Category Archives: products

A lot of little pigs (or none)

Oh, it seems like it’s been forever since we talked. I mean, since last week, things have happened.

I watched an entire football game, for goodness’ sake. Me, anchored to the couch by my neighbor’s pulled pork sandwiches and those cursed, blessed salami-cream cheese rolls. (Try it: Roll genoa salami around a baton of cream cheese. That’s it. But buy a limited amount of salami, because you will eat all you make.)

I read a book, a moving, educating, inspiring page-turner of a story, called Three Cups of Tea, which filled my heart with a feeling I haven’t had for a long time: It’s that warming sensation you get when you find out someone’s doing something really, really good for humanity, and that maybe you should pitch in, too. (If Super Tuesday’s got you down, give it a read.)

I was also introduced to pulla, a family of cardamom-scented Finnish pastries filled with quark and fruit, and made no fewer than 48 of them in the quest for the right recipe. We’re talking 48 hand-sized Danishes. Only, pulla are Finnish, so you can’t call them Danishes. For some reason the Danes got the jump on the Finns in the pastry department, which is too bad. I think it would make much more sense to call those dense, doughy gems Finnishes instead of Danishes. Because, really, what do you do? You finish them. But apparently pastry history isn’t rewritten to fit American writers’ preferences the same way political history is sometimes, so I’m out of luck. Finnish Danish it is.

Anyway, when I sat down at this here computer, I was going to tell you how healthy I’ve been, Finnish pastry and salami comas aside. Last week, I had arugula and chickpea salad for lunch all week, and mornings have been filled with oatmeal and smoothies and Grape Nuts, my rediscovered favorite. Yogurt and quinoa and wheat berries and greens have all been strong players in this here household, and I’ve been going to the gym, and all that does a body good.

But then I remembered that I’ve been sick, too, these last few days. Stuffy and sniffly, woozy and cold, just plain sick.

Oh, you say. That’s too bad.

It’s not, though. It’s the first time I’ve been sick in four years. I’ve felt rotten, for sure – sore, or tired, or nauseous, or achy, or all of the above, but since I launched into a regimen of immunosuppressants in late 2003, I’ve been too darn suppressed to show the symptoms of the common cold. No cough for four years, except the occasional snarf. It has felt downright inhuman, not to cough.

But I’ve lowered los drogues enough for my real, unfuckedwith immune system to shine through for the first time in four years, and you know what? It’s still alive. (Sniff.)

It’s emancipating, really. I don’t expect you to understand, but there’s a soft, blanketing comfort I’ve felt, just in the wanting for chicken soup. Just reaching for a Kleenex, like a normal person.

But what was I saying? Oh, yes. Healthy. I wanted to tell you about being healthy. But then there was the pulled pork, and the salami rolls, which means that my perceived health kick is . . .well, hogwash. Especially considering that I’ve also been yearning to tell you about my three little pigs. Three former pigs, actually, but they might as well be alive, for all the squealing they incite around here, stuffy nose and all.

The weekend before last, I was serenaded by the smell of sausage at Wooly Pigs‘ stand at the farmers’ market, and came home with a $16 pound of bacon.

Wooly Pigs' bacon

I’d picked it up, knowing it would be at least double the cost of grocery store bacon, and probably more than my prized Skagit River Ranch bacon, and handed it over before the $16 price tag knocked the air out of me. But by the time I started breathing again, I’d already put the bacon in my bag. Talk about commitment.

Thankfully, it was worth it, every last penny. Bacon this good deserves an altar. And as we savored it, piece by glistening piece, I developed a fantasy about actually saving the earth by eating pork so rich that you only really need a piece or so. Needing less bacon equals needing fewer pigs, equals ranching less land, equals growing more trees, equals . . .but waitjustadarnsecond, that sounds a lot like the path to vegetarianism. Who am I kidding? I really just like bacon. But it was a good fantasy while it lasted.

Little piggie #2 came in the form of jam:

Skillet's bacon jam

Yup, bacon jam: the unholy concentration of a pig’s worth of bacon into a jar that fits in the palm of my hand. It’s made by the guys at Skillet, and it makes one hell of a spread for a golden, cheesy panino piled with leftover sauteed kale. It’s Marmite for America’s palate, and I am an addict.

Piggie #3 came from that trip to Salumi, in the form of four 1/4″ thick pinwheels of pancetta:

Salumi pancetta

Their thick, silky fat ribbons queued up patiently in the fridge, curled tight, waiting their turn to bounce around in the pan.

Just when I realized I’d drowned myself in a lust for all products porcine (wait – did I forget to mention I tasted Landjaeger for the first time recently?), I realized I’d planned two consecutive dinner parties with friends who didn’t eat pork.

Panic?

For a minute, yes. I’d made such a long list of things to do with the pork products in my refrigerator that I’d developed tunnel vision.

But pig wasn’t the only thing I’d picked up at the market – there were turnips, a celery root, carrots, and parsnips, waiting patiently for their turn in the oven, and that fat stash of fingerling potatoes from the fall, and a tangle of thyme in the bottom drawer. I roasted the root vegetables to a golden, crispy brown, stewed them up in a rich, fragrant dried mushroom broth, and made a vegetarian stew.

There, I thought, satisfied. I am capable of living without pork.

By the time our friends arrived, the stew was rich and earthy, just the sort of comfort a storm-rattled Seattleite needs in early February. But as I was topping the stew with puff pastry to turn each bowl into a bottomless root vegetable pot pie, I cracked. Out came the pancetta, and the knife, and a hot pan. I seared up a two thick slices’ worth of diced pancetta, and secreted them into the meat eaters’ bowls.

So pick your own adventure: Make vegetarian pot pies, as below, or spike them with squealer. Either way, you’ll have a darn good dinner.

Root Vegetable Pot Pie

Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie (PDF)

It’s a doozy of a shopping list, but when it all comes together, with a rainbow of roasted root vegetables tucked into a rich mushroom broth, topped with Parmesan-flecked puff pastry, it’s worth it. The stew itself takes some time to put together, but you can make it a day or two ahead and warm it to room temperature on the stove before sliding the bowls into the oven. And if the idea of a vegetarian pot pie doesn’t sit well with you, stir a quarter pound of diced, cooked pancetta into the stew when you add the roasted root vegetables to the pot.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1 ounce dried assorted wild mushrooms
5 cups boiling water
3/4 pound celery root (1 medium), peeled
1/2 pound turnips (2 medium), peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 parsnips, peeled
1/2 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 large leek, finely chopped (or 1 bunch baby leeks)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Tabasco, Cholula, or other pepper sauce, to taste (optional)
1/2 package (1 sheet from a 17-ounce box) puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
1 egg white, whisked with 1 teaspoon water to blend
1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl, add boiling water, and set aside to soak.

rehydrating mushrooms for pot pie

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

Chop the next five ingredients into 1” pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and the thyme.

roasting veg for pot pie

Mix to blend, and roast on the prepared baking sheet for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and soft. Set aside, and reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the butter. When the butter has melted, add the shallots and leek, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sliced crimini mushrooms and season again, then cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have given off their liquid.

Meanwhile, scoop rehydrated mushrooms out of the water, saving the mushroom broth. Finely chop the mushrooms, and add to the soup pot. Cook and stir another few minutes, until no liquid remains on the bottom of the pot. Add the flour, and cook and stir until a brown patina forms on the bottom of the pan, another minute or two. Increase heat to high and begin adding the mushroom broth a cup at a time, stirring and allowing the broth to come to a simmer and thicken between additions. When all the broth has been added, whisk the cream and the cornstarch together until smooth, then add to the broth, stirring until the liquid comes back to a simmer. Add the root vegetables, simmer for 3 minutes, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a few drops of the pepper sauce. (The goal here is to boost flavor, not to actually make the pot pie spicy.)

finished stew for veg pot pie

To bake, divide the stew between 4 large or 6 smaller ovenproof bowls arranged on a baking sheet. Cut the puff pastry sheet into 9 squares, trimming off the wrinkled parts where the pastry was folded (you will need the second sheet of pastry if you’re using 6 smaller bowls). Brush each square with some of the blended egg white, and shower with a layer of Parmesan cheese.

Prepping pastry for pot pie with cheese

Place 2 pastry squares on each bowl, allowing the pastry to hang off the edges of the bowl, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the stew is bubbly. Serve warm.

Note: If you let the pastry overlap in the center, as shown below, it won’t puff as well – try not to let the layers overlap.

Root Veg Pot Pie, overlapped

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Filed under farmer's market, pork, products, recipe, Seattle, vegetarian

Dinner parties, art, and diamonds

Here are three things that make me happy:

1. Dinner parties. A reader sent me a photograph of a recent get-together, where they made the beet salad and some tilapia tacos:

feastin

This is why I write this blog: not because I expect to invent the best recipes in the world, or have the snazziest, most beautiful photographs, but because I relish the possibility that convincing someone to cook something will bring people together. Happy Birthday, John and David.

2. Art. At about 9:30 p.m. the other night, a neighbor’s kid knocked on the door timidly, her ten-year-old hands carefully cradling a picture she said she’d been working on all evening. It was a pencil drawing of our house, and a darned good one, at that.

Thalia's drawing

Just like that, a gift that made my night. Thank you, Thalia.

3. Diamonds. Diamonds make me feel good. Well, specifically, the diamond dust embedded in this cool pan I received in the mail a few weeks ago, which I’ve been meaning to applaud out loud. Think about it: have you ever heard of anyone’s diamond ring getting ruined because something stuck to the diamond itself? No. Anyway, I’m usually not a big bling chaser, but anytime a diamond pan comes my way, I’ll take it. Think of it as the cook’s right hand ring.

Swiss Diamond pan

It’s earned the closest-to-the-stove spot on my pot rack. It’s made by a company called Swiss Diamond, and as far as I can tell, it has all the advantages of both nonstick pans (without the health hazards, and it can take high heat) but also browns things pretty well. I use it for eggs and fish, mostly.

This morning I used the three egg whites leftover from the chocolate-cherry cakes to make an omelet – just whisked them up with a tablespoon or so of milk and salt and pepper, poured them in the pan, and added some goat cheese, tomatoes, and arugula when the whites were almost set. Folded it over when the whites set, and presto: nutritious, lower-fat breakfast for Jess.

egg white omelet

Which is a good thing, by the way, because those little cakes? I made eight of them. And darn, they’re still tasty a few days later.

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Yes and no

When we fired up the grill last night, I had a vision: I wanted a pile of steaming broccoli rabe, topped with lemon and plenty of parmesan cheese and grilled hot Italian sausage. I was so excited to use my new toy, a snazzy Weber vegetable basketthat goes right on the grill, basically serving as an outdoor nonstick pan. I’ve grilled romaine before, but this thing seems like it’ll blow my perception of what greens and vegetables go on the grill (and stay on the grill, rather than falling through the cracks) wide open – baby tomatoes, green beans, shrimp without a skewer . . .

Grill-sauted Rabe 1

My husband played along for most of it, calmly grilling the saugs while I hopped around obsessing over the basket, but when we settled down for dinner, he seemed less excited. First he ate the sausage. Then:

HIM (verbatim): What’s all this green shit on my plate?

ME (pretending I liked it): It’s broccoli rabe.

HIM (doubtful): Have I eaten this before?

ME (lying): No, probably not. But it’s good, try it.

I tried it again with him. I’d had it before, braised and sauteed, and vaguely remembered having loved it. But this time, we both hated it.

Vegetable sadness. Must find a way to love it.

But the basket sure was fun.

Recipe for Grill-Sauteed Broccoli Rabe (if you like it)
Recipe 122 of 365

Preheat a grill-specific vegetable basket on a hot grill, or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat inside. Place a trimmed, rinsed bunch of broccoli rabe in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, toss to coat, and cook in the hot vegetable basket for 5 to 10 minutes, turning the greens with tongs every few minutes, until bright green and cooked through. Serve hot with shaved parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon.

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Hunger strike

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

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

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

Injured Doggo

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

Avocado Oil

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

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

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

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

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

Starting Eggs Carlos

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

the fun part

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

Adding Goat cheese to Eggs Carlos

4. Pile them on toast, if you want.

Eggs Carlos on Toast

Thanks, Carlos!

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Incredible News, and Lunch for One

This is gonna be quick, but the incredible news is that I’ve found what has to be the best hat in the entire world:

Sushi hat!

Yes, it’s covered in sushi. It’s made by Sugoi (which happens to be the term for “incredible” in Japanese), an athletic company out of Vancouver, and I found it at REI yesterday on a requisite stop in the Seattle tour with the in-laws.

Here’s a quick lunch idea, from when I made myself a fancy lunch for one the other day: boil up a cup of orecchiette pasta. Save about 2 tablespoons of its water, and when the pasta is done, mix it with the water, 2 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese, a handful of toasted walnuts, 2 tablespoons julienned sundried tomatoes, and a big scoop of that amazing lemony sorrel pesto (or whatever you have on hand).

So that’s it, recipe 54 of 365, the perfect antidote to those days when it’s cold and cranky outside and you want a lunch that’s quick but still satisfying.

Orecchiette with Walnuts, Sundried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Sorrel Pesto:

Orecchiette with Walnuts, Sundried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Pesto

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I’d make a pretty good cupcake

I’m not a particularly athletic person. I’ve done my fair share of sporty pursuits, but I learned long ago that there’s a difference between being athletically gifted and being athletically challenged, and I tend strongly toward the latter.

It’s not for lack of trying. And there are some sports, like skiing, that I’ve spent enough time doing to look like a natural, if not like a pro. I can’t think of any others besides skiing, but I’m sure there are one or two things. Probably just one.

But for all the good it’s done me (my husband swears my 198 cm skis were what nailed me the spot in his little black book in 1996), in-bounds skiing has also taught me that the joy derived from going down something very fast does not necessarily need to be preceeded by huffing up something first. Herego, my mental approach to anything that requires effort in one direction (or, God forbid, both directions) is a little skewed.

This morning was unusually warm and sunny, and some friends invited us on the first bike ride of the season. (Yes, you eastie beasties, there are daffodils blooming in Seattle.) They mentioned a place called Seward Park on Lake Washington, and said it was a pretty flat ride. But there was no mention of the fact that we live 14 miles from said park, and in my early-season exuberance and idealism I blithely donned my bike gear and started pedaling.

Somewhere around mile 20, when it was just getting unfun for me, my riding partners started discussing their upcoming participation in the Chilly Hilly, a 33-mile bike loop event around Bainbridge Island taking place next weekend. They were saying they wanted Cupcake Royale to sponsor them, despite their relative lack of racing experience, and it occurred to me that if, as an athlete, I were to have to be a food, I’d make a pretty good cupcake. I dress up nice on the outside, but I’m really just soft on the inside. I’m great going down(hill), even if I regret it afterwards. (Though I hope I’ll be able to make it to Seward Park again in the future.)

In the middle of my identification with the cupcake, I realized we’d be passing Trophy Cupcakes, Seattle’s newest cupcake house, on the way home, and we planned a stop. My pedal strokes seemed easier (not faster, just less mentally challenging).

I had a green tea cupcake, and it was everything I wanted after 25 miles. “Cupcakes are back,” cheered my buttercream-phobic husband. It was undeniably fresh (with a perfectly airy crumb), and the matcha-flavored cake and buttercream made a combo that was less sweet than I anticipated. I decided I could be the leader of a group of equally wussy road riders, and we could call ourselves the Cupcake Club and revel in the fact that we’d gain all motivation from each ride’s imminent cake and frosting binge. As I trudged up 73rd to the top of Phinney Ridge, I still cursed, but less loudly than I might have. The cupcake had given me strength.

Once home, I made a great smoothie using this ginger juice my friend in Hawaii dreamed up. I mixed a cup of frozen raspberries, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup orange juice, a banana, and 1/4 cup of the ginger juice in a blender until nicely pureed, and it gave me the strength to sit down and write this. But now I must get to know the couch a little better.

Beth's Ginger Juice

Recipe for Beth’s Ginger Juice
Recipe 48 of 365

This is the ideal pick-me-up for ginger lovers. Beth gave me general guidelines for how she makes it when we visited in Hawaii. She puts it in Sprite, but I’ve had great success adding it to plain seltzer water (about 1 part juice to 3 parts seltzer), cocktails, and smoothies. I bet it would make a great base for ginger sorbet.

Since the whole mess gets strained, don’t worry about peeling the ginger too obsessively.

TIME: 5 minutes, plus 15 minutes soaking
MAKES: about 1 quart juice

8 ounces (1/2 pound) ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cups boiling water
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

Place the chopped ginger in the blender, pour the hot water over the ginger, and let sit for about 15 minutes. Add the lime juice, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper, and blend until completely smooth. (Careful! It will probably test your blender’s capacity.) Strain the juice through a fine-mesh strainer into a mixing bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Season the juice to taste with additional sugar or cayenne (I added 2 more tablespoons sugar), remembering that this juice is a mixer; you probably won’t drink it straight.

Transfer the juice to an airtight container and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks.

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Bearly Granola

For some reason I received samples of Bear Naked Granola‘s two newest granola flavors in the mail. I’ve loved their products in the past, so finding them on my doorstep seemed like a good omen.

The two flavors: blueberry walnut and peanut butter & jelly. Hooray, right? No, because in both cases, the fruit is all wrong. The blueberries are gross, super chewy and strangely fake-tasting despite the “natural” claims (although glycerin is one of the ingredients for the blueberries . . . what do they DO with glycerin?). And I’m always up for good ol’ PB&J, even–no, especially–on Wonder bread, but the Bear Naked version packs neither the flavor of the real McCoy (again, the raspberries have a really strange texture that I couldn’t get past) nor the thrill of eating something that I’m supposed to be too old to eat.

However, the back of the PB&J package did teach me the definition of arachibutyrophobia: it’s the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth (courtesty of the Peanut Advisory Board). I wonder if there’s a word for fear of people putting soy protein isolate in my homemade granola.

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