Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Asian Broccoli Chicken Salad

I asked Tristan what he would like for dinner after the first day of the monstrous BAR exam. Without a moment's hesitation he answered, "broccoli and chicken salad with an Asian dressing." He was a bit cloudy on the details but was clearly craving some clean-tasting brain food.
What began as a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experiment lead to fortuitous results: crunchy, bright green broccoli, roasted chicken, red peppers, cilantro, noodles and toasted sesame seeds tossed in a light soy sauce dressing. Cool, nutritious and very satisfying.

Note: since it has been uncommonly hot, I took a short-cut and picked up a rotisserie chicken on the way home from work, which saved a bunch of time and energy. But any type of leftover chicken can be used here, or just poach a few thighs.

Asian Broccoli and Chicken Salad
Shrimp may be substituted for the chicken.

1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets (for aesthetics, cut florets to have long, thin stems)

1/2 package (8 oz) brown rice spaghetti or soba noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 red pepper, julienned
2 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken
Big handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced
2T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
1 T sesame oil
1 T chili oil
1 T honey

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli florets and cook until bright green and crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to halt the cooking process. Bring water back up to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions or until just al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, dry toast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly, until lightly golden and nutty smelling, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small dish/paper towel and let cool.

In a large salad bowl, mix all dressing ingredients with a whisk. Add chilled broccoli, noodles, red pepper, chicken and cilantro. Toss well to incorporate. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and toss again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Heirloom Panzanella

I know I sound like a broken record but man, it's hot in Seattle! To the point where even when hungry, it's too much of a bother to eat. The most I feel like attempting is opening a bag of tortilla chips and dumping my favorite salsa into a bowl. But the BAR exam has begun and Tristan needs to be well-nourished.

So I decided to make Panzanella, the perfect hot weather food. It's a Tuscan bread salad which gainfully employs leftover, stale or day-old bread. I've actually always been fascinated by the way different cultures use stale bread, from French toast, fondue and gazpacho to fattoush, bread pudding and nutty olive oil dips. In the Mediterranean, stale bread is actually viewed as a pantry staple. And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Fresh bread has a lot of moisture and can only absorb so much. Dry bread, on the other hand, is much more versatile and can take on loads of flavor.

Basic Panzanella consists of bread, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar and salt & pepper. Depending on personal taste, onions, cucumbers, olives and cheese can also be added. There is, however, some controversy over its proper preparation. Traditionalists insist that the bread be soaked and then drained and crumbled, while the unconventional cube and toast it. I love tradition but I have to admit, I favor the toasted.

I would guess that the average American throws bread out once it becomes stale, or perhaps turns it into bread crumbs at best. There are so many alternatives out there, and Panzanella is one of the finest.

Heirloom Panzanella
This is a delicious way to use up day-old or stale bread. Feel free to experiment - the addition of cucumbers, olives or feta add a different dimension.

1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into bite-sized chunks (or leave pearl-style whole)
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
Fresh basil leaves

Heat oven to 350° F. Place bread cubes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil; toss well. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt; toss again. Spread into a single layer and toast in oven, stirring once or twice, until dry and golden, 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a small bowl, cover red onion with cool water; set aside.

Rub the inside of a large salad bowl with cut garlic clove. Pass garlic through a press and add to bowl. Add remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Add mozzarella and drained red onion.

About 15 minutes before serving, add dry bread and tomatoes to bowl. Roughly tear basil leaves and add to salad; toss well.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Island-Style Chicken

The picture doesn't do it justice. But it was late and we were tired, hot and hungry so the plated version, ever so carefully drizzled with citrus sauce, never made it to the digital realm. So you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Tristan's sister, Cecily, is in town partaking in all sorts of familial, outdoorsy adventures before heading off to Paris. The past 2 weeks have been wild and crazy for pretty much everyone, but especially at our household. Besides work, I've been making plans with my Swiss cousins for the big trip to Europe later this summer, not to mention that Tristan's entire life has been consumed with BAR exam preparation, which begins tomorrow. Lots of activity, lots of visitors and lots of heat in Seattle.

Which brings me to last night. We were all exhausted but knew that it was one of the few chances we'd have to sit around the table and enjoy a home-cooked meal together. I had such a hankering for cool, creamy guacamole, so the appetizer question was easily answered. I'm a big fan of keeping food themes consistent (a.k.a. not serving guacamole and chips, stuffed manicotti and green tea mochi at the same meal). Since I was already heading in a Mexicanish direction, I started thinking cumin. Then I remembered a chicken thigh dish that I made up on the fly. Cumin, cilantro, orange and lime juice... yeah!

It was well received. Tristan actually claimed that it tasted like duck! Quite a compliment coming from someone used to fancy duck dinner celebrations. This is a great dish that only requires a few ingredients and looks very nice when plated (again, you'll have to trust me on that one).

Island-Style Chicken
I like using thighs in this recipe - they're moist, rich and just the right size. But breasts can also be used if that's what's handy. Serves 3.

6 chicken thighs, skinless & boneless
Salt & Pepper
Oil or lard for the pan
3/4 cup orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro

Pat chicken thighs dry and season with salt and pepper. Generously sprinkle cumin on all sides.

Heat oil/lard in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add chicken thighs and let cook until underside is nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Turn over and continue cooking until the other side is golden and juices run clear when chicken is pierced. Pour orange and limes juices over chicken. Cover and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Uncover and let juices reduce a bit. If sauce gets too thick, add a few more splashes of orange juice.

Sprinkle chopped, fresh cilantro over chicken before serving. Plate and drizzle with sauce.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shrimp Ravioli and Red Vodka Sauce

I've been waiting for this moment - when my pasta-making adventures would bring me face to face with the queen bee herself, ravioli - for a very long time. As you may already know, I get weak in the knees around the stuff. It's what I order anytime I go back to New York. It's what I dream about when I'm not in New York. I've got it bad. I find store-bought ravioli incredibly uninteresting. And doughy. But homemade? Fugeddaboutit!

So with Martha's pasta maker in hand, I cranked out some paper-thin sheets of delicate dough (this time I made it with 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, salt and a drizzle of olive oil). Deciding on the perfect filling involved a lot of hand wringing. I mean, this was historic, me making my first ravioli, and I simply HAD to get it right. After about an hour of online browsing, I felt even more pressure and indecisiveness. Since the weather has been scorching hot (for Seattle, anyway), I wanted to pick something on the lighter side. Mushrooms, rich cheeses and cream sauces wouldn't do. Then it hit me: shrimp! And what veggie a) tastes delicious pureed, and b) accompanies shrimp perfectly? Leeks!

So I crossed my fingers and started mixing. Sauteed leeks, cooked shrimp, garlic, eggs, ricotta, a little Parmesan and a handful of fresh herbs got whizzed in the food processor. Figuring out how to best assemble the ravioli was tricky, to say the least, but I eventually found a modus operandi that worked. After hearing other people's ravioli war stories, I too was anxious about them falling apart in boiling water....but they didn't.

I decided to serve these buggers with a simple, quick red vodka sauce and I've gotta say, it was a match made in heaven. Tristan and I ooooo'ed and ahhhh'ed throughout the entire meal, muttering how unbelievably delicate the pasta was, how light and fluffy the filling turned out and how insane that the whole process took me 3 whole hours!

But honestly, I'd spend 3 hours like that any day.

Shrimp Ravioli
Scallops, lobster or crab could easily be used in place of the shrimp. And I think a simple lemon butter sauce would be an excellent alternative to red vodka sauce.

Fresh pasta sheets
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 thin leeks, washed and thinly sliced (whites and light green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
8 ounces (about 1 cup) ricotta cheese
3 eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or a mixture of parsley & chives)

Egg wash: 1 egg + a few splashes of cold water

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a pinch of salt; sautee, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee a minute longer. Transfer to a food processor.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add remaining tablespoon butter. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, just until no longer transluscent. Remove from heat and transfer to food processor.

Add ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, herbs and a pinch of salt to the leeks and shrimp. Process in short pulses until mixture forms a chunky paste. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Work with one pasta sheet at a time on a lightly floured surface. Place tablespoons of shrimp filling on upper half of pasta sheet at 1 1/2-inch intervals. Using a pastry brush or simply your finger, brush all edges with egg wash, including in between filling scoops. At this point, I find it easiest to cut segments of 4 ravioli (unless you have another set of hands helping you).

Starting at one end, carefully fold bottom half of pasta sheet over the upper filling, doing your best to match up edges. Work your way down the 4-ravioli segment, slowly removing air pockets as the pasta sheet is laid over the top. Using a pizza wheel or pastry scraper, cut into individual ravioli. I was scared to death about them falling apart when boiled, so to ensure success, pinch all edges of each ravioli together using fingers or the tines of a fork. If they become a little warped, simply trim with cutter to get clean edges. Place ravioli on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet to prevent sticking; place in refrigerator. Repeat process with rest. At this point, ravioli can be frozen for later use.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add ravioli, one at a time, and cook for about 6 minutes (they should float). Drain and serve with sauce of choice.

Quick Red Vodka Sauce
This sauce only takes a few minutes to make and can be used in a multitude of pasta dishes.

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large can (28 oz) pureed or crushed tomatoes

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; saute until garlic is just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add vodka and bring to a simmer; cook about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, fresh parsley and cream and continue simmering for about 8 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve hot.

Friday, July 17, 2009


For quite some time I've been meaning to sit down and write a post about Licorous, a wonderful little restaurant/bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. I recently went there for happy hour and was most pleasantly surprised. Actually, I knew it would be good since my friend Jane, who takes cooking and eating very seriously, vouched for it. Not only was the atmosphere warm and enchanting, the food and cocktails were clearly made with care.

Almost everyone in my party ordered the Shiso Fine cocktail made with infused vodka and garnished with lime wedges dusted in local shiso leafs. It was as tasty as it was pretty. The little dishes of warm Castelvetrano olives with Za'atar spice and citrus zest also boded well for the rest of the meal.

We took full advantage of happy hour and ordered a few rounds of the favorites. The $2 pretzel dots alone were worth their weight in gold. Warm, salty pretzel buns filled with Italian cured meats, cheese, sauerkraut and a grainy mustard sauce made it impossible to eat just one.

Then came a platter of pork belly tartines: crispy bruschetta toasts topped with caramelized onions, braised pork belly and sweet n' tangy red cabbage. The pork belly was tender and the portions were quite generous.

There is one menu item in particular that I find nearly impossible to pass up: foie gras. So even though I was stuffed to the gills, I made room for one of their foie gras bon bons, which was totally worth it. An absolutely creamy-beyond-belief hazelnut-encrusted foie gras bon bon was artfully skewered along with a slice of olive, or maybe it was pickled rhubarb. Either way, it was one of those things that make your eyes roll back into your head. Just ridiculous.

I can easily see going to Licorous for another casual happy hour or perhaps an intimate dinner. Actually, just going alone to sip on one of their handcrafted cocktails would be well worth the trip.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fresh Pasta with English Peas, Pancetta & Goat Cheese

My good friend Martha, who is spending a few months back in New York City, generously lent me her old-school pasta machine for the summer, which is really exciting. I've wanted a pasta machine for years but as a perpetually poor student, could never muster the courage to part with a few hundred bones. I think it's been a subconscious decision to hold out for that second-hand deal of the century, which, unfortunately, just hasn't happened.

So I was thrilled when Martha offered me a chance to test drive a pasta machine. I couldn't wait to try my hand at ravioli, my all-time weakness. But last night I kept it simple. I made basic pasta dough, using Alice Water's guidance from the Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza & Calzone cookbook, and cut it into tagliatelle. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with the pasta until I saw a barrel of English peas at the market - then it was obvious: fresh peas, pancetta and goat c

This recipe would also be delicious using dry, store-bought pasta, but freshly made pasta has the ability to make a really good meal great.

Tagliatelle with English Peas, Pancetta and Goat Cheese
Bacon or prosciutto can be used in place of pancetta, and frozen peas if fresh ones aren't available.

Fresh or dried pasta for 2
2-3 ounces pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup
fresh, shelled English peas
2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chives, chopped
Grated Parmesan

In a large pot of rapidly boiling, salted water, cook fresh pasta for 3 minutes or dry pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water.

In the meantime, cook pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, ab
out 5 minutes. Add garlic and peas; cook until peas are bright green, about 3 minutes. Add drained pasta to skillet and toss. Add goat cheese and as much reserved pasta water to create a "sauce." Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chives. Toss well and plate. Garnish with more chives and a grating of good Parmesan.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marination Mobile

Seattle street food is making a resurgence. Hungry nightlifers no longer have to choose between a cream cheese hot dog from a corner cart or the Taco Bell drive thru; serious options have arrived.

First, there's Skillet, an old airstream trailer that has been transformed into a gourmet kitchen on wheels. They offer high-end comfort food at incredibly reasonable prices. Their menus change but have included the likes of lemongrass-braised pork sammies, sardine salad, poutine and a grass-fed beef burger on brioche with cambozola cheese, bacon jam, arugula and hand-cut fries ($9). I haven't yet had the pleasure of tasting Skillet's food (they served a maple-braised Oregon pork belly with a fried egg and a cornmeal waffle for breakfast!!) but the reviews have been ridiculously good.

Then there's Maximus Minimus, a catering truck
in the shape of a gigantic pig parked at the corner of 2nd & Pike. There focus, unsurprisingly, is on pulled pork sandwiches with either a Maximus (spicy) or Minimus (sweet) saucy bent. Great reviews and is on my list of things to try.

Then this past Thursday, at the tail end of the Capitol Hill Art Walk, we had a second opportunity to try some curb food from the Marination Mobile, which successfully fuses Hawaiian and Korean
food with a taco truck concept. Most of the items contain deliciously marinated meat, although there are a few "sexy tofu" options. The frequent addition of kimchi and crunchy slaw make this fast food taste uncommonly fresh and, dare i say, healthy? Case in point: the Kaluha Kimchi Quesadilla contains kaluha pork, a bit of cheese and kimchi sandwiched between flour tortillas and topped with a fresh gremolata. Not too heavy and very digestible.

We also tried each of their meat-containing soft tacos - kalbi beef, spicy pork and miso ginger chicken - topped with fresh lime and slaw. They were all tasty, but the kalbi beef taco was exceptional (the sweet bulgogi-ish flavor was instantly addicting). Marination Mobile's kimchi fried rice bowl is also worth trying, especially after a few too many beers. It has a nice amount of oil, a dose of kimchi for digestion, choice of protein and, in my opinion, the cherry on top, a fried egg with an oozy yolk.

Seattle's food mobiles are quickly gaining popularity and loyal patronage, and it's easy to see why.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Old School Frozen Custard

This post has me pretty excited. Number one: I'm from New York. Number two: I extol the deliciousness of custard, in all its forms, on a regular basis. So when Old School Frozen Custard opened the doors of their new Capitol Hill location, I was delirious with joy. This creamier, smoother, eggier version of ice cream originated on Coney Island in the 1920's and, like corn dogs, gained popularity as a carnival treat. Up until recently, however, Seattleites had no idea what they were missing.

In my opinion, good custard doesn't need a whole lot of bells and whistles. If it can stand alone, why adulterate it with candy bar pieces, sprinkles, cookies or caramel sauce? I'll take plain vanilla, please! And that's exactly what I did yesterday. We took my sister Sarah, who was visiting from NY, out for frozen custard in a subconscious attempt to prove that Seattle is slowly catching up on the list of east coast amenities. I was very pleased - Old School nailed it. The vanilla custard couldn't have been any smoother or creamier, and the house made waffle cones were light, crisp and barely kissed with cinnamon. I'm a purist, but if you're a fan of "confetti" food, they also offer decadent sundaes, shakes and daily flavor specials.

Now if we can only get some decent bagels out here...