Thursday, December 23, 2010

Recreating the Ham & Cheese Roll

There used to be a Vivace Cafe right next to Seattle Central Community College. When I was going to school there I pretty much lived at Vivace, not to mention spending an obscene portion my hard earned money on mochas and ham and cheese rolls. But damn, those ham and cheese rolls were the best thing to ever be served in a coffee shop, ever. They were not ham and cheese croissants, they were more bready than croissanty (thus the name ham and cheese roll). Anyway, I've been wanting to make my own ever since Vivace stopped selling them, and I've finally gotten around to it!

Here is the inspiration in it's native habitat (it's the thing on the plate behind the coffee):

I started out following Julia Child's recipe for plain-old white sandwich bread, and to my surprise my old yeast was still vibrantly alive! As the dough rose I sliced up a Skagit River Valley Ranch Ham Nugget and some Golden Glen Creamery Cheddar.

I rolled out the dough to about a 1/4inch thick and sprinkled the ham and cheese on top...

...and then rolled it up and sealed it shut with a bit of egg.

Then I just cut it into individual "rolls" and let those rise before baking them.


These were fantastic at room temperature, but even better heated up in a saute-pan with a little bit of bacon grease!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Proper Pasta

Throughout my culinary education one thing was continuously beaten into my head: Always cook pasta in a liberal amount of salted water! The water to pasta ratio should be as high as possible. Though recently cooking with my step-mom (who has an Italian heritage) shattered this pasta cooking concept. She cooked her pasta in as little liquid as possible, and not just water, she uses stock! It's so simple, and so brilliant. The pasta takes on the flavor of the stock, turning it into a meal of it's own, and not just another starchy vehicle for other foods. Also, I haven't observed any adverse effects of cooking pasta in a minimal amount of liquid -I've actually been trying to cook pasta in exactly enough liquid, so there's hardly any left in the pan by the time it's done cooking. When I saw my step-mom do this for the first time, I mentioned it must be her Italian heritage, because it's an Italian tradition (in some regions, at least), to cook pasta in a minimal amount of water and use the water as the base for the pasta sauce. My step-mom had never heard of this, so it's clearly just in her blood to do awesome things with pasta. And now, a picture of pasta in stock!:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


After a slight delay, here is the delicousness that was Thanksgiving. We got another Stokesberry Farm heritage turkey this year, though we were smart and got on the list about this time last year (which reminds me...we need to do that again!). This was the first year that I basically cooked the turkey all by myself, with a bit of prodding and assistance from Debbie. I slathered this glorious bird in plenty of butter, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and filled the insides with mirepoix - just like a chicken, only bigger!

We made stock with giblets that I added to the pan drippings with some flour to create the most incredible gravy I've ever had. It was thick and dark and there was so much fat in it that it broke, but that didn't matter because it coated everything in rich, flavorful intensity.

Stoney Plains farm is officially the place to buy absolutely adorable mini vegetables. These red cabbages are my favorite:

I chopped them up along with a bunch of brussel sprouts, carrots, parsnips, and fried it all in bacon grease:

By this time, I must have been getting hungry, because I stopped taking pictures of individual dishes and just got one big picture of everything:

From top to bottom, here's what's going on: Debbie's delicious green beans, the turkey, Alex's classic roasted delicata squash, Debbie's legendary cranberry chutney, the gravy, my experimental cranberry mole, Debbie's famous cornbread stuffing (now with chanterelles!), the brussel sprouts, and two types of cheesy mashed potatoes so that Miya could have one bowl entirely to herself (hah!). We all accomplished at eating as much as we possibly could, and then there was desert, which consisted of super sticky pecan pie, apple crisp al la mode, and Miya's pumpkin pie (made from her very own pumpkin).

The day after Thanksgiving, a bunch of our friends got together and had a Thanksgiving-left-overs potluck. We made a buffet of everyones left-overs so that each person could make their own mixture of Thanksgiving stuff in aluminum foil, and then wrap it up and throw it into a roaring fire place to re-heat. This might be my new favorite way to eat Thanksgiving left-overs.

On Sunday, we went to our friend Justin's house for a second Thanksgiving. Justin had a Skagit River Valley Ranch turkey that gave some stiff competition for our Stokesberry bird! Besides turkey, Justin (plus a few people helping out) made a beef roast, cornbread-jalapeño-bacon-cheese muffins, roasted fennel and mandarin orange salad with a honey dressing, sweet stuffing made with raisin and walnut breads, mashed sweet potatoes, a hearty and complex vegetable soup...and I'm sure there is more I'm forgetting, but Justin always impresses me with his culinary magic!

...And now I don't think I'll have to eat again for a couple of days...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

My morning meditation:

Few things are better than "cutting" butter into flour by hand. I start with frozen unsalted butter and cut it into roughly cubic-centimeters. Then I mix it into the flour by squishing each cube of butter between my fingers until the mixture has a sort of flaky consistency.

SNOW!!!! (and biscuits)

I started following the recipe for the scones served at A Spot of Tea in Rhinebeck, NY (which is apparently and unfortunately now out-of-business!). But we were all out of eggs, so on a whim I decided to just substitute extra milk for the egg. They turned out to be the best biscuits I've ever had with this incredible fresh milk flavor that was absolutely captivating. And if you were wondering (because I was), there is really no difference between a scone and a biscuit in the US, they are both simply a soft leavened quick bread. Though what you use them for might define whether it's a biscuit or a scone; if you eat it with jam and cream it's a scone, if you smother it in gravy, it's a biscuit. Also, shortcake is just a large cake-sized scone or biscuit or whatever you want to call it. Anyway, we smothered these in bacon gravy and ate it with sausage and coffee, so I'm calling them biscuits. Oh, and I did mention the snow, that's the best part!!

After breakfast we decided to go for stroll in the snow to get more milk and eggs, but first we needed a warm beverage to keep us company on our cold walk.

Behold, the makings of The Snowball:

This is a concoction we developed with a previous house-mate during the 2008 snow storm. It's Valrhona hot chocolate, Stumptown coffee, Bailey's Irish cream, Jameson whiskey, and Rumpleminze peppermint schnapps. It gives you the power to conquer the world in the comfort of the best warm fuzzy blanket. It's the perfect beverage.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Mac And Cheese

I have to give my friend, Sarah Richardson, some credit for the creation of this dish. She made a mac 'n cheese with butternut squash a few weeks ago that filled my soul with squishy delicious comfort, joy, and inspiration - the best kind of comfort food! So I took Sarah's idea and ran with it... here is my mac 'n cheese in the making.

From left to right, top to bottom, here's what's goin' on: sauteed chanterelles and baked delicata squash, onions pepper and sausage frying in a liberal amount of butter, cheddar cheese, and pasta. I made a cream sauce with all that butter plus some flour and milk, then added the cheese and everything. Topped it all of with some breadcrumbs under the boiler and here's the finished product.

IMPORTANT EDIT: I totally failed to remember the most brilliant part about Sarah's Squash-Mac-n-Cheese! She actually substituted the squash puree for the roux! More squash means less carbo-coma!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

They can run, but they can't hide...

Every day that bike to work, I pass a spot that usually has some shaggy mane mushrooms. However the trick with these mushrooms is you have to catch them right when they pop up out of the ground, otherwise within a few hours they turn into an inky mess (these mushrooms are also called "inky caps"). Here is what an inky mess looks like:

It's been cool and stormy with plenty of rain the past few days, and then today was quite warm and sunny - this must be exactly what shaggy manes like, because I found more today than I've ever seen before! And lucky for me, some of them were still young enough to eat!

Coprinus comatus

The hunt is definitely the point of eating this mushroom, it really doesn't serve much of a culinary purpose. It's fairly flavorless and has a texture comparable to sauteed onions. But, since I finally found it, I had to eat it out of principle. I sauteed my catch with onions and cabbage and then smothered it with Golden Glen Creamery Red Pepper and Onion Cheddar and topped it with cilantro, voila:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Nachos

Alex made these nachos. They were awesome. Just a bed of corn-chips smothered in onion-garlic-pepper-black-bean deliciousness and then topped with a mixture of Golden Glen Creamery's Jalapeño Cheddar and Red Pepper and Onion Cheddar. That all went under the broiler and when it came out we topped it with sour cream, cilantro, green onions, and cherry tomatoes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Soup in Stormy Weather

It's stormy out and I got inspired to make something I don't make very often: soup! Nothing fancy, just sweet Italian sausage, white beans, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, chicken stock, and some chopped up carrot tops. Simple, quick, and delicious....I should make soup more often!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fruitful Fall

This has apparently been a fabulous fall for mushrooms. I got a new one at the farmer's market that I've never tried, the Saffron Milk Cap. Though, I think the Latin name is more telling: Lactarius deliciousus - Delicious! Lactarius and Russula are the two main genera with a crunchy texture. The difference is, when raw, Lactarius has a milky juice that oozes out when the flesh is broken (thus the name). Russula on the other hand has no such juice. Enough mycology, here are the gastronomic stars of the Russulaceae:

Lactarius deliciousus on the left bruises dark green when touched giving them a sort of spooky appearance that I think is totally appropriate for October! On the right is my old friend the Lobster Mushroom - Hypomyces lactifluorum (parasitized Russula brevepis).

I diced these mushrooms up along with some onions, garlic, and patty-pan squashes and sauteed these all together in some butter. Once the mushrooms were fully cooked, I added some flour and then milk and then white cheddar to make a cheesy cream sauce. Lastly I mixed in some cooked rice. What resulted was fantastic comfort food on a chilly autumn evening with the welcome crunch of the Russuloid mushrooms!

Deliciousus indeed!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ready for Winter

Two years ago Alex and I decided that we were going to start shopping only at the farmers market for meat and produce. When winter came, we were horribly unprepared - kale and potatoes all winter long gets pretty rough. So last year I went nuts canning and freezing everything summer had to offer. Canning was a hugely involved process that didn't produce the best product, I thought. So this year, I've filled our freezer with corn, peppers, huckleberries, raspberries, ginger, broccoli, and chicken stock. Bring it on, La Nina Winter! We're ready:

Monday, October 11, 2010

A fungus on a mushroom that looks like crustacean

This year I was lucky enough to befriend someone with the scoop on local lobster mushrooms. They're near Mt. Rainier and the Hood Canal... It's a tough choice, but I think lobster mushrooms might be my favorite mushrooms ever. The mushroom part of it belongs to the genus Russula that is known for it's unique cellular structure that makes it's raw flesh "break like chalk". I think it's precisely this cellular structure that gives lobster mushrooms the perfect texture, the perfect "al dente" crunch that almost seems impossible with something so tender. It's the parasitic fungus that attacks the Russula to give it a lobstery complexion, not to mention a sweetly fishy flavor. Here's what it looks like in the wild:

Lobster mushrooms are utterly fabulous breaded and fried, but I decided to do something different this time. A professor of mine mentioned his favorite way to have lobster mushrooms was in etouffee - a classic Cajun dish, so I took that idea and ran with it. Etouffee came from the French method of slowly cooking vegetables and meat in a small amount of liquid inside of a closed vessel (pot with a lid). I essentially did just that with onions, garlic, corn , peppers, oyster mushrooms, and lobster mushrooms. By slow cooking with a small amount of liquid (veggie stock), everything was essentially slowly steamed, so the structural/flavor/color integrity of everything remained.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


It's a special time of year...

Ginger! Fresh out of the ground! Grown in Wapato, WA by Mair Farm Take. Absolutely magical!

My Kitchen-Garden

I took a mushroom class at UW over the summer, part of which was creating our own edible-mushroom kits from scratch. My professor made the Reishi mushroom kit and gave it to me at the end of the quarter. Reishi mushrooms are much more common in Asian cultures and used as a daily health elixir, tradition says if you drink Reishi tea every day of your life you will live a longer and healthier life. I haven't made Reshi tea yet, but I will soon! Then there is the kit that I made completely from scratch - starting with a mushoom, isolating individual spores, mating germinated spores, and cultivating the mycellial mass that has gone on the bear many Oyster mushrooms.

Ganoderma lucidum
Reishi mushroom!

Pluerotus sp.
Oyster Mushrooms!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Happenstantial Fusion and other Gastronomic Explorations

Alex and I have been creating some sautéed creations that start out as a method to use up what's about to go bad in our fridge, only to realize later what a fantastically unusual fusion of cuisines we've created. It all started a few nights ago with pork stir-fry meat, then onions, garlic and carrots. I believe some peppers and summer squash, some broccoli, a tomato, and a phenomenal eggplant all went in too. We finished it with soy sauce, fish sauce, and tossed it with quinoa and Firefly Kitchen's kim-chee. Let's call it "Chinese-Korean-Brazilian cuisine with French Technique". Then there was last night's meal that began with fried potatoes and onions and evolved to contain summer squash, tomatoes, cabbage, and green beans. I cooked up some hot Italian sausages to put on the side and Alex brought out the sauerkraut... after one bite, I realize this would taste best mixed together, creating a French-Italian-German cuisine. This is also the beginning of what may be an obsession with combining spicy and fermented foods, they're just so exciting together!

On another note, I was craving grilled cheese and tomato soup the other day, but it was way too hot out, so instead I whipped up some gazpacho and made grilled cheese sandwiches with Golden Glen Creamery's Queso Con Salsa cheese. Just to make it a well-rounded meal I fried up some Stokesberry Farms sweet Italian chicken sausages also. Here's a picture of our perfect summer dinner out on the balcony:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The taste of summer...

Firefly Kitchens is a couple have a passion for pro-biotic fermented vegetables. They're just your average Seattlites with kids (so they only sell at week-day farmers markets), but holy cow they make some amazing stuff! Above is their sauerkraut, that's not only gorgeous, but some of the best and most unique sauerkraut I've ever had! It has an incredible meaty quality to it, like some sort of essence-of-beef, but at the same time its tangy and almost fruity.

CORN!!! The candy of summer! And this is the first of the season...

Also now coming into season in eastern Washington - Cantaloupe! More summer candy, and my favorite afternoon snack. I could easily eat a whole cantaloupe in one sitting, but I've been trying to ration myself to a half a cantaloupe a day... If only there was a was to preserve this to eat throughout the year...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rediscovering my Arkansas Roots!

For at least a year, I've been talking about making my own corn dogs, and a few days ago, I finally got around to it! It was surprisingly easy. I used Olsen Farm's Beef Country Dogs, which taste just like how I remember hot dogs tasting when I was kid. I dusted the dogs with flour, dipped them in regular corn bread batter, and then dropped them in a pan full of hot bacon grease to fry. After a few minutes they were golden brown and delicious! I had a lot of corn bread batter left over, so I chopped up some onions, mixed them in, and made hush puppies! I don't think I've had a hush puppy since I last visited my extended family in Arkansas, and oh man they're good! We took all this to a potluck, so here are the finished products in Tupperware, ready for transport:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bridal Trail Fruits!

Today might be that last day for wild mushrooms since the rain seems to be gone and it's only supposed to get hotter and hotter. To catch to end of the season I headed out to the Bridal Trail state park in Bellevue. I found a plethora of mushrooms, the only edible ones I recognized though were these oyster mushrooms:

I stopped and chatted with a kind woman on a horse and she introduced me to these local red huckleberries! They tasted just like tart grapes, with a hint of apple!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Snack Fit for a Prince!

Today in my rush to class I stumbled on these lovelies just outside the Biology department! Their botanical name is Agaricus agustus, but you can call him The Prince. I made sure the cap stained gold and the flesh smelled of rich almonds before snatching them up and bringing them home! I took a tip from my Mycology professor and decided to quickly saute them with onions and spread it on toast.

Absolutely delicious!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Other Hiking Bar

1/2 cup Hazelnuts
1 1/4 cup Cashews
1/4 Shredded Coconut
1 cup Oats
1 cup Flaked Emmer
1/4 cup Camelina Seeds
1/4 cup Hemp Seeds
1/2 cup Honey
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 oz. Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

I toasted all the nuts, seeds, oats, and emmer in a 300 degree oven just until they began to brown (about 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile, I melted the butter with the honey, sugar, and vanilla. When the dry things came out of the oven, I turned the heat up to 350 and tossed everything together and then pressed it into a buttered 9-inch square baking dish. I let bake for about 30 minutes. Then I should have let it cool completely before removing it from the pan, but instead I got impatient and it fell apart a little bit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mandy Cakes!

Oh the things I do for my friends... Believe it or not, these little cakes do not contain any gluten, dairy, eggs, or soy! And yes, they are edible and actually quite tasty - I thought the texture was a little off, but for someone who can't eat the real thing, it's about as close as you can get! I started with the Joy of Cooking's standard blueberry muffin recipe and substituted egg-replacer for the eggs, Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose flour for the flour, water for milk (I should really use hemp milk next time), and huckleberries for blueberries ...I also tweaked the ratios slightly so the dough was the right consistency with all the substitutions. I greased the muffin pans with coconut oil, which made the muffins incredibly easy to get out of the pan - something I'm going to do more often! The frosting is coconut oil with lots of powdered sugar and some pink food coloring, then I sprinkled granulated sugar and grated coconut on top.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Favorite Breakfast!

Whenever I have time to enjoy the morning, here's the jist of what usually happens:

Syrup made from last summers frozen raspberries, brown sugar, and butter.

Whole wheat waffles, Stumptown french-press coffee, Skagit Valley Ranch bacon, raspberry syrup, and sun shine!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fruits of Spring!

We've been having ideal mushroom weather here in western Washington lately; frequent rain showers with mildly warm weather and sun breaks. The morels especially love the sun breaks. At the farmers market this past weekend, Foraged & Found Edibles had an impressive plethora of morels along with a small basket of Gyromitra montanum. I had no idea Gryomitra's were edible, as they're commonly called "false morels" - I just assumed that meant they were not morels and therefore inedible. But after consulting several sources I was convinced that they're not only edible but a popular (and cheap) morel substitute. Then on my bike ride home today I slammed on the breaks at the sight of a log bulging with white mycelium and a collection of whitish, gilled, shelf-mushrooms emerging. It could only be one thing - Oyster Mushrooms!! Naturally, I came home and made a mycological feast:

Here's the cast of characters from left to right:
Pluerotus sp., Morchella esculenta, and Gyromitra montanum

Below is a quick and poorly done picture of the finished product. I made some pasta with olive oil, salt, and pepper. On top is a saute of the mushrooms, four different Allium's (leeks, baby onions, green-garlic, and walla walla onion scapes), chard, and sea beans (Salicornia) - delicious!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beef Bourginon, it's what's for dinner!

Amidst my studying, I was suddenly hit by an insatiable craving for beef bourginon. All things considered, it's incredibly simple and quick to whip up, I need to do this more often. Oh and I added chard. I have officially discovered the importance of chard. yum.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Food on my Mind

Spring quarter has begun at UW and I've fallen comfortably back into a relatively monotonous, yet efficient, pattern of cooking and eating, nothing worth noting on a blog anyway. However, due to popular demand, here's what I've been thinking:

-Empire's new Stumptown coffee ice cream is terrifyingly addictive (I'm eating some now in fact)

-In the lab at school I've been growing some edible fungi on agar...naturally my mind has wandered to wonder what it would be like to fry up one of these, agar and all. I don't think I'll be investigating this anytime soon. However, I did happen to read about agar and other plant-based gelatin replacements in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, and learned that they are all carbohydrates (unlike gelatin which is protein). Also, agar is not digestible by humans, meaning it just passes through as dietary "fiber".

-I was recently sent an awful article about how bad agave syrup is (it's a big new health-food trend, if you haven't heard). Intrigued, I did a tiny bit of research and discovered it is, in fact, inferior to regular old table sugar. Basically, agave syrup is just fructose...Highly concentrated fructose to give it a syrupy consistency, which could easily be called "high fructose agave syrup". We've all learned how bad high fructose corn syrup is, it's the same story all over again, just with a different plant source.

-At the farmer's market a few weeks ago we found ourselves in desperate need of coffee, which lead us to discover my new favorite bakery: Fresh Flours. It's on Ballard Ave. right in the middle of the Sunday farmers market. Their skilled barista serves Stumptown coffee and their pastries are utterly divine and wont break your wallet.

-Maple blossoms were selling at the farmers market today - they're in bloom EVERYWHERE! Get your own for free! (apparently they're edible, I'll let you know when I try them....maple blossom salad anyone?)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beignets for Second Breakfast

This morning, I woke up, ate first breakfast, took my physics final, and went back to sleep. Then I woke up again with a brilliant idea for second breakfast: beignets!! (New Orleans style doughnuts). It's basically a choux paste that gets fried.

Whipping the chouxish dough to satiny ribbons!:

Frying in bacon grease:

A landscape of beignets sprinkled with cinnamon-butterscotch-sugar: