Archive for April, 2012

A Slice of My Life – Week 17

April 23, 2012

I know, I’m late with this post.  I hereby promise that I will post once a day all this week.  Yes, seven posts.  At least three of those seven will be food.  Two of those three will be treats.  One of those seven will be more of the long-awaited Africa pictures.  Another of those will be about yoga.  How many does that leave?  I’ll figure it out later.

The big news this week is that Spencer lost his first tooth.  He was eating breakfast and asked me what would happen if he swallowed it.  I told him that had never happened to me or Daddy or Graham, so to not worry about it.  Not two minutes later, he went to take a bite and I could see that his tooth was gone.  I told him to spit out his mouthful but the tooth was already on its way to his tummy.  We decided to send an email to the tooth fairy to ask her what to do.  It turns out that if you leave a note under your pillow, signed by the tooth-loser, that works just as well as a tooth.  (Note the slight milk mustache in the photo.)

This time of year is what I refer to as “the long pants conundrum”.  Both of my boys wear through their pants in the spring of each year, or they simply start to outgrow them (see: high waters on the right).  The argument could be made that they, ahem, need new pants.  The argument could also be made that it is almost shorts weather and buying new pants in their current sizes is silly.  I can’t decide so I send them off in holey pants.  (For the record, Graham’s pants – on the right – were not nearly as bad in the morning.)

It was spring break week so I had lots of time with my little monsters.

Spring means dandelions.  Or, as my kids call them, “wishing flowers”.  (It also means haircuts.)

I love this sculpture.  It’s right near Graham’s school.  (Those are little Washington states, if you didn’t recognize them.)

The legendary Paula Wolfert was at Book Larder on Wednesday.  She was absolutely delightful.

We spent the weekend in Walla Walla, Washington – home of Washington state’s amazing wine scene.  We did so many lovely things, ate really well, and drank some terrific wine.  Our first stop was L’Ecole No. 41, a beautiful winery whose wine we have been drinking, and loving, for years.  It is housed in an old schoolhouse – hence the name – and this is the old bell outside.  You can bet that Spencer rang it several times.

Walla Walla is full of beauty.  In the glass, on the plate, and in nature.  I couldn’t get over the vibrancy of the fruit trees.  We have these in Seattle, but the color is not nearly so intense.

We happened to be there during a big bike race.  Randy instructed the boys to shout, “Allez allez allez!” as they flew by.  Graham said, “Ole!” and Spencer (who still struggles with the letter “l” a bit) said, “Away!”  More on Walla Walla next week!

When Graham opts to not be goofy in front of the camera, he is a pretty photogenic little guy.

After a 4½ drive home, I still wanted to make dinner.  Partly it was because I wanted something lighter than pizza or Thai food which are our standard take-out options.  Partly because I really wanted to make pasta.


Sunday Night Chinese Food

April 17, 2012

My parents are both Jewish and both from New York.  That means that, on a lot of Sundays, we ate Chinese food.  There were different places we went, some in Seattle proper, some on the little island suburb where I grew up.  No matter which restaurant we went to, several things remained constant.

First it was the tea.  My parents would let us drink tea with as much sugar as we wanted in it.  I think it was the late 70’s/early 80’s version of an iPad.  Something to distract us three kids so that they could attempt to have a conversation.  We would pour and pour and pour that sugar until it was a thick slurry at the bottom of the little tea cups, and then we would spoon it up like soup.  And then there was soup – wonton soup to be exact.  Those little perfect parcels in burn-your-tongue hot broth, just waiting for my teeth to burst them open.  I was always disappointed by the small ratio of wontons to broth.  I could have eaten 50 of them.  My parents always ordered “bean curd” which only they enjoyed since we three thought it was disgusting.  If only my ten-year old self had known how much I would grow to love tofu!  And finally, pork fried rice.  (Yes, Jews eating pork.  We were far from the only ones.)

Here is where I admit that I had never, until last night, made fried rice.  Here is also where I admit that the word “fried” scares me.  You will not find much fried stuff here.  I don’t make donuts and I can count on one hand the number of times I have deep fried.  I am scared of the technique, the mess, and the amount of fat in the food that is fried.  That last reason is why I never order fried rice in a Chinese restaurant, truthfully why I don’t often eat in Chinese restaurants.  (This is a gross generalization but I find Chinese food, in Seattle anyway, to be much greasier than other Asian food.)

Here is why I went for it.  I’ve been making this tempeh for my Spanish cooking classes.  It goes in the paella.  It is so good that, after the class is over and I am washing countless dishes, my fingers keep sneaking into the almost empty pot, hoping that some previously uncovered piece of tempeh will appear.  Doing this search reminded me of the pork fried rice of my childhood and how I would clumsily attempt to get as much of that pink-hued pork with my chopsticks.  I also realized that I sometimes have cold rice in the refrigerator and making something new with it is much more interesting than sprinkling it with water and microwaving it.  And finally, when you make something yourself, you can control how much oil goes into it.

I made this version with a bunch of scallions, a much-more-than-what-you-might-think amount of ginger, cold rice (every recipe you look at will tell you it has to be cold), my magical tempeh, frozen peas, a bit of sesame oil, and a fried egg on top.  The fried rice I remember had bits of scrambled-then-cut eggs throughout the rice, but I have finally realized that, since I go a little swoony every time a dish is described as being topped with a poached/fried/soft-boiled egg, it’s time to do more topping with eggs.

Want to know a little more about tempeh?  Check out this post.
One Year Ago:  Pane con Formaggio (Cheese Bread), Banana-Date Tea Cake
Two Years Ago:  Cinnamon Chocolate Ribbon Cake (I really like this post), Tabasco and Asparagus Quinoa
Three Years Ago:  Orange Cinnamon Biscotti, Southwestern Sweet Potato Gratin

Ginger Fried Rice with Roasted Tempeh
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

I know some people like to grate their ginger on a microplane rasp, but I think it works best here to just chop it really fine.  Don’t skip the steaming step for the tempeh, it can taste bitter if it is not steamed first.

For the tempeh:
1 8-ounce package of tempeh (any flavor)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika

For the rice:
3 tbsp. canola or peanut oil, divided
1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Kosher or sea salt
About 4 cups cold rice
2 tsp. sesame oil
½ cup frozen peas, unthawed
3-4 eggs

Make the tempeh:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Cut the tempeh into ½-inch dice.  Place in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk the soy sauce, the oils, and the paprika together in a small baking dish.  Pour the steamed tempeh into the same pan and place in the oven.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until the tempeh has absorbed all the marinade and it is starting to get browned in spots, about 25 minutes.  Set aside.  (The tempeh can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator.)

Make the rice:
Place a large shallow pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the canola or peanut oil, then add the scallions, ginger, and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until softened and starting to brown, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice, breaking up any clumps with your hands.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Drizzle in the sesame oil, give the rice a good stir, then add the peas and the tempeh (you may not want to add all the tempeh).  Cook for another 5 minutes while you make the eggs.

Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in the last tablespoon of the oil.  Crack the eggs one at a time into the pan and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft, about 4 minutes.

Serve the rice in bowls and top each with a fried egg.

A Slice of My Life – Week 16

April 15, 2012

I did a tiny bit of work over at the Microsoft campus this week.  Randy worked there for 6½ years but I only went over there a handful of times.

Randy was out of town this week for a short trip, so the boys and I had a dinner date.

To get ready for two Spanish cooking classes this week, I needed to do some shopping at the Pike Place Market.  I always enter from the north end, instead of the iconic south end where the big sign is.  This was a sunny Tuesday afternoon.  On a sunny Saturday afternoon in August, you can barely walk through.  Each of those tiles has someone’s name on it – they were sold as a fundraiser many years ago.  Our family bought one and it came with a map of where our tile is, but we never found it.

A walk through the Market, as we locals call it, requires good shoes.  Good shoes require good peds which were in the wash that day, so please ignore the tacky sock look.

My first stop was The Spanish Table.  This store makes me happy.  The olive aisle alone is a reason to drive down here.

I wouldn’t say that architecture is Seattle’s strength, but we have some good pockets here and there.  I’ve always loved the contrast between the over 100 year old market and the modern buildings in the background.

Spring + Market = tulips.

Whether I need to or not, I always go into the Italian specialty food store DeLaurenti.  The prices are aimed at tourists but I can’t resist the treasures inside.  (Not to mention their excellent and very fairly priced puff pastry.)  A sucker for pretty packaging, I got some of this pasta.

I’m not even a cheese person and I am tempted by this case.

I also always stop in at my favorite spice shop World Spice Market.  This is a funnel for transferring bulk spices to jars.  Hello?  How did I never own one of these before?

Spencer made a planet mobile at school.  He told me that it has the sun, Earth, U-Vanus, and Nectune.  One of the things you learn to do as a mother is to laugh hysterically without actually making a sound.

I’ve decided to jump start my yoga practice at a different studio.  I’ve known the owner of Shakti since middle school and we used to teach together.  It is a great space with really good teachers and a super warm (not hot) room.  I’m digging it.  It is in Ballard, about 15 minutes from my house and a bit of a thrash to get there after school bus pick-up.  But worth it.

By the way, when I was a teenager, Ballard was known for Norwegian bakeries and fishermen.  Now it’s full of super hip condo dwellers and some of the best restaurants in Seattle.

This is a pretty house on my street.  Every spring, I look forward to this magnolia tree blooming.  It had almost peaked and then we got a rain and wind storm.

Speaking of my street.  Here is my neighbor’s house.  It has looked like this, more or less, since we moved in over 5 years ago.  Sometimes it makes me absolutely crazy.

At times like those, it’s good to think about upcoming trips.  We sent the boys’ passport applications off for a big adventure in June!

Dinner or Post?

April 11, 2012

As a food blogger, I have a choice.  I can make getting the shot and documenting the meal the priority, or I can make interacting with my guests and eating the meal the priority.  Guess which way it went last night.

When this mind-blowingly delicious dish first made it into the bowl, it was gorgeous.  A riot of color.  My friend Deb was here with kids and we had spent the early part of the evening catching up, dishing out pasta and chickpeas and carrots and hummus to our tribes while we drank white wine.  On the stove, our chickpeas were bubbling away in a pot of water and the onions and (veg) sausage were in a sauté pan making us hungry with their smell.  (There are few things in this world that smell better than onions sautéing, in my opinion.)  The kids, having not seen each other in a long time (a month is a long time when you are seven, six, five, and four), ran downstairs to play and I put the finishing touches on our dinner.

You know when you just know something is going to be good?  This recipe comes from Gail Simmons’ book Talking with My Mouth Full which is a memoir with just a few recipes.  I think she is very interesting and intelligent but the book just doesn’t do her justice (sorry Gail!).  However, if the rest of the recipes are as good as this one, I will recommend you buy the book anyway.  A quick glance at the ingredients list told me this would be a winner.  Lots of chickpeas, fresh artichokes, smoked paprika, spinach – some of my very favorite things.  I have been using more vegetarian sausage products so I knew swapping the kielbasa for Tofurkey would not be a problem.  I spooned us each a healthy portion and then paused.  Should I take a photo?  I’m hungry.  Deb is waiting for me in the dining room.  Where is my light?  Where is my memory card?  Which lens do I have on my camera?  Oh, look at all that steam – hard to capture that in a photo.  Screw it.  I’ll take one after we are done.

So this happened.  A picture that does not do this dish justice.  A kind of wilted flabby picture.  One you might very well pass by.  Don’t!  This stew has such a smoky hearty flavor and so many wonderful textures that I kind of fell in love with it.  I had planned to make it with frozen artichokes but then found some fresh beauties at the store and went that way instead.  I hear that frozen artichokes are a pretty acceptable substitute but when fresh are available, I always buy those.  I find breaking them down to be oddly meditative.  I know, there is so much waste! with fresh artichokes.  I’ll tell you what I tell my classes – get over it.

Finally, I used dried chickpeas in this dish because I really prefer them and I don’t think they take nearly as long to cook as most directions say.  With even a quick soak (2 hours), they cook up nice and tender in about 45 minutes.  But I’m sure canned would be fine here.  Use 2 15-ounce cans.

One Year Ago:  Lemon Cream Tart
Two Years Ago:  Black Bean Tostadas with Slivered Cabbage, Avocado, and Pickled Onions
Three Years Ago:  Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake

Chickpea, Artichoke, and Spinach Stew

Adapted from Talking with My Mouth Full
Serves 6-8

Gail says this serves 4 but it makes a HUGE amount of stew!  She adds 2 cups of stock to the dish, which would probably yield even more servings, but I opted to leave it out for a less liquid-y stew.  Next time I might add ½ a cup or so.

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ pound vegetarian sausage (I like Tofurkey brand Italian style – use half a package)
One 28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
2 large artichokes, trimmed, chokes removed, hearts quartered and reserved in lemon water
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces fresh spinach

In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chickpeas are tender 45-60 minutes.  Add water as necessary to maintain level.  Drain the chickpeas and set aside.

Place a large heavy pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the onions and a large pinch of salt.  Cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook for another 2 minutes, then add the sausage.  Continue to cook until the sausage starts to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juices and cook until sizzling, about 4 minutes.  Add the artichoke hearts, smoked paprika, and bay leaf; cook for 5 minutes.  Add the drained chickpeas and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat so that the stew simmers, then cover the pot and allow the artichoke hearts to cook through and the flavors to meld.  Check periodically to make sure nothing is sticking and add a bit of water as necessary.  When you can easily pierce an artichoke heart with a fork, remove the cover and start adding the spinach in batches.  Cook until all the spinach is wilted – this will take another 5 to 7 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Holly B’s Savory Brioches

April 9, 2012

When you walk into Holly B’s, the beloved bakery on the beloved island of Lopez, it can be a little overwhelming.  What to choose?  I’ve said this before about that amazing place, but this is not a bakery of wonders.  There are no perfectly shaped chocolate domes with pearled sugar placed just so, no clean cuts of multi-layered cakes, no puff pastry marvels with flawless custard and fruit cut in exactly the same size slices.  What you will find is time-tested and time-honored treats.  Rustic, homemade, generous, imperfect in the perfect way.  Kind of like if you were a really good home baker and you just happened to open a bakery on a rural island (which is just what Holly B did).

Here is the catch.  We often hit Holly B’s at lunch time and at lunch time, I want lunch.  Yes, a cinnamon roll or an orange swirl or an almond butterhorn can make a very nice lunch.  Especially when followed by a peanut butter brownie or a cappuccino bar.  But the truth is that, being a savory person, I want something savory for lunch.  Holly B’s sometimes has pizza (and if you ever go, and they have the Mexican pizza, buy two pieces and eat one for me) but more often than not, the savory options are only a few.  There is almost always a ham and cheese croissant (no thanks) and there is always a savory brioche.

Having enjoyed her brioches for so many years, it is a little surprising that I haven’t made them yet.  Up until recently, I was a little intimidated by brioche.  Then I made some for Patricia Wells and I realized that it isn’t hard at all, there is just a lot of mixing, and you need to start the dough the night before you need it.  This recipe is really very easy – not too much mixing, and super dreamy easy-to-work-with dough.  There are many options in the book for fillings, most of them savory.  All sounded good to me (Pesto and Parmesan, Cheddar and Salsa, among others) but I opted for Cheddar, Garlic, and Chive Brioches because I had all the ingredients on hand.

I made these beauties for our annual Easter egg hunt with friends that happens the Saturday of Easter weekend.  I have made many things over the years for this celebration but this is my first time making something savory (I also made something sweet).  I liked having the option and these were terrific.

One Year Ago:  Apple Snacking Spice Cake, Snickerdoodles, Eggplant and Mushroom Pasticcio
Two Years Ago:  Blueberry Sour Cream Torte, Fideos with Pasilla Chiles, Avocado, and Crema, Swiss Chard Tart with Goat Cheese, Currants, and Pine Nuts, Baked Rice with Chiles and Pinto Beans
Three Years Ago:  Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime (have you made these?), Marinated Chickpea Salad with Radishes and Cucumber, Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas

Cheddar-Garlic-Chive Brioches
With Love & Butter
Makes 10

¼ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. (1 packet) quick-rise yeast
1 egg plus 1 yolk for dough, plus 1 yolk for wash
2 tbsp. honey
¾ cup whole milk
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, for dough, plus 2 tbsp. for brushing surface
¾ tsp. salt
3+ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. pressed garlic
¼ cup minced chives
1 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese

Put the water and the yeast in a mixer bowl and swish around with a spoon.  Attach the dough hook.  Add the 1 egg plus 1 yolk and the honey and mix briefly.  Add the milk, 6 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and 3 cups flour and mix until smooth.  (This will take about 5-10 minutes.)  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix again.  Toss a handful of flour on top of the dough and mix for a couple of seconds or until the dough balls up, but stop mixing before the flour disappears.  The dough will be soft and sticky.  Turn into a well-oiled bowl or tub with enough room for the dough to triple in size.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, butter the rims and cups of 2 standard-sized 12-hole muffin cups.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rough rectangle with your hands.  Lightly flour the top of the dough, then flip and flour the bottom.  Roll the dough into a rectangle about 8 by 16 inches and ½-inch thick.  Regularly check the underside of the dough for sticking and scatter on a bit more flour.  The dough should be free from the surface but not too floury.

Position the rectangle of dough on your work surface with the short sides at the top and bottom and the long sides left and right.  Brush the entire surface with the remaining two tablespoons of melted butter.  Scatter on the garlic, chives, and Cheddar cheese.  Press the toppings lightly into the surface.

Fold the top 1/3 of the dough to the center of the bottom 2/3, as if you were folding a letter.  Fold again to close the bundle.  The dough will now be folded in thirds.  Use the rolling pin to gently flatten the dough to about ¾-inch thick.  Now use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into 10 event strips along the short dimension.

Take up a strand of dough, one end in each hand.  Stretch the dough slightly and twist 3 or 4 times in opposite directions.  (Or, you can place the strip on your work surface and use the palms of your hands to roll the ends in opposite directions.)  Now gather both ends in one hand, maintaining the twist, and grasp the loop that’s hanging down with your other hand.  Place the ends in one of the muffin cups and arrange the loop around the rim on top of the cup.  (It will seem like there is a lot of empty space but the dough will fill it when it rises and bakes.)  Repeat with the remaining strips of dough, filling every other cup to give the brioches plenty of room to expand.

Whisk the remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the tops of the brioches.  Cover with plastic wrap and set to rise in a warm place until puffy and roughly doubled in size, 30 to 90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF with the rack in the center position.  Remove the plastic and bake the brioches 10 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake another 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown and not doughy in center.  Cool.


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