Archive for February, 2009


February 27, 2009

I say “Seattle” and what do you think? Space Needle, Safeco Field? Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom? Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Death Cab for Cutie? Mountains, Water, Trees? Nope. You probably think “rain”.

And you would be right. It does rain here although you may be surprised to know that, in terms of inches, we get less than New York, Boston, or even Miami. What we get is days and days (or weeks and weeks) of gray skies with little spits of rain. We don’t get the cold that strikes much of the nation in winter and we usually don’t get snow – this year has been an exception. But we don’t get much sun and that can be hard to take. I went to college in Connecticut and my first winter I was blown away by how cold it was and by how much sun there was. “What is up with sun in winter?”, I remember asking my college roommate.

So to live in Seattle, and keep your sanity, it is important to get out of town in the winter if at all possible. My parents are big skiers and so when I was growing up, we always went skiing. I am not a big skier, although I am a decent one, so I always begged them to go somewhere warm. They did not listen to me and so each February, we were off to Sun Valley, Deer Valley, or Vail. (Cue the violins.)

I married a big skier and resigned myself to future Februarys in snowy locales. But the most amazing thing happened. Last year we went to Kauai on a deal we could not refuse. Neither of us had ever been to that island and we both fell in love with it. Randy finally understood my desire for sun – and warmth – in the midst of our gray winters. He isn’t ready to give up the idea of ski vacations as our boys get older and truthfully, neither am I. I love the idea of putting them in ski school and taking to the slopes with my husband just like the old days. But for now I can look forward to a little sun and warmth each winter.

We leave tomorrow so I will be absent from this blog for a week. I wish you all happy cooking! Before I sign off, I thought I would share my 2 year old’s favorite place to play these days.

This is my spice cabinet. I have two of these wonderful drawers on either side of my oven. The one on the right side houses extra oils and vinegars and this one houses all my lesser used spices and random jars and bottles.

I have a lot of spices. These are the heavy rotation ones.

Anyway, I made the mistake of opening this cabinet one day when my two year old was in the kitchen with me and now he loves taking things out and putting them back and hiding them in all different parts of the house. I used to keep it organized but now, why bother?

The bottom shelf has airplane sized liquor bottles of things that I use in baking (really!) and those, of course, are his favorite things to play with. The other day, this is what was on his highchair tray.

Yes, that would be Pear Brandy, Grand Marnier, and his water cup. Please don’t call CPS on me.

Goodbye to Butternut Squash

February 26, 2009

Belltown is a neighborhood in Seattle where it once was not safe to go. It is north of the famous Pike Place Market and, seriously, when I was a kid you steered clear of that part of town. Now it is known for having super-hip restaurants, pricey shops, and multi-million dollar condos. One of the people who is credited for beginning this change is Leslie Mackie. She opened a bakery and a few years later, a neighborhood was gentrified. Build it and they will come applies to bakeries too!

But this isn’t just any bakery. It’s really quite a special spot. In terms of the bread and baked goods, I have to honestly say that I think the quality has gone downhill. You can buy their bread almost everywhere in town now and I wonder if that diversification has hurt them. Still, whenever I walk into their original location in Belltown (there are now two others), I immediately want to start baking. Everything look so good.

For me, the best thing about Macrina is eating lunch there. They have about 8 small tables so it can be kind of tricky to snag one, but if you do you are in for a treat. Everyday, in addition to salads and sandwiches, they offer a meze plate. You get to choose three things from a list of five and your choices go something like this. Savory galette, some kind of grain or pasta salad, a large piece of crostini which in itself has three choices, soup, and green salad. The green salad stays the same, the rest change daily. I have never had anything there that wasn’t lip-smackingly delicious – down the roasted onions, olives, and almonds they put on every plate.

Several years ago, Mackie came out with a cookbook called Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook. I bought it right after it came out and was thrilled to find that there were three savory galette recipes in there. They are all phenomenal and real showstoppers if you want to impress company. This one, because I love squash so much, is my favorite. Although there is snow on the ground here today (again!), I feel that asparagus, peas, and artichokes are on their way. I don’t feel like I gave winter squash it’s due so last week I made these galettes for my clients.

If you are intimidated by things with crusts, this galette is a great place to start. The dough is incredibly easy to work with – it behaves the best of any I have made. And because the tart is free form, there is no rolling it or worrying about transferring it to a pan. The recipe as written makes one very large galette – I have been happier with it when I make smaller ones. Even if you are serving it for a dinner party, just make two smaller ones. They will look better and be easier to work with. Last week, I made two small ones for my clients and one medium sized one to eat with my parents and brother who came over for dinner.

The crust makes enough for two galettes so you can freeze half of it for up to a month and make another one another day. Or, you can use the dough as a double pie crust. I love versatility!

Butternut Squash and Apple Galette
Adapted from
Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook
Serves 8-10

I have made this tart with the fresh butternut squash and the canned pumpkin and they both taste great. Don’t hesitate to take the canned short cut.

2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

3 cups Roasted Butternut Squash, or canned pumpkin

2 tbsp. light brown sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage

1/2 recipe Flaky Pie Dough, chilled

Egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 tsp. water

2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Core and peel the apples and cut into 1/2 inch wedges. Place wedges in a medium bowl and toss with half of the allspice, half of the cinnamon, and half of the cloves. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the spice apples and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Set aside to cool.

Combine butternut squash puree with the remaining allspice, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl. Add brown sugar, eggs, salt, and sage, and mix with a whisk to fully blend the ingredients.

Form chilled pie dough into a ball and place in on a lightly floured work surface. Cut it in half and reform each half into a ball. Flatten each ball slightly, then working with one ball at a time, roll it into an approximately 8 inch circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Carefully lift it onto the preapred baking sheet. Spoon half of squash mixture onto center of circle and spread to within 2 inches of the edge. Place a single layer of apples in concentric circles on top of the squash filling. Lift border over top of the filling, tucking and folding the dough to create a gathered, or pleated, finish. Lift each of the folds up and brush underneath with egg wash to seal the crust. Brush all exposed dough with egg wash then repeat with other half of dough and filling. (You may need to place it on another sheet.) Place the baking sheet(s) in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove tart from oven and bake on center rack of oven for 30 minutes. Remov
e and sprinkle with Gorgonzola and parsley, then return to oven to bake another 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for 20 minutes. (DN: I add the cheese and parsley half way through to prevent them from burning. I have found you can bake this tart 4 hours ahead and reheat in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving.)

Flaky Pie Dough
Makes enough for 2 double-crusted (9-inch) pies, or 2 galettes

I always make pie dough in my food processor, but this amount is too much for it, so I do it by hand.

5 1/4 cups flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt

12 tbsp. (1
1/2 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and toss together. Add butter and cut it into the flour until the texture is coarse and crumbly. You can use a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers. Cut the shortening up and add it in small pieces. Cut in the shortening until the dough is crumbly again. Add ice water and mix just until the dough sticks together when pinched. Pull dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a block. Cut it in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or wrap it again in foil and store in the freezer. One day before you are going to use frozen dough, transfer it to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw there.

Roasted Butternut Squash
Makes about 4 cups of pureed squash

1- 3 lb. butternut squash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash squash, then cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Place squash, cut sides down on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Pour 2 cups of water into the baking sheet, surrounding the squash. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skin is dark brown and flesh is fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool for about 20 minutes. Scoop cooled squash out of its skin and puree in a food processor until smooth. Let the pureed squash cool completely, uncovered, then store it in an air-tight container. The squash will last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or for up to 1 month in the freezer.

Pappa al Pomodoro

February 25, 2009

I got several questions about how to serve the flatbread. Is it an appetizer? Side dish? Bread? Truthfully, it is whatever you want it to be. The three times I have made it, I have served it as a sort of side. There were substantial other things to eat – like this soup. More on that in a minute. But I can also see it sliced into thin pieces and served as an easy-to-pick-up appetizer. I can see it as a main course served with a nice savory salad. You could even serve it as a pre-dessert course instead of a cheese plate. The possibilities are endless.

I chose to make this soup simply because it was a cold day and it caught my eye. I have made one other version of Pappa al Pomodoro which I found incredibly delicious but this one was even better. I assume that the “real” version of this soup is much more simple – that’s the beauty of Italian home cooking, right? But I have to say that I loved the boost of flavor that carrot and fennel added here, and I loved the textural contrast of the croutons and crispy basil on top.

I served big bowls of the soup, the flatbread, and a big salad with lots of yummy things in it (avacado, mushrooms, tomatoes, hearts of palm, etc.) For dessert, a three layer cake with Kahlua in the cake, the custard in between the layers and in the frosting. I did not take a picture of it because, in spite of taking a cake decorating class last weekend, it was crooked and had lots of crumbs in the frosting!

Other vegan soup recipes on DanaTreat:
Tome Yum Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms
Orange Pepper Soup
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Pappa al Pomodoro
Adapted from
Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics
Serves 6-8

I intended to vegetarian-ize this recipe by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock, and by leaving out the pancetta called for in the garnish. I unintentionally vegan-ized it by forgetting to add Parmesan cheese right before serving. If you want the cheese, add 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan either to the whole pot right before serving, or add it to the individual bowls.

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped

1 cup medium diced carrots

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced

4 tsp. minced garlic

3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread

2 (28 ounce) cans good quality Italian plum tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 dry red wine

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:
3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread

30 whole fresh basil leaves

Olive oil

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onions, carrots, and fennel. Cook for 7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes.

Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. (DN: I just stuck my immersion blender directly into the can to save washing the food processor.) Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the vegetable stock, red wine, basil, 1 tbsp. salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. For the topping, place the ciabatta and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, and beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. (DN: I used my immersion blender again here.) Serve hot sprinkled with topping.

Smoky Cashews

February 24, 2009

Whenever I plan a dinner party, I put a lot of thought into the menu. Because I like to bake and so many of our friends do not, I usually start with dessert. Based on how rich or light that is, I plan the rest of the menu. It is only when I am writing up my shopping list that I realize that I had better have something for people to munch on before we sit down at the table.

Because appetizers are kind of after-thought for me (not that they are not important), I like to have a few go-to recipes that are winners and not too filling. I usually plan a big dinner, so I like to have something light to nibble on – cheese plates are not usually found at my house. Olives seem obvious but I love that they are a quick salty bite that is very satisfying.

To along with olives, these cashews are great for many reasons. They are salty and sweet, but also smoky (from pimenton) and piney (from rosemary). They are quick and I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like cashews. And, if you have raw cashews in your freezer (where you should store your nuts), smoked paprika in your spice cabinet, and a (in my case, half-dead) rosemary bush in your yard, you always have the ingredients on hand.

Other quick appetizers found at DanaTreat:
Spinach and Lemon Stuffed Mushrooms

Parmesan and Thyme Crackers
Deviled Eggs

Smoky Cashews
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics

Makes 2 cups

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews (about 9 ounces)\
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp. smoked hot paprika (
DN: I used smoked sweet)
2 tbsp. light brown sugar

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the cashews in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until golden, 10-12 minutes. Place remaining ingredients in a medium heat-proof bowl. Remove the cashews from the oven and immediately place them in the bowl and stir them continuously until the butter melts and the cashews are coated with the the other flavors.

One of the Best Things I Have Made

February 23, 2009

I love when people tell me I am a good cook. It is so nice to be complimented about something that is really important to me, and that is such a big part of who I am. I have to admit though, there is a part of me that feels not quite right taking the compliment. 90% of what I cook comes from recipes that others have written. Yes I found a good recipe, yes I actually cooked it, yes I put together a menu that worked well. But I didn’t write the recipes. Is that a glimmer of over-achiever in me? I don’t know, the over-achievers out there would have to let me know as I am certainly not one.

Last summer, while I was looking through a Food and Wine issue, this flatbread recipe jumped out at me. It seemed so different and I was intrigued by the play of salty and sweet. (I know that I’ve said I don’t like those two tastes to mingle, but I think I was lying.) I showed the picture to Randy, told him what was in it, and he said it sounded weird. I told him I really thought it would be great. No, I didn’t write the recipe, but I could tell a good one when I read it.

So, I made it and it was, without question, one of the best things I made in 2008. Everyone at the table raved about it and all were sorry that there was not a sliver of it left. It was so good that I made it again the next week. Then I promptly misplaced the recipe and forgot about it. When I found it early last week, I knew I had to make it for a special group of women I invited over for dinner last night.

There is nothing hard about this recipe, but it does require last minute cooking – something I usually insist on not doing for a party. Once it cools, it is still delicious but it loses some of its charm so I would suggest eating it right out the oven. The recipe tells you to use a pizza peel and stone, but if you don’t have one, don’t let that stop you from making it. You can just put in on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Your crust won’t be as crisp but the flavors will still shine.

Rosemary Flatbread with Blue Cheese, Grapes, and Honey
Adapted from
Food and Wine
Makes one 13-inch flatbread

1 envelope active dry yeast
2 tbsp. sugar

2 cups bread flour

cup warm water
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

tsp. fine salt
tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound red grapes (1
1/2 cups)
Coarse sea salt

3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (
1/2 cup)
1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. snipped chives

1. In a large bowl, whisk the yeast and sugar with 1/4 cup of the flour. Stir in 1/4 cup of the warm water and let stand until slightly foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the rosemary, fine salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water; stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a draft-free spot until billowy and doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Make sure the oven has preheated for at least 30 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the pizza peel. Press and stretch the dough into a 13-inch round, then transfer the dough to the pizza peel. Make sure the dough is not stuck anywhere on the peel. Press the grapes into the dough and sprinkle with sea salt.

4. Slide the flatbread onto the hot stone and bake for 12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the grapes have begun to release some of their juices. Sprinkle the blue cheese on top and bake for about 2 minutes longer, until the cheese melts. Slide the flatbread onto a work surface and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with chives. Cut into wedges and serve.

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