Monthly Archives: February 2012

Love your heart (and your kids)

Onion Dip 3

Every year about this time, just before spring, I think about my kidneys. It happens when the days snap back and forth from cold to warm and back to cold again in that spastic Seattle way. I used to make fun of this city for working up a lather about a “cold front” coming, as if it was a hurricane, but now I do it too. Two years ago, I had what I called my own cold front. Out of nowhere, I lost my appetite. After months of doctors, I discovered that my kidneys were failing—all part of having lupus, it seems.

Now, with an eccentric blend of induction therapy (chemo for wimps), steroids, a lovely bouquet of other drugs, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and a New! Improved! Diet! I’m admittedly still not totally on board with, my kidneys are happy. But every year, when Sodium Girl’s Love Your Heart Recipe Rally rolls around, I remember—with a twang of fear—that those two little organs are fragile, hiding there behind my back.

For someone with stage 4 glomerulonephritis, I had a wicked fast recovery. You’d never know much about the whole shebang, unless you were the one who watched my child and cooked me dinner and took me home from the hospital, drug-woozy, in those first weeks. And now, you can’t tell. The problem is, neither can I.

It’s easy for me to do my kids some general kindness. (Yes, of course they have a nickname.) I don’t drink all that much. I don’t use Advil. I avoid boxing. But when it comes to eating the one thing that has a huge effect on kidney and heart health—sodium—I can’t exactly say I pay attention.

Jess Goldman-Fuong is the exact opposite of me. Well, in some ways. Her name is Jess, and she’s a food writer, and she has lupus, all like me. She lives perpetually in the sun, no matter what the weather is, preferring a persistent upbeat attitude to any of the negativity having a chronic condition sometimes brings. I like to think I aspire to that, also. But she lives in San Francisco, not Seattle. And her kidneys can’t take sodium at all. So rather than glue herself to the 1,500 mg/day sodium intake level the USDA recommends, she skimps, going for about 500 mg/day, when she can. Skipping the salt means she can live a full, healthy life.

Over the years, Jess has garnered a following among sodium-free cooks. At Sodium Girl, she takes the normally salt-laden food she loves—things like crab salad, and bacon-wrapped scallops, and movie popcorn—and reengineers them to fit her diet. The thing is, her food doesn’t taste saltless. It tastes creative. It tastes delicious. So each February, when she issues the call for low-sodium recipes across the web–her Love Your Heart Recipe Rally–I get into the kitchen. For my own sake.

It’s never difficult to find something to desalinate. This year, I was on my neighbor’s couch, devouring French onion dip with potato chips while I pretended to watch the Super Bowl, when I realized I’d consumed four days’ worth of sodium in a single sitting. I’m not joking. Four days.

Back to the stove I went. I caramelized onions over low heat until they were deep golden brown, threatening to burn but really just improbably sweet. I pureed them, then whirled them with crème fraiche, which (contrary to what you might think) has far less salt than sour cream or mayonnaise. The result? A simple, low-sodium dip with every bit as much addictive power as my favorite homemade version. Don’t worry, this dip isn’t actually slimming. It still has the creamy punch you need at the end of your crunch.

So the next time you’re heading for the tube, mix it up. If you’re sitting on your ass in front of the television, at least you’ll be doing your heart and kidneys a little favor.

Onion Dip 4

Chunky Low Sodium Onion Dip
I love a good packaged onion soup dip mix as much as the next person. Maybe it’s the MSG? This version depends on crème fraiche, which is naturally low-sodium, instead of mayonnaise or sour cream, for its creaminess—and because it’s made with deeply caramelized onions, there’s plenty of flavor. Take the time to get the onions good and brown.

Makes: 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) crème fraiche

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil, then start slicing the onions, first in half through the root and then into 1/4” slices with the grain, adding to the pot as you go. When all the onions have been added, season them with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so while the onions begin to cook down.

Add the garlic (if using), and reduce the heat to your stove’s lowest temperature. Cook the onions for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring frequently, or until the onions are a deep golden brown. (Timing will depend on your stove and the vessel you’re using. The important thing is the color, though, so don’t rush it. If the onions begin to burn or stick to the bottom a bit before they’re done, add a little water to the pan or adjust the heat, as necessary.)

Transfer the caramelized onions to the work bowl of a food processor. Whirl for the count of 10, so the onions are still a bit chunky, then cool for about 15 minutes (or overnight) in the refrigerator. Transfer the onions to a bowl, stir in the crème fraiche, season with pepper, and serve.

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Filed under gluten-free, Lunch, lupus, recipe, snack

Guilt Taste

My strongest Jewish trait, besides my nose, is an extraordinarily large capacity for feeling guilt. I feel guilty for not walking my dog. I feel guilty for not doing yoga when I walk my dog instead. I feel guilty for eating the right things, when other people can’t, and I feel guilty for eating the wrong things, when I really ought to know better. I would feel guilty for feeling guilty, if I could just find the time.

You’d think I’d be smarter than to expect it would be any different with avoiding certain foods. Recently, though, it’s been somehow surprising that cutting out out gluten, eggs, and soy has added a huge amount of guilt to cooking and eating. I feel guilty for not taking the last bite of my son’s mangled bagel and cream cheese when he offers it, all smiles, and for not eating the eggs from our neighbors’ chickens, now delivered to our porch each week, usually nestled between my running shoes and the stroller. My eating habits are changing, which means a whole new series of daily guilts: post-polenta dishes before 8 a.m. Quesadillas for breakfast. Granola bars at 2 p.m., when my gluten-free lunch sucks so much that I decide not to eat it. Pho for dinner, because the people who brought gluten-free take-out pizza for dinner forgot to request that gluten-free crust, and now don’t they feel guilty and it’s all because of me. I’ve been trying to get over it. Really, I have. It’s just that I seem to have guilt taste.

A few weeks ago, I indulged myself in a visit to Seattle’s Burke Museum, where an exhibit called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, modeled after the Time Magazine “What the World Eats” photo gallery and Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio’s book, Hungry Planet, features photos of what families from around the world eat in a week. Now there’s a way to feel guilty, right? Not so. As I strolled through with Jill Lightner, my editor at Edible Seattle, and Angela Murray, the magazine’s social media editor, we balked and gawked and giggled and talked and made guesses at what various packages with foreign words on them actually contained. We loved how many bread rolls the German family ate, and marveled at how beautifully packaged the Japanese strawberries were, and pondered how that Ecuadorean family who walks their own root vegetables three hours each way to sell them at the market could cook so! many! plantains in one week. More than anything, I was shaken not by images of poverty, but of wholesomeness.

Taken as a whole, the photos left me with one overarching impression, which was that first-world countries eat a lot of packaged shit. There seemed to be an indirect correlation between the wealth of the family and the freshness of their food. The American family’s weekly grocery pile had an astonishing number of boxed items, grouped with more soda than my house sees in a year and many, many stops at fast food joints. We stared, quietly, each (I think) wondering what her own guilty pleasures were. Together, the three of us schemed. Even though none of us usually shops weekly—not for everything, anyway—we gathered up our weekly foodstuffs, and took photos. (Click here for Jill’s week.)

Pawing through the photographs, I expected to be horrified by my purchases. I buy macaroni and cheese for my toddler, and before last August, I usually shared it with him. Yes, I also buy him fish sticks, only Trader Joe’s, where I shop about once a month, was out of them this week. Yes, I made it to the farmers’ market this week. No, I don’t always. I rarely buy what I define as my “favorite” milk, Fresh Breeze, more than two weeks in a row, because my shopping habits aren’t that reliable. I let my two-year-old pick out our yogurt based on the packaging, but for whatever reason, I only only only buy beets at the farmers’ market. I expected to learn from my photos, but I didn’t expect to be particularly pleased.

Here’s what gathering this big pile of food taught me immediately:

We eat a shit ton of food.

I’m not writing any books or big projects right now, which means this is probably a minimum of the food we go through in a week.

Having the luxury of buying food in tides is huge. This week, I didn’t buy spices or even any “ethnic” foods, really, but I bought a lot of snacks. Next week, I’ll need cumin and pepper and fennel and coconut milk, but because of one thing or another, we’ll be eating out much more, so the pile will be smaller. But it’s a crapshoot.

Having a two-year-old means we eat much more fruit.

I am brand-conscious, but not very brand-sensitive. I prefer cheese X but will often buy cheese Y if it’s convenient.

I stink at planning meals and following the plan, but excel at using whatever’s in the fridge.

I love how impulsive our cooking habits are. I bought Bisquick mid-week because my son spotted it at Target, but he also learned to shell peas and eat them raw. I’ll take both over neither.

But you know what? Looking at this pile of grub, I don’t feel the least bit guilty. I was thrilled to see how much produce I brought home, and now, a week later, at the fact that we’ve eaten it, and also the extra load of produce I nabbed at the market midweek.

I wondered whether I’d purchased less meat than usual, because my perception is that we eat more than I would choose to in the best of all possible worlds, but the chicken breasts are still frozen and the bacon is thawing as I type. We ate a whole chicken this week, and some sausage, and that’s it. Not bad, compared to my own assumptions.

I was also thrilled to see that as a whole, my kid’s snacks are relatively healthy. Sure, I buy kiddo Clif bars for the car, and handfuls of hippie fruit leathers, but there are no cookies or candies or boxes with cartoon characters on them. I’m pretty proud of that.

This is how we eat. If it had been a pop quiz, sure, the photo might look different. Then again, maybe it would have looked the same.

I encourage you to do the same. One Sunday, shop for the whole week. For kicks. Put everything out on your dining room table, then look at it. Take photos, and post them, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Then, open your eyes. See what you find.

Below is a list of what we eat in a week. To participate, post your link below and on Edible Seattle’s post, and we’ll include you when we compile links! Remember to include where you live (even if it’s outside Seattle), who’s in your household, and a list of what you purchase.

Jess Thomson
Phinney Ridge, Seattle
2 adults, 1 2 1/2-year-old

Meats:
1 pound bacon
1 whole chicken
1/3 pound salmon fillet
1 dozen eggs
1 pound chicken breasts
8 ounces salami
8 ounces sliced roasted chicken
1/2 pound sausage (not pictured)

Dairy:
1 pound sharp cheddar
8 ounces feta
8 oz shredded mozzarella
6 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces grated Parmesan
6 4-ounce yogurts
6 8-ounce yogurts
10 ounces sliced Havarti
Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip
Greek yogurt – quart
Tapioca pudding
2 quarts whole milk (only one pictured)
Quart 2% milk
String cheese
Butter – 1 lb

Produce:
2 Onions
3 Shallots
2 lg Fennel
1 pound Carrots
2 Beets
2 Sweet potatoes
1 l b Yukon gold potatoes
Clementines
5 grapefruit
Bunch leeks
4 bananas
1 apple
Small bunch broccoli
1 pound trimmed kale
1 pound peas
1 pound bag broccoli/cauliflower
1 english cucumber
Grape tomatoes
2 pounds shelling peas (not pictured)
1 pound lacinato kale (not pictured)

Dry goods:
Meusli
Polenta
GF flour
Garbanzo flour
Brown rice
Dried apricots
Corn pasta
Rice pasta
Quinoa
Rice cakes
2 jars olives
3 cans garbanzo beans
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Pistachios
Hazelnuts
Chicken broth
Sugar cookie mix
3 boxes mac & cheese
Crackers
1 pound coffee
1 pound chocolate
premade polenta
4 snack bars
2 kids’ snack bars
8 fruit leathers
1 box Bisquick (not pictured)

Drinks:
Orange juice
6 pack beer
3 bottles wine

Breads:
2 bagels
Loaf seedy bread

Didn’t buy but usually buy:
Cream Cheese
Sour cream
Apple juice
Any Asian/ethnic products
Any spices
Any baking materials
Out of season fruit
Sweeteners
Tea
Eggs

Ate out:
2 lattes (usually more, weird week)
Sushi
Frozen yogurt
Dinner at Bastille
Breakfast at Portage Bay
1 matcha latte

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Loves

You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I profess a bit of newfound freedom these days. I’m still not particularly great at sitting on the couch–perhaps I never will be–but in the kitchen, I’d adjusted to being tethered to my own recipes, for my own projects, and people, I am free. And can I just tell you something? I still like to cook.

I was a little afraid there, after I turned the last manuscript in. I thought perhaps I might have overdone it. Might have just cooked my little heart out. Might have gotten so into writing cookbooks that I forgot how to love using them.

But oh, it’s so on, this cooking thing. Not in a fancy way. In a we need to eat but we also need to eat by 6 p.m. or the kid will implode sort of way. In a hey, look what I’ve missed in the last 16 months sort of way. Thought you might want to see what I’ve been loving recently:

Polenta for breakfast

Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples, from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

Fennel Baked in Cream, from Leite’s Culinaria

Mushroom and Herb Polenta, from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Crispy Sesame Kale and Italian Spinach with Garlic and Raisins, from Big Vegan, by Robin Asbell

Cocoa Brownies and Deep Dish Greens with Millet Amaranth Crust, from Clean Start, by Terry Walters

Okay, so it’s not an extensive list. That’s kind of what I love about it. I love that it means that after what seems like a really busy year in my kitchen, I’m letting the kitchen lead me.

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Filed under commentary, links, recipe

Happy Birthday!

Photo by Mark Klebeck

Two years ago, Top Pot Doughnuts was just another Seattle institution to me. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours in their bakery, gathering everything I needed to write their cookbook, getting to know their staff, and learning that random acts of kindness, in the form of doughnuts, can indeed change the world.

Those two guys that started Top Pot, Mark and Michael Klebeck? Two of the kindest, happiest, most genuine guys I’ve ever met.

Happy 10th birthday, boys.

For you, dear reader, the doughnut recipe that started it all . . .

Top Pot’s Glazed Sour Cream Old Fashioned Doughnuts (PDF)
Recipe from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker
From Chronicle Books, September 2011

Top Pot co-owner Mark Klebeck’s ideal doughnut experience requires a cup of hot black coffee and a plain old-fashioned. Made with sour cream and extra leavening and turned twice while frying, these doughnuts require a little more attention—but the ridges and petals that form while frying are perfect for catching extra glaze, which means glazed old-fashioneds keep better than yeast-raised or cake doughnuts. Top them with Simplest Vanilla Glaze (recipe below) when they’re piping hot.

I recommend weighing ingredients whenever possible.

Time: 1 hour active time, plus glazing or icing
Makes: One dozen, plus a few holes
Equipment: doughnut cutter (or 2 3/4 inch and 1 1/4 inch round cutters)

2 1/4 cups/255 g cake flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp iodized salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup/100 g sugar
2 tbsp shortening, trans-fat-free preferred
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup/165 ml sour cream
Canola oil, for frying

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together into a mixing bowl, and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar and shortening for 1 minute on low speed, until sandy. Add the egg yolks, then mix 1 more minute on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary, until the mixture is light colored and thick.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the sour cream, mixing until just combined on low speed and scraping the sides of the bowl each time. The dough will be sticky, like cookie dough.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inch deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan to 325°F. Roll chilled dough out on a generously floured counter or cutting board to 1/2 inch thick, or about 8 inches in diameter, flouring the top of the dough and the rolling pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into as many doughnuts and holes as possible, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut. Fold and gently reroll the dough (working with floured hands makes the dough less sticky), and cut again.

Shake any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to the hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to crowd them. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, then gently flip them. Fry 75 to 90 seconds, until golden brown and cracked, then flip and fry the first side again for 60 to 75 seconds, until golden. Drain a rack set over paper towels/absorbent paper.

Simplest Vanilla Glaze

Time: 5 minutes active time, plus glazing
Makes: Enough for 1 dozen cake or ring-shaped doughnuts

3 1/2 cups/350 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp iodized salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup/75 ml plus 1 tbsp hot water, plus more if needed

Place the ingredients in a large mixing bowl or in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Using a whisk, or with the machine on low speed, blend until the mixture is smooth and all the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, if necessary. If the glaze seems to thick, add more hot water, a teaspoon at a time.

To glaze, dip one side of each hot doughnut into the warm glaze, and let dry 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, recipe

Parsley. In February.

Clams with Chorizo and Chickpeas 3

One of the things I really love about Seattle is having parsley in February. It spurts forth with a stubbornness even my two-year-old can’t muster, preening through the rain, ignoring our recent “snowstorm.” (The Idahoan in me still can’t call that a real storm.) I like to pick it right after 5 p.m., when people are walking home and watching, because it doesn’t feel as much like bragging when I don’t actually open my mouth. After I bring it inside, I peel off my socks, because I’m forever dreaming that somehow my socks won’t get wet if I run extra fast from the front door to the edge of the garden in the rain with a paring knife in my hand. Then I wash the parsley well, because I can’t seem to trust that someone hasn’t been fertilizing it with some magic chemical when I’m not looking. Finally, it sits on the drying rack, next to the Tupperware, and waits.

Seattle garden parsley

Last week, it waited for a clam and chorizo stew I made with Kathy Gunst, when she was visiting. Kathy is my cooking Yoda. She’s not short, and doesn’t have big ears, but since an internship with her ten years ago, it’s her voice I hear when I’m standing in front of the stove, wondering what comes next, or what flavors work together. Over the years, I’ve spent days and days cooking in her kitchen, in Maine, but we’d never really cooked together in mine. I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a real cooking partner. It’s especially convenient when there’s a kid in the house; it’s like having four hands, instead of two, only they really can be in two places at once.

I threw chorizo into a high-sided pan, where it sizzled until a certain someone demanded I play ice cream shop. Kathy floated in, and when I returned, pretend-bloated with ten pretend cones’ worth, the stew was bubbling, ready for clams. When I held the long, steel handle of the pan, just to give the tomatoes a quick shake before adding the wine, the handle was still warm—not from the heating element, but from human touch.

Here’s something you might not know about me: I don’t often cook with other people. I like it well enough, but with the exception of my younger sister, who’s turning into a pretty clutch cook herself, my Seattle tribe consist of people who eat, but who don’t necessarily cook. And so often for me, being in the kitchen means a frazzled dance of stirring and writing and timing and judging, rather than just plain cooking. That warm pan handle reminded me how much enjoying cooking, for me, revolves around touch, instead of just taste.

In the end, the stew was good not just because the chorizo, from Seattle’s Rain Shadow Meats, seemed to have exactly the right amount of pimenton, or because the little Manila clams were gorgeous, or because I added the right amount of parsley. It was good because it made me remember that more than any book, or my upbringing, or even culinary school, Kathy’s two hands—the ones that had picked up cooking just where I’d left off, so seamlessly, mid-stew—are the hands that taught me to cook.

Clams with Chorizo and Chickpeas 2

Clams with Chorizo, Chickpeas, and Parsley (PDF)
It’s a simple enough dish to make, but loaded into bowls and served with good, crusty bread, this meal has the ability to transport—to Spain, for starters, with that smoky pimentón flavor, and then to the sea, because when the clams cook in tomatoes and wine, they release their briny juices right into the dish’s liquid. If you want this to be more of a stew, add eight ounces of clam juice along with the wine.

Look for pimentón de la vera in the spice section of a large grocery store, or online. Do not substitute regular paprika.

Time: 30 minutes active time
Serves: 2, or 4 with a hearty salad

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 pound chorizo, casings removed, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 medium leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera (high-quality smoky Spanish paprika)
1 cup dry white wine
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 pound clean Manila clams
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the chorizo, and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring just once or twice, or until the chorizo is partly cooked but loose on the pan. Add the leek and garlic (and a swirl of additional olive oil, if the pan is still dry), and cook another 5 minutes, until the leek is soft. Stir in salt and pepper to taste and the pimentón de la vera. Add the tomatoes and wine, and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.

Add the chickpeas and clams, cover the pan, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until all the clams have opened. (Discard any unopened clams.) Stir in the parsley, season to taste, and serve piping hot, with crusty bread for dipping or over soft polenta.

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Filed under egg-free, gluten-free, kitchen adventure, Lunch, pork, recipe, shellfish, soy-free