Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pork Stew with Pears and Vanilla

The holiday season is kind of a wild ride.

We had Cobe's family over this year. No big deal we thought. Twenty people. We did that for thanksgiving last year.

It turns out, it's kind of a big deal.

Cobe's family always does potluck, and since it's our house we had the main course. Cobe wanted salmon. I had a plan...long slow cooked salmon over very low heat a la Jerry Traunfeld. But with a teriyaki marinade. Or maybe not teriyaki, a pineapple soy.

We tried it. But with pre-frozen salmon. And it sucked.

Then I started to get nervous. Cooking for us and having it flop was one thing, I couldn't do that for the family. I couldn't make salmon. I would be too nervous. I needed something I could make the day before so I decided to make pork. Cobe could make the damn salmon if he wanted to (which he did and it was wonderful....butter and brown sugar).

This is possibly my favorite stew recipe ever, and it's also from Jerry Traunfeld. It is blessed by simplicity. You brown the meat, then sautee onions and garlic in the same pan. Next add some liquid (broth and wine). Then throw in some pears, vanilla bean and thyme and simmer the whole deal for 2 hours. When it's done, you take out the meat and cook down the sauce, addding in more fresh herbs and a little lemon. You will find you have created a new flavor...a mix of pork, pear and vanilla that is so perfect, you wonder why you never thought of it before.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme
10 servings

5 # boneless pork shoulder (boston butt) cut into 10 rectangular pieces, or 5# shoulder blade chops
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c white wine
2 c chicken broth
4 pears, bosc or bartett, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch dice
1 small bunch (1 ounce) thyme
4 bay leaves, fresh or dry
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 T coarsely chopped thyme
1/2 c coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 T fresh lemon

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat large heavy pot (8qt) over medium high heat x a few minutes, then add olive oil. Using tongs, lower in pork and cook ~3minutes on a side (till deep caramel in color). Do not try to cram more than one layer, will likely need to do a few batches. Turn heat to medium-low and pour off most of fat (leave thin layer). Add in onions and garlic. Cook till softened. Add in broth and wine and scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon to get up all the caramelized bits. Add pears, then add back in pork. Tie thyme together with bay and vanilla using kitchen twine and nestle between pieces of pork. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer over very low heat until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Take out pork and cover loosely. Discard herbs (bouquet garni). Add chopped thyme to pot, increase the heat, and boil off liquid until thick enough to coat a spoon (5-10 minutes). Add in parsley and lemon and adjust to taste. Return pork to pan and serve. Very good reheated.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chicken salad with cilantro and grapefruit

Another saturday, another afternoon waking up starving. Our fridge is full of food we can't eat these days. Cookie dough. The makings for my christmas pork and pear stew. Umeboshi.

Then I spied that rotisserie chicken from the other night. I started pulling things out of the fridge. Cilantro. Grapefruit. A hachiya persimmon.

The roasted chicken has an earthiness that's set off by the balsamic, and made fresher with the cilantro and grapefruit. The persimmon adds a slight cinnamon taste with apricot texture and vivid color.


Chicken Salad with Cilantro and Grapefruit

~1 cup chopped roasted chicken, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T balsamic
1/2 tsp honey mustard
a few T chopped cilantro, roughly minced
Pink grapefruit, peeled, pithed and cut into segments (see pictures here for how to), then chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Mix olive oil with balsamic and mustard and whisk. Adjust to taste (will depend on how strong your mustard or balsamic are....this will be worlds better with some top notch olive oil and balsamic). Mix with chopped chicken. Add in grapefruit and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve (can put chopped persimmon on the side if you like).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Vodka pie

It all started when my friend Sheela asked me and Cobe over for dinner. I said I'd bring dessert.

A few days later I stumbled across Cooking Illustrated's no-fail vodka pie crust recipe. Then I heard the farmer's market was still going on in West Seattle. I could get apples from the market, make that vodka crust...

It was fate. I had to bake a pie.

So yesterday I trundled off to the market and loaded up with Braeburn apples. I looked high and low for lard thinking that it would make the most awesome piecrust, but everyone was sold out. Only in Seattle would everyone sell out of lard I went off to Thriftway for flour, butter, crisco and a pastry cutter.

Back home I sorted out the ingredients. It was a bit daunting, making a pie. I'd never made crust before. And I have no cuisinart. Just that little pastry cutter.

I pulled up Cook's illustrated to look at the recipe, but they only have directions for using a cuisinart so I also looked at Smitten Kitchen.

Damn her photos are beautiful. She makes a cup of sugar look like art.

Got out the butter, flour, sugar, salt, crisco, and vodka. Cut up the butter into squares. Threw the vodka in the freezer to chill. Then carefully mixed together the dry ingredients.

Now time to cut in the butter with the pastry cutter. Kind of scary, but she has these great photos on Smitten Kitchen to guide you through it. This is what mine looked like, first just starting and then almost done.

Then I added the vodka and water and poof! It came together into a ball. Cut the dough in two, flattened them into little patties and wrapped them in saran wrap, then put them in the fridge to chill.

So far so good.

Now onto the apples. I used the recipe from Best New Recipe (which is really just more CI). Peeled, cored and sliced the apples and mixed them with lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Took out the crust and started rolling. Quickly discovered that I suck at rolling. I've rolled cookie dough but with cookie dough it doesn't matter if it cracks. With pie crust it matters a lot.

I have no pictures of this, but suffice it to say it wasn't pretty. Cobe came over while I was in the middle of this and asked if I needed help and I just snapped at him.

I finally rolled out an approximation of a 12 inch circle with several cracks but luckily for me, the pan was small enough that the cracks got cut off. Put the crust in the fridge to chill. Pulled it out after a bit and mounded up the apple slices.

Now to roll out the second crust. I got wise this time and actually looked at the pictures in Best New Recipe which show someone rolling with the rolling pin counter clockwise rather than back and forth. This worked much better. Still cracked, but better.

Put the whole thing together, sealed the edges, and cut slits in the top.

And then off it went to bake for an hour. Best New Recipe does this cool thing where you jack the oven up to 500 degrees, then turn it down to 425 right when you put the pie in (on the lowest rack). Worked like a charm....nice crisp bottom crust.

Actually the whole pie turned out awesome. Forgot to take a picture of it, but the crust was flaky and just slightly sweet with the crisp of sugar on the top (I did a glaze with egg white and sugar). I brought it to Sheela's and we ate it with ice cream and after dinner there was a little fight to see who could take the leftover pie home.

As a scientist it bothered me....why vodka? Well it turns out any alcohol would work. Alcohol simply evaporates more quickly than water and so leaves a flakier crust. Very interesting discussion about all of this by Harold McGee. I thought he migh have a hand in this!


Foolproof Pie Dough (Cooks Illustrated, November 2007)

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Classic Apple Pie (Best New Recipe)

1 Recipe 2 crust pie dough
3 Granny Smith apples
4 Macintosh (I used all Braeburns, highly recommend them)
1 T fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp zest
3/4 cup + 1 T sugar
2T flour
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 lg egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, place rack on lowest rung with rimmed baking sheet.
2. Roll dough to 12 inch circle (note: they tell you to roll it between layers of saran wrap, but I had heard it got too sticky so I just used a floured countertop). Transfer dough to pie pan by rolling it around the rolling pin. Carefully lift up edges of dough while pressing it into the corners. Refrigerate.
3. Peel core and quarter the apples, then cut into 1/4 inch slices. Toss with lemon juice and zest (NOTE: I think the zest might have been too much so you might want to consider leaving that out but keeping the juice). In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar with 2T flour, spices and salt. Toss dry mixture with apples. Turn fruit mixture into chilled pie shell, mounding in the center.
4. Roll out second dough ball to 12 inches and place it over filling. Trim both crusts to 1/2 inch, then fold under and crimp. Cut four slits in top. Paint crust with egg white and sprinkle with 1 T sugar
5. Place pie on baking sheet and immediately turn heat down to 425. Cook 25 minutes or until golden brown, then rotate front to back and turn heat down to 375. Cook till bubbling and nicely browned (30-35 minutes more). Cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Breakaway Chicken

Every few months I break down and buy a new cookbook. It's a bad habit (as evidenced by my groaning bookshelves) but I can't help myself. I have this idea that just around the corner is some new recipe that will change the way I cook. It's what makes cooking fun.

"The Breakaway Cook" is my new obsession. It's written by Eric Gowers who spent several years in Japan and plucked up all these flavors like yuzu, umeboshi and maccha.....then added them to western recipes. The results are incredibly simple, most are 4-5 ingredients, and yet profoundly original.

* Persimmon salad with ginger, maple syrup and mint
* Galangal-brown sugar ice cream
* Mashed potatoes with miso gravy
* Spicy shrimp with pomegrante molasses

Last night I decided to make star anise chicken.

First had to stop at Uwajimaya to buy some of this crazy stuff that he talks about in the book. I found some yuzu peel, but couldn't bring myself to buy the paste as it was a funky green color. Wandered around aimlessly looking for pomegrante molasses. Not in the gigantic aisle of sauces (after I tried to read every japanese label). Not near the plain old "brer rabbit" molasses. I asked one of the employees and he looked sheepish and then I realized he didn't speak english. I held up a pomegrante hopefully. We finally found it catty corner from the molasses.

This stuff ROCKS. Sweet and sour all in one bite, like tamarind but better.

Then home with the star anise and chicken thighs. Ground up the star anise and coated the thighs with olive oil, salt, pepper and the anise. Heavy on the anise (per his instructions). Threw the whole thing in a 400 degree oven with some quartered meyer lemon. Also added a few fingerling potatoes. Cooked it for 40 minutes, turning once.

Not bad. I was worried the star anise would be too much, but Chris didn't blink an eye. "This is your best dinner yet!" He said, licking his fingers. Of course he always says that.

Made some delicata squash using what we had left over from this summer's CSA and it turned out beautifully. A little butter and just the faintest sprinkle of brown sugar. No other way to describe the flavor except "delicate."

And then a salad, my own invention. Fennel, persimmon and pomegrante with an orange/lemon vinegarette. Kind of amazing. The Fuyu persimmons have this subtle flavor, like an apricot but with a touch of spiciness. And the pomegrante pops in your mouth.

Spicy Star Anise Chicken (From "Breakaway Cook," by Eric Gowers)

15 boneless chicken thighs (with skin)
1 T olive oil
pepper & salt
6T ground star anise
1 lemon, preferably meyer

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil. Coat both sides of chicken with olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and anise. Quarter the lemon and spread on the pan with the chicken. Cook 30 minutes, flip and cook 30 minutes more or until done (180 degrees).

Roasted Delicata Squash

2-3 delicata squash (can use other varietals, but these are pretty cool)
brown sugar

Halve squash and remove seeds. Place in a roasting pan with ~1/2 inch of water. Sprinkle with salt and place small amounts butter in each squash half, then lightly sprinkle with brown sugar.
Cook at 350 degrees x 1 hour or until done (the temperature's pretty flexible, just check on them if you use a higher or lower temperature).

Fennel, persimmon and pomegrante salad

1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly (mandoline works great)
1 fuyu persimmon, firm, cut into thin strips
1 pomegrante, broken into seeds
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 T olive oil
Squeeze of lemon

Mix orange juice, olive oil and lemon with salt and pepper. Taste and see if you want more oil or more lemon, it's to your taste (I confess that I don't really measure these things as I think it's better to just mix and add until it tastes right). Add fennel and mix. Then add persimmon and pomegrante. Chill before serving.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Turkey Day #2 (Cranberry Sauce)

And now on to the cranberry sauce. I love cranberry sauce, but it can be vexing. It's so simple but when it's not right, it's not right. And it's not thanksgiving without it. I've had to remake it two years in a row.

Last year I made a mountain of cranberry sauce, only to discover it was too sweet. I had made it from the Best New Recipe cookbook and I swear there must have been a typo because it was like candy. So I remade it decreasing the sugar and it was perfect. But of course I never wrote it down.

This year I had read something about putting in mulling spices and that sounded cool, so I followed the directions on the bag (1cup sugar, 1 cup water) but then added 5 spice and orange zest. Big mistake. It tasted like bland chutney. Too spicy, not tart enough. And I had forgotten how much sugar I put in last year, it was too sweet again.

So I started again....this time 3/4 c. sugar, 1 c water, orange zest, a sprinkle of salt and then after it had simmered the requisite amount of time, a tbs. of cointreau. Fabulous stuff. Cranberry sauce of the gods.

Hopefully the last year I have to make it twice.

(Note: the recipe below uses two bags so doubles the quantities above)


Perfect Cranberry Sauce (note: this makes enough for 15 people)

2 bags cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
zest from one orange, minced
pinch of salt
2 T. cointreau or other orange liquer

Wash cranberries and get out all the mushy ones (if you run your hands through them, you'll feel them). Put water, sugar and zest in a pan on high and bring to a boil. Add cranberries, bring to a boil again and then turn down to low, simmer x 10 minutes. Take off heat, add pinch of salt and 2 T. cointreau. Chill

Turkey Day #1 (Pumpkin Pie)

Last year we hosted thanksgiving for Jacobe's family and three days before the big day I was a wreck. I was going to meet his family for the first time and announce our engagement. And I was roasting a 30# bird.

I brined the heck out of that thing and it all turned out fine.

This year, we were off the hook. We went to his cousin's and were in charge of just cranberry sauce, green beans and somehow a pie. I was going to buy a pie from Shoofly but they just laughed at me. "You need a pie for tomorrow? Who wants to make a pie tonight?"

And then I realized I had pureed pumpkin in my freezer. I was making that pie. My first pie. It came out great, really. I kind of blurred a few recipes together and used those cheater roll-out pillsbury crusts. It was delicious, super creamy and just a little spicy.

Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups pumpkin (roasted till soft, then pureed in a blender with some of its liquid till smooth)-->you can use the canned stuff, but simmer it with the spices before adding it to the rest of the stuff to make it taste fresh
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. half and half
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. brown sugar
whole nutmeg
whole cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the pie crust in a greased pan and weight down with pie weights (or line with foil and put in dried beans). Cook ~25 minutes at 350. Meanwhile heat up half and half until boiling, take off heat. Grind ~1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (rasp works great). Beat eggs and combine with pumpkin, salt, sugar, maple syrup and spices. Mix with half and half and heat till warm, then pour in crust. Cook 30 minutes at 400.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cheating with PCC

Another tuesday night, another dinner with Chris. Tonight I just couldn't do it. So I decided on rotisserie chicken from PCC. I mean hell, it's damn good. No nitrates.

But I had to make something.

I threw together some mashed potatoes, these still-covered-with-dirt little guys that have been sitting in our cellar from Helsing Juntion. I love the way our masher makes these twisty doodles when you mash, it makes me want to keep mashing.

I added some caramelized shallots along with the salt and pepper. Damn good.

Picked up a chicken.
And some arugula.And of course some wine.Okay so really that bottle was almost gone, I just drank a half glass. But it was so good. Very slightly buttery and yet with this cleanness, like a wooded stream. From Garagiste (very cool, this wine email

And now it becomes a meal! I did the simple lemon juice + olive oil dressing for the arugula with a little reggiano. And whipped together some gravy using wine and the drippings from the chicken. Who knew you could make gravy from a grocery store rotisserie chicken?

Rock rock on.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good Strata

I decided to have a few folks over for brunch this Sunday, just some work people who live in the neighborhood. I wanted to make something but wanted it to be no fuss. Enter: Strata.

This stuff is amazing. You can make it the night before or the morning of. You can put anything in it. It totally rocks.

So I had this big plan that I was going to put the strata together last night and then throw it in the oven this morning. So simple. I could sleep late even.

Of course then we ended up being out stupidly late having dinner with friends on Bainbridge and I drank a bit too much wine. When we got home it was all I could do to flop on the couch and watch Seinfeld. And then I picked a fight about nothing. It was a big flog. No cooking happened.

This morning I bounce out of bed at 7:30 only to realize the time has changed and really it's 6:30. So I roll back over and snooze a bit more, then slowly roll out and start the cooking.

Strata is simple really. The main components are stale (or toasted) bread, eggs, cheese, milk, and filling of some kind. I decided to make spinach, shallot and gruyere on one side and sausage, shallot, mushroom and sage on the other. I made it from this recipe in the New Best Recipe and if you know those recipes you'll know they're really anal. The key things according to them are 1)making sure all the ingredients (other than the milk and egg) are very dry and 2)letting the whole shebang sit for an hour before cooking.

Cool. So I toasted bread and made a layer of it buttered side up. Then put sauteed shallots and spinach on one side, sausage, shallot and mushroom on the other. Layer of cheese, then more buttered up bread, then more filling and cheese. Then white wine (boiled down to concentrate it), half and half, and egg all dumped in. Put saran wrap on top, weight it down with two boxes of kosher salt and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Then cook at 325 for an hour.

This stuff rocks. It definitely is not for the faint of heart as between the butter and cheese and half and half and sausage I could feel my arteries hardening right there. But it tasted damn good.

And Cobe thought it was good too. He even brought leftovers to work (and this is a boy who never eats leftovers). We ate it with some coffee and satsumas and watched the rain come down outside. It was perfect.

Strata: A

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Mediocre Chili

So yesterday Cobe came home early because he felt sick and had the chills. Probably because he'd gotten up at 4am to go surfing. Wet suit or not, that water's like 30 degrees. It is Seattle. And November.

Anyway. I'd made chili last night from this recipe in Gourmet so we decided to heat that up. It had all this potential, that recipe. "Pinto bean mole chili."

You roast ancho and chipotle chilis with some cumin seeds and grind them in a blender. Sounding good, eh? Add cinnamon, mexican oregano, orange zest and grated chocolate, sautee up some onions and garlic, add in the spices and some zucchini and kale. Then add canned tomatoes and simmer the whole deal for a little bit. Add pintos, let it heat up, and serve with cilantro and sour cream.

It just never really jelled. It had no depth. I squeezed in some orange juice at the end to give it a little sweetness and it tasted pretty good with the sourcream and the cilantro, but it feels like cheating when you need the toppings to balance the flavor.

Cobe said it was fine, but he was half passed out on the couch as we watched the office.

Never can trust those magazine recipes.

Pinto Bean Mole Chili: B-

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Failed Fish

Just when I'm getting all excited that I'm starting to master fish, I have one of those dinners that feels like a total flop.

Tuesdays are the night we have my father-in-law-to-be (Chris) up to dinner. Usually I try to do something new. Yesterday it was chinese style fish steamed in foil (from Sally Schneider).

Chris is always big on saying I can cook anything, but yesterday I proved him wrong.

So to start off I had surgery on Monday so there I am sprawled on the couch at 4:30 trying to psyche myself up to start cooking but wincing in pain and feeling slightly faint and nauseous at the same time. I'd stopped off at Mutual Fish and bought some whole trout and I had the other fixings. Cobe called right about then and sounded worried, "are you sure? I could pick up take out."

I should have taken the hint.

Instead I put a pot of boiling water on thinking I would make mashed potatoes. And slowly the pain eased and I minced some garlic, ginger and scallions, mixed it with fermented black beans and stuffed the cavities of the trouts. Then mixed soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and sherry and poured that on top, and sealed them up in little foil packets.

All sounds good, yes?

Then I threw some delicata squash (halved) in a pan with butter and 5-spice and a little water to steam and covered them with foil. Threw everything in the oven and went back to laying on the couch.

Eventually decided rice would be better than mashed potatoes, threw in some sesame seeds for flavor. And decided we needed dessert so threw some halved pears in a pan with melted butter and vanilla and lemon juice.

Chris came up at 6:30, we sat down to eat at 7 (this is kind of a record for me....we've eaten at 9pm before). And the food? Well. After all that fuss the trout bland and was a devil to deal with, bones and skin everywhere just for a tiny piece of meat. I put some cilantro on top but ended up just dousing it with soy sauce and eating with the rice, which we damn well could have done anyway without all the futsy mincing.

The squash had a nice flavor, but wasn't moist and creamy like it should be, it had this waxy quality that kind of ruined it for me. And the pears were burned because I forgot to turn them mid-way like I was supposed to. But other than that, they were actually pretty some kind of pie without the crust. Perfect when mixed with a little vanilla ice cream. Could have done without the skins though, damn my laziness.

Fish: C+ (edible)
Squash: C
Pears: B+

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Composed sandwiches

Our typical saturday...I drove out to Marymoor early to play ultimate, and then came home starving. Luckily I remembered to stop at the store. I picked some jalapeno bagels, salami, mixed greens, and roasted tomatoes.

I know what you're thinking. But really and truly, jalapeno bagels are amazing. They were Jacobe's find, I can't take the credit myself. I was very suspicious. I'm an H&H bagels snob ( . But when you cut them thinly and toast them in the oven they come out amazing. You wouldn't even guess it was jalapeno if someone fed them to you blindfolded.

So that's what I did, cut them thinly, toasted them, and spread them with some leftover vinaigarette from the other day. I've taken to making one with olive oil, pear vinegar and a splash of balsamic. I'm kind of addicted. Then I added thinly sliced reggiano, a few slices of really nice peppery salami, some arugula, and the roasted tomatoes.

Just beautiful. The soft tomatoes with the spicy salami, the bitter arugula, the sweetness of the vinaigarette, the creamy nutty reggiano, and the toasty warm slightly spicy bagel.

By the way...roasted tomatoes are easy. Just throw cut tomatoes cut side down on a piece of foil and cook them at 200-250 until they collapse. Maybe spread a little olive oil over their backs. Divine.

Sandwiches: B+

Friday, October 26, 2007

Roasted salad

It's one of those unusual Seattle fall days, the sun has come out through the clouds, the leaves are brilliant orange and yellow and green. Feels like a day for roasting.

I picked up an eggplant and some peppers at the farmers market this weekend and they've been sitting in the fridge accusingly. So I popped the peppers in the oven on broil and threw the eggplant in my big cast iron pan on high. Let them cook till they were all black on all sides and then threw them in a brown bag to cool down.

This is one of my favorite ways to cook. You can't burn them too much. I guess they could be too soft, but even that would be hard. You want them to be pretty soft.

Then you just flake off the skins and dice them, throw on some good olive oil (I am a frantoia woman), a splash of balsamic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

And there you have this luscious salad, buttery and slightly smoky. I think eggplant may be one of the only vegetables that can taste luscious.

Roasted Salad: A

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I admit, I have a fear of cooking fish. So simple one would think. When raw it tastes pure like the ocean. But leave it in the oven too long and it becomes chewy and fishy.

The other day I finally made some progress.

I had decided to make this recipe for halibut poached in carrot juice and cilantro from Traunfeld's "Herbal Kitchen," but when I stopped off at the store post-call and exhausted I didn't actually have the recipe in hand so somehow I decided I needed whole carrots instead of the juice. After sleeping for a few hours, I meandered to the kitchen and found my mistake, but decided to wing it. Not usually a good idea, but I was intrigued by the idea of poaching in some kind of juice, carrot or not.

I pondered my options. Steam the greens and puree them? I did this for a "Happy in the Kitchen" recipe that turned out pretty awesome but I have this lowly blender and it was a tough job. I tried boiling the greens to see if the water developed any kind of nice flavor, no go. Well maybe I'll just boil the hell out of the carrots and see what that water tastes like. But then I forgot and added salt and the water tasted just like the ocean, not even a little carroty.

I finally decided to just drain the carrots and puree them, which remarkably worked though they weren't quite sweet enough so I added some orange juice and cider for some liquid and to replace the lime juice (forgot that too). Then I put in the ginger, shallots and vermouth. Brought it to a boil, cooked it a few minutes to soften the shallots, threw in the fish and turned the heat down to nothing for 7 minutes. Whisked in some butter. Sprinkled on some cilantro. Fabulous. The fish was melt in your mouth soft and set off by the subtle sweetness of the carroty-citrus sauce.

The thing that really fascinates me is that this is how I make poached eggs.....boil the water and then turn it off, leave the eggs 6 minutes. They come out all silky smooth. Never thought of it for fish. And there's so many options! You could poach the fish in anything really. It's all kind of exciting though sadly this was a night that Cobe was away so I had no one to share my cooking marvel with . I'll have to make it for him next time.

Fish: B

Monday, June 18, 2007

Crab crab and more crab

It was father's day yesterday and as cobe and I wandered around Costco dodging the onslaught of carts we idly wondered what to do for father's day.

And then we saw the crab. Alaskan king, legs as long as my arm, hard to imagine the whole animal. We got 3 pounds. They were precooked so I debated what to do, steam them? Roast them in the oven? Throw them on the grill?

I got two pots steaming and threw them in, as some small red potatoes roasted in the oven with salt and olive oil and rosemary. I made a salad...mixed herb greens tossed with frantoia olive oil. Then tossed with sea salt, black pepper, lemon zest. Finally a squeeze of lemon. It's italian and the flavors are layered instead of mixed. It's somehow both simple and beautiful, like a young girl in a sundress.

Finally the crab was ready, the potatoes were hot and we all sat down and cracked the crab into melted butter. Just amazing.

Crab: A
Salad: A
Potatoes: B