Monday, August 31, 2009

The French Lily.

Le lis du Français

In a chilled Champagne glass combine 1/2 cup Lillet with 3 ice cubes, fill the glass with chilled Champagne, and finish with a twist of lemon and a garnish with lemon peel. Feel incredibly classy until you open your mouth and speak. Just kidding, put on some Edith Piaf and practice your French.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sovereign State #3: Algeria



Algeria
The Menu:
Couscous Algérien (couscous with stewed vegetables and chickpeas)
Tagine de Poulet aux Abricots (Braised chicken with apricots and pine nuts)
Merguez (spicy lamb sausage)
Loubia (Algerian green beans with almonds)
Harissa (spicy pepper condiment)
Khobz Mbesses (semolina cake with orange blossom water and lemon)

I have always been intrigued by North Africa. The French always seem to make a place feel more romantic and mysterious (you know, minus all the bloodshed and everything). So it was a friend's birthday and I decided to cook her an Algerian feast instead of buying her something she might not like. I like experiences over presents most of the time anyway. I went down to Pike Place Market and got my brand new beautiful tagine from Sur La Table (as much as I wanted to get the really expensive La Crueset one I opted to go for the more authentic, and much cheaper ceramic version) and then I purchased some merguez sausage from my friend at Uli's Sausage. I had already gathered all of the other ingredients the day before at the Capitol Hill farmers market so everything was super fresh and locally grown. The feast ended up taking me about 4 or so hours to cook. Not too bad for the amount of food I made.



I prepared the harissa the night before to let the flavors meld. It's super easy and once again the condiment is the star of the show. I will be putting homemade harissa on everything from now on. All you do is take a few dried guajillo chiles and a few chiles de ristra (New Mexican chilies) and soak them for over an hour in warm water. Remove the seeds and stems and throw them in the blender with a tsp each of caraway & coriander seeds (grinded), two cloves of crushed garlic, and olive oil. The end, delicious. I always forget how easy it is to cook couscous. It's nice to mix it up once in a while. I suppose there are a few moments in life when want to eat rice. Boil water, add couscous, remove from heat, wait 5 minutes, fluff with fork (water 1.5 to couscous 1). The vegetable stew in the couscous Algérien was very flavorful and vegan I might add. The vegetables were a little overcooked to my likings and I actually even halved the cooking time but the flavors were super deep and satisfying so that made me overcome my fear of soft squash (papaphobia I think. . . No that's a fear of the Pope [seriously, look it up]). I decided to cook the green beans a little less to have some crunch in the meal. They were nice and spicy with a hint of garlic. The almonds gave them even more texture. Anyways, I was very curious at how the chicken with apricots was going to turn out. I'm not a huge fan of overly sweet savory dishes and the recipe called for quite a bit of apricot preserves in addition to the sliced dried apricots in the dish. But the sweetness was actually perfectly balanced by the spices and the heat from a little bit of chilies. I couldn't believe how juicy the chicken turned out. The leg meat almost fell off the bones when you touched it. It was obscenely delicious. I think I ate like 4 pieces of chicken and had no regrets. I actually decided to save the merguez for the following day to cook with leftovers. There was just too much food.

And then there was dessert. Let it be known that I am not a dessert kind of girl. While most people are eating sweets after diner I would rather be snacking on a hot dog. When I was in culinary school the cooks would have to rotate into the pastry department (and vice versa) and I would be the one trying to figure out ways to bake pork into the bread or cheese in the cookies. So since it was my friends birthday and my lovely K is always asking me to make desserts I decided to make a cake. The thing is, I was cooking Algerian and it had to be an Algerian cake. I had to find something that my unsweetened tooth would get enjoyment out of. I came a cross a recipe for Khobz Mbesses, a semolina cake with orange blossom water and lemons. That sounded awesome so I went with it. The cake was very interesting (in a good way, not in a "I don't want to hurt your feelings but I have no tact and I'm going to anyway" kind of way). It had the consistency of a really soft, fluffy cornbread with a very floral smell to it. It was just the right amount of sweet and tart with fresh lemon and orange juices and just a bit of sugar and vanilla. I was pretty happy with the end result and K loved it the most constantly referring to it as "her yummy cake". Actually I think maybe my cat Clara enjoyed it the most as she managed to rip a hole in the plastic wrap and eat a cat face- sized hole straight to the bottom of the dish while we were sleeping.

So yes, another success and another culture's delicious cuisine to add to my repertoire. I will definitely be making some of these dishes again. Especially the hariissa (I wasn't joking about lathering it on everything from now on) and I'll probably have to cook the semolina cake for K again (and Clara). Plus I'm excited to get to use my new tagine again when Morocco rolls around. Next up, Andorra.



For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

Monday, August 24, 2009

Green Gone


The lovely kids down in Ballard's Green-Go Restaurant are packing up their possessions and moving down to Mexico to have a go at sustainable farming. Heidi ad Dylan are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet and it's a fricking shame that Green-Go wasn't supported as well as it should have been. Since they have been selling their delicious meals at the Capitol Hill Farmers market, I've gotten the chance to taste some of the best, most lovingly prepared organic, local food I've had in a long time. The phenomenally juicy seasonal burgers with a variety of relishes (I still agree with Dylan about the yumminess of the relish that you thought was too weird, Heidi.) and fried egg sandwiches, and the amazing black bean burgers with polenta cakes. All made with ingredients grown by the farmers in the stalls next to them. The market just won't be the same without them. Hell, Ballard probably won't be the same either. I hate to see another great restaurant disappear but at least I know this: next time I go to Mexico I'll know where to stop for a great burger and even better company.

So Green-Go is having a restaurant supply firesale this week.
Get down there and help them out with some traveling dough.

GreenGo
5402 20th Ave NW
Ballard, Seattle
206-783-1402

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sovereign State #2: Albania



Albania
The Menu:
Mish Qenji i Pjekur në Skarë (Grilled Lamb Rib Chops)
Fërgesë e Tiranë me Peppers (Roasted Peppers with Tomatoes and Albanian Feta)
Pure Patatesh (Mashed Potatoes with Lemon & Dill)
Tarator (Yogurt Sauce with Cucumbers and Walnuts)
Sallatë Shqiptar (Albanian Arugula Salad with Garlic & Lemon Dressing)

Albania is a country that I never really gave any thought to before doing this project. Sure I had seen images of the flag with the awesome two headed bird and I remember thinking that one of my favorite martial arts films Gymkata (featuring gymnastics-fu awesomeness) used a fictional Albania-esque country as it's background. It's a small country that has it's back to the sea with Montenegro to the north, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the southeast. Albanian food definitely has a lot in common with Greece. Those familiar Mediterranean flavors, the sour, tart, lemony, goodness you come to think of when you think of that region. So when it came down to cooking this dinner, I felt a little more at home. I know these flavors.



For the grilled lamb I got some beautiful fresh lamb rib chops from Olsen Farms and I marinated them overnight in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. I grilled them for about 3-4 minutes each side until they were perfectly medium rare. Of course they were delicious. I knew they would be. For the roasted peppers dish, I used a mix of purple and green bells with one or two cherry peppers, fresh Roma tomatoes, and Albanian feta. A very good and simple dish. Mashed potatoes with dill and lemon = deliciousness. The arugula salad was refreshing and I really like the simplicity of the lemon, garlic vinaigrette. The Tarator or yogurt sauce was the dish that has made me a believer in Albanian food. It seems like the condiments are always the stars. Plain yogurt, diced cucumbers, lemon juice, dill, crushed toasted walnuts, salt. I will be putting it on everything for the next week or so. The meal turned out amazing. Two for two so far. We popped in some Albanian folk music (I liked the song where the kid sounds like he's choking and the other song with the cracked out banjo player) and ate our Albanian feast and I have to say, I'm really digging this exploring new cuisines gig. Thank you Albania for your tasty food. I shall be back.



For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Strychnine

The Strychnine

Muddle a handful of fresh black berries, huckleberries, lemon, and lime slices with a Tbsp of honey and crushed ice. Add two or so shots (my shots are large) of vodka and a splash of soda water. Stir until mixed and chilled and strain into martini glasses. Garnish with berries and lemon/lime wedges.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sovereign State #1: Afghanistan



Afganistan
The Menu:
Torshi (spicy Afghan pickles)
Bichak (turovers with farmers cheese filling)
Nan-I-Afghani (Afghan flat-bread)
Kofta Nakhod (lamb & chickpea meatballs)
Kabuli Palau (Afghan chicken & rice)
Osh Pyozee (onions stuffed with lamb, prunes, & rice)

First of all, I cooked a seriously feast for two people. I could've serious cut back on the portions. I wanted to start thing out right though. So the 6 hours of cooking to kick things off were worth it. A few thoughts: The torshi pickles were awesome. Spicy and vinegary, with just the right amount of kick. I'll definitely be making those again. The bichak turnovers were also very tasty. I had some fresh farmers cheese from Sammish Bay farms and I mixed it with a little cinnamon and honey and then wrapped them in a super flaky dough. Super yummy. The flat bread was a little too crispy on the bottom but were still delicious. Next time I'll cook them higher in the oven. If only I had a tandoor oven.




The kofta nakhod was probably my favorite. They were sort of like a mix between meatballs, matzo balls, and falafel. Really unusual but extremely addictive. The chicken palau was great but the recipe I followed was a little off. I think it called for a little too much coriander and tomato paste. Otherwise, it was pretty damn delicious. The onions in the osh pyozee were a little too much. I used white onions and the dish probably would've been more satisfying with a sweeter onion. I really did like the prunes with the savory lamb and rice mixture. All in all, I'd say it was a very successful Afghan feast. Now I have to eat at Kabul Restaurant in Wallingford to check my flavors. One nation down, 202 to go.



For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Para Español, marque Ocho.

Ballard seems like it's in an entirely different city than Seattle. Getting there, three buses later and two hours of my time wasted, does not usually seem worth it. Don't get me wrong, I really like Ballard. Some of my best friends live in that neck of the woods. There are a ton of great restaurants and artisanal shops worth going to on that side of the water, but our lakes make it a pain to get over there. There is not straight shot to Ballard, even though it seems like I can throw a rock and hit it from up here on Capitol Hill. Sometimes though, you just have to suck it up and start the trek (okay, so I had a ride this time). So last night I made my way to Ballard to meet with a few friends, two of which were in town from Pittsburgh. We hopped around from a few bars (Bastille was extremely beautiful) until we made it to what would be our final destination of the night. Ocho is a small unassuming joint on the corner of 24th and Market St. I was told that it used to be a hot dog shop a few years back but now it is home to some of the most delicious Spanish tapas in Seattle. The room is small and if you don't arrive early you might miss out. Luckily it was a rainy Monday evening and we didn't have to wait very long for a table. A few glasses of Mont Marcal Cava Reserva later we were seated. The meal unfolded with Jamón Serrano. I could pretty much eat Jamon Serrano every day for every meal for the rest of my life. Perfectly sliced paper thin, it was salty and tangy and melted in your mouth. Served with a sliced WA pink lady apple and baguette for a complete bite. My mouth was watering because I saw what was coming next. I almost go up to help the server bring over the Ocho Deviled Eggs. I have a serious weakness for deviled eggs and these little pillowy soft chicken eggs stuffed with pimenton spiked deviled yolks and topped with pickled onion and salmon roe did not disappoint. During my deviled egg orgasm we were brought the Patatas Bravas, which translates as "potatoes for the brave". Large diced fried potatoes with a smokey/spicy brava sauce and green olive tarragon allioli. Crunchy on the outside, heavenly soft on the inside. These are my new movie watching snack. The next wave suddenly hit in the form of Croquetas Borrachas. Fried goat cheese with roasted pepper almond sauce. I won't repeat how my lovely, yet filthy minded friend described them to me (as much as I would love to) but lets just say that they were creamy little bits of heaven. I was starting to get full but the dishes kept coming and I knew that I would find room for whatever came our way. Next the Setas de Jerez arrived. Sherried mushrooms on olive oil toast with arugula and an herb that I drunkenly identified as tarragon. I love fresh mushrooms with sherry. To me it's like eggs and bacon, or salt and pepper, or Spam and nori seaweed. Ya know, it just goes together. So here's the thing. I'm not a very big chocolate fan (although I am apparently a big fan of horrible segues). However, the Pan con Chocolate sent shivers up my spine. Olive oil toast topped with bitter Spanish chocolate, crushed almonds, fleur de sal, and truffle oil. There was also a little mace mixed in there to spice things up. Slightly mind blowing. Last up on the table was the La Carolina They were pancetta wrapped, blue cheese stuffed dates with a balsamic reduction. You can pretty much wrap a tire with bacon and I would eat it. These were sweet and salty and bacony and tasty. I was pleasantly stuffed and a maybe little drunk and I knew it was time to head back to The Hill. So maybe it's not so bad leaving my neighborhood once in a while and with places like Ocho populating the streets of Ballard, perhaps I will brave the excursion over the lakes to get a bite to eat. (photo courtesy of Ocho)

Ocho
24th & Market in Ballard
4pm-2am daily / Saturday and Sunday, 11am-2pm
206.784.0699

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Incredible Feast - Where Farmers Are The Stars.



Here's all of the details from seattlefarmersmarkets.org
"Conceived by Tamara Murphy of Brasa Restaurant, this event is one of Seattle's premier food events and showcases an astounding variety of local flavors, all prepared using fresh farm ingredients. Held outdoors in a farmers market setting, guests can sample over 30 gourmet dishes, enjoy excellent local (Salmon Safe certified!) wines and beers, and meet the chefs and farmers behind the food. The event also features country-fair-style games with fabulous prizes, live music and a dessert auction. All proceeds from the event support the Good Farmer Fund (emergency relief for local farmers in need) and the NFMA's educational programing.

This year's Feast will be held at the University District Market site under one big, beautiful tent (this also ensures no one gets wet if it rains!). The U-District market is the oldest and largest 'farmer-only' market in Washington state, celebrating 15 years of operation in 2008. This market is 'home' to thousands of shoppers each year, including many of Seattle's best-known chefs and foodies.

We hope you will join us to raise funds for the Good Farmer Fund (emergency relief for local farmers), and support the future of Seattle's beloved Farmers Markets. Tickets are available on brownpapertickets.com, and at any of our seven Farmers Market info booths. We've sold out every year, so be sure to get your tickets in advance! Prices: $80 per person, or $150 per couple, $10 for kids 13 and under.



Last year, a wonderfully good-natured crowd enjoyed an Incredible Feast on Sunday, August 24th, in one of the worst downpours Seattle's ever seen! Over 400 guests enjoyed an amazing spread of unique dishes including Beet Salad with Pistacios, Mint and Ricotta Salata, Grilled Coho Salmon with Sauce Gribiche, Curried Goat with Peach Chutney, Tarragon and Chive Chevre with Blueberry Gastrique and Grainy Raspberry Mustard... Part of the fun of the Feast is the discovery -around each corner and under each tent is a different dish and every time you think you've sampled them all, you find out there's another you haven't yet tasted...



Farmers participating in the 2009 Incredible Feast:

Alden Farms, Alm Hill Gardens, Appel Farms, Billy's Organic Farm, Bluebird Grain Farms, Dog Mountain Farm, Foraged and Found Edibles, Full Circle, Growing Things, Hayton Farms, Jerzy Boyz, Kittitas Valley Greenhouse, Langley Fine Gardens Nursery and Farm, Lee Lor Garden, Let Us Farm, Local Roots Farm, Loki Fish Co., Nash's Organic Produce, Nature's Last Stand, Olsen Farms, Pipitone Farms, Port Madison Farm, Rama Farm, Rents Due Ranch, River Farm, River Valley Cheese, Rockridge Orchards, Schuh Farms, Skagit River Ranch, Stokesberry Sustainable Farm, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Tiny's Organic, Toboton Creek Farm, Tonnemaker Family Orchard, Two If By Seafoods, Whistling Train, Willie Greens Organic Farm



Chefs at the 2009 Incredible Feast include:

Angie Roberts, Boka - Johnathon Sundstrom, Lark and Licorous - Holly Smith, Café Juanita - Seth Caswell, Emmer and Rye - Julie Andres, La Medusa - Carlos Caula, Carmelita - Cameon Orel, Fall City Road House - Taichi Kitamura, Chiso and Kappo - Sabrina Tinsley, La Spiga - Amy Mcay, Eva - Dana Cree, Poppy - Christine Keff, Flying Fish - Craig Herington, TASTE - Renee Erickson, Boat Street Café - Zephyr Paquette, Elliot Bay Café - Maria Hines, Tilth - Dustin Ronspies, Art of the Table - Gabriel Claycamp, Swinery - David Lazo, Brasa - Don Curtiss, Volterra - Philip Mihalski, Nell's - Rachel Yang, Joule - Ethan Stowell, Union - Joshua Henderson, Skillet - Autumn Martin, Theo Chocolate - Chester Gerl, Matt's in the Market - Dylan Giordan, Serafina - Daisley Gordon, Campagne - Anthony Polizi, Steelhead Diner - Craig Serbousek, Crow and Betty - Matthew Mina, Sorrento Hotel - Scott Emerick.

The fundraiser was conceived by Chef Tamara Murphy of Brasa Restaurant and is organized by Chef Tamara and the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. Tamara’s inspiration for this event comes from her personal experience of cooking with local farm and sea products. She says: “Good dishes can only come from good food…Chefs get all the glory for their creations, but it is vitally important to acknowledge the local farmers who are the backbone of these culinary successes. Citywide farmers markets have made us rethink what tastes good and the value of local, seasonal, sustainably-grown food."

With farmland continuing to disappear across the nation (due to development and urban sprawl), it is more vital than ever to support and protect our local farmers, farmland, and the markets where small family farms earn the full dollar value of their products. Farmers markets in Seattle are gaining in popularity and number - yet none of them has a permanent location, and all are vulnerable to new development."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beast Fest

A few weeks ago me and my surly bunch of ruffians went to the biggest meat-aganza I've ever been to. Okay maybe the only one I've ever been to. Burning Beast, the world's funnest and most delicious feast in a field cooked by Seattle's best chefs. In fact there were more than eleven star-studded cooking teams gathered to prepare and master an assigned animal, vegetable and/or sea creature, whole or in parts, using fire, earth, steel and little else... participating chefs included; Dylan Giordan (Serafina), Angie Roberts (Boka), Matt Dillon (Sitka and Spruce, The Corson Building), Garret Abel (DeLaurentis), Dustin Ronspies (Art of the Table), Gabriel Claycamp (The Swinery), Ron Jones (Jones Glassworks), Tyson Danilson (Le Pichet), Jonathan Sundstrom (Lark), Zephyr Paquette (Eilliott Bay Cafe), Jennifer Alphonsine (Circa Alehouse) and others. Although it was the one cold, wet day of the entire month we had a blast. My pal Nigel had all the gear to set up a camp worthy of such an event (including the foldable couch!) and I brought enough beer to wash down three beast fests. Here's how it all went down:

It took about an hour and a half to drive north to Smoke Farm. It is truly beautiful up there. I guess the iffy weather added to the suspense. The creepy black clouds engulfed the mountains and us as we drove to higher elevations. As we entered the farm we were handed giant cards that read DUCK. The woman that handed them to us said that that's the animal we must start with. They did this so when the food was ready everyone wouldn't bum rush a specific chef's tent. First thing we did when we got there was open up a few beers and set up camp. I'm not even going to discuss the weird nest of dirt and branches in the creepy shack behind us that some dirty guy made to sleep in.


Round 1: Once we were settled, we scoped out a plan of attack. First had to be duck. Here's Dustin Ronspies from Art of the Table making duck confit for his duck confit Banh Mis (Vietnamese sandwiches) with homemade spicy pickles. This was probably my favorite station.


Jonathan Sunstrom of Lark & Licorice making roasted goat and cousous with pine nuts and currants and a creamy tzatsiki sauce. The goat was great but the couscous was the star of this dish.



Oyster Bill grilling fresh oysters. Topped with a little hot sauce and lemon, those oysters were delicious. My second favorite thing of the evening.


We also got some taco-esque seafood from Gabriel Claycamp of The Swinery and some grilled veggies from the vegetable tent. The seafood consisted of grilled mackerel, grilled sardines, and geoduck ceviche. I liked the components on their own, but all crammed together like that just made a fishy mess. The veggies were fine but were just plate filler.




Round 2: Since we started our first meal with Vietnamese sandwiches I thought we'd do the same for our second plate. Only this time it was Garret Abel from Delaurentis making Rabbit Banh Mis with pickled carrots. I think it's a rule that you have to serve carrots when you cook rabbit. It's just ironic.


Tyson Danilson of Le Pichet & Monica Dimas of Pike Street Fish Fry did Argentinian style spit roasted beef and cow's liver. It was tasty with a little to chimichurri sauce to spice things up.


Tamara Murphey of Brasa (organizer of the event) had her delicious roasted pig. I wish I could've gotten some cracklings.


Angie Roberts of Boka did a rotisserie roasted chicken with a tropical salsa. It was awesome and probably my third favorite dish.


Matt Dillion of The Corson Building and Sitka & Spruce did a stewed Moroccan style lamb with lemony couscous and it was tasty. I was pretty much beyond wanting to eat ever again by the time I made it to him so I didn't do his dish justice.


Although the weather conspired against us and probably worked against the food. We had a great time. I'm sure the dishes would've have tasted better nice and hot instead of the cold, damp pieces of meat we ate by the time we walked back to our little camp. It was very cool getting to see all of these talented chefs working with the basics to make something delicious. I will definitely attend next year and I will be sure to be better prepared. Hell, who knows, maybe I will even crash it and make a renegade Cuban sandwich tent. That would be fun.