Friday, April 30, 2010

A love letter to Palisade Restaurant

Dear Palisade,

You told me that you wanted to stand out from the crowd during Seattle Restaurant Week. You said that you didn't want to skimp on what you had to offer to me. You said that you wanted to put your best on the menu.

Your colossal prawn, sitting upon a blue cheese salad, was so smokey and seductive. Your lobster, presented two ways, was almost too rich for me. But, I allowed it for a special night. I expected a little dollop of a dessert, but the platter you brought me surpassed all obligations.

I had forgotton what a treasure you are, hidden amongst the cruise ship traffic. My belly was full and my heart was warm as I drove away last night. Even the trawler ships looked romantic in the soft light of dusk.

Awaiting our next encounter...


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Waffle Iron Panini

I tend to agree with food geek Alton Brown that one-use tools are a waste of money and kitchen space. Avocado slicer? Is that really necessary? I have made an exception for a waffle iron though, because hot waffles in the morning are just so sweet, and besides, isn’t it required that every bride include a waffle iron on her gift registry?

Then, the other day, my sister mentioned that she uses her waffle iron to make Panini sandwiches. Oh, that is just brilliant. My waffle iron has just been elevated to a multi-use tool, and now I can make hot Panini sandwiches at home! If only I had known about this when I was still pregnant and craving grilled salami sandwiches.

Step 1: Turn on the waffle iron to heat to the lowest setting.

Step 2: Lightly butter two slices of bread.

Step 3: Turn the bread over and apply your spreads of choice.
(mayo, butter, mustard, pesto, tapenade, etc)

Step 4: Stack your fillings, close your sandwich with the two butter sides facing out.
(don’t be too generous or the fillings will just press out of the sides when you grill)

Step 5: Place your sandwich in the waffle iron and press lightly closed.

Step 6: After 3 to 5 minutes, when the bread is a dark golden color on the grill marks, flip the sandwich around so that the side that was closest to the “joint” of the waffle iron is now on the outside. Close and grill again for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Adjust the heat if necessary. The cheese should be completely melted before the bread becomes too brown.

If you are looking for some inspiration for your next waffle-iron Panini, here are a few of my favorite combinations:

Roast turkey, Havarti & avocado

Black Forest Ham, Cheddar & Dijon mustard

Provolone, sliced tomato & basil pesto

Salami, Hot Capicola, Provolone, fresh spinach & sliced tomato

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lopez Island Cowgirl Cookies

I have developed a serious cookie addiction. I never had much of a sweet tooth. If you made me choose between, say, a bowl of potato chips or a bowl of chocolate chips, I would take the potato chips every time. But then I had a baby, and somewhere between the pregnancy and the nursing and the eating on the go, I have found myself eating cookies nearly every day.

I try not to make it too easy on myself. I never buy boxes of cookies at the grocery store. If I want a cookie, I have to walk over to the nearby cafe, or stop by a bakery on my way home, or mix up a batch at home. Even so, I eat cookies on more days than not.

Tonight, after cooking dinner, feeding the baby, and cleaning the kitchen, I headed back to the kitchen to make a batch of my new favorites: Cowgirl cookies, from Holly B's Bakery cookbook, With Love & Butter. Holly Bower lives on Lopez Island, where you can find her baking my favorite cookies at her bakery, from April through November. She is kind enough to include the recipe, as well as a few others, on her bakery's website
these are a bit over-baked, but no matter, they were good!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Zucchini in a Bottle

Today is a toasty day under my Gro-Therm. My tomatoes seem perfectly happy outside in April with the added protection. The soil temperature at noon was an amazing 78 degrees! I went ahead and took a big risk and transplanted one of my melon starts under the Gro-Therm as well. My philosophy is that it is better to risk wasting a few seeds, to be eating out of the garden weeks before your neighbors.

A few weeks ago I mentioned my method last year of starting zucchini early. The last frost date for the Seattle area is this week, and the weather report shows night temperatures in the 40's and day temperatures in the high 50's, so I am going for it. Here is my method:

  1. Cut the bottom off of a liter soda bottle.
  2. Put the cap on the bottle, turn it upside down, and fill it half way with good soil.
  3. Dig out a 2 inch hole in your garden bed.
  4. Plant the bottle in the 2 inch hole and mound up some soil around the bottle to keep it from blowing over.
  5. Take the cap off of the bottle and drop two seeds into the bottle.
  6. Pour a handful of soil through the mouth of the bottle to cover the seeds by an inch.
  7. Water through the mouth of the bottle.
  8. Replace the cap. Unscrew the cap to vent on very warm days if necessary. 
  9. Remove the bottle when the plant is big enough that it is outgrowing its home and temperatures are reliably warmer. To remove, gently shimmy the bottle off, leaving the roots and soil in place. Mound more soil around the plant and pat it into place.

Here is one of my bottle zucchini from last year. This was taken in mid June!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Best of Seattle (for Foodies) continued...

Tsue Chong (Rose Brand) Noodles
Located in Seattle's International District, Tsue Chong noodle company is easy to pass by. True to its nature as a factory, the front door (lined with metal bars) and sparse retail nook are not necessarily inviting. However, you are missing out if you never buy fresh rice noodles. When purchased on the day they are made, they are still soft and pliable. By the next day, they will be firm and rigid, although still perfectly good to eat. If you live in the north end, the Shoreline Central Market gets the noodles delivered on Tuesdays and Fridays (last time I checked).

I recommend buying a roll of their fresh wide rice noodles and preparing them the way I learned from family friend Edith Cheng: Cut the noodle rolls into 1 inch segments. Toss with soy sauce (2 tablespoons), sesame oil (2 tablespoons), and Chinese garlic chili sauce (1 tablespoon). Cover, and microwave for 3 minutes. If you have any leftover cooked vegetables or meats, you can toss them in too! Tsue Chong also sells fresh fortune cookies, and well as won ton wrappers and egg noodles.
800 S Weller Street.

Kuhn Rikon Can Opener
Although not particular to Seattle, this Williams-Sonoma exclusive gadget is one my favorite things. It is a manual can opener that opens your tin cans without leaving any sharp edges. Just brilliant. I have given these as gifts to quite a few people!

Slingling baby slings are made in Seattle. They are one of many ways to "wear" your baby. I used my sling until my son could barely squeeze into it anymore. If he was fussy and over-tired, all I had to do was slip him into his sling and he would be asleep in under a minute. You may have heard about the safety issues of using a specific brand of sling, especially with premature infants, in the news recently. Follow this link to read about safety and slings from a local doctor and mom.

Maximilien Restaurant
Second to the Space Needle, this may be the best view in the city. Quiet, hidden, Maximilien's offers good food (we like their mussels), great atmosphere, an entrance that takes you through Pike Place Market, and a beautiful view of the water. They are participating in Seattle's Restaurant Week this month.

If you are browsing around Pike Place Market, maybe thinking of having lunch at Maximiliens, why not stop by the Crumpet Shop, on First Avenue, and enjoy a warm, toasted crumpet topped with basil pesto and a slice of tomato? Bring some home with you too, they store very well in the freezer (put them frozen in the toaster).

Farmers Markets
The Seattle area is blessed with so many wonderful farmers markets. It seems that every neighborhood has their own now. Still, the best ones, in my opinion, are the year-round University District market on Saturdays and the Ballard market on Sundays. Not only do they have so many farms to shop from, they both have a great selection of animal products. I recommend any cheese from Estrella Family Creamery and Port Madison's "Blue Moon" cheese.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Best of Seattle (for foodies)

Oprah has her "O List," but I have been compiling my own list of favorite things. I have been meaning to move my list from my head to paper (or computer screen), so that I can share them with you. Since food is one of my favorite things, most of the items on my "L List" are food related, but a few other things found their way in there.

Uli's Famous Sausage
Originally, this master German sausage maker was making these sausages in the Pike Place Market. Now, I have been told, the sausages are made 10 blocks away, and the spot in the Market is now their retail window, with some room carved out to eat on site. They have dozens of flavors for sale, made of pork, chicken, or lamb. My favorite is the garlic chicken, but really, everything I have brought home has been good. Their prices are very reasonable and the Chinook Book coupon booklet has a buy-3-pounds-get-1-free coupon.

Jenson's old-fashioned Smokehouse
Nothing says "Northwest" like smoked salmon. Jenson's is where I go for thick, moist, middle sections of smoked Red King salmon. Their Keta tails are a good choice for bargain hunters, but if you can afford it, spring for the King. When I was pregnant, I avoided deli meats, smoked seafood, and soft cheeses, just I was told to do. While I missed a good turkey sandwhich, or a bite of delicous stinky cheese, I really missed smoked salmon. I mean, really-really missed it. I dreamed about smoked salmon. I talked about it so much, that my husband bought a heafty slab of smoked King, and kept it in the fridge to come with us to the hospital on delivery day. Not that smoked salmon needs any help marketing itself, but it is packed with healthy Omega fatty-acids, great for your brain!

Cafe Ladro 
Cafe Ladro makes, hands-down, the very best latte in the Seattle area. So good, in fact, that they have made a coffee drinker out of me. Their baristas have a way of making the milk and the espresso come together so smoothly, so that there is no seperation anymore between the creamy milk and the sharp edge of coffee. I asked their baristas how they do this so much better than anyone else, and they told me that they get lots and lots of training. It shows. Whenever I buy a latte anywhere else, I regret it.

Cloud City Coffee
My friend, Sharon, introduced me to Cloud City's coconut bread. Its worth cheating on Cafe Ladro for  this bread. They won't share their recipe with me. Hmph.

Le Petite Shop
No food can be found here, but it is the very best children's consignment store in Seattle. This place is the antidote to the clustered shelves full of not-so-gently used, out of date, children's clothes found at thirft stores. No sorting through piles of crap to get to the good stuff. Everything here is "nearly new" and the prices are pretty good too. They don't have a webiste (!), but you can find them in person, just east of University Village in North Seattle. (206) 525-0619

More of my "L List" to come soon!
...stay tuned!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Orzo Primavera

Not until my husband and I added a baby to our family, did I realize how much multi-generational households make sense. Although it is just the three of us who live in our house, my parents live close by ("exactly thirteen minutes away" my mom will tell you), and I recently had the opportunity to host my mother and father in law for a month. Not only does my son bring immeasurable joy to my parents, but not a day goes by that my husband and I don't express our gratitude to helpful family members.

In a culture of mother-in-law jokes, and families that don't wish to live in the same state as each other, I want to take a stand for family! Today, here, now, I am going to redefine "traditional family values" to mean valuing the tradition of families relying on each other, respecting each other, and living close enough to know the particulars of each others' tastes and the joys and sorrows of each others' hearts.

Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing.

- Jim Rohn, Washington born entrepeneur and author

This last week I caught my third cold in so many months. My mom came over and helped me with the baby so that I could rest. I hadn't taken a nap in over a month and was suprised when I lay down to read a book and woke an hour and a half later.

Today I had the opportunity to return the favor. After a long walk around the neighborhood, I convinced my mom to soak in my big tub and read a book. She is a woman with a lot of energy and an aversion to inactivity, so it did take convincing. While she rested, I made us an early dinner.

An Early Spring Dinner
Orzo Primavera

1/2 pound Orzo pasta
1 bunch asparagus
1 red beet
1 handful of beet greens, parsley, spinach, or kale
1 cup kalamata olives
1 tablespoon reserved brine from the olives
4 ounces feta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Cut each asparagus spear in to three or four pieces. If the spears are very thick, cut at a diagonal. Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for two minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.

Cut the beet into a small dice. Blanch in boiling water for four minutes, then rinse in cold water.

Chop the greens.

Cook the orzo according to the package directions, drain, rinse with cold water.

Stir together the reserved brine, the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Toss with the orzo. Combine the remaining ingredients, except the feta. Add to the orzo and toss to combine. Divide into individual bowls. Crumble the feta cheese and sprinkle over the salad. Serves 3 or 4.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gourmet Tuna Noodle Casserole

There is nothing like comfort food from our childhood, especially on a rainy day like today. Sometimes, though, what we remember tasting wonderful to our youthful palette, is downright unappetizing to our more mature tastes. That is when it is time to elevate those old recipes. One of my favorites is Tuna Noodle Casserole. This is the only casserole I remember eating as a kid, unless you count Beef Stroganoff as a casserole.

Here is my new and improved recipe, using Amy's brand of canned soup and canned albacore tuna steaks. Normally I use frozen peas, but when I found frozen edamame in my freezer yesterday, I used them instead and was happy with the result.

Gourmet Tuna Noodle Casserole
Serves 3-4

1 pound dry pasta
      (either wide egg noodle or a short variety like penne)
2 cans of "Amy's" Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 cans of "Trader Joe's" Albacore Tuna
1 cup frozen peas or shelled soy beans
1/2 cup of milk
1 cup grated Sharp Cheddar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
a dash of salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Cook the pasta al dente, in plenty of salted water. Drain.

Stir together all of the remaining ingredients, except the cheese. Fold in the drained pasta. Pour into a medium sized baking dish. Top with the grated cheese.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Uncover and cook about 20 minutes more, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Urban Farming and Planting Strip Gardens!

Welcome April! The month that brings us Earth Day, lots of rain, slightly warmer temperatures, and the blessed "Last Frost Day" of the year if you live in the Puget Sound area.

Do you know what great Earth Day events are scheduled in your community? Browse this EnviroLink website to look for something near you, or follow their advice to organize an event yourself. One of their (mostly free) suggestions is to re-cycle tree seedlings:

"Encourage people to dig up unwanted tree seedlings which sprout in their gardens and lawns and bring them to a common site such as a Farmer's Market. Give away the collected trees on a designated Saturday. The best time to do this is in the fall (around Thanksgiving) or very early spring. You may find a corporate sponsor willing to pay for the printing of an educational leaflet which would inform your community about common indigenous trees and their care and planting. This is a very popular program and costs practically nothing to implement. You will be surprised by the community response. People like the idea of saving those unwanted seedlings. If you don't give them all away, donate them to Habitat for Humanity if there is a program in your area."

Yesterday, on a neighborhood walk with my sister in Olympia, we had a similar idea. She spotted a little flowering tree, which had sprouted between the slats of a discarded wood crate, and was now growing in a patch of trash and ivy. "You should come dig that up and put it in your yard!" My mom suggested. "Yea," I agreed, "and grab that roll of chicken wire while you are at it."

In celebration of Earth Day, I suggest you investigate what your town is doing to make a positive environmental impact and see if there are ways that you can be involved. I looked at a few cities around this area and was pleased to see some great ideas and - even better - action items! Here is an example from the city of Edmonds to "Increase local food production" :

  • Encourage home and community gardens.
  • Involve community in identifying City parks and other property,both City-owned and private, as potential sites for neighborhood public “P-Patches.”
  • Encourage gardens on the verges of public spaces and streets where gardens will not impinge on pedestrian or cyclist safety and right-of-way.
  • Continue to promote local farmers’ markets and co-ops.

I checked with the Mayor's assistant herself, and have been told that the city of Edmonds allows residents to turn their parking strips into mini gardens. "Parking Strips" are the long patches of grass that are often installed between the street curb and the sidewalk. So, it you live in Edmonds, have at it! Why don't you use Seattle's guidelines if your city doesn't provide them? If you would rather garden elsewhere, and happen to live in Edmonds, there is a group of gardeners starting a new community garden for this year, and they still have small plots available for rent.

Seattle, in its infinite hipness, has its own blog, with an entry about what you can do with your parking strip. The city's policy is to encourage residents to have their way with these often overlooked strips. Their blog includes a link to the rules for altering the parking strip in front of your home (think sight lines for your neighbor as he backs out of his garage). You will not need a permit (free from the city) unless you plan on installing a feature such as a raised bed, or you are going to plant a tree.

My sister and sister-in-law just turned a portion of their concrete driveway into a garden by building raised beds. Their driveway is wider than necessary get the cars into the garage, and it is the sunniest spot on the property. Using recycled materials, they erected two raised beds, totalling 40 square feet of food-growing space. Good job girls! Check out photos of their project on the blog Real Food.

If reading this blog is making your green thumb itch, but you don't have garden space in your backyard, or even a parking strip to call your own, and there is no community garden close by with an open space for you, I have one last suggestion. The brilliant idea of Urban Garden Share is here to rescue you. One of your neighbors, right now, is gazing out of their window while scrubbing the dishes, and wishing they knew someone who could turn that patch of dry grass in their front yard into a vegetable patch. That hero could be you. They provide the land, you provide the expertise, the details are between the two of you to work out.