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