Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Meal from "The Splendid Table"

Supper Tart of chicken sausage, onions, pear and greens and Little French Fudge Cakes--both easy, french-inspired recipes from "The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper" that I wanted to share with you.

What I love about them: The tart uses my favorite cheater ingredient lately: frozen puff pastry dough that you simply defrost and shape to your liking. Savory caramelized onions and spicy sausage with sweet pears taste perfect against the sharpness of Asiago cheese (and you can easily make this vegetarian--just leave out the sausage)



The little french fudge cakes are so much like those delicious lava cakes that you can get at nice restaurants: dense, dark, chocolatey and gooey in the middle.



The recipes:

Supper Tart (serves 4 with a salad)

Ingredients:
2 chicken sausages
1 packed cup of mixed salad greens
Generous 1/2 cup pear cut in 1/2 inch chunks
1 medium red onion, 1/4 inch slivers
Shredded zest of 1/2 lemon
1 large garlic clove, chopped
leaves of 5 thyme sprigs
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 sheet frozen puff pastry defrosted (one 17. 3 oz package)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded asiago cheese

Instructions:
1. If your sausages are raw, broil at 500 for five minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature reaches 160-180. Let cool and then slice thinly at an angle.
2. Set oven rack as low as possible. Preheat to 475.
3. Tear the greens into bite sized pieces, toss in a large bowl with sausage, pears, onion, lemon zest, garlic, thyme olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Layout pastry sheets on a large cookie sheet so that they overlap 1/4 inch. Create a rim by folding up and over the pastry edges and pinching together. Fill the tart with the bowl mixture and spread out. Bake for 15 minutes.
5. Blend cream and cheese together in a small bowl. Spoon cheese over tart, slip back into oven for 6 minutes until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Let stand to cool for a few minutes.

Little French Fudge Cakes

Ingredients:
one 3.5-4 oz bittersweet chocolate bar (around 65-70% cacao), broken up
1 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, broken up
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs (cage-free) plus one yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
half of a 3.5-4 oz bittersweet chocolate bar, broken into pieces

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter a dark metal 6 cup cupcake tin.
2. Combine the broken up bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates with butter and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Stir often.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together cinnamon, vanilla, eggs, sugar and salt until creamy. Stir in flour thoroughly. Stir in melted chocolate until smooth. Blend in the bite-sized pieces of solid bittersweet chocolate. Pour batter into cupcake tins, 3/4 full.
4. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Insert a knife into the center of a cupcake. It should come out with streaks of thick batter. Top should be nearly firm when pressed. Remove from oven and cool 5-10 minutes and serve warm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Matt's Snowboarding Accident


As I've previously hinted, Matt had an accident while snowboarding last Saturday. He had gone up to Stevens Pass with some buddies from work and they had gone straight to the "terrain park" where there are lots of jumps, rails and other bad-ass stunt implements. Matt's a pretty advanced snowboarder and usually has lots of fun on jumps, but not this Saturday.

According to Matt, he went off a big jump, caught his edge and came down (from about 10 feet in the air) directly on his shoulder. He broke his glasses and his phone and our friend Brooksy took a look at the shoulder and could see something sticking up. Matt was able to board to the bottom of the mountain and went into the ski patrol. They gave him a makeshift sling and told him to get X-rays--he'd probably torn his ligaments in the AC joint.

(After Natasha Richardson's tragic accident, I'm so grateful Matt was wearing his helmet!)

See the bump sticking up compared to the other shoulder:



Not sure if we should go straight to the ER once they got back from the mountain, I talked to the on-call doc at our family practice. He said not to bother wasting the money as they'd just do x-rays, give him a sling and painkillers. So instead, we weathered the rest of the weekend--Matt being very brave, but not in too much pain as long as he kept still--and went in first thing Monday morning.

The X-rays revealed that our suspicions were right: Matt has a grade three AC joint separation, which means that the ligaments have fully severed and the collarbone is detached from the rest of the shoulder. (You can see the collarbone floating up).




With these kind of injuries, surgery to tack down the collarbone while it heals isn't proven to necessarily help it heal better. We have an appointment with an orthopedist next Monday (the soonest that they could get us in) to determine whether to get surgery and how to rehabilitate the joint.

Meanwhile, Matt's in a sling and although he can use his left hand (he's left-handed), he can't lift the arm. Recovery on this baby is gonna be about three months. No more snowboarding this season for Matt.

A couple of good things to come out of the situation: Matt's getting new glasses and now he finally has an excuse to get the iPhone he's been drooling over since the day that they were released (it should arrive in the mail today--an early birthday present). A friend at work "repaired" his old glasses with epoxy--and added a fabulous new feature so that he can erase things with no hands!

Meanwhile, I'm taking him to work (no biking there for awhile) and picking up the household chores slack. At least now I can prove that the dishes DO get done if I'm the only one responsible for them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Michael Pollan's Op Ed on Food

Michael Pollan's "Open Letter to the Next Farmer-In-Chief" to Barack Obama outlines the ways that Pollan believes the Department of Agriculture needs to revamp the farming system in America.

If you think agriculture is boring and irrelevant, did you know that "After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent"?

And since this letter was written, it looks like Michelle Obama took at least one piece of Pollan's advice--she planted a garden with her White House food staff on the South Lawn and is using it to teach local school children about nutrition. Victory Gardens are making a comeback in a big way and I'm glad to see it!

Making Pies

So I went through a very long stage of not liking pie. But, inexplicably, I got over it when I tasted the blueberry crumble that I used to make at Pier 77 as a prep cook. (I also used to dislike olives, beans, corn on the cob, and lots of other things that I've gotten over in the past couple years). There was just something about the combination of blueberries and nutmeg and the tiny individual pies we would make in ramekins. I firmly believe that there needs to be a gateway food that gets you to like something new and this was my gateway pie.

I made my first non-Pier 77 fruit pie--blackberry--last August after going blackberry picking. Last Sunday I got the itch to make my first apple pie.


I have to be honest and admit that I fully intended to cheat and buy pre-made dough. But I don't like the pre-made shells. I prefer the kind you can roll out and shape. But there wasn't any to be found at either of the grocery stores in town. So I bought some butter instead and went to good old Betty Crocker for advice.

I got such a kick out of my very old Betty Crocker cookbook, a hand-me-down from Matt's grandmother that she gave me before she passed away last year. It is a very dear gift and it was fun to use the old classic that my mother used as well.



"Pie...A symbol of good eating in a good land"


"Pie is as American as the Fourth of July"

So I was pretty happy with how it turned out. My crust edge was a little too dark: it was done way before the apples were tender enough. I probably should have covered it with foil after the first ten minutes or decreased my temp. I also thought the filling was a bit runny. I may try adding cornstarch or flour in my next attempt.

Despite all this, I really loved it--especially with a scoop of local ice-cream from Lopez Island Creamery.



Last Saturday Night...

While Matt was snowboarding (and before I got the call that he'd had an accident that separated his shoulder joint--story to come soon), I stayed home to finish a big push toward my 200 page goal on the novel. After I *finally* made it, I decided to treat myself with a healthy dinner, a big glass of Lillet, and the new release of the Twilight movie.



Menu: Roasted onions, apples and chicken sausage over lemon rice with simple spring greens salad.

Having the parents over for dinner...

My mom's a great cook and my dad's a discerning eater (aka picky). So when they were coming through A-tez on their way home from a weekend on San Juan Island, I thought I'd pull out my back-pocket smash hit recipe: Jamie Oliver's Steak and Guinness Pie with peas (from Jamie at Home) and his Onion Gratin (from Cook with Jamie).

We tried these recipes on our friends Maria and Peter a few months ago and it instantly became Pete's "favorite." (Not sure if I can ever cook for them again if I have to beat that next time). But the last time I made one big pie and this time I thought I'd try to make a few little ones.





Here's what I love about these two recipes:

The steak and guinness pie is made with simple brisket or stewing beef and the magic is in the fact that it cooks away in the oven for hours, making it incredibly moist and tender. The huge handful of sharp sheddar in the pie filling adds a creamy, sharp element and using thawed, store-bought puff pastry makes my life easy. (Disclaimer: this is not diet food!)

What I love about the onion gratin is that the onions cook in olive oil and white wine for almost an hour and then broil to carmelize so that they are sweet and gorgeous before you ever add the creme fraiche and cheese. I also love that this recipe calls for Gruyere, which is just so delicious.

The recipes:

Steak and Guinness Pie

Ingredients:
3 medium red onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery chopped
10 crimini or other brown mushroom, sliced
2.2 pounds brisket of beef or stewing beed, 3/4 inch cubed
leaves of several rosemary sprigs
kosher/sea salt and fresh-ground pepper
a 1 pint can of Guinness (no lager!!)
2 Tbsp. flour
7 oz fresh grated cheddar
1 lb. all-butter puff pastry
1 large cage-free egg

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375. *In a large ovenproof pan with a lid* sautee onions 10 minutes on low heat in olive oil. Turn up heat and add garlic, butter, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Mix. Stir in beef, rosemary, pinch of salt and tsp. of pepper.

Fry fast for 3-4 mins. Pour in Guinness, stir in flour, and add enough water to cover everything. Bring to simmer, cover with lid and place in oven for 1.5 hours. Stir. Cook for 1 hour more or until beef is very tender and stew is thick and dark. If liquidy, place on burner without lid and reduce.

Remove from heat, stir in half the cheese. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary and let cool a bit.

Roll out dough a bit to thickness of a silver dollar. Butter a big pie pan or several small ones. Line bottom with half of your dough, leaving one inch dangling over edges. Pour in stew. Sprinkle over rest of the cheese. Brush pastry edges with beaten egg. Cut remaining dough to fit pie top and crisscross lightly with knife. Place over top of pie, seal edges and brush top with egg. Bake in bottom of the oven for 45 minutes (less time if making individual pies) until pastry is golden and puffed. Serve with peas.

Onion Gratin

Ingredients:

4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
olive oil
kosher/ sea salt and fresh-ground pepper
leaves of 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
a small wineglass of white wine
4 tablespoons of creme fraiche or really thick, glossy organic sour cream
1.75 oz grated Gruyere cheese
1.75 oz grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400. Break onion quarters into petals. Put in ovenproof glass or earthenware dish. Drizzle with couple glugs of olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss in thyme and garlic. Mix well. Add white wine. Cover with double layer of aluminum foil, wrap tight and place in oven for 45 minutes. Take off foil and put back in for 15 minutes or until onion begins to carmelize and look slightly golden. Stir in creme fraiche and sprinkle over cheeses. Turn oven down to 350 and cook for 15 more minutes or until golden and bubbly.

'Waiting on David' Live In-Studio

Matt and I were honored to be invited to our buddy Bryan's live recording session with his band Waiting on David.

There were about twenty people in the audience as well as the musicians and technicians. Over the course of the evening, we were able to hear six songs recorded (and even sing along in one of them). Everyone in the audience had headphones to hear how the sound was being mixed. The setting was intimate and it was a great way to get an inside look on the making of an album. 57th Street Productions was a classy venue for the evening and we had a great time.

Can't wait to hear the finished product, Bryan!











Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Bangs


They are a work in progress.

By which I mean, yes, I do take scissors to my hair. I went to have them cut, I even brought a photo of what I wanted, but walked out of the salon disappointed. Small town hairstyles...sigh. So, I've been fixing them up. For a few days it looked like a five-year-old had cut my bags, but they're getting better. Not quite like the picture, but better.

Here's the idea for reference. Maybe someday I can have such perfect hair...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sighting

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Birthday Polaroids









Birthday Weekend

A couple of weekends ago, Matt and I headed down to Seattle to celebrate my 28th birthday. We stayed at the ultra-hipster Ace Hotel and had dinner on Capitol Hill at Oddfellows, the newest gastro-pub on the block, with a few friends.


The room we stayed in--that far wall is a revolving door!





Heather made these amazing cupcakes.


Matt had an old school polaroid to take pictures with (still need to be scanned in)





The next morning, we went to my all-time favorite place for breakfast in Seattle: Macrina's Bakery, which happened to be just across the street from the Ace Hotel.

It was so much fun. Thanks for arranging all this, Matt! Ya done good.