Monthly Archives: November 2008

Make a Wish

Everyone at my Thanksgiving table this year is going to have their own wishbone to break. No, I’m not cooking up 8 turkeys just so everyone gets a wishbone. I love my family, but not quite that much. I’m looking forward to the spice-brined and grilled Cornish game hens I’ll be cooking, but their little wishbones leave a lot to be desired. And if I’d been thinking back in February when I was developing the turkey recipes in this month’s Cooking Light magazine, I would have saved all those wishbones and we’d have enough! But I didn’t have that much foresight.

Instead, each place setting will have one of these Lucky Break Wishbones, wishboneswhich I picked up at my local grocery store. This is one of those simple, brilliant ideas that I’m surprised took this long to see on the market. The founder, Seattleite Ken Ahroni, has (like me) a birthday that every six years or so falls on Thanksgiving. On one of those birthday-Thanksgiving Days about a decade ago, he realized how seldom he’d actually gotten his hands on the year’s single wishbone. His wish was for every dinner guest–young and old, meat-eaters and vegetarians–to have the opportunity to make their own wish every year at Thanksgiving. And so this realistic-looking but fully synthetic (and recyclable!) wishbone was born. No more sibling rivalry. No worry about nontraditional meals of grilled salmon or lamb shanks. And if your first break isn’t so lucky, grab another wishbone and try again! Thought the package makes clear, with a disclaimer, that they make no guarantee that wishes will come true. That part’s up to you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Different Apple Pie

I wrote an article about apple pie a few months back, which appears in this month’s issue of Alaska Airlines Magazine. In rereading the article last week (it’s always surprising how quickly I forget exactly what I wrote soon as an article is turned in…), I was reminded of having come across a recipe called Simplest Apple Pie in the book Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World by the incomparable duo of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It was a brief mention in the context of describing how very many different forms apples-and-crust come in, in the greater world of apple pie-dom. They state that this is a recipe of Eastern European Jewish origin, learned from a friend of theirs who had learned it from her mother. (Now isn’t that, in principle, the very best pedigree of any apple pie recipe?)

Only today did I get my first chance to make this interesting pie myself. applepie12Made in a square baking dish, it has the two classic components: crust and apples. But the crust here is more a crumbly mixture, part of which pressed into the pan for a base, the rest crumbled over the apples. Which are, in turn, grated rather than sliced. So it’s familiar, but different. And deliciously so.

They recommend McIntosh apples, “so that the grated apples will melt as they cook.” Those aren’t so easy to come by in Seattle, so I opted for local Braeburns instead. I love the robust flavor of Braeburn apples, a bit sweet, a bit tart; they didn’t really melt down as described, but did enough so to form a dense apple-y layer.

 

Simplest Apple Pie

from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the Worldby Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar, plus optional extra for apples

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

3 tablespoons sour cream

Scant 1 teaspoon minced lemon zest (optional) [I just grated mine]

Up to 2 tablespoons cold water, if needed [I didn’t]

About 3 tablespoons fine fresh bread crumbs [I cheated with dried]

8 medium-to-large McIntosh apples (nearly 4 pounds) [I used 5 large Braeburns, about 3 3/4 pounds]

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

 

Mix the flour and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, break the butter up into bits with a fork or your fingertips. Add the egg yolks and sour cream and beat with a wooden spoon. Add to the flour mixture and stir. Add the lemon zest, if using. Use your fingers to break up lumps so the mixture has a coarse cornmeal texture. Add water a little at a time if needed to make the dough come together, blending it in, then pull the dough together into a mass. Place in a heavy plastic bag and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

[Note: I did a bit of a whiz-bang shortcut on the crust: whirl together flour applepie3and sugar in food processor. Add butter and lemon zest, pulsing until about cornmeal texture. Stir together egg yolks and sour cream in small bowl, add to flour and pulse a few times to incorporate but not overwork. Transfer to bowl until ready to use.]

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and sprinkle the bottom generously with the bread crumbs.

Peel the apples. Using a coarse grater, grate the apples; you should have about 8 cups. [a glorious time to have a grater attachment on my food processor; made this chore really quick] Place the apples in a bowl, add the lemon juice and a little sugar if you wish, and toss well.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, cut it in half, and set one half aside. Place the other half in the cake pan and press it evenly to cover the bottom; it will be less than 1/4 inch thick. Pile on the grated apples [mine were pretty juicy, I left behind all the juice so the pie wouldn’t be soggy], mounding them up in the middle; the pile will look high, but it will shrink during baking. Crumble the reserved dough over the apples to cover.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the top of the pie is touched with golden brown [mine baked 1 hour 10 minutes]. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Delicious. And I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow!

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A Cookbook Extravaganza

If anyone on your holiday gift list is a food lover, you can make some progress on your shopping with a little visit to the Palace Ballroom in Seattle on December 1. Tom Douglas is hosting his third annual Ultimate Holiday Cookbook Social from 4:00 to 7:00 that afternoon. I’ve been honored to be part of this gathering each year, it’s a fun format that sees a dozen Northwest authors gather, with a tasty sampling from their book. You get to mingle with a bunch of local writers, nibble delicious things while having cookbooks signed and personalized for you and everyone on your holiday list! Such a deal.

For the $20 entry fee (advance purchase highly recommended, it’s been a wm-72-dpi-50sell-out each year), you get samples from each station, a glass of wine and a really fun couple hours with a few hundred other food lovers. I’ll be there with all my Northwest Homegrown Cookbook Seriesbooks, as will be Fran Bigelow with Pure Chocolate, Greg Atkinson with his West Coast Cookbook,  Kathleen Flinn, author of the cooking school memoir The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cryabout her studies at Le Cordon Bleu and Keith Robbins with Tini Bigs Big Martinis! Among others. Call 206-448-2001 now to get your tickets!

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Cheers to Zoë

I tuned in to In the Kitchen with Tom and Thierry for the first half hour of the radio program (710 KIRO Saturdays from 4:00 to 7:00) this past Saturday, before I joined them for the second half hour to talk about all things bourbon. In that first segment, my chef pals Tom Douglas (Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen, Lola, et al.) and Thierry Rautureau (Rover’s) were chatting about where they each had eaten this past week, regaling us with discussion about an amazing meal at Spinasse and a blow-out dinner at Canlis. I think it was Thierry who mentioned he’d been to Zoë, and the two chatted for a bit about it being a restaurant that they don’t get to but once every couple of years, though always enjoy when they do. We can all name a few restaurants like that, can’t we? Just not enough nights in the month to get to favorite spots that have been around a bit longer, places lower on the radar simply by nature of the newsy new places on the scene. For me, such spots would include Stumbling Goat, El Camino, Monsoon, Chez Shea.

But for me, Zoë is different. I still remember how wowed I was when the Belltown restaurant first opened in 2000. In fact, I named chef/owner Scott Staples a “Chef to Watch” in the 2000 Seattle Magazine restaurant issue, citing that his move from Third Floor Fish Cafe in Kirkland to Seattle’s thriving restaurant scene was one of the more anticipated openings that year. From the first bites of his grilled romaine salad with apple, bacon and blue cheese, pan-seared sweetbreads, salmon with lentils and brown butter, house-smoked hanger steak — my husband and I were both big fans. And it’s a place we return to 4 or 5 times a year, which is pretty regular for us. Never a disappointing meal on any visit.

When an out-of-towner food lover asks for restaurant recommendations, Zoë is always on my list, usually prefaced by “Want to know where Seattleites go for a casual, contemporary, delicious meal?” It may not be as high on the national radar as are other favorites like Lark, Steelhead Diner, Crush, Tilth. Or Staples’ own newer Quinn’s, opened on Capitol Hill, which is great too (I wrote about Quinn’s amazing wild boar sloppy joes for Maxim magazine’s Food Awards this August). But for my money, Zoë is one of the most reliable, enjoyable, delicious and very “Seattle” restaurants in town.
Restaurant Zoe on Urbanspoon

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Drinking Dry: New Flavors

Seattle-based Dry Soda took the soda category to new levels when they launched in 2005. Not just about quenching thirst in a new way, these beverages were developed with the meal time in mind. With just a touch of sweetness (from pure cane sugar) and non-traditional flavors–kumquat, lavender, rhubarb and lemongrass–the drinks have a culinary flair that can be perfectly at home on even the most elegant dinner table. I still remember what a big splash the sodas made when they were released; in no time restaurant menus featured them alongside other select beverage options on their menu.

So, I was intrigued to hear about two new flavors having just been launched: juniper and vanilla. Which sounded, at first blush, like even edgier choices! Those juniper berries are pretty intense in flavor, almost resin-y and vanilla can quickly become cloying. Dry Soda fan and celebrated Seattle chef Jason Wilson, owner of Crush, collaborated on development of the new flavors and honed the flavors in an elegant fashion.

The juniper soda is very gentle in flavor. In fact, the lingering element is onejuniper_berry_flavor_shot2 of rather nondescript herbal character and doesn’t cry out “juniper,” which will make it widely appealing, I imagine. And super adaptable to different types of foods. I can see drinking lots of this one!

That first sip of the vanilla soda was loaded with nostalgia. It tasted, to me, every bit like cream soda–without the overload of sugar. Vanilla is one of those flavors I run hot-and-cold on. I love it in ice cream, of course, and pretty much any sweet setting, but I really can’t tolerate vanilla sauce on my scallops or in my salad dressing. In this soda, the vanilla flavor is really well balanced, aromatic, pure. For my own taste, not quite as universally sippable as the juniper is. But that’s the nature of my anti-sweet-tooth which will always prefer savory to sweet.

These distinctive sodas are now available across most of the U.S. and Canada. The web site has some great recipes from chefs paired to individual sodas, as well as cocktail recipes using the sodas. Soda for grown-ups, with distinctive, delicious flavors and without the hype and in-your-face marketing. Imagine. What a treat it is.

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T-Day Countdown

Can you believe it? Just two weeks from today is Thanksgiving. That’s what I get for blinking. I just started to make up my mental menu plan for dinner here that day. And though I am a traditionalist so often when it comes to my favorite things to eat and drink, I’m planning to stray from the centerpiece roasted turkey this year. Not because I don’t love turkey (well, “love” would be a stretch in anyone’s book, probably, but tradition is tradition!). It’s more because earlier this year I cooked up 6 or 8 whole turkeys in the course of a week or two, as Nancy Leson mentioned in her column this week. I had been asked by Cooking Light to come up with the whole turkey recipes for this month’s holiday issue (plus some other options as well, including braised lamb shanks and polenta with sauteed mushrooms). It was an honor, and a challenge! But I had fun. I think my favorite twist on the classic was rubbing the bird with smoked paprika to contribute a lovely mahogany color and that touch of smokiness that hints of a grilled turkey.

So, no turkey at my house this year, it’s going to be Cornish game hens. We’re a small troupe, so a big bird is always overkill anyway. Smaller birds are easier to manage, store, brine and grill. Yep, I’m counting on grilling; the garage is a perfect backup plan if it’s pouring. From there, it’s all classics: mashed potatoes, green beans (probably tossed with toasted hazelnuts), stuffing and my mom’s cranberry-orange relish (honestly, the recipe on the bag, the two ground together with some sugar, simple as that!).

For dessert? It’s my birthday. I’ll be eating cake! But I’m sure I’ll throw together a pumpkin pie, too, for good measure.

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Cooking at Home: Pork with Arugula Pesto

It was just one of those nights, last night. A night to fall back on a tried-and-true friend to make dinner in a flash: a simple pork tenderloin. For this two-person household, it’s just the right portion size, usually around 1 pound, 2 good servings with some possible leftovers. And it’s easy to cook 2 or 3 at the time time for a larger group. Lean, quick to cook, incredibly versatile, easier to keep tender and juicy than pork chops — what’s not to love?

When totally devoid of time, I’ll just slather the tenderloin with Dijon mustard, season with salt and pepper and bake. A 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes usually does the trick, letting it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.porkarugula

Last night, I skipped the mustard, cooking the tenderloin with just salt and pepper. And took an extra 5 minutes to make what amounted to a really delicious accompaniment: arugula pesto.  How easy? this easy:

Toss 1 handful of walnuts and 1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves (per your taste) into the food processor, pulse until finely chopped but not to a paste

Add 2 or 3 handfuls of arugula with 1 handful of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and pulse until finely chopped

With the blades running, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture has a nice consistent texture, not too smooth, not too chunky. 1/2 cup perhaps? see how it goes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ta-da!!

It’s been a flurry of recipe testing around here lately. Last night was just “dinner for us” and my husband really appreciated that. Steamed rice, green salad, we ate pretty well with just 10 minutes of kitchen time.

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