Archive for May, 2010

Dynamic Duo

May 11, 2010

The beautiful shrine set up outside Jen’s studio.

The food inside the house.

This past Saturday, I was off to another yoga retreat on Bainbridge Island with my friend Jen.  There are many reasons I treasure these day-long retreats.  One is getting to spend some time with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  Another is that I get to participate in two challenging and invigorating yoga classes.  Another is sharing in this incredible community of women.  And I love getting the chance to cook for those deeply appreciative and very hungry yoginis.

In general, lunch is funny for me.  I usually either eat it out, or scarf down something I would be embarrassed to tell you about before running off to pick up my kids.  I almost never actually prepare something for myself, so it is always a fun challenge to come up with lunch menus for these retreats.  I want to make something hearty yet not heavy and I want there to be plenty of variety.  Even though I almost never eat sandwiches myself (I find them either too spare or too greasy), I try to come up with a new one for each retreat.  Hungry women need sandwiches.

I’ve been on a bit of a creative roll here at Dana Treat.  After feeling tied to my cookbooks for most of my cooking life, I have been branching out and trusting myself more.  This time I had the idea to take the idea of a pan bagnat and run with it.  A pan bagnat is made using a large round of bread which is cut in half, innards scooped out, then stuffed with all manner of things, but traditionally including olives, hard-boiled eggs, and tuna.  The sandwich is made the day before you plan to serve it, wrapped tightly, and stored in the refrigerator so the flavors have a chance to meld and some yummy juices seep into the bread.  I wanted to use the idea, but change up the inside.  To feed 25 people, I knew I would need at least four of these rounds, so I decided to do two each of two different sandwiches.

I immediately had an idea for the first one, an Antipasto Sandwich.  I drizzled whole portabello mushroom caps and thick slices of zucchini with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and roasted them in a 425°F oven until they were nice and soft and a little browned.  I allowed them to cool and then thinly sliced them.  To save time, I used jarred roasted red peppers, and store-bought tapenade and hummus (don’t tell anyone!).  I layered it as follows:  tapenade spread on the bottom of the bread, roasted red peppers, portabello slices, provolone cheese, zucchini slices, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, more cheese, arugula leaves, and hummus spread on the top of the bread.  This sandwich came together easily in my mind and it worked beautifully in practice.  It also held together well under the serrated knife although the bottom of the bread got a little soggy from the tapenade.  No one complained.

The second creation I mulled over for longer.  I had seen a recipe for a sandwich with jack cheese, avocado slices, and a tomatillo/sour cream spread.  Good, but not quite hearty enough for this kind of bread or this kind of eater.  I decided to make a type of corn salsa with scallions and roasted tomatillos, poblano peppers, and cilantro.  I kept the avocado and the jack cheese and moistened the bread with a remoulade sauce made famous by none other than Jen herself.  She serves it with fish tacos and I knew the flavor would work here.  Finally, because I had some and felt like I needed one more layer, I tossed some thinly sliced cabbage with more of the remoulade to make an instant coleslaw and piled that on top.  That sandwich was a little trickier to cut – the filling kept wanting to ooze out the sides – but the flavors were fantastic.  Really unusual for a sandwich and I like unusual.  I’m dubbing that one Corn Salad Sandwich with Tomatillos, Poblano Peppers, and Jack Cheese.

Everyone loved the sandwiches which I think is a great success seeing as I had never made them before and was guessing and hoping it would all come together.

Oh, you thought “Dynamic Duo” referred to my sandwiches?  No, I meant me and Jen.  Yes, that is a birthday cake – her 40th is next week.  Recipe coming soon.  For now, my “unusual” sandwich.

(Don’t forget, I’m giving away Mario Batali’s new cookbook and a bag of the most delicious sun-dried tomatoes.  Enter by leaving a comment on this post by this Friday at noon PDT.)

One Year Ago: Moroccan Carrot and Hummus Sandwiches

Corn Salad Sandwich with Tomatillos, Poblano Peppers, and Jack Cheese
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-8 depending on how you cut the sandwich

This looks like a long recipe but parts of it can be done in advance and I swear it will take you longer to gather the ingredients for the remoulade than it will to mix it together.  Don’t forget, the whole sandwhich needs to spent the night in the refrigerator for maximum flavor, so plan ahead.

When all is said and done, you may have leftover corn salsa.  I don’t need to tell you the many ways that you could use that delicious stuff, but Randy topped grilled salmon with it and loved it.

For the remoulade:
½ of a small yellow onion, minced
1 stalk of celery, minced
½ cup mayonnaise (I used low-fat)
2 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. chili sauce (I used Sriacha)
10 shakes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
1 tbsp. horseradish
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch each of paprika and cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the corn salsa:
1 large poblano pepper
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For final assembly:
¼ head of green cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced
1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 large round bread, preferably sourdough
1 large avocado, thinly sliced

Make the remoulade:
Mix all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper together in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Can be made up to two days ahead.  Cover and store in the refrigerator.)

Make the corn salsa:
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place the poblano chili and tomatillos together on one rimmed baking sheet.  Do not oil them, just place them in the oven.  Roast for about 15 minutes total, until the skin of the poblano is turning black and the tomatillos are turning brown and starting to leak their juices.  You will need to turn the poblano periodically so it roasts on all sides.  Give the tomatillos a little shake while you are at it.

Remove sheet from the oven and allow the poblano to cool enough to handle.  Gently remove the skin, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get every speck off, and then pull out the seeds and membranes.  Discard those and the top of the chile.  Put the chile in a food processor along with the tomatillos and any juices left on the baking sheet.  Pulse until puréed.  Set aside.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and store in the refrigerator.)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the butter and once it melts, add the scallions.  Sauté for three minutes, just until they start to soften.  Add the corn, give it a good stir, then pour in the poblano mixture along with a good pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper.  Sprinkle in the cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaoporated, about 20 minutes.  Set aside.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and store in the refrigerator.)

For final assembly:
Using a serrated knife, cut the bread round in half.  Using your fingers, pull most of the innards out of both the top and bottom of the bread and set aside.  (You can make fresh bread crumbs with this part by allowing them to dry out overnight and then pulsing in your food processor.  Store them in your freezer in storage bags.)  Take about half of the remoulade and spread it over the bottom of the bread round.  Sprinkle with 1 cup of the cheese.  Spoon a generous amount of the corn salsa over top of the cheese.  Lay avocado slices over the salsa, then sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.  Put the cabbage in the bowl with the remaining remoulade and mix well.  Put the cabbage down as the top-most layer of the sandwich and cover with the bread top.

Wrap well in plastic and let side in the refrigerator overnight.  Cut into 4 or 8 slices and serve with lots of napkins.

Two Years

May 9, 2010

Two years.  Two years ago, after falling in love with several food blogs, I sat down and started one of my own.  I had no idea of how it would all go.  I wasn’t sure I would like it.  It took me a while to find my voice, a little longer to upgrade my camera, a little longer still to ask someone to design a site for me.  All the while, I kept cooking and I kept writing.  I opened up more, shared more about my life and my boys.  I got incredible support from comments and emails along the way.  I have gotten to know some amazing people and some exciting doors have opened for me.  I am thankful to be writing and thankful that you are reading.

I love that this year, my blog-versary falls on Mother’s Day.  It just seems fitting somehow.  Being a mom, a writer, and loving food.  Pretty much my life these days.

So thank you all, even if it is your first time here.  Thank you for your interest, your comments, your emails, your questions, your encouragement.  It would have been a lonely two years if not for all of you.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to pop down the Pike Place Market to buy candied orange peel for this cake.  This market, centered on the Western edge of downtown, is one of the most special things about Seattle.  They have produce vendors year-round and all kinds of homemade crafts.  There are lots of nooks and crannies hiding countless treasures.  I really only needed one thing but these purple baby artichokes stopped me cold.  Aren’t they beautiful?  At that point, I had no plans to cook for the next few days, but I bought them anyway.  I couldn’t pass them by.

I headed to DeLaurenti where I knew I would be able to find the candied orange peel.  Never ever walk into that store thinking you are only going to buy one thing.  I don’t think it is possible.  They have the most incredible cheese selection, fresh breads, specialty chocolates, all manner of fresh and dried pasta, antipasti, a huge selection of oils and vinegars, and giant kosher pickles which I can never resist.  They also have large bags of their own sun-dried tomatoes which are the best I have ever had.  Supple and moist but without swimming in a jar of oil.  I wasn’t sure of my supply back home so I bought another large bag.

When I got home, I realized that I already had an almost-full bag and immediately I knew I wanted to give these away.  Whenever I talk about buying sun-dried tomatoes, I always suggest trying to find this kind.  I have seen them in grocery stores and have bought them, but nothing compares to the ones from DeLaurenti.  I want you to have my new bag.

Coincidentally, I went to a talk featuring Mario Batali last week.  Tom Douglas, a well-known and respected local chef and restaurateur, invited him up on stage to discuss his new book, restaurant trends, and life in general.  All of us got copies of Molto Gusto, Mario’s new book.  It is a really nice cookbook.  The recipes are very simple and there are lots of vegetarian options.  Still, I don’t feel I need it.  I have so many cookbooks and besides, my neighbor has a copy.  I can always borrow hers.  So, if you would like a large bag of the greatest sun-dried tomatoes and my autographed copy of Molto Gusto (it even has my name on it) , just leave me a comment telling me what you might do with those sun-dried tomatoes.  And if you have eaten in a Mario Batali restaurant, tell me which one and what you ordered (if you remember).  You have until Friday, May 14th at noon, PDT.  Time is up!  Winner will be announced soon!

Back to those artichokes.  I think if you are going to go to the trouble of using fresh ones, you should make something where their special flavor really shines through.  If you are just going to bury them in with a bunch of other ingredients, you might as well save your time and money and just use frozen.  My idea was to braise them in some white wine along with onion and those special sun-dried tomatoes.  I thought that sounded a little too plain to serve as a side dish, so I decided to build a salad around them.  Fresh greens, a mustard lemon vinaigrette, the artichokes, and – because a salad just isn’t a salad without it – avocado.  There are people who think salad is boring and tasteless – a what’s the point? dish.  Make this for them and change their minds.

One Year Ago:  Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwich
Two Years Ago:  Meet Me

Braised Artichoke Salad with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette

Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

Whenever I use fresh artichokes, I always buy the babies because they rarely have a choke to cut out.  You can certainly use full-size ones here, they will just be more work.  I would use 2 or 3 in that case, depending on their size.

I always make my salad dressing in a jar rather than a bowl, that way it can be shaken rather than whisked and stored easily in the refrigerator.  Salsa jars work well because they have a wide mouth.

For the Salad:
About 16 baby artichokes
1 lemon, cut in half
Olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
10 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 5 ounces of your favorite lettuce
1 medium avocado, cut into 1″ chunks

For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, pressed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil, or more to taste

To trim the artichokes: Fill a large bowl with cold water.  Squeeze the juice out of both halves of the lemon and add the lemon itself to the bowl.  This will help keep the artichokes from turning brown.  Trim both the top and bottom of the artichoke, then start to break off the leaves.  Continue going until the leaves are very tight and lighter in color.  Trip the base of the artichoke so that it is flush with the leaves.  Cut the artichoke in half, scoop out the choke (the hairy stuff) is there is one, and put both halves in the bowl of water.  Repeat with remaining artichokes.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the onion.  Sauté until softened and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Scoop the artichoke hearts out of the water and add them directly to the pan with the onions.  Sauté for 2 minutes, then pour in the wine.  Raise the heat to medium-high, cover the pan, and cook until the artichokes can be easily priced at their thickest part with a fork.  You may need to add more wine if it evaporates too quickly.  Once they are done, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside.  (This step can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before using.)

Meanwhile, wash and dry your lettuce.  Place in a large salad bowl along with the avocado.  Once the artichoke mixture is cool, add that in as well.  Toss with dressing with just enough dressing to coat the leaves well.  (You may have leftover dressing.)

For the dressing: Place the garlic, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, mustard, a healthy pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper in a jar.  Cover and give it a good shake.  Open the jar and pour in the olive oil, then re-cover it and shake until the dressing is emulsified.  Taste for seasoning.  I like my dressing really sharp so I add less olive oil than what is traditional.  Do what you like.

Scenes from My Front Yard

May 7, 2010

A big weekend is on the horizon and the sun is finally shining in Seattle.  Our front yard has been quietly going about its business and now that I can actually look out the window and enjoy the view (rather than cursing the rain), I can’t believe what I see.

I take no credit for this garden.  It was designed by a very talented woman and planted by an amazing man who continues to nurture it and give it love.  Graham, who is 5, says plants need sun and rain and love to grow and I believe him.  Randy always says our plants look happier when Michael has been by.  This is only the beginning.  Our garden kind of reaches its peak in late July when people stop on the sidewalk and gawk at our plants in all their glory.  Lavender lines our walkway and there is color everywhere.

This will be our fourth summer in this house but our first with red doors.  I love these doors.  When we bought the house, it was unfinished but all walls were up and the exterior had been painted.  At first, I didn’t  like the black.  It is a very un-Seattle like color.  We decided we could change it after a few years, but it grew on us and we finally decided all we really needed was a little more color.  Enter the red doors, one in front, one in back, and this one on the detached garage.  They make me happy every time I see them.

I am going to be pretty busy this weekend.  I will be heading over to Bainbridge Island for a yoga retreat with my friend Jen on Saturday.  Along with my mat, I will have a car packed with lunch for 25 yoginis.  Sunday is, of course, Mother’s Day and I don’t know what is in store for me that day.  I do know the weather forecast is for sun and temperatures in the 60′s so truthfully, I don’t care.  Some time with family, maybe a good meal and I’ll be happy.  Sunday also marks the two year anniversary of this blog which I really can’t believe.  To celebrate, I’ll be sharing a special original recipe and will be doing a giveaway.  Happy Friday everyone!

If you want some recipes, last year at this time I was making Mexican Brownies, Asian Noodles, and 2 different dips for vegetables.

Orange-Grand Marnier Cake

May 5, 2010

For someone who does not like orange flavored dessert, there is an awful lot of orange desserts here on this blog.  If you were so inclined,  you could make this pound cake, these biscotti, or these rolls.  I don’t like okra either and you will NOT find an okra recipe here.  Weird.

Anyway, back in November, I made two birthday cakes for the 40th birthday party of one of my closest friends.  She requested the cake that is quickly becoming my signature and another one of my choice.  She has had years of my desserts and she trusts me.  Because the chocolate cake is so rich, I thought I would try to balance it with something a little lighter.  Still spectacular and nice and tall, but just not so intense.

When I found a recipe for Grand Marnier cake in the book Sky High, I knew it was the one.  Over the years, we have had many dinners with my friend and her husband and there was often Grand Marnier involved so it seemed like the perfect choice.  The birthday girl loved it and so did her guests.  One of her friends just hired me to make the exact same cakes for her husband’s birthday.

For a 3-layer impressive-looking cake, this recipe is actually quite easy.  The cakes themselves are a simple chiffon and the frosting comes together quickly and easily.  Every time I make a layer cake, I start to panic once the assembly begins.  Will it come together as it should?  Will it be crooked?  (Always yes to that one.)  What if I run out of frosting?  Then, What do I do with all this leftover frosting?  If you imagine me to be a calm cool collected baker, do not come into my kitchen on cake assembly day.

But this cake did not stress me out either time.  It is a well-behaved cake.  If you have never tried a layer cake before, this is a good place to start.  Especially if you like orange.

One Year Ago:  Niçoise Salad

Orange-Grand Marnier Cake
Sky High
Makes a 9-inch triple-layer cake; serves 16-20

1¾ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean, or vegetable
8 eggs, separated
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp. grated orange zest
1/3 cup water
½ tsp. cream of tartar

Grand Marnier Syrup (recipe follows)

Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting (recipe follows)

Candied orange peel and white chocolate shavings, for decoration

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line the bottom of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment or waxed paper but do not grease the pans.

2.  Sift the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, the baking soda, and salt into a large bowl; stir to blend.  Whisk in the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest, and water until well blended.

3.  Put the egg whites in a clean large mixer bowl with the cream of tartar and, using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat until frothy.  Slowly add the remaining ½ cup sugar an whip until soft peaks form.  Do not overbeat or the cake will be dry.

4.  Add one-fourth of the beaten whites to the cake batter and fold them in to lighten the batter.  Gently fold in the remaining whites just until no streaks remain.  Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

5.  Bake the cake layers for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely in the pans.  Run a blunt knife around the rim of each cake to release the edges, invert onto a wire rack, and carefully pull off the paper liners.  (DT: I made the actual cakes several days in advance and froze them.  If you do this, spray the foil with non-stick spray – otherwise it will be hard to pull off the foil without taking some of the cake with you.)

6.  To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate, flat side up.  Using a brush, generously moisten the top of the layer with ¼ cup of the Grand Marnier Syrup; then spread 1 cup of the Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting evenly over it.  Repeat with the second layer and more syrup and frosting.  Top off with the third layer, flat side up.  Brush with the last of the syrup and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.  (DT: I found it helpful to do a crumb coat here.  In other words, do a thin layer of frosting all over the cake, place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then finish frosting the cake.)

Grand Marnier Syrup
Makes ¾ cup

¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup Grand Marnier

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup is reduced to ½ cup.  Remove from the heat.  Let cool completely, then stir in Grand Marnier.

Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting
Makes about 6 cups

6 ounces fine-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2½ cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. Grand Marnier
1 tbsp. grated orange zest

1.  In a medium heatproof bowl, melt the white chocolate with ½ cup of the cream over barely simmering water.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Stir in the Grand Marnier and orange zest.

2.  In a large chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the remaining 2 cups cream until almost completely stiff.  Add the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture and gently fold it in.

Impromptu Pasta

May 4, 2010

Today, some weather complaining.

The high in Seattle today reached 52 degrees.  Tomorrow?  51 degrees.  Did you know it is May?  We didn’t.  We thought it was February.

Now, I grew up here so I shouldn’t be surprised.  This is spring weather in the great Northwest.  People always ask how we can stand the winter in Seattle.  So much rain!  But truthfully, winter isn’t all that bad.  The temperature rarely dips below 40 degrees and yes, it does rain, but it is really more of a drizzle.  We get less rain in inches than most of the major cities (even Miami!), we just get more days of it.  So a winter day with driving pouring rain is actually pretty unusual.  Misty somewhat cold days are more like it.  If you dress properly, you can still be outside and not suffer too much.  I run around a nearby lake through the worst of it and do just fine.  My kids’ preschool has them play outside every day.  I prefer that to having to scrape ice off my car every morning or worrying that my children will get frostbite.  (You people in San Diego and Arizona can just keep quiet.)

Spring is another story.  After a long misty dark winter, we really do need to see the sun.  We also need to warm up.  And sometimes that doesn’t happen until June.  Other times warmth and sun don’t come until July 5th, which is when Seattle’s summer starts.  In other words, some years there really is no spring – we just go from winter to summer.  And that is when it feels cruel to live here.  Looking out my window at gray skies and rain in January doesn’t bother me all that much because I know it is so much worse elsewhere.  Looking out my window at gray skies and rain in May, knowing it is better just about everywhere,  that is pretty depressing.

Not only is spring weather tardy around here, but spring produce is behind much of the country as well.  I have hoped to find local asparagus at our markets for the past few weeks and am still just seeing lots of greens and radishes.  Thank you California for sharing your asparagus bounty and not leaving us to wallow in our parsnips.

Last week my parents came over for dinner.  I hadn’t planned to cook but my mom brought over some mushrooms and asparagus that she wasn’t going to be able to use.  I was craving pasta so I improvised this dish.  It’s amazing what some asparagus and lots of fresh herbs can do for your mood.  I liked it so much I made it again tonight for our friends Deb and Jeff in honor of Meatless Monday (which is, of course, always meatless in this house).

One Year Ago:  Rhubarb Streusel Tart (so good!) and Bean Tostadas with Sofrito

Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Tarragon

Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

I used a spaghettini here which is like a cross between angel hair and spaghetti.  I think angel hair would be too thin and delicate for this dish, but spaghetti would be fine.  The first time I made this, I used freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  The second time I used Pecorino which I liked better but either is fine.

Olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 pound cremini or white mushrooms, or a combination, quartered
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 pound asparagus, tough stalks trimmed, cut on the diagonal into 1″ pieces
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese, plus more for passing at the table
2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound spaghettini or spaghetti

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the shalltos and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until starting to brown, about 4 minutes, then add the mushrooms.  Sprinkle in the fresh thyme and allow to cook, stirring very occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, and about half of it has cooked off.  Add the asparagus and fresh tarragon and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is cooked through but not too soft.  Turn heat to low.  (At this point, the dish can be made a couple of hours ahead, but I would wait to add the asparagus until just before getting ready to start the pasta.  If it sits too long, it will lose its beautiful color.)

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghettini and cook until al dente.  Using tongs, transfer the pasta directly to the asparagus/mushroom mixture along with about ½ cup of the cooking liquid and the cream.  Continuing to use the tongs, coat the noodles with the vegetables and the creamy sauce, adding more cooking liquid as necessary if it seems too dry.  Sprinkle in another pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the Pecorino cheese and toss to incorporate.

Serve in wide soup bowls with additional Pecorino cheese.

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