Archive for August, 2012

Only the Very Best

August 31, 2012

How many times do you read a recipe and see the words “best quality”?  If you happen to like Ina Garten, you will see that phrase a lot.  “Best quality mayonnaise” – is there a worst quality mayonnaise?  Isn’t all mayonnaise the same?  Sometimes I think the need for “best” is a little silly.  I am more snobby about my food than the average person but I don’t seek out things that are “best”, or more expensive, unless I really feel it is necessary.

Here best really is important.  I find that to be true with simple dishes.  The fewer the ingredients, the more important that those ingredients are really top notch.  If you agree, and you have a few bucks to spend, try this little appetizer at your next dinner party.  Buy the best bread you can get your hands on and cut thickish slabs of it.  Drizzle it with olive oil – the oil should be good but it does not have to be best.  Grill that bread and watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn.  When it is nice and toasty and has a few grill marks, remove it.  Slather it with the best ricotta cheese you can find or make your own.  Drizzle it with truffle honey.  Yes, it’s expensive but a little goes a long way and there is nothing else like it.  Sweet, savory, and earthy all at the same time.  Then sprinkle your best sea salt over the top and garnish with lemon thyme leaves.  Best.

She’s Leaving Home, Bye Bye

August 23, 2012

I remember, long ago, telling my dad one of my dreams as he drove me to school.  I chattered on and on about the crazy images I had seen in my sleep and at the end of my long tale my dad told me, very kindly, “It’s not actually that interesting to listen to someone describe their dreams”.

I think this is why I haven’t written that much about our big move.  A bit perhaps but not a lot of what I am thinking/feeling/obsessing about.  I’m not sure that reading about my excitement, fears and sadness would be all that interesting.  This is a food blog after all.  If you visit here regularly, chances are that you are looking for healthy vegetarian food or decadent treats.  Or perhaps you like reading a bit about my life.  Moving is a personal thing but not in the same way that having a challenging child is personal.  Moving is kind of boring to talk about or read about.  It is even boring to think about, so I haven’t shared much.

But the move is imminent and here is the deal.  I think I have readied myself for the big things.  I’ve been saying goodbye to my favorite places and my favorite people for weeks now.  I feel like I have been blowing kisses to Seattle for months now.  I said goodbye to my parents on Thursday and my brothers, sister-in-law and niece and nephew on Sunday.  I’ve been going through our house room by room, getting rid of all the things that we no longer need or will not have room for in our new, and smaller, house.  Randy and I have signed paperwork to buy and sell houses and we have gotten our kids into school in Oakland.  We have mapped out our route to drive south and secured temporary housing while we wait for our new house to close.  This move has been pending since June and I feel ready.

Except that Monday night I went to tuck both boys into bed and I realized, just as I was wrapping my body around Spencer’s, that it was his last night in his room.  This room that also happens to be the one to which that we brought him home from the hospital.  The only room that has ever really been his.  Where there once was a crib and a tiny bundle swaddled tight, there is now a big boy bed with Spiderman sheets (although he prefers Batman) and a big boy who got tears in his eyes that he tried to hide from me when I told him it was his last night here.  I said, “Spencer, moving is one of the hardest things that people do.”  To which he asked, “Harder than fishing?”  I cannot tell you how welcome that smile felt on my lips, so close was I to really losing it.

It started to become clear to me in that moment and more so later on when I went in to gaze at both of them as they slept, that it is not just my family, my friends, my house, my career, and our beloved school that I am saying goodbye to.  I am also saying goodbye to my past.  I have deep roots in Seattle, having moved here when I was five years old and lived here almost ever since.  I have memories in just about every corner of this city.  I bump into people I know all the time, from all walks of my life.  I’m saying goodbye to that past but also the more immediate one.  The one where I fell in love with Randy or was newly married or my children were babies.  That past is more tangible and it is hard enough for me to say goodbye to that I held onto tiny diapers in Spencer’s room, although he weighs nearly 50 pounds and hasn’t worn a diaper in almost three years.

I am writing this post late at night.  There have been many many nights that I have sat up late writing and writing, the only time I can find in my day to get my thoughts and my recipes onto the blog.  I finish, shut everything down, turn off all the lights, and make my familiar way up to the boys’ rooms to make sure their blankets are covering their ever-growing bodies, and on into my room and off to bed.  The next day holds certainty.  Boys I will wrangle, people I will see, errands I will do, food I will cook, exercise I will endure.  Now we shift.  Uncertainty for the next bit.  Until a time, hopefully not in the too distant future, that we will settle into new routines, a new life.

We will take three days to drive south.  We will spend the morning of our tenth anniversary river rafting on the Rogue River and then sleep at a motel in Chico, California.  We hope to move into our house in the first week of September.  I am not sure when I will be back in real time, connected once again to this blog, but I have some posts planned in the interim.  I know this year has been the Year Of Blogging Hiatus.  I promise I will be back soon.



Hold the Lettuce

August 21, 2012

Hey, you know what?  I love salad.  I bet you didn’t know that.  I bet I’ve never said that.  I bet you couldn’t tell from the 55 salad recipes on this site.  I bet you couldn’t.

I would say that every single time I cook, I make a salad as well.  Sometimes I only make salad.  Salad, salad, salad.  Ahem.  Most of the time I use lettuce.  Very occasionally I use spinach.  Sometimes I don’t use a leafy green at all.  Which brings me to this stunner.  I bought zucchini at my farmers’ market because I couldn’t get this dish out of my mind but I ended up taking it in a different direction.  Also I didn’t have any burrata.  Also I was trying to cook through things in my pantry and refrigerator.

So I grilled slabs of zucchini, shelled peas, chopped up kalamata olives, drained chickpeas, grated Pecorino cheese, and chopped mint.  I put everything in a big bowl and tossed it with a little olive oil and the juice of a lemon.  I sprinkled Piment d’Espelette over the top and was prepared to really like the whole thing.  With the exception of zucchini, those are all ingredients that I use to boost flavor in other dishes.  Chickpeas round out pastas and soups in my house, mint can be surprising in Asian food, Pecorino tastes great with eggs, fresh peas add a nice pop to leafy salads, and olives are welcome just about anywhere.  So I expected to like all my favorites together in one bowl.  I guess I just wasn’t prepared for how tasty this was.  Nutty, smoky, sweet, very savory.  I can’t wait to make it again.


One Year Ago:  Radicchio Tart; Orecchiette with Roasted Tomatoes and Corn; Summer Potatoes Stewed with Eggplant, Peppers, and Olives; Pilaf with Vermecelli, Chickpeas, and Apricots
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Eggplant Caponata, D’Lish Peppadew Peppers, Chard and Saffron Tart, Vanilla Cake with Strawberry and Cream Frosting
Three Years Ago:  Mixed Berry Spoon Cake
Four Years Ago:  Succotash

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Chickpeas, Mint, and Pecorino Romano
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

Usually I say frozen peas are just as good as fresh but not in this case.  You want crunch as well as sweetness.  If you can’t get fresh peas, I would buy a couple handfuls of snap peas and thinly slice them on the diagonal.  If you don’t have Piment d’Espelette you can either just grind a bit of black pepper over top or, for a bit of smokiness, sprinkle a bit of smoked paprika over top.

3 large zucchini, thickly sliced on a diagnonal
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
¾ cup kalamata olives, halved
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup shelled fresh English peas
Leaves of 2 large sprigs mint, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
Several pinches Piment d’Espelette

Heat a grill to high.  Place the zucchini slices in a large bowl.  Drizzle with a liberal amount of olive oil and a few pinches of salt.  Grill the slices until they are soft and have visible grill marks.  Make sure to flip over half way through.  Take the slices off the grill and return them to the bowl.  Allow them to cool slightly, then add the olives, chickpeas, and peas.  Toss gently and allow to cool to room temperature.  Then add the mint, cheese, and the lemon juice.  Toss carefully to combine.  I found I had enough olive oil from the zucchini for my taste but add more if your salad needs it.  Sprinkle the Piment d’Espelette over top.


A Slice of My Life – Week 33

August 20, 2012

We had some hot weather this week.  Good think I have a friend who has a membership to the sweetest beach club.  We planned to go for a couple of hours and stayed all afternoon.

We went to our neighborhood farmers’ market for the last time.  In addition to saying goodbye to the quesadilla guy who has been selling us quesadillas since Graham could barely gum through one piece (now he mows through all four), I bought this exquisite head of lettuce.

The market is right in one of our favorite parks.  So we said goodbye to that too.

Hot air out, cool air in.

Straight hair!  I love it when my hair moves.

So many hidden treasures in our house.

We haven’t bought Crocs for years.  It was time.

I made a chilled peach soup for a dinner party on Saturday.  It was a little too sweet for me but really lovely and an amazing texture.  These bowls are from my grandmother’s china and the spoon is my mom’s silver.  I love those spoons.

Although it is still a week away, we celebrated my brother Michael’s birthday at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  The birthday boy gets a cup of ice cream and also gets to wear the sombrero.

Feels Like the First Time

August 19, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the first time I cook something is always the best.  Not bake, cook.  When I bake something more than once, it is almost always better the second or third time than it was the first.  Baking can be tricky and I usually am able to fix any little glitches in a recipe or my technique after I have already made a dessert or a bread.

There have been so many times that I have repeated a recipe merely for the sake of this blog.  I cook first and foremost so that I can eat and feed family and friends.  Photographing and blogging about food is secondary.  But often I am midway through a meal and I think to myself, “I really should write about this” or someone at the dinner table asks me, “Are you going to write about this?”  So then I repeat the recipe the next week and I can say, almost without exception, that it was better the first time.

This was a lovely Italian stew the first time I made it.  I was thinking about how good it tasted and my parents and brother were ooohing and aaahing and asking when it would be on the blog, so I stood up and snapped a photo with my phone.  And then I realized that that photo would not do and I was going to have to make it again.

So I made it again.  And I didn’t pay as careful attention to the recipe, I forgot the saffron, and I used dried beans because I didn’t have any more fresh shelling beans stashed away in my freezer and the stew that was so mind blowingly tasty – the kind of thing where you sit back and ask yourself how vegetables can taste so good and maybe there is something to that vegan thing after all – was just a good dinner.

Make it.  Follow the recipe.  Use fresh shelling beans if you can, this is their season and they can pretty easily be found at farmers’ markets.  If you don’t have access to fresh, soak some dried beans overnight and cook them separately from the stew, then add them once they are cooked.  As much as I love their convenience, this is not the place for canned beans.

One Year Ago:  Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Corn Pudding
Two Years Ago:  Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon,
Three Years Ago:  Tortellini Skewers, Bocconcini (Marinated Mozzarella)

Country-Style Vegetable Stew (Cianfotta)
Adapted from Verdura, Vegetables Italian Style
Serves 4

Whenever I use saffron, I always allow it to “bloom” in liquid before adding it to the dish.  It helps bring out the delicate flavor of the saffron.  I served the stew, both times, with a brown rice tossed with ricotta and lots of herbs.  It was nice but not necessary.

1 small pinch of saffron
Olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
1 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into medium dice
1 large yellow pepper, seeded, membranes removed, cut into medium dice
4 medium peppers, a mix of colors if possible, cut into medium dice
4 ripe tomatoes, seeded, cut into chunks
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked beans
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Pour a few tablespoons of hot water into a bowl.  Add the saffron and set aside.

Place a wide shallow pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and celery and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until starting to soften, then add the garlic, saffron, and the thyme.  Cook for another 2 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables.  Add another pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, stir well, and cover.  Turn the heat down to low.  Stir the mixture occasionally and if it seems too dry, add a few tablespoons of water.  Repeat if necessary.  Add the beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Stir in the herbs just before serving and season to taste with salt and pepper.

« Older Posts