Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Poached in fat, so you know it's good!

Deep fried generally means delicious in my book. You can cook almost anything in fat and it always satisfies. I know a lot of you are frightened by that statement but you don't have to be. Properly cooked fried food in moderation is not the problem. The problem is when you eat KFC for every meal. That, my friends, is the the problem. America gets fat eating fast food and to solve the situation, we over-react like the quick fix country that we are, by saying that hamburgers and fried chicken is the cause of heart-attacks. Cook something fresh once in a while and go for a walk here and there. End rant.

Duck confit is one of the most decadent dishes ever. Basically it is duck leg/thigh slow poached, submerged in duck fat. By cooking it this way you're preserving the meat. It is one of the most tender things that will ever melt in your mouth. I could pretty much eat it every day but that's where that word "moderation" comes into play. I bought some local "pre-made" duck confit from Don & Joe's Butchershop and served it with sauteed brussel sprouts and smokey butter beans. After eating this meal I went for a walk.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spanish breakfast

Every cook has a spice or seasoning they couldn't live without. After salt and fresh cracked pepper, of course, mine would have to be pimenton. Essentially it's Spanish smoked paprika. It comes in three different varieties, picante (hot), agridulce (bittersweet), or dulce (sweet). I tend to use the picante because of the extra kick. I love the smokiness and the deepness it brings to my dishes. One of my favorite dishes to make using this beautiful spice is Spicy Garlic Shrimp over Scrambled Eggs. It's the perfect Spanish breakfast.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp over Scrambled Eggs
serves 6

1 lb large fresh shrimp (peeled & deveined, tails left on)
2 tsp pimenton picante
2 cloves garlic, minced
1doz large organic eggs
1/2 cup pickled red onions (*see note)
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
toast, any kind you like - I use pumpernickel

First I marinate the shrimp briefly in 1 Tbsp olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, 2 tsp pimenton, and two minced gloves of garlic. After about 15 minutes or so in the marinade, heat up a saute pan over medium heat, add the shrimp with the marinade and saute the shrimp until just cooked (about 2 minutes per side). At the end toss in the onions to heat through. While the shrimp cook I scramble some large organic eggs in a little butter and make some toast. Serve the shrimp over the eggs and garnish with scallions, parsley, cilantro, etc...

*Note: I like to make a batch of pickled red onions and store it in the fridge. If you don't have the time to do that just saute some thinly sliced red onions in a little olive oil adding salt and a few tsps of balsamic vinegar and cooked until caramelized.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Crispy Salmon Cakes with Black Bean Sauce

It's always a little challenge to come up with ways to inventively use your leftovers. I always try to turn those slightly sad looking ingredients from a previous meal into something wonderful and new before they become relegated to the back of the fridge where they are forgotten (until I open up the scary moldy container a few weeks later when I'm low on food and scrounging). I had roasted a delicious side of fresh coho salmon the other night and had plenty of leftovers. That same night I flaked the rest of the salmon, made salmon cakes, and froze half of them. I like to make spicy/sour sauces to accompany these kind of rich dishes. This time I served them with a fermented black bean and chili sauce.

Have some imagination with your leftovers. You don't have to always have to eat them as is (of course some dishes are better left alone. Nobody wants to eat those lasagna tacos you thought up). There are a ton of recipes out there that will turn your second or third day of the same dish into something delicious and different.

Crispy Salmon Cakes

1 lb cooked salmon, flaked into chunks
3/4 cup panko crumbs
3 scallions sliced thinly
2 Tbsp mayonnaise (add more if you need it)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp chili garlic paste

Mix all ingredients together and form small cakes using your hands. In a saute pan over medium high heat, saute the cakes in a little butter and canola oil until both sides are browned. Way too easy.

For the black bean sauce I just mixed together some chili garlic paste, crushed fermented black beans, ponzu, sesame oil, and soy sauce. You can find all of these ingredients at your local Asian grocery. Good luck.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ham Day.

To some it's traditionally called Thanksgiving or even Turkey Day. In my house Thanksgiving is all about the pork. I had heard that a local gourmet market was carrying naturally raised Kurobuta bone-in hams in stock so I had to have one. Kurobuta ham is the Japanese version of English Berkshire pork. Some call it the Kobe beef of ham because it has a ton of marbling and we all know that the more marbling (the good kind of fat) the juicier the meat. This was probably the most tender and juiciest ham I have ever had. I roasted it for about 3 hours and basted it with a honey bourbon glaze. Makers Mark, local orange blossom honey, and melted butter. The sweet dark crackling' (crispy skin) almost made me go into a delicious coma.

In addition to the ham I made the usual suspects with a few twists here and there. I always have to have my grandmother's Cuban stuffing (I haven't decided if it's a recipe that is particularly Cuban or if due to that fact that my grandmother is Cuban that the stuffing is as well). People seem to find this meaty stuffing recipe pretty unusual. It's a blend of onions, ground beef, ground pork, Pepperidge farms herbed stuffing mix (yes, it has to be that brand or it doesn't come out right), allspice, and other seasonings. I've had it all my life and I can't imagine a T-Day without it. I also made sour cream garlic mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts in a dijon mustard and white wine sauce and kale sauteed with pancetta.

It seems as though every holiday I get a little over ambitious so it was nice to make a simple meal (perhaps way too much food for the two of us though). We had so many leftovers I thought we might be eating ham for the rest of the year. Not that I would have minded. Want some ham? Let me know and I'll mail you some. Actually, maybe that's not such a good idea.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Taco Truck

Seattle doesn't have much of a street food culture. Perhaps it's because of the rainy weather. There are a few taco trucks, gyro stands, and hotdog venders but not nearly as many as the other "big" cities. As far as I'm concerned Seattle is the hub of the Pacific Northwest. It's not nearly as large or populated as New York or LA, but what it lacks in density it more than makes up for it in cultural diversity. Also, I think the strict regulations put upon our street food venders make it very difficult for most of them to operate successfully. Thankfully some of these delicious kitchens on wheels manage to stick around. One of my favorites is Taqueria La Pasadita. It's located right next to the city sized Northgate Mall in the parking lot of a gas station and a McDonalds. Everytime I go there I'm amazing by these people who choose to eat a McCardboard burger over a delicious fresh Mexican meal (for the same price even).
Everytime I go to La Pasadita I have to get at least a few tacos, one of their amazing tortas, and some of the best refried beans I have ever had. This time I got a few tacos de carnitas (carnitas is braised or roasted pork shoulder), some adobada tacos (pork marinaded in vinegar, oregano, and a spicy chili sauce), a torta de pollo (a Mexican sandwich with spicy marinaded chicken and avocado), and some refried beans and Mexican rice. I usually bring it home to eat and the whole car ride back I have to control myself so I don't start eating and wind up with a lap full of steaming hot beans. My only complaint is that I wish it was closer to my home. Until that happens though I'll just have to deal with the 15 minute car ride with my delicious tacos taunting me. It's not that I'm lazy, I'm just really hungry.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Panko & Mustard Crusted Salmon

I bought a beautiful fillet of fresh sockeye salmon from the Loki (the Seattle based fishing boat) folks at the farmers market the other day and decided I wanted to pan fry it with a dijon mustard & honey panko crust. I also sauteed some kale with garlic and some spicy red pepper flakes and then I made an heirloom tomato salad with a lemon vinaigrette. This is a pretty typical meal at my home. Simple and locally fresh. I even managed to not put bacon in this dish which is quite a feat in my book. Although, the kale would definitely make good friends with some pork. Yum.......bacon. Oh yeah, on to the recipe!

Panko & Mustard Crusted Salmon w/ Spicy Sauteed Kale
serves 4

4 (4-6oz) fillets of salmon (doesn't matter what kind as long as it's fresh)
2 Tbsp strong dijon mustard
1 cup honey panko crumbs
kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp capers

1 large bunch of kale, tough stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
olive oil

For the kale: Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes in a little olive oil for a minute over medium heat. Add the washed kale to the pan and saute for 4-5 minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and toss with the lemon juice.

For the salmon: Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Coat the salmon with a layer of mustard and then carefully roll in the panko crumbs pressing lightly to make sure it adheres. Heat up about 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a saute pan over medium heat and pan fry about 4 minutes each side until the crust is golden and the salmon is just cooked through. Remove the salmon from the pan to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Drain excess oil from the pan and then add 1 Tbsp of butter and the lemon juice and capers. Plate the salmon with the kale and drizzle the caper/butter sauce over the fish.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Volunteer Park Cafe

I've been a little under the weather for the past few days. It seems like everybody around me has a cold so I was sure to catch it. I'm still hungry though and sometimes you just get tired of having to cook for yourself when you're not feeling well. And as much as I love my wife, her trying to cook scares the hell out of my. A year ago when I got walking pneumonia she panicked at the grocery store and bought me a can of chili. We can laugh about that now but at the time it was traumatic. I had to get out of my apartment and find some "make me better" food. I wanted comfort food, some kind of chickeny goodness. Volunteer Park Cafe seemed like the perfect spot.

Volunteer Park Cafe is a great little neighborhood comfort food joint situated across from, yup you guessed it, Volunteer Park. It's also right across from the cemetery where Bruce Lee is buried, but I guess calling it Bruce Lee's Cemetery Cafe would have been weird. They have a great selection on paninis and seasonal pot pies as well as daily quiches and giant delicious salads. It's a great community place where everybody seems totally relaxed and the food is consistently delicious.
Perfectly enough their soup of the day on my sick adventure was matzo ball soup. I'm not Jewish but my neighbors in Miami were so once in a while I'd get invited over for some home-made matzo ball soup. It's such a delicious soup that warms you to the core. If my grandmother's Cuban chicken soup was nowhere in sight, fresh made chicken matzo ball soup is the next best thing. Their version was delicious with a bright and not overly salty chicken broth, big chunks of tender chicken, carrots and celery, egg noodles, and a perfectly fluffy matzo ball dumpling that melted in my mouth. Exactly what I needed.

Volunteer Park Cafe is not just a place to go when you don't feel so great. It's the perfect place to go when you just want some amazing ole' fashioned comfort food and a lovely place to eat it in. I'll have to try their dinners some time soon. They also do wine tasting dinners on the second Friday of each month. Oh and most importantly, did I mention that they are part of the slow food movement and use organic & local product. It's true, they even have their own little garden out back. Give them a visit. Volunteer Park Cafe

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lamb sausages worth driving for.

My friend Nicole and I went on a butcher shop crawl last week (meaning we went to several different butcher shops for the particular items they are known for). One of the meat shops on the list was the Leschi Food Mart. I had read in an article in Chow that Leschi had some of the best lamb sausages in Seattle. Sausage being one of my favorite foods in the whole world, we had to find this place. I had never been to Leschi and I didn't know what to expect so as our adventure brought us through some particularly rough neighborhoods we began to wonder what this Leschi place was going to be like. Pimps, prostitutes, and boarded up mini-mart windows gave way to lush green windy park roads and giant glass mansions. It was definitely one of the strangest car rides I've taken in a while. It felt like we had entered a whole other city and we were no longer near Seattle. Eventually we came across the little mini-grocery store Leschi Food Mart. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, are we really buying meat at a mini-mart?" Once we walked in and down an aisle to the butcher case, all of my fears had subsided and I knew that everything was going to be great. Tons of house-made sausages including lamb sausage, kielbasa, spicy fennel, applesauce breakfast, smoked turkey, and other house-smoked meats. After picking out like five types of sausage the butcher asked me "What's today, sausage day?" Yes it was my friend. I wanted to try everything. We purchased our bounty and headed back to Seattle (although we did get lost and kept winding up back by the mini-mart. We thought we were not going to be allowed to escape.) Finally we made it back home and packed our freezers with delicious sausages.

The lamb sausage from Leschi is indeed the best lamb sausage I have ever had. Perfect fat to meat ratio, juicy and tender. I will definitely have that adventure again to get these sausages. I sauteed the lamb sausages in a little olive oil until perfectly cooked. I served them on French lentils with bacon and a salad of curly endive and mint with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Greek Burger.

You heard me right. I never realized that there was such a thing as the Greek burger until I witnessed the beautiful thing at mt local go-to gyro joint called strangely enough, Gyro World. I don't think this burger is a traditional staple in Greece but it is a delicious little find none the less. Not to mention their amazing garlicky season salted Greek fries, but that's another story. Anyways, I decided to elaborate on Gyro World's burger and take it one step further. I bought some local organic ground lamb and mixed in a little lemon pepper and salt. I formed burger patties and grilled them until medium rare (I don't think the picture does them justice, they were more pink on the inside). I put them in a grilled roll with some mayo, sliced cucumber, a mixed olive tapenade, and some fresh wild greens. If only I had the fries, my meal would have been perfect but I suppose a nice organic salad would have to do. What's next, the Mexi-burger? Hmmmm....actually.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sri Lankan Fish Curry

Sri Lanka, the lovely Southeast Asian island off the coast of India gained it's independence from the British in 1948 as the Commonwealth of Ceylon. It became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1972 and changed it's name to Sri Lanka. You can definitely see Indian & British influences in their food. Common are spices such as cloves and cinnamon and dishes like coconut based curry are a direct nod to their northern neighbors. And the history lesson

I came across some Sri Lankan curry at my favorite spice market, World Spice. The fragrant mixture contained coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, cassia, clove, cardamom, pequin chile, and tellicherry black pepper. I always buy my spices whole and right before I use them I first toast them in a dry pan and then grind them myself in my little trusty coffee/spice grinder (Just don't use the same grinder for your coffee or you'll either wind up with disgusting curry coffee or coffee flavored fish! Either way it's a lose lose situation.). Do this and you will never buy those dried weeds that have been sitting on grocery store shelves for that past ten years ever again. Fresh spices make a world of difference.

I bought some local fresh cod and decided to make a Sri Lankan fish curry. I had my fishmonger clean and fillet the cod for me (whenever I clean fish at home my apartment smells like fish for days and although my cat doesn't seem to mind, I don't care for it). You could use whatever kind of fresh white fish is local in your area. In my opinion you should always go for local and fresh over regionally authentic to the recipe when it's comes to fish. I'd much rather eat some Pacific cod snatched out of nearby waters than Chinese black cod that's been mostly frozen for two months.

Sri Lankan Fish Curry

2 lbs fresh cod fillets (skinned and deboned)
1 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp Sri Lankan curry (toasted and ground)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp ginger, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (reserve some of the green parts for garnish)
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
1 hot Thai chile, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 Tbsp canola oil
kosher salt
steamed rice

In a large saute pan or wok over medium heat add the canola oil and saute the onions, and peppers for 4 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and scallions and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Then add the Sri Lankan curry powder and stir until it starts to almost smoke. Pour in the coconut milk and a little salt, stir to incorporate the spices. Simmer the curry for about 10-15 minutes until it slightly thickens. Season the cod with salt and gently nestle the fillets in the curry making sure they are covered. Lower the heat to medium low and cover. Let the fish steam for about 8-10 minutes. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with scallions and basil.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rib sticking good.

Is there anything better than slow roasted pork ribs? There sure wasn't in my mind while I was eating these sticky little treats. I marinated some organic pork ribs in a mixture of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), soy sauce, crushed garlic, scallion, ginger, chili paste and a little honey for about 2 hours. I then used the marinade as a glaze while the ribs roasted at a low temperature for a few hours. The sugars in the kecap manis and honey caramelized to a dark dark red (not quite burnt but just to that delicious charred flavor) and the meat was falling off the bone. I don't remember Tony Romas ever being this good! I like to serve these with a little Asian slaw made of shredded cabbage, carrot, and bean sprouts with a ginger rice wine vinaigrette.

Kecap Manis & Honey Glazed Pork Ribs
3 lbs pork ribs

1 cup Kecap Manis
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 fl oz rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp chili garlic paste
1 clove garlic, minced
3 scallions, sliced
1/2 Tbsp ginger, minced
2 Tbsp honey

In a small sauce pan mix together everything but the ribs and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool. Reserve a little of the marinade for later. Place the pork in a dish and cover with the cooled marinade. Make sure the ribs are coated and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Place the ribs on a rack over a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Glaze the ribs again with the marinade, turn the heat down to 250F degrees and roast for about 3 hours basting with the marinade every 30 minutes. Pull them from the oven, cover with foil, and let them rest about 15 minutes before cutting into them. Sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds and serve with a little of the reserved marinade (the marinade that the pork never touched). Enjoy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Crab Ravioli with Sweet Corn Hash

Sometimes you're just too tired to cook an elaborate meal. After a long tiring day at work this week I searched my fridge and freezer for dinner. I spotted some beautiful house-made crab ravioli from my favorite Italian deli Delaurentis. Whenever I go there I stock up on their pastas for those quick meals after a long day of work. They freeze well and are perfect for days like this. Delicious fresh spinach pasta stuffed with lots of crab and ricotta. Earlier this week at the farmers market I bought some beautiful organic sweet white corn. I decided to make a quick sweet corn hash by blanching some fresh shucked white corn for 10 minutes and then sauteing them with a little diced bacon, shallots, garlic, onion, and spinach. I topped off the ravioli with a little sage butter. I think the sweet corn hash would go perfect with almost anything. It's such an easy dish to make you should try it with a pork chop or some soft shelled crab or whatever you fancy.

Sweet Corn Hash

4 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked/cut off the cob
1/2 lb bacon, small diced
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, small diced
1 cup, tightly packed spinach
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 Tbsp butter

Blanch the corn kernels in simmering salted water for 10 minutes. Drain.

In a saute pan over medium heat cook the bacon in the butter until some the fat renders. Add the shallot, garlic and onion and saute for 4 minutes. Add the corn and spinach and toss until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with crab ravioli, pork chops, chicken, fish, anything you like.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Syrian Zahtar and Black Lemon Spiced Chicken

I love using new and exotic spices. Whenever I'm in a rut I'll go to World Spice and browse the shelves for something I've never heard of. This time I came across black lemons. They are dried out lemons that have blackened and become rock hard. You can grate them into dishes to add a sweet and sour flavor and deepness. Syrian zahtar is a spice blend consisting of ground sesame seeds, sumac, cumin, coriander, and a little anise. I marinated the chicken in the zahtar, kosher salt, and a little olive oil and then grilled the chicken breast in a grill-pan over medium heat for about 4 minutes each side. In the meantime, I made a sauce by sauteing some organic onions and peppers and deglazing the pan with a little white wine adding raisins and some grated black lemon. On the side I made a simple heirloom potato and roasted garlic salad.

Don't be afraid to try new things and fail. Once in a while I'll try something new and it will go horribly wrong. That's what frozen pizzas are for. However for those times when you have everything going your way, you'll discover new favorites for your repertoire and your pantry will grow beyond your cabinet doors (I consider that a great problem to have).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sitka & Spruce

Slow food. What exactly does that mean? It's the hottest thing in the culinary world since, oh I don't know, stacking food so high it falls on your lap. Here's the thing though, slow food is a trend that is actually beneficial to the well being of our world and our lives. All it really means is that we eat locally, chemically free, and small farm produced food prepared with care. Not only does this help the environment (less auto emissions from shipping, less packaging to throw away, and more organic toxin-free soil) it makes us healthier (a body full of toxic chemicals and strange animal hormones is not a happy one). I really hope this movement in food sticks with the joe-schmoe public and forces corporate slop companies to find something else to ruin the world with. End rant.

Chef Matt Dillon (no, not Dallas from the Outsiders) is a bit of a daredevil. Not necessarily with the food he makes but with the choices of his locations. Sitka & Spruce, a tiny 20 seater with a communal table, is located in a strip mall. Diners have the choice as they walk up to the building, Subway or Sitka & Spruce. As hard of a choice that may be to some folk, anyone who walks through the stale bread stenched doors to the left should be bashed in the head with a day old baguette. Sitka does not take reservations and you may have to wait quite a while for a seat (if you can get one at all) in which case the lovely waitstaff will encourage you to go across the street to a bar and have some drinks or try again tomorrow. Chef Dillon also has plans to open a new restaurant, The Corson Building, named so after the old building it's located in. Apparently it's under a bridge next to live train tracks near an air field. The funny thing is that even though that sounds like the worst possible location it will be packed and delicious and worth every ounce of odd loud noises. He could probably open a restaurant on a rickety leaking houseboat parked next to the Discovery Park sewage drains and it would still be successful.

So anyway, my pals Rod & Shannon took me and K out to eat for a late birthday dinner. Luckily we showed up at just the perfect time and a table for four was empty and glowing with a single ray of the dying sunlight as if the gods themselves were saying "Happy birthday little guy"! The waitstaff was very sweet and knowledgeable. I think I went to culinary school with one of them but she was a few quarters below me so I didn't really know her and I kept my mouth shut. Most of the dishes are small plates so we ended up ordering a bunch of things to share. A nice bottle of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and off we were.

Slow Cooked Rabbit with Watermelon, Raddichio, and Pickled Chanterelles
This was as delicious as it sounds. I loved the sweet crunchy watermelon with the beautifully tender braised rabbit and the plump tart chanterelles. All of the flavors worked perfectly with each other. I think this was a little bit genius and definitely my favorite dish of the night.

Billy's Tomatoes, Bufula Mozzarella, Gaetas
Lovely heirloom tomatoes, with fresh buffalo mozzarella, olive oil, and fresh basil. It's hard to make the classic caprese salad remarkable. The fresh flavors of the beautiful ingredients in this dish made it just that, remarkable.

Petite Bell Peppers & Duck Ham
Cured duck breast has to be one of my new favorite things. Using the term duck ham is just a playful way to say cured duck. It's basically duck that has been salt cured to the texture of proscutto. To me it has a slightly saltier gamier taste than your cured hams. I love the stuff. Here it was paired with some sweet roasted peppers, hard cheese (parmesan/pecorino), and a drizzle of either aged balsamic or wine reduction (I forgot). This was a truly well balanced dish. I wish there had been a little more of the duck though because I'm selfish and I wanted to eat it all. I'm going to make some at home soon. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Pork Chop with Tomatillos & Coriander Leaves
This is one of the best pork chops that I've ever had. And that's a pretty big statement coming from a Cuban. It was cooked perfectly and was so juicy I had to be careful not to drool all over myself. The roasted tomatillos and cilantro matched up to the smokiness of the pork very well. Now that I think about it maybe this was my favorite dish. Hmmm, I can't decide.

Cucumbers with Butter & Lemon Verbena
Generally cucumbers aren't anything too special. Kinda watery and not much flavor. The warm cukes were delicious and buttery and the lemon verbena and salt lifted them into a whole new place. Very inventive and tasty.

Poussin 'Al Mottone, Roasted Peaches & Sage
A beautiful spring chicken cooked under a brick. The meat of the game hen was so tender that it was falling off the bone and the skin was crispy and amazing. The roasted peaches made excellent company to the bird. I also loved the fried sage garnish. You can take almost any herb and fry it. They make the perfect garnishes and they taste awesome as well. I was pretty damn stuffed by this point but dessert must be had.

Chocolate Sorbet & Peach Crepes
It's no secret that I am not a big sweets fan. However I must admit, these desserts were fantastic. The rich chocolate sorbet was so creamy and dark I really enjoyed it. The crepes were eggy and fluffy and not overly sweet. Very good "cooks" desserts. And by that I mean, good, simple, and not very sweet. To most cooks dessert is kind of an after though. That didn't seem to be the case here. After having a few bites of these super rich desserts I was ready to take a nap.

Sitka And Spruce may not be the fanciest of places and it may not have to most inspiring location (although once you're inside you'll forget you're next to a fast food chain). But if you want to eat inspiring food that has been in great care from farmer to chef, Matt Dillon can set you up. Support these kinds of restaurants and try to cook this way at home and I promise, you won't regret it. All it takes is a passion for your food.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Make your own veggie burgers.

The great thing about making your own veggie burgers is that you can customize them with whatever flavors you love. They also end up being way cheaper than the frozen ones you get at the grocery store and have less junk in them. I just make a ton of them and pack them in the freezer between sheets of wax paper and whenever I want one I can pull one out and cook it in less than 10 minutes. This time around I made Cuban black bean burgers. I basically took half of my leftover Cuban black beans (I'll give that recipe another time), drained them, mashed them, and added some hot chilies for a little extra spicy kick. K goes through these burgers like nobodies business so I think I already need to make more. I like mine on a good dense bread with some sliced heirloom tomatoes, fresh greens, and a good helping of mayo. DIY is the way to go! Do It Yourself! Oh, and to make the recipe quicker and easier you can use a good canned bean. However, nothing beats the homemade stuff.

Cuban Black Bean Burgers

4 cup cooked and drained black beans
½ red onion, small diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup fine breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Place half the beans in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Combine with the bean puree. Then add the remaining beans, spices, herbs, and breadcrumbs to the bowl. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Form mixture into 6-8 patties of equal size (about 1/2" thick). Layer between sheets of wax paper and stack in a air-tight freezer safe container until you want to eat some.

To cook set a non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat, add a little olive oil, and pan fry the burgers for about 3-4 minutes each side. The End.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Don't be scared of fancy.

It seems like nowadays the trend in most kitchens is rustic and basic food. Now I'm all for that but I am not one of those people who have decided to shun haute cuisine or "fancy food" as one my friends like to call it. When it comes down to it, we first eat with our eyes and our nose. Then we taste the food. I like to think of food as art. It's such a powerful medium that gives us pleasure, makes us think, and keeps us alive. I feel that way about art in general. Why wouldn't you want to surround yourself with as many beautiful things as possible (and no I'm not necessarily talking about possessions)? So the on-going fight seems to be this. Is cooking a craft or an art-form? I say it can be both. Or does it really matter, as long as we get pleasure from it and are able to to provide other people this pleasure. All I know is that I love to cook, and even more than that, I love to eat.

So in the spirit of stacking food, I decided to take something not so fancy and make it look fancy. I made Broiled Sour Tofu with Sweet Pickled Walla Walla Onions. I marinated the sliced tofu a few hours in ponzu (Japanese citrus), soy, and garlic. I made some quick pickled Walla Walla onions that were sweet and spicy with a hint of ginger. I love the flavor these sweet Washington onions get when they are soured. All stacked on a fluffy mound of steamed calrose rice. The ingredients don't have to be fancy to make a fancy meal.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tacos for breakfast.

Chorizo, eggs, cheese, peppers, onions, and sour cream all wrapped by fresh tortillas. A great way to start the morning. I bought some delicious spicy Mexican chorizo fresh flour tortillas, and creamy queso Oaxaca at my favorite little mercado in the market. The nice girl behind the counter told me that they sell out of breakfast tacos every morning. I can understand why, they are so tasty and a good hearty way to start off the day. You'll notice that in the photo the eggs are really yellow. The reason for this is that I buy my eggs from a local organic farmer that has true free range chickens. These kinds of birds lay fattier eggs with amazing chicken flavor. They yolks are almost bright orange compared to the tasteless pale yellow yolks of commercial eggs. I also sauteed some organic heirloom peppers and onions for my tacos. Give them a try, they're incredibly easy to make.

8 fresh tortillas (corn or flour, which ever you prefer)
2 peppers (any medium spicy peppers will work, even bell peppers)
2 spanish onions, halved and sliced
1 lb Mexican chorizo
4 eggs
1 cup grated queso Oaxaca (jack cheese will work as well)
a few limes, quartered
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Saute your peppers and onions in a little olive oil until translucent. Remove to a plate and set aside. Saute the chorizo (cases removed) until cooked through. In a separate pan scramble the eggs in a little butter, season with salt and pepper. Heat up your tortillas and assemble your tacos. Lay down a tortilla, spoon on some chorizo, some eggs, peppers, and onions. Top with a handful of grated queso, a dollop of sour cream, a few squeezes of lime. Some chopped cilantro would be great too but I didn't have any. Make sure you eat over a plate because these tacos are a messy treat. Enjoy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A big disappointment.

I hate days like this when the things you can usually count on surprise you and let you down. My wife and I just had pretty bad meal at one of our favorite cafes. Cafe Campagne has always been one of our go to spots for lunch in Pike Place Market. The French bistro fare was always fresh and expertly prepared and the waitstaff pleasant and attentive. Today was not the case. First we were shoved in the corner (of the empty dining room) with a table that wobbled so severely every time I moved I spilled my water. After ordering our food it took nearly a half hour before we got our cold, overcooked, and uninspired meal. Now I'm a pretty patient person, but to wait that long in an empty restaurant for two sandwiches was a little annoying. What's strange is that as the runner was bringing our food, the waitress intercepted him and sent him back to the kitchen. K said she overheard her say that it was undercooked. He came out a minute later like nothing had happened. I ordered the lamb burger, medium rare and what I received was a medium/well in parts dry burger on a hard stale roll. Even the frites were hard, dry, and cold. Being a cook myself, I came to the conclusion that perhaps they tossed it in the microwave after it was brought back to the kitchen (and I wasn't even the one to send it back). K's croque madame was dry and the fried egg on top was an overcooked piece of rubber. The side salad was a total joke. Wilted old lettuce with a drop of oil to dress it. Now, I'm not the kind of person to send food back and if it wasn't for the fact that I was hungry I wouldn't have eaten as much as I had. I know cooks are a testy lot so when I get a bad meal at a restaurant instead of sending food back I just tend to not go back. However I do hate throwing away sixty dollars for bad food and a bad time. This saddens me because I really liked Cafe Campagne. I still can't decide if I give it another chance. Maybe it was just a bad day. The one thing I do know is that any kitchen worth it's salt does not allow dishes like the ones we had today get to the customers. Our waitress didn't even ask us how our meal was or say anything as we left. Good service is good service not matter what your prejudices are and today they dropped the ball. Like I said, perhaps they had an off day. All I do know is that if that had been our first time at Cafe Campagne we definitely would never go back.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The end of summer means more soup.

Not really soup per se, more of a gruel really (the word gruel is so appetizing isn't it?). Congee is a stick to your ribs rice porridge that makes the bone chilling, misty Fall in Seattle a little warmer. I usually buy congee at my favorite Chinese soup house Ocean City, but my friend Zoe gave me some insider pointers on making my own. It's creamy and warm and can be flavored any way you want it. This is the kind of food that keeps you warm all day. Basically made of two or three ingredients, it's such an easy dish to make if you have an hour or so. Don't be scared of the words jook or rice gruel. Congee has become one of my most favorite comfort foods. It's the kind of dish that can make you feel like everything is okay.

1 cup calrose rice
9 cups white chicken stock
kosher salt

In a large pot, bring the stock and rice to a boil. Turn the heat to low. Partially cover allowing steam to escape.
Cook on medium low to low heat, stirring occasionally until the rice has the thick, creamy texture of porridge (about 1- 1 1/2) hours. I garnished with steamed halibut, hard-cooked quail eggs, sliced scallions, a little chili garlic paste, and a drizzle of soy sauce. You can use chicken, duck, bbq pork, shrimp, thousand year eggs, tofu, whatever you want.

Monday, September 17, 2007


For my birthday dinner this month, K took me to Qube. I had heard good things about the restaurant from the various magazines and local food columns I read. The thing that intrigued me about the restaurant, was their "Qube Pairings". That is, three ingredients done three ways. Order the turf pairing and you get two different seafood proteins done three ways each plus a dessert item done three ways. Same goes for the turf pairing or the vegetarian pairing. The cool thing is you can also mix and match pairings, which is what we ended up doing. It was a lazy Wednesday and we actually had another restaurant in mind. Things happened and the first restaurant wasn't going to be up to par so we racked our brains and I came up with Qube. We got all dolled up and took a cab downtown ready for some three way action (I can't help it if you have a dirty mind, I'm talking about food here!). The decor of Qube is modern with Asian accents. Lots of chrome vs. wood vs. white fabric. Very clean feeling but not uninviting. It wasn't a very busy night and we were treated very well. I was really impressed by the excellent service. Extremely attentive but not overwhelmingly so, and very charming and personable. Nothing kills a restaurant for me like lousy service. The food can even be the best thing I ever ate but if the service is poor, I'll never return. Qube has nothing to worry about in that department. I give them an A+.

Instead of starting out with the usual bread and butter we were served a platter of naan flatbread with two dipping sauces. One was a mango chutney and the other was a sesame tahini spread. The naan was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and the sauces were delicious. I'm not big on mango chutney but I liked the heat that tore through the sweetness of the fruit. I love sesame and I gobbled up the tahini.

First Course: Surf - Wild Caught Sea Scallop

Tartare of Passion Fruit-Cured Scallop - The passion fruit cure gave the already sweet scallop another dimension of sour/sweetness that blew me away a little. The scallop was still nearly raw but slightly opaque from the ceviche style cure. Very smart and delicious.
Smoked Scallop Tres Minces - The quenelle of finely minced smoked scallop had a good amount of smokiness to it which seemed to play off the sweetness of the scallops very well. I liked the texture of the mince and the flavors were clean and simple.
Scallop Mousse Nori Maki - A pretty clever scallop reconstruction, taking scallop mousse and shaping it back into scallop form and wrapping it maki sushi style with nori seaweed. The scallop mousse almost had the texture of a seafood sausage and of course it went well with the nori.

First Course: Turf - Sonoma Foie Gras

Creme Brulee de Foie Gras - This is definitely the most decadent creme brulee I've ever had. Foie and truffle custard topped with delicious caramelized sugar. I knew it was going to be good the second I cracked my spoon through the dark amber crust giving way to the creamy interior. It was rich and buttery and delicious.
Torchon paired with Mango Compote - Torchon is the French word for kitchen towel. The foie gras is cured overnight with salt and sugar and sometimes cognac. Then it is wrapped in cheesecloth or a towel and most of the liquid is squeezed out. This torchon had a lovely delicate flavor and matched well with the sweet mangoes. I not too big a fan of silky meat textures so that was a small hurdle for me. However the flavors got me over my texture issue and it was perfect on the toast points.
Sauteed Foie Gras with Pickled Lychee and Balsamic Cinnamon Gastrique - This is how I prefer my foie. Sauteed golden brown on the outside and creamy on the inside. I love that satisfying caramelized crunch on the surface. The pickled lychee and gastrique served well as a sweet and sour foil to the rich foie gras.

Second Course: Surf - Atlantic Dover Sole

Dover Sole with Sake, Shiso, and Miso Broth - Dover sole is a very delicate fish. Too many outside flavors and the fish will be lost. I really enjoyed the sole with the shiso leaf and the sake and miso broth was very light. The bowl used for this dish was a little awkward. I kept tipping the bowl when I cut the fish and thought I was going to wind up with a lap full of miso. Perhaps there didn't need to be so much broth. It was vey tasty though.
Pave of Dover Sole on Scallions, Soy, and Sesame - This dish was done well but not too different from the miso sole. Good Asian flavors with the sesame and soy. Nothing too exciting but still a good sole dish.
Dover Sole Fillet with Saffron Cream Sauce - This dish was my favorite of the Dover sole course. The fillet was nestled in a nice creamy saffron and crab sauce. The sauce was not too heavy and also went well with the dense bricks of coconut rice that accompanied the course.

Second Course: Turf - Snake River Kobe Beef

Flat Iron Steak with Ume Truffle Butter - This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The flat iron steak was tender, juicy, and cooked perfectly. Simple and delicious. Boise Idaho's Snake River Farm does a great job raising American kobe beef.
Top Round Korean Bulgogi Style - I love Korean bulgogi BBQ. The beef had a good bbq flavor and wasn't too sweet which I liked. I only wish I'd had some lettuce to wrap it in (my favorite way to eat bulgogi).
Shortrib Ravioli with Wasabi Demi Glace - The ravioli were amazing little pillows of shortrib goodness. I like the play on Asian and Euro flavors in here. The slightly spicy wasabi demi went very nicely with the elegant ravioli. I wanted about ten more of these!

Third Course: Dessert - Watsonville Strawberries

Ginger Bavarois - Bavarois is an airy Bavarian cream and Qube's version had a hint of ginger with candied ginger and strawberries on top. A very nice, light dessert.
Coconut Shortbread - A fun take on strawberry shortcake. I really liked the coconut cookie and who doesn't like strawberries and cream. I know I do.
Caramel-coated Strawberry - Simple and delicious. Fresh, plump strawberries with house made caramel. What more can you say about that? This was my favorite of the desserts.

Third Course: Dessert - Valrhona White Chocolate

Gilded Pot de Creme - I have to be honest with you, I'm not a big white chocolate fan but K wanted this course so I went with it. I was pretty surprised at how mild the sweetness of the chocolate was. Not overpowering and pretty tasty. The pot de creme was silky and smooth and not what I expected. I actually enjoyed it.
Mousse with Jasmine Pineapple - Once again the white chocolate surprised my taste buds and the fragrant jasmine pineapple was a nice touch. A very elegant dessert.
Fondue with Fresh Fruit - Beautiful fresh figs and berries with a decadent white chocolate fondue. A very timeless way to end a meal. Fondue is always fun and this one was unexpectedly delicious. I was pretty impressed by the white chocolate course. Not being a fan of the product, I actually had my mind changed a little bit on what the stuff really tastes like. I guess I had never really had quality white chocolate before and that really makes a difference (duh). I should know better. Shame on me!

Such an excellent meal and experience. My only negative critique would be that maybe some of the plates and platters were a bit much (too large). Perhaps more rectangle plates would look cleaner and less empty. To each their own though, and I'm just nitpicking. It was a great meal with excellent service and the next time we go back I want to try some of their single plate items. I think that first time visitors should test out the Qube sets. They're like a culinary rollercoaster, only without the long lines and the motion sickness. Even if there were long lines to get into Qube, I would wait. It's worth it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Salumi sandwich at home.

You don't have to be one of the lucky ones who actually live in Seattle to eat Armandino's beautiful charcuterie. No siree, you can now order Salumi online. One of my favorite salamis they make (or that anyone makes for that matter) is their Mole which is spiced with chocolate, cinnamon, ancho pepper, and chipotle peppers. It has an amazing deep and smoky flavor and complex spiciness.

I had some lovely focaccia from my pal the Gypsy Baker and a nice stack of Salumi's mole salami so I decided a sandwich needed to be made stat. I roasted a few mild Alvarez Farms red peppers and a few of their sweet red onions as well. I then grilled the inside of the bread with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of Utah Basin salt, made a smoky garlic aioli, and put them together. Grilled focaccia, garlic aioli, mole salami, roasted peppers and onions, garlic aioli, grilled focaccia. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Easy peasy.

Hoppin' John is a traditional southern rice and beans dish that originates from the slaves of America's colonial era. It usually consists of black-eyed peas, ham hocks, onions, peppers, and rice. It's such a simple dish but so very satisfying. I love old school southern food. The south is one of the few regions in the states that has produced it's own unique cuisine that can truly be called American food. Some of the best dishes always seem to come from the roughest of times. Perhaps simplicity is the key. Beans and rice can be found in pretty much every culture. It's filling, hearty, and sometimes full of history.

Hoppin' John
2 cup dried black-eyed peas, rinsed
8 cups water
1 green pepper, diced (I sometimes use hot peppers)
1 smoked ham hock
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cup long-grain white rice
kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Place the black-eyed peas and water in a saucepan and discard any floaters. Gently boil the peas with the peppers, ham hock, and onion, uncovered, until tender about 1 1/2 hours. Don't let them get mushy. Season with salt and pepper. There should be about 2 to 3 cups of water left in the pot. If not add more water. Add the rice to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, readjust seasoning, and serve.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I like my corn soup sweet and spicy.

When I was a kid, my parents would often make canned corn cooked with lots of butter and pepper as a dinner side dish. As I remember it, I was always the one finishing off the bowl of corn and sometimes, when my parents weren't looking, drinking the buttery corn liquid (yeah I know, I was a weird kid). As an homage to my junior corn liquid drinking days I decided to make Sweet Yakima Corn Soup with Roasted Red Cherry Peppers. No canned corn in my recipe and I have to say, I'm fine with that. I used sweet Washington, Yakima Valley corn but any fresh sweet corn will do the trick.

4 ears of corn, shucked and silks removed
6 cherry peppers
1 scallion, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes
2 Tbsp fried shallots
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Start out by making a spicy corn stock by simmering 4 shucked corn cobs and a 2 sliced cherry peppers with just enough water to cover for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, roast 4 cherry peppers over an open flame (or on a burner) until all of the skin is charred. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Remove peppers, scrape off the skin, and remove the seeds. Then remove the cobs and peppers and blanch the corn kernels in the stock for ten minutes. Remove some of the kernels for garnish and in batches, puree the corn kernels, corn stock, and roasted peppers (saving a little bit for garnish) in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot to simmer for another ten minutes. Finish with the cubes of butter stirring to incorporate. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Garnish with corn, diced roasted peppers, scallion, and fried shallots. Don't be embarrassed to drink the liquid.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cat got your tongue?

Don't worry, there's no cat involved here, unless you count my kitty Clara begging for chorizo until I let her smell it. The tongue does come into play here though. Most Americans are terrified of this part of animal. Perhaps because it relates to speech which is particularly humanizing. I say, if you're going to eat something, don't let anything go to waste. Pretty much every country except for The States utilizes the offal and innards of the creatures they consume. That's way it should be. There are some delicious cuts of meat that seem to go to waste because we aren't used to them. In my favorite little Mexican market down in Pike Place they sell the best chorizo de bolita (bolita means little pellets), little Mexican sausages made of pork, tongue, and lots of smoked paprika. I love the smokiness and richness the tongue brings to these little plump sausages. There is a big difference between Spanish or Cuban chorizo and Mexican chorizo. Mexican chorizo has a grainier texture and tends to fall apart when you split the casing where as Cuban chorizo has more of a solid sausage texture. When you make a Cuban chorizo sandwich it's called choripan. Since I am using Mexican ingredients I would call this sandwich a torta. Everybody loves a good sandwich no matter what you call it.

Torta con Chorizo de Bolita.

1 lb chorizo de bolita, any Mexican chorizo will work
4 large rolls
2 poblano chilies, seeded, and sliced
1 Spanish onion, halved and sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp butter
canola oil

Mix together the mayo, cilantro, and lime juice. Refrigerate until needed.

In a saute pan over medium high heat brown the chorizo links on all sides in a little canola oil until cooked through (about 4 minutes each side). Remove the chorizo to a plate, drain all but 1 Tbsp of oil from the pan, and add the onions and peppers and saute until translucent (5 minutes). Remove from the heat.

Split the rolls in half and lather both sides with the cilantro mayo. Slice the chorizos in half, long ways, and lay in a single layer on the rolls. Top each torta with 1/4 of the onion and pepper mixture. Top with the other side of the roll. Spread butter on the outside of both sides of the torta.

In a large saute over medium high heat, lightly brown both sides of the sandwich while carefully pressing down with the bottom of another flat pan to flatten the torta (about 3 minutes each side). Cut in half and serve. Makes 4 tortas.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


One look at the line going around the block from Salumi, and you know you're in for something good. Owned and operated by Armandino and their daughter Gina (and pretty much the rest of the family) this small Pioneer Square salumeria makes some of the best cured meats in the country. You may have heard the name Batali before and your assumptions are correct. This is the family of Mario Batali, the shorts wearing pony-tailed guy from the Food Channel. I do respect the man as a chef but why anyone would wear shorts and sandals in a restaurant kitchen is beyond me. Enough about him, we're here to talk about Salumi. The interior of the place is the size of a long walk-in closet with enough seating for about 8-10 people. It's a little intimidating on your first visit. There is a very long list of meats sliced to order and sandwiches to choose from plus side dishes and specials and the surly yet friendly group behind the counter don't appreciate those who dawdle. "You had plenty of time to look at the menu, what do you want!" I like the east coast attitude when it's not plain rudeness and the Salumi family were very kind so the slight shortness just seemed like a necessity to get the long line of tourists in and out.

The salami is king at Salumi with choices like mole, hot sopressata, dario, oregano, finocchiona, and smoked paprika. They also do serious justice to other smoked meats such as guanciale, coppa, lomo, pancetta, and one of my personal favorites lamb prosciutto. There are certain meats that seem to get bought up by local chefs before it reaches the public so if you want something like their lamb prosciutto or lardo you have to special order it. I have eaten a lot of Salumi's charcuterie over the past few years but this was my first time eating there. After quite a bit of deliberation I decided I had to have a hot sopressata sandwich. Piled high inside a large delicious artisanal roll, the sandwich came with a nice amount of freshly sliced hot salami, provolone cheese, peppers and onions, and an amazing pesto spread. It was a huge sandwich and I could only eat half before being stuffed.

My friend Nikki had a roasted lamb sandwich that came pretty much the same way as mine but sans the cheese. She was actually was going to order something else but they had run out, so the sweet sassy woman behind the counter helped out. "Get the roast lamb, it's good." "What do you want on your sandwich miss?" "Cheese? No you don't want cheese, it's better without." I like when the people who know their product tell you like it is. In fact I was a little jealous of her sandwich and had to steal a few bites. The meat was so tender and juicy I don't think I've ever tasted a better lamb sandwich. It seems like any animal they touch turns to gold. Just the right amounts of fat versus protein and spices. After eating something as beautiful as this I just don't see how people could go back to their lives of mega-grocery chain processed "salami" and Oscar Meyer hotdogs. There is just no way.

At Salumi, even the vegetables they touch become wonderful (especially when they put bacon on them). We ordered a dish of yellow and green beans with pancetta. The beans were crisp and sweet and the house cured pancetta was smoky and perfectly salty. Sauteed with some cherry tomatoes and onions, this was a beautiful little side dish. The food at Salumi is simple. There seems to be no pretensions and I love the fact that even though they always have a line out the door they have no plans for expansion. I once read an interview with Armandino where he said that even though they were doing well, he wanted to stay small. "Once you go big you lose control of quality and I don't want that." Although there are rumblings of expansion, I don't see Salumi going for the money grab. You have to love his quality over quantity attitude. If only more people shared that sentiment. Salumi

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Bavarian breakfast.

Leberkäse Omelette with Walla Walla Onions and Mustard Cream. I stopped in the Bavarian Meats shop down in Pike Place the other day to pick up a few sausages and I got a little overwhelmed. The German names were so long and intimidating and there was a giant pig head staring at me through the glass case. I couldn't decide what I wanted and the line started to back up behind me. The woman behind the counter was very sweet and patient with me and asked if she could help me out. I asked her what her favorites were and the first thing she said was leberkäse. It's a veal and pork loaf that is generally sliced for sandwiches but she said one of her favorite ways to eat it is in an omelette. I bought some and scurried home to try it. It has the texture of bologna but tastes a bit more like veal than pork. First I made a sandwich out of it with just some pumpernickel bread and grainy German mustard. I am somewhat of a sandwich junkie and I have to say that this was a great sandwich. I love the subtle flavor of the leberkäse. The next morning I decided to take the nice lady's advice and make an omelette out of it. A rich egg dish indeed but with the mustard cream and thinly made French style omelette it wasn't too heavy. In fact, it was so good, I wanted another one.

1/4 lb leberkäse, sliced
6 eggs, beaten
1 walla walla onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp German grainy mustard

To make the cream just whisk the sour cream and mustard together. Refrigerate until needed.
In a skillet over medium high heat saute the onions in a little butter until they start to caramelize. Remove from the heat.

In a separate 8" non-stick frying pan over medium heat melt 1/2 Tbsp butter. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and pour half of them into the pan. Tilt the pan around to spread the eggs out. Once they start to coagulate place a few slices of the leberkäse and some onions down the center of the omelette. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until most of the eggs are done. Using a spatula fold one of the sides of the omelette over the leberkäse then fold once more going the same way so that the seam is underneath. Slide onto a plate and serve with the mustard cream.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Katsu Curry

The Japanese love their curry. I have to say, I love their curry too. Usually sold in pre-made pasty blocks, the most popular brands are S&B and Vermont. I prefer the S&B brand. It has a stronger curry flavor and the hot variety tends to be a bit spicier than the other brands. I also love tonkatsu. Panko coated pork cutlets fried golden brown with a savory soy and onion sauce. Katsu curry is probably one of my favorite all time comfort foods. I order it nearly once a week for lunch from a Japanese restaurant called Hana, which happens to be right around the corner from work. They may not be the best place for sushi but they make a mean katsu curry. When I was in culinary school I was lucky to have a great Japanese chef as one of my teachers. He was also a world champion ice carver. He carved a ten foot tall samurai standing on a wave that was so life-like it was scary. I learned a lot about Japanese cuisine from him. He had us learn almost every Japanese term that could relate to food. I probably memorized about 400 Japanese words and phrases for his tests and learned to cook over 200 Japanese dishes in my relatively short but intense time under his watch. One of the dishes he taught me to make would become one of favorites. Here's my recipe for it.

Katsu Curry
4 thinly cut pork cutlets, about 4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
canola oil, for frying

1 lb yukon gold potatoes, quartered
1 onion, sliced
1 block of Japanese curry, follow brand instructions
water, as needed
steamed white rice

In a large pot over medium high heat saute the onions in a little oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes and saute a few minutes more. Add the curry paste and stir until fragrant and somewhat dissolved. Then add the right amount of water according to the curry instructions (4-6 cups). Lower the heat to medium low and make sure the curry dissolved in the water.

Meanwhile in a skillet filled 3/4 of the way with canola oil over medium high heat you will fry the pork. First dip the pork cutlets into the egg and then coat with the panko. Shake to remove excess breading and fry 2-3 minutes each side, until golden brown. Place pork a plate lined with a paper towel to remove the grease.

After simmering about 10-15 minutes the potatoes should be soft and the curry sauce should have thickened. Spoon some rice on a plate. Cover with curry, onions, and potatoes. Slice a pork cutlet on the bias and place on top of the curry. I hope you like as much as I do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Esquites, sort of.

Esquites is a popular Mexican snack made of corn, lime juice, chilies, and butter. I decided to do my take on the delicious treat. I made Poached Organic Corn with Fresh Lime Juice, Arbol Chili Powder, and Queso Cotija. It's an easy snack to make and after eating it you'll never want corn any other way (okay, maybe that's not true but it's very delicious). In Central Mexico you can get esquites from street venders where they serve them in little cups with all of the delicious juice at the bottom. I love it the traditional way but I also like the idea of keeping the corn on the cob. There is something really satisfying about eating the little golden nuggets still attached. Especially since I haven't worn braces in 20 years and I can now eat corn without it getting painfully stuck in my teeth. If you decide you'd rather take the corn off the cob, it would work just as well.

4 fresh ears of corn, leaves pulled back, silks removed
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp arbol chili powder, dried chili de arbol ground in a spice grinder
2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half, seeded
1/2 cup queso cotija, crumbled (parmesan will work)
8 cups water

In a large shallow pan bring the water to a boil. Add the butter and the jalapeno. Once the butter is melted submerge the corn in the water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the corn from the water. Coat the corn with lime juice, a few sprinkles of chili powder, and crumbled queso cotija. Eat it while it's hot.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not just an omelette.

Golden Queen Heirloom Tomato Tortilla with Organic Banana Peppers and Beecher's Flagship Cheese. No, not the Mexican variety of tortilla. In Spain a tortilla is basically an omelette or frittata. It's a pretty typical Spanish tapas dish consisting of eggs and sometimes potatoes and peppers. I buy my eggs from a local farmer (I should ask him his name but for now, we call him the egg guy) at my farmers market. These are from organic, true free range chickens. He doesn't just walk them on a treadmill every once in a while. Once I bought some of his eggs and he told me that they might have a floral quality to them because his chickens just ransacked and ate all of his wife's rose garden. I didn't notice any difference in the eggs, but that made me happy knowing they they're actually running around all over the place causing poultry havoc. These amazing eggs truly are the tastiest I've ever had. I decided to saute some banana peppers in a little butter and top it of with one of my favorite local cheeses, Beechers Flagship. It's a white cheddar style cheese with a good tang and sharpness to it. A simple dish for breakfast, or perhaps you next tapas party.

8 eggs, cracked and whisked in a bowl
2 golden queen heirloom tomatoes, sliced (any sweet, flavorful tomato will work)
2 medium banana peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Beechers Flagship cheese, shredded (you can also use a sharp white cheddar)
1 Tbsp butter
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a large non-stick saute pan over medium high heat saute the peppers and garlic in butter until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes in an even layer to the pan. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and pour them over the tomatoes and peppers making sure you move the pan around so the eggs surround everything. Cook for about 6 minutes so the bottom browns. Sprinkle on an even layer of cheese and place in the oven. Bake for about 6 minutes or until the eggs set and the cheese starts to brown. Remove, cut into quarters, and serve.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Steelhead Diner

I love good old classic comfort food. Most of my favorite restaurants are more down and dirty (no not as in actual filth, just good simple food). While I do enjoy a good haute cuisine meal once in a while, it's the authentic regional food with no pretensions that I usually crave. The only problem is that I also love good atmosphere and strong drinks and there always seems to be a shortage of one or the other. Steelhead Diner doesn't have that problem. Stainless steel diner counters face both the semi-open kitchen and the shiny modern bar or if you prefer more intimate seating, the tables are comfy but elegant. They also have a outdoor patio which is really nice for the summer. Large windows with a lovely view of the Puget Sound and a swell not over-trendy indie rock soundtrack (Apparently I'm not the only one left in Seattle that still likes Modest Mouse) round out the relaxed feel of the place. The waitstaff was very friendly and knowledgeable. We all know how bad service can make or break a place. No one even seemed to be annoyed when an old man dropped a bottle of wine that shattered all over the floor. I would have been at least giving the evil eye. Oh, and the cocktails were inventive and delicious. I had a drink called The Seattelite which consisted of gin, sparkling wine, and grapefruit juice (give or take) and was served in an ice coated martini glass. It was great and I like little details like the frozen glass.

What about the food you ask? How does local, mostly organic, upscale diner fare that changes daily based on what's fresh and in season sound? It sounds great to me and I wasn't disappointed. This is not your ordinary burgers and fries joint. Appetizers such as Caviar Pie, Heirloom Beet Tartare, Salumi's Air Cured Bresaola will not be found on your typical diner menu. Neither will entrees such as Grilled Gulf Shrimp a'la Genovese or Grilled Dry Aged Washington Beef N.Y. Strip. They do a good job on taking diner classics and making them interesting and I love the fact that you can get Kasu Marinated Cod with a side order of poutine. That's probably not a choice I would make but it's nice that they have such a wide variety of dishes yet manage to keep the menu cohesive.

The sandwiches and sides are the items that scream diner to me. I had the "Rich Boy", Steelhead's twist on the poorboy sandwich with local Uli's hot sausage and Crystal hot sauce aioli. It came on baguette and was served with a giant mound of fries. The sandwich was moist, messy, and spicy and I loved it. It's such a simple sandwich but Uli's sausage needs no help. K had the S.R.F. American Wagyu Beef Burger. It was extremely juicy and cooked perfectly medium rare. Although I wasn't a fan of the fact that it was served on baguette it was a damn fine burger. Served with a mound of fries as well and topped with mushrooms, onions, and delicious Beechers Flagship cheese. The frites by the way were awesome. Perfectly cooked Belgium style fries with a good amount of saltiness.

To finish out lunch we had to get an order of Poutine (no we didn't eat ten pounds of potatoes, we saved the fries from our sandwiches for a later snack). Yes I have a weakness for this beautiful and rugged Canadian dish. Gravy and cheese curds on frites. Steelhead's poutine is one of the best that I've had in the States. Perhaps it could have used a little more gravy but other than that the flavors were perfect and using Beecher's curds makes it all the more special. We left pleasantly full and sleepy. Steelhead Diner delivers on all it's promises and smartly lifts diner food miles above typical American slop stop status. I will definitely return.
Steelhead Diner

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Salmon is the Pacific Northwest.

I remember the first time I'd had wild Pacific king salmon. It was one of the most flavorful fishes I had ever eaten. Fatty and juicy, it was almost like eating a steak. Since then I've eaten my fare share of salmon. From sockeye and coho to the smaller pink or chum as it's sometimes called. In my opinion, you won't find it done better east of the Cascade Mountains. Seattelites are very proud of their salmon. New York has pizza. Seattle has salmon. Always eat where and what the locals are eating and you'll rarely have a bad meal.

The other day at the farmers market I bought a beautiful fresh fillet of sockeye from Loki Fish and made Rosemary Honey Glazed Sockeye Salmon with Sundried Tomatoes and a Lentil, Bacon, and Shitake Mushroom Ragout. The sweetness of the salmon worked perfectly with the salty earthiness of the lentils. I was also happy that I got to tryout my new porcelain baking dish. This is a easy dish to make and I felt that It did my lovely fillet of salmon justice.

Rosemary Honey Glazed Sockeye Salmon with Sundried Tomatoes
1 lb sockeye salmon fillet, skinned and de-boned
1/2 cup honey (I use local organic blackberry honey)
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in warm water for 15 minutes, chopped
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 425F degrees. Mix together all of the ingredients except for the salmon to make the glaze. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan and brush 1/2 of the glaze over the fillet. Roast for 4 minutes. Brush on the rest of the glaze and sprinkle the sundried tomatoes over the top. Roast for another 4 minutes or until just barely cooked through. Cut into single portions and serve.

Lentil, Bacon, and Shitake Mushroom Ragout.
2 cups dried lentils
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup loosely packed arugula
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Rinse the lentils. Cover the lentils with the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft but still intact. In a saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate and drain all but 1 Tbsp of bacon grease. Saute the garlic and shallots in the bacon fat for 2 minutes and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft 3-4 minutes. Return the bacon to the pan and add the lentils. Season with salt and pepper and add the arugula. Toss to mix and serve with the salmon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sandwich Cubano.

As I've said before, nothing beats a good Cuban sandwich. That delicious citrus marinaded pork with the salty ham and melted swiss cheese mingling with the sour dill pickle and buttery bread. Best thing on the planet in my opinion! In a few months I'll be visiting my folks in Miami and you can bet your butt that I'll be eating my fair share of these bad-boys before I come back. I have a restaurant quality Cuban sandwich press from which, perhaps one day, I will serve the city of Seattle with these beautiful sandwiches. But until that day comes you'll just have to come over for lunch or dinner and I'll be happy to share my favorite food with you. See you then!!! Oh yeah, here's my recipe from a while back. Sandwich Cubano