Monthly Archives: April 2012

A little taste

This, friends, is my cookbook. It comes out on May 8th, which is just over two weeks away. My breath does a little skip in my throat when I think about it.

For you, today, I have a little taste of the book. Click on the cover above–yup, that gorgeous thing up there–and you’ll get a PDF sampler of the cookbook, complete with recipes for Le Pichet‘s famous salade verte, which you’ll probably need to serve after a meal of sautéed crab legs with chili-ginger butter. You’ll also get a feel for the look of the book, which I happen to love.

Enjoy.

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Mirror, Mirror

Identical feet, give or take 50 years

I thought I was going to Portland to help my grandmother June heal. I’d planned to teach a doughnut-making class at Sur La Table there, with Mark Klebeck of Top Pot Doughnuts, and I thought staying with June the night before would give me a chance to pop in with some soup. She had massive abdominal surgery three weeks ago; perhaps I didn’t know what that meant. I expected to wash sheets, or fold laundry, or perhaps run errands for her. I arrived with a tub of cumin-scented carrot soup, a gentle, fragrant concoction I thought might be easiest on the most timid of tummies.

Of course, any woman with the name “June” who lives in the Northwest will have a strong constitution; I should have known that she’d answer the door in her usual singsong voice, and that by the time we’d shared the soup and her salad—tiny pink shrimp piled into avocado halves, adorned with her sister Mary’s famous dressing, made of mayonnaise and Cholula (and darn good, I might add)—I’d nearly forgotten that she’d accidentally carried around a ruptured appendix for three weeks. She’s from good stock, that one. She’s healing just fine.

And every time I visit her, I’m reminded how much we have in common, even though she’ll be 85 this summer. We have the same flushable cheeks, and the same strong, thin hands, and the exact same feet, size 7 1/2, with unusually pretty toes. (Someday, I’ll show you in person, if you want. I feel very good about my feet.)

I like to think I have her sense of humor, too. After dinner, it seemed perfectly normal that we ended up standing next to each other in the bathroom, shirts pulled up to our bra lines, complimenting her nicely-healing scar and comparing our bodies, mine an almost carbon copy of hers, give or take 50 years.

When we were done bragging to each other about skin that doesn’t seem prone to stretch marks and lamenting the inconvenience of the sub-bosom sag, we moved right along, as if a two-generation gap somehow makes it perfectly normal for two women to act like 16-year-olds in front of a bathroom mirror. I’m sort of surprised we didn’t go through her old lipsticks together.

Cover: Pike Place Market Recipes

But we didn’t. Instead, I dug out the copy of Pike Place Market Recipes
I’d brought to share with her—the one I’d begged my publisher for, before leaving for Portland, because I wanted to give her one in person. I showed her the recipe for the carrot soup, and she promised she’d lend the book to her friend Verna, who would certainly make it. (Grandma June doesn’t really love cooking, so she avoids it. I’m finally getting used to this.)

But June liked my carrot soup, people. In fact, she said it was the best one she’d ever had. Now, carrot soup isn’t a hamburger or a dish of macaroni and cheese; one only tastes so many carrot soups in a lifetime. (You’d never see “Best Carrot Soups” on the cover of a magazine.”) But she said it.

When I made it the first and second and third time, this soup was about the Market. It was about walking into World Spice and reaching for a Kleenex halfway into my journey through the paprika selection, and about tufts of carrot tops tickling my armpits as they poked out of a packed produce bag.

From now on, though, it’ll be about June. Carrot soup will be about sitting at her kitchen table, drinking water from fancy pink wine glasses, because neither of us felt like drinking wine, anyway. It’ll be about watching her hand flutter excitedly along the side of the stove while the soup warmed, because she was she was so nervous, telling me about her new boyfriend. It’ll be crawling into that pink metal-framed daybed (that wasn’t ever mine, was it?), realizing how much her pride and approval matters to me.

So here’s a carrot soup that tastes like looking in a bathroom mirror, and finding someone you wouldn’t mind being at 85. If that’s not entirely relatable for you, just make it. I can promise that at the very least, it will taste good.

Carrot Soup with Cumin and Honey

Carrot Soup with Cumin and Honey (printable PDF)
Excerpted from Pike Place Market Recipes: 130 Delicious Ways to Bring Home Seattle’s Famous Market

Sometimes, shopping for a small, simple dinner at the Pike Place Market can be overwhelming – there’s unavoidable temptation to buy, say, and entire salmon, and take it home for a holiday feast when you’re only two for dinner. When you just need something warm and satisfying, make this velvety carrot soup, spiced with cumin, cayenne, and pimenton de la vera – smoked paprika from Spain’s La Vera region. Look for the pimenton at World Spice Merchants, DeLaurenti, The Spanish Table, or in the spice aisle of a large supermarket, in a red box.

Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped into 1” pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton de la vera)
Small pinch cayenne pepper (to taste)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)

Heat a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the carrots, season to taste with salt and pepper, stir, and cook, covered, for another 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in the cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper, then add the broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until carrots are completely soft, another 10 to 20 minutes.

Using a blender or food processor, carefully puree the hot soup in small batches and return to the pot. Stir in the honey, then check the seasonings, adding more cayenne or honey to taste. Serve hot.

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Shake it off

za'atar-crusted chicken 1

Sometime in January, I started a list in my music files called “Inspiration 2012.” I imagined it being a sort of year-long anthem for life, with songs landing on the list every few days, but so far, there are only two: “Shake it Off,” by Florence + The Machine, and “Don’t Carry It All,” by The Decemberists. They’re very different songs, about very different things, but they both send me a very simple, portable, digestible message. They say let go.

The first, sung by a woman who tends to perform dressed much more modestly than the average pop-ish beltress, is the one you’ll find me singing in the car with the windows down. There’s a line in there that’s always gotten me, deep down inside, behind the heart, between the shoulder blades. She says, “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.” She’s right, you know, and I think she gets righter the louder I sing. And it’s her voice that’s followed me around these last few (busy) weeks. I can’t say who the devil is—not because I’m being cagey, but because I really don’t feel like I know—but he’s there, clinging. He needs to cut his fingernails.

I haven’t been very still lately. We spent a week in March in Whistler, for our anniversary, skiing with old friends. We flew immediately back east, to celebrate the life of a dear, close family member I’m still not sure how to miss and love and cherish properly. We came home for a few days, then I went back east again, for a conference in New York. There was drinking and eating and learning and exploring and cursing myself for being so bad at New York, but there wasn’t much sleeping.

spring recipe card sets

I came home, and Hannah and I finalized the printing on the spring recipe card sets, and tied them all with pretty yellow bows. (They’re here!)

Then a certain little boy turned three, and there were turtle cupcakes and a Thomas the Train cake and parties and family. Then there was a za’atar-crusted chicken for Passover, and there was Easter breakfast, and now it’s Monday. And as much as I’d like to think I have the power to stop it, I know Tuesday is coming. I’ve felt like I’m fluttering, darting around in a way that feels fabulous and mostly fun but not entirely human.

This week needs to be calmer. This week, I think I just need to shake it all off and start over. Every time my mind wanders, to Pike Place Market Recipes (which comes out in—eek!—just over a month), or to starting Benlysta infusions in a few weeks, or to Graham, or to passing loved ones, or to my sister moving away from Seattle, the song will come back. Maybe these are my devils–not devils, any of them, but things I carry with me all the time these days.

There’s an important distinction here, I think. Shaking off does not equal forgetting. It’s not ignoring, or procrastinating. It’s simply a setting down. An equalizing. It’s looking at your own life as it sits beside you, sipping coffee, rather than carrying it around like oversized luggage. (I don’t know about you, but when I pack for a trip, I stuff every single bag too full, every time.)

It’s looking life in the eye, and listening to what it has to tell you.

It’s letting someone else’s life inspire you, rather than letting it bury you in sadness.

Za'atar chicken for dinner

So here’s what’s coming on Hogwash: a look at what’s outside of me, so I can stay inside for a few weeks. A glimpse at Pike Place Market Recipes, and the recipes in it that I’m most excited about—starting with the roast chicken I made for Passover (yogurt sauce and all, Kosher schmosher), one of my favorites (and one of the simplest) in the book.

Come to think of it, roasting chicken is the culinary embodiment of the shake it off policy. It’s starting from scratch. It’s the easiest thing to do—olive oil, salt, and za’atar, smeared with bare hands in the sunlight and roasted in a hot oven—but it’s somehow completely grounding.

And ahhh. Grounded. That’s just what I want to feel.

za'atar-crusted chicken going into oven

Za’atar-Crusted Chicken with Harissa-Yogurt Sauce (PDF)
From Pike Place Market Recipes: 130 Delicious Ways to Bring Home Seattle’s Famous Market (Sasquatch, May 2012)

Although walking into The Souk, on the north end of the Pike Place Market, may be intimidating for those less familiar with Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African foods, it’s actually a haven for ingredients for quick, creative dinners. On its shelves you’ll find za’atar, a dried herb and spice mixture often made with thyme, oregano, savory, dried sumac, salt, and sesame seeds—you may find it lends itself well to other dishes you make regularly, like roasted potatoes. You’ll also find harissa, a North African chili sauce, which lends gentle heat to the ultra-simple yogurt sauce that accompanies the chicken here.

Active time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Equipment: Kitchen string, for tying legs

1 (5-pound) whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons za’atar
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 to 3 teaspoons harissa

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rub all parts of the chicken with the oil. Place on a roasting rack set over a roasting pan. Blend the salt and za’atar together in a small bowl, then sprinkle the entire chicken with the spice mixture. Fold the wings behind the chicken’s back, tie the legs together, and sprinkle any remaining spice on any bare spots.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour, or until the breast meat measures 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the skin is dark golden brown before the meat is done, slide a baking sheet onto an oven rack above the chicken.

Meanwhile, stir the yogurt and harissa together in a small bowl, and let sit at room temperature while the chicken roasts.

When the chicken is done, let rest 10 minutes, then carve and serve hot, with the yogurt sauce.

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The Uncle Josh Haggadah Project 2012

Chocolate-Basil Passover Cake

I’m just Jewish enough that every April, I remember Passover’s coming. I remember matzo ball soup and brisket and that we should all feel very lucky, but I never quite remember the Passover story. I know there was something about Moses and a basket, but who’s son was he again? And what’s this about parting the Red Sea? Or was it the Black Sea? Forget remembering all four questions.

Luckily, I have a brother who remembers everything, and can write. Every year, Uncle Josh’s Haggadah Project (PDF) frames the Passover story in modern times, pairing a practical Seder guide (which I desperately need) with political commentary.

Take the story of Moses:

Although a child of extreme privilege, as Moses grew he became aware of the slaves who worked for and were laid off by his adoptive father at his corporate offices around the world. When Moses saw that his new father figure made millions of dollars and paid an effective 15% tax rate while the other 99% of the population paid more while trying to make ends meet on measly salaries, he joined the “Occupy Giza” Movement and wound up killing a distracted CEO who wandered into the camp while making deals on his Blackberry.

Or the tale of why the Jews made matzah:

Fearful that that the sometimes progressive but often backward magic underwear Pharaoh would change his mind, our people fled in a hurry. Instead of packing fresh bagels and lox and a nice baguette with organic brie like they imagined normal Jews would, you know, if they ever went camping, our people had to slap together some flour and water and bake it pronto. Only later did they realize the stuff had the texture of saltines and the flavor of cardboard. We called it Matzah, and we eat it as a mitzvah eight days a year instead of bread, which always seems like a good idea on the first night but gets old after half a box.

On the first night of Passover, I’ll make a chametz-filled cake in the shape of a train for my kid’s third birthday, and forget Passover exists. On the second night, I’ll do brisket or chicken or whatever seems most Passover to me at the time, and I’ll read Uncle Josh’s Haggadah, which is themed “for the Great Recovery” this year. (That seems so appropriate for me.) We’ll eat flourless chocolate cake spiked with basil. On the third night, I’ll celebrate Easter with my husband’s family, and we’ll eat leftover cake and I’ll feel guilty we’re not doing Seder twice, like some people do.

And then I’ll take another bite of cake.

Uncle Josh’s Haggadah Project 2012 (PDF of full Haggadah, by Joshua Howe)

Chocolate-Basil Passover Cake (PDF)
A true torte typically replaces a cake’s flour with nuts or breadcrumbs, so I won’t call it that, but this deeply chocolaty, dense confection, rimmed with dark ganache, just almost too decadent for the word cake. It’s a take-off on a chocolate-basil truffle I tasted Seattle’s Theo Chocolate a few years back.

Note: If you have a double boiler, use that to melt the chocolate.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

For the cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup fresh basil (leaves only)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the ganache:
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, stir in the vanilla and salt, and set aside.

Next, make a basil sugar: pulse the sugar and the basil together in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and uniformly green in color. The sugar will look slightly wet.

Add the basil sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake barely begins to crack. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a round serving plate.

While the cake cools, make the ganache: place the chocolate and the cream in a small saucepan, and stir constantly over very low heat until melted and smooth. Using a flat spatula or knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, if desired. (Hint: Using the ganache immediately will mean a thin coating that drips easily down the sides of the cake; in this case, it’s best to frost the cake over a cooling rack, then transfer it to a serving plate. You can also let the ganache cool a bit, then spread it just on the top, more like a thin frosting.)

Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.

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