Archive for April, 2009

Cinnamon, Again

April 13, 2009


I meant for there to be a savory break in between sweet cinnamon posts.  I wanted to tell you about a great potato gratin I made for an Easter dinner.  I had even started writing the post as I smelled the Yukon Golds, shallots, rosemary, cream, and sharp cheddar baking in the oven.  But then, in the rush to get the family – and the gratin – out the door, I forgot to take a picture of it.  I can’t in good conscience give you a recipe without a photo and so, onward we go to Orange Cinnamon Biscotti.  (But if you really want the recipe, you can find it here.  It was great.)

Next Saturday I am catering a sit down dinner  for a vegetarian’s birthday party.  Her thoughtful husband wanted her to have a special dinner and knew that he would not be able to find one in Seattle’s dining scene.  He hired me to come up with something great for her.  In our conversations about her likes and dislikes, it came up that she is not a big dessert eater, but that she loves cheese.  He mentioned that a cheese plate would probably be a great dessert for her.

Now, in spite of the name of this blog, I am not a huge dessert person.  I am much more of a savory person.  (Proof: I have all kinds of baking chocolate, candy that my mom brings over for the boys, cookies that I have made, and various other goodies all over kitchen and pantry.  I am not tempted by those things.  Seriously.  I can easily forget they are there.  However, popcorn, chips, crackers, or – say – a potato gratin…these are things I cannot be trusted around.)  But when I do eat dessert, I eat dessert.  Chocolate is always my first choice and the richer the better.  A cheese plate would not do it for me.

But this is not my birthday, is it?  So a cheese plate it will be.  However, I cannot just leave it at that.  I decided to make some of these biscotti to serve along with the cheese and a pear saffron compote.  These delicate cookies are what came to mind because they are not rich and they are not all that sweet.  They have a wonderful tight crumb, quite a bit of spice, and just a hint of orange.  I think they will pair perfectly with the cheese plate.


By the way, for those of you who want the recipe for the Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake, I went ahead and wrote it out.

Orange Cinnamon Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 tsp. grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinammon
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until blended.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beat well after each.  Beat in orange peel and vanilla.  Add flour, salt, baking powder, and cinammon and beat until just combined.

Scrape half of dough on to each lined baking sheet.  Using floured hands, form each half  into 3-inch wide by 3/4-inch high logs.  Bake until logs are firm to the touch, 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes.

Transfer logs to work surface.  Using serrated knife, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Arrange cut side down on baking sheets.  (DT: I find that the longer slices can bread apart during this step – just be careful.)  Bake until bottoms are golden, about 12 minutes.  Turn biscotti over; bake until bottoms are golden, about 12 minutes longer.  (Can be made 2 weeks ahead.  Store in an airtight container.)

Thoughts On Cinammon Rolls

April 11, 2009


How do you like your cinammon rolls?  Do you like them more like cake or more like bread?  Do you like them filled with all kinds of things and extra sweet, or stripped down?  Do you like them small and manageable or extra extra large like the one above?

For me, the ultimate cinammon roll can be found at Holly B’s Bakery on Lopez Island.  They are made with a bread dough, so they are not at all cakey.  They have a restrained amount of raisins and sliced almonds in them, and are sweetened with equal parts brown and white sugar.  The effect is almost carmel-y but they are not overly sweet.  One of life’s great pleasures is sitting at one of the communal tables on the porch and slowly unwinding your perfect treasure until you get to the final bite, the middle, which is the very best part of the whole thing.  I have the recipe for those extraordinary rolls, I just haven’t made them yet.


Several months ago, when I first bought Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions, the photo that truly jumped off the page was for this Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake.  What it is, really, is a giant cinnamon roll and who wouldn’t want that?  But I actually put this book away without making anything for many months because I really don’t like how it is laid out.  The chapters have titles like “Blue Ribbon Worthy”, “Baking for a Rainy Day”, and “Ready to Share” – great for perusing, but not the best when you actually want to find a recipe.  I pulled the book out several times and each time I put it back, annoyed.

When our lovely friend Joy invited us to the annual Easter egg hunt/brunch at their house, I asked if I could bring a coffee cake.  I almost made this one, but remembered that I wanted to try this giant cinammon roll.


The dough is a joy to work with, very forgiving and responsive to what you want to do with it.  The rising times are short, making this a possible cake to start in the morning and easily serve to your brunch guests.  The wow factor is high.  The taste is, well, pretty good.  It’s quite bread-y and not very sweet.  I think the spices could be punched up a bit to give the actual cake part more flavor.  The glaze is spectacular but there isn’t much of it.  I had some problems with the middle part being too high for the rest of the cake so I had to trim it off.  There were other minor problems along the way, some of them my fault (like the butter explosion in the microwave), but all in all, it’s a recipe I would make again.  Or maybe I’ll just make those Holly B’s cinammon rolls instead.


Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake
Baking for All Occasions
One 9-inch cake

Braker says this serves 14-16 but I think 10 is closer to reality.  She also says the cake is best the day it is made and I think that is true.  We ate it the next day and it was still good, just not as tender.

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup whole milk
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Butterscotch Glaze
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp. dark corn syrup

Cinnamon-Butter Filling
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Dough: Stir together 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside.  In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the milk and butter and heat over low heat just until the butter melts.  Add the water and set aside until warm, about 1 minute.

Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and mix well with a rubber spatula until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.  Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.  With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, on at a time, beat after each addition until incorporated.  Add the vanilla in the final moments of mixing.  Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup more flour and resume mixing on low speed until smooth, 30-45 more seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons additional flour and resume mixing on medium speed until the dough is smooth, still soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

Sprinkle the work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour and center the dough on the flour.  Knead the dough gently until it is smooth and no longer sticky, adding an additional 1-2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to prevent stickiness.  Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45-60 minutes.  The dough is ready when a finger gently pressed into it leaves an indentation.  Meanwhile prepare the baking pan, the glaze and the filling.

To Make the Butterscotch Glaze: Lightly coat a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray, or butter the pan.  Combine the sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small, heavy saucepan and set over low heat until the butter is completely melted.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tilt the pan to cover the bottom evenly’ set aside.  (The glaze might thicken slightly before it’s time to place the dough in the pan, but it will liquefy again as the coffee cake bakes.)

To Make the Cinnamon-Butter Filling: In a small bowl or cup, stir the cinnamon into the butter; set aside.

Before Baking: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To Assemble the Coffee Cake: Gently deflate the dough.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle.  Using a pastry brush, spread the butter-cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough.  Cut the dough lengthwise into six 2-inch-wide strips.  (A pizza cutter is helpful here.)  Loosely (so the dough has some give as it expands in the oven) roll up 1 strip and place it, cut edge up, in the center of the prepared pan on top of the glaze.  One at a time, coil the remaining dough strips around the center strip, starting each strip at the end of the previous one, to make a single large spiral.  As you roll the dough strips around the coffee cake, the butter-cinnamon side of the dough strips should be facing inside.  (When you finish forming he spiral there will be plenty of space sleft in the pan.  The spaces around the dough will fill in as the dough bakes.)  Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let teh cake rise in a warm place until it is almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Bake the coffee cake until the top is deep golden brown, about 35 minutes.  Check after 20 minutes to make sure the cake is not browning too fast.  If it is, cover the top loosely with aluminum foil for th ealst 10-15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning.  Transfer to a wire rack (if you have used foil, remove it) and let cool for 10 minutes.

Gently tilt the pan and tap the sides on a counter to release the cake sides, then invert a serving plate on top of the cake and invert the pan and the plate.  Leave the pan on the cake for 1 minute, so the glaze transfers to the cake, then gently lift off the pan.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape out any butterscotch syrup remaining in the pan and spread it over the warm surface of the cake.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges gently with a serrated knife.  This coffee cake is best the day it is made.

Inspired by San Francisco

April 9, 2009


Last summer, when Randy and I went to Portland for my birthday, I obsessed about where to eat.  I cross-referenced  Chowhound, magazine articles, and advice from friends.  I whittled our choices down to five restaurants and chose the winning two based on their menus.  I did a good job.

For last weekend’s trip to San Francisco, I didn’t work nearly as hard.  I think I was a little overwhelmed by sheer number of choices, seeing as SF is one of the country’s – if not the world’s – great food cities.  I think I was also just so thrilled to be having a weekend away that the food (gasp!) wasn’t really my focus.  I had some recommendations and would probably have looked into them, but then my monitor died and, well, I was lost without being able to get online.  So I called the concierge of our hotel and asked for his help.

Let me just say that soon after I started this blog, I realized that I was not going to be writing restaurant reviews here for a few reasons.  One is that I almost always find restaurant meals disappointing.  I figured after a few cycles of complaining about how vegetarians get the short end of the stick in restaurants, people would start to snore.  I also figured that many of my readers would not live in Seattle and would therefore not really care about the restaurants where I am consistently disappointed.  So, I did not take notes on the food I ate in San Francisco and can’t tell you with much precision about what I ate, except for one dish which I decided to recreate.

What I can tell you our dinner meals were wildly different experiences.  I can also tell you that I finally have realized that, when it comes to eating out, I would much rather go to the great neighborhood place, rather than the fancy schmancy place.  Friday night was at a place called Spruce.  The place had a very cool vibe, although they seated us in the back room which, while nice and quiet, was a bit like being in a ship’s stateroom.  The food was refined, lovely, and expensive.  They brought out main courses out on gorgeous wide extremely shallow bowls, and there was a lot of white plate.

Saturday night, we had tickets to see Beach Blanket Babylon which a friend had recommended.  We needed to eat somewhere close by and the concierge sent us to Ideale Restaurant.  This was a total neighborhood joint with big personalities and big food.  Our portions were easily double the previous night, the prices were half, and everything we ate, we liked.

When we first arrived, we sat at the bar to wait for our table.  The bartender brought a dish of pasta out to the woman next to us that looked and smelled divine.  It was orecchiette with what looked like a super chunky basil pesto and a flurry of Parmesan cheese.  I knew what I was ordering.  But it turned out that the chunky pesto was actually broccoli rabe that had been cooked down until almost melted, and the cheese was Pecorino Romano.  It was quite delicious but I couldn’t seem to reconcile what my brain was telling me it looked like and what my tastebuds were telling me it tasted like.


So, I decided to make something like it for myself.  I looked in three different stores and couldn’t find orecchiette (which is shaped like a little ear) so I just used these giant radiattore I had in the pantry.  I chose to add chickpeas because I love them and because I feel like I’ve seen broccoli rabe and chickpeas together in other recipes.  I contemplated adding pesto, since that is what I thought I would be tasting, but decided it would overpower the dish.  Instead, I just added some fresh basil at the end.  The verdict?  Quite delicious if I do say so myself.  I like my food spicy so I would perhaps up the red pepper next time.  If you are not a spice fan, the recipe below will be just fine for you.


Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

I cooked the broccoli rabe down until it was quite soft and almost falling apart, which is what they did at the restaurant.  If you would like a little more texture, cook until just tender.  In the photo, you will notice some fresh peas which I added because I had some rolling around my produce drawer.  I don’t think they added that much so I didn’t include them in the recipe below.

Olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch long pieces
1 cup vegetable stock
1 lb. short pasta
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Throw in the shallot and garlic and saute until softened, 2-3 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes.  Add the broccoli rabe, give it a good stir, then pour in the vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.  Allow to cook until the broccoli rabe is tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Right before the pasta is done, add the chickpeas to the broccoli rabe, followed by the basil and the cheese.  Stir well.  Using tongs or a spoon, add the pasta directly to the chickpea mixture, tossing well.  (Alternatively, you can drain the pasta in a colander and add it from there.)  Serve in shallow bowls with additional cheese grated over the top.

For the Chickpea Lovers

April 6, 2009


The humble chickpea.  I love them more than almost any food that is not a french fry, chocolate, or caramel.  I love them pureed into hummus, I love them in soups, I love them in grain salads, I love them in green salads.  I love them straight out of the can.  If I weren’t vegetarian, I would probably like them with green eggs and ham.

This salad is a great one when you want something healthy and crunchy but with some heft.  The chickpeas marinate for at least half an hour in an intoxicating mixture of olive oil, garlic, cumin, and lemon juice.  If you plan ahead and let them swim around overnight in the refrigerator, they taste even better.  Before you serve it, you add slivers of red onion, thinly sliced radishes and chunks of cucumber.  It comes together quickly and lasts well in the refrigerator for another day or so.  It’s also nice and flexible.  You can serve it as a side (just make sure it’s room temperature instead of cold), or make it more salad like by adding lots of arugula and a little more olive oil and lemon juice.

Marinated Chickpea Salad with Radishes and Cucumber
Inspired by Food and Wine
6 servings

The original recipe calls for only one can of chickpeas but I double that amount here.  If you prefer your salad to be more vegetable heavy and less bean-y, use only one can.  If you are going to use a regular cucumber (rather than an English one), be sure to peel it and scrape out the seeds.

1/8 cup olive oil, or more to taste
Juice of  1 medium lemon
1 garlic cloved, minced
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 large English cucumber, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
6 large radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, lemon zest, and cumin and season with salt and pepper.  Add the chickpeas and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you plan to marinate longer than 2 hours, cover and refrigerate.  Before serving, stir in the cucumbers, radishes, onion, and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

I Left My Heart in…

…San Francisco.

Have you been there?  If so, don’t you want to move there?  As much as I love Seattle, I think I’m ready to find a new home in San Francisco.  I need to be careful what I say, because Randy has a tendency to make things happen if I casually mention them.  In early 2003, I told him I thought it would be cool to live in London if we had the chance.  By July of that year we were there.

Now, perhaps this enthusiasm is stemming from the fact that I just had a truly lovely weekend alone with my husband staying in a gorgeous hotel, eating in delicious restaurants, walking in the sunlight (that vitamin D thing is real!), and just generally enjoying paying attention to one another instead of two young boys.  I get it that it was not real life, but it sure was nice to pretend that it was.

In addition to enjoying every moment together, I was hit by a serious case of memories.  Randy had a meeting right after we arrived, so I just walked out the door of our hotel to explore a bit.  Immediately I realized that I was in the exact same neighborhood where I did a yoga training in late summer of 2001.  As I walked toward the Yerba Buena gardens, where I had eaten lunch in the sunshine each day back then, I was almost choked by feelings of nostalgia and by how much my life has changed in eight years.

Back then, I had been recently laid off from a sales job that didn’t suit me and had decided it was time to reinvent myself.  I was intensely studying yoga at the time and harbored a desire to start teaching.  Randy, who was then my boyfriend , had just moved in with me.  He very kindly suggested I go and do a teacher training and he would take over the mortgage temporarily.  I had a teacher I adored and she steered me in the direction of It’s Yoga, a studio that had a month long intensive training program.  A friend offered me to let me stay with him free of charge, and all the pieces fell into place.

That month was one of my favorites in my life.  It was very intense.  The curriculum was six days a week and each day we practiced for four hours, then learned how to teach for four hours.  It was physically demanding, but it was also mentally and emotionally draining.  I loved it all though and sensed early on that I would make a good teacher – a much better teacher than I had been sales person.  I felt passionate and excited about what I was doing, something I had never felt in all the jobs I had leading up to that point.  I loved living with my generous friend Stephan and I loved being in San Francisco.  If I hadn’t had a house and a person living in the house who I loved back in Seattle, there is no question that I would have stayed.

The day of our final exam was September 11th.  Randy was in New York on a business trip and my mom called me at 6:30am to tell me to turn on the television.  I watched what we all watched with the incredible horror that we all felt.  I desperately tried to remember whether Randy had said he was going downtown that day.  I tried in vain to get him on the telephone.  Because I didn’t know what else to do, I got on BART (the subway system there) and went to the studio.  Needless to say, the exam was canceled and we all passed.  Our teacher was at the studio and took the three of us who didn’t live in SF home with her to watch the news.  There we stayed watching the same footage over and over while I called Randy’s cell phone every 15 minutes and tried not to panic.

Around 4pm, a friend of his called me and told me that he had spoken to Randy and that he was fine – for some reason he was not able to call my phone.  The relief I felt is indescribable.  We were supposed to be reunited the next day, but I got stuck in San Fran and he got stuck in New York.  He actually got home before I did, spending an additional four days away to my five.

Those five days are a bit of a blur.  My wonderful host was in Italy with his partner so I was alone in his apartment.  Without the daily trip to the studio, I was unmoored.  I don’t recall if the studio was open during that time, I had injured myself and couldn’t practice what I had studied so hard.  I was terrified for my future as a teacher and for our future as a country.  I spent hours on the phone with the airline trying to get home.  I wandered San Francisco in a daze, reading in the sunshine and seeing a lot of movies.  This past Friday, I walked in to the Metreon – where I had seen all of those movies – and nearly burst into tears.  How different my life was then.  I knew I was going to marry Randy, I knew I would have children with him.  I knew that food and cooking was really important to me.  I just didn’t know how it would all turn out.  I loved my life then and I love my life now.  I felt and feel very lucky.

Once I finally did get home, I slowly healed from my injury.  I started calling yoga studios and slowly but surely started teaching.  I loved it and was good at it.  I got a lot of positive feedback from my students and even had several go on to be teachers themselves.  It was my first job where I wanted to be the best that I could.  Being a chef has been the second.  I feel lucky that I have had two careers in my life that I have loved.  My yoga practice is on the back burner for now, but being so near to where I did my training made me realize how much I miss it.

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