Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Kid on the Block.


There's a new foodie website in town.  Restauranteers.com 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 Restauranteers.com 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