Monthly Archives: August 2007

Vodka & Hamburgers

Chorizo Burger

Today I’m writing from a coffee shop, and my laptop screen looks like one of those “before” and “after” ads for outdoor Windex. The other night I went to a media party for Venik, the new vodka bar in South Lake Union, and the power of suggestion forced my husband to pour himself a vodka martini after he’d spent the evening sanding an entire side of the house. (Painting starts tomorrow.) We’re still not sure sure what power knocked said martini over onto our old shared iBook, where he’d been checking his email, but in the few seconds it took Tito to grab some cleaning materials, the vodka had dripped down one side of the screen and seeped into part of the keyboard. Everything’s clean, but the lower left quadrant of the screen seems to have suffered some permanent damage. At first that was all I noticed, but today, the quertyasd keys are really, really sticky, so I sort of have to pound away with the left hand to get anything onto the page.

Myb I’ll ju yp nomlly n if you cn follo. (That’s maybe I’ll just type normally and see if you can follow, but I’ll guess not.)

Anyway. (Pound.) Today’s topic is hamburgers. (Pound, pound.) I’ve been doing some research on grass-fed burgers for a little piece on the very best of their class, and it inspired me to reach into my own frozen stores of grass-fed beef, from Skagit River Ranch. Sitting there on top of the beef was a package of chorizo, and I though, well, why not? Chorizo is frequently just to rich for me to eat plain, and hamburgers are sometimes a little boring. So I mixed them, stripping the casings off the chorizo, mashing it up, and adding it to the beef. I made big, fat burger patties, grilled them up, and piled them with Estrella’s Gaupier cheese and a sweet slather made with fresh figs and baby tomatoes that was just the right contrast for the spicy meat. If you’ve never tried an egg bun (or a bun made with something like challah), give it a whirl. I found great egg buns in the bread section of my neighborhood grocery store.

I’ll have to excuse myself. (Pound, pound.) My left hand is getting tired, and I think I should save it for the weekend.

Topless Chorizo Burger

Chorizo Burgers with Gaupier and Tomato-Fig Sauce (PDF)
Recipe 243 of 365

Made with a combination of lean, high-quality beef, spicy chorizo sausage, egg, breadcrumbs, Dijon, and Worcestershire sauce, these burgers are uber juicy and really the right size for a bun. If you don’t have access to Gaupier, the dense, flavorful cow’s milk cheese from Estrella Family Creamery with an ash line down the center, just use your favorite strong cheese – with the jam, something like a blue or a good, sharp cheddar will be best.

Use leftover sauce on sandwiches, or as a dip for homemade French fries or breakfast potatoes.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 big burgers

For the sauce:
2 cups baby red or yellow tomatoes (I used Sungolds), tops removed
8 small figs, stems removed
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the burgers:
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound chorizo sausage (2 large sausages), casings removed, meat chopped
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 slices Gaupier cheese, or similar strong cheese
4 hamburger buns, buttered and grilled
Miscellaneous burger accessories: tomato, avocado, lettuce, pickles, etc.

First, start the sauce: Place the tomatoes and figs in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse about 15 times, or until roughly chopped. Transfer to a small saucepan, add the ketchup and soy, season with salt and pepper, stir, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring only occasionally, or until thick.

Tomato-Fig Sauce

Preheat your grill on medium heat, or prepare a moderate charcoal fire.

Mix the beef, chorizo, eggs, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in a big bowl until very well combined. (I use my hands, but a serving fork works well, too.) Divide the meat into four equal sections, and form each section into a large, roughly 3/4″ thick patty. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Grill burgers to desired doneness, adding the cheese to the burger just before taking off the grill. (The cheese is best only very slightly melted.) Slather the sauce on toasted buns, top with chorizo burgers and any desired accessories, and serve immediately.

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Filed under Beef, farmer's market, recipe

Salt-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Salt-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Last weekend, I couldn’t go to the farmers’ market, so I shoved a $20 bill into a friend’s hand and begged him to go for me. It was a terrific idea. You know how everyone else‘s fridge seems to have all the perfect ingredients? Everyone else has the shoes you need? Everyone else‘s house is stocked with the things you wished you had?

Sending someone else to the farmers’ market meant I didn’t get to do all the things I love doing – talking to the farmers, watching my dog eat produce off the ground, etc. But it did mean that my kitchen saw things I might not normally buy, things I might pass over. I ended up with those pluots and a mammoth bunch of celery, with all the leaves, and a few kinds of potatoes.

Here’s a quickie, for those of you who like salt as much as I do. If there are days when you’ve actually caught yourself considering salt a main ingredient, these will make you happy.

Recipe 242 of 365: Salt-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Toss a generous pound of scrubbed fresh fingerlings in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of kosher or sea salt, toss to coat, and roast in a baking dish at 450 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes, or until the potatoes are soft all the way through and the skins begin to lift off the flesh. Serve hot.

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Filed under farmer's market, recipe, side dish, vegetables

241: Two-Pluot Pie (or: A Recipe for a Good Life)

Half a pie

Seattle is in full bloom. I don’t just mean the flowers – I mean Seattle, all its people, all its markets, all its best sides are showing. The days are warm and dry, the nights crisp and clear, and it’s hard to imagine finding a better place to live life.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m feeling rather bloomy myself. I’ve always thought that not thinking of how things are is a sign of things being good. . . there’s less analyzing, adjusting, contemplating. And maybe that’s why I’ve been a little quiet lately. Besides my produce issues, life is so good. Perhaps, like all those poor trees, I went through painful pruning this spring just to feel healthier now.

Or maybe I’m just feeling the emotional aftershocks of a great new haircut. (It’s now chin-length in the front and short and sticky-outy in the back, and I dyed it all back to my natural dark blonde. Oooooh.)

A few days ago my neighbor Vicki called. “Teach me to make a pie crust,” she said. She’d once learned from her mother, but after several disastrous pies in a row, she reverted back to frozen crusts. Last week, she hit upon a sudden urge to start from scratch, so to speak. Her mother’s still alive, but she didn’t want her to know she’s forgotten. I paused, wondering if we’d use a fruit that might taste better plain, out of hand, and pushed the thought aside.

So we made a date. And yesterday at 2 p.m., she walked in with her great-grandmother’s rolling pin, and we went to work.

What she’d really asked was how I made pie crusts, and I admitted that since I developed lupus, I’ve been making them in the food processor, anything to avoid using my hands too much. But I didn’t like the idea of telling her how the slips of cold butter should hide between layers of flour without letting her touch it, without showing her how the dough feels as it picks up moisture a little bit at a time.

First we each made a crust using the traditional French technique: sabler, papillon, fraisage. We dumped the contents of my freezer onto the counter for a few minutes, to make the working surface good and cold so the butter wouldn’t melt, then shoved it all back in. I forced myself to go back to the ratios we learned for pate brisee in culinary school: flour to fat to liquid, 3 to 2 to 1. We each piled a cup and a half of flour on my counter and mixed it with a little salt. We dumped a stick of butter, cut into chunks, and a tablespoon of shortening into the flour, and worked it into pea-size bits with our hands, feeling the slippery, cold fat glide under our fingernails and the flour beginning to adhere to the pads of our thumbs. I could feel the space at the base of my thumbs tense up as I squashed the butter between them and my fingertips, but I ignored it: pie crust is worth a bit of pain, I think. We each pushed our dough into a long pile, bulldozed a channel down the center of the pile with our fingertips, and added a tablespoon of vinegar-spiked ice water to the center of the valley, fluffing the flour and butter over the water and then mixing it all together with the help of a pastry scraper. We bulldozed and watered and fluffed a few more times, almost 5 tablespoons of water in all, until the dough begin to cling together in big lumps. We used the heels of our hands to smear the dough into the counter, pushing away in the same plane as the counter to help develop the gluten that keeps a pie crust together, and Vicki giggled and wiped the flour off her shirt. I wondered how Bromley had gotten so much flour on her head.

We each made a second batch in the food processor, to know exactly how much easier and how much less fulfilling that modern method is, and secreted four heavy lumps of dough into the corner of the fridge in little foil packages. They rested, and waited. Pie crust is much more patient than a person.

After dinner, we consulted Rose Levy Beranbaum, pie and pastry queen extraordinaire, on what to do with the pounds and pounds of pluots we’d gathered at the farmers’ market over the weekend for the project. Of course, good ol’ Rose stuck to more traditional fruits, so we improvised the filling, each mixing 1/2 cup sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons flour, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon together in a mixing bowl, then adding 5 sliced yellow pluots and 5 sliced red pluots to each of our bowls.

Vicki got out her rolling pin, and I took down the striped one Tito made me on his father’s lathe, and together we rolled our our dough and laughed and drank wine and oh, it was all just easy as pie. That must be where the saying comes from, then. Life felt so easy, despite the deadlines, the to-do lists. I showed Vicki how how to make a double-crusted pie with her dough, and we put a cute hole in the top and decorated it with little cut-outs of leftover dough, arranged in the shape of a flower. I made my pie with a cheater lattice (no actual criss-crossing, just stripes in one direction, then stripes in the other direction), and we brushed them both with an egg glaze made with an egg and a tablespoon of half and half. We showered them with a thin layer of sugar, since we’d made the dough without. We froze them for a few minutes, just to make sure they were good and cold going into the oven, then baked them for an hour at 425.

In the time it took to make the pies, we decided that yes, pie is worth making from scratch. That no, we did not mind the mess. That no, we didn’t really think it mattered that much how good the pie was, because we had so much fun doing it (but for the record, it was delicious). And that yes, everyone should have a kitchen big enough to accommodate two cooking bodies, because that, the summer kitchen, with the wind blowing through the back door and a big floury handprint on the ass of your jeans, is part of the recipe for a good life.

I feel a little sorry that I got caught up in the moment and was lazy about my notes. I know my ingredient measurements were right, but that I can’t tell you how thin I rolled my dough, or how long I let the rolled-out pie dough rest again in the fridge before assembling the pie.

But only a little sorry – I’ve just had pie for lunch. And a plate of sliced tomatoes, with olive oil and sea salt. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and I feel reconciled with summer.

Two-Pluot Pie from above

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Filed under dessert, fruit

August and everything after

Japanese Yellow

August is mad at me. It’s given me tomatoes, so many tomatoes, and celery and peppers and new potatoes and big, crowded farmers’ markets, and I can’t help but feel that I’m abusing the produce. I have produce abuse guilt.

Green Zebra

I’m not smashing it or anything, I’m cooking with it, playing with my food instead of just eating it.

This is the time of year when I should be letting the ground guide me. But instead of taking cues from the stuff that lands on my counter, eating the same simple dishes day after day (potatoes roasted with sea salt, raw zucchini with lemon and garlic, simple carrot salads), I’m making August’s bounty a victim of hogwash, cornering it into new, more creative recipes when the ingredients should star as themselves, plain on a plate. I’m driving myself crazy.

I’ve made a tomato line-up on my counter with the fruits of my neighbor’s labors. Which one of you did this to me?, I’ve asked. In December, when I decided to write a recipe a day, which one of you forgot to remind me how little food needs to be changed in August? They’re not talking.

Red Zebra

Why do I feel like I’m having a hard time explaining this?

Please forgive me, if you’ve noticed. I do respect my produce, and hereby promise to use what’s bountiful in the simplest of ways next year, when this silly project is over. Next August will be for eating, not recipe writing. And these here tomatoes will not be unnecessarily harmed. Tonight I’ll set this line-up out on the porch on a cutting board, and we’ll have Tomato Tuesday, like we used to do every week on Cape Cod this time of year. We’ll dip them into good olive oil, shower them with salt, and shove fat new slices into our mouths with oily fingers before we’ve finished chewing the last bite. There will be Session stubbies (Session is the official beer of the summer of 2007 at our house), and much discussion about house painting tactics. We’ve been prepping during the evenings this week, and we’ll be starting for real on Friday night. Labor Day weekend, don’t you think it’s fitting?

Here’s how the voting was going, by the way, as of yesterday morning:

House Votes 2

Overseas leads, by a small margin, and with much commentary. Or so I thought; the tomato neighbor just called to tell me there’s been a rush on French Riviera, but I haven’t been outside yet to check.

C’mon over and say hi. Or sit on your own porch, with good heirloom tomatoes, if you’re lucky enough to have them, and appreciate how easy it is to eat in August. Soon it will be September. Then October, and August will be gone, and the farmers’ markets will be filled with things that need to be skinned and cracked, cut and cooked, somehow changed before ingestion.

And then I’ll feel really guilty.

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Filed under commentary, farmer's market

School year breakfast

After a bike ride last Saturday I had a most enjoyable form of oatmeal, at Rembrandts. It was spiked with wheat berries and steel-cut oats, spiced with cloves and nutmeg, and topped with sliced bananas and a truly obscene amount of whipped cream. This morning, thinking of my sister, who just started her last year of high school, and of the cool, crisp, fall air blowing in through our front door, I craved oatmeal.

Spiced Quinoa Oatmeal with Figs and Cream 2

Spiced Quinoa Oatmeal with Figs and Cream (PDF)
Recipe 240 of 365

Although both quinoa and oatmeal can be a little boring by themselves, combining them with fall spices, figs, and a touch of sugar makes for a breakfast with good texture, crunch, and flavor. Use regular or red quinoa, and feel free to substitute peaches, nectarines, berries, or bananas for the figs.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 servings

2 cups water
2 tablespoons uncooked quinoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked whole oats
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 packed tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste)
4 small figs, sliced
1/2 cup whipped cream (sweetened or unsweetened)

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and salt, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the oats, cover, and simmer for 5 more minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, and stir in the spices and sugar. Serve the oatmeal in bowls, topped with the fig slices and cream.

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In-Your-Face Chicken Pasta Salad

Today is a different day; I’ve ricocheted from one side to the other. Same basic ingredients – whole (buck)wheat, broccoli, chicken and basil – only this time, it’s all out in the open. Out of the closet, if you will.

Sesame Soba with Chicken, Broccoli & Basil Vert

Sesame Soba with Chicken, Broccoli and Basil (PDF)
Recipe 239 of 365

Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles, which have an earthier flavor than regular whole wheat noodles, and are better at soaking up sauces than traditional dried Italian pasta. If you’ve never cooked them, read the directions; they usually take less time than regular pasta.

This is a great way to use up a leftover cooked chicken breast (or all that meat that’s left on a roasted chicken after you cut the main parts off), but if you need to cook some for the recipe, just sear it over medium-high heat in a swirl of olive oil (added after the pan has heated up, of course), for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, turning the heat down on the second side, if needed.

TIME: 30 minutes (including cooking the chicken)
MAKES: 2 servings

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup sesame tahini (stir well, if new)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/4 – 1 teaspoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha or even Japanese shichimi flakes), or to taste
4 ounces soba noodles
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
3 scallions, finely chopped (green and white parts)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy, tahini, sesame seeds, and chili sauce (if using) in a small bowl until well blended. Set aside. (If you’re cooking the chicken breast now, finish it before you start cooking the noodles.)

Cook the noodles according to package directions, until al dente, adding the broccoli florets to the water along with the noodles about 2 minutes before the noodles should be done. Drain the noodles and the broccoli together, transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the reserved sauce, and mix with tongs until smooth. (It may take a minute or two; the sauce is thick.) Add the shredded chicken, scallions, and basil, mix, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Filed under chicken, Pasta, recipe, vegetables

I do love a good mystery

One of the things I love about writing here is how differently you all respond. You say yes, these straightforward recipes are just what my kitchen needs, while you, over there, you dig the more esoteric recipes; chocolate-basil torte and tomato sorbet, all the way, you say. X wants side dishes, Y wants more main course ideas.

I love you all, because you reflect my many different kitchen selves, on different days.

In my book, pasta salad tends toward the easy, mainstream side of the spectrum. But this one has secrets.

I just turned in an article on how to sneak vegetables into adults’ diets. You know, how to trick your Sig. O. the same way you might trick a four-year-old, by slipping things in and hoping they go down the hatch undetected.

So go ahead: feed this to your broccoli-hater. Your whole wheat-hater. See what happens.

Oh, and by the way, the new flax and multigrain pasta at Trader Joe’s is superb.

Sneaky Chicken Pasta Salad 1

Sneaky Chicken Pasta Salad (PDF)
Recipe 238 of 365

You can substitute a chicken from your own oven and homemade pesto, of course, but if you’re trying to get as many nutrients into a certain someone in as little time as possible, use the rotisserie bird and pre-made pesto. And if your audience is a little less picky, add chopped Sungold tomatoes, goat cheese or feta, or any other vegetables popular at your house.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

2 cups broccoli florets
8 ounces (1 cup) basil pesto
1 pound whole wheat fusilli (or other small pasta)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat shredded

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Fill a small saucepan with about an inch of water, bring to a boil, and add the broccoli. Steam for about 5 minutes, or until tender, then set aside to drain.

Transfer the pesto to a food processor, add the broccoli, and whirl until completely smooth.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, and drain. Transfer to a big bowl and toss with the broccoli pesto, olive oil, and shredded chicken. Serve warm or cold.

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Filed under chicken, Pasta, recipe, vegetables

Liar Liar

Okay, I know I said once a year in yesterday’s post, but what am I supposed to do, let the remaining sheet of puff pastry wilt in my freezer for 12 months?

No, and I suspect you were wondering the same thing: How could she say we should eat it once a year and then only use half the package?

Well, ignore me. You can eat it as much as you want. Especially if, like me, you’re feeling so lazy these days, inspired to eat but not excited about spending time in the kitchen. These tarts are just the thing.

Make sure you leave a good 3/4″ border around the edge of the pastry when you’re poking holes in it; otherwise, the plums’ juices will flood over the pastry and onto the pan, where they don’t do nearly as much good.

Plum Tart 1

Cardamom-Plum Tartlets (PDF)
Recipe 237 of 365

There are times when making puff pastry by hand seems the most logical and enjoyable use of my time, and times – like when it’s already sitting in the fridge, pre-made by Pillsbury – when making my own seems downright silly. This is a good example of the latter. Make the tartlets with any small free-stone fruits, such as regular or Italian plums, or even apricots.

TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 tartlets

1 pound small plums, halved and pitted (12 to 16 small plums)
3 tablespoons sugar, plus some for sprinkling on pastry
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, from a roughly 1-pound package, thawed according to package
1 large egg yolk, mixed with 2 teaspoons water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the plum halves in a mixing bowl, and in another small bowl, mix the 3 tablespoons sugar with the flour and the cardamom. Set both aside.

Cut the puff pastry into six rectangles with a pizza cutter, slicing twice along the folding lines, then once perpendicular to those lines, so you have 6 pieces roughly the size of index cards.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and arrange the six pieces of pastry on the paper. Using a fork, poke rows of holes (all the way through) about 1/8” apart over all but 3/4” all the way around the edge of each piece. ( Think of it as a picture frame; you want tons of hole where the picture would be. This way, the pastry will puff where there are no holes, around the edge, and won’t puff as much in the center, where the plums will be, and the juice will stay in with the plums. If you want to be exact about it, using a fork with four tines, you’ll get an inside square filled with holes that’s about 12 holes on the short side and 20 holes on the long side.)

Dust a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of the dry mixture evenly over the holey part of each pastry. Add the remaining dry mixture to the plum halves, and toss to coat. Brush the outside edges of the pastry pieces with the egg wash, and sprinkle the edges lightly with sugar. Arrange the plums, four to six halves per piece, onto the pastry, skin sides up, and brush the skins with some of the egg wash, too. Discard any extra flour.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastry is browned and the juices are bubbling. Let cool 10 minutes on the baking sheet, and serve warm.

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A birthday with a twist

About a week ago, I started to think about what kind of recipe to post on my birthday. My favorite recipe of all time? Nah, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Easiest recipe ever? Nope.

I went for calories (in the form of a holy trinity: olives, goat cheese, and sundried tomatoes) and relevance (the twists only last about a day).

Birthday Twists overhead

Birthday Twists (PDF)
Recipe 236 of 365

Together, Kalamata olive tapenade, goat cheese, and sundried tomatoes form one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. Smeared between two layers of puff pastry and baked until golden brown, the trio will do a birthday party justice, but they’re actually called “Birthday Twists” because they have no redeeming health qualities; they go on my list of things to eat only once a year. (Unless, of course, you count unbirthdays.)

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 twists

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a roughly 1-pound package), thawed in fridge overnight
Flour, for rolling out the pastry
1/4 cup olive tapenade
1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil)
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 egg, whisked in a bowl with 2 teaspoons water
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Place the thawed pastry on a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough to flatten any creases. (Don’t try to make the dough much bigger, just strengthen the part where the dough was folded in the package.) Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough in half across the creases.

Spread the tapenade in an even layer over one piece of the pastry, then top the tapenade with the tomatoes and goat cheese. Place the second sheet of pastry on top, and roll gently to compress the filling a little. Brush the top piece of pastry with the egg, sprinkle liberally with pepper, and cut into roughly 8 strips about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long.

Grasp one strip with both hands, so you have one end in each hand. Give it a full twist from one end, and set it on the baking sheet, pressing both ends into the sheet with your thumbs as you set it down to prevent it from untwisting.

Birthday Twists Unbaked

Repeat with the remaining twists, and bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature (the sooner, the better).

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Filed under appetizers, bread, recipe

Just for the halibut

If I had a nickel . . .

Grilled Halibut with Caper-Butter Lemon Juice 2

Grilled Halibut with Caper-Butter Lemon Juice (PDF)

Recipe 235 of 365

When I’m having dinner at someone else’s house, and there’s a slice of lemon for each person’s portion, I always watch the platter make its way around the table, hoping someone skips their citrus. I love lemon on my fish.

Here’s a quick sauce that delivers for me – huge lemon punch, followed by salty capers, and only then, after the initial flavors subside, does the butter kick in. It’s not so much a lemon-caper butter, but caper- and butter-flavored lemon juice.

TIME: 10 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 servings

2 halibut filets (about 3/4 pound total)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat a grill over medium-high heat.

Pat the fish dry, and brush with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill five minutes on the first side, and 2 to 5 minutes on the second side, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. When melted, stir in the capers and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the sauce over the fish right when it comes off the grill.

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Filed under fish, recipe

Cookthink

Have you seen Cookthink? Genius. I entered ITALIAN and BACON and got Avocado with Bacon Vinaigrette. Um, yum, yes please.

I just hope they get the kinks out. I entered GINGER and POULTRY and CONSOLING and got Poached Soy-Ginger Salmon.

The weird thing was, even though it wasn’t  poultry, it was totally what I was going for.

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Filed under dog, media

The genesis of a coffee cake

Crazy Coffee Cake overhead

It started when Mr. Banana Bread and Mrs. Coffee Cake got together. There was rustling in the bushes, and they honeymooned in India, and this recipe was born.

Slow down, you say. There must be a story there.

I didn’t eat much of either growing up. Coffee cake followed my husband into my life (via his family’s Christmas rituals), and banana bread – well, truth is, banana hadn’t really ever made me swoon until recently. But that time, there was chocolate involved, so who can blame me?

Three bananas sat restlessly on my counter, ignoring my claims that I’d just baked with their cousins. They wanted to be used. We agreed (me and the bananas) that we’d try something different, and we borrowed from Heidi’s splendid idea to put curry into zucchini bread. We outlined the recipe, with only a touch of curry, for depth and surprise rather than real spice. Only when we got the bread pans out, curried banana bread didn’t seem right, so we took a turn down a side street, toward coffee cake, made with coconut milk (because we thought it would be nice to write a dairy-free baking recipe now and then) and sour cream (because halfway through baking, we plum forgot about the lactards (just a joke, really)).

The bananas started whispering. What are we doing here? And why did she add sour cream when the point was to avoid stuff like that this time? They thought I was crazy. Who talks to a banana?

Then there was no all-purpose flour, quelle surprise, so we used all white whole-wheat flour instead. And then we found an unopened bag of coconut, the good kind, with no added sugar, tucked into the bottom of the baking drawer.

But, alas, the bananas died for the coffee cake, so here I am, typing again like a normal human being in first person singular, assuring you that while this may be different from any coffee cake you’ve tasted, with its feathery, curry-scented, panko-like topping and dense, banana-studded texture, it is still most certainly right at home next to a (good) cup of coffee.

Just don’t serve it to someone who only eats inside the box.

Crazy Coffee Cake close

Coconut-Curry-Banana Coffee Cake (PDF)
Recipe 234 of 365

I admit, it’s a tough title to get one’s brain around. Think whole wheat banana bread, studded with toasted unsweetened coconut and a whisper of curry, baked with a little more lift in a tube pan, and topped with a brown sugar-coconut-curry streusel that you’ll be pinching off with your fingers before the cake has cooled properly. Be careful!

To toast the unsweetened coconut, spread it in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring every few minutes to ensure even browning. Cool and freeze any unused coconut for later use.

TIME: 25 minutes active time
MAKES: 12 servings

Butter and flour for pan, or baking spray

For topping:
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For batter:
2 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (all-purpose or a combination of white and whole wheat flours should also work)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10” tube pan (or spray with baking spray), and set aside.

First, make the topping: Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl, and set aside.

Next, make the batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, curry, cinnamon and coconut in a mixing bowl, and set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the eggs and both sugars together until light, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the remaining wet ingredients, and mix until well blended. Add the flour mixture in three separate additions, mixing on low speed between each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix again.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the topping over the batter, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes on the middle rack of the oven, until the top is cracked and the cake tests clean with a wooden skewer. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a small knife around the edges, and invert the cake first onto a large plate, then right-side up onto a serving platter, reserving as much any topping that crumbles out as possible. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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A deeper orange?

A note from our carrier

This note, from our newspaper person, this morning. It reads “See [address of house nearby] for a deeper orange?”

Yes, indeed, that’s the house that inspired us on the way to the hardware store.

I love this place.

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233: Flat Beans, Three Ways

Italian Flat Beans

Last week at the Wallingford market I found Italian flat beans, big, broad specimens whose flavor hovers somewhere between that of a regular green bean and a snow pea. They were almost as long as my bread knife (but still quite tender, they’re supposed to get this big):

That's one long bean

The farmer said she thought maybe people hadn’t been buying them because they didn’t know what to do with them. I bought a pound, which turned out to be enough for about eight people. But we’re only two people, so I’ve been making them all week, quite simply:

First I blended finely chopped garlic with olive oil, tossed the beans with the oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and grilled them for about five minutes, turning occasionally:

Flat beans grilled with olive oil

Then I brushed them with the ginger-studded teriyaki sauce leftover from the summer wraps and roasted them, for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees:

Flat Beans with Soyaki

Finally, I chopped them up, boiled them until they were bright green (just a few minutes!), tossed them with a bit of butter, and showered them with Parmesan cheese:

Flat Beans with Butter and parmesan

If you find them, try them; they’re delicious.

Has anyone seen them in a supermarket?

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Blue days, when summer begins to end

Our house is a disaster area. Since our plumbing malfunctioned last week, the day after we returned from vacation (really, you don’t want to know the details), we’ve agreed to put in 35 feet of new sewer line, from our back door, under our deck, through our neighbor’s yard. The good news is that it won’t require a 2-foot by 4-foot open trench 35 feet long, like we originally thought; the bad news is that, all told, it will still mean three 4-foot square holes under areas that are currently covered with concrete, and four days of construction. Last week, a misinformed insurance agent lead us to believe it would be covered, and we were flying high all weekend, positive about the impending jackhammers and their effects on our collective pocketbook.

This morning, we learned we’ll be paying for it. Sweet, the price of an AGA, spent on the sewer. Talk about flushing money down the toilet.

We’re feeling a little blue. I keep thinking that if I divide the cost by the number of flushes, it’s really worth the money. Plus, think of the alternative.

The thing is, our house is feeling blue, too, quite literally. We already had this house-painting project in the works, so it looks like we’re in for a busy few weeks.

We spent the weekend (that is, um, when we thought the plumbing project was covered) prepping to paint. Two trips to the very best hardware store ever (where Mike asked me if I’d ever been to Julia’s), an entire container of Simple Green, many full yard waste bins, and who knows how many gallons of water later, the outside of our Battleship Gray house is squeaky clean, and all the bushes have had severe haircuts. I think the bushes must be embarrassed.

Here’s the clean house, which on a rainy Seattle day, pretty much matches the sky:

Old Gray

And the convenient Jess-sized space cut between the bushes and the house, all the way around:

Jess-sized space

Saturday night, we were elated.

On Sunday, we decided to paint test stripes on the house, and I started by oh-so-gracefully dropping an entire quart of paint down a set of cement stairs, all the way down to the bottom, where it exploded quietly. I yelled like a cave man (loud enough to make my neighbor open her window and my in-laws, on the other side of my husband’s phone call, wonder what had happened). Then I sat there, watching the thick blue paint ooze toward the drain at the bottom of the stairs, stunned as if it were a strangers’ blood, some untouchable liquid.

My husband rescued me, and we painted stripes on the house:

Paint stripes

Then I remembered Clinton’s commencement speech, and his talk about how being part of a community enables forward progress.

We decided to let neighbors and passersby vote on the color. We live mostly on the inside of the house, right? I mean, we’re not the only ones who have to look at the outside every day. If we’re not satisfied with its distinct lack of color (we found the old paint cans, it’s actually called Cape Cod Gray), there’s a chance other people think it’s ugly, too.

Here’s the ballot, before people started voting:

Voting board

I know, you can’t really tell online, but really, you can vote, too. Choices are (top to bottom) Paprika, Overseas, Steel Bullet, French Riviera, or Please Pick Something Different. (But I think if you vote online you’re not allowed to pick the last one.) The door will probably be some form of red.

Oh, and I must explain the orange. It was a split-second decision, see. On the way to the hardware store we were both swept off our feet by the idea of a deep orange house, and we picked up a sample of “Paprika,” such a rich, loving shade on the color card. Sort of like the color of, well, paprika. But when we got out the brushes it showed up as a shade called “Carrot on Crack,” and we really doubt we’ll paint anything this color. Except maybe wooden warning barriers for the plumbing construction. In case you were worried.

In my next life, I’m going to be the person that names paint colors.

Anyway, it was a blue-themed weekend, even in the kitchen. Here’s a big, messy ppbbbpbththth to anyone who refuses to eat blue food (you know who you are, I made this just to taunt you) and to the food stylist who once told me putting food on blue dishware is a cardinal sin.

It’s comfort food, for the blue days when summer begins to end.

Blue Potato Salad

Blue Potato Salad (PDF)
Recipe 232 of 365

When summer hits, my taste buds develop a new personality. The flavor combination of salt and vinegar practically becomes its own food group, and things that completely turn my palate off all winter long – potato salad, for example, or potato chips – become central characters in my list of cravings. This salad, made with big, starchy blue potatoes I found at the farmers’ market and a simple French-style vinaigrette, gives me the tangy satisfaction I’m looking for in a cold summer salad. (It’s the kind you can serve with an old-fashioned ice cream scoop.) Served warm, it tastes almost like super chunky warm smashed potatoes.

I left the potatoes’ skins on.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 servings

4 large blue potatoes (about 2 3/4 pounds), scrubbed (and peeled, if desired)
Salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup champagne wine vinegar
Pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sour cream

Place the whole potatoes in a large saucepan, and fill with cold water to cover. Salt the water, bring to a bare simmer, and cook until the potatoes are soft all the way through, about 20 minutes (depending on the size and age of the potatoes).

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard, vinegar, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. While whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and mix until combined.

Drain the potatoes. When cool enough to handle, chop into 3/4″ cubes and add to the vinaigrette. Toss to combine, then add the scallions and sour cream, and stir to blend. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps well, covered and chilled, for a few days.

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The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Oh, I hate it when people say that. But when I cook with my mother, I know it’s true. She’s the reason I’m not very good at making things over and over again.

She was with me at Trader Joe’s last week, when I raided the store of everything convenient.

So many of you ask me how I come up with recipes. This is how it went on Monday:

Jess: I want to stuff something.

Mom: Flank steak?

Jess: Just made it. Plus, I have chicken breasts in the freezer.

Mom: Spinach?

Jess: (Picking up pre-packaged chard leaves.) Chard! Ooh, maybe some cheese?

Mom: How about this (picks up container of pre-crumbled blue cheese)? And walnuts! Use the walnuts.

And a recipe was born.

(Look, it’s one of the Christmas plates!)

Chicken with Walnuts, Bleu Cheese & Chard

Walnut-Crusted Chicken with Chard and Bleu Cheese
Recipe 231 of 365

Stuff a heady mixture of garlic-infused sautéed chard, bleu cheese, and toasted walnuts into chicken breasts, coat them with walnut dust, and pan-sear them, as directed below, or use the same stuffing for pinwheels made from thin-pounded flank steak, for filling a butterflied, rolled pork or beef tenderloin roast, or for hollowed-out Portobello mushrooms.

To make the recipe ahead of time, chill the filling while you prepare the chicken, stuff and coat the chicken, and refrigerate, well wrapped in plastic, up to 4 hours before cooking.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 servings

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound coarsely chopped chard leaves (such as Trader Joe’s Chard of Many Colors)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then the garlic, and cook, stirring, for just a few seconds. Add half the chard, turning it with tongs to coat it with the oil, and cook, turning frequently and adding more chard as it begins to cook down, until all the chard fits in the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, or until all the chard is completely wilted.

Meanwhile, chop the walnuts. Transfer half of them to a large mixing bowl. Chop the remaining walnuts very, very finely, and set them aside in a small bowl. When the chard is done, transfer it to a cutting board, remove any still-crunchy stem pieces, chop the leaves finely, and add to them mixing bowl, along with the bleu cheese. Stir the chard, walnuts, and cheese together until well blended – this will be the filling for the chicken – and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a small, sharp knife, trim the chicken breasts, and cut each breast almost in half horizontally, so each opens like a book with one long side of the breast holding the two halves together. (Placing the chicken on the board smooth side-down makes it easier to see that both halves of the breast remain intact when you cut them, so that no stuffing will fall out.)

Season the chicken breasts inside and out with salt and pepper, and stuff each with a sixth of the stuffing mixture. Turn the closed, stuffed breasts smooth side-up on a plate, and dust with about half of the remaining finely-chopped walnuts.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirl to coat the pan, then add three of the chicken breasts, nutty side-down. Season the newly exposed sides with half the walnuts left in the bowl. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the chicken releases easily from the pan. Flip the breasts over carefully (try not to lose any stuffing), and cook another 4 minutes on the second side, until browned. Move the chicken to a baking sheet, smooth side-up, and repeat with the remaining tablespoon oil, chicken, and walnuts. Bake the chicken on the middle rack of the oven for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Note: if you have two large, ovenproof skillets, simply cook the chicken in two skillets in one batch, then transfer the skillets to the oven for the last part of the cooking process.

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Remembering John Lancaster

Normally, my meanderings through Middlebury Magazine, my college’s quarterly alumni publication, follow the same sick paths as other readers’: first I look to see who got married, and who was there, then I check the news from my fellow graduates. Then, and only then, do I actually read the articles. And I don’t always get that far.

But I’d heard a lot about this issue, about the cover story, and about Bill Clinton’s commencement speech in May. So after dinner last night I sat down and read it, cover to cover. (There’s also a charming and thought-provoking piece on cherry picking in New Zealand.) As I flipped through the last few pages in the same lazy, obsessive, not-really-reading-but-must-look-at-every-page way I always do, the obituaries zipped by.

But not fast enough. John Lancaster, 46, of Denver, CO., one read. Class of 1982.

John! He was one of those people, the kind you see every day for part of your life but never really know. And now he’s gone, and there’s a hole where I never knew anything could be missing.

I met John Lancaster in the first week of February, in 2000. My now-husband and I were in Colorado, scoping out places to spend a year ski bumming after college. When I showed up to interview to teach ski lessons at Vail, it was John who met me at the bottom of Chair 6. I remember feeling so much more relaxed at Vail than I had at other mountains; I knew John had graduated from Middlebury, and taught at the Snow Bowl under Dwight Dunning, as I had. He’d be nice. We’d have fun.

Interviewers at other mountains had pansied around, showed me the locker room, bought me coffee, talked about PSIA standards and the change in teaching techniques. Made sure I had shaped skis before we schussed down a green groomer, trying to look perfect. The guy at A-Basin made me ski around cones. Snore.

John was not one to show is cards. He told me immediately that he was pretty sure I could teach, but showed no signs of welcoming me into the nest. He wanted to know if I could ski. Then he proceeded to kick my sea-level ass, stuff me with pasta at Mid Vail (penne bolognese and a Snickers bar, I remember), and kick my ass some more.

I got the job. And when Tito and I had narrowed it down to Vail or Copper for the following year, it was John’s approach that made me push for Vail. I knew he would make me a better skier, which might surprise anyone who’s ever taught skiing (or witnessed hordes of FILA-clad instructors joey themselves down the mountain with a surprising lack of grace or ability).

And he did. I never got to know him that well, but he was always there, the omnipresent boss, the guy everyone wanted to get in with and I knew. He was solely responsible for hooking me into private instruction, which meant for a much more enjoyable winter. Instead of herringboning up the rope tow hill, I skied. He found me a new pair of skis, a deal on boots, and a 20-day client that tipped me a grand.

But he wasn’t that kind of guy. He’d never have said look what I did for you. He never treated me any differently in front of the other instructors, he just quietly moved the best clients my way, which magically lifted me out of the ranks of first-year snot-wipers and into the private instructor squad, with the white-lipped Austrian lifers. I appreciated it, and I’m sure he knew that, but I never really thanked him for it.

I didn’t talk to John much after that year. A few Christmas cards. Said Hi to him once when I went back a few years ago, and he told me he was heading to Florida. He wanted to learn to fly helicopters and then start a flight school. Or something like that.

Then just like that, he’s dead. Died in a crash, somewhere in Louisiana, in February. He was a flight instructor.

My dad raised us with the theory of traveling debt, which he learned growing up with a parent in the military.

It goes like this: Lots of people do nice things for you over the course of your life. There’s probably no way you’ll be able to pay every single one of them back, so do what you can, when you can, where you can, for whom you can. Take your debts with you when you leave a place, and repay them when the time is right.

Reading John’s obit, I knew I’d forgotten a debt when I left Vail. It’s not that I haven’t done anything nice since then; I haven’t done anything nice and thought of him.

Thanks, John. I owe you one.

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Pickled Shredded Carrots

I’ve been waiting for these, watching them since I made them last Tuesday, tasting them every day. After almost a week, the pepper and garlic have infused every bite, and they’ve become one hell of a salad topping.

Inspiration: Taco truck pickled carrots plus pre-shredded carrots from Trader Joe’s.

Pickled Shredded Carrots

Pickled Shredded Carrots (PDF)
Recipe 230 of 365

These are tangy, with a good garlic bite and a bit of spice. If you can’t find pre-shredded carrots, cut whole carrots into very thin slices on the bias.

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: About 4 cups shredded carrots

1 (10-ounce) bag shredded carrots
2 (6”) sprigs fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
3 cups apple cider vinegar, or enough to cover the carrots

Stuff half the carrots into a quart-size Ball jar, or similar container. Add the oregano, garlic, red pepper, salt, and bay leaf, and add the rest of the carrots. Pour the vinegar over the carrots, seal the jar, and let sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours (at the very, very least), preferably for one to two weeks. Eat as a snack, or add to salads or sandwiches.

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Definition: Legumes

Lightly Curried Lentil Hummus 2

I was hanging out with some friends back east last weekend, and someone brought out a game called Catch Phrase. It’s a fun game, if you’re into that sort of thing. (I am.) I’m sure there’s a proper way to play, with teams and points and such, but in our version, eight people sit around in a circle and pass an electronic doohickey from person to person, and everyone else tries to guess the phrase the doohickey shows its current holder on a little digital screen. There’s lots of shouting and giggling, so it’s hilarious, especially when you’re with people whose intelligence you normally admire. Said intelligence circles the drain.

Once I got “OHIO.” I started like this: “Okay, it’s a state in the middle of the country . . .” Before I could get to presidential primaries someone yelled out “PHOENIX.” And so on. The simplest words were the most fun – words like “HELIOTROPE” move the game from spastic screaming (=fun) to thoughful silence (=not as fun).

Later on, when the wine had been flowing, I got “BAKED BEANS.” “These are legumes cooked in an oven!” I blurted out, oh how clever am I? Turns out not many people know what legumes are – much to my disappointment, it took me a solid 30 seconds to wrastle the correct answer out of someone’s mouth.

(And in case I’m making it sound like I was never the one whose brain malfunctioned, I apologize, because that would be incorrect.)

So, for the sake of all game players out there: according to the lentil lore page on the National Lentil Festival website (the festival takes place in Eastern Washington, and starts today), legumes are seeds that grow within pods. Beans, lentils, peas, etc. are all legumes. They’re good for you. And if I have my way, the word legume will soon work its way into our daily vocabulary somehow (it’s such a great word), maybe as an adjective. Use legumic to describe someone who’s hiding something good: I heard she’s been dating him for months, and she didn’t even tell us! She can be so legumic sometimes. Or maybe to describe someone who’s pregnant: Did you hear? She’s legumous. A pea in the pod!

There must be some good application.

Anyway. I bought some cooked lentils in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, meaning to make a salad for Sarah. But the salad was not meant to be, and this lightly curried spread, which shocked me by turning a rather interesting shade of green in the food processor (so maybe lentils are green inside?), turned out to be a delicious alternative.

Mmmm. Legumes.

Lightly Curried Lentil Hummus 4

Lightly Curried Lentil Hummus (PDF)
Recipe 229 of 365

Technically, hummus is made with chickpeas, usually along with tahini, lemon, garlic, and olive oil – so this isn’t technically a hummus, but it has the same smooth texture, and has thus far proved just as useful. You can also skip the blending process and just serve the curried lentils and onions as a side dish.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 servings (as an appetizer)

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup olive oil (divided)
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pound cooked lentils, such as those sold at Trader Joe’s

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring. Add lentils, cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer lentils to a large food processor (not the mini kind), add the remaining 1/2 cup oil, and puree until very smooth. Taste for seasoning. Spread on crackers, naan, or sandwiches.

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Tomorrow: Julia’s

Tomorrow, August 17th, is Indonesian Independence Day. I admit, it wasn’t on my calendar either, but yesterday, when I made my second trip to Julia’s Indonesian Kitchen, a new little mom-and-pop joint across the street from Whole Foods in Ravenna, Julia had put a little sign up. So now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

At Julia’s, half of the battle is learning when and when not to go.

Go when you want good, hearty Indonesian comfort food like deeply satisfying Javanese fried chicken, or risoles, essentially Indonesian chicken hot pockets that deserve a smothering dip in peanut sauce before you shovel them down.

Certainly do not go if you you’re in a big rush.

Go when you feel like you should eat a salad, but don’t really feel like all the healthiness that the word salad implies; in this case, order Julia’s gado-gado betawi, crisp lettuces topped with egg, tofu, puffy onion crisps, and a peanut sauce spiked with floral kaffir lime leaf.

Don’t go if you you’re afraid of fried foods, because if you walk in the door, you’ll need to order a plate of the supermoist Ayem Goreng Kremes Tante Julia (just order S3) for the table. (This is not optional.) This is another fried chicken, and it’s different from the Javanese-style chicken: it’s first braised, then fried, and served with hundreds of little shards of what tastes like a fried version of that miraculous fatty layer between a chicken’s skin and its meat, but is really chicken stock mixed with flour and deep fried. These bits, tiny, crisp versions of the very best part of a well-roasted chicken’s crackling skin, should be bottled and sold as a salad topping, if you ask me. After our meal (and a delicious black rice pudding), I found stray crispy chicken bits stuck to my forearm, where I’d pressed it into the glass tabletop. I ate them, of course. I’m pretty sure I’d eat them off the floor, given the opportunity.

Go if you want to speak Dutch. Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, after all, and the owner’s husband still speaks well. The first time, I went with a friend who lived in Holland until age 3, and she got a good earful.

Don’t go if you’re trying to lose weight: Even the lunch-size portions of the rijstafel are pretty filling.

Please, give me a call, and go when I go: On both occasions, I found Julia’s completely deserted, which surprised and disappointed me, given how much I liked most of the food. I think I’d enjoy it a whole lot more if it felt like a place more people wanted to go.

And for God’s sake, please don’t go via bicycle. That’s what I did. Made for a tough trip back up our hill. Fried chicken is not a cyclist’s best friend.

So now you know. You should probably also know that Julia is a friend’s mother, which is why I went (and tried Indonesian food for the first time) in the first place.

But go – it’s cheap, filling, and delicious, and the owners couldn’t be more excited about bringing Indonesian food to Ravenna.

Julia's Indonesian Kitchen in Seattle

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