Archive for July, 2012

A Slice of My Life – Week 30

July 29, 2012

This was my birthday week.  Thursday was the actual day but the celebrating started Wednesday at lunch and, as of this writing – on Sunday – is still going on.  That is how I like my birthdays.

Last Sunday night I went to a wine tasting at the Palace Ballroom.  We tasted 13 different wines from up and coming wineries in Walla Walla.  How do you make it through 13 wines?  There were four flights.  One of whites, one of red blends, one of Syrahs and one of Cabernet Sauvignons.  I decided which of the wines in each flight I liked best and focused on enjoying that one.

In food news, I made an amazing pasta dish.  I know it’s probably hot where you are but if you don’t mind turning on your oven, I would suggest making this – stat.

I got a box of gorgeous produce from Oxbow Farm on my birthday.  I’ve got some great ideas brewing for next week.

My dear friend Julie took me out for dinner to one of my favorite places – Sitka and Spruce.  We shared some yummy dishes.  This was turnips, tarragon, and housemade yogurt with za’atar.

The nice people at Ben & Jerry’s asked if I wanted to taste their new Greek yogurt flavors.  Um, hello?  I brought the boys to my local scoop shop and we got to taste three flavors – all terrific.  The banana and peanut butter was my favorite.  Tune in next week for a giveaway!

I am very sad that this is all that is left of some of my favorite cookies I have every made.  No stand mixer necessary!  Recipe coming next week.

In gift news,  this was my birthday present from Randy.  While we were in Paris, we had these silhouettes done in a park.  The guy used just a piece of black paper and a nothing-special pair of scissors.  In less than five minutes he cut a perfect likeness of each of us.  They cost 3€ a piece.  Randy had them mounted and the plaque at the bottom reads France 2012.

Spencer made me this bracelet.

It matches my consignment store gift to myself.  (Donald Pliner!  $60!)

Our wedding anniversary is August 24th.  We will be knee deep in moving mode by then.  We were able to celebrate with our friends John and Lauren who gave us a most extraordinary present 10 years ago.  Three bottles of wine, to drink on our 1st, 5th, and 10th anniversaries.  Their letter to us said that they hoped we would be celebrating momentous things when each of the bottles were opened.  The 1st year, we were getting ready to move to London.  The 5th year, we had Spencer and had built a house.  This year, we went to South Africa, spent a month in France, and are preparing for our move to the Bay area.

Speaking of moving, the company came by to take a look at our stuff to asses how many boxes we need, packing materials, etc.  I was feeling relatively good about where we are in the process, until I realized that we still have this many things to decide whether or not we are taking with us.

And this happened.  Yes, I also have news about a new house but I am just superstitious enough not to share until it’s certain.

Finally, Catherine, one of our beloved babysitters, took this photo of the boys.  I can’t tell you how much I love this picture.  It somehow captures perfectly who they are in this moment.  Little buggers.

Fennel Freak

July 24, 2012

Tell me if this happens to you.  You taste something delicious and then suddenly, your homing device is set to that thing.  I had burrata for the first time several years ago at Pizzeria Mozza while visiting a friend in L.A. and when I got back, I scoured my cookbooks for recipes using burrata.

On Sunday night, I went to a wine tasting, featuring Walla Walla wines, at Tom Douglas’ amazing space Palace Ballroom.  They had platters of food set out so we could make sure there was a cushion for the 13 (!) wines we were slated to taste.  One of those platters held roasted vegetables and I may have scoffed.  So imaginative!  Roasted vegetables as a vegetarian option!  But they were roasted in a wood-fired oven and they had fennel included in the mix and I could have eaten an entire plate of that roasted fennel.  I included a roasted fennel dish in one of my classes last winter – fennel, red peppers, grapes, and herbes de Provence – so I knew how good that vegetable is blasted at high heat.  But this was something else.


So, off I went in search of fennel recipes.  I did not have to look far.  I just got a new cookbook (surprise!) called The Fresh & Green Table.  It is a lovely book with so many a very nice variety of mostly vegetarian recipes.  Baked Penne with Silky Fennel in Hot Pink Sauce – how could you not want to make that?

I’m no stranger to baked pasta recipes (like this onethis one, and this one).  They are one of my favorite things to make on a cold day and I also love making them for large groups.  You can scale up easily.  I understand that it is actually summertime and many of the people in this country might not want to turn their oven on to 425º and then eat hot pasta.  So save this recipe for another time.  But make it and you won’t be sorry.  I sort of expected this to taste like other tomato based baked pasta dishes I’ve made but no.  No no no no.  I give full credit to the fennel (browned in a pan first – almost a little smoky) and the bread crumbs (crunch!).  I made a lot of changes, some of them intentional – lightening up the dish with less cheese, less oil, and no butter, and some of them unintentional – making about 100 mistakes in the process of getting it in the oven.  The recipe below reflects what I did.

One Year Ago:  Chesapeake Bay Snack Mix, Vegetable Enchiladas
Two Years Ago:  Mini Pissaladière, Lavender Honey Ice Cream
Three Years Ago:  Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Baked Penne with Silky Fennel in Hot Pink Sauce
Adapted (liberally) from The Fresh & Green Table
Serves 4

I sometimes have a hard time finding 14-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes.  They seem to always come in the 28-ounce size.  I just stick my immersion blender directly into a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes and crush them that way.  You could just use a blender.  Please, by all means, make your own breadcrumbs for this dish.  If you don’t have stale bread on hand, throw a few slices of good bread in the oven until crisp and then grind it up (tearing into small pieces first) in the food processor.

¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
Olive oil
3 tbsp. chopped parsley
Kosher or sea salt
3 medium fennel bulbs
1 tbsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. vodka
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ pound penne rigate
½ cup heavy cream
4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, ¼ cup of the Parmesan, 2 tsp. of olive oil, the parsley, and a large pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Trim the stalks from the fennel.  Trim any brown spots from the outside of the fennel and halve the bulbs.  Cut most of the core from both halves, leaving a bit of it to hold some of the wedges together (some will fall naturally apart into slices).  Cut the fennel lengthwise (rotating your knife as you go, so that you are cutting on a radial angle always toward the center) into ¼-inch thick slices.  Place a large pot over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the fennel slices.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is very tender and well browned, 12 to 14 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the vodka and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot while it simmers down (this will take just a few seconds).  Add the crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot, until well mixed, about 30 seconds.  Turn the heat down to low.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente (the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so be sure to not overcook it).  Pour the cream into a 2 cup measuring cup and keep it by the stove.  When the pasta is ready, ladle out ¾ cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the cream.  Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato fennel mixture.  Pour in the cream mixture and stir well to combine.  Stir in the mozzarella cheese and the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan.  Season to taste with salt.

Turn the mixture out into a 8×12-inch casserole dish.  Using a spatula, press down on the top.  Scatter the breadcrumbs over the top.  Bake, uncovered, until the top is browned and crusty and the casserole is bubbling vigorously, about 25 minutes.  Let it sit for a few minutes while the bubbling subsides, then serve right away.

(Make ahead tips:  You can make the sauce part (brown the fennel all the way through adding tomatoes) several hours ahead.  Just leave the pot on the stove and warm it up before you proceed with the recipe.  As with most casseroles, this can be made early in the day that you plan to serve it.  Cover the whole thing with foil and store it in your refrigerator.  You will need to add about 10 minutes to your cooking time.)

A Slice of My Life – Week 29

July 23, 2012

Whoo boy.  Quite a week.  I’m going to start with last weekend.

In spite of the fact that we had just returned from France and have, um, kind of a lot going on in our lives right now, we decided to go up to Lopez Island for the weekend.  Randy suggested it and initially I resisted.  Then I realized that if we didn’t go, it would be the first time in 31 years that I did not spend one summer night on my most special island.  So we packed up the boys and went.  (If you are new here, this post kind of sums up my relationship with the island.)

We flew kites while waiting for the ferry.

We ate at the funky dive bar that serves really good food.

We drove along our favorite road.  The beauty up there is breathtaking.

We had to visit “our” church – where we got married.  It will be 10 years on August 24th.

This is the living room of my family’s house.  I love it.

Randy and I were on kayak moving duty.  We took them from their winter resting place to their spot on the beach. Yes, “winter” can sometimes extend into July.  This is no small task.  The boats are not particularly heavy but they are large and cumbersome and there is a steep slope and sharp turn and rickety stairs to navigate.

It was drizzly when we went to Watmough beach.  I recounted to Randy the overnights I spent there while at Camp Nor’wester shivering under a blue tarp tied to driftwood while the weight of the accumulated rain on top pressed down on us.  This is where Randy proposed to me.

We dinner at the Bay Café, where we had our wedding reception.  It is under new ownership so the menu is very different.  Randy and the boys loved their dinner, mine suffered a bit from a lack of imagination.  But overall a lovely experience.  And thankfully, they still have the Chocolate Gateau on the menu.  It is one of the most delicious chocolate things I have ever tasted and the new owner said I could have the recipe, maybe.  Fingers crossed!

Holly B’s.  Pain au Chocolat, Cinnamon Roll, Berry Scone.

We drove home a different way.  Instead of just heading down I-5, we went Fidalgo Island, and across Deception Pass.  It is an incredible view, huh?  Then we drove down Whidbey Island, stopped in Langley for lunch, and took another ferry back the mainland.

Then the next day we put our house on the market.  A day and a half later, we got two offers.  We accepted one.

I made a delicious quinoa dish and actually posted about it.

I took the boys to Central Cinema.  Talk about a genius idea.  Every Thursday they show old school cartoons for free.  Bring your kids, get them a $1 giant bowl of popcorn, get yourself a beer, and hang out.

We spent the weekend in Oakland/San Francisco.  We slept in the city but spent an intense two days looking for houses.

Guess which one the boys liked best.  (We didn’t like it as much.)


Home Sweet Quinoa

July 20, 2012

Do not adjust your screen.  Yes that is food.  And yes there is a recipe at the end of this post.

I made dinner most nights we were in France.  When I first saw the kitchen and its equipment in the Cagnes-sur-Mer place, I assumed we would eat dinners out.  Two burners, one of them very small, and three pots, none of them bigger than a 3 quart.  One big bowl, one wooden spoon, one spatula, and a handful of duller-than-dull knives (thankfully, I brought a knife with me).  But after getting used to my tiny kitchen, I found making dinner each night to be lovely.  Pleasantly easing into the evening after a busy day of laying on the beach or exploring beautiful French towns.

I made things that were relatively quick and easy.  It was hot so I tried to keep my time in front of the stove at a minimum and I never turned on the oven.  I made a giant salad every night and sometimes I just ate that with a big hunk of bread.  I also kept it simple because I didn’t want to buy a bunch of ingredients that I would just have to leave behind.

So, we ate Mediterranean for a month.  And it was awesome.  But I missed Mexican, Asian, and Indian food.  The first thing I made when we got back was a rice dish.  I could have made risotto in France but I didn’t and I was craving rice like crazy by the time we got home.  Also – quinoa.  I found quinoa there but somehow it just didn’t seem like the right thing to cook there.  I’ve made it several times since we’ve been home.

Now, I love quinoa but I don’t love it by itself and I don’t love it just boiled away in water.  It is a very charming seed (not a grain!) but it needs a little help.  I find I like it best made more as a pilaf.  I sauté shallot rounds in a little butter, stir in the quinoa, then pour in a bit of white wine.  I cook it until the wine is syrupy, then add the water.  I have found that if you add just 1½ times the liquid as you have quinoa, it turns out great.  (So for a cup of quinoa, I add ½ of wine and 1 cup of water.)  It is not mushy and has that slight and delightful crunch.

What else is going on in that bowl?  Red lentils, cooked just enough that they are soft but not so much that they lose their shape.  Ricotta salata, one of the world’s most charming cheeses.  A little crushed red pepper.  Lots of mint.  Lots of lemon juice.  A little olive oil.  Two additions I think would be lovely are pea shoots or broccoli rabe, the former blanched and finely chopped, the latter sautéed in olive oil, sprinkled with more red pepper flakes, and finely chopped.

One Year Ago:  Lemony Chickpeas and Oven-Dried Tomato Stew, Savory Spinach, Feta, and Peppadew Muffins, Salted Caramel Squares
Two Years Ago:  Chocolate Pavé, Roasted Cauliflower with Tomato, Dill, and Capers
Three Years Ago:  Blasted Broccoli, Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce, Asparagus Ragout
Four Years Ago:  Green Goddess Salad with Romaine, Cucumbers and Avocado (pardon the terrible photos)

Quinoa with Red Lentils, Ricotta Salata, and Mint
Dana Treat Original
Serves 6-8

If you have never used ricotta salata, you are in for a treat.  It is very salty but still mild in flavor and has a nice texture.  Similar to feta but drier and the flavor is not as gamy.  You could use feta instead.  Don’t worry about the exact amount, a small wedge will do fine.

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup quinoa
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup red lentils
5 ounces ricotta salata
1 small bunch of mint, leaves stemmed and coarsely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place a medium (3 quart is perfect) saucepan over medium heat.  Melt the butter, then add the shallots along with a pinch of salt.  Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook until the shallots are brown in spots, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the quinoa, make sure it is coated with the butter and shallots, then pour in the wine.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is mostly absorbed, then pour in a cup of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is completely absorbed.  Scrape the quinoa out into a large bowl.

Rinse out the saucepan, then pour in the lentils and cover them with cold water.  Bring to a boil, add a large pinch of salt, then reduce the heat to keep it at a lively simmer.  Scrape off any white foam that comes to the surface.  Cook just until the lentils are tender, avoid having them go mushy, about 10-12 minutes.  Drain and add to the quinoa.

Once everything is cool (room temperature is fine), stir in the olive oil and the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Crumble in the cheese and fold in the mint.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  This salad will keep and taste great the next day, but the mint might turn black.

Slice of My Life – A Month in France

July 17, 2012

Hello Friends.  I have missed writing my slice of life posts.  I have missed sharing the silly little photos (and some not so silly) that represent my week.  I thought about just picking up where I left off, ignoring, for the moment, that I just spent a month in France.  But last week consisted of a 10½ hour flight back from Paris, jet lag, coming back to a house that I dearly love and that now seems palatial, and going through this house, room by room, purging us of excess stuff that we have accumulated in 5½ years.  And then an impromptu trip to Lopez Island.  It has already been a week of relief (so nice to be home), sadness (how can we leave this city and that island?), and being overwhelmed (will we find a house in Oakland? are we doing the right thing? will the moving part of the move ever be over?).  In other words, not a week to share in photos.

So, I’ll share my month is France instead.  To make it a little simpler for myself, these are all photos I took with my phone.  If you follow me on Instagram (I’m @danatreat), you might have already seen some of these.

In case you didn’t read this post, we stayed three weeks in a lovely town called Cagnes-sur-Mer.  We found our place using VRBO.  It’s the one with the red flowers.

This was the view from the tiny deck off the third floor.  (Yes, three floors, but each one had two small rooms.)

Cagnes-sur-Mer really consists of three parts and we lived in Haut de Cagnes, or high up on the hill.  There were four or five restaurants up there with a beautiful courtyard and a boule court over to one side.  The view was spectacular.  We tried a Vietnamese place (fair) and ate several times at a pizza place (good).  The boys could come sit for a few bites and then run around.  It was ideal.

Our days on the Côte d’Azur went one of two ways.  We either did a beach day in our town or we piled into the car for an adventure.  Either way, each morning the boys and I would walk down our steep hill to one of the two bakeries we liked best.  (There were at least five others in our little town.)  I would buy the days’ first baguette and they would get a treat.  Sometimes we would walk back up the hill and sometimes we would wait for the little bus to take us back up.

(This photo is actually taken at the little stop across the street from our place.)

Beach days included slathering on lots of sunscreen and then loading up our bag for the half hour walk to the beach.  It was HOT, especially the second two of the three weeks we were there.  But the breeze at the beach was lovely and the temperature of the water was perfect.  The boys would spend hours looking for sea glass, playing games with rocks and sticks, and playing in the waves.

The snack shack at my childhood neighborhood pool had things like Fudgesicles and bad frozen pizza.  This guy had crèpes, delicious paninis, freshly made salads, and amazing granitas.  When they were going to get their “drink” became a point of obsession on beach days.

Orange was their favorite.

If it was an adventure day, we walked down to the town parking lot and loaded up in our rental Peugot.  We always brought Veronique – the France friendly GPS sister to our American Veronica in our car at home.  Veronique made driving and finding our way around about as un-stressful as driving around an unfamiliar, and very crowded, region can be.  We would pick a place we wanted to visit and let her guide us there.  Mountain towns, beach towns, large cities, small villages – we saw a lot.

Vence was one of the first places we visited and it remains one of our favorite towns.  This was the only cloudy day in three weeks.

I mentioned this in my last post but this is the Matisse chapel.  No photos were allowed inside.  It is magical there.

Windy back roads and the view of Nice from on high.  Our poor boys walked with us all the way up on a very hot day but we rewarded them with this.

I had never seen a carousel as pretty as this one.

We spent a day gaping at the beauty and wealth in Monaco.  They have a terrific aquarium there but honestly, I don’t feel a need to go back.

Probably my favorite thing we did was drive to St. Raphaël and then catch a ferry to St. Tropez.  St. Tropez is on a peninsula so it is difficult to access by car.  We knew it would be ritzy and it was but it was also small and charming and very beautiful.  It was over 100ºF that day but ducking in and out of gorgeous (and blissfully air conditioned) shops made it bearable.  As did ice cream.

The ferry back.

We went to so many sweet towns.  This one was on our way to Cap Ferrat – Villefranche sur Mer.  We ate over-priced pizza and just stared at the view.

We saw a lot of art on our trip.  Matisse is prevalent throughout small towns along the Côte d’Azur and there is a particularly lovely museum in Nice.  There was a Renoir museum in our town and we loved the Chagall mueseum, also in Nice.  I had a poster of this painting on my wall throughout college, so seeing it in person was a real treat.

The boys were relatively patient on our adventures.  Not that there wasn’t complaining.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that they are 7 and 5 years old and wandering through mountain towns in search of table linens is not really what they wanted to be doing.  So in addition to the beach days, we did two days at water parks – Aqualand and Aquasplash.  If you ask the boys, this was their favorite thing we did in France.

I just have to include this photo of Spencer.  This was our view of him for much of this vacation.  Long board shorts and just a peek of butt crack.  No matter how many times we pulled up his bathing suit, this was how it looked.

On many days, the walk back up the hill, or the ride up in a hot and crowded bus, was just too much to face.  So we would pause in the town square and enjoy a  beer (or an apple juice).

After three weeks, our time in southern France came to an end.  We celebrated our last night by getting dressed up and eating dinner at our favorite place on the top of the hill.

And then we went to Paris.

Where we rode the ferris wheel in the Tuileries.

Which is right next to the Louvre.

We went to Euro Disney – the boys’ first trip to a Disneyland park.

We went to the Musée d’Orsay where the boys lasted a full two hours before staging a full-on protest.

We ate felafel.  For an hour after lunch, Graham kept exclaiming, “That was SO GOOD!”  I was a proud mama.  Even Spencer said, “I tried that brown thing and it tasted good.”

This was our view from the living room window.

And this was the last picture I took before we slept our last night in France.