Friday, August 22, 2008


Dinner tonight was at a bar...Smith. It used to be 21 and over only. I don't know why the owner, Linda, decided to put the railing in between the bar and the dining area to allow children in. Business has been going well since they opened. Whatever the reason, we are pleased.

Vincent accompanied us to our "neighborhood pub" tonight. It's hip, it's loud, there's no play pit. We felt sort of cool. Although, how cool can you really feel when you come strollin' into a place like this with a giant jogging stroller?

Our experience? So so. Service was actually pretty decent. Vincent was like a wild man in there. Must've been the loud music getting him all hyped up. It's hard to sit and enjoy your meal as much when your tot is not at his best restaurant behavior. But, I have to admit that the food was just alright. And, I'm not being biased, just because I know the former chef and sous chef. It wasn't bad, it just simply wasn't great. What did we eat?

Poutine -( Sadly, it was not like I remembered. It was fine & tasty, but just not as good as it used to be. It was a chunky gravy that had a strong black pepper flavor.

Crispy oxtail terrine with orange and parsley - It was sort of like Chicken Cordon Bleu, or at least it looked like it. I was imagining something like a pork pave, lightly dusted with flour and fried in a saute pan until crispy. I guess I was warned that it would be breaded and deep fried, but I still had a different imagine in my mind. There was some sort of tangy reduction drizzled all over the plate, which I felt overpowered the "terrine." The "terrine" could have been seasoned a bit more, and there was hardly any oxtail in the middle. It was mostly breading.

Heirloom tomato with arugula, green beans & bacon - I am picky about my salad greens. I like them crisp and green (or whatever color they're supposed to be). It irritates me when I get yellow or brown leaves, especially when it's so obvious that they should've been picked out before it got to the table. There was a whole lot of arugula on top of the tomatoes. More than I think necessary. The green beans in the salad were cooked just right and quiet tasty. I also enjoyed the crispy pieces of bacon. The salad as a whole, though, was a bit flat. There seemed to be more oil to vinegar ratio in the dressing. Maybe they thought the tomato would make up for the lack of acidity.

Roasted chicken with potato puree - This dish was great, actually! The chicken was cooked perfectly, with crispy skin and the right amount of seasoning. And, the potato puree was just right.

So there you have it. Our family meal tonight was at a pub. Not great, not bad. We will likely go back, but it probably won't be the first place to come to mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

French Dip Sandwiches

I racked my brain for something to cook for dinner. I looked in the fridge, the freezer, the cupboard...just couldn't pull it together. I probably could've scrounged up enough ingredients to make clam chowder, but I just didn't have the motivation to cut up all the vegetables. I came up with French dips. But, it did require that I go to the store, which I wasn't in the mood to do. Can you tell I was sort of on lazy mode this afternoon? But, I managed to get myself (and toddler) out the door and we strolled up to QFC.

Here's what you will need for these sandwiches:
-roast beef; see if the deli guy can give you something a little on the rare side
-French bread baguette or hoagie folls; I prefer the taste & texture of the baguette
-beef broth

That's about it! You may want to add a cheese and maybe caramelize some onions to go with it. That's what I did.
Bring your beef broth to a boil, add the roast beef, and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Cook until the beef is no longer rare. I cut the baguette to the desired sized pieces, split them open down the middle, and buttered them. I also sprinkled a little garlic powder and sea salt on them and topped with Asiago cheese. I toasted them in the oven to melt the cheese, then topped with the beef & onions. Serve with the beef broth used to cook the beef on the side for dipping.

Meat Loaf

We had friends over Sunday night (yeah, a little late here), and I completely forgot to post about it.

The main dish was meat loaf, with some grilled zucchini & grilled radicchio on the side, as well as a salad with grilled bread croutons. We also had a few cheeses and some olive bread from Macrina Bakery. By the way, if you haven't had Macrina's Rustic Potato bread before, it is a must have. I love it sliced with a little Plugra butter and a sprinkle of kosher or sea salt.

My meat loaf (or at least what I did this time):
2# ground beef
1/2 c onions, finely chopped
1/2 c carrots, finely chopped
1/2 c celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp parsley, picked & chopped
1 tsp thyme, picked
1 tsp rosemary, picked & chopped
1 tbl dill, picked & chopped
1/4 c ketchup
1 tsp sugar
TT smoked paprika (optional)
TT salt & pepper

*Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
*Sautee the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil until slightly soft but not completely cooked. Transfer to a plate or sheet try for cooling.
*When vegetables have cooled, combine the vegetables, beef, bread crumbs, eggs and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt & pepper (and smoked paprika if you wish). Mix well.
*Test a small bit of the mixture by cooking it in a pan until done. Adjust seasoning as needed.
*Form into desired loaf. I formed mine in a bread pan, and then turned it out on to a sheet tray.
*Cook for 1 hour. Combine ketchup and sugar, and glaze all over the top of the loaf. Return to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, with the internal temperature reading at 165 F.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dragon's Tongue Beans

These came in our CSA box last week. I've had them before, and I've even cooked them before. But, for some reason, I look at them in my fridge, and I think, "oh, I don't have time for those..." But, why? I honestly don't know why. Maybe because I'm just not sure how I want to prepare them. Really, there's no reason. So, I made them recently. They were delicious!

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the beans in and cook until just about tender. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Cut cooked beans into bite sized pieces. In a sautee pan, heat a small amount of olive oil with one tablespoon of butter on medium high heat. Add chopped garlic and beans to the pan. Season with salt & pepper, and cook for about 3 - 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Carmelized Onion Tart

It occurred to me today that I have not been taking photos of our family meals. It's a shame, because seeing photos of food is very helpful. It's tough to remember something like snapping a shot of dinner as I'm scrambling to get everything together, while my tot is running around my legs, or asking me to pick him up, or saying, "try, try, try...", or getting himself into trouble. Lucky for me, something like a tart can still be picture ready after it's been dug into, even if it's not the whole tart. So, here you go:

Timing dinner can also be a bit of tricky thing. I didn't know if I would actually pull off this onion tart tonight. Everything was being made from scratch, starting at about 4pm, to be served at 6pm. Two hours should be enough time. But, I hadn't read the recipe ahead of time. What if I needed to let the dough rest, or chill? Dinner was actually done just after 6pm! Yippie!

Okay, here's the recipe:

Pate Brisee (tart dough), adapted from

1-1/3 cup (5.5 oz) all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup (4 oz) cold butter, cut into chunks

approx. 1/4 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine flour, salt and sugar. Add in chunks of butter and pulse carefully until the mixture resembles very coarse sand.Pour in ice water in a slow stream and continue to pulse (slightly longer pulses here) until the dough comes together into a large, rough ball. It should not be too wet or sticky, but if it is too crumbly to hold together, add an additional tbsp or two of ice water.Divide dough into two discs and wrap each tightly in plastic. Chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, or store (even more tightly wrapped) in the freezer for 1-2 months. Refrigerated dough should be fine to work with for about a week.Makes 2 single crust (9 to 11-in.) tart shells (or 1 double-crust pie)
Basic Single Tart Crust
Preheat oven to 350F.Roll out half of the dough (one disc, from recipe above) into a circle large enough to fit a 9-10-inch tart pan.Press dough into pan without stretching it and pinch any excess off along the top edge. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork several times, line with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights.Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and pie weights.

Tart filling:

1 tbl olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, and cook, stirring 2-3 minutes. Add the butter & swirl it around the pan until it melts, then add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, golden brown, & caramelized, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Set aside to cool at least 2o minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Spread the cooled onions on the bottom of the tart crust. Pour the egg mixture into the crust, filling it to the top. Sprinkle the goat cheese all over the top of the tart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.

*This recipe can be made for up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat in the oven before serving.

*May use Gruyere cheese instead of goat cheese. May also add oil-cured black olives, pitted & chopped, and 1 tsp each of chopped parsley & chopped basil (to be added into egg mixture).

*I baked for 25 minutes. It was done, but it probably wouldn't have hurt to go an extra 5 minutes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Vegetable Barley Soup

Lots of veggies in the fridge? Try making a vegetable soup! That's what I did tonight. You can pretty much put vegetables you have around in a soup like this, but I like to make sure I have a few basics, otherwise I would just not make it. Mirepoix. I love mirepoix. Three ingredients go into mirepoix: onions, carrots and celery. I like to have these three ingredients on hand in my home at all times. When there are no other vegetables in the house, at least I can find those.

My soup tonight had onions, carrots, celery, fennel bulb, zucchini, brocoli stems, garlic, and russet potatoes. I sauted all but the potatoes together with olive oil, added a little white wine, and put everything into a crock pot. I added the potatoes, about 1/2 cup of pearl barley (rinsed), covered everything with water, seasoned with salt & pepper, turned the crock pot to high, covered, and walked away. A few hours later, I finished it with sherry vinegar, a little extra virgin olive oil, adjusted the seasoning, and VOILA! Dinner is served. My cheatin' heart made asiago cheese bread with (YIKES!) garlic powder!!!! At least I used nice sea salt.

My Cheatin' Heart

Not all the meals I prepare for my family are made from scratch. Heck! Some of the stuff I serve up to the fam aren't even made by me. Let's see, there's the puttenesca from La Pasta, the tamales from Patty Pan, and there was even the oxtail soup made by my friend, just to name a few. I do try my best to cook from scratch, and when I do, I try even harder to buy locally & organically. But, the point of all this isn't to showcase my cooking skills or creativity. It's to have some record for myself of stuff I've made, what I did, if the family enjoyed or hated it, and what I could do to improve, if needed.

Why do I bring all this up? Because I feel guilt for some of the cheating I've been doing with cooking. Not a ton, but there is one that has been a success, and it's SO cheating! I need to come clean.

Gnocchi al Gorgonzola from Trader Joe's. Vincent hasn't liked gnocchi very much. Trader Joe's was sampling it one afternoon. I was hungry, so I took one. Vincent wants to eat whatever I'm eating, so I let him try it. His response: "Mmmmm!" I snuck another sample and gave him a little more. LOVED it. I decided to buy a bag. Here's the guilty part. It's so darn simple to make, one of my cats could make it. It's not cooking. It's heating up. I thought I'd at least need to boil a pot of water, then heat the sauce up separately. Nope. Just open the bag and empty the contents into a pan. Seven minutes later, delicious gnocchi that my 19 month old (and his daddy) will eat.

Today, I had half a bag leftover in the freezer. David wanted to have lunch at home (we usually eat lunch out on the weekends). I decided to get creative. Sauted some sliced mushrooms (sadly, just crimini), chopped shallots, & chopped garlic with a little olive oil, dump in the remainder contents of the bag o' gnocchi...7 minutes later, a little chopped parsley for garnish & lunch was served. And, my cheatin' heart will likely buy this product again, cuz it's a hit!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fennel Fronds

Oh. My. God. I got a whole fennel in my CSA box last week, fronds and all! Should I use the whole thing? What do I do with the fronds? Will my family eat it?
For the record, I love fennel. I quite enjoy its anise flavor, even though I've only recently become a fan of black licorice. And, even though I started this post with such drama, that's not exactly how I felt when I got my whole fennel. I know what to do with the bulb, no problem. I even had an idea what to do with the fronds. The questions was if my family would care for it.
For the bulb, I sliced it very thinly & tossed it into a salad. My husband didn't even seem to notice them. Then, the fronds...My dad was the one to introduce me to fennel. He would see it growing wild on the side of the road in Southern California, and threaten to pull over and harvest some. One day, he did. Boy, was he a happy man. He joyfully brought those precious (to him) fronds home and would wax poetic about how he's going to cook this up for us and it's going to be the best thing we've ever tasted.
Indeed, it was delicious, but I was a kid. Even for a kid whole loved vegetables, I wasn't blown away by this thing. I just thought, "Okay, I tried it, it's good. May I have some french fries now?"
Much later in life, in culinary school maybe, I was reintroduced to fennel. But, I never made the connection of fennel being the green, feathery looking (vegetable?) thing my dad loves because it was just the bulb. Eventually, I figured it out, and since then, I've been wanting to cook the fronds the way Dad does.
Friday afternoon, I called home to ask my dad about it. My mom answered the phone and seemed pleasantly surprised to hear me say, "I was wondering if you or Dad could tell me how you cook your fennel."
Here's what you do:
1. Wash, then pick the fronds off the main stem.
2. Heat a little oil in a pot, add sliced ginger & saute for about 1 minute.
3. Add water (what you think would be enough to just cover the fronds) & bring to a boil.
4. Add the fronds and allow, slightly reduce heat, and allow to simmer until tender.
5. Check for tenderness, ajust seasoning, and finish with a splash of cooking wine.
The result? Not quite like Dad's, but my 19 month old son quite enjoyed it, and the broth was so tasty. My husband couldn't quite get the hang of it, but he did enjoy the broth as well.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Catching up!

Last week, I believe I hit a personal record...I cooked 6 days in a row! Be it big or small, I still cooked at least one item for dinner. I think Thursday night was the lettuce wraps, and now I can't remember what I made on Friday or Saturday!

Oh yes! Friday night we had oxtail soup made by my friend, Jen. So, no, I didn't make that, but I did pair it up with some brown rice and roasted new red potatoes. Yeah, yeah, not much, but like I said, I cooked something.

Saturday night I was really proud of all that made it to the table. Our main course was beef kabobs from Thundering Hooves. We had various leftovers to go with the kabobs and a few new items. We combines the roasted potatoes & carrots & wrapped them together in foil & threw them on the grill with the kabobs. We also finished off the mac n cheese. We had a salad with lettuces from Oxbow Farm and some homemade creamy sherry vinaigrette. Lastly, we had sweet potato fries (from Trader Joe's).

I took Sunday and Monday nights off from cooking. Tuesday night we had store bought gnocchi & a salad and garlic bread I picked up at Olympia Pizza. Last night was my first major meal since Saturday: Grilled Thundering Hooves pork chops, roasted Oxbow Farm baby carrots, grilled peaches, and a fantastic salad. Here's what went into the salad:
-red leaf & romaine lettuce
-green onions from Oxbow Farm
-shaved fennel from Oxbow Farm
-goat cheese
-small beef steak tomatoes from Pilchuck Farm
-chunks of grilled crusty bread from Columbia City Bakery
-sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
-dressed with some store bought balsamic vinaigrette