Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Meyer lemon creme brulee

I had two Meyer lemons about to go bad, so I juiced them. Then I got a craving for creme brulee, so I made these. It's my basic creme brulee recipe, with the juice of two Meyer lemons added along with the cream.

The flavor is subtle, but yummy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pepper and feta frittata

The other day, I found a produce stand near my apartment building. You know the places: three walls, a lot of fruit bins outside, selling fruit and produce that is most likely fresher and more local than the stuff in supermarkets, but at much cheaper prices. They had limes 5 for $1, all kinds of apples for $1 a pound, bunches of fresh parsley for 79 cents each. I bought some oranges, grapefruit, a butternut squash, and a bag of peppers.

They were a little bruised, but I didn't care. I got two red, two yellow, and two green bell peppers for $1. Total. When was the last time you got 6 peppers for $1?

So I made this pepper and feta frittata with them.

1/2 onion, diced
4-5 bell peppers, any color, diced
6-7 eggs
1/2 cup cream
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Gently saute the onion and peppers in olive oil in a big cast-iron skillet until soft and browned. In a separate bowl, mix together the other ingredients. Pour into the skillet and mix well. Cook until the bottom is set but the top is still runny, 8-10 minutes. Finish in a 400-degree oven until the top is just set.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Boulevardier

My new favorite drink.

If you want to get really classy, add the juice of half a blood orange to this.

2 oz bourbon or rye
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth

Combine in a glass filled with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon or orange twist.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Truffle popcorn

I bring this to you straight from the wine bar where I've been working. You know about bacon fat popcorn--that is, popcorn popped in bacon fat, it tastes wonderfully smoky and you don't even need more salt--and the other night I tried duck fat popcorn. (Verdict: bacon fat was better.)

Truffle popcorn is normally-popped popcorn, tossed with a drizzle of truffle oil (and another of regular olive oil, to round it out) and a dusting of truffle salt.

It smells amazing.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prepping for a long stretch of working

I'm going to be working for the next ten days straight. That's great, I need the money, and what with my husband gone and all, it's not like I have anything else to do.

That does mean I'm going to be tired and not very much in the mood for cooking, so I swept through the kitchen yesterday and attempted to tie up some loose ends.

Bananas, gone brown: into the freezer, for a future batch of banana bread
Half of loaf of bread, going stale, and some milk, almost going bad: became french toast for breakfast
Bunch of cilantro: became lime cilantro rice
Bunch of sage and bunch of thyme: hung to dry
Bag of mushrooms: cooked
Bag of brussels sprouts: cooked

I thawed some sausages, so I can throw together a quick meal (sausage plus mushrooms plus rice plus sprouts) or a quick salad (greenery plus eggs and/or cheese).

I may make some brownies, too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lime cilantro rice

Yet another good use for a bunch of cilantro that's about to go bad. Just make a batch of rice (any rice, white, brown, jasmine, whatever), and when it's done, add in a chopped bunch of cilantro and the juice and zest of one lime. Salt to taste.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Furniture accumulation

Now that we're mostly unpacked and situated, we've begun the process of accumulating the bits of furniture we got rid of in New England. And because we're living in a one-bedroom apartment, we're almost done. Between craigslist and Goodwill, we've gotten:

2 black Ikea leather sofas, $260
1 black Ikea coffee table, $45
1 black Ikea TV stand, free
2 black DVD shelves, $35
1 metal wine rack, $150
1 black wood dresser, $350
1 Ikea Expedit bookcase, $80
2 barstools to use as nightstands, $30
1 black side table, $10
1 small stool to use as side table, $6
2 desks, $15 (total! from Goodwill)
Office chair and lamp, $129 (Staples)

For a grand total of a little over $1100. Not bad, huh? Not including the cost of renting a U-Haul cargo van, twice, for the sofas and the desks. (Another $130 there.) There is an amazing Goodwill just a few blocks from the apartment; I'm very excited about that.

The only things left to get are dining chairs, maybe another bookcase, and possibly a futon or day bed for the office, since the leather sofas aren't really long enough to sleep on. I'm considering going back to Goodwill and getting a chair at a time, for a collection of 7 or 8 all different ones, rather than holding out for a set that might sort of go with the one original chair I have left.

Also, we've gotten most of the pictures hung. So we're pretty close to being done.

One final thought: this process of buying used furniture, then getting rid of it all, then moving, then getting new furniture is, of course, a logistical hassle. But I realized it's also an opportunity to continually redecorate. The furniture we have now is very sleek and modern and dark, a far cry from the overstuffed mish-mash of things we had in New England, and the two-households-merged-into-one chaos of San Diego. We never have to worry about rearranging the furniture, or reupholstering, or redecorating; we can reinvent ourselves every time we move.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Terrible news, and a job offer

The view of Mt. Rainier from my apartment building
Across the bay; downtown is immediately to the right

Sorry for the radio silence the last couple of days, a lot of things have happened.

First, my mother-in-law is critically ill. My husband flew out there Saturday morning to spend what time she has left with her. I stayed behind to work (and because I can't leave the cats alone for an indefinite period of time), but I'll be joining him as soon as he feels the end is nigh. My stepson is flying out this weekend.

So, there's that. She's an awesome lady, truly like a second mother to me. I'm sad, I'm worried, I'm stressed about all these expensive last-minute plane fares, and I'm in a strange city alone.

Fortunately, I have two jobs now. One is as a back-up server at one of the Northwest's top restaurants--but that's strictly on-call work, maybe two or three nights a month right now. The other is full-time, at a cute little wine bar in Fremont. I started there yesterday, and it seems like it will be a lot of fun. But I haven't worked in basically seven weeks, so now my feet and my back have to re-learn how to function. I feel worn out already. (It doesn't help that we found out about my mom-in-law, and I got the job offer, on the same day. Talk about a mixed bag.)

With DH gone, there probably won't be too much cooking going on here. I'm going to eat all the perishable stuff first, in case I have to fly out in the middle of the night on short notice, and work on finding a reliable catsitter.

On an unrelated note, we had a superb day on Friday. Sixty degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. You could see all the mountains around the city that are normally obscured by cloud cover. See pictures, above. I could get used to this sixty degrees in February thing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Eggs baked in tomato sauce with feta

This makes a hearty breakfast or dinner, and is especially lovely with some fresh-baked crusty bread.

Simply dump some tomato sauce into a skillet, enough to come about an inch up the sides, and get it simmering over medium heat. Make four wells in it, and crack four eggs in. Cook gently until the whites are opaque and the yolks are as set as you like them. Scoop out with sauce, over bread, and crumble feta cheese on top.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meyer lemon risotto with goat cheese and basil

This is a basic risotto with goat cheese instead of parmesan or heavy cream, and the juice and zest of one Meyer lemon stirred in at the end (along with a handful of fresh chopped basil). The one downside is that the delicate lemon flavor is mostly lost with reheating, so eat this up while it's hot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pork meatloaf

This is a delicious meatloaf using only ground pork; it's really quick and easy to throw together, too. I thawed a 1-lb package of ground pork, thinking to use it in soup, but then I got tired of soup and needed to use it up.

1 lb ground pork
1 onion, small
1 green apple, medium
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
1/2 cup sage, fresh (or 1 tbsp ground)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 eggs, well beaten

Peel and core apple and cut as finely as possible. Peel and finely chop the onion (can use processor for both). In a large bowl place ground pork, apple, onion, breadcrumbs, sage, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add beaten eggs. Hand mix all together and shape into loaf. Place in pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350°F. Carefully drain off any fat. Serve in thick slices.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Salted caramel pudding

Turning caramel into a pudding is a slightly goopier process than I thought it would be. All along the way, I was convinced I was doing it wrong. First the sugar refused to caramel (so I turned the heat up), then it refused to gel with the cream and milk (I stirred faster), then the cornstarch turned it lumpy. When I finally poured it off, it didn't need straining, as there was a layer of unidentifiable lumpy goop at the bottom of the pan. Which I left on the bottom of the pan.

And you know what? These were still delicious. Despite my misgivings, they turned out perfectly, and were in fact even tastier on the next day. Definitely worth the effort.

From Edible Boston:

1½ cups sugar
¼ cup water
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup cornstarch
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
1½ teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoons butter

Combine sugar and water in a pot and bring to a medium brown caramel. (Cook the sugar over medium-high heat, until the sugar starts to melt and color.) Be careful that the up sides sides of the pot are clean of any sugar before cooking. Once mixture begins to show signs of caramalization, gently swirl mixture in pot. Do not stir until adding the cream and milk. Slowly pour in the cream and milk, stirring while adding. (Be careful as mixture while will vigorously bubble and is extremely hot.)

In another bowl, combine the cornstarch, eggs, egg yolks, and salt. Slowly add a little of the hot caramel mixture to your egg mixture, whisking it into the eggs to gradually warm them. Once the eggs are warmed, add them to the rest of the caramel and cook until the mixture thickens. Strain the mixture over your butter, allowing the butter to start to melt. (Again, any type of fine strainer will work.) Use an immersion blender or whisk to smooth everything together. Pour into desired vessels and chill to set.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Steelhead fillet

Steelheads are a type of sea-run rainbow trout native to the Pacific Northwest. The flesh is very similar to salmon; pinkish-orange, with the same sort of flake, though not as meaty as salmon.

I got a half-pound fillet, skin on, and baked it. Once I got it home, I patted it dry with paper towels, and laid it in a casserole dish with a little olive oil on the bottom. I sprinkled a little salt and pepper over the top, and baked it at 350 for about 20 minutes, until it was glistening. I squeezed a little Meyer lemon over the top and that was it.

If you wanted to get really decadent, you could melt just a little butter over the top immediately before serving.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scallops with blood orange gastrique

Part 2 of the Pike Place-inspired seafood feast, and definitely the fanciest dish I've made in a while. Four enormous fresh sea scallops, with a blood orange gastrique (sauce made from sugar and vinegar and reduced down), and a blood orange and parsley salad over crispy fried brussels sprout leaves.

Oh yes.

The blood oranges were the best oranges I've seen since I lived in California, fresh and tender and dripping with juice. After I cut the peel off, I sucked all the lingering orange bits off just because I could. I also saved some long twirls of blood orange peel to use as drink garnishes. I'm definitely going back and getting more.

It's essentially this recipe from Bon Appetit, cut in half, with rose vinegar instead of sherry vinegar (that's rose as in the wine, not the flower). Instead of mint and tarragon in the salad, I used more parsley plus thyme and basil, because that's what I had.

Keep the gastrique warm while you fix the other stuff, or it will start to harden to the pan.

blood orange gastrique:

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar
1 cup fresh blood orange juice (from about 6 oranges)
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

scallops and brussels sprouts:

2 blood oranges, peeled, separated into segments
1/4 cup each (lightly packed) fresh parsley leaves, fresh mint leaves, and fresh tarragon leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Coarse kosher salt
8 ounces brussels sprouts, leaves removed from core, core discarded
20 large sea scallops, side muscles removed

blood orange gastrique:
Place sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar begins to melt. Stir until sugar dissolves, then cook without stirring until deep golden, about 5 minutes. Gradually add vinegar (mixture will harden). Stir until caramel melts, about 1 minute. Add orange juice; boil until mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add broth; boil until gastrique coats spoon and is reduced to generous 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.

scallops and brussels sprouts:
Mix orange segments, parsley, mint, and tarragon in medium bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil; toss to coat. Season salad with coarse salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add brussels sprouts and toss until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer brussels sprouts to bowl. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to same skillet. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Add scallops to skillet and cook until browned and just opaque in center, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Arrange scallops and brussels sprouts on plates. Drizzle gastrique over scallops. Garnish with salad.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Golden beet risotto with Dungeness crab

I'm so over budget for this month it's not even funny. But I'm rebuilding my pantry from scratch--and the extra cost amortizes out over all those months when we weren't buying anything, just using up all the pantry stores.

In the spirit of being way over budget, I got some amazing stuff at Pike Place Market, and made us a fresh seafood feast. First up: golden beet risotto with Dungeness crab.

I made a golden beet risotto, with about half of the beet greens, and topped it off with handfuls of fresh crab meat. I bought a whole cooked Dungeness crab, picked all the meat out, and made crab stock with the shell. Some of the crab stock went into the risotto (the final product was about two-thirds chicken stock), and the rest went into the freezer.

I drank a Laughing Stock Pinot Gris with this feast, and in the spirit of generosity, gave a tiny scrap of crabmeat to each of the cats.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The view from the Space Needle
Puget Sound

Yesterday we finally got out and saw Seattle.

By "saw," I mean the touristy stuff. Our search for used Craigslist furniture has taken us over a fair amount of the city, and we've been out exploring, looking for the nearest grocery store/Costco/Target/etc. We've gotten library cards--the library here is AMAZING, btw--and gotten Washington State plates and driver's licenses (both very quick and painless processes).

We needed to take the car in for its 60,000-mile maintenance--yes, our two-year-old Prius already has 60K miles on it--so we made an appointment at the downtown Toyota dealership and spent the rest of the day on foot. We walked down to Seattle Art Museum, which is free on the first Thursday of every month. We walked over to the Space Needle, and saw the view (everything except Mt. Rainier, which was hidden). We made a vow to only ever do things in the off-season, as we were the only people in line and on the elevator at the Space Needle. We walked back to Pike Place Market, where I bought a variety of delicious goodies, including steelhead, Dungeness crab, blood oranges, Meyer lemons, fresh basil, and dried strawberries. Oh, and wine. Then we picked up our car, drove home, and ate most of the delicious goodies.

It was bright and sunny and 50 degrees, a perfect day for walking around. New England is projected to get two feet of snow today and tomorrow, so I left just in time. We've been a bit glum the last few days; I think a lot of that was the lack of sunshine. Getting out and walking around in the sun yesterday helped enormously. I've also gotten some promising news on the job front.

Today it's cloudy again, but that's okay. It's not snowing, and that's what matters.

(And just for giggles, here's the link to my previous visit to Seattle.)

Tomorrow: some of that delicious food I made last night!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lentils with kale and butternut squash

This can either be a hot dish or a cold dish/salad.

1 butternut squash, peeled, roasted and cubed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup lentils
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced small
1 rib celery, diced small
1/2 onion, diced small
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 pound chopped kale, about 6 cups
1 clove garlic, minced

Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Season generously with salt and bring just to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but firm, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse well, stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion and dried red pepper flakes, and cook until the onions and celery are translucent, about 5 minutes. Rinse the kale under water and add it, still dripping, to the skillet in heaping handfuls. Add the minced garlic and salt to taste, and stir to mix well. Cover the pan, leaving the lid ajar, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is very soft, dark and frazzled looking, about 30 minutes. It should be very sweet. Stir the lentils into the cooked kale, taste and adjust seasoning for salt, pepper and vinegar. Gently stir in about 2 cups of the roasted squash before serving, snd sprinkle with cumin

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Greek yogurt panna cotta

I've made buttermilk panna cotta before, to spectacular results. This incorporates homemade yogurt (Greek or plain yogurt would work just as well) for a tangier, slightly thicker panna cotta.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
One 17.6-ounce tub of Greek yogurt (2 cups)

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water; let stand until softened, 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the cream, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Off the heat, stir in the gelatin until melted. In a bowl, whisk the yogurt until smooth. Gradually whisk in the vanilla cream; remove the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture into six 1/2-cup ramekins and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kale salad with bacon,butternut squash and toasted almonds

I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit. I used half a head of kale, and supplemented with mixed mesclun greens. I used half a butternut squash, too.

I have to say, this was the tastiest salad I've had for a long time.

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 medium shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups roasted and cubed butternut squash
1 bunch kale, stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons (about 5 cups)
4 pieces of bacon, cooked, and torn into pieces
3/4 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
Parmesan (for shaving)

Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot, and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add kale and cook, tossing frequently, until bright green and slightly wilted, 1–2 minutes. Remove from heat; add 3–4 Tbsp. dressing and toss to coat. Add squash, bacon and almonds to kale; toss well and season with pepper. Divide among bowls; drizzle with more dressing, if desired. Using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan over.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Potato, leek and feta tart

This is a free-form tart that comes together beautifully. If you roll the pie crust a little thick, you can eat it like a pizza.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into half-moons
1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 2 ounces)
1 handful chopped fresh parsley
2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pie crust

Heat oven to 375ยบ F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the feta and parsley. Add the potatoes and toss to combine. On a piece of parchment paper, roll the pie crust to a 12-inch diameter. Slide the paper onto a baking sheet. Spoon the potato mixture onto the pie crust, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the edge of the pie crust over the edge of the potato mixture. Bake (covering with foil if the crust gets too dark) until the pie crust is golden brown and the potatoes are tender, 50 to 60 minutes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


It's been a couple of days since I last posted; we visited Vancouver for a day, and yesterday we wore ourselves out getting some new sofas. More on that later.

We went up to Vancouver for the day because why not? It's two and a half hours away and neither of us are working right now. (A situation that's making me increasingly nervous.) It was rainy and foggy, just like Seattle, but it was fun to get away and walk around in a different country. We didn't see much, a couple of wine stores and a nice restaurant for lunch, and a bit of walking around downtown, but it was enough. It was similar to my last visit to Vancouver, during the epic road trip.

I found a wine store to stock up on Laughing Stock wines, my favorite BC wine. I've written about Laughing Stock before; this time I got a sampling, a viognier, a pinot gris, a white blend, a red blend, and a syrah. We also had lunch at Salt Tasting Room, where we were able to sample a number of extremely delicious wines, none of which I'll be able to find here, I'm sure. We'll definitely be back.

Speaking of bringing wine back into the US, I learned some things at the border.

1. You can buy booze at the duty-free at the border, but you can only bring 1 liter per person, if you've been in Canada more than 48 hours. Less than 48 hours = no duty-free booze.
2. You may have to pay the duty if you buy more than 1 liter per person (which is about $3 per bottle), but you may also be levied state tax, and if you live in Washington state, that means the full 35% extra tax per bottle.
3. Wine is of course not charged the exorbitant WA state booze tax, but is still subject to duty taxes.

For our next Canadian forays, I'd really like to do a wine tour of British Columbia, and in the summer, a tour of the Canadian Rockies. For now, I'll settle for a couple of quiet days at home, cooking.