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Archive for the ‘foods’ Category

Still Life with Woodpecker

Two weekends ago, we took a break from researching-n-reading and headed down to Olympia. We visited the Burfoot Park at low tide, where clams and cockles squirted our ankles and we saw tube worms, a spiny pink seastar, green shore crabs, and oodles of sand dollars. It was possibly one of the most mind-bogglingly amazing and magical experiences of the entire summer.

Read more about this amazing and magical experience here.

We also ate delicious Bearded Lady desserts, petted two small poodles, spent quality time with quality friends, and picked handfuls and handfuls and handfuls of blackberries. To quote Jess:

“We have a problem with invasive Himalayan blackberries in my area. They are awful, aggressive beastly creatures with giant thorns as big as lion claws. But for a small part of the year, the invasive bramble bushes lay out heavy loads of fat, juicy berries.”

Jess also mentions that loads of fat, juicy berries also make loads of delicious, sweet jam.  I did precious little to make this jam (aside from picking berries and licking the over-spill from the stove), but I found it so satisfying that things picked for free and with my own hands wound up in something delicious that can be stored and enjoyed and consumed and shared with friends and loved ones.

So of course I wanted to do it again.

Last summer was unusually warm (bumper tomato crops, sunburns) and the berries were all exceptionally enormous and juicy and actually jumped off the bush and into your waiting hand. As a result, some of our first dates went like this: hikes (result: picking blackberries), ferry rides (result: picking blackberries), and clandestine berry sampling behind Island Ambiance carpets (the result of picking blackberries). This summer was unusually grey (hungry bees, little exposed skin), so you’d think that the the opposite would occur…

But nary! While they weren’t as large as usual and didn’t ripen ’til several weeks later than scheduled, the berries were still out in abundance.

Being that Paul is actually, you know, from Bainbridge, he knew all of the best berry-picking spots; and some of the heaviest vines with the fattest berries were right past the back yards of million-dollar waterfront properties. I’m talking oodles of berries here and all of them free for the taking! Awesome, right? Well, kind of.

The thing about being confronted with such a bounty is that you are faced with an uncontrollable urge to collect as many berries as possible– even if it means stepping over low-lying native blackberries or reaching further into the bush than originally intentioned– and that means lots of scratches. To add to that: Washington State blackberries bear absolutely no resemblance to the neat little pints that you pick up at the grocery store. These suckers are juicy. Our hands looked like murder scenes, I’d all but ruined a pair of shoes, and the plastic bags that we thought would be sturdy enough… weren’t.

But enough of the downside: we had 5 pounds of blackberries! And because of Jess, I wanted to make more blackberry jam.

Thanks to having limited square footage (including a tiny, tiny kitchen), I went with the suggestion of my classmate’s mom and decided to make freezer jam. The principle here is pretty much the same, with the exception of not having to boil everything or sterilize glass jars. Simply mash it all up (the berries we’d picked required precious little mashing), bring a package of pectin to a boil, stir for 3 more minutes, pop it into Tupperware containers, and allow it to set for 24 hours.

This sounded simple enough, but I neglected to adhere to a certain principle of jamming: Follow the Recipe. My using an extra half cup of blackberries and adding the juice of two lemons was not okay. After waiting for a day I had delicious lemony, basil-y blackberry sauce instead of jam.

Oh, well. It tastes amazing on pancakes… and it is so sweet, just like summer romance.

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There is not much to write about art or math, because we have been busy doing art and math until art and math seep from our pores.

Wait, scratch that.

Paul has been busy doing math (basic algebraic sequences) and reading up on fractals, while I have been busy beating my head on the desk illustrating a drawing book. I could rehash our discussions on color harmonics, temperament, and mathematics-within-nature-within-beauty; and I could natter on about t-squares and compasses, or plotting a star from a pentagram from a vesica piscis, or the steady stream of curse words that flow when the ink bleeds out, but…

I just won’t.

Tip of the iceberg.

I mean, why rehash it at all when I’d rather talk about the delicious foods we’ve been making and how happy they’ve made me?

Massaged kale salad, beans with sesame, and eggplants with yogurt.

Understand this: I could eat kale ’til my eye-whites turn green and Paul has this thing for all things Turkish.

And this is what happens when you combine a Massaged Kale Salad recipe (yes, “massaged”) with The Ottoman Kitchen cookbook:

I’ve eaten raw kale before, so I had my doubts about the salting; but much like with eggplant, salted kale loses any trace of bitterness and becomes utterly tender and luxurious without losing a lick of its nutrients. (For real, you get in there and massage the high heck out of the kale. It is so satisfying!) I don’t care for sunflower seeds much, so I substituted toasted walnuts, and used dried cranberries in place of the currants. The finished product was so bright and beautiful and full of contrasting flavors and textures and KALE and, for such autumnal ingredients, it made me want to run under a waterfall and grow 100 new freckles. I could eat this salad forever.

See? Happy!

And my other favorite part about the meal? Oh my god, strained yogurt!

Binnur, from The Turkish Cookbook writes:

About a thousand years ago, Central Asian Turks were the first to make Yogurt. As it was first spreading into Europe, this dairy product was used for therapeutic purposes. The word comes from the Turkish word “yoğurt”, deriving from the verb “yoğurtmak”, which means “to blend” – a reference to how yogurt is made. It is consumed plain or as a side dish or to make soups, desserts, sauce, to marinate meat and it is a big part of Turkish Cuisine. You can’t find a Turkish house without yogurt.

You should eat yogurt every day, at least one cup. Yogurt has beneficial bacteria, calcium and protein. We believe yogurt cleanses the body from toxins and poisons.

But to make? It involves a lot of squeezing and straining and waiting (the stuff I enjoyed was strained overnight), but in the end you’ll have crazily thick, tangy yogurt. Blended with garlic and mint, then spread on roasted eggplant? Delicious! With a sprinkle of sugar and nuts, or honey and fresh thyme? Delicious! And don’t forget that it contains friendly, live acidophilus cultures (a probiotic).

See? Even more happy!

And for dessert? For me, it is fresh-squeezed lemonade with macerated mint and Twin Peaks. For you, it’s recipes for delicious Turkish mezes.

(more…)

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It’s been overcast lately. Obscenely and depressingly overcast. Inexcusably overcast. While the weather report does hold some hope for the days to come (up to 89°, if weather.com is to be trusted), that doesn’t stop one from doing several vitamin d-deprived sulks around the house.

Screw this.

Last time I’d been in a mood like this, I made a nostalgia-ridden comfort food (pierogis); this time, I’m simply going for flat-out comfort with no nostalgic ties: mujaddara.

I highly doubt that this is an authentic recipe, as I pulled it directly from the pages of Veganomicon; but, to be fair, it doesn’t look as if there is any one recipe (or name or origin) for mujaddara that is considered the be all and end all of this ridiculously simple, yet utterly homey dish of lentils, onions, and rice.

The loveliest thing about mujaddara is that you’re not simply dealing with onions… you’re dealing with caramelized onions. And I do love me a caramelized onion. I’ve had problems with them in the past, as I’d stuck with the stove for my endeavors, but Veganomicon taught me a convenient trick: use the oven! Genius. I usually use 2 lbs of sweet yellow onions cut into thin rings and thoroughly coated in ¾ c. of olive oil; today, I used Walla Walla onions from the farmers market, because I adore these sweet Washington State friends. Veganomicon informs me that I only need to turn my oven up to 400°, pop my onions in, stir frequently, and in 25-30 minutes there will be beautifully caramelized onions waiting for me. Not so! I’ve gone up to an hour+, checking and stirring frequently, until my onions are golden brown (with a few burnt edges), sweet, and fragrant.

I have no idea how long I spent caramelizing my onions today, as I was preoccupied with working on illustrations.

Aren't they pretty?

Some folks like green or brown lentils in their mujaddara; but I really enjoy red lentils here, because they mash up so nicely. I soak 1 c. of my red friends while simmering 4c. water, 1c. of basmati rice, a cinnamon stick, and a few whole cloves for about 15 minutes. All ready? Time to gently fluff the rice, then in goes 1c. red lentils, ½tsp. allspice, and 1½tsp. cumin. Bring everything back up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 45min.

Red lentils, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, and basmati rice.

This is where you may want to go back to something like, oh, working on more illustrations. Just be mindful to watch the clock, or you’ll have sad, inedible rice and lentils burned to the bottom of your pot. Turn off the heat, let everything sit still covered for about 10min, then fold in all of those ugly as heck beautiful caramelized onions and any remaining olive oil.

Despite its wonderful flavor, mujaddara is possibly one of the most homely looking meals imaginable. Easy solution: grilled asparagus and (!) lemons (!) offset an unimpressive plop of beige in the most delicious of ways.

Have I mentioned how good grilled lemons are?

שמחה ,والسعادة, ευτυχία, mutluluk

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Où les myrtilles sont ?

I’ve taken apart my studio in the Atelier and have set it up at home; but, more importantly, where are the blueberries?

Still piggy-backing on Jess and Krista’s locavore challenge, we set out to stock up on dainties from the farmer’s market. Since my last pierogi-making adventure, I’d wanted to make purple pierogis (utilizing the Mountain Roses I’d used for colcannon) with baby leeks and grilled sweet Walla Walla onions. Guess what? The potato man didn’t have a single, solitary potato. Not a one!

That’s okay. There were still leeks and onions and greens and the last (!) asparagus of the season. Now on to find blueberries!

Since my last pierogi-making adventure, I’d gotten lots of recommendations for sweet pierogis (namely prune or blueberry); and being one who would rather stuff her dumpling with a juicy berry than a withered prune, I went on the hunt. Raspberries? Oh, yes, loads. Strawberries? Loads of those, too. Blueberries? Nary.

As much as it pained me to do so, I made another trip to QFC.

Today’s sweet pierogis (a/k/a breakfast for lunch) are my adaptation of a recipe from the Polish American Journal. I stuck to it for the most part, but omitted the corn starch and added lemon zest and nutmeg.

Oh, and I used ricotta cheese. Does this completely negate the pierogi-ness of my pierogis? Would it still be a pierogi if I’d used farmer’s cheese? Does the pierogi rely on shape alone? And if I haven’t made a pierogi, what have I made? A pierogi-shaped blintz?

Whatever I made, it was not the most photogenic of meals. They were, however, ridiculously tasty.

Maybe next time, the Mountain Roses will be back. Then I can satisfy my desire to have an all-purple quasi-pierogi meal.

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It is June, it is raining, and it is a Saturday; Farmer’s Market shopping may not happen tomorrow, due to family arriving in town for the first time in over 3 (!) years; you are slightly hung-over due to the accessibility of free wine at last night’s Best of Gage (where, unlike last year, you did not win any awards).

Beautiful Alexis - First Place, Figure - 2009

You are grouse-y about art, painting, and drawing in general, yet you have at least three pieces to finish up before next Friday (one fully rendered charcoal drawing and two grisaille paintings); your hair is snarled and in need of a wash, your apartment needs to be cleaned before the arrival of aforementioned family, and all you want to do is lay in bed and watch reality television all day. You are, in a word, cranky. But! In lieu of sulking in bed all day! You decide to pluck up! And remedy the situation! By combining comfort foods! With! Nostalgia!

My family goes back in Pittsburgh time possibly as far as anyone can remember, as far back as when the Northern Irish blood got booted from the motherland for Emmet’s Rebellion. While my parents both grew up in the city proper (North Side and Wikinsburgh), we girlish offspring were raised about ½ an hour North of the city. Unlike the rest of the family, I flew the coop as soon as I was able; and while I actually did live in the City of Pittsburgh for a whopping 4 years, I would never ever want to live there again. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get nostalgic, and especially for the food:

Bagels with capers and cream cheese and red onion and lox. The real kind, not Noah’s bagels.
A proper falafel, hummus, and kebab in the tucked-away basement Mediterranean Grill.
Decent Northern Indian food. Any decent Northern Indian food.
A crispy boxty at Piper’s Pub.
A comforting brunch at the Quiet Storm.
And, of course, delicious delicious delicious pierogis.

If you were raised in Pittsburgh, or near Pittsburgh, or by a Pittsburghers, you’ll have been fed pierogis from the time you were ready for solids; and, if you were a picky little brat like me, you will have refused to put them anywhere near your mouth because you despised onions. That being beside the point, Pittsburghers cooked up all sorts of pierogis in the kitchen: those made from scratch, those purchased from the little grandmothers at Pierogis Plus, or straight from a box of Mrs. T’s (in the frozen section at your local Giant Iggle). Pierogis were stuffed with onion, potato, and cheese, boiled, then sauteed in butter and onion and served with a dollop of sour cream on the side. Sometimes, fanciness came into play and you’d be treated to an applesauce garnish, or a pierogi stuffed with rattlesnake meat (no kidding). Pierogis could be a meal in and of themselves, or the complement to sauerkraut and grilled kielbasa. You don’t need to be Polish to enjoy a pierogi (although it is a Polish treat), but being from Pittsburgh (a very Polish city) definitely helps.

OK, we’ve got the nostalgia down. Now you understand the reasoning behind my complete and utter need to have pierogis today. So let’s make pierogis, shall we?

There are about 1,001 pierogi recipes out there. While this may be daunting to some, it was easy for me to make my selection: I went with the woman who grew up in Pittsburgh. Viola! I did make a few changes to her recipe, just because I feel confident enough in my pierogi palate to do so: in place of onions, I used leeks (grilled per this fella’s instructions and because I love me some leeks).

Grillings of leeks.

In place of red potatoes, I used Yukon Golds (because they are creamier) and kept the skin on (because I like the skin). Everything else, I kept as-is. Pierogi-making, by the way, is a time-consuming process. Not only is there dough to be made and refrigerated, but then grilling and filling, rolling and cutting, and stuffing and folding. In my split minute decision to make pierogis, I had forgotten that I don’t own a rolling pin; so there was a bit of panic and the remedy of a wine bottle (excellent rolling pin stand-in, by the way) tossed in as well.

Cuttings.

Stuffings.

I was terrifically afraid that the pierogis were going to fall apart when I boiled them or when I sauteed them with yet more leeks, but guess what? They held together beautifully, I got my plateful of nostalgia, I was distracted enough to be not as cranky, and everyone wound up happy (and full) in the end.

Kocham pierogi!

Music for pierogi-making: Einstürzende Neubauten
Music for pierogi-eating: Hossein Alizadeh

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Elements of Dim Sum

I’ve only eaten dim sum a few times, but it has quickly found a place amongst my favorite foods. It isn’t just the food itself that I like (although that’s the most important part), but the whole experience. Americans tend to forget that food is more than filling the stomach to end the feeling of hunger or the cheap thrill of salty, greasy and sugary food, but just as much about everything accompanying the chewing and swallowing. You can’t just go to a dim sum restaurant, order food, eat it, and then leave.

There are lots of elements that make up the dim sum experience. First, dim sum is something that should be eaten during late morning or early afternoon (like brunch). Second, the more people eating eating together, the better. Since dim sum consists of lots of small dishes of food, which are themselves made up of small groups of things like dumplings, stuffed buns, and small torts, one or two people eating together won’t be able to try more than two or three kinds of dim sum before getting too full to eat more.

Char Sui Bao

If more people go, each person gets a smaller share of each dish, but gets to eat a greater variety of food. If you only eat one kind of dim sum per meal, then you’re just not doing it right. Lots of people per group eating many different dishes makes for a lot of bustling and clamor; the commotion and noise of a good restaurant is the third element. I’m absolutely certain that dim sum eaten in a quiet restaurant would just not taste as good. If I had to say that there is anything essential to eating dim sum, it’s multiplicity: lots of people, lots of different kinds of foods, lots of noise.

Char Sui Gok

The best place for dim sum in the Seattle area (in my opinion) is Jade Garden. If you go, don’t get scared away by the long wait; it’s definitely worth it!

Wu Gok

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I’m inspired by a lot of things in life, but the inspiration that I’ll speak of today comes from my favorite lesbian wives, Krista and Jessica Thrift. Krista and Jess inspired me to start cooking at home (and vegan, at that) on a regular basis; they inspired me to make cold press toddy coffee; they inspired me to start blogging, to start shopping local, and to learn to love with all of my heart and be loved in return.

Okay, that ended up a bit more sappy than I’d intended it to.

The real reasoning behind the Krista and Jess mention comes directly from their self-imposed locavore challenge (making a dish that utilizes at least three local ingredients once a week), coupled with their nod to Martha Stewart’s colcannon. I like farmer’s markets; I like knowing where my food comes from; and, as a ½ Irish lassie (County Cork, bitchez), I like boxty, beer, and colcannon. Can I do it locally and toss in a delicious colcannon to boot? Let’s find out.

Today’s visits to the farmer’s market were two-fold: Pike Place is awful when it’s this warm (and on a weekend!). but necessary when one wants scallops. We snagged the fattest, healthiest scallops for grilling from the Pure Food Fish Market and then high-tailed it out of that miasma of plodding tourists. For the rest of our groceries, we went to the neighborhood Sunday standby and left with fistfuls of fresh green stuff and potatoes for colcannon. As for the leeks? I hate to say it, but I actually had to give money to QFC in order to have leeks. I tried, but… c’est la vie.

Asparagus, mustard greens, kale, potatoes, and scallops.

Instead of colcannon with cabbage (which I tolerate, but am not the biggest fan of), I used kale (which I will make any excuse to use); and instead of one leek, I used 1½ BIG leeks (because, like Krista, I *^%ing love me some leeks). For the other part of the meal, I decided to pay homage to my $8 cast iron grill pan. Yes, you read correctly: $8. I picked one up at the thrift store, cleaned it, re-seasoned it, and decided that it was time for some grillings of the foods. If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I adore asparagus; and even more than just adoring asparagus on its own, I especially adore it grilled. Scallops? I like scallops and I like them grilled, but I’ve never grilled a single meat in my entire life. Let’s see how it goes.

I decided to stay simple with the scallops and the asparagus: a lemon-olive oil-salt-and-cracked black pepper marinade. For the colcannon? A fancy pants purple potato that I can’t remember the name of.

Sexy Spuds

And the result? Okay, I’m patting myself on the back again. The asparagus was slightly blackened, yet tender; the colcannon was gorgeous with purple potatoes and bright green leeks and kale; and the scallops were g.d PERFECT: seared on the outside and tender on the inside.

Bougie Dinner

Verdict: “It’s fucking amazing, F. I wish I had more right now. If I had more, I’d keep eating until I died.” – Paul

Note: Paul is a food snob. As someone who lives with Paul, I know that he will not heap these sort of compliments on me even if I am demanding them from him.

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