Archive for March, 2012

A Slice of My Life – Week 11

March 12, 2012

Since January, Randy has been taking the boys up to the mountains skiing every Saturday.  Last week I went with them.  Chairlift buddy #1.

Chairlift buddy #2.  (Note the rain drops on his goggles.  It was a wet day.)

“What is this weird rash on my back?” and mole check at the dermatologist.  Turns out I have a bit of psoriasis.  Great.

We don’t do fast food in our family so drive-thrus are not really our thing.  Except for Starbucks.  Conveniently located near the dermatologist who told me I have a bit of psoriasis.

Early dismissal + sunshine = Gelato and a trip to the park.  Salted Caramel has long been Graham’s favorite flavor.

We did a layer cake class at Book Larder taught by Laurie Pfalzer of Pastry Craft.  I learned a lot.  Just watching her be in charge of her cake and not letting it intimidate her was inspiring.  And I got to eat cake for dinner.

I may, or may not, have a bit of a spice problem.  As part of Project Pantry Clean-Up, I took all my overflow spices out of their ripping paper bag and reorganized.

Much better.

My children both have amazing eyelashes.  It is something that is hard to capture with a camera.  Spencer’s are long and straight, just like his dad’s.

In the past two weeks,  I have taught four Indian cooking classes.  They were a total blast.  This is my set-up.

My new favorite breakfast.  Wholegrain English Muffin, ¼ of an avocado, sea salt, cracked black pepper.

For the next couple of weeks, I might not be able to write my Slice of Life posts.  And if I do they will be very different.  More details in a couple of days.

Tartines and a Bialetti Pan Giveaway

March 8, 2012

Up until the age of 20, one of my favorite things to eat in the world was a tuna fish sandwich.  That was my go-to lunch whether eating out or at home.  There was a deli in my college town that put an absurd amount of tuna salad on a large soft roll and I would talk friends with cars into taking me to get one.  At home, I mixed my albacore with plenty of celery, a little mayo, and a dollop of mustard.  I piled it high on rye bread and topped it with tomatoes, pickles, lettuce.  Then, four years after I stopped eating meat, I stopped eating fish.  I contemplated having a special disclaimer for tuna fish sandwiches but ultimately decided that tuna fish is still, you know, fish.  So I said goodbye to my beloved sandwich.

Since then, sandwiches and I have not really gotten along, especially when eating out.  My experience of vegetarian sandwiches in restaurants go a little something like this:

  • Dried out rye bread smeared with too much mayonnaise and topped with a slice of Swiss cheese that has started to go crusty around the edges, a not-quite-red tomato, and a hunk of iceberg lettuce.
  • Massive slices of oily greasy foccacia slathered with oily greasy sun-dried tomato hummus on one half and oily greasy tapenade on the other, topped with oily greasy roasted vegetables.
  • Very earnest whole wheat bread, smeared with cream cheese and topped with every vegetable under the sun including an entire garden’s worth of sprouts.


At home, it’s better.  Grilled cheese when dunked into amazing tomato soup is nice.  And I’m a total sucker for a tofu Bahn Mi.  But really, I prefer a wrap or a salad.  Or noodles.  Or really anything else.  I’m just not a sandwich gal.

This is not a sandwich.  It’s a tartine.  Verrrrrry different.  French.  Open faced.  One piece of really good bread.  Interesting and varied toppings.  Think crostini or bruschetta but bigger pieces of bread.  More like, um, a sandwich.  I like these very much.  They are terrific when you want to make something for lunch or dinner but don’t want to shop.  They are also terrific if you have a soup or salad that you are excited about and you just wanted something yummy to round out your meal.

Last week, I planned to make a salad that I was excited about and I had a new pan I was excited about and so tartines it was.  I made one with a labneh (kind of like a yogurt cheese), roasted tomato, and cilantro.  I made the other with a frittata made with shallots, cilantro pesto, harissa.  Except I was out of harissa so I used sambal oelek (a chile sauce).  Nothing super fancy but both were so much better than the sum of their parts.

So how about that pan?  One of the most common questions I get in classes is about what kind of pans I use.  I am lucky to have a decent arsenal of high quality stainless steel pans (All-Clad), a few Le Crueset pots, a beautiful copper double boiler (that is too pretty to use), and a few other assorted others. I rarely use use non-stick pans.  There are a few reasons for this.  It is nearly impossible to get a good brown on an onion (or a steak for that matter – not that I would know) with a non-stick pan.  Until recently, the coating on most non-stick pans would emit dangerous chemicals into your kitchen if left on high heat.  And really, I am just in the habit of using stainless or cast-iron for most things.

Except eggs.  And pancakes.  And grilled cheese sandwiches.  There is no substitute for non-stick in those situations, in my opinion.  I have a huge All-Clad non-stick pan that I use for very large frittatas but it isn’t the best for smaller quantities.  So when the Bialetti people offered to send me a new brightly colored perfectly sized pan, I jumped at the chance to say yes.

What can I say, this is a great little pan.  It is lightweight, has a handle that stays cool, a white bottom so you can easily see your food (why has no one else thought of this?), and is super SUPER non-stick.  I love it.  And I know you would too.  Want one?  Just tell me about your favorite pan in your kitchen and what you like to make with it.  I will randomly choose a winner on Tuesday, March 13th.  This contest closes at noon (PDT) on that day.  UPDATE:  This contest is now closed.  A winner has been chosen.

One Year Ago:  Sweet Potato Tian
Two Years Ago:  Tofu Cauliflower Kahri
Three Years Ago:  Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tartine with Labneh, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, and Cilantro
Inspired by Dianna Henry’s Plenty
Serves 4

The labneh needs to sit overnight in the refrigerator overnight, so plan accordingly.  If you are going to go through the trouble of slow roasting tomatoes, you might as well do a larger batch.  Lay the leftovers in layers drizzled with olive oil in the refrigerator.

1½ cups 2% Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, put through a press or very finely minced
Kosher or sea salt
8 plum tomatoes, cut in half and seeded
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
4 thick slices sourdough bread

Place the yogurt, garlic, and a pinch of salt into a bowl and stir well.  Line a sieve with cheese cloth and scrape the yogurt mixture into the sieve.  Place a bowl under the sieve and put the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300ºF.  Place the tomato halves on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and roast until very soft and kind of shriveled, turning half way through the baking process, about 1 hour.  Set aside.

While the tomatoes are roasting, place the bread on another baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake until just a tiny bit crispy on top, but still soft, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Smear a bit of the labneh on each slice of bread (you might have have some left over).  Lay down two tomato halves and scatter cilantro leaves over the top.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tartine with Shallot Frittata and Cilantro Pesto
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

1½ cup cilantro leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
3 large eggs, beaten
4 thick slices sourdough bread
Harissa, or other hot sauce

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Place the cilantro and walnuts in a food processor.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Process until a coarse paste forms.  Pour in the olive oil and pulse until you have a relative smooth pesto.  Set aside.

Place the bread on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake until just a tiny bit crispy on top, but still soft, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Place a non-stick pan over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in a bit of olive oil and then add the shallots and a pinch of salt.  Sauté until very soft and starting to brown, about 4 minutes.  Pour in the eggs and swirl the pan around so that egg covers the surface of the pan.  Keep lifting the edges of the eggs up so the uncooked top layer can get a chance at the heat.  If you are very dextrous, you can flip the whole frittata over.  If not, just make sure the top of the frittata is cooked, then remove from the heat.

Slice the frittata into quarters.  Lay a quarter on each slice of bread and spoon a bit of the cilantro pesto over top.  Add just about a teaspoon of chile sauce to each tartine.



Something for St. Patrick’s Day

March 5, 2012

(Permit me a moment of apology for these photographs.  I know they aren’t pretty.  I know they don’t give a tasty dish its due.  I was rushing and brown potatoes are hard to photograph.  Also, it’s still dark at dinner time in these parts.  I thought about trashing them but I love these potatoes too much to keep them from you.)

Have you heard the term “Hallmark holiday”?  If you have not, it refers to the holidays that aren’t really holidays in the technical sense of the word, i.e. you still go to work, the mailman comes, and the banks are open.   But some people feel compelled on those days to shop for and send a card.  I’m talking about Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Arbor Day – you know.  I’m thinking there is a new term.  It’s “food bloggers holiday”.  These include the Superbowl, Back to School Day, Peanut Butter Day – you name it.  I think there is a special food for every day of the year and if you search for it, some food blogger somewhere has cooked something for it.

I am not that food blogger.  I would not say this is the blog that you come to for holiday food ideas, real or Hallmark.  I’m not the person who has a perfect Valentine’s Day cake baked a week ahead of Valentine’s Day.  Usually, I’m just not that organized.  I certainly appreciate the people who are.

If left to my own devices, I would probably have made this for St. Patrick’s Day on St. Patrick’s Day, and then posted about it days afterward suggesting it might be a good thing to make for next St. Patrick’s Day.  That’s kind of how I roll.  As it turns out, I will be out of town on St. Patrick’s Day and while I was thinking  “phew! I don’t have to wear green this year!”, I also started thinking about this dish and poof! dinner was born.

I have been eating baked potatoes for dinner since I was in my teens and first had a spud stuffed with vegetables and topped with cheese at a favorite, and now defunct, restaurant in Sun Valley.  I’ve done lots of combinations over the years but this is a bit dressed up and by far the best.  You cook thinly sliced onions until they are soft, then add bits of Guiness to make them even softer and browner, then you throw in some kale and cook the mixture until it wilts down.  Once the potatoes are cooked, you mash their innards with some butter, buttermilk, and mustard powder, then fold in the onions and kale.  Top the whole thing with some Cheddar cheese, bake until the cheese is melted, and you have a light entrée or hearty side.  I found this recipe in The Farm to Table Cookbook, one of my very favorite books by the very talented Ivy Manning.  I have included multiple recipes inspired by that lovely book on this site and I highly recommend it to anyone living in the Northwest or farther afield.

One Year Ago:  Chocolate Espresso White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Two Years Ago:  Honey Nut Squares
Three Years Ago:  Butternut Squash and Apple Galette

Twice-Baked Irish Potaotes with Stout Onions and Kale
Adapted from The Farm to Table Cookbook
Serves 4

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
Olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup Irish-style stout
12 leaves dinosaur kale
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
½ tsp. mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Rub the potatoes with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle them with salt, and place directly on the oven rack.  Bake until they squish easily when gently squeeze, 45 minutes to an hour.

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, then add the onions and a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.  Add a splash of the stout and scrape up any browned bits.  Continue to cook, occasionally deglazing the pan with the stout, until the onions are deep brown and all the stout is used, about another 25 minutes.

Tear the rough ribs and stems away from the kale and discard.  Roughly chop the leaves and add to the onion, tossing with tongs to wilt the leaves.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is very tender, about 10 minutes.  Pour in a little water or a little stout if needed.

Carefully slice each potato in half.  Use a soup spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell on the bottom and sides.  Mash the flesh with the buttermilk, better, and mustard powder.  Gently fold in the onion-kale mixture and season with salt and pepper.  Mound the mixture into the potato shells, sprinkle the tops with cheese, and place on a baking sheet.  Bake until the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes, and serve warm.

A Slice of My Life – Week 9

March 4, 2012

Tic Tac Toe with Graham.  I let him win a game and then, um, he won another all on his own.  For real.

When Graham was getting ready to go to kindergarten, we got a letter in the mail with his school assignment.  Therefore, I’ve kind of been waiting to get a similar letter for Spencer.  What I didn’t take into account is that Graham, because of the developmental preschool he attended, was already in the school system.  Spencer is not.  Therefore I need to register him.  Pronto.  Stat.  Immediately.

Because of a change in legislation, Washington state residents will soon be able to buy liquor in grocery stores instead of in a state run liquor store.  Which means all the liquor stores are closing.  Which means the wine distributors are not selling wine there anymore.  Which means all the wine is discounted.  Which means I got two cases of decent wine for under $200.  (It’s for my classes!  Really!)

This was a busy week at Book Larder.  On Tuesday night, local chef Ethan Stowell came by to do a gnocchi making class.  I actually took this class at another spot last June, I wrote about it here, so it was really a treat to assist him this time.  Actually, he is incredibly organized and a terrific teacher so my “assisting” was turning on the stove, getting him a spoon, and washing the dishes.  The food, needless to say, was abundant and delicious.

Gail Simmons also came by to do a quick demonstration, chat about Top Chef and sign copies of her new book, Talking with My Mouth Full.  She was, no surprise, utterly charming and very funny.

Once upon a time, there was only one Starbucks in all the land and it was right in the Pike Place Market.  My parents, both big fans of good coffee, used to trudge all the way down there, a good half hour from our house, and stock up on beans.  I remember looking at these displays of beans as a child, the smell of the place, the uneven floor boards.  Now the original shop is always packed with tourists, always has people standing outside taking photos of the original logo (boobs and all), and I almost never go in.  But I was in the Market on a rainy Tuesday and there were only a few people inside.

In my sweet little neighborhood, there is an incredible coffee place and also a vegan donut shop.  The incredible coffee place often has a very long line, so I opt for the donut shop when wanting a cup of coffee.  (And, this being Seattle, the coffee is terrific.)  They usually have some crazy art installation but I thought this was particularly lovely.

Enough said.

One of the wonderful things about my new phone is that I can receive photos by text.  I got this last Saturday and I burst out laughing.  Randy has been taking the boys skiing every Saturday since January.  They are on the fence about it but they certainly like the hot chocolate afterward.


Treats Are Important

March 1, 2012

A few weeks ago, we went over to some friends’ house for dinner.  They had been living in China for three years so we had a lot to catch up on.  They have three children, two girls and a boy, and our boys thought they were in heaven with all the fun and attention.

We had a delicious dinner and a wonderful time catching up and as we were starting to move toward leaving, Spencer burst into tears.  “But we haven’t had dessert!” he wailed.  Our friends were a bit puzzled.  Dessert doesn’t happen on a regular basis in their house but they gamely pulled some Girl Scout cookies out of their freezer to appease my traumatized son.

We got in the car and Randy said to me, “Maybe we give them too many sweets.  They shouldn’t expect it.”  So we had a little talk with the boys about how not every family has dessert every night in addition to occasional other treats – hot chocolate, ice cream cones, jelly beans, never all three!- during the day.  We suggested that they are lucky that Mommy likes to bake and that they should appreciate the treats that she makes, not expect them.  It is a difficult concept for a seven and five year old to grasp.  Why would a family, a perfectly normal seeming family, not have treats every chance they get?

I know that many people think sugar makes children hyper or it is terribly unhealthy for them.  I respectfully disagree.  For the most part, my kids eat healthier than a large percentage of the population.  I make almost all of their meals, they don’t eat meat, they eat very little processed food, they have never had even a sip of soda, they have to eat a fruit or vegetable with all meals, snacks have to start with something “healthy”, and dessert does not come without finishing dinner first.  And we have the rule in our house, a rule which is terribly hard on them when there is Valentine’s Day candy still sitting in their little Valentine’s card boxes, that if there are homemade cookies in the cookie jar, or homemade ice cream in the freezer, then that is what is for dessert.  It’s not perfect but I do try and my kids are thriving healthy little beings who very very rarely get sick.  (I just knocked on wood.)  I’m not patting myself on the back – I, like most moms I know, am doing the best I can to nourish my children.  I just happen to believe that nourishment also happens to include food that nourishes the soul, the kid in all of us.

I’ve mentioned this before, but in my house growing up, we had all kinds of junk food.  Ice cream, chips, cookies, full size candy bars.  My mom is a good cook and we had healthy meals and we also got dessert every night.  Sugar was not something forbidden or evil, it was just a part of our lives.  My friends would come over and gawk at the pantry – so much good stuff in there!  But because I was always around sweets, they didn’t have any mystique for me.  And so I grew to love and appreciate dessert, but not be ruled by it.  To this day, both my brothers and I prefer dinner to dessert.  We all three have much more savory palates than sweet.  My brother Alex has an anything-lemon weakness, cookies are Michael’s kryptonite, and I can’t say no to brownies or caramel – but other than those things, we are salty people.

So I believe in treats.  I believe in de-mystifying sugar and not making it something forbidden.  I believe in allowing my children the pure unadulterated joy that only a cookie (or brownie or ice cream) can bring.  I love when Graham comes home from school, takes a big sniff, and says, “Mmmmm, it smells so good.  What did you make?”  I love that Spencer has an opinion about his sweets.  This brownie for example.  He told me, “I like the top part but not the bottom part.”  Hmmm.  The top part is chocolate brownie and the bottom part is kind of shortbread-y and has macadamia nuts in it.  Seeing as there is a gene in his gene pool for not liking nuts in sweets, his dislike is not all that surprising.  But I was happy to hear that he could taste the difference in the two parts, that he had an opinion about that brownie, that it wasn’t just a sugar fix.

For the record, I kind of liked these brownies.  Brownies are indeed my favorite treat but even I will say that they can sometimes be a little monotonous.    Some people might think that walnut chunks are a great way to break up all that chocolate but I say No Way.  A little buttery crust on the bottom with some very small chunks of crunchy nuts is a little different story and I thought these were lovely.

One Year Ago:  Dal with Winter Vegetables
Two Years Ago:  Grilled Haloumi with Cheese and Lemon, Brownie Chunk Cookies
Three Years Ago:  Rosemary Flatbread with Blue Cheese, Grapes, and Honey, Smoky Cashews, Pappa al Pomodoro

Macadamia Shortbread Brownies
Adapted from Bittersweet
Makes 25 brownies

For the crust:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup untoasted unsalted macadamia nuts, chopped medium-fine

For the brownie batter:
6½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 7 pieces
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
½ cup all purpose flour

Make the crust:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil and make sure the ends extend up over the sides by several inches.  (This will serve as handles to remove the brownies from the pan once they are baked.)

Combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl.  Stir in the flour to make a dough.  Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and, using your fingers, press the dough all over the bottom of the pan and just a bit up the sides.  Bake until the crust is nicely brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes.

Make the brownie batter:
Combine the chocolate, butter, and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl.  Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.

Remove the bowl from the pot.  Stir in the vanilla and salt with a wooden spoon.  Add the eggs, one at at time, stirring until the fist one is incorporated before adding the next.  Stir int he flour and beat with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the batter is smooth, glossy, and beginning to come away from the sides of the bowl, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the brownies:
Spread the brownie batter evenly over the hot crust and bake until the edges puff and begin to show fine cracks, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting up the ends of the foil, and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into 25 squares with a heavy knife.


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