Saturday, June 30, 2007

dinner - June 30th 2007

Tonight for dinner I made bison picadillo on white rice with an organic fried egg. This is Cuban comfort food in my home. It's not traditionally made with buffalo meat (I usually use ground beef) but I came across some beautiful organic bison meat in the store and wanted to try it. It was delicious. The perfect amount of fat and it added a deepness to the dish. Olives, capers, raisins, sofrito, cumin, adobo spices. Yum.

Friday, June 29, 2007

What's for dinner? vol. 2

Tonight for dinner I made paparadelli in pepper garlic sauce with Yakima asapragus and arugula. I love the big, broad noodles and the sauce was creamy and garlicky with a little bit of a kick from a pinch of habanero pepper.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Squash Blossoms & Rainier Cherries

Squash Blossom & Queso Cotija Quesadillas with Rainier Cherry & Cherry Pepper Salsa
So I made some stuffed squash blossoms last night and they were delicious but I had a bunch of the beautiful edible flowers left over. I'd never tried them in quesadillas before and I remember reading about them in a magazine article on unusual mexican dishes. I also had an idea the other night while eating dinner. Once in a while we like to have a basic meal of wine and cheese, olives, nuts, fruits, peppers, etc. I was eating a Rainier cherry and before I finished I popped a hot pickled cherry pepper in my mouth. It was delicious! The barely sweet, mostly sour Rainier balanced perfectly with the salty heat of the pepper. I knew a salsa would work beautifully. And so there you go, this dish was created. It was truly one of the best quesadillas I've ever had. If you can't find Rainiers maybe substitute them with something sour/sweet like apricots or even peaches.

Rainier cherry salsa
1/2 lb Rainier cherries, pitted and cut into quarters
3 or 4 hot cherry peppers, seeded and sliced into small strips
1 scallion sliced thin on a bias (angle)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
salt & fresh ground pepper

Toss all of the ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. It's truly that easy. The earlier in advance it's made, the better it will be. Serve with the squash blossom quesadillas.

squash blossom quesadillas
Olive oil
2 large scallions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 roasted poblano pepper, skin and seeds removed, diced
8-10 fresh squash blossoms
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 Tbsp spanish oregano, chopped (or a little less if dried)
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt & fresh ground black pepper
2 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup queso cotija, crumbled (you can sub a mild feta)
1/2 cup queso Oaxaca, small diced (you can sub a monteray jack)

Heat a large saute pan with a little oil and saute the onion, garlic, and the roasted poblano pepper for 4 minutes. Once the onions have become translucent add the squash blossoms and the chicken stock. Add the oregano and cumin, and cook for another 4 minutes until squash blossoms have wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Let mixture cool. Place a tortilla on a flat surface. Distribute a layer of cheese equally on the tortilla. Then, spoon the squash blossom filling evenly over the cheese. Cover with the other tortilla, place in nonstick saute pan with a small amount of oil, and cook for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown on each side and cheese has melted, remove and cut into quarters. Serve with Rainier cherry salsa and sour cream.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What's for dinner? vol. 1

For dinner I made sesame prawn stuffed squash blossoms in a curried shrimp fumet and fresh coconut water. I steamed the squash blossoms and stuffed them with minced prawns, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. To make the fumet I simmer shrimp shells, ginger and scallion until it was reduced. I then cracked open a fresh coconut and added the water to the fumet and seasoned with soy sauce and a tiny bit of chili.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Thanks again Canada.

One of my bands recently played a show up in Vancouver BC. Every-time I go up to Canada I have such a great time. I made new friends, partied like a rockstar (okay, like a very tired rockstar who had a few whiskeys on the rocks), and ate delicious food. We left fashionably late on Thursday afternoon and managed to hit some bad traffic. Seattle always seems to have traffic no matter what time of day it is. Especially when it's raining, or sunny, or some kind of weather is happening. Apparently there was a horrible car accident and once we passed the scene things got moving. Before we actually made it across the border, we stopped in the lovely town of Mount Vernon, WA. Home of the infamous Chuck Wagon burger joint. Okay, so it's not the giant (and kind of creepy) wooden carvings of gunslingers or the roar of the choo-choo trains chugging around the ceiling that make this throwback to 1950's cowboy burger joints amazing. It's the fact that they have some of the best burger toppings you'll ever feast your eyes on. Want a stack of hashbrowns on your burger? They got it. Want it smothered with peanut butter? No problem. Out of everything they dare to place on top of the beef patty, the hot dog spiral burger wins my vote for 'most genius thing ever'. They take a hot dog, cut it into a spiral, and char it on the grill before placing in your burger. Sometimes, it's the ugliest things that are the most beautiful to taste. Not only that but they have great fries, onion rings, shakes, and ice cream. It was such a guilty treat. But I have no time for guilt. Now, onto the border!

So I was pretty worried they weren't going to let us into Canada. None of us had any ID other than our drivers licenses. Somehow, we made it through. Later that night we played the show and a good time was had by all. The nine of us (we came up with our buddies from Texas) woke up to sounds garbage trucks and the loudest snoring humanly possible. The first thing on my mind was "Where can I get some Poutine". Now before you think I'm being vulgar, Poutine is a French Canadian dish of frites (French fries), gravy, and cheese curds. Quit making that face, it's truly delicious! Our Canadian friend told me that we were in luck. Belgian Fries claims to have the best poutine in BC. Unfortunately they were closed until noon. So instead we went to a slop diner that is famous for having a man dressed up as a cop serve you coffee. I was not impressed by the food and the coffee cop only works on weekends. Darn. On our way out even though I was stuffed to the gills, I was on a mission to have some of the best poutine in BC. Belgian fries was now open and we ordered a medium bowl of poutine. It truly was the best I have ever had. Crispy frites with a thick beefy gravy, covered with chewy cheese curds. I completely forgot that I was ready to burst from breakfast and gorged myself on this beautiful Canadian treat. Belgian Fries had some really interesting menu items that I've never heard of. War, a Dutch treat that consists of frites covered with peanut satay sauce, mayo, and onions (sounds horribly wrong so I bet it's delicious). They also had different kinds of poutine. You can get it with chili, chicken, or beef. They also had Dutch hot dogs on sticks with curried ketchup. Oh and fried Mars bars for those of you with a sweet-tooth. I now felt complete. I could go home happy. Next time I go up for a Canucks game I know the first place I'll be heading for a snack.

The Chuck Wagon
800 N 4th St.
Mount Vernon, WA

Belgian Fries
1885 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC Canada

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Alderwood smoked sea salt

I came across this amazing salt about five years ago while I was staring in awe at the shelves of the Seattle spice market World Spice. I have a pretty decent collection of salts and I had never tried a smoked salt so I had to buy a few ounces. It's actually a Pacific sea salt that is cold smoked for a few days over red alderwood. It has a strong briny salt taste with a good, heavy dose of smokiness to it. A little definitely goes a long way. And believe me, I learned the hard way! I found that it's perfect on salmon or grilled pork chops and It really enhances almost anything you toss on the BBQ. I know kosher salt is your friend or maybe sea salt's your pal (if you're friends with table salt you're hopeless) but you should check out some of the varieties out there. Check out the World Spice link to the right over there, somewhere. Tell them I sent you!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If I could only get a Cuban sandwich...

Some days I kinda feel like Vincent Price in The Last (wo)Man On Earth, only my movie would be titled "The Last Cuban In Seattle". Once in a while a restaurant pops up here claiming to be Cuban or Caribbean and I pounce on it like a starving jaguar only to be disappointed. Usually over-priced, and just vaguely Caribbean-esque. I want an authentic media noche (Cuban midnight sandwich). Or some ropa vieja (shredded flank steak). Maybe even some arroz con pollo (chicken and yellow rice). If I had the funds to open a small Cuban restaurant in Seattle I would in a heartbeat. Okay, sure, I can make all of these dishes at home. But there is something amazing about going into a little restaurant that smells like cumin and garlic and getting a big side of black beans with white rice and some fried plantain chips with mojo. I always order three or four dishes and share with friends (or eat it all myself when I'm feeling selfish). If you ever have the opportunity to walk around Little Havana in Miami do yourself a favor. Get yourself a Cuban sandwich. It will be the best sandwich you've ever had (okay, so I guess it depends on where you get it. No back-alley cuban sandwiches for me). There are a few good places here in Seattle that have Caribbean inspired food that is actually very good. One of my favorites is Paseos in Fremont. The say they have a Cuban sandwich but it's not quite right. The first thing you must have is Cuban bread. If you can't find/make Cuban bread you have to use a soft crusted French Bread (it won't be the same but it's the next best thing). The next thing you need is a Cuban sandwich press. If you don't have one of those (which most people probably don't) use two cast iron skillets placing the sandwich in one pan and using the bottom of the other pan to flatten the sandwich. You can use a panini grill but it's not the same. You may think I'm nitpicking but trust me. Okay, I'll stop being the sandwich nazi and just give you my recipe for a delicious media noche. Enjoy.

Cuban Midnight Sandwich
1 loaf Cuban bread (or soft crusted French baguette)
1 lb roasted pork shoulder, sliced thin (I've used pork loin before and that worked pretty well)
1/2 lb black forest ham, sliced thin
1/2 lb swiss cheese, sliced
6 sour crisp dill pickles, sliced thinly long-ways
4 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Cut the bread into 4 even loaves (about 8-10" each). Slice each loaf all the way open. Spread mustard on the inside of the tops and bottoms of the bread. Place an even layer of pork on the bottom halves. Then an even layer of ham. Then an even layer of swiss cheese. Then a layer of pickles. Cover with the top halves of bread. Now that the sandwiches are made heat up a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Butter both sides of the sandwiches. Place the sandwiches in the pan and using the flat bottom of another pan press down on the tops of the sandwiches to flatten. Once the bottoms have browned a little, flip them over and once again press to flatten. Once the sandwich is lightly browned on both sides and the cheese is melted (about 3 to 4 minutes each side) remove from the heat and slice diagonally. Delicious.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Any day now.

I love a good bahn mi., I made some delicious Vietnamese style sandwiches today with some left over Chinese BBQ pork (okay, so maybe they were Chinese style as well). Here's the recipe, enjoy.

Vietnamese style BBQ sandwiches
1 lb Chinese BBQ pork, sliced
1 French baguette, sliced open (yet still connected on one side)
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly shredded
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 cup of bean sprouts
1 jalepeno pepper, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp of sesame oil
the juice of two limes
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
salt to taste

First make the cabbage slaw. Combine the cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts, and jalepeno peppers. Make a light vinaigrette by whisking together the sesame oil, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Add it to the cabbage slaw and toss until it's coated. Spread the mayo on the inside of the bread. Then add a generous layer of pork. Cover the pork with few handfuls of the cabbage slaw. Make sure the hot peppers are nicely spread out. Top the sandwich off with a nice helping of cilantro (stems and all). Make sure you have a napkin and eat over your plate!

I made these for lunch today and they were awesome. I brought some for my coworkers and they liked it so much they want me to bring them sandwiches every week. I wonder who will start bring the cocktails?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Seattle's International District

You can't really call it Chinatown. Seattle's "ID" does have it's fare share of Chinese businesses but you're just as likely to walk into a Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, or even Filipino restaurant or shop. I love spending the afternoon having lunch at one of my favorite dim sum spots like House of Hong or Sun Ya. If you've never had dim sum, you should try it. Small plates of dumplings, steamed buns, and more interesting things like chicken feet (Not my favorite. Kind of like chicken jello with bones). There are hundreds of different dim sum dishes that go screaming by on carts with surly waitresses yelling at you for your order. Be quick or they'll take off to the next table. If I'm not in the mood for the hectic chaos that is dim sum I'll opt for a quieter scene at my favorite Chinese restaurant Shanghai Garden. It used to be called Shanghai Garden II but I guess they're now the only one in town. Usually I'm skeptical about restaurants that use the word healthy to describe their food. You generally have to switch the word healthy with words like "bland" or "never heard of salt". Shanghai Garden says they serve healthy Chinese food, and they don't lie. It is healthy. No MSG, fresh ingredients, less oil, barley noodles, brown rice if you want it. Yet they still manage to make extremely flavorful dishes and there are no Americanized dishes to be found. You won't find spaghetti noodles in their chow mein.

Speaking of authentic Chinese food, have you ever had congee? I hadn't until a couple of months ago and now I have dreams about it. Congee is a Chinese rice gruel where they boil the rice until it breaks down into a thick porridge. Not sold by the word gruel are you. Trust me. It is delicious. Ocean City's Noodle House makes the most amazing congee ever. They use a ton of garlic and ginger, and you can add things like Peking duck or beautiful white fish or chinese sausages. If you're a fan of duck, Kings BBQ has the best Peking duck. They also have some of the best Chinese sausage and BBQ pork I've ever had. Whenever I go there I get a half a duck, a pound of sausage and a half pound of BBQ pork. I don't think very many caucasians go into Kings. At first they always look at me like I'm lost but once I order they are always pretty friendly. I guess it is a little bit menacing seeing the various organ meats and the ducks hanging by their necks in the cloudy window or the grumpy cook furiously chopping with his giant cleaver, duck scraps flying everywhere. But don't let that scare you off. Trust me, you'll be thanking me later. One of the things that I love about most asian cultures is that they don't waste food. Every part of the animal is eaten. They seem to have a better relationship with food and want to know where it comes from. A lot of Anglo-Americans are so squeamish about their food. They don't want to know what animal they're eating or how it was made. If the fact that you're eating a animal grosses you out then maybe you ought to become a vegetarian. Anyways, after Kings we usually have to stop into Yummy House Bakery for a couple of sweets. Beautiful cakes and buttery cookies. They also have savory buns (humbows) filled with bacon of chicken. Very delicious and usually by the time I leave Yummy House I am so full of food I want to lay down and die. Perfect time to go grocery shopping now that my hunger won't interfere with my rational mind. It's funny how my grocery bill is always twice as much when I go on an empty stomach.

There are a lot of amazing Asian grocery stores in the ID. My favorite is Uwajimaya because it has every Asian ingredient you can think of under one roof. Uwajimaya is the largest asian grocery store in the United States. It's like Disneyland for a cook. I can spend hours and hours just trying to figure out what some of the beautifully packaged things are and how I can cook with them. If there is an asian ingredient you can think of they will have it. Whenever I go I have to make a list or I will get lost in a time warp and end up losing 4 hours of my day. From beautiful sushi grade fish, to the freshest bean curd you've ever had, to the stinkiest Durian you could possibly want. On my way out I always have to stop by their deli to grab some sushi snacks and a couple of spam masubi (Hawaiian spam sushi. Don't roll your eyes, it's delicious!). Okay, now I'm hungry again.