Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beef, It's Whats For Dinner.

Flank steak is the best part of the cow.  There I said it.  No going back now.  Cooked properly (marinated and grilled 2 minutes each side until medium rare) it is so freaking tender and mouthwatering.  Growing up in a mostly Cuban household we didn't do much beef.  The holy pig was out beast of choice and with the exception of my Mom's famous Hamburger Helper and mi Abuela's rabo encendido (ox tail stew) we never ate steak.  Oh, and once in while my French Canadian father cooked up a mean burger and charred a couple hot dogs on special occasions.  I remember the first steak I had ever eaten.  I was in in my teens and the whole family went to one of those cheesy chain steak restaurants (I think it was an Outback Steakhouse because I vaguely remember my deep fried onion explosion).  It was probably from some corporate factory farm where the juiced up super cows are pumped full of growth hormones and stacked into cramped cow towers while getting fatted up for my consumption.  It was a tasty steak though.  I think it was injected with MSG and braised in cocaine butter and I remember orgasmically seeing the light like I had just been invited into Heaven or Valhalla no questions asked.  I was now a steak fiend.  I needed it to survive.  Steak had become my air, my water.  I asked for steak every meal.  A couple of months later I became a vegetarian for 11 years.  All it took was a PETA video and a few Youth of Today songs (okay, actually the girl I was crushed out on was a vegetarian).  I eat meat now like my life depended on it now.  Being vegetarian is about where you draw the line.  As I got older I decided that my line would be drawn a little higher up the food chain.  I just choose to buy my meat from more humane and healthy places.  I try to be an educated eater and that's good enough for me.

I made Spicy Marinated Flank Steak and Queso Oaxaca Quesadillas with Cilantro and Almond Salsa.  I marinated the flank steak in chipotles in adobo, cumin, oregano, hot piménton, garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil for about 2 hours.  In a hot grill pan I seared the steaks for about 2 minutes each side and then took them off the heat and let them rest for 15 minutes.  Quesadillas are one of the easiest things ever.  Tortilla, cheese, tortilla.  Heat in a lightly oiled skillet, both sides until slightly crispy.  Cut into quarters.  For the sauce I pureed cilantro, parsley, olive oil, toasted almonds, garlic, scallions, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice, hot sauce.  On a plate lay down the quesadillas, top with the sliced steak (sliced against the grain), and drizzle with the salsa.  Garnish with cilantro, parsley, and coitja cheese.  Yum.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Soup That Squashes The Rest.

It's no secret, I am not a big squash fan.  In fact it's one of my least favorite vegetables.  My CSA (local farm fresh veggies delivered weekly to your door) sent me yet another trillion apples and a giant butternut squash.  Instead of crying about it I decided to make it a challenge.  Make squash that I like.  You can trick yourself into anything I thought to myself.  Remember when I tricked myself into thinking those crunchy Japanese Squid Snacks were in fact pork rinds.  Yup, it worked for a minute until the oily over fishy taste came through.  I suppose a lot of people would be just as disgusted by pork rinds.  To them I say this "you are joyless and have no class".  Anyways, I was determined to make a squash dish that didn't make me cringe.

The end result was Curried Butternut Squash and Jonagold Apple Soup with Bacon, Fresh Thyme, and Peppered Rye Croutons.  I roasted the squash and a couple of jonagold apples with butter, salt, and pepper until nice and caramelized and soft.  I removed the skins and seeds and threw the flesh into a blender.  In the meantime I rendered the fat out of a couple slices of bacon and cut some dark rye bread into cubes.  I set aside the bacon on a paper towel lined plate and then I seasoned the croutons with salt and fresh ground pepper and tossed them in the bacon fat until crispy.  I heated up 4 cups of homemade veggie stock (so easy and way better than the canned stuff) and added a few ladles full into the blender with the squash and apple flesh.  Season with salt, pepper, 1 Tbsp curry powder, and a 1/2 Tbsp of fresh thyme.  Blend until smooth, strain and add the liquid gold to the rest of the veg stock.  Simmer until it thickens.  Garnish with the rye croutons, bacon, and fresh thyme.

I was surprised how delicious this soup was.  It's a serious stick to your ribs, make you feel all cozy kind of soup.  I could see eating eating a small bowl of this with a grilled apple and brie grilled cheese.  While I don't see myself eating roasted squash anytime soon, I do see myself making this soup again.  And again, and again.  Yum yum.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Lone Star Treat.

I just wanted to say thank you Texas.  Aside from your generally scary politics and unforgiving, dirty, hot summers you created something I can really get behind.  You make some awesome food.  BBQ, yes Ma'am.  Amazing beef, check.  Mexican food, well not really your invention but I'll thank you for just being in proximity to delicious Mexico.  Frito Pie, Hell yes.  Wait, please don't tell me you've never heard of Frito pie.  Let's get you back to the School of Deliciousness.  Food you can't live without 101.  Frito pie is simple.  Make a yummy chili.  Open a bag of Fritos.  Pour chili over Fritos.  Top with and ungodly amount of bright orange cheese.  If you're fancy add scallions, cilantro, and sour cream.  This is an Austin TX specialty.  Austin is my favorite part of Texas.  It's where aging Seattle punk rockers go to grow old and eat their oatmeal.  No offense to all my lovely Austin friends, you know it's true.

Anywho, I just used my recipe for Buckeye Chili and omitted the cinnamon.  Buy a bag of plain Fritos.  Cover with a ladle of chili.  A friendly handful of cheddar jack cheese.  Sliced scallions and chopped cilantro because I am in fact fancy.  Eat with a fork and lots of napkins.  Oh, and don't wear white unless you want your outfit to look like a Jackson Pollock chili painting.  A cute way to serve a bunch of Frito Pies is to buy the little individual bags of Fritos and just split them open and serve them in the bag.  Very cool.  Pop in a DVD of Pee Wee's Big Adventure (the Alamo doesn't have a basement, dummy!) or snuggle up with the new wacky crime novel by G.W. Bush and crunch away.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Kid on the Block.

There's a new foodie website in town. is a website dedicated to local Seattle culinary news, restaurant reviews, and  chefy goodness.  It's literally foaming at the mouth with all things Seattle food.  If you live and eat in Seattle or just wish you were that cool and you love food check check check it out.

By the way, wanna eat out once a month for free for an entire year?  They have a contest going on right now that will make that wish come true.  The Contest starts now and the winner will be announced February 14th, 2011. The Grand Prize is dinner for two at two different Seattle-area restaurants a month, for a year.  Sign up at and enter.  If you win I get to be the guest at your table, deal?  Okay, I guess that's negotiable.  Bye now.   

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Art of Layering.

Lasagna is delicious, true or false?  If you answered false you should go cut your tongue out with dull scissors because it's dumb and defective.  Lasagna is in fact delicious.  It's one of those foods that sticks to your ribs and keeps ya warm all night long.  Layers of pasta filled with yummy gooey goodness.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  There are lots of ways to make the magical dish and if you ask any grumpy Italian grandmother, their way is the right way.  Unless of course you ask the menacing looking Greek guy across the street and you'll get a different point of view on who invented the dish, and by the way, it's called Mousaka not lasagna.  Yeah yeah, I hear you both and I agree with both of you.  Everybody's got a recipe that's the real authentic thing.  There's room for everybody in my culinary world.  I make an orzo "risotto" even thought some people would claim there's not such thing.  It is what I say it is.  I'm pretty sure your name is not Merriam-Webster so shut up.  Anyways, where was I?  Oh yeah, lasagna.  I never had it much growing up.  My mother just never really made it.  Then again, I'm pretty sure most other kids didn't grow up eating ox-tail stew.  My Italian godfather (no joke) made it for special occasions along with homemade pizza and Italian wedding soup.  On holidays we always had this strange mix of Cuban, 50s Americana, and Italian food.  I loved eating during the holidays.  Like a schizophrenic world cuisine feast.  Sure I'd love another helping of baked ziti and oh I'll also have some tuna noodle casserole and don't forget the Vaca Frita!  I love love loved it.

When I lived in St. Louis I frequented a little Italian joint called Mangia.  My favorite thing to get there was a spaghetti dish with a cream sauce that was then covered in marinara and then covered with cheesy goodness and baked.  Their lasagna was delicious too.  The one thing I don't care for in traditional lasagna is that there is usually too much ricotta.  The thing I don't like in moussaka is eggplant (yes, the main ingredient).  Anyways, I decided to take the best of both and make a Lamb Sausage and Spinach Lasagna with Feta and Artichoke Hearts and I threw in a little Mangia influence by layering in a cream sauce and a red sauce.  So delicious, definitely the best of both worlds. Some chefs say fusion equals confusion.  Or was it fusion equals blood transfusions.  I can't remember, all I do know is that I say fusion equals inclusion when the fusion has no delusions of seclusion.  The rule is generally that too many conflicting ingredients spoil the party like a wasted guy peeing on the carpet.  No fun.  Keep it simple, only invite your close friends and you'll avoid having to get the carpet cleaned (ie: a nasty confusing dish).  The flavors you love don't need to have the boundaries of tradition.  Sure there's a place and time for cooking something that is tried and true and has history but it's never a bad time to explore.  How do you think those traditions got started in the first place.  Someone had to be adventurous enough to put the rotten milk in their mouth and say "Yum, delicious, I think I'll call it cheese".

Lamb Sausage and Spinach Lasagna with Feta and Artichoke Hearts

For the Red Sauce:
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1  28-oz. can peeled whole san marzano tomatoes, with juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepperf
1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1/2 tsp ground cinnamin
juice of half a lemon

The Béchamel Cream Sauce:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp AP flour
4 cups milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper tt
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
The Lasagna
I lb. lasagna pasta (I like the kind you don't have to pre-cook)
2 lbs. lamb sausage, crumbled with casings removed
2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained 
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 cup feta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees.  Grease up a 9"x 13" baking dish with a little butter.

2. Start the red sauce. Heat up the olive oil in a sauce pot and saute the garlic for a minute or two until it's fragrant.  With your clean hands crush the tomatoes one by one into the pot adding all the juices.  Season and simmer on low for 20 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.  Add the basil and lemon juice and set aside

3. While the red sauce is cooking start cooking the sausage filling.  In a saute pan over medium high heat brown the sausage in olive oil until cooked through.  Add the spinach and season.  Add the herbs and set aside.

4. Make the béchamel: Heat 4 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add flour; cook 2 minutes (whisk to make a roux). Slowly whisk in milk and simmer (don't boil).  Whisk in the cheese and reduce to medium-low; simmer, whisking, until thick, 10-15 minutes. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

3. Assemble you lasagna.  Start out with a little red sauce.  Layer of noodles.  Layer of sausage filling.  Layer of cream sauce. Layer of Noodles.  Layer of red sauce.  Repeat until all of your ingredients are nicely layered in the baking dish.  Top off with the remaining feta and parmesan cheeses and a few dabs of butter. 

4. Cover with foil and place in the oven.  Cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove foil for the last 15 minutes to get a nice brown top.  Garnish with fresh dill and have an Italian-Greek party in your mouth! ;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Potatoes are Leeking.

Soup is good food. Especially when it isn't a squishy salt lick that oozes out of a can. When I was a kid I loved Campbell's cream potato soup. In fact, I wouldn't even add any milk to it because I liked how salty it was. Yes I know, I was a strange kid who grew up to be a slightly strange adult. As a little girl I also ate squid out of a can but that's another story. Back to soup talk. Soup is the most comforting of comfort foods. There is nothing better than a warm bowl of liquidy goodness on a cold winter day.

I recently belonged to a local farm's CSA. I got a variety of fresh organic vegetables and fruit delivered to my doorstep every Tuesday.  It was pretty rad but I had to stop because we couldn't eat the produce fast enough.  I have a giant bowl of like 20 apples that I need to use up.  I wish I liked apple pie.  Perhaps I'll make a giant batch of potato / apple / chicken Wafuu curry.  Anyhow, the last shipment I got had the biggest leek in it I have ever seen.  No kidding, it was the size of like three babies arms.  Also in the box was a bunch of yummy Yukon gold taters.  I love potatoes.  My wife is Irish so perhaps that's where the passion for potatoes (wasn't that a movie?) comes from.  I decided to make a Creamy Potato and Leek Soup with Spicy Rock Shrimp.  I melted one giant leek (white and light green parts only) with a little bit of onion in some butter over medium low heat.  In the meantime I boiled about 2 lbs. of peeled potatoes until soft in salted water.  The potatoes were then drained and added to the leeks with about 2-3 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup milk (or half and half if you're feeling dangerous).  The mixture was then pureed in a blender until smooth and strained back into the pot.  Don't forget to season the soup with salt and pepper.  Heat it until it thickens.  Sooooo easy and oh so satisfying.  To contrast the creamy rich soup I topped it off with some rock shrimp that were sauteed in butter with a little lemon juice, piménton and cayenne (and salt and pepper of course).  Garnish with some fresh parsley, cilantro, or dill and you have a serious meal on your hands (and in your mouth).  I like to make giant batches of these kinds of soups (minus the shellfish) and store it in serving size containers for an easy dinner.  As the freezing cold blows through my paper thin windows a bowl of this soup would sure hit the spot right now.  That and a nice glass of whiskey.  That'll keep me warm.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Beast Within.

La Bête (French for The Beast) is a lovely little unassuming restaurant hidden away in the parking hell zone of southwest Capitol Hill.  Underneath an old apartment building sits this pretty world of dark wood and dimly lit chandeleirs.  A few days ago K and I went to La Bête for our 9 year wedding anniversary and as we entered we were welcomed by the sounds of freshly made pork rinds still popping and unusually sociable smiling chefs.  Our friendly server sat us where we wanted to sit and we ordered a couple of delicious cocktails.  K got The Bellevue which consisted of rye, sloe gin, lemon, honey, absinthe, and fresh rosemary.  It was sweet and herbal.  One of those cocktails that is really interesting but one is enough.  I had a Sexy Delicious made with aquavit, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, white wine, and lemon.  Tart and sour.  The kind of cocktail you want many of.

To start we ordered a few small bites like the Pork Rinds with Pickled Shallots.  As the pig skin was delivered to our table it was still snapping and crackling.  The salty rinds were perfectly complimented by the sour shallots.  We had a blast loudly crunching this playful dish.  This is the kind of food most Seattleites frown upon because it's noisy and no fun must be had when eating.  Foodies are very a very serious lot.  Screw that, I loved them.  After that we scarfed our way through a plate of Parmesan Gougères with White Anchovy and Egg.  The gougéres were light and fluffy little pate a choux pastry sandwiches filled with salty little anchovy fillets and slices of tamago (Japanese omelet).  Perfect little bites.  We followed up the gougéres with a tray of fresh Shigoku Oysters with Grapefruit Granite and Lemony Pink Peppercorn Mignonette.  As always I could eat like one thousand raw oysters daily and be a happy girl.  The frozen grapefruit was tart and gave a great texture to the briny oysters.  The peppercorn mignonette was spicy and pungent.  Very inventive.  Thank god for oyster season.  Yum.  Next up was a special of the night.  Spot Prawns with Sauteed Artichokes, White Asparagus, Harrissa, Cream and Spot Prawn Roe.  Harissa is a North African spicy condiment that just seem to elevate whatever it's served with.  I had never had spot prawn roe.  It was salty and savory like little pebbles of happiness.  The artichokes and asparagus were tender and fresh and the prawns were cooked perfectly.  I wanted to lick the plate.  Is that so wrong?  For the last savory dish of the night we ordered the Poached Duck Egg with Duck Fat Potatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Lardons.  I am a believer in that a poached or fried egg makes everything ten times more delicious.  I love cracking a fork into a soft, velvety egg yolk and watch it ooze like a rich yellow river of delicious fattiness over everything on your plate.  The potato was like a big tasty latke (shredded potato pancake) sauteed in duck fat.  Holy hell it was good.  The fresh mushrooms and thick bacon slabs threw this dish over the edge.  The perfect breakfast dish for dinner.  I dig it.  I love bacon and eggs for dinner.  To end the meal we shared a giant Banana Split.  Sweet's not my thing but K licked the dish clean and the few bites I had were creamy and delicious.  This was one of my favorite meals I've had all year.  Pretty much perfect.

La Bête not only impressed me it made it way onto my top five restaurant of the year list.  Chefs Tyler Moritz and Aleks Dimitrijevic (protégés of John Sundstrom and Ethan Stowell) have opened a serious gem here.  Don't let the name The Beast fool you.  The food here was delicately prepared with some serious finesse.  Perhaps the name is a play on the fact that when you eat there, you'll want to lick the plates.  We are the beasts, La Bête has the manners.

La Bête

1802 Bellevue Avenue (at Howell)
(206) 329-4047

La Bête on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bird is the Word.

Stuffing meat into different kinds of meat is an American tradition.  Take an ordinary lil' chicken breast for example.  You can slice an opening in the side of a nice piece of chicken breast and stuff it with virtually anything and it will be delicious.  Well maybe not anything.  Bubblegum or soap are two things that I would not recommend stuffing into chicken but anything yummy and fatty and savory would work.  

Chicken cordon bleu is one of my favorite all time classic chicken dishes.  So delicious.  Crispy breaded chicken stuffed with salty ham and gooey Swiss cheese.  I decided to do a serious twist on the same idea but instead of ham I used spicy sopressata salami and rich aged Spanish manchego cheese. After tying off the chicken to keep all the yummy stuff inside I seared them off in a little bacon fat (cause that's how I roll) and finished them off in the oven.  In the meantime I made a fennel and apple slaw with fresh dill, Spanish olive oil, rice wine vinegar, and honey.  Tart and sweet with the tasty anise flavor of fennel.  Very delicious.  When the chicken was done I pulled it out of the oven and removed the string.  After letting it rest for a bit I sliced into it and topped it off with a cherry tomato chow chow (a tasty mix cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh corn, and fennel fronds).  This dish had a great balance and was super duper tasty.  It's a great simple dish for a dinner party or date night.  

Sopressata and Manchego Stuffed Organic Chicken Breast with a Fennel and Pink Lady Apple Slaw and Cherry Tomato Chow Chow 

for the chicken:
4 organic boneless chicken breasts
1/2 lb. thinly sliced spicy sopressata
1/2 lb aged manchego cheese (Parmesean would work if you can't find manchego), thinly sliced
kosher slat and fresh cracked black pepper
bacon fat or butter

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.  Slice a pocket into the sides of the chicken breasts.  Stuff the slit with equal amounts sopressata and manchego.  Make sure none of the filling is falling out.  Tightly tie the breast shut to keep in the goodies.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a saute pan over medium high heat heat up some bacon fat and sear off both sides of the chicken breast.  Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until the chicken reaches 155F.  Set aside and rest for at least 7-8 minutes before slicing.

for the fennel and apple slaw:
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 pink lady apples (you can use whatever apples you have on hand), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp Spanish olive oil
1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey
2 tsp chopped dill, chopped
2 tsp chopped fennel fronds, chopped
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Make the slaw while the chicken is cooking.  Using a mandoline slice the fennel and apple as thinly as possible.  Toss with the remaining ingredients.  Season.  Refrigerate until ready to eat.

for the chow chow:
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tbsp fennel fronds
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp pimenton dulce
olive oil

In a saute pan over medium heat saute the garlic in olive oil until soft, add the tomatoes, corn, and pimenton.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute until the tomatoes just start to burst open (about 3-4 minutes)  Toss with the fennel fronds and set aside.

Place some of the slaw on a plate, top with the sliced chicken breast and a bit of chow chow.  Garnish with a little fennel frond and dill.  Yum.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Barrel Full of Crackers.

If you're from the South, chances are you've been to Cracker Barrel.  Part old-timey candy store, part country cookin' restaurant.  I used to go nuts when my folks would take the family out to some far away, middle of nowhere Cracker Barrel.  They always seemed to be nestled right next to an outlet mall or a seedy truck stop.  The second you walk in the door you're transported to a tchotchke filled wonderland of jars and tubs filled with old school sugary concoctions.  My favorite was the rock candy on a stick with edges so sharp that you were bound to have an open sore or two in your mouth before you were seated for your meal.

For breakfast I would always get the country ham steaks, sausage, bacon, two fried eggs, hash browns, and grits with cream gravy.  A nice light breakfast to start my day.  I don't know how I managed to stay thin all those years.  My mother insisted that I had a tapeworm.  If I do have a worm it must be about 60 feet long by now.  Ick, I just seriously grossed myself out.  Perhaps I'll sleep with a piece of raw beef on my pillow tonight and see if my wormy friend comes crawling out my mouth.  I think I'll name her Slippy.  Anywho, lunchtime at Crackertown (that's what I called it when I was a lil' girl) was my favorite.  I remember walking past a bright red window filled with gory slabs of meat gettin' smoked right before my eyes.  I always knew what I was getting before I even sat down.  "Yes ma'am, I'll have the chicken n' dumplings.  Can I also get a side of hushpuppies and maybe some red beans and rice.  Oh and a side of your famous smoked ham n' biscuits too.  Yeah don't forget the ham."  I don't know how my mother afforded to keep me around.  I ate more than my whole family put together and then when I was finished with my ridiculous amount of food I would continue to eat all of the other unfinished plates on the table.  Hell, I bet I would've roamed the restaurant eating off of other people's plates if I knew I could get away with it. 

Back to the Chicken n' Dumplings.  Although I didn't quite replicate the recipe from Cracker Haven my version comes pretty damn close if not better.  I'm pretty sure mine uses better ingredients.  The first batch I made came out a little more soupy than I like but it was tasty none the less.  I think I didn't stir enough as I was dropping in the dumplings to make that thick creamy gravy.  I also added a few vegetables to brighten it up a bit.  Here in Seattle, it's hard to get an authentic taste of the South so once in a while I'll give myself a rock candy tooth ache and make some chicken n' dumplings to feel right at home. 

Southern Chicken N' Dumplings

3 quarts water
1 3-4 pound chicken cut into pieces
1 teaspoons salt
1 small onion sliced
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
4-6 whole parsley leaves
fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt tt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

for the dumplings
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons of salt
2 tsp old bay
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the chicken, 1 teaspoon of salt, onion, 2 celery stalks, garlic, bay leaf, and parsley to the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the chicken, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Skim the foam off the top while it's cooking.  The liquid will reduce by about one third.
2. When the chicken has cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Strain the stock and set aside. Throw away the aromatics.
3. Pour 6 cups of the stock back into a pot  Add fresh cracked black pepper, one teaspoon of salt, and the lemon juice, then reheat the stock over medium heat while you prepare the dumplings.
4. For dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and milk in a medium bowl. Stir well until smooth, then let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about a 1/2 inch thickness.
5. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares and drop each square into the simmering stock. The dumplings will first swell and then slowly shrink as they partially dissolve to thicken the stock into a white gravy. Add one sliced celery stick and carrots.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until thick. Stir often.
6. While the dumplings are cooking tear the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin. Shred the chicken meat into large bite-size pieces and drop them into the pot. Simmer the chicken and dumplings for another 5-10 minutes.
7. When the gravy has reached the desired consistency, ladle into bowls and serve hot.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pork N' Beans.

When I was a kid I used to love the pork and beans that came in a can.  A congealed mess of mushy beans and unnaturally pink "pork" chunks.  I was a pretty disgusting child.  I'd eat anything.  I loved the mystery food that came from cans.  I'm sure I already have my entire lifetime supply of sodium.  It's terrible but I still have cravings for the over salted, processed food of my childhood but I manage to fight it most of the time.  I tend to have no willpower whatsoever when I'm sick.  I always break down and eat a can of squishy, sugary, junk.  It's nostalgic and comforting for me and even though it tastes like a salty bowl of chemicals.  I need it.  Like a relapsing crackhead I feed my addiction for terrible food with the knowledge that I'll feel like hell afterwards and knowingly risk my credibility as a chef.  Perhaps I need an intervention.  Then again, most chefs are foul, junk eating hooligans with no shame.  It's a fact, I will eat Taco Bell that has fallen on the ground.  I would never serve a customer food off the floor but I have no problems putting it in my mouth.  That being said, of course I'd rather eat a beautiful artisanally made taco served on a clean plate.  I'm usually a pretty dainty girl but once in a while the darkness wins and you will catch me eating a floor taco.  At least I have the guts to admit it. 

The devil on my right shoulder doesn't appear that often.  Usually the organic, sustainable, local cooking angel on my left side prevails.  I can still have those comforting dishes without needing a can opener.   I love to take the classics and make them special.  A deliciously modern update on pork n' beans is my Pork con Mojo with Spicy Smoked Pinto Beans.  Pork tenderloin is marinated in mojo (lime, sour orange, garlic, cumin, oregano) and slow roasted in a low oven until fork meltingly tender.  Add a little chicken stock, capers, and peppercorns to the pan juices to make a delicious tangy sauce.  For the beans I soaked dried pinto beans overnight.  Drained the water and cold smoked them for a few minutes with hickory chips on the stove.  Then the beans are re-covered with fresh water, a split habanero chili, onion, and garlic.  As the beans start to become soft add a little cumin, thyme, cinnamon stick, and piménton and cook until the liquid has reduced and the beans are fully cooked.  Don't forget to season along the way.  The spicy beans are the perfect compliment to the tart garlicky pork.  I also made a Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette and Oregon Blue Cheese.  Very simple.  Render some bacon, remove bacon but the leave the fat.  Saute shallots, garlic, capers in bacon fat.  Whisk in sherry wine vinegar.  Pour vinaigrette over the spinach and top with bacon and blue cheese crumbles.  Much more delicious than a can of Spaghetti-Os or a floor taco.   

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Fancy Pork Belly Breakfast.

I've said it before, I'll say it again.  Breakfast is my favorite meal.  I mean sure I am not a morning person so I tend to eat breakfast a little later than most.  To me, there is nothing better than sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits, grits, and ham.  Throw a little cream gravy over the whole thing and I'm in Cracker Barrel heaven.  However let's get something straight, I am not a fan of pancakes, scones, cereal, oatmeal, or any kind of morning sweetness.  I like a little maple syrup with my sausage and I can deal with a good savory chicken and waffle with hot sauce and gravy but that's about it.  It's all about the pork and eggs.

Let's go upscale for a bit.  Sometimes I just want something fancy and interesting.  I had bacon and eggs yesterday but today I woke up feeling fancy.  The day before I made some Seven Hour Braised Maple Ginger Pork Belly.  A beautiful slab of Thunder Hooves organic pork belly marinated for a few hours in soy sauce, maple syrup, coriander seed, fenugreek, garlic, and ginger.  Braised in a 250F degree oven for seven hours with a bit of fresh chicken stock.  The pork was then rested in it's own juices.  Cut into little squares and seared off in a little butter.  This is the most luxurious pork you will ever eat.  It 's crispy on the outside and the inside melts in your mouth.

I served the pork belly with a little reduction of it's own jus which was dark and slightly salty/sweet and some Point Reyes Blue Cheese Scrambles Eggs and a drizzle of white truffle oil.  It sounds like a ton of flavors going on but it worked perfectly.  All of the components lived and got eaten in perfect harmony.  I got all dolled up in my pretty Oscar de la Renta dress and I poured myself a couple of mimosas.  The perfect meal for a fancy kind of day which in my opinion, should be every day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Cleaning

It's that time of year again where the The Hunger cleans out it's closet and gives you her hand me downs.  No these aren't defective recipes or scraps from the trash.  This are a collection of amazingly delicious dishes that weren't quite pretty enough to get a full blown photo spread.  You know, kinda like the fourth place winner of an Oklahoman beauty pageant.  Pretty, but perhaps one leg is a bit shorter than the other giving you an interesting but unfashionable limp.  Squint until slightly blurry and enjoy these hidden treasures.  If only you could taste through your computer screen.  That would be freakishly odd but at least then you would be able to appreciate how scrumptious these dishes were.

Duck Confit with Braised Collard Greens and Tomato Water Steamed Couscous

Duck confit is one of my top ten favorite foods.  It's duck that has been poached and preserved in it's own fat.  It's such a luxurious tasting food.  The collard greens have been braised with white wine, garlic, and a bit of duck fat as well until perfectly tender.  The couscous in this dish was steamed in tomato water which is basically the strained clear juices from fresh, ripe tomatoes seasoned with coriander and cumin seeds.

Galician Cava Steamed Manila Clams with Spicy Lamb Sausage

I strayed from my usual way of cooking manila clams (which I love) of steaming them in vermouth with chorizo.  I deviated and experimented and it paid off.  A bit more delicate but still packed with flavor.  I loved the lamb sausages (similar to merguez) kick and the cava added a tasty hint of sweet/salty/sour.  I swear you could "taste" the bubbles even though the carbonation was cooked off.  Don't forget the crusty bread to sop up the amazing juices in the pan.

Black Bear Korma with Roasted Peppers and Lemon Couscous

Korma never looks pretty.  At best it looks like a lumpy reject sausage that lost it's casing and at worst it looks like your cat missed it's litter box and found your plate instead.  Essentially korma is a hand formed sausage or dumpling depending on what culture you talk to.  They are freaking delicious.  A mix of earthy toasted spices and ground black bear backstrap, this was a pretty unique and tasty take on a Middle Eastern staple.  Are there bears in Egypt?

Arepas con Fricase de Pollo y Escabeche

Arepas are fried corn meal cakes that you can stuff or top with any type of yummy filling.  I made spicy Cuban mojo braised, shredded chicken thighs stewed with tomato, cumin, adobo, garlic, and onions.  Escabeche is basically pickled hot peppers like the jalapenos you see at the salsa bar at the Mexican restaurant.  Picante and delisioso!  By the way, I already know that I have no concept of where commas belong so shut up you crazy grammar Nazis.  Does, this, bug: you?!

Mediterranean Beet Root and Parsnip Lasagna

The Italians don't have a copyright on lasagna.  Nope, the Greeks have been making their own versions of the layered pasta dish just as long.  I had roasted some root veggies from the farmers market and decided to create my own version of the comforting dish. To counter balance the sweetness of the beets and parsnips I layered in some salty feta and made a spicy Mediterranean style tomato sauce with a little cinnamon and lemon zest.  How do you say mangia in Greek?

Polenta Frita with Spicy Lamb Ragu

Right after you make polenta and serve it up make sure you pour what's left in a shallow square dish.  That way the following day you can cut it into little squares and fry them off in olive oil for crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside polenta frita.  The lamb sugo (which means sauce) is ground lamb sausage, Hungarian hot peppers, onions, garlic, tomato, and fresh basil.  Dishes made from leftovers are sometimes better than the original dishes they came from.  This is one of those dishes.

Gallo Pinto With Fried Eggs and Chorizo

Stewed pinto beans with white rice on a soft tortilla served with chorizo and fried eggs.  The perfect Mexican breakfast.  Make this when you're hungover.  That's what I did.  Uhhh, time to go.  I need some aspirin.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sovereign State #14: Bangladesh

The Menu:
Bengali Biryani (Spiced Basmati Rice with Pike)
Palak Masoor Dal (Red Lentils with Spinach and Fenugreek Leaves)
Chingri Malai Curry (Spicy Bengali Prawn Curry)

Okay kids, open your geology books.  Bangladesh is not part of India.  It was once but it's not anymore.  It was also known as East Pakistan for a while as well.  A couple of revolutions later the Bengali people forcefully freed themselves from the tyranny of the British and Pakistani rule to become their own sovereign nation.  Relatively peaceful since the 1970s the only threats Bengalis have had to face (aside from extreme poverty) are from man eating Bengal tigers and venomous vipers.

The cuisine of Bangladesh takes a few cues  a little from it's neighbors and being a fairly new independent country, it struggles to separate it's own culinary traditions from that of it's former landlords.  However, like any place creating it's own identity, Bangladesh is slowly starting to show the rest of the world it's own unique traditions and culture.  What is authentic Bengali cuisine?  Authentic just means honest in my opinion.  Every country has their own cuisine.  Every region of every country has their own cuisine.  Every cook from every region of every country has their own specific way to make these dishes.  If a Bengali makes a dish that is different than the way her friend down the street makes it, is it any less authentic?  The world is full of uniqueness, and if you stop and look around you just might learn something new.  Or at least rediscover something great.

Bengali Biryani is a tasty dish basmati rice cooked with toasted spices such as green cardamom pods, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon cooked with with fish marinated in yogurt and spices.  Traditionally the Bengalis use a native fish called hilsa but I was not able to find such a fish here in Seattle.  I was told that the closest thing to it here was pike or shad.  I got some freshwater shad and after marinating it for an hour or two in the spiced yogurt I topped the fragrant rice with the de-boned fish and continued to steam until done.  The recipe I found had a few fundamental flaws in it and when I cook this dish again (which I will with some tweaks) I'll pull back on a few of the spices as they overtook any flavor that the fish once had.  I could see the beauty in the dish though and I know it can be great.

Asafoetida (also known as devil dung, stink gum, and food of the gods) is a strange spice.  Primarily used in Indian and Bengali cooking, it sort of smells like a roast beef dinner, salty blood, and ripe cheese all at once.  It also reduces flatulence so it's got that going for it.  Upon first smell asafoetida did not win my heart over.  However when you toast the spice in ghee (clarified butter), something lovely happens.  It takes on a nutty mild flavor similar to sauteed onion and garlic.  My cupboard has been taken over by the smell (which I have to say, it's grown on me) and my other spices are threatening to kick out their new roommate.  A Bengali dish that uses the pungent spice is Palak Masoor Dal, which is a soupy red dal (lentil) with other curry-esque spices and spinach and fenugreek leaves.  The dal is tasty, and unique with a slightly sour meaty taste (in a good way, not in a rotten carcass kind of way).  I'm now curious to cook other dishes with the interesting spice.  Asafoetida ice cream anyone?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

I love me some prawn curry.  Chingri Malai Curry is a tasty version of the dish with a few interesting spices to turn things on their heads a little bit.  The mustard seeds give the prawns a tart pungent kick and the toasted coriander and cumin bring an earthiness that a lot of curries miss out on (no, those aren't rat droppings).  It's a tomato based sauce infused with lemon and hot Indian green chilies.  Spicy, and umami, and sour and delicious.  Chingri Malai is a Bengali dish.  Everyone has a version of curry but this one is unique to Bangladesh.  My version may not have been one hundred percent authentic (but pretty damn close) but the respect and passion for cooking was there and hopefully I did the country of Bangladesh proud.

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The republic of South Lake Union.

South Lake Union in Seattle still has a quiet dreariness to it.  Perhaps it's the train-less train tracks that run through the middle of the neighborhood or the uninviting rows of fuel stained loading docks that give the new bustling area it's melancholy air.  But the times, they are a changin' down in Paul Allen's playground.  Things are happening in what I used to call the REI district.  The remnants of industrial warehouses are giving way to new "see or be seen" restaurants and cafes.  Condos are sprouting up like wet gremlins and the mighty Amazon has built it's fortress of quality goods surrounded by a moat of (local) star chef outposts and coffee bunkers.  All you have to do is hop on the SLUT (South Lake Union Transit), and like the useless Westlake monorail, you'll be transported the 6 blocks to Lake Union which you really could have walked if you weren't such a lazy bastard. 

For lunch yesterday K and I went down to SLU and had burgers at re: public.  That's the name of the restaurant- re colon public.  As Miss Clement of The Stranger already announced, re:public is perhaps not the best name ever thought up, but you can't let a bad name fool you.  re:public serves tasty simple food with good ingredients and care.  The space is cavernous and perhaps a bit bare.  A little art on the walls could go a long way.  The service was sweet and helpful.  We were sat at a table right next to the wait staff computer which perhaps needed to be thought out a little better.  They need to make the wall separating the two a little higher or something because I didn't necessarily want to know what the entire restaurant was ordering or that table two needed extra napkins because they were slobs (my words, not theirs).  I needed my obligatory lunchtime booze beverage and my Bloody Mary was stiff and spicy and perfect.  We were both craving simple burgers so we each had the Grass Fed Beef Burgers with Crispy Onions and Horseradish-Black Pepper Crème Fraiche.  I had mine with frites, and K got the soup.  The frites were perfectly crispy, skin on, with classic ketchup to dip.  The burgers, although we ordered them medium rare came a bit more medium than I prefer but were still juicy and tasty.  The beef had a yummy char grilled taste to them and the crème fraiche added a nice bit of tang.  The crispy onions added a nice textural element to the burger and kinda reminded me of Durkees French fried onions which I love.  I really liked the dark fluffy brioche buns.  They held up to the burger nicely and didn't get soggy.  K's soup was (probably) cream of broccoli with a little truffle oil (we were never told what the soup was).  It was nice and flavorful.  Our waitress was nice and when we asked to move from the wait-station table to a different one she happily accommodated us.  All in all it was a pleasant lunch.  I had heard that the portions a bit small but that was not the case with the sandwiches.  I'd like to go back and try some of the dinner entrees sometime.  Amidst the chaos of construction re:public is definitely a place I would re:visit.
photo courtesy of

429 westlake ave n.
seattle, wa 98109

Re:Public on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

食べるとホッとする料理 (Japanese comfort food)

Katsu curry is one the best comfort foods in the world.  It consists of a Japanese gravy-esque curry (I use S&B brand) potatoes, carrots, steamed rice, and fried panko crusted pork cutlets.  Near my home is a sort of junk food type sushi restaurant that I love called Hana and they make the best katsu curry.  So warm and meaty.  On a cool Autumn day the dish is like a porky brown gravy hug from heaven.  It warms your bones and soul and makes you very sleepy. Arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) will be the only words that comes out of your steaming mouth as you shove in another comforting bite.  I love dishes that make you feel like everything will be okay.  Just got dumped or lose all your money in a pyramid scheme?  Eat a steaming bowl of katsu and you'll forget your troubles and afterwords you'll be so full that you'll need a nice long nap. Even more time to forget about how life is terrible.  Katsu curry is like that.  Your best friend in a crunchy fried meaty form.

Foods that comfort is not a unique Japanese idea.  In the states we have burgers and mac and cheese, Israelis have matzo ball soup, the English have shepherd's pie, the French have cassoulet, in Cuba they have arroz con pollo, and so on.  Some foods can hold back tears or rid you of a cold.  Some foods can calm your nerves and relieve grief.  It doesn't necessarily have to be healthy to heal you.  These dishes are full of memories and emotions and every time we eat them, we remember that there is pleasure to be had in this life.  All you have to do is eat.

Katsu Curry

2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably S&B
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 white onion, peeled and sliced
1 russet potato, peeled and large diced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery stick, slice on bias
1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
salt and pepper tt

For the pork:
Peanut or canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
6 thin, center-cut boneless pork chops, lightly pounded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 scallions, thinly slice on the bias
Cooked short-grain sticky rice

1. Make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, ginger and garlic until transluscent (4-5 minutes) Add the carrot, celery, and potato and cook a few minutes more.  Mix in the flour and curry powder, turn the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to make a light roux.

2. Stir in the chicken broth and cook, partly covered, over low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a bit more stock to loosen the sauce.

3. Prepare the pork: Heat 1 inch of oil in a frying pan and set a candy thermometer in the oil. Place the eggs in a shallow bowl and the panko in another. When the oil is hot, season the pork chops all over with salt and pepper. Toss them one at a time in the egg and then in the panko, and fry in batches until browned, for about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and let rest a few minutes. Slice the pork chops against the grain. Serve the curry sauce over cooked Japanese rice. Top with the sliced pork and sliced scallions.  Serves 6

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The pig with three lives.

Repurpose- verb: To use or convert for use in another format or product

I love when a dish can give you several days worth of pleasure.  Leftovers with ninja skills.  The edible masters of disguise.  Sure you can eat them as is but what's the point of trying to relive the delicious glory days of one or two days ago?  Sure, some foods get better after a bit of resting (I'm looking at you soup) but the second you pop that beef stroganoff in the microwave, it's all over.  Mushy, grainy, gross, stinky, depressing are descriptive words that come to mind.  Okay, so you've progressed to using a full grown adult oven.  Still, some foods just aren't going to be the same.  They might look and smell like the food you know and love but in fact they are just ghosts of their former selves.  It's the Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring yesterdays rump roast.  

However, if you and your food have initiative your leftovers can in fact become something new.  A whole new identity.  Just as Diana Prince becomes Wonder Woman your leftover Swiss steak can become a mighty chicken fried steak or even a crime fighting steak sandwich.  All it takes is a little know-how and elbow grease (or perhaps bacon grease).

Take these Spicy Ginger Pork Spare Ribs for example.  Marinated in ginger, scallion, chili garlic paste, soy, sesame, and maple.  Slow roasted for a few hours until extremely tender.  Day one I served them with a tasty Cold Soba & Braised Endive Salad all drizzled with a Ponzu Ginger Vinaigrette.

Day two I served the ribs for breakfast with steamed sticky rice, rice wine braised scallions, a fried egg, and a sour Filipino style spicy adobo.  Still the same tasty ribs with a different supporting cast to spruce it up.  By the way, steamed rice with fried eggs and kimchi or some kind of spicy chili sauce is one of my all time favorite breakfasts.  The pork ribs threw it over the top.  So good but I needed a nap afterwards.

On day three it was time for a face lift.  I made Chino Latino Pork Rib Tacos with Baby Bok Choy Slaw.  Still the same ribs just spruced up for excitement and flavor.  I pulled all of the meat off the bones and tossed it with a little black pepper and black bean chili sauce.  A quick toss in in a saute pan and piled on a corn tortilla.  I then thinly sliced some baby bok choy and tossed it with some scallion, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, Maggi sauce (best secret Southeast Asian ingredient ever), light soy sauce, and a little pickled chilies.  Topped off with a drizzle of Sriracha hot sauce these Asian tacos blew me away they were so good.

Like I said, it's easy to eat leftovers they way they were.  There's no shame in reheating food.  It's disgusting how much food people waste.  They get tired of leftovers or let them go bad and toss them in the trash.  I know I've been guilty of this several times.  I love taking something tired and making it fresh and new again.  I get excited about these kinds of challenges.  I don't know about you but I cook because it's fun.  It's an adventure.  I cook because I have to.  It's in my blood, my soul.  If I'm not constantly creating then I have become what I fear, mundane.  Be in charge of the food in your fridge, don't let it control you.  If you're tired of what you're eating it's because your imagination has failed you.  You don't have to be Tony Danza to be the boss.  Food is like paint.  All you have to do is add a little bit of yellow to the blue to make green.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Salad Days.

Radish Greens and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Truffle Curry Vinaigrette 
(Wash radish greens, slice radishes thinly, toss radish and greens with tarragon and parsley, slice heirloom tomato,  season, whisk together olive oil, champagne vinegar, tsp curry powder, salt pepper, tsp truffle oil, drizzle over salad.)

Eating a salad for a meal is not something I usually get behind.  Unless of course we're talking about one of those "salads" where a bed of greens is piled precariously high with meat and cheese and other yummy, fatty toppings and then drenched with enough creamy dressing that you can drown out any worries of eating "healthy".  I love it when people eat out and while their happy companions are eating burgers and fries they pretend to eat healthy.  "Oh my god, burgers are so fattening."  "I'll just have a Cobb salad with three pounds of ham and cheese and avocado and chickpeas and bacon.  Can I just get that with a quart of blue cheese dressing and a doughnut on the side (most salads come with a bread option)."  Just own up to it, that salad is fattier than a double fried bacon tater tot gravy burger ever will be.  And if it didn't come with all that delicious nonsense it just wouldn't be worth eating.

 La Floridita Cobb Salad
(Cut romaine bite sized, top with avocado, ham or Cuban roast pork, turkey, manchego cheese, mushrooms, hearts of palm, sliced starfruit, cumin spiced croutons, top with favorite creamy dressing)

Okay, so that's not entirely true.  There are beautiful salads to be had that are simple little palate cleansers and dainty, delicate, summertime flavors.  I had the most simple arugula salad at Mistral a while back and it blew me away.  It consisted of arugula, pecorino cheese, croutons, and a tart lemon vinaigrette.  Simple, yet an amazing starter to a lovely meal.  But to eat a simple salad like this as a main course?  No thanks.  I'd rather eat fried chicken and go jogging (who am I kidding, I don't "jog").  As a kid I loved going to the all you can eat salad bar.  I would pile my plate so high with fixings (my favorites were always the hard cooked eggs, ham, and black olives) and I would forgo the lettuce.  Was it still a salad?  I don't know.  All of the ingredients came from the salad bar so it must be.  How would you categorize a towering monument of pork, cheese, eggs, covered in dressing?  Is it the lettuce that makes a salad a salad?  Is it the dressing?  Or is it the artfully stacked, loosely composed construction, that says "I'm a salad".  I'm no salad expert, but I say a salad doesn't have to be some weigh watching torture.  It can be whatever you like.  If it's delicious, I'll eat it.

 Warm Turnip Salad with Roasted Poblano Chilies and Bacon Mustard Vinaigrette 

(Roast Poblanos in 450 oven 30 minutes, remove skins, set aside, pan fry diced bacon, remove bacon and add butter to bacon fat, saute quartered turnips, season, add sliced poblanos, add bacon, serve with sliced scallion and a drizzle of lemon juice.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Burger Master.

I make a pretty damn good burger.  Medium rare with just the right balance of toppings and condiments. I use ratio of 80/20 - Beef to fat.  Sometimes I grind hanger steak or brisket or even boneless short rib and add 20% pork fat.  The fatty gind is the secret to having the most succulent burger ever.  If the juice isn't dripping down your arm and drooling off your chin, you made it wrong.  The bun is also extremely important in the building of a good burger.  Too spongy and soft and the juices will soak and destroy (get it?) the bun before you've finished.  Too thick or dense a roll and the meat will get lost like a ugly middle child.  Bad bread is a serious burger crime.  Also, if you're going to put some veg on your burger such as tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, kimchi, etc... be sure to use good quality vegetables.  I hate when people ruin a perfectly decent burger by slapping a tasteless, out of season, trout gene spliced, slice of beefsteak tomato or slimy, wilted gray lettuce on top.  Use great ingredients and great meat and great bread and you will have a great burger.  That burger up there is an Thundering Hooves Bacon Cheeseburger with local Brandywine Tomatoes, Arugula, and Irish Smoked Cheddar.  It's on a Frans Pub Style roll (which stand up perfectly to the juicy burger) with a little strong Dijon mustard, sliced Alvarez Farms onions and Bubbies dill pickles.

The burger down below is an Olsen Farms Bacon Cheeseburger with Beechers Flagship, Avocado, Black Krin Tomato, and Fry Sauce.  Served on those very same Frans rolls.  What is Fry sauce you ask?  We'll supposedly it was invented in Idaho or Utah depending on who you talk to.  It's basically one part ketchup to two parts mayo.  I spice it up a little a little hot sauce and a dash of smoked paprika.  It's a lot like a spicy Thousand Island dressing.  Perfect for dipping fries or slathering on a burger and you don't have to be Mormon to enjoy it.  Next time, I think I'll make an Asian inspired short rib burger with Sriracha Aoili, grilled shiitake mushrooms, and pickled carrot and daikon slaw on a steamed bun.  Yum.   

Here's a few of my all time favorite Seattle burgers:

The $28 Coupage Burger
Ground short rib, foie gras, truffle mayonnaise, red onion "kimchi", served with truffled potato crisps.  The Holy Goddess of all Seattle burgers.  Those of you who would scoff at the price tag for this burger need to live a little.  Thanks to Live To Eat for the photo.

The Dick Deluxe
Go ahead, make your jokes.  I've been making them for 13 years and it never seems to get old.  Gonna go eat some Dicks?  Har har har.  Freaking hilarious.  All childish hilarity aside, the deluxe is what "fast food" burgers should be.  They use fresh, quality ingredients to do old school burgers and the deluxe reigns supreme,  Two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, "special" sauce.  Delicious.  Plus they are a pretty awesome company and they treat their employees pretty well.  Photo courtesy of Stop Screaming, I'm Driving.

Spring Hill Burger
A half a pound of Painted Hills beef teetering on a beautiful crusty bun, covered with a few slabs of bacon, two layers of cheese, and slathered with thousand island.  So freaking juicy and rich you will not want to wear clothes that you like when eating this burger because you will get messy.  Photo thanks to  Seattle Met.

Red Mill Bacon Double Deluxe Cheese Burger
I love Red Mill burgers.  This little Seattle mini-chain does a just couple of burgers and they do them right.  Apparently Oprah really loves this burger so you know it's good (she knows all).  Here's the description according to their menu: Two 1/4 lb. Patties, Pepper Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickle, Red Onion, American Cheese, Mill Sauce.  I don't know what mill sauce but it's delicious.  Thanks Seattle PI for the pic.

The Burgermaster
Class since 1952 says Burgermaster's menu.  It's true what they say you know.  Keep it simple and good and people will love it.  That holds true for Burgermaster.  The only difference between then and now is that the waitresses don't take your order on roller skates which I am sad about.  I sometimes dream about being a drive-in waitress in a cute diner outfit and roller skates and when some idiot gets mad at me for getting their order wrong I "accidentally" dump the tray of food and shakes all over the poor saps lap.  Oh well, at least I don't have to dream about getting the delicious Burgermaster in my mouth because they are still here and hopefully will still be here in 50 more years.  Thanks Seattle Met for another photo.  Yum.

oh, and while you dream about delicious burgers tonight, don't let this happen to you....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Green Gold.

5 delicious things to do with fresh avocados.

1. Fresh Guacamole.  This one's a given.  Such an easy sauce/dip/spread to make.  Especially delicious with some homemade tortilla chips and a few cold cervezas.  It's so easy.  With a fork, mash a few avocados and mix in a little chopped red onion, a little minced jalapeno or serrano chili, diced tomato, chopped cilantro, some lime juice, salt and pepper.  Sabroso!

2. Put avocado on you torta (that's Mexican for sandwich).  A torta can be made with diced chicken, pulled pork, whatever yummy fixin' you like.  Try my Torta con Chorizo de Bolita with some sliced avocado in it.  Delicioso!

3.  Garnish a spicy soup with some slices of the green gold.  Like I said in my last post about pozole rojo as well as this classic Hunger recipe for pozole verde, garnishes are the funnest part of eating a composed soup.

4. Avocado ice cream.  Yes indeed.  Avocado is actually a fruit and it's creamy texture and fattiness makes a tasty frozen treat.  Jamie Oliver's recipe is pretty damn delicious.  I also love how he served them in eclectic cans.  Pretty cool.

5.  Okay, so this isn't a food tip but a beauty tip for all you fashionistas out there.  Take an avocado, peel and pit it, mash it up and apply it to your face.  Leave it on for 15-20 minutes.  Wipe it off with warm water and rinse with cold water to close your pores.  Your skin will feel soft and your pores will be clean and happy.  Just don't forget to wash it off before going anywhere or you'll scare people.

Oh and don't forget this fun fact.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Liquid Breakfast.

Some days I feel like I need a little more than a two Bloody Mary breakfast.  Although I do get the vitamins I need from all the tasty vegetables (ie: celery sticks and olives) I often end up getting really sleepy in an hour or so.  I usually only have that kind of liquid breakfast on sunny Summertime days and on any day that ends with the letter Y.  Okay okay, don't get your briefs in a bunch.  I'm just kind of kidding.  All alcoholic jokes aside, I do love me a liquid breakfast (and the occasional Bloody Mary with breakfast).  No, not a morning bottle of vodka.  I'm talking about pozole.  The rich and murky Mexican soup filled with hominy and pork swimming in a spicy broth.  I never would've thought to eat soup for breakfast but the Mexicans, Vietnamese, Indonesians, and Chinese (among many others) have been eating an early bowl of soup since the invention of water.

An interesting blurb on Wikipedia claims that at one time, pozole was made of people.  Kind of Mexican soylent green. 'Since corn was a sacred plant for the Mexicans and other inhabitants of Mexico, pozole was made to be consumed on special events. The conjunction of corn (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mexicans believed that the gods made humans out of cornmeal dough. According to research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, in these special occasions, the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with corn. The meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the conquest, when cannibalism was banned, pork became the staple meat, as it "tasted very similar", according to a Spanish priest.'  In the name of authenticity I use pork, the other white meat.

Part of the fun of pozole is the garnishes.  Piled high with fresh avocado, cilantro, green onions, radishes, limes, tortilla chips, and queso cotija.  I like the contrast of textures and colors.  So many lovely things to choose from yet you need to find just the right combination or everything gets out of balance.  Plus you have to pile it precariously high because you don't want to miss out on anything.  I personally like to garnish the bowls of pozole myself if I'm feeding guests because A) I'm a total control freak, B) I have a total lack of faith in people garnishing their own food correctly, and C) I am a total arrogant control freak.  "No really, you don't like avocado?  Get the hell out of my house."  "You don't want cilantro in your pozole?  Why do you have so much hatred towards my Hispanic heritage?  No really, just leave."  I take it personal, ya know?  Quit so being picky about your garnishes and we'll get along just fine.

Pozole Rojo
8 cups pork stock or chicken stock
1 lbs pork shoulder or butt
1 large white onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 poblano or Anaheim chilies, sliced (seeded if you want less heat)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp dried New Mexico red chile powder
1 30-ounce cans white hominy
salt and pepper tt

fresh cilantro
diced avocado
thinly sliced green onion
chopped white onion
sliced radishes
lime wedges
tortilla chips
queso cotija or jack cheese

Cut the pork into 1" cubes.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a large pot with little olive oil, saute the pork over medium high heat to get a nice brown crust (4-5 minutes). Remove to a plate and keep warm.  Add a little more oil and add the diced onion and saute 2 minutes.  Add the garlic, carrots, and peppers and saute a few more minutes until all the vegetables are soft (3-5 minutes).  Add the pork back to the pot.  Add the chili powder, oregano, and cumin and stir until fragrant.  Add the white hominy and pork stock, cover, and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is almost falling apart.  Garnish and serve. Such a simple and perfect breakfast.  Sometimes I top it with a fried egg.  Delicioso!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time for a beef party.

Beef Chow Fun乾炒牛河  Beef? I like beef.  Chow? Well hell yes, I love to eat.  Fun?  They don't call me Partytime Violet for nothing.  Well, I guess nobody really calls me that unless it's written on a bathroom wall that I don't know about.  I sure hope it isn't.  I'm actually a bit of a homebody.  I don't even really like parties.  They're so loud and I hate making trivial conversation.  Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, beef chow fun (pronounced foon).  Ho Fun noodles, also known as shahe fen noodles, are beautiful and chewy Chinese rice noodles originating from Guangzhou, China.  The trick with these noodles is that they are very delicate.  A quick soak in warm water and then a fast stir fry in a hotter than hell wok.  It's all in the wrist action.  I know what you're thinking and it's not my fault you have a dirty mind, you dirty bird you.  Why does wrist action always equate to masturbation?  Just curious.  I swear you say something like "I beat off that prowler with some swift wrist action." I am simply talking about how adept I am at defending my home with a bow and arrow.  That's all.  Show some class and quit thinking so pervertedly.  Okay, I forgive you.  No harm no foul.

In an attempt to temporarily get your filthy mind out of the gutter in which it resides, let's talk about some fat meaty beef.  I purchased some lovely Thundering Hooves boneless beef short ribs from the awesome butcher Rain Shadow Meats.  The meat was a beautiful shade of blood red with a treasure trove of delicious fatty marbling.  I marinated it in a little soy sauce, garlic, ginger, fermented black bean sauce, and sugar for about an hour.  I then seared it of on my trusty grill pan over pretty high heat just to get some color and smoke out the entire apartment building.  Upon nearly choking to death because of my terrible lack of ventilation, I moved it to the oven with a little lemongrassy beef stock and slow braised it for about a few hours.  The meat was falling apart and so stinking tasty I almost died and went to heaven.  The sugars had caramelized and the garlic and ginger permeated throughout.  It was slightly sweet and salty and sticky and umami.  It was so good I wanted to shoot it into my veins and I'm terrified of needles, that's just how good it was.  The chow fun noodles were chewy and had the perfect texture.  This dish made me sweat a little but the spice was just hot enough for me.  I don't like to eat food so spicy that it kills my taste buds.  The next time you have a Chinese noodle craving make some beef chow fun.

Ginger Beef Short Rib Chow Fun 

1 package (1 lb) fresh chow fun noodles (or shahe fen noodles)
1 lb boneless beef short ribs

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp fermented black bean chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp ginger minced
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 egg white
1 Tbsp peanut oil

1/2 cup beef stock (add a few slices of ginger)

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp Sugar
1 Tbsp dry Chinese rice wine

1 Tbsp Oyster sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper

Chinese parsley or fresh coriander to garnish

Preheat oven to 250.  Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the beef refrigerated for 1 hour.  Heat the beef stock in a shallow pan with a few slices of ginger.  In a hot grill pan quickly sear all sides of the beef ribs.  Place the beef ribs into the beef stock pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is falling apart.

Cut the chow fun into noodles about 6" noodles. When the beef is done let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes and then slice thinly.

Heat a wok or large nonstick saute pan and add 2 T of the peanut oil. Toss the noodles in the oil until they are very hot and begin to color just a bit on the edges. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Mix all of the chow fun sauce in a bowl.  Set aside.

To the wok add a little more of the peanut oil.  Add the garlic and ginger and celery and green onions and saute for 2-3 minute. Then add the black bean sauce and the rice wine.  Cook for 2 more minutes and add the sliced beef and chow fun noodles.  Add the sauce and stir fry for a few more minutes.  Remove to a platter or bowls and garnish.  Take out your fanciest pair of chopsticks and enjoy with a nice cold Tsingtao.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summertime Crimewave.

As a kid, I hated Summer.  That's right, you heard me.  I hated Summer.  "How could you hate the warm, beachy, fun in the sun, ice cream eating, slip and sliding, jart throwing, skin blistering, sharks and minowy, picnic eating barbecue days of Summer" you ask?  Well, I was grounded most Summers that's why.  I would be sitting in my room, staring out into the cul de sac, watching all the neighborhood kids have water gun fight or playing kickball, thinking to myself "how did this happen, again?"  Let's get one thing straight, I was a terrible little kid.  Always in trouble.  I can understand the years I was grounded for doing terrible things.  Like flooding our entire house by stuffing towels into every sink and tub drain and turning all the water on full blast.  I get that.  Or the time I ordered my next door neighbor's kid to bash in all of the walls of his living room with a baseball bat.  What can I say, I was a curious kid and I liked to see how things worked and see how far I could push people.  Some people would call it maniacal semi-psychotic behavior.  I say I was just trying to figure out the world.  C'est la vi.  We'll just have to agree to disagree.  Pronounce potato and tomato anyway you like, I will still eat them.

So where was my mother during all this insane activity?  It was the 70s.  Back then, you left the house to go play around 11am and wouldn't return until dark.  Parents didn't worry about about serial killers and kidnappers back then.  The suburbs were safe, or so they thought.  I would come home screaming with a broken arm and my mom would freak out but the very next day I'd be rolling around in a puddle of mud banging my cast on the concrete.  That's just what it was like back then.  I can't even remeber where half of my scars came from. It's probably for the best.

I can't remember why but one bright Summer day, I walked out of my solitary confinement cell to notice two giant watermelons on the kitchen table.  For reasons unknown I grabbed a big knife and a whole watermelon, bringing it back to my room.  I was 8 years old and I really loved watermelon.  Like a deranged one-armed neurosurgeon I hacked into the melon getting it's juices all over myself, my carpet, and my bed.  In one sitting I ate the entire watermelon (including the seeds).  It turns out that the watermelons were for a church picnic.  It also turns out that if you consume a whole watermelon in one sitting you will continue to see watermelon in projectile form for the rest of the evening.  Although I tried my best to deny eating said watermelon as my my mother angrily stared at the pink stained crime scene.  My room betrayed me like neon fruit blood bath, watermelon seeds stuck to the walls, the carpet covered in bright green rind and my pink slushy bedspread.  To say the least I did not receive a pardon that year.  I did pretty hard time the next few years.  I wasn't always grounded but I don't remember seeing much sunshine as a kid.  Did I reform?  Not really, but perhaps now I'm just a little more clever at hiding the evidence.

It's taken many years, but I'm happy to say that I can enjoy watermelon again.  There is nothing like a fresh slice of melon on a hot Summer day.  Granted I can only eat a slice or two before I'm flooded with terrible pink technicolor memories but I do love it's sweet, crunchy flesh.  My favorite thing to do with watermelon is contrast it with some sour and salty and make a lovely bright salad out of the fruit.  Topped with a little feta or cotija cheese and a a sprinkle of crushed red pepper or chili powder , a drizzle of olive oil and lemon or lime juice and I'm all over it.  There was a season of Top Chef where one of the contestants made a salad like this and the judges were pretty confused and baffled.  They hadn't been told that they should understand these flavors yet.  It's pretty hilarious because now it's a pretty trendy preparation.  Just goes to show you, keep an open mind and eat food because you love the adventure of it.  Just don't eat a whole watermelon.  That's not an adventure worth having.