Monthly Archives: July 2007

212: Ahhhhhhh

Creamy white salad 2

Recipe for Creamy White Salad
Recipe 212 of 365

Most cuisines that feature hot, spicy foods pair them with equally cooling, refreshing sides. When the world is wilting around you (or if you’re making food so spicy you can’t see straight), this is the salad you’ll want.

Jicama is a brown root vegetable with a crunchy, white interior – it’s much tastier than it looks. Try it sprinkled with sea salt, paprika, cilantro, and a little olive oil.

TIME: 25 minutes
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

1/2 pound radishes, trimmed, halved, and cut into thin half-moons
2 large cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1/2 jicama (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1 large shallot, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Mix the radishes, cucumbers, and jicama together in a large bowl. Place the shallot, mustard, and vinegar in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, then add the oil in a slow, steady stream while whisking; continue to whisk until completely emulsified. Stir in the sour cream and parsley, and taste for seasoning.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss to blend, and serve.

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What they’ll never know

Sometimes I wish editors required an extraneous fact sheet. Writers would have to include any random information encountered in their research, just for shits and giggles.

I just turned in a bread recipe (after twelve rounds of testing), and it makes me so sad that telling the editor my animal stories would be inappropriate. She’ll never know that my cat hopped onto the floured board and splashed little white pawprints all over the counter like a kid with fingerpaints on his feet when I wasn’t looking. The art director will never see how many times my dog licked the side of the loaf while I was taking its picture at hip height, where the best light was. (Anyone who says animals don’t know when they’re doing something wrong is lying.) No, four million people don’t need to make the mental connection between whole grain bread and Bromley’s tongue, but it was definitely part of the process.

I did get to turn in a photo of Bromley recently, though, because she was part of the story. She’s on the contributors’ page of Seattle Metropolitan‘s August issue, wearing a t-shirt, for chrissake. Now here’s a misunderstanding: whoever looks at this page might think I dress my dog up on a regular basis. It happened once. That one time. I promise.

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Easy, for a fancy cake

A nice slice

Recipe for Cointreau Cake with Berries and Cream
Recipe 211 of 365

Remember that olive oil-vanilla cake? It’s so flexible. This one’s all gussied up with a hint of orange and a good hairdo: it’s made yogurt and sour cream, then soaked with a Cointreau-spiked simple syrup for ultimate moisture, then layered and topped with berries and cream.

TIME: 35 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

For the cake itself:
Vegetable or olive oil spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 teaspoon orange oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the soaking syrup:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier

For building the cake:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries

First, make the cake: 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 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 yogurt, sour cream, orange oil, vanilla, and Cointreau, and whisk to blend. 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 30 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 rack, domed side up, to cool.

While the cake cools, make the soaking syrup: combine 1/4 water with 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon Cointreau, simmer 1 minute, and remove from the heat.

When the cake has cooled completely, use a long serrated knife to cut it in half horizontally. Transfer the bottom half to a serving platter, and brush both cut sides of the cake with the soaking syrup.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons Cointreau until stiff peaks form.

Spread half the whipped cream on the bottom half of the cake, getting all the way to the edges, and scatter not quite half of the berries over the cream. Carefully flip the remaining cake half on top of the berries, cut side-down. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top, and pile the remaining berries on the cream.

The cake can be made and soaked up to 24 hours in advance; the assembled cake can be made and refrigerated up to 3 hours ahead – but beware that berries will bleed into the whipped cream if wet.

Quick cake for company 4

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Filed under Cakes, fruit, recipe

A Seattle Saturday

Yesterday we were sitting at Brouwer’s with some friends after a Mariner’s game, discussing dinner options. Yes, it was a Seattle kind of Saturday; it started with a rollerblade around Greenlake to celebrate 1992 and included two lattes consumed at two separate independent coffee houses, in addition to my morning coffee. The latter might explain why I felt great bopping around all day yesterday, until I woke up this morning with what, for both symptomatic and gustatory reasons, I must label consumption.

We’d had garlic fries at the game. If you haven’t had the pleasure: “Garlic fries” insinuates (to me, anyway) that one is ordering French fries with a bit of garlic something on them. At Safeco Field, one actually receives chopped garlic garnished with fries. I’d like to start a petition at Safeco to convince the vendor to rename them “fries garlic,” implying that “garlic” is the main ingredient and “fries” is just a descriptor, because it would be a lot more accurate. If you’d like to duplicate the experience, eating a head of raw garlic is a probably close approximation, as long as ACDC’s “Thunder” is playing at full volume in the background. It made me wonder whether fries garlic sometimes cause pitchers to lose their concentration; the stadium’s collective garlic breath must be bad enough to find its way from way up in the nosebleeds, where we were sitting, down to the mound.

And oh, the morning breath. I’m fairly certain our dog is avoiding us.

After binging on fries garlic (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and other associated ballgame foods, my friend Michelle announced she needed something lighter for dinner, specifically, corn – but not right off the cob. (I like it when people know what they want; it always creates a much easier path to an eventual dinner decision.) She wanted something similar to this corn salad but less salady, more spicy, and perhaps used as a garnish for something grilled. We agreed on a spinach salad and grilled chicken with hot chipotle corn salsa.

We all gathered in our kitchen, milling and talking and eating and drinking in the casual, everyone-does-everything way that separates having dinner with friends from having friends over for dinner.

Discussion inevitably meandered to the pros and cons of the different methods used to cut corn off a cob: I think most people balance one end of the cob on a cutting board and cut the kernels off, like this or this (or worse, as shown in this painful video).

I’m just not as balanced a person, I guess. If I do it that way, the kernels go everywhere, and sometimes I rocket the cob itself across the room, too. I much prefer to place the cob down on the cutting board, and use a small, sharp knife to cut three or four rows of kernels off at a time, running the knife down the length of cob with the knife’s point on the board (as opposed to cutting straight down along its entire length) and rotating the cob (up, away from the knife’s blade) a little bit after each row.

Cutting corn off cob

The advantages for me are clear: 1) I don’t have to start by cutting the cob in half or cutting one end off to make a flat spot, which is sometimes tough to do and always hard on my joints, and 2) The kernels end up neatly lined up on the cutting board, rather than scattered around the board itself, the counter, and whatever happens to be within a roughly three-foot radius of the actual cob (such as my dog).

Grilled Chicken with Hot Chipotle Corn Salsa 4

Recipe for Hot Chipotle Corn Salsa
Recipe 210 of 365

I’d have written a recipe for grilled chicken topped with this spicy, creamy corn salsa, but it seems a shame to limit the topping to just chicken – cook the salsa and serve it as a piquant side dish on its own, stir it into ground beef for making hamburgers, serve it over fish, or stuff it into tacos or burritos.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large scallions, sliced, white and green parts (roughly) separated
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn
1 chipotle pepper en adobo, finely chopped, plus 1/2 – 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then add the white parts only of the scallions, and the jalapenos. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the corn, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cream has thickened and the corn is bright. Remove from heat, stir in sliced scallion greens, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary, and serve. (The corn can also be served cold, and can be reheated just before serving.)

corn salsa 2

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209: A very pretty salad I’ll never make again

Beet Caprese 1

I’ve been a little frustrated recently in the recipe department, not because the ideas haven’t been flowing, but because at some level I do believe food is best at its most simple, and dipping into summer’s best produce – the first heirloom tomatoes bathed in olive oil and sea salt, for example – pretty much beats anything, anytime. But nooooo, I have to do something different. What a slap in the face for Mother Nature. Really.

Last week I came across a recipe in Sunset Magazine for a peach and mint caprese salad with a curry vinaigrette; it turned me back to caprese. I crossed it with an idea from a book I tested recipes for, which had a star of a recipe featuring tiny beets layered into a tower with rounds of goat cheese, and decided I’d try a beet and mozzarella caprese tower, a stack of big chiogga beets and fleshy mozz with mint leaves and the more traditional balsamic drizzle.

The beets turned out to be all different colors on the inside (they’d all been sold as chiogga, and the skins had been roughly the same shade), which made for a great color. I broke out the good balsamic, all .5 ounces of it, and the good olive oil. I stacked and drizzled, and ooh, was she pretty, sliced right down the center:

Beet Caprese halved

But when my husband and I sat down to eat, the excitement fizzled. It turns out that a good Caprese relies as much on the textural similarities between tomatoes and mozzarella (or peaches and mozzarella, I hope) as it does on their affinities for each other flavor-wise. In my first bite, the firm, sweet roasted beets clashed with the moist, soft mozzarella. I tried again: still wrong. Even the mint was too thick – slightly fuzzy, compared to basil’s silky leaves, and too assertive for the mozzarella and delicate olive oil.

I separated the beets from the cheese, ate the beets, then used the mozzarella to mop up all the salt-kissed balsamic and olive oil.

Back to the chopping block. I made a more traditional caprese with the remaining mozzarella, a good tomato, and a scoop of pesto. I realized how sad I was about the beets not working out when I compared the caprese ingredients I’d slapped onto my plate:

Jess' caprese

to my husband’s carefully crafted presentation:
Tito's caprese

I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Time for tomatoes with olive oil and salt.

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Tangles

My brain is in a tangle. A few tangles, actually:

1. Nutritional: I eschew mayonnaise, yet a soup with 1/2 cup heavy cream and chorizo seems perfectly acceptable.

2. Weather: Yesterday when I planned to make chowder for dinner, it was foggy and grey and chowder seemed natural and fitting. When we ate it, it was crystal clear and warm. Confusing for a body.

3. Chowder: Is it right to put chorizo in a chowder? I mean, it was delicious, but is it right?

Chorizo Chowder

Recipe for Chorizo Chowder
Recipe 208 of 365

Made with spicy pork chorizo, potatoes, corn, and Spanish paprika, this chowder has more heat but less body than the traditional creamy clam chowder. Oh, and no clams. Note that there’s no additional oil in the recipe, either – the chorizo should provide all the fat necessary for sautéing the onions.

TIME: 35 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1/2 pound spicy (or mild) pork chorizo (2 large links), casings removed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (2 large), peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika (pimenton de la vera)
Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn
1/2 cup heavy cream
Parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. When hot, crumble the chorizo into the pan in small pieces. Cook 3 minutes, undisturbed, then stir and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking any larger pieces apart, until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer the chorizo to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and set aside.

Add the onions to the hot pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft, regulating the stove’s heat as necessary if the stuff on the bottom of the pan begins to get too dark. Add the garlic, cook 2 minutes, and then add the broth, potatoes, and paprika. Bring the soup up to a simmer, then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

Add the corn, cream, and cooked chorizo, and simmer another five minutes. Season again to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot, garnished with parsley or cilantro, if desired.

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There’s a hole in my heart where Willow Tree used to be

This morning the fog rolled up from Puget Sound, past Ballard and toward Phinney Ridge, and I thought of the occasional foggy mornings on Cape Cod, and of eating chicken salad in kitchens so close to the ocean that I could see the fog hanging around inside, too, right there above the sink.

You might have guessed that I love chicken salad. But you probably don’t know the whole story.

I used to avoid foods that combined anything meatish and the word “salad” on the same label. Ditto with tomatoes, anything with a sauce, anything spicy, or anything not immediately identifiable.

But seriously – the chicken salad thing stuck with me until just a few years ago. It seemed . . .I dunno. Too squishy.

Then Michaela introduced me to good chicken salad. Willow Tree Farm chicken salad, to be exact. You might describe it as “premium” grocery store deli counter chicken salad. I started buying it at Shaw’s in Falmouth when I was shopping for my personal chef clients (and hey – wow – the thought of shopping in a massive grocery store seems so strange right now). I rarely had time to eat a proper lunch, and it was a fast, convenient, tasty way to shove a thousand calories down in, oh, about ten forkfuls. It got me through the day.

But then I started buying it at home, when friends visited, and in the winters, when I definitely didn’t need any more calorie-dense foods in my refrigerator.

The fog reminded me that I haven’t even looked for Willow Tree here. It disappeared from my life, like braces and pegged pants.

I just cruised over to the Willow Tree website, for old times’ sake. I thought I might stumble across a place to order it online – the things one could do with a ten-pound bucket – but I was unwittingly lured to a page with nutritional information. It turns out that about 75% of my love for Willow Tree Farm chicken salad (a.k.a. calories) comes from fat. Tons of mayo and sugar, too. No wonder I loved it.

Then I looked around online some more, and found I can actually order it. I started daydreaming – three pounds of chicken salad, fresh on my front porch. Maybe I could use it to patch the hole in my heart where Willow Tree used to be. Or just glue it to my thighs, as my mother used to be so fond of saying.

Luckily, I caught myself before circling the drain of chicken salad desire. There’s a reason I like it, I thought, and I can most likely duplicate it, maybe even do my body more good than harm.

And I can have it for lunch.

See, I really like it when chicken salad is shreddy – yes, that’s a technical term, shreddy, as opposed to square and/or chunky. Because the gooey stuff gets between the strands of shredded chicken better than it does between whole chunks of chicken, shreddy chicken salad – like the stuff from Willow Tree – is more moist in the mouth. It also holds a sandwich together more effectively, and is better at grabbing mix-ins in. Grapes and almonds, apples and walnuts, pecans and craisins, various herbs . . .

But hear this: if you make chicken salad in a stand mixer, separating the chicken meat by beating it apart into strands with the paddle attachment, it’s possible to make a rough estimate of the Willow Tree texture. That is, as long as you don’t start with dry chicken.

Making shreddy chicken salad

But even with perfectly tender chicken, there’s still the problem of moisteners: I know roughly what it’ll take to achieve the silky mouthfeel and slightly sweet flavor of Willow Tree, but I can’t physically bring myself to add that stuff in.

Here’s a good compromise, a shreddy chicken salad, made with some of the good stuff and some of the bad. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

I stuffed it into a pita, and the chicken salad had enough (hmm, insert something a physics PhD would say here – Tito? Carlos? Melanie? Is it surface tension?) that when the pita started breaking down, as they always seem to do, the chicken salad didn’t come cascading down the front of my white tank top and ruin my lunchtime porch session.

No, I waited until later and poured cold coffee down the inside of said tank top instead.

Oh, my. We’re going back east soon for a visit. Maybe I’ll have to hit the grocery store.

Shreddy Apple-Walnut Chicken Salad

Recipe for Shreddy Apple-Walnut Chicken Salad
Recipe 207 of 365
Whipping chicken in a stand mixer is a good, quick alternative to chopping it, and leads to chicken salad with just the right “shreddy” texture.

If you’re using fresh roasted chicken for this (the small rotisserie birds from the grocery store are perfect!), remove all the skin first, then tear the meat off and chop it into roughly 2” – 3” pieces before adding it to the mixer. Be sure to use both the light and the dark meat.

TIME: 15 minutes (with cooked chicken)
MAKES: 4 to 6 sandwiches

1 pound cooked chicken (from a 3- to 4-pound rotisserie chicken, or 1 1/4 pounds raw chicken breasts, cooked)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Pink Lady or Granny Smith apple, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, using on-off pulses “whip” the chicken on medium speed until it reaches the desired consistency – whipping longer will result in smaller pieces. (Use your hands to tear apart extra long pieces, if necessary.) Add mayonnaise, yogurt, and mustard, season with salt and pepper, and mix until combined and creamy, about 15 seconds. Add additional mayo or yogurt, if you want a wetter consistency, and stir in the remaining ingredients.

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206: Salmon-Corn Cakes with Basil Cream

Salmon Corn Cakes with Basil Cream

Recipe for Salmon-Corn Cakes with Basil Cream
Recipe 206 of 365

Think of these as a Seattle version of crab cakes, minus the mayo. I used salmon from the frozen section at Trader Joe’s because it comes without skin, but I’m sure fresh salmon would work fine, too.

You’ll have a bit of basil cream leftover if you eat the cakes as is – try it on tacos! – but I can’t wait to try the cream slathered on a mini burger bun and topped with the salmon cakes: salmon sliders!

TIME: 40 minutes
MAKES: 2 dozen small cakes

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon capers
1 pound salmon (no skin), cut into 1” chunks
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup fresh corn
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup sour cream
Spray olive oil

Pulse the jalapeño pepper, garlic, and capers in the work bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Add the salmon, and pulse until ground. Add the eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and few grinds of pepper, and pulse again until the eggs are incorporated.

Transfer the salmon mixture to a mixing bowl, and add the scallions, corn, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, and 1/2 cup of the basil, and stir to combine. Season again with salt and pepper, and stir.

Next, make the basil cream: Blend the remaining 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, sour cream, and a grinding of pepper until smooth and uniform in color in a blender or small food processor, and chill until ready to use.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Scoop the mixture by very rounded tablespoons into your hands, form into a ball, and transfer to the paper. Flatten the balls gently into 1/2” thick disks, and spray with the olive oil spray.

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, carefully add as many salmon cakes as will fit comfortably in the pan, oiled side-down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. (Note: Try to check only one cake, because flipping them before they’re browned may cause them to fall apart.) Spray the top sides with more oil. Flip the cakes gently, cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until browned, and serve hot, with the basil cream on the side or spooned on top as a garnish.

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Plum Delicious

On Sunday my yoga teacher showed up with half a tree’s worth of tiny ripe plums, literally bursting at their seams with juice. We ate them whole like cherries, spitting the pits out after chewing, and cursed the juice as it dribbled down our chins.

Summer requires striking a careful balance: you buy all the fruit you can, but sometimes you can’t help watching some of it get squishy and overripe on the counter. Here’s a good use for overripe berries and stone fruit – feel free to substitute nectarines or peeled peaches for the plums, or raspberries or blackberries for the blueberries.

Gingered Blueberry-Plum Ice Cream Topping

Recipe for Gingered Blueberry-Plum Ice Cream Topping
Recipe 205 of 365

Spoon this over ice cream or yogurt.

TIME: 10 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 servings

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup blueberries
1 pound very ripe plums, pitted and sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the flour, sugar, and ginger together in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add the berries and plums, and mix to blend. Pour the fruit into a deep baking dish or pie plate. Bake for 30 minutes, stir, and bake another 30 minutes, or until the juice is thick and bubbly. Let the compote rest for about 15 minutes before spooning over ice cream.

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A good read for writers

If you’ve ever written or edited anything, ever, you’ll probably enjoy this recent Gary Kamiya piece, from Salon.com.

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Hot Salad Stew

Summertime Vegetable Stew 3

The weather’s been rather Seattleish lately: drizzly, grey, uninspiring. Yesterday we scratched plans for a bike ride and nested ourselves indoors. My answer to the rain: homemade chicken stock, a pathetic attempt at a sewing project (note to self: successful creativity in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily translate to a sewing machine), and a pot of hot summery stew.

This one has the texture of chili but no chili powder (or meat), tons of fresh summer vegetables, and the warmth needed for a dreary day without the weight of a winter stew.

Recipe for Summertime Vegetable Stew
Recipe 204 of 365

A hybrid of chili, minestrone, and plenty of fresh summer vegetables, you might also call this Hot Salad Stew. It blends the convenience of cans with the bounty of the summer farmer’s markets. Serve as is, over rice, or with a hunk of good crusty bread, with or without grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock (homemade, if possible)
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4” pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4” pieces
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 3/4” pieces
2 cups fresh corn (cut from 2 cobs)
3 tomatoes, chopped
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula (optional)

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onions, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and oregano and season with salt and pepper, and cook another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the red and black beans, the tomato sauce, and the chicken stock, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Season again with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer soup for 30 minutes over low heat, stirring two or three times during simmering.

Note: Because this soup’s flavor relies on the texture of fresh vegetables, it won’t taste quite the same if you freeze it. If you’d like to make a freezable soup, cook the soup up to this point, season, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate overnight. Stir fresh vegetables into cold soup base, and freeze (they’ll cook as you reheat the soup).

Add the peppers, beans, and corn, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the beans are al dente. Stir in the tomatoes, season to taste with salt, pepper, and a dash of hot sauce, if desired, and serve hot.

Stirring Summertime Stew

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To Grandmother’s house we go

Yesterday morning we packed up and headed down to my grandmother’s house in Portland. It’s Grandma June’s birthday on Tuesday, you see, her 80th, and my father has been scheming for weeks. She knew her sons were coming, but admitted to pouting over the lack of a proper birthday party. I think her pout faded a bit each hour as 16 of us surprised her by showing up throughout the day, a few at a time.

We brought down some food, of course. I made salmon and corn cakes to pass around when everyone arrived, Michaela’s potato salad, a big green salad with a winner of a basil vinaigrette, and a vegetable salad.

My mom picked up a beautiful chocolate cake from a bakery there and wrote “Happy June in July” on it. We ate all but the part that said “June,” forking in moist, dense mouthfuls between sips of champagne and Hansen’s soda, stealing unclaimed globs of ganache off the serving plate after we’d finished our own pieces.

Chocolate Cake

I’m pretty sure I was the only one who noticed the ganache beginning to separate in the heat. But as we all chatted and wilted, it struck me how completely unimportant the food was. Sure, the meat was tasty. But sitting and smiling, watching June open gifts and seeing how young and sprite and able she seemed compared to some of her friends, that was important. Meeting relatives for the first time as an adult, that was wonderful. Savoring her surprise and the way the champagne flushed her cherubic cheeks pink, that was delicious.

June on her 80th!

I forgot to take a photo of the vinaigrette, but here’s the salad, all naked:

Arugula, Apricot, Nut, and Goat Cheese Salad

Recipe for Sweet Basil Vinaigrette
Recipe 203 of 365

This is just the right amount of vinaigrette for a 5-ounce package of greens, topped with four thinly sliced apricots, 4 ounces of crumbled goat cheese, and a few big handfuls of Balsamic-Cinnamon Pecans. Serves 15, as part of a picnic spread.

Because this dressing hits the tongue with a bit of sweetness, tartness, and spice, it really might be the vinaigrette for everyone. Drizzle it over a salad with the same mixture of flavors – sweet fruit, spicy nuts, and tart greens such as spinach or arugula, plus cheese, if you’d like.

It could also be made by hand, obviously – just be sure to chop the shallots and basil quite finely.

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: 1 generous cup

1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup (packed) basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Puree the shallots, mustard, vinegar, honey, basil, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor until very finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow steady stream, and whirl until completely incorporated. Refrigerate in a sealed container up to 3 days.

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My questions

Corn Pudding with Pesto

This corn pudding is awesome – especially cold (my husband disagrees), and especially mid-morning, when a cup of tea isn’t quite enough to quiet my stomach.

But with some recipes, I’m always wondering.

Would it have been better if I’d whipped the eggs with room-temperature butter first, then added the liquids, then the flour, then the chopped and whole corn, like making a loose cookie dough? I know it’ll work in a wide, flat dish, but what about the pesto? In that case, spreading it thin over an already-thin layer of batter might be painstaking, so would dropping the pesto on top by the spoonful work, or would they turn into oily brown pools in the baking process? And did the water in the frozen corn affect the baking process? Would it be better with fresh corn?

Oh, it’s always a process, isn’t it.

Recipe for Corn Pudding with Pesto
Recipe 202 of 365

I first had corn pudding at MC Perkins Cove, the more casual oceanside sister of Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. I’m pretty sure the key ingredient there is cream, and I’m really okay with that. Here’s a deep-dish version, made with a combination of cream and whole milk, and a layer of pesto whose olive oil seeps into the lower half of the batter, creating a custard that has a different texture than the top layer. It makes for a great three-layered effect.

TIME: 20 minutes active time, plus 1 1/2 hours to bake
MAKES: 6 servings

Spray vegetable or olive oil
1 pound frozen corn (use directly from frozen)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup basil pesto

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray the inside of a soufflé dish or large, flat baking dish with the oil and set aside.

Whirl half of the corn in a blender or food processor until finely chopped. (Noisy!) Add the eggs, cream, milk, salt, and a good grinding of pepper, and pulse until well combined. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl, sprinkle the flour on top, and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Stir in the butter and the rest of the corn.

Spread half the batter in the bottom of the dish. Dot the batter with the pesto, and use a small spatula to spread the pesto evenly over the batter. Top with the remaining batter, smooth down, and bake for 90 minutes (if using a soufflé dish – a regular baking dish will probably only take about an hour), or until the corn is browning at the edges and the center is just set. Cool ten minutes before serving.

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Positive Squash I.D.

I found out those squash I used in the last post are called Lebanese zucchini.

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Getting squashed

Pan-Roasted Squash with Lemon, Feta and Mint 1

Recipe for Pan-Roasted Squash with Lemon, Feta, and Mint
Recipe 201 of 365

Seared first in a pan on the stovetop, then finished in the oven, and finally topped with feta, mint, and a squeeze of lemon, these squash defy anyone to call the vegetable boring. Use any small summer squash you find in the market, such as zucchini or patty pan. Baking time will differ depending on the thickness of your vegetables.

TIME: 10 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound small summer squash, halved lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the squash’s cut sides with salt and pepper.

Raw baby squash

When the pan is hot, add the butter, and swirl to coat the pan when melted and beginning to brown. Add the squash, cut side-down (depending on the size of the squash, it might work best to arrange them in a starburst pattern) and cook for 3 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Cooking baby squash

Carefully flip the squash over, and finish cooking by baking in the oven for 10 minutes, or until soft all the way through. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the squash, transfer them to a serving platter, and top with feta, mint, and an additional grinding of pepper. Serve hot.

Pan-Roasted Squash with Lemon, Feta and Mint (close)

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Two lists, from two hundred

Looking through the year, it’s hard to imagine making some of the recipes I made in January – who wants to eat pot roast right now?

But that’s how he works, Father Time: strangely. At one hundred, I listed my favorites. In light of my recent hankering for repetition, I flipped through the (now) two hundred entries in my recipe journal to make you two lists:

Recipes from 2007 that I’ve made more than once (more than I thought, and mostly quick ones):

1. Vodka Tonic with Pomegranate and Pernod
2. Parmesan-Garlic Breadsticks
3. Variations on No-Knead Bread (more times than I can count)
4. Goat Cheese with Kalamata Olives and Sundried Tomatoes
5. Butter-Titrated Brownies
6. Mixed Seafood Roast with Fennel and Sorrel
7. Chicken Stock
8. Hot Tangy Beans
9. Sari’s Tuna Salad (at least five times)
10. Shallot Cream Dressing
11. Rhubarb-Apple Crisp
12. Eggs Carlos
13. Olive Oil-Vanilla Cake (four times, I think)
14. Creamy Chopped Salad with Chickpeas and Cucumbers
15. A Different Kind of Guacamole (don’t ask about the time a friend added a cup of lime juice instead of a tablespoon)
16. Roasted Pepper Vichyssoise
17. Apricots with Blue Cheese, Pistachios, and Honey
18. Lambic Float (try peach!)

Recipes Tito wants me to make again (I told him to pick three):

1. Rustic Salty Cashew Shortbread
2. Andouille-Green Chili Hash
3. Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub
4. Gnocchi with Morels and Mascarpone Cream
5. Baked Trout with Peppers, Tomato, and Capers

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Flat Eggs with Fish

The other night at Cafe Presse I ordered Oeufs Plats, Jambon, Fromage . In French that translates roughly to “flat eggs , ham, cheese,” which explains why French restaurants and bistros serving real renditions of French food keep the menu items listed in French. Flat Eggs with Ham and Cheese does not sound sexy. Oeufs Plats (which sounds roughly like hoopla) sounds at least a little better.

And when it came to the table, a hot oval ceramic dish lined with the Parisian version of American sandwich ham and topped with baked eggs (with still-gooey yolk) and a thick pool of melty gruyere, my fondue food memory flashbulbs went off. My salivary glands kicked into overdrive. It was sexy. It was also delicious.

I’m not sure where to find that same kind of ham, which bears very little resemblance to what people put on sandwiches here. It’s not proscuitto; it’s less cured and much lighter in color. But when I’m craving a ham and butter sandwich (which happens more than I should admit), or in this case Flat Eggs with Ham, there is no substitute.

Unless, of course, you’re willing to try smoked salmon. We had some left, and it created its own mini breakfast miracle, which Tito will undoubtedly demand again soon.

I wonder how smoked salmon tastes on a baguette with thick slabs of salted butter from Brittany.

Oeufs Plats au Saumon et Chevre 2

Recipe 200: Oeufs Plats au Saumon et Chevre (or)
Flat Eggs with Fish and Goat Cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wipe or spray the inside of a creme brulee dish or small ramekin with butter or olive oil. Arrange slices of smoked salmon in a single layer along the bottom and sides of the dish (it should reach up the sides of the dish like a tart crust). When the oven is hot, crack a large egg into the salmon and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the egg white is set but the yolk is only set at the edges. (Timing may depend on your baking vessel of choice.)

When the oeufs come out, sprinkle with goat cheese and chopped chives, and serve with a toasted hunk of good bread.

Hint: If you’re making multiple servings, it’s easier to put all the ramekins on a baking sheet and transport them that way.

Café Presse in Seattle

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Sick

I just read in the August issue of F&W that Emeril’s kids are named E.J. (as in Emeril John) and Meril (as in Emeril, without the E, which must have been chosen over Emerilla).

Sick. Sick and wrong.

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199: Smoked Salmon-Wrapped Melon

The other day I bought a melon, a huge lemon-shaped one with green-tinged bumpy wrinkles running the length of its yellow body. Inside, it was the color of honeydew:

yellow melon

Its flavor was similar, but with a strong taste of cucumber. Cucumber melon, I thought. What goes with melon? Proscuitto popped into my mind first. How cliche. Salmon and cucumber are so often paired together, why not switch it up?

Smoked Salmon-wrapped Melon 1

Simple. Delicious. Healthy. Fast.

Does anyone know my melon’s name?

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I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor

Ginny, a fellow Seattle food writer, has a theory that people who eat as part of their job learn to eat like snakes – you know, huge meals all at once, followed by nothing for a while. She’s able to fast for hours and hours before what she knows will be a big meal, and stretches her fullness out well into the next day. This, my friends, is a talent.

It’s one I lack. Regardless of how much I eat at a given meal, I’m still hungry for the next one, and skipping a meal isn’t really an option for me. But it’s not because eating too much doesn’t make me feel gross; it does. Maybe I’m just not practiced enough.

What I do know is that I’ve been baking a lot in the last week for hogwash because I’ve been eating a lot of meals out, and still need daily recipes. (Herego, I’ve been making breakfast stuff.)

Here’s what I mean by a lot: Wednesday I judged Fare Start’s Guest Chef on the Waterfront cooking contest, which meant tasting something from every chef there. Thursday I ate two meals out in Tacoma, Friday I had Indonesian food for lunch at Julia’s. Saturday I judged a different contest in Kirkland (Dan won), Sunday we had breakfast at Pete’s with friends and dinner at Tavolata with someone just in town for the night, and last night we celebrated Tito’s sister’s last night here with incredible steak frites at Cafe Presse.

Now, I feel like I’m the one being eaten by a boa constrictor. It’s reached my middle, and I don’t like it very much. (C’mon – you know that song, don’t you? My husband didn’t. I’m going to play the Peter, Paul and Mary version for him when he gets home tonight.)

Between the general heat of summer and a lower dose of steroid (which means a sudden and unsettling drop in my appetite), I’m suddenly up for an all-juice diet for a day or two. Maybe just coffee and water.

Or, um, maybe some banana bread, inspired by three almost-dead bananas and an email reporting a disappointing, dry banana bread recipe. This one’s nice, also made with the good and the bad.

I’ve never had trouble finding good recipes for banana bread with almost anything added – I just googled “cinnamon chocolate chip banana bread” and found Molly’s, which looks like a delicious cousin of mine, in cakey form and sans whole wheat, etc. Try hers if you don’t keep whole wheat flour, flax seed meal and wheat bran on hand.

And after all, I do still need breakfast.

Cinn-Choc Chip Banana Bread 1

Recipe for Whole Wheat Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Recipe 198 of 365

It’s a mouthful of a name, which is appropriate, because once this comes out of the oven, you’ll spend a bit of time unable to speak. And be careful: this bread puts out a smell that brings the neighbors knocking. You won’t notice the whole wheat.

TIME: 25 minutes prep
MAKES: 2 loaves

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from 3 large, ripe bananas, a little more or less won’t hurt)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8” x 4” loaf pans (or spray them with a baking spray that claims to do the same job), and set aside.

Whisk the first eight ingredients together in a large bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together on high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until blended between additions and scraping the side of the bowl down when necessary. Add the vanilla and the mashed banana, and stir until blended. Add the dry ingredients about a third at a time, mixing on low just until blended between additions, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans (each pan will weigh about 2 pounds, if you’re using a scale) and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the tops are browned and beginning to crack and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool in pans until comfortable to touch, about 30 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a cooling rack. Store up to 3 days at room temperature, well wrapped, or freeze up to 3 months.

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