Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Edible Gifts Are Better Than A Sweater

I shared some ideas for edible gifts you can make for the holidays at And Brandi Henderson from The Pantry at Delancey kindly shared her recipe for her ridiculously delicious spiced nuts. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Love, love, love latkes. Here's a piece I wrote about them for the Seattle Times. Instructions included, for traditional latkes and a couple of variations. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers

And now, what to do with all those leftovers? (besides eating them as...leftovers, of course)

Chef Charlie Durham and I have some ideas for you, first published at today.

Here's a hint:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

You've been invited to Thanksgiving, what to bring?

I've got some ideas for you, right here.

I took my son for a haircut last week on Wednesday, and was paging through the Seattle Times while I waited. My pieces are usually online, so I got a nice little thrill seeing one in print - photos and all!

Hope you have a very happy and festive Thanksgiving.
Bluebird Grain Potlatch Pilaf with Roasted Delicata Squash and Chanterelles

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Cookbook Social!

Tickets are now on sale for The Cookbook Social on Tuesday, December 4th from 4pm to 7pm at The Palace Ballroom (2100 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121). Hope to see you there!

Click here to buy tickets ($20 includes tax, entrance to the event, tastes from each author, and one drink ticket)

Here's the blurb:

Kick off your holiday cookbook shopping at Tom Douglas’ 2012 Cookbook Social! Back for another year, this popular event brings some of the Northwest’s BEST cookbook authors together in one room for one evening only. 

Come join us on the fourth of December to purchase some amazing cookbooks direct from the authors themselves and try tasty nibbles from one of the recipes in their book. This is a great opportunity to stock up on gifts for the food lovers in your life OR to build your own cookbook library at home.

Authors: Jess Thompson, Leora Bloom, John Howie, Johnathan Sundstrom, Josh Henderson, Kathleen Flinn, Leslie Mackie, Lara Ferroni, Lisa Dupar, Tom Douglas & Shelley Lance, Pat Tanumihardja, Kim O'Donnel, Jeanne Sauvage, Diane Morgan, Cynthia Nims, Ashley Gartland and Alice Currah.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Know It Looks Like I'm Not Doing Anything...

But I am, really.
Here's a bit of what I've been working on:

School Lunches Made Easy (published in 9/19/12)

Blast! How to make vegetables so delicious, even your kids will eat them (published in 10/8/12)

I've been getting ready for some fabulous events this holiday season, including one I'm particularly excited about: Tom Douglas' Cookbook Social on December 4. It's at his Palace Ballroom, 4-7pm. When I have more information, I'll post it here. It's an honor to be included. And very convenient, as I'll be able to buy my own copy of the new Dahlia Bakery cookbook! Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September is Food Safety Education Month

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stanford University, speak about food-borne illnesses. Since September is National Food Safety Education month, I thought I’d share some of what I learned about what we can do to protect ourselves.

Although the facts are a little terrifying, it was reassuring to hear that the best way to avoid food-borne illnesses is to carefully prepare food that was raised and handled safely. What immediately popped into my mind while Dr. Maldonado was speaking is that the best way to know that your food has been raised and handled safely (other than by raising it yourself) is to know your farmer!

The Center for Disease Control reports the following as the annual burden of foodborne illnesses:
48 million illnesses
128,000 hospitalizations
3,000 deaths
$6.5-35 billion in medical and other costs

What I found even scarier than the 48 million illnesses is the reminder that those were just the reported illnesses. Think of the number of times you just haven’t felt well, and you thought it might have been something you ate, but you didn’t feel badly enough to go see a doctor or call the CDC.

The list of common food-borne pathogens is immense. The ones we hear most about are e.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. And although we know that raw chicken, eggs, and pork are often culprits, in the recent past outbreaks have been traced to less obvious foods like raw sprouts and pistachios.

The greatest challenges to food safety today are in the food production and supply chain, as a result of antibiotic resistance, and due to the introduction of new “contained” foods such as cookie dough and bagged spinach. All food used to be locally produced. Today much of it comes from all over to a central processing plant and then gets sent far and wide. And this creates a whole host of problems. Hamburger meat has caused a number of multi-state outbreaks because the meat from many animals gets mixed and ground together, so one infected animal can make hundreds of people sick in different states at different times.

I cook almost every meal that my family eats, and I know how important it is for me to understand my responsibility. There is a great deal of excellent information on food safety in the home kitchen on the FDA’s website, www.foodsafety .com. I found the following two links particularly interesting:

Food Safety Myths:

Food safety at the farmer’s market:

Raw milk can be a touchy subject, and Dr. Maldonado explained that pasteurization does not destroy the beneficial nutrients in milk, so there is no good reason to drink it or to eat products made with it. In fact, before pasteurization, 25% of all diseases were related to raw milk. Today between 1 and 3% of the U.S. population drinks raw milk, and yet raw milk accounts for the majority of milk-borne illnesses in this country. Raw milk can contain bacteria such as Listeria and e.coli, parasites such as Giardia, and viruses like the norovirus. Because young children are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses, as parents we have a serious responsibility to protect them.

If you know where and how your food is being raised, how it’s picked, processed, and transported, you can avoid many food-related dangers. But it’s still important to learn the basic rules of food safety (I grabbed these quick tips from the FDA website):

-       Clean: Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces often. Soap and water is best.
-       Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate
-       Cook: Cook to the right temperature
-       Chill: Refrigerate food promptly, and keep it below 40 degrees

In addition, if you’re sick, don’t prepare food for others. I like this rule because it means that even Moms should get sick days :-)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Panko-Crusted Chicken

I wrote this piece for about one of my family's favorite meals, panko-crusted chicken.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Benefits of Organic

This piece from grist says it so well, I'm just helping to spread the word.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Speaking of Domestic Goddesses...

I was lucky enough to somehow convince Heather Earnhardt, Baker Extraordinaire, to demonstrate her luscious Huckleberry Pie (page 157) at Book Larder this past week. I was there to talk about Washington Food Artisans, but everyone else was there to eat Huckleberry Pie (and rightly so!).

If you live in the Seattle area, and you haven't been to Book Larder, and you are even remotely interested in cooking or cookbooks, you should check it out. The space is beautiful, and they have an amazing calendar of events. I was truly honored to be included. They made Dinah's Cheese with Caraway Onions (page 69, by Mark Fuller of Ma'ono) to nibble on while Heather was making pie, and Heather had made a pie earlier that she brought along for tastes. I also made Apricot Sorbet (page 123, by Adria Shimada of Parfait), so the event felt like a delicious party.

Heather is warm and funny, brimming with fun and personality, and it's obvious watching her work that she puts her whole self into everything she does - no wonder it all turns out so delicious. She's getting ready to open her new cafe, The Wandering Goose, on Capitol Hill, and I can't wait. Turns out I'm a well-trained fan of Heather's - every time I drive down 15th Avenue East (which is often) I get a serious hankering for a great big wedge of brown sugar caramel cake, a giant buttery cookie, or a super-decadent macaroni and cheese. I just have to be patient.

Heather talked a little about how she learned her way around the kitchen by watching her grandmother. With just a Hotpoint oven, a Sunbeam mixer, and not a single written recipe, Heather's grandmother would turn out elaborately decorated wedding cakes and other celebration cakes for everyone in town. That talent, dedication, and generosity of spirit is very much present in Heather. She's a lot of fun to watch in the kitchen, so when she starts offering classes at The Wandering Goose, go!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer is here! (for real)

Today was a perfect Northwest summer day - there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it started off in the 60's and reached into the 80's with just the slightest breeze all day. It was the kind of day I remember from white water rafting trips with my Dad and my sister when I lived on the East coast, and we'd fly out here and then head to Idaho for a week on a river. I loved waking up in the crisp morning to sip hot cocoa around a fire, and then shedding layers all day until it was hot enough to swim and then some. And then right when I thought I couldn't stand it, it would start to cool down, and by the time dinner was over we'd be bundled up and roasting marshmallows around the fire again. So although the calendar says August 4, as far as I'm concerned, summer is just getting started.

And what a way to celebrate! This morning I took the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island, where Suzanne from Liberty Bay Books picked me up. While I was waiting for her, an antique Camaro convertible drove by, and I thought to myself, "I sure wish I was being picked up in that." Suzanne and I found each other because we were both holding copies of Washington Food Artisans (aren't we smart?), and when we walked to her car I thought about how sometimes wishes do come true. Then I wished that Poulsbo was further away, but that one didn't happen. One per customer per day, I guess. We did take a little detour along Liberty Bay, where I got to imagine the characters in local author Kristin Hannah's Home Front, and through downtown, with its shops, restaurants, and marina (so cute it looks like a movie set to me) and soon enough we came to the Poulsbo Farmers Market.

Suzanne made Tom Douglas' Pepperonata (page 7) and I made Walter Pisano's Tomato Jam (page 63) with Port Madison Goat Farm's White Rose (brie), so we had a steady flow of people to talk to. It was a really lovely, sun-filled, morning. Spending time in towns like Poulsbo always make me happy - Suzanne knew so many of the people who came past, and everyone was so glad to see everybody else.

Afterwards, my family came to pick me up, and we had lunch at the market and stocked up on apricots, nectarines, and blueberries to take home. Then we headed to Winslow to see our old neighbors. They lived across the street from us for about ten years, and then moved to Bainbridge. It was so nice to see them and to catch up. When we sit on our porch at home we think it's peaceful with just the white noise of the traffic from I-5. They traded that loveliness in for real peace.
Still, it's good to be home.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chicken-Sitting (yes, that's a thing)

These are my friend Robin's chickens. She went on vacation, and I chicken-sat for a few days. I was excited to care for them because I really like the idea of keeping chickens, but I hesitate to volunteer to take responsibility for another living thing. Between my kids and my dog, I brush a lot of teeth that are not my own (yes, I know chickens don't have teeth - I'm just making a point).

Anyway, these chickens are wonderful. They are really fat and fluffy and soft and clean. Every day they each lay a perfect light brown egg. Which I experimented with happily. I fried, I soft-boiled, I poached, and I scrambled. The yolks are bright orange, and bigger than the yolks in my supermarket eggs; they also have much more flavor. I didn't even put salt on the soft-boiled egg, and it was delicious. One day I fried an egg that was minutes old, and one that was a day old, and now I can tell you to let an egg cool before you cook it. The ridiculously fresh egg was much thinner in consistency, and made a very flat and thin fried egg. The cold one was amazing - the yolk sat so proud, and the white held together so beautifully, there was no frilly edge at all. The biggest cooking difference I found was with poaching. I cracked the eggs one by one into a small measuring cup, and poured them into the water, and they didn't spread AT ALL. They were the most perfect poached eggs I've ever made (or eaten, for that matter) - I didn't even make a little whirlpool to drop them into like I usually do. 

I really only had one problem while Robin was gone. On the evening of the day she left town I checked on the chickens. They have two nests which they share for laying. As you can see in the photo, there is a light brown chicken, a speckled chicken, and two black chickens. When I first checked on them, there was a black chicken laying, so I left her alone and collected two eggs from the other nest. The next morning when I checked, there was a black chicken in the same spot. I went back later that day to check for eggs, and, yet again, there was a black chicken in the same spot. It was at this point that I wondered if perhaps the same chicken had been sitting there since Robin left. She looked at me when I lifted her roof, so I knew she wasn't dead, but other than that, I had no idea if she was sick or sad, or if my timing was such that there was always a black chicken laying whenever I went over there. 

The next day when I went to check I wasn't even surprised to see a black chicken in the nest. I texted Robin (don't you love when your chicken-sitter texts you with a chicken emergency when you are on vacation?) and she suggested that the black chicken was "broody." Since there's no rooster, she said that all I could do was get the black chicken off the nest, but to be careful, because she would peck me. So I put on two thick sweatshirts and headed back to the coop, a little terrified. Then I remembered that when my father was a child he had kept chickens, so I called him. He lives 3000 miles away, so I had to settle for a phone consultation. He suggested I just lift the chicken up from under her wings, take the eggs, and put her down in the coop. He made it sound so easy. So I did it. I lifted her up and saw three eggs underneath her. I took them away and balanced them on Robin's picnic table along with the egg I took from the other nest (I think you know where I'm going with this). Then I put a cup of seeds in front of her, let her take a few, and then I threw the seeds into the coop. She flew down and started eating. Just then I heard a loud squawk, and by the time I looked over at the picnic table, a crow had pecked a huge hole in one of the eggs and it was almost empty. I was furious! I hadn't done much for the other eggs I'd collected, but I'd worked for these. I didn't have an egg crate with me, so I carefully nestled the three remaining my purse. When I was ready to go, I very carefully carried my purse to the car, wondering if this was the last time I would get to use it. But they arrived home safe and sound. 

Robin's back, and although I enjoyed chicken-sitting, I'm glad to hand the reigns back to her. But just look at my perfect poached eggs:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pelindaba Lavender Festival

Although much of the rest of the country is experiencing a heat wave and a record drought, our weather here in the Pacific Northwest continues to approximate early Spring or late Fall. 

Pelindaba Lavender Farm is located inland on San Juan Island in a lovely warm, dry microclimate, just perfect for lavender, but on Sunday we velcro'ed down the sides of the tents to keep the rain out, and bundled up in sweatshirts and windbreakers. The photo above is of me with Pelindaba's Stephen Robins during a sun break. I think the weather might have been my fault because I made hundreds of bite-sized lavender meringues especially for the festival, and meringues don't like rain. So...

Despite the weather, my family and I had a terrific day. The brave souls who ventured out in the rain were interesting and interested, and I met many incredibly kind and friendly islanders. My kids ran through the fields, made crafts like lovely smelling soap balls tied with ribbon, and paintings of the fields in bloom, and Pelindaba's kitchen sold an array of delicious choices for lunch. I had a flaky, flavorful lamb pie with lavender and ended my day with an unbelievably decadent ice cream sandwich made with two rich and chewy chocolate cookies filled with chocolate lavender ice cream. A 9-person Marimba band played under a tent and their music was joyous and spirited, and you could tell they were having as much fun as their audience was. 

All in all it was a beautiful day; the lavender fields are in bloom, and the rain made everything smell particularly fresh and clean. Pelindaba began as an open space preservation project, and that same generous spirit comes through in everything they do. There was a real sense of community at the farm - islanders greeting each other with hugs, strangers introducing themselves, and a whole lot of milling about admiring the lavender. 

As we were getting ready to board the ferry for the ride back to Anacortes at the end of the day, we ran into friends who had sailed to the island. We hadn't seen them in ages, and running into them in Friday Harbor felt like the cherry on top of a perfect Pacific Northwest summer day -- the weather may not have cooperated, but there's no place more beautiful or warm in spirit.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Superb Summer Sockeye

I picked up 6 pounds of fresh sockeye salmon from Loki Fish Co. on Saturday morning. I sincerely wish I had a photo to show you. I have to admit that when I see beautiful food shots on blogs (and goodness, there are really some amazing ones out there - have you seen la tartine gourmande or smitten kitchen?), I not only admire their photo skills, but also their patience. I make food, and then I eat it. Later I think about how I should have stopped for a moment and attempted a photo. But it probably wouldn't have been a good one anyway, and so my regret is short-lived.

Back to the salmon: It was the most magnificent, intense, corally-red color. It glistened. It was striped white with silky fat. It was firm and supple, and smelled of the sea. I showed immense self-control by only buying 6 pounds of it.

It came in 3 pieces. The first piece I grilled and we ate it as a salmon nicoise with a mustardy, shallot-heavy vinaigrette, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and barely blanched vibrant green beans and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes from Alvarez Family Farm. It felt like summer had finally arrived.

Tonight I slow roasted the other 2 pieces the way I learned from Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbal Kitchen: Simply "slather" both sides of the filleted, skinned salmon with olive oil, season with salt, and bake at 225 degrees F just until a little of the white stuff starts congealing around the salmon. The cooked color is the same vibrant color it was pre-cooking, and the texture is as silky as it was raw, but the layers separate when prodded. I have never served salmon cooked this way to anyone who didn't absolutely love it. Of course, the better the raw fish you start with, the better the result, and so tonight the salmon was just amazing. I made (another!) batch of Kelly Daly's kale and wheat berry salad and served a 6 ounce piece of the shimmering roasted salmon on top of each serving. I went light on the smoked salmon in the salad, and I lightly salted the salmon I roasted, and we just loved the combination.

So next time you've got a fabulous piece of salmon, try cooking it Traunfeld's way. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can never have too many ways to prepare fresh salmon...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chef Kelly Daly, Inspired by the Market

This is Chef Kelly Daly, from the restaurant Ravish on Eastlake. Last weekend Kelly demonstrated at the University Farmer's Market in conjunction with Washington Food Artisans. She made the dish that she contributed to my book (Asian Beef Satay with an orange-coconut curry dipping sauce) as well as a Wheatberry Salad with Kale and Smoked Salmon inspired by what was fresh at the market. Not only were both of her dishes absolutely delicious and very well-received, but I think she might be the next Food Network star!

The people who were lucky enough to score a chair in front of the demonstration tent were entranced - not only is Kelly totally adorable, but she's a natural-born teacher. She shared her knowledge about every ingredient she touched, and I learned at least a dozen pieces of new and useful information. About blanching kale, for example. I've always cut the leafy part from the rib, then submerged the leaves in boiling water, then fished them out with a spider and dunked them in a bowl of ice water. Kelly simply held the bunch by their stems, pushed them into the boiling water and swirled them around a bit, all the while holding onto the stems. Then she pulled the whole bunch out and submerged it into the ice water, still holding onto the stems. Then she pulled them out of the ice water, shook them off, and then cut the ribs out of the leaves. It was so much quicker and neater, and there was no fishing around for anything.

Kelly used the wheat berry salad she made as a filling (along with the blanched kale and some beautifully moist smoked salmon) for fresh rolls, and she demonstrated how to soften the wrappers and assemble the rolls. I loved the salad filling so much that I went home and made it immediately. It held beautifully overnight, and we ate it (as a salad, with a drizzle of creme fraiche) with friends on Sunday who loved it as much as we did. It's really the perfect picnic item because it's a full meal in salad form, can be made a whole day ahead, and it's beautiful.

So here you go, with huge thanks to Chef Kelly Daly. Ravish, by the way, is located at 2956 Eastlake Avenue E.

Smoked Salmon, Kale, and Wheat Berry Fresh Rolls
1 4 oz. piece of smoked salmon, sliced into long thin sticks
1 package round spring roll wrappers
8 large green kale leaves
¾ cup wheat berries
¼ cup rye berries
4 oz. snap peas- shells removed
 cup red onion- minced
1 Tb. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1 yield Basil-Arugula Vinaigrette (See recipe below)
1 cup crème fraiche (see recipe or can be purchased)
Simmer wheat berries in 5 cups of water for 10 minutes, then add the rye berries and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from stove and drain, rinse under cold water then drain again.
Bring another pot of salted water to a boil and lightly blanch the kale by dipping the leaf into the water and holding onto the stem, then plunge into ice water. Lay the greens on a paper towel to dry. Save blanching water for rice wrappers.
Into a mixing bowl remove peas from pods and mix in grains, red onion, dill, and ¼ to ½ cup vinaigrette and toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Using the tip of a knife, cut out large part of the kale stem by cutting down each side so leaf stays intact. Set aside until ready to use.
Using your blanching water, dip the rice wrapper into lukewarm water until tender. Do not leave in the water too long or the rice papers will begin to deteriorate. Lay wrap onto a cutting board, and place salmon onto center of the wrap. Place half of a kale leaf on top. Spoon in ¼ cup of the salad mix onto kale. Fold up both sides of wrap to center and then roll paper like a burrito. Be careful not to tear the wrap. You may leave these whole, or cut them in half on the bias. Serve with crème fraiche, and chopped fresh basil or dill. 
Basil-Arugula Vinaigrette
½ cup loose packed basil
3 cups loose packed arugula
2 tsp. honey
½ a lemon juiced
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the top 5 ingredients in a blender till smooth. Slowly add olive oil till emulsified. Season to taste.
Crème Fraiche
1 Cup Heavy Cream
3 Tb. Buttermilk
Heat cream until just warm (90*-100* F). Pull off stove and put into metal or glass bowl. Add the buttermilk and stir to combine. Wrap tightly with saran wrap and place in warm area in the kitchen. Wait at least 24 hours until cream thickens, then chill. Pour off excess liquid and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lavender Fields Forever

For the last week, every surface in my kitchen has been covered with Hershey-kiss sized meringues in varying shades of white and beige. I am healthy enough to realize that the first batch was fine, but sick enough that I had to alter everything about this incredibly simple recipe in every way possible to make sure that the result is the Absolute Best Fail-Safe Lavender Meringue Ever. Done.

The reason I've blown through 10 pounds of sugar in one week is that I will be at the 2012 Pelindaba Lavender Festival on San Juan Island on Sunday July 22. My plan is to come with enough lavender meringues for everyone, although I have no idea what that means. There are a number of beautiful dishes in the lavender chapter of my book, but none that would lend themselves to hundreds of servings on a hot summer's day, a drive and a ferry ride and a taxi ride from my kitchen. So I was inspired to make my own. So here I am, a very experienced meringue maker (in the end I tested four methods, with varying quantities of lavender, at three temperatures, with two baking methods), with the ultimate recipe (which I will give you!).

When I first started planning Washington Food Artisans, I knew that I had to include a lavender farmer. I find it really fascinating that lavender grows here at all. Years ago, my husband and I spent a few months in Provence, France, and honestly, the weather could hardly be more different. And yet there are a number of lavender growers here in Washington. The farm I chose to write about, Pelindaba, interested me for a number of reasons: It's always open to the public (always), the owner (Stephen Robins) is originally from South Africa (so am I), and farming is far from his original profession (medical doctor). So I was curious. And his story is even more fascinating than I'd imagined.

Pelindaba's fields are stunningly beautiful when they are in bloom, and well-worth the trip to see them anytime. But every summer they hold a lavender festival that makes the trip even more appealing. And this year I'll be there for an afternoon to talk about Washington Food Artisans and Pelindaba, give out meringues, and sell books. And I hope to see you there.

Lavender Meringues

Pelindaba’s aromatic fields inspired the recipe for these delicate, bite-sized, crunchy morsels that I created especially for the 2012 Pelindaba Lavender Festival. Serve them scattered over ice cream, with fresh berries and whipped cream, alongside coffee or tea, dipped in chocolate, or just as is.  Store them in an airtight container.

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
4 egg whites

Put the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Make a bain marie by heating 4 inches of water in a saucepan large enough to hold the bowl of a stand mixer without letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water.

Grind the sugar and lavender together in a food processor until the lavender buds are finely ground, about 30 seconds. Use a hand whisk to blend the lavender sugar with the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the water in the saucepan has come to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and place the bowl of meringue mixture onto the saucepan. Whisk gently until the sugar has melted and the mixture feels very warm (test occasionally using a clean finger). Move the bowl to the mixer and use the whisk attachment to beat the meringue at high speed until it is cool, about 10 minutes (the bowl may still feel slightly warm).

Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip measuring about 1 cm in diameter. Twist the bag tightly to close, and then pipe small kisses about 1 inch apart to cover the paper on the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake the meringues for 1 hour and 45 minutes. They should stay white and feel dry to the touch. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before storing.

Makes about 12 dozen bite-sized meringues.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why We Go North: Hudson Public House

My husband and I are always looking for a good reason to find ourselves in Lake City at dinnertime (seriously). The rush hour traffic between where we live on Capitol Hill and Lake City is atrocious, so although we are highly motivated by food, that's still not enough to get us on the highway. But yesterday I hung out at the Readers to Eaters booth at the Lake City Farmers Market, and since one of us was already up there, it just made perfect sense for the other four of us to battle the traffic.

When we first moved to our neighborhood twelve years ago, we discovered that the only restaurant (besides the take-out pizza, the delivery pizza, and the bar) within a mile of our house just happened to be absolutely fabulous. Before we had kids, we used to eat at Cassis at least once every other week, and for someone who loves to cook at home and try new restaurants as much as I do, that is a lot. When our son was born, we didn't miss a beat. He was 11 days old the first time he visited Cassis (although he did sit under the table). Sadly, Cassis closed before we could introduce the rest of our family to some of the best French food we'd eaten outside France.

Ever since, we've been big fans of the chef at Cassis, Charlie Durham. Charlie helped me immensely with Washington Food Artisans. Before I ever pitched the idea to my editor, I asked Charlie if he thought that chefs would be willing to share their recipes for dishes using their favorite local ingredients. He gave me the confidence to pitch the idea, and then to start asking favors of people I didn’t know. As the recipes starting coming in, Charlie answered all my questions, and even helped me test the most complicated recipes (those, by the way, are not in the book).

Long story short, Charlie is now the chef at Hudson Public House, just off Lake City Way, in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle. He’s actually been there for a while, and has slowly changed the menu to the food he loves to make, and we love to eat. His dishes are inventive and seasonal, they pack a punch of flavor, and they’re always beautiful. Last night we started with fried Padron peppers with fingerling potatoes, aioli, and a spicy piment de espellette sauce that I’m still thinking about. He’s introduced Hudson to one of his signature dishes, a most surprising salad of Rainier cherries, Walla Walla onions, and fresh basil with balsamic vinegar. It’s crisp, tender and sweet, and it’s how I know it’s cherry season. Then I had sweetbreads with lentils, almonds, and apricot that I’d put at the top of my list of “gastropub comfort foods I want to eat”. My husband had salmon with spaetzle and peas. We cleaned our plates, but we also had dessert of course. Our kids know that Hudson always has a list of house-made ice cream that rivals the best ice creameries in Seattle. Last night the list included rhubarb caramel swirl and chocolate chip cookie dough, among others.

Charlie is such a low-key guy, and he’s tucked away up on Lake City Way, so I don’t see much press about him. I may regret spreading the word when Hudson gets so busy I can’t get the big booth for my family, but Charlie is a truly talented chef and he deserves his accolades. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Swiss Chard the way I like it

Besides buying produce at the farmers market, I get a CSA box every other Tuesday. I first signed up for it thinking that it would force me to use produce I’m not familiar with, but their customer service is so terrific, they give me 4 days warning during which I can fiddle with the box, and I almost always do.

I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to cook a different meal for each generation in my family. I cook, and you eat what you want. As a result, my kids are excellent eaters. But I know not to push my luck too far. As long as there’s something they know and like in a dish, they’ll give it a try. But I mess with my CSA order because I’m not sure they’d let me get away with serving as many leafy greens as the box wants us to some weeks, and there was a week last winter during which I consumed a remarkable number of different root vegetables and my kids weren’t all that impressed.

So despite the fact that my kids have been telling me for years that they don’t like Swiss chard, I continue to serve it. My favorite way to eat it is actually so delicious that I truly do not understand why they won’t eat it. And my perseverance has finally paid off. On Tuesday I got a big bunch of rainbow chard in my CSA box. I thought about deleting it because we bought a great big bunch a week ago, but it’s just so good right now, I couldn’t resist.

Tonight I made chicken schnitzel to get in my children’s good graces (they love it). And I made the chard just the way I like it, with pine nuts and raisins. Maybe it’s grown on them? Maybe they were super-hungry? Maybe they’ve just given up? But tonight they ate it, and everyone had at least a second helping. I found the original recipe years ago in a magazine, probably Gourmet or Bon Appetit. I’m pretty sure that over time I’ve increased the quantities of “extras”, but basically the recipe is this:

Toast about ¼ cup pine nuts in about ¼ cup olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are golden. Carefully remove them from the pan and put them on a paper towel to drain, but leave the oil behind in the pan. Lightly salt the nuts and set them aside. In the leftover oil, sauté one finely diced onion and the chopped stems of one bunch of chard until they are tender. Add the chopped chard leaves, a good sprinkling of sea salt, a couple of tablespoons of water, and ¼ cup of golden raisins. Stir, and put the lid on to let the chard steam and the raisins plump for a few minutes. When the chard is as tender as you like it, add the nuts and toss to mix. Add more salt to taste.

And enjoy! We ALL do!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rhubarb Jam

I cook and bake all the time, and so I eat what I make without thinking too much about the fact that I made it. I am very good at giving credit where it's due - so if I like what I made I assume it's great because my ingredients were great and the recipe was great.

But there's something about preserving that gets me all fired up and proud. In the middle of winter, when I look in my pantry and see all the jars of jam that I made I feel...capable. Which is a funny thing, I realize, because I know I can (probably) buy jam for less than it costs me to make it, and I can (probably) buy jam that's better than mine. But I don't want to know.

The Italian prune plum tree in our backyard has had a couple of phenomenal years since we moved in, and a couple that were disasters. But as long as I get enough plums from it to make five different desserts on five different days, and one good-sized batch of jam, I'm happy. When the fresh fruit is but a memory, and I reach into a jar for a dollop of jam, I remember the day I bought or picked the fruit, and I remember (vividly) what the weather was like the day I made the jam. Seattle summer days can be magnificent, and I'd rather spend those outside, preferably with one foot in a lake. If my timing is such that I am jamming, I feel more like a pioneer than a multi-tasking woman of the 21st century. We're not air-conditioned, and I spend the jamming hours feeling sorry for myself, sweat pouring down my face. Plum jam days are often like that.

Strawberry jam days are a toss up. Sometimes they're warm and wonderful, but they can be cold and rainy, and then I can't think of anything I'd rather do than make two or three or four different batches of strawberry jam at the same time. I get in the zone, and I feel like I can save the world, one jar of jam at a time.

Rhubarb jam days are never physically uncomfortable - it's more a matter of motivation. With time, most people's memories of time-consuming tasks fade in such a way that they underestimate the time and difficulty involved. I'm the opposite way. I think about my preserving pot tucked away on a shelf in our garage, and the jam pots on various shelves in various places including the utility room and the laundry, and whether I still have a case or two of jars and lids or if I'm just short of lids (again), and I think that maybe this year I'll just buy my jam. And then one Spring day I'll go to the market and see piles and piles of rhubarb in varying shades of green, pink, and red, and next thing you know I've no choice in the matter because no one could eat as much rhubarb as I've brought home. That first jamming session of the season always surprises me. I set aside a day, and a couple of hours later I have a neat row of jars cooling for the pantry.

A couple of years ago I bought Christine Ferber's book on making jams and preserves, and now I always use her technique of putting all the jam ingredients together and leaving them overnight in the fridge. The following day, she strains the fruit, and first cooks the syrup to jam, then adds the fruit and cooks it again. One summer I made all my jams from her book, and while they were delicious, I missed the sloppy, compote-style jams where the fruit is so soft it can be squashed onto your toast. Now I often use her recipes, but I cook everything together. The last few weeks I've made rhubarb jam from Amy Pennington's recipe in her lovely book, Urban Pantry. The first time I did it exactly her way; the next few times I melded her recipe with Christine Ferber's. I put all the ingredients together, put them in the fridge, and then lost any and all motivation to make jam. When I found it again, 3 days later, the rhubarb was falling apart, and the bowl was full of fabulous rhubarb-y syrup. The resulting jam is creamy, smooth, and tart. I slather it generously on Challah toast or my South African Seed Bread. I made a batch with rose, and another with vanilla, and the only thing that will cure me at this point will be the appearance of Billy Allstot's great big buckets of use-them-today strawberries.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Washington Food Artisans dinner at Skelly and the Bean

Last night we celebrated April 24, 2012 (Washington Food Artisans' official date of publication) with dinner at Skelly and the Bean, a new restaurant that opened around the corner from us here on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Fifty-four of us enjoyed an inspired and inspiring 4-course menu crafted by Chef/Owner Zephyr Paquette, which showcased ingredients from many of the farms I profiled.

Huge thanks to Zephyr for making April 24th so special, and thanks also to our friends and neighbors for helping us celebrate. We sold our very first copies of Washington Food Artisans, and I was excited to start signing with my brand-new Sharpie pen. 

Zephyr started us off with a Greens and Grains Salad (Braising greens, rye berries, radish), then gave us a choice of Mussels herbes de Provence (Taylor Shellfish steamed mussels, herbs de Provence, wine) or Appaloosa Bean Soup (Alm Hill beans, dry apple, apple salad). For the main course we could choose between Loki Salmon or Olsen Farms Short Ribs, each served with an Olsen Farms potato and Alm Hill chard pave, and Alm Hill winter broccoli and flowering rapine. Dessert was a wonderfully creamy Port Madison Chèvre Cheesecake served with huckleberries and a ridiculously delicious hazelnut meringue.

You can experience her lovely, local-centric food for yourself at Skelly and the Bean (2329 10th Ave E, Seattle, WA) . Make reservations at 206-328-2326

Friday, March 9, 2012

Harry Cooks

I have an embarrassingly huge collection of cookbooks. Unless someone figures out the secret to eternal life really soon, there is absolutely no way I will ever make every recipe I want to make from my cookbooks, never mind all the recipes in them. I was hoping that my family wouldn’t notice that the majority of the bookshelves in our house are filled with cookbooks, but it seems someone has noticed my obsession, and that it may be contagious. His name is Harry, and he is 8.

Every Thursday, Harry gets to go to his school library and check out three books to bring home. He is a voracious reader, so you’d think he’d choose, um, some reading material. But for all of 2nd grade, he’s been checking out cookbooks. And no, the school library does not have hundreds of kid’s cookbooks; it has a dozen. And Harry has checked them all out multiple times.

The minute he gets home, he takes them out of his backpack and pages through them while lying on the floor in our front hall. After an initial perusal, he asks me for sticky notes, and then (just like his mommy) he sticks a note on every page that has a recipe he likes. Then he puts the books on my desk and asks me to order the ingredients. I attempt to schedule at least a meal or two for the following week, but it can be tough to work around swimming and chess and Sunday school…

I’m not a particularly patient person, so I must admit that “cooking” with an 8 year old is sometimes trying. Harry finds it all very exciting for the first 10 minutes, and then he’d prefer that I cook while he checks hockey scores on the iPad and call him when dinner’s ready. But that’s not very appealing to me because if I’m cooking by myself, I’ve got thousands of recipes in my own cookbooks I’d rather be making. But sometimes it works out just fine. Recently we’ve been on a roll. Last week “we” made cod with a parmesan/breadcrumb crust and his sisters loved it. And tonight “we” made Chicken Paprikash that his Dad and I really enjoyed.

I get a real kick out of his addiction to reading recipes and looking at photos of food. I hope it sticks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trust Me!

I did not go to cooking school on purpose. But that’s a story I’ll save for another day. When people find out that I have a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu Paris, they always ooh and aah and comment about what a great cook I must be. For a long time I’d always answer with an apology and try to explain that I went to Paris to learn to bake bread and make pastries, and that although I did graduate and I do have a diploma, it is for pastry, not for cooking. I’d go on and on trying to explain the difference and the poor soul who was just making conversation would make a mental note to never do that again.

When I came home from Paris, I outfitted my kitchen with every baking utensil and gadget I could afford. My cooking utensils, on the other hand, left much to be desired. Most of them were hand-me-downs from my parents. I salvaged battered pots and plastic utensils with strange melted bits hanging off them on their way to Goodwill. But I was working in a fine restaurant (The Occidental Grill, if you must know), and all my friends were either chefs or friends from college who didn’t cook at all. So most of my meals were eaten at the restaurant during service, at restaurants where my chef friends had friends, or at restaurants convenient to the homes and workplaces of my college friends. Somehow I managed to cook nothing at home other than pancakes for at least a year after graduating from cooking school.

Then one day I got brave, and I invited some friends (not chefs!) to dinner. I found a recipe in a food magazine (probably Bon Appetit) for Country Captain Chicken. I followed the instructions to the letter, and the meal was remarkably good. So good that I could hardly believe I’d made it (even though I spent my days making fancy desserts in a professional kitchen). Everyone loved it and told me what an excellent cook I was and all I could think was that I really wasn’t an excellent cook, I was just really, really good at following directions.

Once I realized just how good I was at following directions, I got really brave. Today I’ll make anything. And rarely the same thing twice. And along the way I really did learn to cook. I learned to trust recipes, but also to trust my instincts, and rely on my experience when something seems to be going wrong. Often, at the end of a long day, when the kids need bathing, and the laundry needs folding, and there’s a deadline looming, I don’t feel all that motivated to get creative. Fortunately there are so many amazing chefs out there making superb food, and sharing the recipes, that all I have to do is follow the directions. Life is short, and I really hate a bad meal, particularly one I’ve spent my own time making.

Which is a long-winded way of saying – you can trust the recipes in Washington Food Artisans. They are delicious, they come from creative and brilliant chefs, and they’ve been tested many times.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Washington Food Artisans advance copy has arrived!

My editor brought me my advance copy of Washington Food Artisans today. It’s absolutely beautiful, if I don’t say so myself. It’s hardcover, with no dust jacket, so the cover is printed on the actual book. The paper inside is beautiful – thick and smooth, and it even smells wonderful! The photos are vivid, and the layout is gorgeous. Oh, and my name is on the front cover! And on the spine!

When it goes on sale on April 24, it will have been 2 ½ years since I started the project. And what a difference those years make. My kids have grown and matured, and they need me for very different reasons these days. I’ve met so many interesting people, and learned so much both from them, and from a whole lot of old-fashioned research.

I’ve always loved to do my shopping at the farmers market, and that hasn’t changed. But working on the book has changed the way I cook, and not at all in the way I thought it would, and I’m sure you can’t guess either.

You’d think that after all that recipe-testing I’d be feeling very confident in the kitchen, and just throw things together and produce fabulous food. In actual fact, I do feel confident in the kitchen, but I cook almost entirely from recipes that I follow to a fault.

I am a cookbook fanatic, and have been for more than 20 years. At this point I probably own about 400 of them. Now that I know exactly how much effort was put into each one of them, I’m even more motivated to try the recipes exactly as they were written. My food is more flavorful as a result, and almost every meal feels a bit like a celebration. No matter how long and complicated a recipe, I’m not afraid to try it. I’ve learned to prep my ingredients in the morning, after I’ve dropped the kids at school, so that the actual cooking process is as quick as I can make it.

I figure I’ve got a few hundred years’ worth of recipes on my bookshelves, so I try to avoid searching for recipes on the web. A friend told me about a website called Eat Your Books, which I adore, and use often. You enter the names of your cookbooks, and then when you want a recipe, rather than search the web, you search your own books.

Obviously, after all this cooking, I don’t need to follow a recipe, but I love to. I love to try new combinations of ingredients and new techniques. Most often, I read a recipe and it sounds delicious and I want to eat it, and so I make it. I only make something more than once if I absolutely loved it, because the list of recipes I want to make is very, very long. But I already have more than a handful of favorites from Washington Food Artisans. When I opened the book today, my first thought was remarkably pedestrian. I thought, “how convenient, to have all these wonderful recipes printed and bound together in one place. Now I can recycle all those dog-eared food-splattered printouts I’ve been keeping in a pile on my kitchen shelf.“ And then I remembered to go nuts because it was finally, really, magnificently, an actual book, in my hands!