Monday, July 30, 2007

dinner - July 30th 2007

Tonight for dinner I made Bull's Horn Peppers and Courgette Tortilla with Roasted Golden Beets and Yakima Fingerling Potatoes. At my local farmers market on Sundays, the Alvarez Family Farm stall sells the most amazing organic peppers. I always load up and put them in almost everything. They sell over 50 varieties of peppers and I never get tired of cooking with them. Spanish tortillas are pretty common in my house. The Italians call it a frittata. Americans call it an omelette. Local farm eggs with fresh, organic vegetables are delicious no matter what you want to call it. I dusted the tortillas with a little pimenton (smoked paprika) to finish it off.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Curried Black Chicken

Black chickens are slightly intimidating to cook. They generally are sold with beaks and claws attached. They have black skin and bones and their flesh is soft and gamey in flavor. The Chinese have been eating them forever and use them for their medicinal qualities. They are super high in anti-oxidants and are usually made into a broth that supposedly cures all kinds of ailments.

Okay, all of that aside. These birds are truly delicious. They taste like a cross between duck and pheasant and when braised are very succulent. The curry matched up to the birds flavor quite nicely and the beans and zucchini added a little crunch. Finished off with some chili garlic paste and fresh basil, this dish turned an ugly little bird into a beautiful dinner.

Curried Black Chicken with Fresh Wax Beans and Zucchini

2 lb black chicken, head and feet discarded, rinsed and quartered
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp ginger, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tsp Chinese five spice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp peanut oil
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 zucchini, cut into long julienne
1/2 lb wax beans, ends trimmed
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp chili garlic paste
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

In a small heavy-bottomed pot, combine chicken, stock, wine, ginger, onion, garlic, five-spice powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 hour, until chicken is very tender. Remove chicken and set aside. Strain and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.

In a large saute pan over medium heat add peanut oil. Add 1 tsp ginger and 1 tsp garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in the wax beans, curry, tomato paste and coconut milk. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and the soy sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook until the zucchini starts to soften and the sauce thickens (about 2 -3 minutes). Finish with the lime juice and chili garlic paste and remove from the heat. Garnish with chopped basil, and serve with steamed rice.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rosemary Ice Cream

I'm not a big fan of sweets. I like to make make desserts but I'm not big on eating them. When I do get the itch to make a cake or ice cream I usually take a cook's approach. I like a good amount of savory in my sweets. The other day my friendly and slightly crazy mailman handed me a bunch of beautiful organic rosemary. He doesn't really cook and he knows I do so when a customer gave him some fresh rosemary out of their garden he handed it off to me a few stops later. I also had some organic Washington peaches and I love the way they go from sweet to savory with a little salt and pepper.

Organic Rosemary and Blackberry Honey Ice Cream with Habanero Peppered Washington Peaches

2 cups double cream (36% heavy cream)
2 cups half & half
8 organic rosemary sprigs
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup blackberry honey
2 peaches
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp habanero pepper (black pepper with grinded dried habanero pepper)

In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine the cream, half & half, and the rosemary. Bring the mixture just to a boil and remove the pan from heat. Let the mixture cool for 10-15 minutes. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and blackberry honey. Whisk in the cream slowly, and then pour the mixture back into pan. Cook the custard over low heat until it's slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook unless you like scrambled honey eggs. Strain out the rosemary and refrigerate to mixture to cool. Once it's completely cold pour the custard into an ice-cream maker (follow the ice cream makers instructions) and then put in the freezer to set.

For the peaches, simply cut them in half. Remove the pits and cut into quarters. Sprinkle with salt and habanero pepper and serve over a few scoops of the the ice cream. Garnish with mint if you like. Eat it before it melts.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

dinner - July 22nd 2007

Tonight for dinner I made a take on Pasta e Fagioli with orecchiette pasta, fava beans, kale, red peppers, and swiss chard in a light garlic sage cream sauce. It was peppery and slightly spicy. For the sauce I used butter, white wine, fresh sage, garlic, and a little bit of heavy cream. Nice and easy after a long work day and a few cocktails.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chicken & Rice Makes Everything Nice.

Tonight for dinner I made Arroz con Pollo. Cuban chicken and rice. This is one of favorite dishes. It's serious comfort food. I use beer in the cooking liquid and bit of hot sauce to tweak the flavor of my family recipe. It's very simple to make and it's always super delicious. Okay so I got a request for the recipe so here it is.

Cuban Arroz Con Pollo

1 Tbsp olive oil,
1 Tbsp butter,
2 lbs chicken pieces (legs, thighs, halved breasts)
1/2 cup achiote oil (recipe below, or olive oil and a pinch of saffron)
1 spanish (white) onion, small diced
1 green pepper, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup spanish olives, sliced
2 cups valencia rice (regular long grain will work)
1/4 cup basic tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups of pilsner beer (I like to use Pacifico)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp hot sauce (I love Tapatio)
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

for the achiote oil:
1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp annatto (achiote) seeds

Heat the olive oil and seeds in a saute pan over medium heat until the seeds start to sizzle. Cook for about 1-2 minutes and once the seeds start to give off aroma and darken, strain the seeds from the oil. Do not overcook, the seeds will burn and become very bitter. Whatever you don't use right away can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.

for the arroz con pollo:
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large pan over medium high heat, add a Tbsp of olive oil and a Tbsp of butter. Saute the chicken until nicely browned. Remove the chicken from the pan and put aside.

In the same pan, add the achiote oil (if you can't do achiote oil use olive oil and just add a pinch of saffron). Saute the onion, green pepper, garlic, scallions for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the rice and cook a few minutes until it's well coated with the oil. Put the chicken back in the pan and coat the chicken with the oil. Add the olives, tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, beer, chicken stock, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper and give it a few more stirs. Bring it to a boil, cover, and place in the oven.

Cook for 20 minutes and then remove the pan from the oven. Keep it covered and let it sit for 10 minutes. Uncover it and fluff up the rice with a fork. Serves 4-6. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's not just a burger.

So yesterday was K's birthday and I asked her what her most favorite thing to eat would be. She asked me to make my super secret deluxe hamburgers for her special dinner. It's funny, when it comes down to it, the food that people love the most tends to be really basic and nostalgic. I guess they call them the classics for a reason. So what are my favorite foods? Probably the same food that I loved as a kid. Cuban Picadillo, sausage and pepper sandwiches, and arroz con pollo are still my favorites. Not to say that I haven't expanded my favorites list to things I've eaten in my adult years (Lobster, foie gras, and smelly cheeses? Hook me up). I would eat anything when I was younger. I would eat pork brains, oxtail soup, pickled mussels, you name it. Me and my grandfather would be sitting there watching some Charles Bronson movie, eating Spanish canned squid. Those memories stick with you. Once in a while you'll find me eating a spread of pickled oysters with crackers and watching Death Wish. Okay enough of that, I bring you my recipe for my super not-so-secret-anymore deluxe hamburger.

Organic Hanger Steak Burgers with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Hot Pickled Goathorn Peppers, and Peppered Bacon

1 lb ground hanger steak (ask your butcher to grind them for you)
4 kaiser rolls
1/2 lb Point Reyes Blue Cheese (or Roquefort), sliced thin
1 9oz jar Mama Lils hot pickled peppers, drained ( Mama Lils)
8 strips (3/4 lb) peppered bacon, cooked
1 Tbsp shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp hot sauce (I use Tapatio)
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp adobo spice (optional)
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp butter
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a bowl mix together the ground steak, shallots, garlic, hot sauce, worcestershire, adobo spice, and salt and pepper. Don't over work the meat though, just incorporate everything. Separate into 4 equal portions. Take a portion and roll it into a ball. Then with the palm of your hand, push it down to form a 1" thick patty. With your knuckles, form a little indentation in the center (this helps keep the burger flat when it cooks). Over high heat brush a grill or grill pan with a little olive oil. Place the burgers on the grill and cook 2 to 3 minutes each side. Toast the kaiser rolls in the oven for a few minutes and then spread a thin layer of butter on the inside of the top and bottom halves. Spread some mayonnaise on the inside of the top half and dijon on the inside of the bottom half. Place a burger on the bottom half of the bun. Cover with 2 slices of bacon, a few slices of blue cheese, and I Tbsp of pickled peppers. Cover with the top half of the bun. Serve with a salad or fries or whatever you fancy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

dinner - July 14th 2007

Tonight for dinner I made Purple Kale with Fava Beans and Portuguese Linguica Sausage. The kale and the dried fava beans were organic and the linguica was from a Hawiian brand of Portuguese sausage that I really like. Dried fava beans are definitely a bit of work but when you don't have fresh they are the next best thing, although canned will do in a pinch. I only had to shuck them for about an hour. I swear, the trouble I go through sometimes. It was worth it though. With a little bit of vegetable stock, a few fresh bay leaves, and fresh rosemary they were better than anything you'll ever find in a can. I think sausage is probably one of my top five foods. Linguica might even be one of my all-time favorite sausages. Smoky, slightly sweet, with a little bit of heat (Is that an Isaac Hayes lyric?). Also, kale is the miracle green. More vitamins than you can shake a stick at. Although if you're shaking sticks at vitamins you may need some medical attention, or at least a vacation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No anchovies please.

Don't get me wrong, I actually really like anchovies. A few fillets make my marinara taste deep and delicious. I really love fresh grilled anchovies. Tonight for the first time in my life I had anchovies on pizza. It was a medium pie from our favorite local pizza joint topped with prosciutto, grilled onions, black olives, and yes, a ton of anchovies. Now while eating the first slice I actually enjoyed the super salty and briny taste. But the more I ate, the more the anchovy kicked me in the taste-buds. Midway through my second slice I couldn't taste any of the other ingredients. The specks of fish were staring me in the eye saying "It's just you and me buddy". Okay so maybe the anchovies weren't talking to me but they were a bit overwhelming. I didn't hate it, and I probably wouldn't order it again. Oh well, I tried and now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

To cook without cooking.

Okay, so I know for some of you 97F degrees isn't the end of the world, but here in the temperate city of Seattle, WA it comes close. You see, we're not made for this kind of weather. Nobody has air conditioning and most of us instantly burn to a crisp when the sun comes out. Yes, the rumors are true. It does rain quite a bit in Seattle and any true Seattlite worth their salt likes it that way. So when a freakish day, in a so far nicely mild July, nearly reaches near 100 degrees some people tend to feel like the apocalypse is coming. Although I may have over-reacted a bit, I do hate this damn heat. I lived a bit of my earlier years in Miami, FL and I feel like I got enough sun to last me a lifetime.

In this kind of heat you still have to eat (I'm a poet and yes, I know it). Salads are the perfect way to cook without cooking. However finding that balance of refreshing and light yet filling can sometimes be a challenge. Balance is always the key to a great salad (and pretty much any meal). Using sweet ingredients, add something savory. Using something bitter, add something with acidity. Simply adding a protein to a salad can turn it into a delicious meal. And no, it doesn't necessarily have to be a big slab of meat. It can be beans, tofu, fish, bacon (yum), cheese, whatever you like. Like I said, balance is the key.

So anyways, like I was saying today was nearly 200 degrees and my poor cat Clara was melting to the carpet. I wanted to make dinner for my lovely wife who was coming home from work soon so I decided to make a salad that would satisfy our appetites. I made a Organic Fennel Slaw with Smoked Pink Salmon, Brandywine Tomatoes, and Mint Oil.

the slaw
1 bulb fennel, very thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
6 oz smoked salmon, thinly slice
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped

the vinaigrette
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

mint oil
1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 brandywine heirloom tomato, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp fried shallots

In a bowl, toss all of the slaw ingredients together.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard and vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify. Pour the vinaigrette over the slaw and toss lightly.

To make the mint oil, put the mint and the olive oil in a blender and puree for 20 seconds. Strain though a cheesecloth to remove the mint pulp. Funnel into a bottle and refrigerate until needed.

On the plate, place a few slices of the heirloom tomato. In the center pile a mound of the fennel slaw. Garnish with a few sprigs of dill and a pinch of fried shallots. Drizzle some mint oil around the plate. Eat with your favorite cold white wine and then find some air conditioning.

Monday, July 9, 2007

dinner - July 9th 2007

Tonight for dinner I made Peking Duck with Sesame Scallion Pancakes. I had some leftover Peking duck in the freezer so I thawed it out and made some beautiful little pancakes with green onions and a little sesame oil. They were delicious with soy sauce, fresh cilantro, and Cap Jempol (Indonesian hot sauce).

Saturday, July 7, 2007

dinner - July 7th 2007

Tonight for dinner I made Porcini Fettuccini with Shrimp and Black Krim Tomatoes in a Beurre Noisette. I love a basic brown butter sauce with pasta and shrimp. It was garlicky and the hit of fresh herbs and breadcrumbs at the end threw it over the top. Saturdays after work, these are the kinds of quick and super satisfying meals that I love.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cured Salmon & Potato Pancakes

Ginger Latke & Sockeye Gravlox Napoleon with Spicy Mustard Cream & Capers
I came across a recipe for latke (potato pancakes) written by one of my Jewish friend's grandmother in my stacks of recipe folders. It's a very simple dish but it makes the most delicious and moist latke I've ever had. Of course I had to change it a little bit because I'm a control freak and need to make everything my own. I decided to give it a slightly Asian kick by adding minced ginger and a shot of chili garlic paste. It turned out really great. I like the Jewish/Asian twist of this dish. That's not a combination you tend to hear about but it works beautifully. I had some sockeye salmon gravlox in my freezer from a little bit ago and knew it would be perfect on the latkes. You can stack it as high as you want but just remember that most people don't really like eating food off of their clothes or the floor.
Sockeye Gravlox
1 (1-2lb) sockeye salmon fillet, skin on, pinbones removed (you can use any salmon you like, just make sure it's fresh)
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cracked black pepper
2 fl oz fresh lemon juice
2 fl oz gin (I use Bombay Sapphire but any premium gin will work)
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped (you can also use cilantro, dill, parsley, etc...)
cheesecloth & a large perforated pan (holes for straining)

Place the salmon skin side down on a large piece of cheesecloth. Gently rub the flesh with the lemon juice and gin. Mix the salt, sugar, and pepper together to make the cure mixture. Place the cure mixture over the salmon evenly and completely covering it. Sprinkle the herbs over the cure mixture. Wrap the salmon loosely in the cheesecloth and place in the perforated pan cure side up. Place another flat pan on top of the salmon and cover with a 2-3 lb weight (potatos, a book, whatever). Place in the refrigerator with a pan underneath the perforated pan to catch the juices. Let the salmon cure for 3 days (leave it alone for 3 days!). On the 3rd day gently scrape off the cure and slice paper thin to eat. It will last in your fridge for another week or you can wrap it air tight and freeze it.

Ginger Latke with Mustard Cream and Capers
2 large russet potatoes
1 shallot, minced
2 scallions, sliced (leave a little of the greens for garnish)
1/2 Tbsp ginger, minced
2 tsp chili garlic paste (or substitute 2 garlic cloves and 1 small chili, minced)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1 tsp Chinese prepared mustard
1/2 cup sour cream

Wash and peel the potatoes. Grate the potatoes into medium long shreds. I use the large holes on a box grater and that works well. Keep the grated potato in bowl of cold water so they don't oxidize. When you're done, drain the potatoes and dry them with a towel to remove most of the moisture. Mix all of the ingredients (not the mustard, sour cream, & capers) in a large bowl until everything is well incorporated. In a large non-stick saute pan over medium high heat add a little bit of canola oil. Place a spoonful of the latke mixture in the pan and flatten it out. It should be about 3" round and 1/2" thick. You should be able to get about 4 of them going in a pan at the same time. Cook for about 4-5 minutes each side until golden brown. Let them degrease on some paper towels. Add a little more oil to the pan for the next batch if you need to.

For the mustard cream just mix the mustard and the sour cream. Simple and tasty!

To assemble the Napoleon, place a latke on the plate. Place a layer of gravlox on top of the latke. Repeat. I think three layers is perfect. Spoon some of the cream on the plate and garnish with sprinkling of scallion and capers. Eat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Matts In The Market

Today my lovely wife and I went to the Market (Pike Place) for lunch. We were going to have French at Maximillians but it was closed. A bunch of restaurants were. What respectable restaurant closes on the 4th of July? It's not even a real holiday. Okay, I like Max's food so I'll cut them some slack. So anyways, our first choice was a bust but then we saw that an old Seattle favorite, Matt's In The Market, was re-opened after a year of revamping. It was open so we decided to give it a go. The service was great, the food was great (maybe a little uninspired in the plating department... a little garnish goes a long way), and the view was spectacular. We got a window seat with a view of Puget Sound and the sprawling market underneath. Restaurants in my beloved market have a strange feeling about them. Although they are usually filled with tourists, they rarely feel touristy and food is usually not tourist fare ("Here's some boiled salmon and apples, enjoy your stay in Seattle!"). Anyways, Matts was great. I had a fried Penn Cove oyster sandwich with a lentil bacon soup. The sandwich was on fresh potato bread (strange choice of bread I thought but it worked well) and the lightly fried oysters were juicy and tasted like the ocean. The lentil soup was full of creamy brown lentils, big chunks of bacon, and had a beautiful smokiness to it. Kelleen, had a sockeye salmon BLT. I guess it was actually a SSBLT. The salmon was cooked perfectly, plump and fresh. It came on a nice thick toast with a couple of heirloom tomato slices, bibb lettuce, and some thick strips of bacon. Why does everything taste better with bacon? I'd probably eat my own foot if it was wrapped in bacon. Am I right or am I right?! The thing about Matts that I really like was that they use only local, seasonal (maybe even organic?) ingredients from the market. There have no pretensions about their food, they just care that it's fresh and tasty.
Matt's In The Market

dinner - July 3rd 2007

Tonight for dinner I made an heirloom tomato salad with a Rioja vinaigrette and habanero peppered eggs with rosemary courgettes. A great summer dinner. Sometimes you just have to eat eggs for dinner to mix things up. I know... I'm such a rebel! What's next? Pancakes? Hmmm, where's my Irish boxty recipe?