Archive for September, 2011

Book Larder

September 29, 2011

Friends.  I’ve been keeping a little something from you.  That sounds sneaky, I know.  I never meant to be sneaky.  It started out that I was unsure, then I didn’t want to jinx myself, then I couldn’t believe it was real, then I wanted to make sure you could learn as much about it as possible (i.e. I was waiting for a web site to go live).  What on earth am I talking about?

This.  If you are active in the Seattle food community, then you know that an incredible place is about to open its doors.  Book Larder, our fair city’s very own cookbook shop, will open on October 12th.  A bookstore with over 3,000 titles, a gathering space, a place to attend amazing events, a kitchen in which to take cooking classes…and guess who is working there.

Me.  To say I am excited about this new chapter in my culinary life would be an understatement.  Lara, Book Larder’s visionary owner, and I have had multiple conversations about my role in the store and she is currently calling me Culinary Director.  I love that.  Basically, I will be doing a little of everything – working in the store, helping with events – but also overseeing the cooking classes held in the shop’s cozy kitchen space and teaching classes of my own.  When Lara and I had our first real conversation about a possible role for me there, she asked me what path I saw my career taking.  I told her that although I know it sounded a bit “woo-woo”, I felt like there was something out there swirling around in the Universe waiting to make itself clear to me.  And that thing is Book Larder.  I could not be more thrilled.

So!  If you live in Seattle, please come by the store and say hi.  The doors open October 12th.  Sign up for some events.  Come to some classes!  Just come and hang out!  We will be baking yummy things on a regular basis for sampling.  Check the Facebook page to find out about fun things like that or, if you are on Twitter, follow us.  If you don’t live in Seattle, but are planning a trip in the future, same deal.  Regardless of where you live, you can sign up for the Book Larder mailing list to read all about the amazing upcoming events, cool people who are blowing through town, and classes to take.

How about some preview photos?

The kitchen space. Lara and Spencer watching compostible packing peanuts go down the disposal.

The books have been coming in for a week.  Boxes and boxes of cookbooks.  Some of them I may have petted and rubbed against my cheek.  I may have started a list of things I want to buy.  Already.

Where are they all going to go?  The walls are lined with shelves and the next task is to figure out order and spacing.  That is what post-its are for!

We have many categories.  It makes me happy that one of them is called “Quirk”.

There will plenty for the kids to look at.  This is Spencer reading an adorable book called The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies.

Updates coming soon!

Pizza Obsession

September 25, 2011

OK, guess what?  I’m in the midst of a months- long pizza obsession.  I have nothing earth shattering to say about the obsession, just that it has taken a hold of me.  Quite simply, I crave pizza all the time.  This is not to say that I never craved it before but now the craving is near constant.  Having a simple and (in my opinion) perfect recipe for a crust and a grill just waiting to get heated up makes pizza a super simple and quick dinner in our household*.

My parents, New Yorkers both of them, used to lament the lack of good pizza in Seattle.  And truthfully, up until just a few years ago, it was embarrassing.  Now we have plenty of good pizza.  Not the giant New York slices that you fold in half and wipe the grease off your chin between bites, but pretty tasty nonetheless.  I love all of it.  But I have to say I’m partial to a thin and flavorful crust, a thin schmear of sauce, carefully placed vegetables, and not too much cheese.  That is if I’m ordering it in one of our many delicious pizza joints.

If I’m making it myself, I tend to get carried away by the toppings.  Can you call it pizza if it has no sauce and no mozzarella cheese?  I say yes.  My lovely and amazing friend Denise visited a couple of months ago with her partner Lenny, and she mentioned that their favorite pizza to make these days stars corn, cilantro, and blue cheese.  Yes please and thank you very much.  I’ve made their version a couple of times since corn season began for us Pacific North-westerners and this time I added some chantarelle mushrooms and some squash blossoms.  Why not?

*I would love to tell you that my children ate pizza with corn, chantarelle mushrooms, cilantro, squash blossoms, and blue cheese but alas, I try to set myself up for success here in my house.  I took about a third of the dough and made them their own pizza starring jarred tomato sauce and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Graham told me that he would like a vegetable pizza “with olives” next time.  Special requests aside, they ate the entire thing.  And put carrot sticks on top of each slice.  Carrot pizza!

I’m giving instructions on how to make this on the grill.  It’s super quick and you get that char that is hard to achieve in an oven.  If you don’t have a grill, place a pizza stone in your oven and heat it as high as it will go.  Your cooking time will be longer in an oven.

One Year Ago:  Moo Shu Tempeh (tastes much better than it sounds)
Two Years Ago:  Holly B’s Almond Butterhorns
Three Years Ago:  Roasted Peppers Stuffed with Chickpea Puree and Mushrooms

Pizza with Corn, Chantarelles, and Cilantro
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

As always when I am making pizza, I will direct you to Mark Bittman’s recipe.  The dough is perfect in my opinion.  Last week, I had my parents over and I made a Margarita Pizza (I told you I’m obsessed!) and my dad said my crust was the best he’s ever tasted.  My New Yorker dad!

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 ounces chantarelle mushrooms (or any wild mushrooms), rinsed and allowed to air dry
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 large ear of corn, kernels stripped off
Olive oil
½ cup cilantro leaves
2 ounces blue cheese
3 zucchini blossoms, sliced in half
1 recipe pizza dough

Head a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt the butter and then add the mushrooms along with a pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring often, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes.  Add the thyme, then add the corn and cook for another 2 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a grill to high.  Scatter a bit of cornmeal on a pizza peel (or the bottom of a baking sheet can work too).  Stretch the dough out to a nice thin circle, then place it on the peel.  Slide the dough onto the grill, close the lid, and let cook for4 minutes, or until the bottom is nice and golden brown with some grill marks.  Carefully coax it back onto the peel (tongs can be useful for this step).  If you are using an oven instead of a grill, just top the raw dough with the toppings – you won’t need to flip.

Turn the dough over and drizzle it with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over a pinch of salt.  Add the toppings.  Scrape the mushroom/corn mixture over the top, scatter the cilantro leaves, crumble the blue cheese, and place the zucchini blossoms over the top.  Slide the pizza back on the grill, cover and cook for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the visible dough is golden brown.  Slide back on the peel, let sit for a minute, then slice and serve.

3 Cupcakes for $11

September 20, 2011

Now that the school year has started, we have a new weekly schedule in place.  Graham is in first grade so, obviously, he is in school five days a week.  Spencer goes to preschool four days a week and spends Wednesdays with me.  As much as I try to keep those days fun and Spencer-centered, they are often days full of errands.  He is a great sport and happily accompanies me as I drive around town getting the necessary ingredients for cooking classes or catering jobs.  I like to make sure those trips aren’t pure drudgery for him so there is often some kind of treat incentive.

Last week, we were near a cupcake shop and I suggested we stop in for cupcakes for the “boys” in our family.  (Me?  If I am going to eat cake, I am going to eat cake.  My cake.  Not store-bought cupcakes.)  I asked for three, the nice lady behind the counter boxed them up, rang me up, and told me I owed her $11.

$11.  For three cupcakes.  Really?  In my brain a little switch went off.  That “I will never buy into this crazy-ness again” switch.  As much joy as those cupcakes bring my children – it’s over.  Cupcakes in the Dana Treat household are homemade from now on.

But here is the thing.  I get it.  If I make cupcakes, it’s about 1 million times cheaper.  I can probably make 50 cupcakes for $11.  They will taste much better and be made with love.  But what am I going to do with 50 cupcakes?  Or even 12?  There are three people in my family who eat them.  Even if we have cupcake loving friends with cupcake loving kids over, we will only get through just over half a dozen.  What do I do with the rest of them?  They only keep for a day or so.  I can’t exactly put them in the cookie jar, right?  (Note to self:  Invent a cupcake jar!)

Once in a while my addled brain comes up with something surprisingly clear.  Post store-bought cupcake horror, I was extremely motivated to make my own.  I also realized that I needed a dessert for a special class I was teaching.  Mexican Chocolate Cake actually.  What if I made the cake smaller and used the rest of the batter for cupcakes?  It could have been a disaster but it worked great.  From one recipe, originally intended for a bundt pan, I made a 9×5-inch loaf cake and six cupcakes.  The boys were pleased, the babysitter was pleased, my students were pleased, Randy was pleased, and I was pleased.  Success!

One Year Ago:  Double Chocolate Layer Cake
Two Years Ago:  Grits Frittata
Three Years Ago:  Frittata with Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Basil (apparently this is the time of year I make a lot of eggs)

Mexican Chocolate Cake

To make things simpler, I’m giving you the cake as originally written, for a 12-cup bundt pan.  (This is the standard size for a bundt pan in the US.)  You can play around with what pans you want or if you just want to make all cupcakes.  A site I find very useful when trying to figure out what pans to use is Joy of Baking.  You can look up your pan size, find out how many cups it holds by volume, and then reconfigure.  Sound complicated?  It’s actually really easy.

For cake
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
½ cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

For glaze
2 cups chopped pecans (7½ ounces)
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup confectioners sugar
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Melt butter (2 sticks) in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl, then sift again into cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (don’t worry if there are lumps).

Pour batter into cake pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 45 to 55 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.

Make glaze:
Spread pecans in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool pecans slightly in pan on a rack, about 5 minutes.

Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in half-and-half and confectioners sugar. Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and salt. Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Spoon glaze over top and sides of cake (cake will still be warm) and spread with a small offset spatula or knife to cover completely.

(Cake (with glaze) can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature in a cake keeper or covered with an inverted bowl.)

End of Summer Heirloom Tomato Tart

September 18, 2011

Uh oh.  I think I may have waited a bit too long to share the recipe for this tart with you.  Feel that?  Smell that?


September in Seattle actually means the end of summer produce-wise.  Those things that many of you get in July (squashes, tomatoes, corn, etc) we don’t really get until September.  I’ve said this before but as amazing as our markets are in the peak of summer – tables filled to every square inch with berries, peaches, peas, green beans – fall is the produce season that makes me swoon.  Heirloom tomatoes, corn, and summer squash sit right next to booths with winter squash, carrots, eggplants, and all manner of peppers.  For the next six weeks or so, I will be a very happy shopper.

This lovely tart was inspired by three things.  One, my new rectangular tart pan.  Two, a similar tart that Ashley made last summer in a class I attended.  Three, a crust from this book I keep yammering on about.  Ok, four – those gorgeous tomatoes that keep calling my name.  This is actually quite simple.  A cornmeal studded crust, soft goat cheese mixed with fresh basil, perfect tomatoes, salt.  Oh all right, I did use a secret weapon.

Rather than just drizzle the top with olive oil, I took a cue from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume and mixed together some pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and olive oil.  I drizzled that simple but intoxicating mixture sparingly over the top and gave it a healthy sprinkle of sea salt.  You know how once in a while you take a perfect bite?  What is in your mouth is an ideal mix of texture and flavor?  This tart is full of those bites.  The cornmeal in the tart dough gives it a delightful crunch and a bit of sweetness – also, the crust has more heft which is a nice contrast for the creaminess of the goat cheese.  The tomatoes, of course, are the star but they are certainly helped along by the sour punch of the lemon and pomegranate molasses.  I hope you don’t have to wait until next year to give this a try.

One funny note.  I balanced the tart on the railing of our deck for these photos.  I am a bit vertically challenged and was having trouble getting enough distance from it to get a good photo.  I didn’t want to put it on the ground.  Randy, who is 9 inches taller than I am, offered to take a shot.  So here is the view from 6 feet.

One last piece of news!  My friend Jen and I are doing another yoga retreat together on October 1st.  These dates always sell out which is why I’ve never mentioned them beforehand.  This time, with the busy fall that we are all diving into head-first, there are a few spots.  Come join us on Bainbridge Island for the most amazing yoga day complete with lunch made by me.  Details are here.

One Year Ago:  Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Two Years Ago:  Nutella Pound Cake (probably the most popular recipe on my site)

Heirloom Tomato Tart with Basil Goat Cheese and Cornmeal Crust
Dana Treat Original (inspired by many)
Serves 6-8

If you don’t have a 14 x 4-inch rectangular pan, this can also be made in a 9-inch round tart pan.  I also made mini tarts for a party and used colorful cherry tomatoes as the topping.  You will have left over pomegranate molasses mixture but it’s pretty great on just about any vegetable.

For the crust
1 1/3 cups flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg, beaten

For the tart
8 ounces soft goat cheese, such as Montrachet
2 tbsp. heavy cream
¼ cup (packed) basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons, plus additional for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 (depending on size) heirloom tomatoes, mixture of colors
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt

Make the crust
Place the flour, cornmeal, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Process until well combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Add the egg and process until the mixture comes together.  Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead to bring it together into a cohesive mass.  Flatten into a rough rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Roll the pastry out into rectangle about 1/8th of an inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan.  This dough is very stiff and can be difficult to roll out without tearing and cracking.  You can also just press it into the pan with your fingers rather than rolling.  Trim any edges.  Prick all over the bottom with a fork and place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the freezer, line with parchment paper or foil, and pour in pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove the pie weights, return to the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is a nice golden brown.  Cool completely.

Finish the tart
Place the goat cheese in a large bowl and mash roughly with a fork.  Add the cream and mix well to combine.  (The cream will make it, um, creamier, and will also help with the chalkiness that goat cheese tends to have.)  Gently mix in the basil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Scoop the goat cheese into the cooled crust and smooth it with a spatula.  Slice the tomatoes and layer them in decoratively.

Mix together the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Drizzle the mixture over the top of the tart.  Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of your best sea salt and a few more ribbons of basil.

Chex Mix Again

September 15, 2011

I grew up in a house with a lot of food.  My family all likes to eat and I have two younger brothers, one of whom grew to be 6’4″ and the other grew to 6’1″.  (I’m 5’3″.  But I got the small nose gene.)  My mom is a good cook and she made virtually all of our meals.  Breakfast was usually cereal but she packed our lunches and made us dinner every night.  She often baked so we had homemade treats for after dinner.  But she never made snack food.  My mother is not a snacker.  Like, she never snacks.  Ever.  It is admirable really because I recently read that the average American consumes over 500 calories a day in mindless snacking.  Ahem.

In the two months since I last made Chex Mix, I have found myself discussing the stuff more than you would expect.  It turns out that I am not the only one who loves it.  Many people have memories of taking Chex Mix on camping trips or having it around during the holidays.  Why don’t I have those memories?  Oh yes, the no snacking thing.  It’s not that we didn’t snack – my brothers had (and have) huge appetites.  Alex, my middle brother, once ate 98 shrimp skewers each with three shrimp.  I can’t count that high but that’s a lot of shrimp.  The boys ate a lot.  So there were snacks.  But not homemade.

In my conversations with people about Chex Mix (what? is that weird?), I found that people are partial to certain things being in there.  Katie, the woman who waxes my eyebrows (what? is this weird too?) says that her mom not only puts all the different kinds of Chex cereal in (not just the rice), but also Cheerios and Cheerios soak up all the butter and taste the best.  On the list for next time.  But overall, I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out.

Here we find salty from soy sauce, rich from butter, sweet from maple syrup, and spicy from Thai curry paste.  The spice is very background although you could certainly add more paste to make it spicier.  I like all the crunch additions here – almonds, cashews, rice crackers, pretzels, and, of course, the Chex cereal.  This recipe makes approximately one ton of mix but it keeps well and you will win friends with it as you bring it over for playdates, to accompany cocktails, or to accompany cocktails at playdates.  :)

One Year Ago:  Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup
Two Years Ago:  Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
Three Years Ago:  Pissaladière

Maple-Soy Snack Mix
Food & Wine
Makes about 27 (!) cups

12 cups Rice Chex cereal (12 ounces)
1½ pounds roasted mixed salted nuts (I used cashews and almonds), 6 cups
3 cups Asian rice cracker mix (7 ounces)
3 cups sesame sticks (8 ounces)
3 cups pretzel nuggets or mini pretzels (8 ounces)
2 sticks unsalted butter
½ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste or sambal oelek
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 275ºF.  In a large bowl, combine the cereal with the nuts, rice cracker mix, sesame sticks, and pretzels.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, soy sauce, and curry paste and bring to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the curry paste.  Pour the mixture over the snack mix and toss to coat completely.  Season generously with salt and pepper and spread on 3 large rimmed baking sheets.  Bake for 35 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times and shifting the sheets, until nearly dry and toasted.  Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.  (The snack mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  Recrisp if necessary.)

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