Tag Archives: Dishing Up Washington

All in the family

Photo by Lara Ferroni

My grandmother clucked and preened her way through Thanksgiving. While we cooked, she wandered from room to room, deftly dodging baby gates with 85-year-old leg lifts and cute little hops. She’d announce that she has the best looking brood of grandchildren, or that her granddaughters are the prettiest bunch ever. At one point I thought she might actually lay an egg. But other than the compliments she paid us, I didn’t really see June over thanksgiving, what with the parenting and cooking nonsense.

If I’d been with friends, I’d feel guilty. I’d feel like I missed something. But here’s what I like about family: I know they’ll be there. I know I’ll see June again soon, and that she’ll still cluck and preen when I’m around, and like a good recipe, there will always be new variations on the same conversations. Our visits happen a bit differently every time.

Here’s a cake that’s family, also. It’s always in my kitchen, constantly changing, but somehow still the same. It started here, with a kabocha squash-based bundt cake that’s been one of the most popular recipes on this site. That version, made with sour cream and maple, is deeply rich, almost a sin to eat in the morning but perfect as an afternoon snack. For Dishing Up Washington, I created a version that’s more fit for the morning, with hearty emmer flour, a lighter buttermilk glaze, and a bare smattering of hazelnuts.

I’m hoping that the next time I head down to see June, I can bring her this. She’s good at having just one more little slice–a habit this cake facilitates by the nature of its curves–so we’ll sit and chat and drink good coffee, and maybe fry up an egg or two. And with any luck, I’ll be doing the same thing in fifty years with someone I’ve never met.

And pssst–if you’re here looking for squash recipes after seeing me on Q13 Fox, here’s the recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple-Cumin Caramel (PDF).

Photo by Lara Ferroni

Kabocha-Buttermilk Bundt Cake (PDF)
Every fall at the University District Farmers Market in Seattle, shoppers ogle the winter squash. Ranging from the expected oranges and yellows to vibrant reds, greens, and even bluish hues, the variety is stunning — but for baking, I go for kabocha squash almost every time. Green or orange skinned, kabocha squash has a rich, yellowy flesh that mashes up soft and smooth (like canned pumpkin) when it’s cooked. Stirred into a stunning bundt cake made with emmer flour from the Methow Valley, it’s the best way to capture a Washington fall in a cake. Yes, it’s a cake. But it’s best for breakfast.

You can leave the cake simply glazed, or top it with a flurry of toasted hazelnuts or toasted coconut right when the glaze goes on. This cake can also be made ahead, wrapped in foil and plastic, and frozen up to 1 month. Glaze after defrosting at room temperature.

Special equipment: 12-cup bundt cake pan or 10-inch tube pan
Makes 10–12 servings

Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup emmer flour or whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ packed cups mashed kabocha squash (from 1 small squash)
¼ cup chopped toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts) or toasted sweetened coconut flakes (optional)

Glaze
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon buttermilk or water

Note: To roast the squash, slice the squash roughly in half and remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Roast cut side down on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet (no need to oil it) at 400°F for about 1 hour, or until the skin is easy to poke with a fork. (Timing will depend on the size and age of the squash.) Let the squash cool, peel away the skin and any other tough pieces, and mash it like you would potatoes, until smooth.

If you’re afraid of cutting the squash, you can also put the entire thing — stem and all — into the oven, and bake it a bit longer. Just be sure to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff before you mash the flesh. Stir any leftover mashed squash into oatmeal or risotto.

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously (and carefully) butter the bundt cake pan, and set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, emmer flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

3. Whip the butter and granulated sugar together on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use an electric hand mixer) until light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing between additions.

4. Stir the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla together in a bowl. With the machine on low, alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures — first some of the flour, then some of the milk, then flour, milk again, and finally flour. When just mixed, add the squash, and mix on low until uniform in color.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt cake pan, smooth the top, and bake (I find it easier to transfer if it’s on a baking sheet) for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, and the top springs back when touched lightly. Let the cake cool 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully invert it onto a serving platter.

6. Make the glaze: When the cake is cool to the touch (after about an hour), whisk the confectioners’ sugar, honey, vanilla, and buttermilk together until smooth, adding water if necessary to make a thick, barely pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze (or pour it right out of the bowl) along the crown of the cake, allowing it to ooze down the inside and outside of the cake. Sprinkle the nuts over the glaze, if desired. Once the glaze has dried, the cake keeps well, covered in plastic wrap at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

2 Comments

Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, Dishing Up Washington, recipe

A Plan for your Turkey

Eiko Vojkovich stacking eggs at the farm (Photo by Lara Ferroni)

If you show up at the Skagit River Ranch’s Ballard Farmers Market booth at 9:45 a.m. on the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, you’ll be late for your turkey. Judging by the line, which snakes almost a block down the street, the eggs you wanted to include in your stuffing are long since claimed. But when you finally reach the front of the remarkably patient line, well after the market actually opens at 10 a.m., there’s Eiko Vojkovich, smiling as big as ever, and handing over the 18-pound turkey she promised you two months ago when Thanksgiving still seemed like a mirage. And she wants to know what you’ll do with it.

You’ll look to one side of her booth, where herbs are already bursting out of someone’s basket, and to the other side, where Rockridge Orchards’ Honeycrisp apple cider beckons, and you’ll know just what to do.

Fresh-Pressed Washington Cider
(Photo by Lara Ferroni)

Cider-Brined Turkey with Rosemary and Thyme (PDF)
Recipe from Dishing Up Washington

While the cider brine cools, or before that, if you’re smart, figure out what container is big and clean enough to hold both the brine and your turkey but also small enough to fit in your refrigerator. In Seattle, it’s typically about 40°F at night around Thanksgiving, which means the entire porch becomes my refrigerator — convenient for me, but not helpful, perhaps, if you’re not a Seattleite.

Look for nifty (but pricey) turkey brining bags, or brine the turkey in garbage bags in a clean, lined garbage can with enough ice at the bottom to keep the bird cold. I’d put it in the garage if I were you, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Special equipment: a clean container, cooler, trash can, or other container suitable for submerging turkey in brine (that can be kept cold); kitchen twine

Makes 14 servings, plus leftovers

For the Cider Brine
1 gallon high-quality apple cider
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 (6-inch sprigs) fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
6 (4-inch sprigs) fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2 gallons cold water

For the Turkey
1 (16–18 pound) fresh turkey, giblets removed, patted dry
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups high-quality apple cider
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1. Make the brine: Combine the cider, salt, brown sugar, garlic cloves, rosemary, and thyme in a large pot; bring to a simmer; and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely. Add the cold water. (If the pot isn’t big enough to hold it all, divide the cider mixture into two pots and add half the water to each.) Let cool to room temperature or set aside overnight in a cold (but not freezing) spot to chill. (Let’s not kid ourselves; it won’t fit in your refrigerator if you’re cooking this for a holiday meal.)

2. Make the turkey: Combine the turkey and the brine in a large, clean vessel, making sure the bird is fully submerged, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

3. Remove the turkey from the brine, discard the brine, and pat the turkey dry. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Place the turkey breast down on a rack in a large roasting pan, and pour the cider and water into the bottom of the pan. Brush the bottom of the turkey with some of the melted butter, sprinkle with about one-third of the rosemary and thyme, and roast for 1 hour.

5. Carefully flip the turkey over using washable oven mitts or a clean kitchen towel. Cover the wing tips with foil if they’re looking too brown. Brush the turkey all over with the remaining butter, sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and thyme, and roast another 1½ to 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. (If the turkey is brown enough but the meat hasn’t finished cooking, slide a large baking sheet onto a rack set at the very top of the oven or cover the turkey with foil.)

6. Carefully transfer the turkey to a platter, and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving with the juices. (If desired, you can use the juices to make apple cider gravy.)

Pair with a crisp, dry hard apple cider, such as Tieton Cider Works’ Harmony Reserve.

9 Comments

Filed under Dishing Up Washington, farmer's market, gluten-free, recipe

The hardest thing to write

Photo by Lara Ferroni

Dear Parents,

Wait, that’s too formal.

Hi there! It’s Jess and Jim, fellow preschool parents . . .

Too campy.

Hi parents,

Better.

Now I have to tell them my son has cerebral palsy and explain why he uses a walker.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that there’s one spunky, silly 3 1/2-year-old who doesn’t quite match the rest.

But wait, that’s putting Graham’s differences before Graham, isn’t it? Can’t I start the email by showing how normal he is?

This morning, our son Graham threw himself onto the ground, kicking and screaming, because I didn’t use my maternal ESP to divine exactly which way he wanted me to design his breakfast plate, and the pomegranate seeds were totally in the wrong spot.

Ugh. Now he’s also a brat.

This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever written. It’s an email to the parents of all the kids in my son’s new preschool classroom, detailing what’s special about our child and why, and laying out some tender ground rules for their kids to learn—no pushing his walker down the stairs, etc. I’ve had it started for a good week or two, but procrastination has gripped me hard.

Everything feels hard all of the sudden, for some reason. It’s hard to get myself and my kid and my stuff into the car, hard to make coffee, hard to motivate. It must be the rain. Yes, that’s it. I’m suffering from shock after Seattle’s 85-day streak of gorgeous weather has (quite spectacularly) ended.

Months ago, I agreed to be part of The Oxbow Box Project, an effort on the part of Oxbow Farm to get the word out about their CSA box. In theory, it’s easy: They give me one of their weekly CSA boxes, brimming with produce, and I see what happens with it in my kitchen. Only, my pick-up day was the first day of The Rain. Stars crossed. The parking gods frowned. I dragged a cantankerous child to the pick-up, and the contents of that boisterously-colored box went into the fridge without a smidgen of ceremony. The next day, I painted mascara over my bad humor, got on an airplane, and flew to New York, hoping the vegetables would remember me when I returned.

Here’s the good thing about fall vegetables: They’re very patient, and they don’t hold a grudge. They don’t mind if you skip the warm reception, or if you go out of town. When I got back, the squash was still firm, and the collards and chard were still bright and perky. I sliced long radishes for a snack, and twirled pasta up with softened leeks, bacon, and shaved radicchio. This morning, I had roasted yellow beets for breakfast, like it was the most normal thing in the world.

There are still squash and potatoes and chard waiting for me, but last night, before I sat down to finish the email, there were carrots. To me, carrots always seem easy. Split in half lengthwise, tossed with whole-grain mustard, and decorated with fresh dill, these are a favorite from Dishing Up Washington. Save them for Thanksgiving, if you want, because they’re unfussy. (A dish like this is happy waiting on the counter, uncooked, for a few hours, and they taste perfectly lovely at room temperature.)

Or roast them soon, on a rainy night, when things feel hard but you know they really aren’t. (Tell me I’m not the only one who gets all dramatic when it rains.) You can float the back of your hand over your forehead and pretend you slaved over them. You can make up something complicated about what you did to get them to caramelize, dark and sweet, on each cut side. But you’ll know, deep down, that they’re just roasted carrots with mascara on–carrots with a mustardy little kick in the pants that elevates them from random root vegetable to elegant success story.

It’s just what we all need sometimes, isn’t it?

Roasted Carrots with Mustard and Dill (PDF)

Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim is known for its sweet, crunchy Nantes carrots, which grow particularly well in cool climates and the alluvian soil that covers the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula that Nash’s calls home. Roasted, they become even sweeter.
You can cut the tops off the carrots entirely, if you’d like, but I prefer to leave about ¾ inch untrimmed — I like how the little green sprouts look, and they’re perfectly edible.

4 servings

8 medium Nantes or regular carrots (about 1¼ pounds), peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Mix the carrots, oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste together in a casserole dish large enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Turn the carrots cut sides down, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender.

3. Sprinkle the dill on top, pile the carrots into a serving dish, and serve immediately.

4 Comments

Filed under Dishing Up Washington, gluten-free, recipe, side dish, vegetables, vegetarian

The Wrong Thing to Do

photo by Lara Ferroni

Finally: Dishing Up Washington, the book I worked on for most of 2011, is coming out. It’s a month away. So while I’ll be spending the next few weeks in and out of Seattle (New Yorkers, come see me this weekend!), I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into the book, including the gorgeous photos by Lara Ferroni - and a few perfect recipes for your Thanksgiving table. In fact, the things I’ll be posting here are just what I’d cook, if I hadn’t already planned on being the lazy one this year.

At Vashon Island’s Kurtwood Farms, owner Kurt Timmermeister makes a bloomy-rind cow’s milk cheese called Dinah’s Cheese. When it was first released in 2009, Seattle swooned; nowhere in the state is there a farmstead Camembert-style cheese so clearly fit for international fame.

In my official opinion, it would be an atrocity to do anything to Dinah’s Cheese besides eat it at room temperature at its peak ripeness, when the middle succumbs to a thumb’s soft pressure and the inside has the consistency of thick homemade pudding. But should your path cross a certain gooey cheese good enough to make you voluntarily lie prostrate in a busy street, and you promise not to tell anyone that you’d consider putting half a wheel into a simple potato gratin with little bits of pancetta and a glug of cream, read on.

This is just the right way to do the wrong thing.

Potato Gratin with Dinah’s Cheese and Pancetta (PDF)
8 servings

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) diced pancetta
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces not-quite-ripe Camembert–style cheese (about ½ wheel), chilled
2⁄3 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8- by 8-inch (or similar) gratin dish with the oil and set aside.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, toss the potato slices and flour in a large bowl, using your hands to distribute the flour evenly. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper (the amount of salt you use should depend on how salty your pancetta tastes). Cut the cheese into thin slices. (You can leave the rind on.)

4. Spread one-third of the potatoes along the bottom of the dish, overlapping them as necessary. Scatter one-third of the cooked pancetta over the potatoes, followed by one-third of the cheese, broken up into little bits. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, making two more layers, ending with pancetta and cheese. Whisk the cream, milk, and egg together in a small bowl, then carefully pour the liquid mixture over the potatoes.

5. Cover the gratin tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 400°F, and bake 40 to 45 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are lightly browned on top and a skewer can pierce through the layers easily. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

6 Comments

Filed under cheese, Dishing Up Washington, gluten-free, recipe

Back to school announcements

It’s been ages since I felt like the whole “back to school” thing affected me. But here I am, in full mom mode, having dropped my child off for his first day of preschool. He put his lunch away in his little cubby, kissed me goodbye, and charged into the classroom in his walker without looking back. I was so proud of him.

Sure, things might be changing for him, but I feel like they’re also changing for me. Sitting down, I feel like I need to have a little come to jesus with my computer. Where am I? Who am I? What am I writing next? I have so many exciting small projects, but I need big picture focus. I need lesson plans.

In the meantime, I want to share a few things with you. They’re like announcements, only the loudspeaker is hopefully much less annoying:

  • First, the September/October issue of Edible Seattle is out, and The Recipe of Summer (or The Recipe My Wife Won’t Put Away, if you ask a certain someone) is on the cover. Yup, that’s it, right up there – the vermicelli noodle bowl that’s taken over every dinner party, every weekend, and every ingredient in my refrigerator. I’ve made it a gazillion ways, often with squash, sometimes whirling hot peanut butter into the dressing, sometimes topping it with grilled spot prawns, sometimes containing it in rice paper wrappers, like Vietnamese-style summer rolls on steroids. I’ve tinkered with the vinaigrette until it’s just the way I love it. The recipe is below. Pick up a copy of Edible Seattle for more recipes; they’re designed to help you use the abundance of squash hanging fat on their vines these days.
  • Tomorrow, September 7th, a joint art exhibit opens at the Gage Academy in Seattle. Spearheaded by my friend Hannah Viano, a papercut artist, “Straight Back Home to You” explores the concept of home through physical art, dance, voice, and smell. (Guess where I come in?) You can experience all of them together at the opening reception on September 21st.

In the meantime, here’s that new favorite…

Summer Garden Vermicelli Salad (PDF)
Originally published in Edible Seattle’s September 2012 issue

serves 4 | start to finish: 30 minutes
This flexible, colorful salad takes advantage of whatever your garden gives. These days, that probably means cucumbers, carrots, and squash, but use whatever vegetables you prefer—think tomatoes, thinly sliced peas or beans, or shredded basil. Use the marinade on chicken, per the recipe below, or substitute tofu or fish. If you’re feeling fancy, fry thinly sliced shallots in canola oil and use them as a crunchy topping.

for the dressing
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2/3 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 to 3 teaspoons sriracha, to taste

for the salad
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed of excess fat
About 8 ounces rice vermicelli (8 little bundles)
2 large carrots, peeled
2 small yellow or green zucchini, trimmed
2 small cucumbers, trimmed, peeled if needed
2 cups thinly sliced crunchy lettuce, such as romaine
4 sprigs mint, finely chopped
12 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

First, make the dressing: Whisk the dressing ingredients to blend in a medium bowl.

Combine 1 cup of the dressing, the canola oil, and the chicken breasts in a baking pan, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (about 400°F). Soften the rice vermicelli according to package instructions.

Put the chicken on the grill, allowing any excess marinade to drip back into the pan first. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is well marked on both sides and cooked through.

Meanwhile, divide the noodles between four large bowls or plates. Grate the carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers with a food processor or hand-held grater, and add them in little piles next to the noodles, along with the chopped lettuce. Slice the chicken and divide it between the salads. Top with the mint, cilantro, and peanuts, and serve while the chicken is still warm, drizzled with plenty of the dressing.

2 Comments

Filed under egg-free, Et cetera, gluten-free, recipe, stir-fry, vietnamese

Now what?

Yogurt Dip with Feta and Dill 5

A friend recently referred to my recent string of cookbook projects—all of which are now finished, save the final edits—as my Irish quadruplets. She suggested that perhaps I begin participating in some form of cookbook-related birth control.

I can’t blame her. I didn’t mean to write four cookbooks in 16 months. It just happened. Eighteen months ago, I didn’t think I’d ever write one. But now, with all the major deadlines behind me (as of Saturday), sitting at home in my puffy robe as the snow spins off my neighbor’s roof in a little fit of confusion, I’m wondering just who did all that work. (It couldn’t have been me.)

And more than anything, I’m wondering who I am now, in a culinary sense. I know a lot about the Pike Place Market right now. I know a lot about myriad foods across Washington State. I know more than I ever anticipated knowing about doughnuts. And I know a lot about grilling fish, too. (That was the ghost writing project, which I never told you about.)

What I don’t know, it seems, is what food will be mine in the years to come. I’ve been gluten-, soy-, and egg-free for almost six months, and I’m just starting to figure out whether that’s helping with lupus. (Summary: I think it is.) I’ve been figuring out that in baking, using pure ground flaxseeds in place of eggs (instead of flaxseed meal) makes a huge difference. I’m figuring out my favorite version of socca, the Mediterranean chickpea pancakes I can’t seem to stop eating. I’m finding a good snack bar for after the gym.

What’s next for me? For the first time in what feels like a long, long time, I just don’t know. And I kind of love it.

Here’s a dip inspired by a bite I had last weekend at the Fancy Food Show, in San Francisco. It’s not much—just some yogurt, a flurry of feta, and the dill I’ve been meaning to use. It’s not the kind of thing that fits in a book, you’ll notice. It’s the kind of thing that fits in a little jar in the fridge, for snacking, when you’re not making food at all hours of the day. Perhaps that’s what I like about it.

Yogurt Dip with Feta and Dill 1

Yogurt Dip with Dill and Feta (PDF)
Here’s a dip that works in my house as a substitute for ranch dressing—only there are some undeniable nutritional benefits going on here. For something that tends more toward the “spread” category, add a handful of pitted kalamata olives, and whirl the whole thing in a food processor before serving.

Serve the dip with fresh carrots, cucumbers, baby zucchini, bell peppers, or crackers.

Time: 10 minutes active time
Makes: About 1 cup

7 ounces full-fat Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, using a fork to smash the feta into tiny pieces. Serve or chill up to 1 week.

3 Comments

Filed under appetizers, gluten-free, recipe, snack, vegetarian

This is what I love.

Nothing is more useful in defining what foods you love to eat than writing a cookbook. I’m weeks away, if all goes well, from finishing Dishing Up Washington. (Lots of them, but weeks.) Leafing through my little booklet of recipes, the one that lists the details of each chapter in twelve smudged and scribbled pages, is becoming a habitual guilty pleasure. I tatter them every time I set them next to me on the bench at the coffee shop, and when I page through to cross off the testing and writing and retesting of each recipe. I’m reaching the point where I have to pick favorites. Do I axe the blackberry oatmeal bars in favor of two-pound espresso brownies, made with a full pound each of butter and dark chocolate? Or do I talk my editor into including both? Do I show off my favorite potato producer, Olsen Farms, in the refined, ramp-infused version of vichyssoise I made last spring, or in their family’s rustic, basic, delicious version of chunky potato soup? These are awesome choices. This is my favorite part of writing a cookbook–the arranging and headnote writing and imagining and menu designing part. It’s like reorganizing a closet full of only clothing you love (if you’re that sort of person, like me), only everything you like fits. Sure, there are annoying parts. I hate fact-checking. The holes where I’ve written “TK” in place of the perfect word make the thing look like post-war London. But soon–24 recipes from now, to be precise–I’ll fold all of those little files into one big manuscript, and the holes will start disappearing.

But first, the 24.

Mostly, the recipes that are left fall into two categories: those that come from chefs I’m still wrangling, like you do, and those I’ve been putting off because the ingredients are particularly expensive, or time-consuming to prepare, or so breathlessly exciting that I keep putting them off in the hopes that I have just the right dinner guests when I actually get around to making them. (Spring Hill‘s chicken-fried veal sweetbreads come to mind for the latter.) It’s appropriate, I think, that I save these recipes for the end of this whole process, when (I’ve learned) I’m most critical of my own recipes, and even more so of others’. If I’m going to make you plunk down a few Jacksons for a pot full of crab, the dipping sauce had better be damned good, right?

So yes, the pace of testing has slowed. And suddenly, I can cook a little without a book in mind for the first time in what feels like years. Last night, I made a simple chicken and wild rice soup. It was the simplest thing, just fat, dark grains simmered in homemade stock greasy enough to give the lips a good gloss. My son ate out all the carrots, and my husband loaded it with sriracha, and I ate it like a normal person, with my bum glued to the chair, instead of hopping up and down to make notes on a piece of paper, like I usually do with whatever it is we’re eating. And I remembered, because I wasn’t navel-gazing over the amount of this or that in a recipes, that this is what I love–the eating, and sharing, and slurping together.

There was a time in my life when I had extra recipes floating around me all the time. With Dishing Up Washington, though, I can’t share all those recipes. Not just yet, even if they end up as extras in the end. This week, at my computer, there will be planning and organizing and listing and calling and all those things that make folks without OCD squirm. There will be Picnic’s kale and white bean salad, and a razor clamming trip to plan, and perhaps those sweetbreads, but I might also just cook. We’re having 30 people over for an event for my husband’s work on Wednesday, and I’m not going to write a single thing down, before or after. There will be pork tacos, probably, and whatever else Wednesday afternoon decides there should be.

You, though. I know you. You’re the one who panics at the thought of preparing more than one dish at a time, lest things all come out of the oven at different times. I’ve heard you muttering, in the aisles of the grocery store, about how much this season stresses you out. I haven’t forgotten you, which is why Hannah Viano and I have decided to share the recipes from our winter recipe card set here. You’re not into the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to holiday entertaining. (You would never leave tacos for 30 for the last minute.)

And do I have the plan for you. Hannah and I were giggling the other day, plotting, hoping you’d try it. Here’s how it works: You buy our recipe cards (or just print the recipes out, if you so please) and send one to each of five friends. You make dessert. (Goodness knows there are plenty of options these days, but if it were me, I’d make cranberry-oatmeal streusel bars, because I have about a quart of cranberry relish leftover still.) You set the table. And your friends bring dinner.

Now that’s a holiday party. Have fun.

The menu:

Caramelized Onion-Fennel Jam with Patience (PDF)

Cumin-Scented Hubbard Squash and Apple Soup (PDF)

Roasted Pork Tenderloins with Kale, Leeks, and Hazelnuts (PDF)

Greek-Inspired Slow-Roasted Onions (PDF)

Vinegared Beet Salad (PDF)

2 Comments

Filed under gluten-free, pork, recipe, soup, vegetables

Throwing stones

Getting a recipe from a chef, with the intention of including it in a cookbook, is really pretty easy. First, you pick up the phone and call the guy, or the gal, or the person they’ve chosen to represent them to the press (read: the person who takes the blame for the chaos on their calendar and threatens them with brutal whippings if they fail to comply to your timetables). You explain your project, and they profess undying love for you and it and the prospect of seeing their name and restaurant in print in six and a half years. (They can’t wait!) And then you get the recipe.

Or not. There’s always a little hiccup between the time you ask for the recipe and the time you press “save” on your own version, because only in a very small minority of cases does the person in charge of the business end of the knife have the writing skills to get a cohesive recipe together, the organization to get information to you before you’ve seen the same season twice, and the experience cooking at home to understand that we don’t all cure our own prosciutto and that eight quarts of stock is not a quantity most soccer moms can cook on one podunk kitchen burner.

Here’s how it really works: in June, a chef says he’ll send you a recipe by August 1st. On August 10th, you write him to remind him you’re still waiting. (You should have known to lie to this one about your deadline.) On September 1st, after several more emails, most of them from him promising he’s going to work on it THIS WEEKEND, you promise you’ll march yourself into his kitchen the very next day. Magically, the recipe arrives.

First, you gather the ingredients. You wonder whether he’ll mind if you change house-cured anchovies to regular oil-packed store-bought anchovies, knowing full well that in his true opinion, you’re ransacking his recipe and misrepresenting his restaurant. You create a mini internal struggle between the two of you in your mind, all over the anchovy, before even picking up the phone. Four days later, with his permission, you change the anchovies, then move through the ingredients list, pausing only briefly to consider whether your general tourist audience will be petrified by the mere mention of preserved lemons. You elaborate on coddling eggs, because surely there’s someone in your readership who thinks it has something to do with raising them without time-outs or swear words. You want your reader to end up with something that works, something that tastes so good they’ll make it again, something that’s true to the chef’s original intention—but you also need to make sure the reader starts cooking in the first place.

And so it goes for each recipe (all 75 you’re trying to translate). You scale flaky, creamy lemon bars down from a recipe that serves exactly 384, toying and tinkering until you’ve found a recipe that works and tastes almost if not exactly the same as the bakery’s, and uses 2 eggs, rather than 2 3/4 eggs. You insist on a recipe for homemade lebnah, because no, not everyone knows how to make it. (But for the record, it’s painfully easy: greek yogurt, salt, olive oil, stirring, cheesecloth.) You delicately skirt the directions for dehydrated olive oil. You beg chefs for permission to offer substitution suggestions for lamb stock, mustard oil, and pickled green garlic, not because you aren’t thrilled to use these things—you’re thrilled yourself, because they taste so good—but because you know this particular cookbook has to be a mixture of things that are a little exciting for those who qualify for that loathsome category, “foodie,” and things that are downright doable, for folks with any level of cooking skill and mouths they can’t make patient with an extra martini. And when someone picks up this book, in the spring of 2012, you won’t have any control over what page they see first.

One thing is clear: most of the recipes from chefs, both from Seattle and the rest of the state, are awesome. They’re creative and intelligent and unusual and useful. But sometimes, they’re also really long and complicated. So with that latter group of home cooks in mind, while you’re waiting for chefs’ recipes to come or not come, you test things that please you with their simplicity but scream “Washington” just as loudly—homemade corn dogs, like the ones for sale at the Chesaw Rodeo, and braised goat shanks that take no more work than a weekday pot roast, and potato soup from a farmer in Colville. You make grits with a smoky Mt. Townsend Creamery jack cheese called “Campfire,” and pair them with collard greens made with bacon, yes, but also apple cider and cider vinegar, for sweetness almost equal to the tang, but not quite. You layer local goat cheese into gratins, and make the easy herbed baked eggs a kind, kind woman made you at her bed and breakfast, before a horse ride through Washington wine country. And in their own sweet time, the chefs’ recipes float in.

And then, just when you feel like the number of chef’s recipes you have on hand to test might suddenly surpass the number of recipes you’re alternately asking, waiting, or begging for, and you’re thinking snarky things, a chef emails you, out of the blue, from Bainbridge Island. “So, about that simple bone marrow recipe. How was it?” Oh, gosh. You know the one. When you tasted it at the restaurant, it was topped with a gorgeous, sharp-sweet huckleberry and onion mostarda, and the recipe was written perfectly, with clear directions on how to buy the bones, what sort of knife to use for scraping them, and why it’s best to roast them on a shallow bed of salt. It fits neatly on one page. But you haven’t tried them yet. The huckleberries, once fresh-picked, are in the freezer in an unmarked paper bag. You even have the perfect spoons, the little teensy ones a friend sent you from Spain. “Um. Um.” You stammer. “I was hoping to try them this weekend.”

And so it is that writing this book has become, in a way, a nice, long stay in a culinary glass castle, where I alternate between throwing miniature private fits about the ineptitude and disorganization of restaurant chefs, and loathing myself, for being equally inept and disorganized (or more). I bitch about quantities fit for a fundraiser rather than a dinner table, then I’m humbled by recipes that appear on my e-doorstep in mint condition, from Seattle chefs like Tom Douglas and Holly Smith and Lisa Nakamura and Rachel Yang and Ethan Stowell, to name a very few, and remember that each and every one of these chefs is not giving me their recipes for fame or fortune (no, certainly not fortune), but because they’re proud of what they do, and proud of their place in the state’s general food scene. They’re proud, and deservedly so.

And in the end, when I’m done acting cranky and undeserving, and think how cool it will be when all these recipes and mine are bundled together in a project that’s as much a dinner guide as it is a relic of the Northwest’s gustatory times, I’ll be proud to have them all, too. I won’t remember who was late or who I had to call three times for an oven temperature. I’ll just remember that I want to go back to their restaurant, to eat, and to smile.

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Oh, the places you’ll go.

Horseback tasting tour with Cherry Wood Barn

Every once in a while, like when I’m watching the sun rise over Horse Heaven Hills in front of a fire and a mug of chai on a Thursday morning, it hits me, in what my friend Megan calls a Blinding Flash of the Obvious: my job rocks. In the past 36 hours, with Lara, the photographer for Dishing Up Washington, I drove 4 hours to Washington’s Methow Valley to tour Bluebird Grain Farms, weighing the risks of a wet harvest with owners Brooke and Sam Lucy. I had a smooth, fresh-squeezed juice at Glover Street Market, in Twisp, made with apples, pears, and ginger, followed by an honest, warming chicken curry that shook the rain out of my bones. We shuffled fresh cinnamon twisps, braided discs of puffy dough scattered with honey, hazelnuts, and cinnamon, to the benches outside the Cinnamon Twisp bakery, where they posed like pin-ups, proud of every one of their curves. That was the morning.

Nectarines at Tiny's Organic

Next, we meandered two hours southish, Gabrielle Hamilton‘s voice flowing out of the speakers. She told us about her odd, challenging childhood, and about the first time she beheaded a chicken, and about the time when she was preparing for an end-of-summer celebratory dinner at a summer camp for kids, when the counselors, in an altered state late one night, drowned 30 lobsters in fresh water. We listened until we pulled into Tiny’s Organic in East Wenatchee. There, we padded through the wet grass under apples with names like Hawaii and Honeycrunch and Golden Russet, listening to Greg McPherson, the farm’s owner, tell us about all his new apple varieties. He taught us that the blushing side of the apple is always the sweetest, where the sun hits it, and that sometimes the best place for chickens is an old RV.

RV chicken coop at Tiny's Organic

I sent photos of three different-colored tractors to G, back in Seattle, which apparently thrilled him. Then we drove, another 2 hours southeastish, to Prosser, one of the state’s best winemaking regions. We checked into Desert Wind Winery‘s southwestern-style inn, and tasted through their wine line-up over dinner at Mojave, the winery’s restaurant. There were chorizo-stuffed, proscuitto-wrapped prawns, and a salad dressing made from merlot seed oil and late harvest wine vinegar, and people, I could eat every single bite.

Barrels awaiting wine at Desert Wind Winery

Lara and I spent the next hour combing through the photo’s she’s taken thus far. There are photos of curious milking goats, and hungry piglets, and cows stampeding, shrouded in dust. There are my recipes, brought to life in Lara’s studio, and visual recordings of the people whose lives have made this state’s foodways so rich. I can’t wait for you to see it.

Today was work, too. First we hit Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast, and Barn, to sniff out a great herb baked egg recipe. We had coffee next to the teepees before a trail ride through the vineyards and orchards of Zillah, Washington, to a tasting at Cultura Wine. Then we did a wine tasting at Gilbert Cellars, in Yakima, and, on the way home, in Ellensburg, took a spin through Rodeo City Bar-B-Q‘s menu, marveling that a restaurant could blanket its booths in a rodeo-themed fabric that seemed, somehow, completely right.

Then, finally, almost five hundred miles later, we came home. And tomorrow, a little baffled and whirlwinded, I’ll write.

I love this.

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Dishing Up Washington (or, the state I’ve been meaning to tell you about)

Cuddling with lambs at Alpine Lakes Creamery (photo by Lara Ferroni, the book's photographer)

We’re back from vacation. It’s a little sad, like it always is. First we went to the Olympic Peninsula for a few days, where we rented a cabin on a bluff and spent the hours not counting hours, searching out sea urchins and starfish and soft serve ice cream instead. Then we hopped on a plane and went to the wedding in Pittsburgh, where we danced and laughed and discovered a vibrant, engaging city where we thought there might just be remnants of an old, crumbly one. We drove to upstate New York to see the oldest of friends, who centered, and cured, and refreshed me in a way only old friends can. It was lovely, so lovely. But it was wicked humid, and the whole time, even in the fun, I so missed Seattle.

As far as states go, you see, I’m afraid I can no longer claim objectivity. I’ve developed a bit of a favorite. I’ll give you a hint: it’s square, mostly, except for a bit of a ruffle along its western edge. It looks like a Wyoming with a bite taken out, only the bite was put back, the way my son does when he doesn’t like something and wants to pretend it never happened.

Okay fine, I’ll tell you: that state is Washington. Next week, we’ll have lived here five years, and in that span of time, I’ve crisscrossed the state more than I ever suspected I would. Writing has led me to places I never might have otherwise found—to Cave B Inn, where you can do yoga on a bluff overlooking vineyards and the Columbia River. (The fact that the wine’s good seals the deal.) To the top of Turtleback Mountain, on Orcas Island, where you can trace the path Orca whales take as they migrate each summer. To the state’s southwest coast, to dig for razor clams. To potato farmers in northeast Washington, and fruit farmers smack in the center. And to my favorite place—my own neighborhood.

If you stand atop Seattle’s Phinney Ridge on a clear summer day, near where the windmill sign keeps watch over folks in line for one of Red Mill’s famous burgers, you’ll see a panorama of what makes Washington food fantastic without moving your feet. Down the hill to the left, just half a block away, is the kind of local farmers’ market that Seattleites rely on to feed their families—big, bustling, bursting with produce and pride. In rolling red wagons, toddlers fight tufts of carrot tops and bags of berries for sitting room. Moms munch on thin-crust pizza from the giant clay wood-fired oven Veraci Pizza tows to the market each week, while Eddie Alvarez, of Alvarez Farms, explains how to cook his beans.

Look up a little, across Green Lake and toward the Cascade Mountains that sawtooth south toward Mt. Rainier, and you’ll see the slopes that provide the same market’s freshly foraged mushrooms. Beyond the Cascades, you can imagine the broad, flat plateau that stretches across the rest of the state, where fertile soil and sunny days provide perfect growing conditions for the market’s tree fruits, like cherries and peaches, and for the grapes that make the state’s wines so popular. A little farther to the right, just south of Seattle, you can make out the Duwamish River basin, home to RockRidge Orchards, which grows some of Washington’s world-renowned apples (and ginger and bamboo, if you’re looking for them).

Due south of where you’re standing lies downtown Seattle. It’s only about ten minutes from us by car, but some of the city’s most celebrated chefs don’t always come to this farmers’ market—or any market—for their ingredients, like they do in so many cities. Washington farms are often drawing chefs to visit them, boosting the stature of and respect for farmers across the state.

Let your gaze travel a bit more to the right, and you’ll see the Ballard Locks, where fishing vessels coming home from trips up Puget Sound and along the coast, into British Columbian and Alaskan waters, patiently wait their turn to dock and unload salmon, halibut, crab, and shrimp. All the way west, beyond the hip streets of Ballard, the still-white peaks of the Olympic Mountains tower over the cold waters that produce the nation’s tastiest oysters.

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I know, I know, I’m starting to sound preachy. Maybe I’m boasting. It’s a killer view, to say the least, just ten blocks from where I sit typing now—and it represents a state whose agricultural wonders make eating here almost absurdly enjoyable all year round. Which is why I’m writing a book about it. But all this travel, to and fro and to and fro, made me realize I haven’t told you much about it.

Pane D'Amore, in Port Townsend, WA

Dishing Up Washington: 150 Recipes from The Evergreen State brings the foods that make the state an eater’s paradise to you. About half of it will be my own recipes, inspired by the state’s foodways—things like a mint-crusted halibut roast, elote-style corn salad, and squash blossoms stuffed with local gouda. Of course, taking great ingredients and turning it into something even better is a process I love; it’s why I do this. It’s great, but it’s not new to me.

But so far, I’ve been surprised by how much I’m enjoying the other half of the book—the half made of chefs’ and farmers’ recipes. Sure, there are some famous names in there, but more than anything, I’m loving how those famous names link me to people who aren’t so famous. The saffron clam chowder from Lisa Nakamura at Allium changed the way I think about clam chowder, and taught me how to cook with saffron grown and harvested by big, gnarly hands that belong to one of the sweetest men on Earth. I also thrill to find each town’s micro food economy. The Sammy Shack, a new little sandwich truck on a rural corner of Port Townsend, makes a stacker called the Chetzamelta; eating it is like taking a tour through the town’s best food producers. There’s bread from Pane D’Amore, cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery—it’s the same sort of thing that happens in Seattle, but seeing it in towns I don’t know as well highlights how chefs and producers work together to make things delicious.

Chetzamelta Sandwich at the Sammy Shack

There will be writings, too—essays, and a few fun DIY projects (lebnah, anyone?), and profiles. But my hope these days, writing and calling and testing and interviewing and tasting, is that I can somehow put this big square state into a book that will drive you not necessarily all the way to Washington, but into the kitchen to cook. And then, you’ll visit for sure.

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A good, good place

Tomme for lunch at Alpine Lakes

This month, I have an intern. (Stop laughing. But I admit, I think it’s a bit ridiculous, too.)

She’s learning how to write a recipe, sure, but I can see her absorbing the same things I took in when I interned with cookbook author Kathy Gunst a decade ago—which kinds of peas are easiest to string, and how to give salmon a good pan-searing, and why dried Bings aren’t always interchangeable with dried Rainiers. She’s finding, like everyone does, that for every ten things you learn when you research something, only one or two end up being important, and there are one or two more that you miss entirely, until you find them.

But more than anything, she’s teaching me. She’s teaching me that I’m doing what I love. She’s reminding me that I’m no longer a compliance analyst for an asset management firm, and that even though I stink at balancing work and life as much as anyone deep in the trenches in [fill in the blank] might, the fact that the two are seamlessly intertwined for me is still thrilling. And I hope, more than anything, that beyond teaching her how to get the fishmonger to cut a nice, even piece from the head end of the halibut for grilling, I’m teaching her the importance of doing something that motivates her to wake up at 5:30 a.m., without an alarm, simply because she’s excited for the day. Because no matter how much I bitch about the parts of my job that aren’t quite as glamorous—dishes, invoicing, pitching, taxes, and always more dishes—I still have a pretty major crush on how I spend my days.

One year ago, I wasn’t feeling so lucky. My body wasn’t cooperating at all. My previous cookbook proposals had fallen flat. I was constantly sore and nauseous, thinner but weak.

But today—Annie, honey, you may have been on to something that worked for you, but today I don’t really need tomorrow, because the todays have been so much fun. Today, I’m healthy, for once. I’m juggling more projects than I should, bouncing between photo shoots and recipe testing marathons and writing binges, allowing myself to fall behind my normally strict self-scheduling for the first time in a long, long while—something so unlike me that it makes me wonder if perhaps, in this good, good place, there’s a new me to be found.

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And this week, I’m starting a new project. It’s another cookbook. (See? Madame Jacqueau was right. Everything comes in threes. Last fall, when I wrote about being phoenixed, I knew this was coming, too.)

Dishing Up Washington will be a thorough, entertaining, and delicious overview of the state’s foodways, told through recipes (150 of them, to be exact). It seems like an enormous number to me right now, but February 2012 also seems like a long, long ways away. (Apparently the advantage of writing your first book in 5 1/2 weeks is that from then on, every deadline seems generous.)

Lara Ferroni, the gorgeous eye behind Cook and Eat (among other things)—and someone I feel a special kinship with because she’s the only person I know who’s also survived writing a doughnut cookbook—will be the book’s photographer.

This week, we captured spring. Tuesday, she photographed a silky pea soup with nettle-sorrel pesto and pea vines, and Amy Pennington’s minted pickled asparagus, and grilled spot prawns with a curried caramel dipping sauce, and saffron clam chowder from Lisa Nakamura at Allium.

Catha link holding Cutie Patootie

Today, we took a giant road trip, out Route 2 toward Leavenworth, down to Wenatchee, and back on I-90 with a stop in North Bend. Catha Link, the cheesemaker at Alpine Lakes Cheese, surprised us with lunch before taking us down to meet the lambs – that black one up there is Cutie Patootie, who cuddled into my lap like a golden retriever after greeting Catha, all licks and nuzzles. There was salad with Catha’s intense sheep’s milk tomme melted onto apricot jam-smothered toasts. Afterward, down the road in Cashmere, we bit into fat, creamy lemon bars at Anjou Bakery. If this is Washington, I will live here forever.

Someday soon, I’ll probably whine about my life. I’ll say I’m overcommitted, or uninspired, or tired, or just plain cranky.

But right now, I’m in a good, good place, and I couldn’t be happier.

Coffee and lemon bars at Anjou Bakery in Cashmere

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