Monthly Archives: April 2007

Baked Swordfish Amanda

Some days it’s easier for me to say hello to a friend via the food I’m eating than it is to pick up the phone.

I spent half of yesterday getting ready for Take It Bake It, which is (gasp!) tonight. As I spread my six shallow metal pans out on the counter and began filling them with strawberry-rhubarb crisp, my mind wandered to Amanda, a friend from Cape Cod who once helped me make twelve dinners for six in a day. Packing up food this way always seems a little strange to me. The foil pans are little life rafts for the food, sailing what might otherwise be destined for waste into the freezer, where technology allows humans to press pause on their lifespan.

Last winter Amanda and I both worked from home, so we’d have lunch together every week or so, alternating houses. Once I showed up and she announced a recipe that struck me as . . . how do I put this delicately? A little . . . ghetto, maybe. She’d mixed equal parts cream cheese and mango salsa, slathered it onto salmon, and baked it. I was hesitant – it certainly wasn’t pretty – but when my fork reached my mouth, the tender, rich fish blended so well with the creamy, slightly spicy pink sauce. Every once in a while I find myself hankering after Amanda’s salmon.

Last night, after making 32 egg yolks’ worth of creme anglaise and folding the seven crisps into their little foil and plastic sleeping bags, I mixed a little cream cheese with peach salsa and piled it onto the swordfish steaks I found marked “sashimi” (really?) in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. Even as I made it, I doubted it again. This is worse than cream of mushroom soup in a can, said someone in my brain. But it worked, again, and the utter speed of the whole operation made it taste even better.

I sat there thinking about Amanda all through dinner, about how her then 1-year-old learned her name and used it for a week straight to identify every noun and emotion that came to him, about how she puts brownies in s’mores, about the dill bread she’d make almost every time we had lunch in her kitchen, and about how she and her husband taught us how to play Speed Scrabble (which I just found out is also called Idaho Scrabble) . . . Then we dug out the end of a bag of chocolate chips and started eating them straight from the bag for dessert, just like she does. Why do I find this habit of hers so endearing?

It did eventually dawn on me that Amanda’s not eating much swordfish these days because she’s pregnant, but it didn’t matter. I was able to put my finger on why the recipes with the cheesiest, dorkiest names, those most often titled (Method) (Ingredient) (Person), are those we come back to again and again: these are the recipes that bring us the people we miss, no matter how far we feel from them. Baked Swordfish Amanda might not mean much to you. But to me, it means a night with a friend I might not see more than once a year.

Hello, Amanda. It was nice having dinner with you.

Baked Swordfish Amanda

Recipe for Baked Swordfish Amanda
Recipe 120 of 365

I guess this is more of a method than a recipe; you simply mix equal parts salsa and cream cheese and spread it over a piece of fish. And I can’t take the credit, either. Amanda got the recipe from somewhere else, I think, but I’m not sure where.

TIME: 5 minutes active time, plus cooking fish
MAKES: 2 servings

2 (1/3 pound) swordfish steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup peach, mango, or pineapple salsa
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (whipped cream cheese works fine)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the fish in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Mix the salsa and the cheese together in a small bowl with a fork until blended, and spread it over the top of the fish. Bake roughly 10 minutes per inch of thickness, 10 to 15 minutes for typical swordfish steaks. Serve immediately.

And the “big batch” recipes I made with Amanda, published in the April 2006 issue of Cape Cod Magazine:

Recipe for Corkscrew Bolognese

Recipe for Chicken, Spinach, and Proscuitto Lasagna

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Filed under fish, recipe

Parking lot picnic

Yesterday we pressed our luck and took the dog backcountry skiing again, only this time, things worked out. We had a beautiful skin up in the late afternoon, a great ski, and afterward, as the sun dipped down toward Seattle, we feasted on plain cheese sandwiches and this simple chopped salad in the parking lot, passing a decidely unglamorous tupperware container between the three of us humans and feeling in all ways sated.

I meant to add 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts to the mix, but alas, when we came home from skiing, the pine nuts where just where I’d left them, opened and untouched on the kitchen counter.

Creamy chickpea and cucumber salad 1

Recipe for Creamy Chopped Salad with Chickpeas and Cucumbers
Recipe 119 of 365

Goat cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and mint combine to make a creamy, tangy dressing for this simple-to-make salad.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
1 English cucumber, peeled if desired and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl until the goat cheese turns into a creamy dressing. Serve immediately, or pack for a picnic lunch.

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Filed under Lunch, recipe, salad, vegetables

A Very Bad Girl

Bromley gets a talking-to

That delicious artichoke and fennel salad at The Four Swallows and Lara’s gorgeous artichoke photos inspired me to stock up when I saw artichokes on sale at Ballard Market. I wanted to recreate the salad, with its flirtatious hint of truffle oil, but one glance at the price of fennel this week sent me scurrying in the other direction.

Last night I made a gorgeous garlicky aioli for our grilled artichokes and asparagus, tinted it with a little truffle oil, put some of it in a ramekin, piled the rest onto a plate to serve with dinner, and stepped outside to join my husband on the porch next to the grill.

Truffled Garlic Aioli

Silence from the kitchen. Then one newly cone-free dog came wagging toward the porch door, obviously very, very proud of something. Long story short: our dog really likes aioli.

Grilled veggies with aioli

Recipe for Truffled Garlic Aioli
Recipe 118 of 365

Aioli is just a way of saying “homemade mayonnaise” without making people nervous – but that’s what it is; it’s the real thing, typically flavored with garlic. I make mine with a good organic egg from the farmer’s market, since it means eating the yolk raw, and typically I use a combination of olive oil and another oil – in this case, an olive oil infused with the black truffle oil I found at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find a similar blend, just use all olive oil, and replace a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the olive oil with pure truffle oil, if you can.

Aioli makes a great dip for fresh, steamed, or grilled vegetables, or grilled fish.

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: 1/2 cup

1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, chopped to a paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil infused with truffle oil

Place the yolk in the bottom of a small mixing bowl and whisk until light – it will seem like all the yolk clings to the sides of the bowl, but enough whisking will thicken and lighten it. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil, and whisk to blend well. Whisking with one hand and pouring with the other, add a tiny bit of the olive oil at a time, whisking to create an emulsion between the yolks and the oil – you’ll really be adding about 1/2 teaspoon of oil at a time. Continue whisking until all the oil has been added (the aioli should be pale yellow and quite thick), and serve immediately.

NOTE: If at any point the mixture seems to be refusing the oil (and you can’t seem to get the oil to mix in), try adding just a teaspoon of cold water. Whisk that in, then continue adding the oil.

Keep any leftover aioli in the refrigerator, covered, and use with in a day or two.

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Filed under dog, recipe, vegetables

A fridge full of nothing

Yesterday was one of those days: I opened the fridge, peered in, and saw nothing to eat. I looked closer, bent at the waist, momentarily believing that sticking my entire head in might help me see things in a new light. I saw broccoli rabe and sausages and great globe artichokes, asparagus and salad greens and half a pound of bacon, but nothing sounded like the lunch I needed. So I closed the fridge.

I came back five minutes later. I laughed at myself when I realized I was disappointed no one had gone grocery shopping for me while I opened the mail.

Finally, finally, I spotted a half-used jar of sundried tomatoes. And oh how they hit the spot.

Herbed Israeli Couscous with Sundried Tomatoes 1

Recipe for Herbed Israeli Couscous with Sundried Tomatoes
Recipe 117 of 365

Israeli couscous, also called Middle Eastern couscous and a relative of Sardinian fregola, is a larger, chewier version of regular couscous, often made with wheat flour rather than semolina flour. It cooks quickly, which makes it an ideal weeknight side dish. Serve this as is, or use it as a base for a larger meal, stirring in cooked chicken or vegetables, or topping it with, say, a meaty tomato sauce.

Look for Israeli couscous in the bulk bins of a health food store or the ethnic food aisle of a larger conventional grocery store.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 to 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (from a jar, typically packed in oil)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onions are soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, couscous, rosemary, and thyme, and stir to combine and coat all the couscous grains with the oil. Cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the grains begin to look lightly toasted.

Add 1 cup of the broth, and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add half of the remaining broth, simmer again for a few minutes, and then the rest of the broth, simmering until all the liquid has been soaked up. (Taste the grains for doneness – they should be tender. If they’re still a little hard in the center, add a bit of water and cook a few more minutes.)

Season the couscous to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the sundried tomatoes. Serve hot.

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Filed under recipe, side dish

A Weekend Project

Last weekend I nestled a little Black Russian tomato plant in next to the rhubarb, simply becuase I’m beginning to believe the rhubarb has superpowers. It won’t stop growing. I hope the tomatoes take the hint.

A taste of this delectable rhubarb marmalade inspired me to make this orangey version – we’ve been topping everything from the olive oil cake to walnut bread to plain yogurt with it.

Recipe for Orange-Rhubarb Marmalade
Recipe 116 of 365

You’ll know the marmalade has begun to thicken enough to start testing when the bubbling sounds get lower and louder. (The sound reminded me of that swamp full of R.O.U.S. in The Princess Bride.) This is more of a spreadable compote than a highly gelatinized marmalade, so don’t expect it to become as solid as store-bought jelly.

Note: This recipe does not process the marmalade thoroughly enough to make it shelf-stable. Keep it refrigerated up to 3 months.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: Approximately 6 pints marmalade

4 large navel oranges, stickers and tough stems removed
1 gallon (16 cups) water
5 cups sugar
1 1/2 pounds young rhubarb, chopped into 1/2” pieces

Cut the oranges into sixths through the poles. Seed them and slice them thinly using a food processor fitted with the thin slicing disc (or slice by hand). Transfer the oranges to a large stockpot and cover with the water. Cover and let sit overnight, 12 to 18 hours.

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Place a few small plates in the refrigerator. Add the sugar and the rhubarb and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Simmer an additional 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Start checking for doneness after about 1 1/2 hours: spoon about a tablespoon of the marmalade onto a cold plate. Return to the refrigerator for a few minutes, then take it out to see whether the liquid part has separated from the fruit. When done, the liquid part of the marmalade won’t run across the plate; it should hold together.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the marmalade to 5 to 6 clean pint-sized jars, seal with clean lids, and refrigerate.

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Filed under garden, recipe

Mac & Cheese without a mortgage

Gee, I sure to seem to be on a health kick: the last week shows cookies, eggs, butter, cream, bacon, and now cheese. Plus, I had these bacon-ginger cookies for dessert last night. Really, I do eat vegetables.

I’m all for how the schmancy macaroni and cheese recipes taste, with fourteen artisanal cheeses, pasta handmade by someone’s second cousin’s great-aunt in Italy and flown to the US on a private jet with the proper ventilation, salt from the rockiest shores of Brittany, and butter from sacred cows in India, but sometimes I don’t really feel macaroni and cheese should require taking out a second mortgage.

I found those 2-pound blocks of Tillamook cheese on sale at Ballard Market for $5 last weekend and sort of went wild. Well, wild for me. I bought three.

Creamy Mac & Cheese

Recipe for Creamy Orange Mac & Cheese
Recipe 115 of 365

Here’s a homemade version of those big, creamy, mild Velveeta shells, minus the unpronounceable ingredients that make Velveeta feel like plastic in your mouth. I used the mild orange-colored medium cheddar usually available on the west coast, but you can substitute any meltable cheese – Gruyere, Swiss, sharp cheddar, Monterey jack, or something stronger like Comte would all be great, as would adding chopped cooked vegetables, chicken, etc. Because there’s no baking step involved, this homemade mac is a little quicker to make than some.

And OOOHHHHhhhh is it good the next day, straight out of the fridge.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 to 6 side dish servings

1/2 pound large macaroni elbows
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups milk, warmed
4 packed cups grated cheddar cheese (8 ounces, grated)

Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Prep all the ingredients while the water comes to a boil.

As soon as you put the pasta in, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and the bubbles begin to subside, add the flour, and cook, stirring continuously with a whisk, for 1 minute. Add about a 1/4 cup of the milk and whisk until the mixture forms a paste. Add the remaining milk, whisk until smooth, and cook the mixture, stirring often, until it comes to a simmer and thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and let sit until the bubbles subside completely. Add the cheese a little at a time, whisking until smooth between each addition.

When the pasta is done, drain and return it to the pan. Add the cheese sauce, stir to combine the pasta with the sauce, transfer the mac and cheese to a serving bowl, and serve immediately.

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Filed under Lunch, Pasta, recipe



What is it about piles? I have one for bills and one for clippings people send me, one for books to read, one for recipes to try, one for cookbooks to leaf through, one for New Yorkers, and this one, for mostly cooking or Seattle-related magazines I haven’t gotten to yet. Then there’s the pile of various notebooks, for recipe testing, calendering, writing, planning, and actual note-taking, which are themselves really just huge piles, simmered and reduced into a smaller, more legible format. You might call the piles on the inside of my notebooks lists.

So why does list connote organization while pile implies impending disaster? I’d argue that the latter is just an expanded, more physically impressive version of the former. A grocery list does represent organization, and the pile of groceries that sits on the counter for 20 minutes while I check my email is simply the list’s physical manifestation.

My piles are probably a good representation of what’s going on in my brain, and even though I’m always trying to figure out how to get rid of them, I think deep down I might even love them.

This must be the Way of the Universe: everything is piles, all the atoms and particles and whatevers that make up our physical world. I guess I’ll have to bring that up the next time my physicist husband starts bugging me about the state of our office.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to point you to a few of the things I’ve written recently, just to add to your piles: check out Seattle Weekly’s dining guide for a slew of informative and often funny capsules on Seattle dining. (It’s organized according to the “22 most statisticially significant human-restaurant interactions,” which makes it quite entertaining.) I also have pieces in the April and May issues of Seattle Homes and Lifestyles. And in a cruel twist of fate, I’ll be part of a feature on KCTS‘s “About the Money” show tonight at 7:30 and I don’t actually have a television to watch it on.

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A Civilized Lunch

Yesterday my neighbor came over for lunch, and we had a most civilized and delicious meal.

Wilted Arugula Salad with Scallops and Hot Bacon Vinaigrette 2

Recipe for Wilted Arugula Salad with Scallops and Hot Bacon Vinaigrette
Recipe 114 of 365

Scallops are expensive by the pound, but it only takes two or three per person to make a meal. Here’s a simple but fancy-looking salad that uses relatively few ingredients. In smaller portions, it would make a great prelude to a more formal meal. Serve with good sourdough bread for mopping up any extra vinaigrette.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 servings

4 handfuls baby arugula
1/2 pound large scallops (4 to 6 scallops), white tabs removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 slices bacon, diced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

First, divide the arugula between two large plates. Pat the scallops dry and season them with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. When the bacon is done, skooch it to the outer edges of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the scallops. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side (try to avoid moving them around in the pan too much), or until golden brown on both sides but still a little squishy to the touch – you want them to remain soft in the center.

Top the arugula with the hot scallops and return the pan (with the bacon) to the heat. Add the vinegar, being careful not to breathe it in as it cooks off, and simmer for about 30 seconds, until the liquid has reduced almost completely. Whisk in the mustard, and then carefully add the oil in a slow, steady stream as you whisk. Season with salt and pepper (think twice before tasting the hot oil!). Spoon the vinaigrette and the bacon pieces over the salad. Serve immediately.

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Filed under Lunch, recipe, shellfish

A trip to Bainbridge

If normal means staying within sight of Seattle, this past weekend was my first normal weekend in a long, long time. The highlight (besides gardening in the sushine all day yesterday) was a quick trip to Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.

Our first stop was The Living Room, a new wine bar on Bjune Drive. If IKEA designed a wine bar to sell its products, it would look just like this: clean, modern lines, fun lighting, gorgeous place settings, etc., but almost completely devoid of the character one might hope for given the place’s namesake. The deep leather couches are as inviting and soothing as any living room couch should be, but it’s hard to feel like you’ve just popped by your neighbor’s house for a quick sip when you’re staring at artless walls and an unimpaired view of what qualifies on Bainbridge as a strip mall.

My glass of wine, however, a Finca de Arantei Albarino singing of peaches and citrus, was fresh and light and summery, and somehow that and the Portuguese red my husband was swooning over both worked with a big slab of flatbread topped with fontina, caramelized onions, thyme, and truffle salt.

Thus fortified, we ambled down to the marina and poked around a bit before settling in at The Four Swallows, a restaurant in a little yellow house up the hill on Madison Avenue that reminded me of Abbicci. Now this is a living room.

There we met Jose, the polite and affable server who represents, to me, all that is good about career waiters. He had style. He shuffled in and out like a male geisha, relaxed but purposeful, conversational but never intrusive, and by the time our wine was poured I knew I needed his help ordering. I’d been waffling between the Penn Cove mussels in a sherry, leek, tomato, and smoked paprika cream sauce and the beef carpaccio, a perennial favorite of mine. But when I asked him for advice, he skipped the first two courses on the menu all but shouted “order the pasta pomodoro!”

It sort of surprised me – I mean, I don’t typically avoid Italian options at the bottom of an otherwise fairly Northwestern menu, but I certainly don’t gravitate toward them. So we decided to share the carpaccio, which was the same alluring combination of soft, clean-tasting beef, excellent olive oil, truffle salt, and Parmesan cheese that caught my palate’s attention the first time I ever had it, at Sweet Basil. I also ordered a shaved fennel and artichoke salad, and the pomodoro, because Jose had seemed so earnest in his recommendation.

The salad, a tangled nest of white flecked with chervil and parsley and doused with a perky lemon vinaigrette, also carried the slightest hint of truffle oil, a successful way of grounding what might otherwise be a dish with only high, bright notes. Also nicely balanced was my husband’s salad, a rather ordinary combination of pears, Point Reyes blue, candied pecans, and greens, done uncommonly well.

Jose’s suggestion was the best of the night: the pomodoro was a far cry from the anemic, thick, pink sauce I’ve unfortunately come to associate with some simple Italian classics. He delivered it with the little bow he seemed to use every time he left the table. A big scoop of cool, creamy mascarpone cheese balanced the pomodoro’s earthy, spicy tomato sauce. I twirled spaghetti and scooped up pine nuts and slurped sauce until I had not a square centimeter of space left in my belly. For hours afterward, it was as if someone had smashed a garlic clove and rubbed it over every surface of the inside of my mouth. I loved it.

We ended (somehow) with a vanilla panna cotta with fresh strawberries, delicious and soft-textured but served in a wine glass, which (to me) sort of skips the magic of how a panna cotta that’s been successfully eased out of a form can be so perfect and linear and yet so jiggly at the same time.

As we walked back to the ferry through the rain, realizing we’d just been on a date, I couldn’t help but wonder what the mussels might have tasted like. Last night I made my own version, which were surely quite different from The Four Swallows’ but will have to tide me over until I can get back to Bainbridge. Closed and raw, the mussels barely fit in my favorite pan, which meant that when I took the top off after steaming them for a few minutes, they all opened and expanded at once, carrying bits of bacon and onion and parsley with them as the whole pile grew up and almost over the sides of the pan. Here are the stragglers:

Bottom of the barrel

Mussels with Smoked Paprika Cream
Recipe 113 of 365

Look for big Mediterranean-style mussels; it’s fun to use their shells to scoop up the rich, creamy broth left at the bottom of the bowl. Serve the mussels with plenty of good, crusty bread and a simple green salad. Two and a half pounds of mussels makes about six appetizer servings, four dinner servings, or an all-out mussel feast for two. (You can guess which one we did.)

Make sure you have a pot with a tight-fitting lid before you start.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: Varies

2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 – 2 large clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pimenton de la vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 pounds large mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Note: “Debearding” a mussel is simply removing the little black hairs that sometimes protrude from the flat side of the shell – these are what the mussel uses to attach itself to its underwater habitat. To do it, just grasp the strings (technically called byssus threads) between a thumb and forefinger and pull.

Heat a large soup pot or a 3-quart high-sided sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the bacon begins to crisp. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper, and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and the paprika, and stir until all the onions are coated with the paprika.

And the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat. Simmer for a minute, stir in the Dijon mustard and the cream, and season again with salt and pepper, if necessary. Add the mussels, cover the pot, and cook for about 5 minutes, or just until most of the mussels have opened. Transfer the mussels to a big bowl with a slotted spoon, discarding any empty shells or mussels that fail to open, pour the sauce over the mussels, and sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve immediately.

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Filed under recipe, review, Seattle, shellfish, travel

It’s balmy out!

Lemon Balm

Our tiny yard continues to grow surprises for me. Today as I was weeding out in the Seattle sunshine I identified a previously ignored plant as lemon balm, an herb that looks like mint with fat leaves and has an unmistakably lemony flavor, sort of like lemen verbena. I made lemon balm butter by mixing 1/4 cup of finely chopped lemon balm with a stick of softened unsalted butter along with the zest and juice of a lemon and a little salt and pepper, and used it two ways:

I rubbed 1/4 cup of the lemon balm butter under the skin of a 4-pound chicken, which I roasted at 450 for about 30 minutes and then at 400 for another 40 more. The chicken was delicious and moist, thank you butter, and I loved how roasting it in a cast iron pan gathered the juices up so I could saute chopped potatoes in the leftover chicken fat. But unfortunately, there was no real lemon balm flavor to speak of.

Roasting Chicken in cast iron

Then I dotted a little of the butter onto freshly steamed asparagus, with just the result I’d hoped for: an herbal and intensely lemony flavor with each bite of asparagus.

Asparagus with Lemon Balm Butter

Give it a try, if you have any lemon balm (or run into it somewhere; I’ve seen it at the Ballard farmers’ market), or with mint, basil, lemon verbena, or any other soft, green herb.

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Filed under chicken, garden, recipe, vegetables

Saving it for snack

Each spring at Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth, Massachusetts, Farmer Ron lets a few chicken eggs hatch to beef up his egg-procuding flock. He keeps the chicks under heat lamps under the hydroponic lettuce banks in the greenhouses up on the hill. I remember being so surprised the first time I saw them milling around near my feet like refugees, happy but somehow aware that this little sawdust heaven could not be their home forever.

Chicks are cute, for sure, but I fall harder for ducklings. Seeing duck eggs in a market always makes me a little sad for the little fuzzy creatures they could have been, little Robert McCloskey characters about whom no children’s author will ever write a story.

In Boston, we lived right near the Boston Common, and I’ll never forget a mother patiently watching her son feed part of his lunch to the bronze ducklings there. “Why isn’t he eating it?” the kid asked over and over again, obviously insulted that duckling #2 (the one who looks like he’s eating) had no interest in his PB&J. “I think he wants to save it for snack,” said the mom. The kid seemed satisfied, and when I walked by again a few minutes later, I was tempted to pick up the little mauled bits of sandwich he’d left behind.

But I buy duck eggs anyway, because they taste so darn good.

This egg salad would make wonderful picnic fare – and if the sandwiches are too big, you can save some for snack.

Duck Egg Salad for lunch

Recipe for Dilled Duck Egg Salad
Recipe 111 of 365

Rich, farm-fresh duck eggs have a dark, orangey yolk with strong mineral flavor. Use them to make your favorite version of egg salad, or try mine, which uses a blend of sour cream, Dijon mustard, and mayonnaise to achieve optimum creaminess.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 big sandwiches, or finger sandwiches for 4 to 6

4 duck eggs (usually rated “super jumbo,” about 3/4 pound total) or 6 large chicken eggs
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 packed tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place the eggs in a small saucepan and fill with water to 1” above the eggs. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs sit exactly 18 minutes. Drain the eggs, cracking the shells in a few places as you do so to allow cold water to rush under the shells and make them easier to peel, and transfer them to a bowl of ice cold water to cool for ten minutes.

Peel and finely chop the eggs, and transfer them to a mixing bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients, and serve on toast, salad, or in finger sandwiches.

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Filed under farmer's market, Lunch, recipe

Queen for a day

At some point we’re queens for a day, all of us. My dog is currently the drama queen, sulking on her bed in the giant plastic cone we’re now forcing her to wear since she chewed her stitches out. My neighbor Sammy was recently crowned valedictorian of her high school class, and she’s thrilled. And my gorgeous sis will undoubtedly have a shot at prom queen, or princess, or whatever they call it these days, when she wears what must be the only dress in the entire world purchased by a mother/daughter pair as multigenerational party attire: first, my 16-year-old sister will wear it to her prom, then, our mother will wear it to her 40th high school reunion. Will wonders never cease?

But today, I don’t feel very queenlike at all. I feel totally uninspired. In fact, I just came across a photo I took last year, which pretty much sums up how I feel about this project today:

Rachel gets poked

As Mary Engelbreit would say, I think I need to snap out of it.

So I baked cookies. I meant to make these with a sample of the dried Goji berries I got in Chicago, but took one taste and thought better of it. I should know better than to put a product that advertises its healthful qualities into a cookie.

Everything Oatmeal Cookies

Recipe for Everything Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe 110 of 365

I firmly believe that the dude on the top of the Quaker Oats container has the best recipe for oatmeal cookies – and changing the butter/sugar/egg ratio is sacrilege. You’ll find the basis for this recipe under the lid (as “Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies”), but what his recipe doesn’t say is that it’s almost infinitely alterable – I add whole wheat, a variety of baking spices, and anything else I think might go well in a cookie. Here’s a great version.

My friend Peter’s grandmother used to send him oatmeal cookies in college packed in an empty Quaker Oats container, so the other students wouldn’t raid his cookie stash. Brillliant!

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: about 3 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats and set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed for about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, blending until incorporated between additions and scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary, and then add the vanilla.

Meanwhile, combine the flours, baking soda, cardamom, and salt together in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend.

Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion the cookies out onto the baking sheets, about 12 per sheet, and bake until golden brown at the edges and set in the center, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely and repeat with remaining dough.


Filed under Cookies, recipe

‘Tis the season

Fresh asparagus from Yakima arrived at my farmer’s market last weekend. I bought a bunch, and meant to add half of it to this dish, but decided at the last minute to add it all, for what ended up being a very asparagus-heavy hot pasta salad. What a good way to celebrate the season.

I seem to be in a fight with my flickr account. Apologies for the lack of photo.

Asparagus with Penne, Shrimp, and Goat Cheese
Recipe 109 of 365

Pasta is a long-standing go-to for simple meals, but sometimes when I’m tired it’s hard for me to look past the jar of pasta sauce I keep on hand for such nights. Cook this as is, or add chopped artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, or a little heavy cream to the shrimp as it sears. This one is heavy on the vegetables.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 2 large servings

2 cups penne (preferably whole wheat)
3/4 pound asparagus
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (your choice)
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (optional)

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Trim the asparagus and cut it into 1” pieces, and take the tails off the shrimp, if desired.

When the water boils, add the pasta, and put on a timer for 2 minutes less than however long the package says the pasta takes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the hot skillet, then the garlic. Cook the garlic for just a few seconds, stirring, then add the shrimp and cook for a minute or two on each side, or until cooked through. If the shrimp is done before the timer goes off, remove it from the heat.

About 2 minutes before the pasta is done (when there’s still a thin crunchy white ring in the center, but the outsides are cooked), add the asparagus to the pasta water. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set it aside for the sauce, and cook the pasta and the asparagus for the remaining 2 minutes.

Just before the pasta’s done, add the butter to the shrimp pan and reheat the shrimp over medium heat. Drain the pasta and asparagus, add them to the shrimp pan, and toss until the butter has melted, adding a little reserved pasta water if the mixture seems dry. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the goat cheese and the optional chives, and serve immediately.

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Filed under farmer's market, Pasta, recipe, shellfish

A Reading Issue: Alinea

My first experience with molecular gastronomy was like so many of life’s great initiations: by definition, the first time can only happen once. Even before I got to Chicago, my anticipation was matched by a twin disappointment, a lurking acknowledgement that once I had experienced Alinea, I could never eat like a virgin again.

The difficult thing about Alinea is that for someone like me, someone who’s relatively used to judging food, it’s a little weird to be dropped into a situation where I can no longer tell whether something looks or smells or tastes right because I have nothing to compare it to. How am I supposed to know if a horseradish-infused cocoa butter ping pong ball has been well executed?

Click here to read the rest . . .

Ping pong ball

Click here for my own slideshow, or here for Alinea’s online photo gallery.

Alinea on Urbanspoon


Filed under commentary, review, travel

Cake for breakfast

This is the kind of cake I like: it took me 12 minutes to make from empty counter to cake in the oven (yes, I timed it). It’s simple and spongy and moist, and delicious at about 7:30 a.m. the next morning with a little homemade marmalade and yogurt heaped on top.

It’s a shame that olive oil isn’t a more popular baking ingredient here. Here’s a good guide to using it outside the frying pan.

Olive Oil Cake Slice

Recipe for Olive Oil-Vanilla Cake
Recipe 108 of 365

Because it’s so simple to make, this cake requires very little planning – and although it will last on the counter, covered with plastic wrap, for a few days, I think the flavor of the olive oil comes through best when it’s still warm. Feel free to add additional flavorings, like a touch of almond or orange oil.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

Vegetable or olive oil spray
1 cup whole milk
1 (3-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeded
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease an 8” cake pan with the oil spray, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and the seeds from the vanilla bean to a bare simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to steep.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together to blend. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until well blended. Add the warm milk to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Add the olive oil, and mix until just blended (it’s okay if a few streaks of oil remain).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden and just beginning to brown at the edges. Let cool 10 minutes, then transfer the cake to a platter: first invert the cake onto a cooling rack, then invert again onto the platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Filed under Cakes, recipe

Husband Says: Salad Spinners Suck

My husband has informed me that he deserves a weekly column on my blog. He’d like to use it as a platform to voice his numerous concerns about our kitchen, but since he still prefers I don’t use his name, I’m denying him full access to posting.

This is today’s issue:

I hate the salad spinner. It’s a nuisance to clean, and that is my single metric for the worth of anything in our kitchen. I realize this is ridiculous–like judging the saws in my shop by what sort of sawdust they make–but cleaning represents my primary relationship with everything in the kitchen (except maybe the grill and the bottle opener). So I hate the salad spinner, and I take a perverse pleasure in the simple idea that it is plastic and brittle, and therefore will likely meet its end long before I do. I might even help it on its way.

I’m thinking of setting him up with a podcast. I’ll record what he says about my food, and you can laugh like I do. On the cauliflower, he waxed poetic about how the texture and sweetness balanced nicely with our salad, etc.

I wonder if he’ll ever find out I can buy salad spinners at the grocery store.

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Filed under commentary, husband

107: Grilled Cauliflower with Oregano and Lemon

In light of my recent experience at Alinea, which I promise you will hear all about very soon (and oh! how you’ll regret asking), I’m on a simple kick. No frills for the rest of the week.

Recipe 107 of 365: Grilled Cauliflower with Oregano and Lemon

Grilled Cauliflower 2

Unearth the head of cauliflower that’s been cowering in the back of your refrigerator since you bought it (in March) to make the pickled cauliflower the guy you sat next to at The Spotted Pig told you about. (If you’ve noticed a trend toward saving the old things in my refrigerator, you’re perceptive.) Slice it vertically into 1″-thick steaks, so the stem keeps the florets intact. Brush it with plenty of olive oil, season it with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of chopped oregano from the bush that’s already threatening to take over your herb garden, and grill it over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side, until good and browned. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top, drizzle with a little of your best olive oil, and you got some vegetables for dinner. Grated parmesan cheese or a little tapenade would also make great toppers.

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Filed under recipe, vegetables

Who does Seattle’s PR?

If the goal is keeping people out of town, I think Seattle must have the best PR firm in the world. The city has systematically and successfully convinced all of America that the weather here is awful, but it’s really quite lovely. On Saturday I left Chicago, which had been blanketed in snow a few days earlier, and spent Sunday strolling the farmer’s market at a snail’s pace in the Seattle sunshine. I bought rites of spring like fiddlehead ferns and lemon balm and dandelion greens, then spent the late afternoon at home, first cutting flowers from my yard and trimming (yes, more) rhubarb, then splayed out in the sun, unconscious, on the portion of the dog bed my now-eating dog would permit me to share with her. Meanwhile, the same friends who doubted my ability to adjust to a rainy climate are dealing with the drama queen that is New England weather. I daresay I rather prefer Seattle.

Last night we hauled the red Weber onto the porch and grilled for the first time this year. Yes, you can eat dandelion greens – they have lots of iron.

Dandelion chimichurri

Grilled Albacore with Dandelion Chimichurri
Recipe 106 of 365

Chimichurri is an Argentinean herb sauce, traditionally made with some mix of parsley and/or cilantro, oregano, olive oil, vinegar or citrus juice, and plenty plenty plenty of garlic. This version substitutes fresh spring dandelion greens for the parsley, resulting in a punchy, slightly bitter flavor that marries well with the sweetness of the tuna. Serve with a salad made with soft, sweet greens, such as mache, miner’s lettuce, or spinach, and good, crusty bread. And try to avoid kissing anyone for a few hours afterward.

Of course, you could smear this sauce on virtually anything – try grilled steak or salmon.

TIME: 15 minutes preparation, plus grilling time
MAKES: 4 servings

1/4 pound dandelion greens
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning tuna
2 packed tablespoons chopped oregano
1 tablespoon lime juice or white vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly ground pepper
1 (1 1/4-pound) sushi-grade albacore tuna “loin”, left whole or cut into individual portions

Preheat a gas grill over medium-high heat or prepare a hot charcoal grill.

Trim the greens up to where the leaves start and wash well, picking out any remaining buds or grass you might find. Set aside.

Process the garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Add the dandelion greens and the oregano, and pulse until the greens are finely chopped, scraping the sides with a soft spatula if necessary. Add the lime juice and 1/4 cup of the olive oil and pulse to blend. Season the mixture to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and transfer to a small bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top and set aside.

Rub the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over the fish, and season with salt and pepper.

When the grill is hot, cook the tuna to desired doneness, just 1 to 3 minutes per side if you like your tuna still rare in the center, or 3 to 5 minutes per side if you’d like it cooked through.

Transfer the tuna to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving hot, with the chimichurri spooned on top.


Filed under farmer's market, fish, recipe, vegetables

Hunger strike

I’m back from Chicago, and very excited about the prospect of eating normally again. It’s amazing what these conferences can do to a person’s appetite; vascillating between gorging on Thanksgiving-sized meals and declaring temporary self-starvation can’t be good for anyone. When I got off the plane in Seattle I was ready for a week-long hunger strike, but I soon found out my dog was doing it for me.

See, my husband took her backcountry skiing yesterday. All was well and good until he skied around a corner and into a random pack of 50 first-time mountaineers. He slammed on the brakes and the dog crashed into him, slicing one of her front legs on his ski’s edge, so their thrilling afternoon adventure was somewhat eclipsed by a five-hour visit/stitching project at the pet ER, this dog’s second ER trip since we moved to Seattle last fall.

And now (because of the painkillers?) she won’t eat, which, if you know her, is major drama – she’s always hungry. So we’re just feeling bad for her.

Injured Doggo

This morning I woke up sick, which is no big surprise. On slow weekend mornings my husband likes to make what we call Eggs Carlos, a tribute to how our Chilean friend from Woods Hole makes eggs. They’re the perfect compromise in that schizophrenic moment when you can’t decide between fried and scrambled (I think my husband likes them mostly because he’s a yolk breaker), and we believe diner waitresses everwhere would get a little thrill if they could offer their customers this option. We usually make them in a nonstick pan with a little olive oil and throw in some cheddar cheese at the end, but at IACP I picked up some avocado oil, which was new to me:

Avocado Oil

Neil, my new avocado oil buddy from the conference, tells me that it has a smoke point of around 500 degrees. That’s nice, but I don’t really care – I’ll never use it to fry because I can already tell I’m going to be quite stingy with it. It tastes like liquid avocado, which I sort of, um, expected, but it also leaves that same velvety vegetal mouthfeel an avocado has; it lingers like a great fatty kiss.

I’d seen avocado oil for sale at Shaw’s in Massachusetts, but I don’t think it’s available in Washington yet . . . look for it. I can tell it’s the beginning of a personal obsession.

Anyway, I did use it for the eggs this morning, first to grease the pan, then as a little drizzle for the toast I put them on.

Here’s how you make Eggs Carlos (Recipe 105 of 365):

1. Cook a few eggs in an (avocado-) oiled skillet, per usual.

Starting Eggs Carlos

2. Wait until the whites are mostly set, as above. Mess ’em all up with a spatula.

the fun part

3. Just when the yolks begin to set, add cheese of some sort (today my husband chose goat cheese, which was delicious). You want some of the yolky bits to remain a little gooey; the whole allure of cooking eggs this way is that you get a little yolky goodness in each bite.

Adding Goat cheese to Eggs Carlos

4. Pile them on toast, if you want.

Eggs Carlos on Toast

Thanks, Carlos!


Filed under Breakfast, dog, products, recipe

Chickpea fritters

I just finished a book by Lauren Weisberger, the author of The Devil Wears Prada, called Everyone Worth Knowing. It’s one of these light, ridiculous reads, the kind of book I feel exceedingly guilty holding when I’m standing in line at the airport book store, but tend to thoroughly enjoy once I get past the fact that I’m reading something shallow and light. Paradoxically, one of the points the book makes (yes, it does have a few, if you look hard) is that sometimes the enjoyment of a book is exactly what makes it worthwhile, no matter how you might feel judged for picking it. I would love to say I’ve read War and Peace, but to a certain extent I agree with the book; it doesn’t matter what you read as long as it gives you something to think about. Why should I pose as a more intellectual person than I actually am? Romantic comedy is my bag, and I won’t deny it. Save the Tolstoy for someone else.

Anyway, there’s a scene in the book where the main character’s hippie-crunchy-vegetarian parents have her over for dinner, and she doesn’t know what her mother plans on doing with a giant sinkful of vegetables. Her new crush (who’s a chef) waltzes in and whips up something fabulous, and for some reason the whole thing inspired me to cook with chickpeas, even though they had no part in the book . . . oh, the brain is a strange instrument. FYI you might find yourself making this raita regularly as a snack.

Curried Chickpea-Broccoli Fritters with Cilantro Raita

Recipe for Chickpea-Broccoli Fritters with Quick Cilantro Raita
Recipe 104 of 365

Though I initially intended these to be a vegetarian version of something like crab cakes, they’re really quite closely related to falafel. Serve them alone, on a big green salad, or folded up into tortillas, lavash, or pita bread, with the yogurt sauce on the side.

Chickpea Fritter wraps 1

TIME: 40 minutes
MAKES: 3 to 4 servings (12 cakes, unless you mangle some)

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups finely chopped broccoli, stems and florets, from 1 small branch broccoli
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (same as garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
2 large eggs
2 packed tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Vegetable oil, for frying
Quick Cilantro Raita (recipe follows)

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook the onions, stirring, until they’re soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook for another minute or so, stirring, then add the broccoli, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green. Remove from heat.

Put the chickpeas in a sturdy mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher until about only half the beans are still whole (you want some smashed, but not all of them). Add the eggs, cilantro, breadcrumbs, and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the onion/broccoli mixture, and stir again – the mixture should hold together when you squeeze a little in the palm of your hand.

Heat a large, high-sided skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Coat the bottom with about 1/4” of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot (a small piece of the chickpea mixture should sizzle when you put it in the pan), form the mixture into patties by scooping it up with a 1/4 cup measuring cup and releasing the patties into the palm of your hand. Carefully add about a half dozen patties to the oil. Cook (undisturbed) for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining chickpea mixture, and serve warm, with the raita.

Quick Cilantro Raita

1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

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Filed under appetizers, Indian, Lunch, recipe, vegetables