Archive for May, 2011

Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad

May 31, 2011

If you are one of those people who plan their vacations around food, I would bookmark my most recent giveaway post.  People!  You live in places with incredible bounty and I look forward to each and every one of your packages.  Just kidding.  I really did love reading where you are from and what is delicious from your part of the world.  I think we are lucky here with the amazing produce and access to great wine, not to mention many different world markets.  But clearly, I need to get out more.

Our lovely winner, picked by a random generator is comment #81.  Melissa, in your own words, where do you live and what would you include?

I love this question! I’m a reader from Plymouth, Michigan, so I would have to include some Traverse City cherries along with cherry jam and cherry coffee, Olga bread, Macainac Island fudge, Sanders Hot Fudge and Bumpy Cake, Vernors, and some custard filled baklava from my favorite downtown bakery. And, while it is a Michigan original, I would probably leave the coney dog and out of the package :)

Melissa, send me an email and I will send you the goods!

Onward.  Salad.  A couple of weeks ago, I took a class from a local celebrity – Ethan Stowell.  Mr. Stowell has four well-regarded restaurants in our fair city – three of which I have had the pleasure of dining.  He also has a new cookbook and has just started selling his pasta in gourmet markets around town.  The class I took was all about gnocchi, something I have made before without great success.  Seeing as it is one of Randy’s all-time favorite things to eat, I thought learning from a master would be great.

I can tell you, it is wonderful to take a cooking class now and then, especially if you are a teacher.  Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and be a student.  I enjoy watching someone else’s style and there always seem to be terrific tidbits that I take home.  Like watching Ethan prepare this salad and noticing that he peeled a fennel bulb.  You know, you get a fennel bulb and the outside is all bruised and, if you are me, you take off off that outer layer, but then you are left with a much diminished bulb.   I learned, just from watching – nothing that he said – that you just take a vegetable peeler to that bruised outer layer and just make it right.  That right there was worth the price of admission.

Ethan made a version of this salad after we had already sampled ricotta and semolina gnocchi and while potato gnocchi was on the way.  In other words, something bright, fresh, and green was most welcome.  He shared that he makes salad dressing in the blender or food processor and that they use canola oil rather than olive oil at his restaurants because it is more mild.  He also said that the key to emulsifying when using an egg yolk (like in a creamy salad dressing or mayonnaise), is to add a couple of tablespoons of water.  I came right home and made this salad, inspired.  (I was inspired by the gnocchi too but just did not have the time to make any of them.  Soon Randy, I promise!)

Inexplicably I was out of canola oil so I substituted with some bright green grapeseed oil.  I’ve made salad dressing with grapeseed oil, Suzanne Goin’s amazing Green Goddess Dressing to be exact, and have been pleased.  I’m not so sure I loved it here.  We are very much a vinaigrette family and I make my dressing with a lot of bite.  Maybe the creaminess was just too much for us here – although there is no cream.  But we both loved the vegetables, such a nice departure from my old standby salad.

One Year Ago: Spicy Peanut Noodles
Two Years Ago: Individual Vegetable Tarts

Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad
Inspired by Ethan Stowell
Serves 3-4

For the dressing
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup champagne vinegar
1 cup canola oil

For the salad
10 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 head frisée, any brown ends discarded, cut or torn into bite size pieces
1 head endive, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, bruised parts peeled, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced
1 medium avocado, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup herbs, such as mint, tarragon, chives, and dill
Chive blossoms as a garnish, optional

For the dressing
Put the egg yolk, water, mustard, salt, and vinegar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Turn on to blend, then pour the oil in through the feed tube.  Process until the dressing is emulsified.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

For the salad
Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.  Toss with just a bit of dressing, adding more as necessary.

No-Knead Olive Bread

May 26, 2011

OK, so maybe I’m a little obsessed with making this no-knead bread.  I make it for the classes I teach, I make it for every dinner party, I make it when I think, hey! I need some really good bread.  It just works so well for me and my schedule.  And every single person who tastes it marvels that I made it.  That my friends is an excellent recipe.  You know how you can sometimes do a 360º camera on web sites?  Like to look at a hotel room?  Here is my 360º of this bread.

I’ve been loving the cheese version.  I made the version with some whole wheat flour and surprisingly, I didn’t love that one.  Give me a bread basket in a restaurant and I will always reach for the darker wheat-ier slice, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  The olive bread though…Nirvana!  Um.  Almost.  Lahey tells you not to use salt in this recipe because the olives are so salty.  This totally made sense to me but there was too big a contrast flavor-wise between the olives and the bread.  I needed a bit of salt in the dough to balance.  So, next time, maybe a couple of grams of salt, some rosemary to mix in with the olives, and a bit of coarse salt sprinkled on top.  Can’t wait.

Entries for the Pike Place Market gift pack can be made up through midnight PDT tomorrow, Friday, May 27th.  Winner will be announced on Monday.  Thank you all for your thoughtful entries!

One Year Ago: Giant Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache, Mushrooms with White Wine
Two Years Ago: Roasted Asparagus with a Poached Egg, Crystallized Ginger Ice Cream, Tofu Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Pane all’Olive (Olive Bread)
My Bread
Makes one 10-inch loaf

I’m giving you the recipe as written in the book without any additional salt.  If you make it and add salt, let me know how it works out.  I will update this recipe when I make it again (soon).  Also, Lahey recommends using already pitted olives so they don’t get too smushed and color the bread.  I used Kalamata.  UPDATE 12-11:  I did use 2 grams of salt in the bread and I think it was perfect!

400 grams (3 cups) bread flour
200 grams (1½) cups pitted olives
¾ tsp. (3 grams) instant or active dry yeast
300 grams (1½ cups) cool water
Wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, ovels, and yeast.  Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.  Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour.  Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece.  Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center.  Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.  Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down.  If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.  Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours.  The dough is ready when it is almost doubled.  If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression.  If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475ºF, with a rack in the lower third, and place a covered 4½ to 5½-quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.

Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it.  Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up.  (Use caution, the pot will be very hot.)  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut  brown but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more.  Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool completely.

Why Do Giveaways?

May 24, 2011

Winner!  It was so fun reading about all of your food guilty pleasures.  Lots of peanut butter and mac and cheese – not together.  Comment #27 came up as random winner – Robin likes Cadbury hard shelled mini eggs and coffee ice cream.  Send me an email Robin so I can get your address.

Recently I was chatting with an old friend about my blog.  She has been an enthusiastic supporter and reader from the beginning.  She asked why I or anyone with a blog would do a giveaway.  I’m sure that every blogger out there has a different reason.  My reasons have evolved over my three (!) years.  At the root of it all, I am a generous person.  I like to give.  I have an abundant life and I like to be able to share.  I feel grateful to all of you for coming here and reading what I write.  I am moved by your comments and emails.  I get an incredible kick out of having students in my classes who I have never met but who know me through my blog.

Writing this blog, or any blog, is a solitary process.  I always tell people that I feel like I have about 25 readers.  Of course that is not the case, but day after day, it is just me cooking in my kitchen and writing in our study.  When I do a giveaway, I hear from more people.  I see names I’ve never seen, hear opinions I’ve never heard.  It is why I always ask for some sort of detail from you (like the most recent pedestrian taste) – so I can get a tiny sense of just who is out there reading.

So that is why you will see me periodically giving things away.  As the final of 3 giveaways to celebrate my 3 years and 500 posts, I am giving away some of the best that Seattle has to offer.  I took a walk through Pike Place Market the other day, with a whiny four year old in tow, and snatched up some of my favorite things.  This is a thank you, once again, for being out there and for reading.

Here is what you can win.

Chukar Cherries – delicious and plump dried Washington cherries.
DeLaurenti sun-dried tomatoes – the best I’ve ever had

Parker Pickles – pickled green beans
Mama Lil’s Peppers – spicy and good on just about anything
Blackberry Honey

To enter, tell me where you live and what you would send if you were putting together the best from your town.  Your culinary dream pack as it were.  I’ll pick a winner on Friday.

UPDATE: It’s only a few hours into the day and already I have gotten so much joy reading all the care packages you all would send from your hometowns.  YUM!  I have to say that I would, of course, include a bottle of Washington wine in the mix – we make some of the best Syrah in the world – but I know some states don’t allow wine to be shipped.  Whoever the winner is, I will look into the law and if your state (or country) allows it, I will include a great Washington Syrah.

One for the Weekend

May 20, 2011

Friends, it’s Friday.  This week I baked breakfast treats for an office of 55 people.  I taught a Thai cooking class to a super fun group of 10 and, the next night, taught a farmers’ market special class to another super fun group of 11.  I’m a little tired.  My kitchen is a little messy.

These are clean.

These are not.

But who cares?  It’s Friday and the sun is shining and we have a party to go to tonight and another to go to tomorrow night and I imagine you might have plans as well.  Need some nuts?

I make all kinds of cocktail nuts.  I make them to give as gifts around the holidays, I make them for parties that I cater, I make them so that I always have a nibble on hand when unexpected dinner guests come by.  I do really love the smoky cashews and still make them often but truthfully, they can be a bit of a struggle.  The topping doesn’t stick as well to the nuts as I would like it to.  Which is why I am really digging this recipe.  These beauties get perfectly coated, perfect crisp.  Not too sweet, salty and quite spicy.  You should probably make some this weekend.

Winner of the Patricia Wells book will be announced on Monday along with one last giveaway.  Oh!  And many of you have asked about the three Indian cookbooks I mentioned in that post.  One is a gorgeous book from the Cinnamon Club – an amazing restaurant near Victoria Station in London.  The food is very fine and the recipes are a little intense.  Not really every night type of cooking but amazing nonetheless.  That one you can find on Amazon.  The other two are both from Rasa – a much more casual but, in my mind, even more delicious place where I first learned about the glory that is South Indian food.  I have cooked many times from both books and they are terrific.  The New Tastes of India and Fresh Flavors of India.  Also available on Amazon.  I don’t make any money by directing you to them – they are just the easiest source for books that might be hard to find in this country.

One Year Ago:  Lighter Fettucine Alfredo and Curried Tofu and Avocado Dip
Two Years Ago:  Peanut Butter Cup Brownies and Raspberry Almond Bars (I was just telling this Dave Matthews story last night.)

Spiced Cocktail Nuts
Makes about 3 pounds

You can, of course, play around with the nuts you use in the mix and you can also halve the recipe.  If you don’t love spice, I would cut the amount of cayenne in half.  I may have thrown in a pinch of smoked paprika as well.

3 sprigs fresh thyme
2-inch sprig fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. + 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup raw almonds
2/3 cup raw cashews
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
5 1/3 cups raw peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, a non-stick liner, or foil.

Pick the leaves from the thyme and rosemary sprigs, and chop the leaves coarsely.  In a mixing bowl, combine the thyme, rosemary, corn syrup, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper, and mix well.  Add all the nuts and mix thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon.

Spread the nuts evenly on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast, stirring a few times with a heatproof spatula or a wood spoon to ensure the nuts color evenly, until they are fragrant and a rich brown, about 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.  The nuts will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.

Winner, Another Giveaway, and Answers

May 18, 2011

Winner!  Thank you to those who entered to win the Guy Fieri cookbook!  I always love reading about your favorite cookbooks and will answer your questions a bit later in this post.  First, today’s winner is comment #19 – Meredyth, who wanted to know if I do any microwave cooking.  Truthfully, Meredyth, I only use my microwave to re-heat things.  I am sure there are cookbooks out there that feature microwave cooking!  Email me so I can get your address.

Now onto giveaway #2.

This book also came directly from the publisher.  When they emailed me asking if I wanted a copy, I couldn’t type “yes” quickly enough.  I love Patricia Wells.  I have her Provence, Paris, and Vegetable Harvest book and use and adore all three.  She falls into that elite category of totally trustworthy cookbook authors.  Her recipes are simple and bursting with flavor.  She truly lives by that motto of use the very best ingredients, don’t tinker with them too much, and you will have perfection.  So why am I giving this book away?  Surprisingly, for a salad book, there is very little non-meat here.  Normally that would be fine because the vegetarian recipes look lovely.  But they also look fairly similar to recipes from her other books.  In other words, I don’t need it and I probably won’t use it.  Would you?

In my last post, I talked about pedestrian tastes.  What is your guilty pleasure?  Tell me in the comments and I will pick a winner on Monday.

Now for answers.  Delia wondered if I watch any cooking or food related shows.  I watch Top Chef but not Top Chef Masters (I just can’t get into it) and I did watch the dessert one and cringed throughout the entire thing.  I used to watch a fair number of people on the Food Network but the only person I can stand anymore is Ina.

Charlotte wants to know what meals I make for my boys.  Promise no judgment here, people – all right?  There are a lot of cheese and bean quesadillas in our house.  Noodles with butter and Parmesan cheese and soy meatballs.  Tofu and rice.  Bean and cheese burritos.  Mac and cheese (no judging!).  Soba noodles with tofu.  English muffin pizza.  They love edamame so we have those often.  My little vegetarians are not bit vegetable eaters, but they love fruit.  I remember my pediatrician saying that ideally they eat both veggies and fruit but one or the other is fine too.  So they have to have fruit at every meal.  They will also eat carrots with hummus and sometimes snap peas.  Or celery with peanut butter and raisins.  Graham will really eat just about anything while Spencer is much pickier.

Melinda wondered if I ever cook Indian food.  I can guarantee you that as soon as Randy reads this, he will call/email/text me asking, “Why don’t you make Indian food anymore?”  I used to make it a lot.  I have three amazing Indian cookbooks, all from restaurants in London, and both Randy and I LOVE Indian food.  I have no explanation as to why I have made more Indian food.  Time to fix that.

Ange wondered how long I have been a vegetarian and when/how I decided.  It has been a long time since I told this story – I think I had about 3 readers last time I wrote about it – so here goes.  The short version.  When I was 16, I was on this three month bike trip in France.  We rode in five different regions and had homestays in each region.  In Corsica, about mid-way through the trip, my friend Jen (she of the yoga retreats who I talk about all the time) and I ended up in the same house with a very crazy Corsican family.  Lots of yelling and fighting.  It was a little terrifying actually.  The last night we were there, they made us a special feast including pâté.  I took one look at it and knew there was no way I could eat it.  How to get away with this and not be rude?  I told them I was vegetarian.  And then, I realized that I really was.  I had no desire to eat meat, even as a child I only ate it because my mom told me to.  I liked hamburgers but I could easily give those up and I liked fish so I would just keep eating that.  So, I stopped eating red meat and white meat at 16.  For Jen’s 21st birthday, I took her out for dinner and I ordered salmon.  I finished it and thought, “I think I’m done with fish too.”  And I was.  So, no meat since 16 and no fish since 20.

Lori wanted to know what yeast I use for bread baking.  I just use commercial yeast – the type that is in the packets.  I use rapid rise if a recipe calls for it but otherwise I use active dry.

Midori (hi Midori!) wanted to know what spice I use for a little extra sumpin’ sumpin’ in my cooking.  The spice I use most often for sure is cumin.  It features prominently in most of my favorite cuisines – Indian (see above), Mexican, Thai, North African, Middle Eastern.  But for a little boost, I will often add a pinch of red pepper flakes – not enough to be spicy, just enough to be interesting.

Thanks for playing!

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