash. These baked at 350 degrees until they looked done, and oh man were they delicious! The perfect addition to a school lunch!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thankful for good food!

It's a bit belated, but here is my epic Thanksgiving post. Mandy made bacon-wrapped dates as an appetizer, or literally an amuse bouche (something to "shut your mouth" while dinner is cooking). I almost didn't get a picture of them, they got eaten quick and this is the last one!:

Mandy continued to show off her new-found love for cooking by gracing us with this deliciously authentic Greek salad. Not to mention, it was the perfect light addition to a rather hefty meal.

Debbie made these heavenly carrot pillows:

I, of course, had to make brussel sprouts fried in bacon grease:

Alex was the squash champion of the evening, he made this wonderful medly of winter squashes:

Debbie made Cranberry Chutney, which was incredible!:

And I made Wild-Cranberry Sauce (wow! they were TART!!):

And of course there was green-bean casserole and cornbread dressing, not stuffing (thanks, Josh):

Here is the only picture I got of our handsom bird. He is a heritage turkey from Stokeberry farm. So much love went into the creation of this turkey! It was absolutely divine. To put it, roughly, in the words of 5-year-old Miya, "I'm thankful that this turkey was a alive so we can eat it". And Debbie did a lovely job of carving it!

For dessert, I made the best gluten-free and egg-free cake I think I've ever had. It's a chocolate-chai-pumpkin-cranberry cake. Dorothy brought a sort of pear gallete (although it had yeast in the dough..) that was absolute delectable! And Mandy made cherry pie, yum!:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Refried Pizza and The Bay

In my exhaustion and starvation after returning home from 48hours in the Bay Area I created something incredible. I call it, Refried Pizza. What I was craving was grilled cheese and tomato soup, although we had no bread, just lots of old pizza that Alex swore was inedible at this point. How to make the inedible edible? Why fry it in bacon grease of course! That is precisely what I did. I even added some fresh Golden Glen sharp cheddar to the top of the old pizza and I let it get all melty and and delicious as it was frying. Perhaps anything would have tasted as good at that point in time, but wow that was delicious! The pizza was crispy with bacon-goodness on the bottom and smothered in melted yum on top, how can you go wrong?!

On a different note, while I was in Palo Alto I was on a mission to eat as much as possible. At La Bamba Taqueria I had a tamale with a texture similar to a souffle and a burrito with some of the best al pastor I've ever had. Although nothing compares to the burritos a few doors down at La Costena. I had my usual adobado chicken with black beans, rice, guacamole, cheese, cilantro, onions, pico de gallo, and salsa - it's all so good! My dad had some beautiful little tacos at La Costena. I also got my yearly fix of pumpkin and Swiss mocha ice cream at Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream and spicy Mexican mocha's at Coupa Cafe that, "made our tonsils light up" according to my Dad. They did have quite the cayenne-pepper kick. I've saved the best for last though, a new discovery: Coconuts. It's a bright little Jamaican restaurant right next to city hall. The owner and chef, Robert Simpson, grew up in Jamaica and got trained in culinary arts at the CIA. I LOVE this restaurant, it is hands down the best Jamaican food I have had yet. All the meat was tender and juicy enough to eat with a spoon, the sauces and spice-mixes were spot on and packed a colorful punch. Not to mention each plate was visually a work of art.

...Thanksgiving update coming soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clandestine Self Indulgence

When Alex isn't home and I'm craving that sinful self indulgent personal time alone at home, I sneak into the kitchen and open the fridge. In the back of the vegetable drawer is my own personal stash of the most adorable little brussel sprouts I've ever seen. I buy them from Stony Plains farm at the farmers market and when I'm home alone, I'll grab a handful, and cut them each in half as a pan of bacon grease is heating up. When the grease is good and hot, I throw in the brussel sprouts so they sizzle wildly, frying them until they're gorgeous golden brown and just perfectly cooked. Sometimes I sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them, and sometimes I eat them as they are, straight out of the pan, with my fingers.

Friday, October 23, 2009


It's that time of year again when there are mushrooms EVERYWHERE! The Burke Gilman Trail has a veritable plethora of mushrooms popping up along its edges. I even found some edible ones! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera to catch these guys in the ground, but here they are on my kitchen counter getting ready to be eaten:

Coprinus comatus, a.k.a. the Shaggy Mane

One characteristic of Coprinuses is that they deliquesce, that is, they decay by melting into ink rather quickly. And by quickly I mean a few hours sometimes, so the window of opportunity to find these guys, cook, and eat them is fairly short. Once a mushroom begins to decay, it's inedible, just like other foods; rotten is no good! Anyway, as soon as I picked these Coprinuses, I brought them home, cut them in half, made some tempura batter, and set about frying them in bacon grease.

They were interesting. They didn't really have any flavor, or perhaps a delicate one that got overpowered by the tempura/bacon grease. The texture was fasinating though. They were kinda slimy and stringy, but firm and tender at the same time. It had sort of a calamari-like quality to it. One cookbook describes them as "not slimy like okra, but delicious like octopus" - That's pretty much it. I want to try sauteing them next time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Early Autumn Update

School has started and I've become a big fan on sandwiches with Tall Grass Bakery bread, farmers market apples, Stumptown Kenyan coffees, and TeaCup imperial afternoon tea. One particularly amazing thing I must note though is Washington ginger! Yes, apparently the climate out in Wapato, WA at Mair Farm-Taki is suitable to grow fresh ginger!! I've never had fresh ginger before, it's almost like a super spicy apple and good for anything and everything! It's much prettier than the that dried out brown stuff we all know. This ginger is almost translucent white, with highlights of rich pink and vibrant green. Incredible. I'll try to get some pictures of it up here later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mushrooms and the Fish

Since I've deemed this blog an "appreciation of all things edible", I must mention the fantastically edible mushroom growing on our plum tree outside! May I introduce, Laetiporus conifericola:

Unfortunately I was too greedy and waited too long, hoping it would get bigger and I would have more to eat. But alas, it died quick and mold conquered it.

I taught Alex to make bread using the sourdough starter that I started a while ago because he accidentally opened a packet of our friends beer-brewing yeast. I showed him how to kneed it and then said he could make whatever shape he wanted, perhaps a baguette or a round. He decided a fish-shape was best:

And here is an awesome stir fry with rice underneath that Alex whipped up. Notice the lobster mushroom slices sauteed with brioche crumbs! Also, he stir fried slices of cucumber, I had no idea you could do that to cucumbers, but it was delicious!

Canning Part 2

Canning 20 pounds of peppers was a formidable task, but I did it! Here's the second part of the process, continued from my previous entry.

After roasting all the peppers and letting them cool in their plastic-wrapped bowls I peeled them and washed out all of there seeds. Here's about 10 pounds worth of cleaned peppers:

For the really spicy peppers, I quickly blanched them in boiling water and then put them in clean, hot cans and covered them with boiling water. For the roasted miscellaneous peppers, I just stuffed them in clean, hot jars and poured boiling water on top of them. Next, the filled cans went for a ride in my co-workers pressure caner! Here it is in action:

The cans stayed in the pressure caner for about an hour before taking them out and allowing them to cool on the counter top. At long last, here is the finished produduct; from left to right and top to bottom: habaneros, bulgarian carrot peppers, roasted medly, and chocolate cayennes. This winter will be flavorful for sure!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saving Summer

Last year was the first year that I fully committed to doing all my grocery shopping at the farmer's market. I'll never go to a grocery store again if I can help it. However winter is pretty bleak here; only so much can be done with root vegetables and kale. So this year I have the foresight to preserve what I can while I can. This is a lot of firsts for me, growing up in California I though there was something incredibly wrong with any food that wasn't fresh from the ground. A few weeks ago I started out pickling the seeds from my nasturtiums, a.k.a. capers! These ones are still in the process of being pickled:

Next I began freezing raspberries and huckleberries by laying them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then bagging the frozen berries in gallon ziplock freezer bags. I also boiled about 15 ears of corn, cut off the corn kernels and froze them in the same method as the berries. The Silpat is an important piece of equipment for this. The corn especially wanted to stick to the pan when frozen, but the silicone sheet made it very easy to get the frozen corn off the pan and into the bag! Parchment paper would also work if a Silpat is not available.

I'm about to venture into the world of canning. I borrowed a pressure caner from a co-worker, and I'm camped out on my kitchen floor typing this while roasting 20 pounds of peppers in the broiler. Tonnemakers has an incredible display of peppers at the University farmers market. They grow about 150 different varieties and each week they have at least 40 different varieties for sale. I just grabbed a box and grabbed handfuls of as many different peppers as I could. Some are sweet, some are hot, some are somewhere in between and I have almost no idea which ones are which. The ones I do know are Anaheim, Scotch Bonnet, and Chocolate Cayenne (yum!!!). Some other names I remember but cant match to the pepper are Banana, Gypsy, Beaver Dam, Lipstick, Aji, Bulgarian Carrot... Anyway, this is what's goin' on:

The set up: peppers, tongs (for going in and out of the broiler), bowl with plastic wrap (to keep roasted peppers moist - easier for peeling), and Golden Glen chocolate milk (a key ingredient).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meet Your Meat

Nearly all the meat I eat at home comes from Skagit River Ranch, so I went to their Meet Your Meat event today at their farm out in Sedro Woolley, about 2 hours north of Seattle on the Skagit River. Driving down their dirt driveway, I had to be carefull not to run over any of their beautiful free-running chickens and I parked next to some young heritage turkeys. Farmer George gave a tour explaining their intense commitment to sustainability and health (his definition of sustainability is that when he writes a check, there's money in the bank to cover it). They do liver biopsies on their chickens frequently to determine what nutrients they are lacking because our environment alone does not provide everything to make a healthy robust chicken. He usually has to end up supplementing minerals such as iodine, selenium, and copper; all of which are important for an immune system. They get these supplements into their chickens by adding it to the soil that grows their feed grain (usually wheat) - the grains need these minerals to grow strong, then when they are fed to the chickens they get the minerals, and when we eat their eggs or chicken meat the beneficial minerals are passed along to us. This is the methodology used for all their animals (cattle, goats, pigs, mules, horses) and even in their own family garden. Healthy dynamic soil produces nutrient rich vegetables that greatly benefit the animals that eat them and ultimately eliminate, or at least drastically reduce the need for medicine. George said they use absolutely no pharmaceuticals or chemicals on any of their animals or vegetables. And I must say, their animals and their family are absolutely gorgeous and vibrant.

A quick panel discussion between George, Maria Hines of Tilth, Craig Hetherington of TASTE, and author Greg Atkinson addressed some of the issues of sustainability in our industry and the world. In a world where food is empty calories and chemicals, we are warriors in a revolution to create a world of nutrient rich food that is created through sustainable practices that can be maintained indefinately. Our bodies are our greatest asset and we are what we eat. But we've heard this all before, so what's it gonna take to bring down the seven corporations that control 75% of food in this country? Studies in Europe and China showed that rats are not viable after 5 generations of eating genetically modified foods (why Europe has banned US GMO's). George's theory on the bee crisis is that we've been feeding our nations bees genetically modied pollen for decades and it's no wonder they've finally started dying off - may be a forshadowing of the future for the human race. The slow food movement is slowly growing, and as George put it, "any crowd that gets large enough, a politican will jump in front and say 'Follow Me!'"

George also gave us a tour of his new Biodiesel operation that he uses to fuel the tractors and what not on the farm. I love these people.

At the Skagit River Ranch store, I picked up some Camelina oil and seeds to play with. They're from Lentz Spelt Farms in Marlin, WA. Camelina is an ancient grain that was first cultivated by the Celtics and its still used throughout Europe. The Camelina oil is very flavorful, rich in Vitamin E, and probably contains the highest concentration of Omega-3's out of any other food (cold pressed Camelina oil tests at 30.5% Omega-3). So why have I never heard of it before? -it can't be hydrogenated, so mainstream oil producers have little incentive to grow it. Yet another example of how our current food infrastructure does not produce the food we need to be healthy.

George fondling some fine compost made largely from the unusable parts of their cattle (there's some live cows grazing near the trees in the background). You wouldn't believe how good that dirt smelled.

Birthday Berries and Bacon

My friend Justin loves fruit and local food, so for his birthday I made him a 7-berry cake. The cake part is a genoise with local eggs from The Creamery, Blue Bird Grain Farms Soft White Cake Flour, Cremerie Butter from Oregon, and some very not local sugar from the Co-op. The frosting is a butterscotch-cardamom whipped cream made with Golden Glen cream. I tossed together a mixture of the seven berries with some sugar and spread that between two layers of the genoise before coating it in whipped cream and making the berry design on top. The seven berries from Jessie's Berries in Mt. Vernon were: Marrionberry, Loganberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Huckleberry, Raspberry, and Boysenberry.
Right after Justin's birthday is Alex's, for which I made Bacon Cake. I began with a pancake, spread chocolate whipped cream on top, sprinkled it with Skagit River Ranch bacon, then put another pancake on top of that and repeated the process and topped it all off with a third pancake. The outer layer of frosting started out as a standard cream cheese frosting that I added maple syrup and bacon grease to - This frosting turned out to far exceed my expectations! It's fantastic! Anyway, here are a few quick pictures of the infamous bacon cake:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Foie Gras is my Anti-Drug

Wednesday night I took Alex to Lark for his birthday. I've been saving up for this occasion since a few months ago when a foie gras protest outside Quinn's caused us to stop everything we were doing, go inside Quinn's, and order a plate of foie gras (10% of profits went to NARN as a thank you for increasing their foie gras business!). At Quinn's we found out NARN (Northwest Animal Rights Network) was also protesting Lark. It's become clear to me that these NARN people have never tasted foie gras, because if they had, surely they would not be protesting it. But I'm getting ahead of myself, Lark was magnificent.

We got some cheese and sparkling wine to nibble on while we browsed the menu. Unfortunately I don't remember what the cheeses were, but one in particular changed the way I feel about blue cheese. I've never really been a huge fan of blue cheese although I can respect its culinary importance. But this blue cheese was a deep blue, almost a dark greenish blue and had a delectably complex flavor that was sweet and tangy.

Next we had Blue Bird Grain Farms Farro with Romano Beans and Lobster Mushrooms along with Chilled Tomato and Huckleberry Soup. The farro was in cream, making it a very satisfying dish and the lobster mushrooms were sauteed to perfection. The Tomato Huckleberry soup was simple, light, and wonderfully refreshing.

We discovered pretty quick that Lark's "small plates" contain relatively large portions and we were beginning to feel full. So, we decided to cut to the chase and order both preparations of foie gras at once paired with a Muscat wine. The first plate was a foie gras terrine with mini toasts and slices of vanilla poached peaches and the second plate was seared foie gras with pecans, blackberries, and a caramelized onion crepe. The experience of eating both these preparations was absolutely spiritual. Placing a bite of this foie gras in my mouth, gently chewing it, and ultimately swallowing it made my insides vibrate with sheer joy, slowly seeping euphoria into every inch of my body. I found myself rubbing my lips together as if I had just put on the most divine lip gloss. The world around me vanished and when I closed my eyes I swear I was flying blissfully through the stars. I think I might have gotten high off foie gras. If reincarnation exists, I would like to be reincarnated as a foie gras duck; what could be better than to live life in a food coma, have a quick death, and have your liver go on to give humans an experience like this!

An Hierloom Melon Salad with Frisee, Yogurt, Lime and Mint began to bring us back to reality and refresh our palates before dessert. Dessert was a Mission Fig Tarte Tatin with Caramel Goat Cheese Sorbet along with a Summer Pudding with Brioche, Raspberries, Blueberries, and Whipped Cream. A beautiful way to end a phenomenal meal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Personal Garde Manger

Alex has been whipping up some incredible food lately, making me feel like all I have to do is sit down at the dining table in the middle of our kitchen for a 4-star meal. First off, his salads continually amaze me with sheer creativity. The salad pictured below reminded me a lot of ceviche, but with fresh peaches instead raw fish and we ate it immediately instead of letting it marinate for hours. He says he's been experimenting with using spices instead of a vinaigrette, which when using juicy fruits and tomatoes, a vinaigrette is not really needed for moisture; I think it's brilliant!
Next is the pork in which Alex discovered umami. Umami (unfortunately defined as MSG) is that inexplicable 5th taste, that is actually a proven taste along with sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Umami is present in all meats, cheeses, fermented products, tomatoes, mushrooms...the list goes on. Asian cuisine has thoroughly explored the concept of umami and western chefs use it to add a fifth level of complexity to their food. Well, Alex did just that, he made a marinated pork that was so complex and so well balanced I wanted to savor and contemplate the deep meaning behind every bite I took of the finished prduct. The picture below shows how he marinated it. Looks like whole cloves, star anise, Bragg's liquid aminos, Bragg's apple cider vinegar, Larupin barbeque sauce, Woodring's rainier cherry chutney, Four Seasons raspberry vinaiger, cinnamon, a local sweet pepper, a local spicy pepper, and some local peach. He fried the pork chops with the chunky parts of the marinade on top and then poured the rest of marinade into the pan to cook with the pork. Fantastic!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Apricot Fennel Pork

This was a moment of cleaning-out-the-fridge inspiration. I had no idea if it was even going to be edible, but I had a feeling I might be on to something. I seared two pork chops until good and brown, then moved them to the edge of the pan and threw equal parts of sliced onions and sliced fennel into the center of the pan and sauteed them until they began to caramelize. Then I added some dice apricots, cooked them down till they started to stick a bit, deglazed with a tiny bit of water, and lastly seasoned with just salt. The Apricot-Fennel combination is something I have to recommend. I cant quite put it into words, but the two strong flavors meld together into a whole new, absolutely fascinating flavor! We played with spices at the table, a hefty sprinkle of alspice transformed it into a barbeque-smokey-tomato-ish flavor reminiscent of Jamaican jerk.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Purple Cookie Dough!

I have to thank my brother for the inspiration on this one. When I first went to visit him at college (I was still in elementary school) he impressed me with his culinary skills and magically created purple cream of wheat for breakfast one day. I believe this is the root of my obsession with purple foods. Not to mention a more general love of colorful foods, and purple is a good color to take advantage of when preparing a colorful dish. Once again, it's too hot to cook, so I made cookie dough instead of cookies and threw some of last years frozen blueberries into the mix. It's like ice cream! And it's even better with fresh raspberries on top.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I made ceviche Thursday night. I bought some halibut from the enthusiastic fisherman with neon colored signs at the farmers market. It had never been frozen and was caught the day before - I love the farmers market! The farmers market also provided me with yellow and red tomatoes, ivory and green bell peppers, jalepenos, banana peppers, and red onions. Sadly, I had to go across the street to QFC for limes, an orange, and some cilantro. I set up a cutting board on our balcony (it's way too hot to be indoors) and sliced, diced, minced, or zested all the above ingredients, threw them in a bowl and tossed it all together with plenty of lime juice and salt. Then I put it in the fridge to "cook" for 24 hours. Both acid (lime juice) and salt are capable of denaturing proteins which does two things: it destroys most pathogens (why salt is used in preservation), and this is also what we know as cooking. Heat denatures proteins in essentially the same way acid or salt can. What a brilliant discovery for a hot day - cooking without heat!

The ceviche was delicious, however the 24 hours of marination made all the veggies lose their umph and the flavors melded together more so than I was hoping. Next time I think I'll marinate the fish overnight and then combine it with all the vegetables just before serving. This way it will taste even fresher and more refreshing!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Picture Post!

I have all these pictures of food that I've made in the past year and it's time I organize and catalog their existence here. Without further ado, in chronological order:

Last fall I started seriously experimenting with our local fungi and made these deliciously fluffy Sparassis Souffles ...Sparassis (Sparassis brevapis) is latin for Cauliflower Mushroom - they look like a brain, or coral, and have a very delicate flavor with a surprisingly crisp texture.

Then there were whole wheat mini croissants; entirely made from scratch and by hand - it was quite the process/work out. I still dream of Phil's pastries at Harmony Bakery in the Bay Area, or Santa Cruz, or wherever he has ended up. Anyway, I attempted to make something like the mini whole wheat croissnats Phil made.

As winter creaped up on us, I did a survey of winter squash. The verdict: Delicata is by far the best!(bottom right). Delicata has incredible flavorful, almost reminds me of something between a butternut and a spagetthi squash but with the smoothest texture of any squash I've ever had! All the other squashes in this picture had very mild, simple stereotypical "squash" flavors.

This picture illustrates the colorful bounty of winter - all locally grown Washington vegetables in the dead of winter! yay purple! (left to right: Onions, Garlic, Three types of Carrots, Potatoes, Kale, Chioga Beets, Red Beets, and some thyme)

This is my self-portrait. And one of Alex too. Made out of buckwheat pancake batter - a Fischer Family classic.

As if pancake portraits were not enough, we topped some pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, my own cardamom-butterscotch ice cream, and bacon (the essential ingredient).

Finally, I would like to introduce one of my best friends, the waffle iron. I got this one at a garage sale for $10, it's from the 1940's and has reversible cast-iron plates - it makes my favorite waffles
The End!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crisp Summer

Well with the unseasonably crisp weather we've been having, I thought it was time for a summer crisp. I tossed together the farmers markets finest apples and apricots with butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, butterscotch powder, cardamom, and freshly grated nutmeg. Topped it with some traditional crisp topping (equal parts butter, flour, and brown sugar) then baked it till the top was good and crispy. I ran over the water and up the hill to Eat Local for some vanilla Molly Moon's Ice Cream to make this crisp a-la-mode. We sat outside on the balcony watching dusk approach and the sun cast it's eerie light on downtown while sipping brandy and savoring this perfect end to a summer day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gastronomy in the Woods

Alex and I are reluctantly home from our 4-day expedition from Sol Duc to the Seven Lakes Basin and down the Bogachiel River Trail in the Olympic Mountains. We're still adjusting to civilization and cleaning/drying out all of our gear. The bars turned out great and I only wish we had packed more..actually we should have packed more of everything, we just barely had enough food (in contrast to our last backpacking trip when we had WAY too much food). I made 2 more batches of the bars, and took some of both of the final batches with us. Here is an amalgamation of the two recipes:
1/2 # Unsalted Butter
4 Eggs
2 cups Honey
1/2 cup Brown Rice Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Bread Flour
2 cups Oats
1 cup Hemp Seeds
1 handful Date Pieces
2-3 handfuls Almonds
2-3 handfuls Cashews
3 handfuls Raisins
1 handful Chocolate Chips
3 good shakes Cinnamon
1 large dash Nutmeg, grated

*Grind the oats, almonds, and cashews in a food processor
*Thoroughly mix everything together and spread evenly on a half-sheet pan lined with a Silpat (or parchment)
*Bake at 350 for about an hour until it's good and brown. Let cool, then cut into bars.

The Bar in action at Lunch Lake in the Seven Lakes Basin
(Best July 4th Ever!)

In addition to the usual suspects of trail mix, dried fruit, and hiking bars we packed out some amazing cured meats and cheese to munch on for breakfast, second breakfast, first lunch, and second lunch. The cheese was Golden Glen Creamery's Queso Con Salsa - medium cheddar cheese with spicy salsa mixed in, yum!! We also ate Olsen Farm's Summer Sausage which was a tad spicy, not too sweet, and absolutely delicious. The Smoked Ham Nugget from Skagit River Ranch was absolutely incredible; essentially a lump of amazing ham that we gnawed on and savored all day long. A hot meal is always a treat when camping. For two out of three dinners we had PCC's Curry Lentil Soup with some Just Veggies added to the mix, it's all dehydrated of course. The Just Veggies dehydrated carrots, corn, peas, bell peppers and tomatoes is a brilliant find for any back packer! Our second dinner was Annie's Mac 'n Cheese with added Queso Con Salsa and Summer Sausage, as shown below:

As we began to descend into the Bogachiel rain forest on our third day the understory got thick, tall, moist, and eventually completely covered the trail and us as we swam through a sea of leaves and branches . We got drenched from the feet up and despite the sheer beauty of it all, one thing made it worth it: Berries!!

Vaccinium ovalifolium

Black Raspberries!! -my new favorite berry
Rubus leucodermis

Salmon Berries ..pretty, not so tasty
Rubus spectabilis

We spent our final day on the trail planning out what our first real meal back in civilization was going to be as we began dreaming of cheese burgers, Elysian Brewery beer, fries, and Jameson. To our dismay, the Penninsula is huge and we ended up getting back to Seattle long after everything we were craving was closed. So we went to Jai Thai for a shot and a beer and some acceptable Thai food. Despite our fantastic waiter, it simply did not hit the spot, I was craving the perfect food. So last night we finaly made it to The Elysian Brewery where we found the end of our trail in exceptional cheese burgers and beer-battered french fries. It's good to be home...I've been thinking about pork chops with a savory-herby-carmelized onion bread pudding sort of thing made out of brioche scraps...

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Blob

From my previous entry, I just about doubled the honey, nuts, and dried fruit, while nearly eliminating the flour. I ended up with a Honeylicious blob...I attempted to cut it into bars, but, as you can see, they didn't really hold up. It makes a great ice cream topping and Alex has been enjoying it for breakfast with milk like granola. I asked my pastry chef co-worker what baking magic holds bars together and beyond honey or eggs the only advice she had was to chop everything in a food processor and then physically press the mix into the pan before baking. So, hopefully 3rd times the charm!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Bar, trial #1

Alex and I are going backpacking across the Olympic Mountains over July4th weekend and I've decided to make our own hiking bars. I LOVE Clif bars, but since they're involvement in the tainted peanut-butter scandal this past year, I've been a bit grossed out by the thought of what exactly goes into all these "high energy" "high protein" hiking-bar type, I'm making my own. Here's my first try, I basically had no idea what I was doing, I started with the Joy of Cooking's basic oatmeal cookie recipe, and with the magic of a pen and paper turned it into this:

2 cups AP Flour
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Honey
1/4 cup Brown Rice Syrup
2 sticks Butter
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Baking Powder
3 cups Oats
1 cup Hemp Seeds
1 handful Almonds, chopped
1 handful Cashews, chopped
2 handfuls Date Pieces
2 handfuls Raisins
1 handful Chocolate Chips
couple good shakes of Cinnamon
large dash of fresh grated Nutmeg

Cream the butter and sugars together, add the rest of the ingredients roughly one at a time.
Spread evenly over a half-sheet-pan with a Silpat on the bottom and bake at 350degrees F for about 35minutes.

So how are they? They're addicting, but not quite what I was going for...they're sort of a glorified cookie, I want something dense that will withstand being forced into a full bear-barrel with maximum nutrients per cubic centimeter (not that I have any way of measuring). In short:

Things to change for the next batch:
-Less flour, more stuff!
-Leave out the baking powder entirely
-Less butter?? (the baking chemistry properties of butter confuse me)

Things that rocked this batch:
-Brown Rice Syrup!! (added a unique nutty/toasty flavor)
-Hemp seeds have hella protein
-One word: Silpat. I would give my soul to the man that invented these things.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Allagash

Allagash Confluence Ale with fresh pasta in a white wine butter sauce with morrels, Skagit River Ranch Italian Sausage, and sea beans. Also, a salad! The picture doesn't do it justice, but I was more concerned with eating than being a photographer at the moment. This meal was a religious experience; my kitchen is my church.