Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seared Salmon with Cucumber and Brown Butter

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I am fairly certain that Brad and I are salmon purists. We tend to like salmon best when it is grilled on the Weber with nothing but salt and pepper; a little garnish of dill and/or lemon on the side. I am however, intrigued once in a while when I come across a salmon recipe that I have never seen. This particular recipe for Seared Salmon with Cucumber and Brown Butter was interesting to me because I often see braised cucumbers being prepared on Food Network. I have never eaten cooked cucumbers but my curiosity has been peaked for quite some time. This alone, encouraged me to move ahead with the recipe.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs salmon fillet (center cut or head end), in one piece
salt and pepper
1 medium or 1/2 large cucumber, split length-wise, peeled, seeded and sliced (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
whole or chopped chives for garnish

Slice salmon on a diagonal into 8 equal pieces, about 1/2 inch thick (or have it cut at fish market). Season slices lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook salmon slices until just slightly underdone, about a minute and a half on each side. Transfer to warm plates.

Add cucumber to skillet and cook until lightly browned.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Add butter, pinch of salt and lemon juice. Cook until butter browns slightly. Remove pan from heat, arrange cucumber slices alongside salmon, and drizzle browned butter over fish. Garnish with chives.

The dish was enjoyable but there were a few things that I would alter. The first is to leave the salmon as a whole fillet instead of cutting it into several pieces. I purchased a beautiful piece of fresh Wild King Salmon from Seattle Fish Company. It was such a nice fillet that I contemplated disregarding the recipe directive to cut into it. I really had to talk myself in to slicing through the fillet and in retrospect, I wish I had left it whole. We would have preferred the salmon portioned out after searing took place because cutting it into smaller pieces seemed to cause the fish to lose moisture. I also think salmon cuts better when it is cooked..... just a personal preference.

The next change I would make is to squeeze fresh lemon juice over the finished product instead of adding it to the cucumbers and brown butter as they cooked. The cucumber quickly absorbed the lemon juice so we were left with cucumbers that tasted strongly of lemon. I can imagine how good the cucumbers would have tasted sauteed in brown butter only.

All in all, this recipe had good bones but personal preference would lead me to make a few changes. I would like to try it again with a full fillet of salmon and a fresh squeeze of lemon at the end. I will put it on my list of recipes to re-try with a few tweaks. That is what cooking is all about anyway, right? Find a recipe with a good idea and then alter it to fit your personal taste.

Recipe Source:
"West Coast Seafood; A Complete Cookbook" by Jay Harlow
Page 62

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Pie

I know this is difficult to believe, but prior to preparing this recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie, I had only eaten Pecan Pie one time in my life. Even more difficult to believe is that Brad had never tasted Pecan Pie at all. When I came across this recipe, I knew that I wanted to make it this year for Thanksgiving; even though I am not a big fan of corn syrup. To be honest, the one time I ate pecan pie, it had me at first bite. When I learned that I could add chocolate to the equation, it was a no brainer. I moved ahead with the following recipe.

4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe Basic Pie Crust, rolled and fit into 9-inch pie plate (or organic pre-made pie crust)
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. In heatproof bowl, set over (not in) saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 2 or 3 minute. Or, melt chocolate in microwave. Set aside.

In medium bowl, stir together (do not whisk) eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stirring occasionally, gradually add melted chocolate. Pour filling into prepared crust and place pie plate on rimmed baking sheet. Arrange pecans in one even layer over filling.

Bake just until set; 50 to 6o minutes, rotating halfway through. Filling should jiggle slightly when pie plate is tapped. Let cool completely on wire rack, at least 4 hours before serving.

This pie was pretty amazing. From the rich gooey center to the chewy edges, the dessert was pure heaven. The chocolate cut through the sweetness of the corn syrup and sugar but I still recommend cutting the amount of sugar in half. I know Pecan Pie is meant to be sweet but I think the corn syrup provided enough sweetness to need very little help from sugar. This is the only change I would make to the pie. Other than only being able to eat a small piece to avoid wonky blood sugar, this pie eating experience was close to perfect. Brad concurred.

Although I am providing the recipe for Basic Pie Crust below, I decided to buy a pre-made Wholly Wholesome Organic Pie Shell from PCC Natural Market. This particular pie crust has no hydrogenated oils and is made with organic ingredients so I felt good about using it. I actually liked it almost as well as the crust I make from scratch. It didn't get quite as flakey during the baking process but it was still delicious.

Basic Pie Crust-
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 Tbsp ice water

In food processor, briefly pulse flour, salt and sugar. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. If necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Don't over mix.

Turn dough out onto large piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over dough,; press to shape into 1-inch-thick disk. Refrigerate until firm; at least one hour (or up to 3 days).

On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to 14-inch round with floured rolling pin. Wrap dough around rolling pin, discarding paper; unroll over 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate. Do not stretch dough.

Using kitchen shears, trim dough to 1-inch overhang. Fold under itself to form rim and press to seal. Using thumb and forefinger, crimp rim of crust. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to one day.

Recipe Source:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dark and Stormy Cocktail

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

The Dark and Stormy was a perfect choice for our Thanksgiving cocktail because of the earthy color and deep, warm flavor. Our friends Tom and Heidi helped decide which cocktails we would serve. The Dark and Stormy was Tom's great idea and Heidi recommended that we serve hot spiced cider with rum. Both drinks were tasty but the Dark and Stormy was our official Thanksgiving cocktail.

Ingredients per serving:
1/4 lime, cut into two thick slices, one for garnish, one to squeeze over ice
2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda black rum
4 oz ginger beer

Fill highball glasses with ice. Squeeze lime slice over ice. Add Gosling's rum. Add ginger beer and place slice of lime on rim of glass for squeezing or garnish.

This cocktail was tasty with a capital T! Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda black rum has great depth of flavor without  being too strong. I purchased ginger beer by The Ginger People and the flavor was lovely. I have only tasted ginger beer a few times but this brand is my favorite thus far. (I recommend checking their website for other products. The ginger chews are one of my brother's favorite treats). The only change I would make to this recipe is to squeeze one additional slice of lime. The extra acidity added the perfect touch.

I read about a few alternatives to this cocktail that I thought I would share. The first is to add fresh-grated nutmeg as a finishing touch. The second is to swap black rum for white rum to make a Light and Breezy. As you can see in our photo above, the Dark and Stormy was perfect for our Thanksgiving weather so we stuck with the original. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Celery

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Even though we host Thanksgiving every year, the holiday has become a time to both relax and reflect on our many blessings. How does one relax while hosting a holiday? Wish I could take credit for being zen-like by nature but it is not the case. I am only able to enter a relaxed state by ordering Thanksgiving dinner from Metropolitan Market and then filling in the blanks with homemade pie and an appetizer. Metropolitan Market does such a fabulous job maintaining classic flavors (I am a stuffing junky and their stuffing is amazing!), that I have decided to let them do the hard work. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Last year I was fairly motivated so I prepared two pies from scratch and an appetizer. This year, I decided to make one appetizer, one pie and to have Brad prepare a Thanksgiving cocktail.

Although the recipes were new to me, the bulk of my preparation time was spent setting a beautiful table; which is always enjoyable. The setting was quite a departure in color and complexity from my usual Thanksgiving table (this year's table setting was much simpler) and it turned out even prettier than in previous years.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

The appetizer I chose to prepare was Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Celery. The recipe was originally designed to be served as a side dish in place of classic Sweet Potato Casserole. When I looked at the recipe however, I immediately envisioned it as an appetizer instead of a side dish. Served as any part of a meal, this dish would not disappoint.

6 Tbsp olive oil
3 lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch coins
3/4 cup toasted and cooled pecan halves, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp dried cranberries or cherries, minced (optional but I used cranberries)
3 oz firmish goat cheese, crumbled
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat large baking sheet generously with olive oil (about 1 to 2 Tbsp). Lay sweet potatoes in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Roast, without disturbing for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece; undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from pan with no effort. If they don't, cook longer. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and return to pan for another 10 minutes or so, until underside matches top.

Meanwhile, prepare salad. In large bowl, combine pecans, shallots, celery, parsley, cranberries and goat cheese. In small dish, whisk together 4 Tbsp olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Pour half over salad and toss.

When potatoes are done, arrange then on serving platter. Scoop spoonful of salad over each round. Drizzle remaining dressing over top to taste. Serve immediately.

The recipe is savory, sweet, not too heavy and just plain tasty. I do however, highly recommend using the optional cranberries. The sweetness was perfect against the richness of the goat cheese and pecans and the chewy texture partnered beautifully with the crunchy celery. Just a reminder that pecans are easy to burn while toasting. The process works best when using a skillet on low heat and stirring the nuts frequently.

Just a side note that I used organic vegetables from PCC Natural Market and herbs from my garden for this recipe. I also want to give some love to my friend Heidi Matzen for preparing delicious green bean and sweet potato casseroles for our meal. The Matzens were our Thanksgiving guests last year as well as this year and they are lively and lovely guests. The lively comes from her husband Tom, 2 year-old son Vaughan, and 4-year old son Griffin and the lovely is courtesy of Heidi. :) We are truly thankful for such dear friends.

Recipes for pie and cocktail to follow........

Recipe Source:
In Style Magazine, November 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways: Cinnamon-Sugar, Spicy and Salty

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Happy Halloween week! Since having Olivia, we have come to realize that Halloween is not a day-long holiday but instead a week-long holiday. We decided to embrace the full week so three years ago, we instituted our annual family pumpkin carving night (which includes Brad, me, Olivia and Brad's best friend, Carl). I usually think of extracting pumpkin seeds as cumbersome but this year, I decided to save them for roasting. We ended up carving five pumpkins (one for each of us and one for our cat). Needless to say, seeds abounded.

Who knew there were so many recipes for roasted pumpkin seeds and so much discussion about how to prepare them? The biggest point of discussion seemed to be whether to boil the seeds in salt or to allow them to dry on cookie sheets prior to roasting. The second point of debate was whether it is better to leave some of the pulp with the seeds for extra flavor or to remove all pulp. I had already spread my seeds across cookie sheets and removed all pulp so I moved forward from there. Next time I roast seeds, I will try boiling them in salt water because this process is supposed to help the seeds absorb and retain a salty flavor. I will also leave some of the pulp with the seeds because I kid you not, it took me an hour to separate the two.

Because there are so many pumpkin seed recipes, it was impossible to narrow my options to one. With an abundance of pumpkin seeds on hand, I decided to roast them three ways; sweet, spicy and salty. The only difference in the recipes is the way they are flavored. Roasting instructions for all three are exactly the same.

Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds-

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp melted butter (I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds-

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I couldn't find my cayenne pepper so I used chile powder.... it worked great!)

Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds-

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter
2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out inside of pumpkin and separate seeds from pulp. Don't worry if there is some pulp remaining on seeds before roasting..... pulp may add flavor. Just remove biggest pieces so seeds are easy to toss.

In bowl, toss seeds with melted butter or olive oil until fully coated. Add salt and seasoning. Spread seeds in even layer across greased cookie sheet (or cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil). Bake for 30 minutes or until seeds are golden brown. Stir occasionally while baking so seeds toast evenly. 

This roasting project was 2/3 successful. The spicy seeds are by far my favorite with the salty seeds coming in second. The idea of cinnamon-sugar seeds is fantastic but they are unfortunately, quite easy to burn. I turned them frequently throughout the 30 minute roasting time. I even took them out three minutes early but half of the batch was slightly burned. I ended up separating the good seeds from the burned seeds so we were at least able to enjoy a few of them. I highly recommend changing the baking time for the cinnamon-sugar seeds to 20 minutes. 

After realizing that the seeds might cook quicker than the recipe states, I ended up removing the spicy and salty seeds from the oven at the 25 minute mark. The textures and flavors of both were perfect after this slight alteration. 

All in all, this was a fun cooking project and the end result was pretty tasty. I would like to thank my little blonde kitchen helper for measuring and adding the ingredients to each of the batches. She does fabulous work. 

Recipe Source:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Easy Manicotti

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

This has been the most beautiful northwest summer that I can remember. Days were sunny and warm without being too hot and evenings were clear and and dare I say, a bit balmy. We had no recorded rain in July, a fraction of an inch in August and about the same in September. Although we could begin to smell Fall in the air, it did not arrive until four days ago. And with a change in temperature, came the rain. Needless to say, it is time to pull out the sweaters and rain shoes and to start preparing comfort foods for dinner.

I ended up choosing this easy manicotti as my first comfort dish. Lucky for me, my friend Kasia had a bumper crop of tomatoes and I was the recipient of the overflow. I started my morning by blanching the tomatoes and then cooking them down into a beautiful homemade tomato sauce. I tend to wing my tomato sauce recipes so my final product is a little bit different every time. This time I added minced garlic from my garden, chopped white onion, olive oil, fresh garden basil and oregano, kosher salt, black pepper and white sugar. I am convinced that the best way to make sauce is to add ingredients based on your personal taste so I am not providing measurements for each ingredient. I also love starting in the morning and cooking the sauce down for 6 to 8 hours. The house smells great as the sauce cooks and the flavors have time to meld.

Once the sauce was done cooking all day, I was ready to prepare the following manicotti recipe. 

1 box organic manicotti shells ( I used Garden Time organic shells)
olive oil
16 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan plus 1/4 cup for topping
1 lb ground beef, ground turkey, sausage or tofu (I used grass fed ground beef)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp pepper
4 cups spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute meat in splash of olive oil, set aside. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions and set aside. Combine cooked meat, spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, nutmeg and pepper.

Stuff manicotti shells with mixture and arrange in 9" X 13" baking dish. Pour spaghetti sauce over manicotti and bake for 45 minutes. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese.

I am going to make my overview short and sweet today. This recipe is quite flavorful. My favorite part of the dish is the way the nutmeg compliments the creaminess of the ricotta. I always grate my own whole nutmeg (see photo below) with a microplane zester/grater which adds a depth of flavor that does not occur when you use pre-ground nutmeg.

I also appreciated the ease of preparation. If I hadn't prepared sauce from scratch, total preparation time would have been less than 20 minutes. As a side note, I prepared half of the manicotti with sliced olives instead of beef. I cut large whole black olives into three slices and then added them to half of the ricotta mixture. I liked the vegetarian version as well as the beef version and Olivia couldn't seem to get enough of it. You could easily forego meat and prepare the manicotti with olives or another firm vegetable. 

Finally, I know I often get on my soap box about using fresh and organic ingredients but I swear it makes a huge difference. Grass fed beef has a more robust flavor than run-of-the-mill beef and using fresh herbs adds a brightness to food that can be found no other way. Enjoy!

Recipe Courtesy of Garden Time Organics

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Green Olives

I have never been all that interested in broccoli or cauliflower but lately, cauliflower has become one of my favorite vegetables. It started with a Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini salad from the deli counter at PCC Natural Market and snowballed from there. Instead of continuing to eat cauliflower in raw form at home, I decided to seek out a recipe that features cauliflower as the main ingredient.

I happen to love green olives so I was immediately drawn to this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and Green Olives. I love the simplicity of ingredients and the ease of preparation. Recipe follows:

1 large had cauliflower, about 2 lb
1 cup pitted large green olives, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/3 cup store-bought seasoned croutons, ground to crumbs in food processor

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil 12-by-17-inch nonstick rimmed baking sheet. Cut cauliflower head in half, slicing through core. Using sharp paring knife, remove core from each half and discard. Cut cauliflower into small florets, each about 1/2 inch in diameter.

In bowl, combine cauliflower, olives, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss until cauliflower and olives are evenly coated. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and spread in single layer. Roast cauliflower and olives for 10 minutes. Stir to toss and continue to roast until florets are slightly golden, 10-12 minutes longer.

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Remove from oven. Sprinkle with parsley and bread crumbs and toss to combine. Let cool to room temperature. (Cauliflower and olives can be roasted up to one day in advance, covered, refrigerated and brought to room temperature before serving).

To serve, mound cauliflower and olives in center of platter or shallow serving bowl. Serves 8.

Side notes: This dish tastes best at room temperature, making it ideal for entertaining To save preparation time, look for large green olives that have already been pitted. They can be found prepacked in glass jars or purchased by weight from market olive bars.

This recipe is really wonderful. Roasting tends to bring the sweetness out in vegetables and cauliflower is no exception. The brininess of the olives combines beautifully with the savory qualities of the olive oil and the brightness of the parsley. I ate two small bowls because one just wasn't enough! This is definitely going to become part of my arsenal for easy side dishes. It's a keeper for sure.

Recipe Source:
"Williams-Sonoma Outdoor Entertaining"
Page 62

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Salmon and Zucchini with Shallot Vinaigrette

Today I am presenting a fabulous recipe that I prepared two nights ago. This is easily in my top ten favorite recipes that I have prepared in the past year and to sweeten the pot, preparation and cooking took less than 30 minutes. I started with a Coho salmon fillet from  Seattle Fish Company in West Seattle. I then added all organic herbs and vegetables from my garden and PCC Market. King salmon is usually my salmon of choice but the Coho was so beautiful that I decided to go with it. I guess nostalgia played a part in this choice as well. When I was 21, I worked the Coho fish run for a cannery in Petersburg, Alaska. At the time, I was literally up to my ears in Coho and I swore to never eat it again. A lot changes in 19 years and I am okay with it now. :) 

Even though I usually provide commentary at the end of my post, I am going to provide you with the highlights of this dish before I give you the recipe. This will hopefully make your tastebuds tingle and encourage you to try the dish. 

First of all, I usually grill or bake salmon but I have obviously been missing out. Cooking skinless salmon fillet in a skillet is going to be my go-to method for preparing a quick salmon dinner. Cooking the salmon in this manner keeps the moisture and flavor in but allows seasoning to bind to the outside of the fillet. Olivia liked it so much that she ate almost half of the fish! I had one of the four fillets, Brad had about 1 1/3 fillets and Olivia ate the rest.

The salmon was good enough to stand on its own but the vinaigrette was the icing on the cake. Rice vinegar, olive oil and shallot always make a tasty vinaigrette but adding the dill was genius. Dill alone partners beautifully with salmon, but I think I liked it even more in the vinaigrette. Finally, I loved the zucchini sticks. The texture was the perfect partner to the salmon. I highly recommend cooking the zucchini al dente to maintain crispness. 

1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/4 lb skinlees salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 lbs medium zucchini (about 3), cut into thin sticks

In small bowl, combine shallot, vinegar, dill, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Heat 1 teaspoon remaining oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season salmon with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve with salmon and vinaigrette.

Recipe Source:
Real Simple Magazine, September 2010
Page 248

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stir-Fried Green Beans with Pork

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

This is the loosest recipe I have published thus far but it was quite tasty. Basically, you take fresh green beans and pork of your choice, then add the desired amount of each of the remaining ingredients. There is no exact science to this recipe; which makes the process easy and the end result pleasing to the individual palate.

The only details I would like to note is that the green beans and pork were purchased at the West Seattle Farmer's Market. Every Sunday, I purchase thinly sliced pork that is meant to be used for stir-fry from the Olsen Farms booth. The pork is from animals that are naturally and sustainably raised. I can't even begin to explain the difference between Olsen Farms pork and run-of-the-mill store bought pork. Once again, fresh and organic ingredients reign supreme. The recipe for Stir-Fried Green Beans with Pork follows:

1 pound fresh green beans
1 pound stir-fried ground or thinly sliced pork
dry sherry
soy sauce
Asian chili sauce (I used sweet chili sauce)
garlic (the first garlic I have ever grown in my garden!!!)

Cut beans to desired length. Stir-fry until blistered and mostly tender; remove beans.

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Stir-fry pork about for about 2 minutes. Add dry sherry, soy sauce, Asian chili sauce and garlic to taste; then finish cooking pork. Add beans, stir until hot.

Recipe Source:
interpreted from Sunset Magazine, June 2012
Page 55

Friday, August 24, 2012

Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

This past week was like old times! Three recipes in one week....... I haven't been this diligent in months. I was driven to post so many recipes because we hosted backyard barbecues five out of seven nights. We were able to feed friends and family and I must say, it was my favorite summer week thus far.

For our fifth night of barbecuing, we hosted my in-laws. Instead of preparing another recipe that involves grilling, Brad ran up to Metropolitan Market and purchased prepared Kalbi Beef Kebabs and Chicken Vegetable Kebabs. I spent my Sunday morning perusing the West Seattle Farmer's Market and ended up purchasing Vegan Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho from  a local company called Got Soup? that I served as a starter and organic vegetables for the following Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad recipe.

1/4 cup quinoa
4 slices sourdough bread
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra to brush bread
4 ripe medium tomatoes
3 small cucumbers, unpeeled
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
4 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped mint
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 small garlic cloves
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place quinoa in saucepan of boiling water and cook for 9 minutes, or until tender. Drain in fine sieve, rinse under cold water and leave to dry.

Brush bread with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay slices on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Bread should be completely dry and crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then break by hand into different-sized pieces.

Cut tomatoes into roughly 3/4-inch dice and put in mixing bowl. Cut cucumbers into similar-size pieces and add to tomatoes. Add remaining ingredients, including quinoa and croutons, and stir gently until everything is mixed together well. Taste and adjust seasoning.

This recipe was thoroughly enjoyable. The best way I can describe it is to say that the best parts of  panzanella salad and vegetable quinoa salad collided. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy, the bread was flavorful and the quinoa provided a lovely nuttiness and a textural pop. The herbs were beautiful and they worked perfectly with the acidity from the lemon juice and vinegar. If you are looking for a side dish to accompany barbecued protein, this is a great candidate. I would also prepare it as a main course but I would double the amount of quinoa to provide additional protein. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:
"Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi
Page 128

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Foil-Wrapped Baby Back Ribs

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

My dad's birthday was this past week and we were fortunate enough to get a visit from him over the weekend. We felt an even stronger desire than usual to celebrate this year because he just cleared his one year check-up after having a stem cell transplant. We are so very proud of how hard he has fought over the past few years and we were thrilled to celebrate both his birthday and his health.

It is no secret that I have very little interest in eating any type of meat on the bone. I guess I have always thought of it as animalistic and messy. I must take this opportunity to admit how much I have missed out on due to my lack of interest. After preparing and eating one of my dad's favorite foods for his birthday, barbecued ribs, I am officially converted. I am now able to eat meat on the bone as long as it tastes as good as these ribs tasted. This recipe for Foil-Wrapped Baby Back Ribs was so delicious, that it has officially made it into my top ten favorite recipes featured on this blog. The ribs melted in our mouths and the flavor was amazing. I can't say enough about using this foil method to tenderize the meat before grilling the ribs over an open flame. For those of you that boil your ribs before grilling, I urge you to try this method. You will be wowed by the result.


1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 racks baby back ribs, each 2 to 2 1/2 lbs
1 cup hickory wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes (we used mesquite chips)
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce

Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat; 350 to 450 degrees. Mix rub ingredients in small bowl. Remove membrane from back of each rack of ribs. Cut each rack crosswise in middle to create two smaller racks. Season each half rack evenly with rub. Using eight 18" by 24" sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, double wrap each half rack in its own packet.

Brush cooking grates clean. Place ribs on grill over direct medium heat and cook for one hour, with lid closed, occasionally turning packets over for even cooking, http://http://swinerymeats.com/.com/ sure not to pierce foil. Remove packets from grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Carefully open foil packets, remove ribs and discard rendered fat and foil.

Drain and add wood chips directly onto burning coals or to smoker box of gas grill (we have a Weber gas grill with built-in smoker box), following manufacturer's instructions. When wood begins to smoke, return ribs to grill, bone side down. Grill over direct medium heat, with lid closed as much as possible, until they are sizzling and slightly charred, 10 to 12 minutes, turning and basting once or twice with sauce. Remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into individual ribs and serve warm with any remaining sauce.

Brad did a wonderful job executing the barbecue process for this recipe. He also chose to purchase the baby back rib racks from a local West Seattle butcher shop called The Swinery that offers exquisite cuts of meat. The quality of meat had a big bearing on how good the ribs tasted. He also purchased their signature barbecue sauce, which was delicious. The Swinery is the first and only sustainable butcher in Seattle. Pretty cool, right? Finally, we prepared two racks of beef ribs from Metropolitan Market that we seasoned with salt and pepper only. These ribs were also delicious but the Baby Back ribs stole the show! 

Recipe Source:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cedar-Smoked Pork Loin with Pineapple Salsa

Have you ever experienced one of those perfect summer days when all is as it should be? Yesterday was one of those days for me. I spent the day hanging out in the yard with the two love's of my life; Brad and Olivia. We worked to make our deck and patios as beautiful as possible and then began preparation for a barbecue. This particular evening was special because we invited one of Brad's childhood friends and his family as well as a few other friends. We aren't usually high maintenance barbecuers but we wanted to make something a bit more gourmet than hot dogs and hamburgers; although we have nothing against a good hot dog. After much thought and research, we finally decided on the following recipe for Cedar-Smoked Pork Loin with Pineapple Salsa.


1 untreated cedar plank (about 4" by 12")
1 pork loin roast, 3 to 3 1/2 lbs

For Salsa:
4 cups finely diced pineapple
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp minced jalapeno pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 green onions (white part only), finely sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
kosher salt

For Rub:
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Immerse untreated cedar plank in water; place weight on plank to keep it submerged. Soak for 4 to 24 hours.

To make salsa: Combine pineapple, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, jalapeno, cumin, salt and pepper in large saute pan. Bring to boil and cook over medium-high heat until thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. If there is still a lot of remaining liquid, use slotted spoon to transfer pineapple to a bowl and continue cooking liquid over high heat for additional 5 minutes; then pour liquid over pineapple. Mix in onions and basil. Season with salt, if desired.

To make rub: Combine rub ingredients in small bowl. Trim any excess fat from pork loin. Spread rub over roast and place on cedar plank. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

All Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Grill over direct medium heat until internal temperature is 155 degrees, about one hour. Carefully remove roast and plank from grill and loosely cover roast with foil. Allow to rest for 3 to 5 minutes before carving. Serve warm with pineapple salsa. Makes 6 servings.

This recipe met our expectations and then some. The pork was grilled to perfection (thank you, Brad) and the rub was smoky with just the right amount of herbaceousness. The pineapple salsa was out of this world! I chose to use fresh organic pineapple that was at the peak of ripeness. The sweetness of the pineapple and sugar against the spiciness of the cumin and jalapeno with the freshness of the green onion and basil was absolutely delicious. I couldn't seem to get enough of the salsa with each bite of pork.

I served the dish with a side of grilled zucchini, yellow squash, baby potatoes, and mixed carrots. The zucchini, jalapeno, thyme and basil were all harvested from my garden. Every other vegetable was either locally grown or organic and purchased at Metropolitan Market or the West Seattle Produce Company. Finally, thank you to our dear friends for such a lovely evening.

Recipe Source:
"Weber's Big Book of Grilling" by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRae
Page 182

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fancy Brandied Cherries

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

This recipe is quite a departure for me because I have never tasted brandy, let alone cooked
with it.Of course, there is nothing more exciting than a new idea for my cooking adventure so
when I came upon this recipe, I was immediately intrigued. My only experience with
liquor-infused fruit is the Fresh Fruit Infused Vodka Kamikazes offered in the Lava Lounge
at a restaurant called Ring of Fire in my hometown of Eugene, Oregon. The bartenders
change the Fruit Infused Kamikaze options weekly so I have tried many variations including
kiwi and strawberry, blackberry, black currant, watermelon and pineapple. From what
I understand, in order for the vodka to effectively soak into the fruit and for the fruit flavors
to infuse the vodka, the fruit needs to be tender and the soaking period needs to be at least
24 hours. Lava Lounge houses their Kamikazes in large clear jars with the fruit at the bottom
for all to see. They serve each Kamikaze with chunks of fruit so the vodka flavor is
definitely present. With all of this in mind, I began preparing the following recipe for Fancy
Brandied Cherries. 

2 lbs sweet, blemish-free, cherries, washed (I used Washington grown Van Cherries from
Martin Family Orchards)
4 cups high-quality brandy (I chose Hennessy Cognac) 
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 Tbsp almond extract (or use half vanilla and half almond for a twist)

Combine sugar and brandy in medium saucepan over low heat. Cook just until sugar is
dissolved, stirring constantly. Mixture will be only slightly lukewarm, don't overheat; you
want to retain alcohol content of brandy. Cool and stir in almond extract.

Wash two one-quart canning jars. Carefully place washed cherries, one by one, into jars
and cover completely with brandy. If cherries are not completely covered, they will spoil.
Carefully agitate jars to settle fruit. Put lid on each jar and refrigerate. Cherries will keep
in refrigerator for up to one year.

Okay, when I say these cherries pack a punch, I am not kidding around. There is no doubt
that they are delicious and fun, but they are not for the faint of palate. Here are a few things
to keep in mind. First of all, cherries are high on the Environmental Working Group's
"Pesticides in Produce" list so it is important to consume them in their organic form. I
purchased mine from an organic grower at the West Seattle Farmer's Market. Second, the
pits are left in to impart a delicate, nutty flavor to the brandied cherries so make sure to
warn others to bite into the cherries carefully.

Finally, if you are wondering what you can do with Brandied Cherries other than eat them
straight from the jar, they can be used in cocktails, dipped in chocolate, or used in sundaes,
yogurt, cake and brownies. Brad and I decided that out of these options, we would dip
them in chocolate or use them to top ice cream in order to cut the alcohol flavor with

Recipe Source:
"Mary Jane's Farm; The Everyday Organic Lifestlye Magazine"
Volume 11, #4, June-July 2012, Pages 48-49

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Turkey Burgers with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I needed a quick idea for dinner tonight and by sheer luck, I happened upon this recipe for Turkey Burgers with Brussels Sprouts Slaw. As I have mentioned in prior posts, we recently discovered the beauty of Brussels sprouts and are now open to experimenting with them in various applications. This is my third time preparing them and once again, Brussels sprouts did not disappoint.


2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/4 cup minced onion
1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
4 Tbsp mayonnaise (optional)
4 hamburger buns, toasted

In small bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar; add oil and whisk until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Using food processor fitted with 1/8" or 1/4" slicing disk, slice Brussels sprouts. Or, slice by hand. In medium bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with dressing. Let marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high. In medium bowl, combine onion and ground turkey. Divide and shape mixture into 4 patties. Season with salt and pepper. Cook burgers on one side for 5 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for about 4 minutes.

Spread bun bottoms with mayonnaise, if desired. Top with burgers and slaw.

In a nutshell, this recipe is quite tasty and I would absolutely prepare it again. The Dijon mustard and lemon juice are quite acidic so if you prefer mild flavors, I recommend reducing the Dijon to one tablespoon. I used all-natural ground turkey, organic Brussels sprouts, whole grain hamburger buns and Grapeseed Oil mayonnaise. My final contribution and only deviation from the recipe was a thick slice of Heirloom tomato from the West Seattle Farmer's Market. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:
"Mary Jane's Farm; The Everyday Organic Lifestlye Magazine"
Volume 11, #4, June-July 2012, Page 60

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tomato and Three Bean Salad with Vinaigrette

Photo Courtesy of Dave McCoy

Every 4th of July, we invite two groups of our dearest friends to join us for three days of celebration. We convene at my husband's family home on Dewey Beach near Anacortes, Washington. This holiday is one of our favorite times of year because it is truly an All-American event; down to the small town 4th of July Parade, roasting hot dogs and making s'mores over a bonfire, followed by fireworks on the beach. We even dress the kids in 4th of July colors and help them make goodie bags for the treasures they score at the parade. It is a magical experience for all of us.

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy and Dave McCoy

We had an absolute ball this year, as you can see in the photos above. Of course, with all of the festivities, I would be amiss not to prepare at least one recipe to share with our friends. This year, I decided on Tomato and Three Bean Salad with Vinaigrette to accompany barbecued flank steak and chicken courtesy of our friend Carl. Natalie then followed up with a blueberry cobbler for dessert. The salad recipe follows:

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained (or freshly made beans)
15-ounce can butter beans, drained (or freshly made beans)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup Wendy's Vinaigrette
Freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For cherry tomatoes less than 1/2 inch in diameter, leave whole; cut larger ones in half. Put tomatoes on rimmed baking sheet cut-side up and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Bake for 40 minutes, until tops begin to slightly char. Set aside to cool.

Photo  Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Meanwhile, prepare ice-water bath by filling large bowl with ice and water. Bring large pot water to boil. Add green beans and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain, then immediately plunge beans into ice-water bath to stop cooking process and to set beautiful green color of beans. When cooled, drain beans and spread them on clean kitchen towel to dry.

In small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and saute until they begin to caramelize, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remove from heat.

In large mixing bowl or salad bowl, combine green beans, kidney beans, butter beans and parsley, then add shallots and tomatoes, including any juices. Stir gently to combine, then drizzle vinaigrette over everything. Toss gently until everything is evenly coated. Season with pepper, then taste and adjust seasoning. Squeeze lemon wedges over salad just before serving.

Wendy's Vinaigrette-
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 tsp Veganshire or Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

In small bowl, combine lime juice, vinegar, mustard, shallot and Worcestershire Sauce and whisk together. Slowly add olive oil in thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Store tightly covered in refrigerator for up to one week.

This salad is delicious! I chose to prepare the butter beans from scratch but used canned kidney beans. Regardless of this difference in preparation, both types of beans provided the perfect texture. The green beans were a wonderful addition to this recipe. I have never considered putting legumes and green beans together but it really works beautifully. My favorite part of the recipe however, was the roasted tomatoes. My oh my..... roasting already sweet cherry or grape tomatoes is a fantastic idea. They were beyond sweet and juicy.

We also enjoyed the vinaigrette. Lime juice and Worcestershire Sauce make a dynamic dressing and this particular vinaigrette would lend itself to several applications, including meat marinade or green salad dressing. One tip for this recipe; don't think of the lemon wedges as optionional. The brightness of the lemon juice adds an integral flavor profile to this dish.

Recipe Source:
"Pure Vegan" by Joseph Shuldiner
Pages 131-133, 86

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pine Nut Parsley Quinoa

It is no secret that I am a quinoa fan through and through. I have many quinoa dishes in my arsenal, a few of which I have shared in prior posts. All of my recipes however, have one thing in common...... they are served cold. I can't pinpoint a reason, but I have not yet prepared a warm quinoa recipe. The following happens to be one of my mother-in-law's go-to dishes to serve as a side. I have eaten it before but this is my maiden voyage preparing the recipe at home.

2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (any type of parsley will work but my mother-in-law prefers flat leaf)
salt and pepper to taste
organic no salt seasoning (optional)

Toast pine nuts in large dry skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown and fragrant. Stir frequently; pine nuts burn easily. Remove nuts from pan and set aside.

Heat oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and begin to brown.

Put broth and quinoa in medium sized saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and grain is tender. When quinoa is done, add pine nuts, onion and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm. If there are leftovers, serve cold.

I need to explore the wide world of warm quinoa recipes because this was delicious and so easy to make! The only ingredients that required chopping were the parsley and onions, which took all of 5 minutes. The pine nuts toasted up quickly (they took only 7 minutes) and the onions browned easily.  From a preparation standpoint, this recipe is a no brainer.

From a health standpoint, this recipe is even better. The dish calls for one tablespoon of olive oil for the entire batch of quinoa. The only other fat found in this recipe is from the pine nuts; which add a lovely and rich texture to the dish. I know I have gone here before, but I just can't help but mention the nutritional benefits of quinoa. It is considered to be a complete protein and is high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and iron. Quinoa is also gluten-free and easy to digest. It is a true dietary gem.

All in all, I can't think of one element of this dish that I don't like. The flavor, texture and nutritional value are so extraordinary that this is now officially one of my go-to side dishes. It's always smart to keep fabulous recipes in the family. :)

As a side note, I was really excited today because I harvested my first lettuce from the garden. I couldn't resist including a photo of my bounty below. Isn't it lovely?

Recipe Source:
Sharon Lovejoy (my mother-in-law)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kale and Sunflower Seed Salad with Grapeseed Oil Dressing

Photo Courtesy of Dave McCoy

There was no way I was going to make an entrance at the Emerald Water Anglers Cook-Off without contributing to the food table. With all of the effort the participants were exerting to prepare their dishes, I wanted to show up with something in hand. The question, as always, was what that something would be. Last year, I prepared slow-baked beans in a clay pot and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. This year, I was in the mood for fresh and earthy. As I strolled the aisles at PCC Natural Market, I caught a glimpse of beautiful locally grown kale. I prefer to use kale grown in my own garden but my plants need another few weeks to mature. The PCC kale was so lovely that I decided on the spot to prepare Kale and Sunflower Seed Salad.

My choice of salad dressing was a no brainer. Grapeseed oil with a pinch of sea salt has been my go-to dressing for the past year. I have preached the benefits of grapeseed oil in prior posts but I can't help but get on my soap box one more time. Not only does grapeseed oil contain tremendous amounts of antioxidants (especially Vitamin E Alpha which provides 50 times more antioxidants than Vitamin B or E), it has been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol). This oil can also be used externally to boost skin collagen. Not bad for one little oil. For our purpose, it is important to know that grapeseed oil has a light and crisp flavor that partners well with salads.

Salad Ingredients:
2 to 3 bunches green kale
1 medium carrot, shredded or julienned
1/4 to 1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1 orange, yellow or red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds
10 to 15 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thinly
kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dressing Ingredients:
3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp coarse kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Chop kale in 1/2" to 1" strips. Thick portion of stems may be removed during this process if desired. Shred carrots with a vegetable grater or use knife to julienne thin strips. Grater will create soft carrot texture and julienne will create crunchy texture. Remove bell pepper stem and seeds and slice into thin strips. Add shredded purple cabbage, if using. Combine kale, carrots, pepper strips and cabbage. Toss gently.

Peel cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds with small melon baller or teaspoon. I prefer to use a small melon baller as seen in photo below. Slice each carved-out cucumber into thin crescent-shaped slices. Add to other combined ingredients.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

To make dressing, combine all ingredients in jar with lid and shake until thoroughly combined. Add pinches of salt to taste. Lemon juice is optional but I like the acidity it provides. High quality Aged balsamic or fig balsamic works well for this recipe.

Add halved cherry tomatoes and sunflower seeds to salad ingredients. Pour most of grapeseed oil dressing across salad and toss until evenly coated. Drizzle remaining dressing over top of salad, add a few twists of freshly ground pepper, a few pinches of sea salt and serve.

This salad is absolutely delicious! I love the health benefits of both kale and sunflower seeds but the best part of this recipe is that these two ingredients taste fantastic together. The hint of salt on the seeds cuts the sharpness/bitterness of the kale. Once the dressing is added, the salad has the perfect balance of richness from the grapeseed oil and acidity from the lemon juice and balsamic. The salad is also wonderful dressed with just grapeseed oil and sea salt. Choose either method of preparation and enjoy!

Recipe Source:
Kiersten Lovejoy :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Emerald Water Anglers Third Annual Cook-Off

Photo Courtesy of Dave McCoy

I was honored to serve as one of the Emerald Water Anglers Annual Cook-Off judges for the second consecutive year. As you may remember from my review of last year's event, the quality of food and caliber of people involved were beyond my wildest expectations. I envisioned tasty food but was not prepared for the complexity of flavors and aesthetic pleasure that I encountered. This year was no exception. Out of the eight fishing guides that participated in the cook-off, four were veterans and four were first-timers. Last year's winner, Lucas St. Clair, studied cooking at Cordon Bleu School in London and Paris but this year, the playing field seemed to be level. All participants are professional fishing guides that cook causally for themselves or for clients while guiding for Emerald Water Anglers. The guides come from different backgrounds and have varying levels of guiding experience. These differences once again provided judges and attendees with a variety of cooking styles and flavors that were unique to each of the participants.

The following is an overview of the cook-off rules. The guides are required to prepare the majority of food on location, which is always outdoors. Last year's competition took place at Seahurst Park in Burien, Washington but this year, rainy morning weather encouraged us to gather at the home of Dave McCoy, who is the owner of Emerald Water Anglers. Of course in typical Seattle style, the sun came out at the last minute and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon, sans rain. I digress..... back to the rules. The main challenge of this cook-off is that the guides are allowed to use only stoves and cooking gear that can be used to prepare food on the river. Preparing a gourmet meal in a kitchen is a big enough challenge for me. I can't even imagine preparing a dish for competition on a portable camp stove, grill or single burner in the great outdoors. Oh, and did I mention that the guides had only 30 minutes to complete their vision? This is ten minutes less than allowed in last year's competition but the guides somehow managed to rise to the occasion. Who knew a portable cooking device can be used to grill lamb Kofta, prepare Fish Tacos, grill Filet Mignon and cook a gluten-free Portobello Mushroom Stir Fry with gluten-free Fried Ice Cream as dessert? Truly unbelievable.

Photo Courtesy of Dave McCoy

The judges were Jim Osborn, Brad Glaberson and me. Jim Osborn studied at Culinary Institute of America in New York and was Head Chef at Watergate Hotel in Washington DC for many years. He even cooked for two United States Presidents while Head Chef. Brad Glaberson also studied at Culinary Institute of America in New York. He currently serves as Executive Chef and Owner of Cucina Fresca Gourmet Foods, which is a Seattle-based company that offers a line of natural small-batch pasta, ravioli and sauce. They provide their products to over 600 local grocers and restaurants. I happen to be a fan of their fresh pasta and have used it several times to elevate my pasta dishes. I also admire their dedication to using locally sourced ingredients and minimizing environmental impact. Brad invited me to tour the Cucina Fresca facility so stay tuned for photos and commentary after I complete my tour. Taking a tour of a locally owned and operated natural food company? If this isn't in my wheelhouse, I don't know what is! To say that I was honored to be included as a judge with two such accomplished chefs is an understatement. It was truly a pleasure.

The judges were tasked with scoring the dishes on a scale of 1 to 5 in each of four categories; time, taste, plating/appearance and creativity. We decided to provide individual scores and to add them together instead of trying to achieve consensus as we did last year. In addition to the four categories (worth 60 total points), we allowed 5 points for guidability, which gauges feasibility of preparing each dish successfully while guiding on the river. When all was said and done, Hoppin' John with Homemade Country Corn Bread and Collard Greens prepared by Alex Collier was the winner with 59 out of 65 points. This dish was also voted audience favorite.

The Hoppin' John was made of ground Italian sausage, red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, black-eyed peas, tomatoes with green chiles and a bit of brown sugar. The final product was served over Country Corn Bread. The collard greens were made with olive oil, cumin and mustard seeds, onion, red pepper flakes, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes with green chiles and brown sugar. Alex's food was inviting and the flavors were spot on. If you read my blog regularly, you already know that I am a sucker for any type of fresh greens that are prepared well and I am telling you, Alex's collard greens were delicious. They were fresh, crisp and flavorful. It is all too easy to turn collard greens into collard browns by overcooking them so I was impressed at how well they turned out. For me, this plate was love at first bite. I should also mention that Alex cooked his winning dish on a spitfire single burner backpack stove; both creative and impressive.

Judges' Honorable Mention was Mediterranean Lamb Kofta on Pita Bread, Tzatziki, and Greek Salad with Handmade Greek Dressing prepared by Jonny Gorham. I was all but down on my knees begging Jonny to share his Greek Salad recipe because it was so tasty. As a side note, Kofta (also Kafta or Kufta) is a Middle Eastern and South Asian dish of minced or ground meat, usually lamb or beef, mixed with spices and/or onion. Kofta are most often shaped into meatballs and can be rolled with a variety of ingredients including rice and leeks. You can even make them in a tagine! We all know how excited I get about a good tagine recipe so I'm sure I will soon be preparing Kofta in this manner.

Audience Honorable Mention was Portobello and Snap Pea Stir Fry with Homemade Soy Sauce, White Rice, Tomato Salad with Cucumbers and Cashews and Fried Ice Cream prepared by Eric Sadlon. This entire plate was gluten-free and just plain delicious.

Photos Courtesy of Dave McCoy

Other dishes included Chicken Caesar Wrap with Tim's Jalapeno Potato Chips prepared by Todd Crane, Coffee Rubbed Filet Mignon with Grilled Asparagus and Mixed Green Salad with Strawberries and Blueberries prepared by Mike McCoy, Lamb Spring Rolls with Creamed Corn and Jalapeno Salad, Edamame, Kimchee and Risotto prepared by Quinton Dowling, Cod Tacos with Handmade Tartar Sauce prepared by Patrick Kent and Seared Ahi with Seaweed Salad and Sushi Ginger prepared by Ted McDermott. Ted also provided Sake for the judges which was a smooth move. Keep it up, Ted. Bribes just might work next year. 

Thank you to all of the cooks that filled our bellies with such delicious food. I actually paced myself this year which left me satisfied instead of overstuffed (chalk it up to a lesson learned from last year's experience). I would be amiss if I did not mention Dave McCoy at Emerald Water Anglers and the good work he continues to perform. Not only is he a world class fishing guide and photographer, he is an advocate for protecting wildlife and reducing our carbon footprint to protect the environment. He remains dedicated to educating others about changes each of us can make to keep our forests, rivers and fish healthy and plentiful. A big thank you to Dave for requesting my presence and input at his event. With two years under my belt, I am looking forward to big things next year. Can't wait to do it all over again!