Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Glögg

Seattle is filled with whiners. This summer when temperatures broke 100 degrees for over a week, they whined. This week, temperatures have barely risen above freezing during the day. And guess what? Seattleites are whining again. What am I doing? I'm drinking.

OK. That didn't sound quite right, but it is in fact what I am doing to combat the cold. Just like I made ice cold daiquiris this summer and retreated to our blissfully cool basement, I have been making warm drinks this week and curling up under a down comforter. Let's call it S.A.D. - seasonally affected drinking.

Warm drinks on a cold winter's night are traditional in Northern climates and where my family comes from, Glögg is the drink of choice. Other countries have Glüwein or mulled wine, but in Sweden, it's Glögg. They are all pretty much the same: steep some spices in wine, heat and serve.

I've tried several recipes over the years. A favorite comes from a dear familiy friend, John Swedstedt, who adds Vodka to his Glögg. This year however, I wanted to try out some new recipes. That's not to say I didn't want Vodka in my Glögg, I just needed an updated recipe.

In a pinch I've used the bottled Glögg concentrate from IKEA. It works, but I find the spices to be kind of flat.

I heard Marcus Samuelsson on the radio a couple of week's ago. He's an Ethiopian born Swede that now lives in America. His restaurant - and cookbook - Aquavit, had just what I was looking for. A little more online research and cookbook consulting and I think I've found a recipe to call my own.

Glögg
3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 Tbsp cardamom pods
2-3 small pieces candied ginger
Grated zest of 1 orange
6 whole cloves
1/2 cup vodka
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine. I like Zinfandel
1 cup port
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/2 cup raisins

Crush the cinnamon and cardamom using a mortar and pestle or smash on a cutting board. Put them in a small glass jar and add the ginger, orange zest, cloves, and vodka. Let stand for 24-48 hours. Strain the vodka into a large saucepan and discard the spices.

Add the red wine, port and sugars and heat over medium heat just until bubbles start to form around the edges. Do not boil.

Add a few almonds and raisins to the bottom of each mug and pour the hot Glögg over the top.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ridiculously Delicious Cookies

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I have been making Choklad Biskvier at Christmastime. There is a Swedish Christmas tradition of making seven kinds of cookies - sju sorters kakor - and these cookies are one of the 7 (or 8 or 10) kinds of cookies we make every year. I have recently discovered though, that Choklad Biskvier are just as enjoyable the rest of the year as they are at Christmastime. It sounds kind of stupid to say I just "realized" this, I know, but do you ever make pumpkin pie in March? I didn't think so.

Part of the reason I started making CBs year-round is because the recipe calls for three egg whites. You may remember that I love eggs and that I have a ongoing supply fresh chicken eggs. Since Gavin's "new" favorite dessert is poundcake (who knew?!), I often have leftover egg whites to use up, and this recipe is perfect for using them up. These cookies also store well in the freezer, where they wait for you until you need them to serve guests, bring to a party or just eat by yourself while you lie on the couch watching reruns of 30 Rock with a glass of Malbec.

Since these cookies have been in heavy rotation, I have been spreading the love. I have brought them to meetings at work, exchanged them for the aforementioned fresh eggs and taken them to parties. Since Choklad Biskvier is not easy to remember or pronounce, my friend Robin just calls them "those ridiculously delicious cookies." I often just refer to them as "those Swedish chocolate cookies." If you can suggest a better name, I am accepting ideas.

I've been asked for the recipe dozens of times, but have always declined to share it because this is kind of graduate level baking. Consider yourself warned. Having said that, I have tried to provide as much detail (and photos) as possible into the recipe below. I even shot a little video. A video! Gavin warned me against posting it because it is one the geekier things I've done recently, so er...consider yourself warned, again

Ridiculously Delicious Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cookie

3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
4 oz. blanched, slivered almonds
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Progresso brand)

Filling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Glaze
8 oz. semi sweet chocolate - chips or chunks
6-8 Tbsp unsalted butter

Prepare and bake the cookie
Grind the almonds in a food processor until fine. Like so:

Whisk the egg whites for a minute in a stand mixer. Add sugar and whisk on high for 3-4 minutes, until a stiff meringue is formed. Like....so:

Stir in bread crumbs and almonds and let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

Drop teaspoon sized mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove with a metal spatula so they don't crumble and cool on a wire rack, round side down.

Prepare the filling and frost the cookies
Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together onto a flexible mat or piece of wax paper. Cream the butter on high until lighter in color and smooth. On slow speed, add the sugar/cocoa mixture until combined. Add the vanilla and mix on medium-high until smooth.

Smooth a mound of filling onto the flat side of each cookie. Place them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the glaze.


Make the glaze and...watch the video
In a double boiler melt the chocolate and 6 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Stir until smooth. It should be the consistency of Hershey's syrup. If needed, add more butter. As you glaze the cookies, you may need to reheat the glaze if it begins to stiffen.

The easiest way to apply the glaze is to dunk the chocolate half of the cookie into the pot of glaze. I can't really describe in words how to do this so, as promised, there is a video demonstration. Enjoy!

video

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When Accidents Happen - Bread

Once in awhile I like to share my kitchen failures with you. It is an occasional column I like to call, “When Accidents Happen.”

I've made Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day dozens of times. It is pretty much idiot proof as long as you read the instructions. I think this last time I got cocky. As directed, I checked on the bread after 30 minutes. I thought…hmmm, just 10 more minutes. Shut the oven door and walked away. Who needs a timer? But then, I got distracted. Can you say croutons?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Guy

It is starting to feel a lot like fall around here. Temperatures in the mornings and evenings are much cooler and my mailbox has been packed with cooking magazines whose pages are loaded with recipes for soups, stews and Thanksgiving. Every year though, there is one event that really signals summer is over to me: a bag of corn is anonymously delivered to my doorstep.

Well, it isn’t really anonymous. I know it is our neighbor Dale that leaves a bag on our doorstep – and on the doorstep of every other house on our block – each year. He explained it once, many, many years ago. He visits a small farm in a nearby valley every September when they are harvesting the corn. I thought he was friends with the farmer, but I guess he is just a really big fan of their corn. The corn is so good and fresh that he buys a couple of boxfuls and wants to spread the love.

The corn arrived last Sunday, when we were still out of town. Our friend Maria was staying at the house and sent a text message, “Somebody dropped off a bunch of corn on your doorstep.” I called her immediately and said, “You need to cook up some corn immediately because it will never be as good as it is RIGHT NOW.” OK, that may have been a little bit of an exaggeration but I have never tasted corn as sweet and fresh as the corn that Dale brings us.

We arrived home on Tuesday and had about eight ears of corn remaining that we wanted to use up that night. The solution was simple. Fill a large stockpot with water and several spoonfuls of salt. Bring to a boil, add corn and wait 15-20 minutes. Drain water, remove the ears of corn, add butter and salt…EAT.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Have I Become?

My first job was at a deli counter in a small gourmet grocery called Brodeens. I made $3.35 an hour. We sold lots of stinky cheeses whose names I couldn't pronounce and cured meats of all shapes and sizes. I started the summer after I turned 14 and quit just before Thanksgiving. I couldn't bare the thought of handling whole, raw turkeys. Raw chickens were bad enough.

The affluent little suburb where this grocery was located (and where I grew up) was filled with desperate housewives. The owners of the store flirted with them endlessly and those of us in the deli had to fulfill all of their very specific requests. The worst was when someone ordered Prosciutto. "I'd like it sliced VERY thin," they'd demand. I'd roll my eyes and lug the large leg of ham over to the meat slicer. I had nightmares about that fucking meat slicer. It was terrifying. Slicing the Prosciutto thinly, AND evenly, was no easy task. I never mastered that task in my brief tenure at Brodeens.

I thought my parents were pretty worldly, especially when it came to food. They were European. At least they cooked. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s meant that most of my friends had two working parents, the microwave was a relatively new invention (and therefore a novelty that must be used AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE) and many people subsisted on frozen dinners and hamburger helper. Margarine, Velveeta and bologna were other household staples.

Although my parents cooked a lot and always grew their own veggies and fruit, their diet was limited to mostly Scandinavian food. Norwegian’s have their own version of Prosciutto, but my dad left it hanging in the garage with a knife stabbed into the flesh, ready whenever he – or any visitors – wanted a snack. There was blood sausage, liver pates, potato dumplings, and salted cod. The flavors leaned far into the mild category. I won’t say bland, because there was definitely a lot of flavor. There just wasn’t much spice. Let me just admit right here that the first time I had pizza – at about age 10 – I spit it out. It burned my tongue.

It didn’t help that I was a supremely picky eater. I loved fruit, sugar, dessert, and juice. We ate a lot of fish – a Scandinavian thing, but also a Northwest thing – and with the abundance of salmon in those days we had what you’d call an embarrassment of riches. There were many nights my brother and I would whine and complain, “Salmon…AGAIN?!” My mom cooked most things from scratch, even making homemade macaroni and cheese, even though what we really wanted was the stuff with the powdered cheese.

It wasn’t until I started traveling – on my own – that I got more adventurous with food and flavors. Visiting markets in Italy, France and Turkey opened up my palate to a lot more interesting flavors. I had an interest in cooking early on, especially baking (for the sugar, of course) and by my mid-20s I really wanted to challenge myself. If I ate a good meal in a restaurant, I wanted to try and recreate it at home. Returning from 6-8 week trips in Europe, I tried to recreate the food moments I experienced there.

On the spectrum of foo-fooo. Foood…Oh, I can’t say it. On the spectrum of food enthusiasts, I am pretty novice. I only buy Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, organic milk, and try to stick to produce in season. But, I still love me some junk food. You can take the girl out of the 80s but you can’t take the 80s out of the girl. I still devour the cheese dip my mom makes with Velveeta, have bought Tang in the last five years and can’t be trusted around a can of Pringles.

So having said all of that, I have come to a point in my life, that I when I shop for food – at a Farmers’ Market, mega market or deli – I know what I want. I am undyingly loyal to my favorite brands of olive oil, dried pasta and Dijon mustard. I scrutinize wedges of cheese for freshness and pepper butchers and fish mongers with questions. But when I go to the deli counter, I always pause and think hard about what I am going to do and say.

When I step up to place my order at the deli, the young man who is generally working behind the counter recognizes me instantly, and not in a good way. I usually stop by for some sliced ham or turkey, but every few months I buy some Prosciutto and I swear he sees me coming and thinks, good Christ she’s gonna demand some thinly-sliced Prosciutto again. And you know what? He’s right.

The thing is…I now understand and appreciate the mouth-watering appeal of fresh, thinly sliced Prosciutto. The pre-sliced stuff just doesn’t compare. And, if the Prosciutto is sliced too thick or too uneven, it just isn’t the same. If you are cooking with it, you can fudge it a little bit, but for wrapping around fruit, vegetables or breadsticks…thin is the only way to go. And really, for $27 a pound I can be a little demanding can’t I?

I have had this recipe floating around my kitchen for at least a year. My friends in Copenhagen sent it to me, knowing I would love it. They were right. Eggs are obviously a staple we have in abundance. Red-ripe tomatoes (grown by my parents) have been lining my windowsill for weeks. And Prosciutto, well all I need to do is visit my favorite deli man. I’m sure he’s missed me.

Parma Bowls with Egg and Tomato
Serves 2

2 big slices Prosciutto di Parma (thinly-sliced, natch)
2 Tbsp diced tomato
2 eggs
2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 2 cups in a muffin tin. Line the cups with one slice of Prosciutto each, forming it into a tight little cup. Sprinkle Prosciutto with chopped tomato. Crack an egg into each cup.


Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out the tray and sprinkle with the cheese (optional). Bake another 3-6 minutes or until the eggs are set to your liking.


Gently remove the Parma bowls onto plates and sprinkle with basil.

I think the general concept of this dish could be adapted with other ingredients. A sliced meat with plenty of fat is key for making a nice crispy crusted bowl, but ham may work. If tomatoes are out of season, caramelized onions or roasted red peppers would work great. Thyme or tarragon sprinkled on top would work well too. And for the optional cheese, you can’t go wrong with Velveeta…



Friday, September 11, 2009

Eggs-actly

It's no secret that I L-O-V-E eggs. I love them soft boiled, poached, and especially in Eggs Benedict. They are so versatile. They are almost as great as the sum of their parts. The whites are miraculous in meringues and the yolks enrich a sauce like nothing else. And when you are tired, they make the simplest of suppers.

The urban chicken coop has been alive and well in the Seattle area for years. I worked with a couple of people who raised their own chickens and have seen chicken eggs at the farmers' markets for $5 a dozen. I always tried to buy the free-range, no hormone, naturally nested type eggs, but I have to admit that I had a little chicken envy.

Those chicken people were so smug though. "Oh, the eggs are so fresh," they'd exclaim. "The yolks are so bright," they'd gush. "They are almost orange in color, you wouldn't believe it!" And on, and on, and on. Oh, and Martha Stewart – that bitch – was the smuggest of them all! As she’d whisk up a Caesar dressing with raw egg yolks, she’d boast, “I don’t worry about salmonella because I get the eggs from my OWN CHICKENS.”

The thing is, for as much as I love eggs, I hate chickens. The way they wobble about, bobbing their heads and pecking the ground…is terrifying. Granted, I feel the same way about pigeons. If you walk towards them, you don’t know if they are going to fly away from your or into you. Terrifying.

Needless to say, owning chickens was out of the question. Don’t think I didn’t try. I casually mentioned it to Gavin once, probably after reading a “Build Your Own Chicken Coop This Weekend,” article in Sunset magazine. He laughed. Really LAUGHED. And teased. “Don’t you remember Kauai,” he asked.

We went to Kauai for our honeymoon (5 years ago next week) and loved it. Except for the chickens. They are everywhere on the island and have no real predators…other than motor vehicles. The story goes that Hurricane Iniki (in the early 1990s) destroyed a bunch of chicken coops and the chickens that survived are now wild and continue to breed. They weren’t at our resort, or at the lovely beach that we lounged at day in and day out…but everywhere else – chickens.

I tried to talk my parents into raising chickens a couple of times. They are great gardeners and DIYers, so it seemed natural. I tried subtlety at first, “You guys eat a lot of eggs, you know I hear raising chickens is easy.” I like to think my parents are getting forgetful enough that if I suggest something enough times, they will think they came up with the idea. Hey, it’s worked before, but that’s a story for another day. I later moved on to a direct approach. “You should raise chickens, you like to grow stuff and then you’d have fresh eggs every day.” That last attempt was met with a response just as direct from my mother, “Are you joking? Why on Earth would I want to take care of those filthy animals when I can just go to the store and buy fresh eggs?” Um. Yeah. I can see her point.

Where did that leave me? As of three months ago, that left me with eggs from the supermarket. I was buying eggs – white shells, yellow yolks, one-dimensional flavor. I had resigned myself to buying supermarket eggs until I met Lisa.

I met Lisa at our friend Maria’s 40th birthday party. I had made the birthday pies (apple) and Lisa was impressed. Our friend Michelle played matchmaker. It went something like this, “Sonja, this is Lisa and she loved your apple pie. Lisa has chickens that layfresheggseveryday. You should trade eggs for baked goods.” Ding ding ding ding ding! Done. Deal.

For the past three months, I’ve become friends with Lisa as we make our bi- or tri- weekly exchange of baked goods for eggs. I even got my parents in on the action. My dad traded some fresh halibut for his eggs.

Now that I have come to appreciate and enjoy a truly fresh egg, you know what? I have become that smug person! I had no idea how much more flavorful really fresh eggs could be! And the yolks – I can’t tell people enough about them, “So big - so plump - so flavorful! And they are SO yellow…they are almost orange.” I kid you not. I heard Gavin doing it the other day too. We have become that which we mocked!

I’ll admit it. Fresh chicken eggs – and I mean really fresh – are vastly superior to anything I’ve tasted before. The color of their shells are determined by the color of the hen's skin and in the case of Lisa’s chickens (that are grey and copper), the shells are pale blue and brown. I got to meet the chickens once and even took their picture…but from the safety of the deck.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's National Aviation Day

August 19th is National Aviation Day. I'll be honest. The only reason I really know this is because I work on a travel web site. I was assigned to write a blog post today about National Aviation Day and I swear all I could think about was the Aviation cocktail. I even managed to sneak in a link to the recipe.

I already had plans to meet my friend Robin for happy hour today, and as I wrote about Aviation Day, we IM'd about Aviation cocktails. You may remember Robin - she's the one who I got schooled with about cocktails and who generally has pretty awesome taste when it comes to food and everything else. We both LOVE the Aviation cocktail.

So tonight, we planned to meet at the restaurant that will live in infamy as "the booze cruise." That's another story, but what we DO remember from that night is that it began with cocktails. The restaurant has since opened a wine bar next door and we just assumed they would serve cocktails too and the Aviation would be readily available. Sadly, it was not. We had a nice evening and some very tasty food and sparkling wine, but alas, no cocktails.

Thankfully, my home bar is stocked! Since I've been experimenting with cocktails and studying the art of cocktail making, I had all the ingredients on hand to make the Aviation when I returned home.


The Aviation
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo
1/4 ounce Crème de Violette
Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake to chill well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Drizzle the Crème de Violette into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist or a maraschino cherry.



Sunday, August 16, 2009

Simplicity Itself

There is something comforting about a piping hot bowl of soup and lately, I've been in need of comfort. Even though it's August, the weather has been much cooler in the mornings and evenings. Since it already feels like autumn is in the air, it felt right to make soup.

Last week I saw the movie Julie and Julia. I have to say I loved it. I actually enjoyed the Julie side of the story as much as the Julia side. This is probably because I can relate to Julie more than Julia. When I read Julie Powell's book, I started reading more and more food blogs and it helped inspire me to start this blog. It also inspired me to steal my own mother's copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Since yesterday was Julia Child's birthday, I pulled MtAoFC off the shelf.

Potage Parmentier is the French name for a simple potato leek soup that can be served hot or cold. Julia calls it "simplicity itself," and I have to agree.

Simplicity Itself (potato leek soup)
2 quarts of water
4 cups diced, peeled russet potatoes
4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1-2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
4-5 Tbsp unsalted butter

Place water, potatoes, leeks and one Tbsp of salt in a 3-4 quart saucepan. Simmer on medium low, partially covered for 30-40 miniutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender (or puree in a blender in batches). Add the butter and continue to puree until smooth. Add the lemon juice and more salt to taste.

Serve with fresh chopped chives, topped with sour cream or croutons.

I would like to dedicate this entry to Julie Forward Demay - dedicated mother, devoted wife and fierce warrior against a disease that claims the lives of too many, too soon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Feasting Friday: Affogato

Affogato is an simple Italian dessert of ice cream topped with a shot of espresso. Affogato actually means "drowned" and as you can see below, the ice cream is drowning in a pool of espresso.

I have been resisting the urge to eat ice cream morning, noon and night all week. It's been hot here in Seattle. Really hot. Hotter than the hinges of hell, as my mother-in-law would say. With temps topping 100 degrees, I've kept myself cool with nonfat fruit and juice bars. But it's Feasting Friday people. FF requires fat.

Tully's Coffee is located near my office and they sell some pretty tasty soft-serve. It is a little on the sweet side, but works perfectly in an Affogato. You can take a small spoonful and dip it as much or as little into the espresso as you like to add the bitterness of the coffee to the sweetness of the ice cream. It takes some practice, but that is part of the fun.







Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stairsteps to Heaven

The sign of beer perfection: Check out the foam steps down the side of the glass!? This is the amber ale from Two Beers Brewery in Seattle. It's pretty much perfection in a glass on a 90-degree Sunday afternoon...







Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cocktail Formula

One of my favorite writers is Paul Clarke. He writes about cocktails for The New York Times, Imbibe magazine and many of the other food and booze publications I read regularly. He also blogs at www.cocktailchronicles.com. Awhile back, I read a blog post he wrote on Serious Eats about a simple cocktail formula that kind of blew my mind:

“Sour-style, liqueur-sweetened cocktails such as margaritas and sidecars usually fall into a 2:1:1 or 3:2:1 ratio of spirits:liqueur:citrus, depending on how sweet or tart you prefer the result. Remember the particular formula that’s to your liking and you can start swapping all kinds of things through to make different drinks: rum instead of brandy, apricot liqueur instead of Cointreau; while a little wiggle with the proportions may be required with some substitutions, as long as you follow the basic formula you can be assured that you’ll wind up with something balanced.

In an issue of Esquire, drinks correspondent David Wondrich offers another handy formula for creating cocktails on the fly—one that calls for two ounces of spirits, one ounce of a fortified wine, a teaspoon of liqueur and a dash or two of bitters. Ancestral relatives of the Manhattan and the martini often follow this formula, with excellent results, and best of all, it’s amazingly versatile.”

Brilliant! I have a couple of good cocktail books that cover the basics, including The Essential Bartender’s Guide by Robert Hess, but as I learn more about mixing cocktails this cocktail formula is going to come in very, very handy.

The difference between men and women

Last year we took an Italian cooking class from the chef at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. The chef’s famous lasagna was part of the curriculum and we were excited to learn his secrets. We had been making our own lasagna for some time, homemade noodles and all, but knew we could do better. The class was fine, albeit it a little unorganized, and the chef was very knowledgeable and friendly.

Something he said though bugged me and has stuck with me over since that time. When he was separating eggs for the pasta dough, he said “you know the difference between men and women, is that women separate eggs like this (transferring the yolk between two cracked halves of the shell) and men separate eggs like this (placing the yolk into his hand and letting the white drip down into the garbage can). This struck me as needlessly sexist. Maybe it wasn’t meant that way, but it still bugged the shit out of me.

Since then, every time I separate eggs I think about that. Recently, it dawned on me that women separate eggs that way because THEY SAVE THE EGG WHITES! Sure, many male cooks probably do too. And I can’t imagine that a restaurant would throw away valuable product. But I think many men just throw away the egg whites, whereas most women save them.

I am a big fan of eggs. I think they are brilliant whole, but the yolks and whites are also amazing when used separately. I make a lot of custards and egg-based sauces, so I often have saved egg whites in my fridge. Leftover egg whites are great if you can find a use for them. I understand you can freeze them too, but I haven’t tried that yet. If I have three egg whites, I save them for these Swedish cookies I often make. If I have one egg white, I generally mix it in with one or two whole eggs for scrambled eggs. If I have just two egg whites though, I got nothing.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of ice cream. The custard base calls for 5 egg yolks. So, I have had five egg whites to use up after: that’s t three for the cookies and two for…two for…grrr. What can I make with two eggs whites?!

I don’t know where I saw them recently (probably the food network), but I saw meringues and thought, “BINGO!” Meringues use egg whites and I have plenty of those. I did a quick search on the new Epicurious iPhone app and found a simple recipe. The only key really is to make sure you get the egg whites stiff enough.

Meringues

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°F. and butter and flour a large baking sheet, knocking off excess flour. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, beating, and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks. Drop heaping teaspoons (not measuring spoons) of meringue about 1 inch apart onto baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven 1 hour more. With a metal spatula transfer meringues to a rack to cool completely. Meringue kisses may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

I don’t have a decent pastry bag, so I used a ziptop plastic bag and cut a small corner off and used it as an improvised pastry bag. The meringues are tasty enough, even if they look like little white turds.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Feasting Friday: Teddy's Bigger Burgers

Our vacation to Eastern Washington was amazing. We went to Walla Walla for three nights, drove through the Palouse for a one-night stop in Spokane to visit some friends and then lounged around Lake Chelan for the last three nights. I have lots of good reports to share...from wine tasting, to Washington's second best bartender, touring the Dry Fly Distillery and our quest for the best drive-in burger. More on all of that later because today is Feasting Friday.

A big construction project is underway at our house. The roof has been torn off and it's fucking mayhem over here. Therefore...our meals for a few days will be eaten out, where there is no dust and no sawing or hammering taking place. Our first meal away from the chaos - I am happy to report - was perfect.

Teddy's Bigger Burgers is a chain from Hawaii that recently arrived on the shores of the Pacific Northwest. Before our vacation, I spent a lot of time on Chowhound researching restaurants. I found a thread titled Looking for the best burger in WA where I found lots of tips for the trip but ALSO saw mention of Teddy's, which is closer to home.

Teddy's has been voted best burger in Hawaii every year since 2004...according to their website at least. They opened their first mainland location in Woodinville, about 15 miles from our house. It isn't the most convenient option for burgers, but ended up being worth the drive.

They offer burgers in three sizes: Big (5 oz), Bigger (7 oz) and Biggest (9oz). All the burgers come with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and special sauce. More on the special sauce in a minute, but first can I just say that I LOVE a place that doesn't make onions optional?! I love onions on a burger (thankfully so does Gavin) and Teddy's slices theirs ultra-thin.

OK, so about that sauce. It is mayonnaise-based and a little bit sweet with just the tiniest bit of smoked flavor. I likened it to grilled pineapple, but that might have been because I had Hawaii on the brain. They slather on loads of it and it is a nice compliment to the "flame-broiled" beef.

Teddy's uses 100% ground chuck for their patties. They serve them medium and, as the menu states, that means they may be a little pink in the middle. It was cooked perfectly in my mind. A little drier than I expected out of ground chuck, but maybe they use leaner meat than I do. Or maybe some dimwit in the kitchen that day was pressing the heck out the patties with a spatula. Don't get me wrong...it was juicy, just not oozing juice. Eeew. That sounded kind of gross. Anyways...

The fries were in top form. Thick-cut potatoes, double fried and not over salted. Perfection. This was a relief given our most recent experiences with french fries in the north end.

All in all, Teddy's was tops. I have a running list of my favorite burgers in the greater Seattle area and Teddy's is definitely in the top 5. Maybe even the top 2. It's THAT good.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Feasting Friday: On Vacation

Feasting Friday is on vacation and headed East - where the weather is hot & dry, the wine is flowing and the taquerias are muy autentico. I'll report back in a week. Adios!



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thirsty Thursdays

Welcome to a new feature on this blog, Thirsty Thursdays. Every so often, on a Thursday, I'll share with you whatever tasty, refreshing beverage I am enjoying. It may be one of the many new cocktails I am experimenting with, a new smoothie or perhaps a new beer or wine discovery.

Today I was headed to the blood bank after work. Not the kind of blood bank that pays you for your plasma. This blood bank has volunteer donors contribute to the local blood supply for patients in need of transfusions, either due to illness or injury. I am proud to say that I've been donating for over 10 years now and just recently received my 5-gallon pin! You donate a pint at a time, so that is over 40 donations. Since I am O-NEG blood type (the universal donor type), they call me often. I try to donate regularly since it's a free and easy was to give back. Plus - free cookie!

So, I was early to my donation appointment this afternoon and realized that next to the blood bank was a beer market. But, this wasn't just any beer market. The sign boasted BIGGEST BEER SELECTION IN SEATTLE. Big Star Beer Market, let's see what you got.

In a word, impressive. Big Star just may have the BIGGEST BEER SELECTION IN SEATTLE. They had tons of imports - Germany, Belgium, Eastern Europe, Great Britain and more plus lots of beer from OR, WA and CA. They also sell different shapes of beer glasses and dozens of varieties of hard ciders. They had lots of 22-ounce bottles from local microbreweries, but I had my eye on the chilled beers. The summer weather has returned to Seattle and a cold, crisp beer sounded perfect for this evening.

When I traveled to the Philippines last year, the only beer we drank was San Miguel (it might actually be the only beer they sell). It is a crisp, light lager that is perfect for the hot, humid weather of SE Asia. It isn't nearly as hot nor as humid here right now, but San Miguel is a rare find and I just couldn't pass it up.

My blood donation went well. Iron levels good, blood pressure low and veins pumping freely. At the end of every donation, they tell you to drink lots of fluids for the next two to three days. I know from experience that you definitely get dehydrated after donating, so today will definitely be a Thirsty Thursday. The tech reminded me to drink lots of water. I asked, "What about beer?" and she firmly reminded me to drink water. But beer is mostly water, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Maraschino Cherries

In the winter of 2007, I saw a magazine cover that said “Homemade Maraschino Cherries.” I have been a Manhattan drinker for years and long ago eschewed those bright red abominations found on supermarket shelves. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED those cherries as a kid. Especially if they were served in a Shirley Temple or Mor-mor's lime jello molded salad.

I promptly bought that issue of Imbibe magazine and almost immediately signed up for a subscription. Based in Portland, OR, Imbibe magazine packs every bi-monthly issue with cocktail history, bar essentials, recipes, reviews on spirits, beer and the occasional non-alcoholic beverage.

The recipe for maraschino cherries is simple. Put fresh, clean, pitted cherries in a jar and top with maraschino liquor. What could be easier than that?! Well...first, I needed to find maraschino liquor.

Last winter passed and I still never found maraschino liquor. In fact, I had never even tasted it. I figured it tasted like cherries. In May of last year that changed on a trip to the Zig Zag Cafe. The bartender Murray schooled us about many things, including maraschino. First, we learned that it is pronounced mara-skeeno. We also learned that it provides many cocktails - particularly those bourbon or gin-based cocktails I love so much - with a sweet, nutty flavor that can't be beat.

Finally, in the fall of last year I found a bottle of maraschino...in Manhattan. I ended up buying it, toting it home and giving it a good home in my liquor cabinet. It only recently got some action when it made its way into an Aviation, but more on that later.

Local cherries (well, WA state at least) are in season, so I dusted off that old recipe and got to work. Pitting cherries is a hell of a job, made only mildly easier by a cherry pitter. As the recipe says...all you have to do is pit the clean cherries and put them in a jar and top with maraschino liquor.

And wait.

Place the jars in the fridge for a week or two, turning them daily to evenly distribute to liquor. They'll keep fresh for about a month. Although with that much alcohol, I suspect I they'll last a lot longer.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Feasting Friday: On the Water

For someone that lives in a city surrounded by water, it is shocking how little I actually get out on the water. That all changed this week when we went out on our friend's Zodiac.

The picture above isn't exactly what you imagined when I said "Zodiac," was it? The thing is, Robin and Jason really know how to entertain. If you set up a table with a table cloth, load it with bottles of wine and tasty food...then, a Zodiac can actually be quite civilized.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Berry of the Month - June

Fresh-picked, red, ripe strawberries are one of my fondest memories of summers. They are also probably one of my most vivid childhood memories.

I think I've mentioned before that I come from a long line of berrry pickers. It's a Scandinavian thing. My parents would take us up to the Snohomish River Valley in June to pick strawberries, for my mom to make jam. My brother was eight years older than me, so he was probably more helpful. I would basically sit in the field and stuff my face full of berries. My parents have always joked that the farmers wanted to weigh me when we arrived and weigh me when I left. I ate that many berries.

We've had the driest and warmest June in Seattle that I can remember. The conditions have been perfect for strawberries.

Last weekend, my dad and I went for a drive up to Arlington to visit a strawberry farm. My mom still makes jam, and I sometimes do too. This year though, I've had my sights set on strawberry ice cream, strawberry fruit leather and fresh strawberries on poundcake. I needed a lot of berries.

Strawberries are tough little buggers to pick. I wasn't about to plop myself down in the field, like I did as a child, so we just bought two flats of berries.

Nothing really compares to just-picked strawberries on a sunny, summer afternoon. The heady smell, deep red flesh and incredible juiciness are such a treat. In the long, dark days of winter I am often tempted by the strawberries at the supermarket that have been trucked in from thousands of miles away. They are like the empty shell of themselves though - tough flesh that is still white around the core. Bland flavor. I always regret the purchase.

The last couple of days have been a blur of strawberry-stained cooking. Ice cream - check. Fruit leather - check. Poundcake with berries and cream - check. I probably should have weighed myself going. I've eaten THAT many berries.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Oven Baked Bacon

It's no secret that I love bacon. The smell of bacon in the morning is almost as good as fresh-brewed coffee. In my mind, weekend mornings are for frying bacon.

The thing is, I have decided that frying bacon on the stove top is a colossal pain. Especially since I've discovered how easy - and delicious - oven baked bacon is.

I've seen recipes for baking bacon that recommend placing the bacon on a wire rack, so the grease cooks off. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD. The fat is where the flavor is people. You want bacon to cook in its own fat. Bacon fat is to bacon what the egg yolk is the the egg white. Sure, the fat can be used separately to flavor vegetables just like egg yolks are key for custards. But - you would never eat a fried egg white, would you? Of course not. And, you should never eat bacon without its delicious fat.

Oven baked bacon is super easy and much easier than pan frying if you are cooking more than 3 or 4 pieces. And really, don't you always want to cook more than 3 or 4 pieces?

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take a sheet pan and line it with foil. This will make for easy clean-up - once you have drained and reserved the fat. Space bacon slices and 1/2-inch or so apart. Once the oven is hot, put the pan of bacon in and set the timer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, your bacon will be well on its way to being done. I buy thick-sliced bacon, so after the first 10 minutes, I remove the pan, flip all the slices and then return the pan to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. You kind of need to keep an eye on it, because the timing varies depending on how many slices of bacon you are cooking and how thick they are.

Once they are cooked to your desired crispness, remove the slices and place them on a plate lined with paper-towels. Now, you can move on to the eggs...

Feasting Friday: Lunch at Salumi

I'll be honest - this week's Feasting Friday was in fact, on Thursday. The meal far surpassed anything I had on Friday though, so it is really the only meal worth sharing with you.

Salumi is an institution in Seattle. Started by a retired Boeing engineer over a decade ago, it has been making divine cured meats and gut-busting sandwiches ever since. Armandino Batali (Mario's dad), 'retired' a few years ago and the operation is now run by his daughter and son-in-law. Their cured meats can be found on menus from coast-to-coast and the line outside their Seattle storefront often winds its way around the block.

You have to plan a trip to Salumi carefully. They are only open from 11-4 Tuesday-Friday. It doesn't usually work as a lunch spot for me, but since I have been working on lower Queen Anne I sure have been trying. This most recent visit didn't start off well. I had planned to meet my friend Anbrit there on Wednesday, but realized I had a conflict so moved it to Thursday. I left the office at noon and was weaving my way through downtown before I realized there was a 1:40 pm Mariners game that day. There was loads of traffic and parking was sure to be abysmal. I finally made it to the Pioneer Square though and surprisingly, found a primo parking spot straight away. I sent Anbrit a text and went to join the line.

The line. It was LONG. And packed with tourists. Don't get me wrong, I like tourists. I actually find it kind of surprising and charming that people spend their vacation in Seattle. It just means that places that are usually crowded are really crowded during the tourist season.

The line ended up being OK. Once Anbrit joined me, we were able to pass the time very easily while catching up. I haven't seen her for months and she always has fun stories about her family, travels and school.

The menu is - as you can imagine - heavy on meat. There are some pastas, a vegetarian sandwich, Muffaletta, various cold sandwiches and some hot sandwiches. I still order the same thing I have ordered since my first visit a few years ago though - the porchetta sandwich.

Porchetta is a roast pork dish from Tuscany. It is the source of all things delicious. An entire pig (or at least a shoulder) is stuffed with onions, herbs, fennel and loads of salt and pepper, then roasted for hours until it is melt in your mouth tender. In Italy, small mobile food carts set up at markets and town squares and serve sandwiches of the juicy meat piled high on crusty bread and topped with more salt.

At Salumi, they amp up the flavor by spreading some herb/onion/mayonnaise spread on the bread first and then topping the porchetta with roasted onions and peppers. It is well worth the wait.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Feasting Friday: Dinner AT the Movies

We decided to go local again for Feasting Friday last week. A new cinema opened in our neighborhood called Cinebarre. They took over for an old Regal cinemas that closed a few months ago.

The movie theater/restaurant has been catching on in the Seattle area in the last 10 years or so. I support the concept overall, but will admit that I am most excited at being able to order a beer or glass of wine at the movie above all else. The food is kind of secondary.

In the case of Cinebarre, the food is definitely secondary. They lean towards finger foods, so you don't need cutlery. Unfortunately, they lean towards mediocrity as well. On the plus side, the service and the fries were great. On the minus side, the burger was bone dry and they were kind of skimpy on the those delicious fries. I didn't have high expectations, but come on. A burger - it's not rocket science. If they applied the rules for theater popcorn to the burger (add salt, loads of butter and then more salt), things probably would have worked out fine.

Again, I was just as excited to order a glass of wine at the theater as I was to eat. Also on the plus side for Cinebarre is that they are 21 and older. That's right - no kids, no teenagers. It's not that I go to a lot of movies where there are kids, but still, it is nice to have an adult crowd. It's like the bar section of a restaurant - must be 21 and over to enter.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Feasting Friday: Diamond Knot Brewery

Sizzling hot stone + raw steak + great beer = the perfect Feasting Friday.

I had a night out with the girls on Friday - as we made out way up to Whidbey Island for Maria's 40th Birthday Extravaganza. Conveniently located at the Mukilteo ferry terminal is Diamond Knot Brewery, which I've been dying to try for forever.

Diamond Knot has something called 'Stone Grills.' They are basically a sizzling hot stone with a slab of raw meat or fish on top. You choose the meat and then cook it how you like it. The only other place I've tried this was at a restaurant in Copenhagen that I took my tour groups to for the last 10 years or so.

The deal with these stones is, they are granite (food grade) and heated to 750 degrees. The hot stone is set into a porcelain platter and your raw food is placed on top. They had various seafood options and cuts of steak, but once I saw a rib eye on the menu I knew what I would be ordering.
There is a little technique involved. First, you need to season the meat. They have not applied any salt nor pepper. Then, if you like your meat rare just keep the steak whole. The more well-done you like it, the smaller you cut the pieces. The stone stays hot for a good 20-30 minutes. The serving platter they use for the hot stone is rather ingenious. We moved the veggies to the side while the steak cooked. Then, once the steak was cooked we moved it to the side and put the veggies on the hot stone and enjoyed the perfectly cooked steak.

As much as I love a rib eye, I think the steak cooked too quickly to fully inject the meat with all that flavorful fat. It was delicious, but I think next time - and there will be a next time - I will order one of the other cuts.

The pub has a great vibe. There are lots of people coming and going, since many are commuting on the ferry. They serve bowls of peanuts, you just throw the shells on the floor. There is a handy flavor chart for their beers on the chalkboard - dark to light on one side and malty to hoppy on the other.Diamond Knot makes a great IPA - called their 'Industrial' IPA. It packs a punch though at 8.6% alcohol. I definitely had an industrial headache in the morning.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aperol Spritz

ZOMG! I found Aperol. Aperol - the Italian bitter-orange based apertif. It is kind of like Campari, but less bitter. Don't get me wrong, I like bitters. Campari has never really appealed to me, but the first time I had Aperol I was hooked.

Last night I was out with my friend - and fellow 'retired' tour guide - Karoline. We met for happy hour and started talking about cocktails, imported spirits, etc. She mentioned Aperol and reminded me about how delicious it is.

That was just last night. Just 24 hours ago. TONIGHT...on my way home, I stopped by the liquor store for some vodka since I was making pie crust (more on that later). I stopped at the store in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle and they had a great selection of imported liquors. I thought most of this stuff was only available by special order (case minimum), but I guess with the cocktail craze sweeping the city (and country) there is enough demand for it.

I first tried Aperol during a trip to Venice about six years ago. I had been to Venice plenty of times, but was spending a week there, on board a seven-day tour my friend Dave was leading. Dave is/was a splendid tour guide and mentor to me, but also a WSU grad and therefore quite a partier. We spent pretty much every night 'researching' ciccheti bars around the island. Ciccheti are bite-sized appetizers served at little bars all over Venice and that region of NE Italy. The bars serve all kinds of cocktails and wines, but the Aperol Spritz is a specialty of the area.

Aperol Spritz
1 1/2 ounces Aperol
2 ounces Prosecco or other sparkling wine
Splash of soda water

Pour the Aperol and Prosecco into a high-ball glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of soda water.

My favorite part is the odd, yet appealing garnish. A skewer with an orange wedge and a green olive. Most recipes I have been seeing online say to garnish with a lemon peel or an orange wedge, but no one mentions the olive. Don't underestimate the power of a green olive.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Proof a Poached Egg Improves Everything

I have a love/hate relationship with asparagus. I love it when someone else cooks it, but hate it whenever I cook it. A few weeks ago though, I heard about an asparagus preparation that just might prove successful if I tried it at home.

We had hot, summer-like weather in Seattle for the last week - a rarity for this time of year. We spent every evening out on our deck, only going inside for fresh reading material of more ice. I picked up our bi-weekly produce basket one day which included some fresh, local asparagus. It being so hot, I wasn't in the mood for a heavy meal so a light vegetable dish sounded perfect. I had all the other ingredients on hand to try out a new recipe.

Grilled Asparagus with Tarragon Vinaigrette and Poached Egg
1 serving

4-8 spears of asparagus, peeled
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper
1 egg

Start by breaking off the woody ends of the asparagus. I also peel the stalks lightly, since they always get stringy if I don't. What I mean by lightly is that I don't peel absolutely everything. I peel it 'lightly,' I can't really think of another way to describe that.

Make the vinaigrette: whisk together the lemon juice, tarragon, shallot and oil. Salt & pepper to taste.

Steam the asparagus spears for 2-3 minutes until they have softened. Then, put them into a soaking tub filled with the vinaigrette while you fire up the grill (at least 10 minutes; no more than one hour) and get the water boiling for the egg.

If you don't have a grill, I think you can just saute the spears at this point. There is a little tricky timing to make sure the asparagus is still hot when the poached egg is ready. I grilled the asparagus for about 5 minutes, just enough time to poach the egg.

To poach the egg:
Fill a saucepan with 3-4 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil. Crack in egg into a small cup. Remove the pan from the heat and gently pour the egg into the water. Cover and walk away. For 4 1/2 minutes. Gently lift the egg out of the pan with a slotted spoon. I poke and prod the egg at this point to make sure the white is fully cooked. I have had pretty good success with this timing though.

To serve:
Remove the asparagus from the grill and place on a serving plate. Spoon over a tablespoon or so of the vinaigrette. Place the poached egg on top and season generously with salt and pepper.

The beauty of this dish is that when you break into the egg yolk, it mixes with the vinaigrette to make a nice sauce. This may soon become my favorite way to prepare vegetables, as I think you could substitute anything for the asparagus...or even make a salad with a similar vinaigrette. A poached egg improves everything.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Feasting Fridays: Grinders

Given the less than stellar dining experience we had last week, we decided to try out another local restaurant this week.


Grinders Hot Sands set up shop in Shoreline a few years ago. I became a fan a couple years back, when I worked nearby, but it has taken me this long to talk Gavin into joining me. We weren't in the mood to cook, so we decided to get some take-out.

I have to admit that it is nice to let someone else do the cooking on Feasting Fridays. Unless I am on top of my game in terms of inspiration, ingredients and energy, by the end of the workday and week, I am beat.

Since today was National Doughnut Day, I didn't eat lunch because I had gorged myself on mini-donuts from the Pike Place Market this morning. By about 7pm tonight though, I was ready for dinner and Grinders is just a few miles away.

I am not an aficionado on 'grinders' as in the East coast variety, but I have it on good authority that the sandwiches at Grinders are the real thing. The owner looks like a total NJ wiseguy - thick neck and all. The sandwiches are big enough to feed two or more and are so loaded with meat and sauce that you pretty much need an entire roll of paper towels on hand when you tuck into one.

My favorite - so far - is "The Dipper." It is a gigantic ciabatta roll slathered with a horseradish/mayo mixture and melted Swiss cheese. They stuff it with obscene amounts of sliced roast beef, roasted red peppers, sliced portobellos and onions that have been swimming in a red wine bath for some time. Add some chopped fresh basil and dinner is served.




The grinder - at Grinders - is really a thing of beauty. We ordered out sandwiches at the height of their dinner rush and everything was on point. One thing that caught my attention was the bright green basil. They had obviously chopped it just for my sandwich because it hadn't even started browning on the edges by the time I got home. I love that.

I made it through half The Dipper (and half the roll of paper towels), before I had to walk away. Finishing the sandwich would no doubt be delicious, but given last night's pulled pork sandwich, I felt satisfied pretty quickly. It was a great meal though and a good reminder that we have some great dining options in pretty close vicinity to 'The Shire.'


National Doughnut Day

There was really only one place to go...



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Some Pig

I went to my first Seattle Food Bloggers' event tonight. Keren Brown of Frantic Foodie started the group and hosts monthly networking/eating/drinking events. Tonight's event began at Beecher's Cheese and continued - progressive dinner style - to their new food truck on 2nd and Pike St.
The food truck craze is in full effect in Seattle. The folks behind Beechers (and Bennetts, Pasta & Co., etc) just opened the pig mobile for business and it appears they already have the recipe for success: prime location + porkalicious food + affordable & efficient = Maximus Minimus.


The menu is simple, just two items: pulled pork sandwich or vegetarian sandwich (a combo of barley and veggies). You can order your sandwich mild (minimus) or spicy (maximus). Clever, huh? There are sides of coleslaw or chips and cold drinks available as well.

The whole operation is pretty slick. The person taking your order has a handheld device to send your order into the kitchen. The truck is outfitted with taps for the drinks. Evidently the lines the first two days have been pretty long, but I think they are prepared for how popular they will inevitably be. In fact, they'll be very, very popular because this shit is deeeee-lish-ious!

The pork is a shoulder cut that has been seasoned and grilled. Then, after a good amount of char is achieved it is braised for several hours. The bun was soft and mild (not too sweet) and held up really well under the weight of all that juicy pork.

So, how do you find the truck? For now they plan on staying at 2nd and Pike. I am not entirely sure about the hours, but I think they are planning to hit the lunchtime crowd on weekdays. It is pretty easy to spot the truck, since it is shaped like a pig. Check out their website for more details.

I met some nice folks at the event. At my table were Sara from Hungry Grrl, Lacey from Loving Local Food, Mary from Mary Eats and Ann & Abe from Tastefully Overcaramelized. Pretty good company, I must say.

And after looking at their blogs, I know I need to get to work on redesigning and renaming my own blog. We all lamented how hard it is to name your blog. Particularly since most clever domain names are already taken or worse, lorded over by cyber squatters. My top choices have been Fork It, Bittles, Wine and Swine and Satisfy the Craving. All our taken...so the search continues.