Archive for the ‘spring’ Category

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

What I Did this Spring

Sometime back in February, I fell off the blogging grid. Where was I? What was I doing? Well, here’s a recap (with lots of photos):

I threw an epic Momofuku Dinner party with Bo Ssam, Sous Vide Hangar Steak Ssam, home-made Kimchi, Rice, Roasted Cauliflower and a whole mess of sauces. All from the Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang. Wow! Oh, and I created some specialty cocktails too, the Cucumber Bliss (cucumber infused vodka, ginger liqueur, lychee juice and meyer lemon bitters) and the Ginger Collins (ginger vodka, lime juice, orange bitters and club soda).

Since it just happened to be one of my good friend’s birthdays, I topped dinner off with the Apple Pie Layer Cake from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tossi. One of my guests declared it the best cake he had ever eaten. I’m not sure he was wrong.

Just a couple of weeks later I upheld my tradition of cooking dinner as my gift for another set of my friend’s birthdays (they’re a couple and their birthdays are on two consecutive days). I made giant ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and an egg yolk, plain cheese ravioli for the kid’s, Caesar salad (my friend loves my version) and home-made foccacia bread.

I finished that dinner off with another cake from Milk, the Confetti Cake. Not quite as good as the Apple Pie Layer Cake, but still tasty (and fun, especially for their kids).

Next up in my trio of birthdays was my own. I wasn’t planning a celebration this year but my husband insisted. We hosted a small group of friends for a crab boil, Dungeness Crab, Spot Prawns, Mussels, corn, potatoes and some Andouille Sausage that I made, stuffed and smoked myself. I also made all the crab dipping sauces found in Becky Selengut’s cookbook Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast. While the avocado herb sauce and lemon panko sauces were both good, the soy caramel made me want to pick up the bowl and lick it out when the meal was done. I’m not even joking a little here. And of course there were custom drinks including the Arecibo Sidecar with pear-infused brandy, triple sec, home-made limon-limettachello and meyer lemon bitters in a sugar-rimmed martini glass (and in case you’re wondering, Arecibo is the name of our house).

One more birthday, one more excuse to cook from Milk. For my own birthday I decided to make the carrot layer cake. I really wanted to make the pistachio layer cake (because I love, LOVE pistachios) but just a couple of the ingredients totaled $80 and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that. Happily, the carrot cake was really good (even though it didn’t set up very well because I undercooked the liquid cheesecake). Moist and not overly sweet.

Once we finished dessert I found out why my husband was so insistent that we have a party. He had been working for weeks (maybe months) on an edition of Trivial Pursuit personalized just for me (as in, all of the questions pertained to trivia about me). One of the sweetest things he’s ever done.

He also bought me a PlayStation with lots of video games. I lost a lot of March to Skyrim. Some people say video games are a waste of time but as my husband is fond of quoting “Time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted” -John Lennon

I managed to pull myself away from video games long enough to cater a couple of big parties.

We dog sat (that’s our dog Rupert on the left and the one we were dog-sitting, Penny, on the right).

I made some slap-yo-mama good Balsamic-Mint-Strawberry Jam

Somewhere around here I started feeling under the weather. Which for me means one thing, my (not so) secret shame, cup noodles. Something about them is magical when I don’t feel good.

While still not feeling 100% I co-hosted a baby shower. Since I was sick I had a lot of time on my hands to make some custom decorations. As for the food, we made pesto chicken salad, Mediterranean tuna salad, pasta salad with preserved zucchini and tomato confit, greens topped with strawberries, goat cheese and pecans, roasted asparagus with aioli and pinot noir syrup, confetti cookies (again from Milk) and cake balls and pops. I spent a lot of the party having coughing fits (and drinking shots of vodka to try to calm them, wheeee).

And since time marches on whether you feel good or not, we had this delivered, 27 cubic yards of dirt (for reference, there is a 16′ x 20′ tarp under there).

We dog sat again.

After three weeks I finally gave up and went to the doctor…

…twice. Thank the maker for modern medicine. Curse you asthma-riddled lungs.

Meanwhile my husband (and some friends and hired guns) were moving all of that dirt. I helped some by pulling weeds. A lot of weeds, actually. And I did some planting in the one area that now had all the dirt it needed.

Finally through the miracle of antibiotics (and the best cough syrup I’ve ever had) I started feeling better. We celebrated with a day away from the garden.

And some plant shopping.

Eventually, we got to the fun part of the gardening project, the planting. Made slightly less fun because it had to be done in the rain, but we’re troopers. And, lets face it, there are times in Seattle where if you wait for it to stop raining, you are never going to go outside.

We spent the night at a friend’s house and she made us Dutch Baby Pancake for breakfast.

We went to a BBQ where we ate brisket and drank bourbon.

We piled the dog into the car and drove to Boise to visit my mom and mom-in-law.

We spent the day at my mom’s cabin. What a view.

Back in Boise we ate some pretty great Basque food at Epi’s. Chorizo with pimentos, ham croquetas, Txerri Txuletax Pipperrakin (pork chops with pimentos) and gateau Basque for dessert.

We celebrated Rupert’s 6th Birthday with a ride back to Seattle.

I went to the BlogHer Food Conference in Seattle (meh), made some fun new friends and ate this (they called it potato salad). How about we all agree to stop “deconstructing” food, hmmm?

We went to a Dodgers vs. Mariners game and had a beer (or two) in memory of my Dad (the Dodger’s were his favorite). I’m pretty sure the grand slam hit by the Dodgers was just for him.

We dog sat. Again.

We finished the last of the gardening (except for the never-ending weeding) by planting a few vegetables in my new raised beds.

And last weekend, since we were rained out from camping, we took a drive to Mt. Vernon to retrieve our newest backyard decoration from our friends at Bistro San Martin who had wrangled him for us. We call him Chicken Boo (you’ll get the name if you ever watched the Animaniacs). I love him. Our dog is scared of him.

In between all this craziness, I still managed to work, teach classes, swim and even, occasionally, do house work.

I can’t wait to see what summer will bring…



Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Signs of Spring



Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Asparagus and Green Garlic Soup

Last night I had my first Triathlon training session in the pool. I knew that I was going to need to eat before I swam, but I wanted something light and quick to make. Soup and salad fit the bill perfectly.

Earlier in the day I had been doing a bit of research about the green garlic in my box (because I had never used it before and I wasn’t sure what to expect). Most resources said you could use it just as you would use garlic, but to expect a milder flavor. I wanted to really highlight the flavor of the green garlic so I kept my soup very simple, just five ingredients (I’m not counting olive oil and salt and pepper).

Here they are:

2 shallots (mince about a tablespoon for the salad, chop the rest)
3 bulbs green garlic, divided
a large bunch asparagus, stems trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
about 2 cups chicken broth
a couple tablespoons of cream

I minced a half bulb of green garlic (about 2 teaspoons) then set it aside. Then I chopped the remaining green garlic (bulbs and the light green part of the stems) along with the shallots (you don’t have to take a lot of time chopping this nice because it’s all going to get pureed at the end anyway). I sat a large saucepan over medium heat and heated up a little olive oil. When it was warm I added my chopped shallots, green garlic and a good pinch of kosher salt.

I let this sweat (saute without browning) for a while until the shallot was translucent. I added my asparagus and enough broth to just cover. Then I let this simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the soup was cooking I started on my salad. Here’s the ingredients:

1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
a big pinch of sugar
salt and fresh ground pepper
a handful of salad greens
a few radishes, sliced thin
a few carrots, sliced thin on the bias
a couple of sunchokes, peeled and sliced thin (these aren’t in the picture because they were a last minute crisper drawer find)

In a bowl I whisked together the shallot, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, I drizzled in the olive oil to create an emulsion. At this point I tasted the dressing and decided to add the sugar. To the bowl I added my greens and sliced veggies and then tossed everything together.

At this point my soup had been simmering away and the asparagus was nice and tender. I added a splash of cream and then used my stick blender to puree the soup. A blender would have made this a much smoother puree, but I happen to like a little bit of texture in my blended soups, plus the stick blender is easier to use and clean.

I seasoned the soup with salt and pepper then topped the soup with a drizzle of olive oil and some of the minced fresh green garlic. I served the soup and salad with a piece of Parmesan-topped toast.

How was it? Well I am now a true believer in the power of green garlic. It is my mission to search this stuff out and use it every spring (the only time it is available). I make asparagus soup a lot (my clients love the stuff) and this just added a really nice flavor to the mix. The salad was also delightful (I’m really happy I found the sunchokes, they are so good in salad). The husband really liked everything too, which is a little surprising because he is not a fan of salads (unless they have lots of ranch dressing).

Dinner was so easy to make, we finished in plenty of time so that everything could settle before my swim (Mom always said to wait an hour after eating before getting in the water). So I guess I accomplished my mission of light and quick to make (with the nice addition of tastiness)

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Artichokes with Sriracha Aioli

I was really excited when I found that I would be getting artichokes in my CSA box this week. I love artichokes, but I hardly ever make them because it just seems like a pain (and let’s face it, it is). However, if I just happen to have them, you can bet I’m going to cook them.

The aioli was inspired by the Serious Eats weekend cook and tell. The theme of the weekend is sriracha sauce, inspired by an article in this Wednesday’s New York Times.

Here the ingredients for the artichokes:

Yep, just two artichokes

I prepared a steamer basket and a big bowl of acidulated water (as an effort to keep my artichokes from browning). Then I trimmed the points off of the artichokes, cut the artichokes in half, removed the choke and peeled the stem.

I worked quickly and put each half in the acidulated water bath before and after cutting.

I used a pan lid to hold the artichokes under water.

When all the halves were prepped I put them in the steamer for about a half an hour (letting them cook until I could pull a leaf out easily). Then I let them cool for a few minutes.

While the artichokes steamed I started work on my Aioli. I’ve made a fair amount of mayonnaise at home using an Alton Brown recipe (the party mayonnaise is delicious). This uses the same method.

Here the ingredients.

2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
a pinch of sugar
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sriracha Sauce
1 cup vegetable oil

I combined everything but the oil in the bowl of my food processor.

Then gave it a few pulses. Once it was combined I started adding the vegetable oil in a slow stream.

With the artichokes cooked it was time to try it out.

Hello, delicious much. So, so good. Really good with the artichokes. I think if I was going to make the mayonnaise again (and I plan too because it was so good) I would probably use more sriracha. However, against the mildness of the artichokes, this was just spicy enough. I have enough mayonnaise left for a tasty sandwich tomorrow. I am looking forward to that already!

Sandwich accomplished. Ham and cheddar with lettuce, tomato and sriracha aioli on sourdough. Delicious.

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Crab Cakes with Two Salads

It’s been a few days since I’ve been in the kitchen. The mother-in-law has been in town and keeping us busy. After a couple of nights of take-out, I was ready to cook.

Once again I took inspiration from the Serious Eats blog feature “Weekend Cook and Tell”. This week’s theme was “What’s in your Pantry”. Really, this is a pretty easy theme for me, because I cook from my pantry all the time. However, I have had two cans of crab lurking in my cabinet for some time. I bought them on a lark at Costco, but once I had them home, I was a little scared of them, unsure, just what would be in the cans.

Today was the day, and crab cakes was the dish. The method I use for my crab cakes is based on a Tom Douglas recipe for crab cakes from his Seattle Kitchen cookbook .

Here’s the ingredients:

10 slices sourdough bread (because that is what I had in my pantry, white bread would probably be better) with the crusts cut off
1 handful fresh parsley
2 cans crab meat (note it is crab, not krab, a good sign)
1 bell pepper, minced
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Sriracha to taste
(there is a lemon in the picture but I decided not to use it)

I started by putting the bread in the food processor and pulsing to make crumbs. Once I was done with the bread, I tossed in the parsley to mince. I combined the bread crumbs and parsley, measured out 1 cup of the mixture and put it in a bowl, them put half of the remaining crumbs in a pyrex dish.

Next I put the minced bell pepper, shallot and crab in a dish towel and squeezed it to remove all the excess moisture. I added this to the bread crumbs in the bowl and added the remaining ingredients stirring to combine and tasting for seasoning. I decided it needed a touch of salt and some black pepper. I divided the mixture into six equal portions.

Then formed the mixture into patties, laying them in the bread crumbs as I finished each one.

Once they were all done, I poured the remaining bread crumbs on top, covered the dish and then stashed it in the fridge until I was ready to cook (it needs to sit for at least one hour).

When I was ready to complete the meal I melted a bit of butter with some olive oil in a pan. I added three of the crab cakes (I didn’t want to crowd the pan so the cakes would brown well) and browned them on each side, then I put them on a cookie sheet while I browned the remaining cakes. I popped the pan into a preheated 400 degree oven and let them cook for 12 minutes.

Alongside I made two salads. The first featured red lettuce (that I grew myself, thank you very much), diced tomato, fresh parsley, chives and a lemon vinaigrette. The second had diced mango, chive blossoms, fresh basil and a bit of sea salt.

Now, I tried the crab when I opened the can and to be honest, I was not impressed. It had a weird texture and wasn’t super tasty. However, in crab cake form, it was quite good, maybe not fresh-picked crab good, but good. The husband and the mother-in-law both liked it too. The green salad was just meh. but the mango salad was delicious and really good with the slightly spicy crab cakes. If I was to see canned crab at the Costco again, I might just buy it again.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Grilled Pork Loin with Picadillo-Seasoned Mango Stuffing

The meal today was inspired by the Serious Eats blog. The have decided to start something called the Weekend Cook and Tell:

“Each Wednesday the food sections from newspapers all over country feature many great ideas and recipes. Here at Serious Eats we are kicking off a new feature called Weekend Cook and Tell. Every Wednesday we are going to share a particularly interesting article or recipe from a food section. We want you to use this as a jumping off point for a weekend cooking project, come up with an idea inspired by the featured article or recipe, cook it over the weekend and then tell us all about it and share photos of your dishes.”

For the first go-around they decided to feature an article from the New York Times about “off-cuts” of meat.

“These unfamiliar cuts are readily available, inexpensive, and underutilized but full of flavor and really delicious when prepared using the right techniques.”

I knew that I had a pork loin (not tenderloin) in the freezer so I started it thawing and considered what to do with it. Now, they recommended it as a cut for roasting, but with the weather warming up I thought grilling was in order. Indirect grilling provides basically the same kind of cooking as roasting, but with the additional deliciousness of charcoal and wood that you can’t get from the oven.

A Cook’s Illustrated recipe that I had used before came to mind. It featured pork loin stuffed with an apple-cranberry filling. However, apples and cranberries bring to mind feelings of fall and winter, and it is trying desperately to be spring here. I wanted to stick with a fruit filling but the best looking fruit right now is strawberries, and that just didn’t seem right. Then I thought about the great mangoes that have just come into season and decided that might be the way to go. I did a little searching online and found a recipe for picadillo that featured mango as one of the ingredients (and seemed like a great start for a flavor profile). After a little more searching and comparing a few different regional recipes, I came up with the following for my version.

Here’s the ingredients:

8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 onion, diced
1 mango, diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoon capers
2 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a couple of dashes cayenne
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
3 lb boneless pork loin

In a saucepan I combined all of the filling ingredients except for the almonds and brought the mixture to a boil.

I turned down the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

After the simmering I strained out all the solids.

Then returned the liquids to the pan so that I could make a glaze.

I let the liquid reduce by half.

Meanwhile, I let my stuffing mixture cool, then I stirred in the almonds.

I butterflied the pork loin.

Spread the stuffing over (to within about a 1/2″ of the edges).

Then rolled it back up and tied it.

Unfortunately, I seem to have been distracted at this point and I forgot to take a picture (doh).

I let this sit on the counter while I started my coals. I have a fancy charcoal grill that has not only baskets for indirect grilling, but also, propane ignition. So, I loaded the baskets and set them aflame.

While I waited for the coal to be ready for cooking I put some smoking chips in water to soak.

When the coals were ready, I drained the chips and tossed a handful on the coals. Finally I added my pork loin (which I had basted with oil and seasoned with salt and pepper) to the grill in between the baskets and closed the lid (this is what makes it oven like).

I expected the pork to take about an hour to cook, so after a half-hour I flipped the pork over. When the pork was 15 degrees from being done I started basting it with the glaze

While the USDA would like you to cook pork to 160 degrees, I like my pork to have a remnant of moistness (plus I like to live on the edge). So, I cooked it to 135 degrees and then let it rest, covered The carryover cooking brought it to 145 degrees.

One of the ingredients that seemed to be fairly unanimous for picadillo was green olives, but rather than add it to the filling, I decided to add it to my rice side dish. I cooked up some yellow rice with a little butter and then stirred in some sliced green olives.

I sliced a zucchini into planks, drizzled them with oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper and grilled them once I had removed the pork loin.

Once the loin had rested for 10 minutes I sliced it and plated it with some of the rice and zucchini.

How was it? Delicioso! The filling kept the pork super moist and had a nice mix of sweet and sour. I loved the olives in the rice (and I was glad that I opted to put them in the rice rather than the stuffing). This one is going on the permanent repertoire. I might try it again with peaches instead of mango later in the summer. I think that’ll be tasty too.

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Grilled Acorn Squash and Orange and Grilled Aspargus Salad

I have two grills, one gas and one charcoal, and I tend to be a year-round griller. In the winter the gas grill gets the most action. It’s faster to light and heat so there is not as much time spent in the cold. Charcoal is reserved for summer when sitting outside for an hour while the coals get hot, makes sense (although I have been known to light the charcoal in the winter for a special occasion, say Christmas dinner)

Today in the Seattle area, we had our first day above 60 degrees in a long time (it was snowing three days ago so this is a welcome change) and I had the need to get outside.

We made a special trip to get propane for the gas grill, but as I was sitting outside, thinking about what to make, the charcoal grill started calling my name.

I started up the grill and made a two-level fire (hot on one side, medium on the other).

I bought a flat-iron steak and rubbed it with the Steak Seasoning mix from Costco (hey, there is nothing wrong with taking a little help now and then) and then turned my eye towards side dishes. I decided to make acorn squash and an asparagus and orange salad.

Here’s the ingredients for the Orange and Grilled Asparagus Salad

1 tablespoon homemade pear and honey infused vinegar (sherry vinegar would be a good substitute)
1 teaspoon, brown sugar
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 orange, peeled and segmented
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped

In a bowl I whisked together the vinegar, brown sugar, shallot and oil. I cooked the asparagus on the hot side of the grill, tossing occasionally until it was cooked through.

I removed it from the grill cut it into smaller pieces and added it to the bowl. Once it cooled down, I added the orange segments and tarragon and tossed it to coat.

Here’s the ingredients for the Grilled Acorn Squash with Whiskey and Brown Sugar Glaze

1 acorn squash, cut into rings
3 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup whiskey
1/4 cup brown sugar
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper

In a small saucepan I combined the butter, whiskey, brown sugar, cayenne and salt and pepper. I brought it to a boil, then let it simmer for a few minutes, until it was thickened a bit.

I rubbed the acorn squash rings with oil and then seasoned them with salt and pepper. I put them on the cooler side of the grill to cook for 15 minutes, turning them over once.

Once they were fairly tender, I started brushing them with the glaze, about 5 minutes more of cooking and three or four coats of glaze.

I sliced the steak and served everything family style, along with some grilled bread.

The asparagus was a little overcooked (burned) but the salad was really good, as my mother (who is visiting) said “it’s an unexpected combination of flavors”.

The squash was really good, sweet and spicy. I served the leftover extra glaze alongside the squash so that a bit more could be added if desired. We ended up adding this to the spice-rubbed steak and it made it extra delicious.

I liked it, the husband liked it, and the mother kept saying “just a little more” to everything I made. Looks like the first serious grilling of the season was a success!

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Beef Stew with Olives and Onions

The first day of spring was a week ago. Yet when I look outside, despite the blossoms on my cherry tree, it looks like it’s still winter. Just a bit too rainy and dreary for my taste (and I usually really enjoy the rain).

I thought a nice stew might be just the ticket. There is just something I find quite soul-satisfying about a big bowl of stew.

I’ve got a few ingredients left over from my brisket testing (beef stock, red wine and sun-dried tomatoes). I took a look in my freezer, fridge and pantry and found a few ingredients to build the rest of my stew.

Here’s the ingredients

1 pound stew meat
1/2 cup flour seasoned with 1 Tbls minced fresh rosemary, salt and pepper
4 clove garlic, minced
2 cup red wine
2 cup beef stock
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tbls fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 bag frozen pearl onions, thawed
3/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
2 Tbls capers
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

I started by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. In a Ziploc bag I combined my flour with the seasonings, then added my stew meat, giving it a good shake to coat the meat completely.

I heated some olive oil in my fancy new dutch oven, then added the flour-coated stew beef. I cooked this, stirring occasionally until the beef was browned on all sides.

I added the minced garlic and let it saute for a few seconds before adding the rest of my ingredients (except for the parsley). I did not add any salt at this point because the stew contains a lot of really salty ingredients and I wasn’t sure how much the broth would reduce (you can always add salt, but you can’t take it away). I brought the liquid to a simmer, put the lid on the dutch oven and popped the pan into the oven to braise. After two hours I took the pan out of the oven.

Then I stirred in the fresh parsley and dished it up.

To accompany the stew I made a salad that features one of the quintessential spring ingredients, strawberries. Which is kind of ironic since my stew is a “why won’t spring get here meal”. I created this salad for a client last week and it looked very tasty. I wanted to add nuts to her salad but one of the family members has a nut allergy (but I don’t, so let’s get nuts).

Here’s the ingredients

2 Tbls pear-infused vinegar (I made this at Christmas time, sherry vinegar would be a good replacement)
2 Tbls olive oil
salt and pepper
sugar or honey to taste
mache lettuce
strawberries, quartered or sliced
3 Tbls pecans, toasted
2 ounce goat cheese

I whisked together the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Tasted it for seasoning and added a pinch of sugar. I added the mache and tossed it to coat. I put this on the plate and topped it with the strawberries, pecans and goat cheese.

Pretty, no?

Alongside, I toasted up some sourdough bread which had been seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

The stew didn’t thicken up quite as much as I expected it to. I should have added a bit of flour when I added the garlic to the pan. However, the flavors were really nice. The strawberry salad was wonderful. Really good. Plus, the strawberries in the salad helped to remind me that spring weather will get here … eventually.

About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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