Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Saturday, June 1, 2013

New Kitchen In the Works!

Although I appear to have either fallen off the face of the earth or been cured of my cooking habit, neither one is the case. The reason you have not heard from me in a few months is actually exciting. We broke ground on the final piece of our ten-year house remodel shortly after my last recipe entry! The most profound part of our remodel is a gourmet kitchen that will replace our original 1950s kitchen. To say cooking in my kitchen for the past ten years has been a challenge is an understatement.

I have not made prior mention to how inadequate my kitchen was, but now I will tell all. Basically, I have been cooking in an ugly kitchen with very little counter space, an inconsistent oven and no storage. I can honestly say that with the type of kitchen I have been using, my culinary successes were small miracles. We purchased our home ten years ago and we have been remodeling since the day we moved in. Before remodeling the kitchen however, we decided to live in our house for a short while to determine what type of kitchen we wanted. That "short while" turned into almost ten years due to various other remodeling projects and the birth of our daughter. Finally, after working with architects and getting plans approved by the city, we were able to move forward in March.

This last part of the remodel includes a new garage structure with an attached room at the back, new entry way, gated courtyard and a kitchen that has been gutted and expanded 100 square feet. Our home has a view of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains but up until now, a wall has blocked the view from the kitchen. The wall has recently been removed and when all is said and done, I will have a 10 foot island with an unobstructed view to enjoy while I am cooking. I decided to splurge and ordered a six-burner Wolf Range Top and new Jenn-Air ovens. I will also have two dishwashers, a beverage refrigerator and a bar/prep sink. Doesn't it sound divine? Coming from where I am coming from, this is all such a treat!

I will add a few blog updates as the kitchen progresses but for now, I have posted a few photos of the work in progress. I will wait to post the before photos until the end of the project. Stay tuned........

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stir-fried Basil Beef with Shiitakes and Cashews

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I was walking through PCC Market, trying to decide what to make for dinner, when I happened upon this recipe. PCC often places featured recipes strategically throughout the store and this one was sitting near the meat counter. The minute I saw Thai basil, grass fed beef and cashews in the list of ingredients, I was sold. After gathering all necessary ingredients and going through checkout, I headed home to prepare the following recipe for Stir-fried Basil Beef with Shiitakes and Cashews.

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1 lb grass fed beef, sirloin or top round, cut into thick strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup sliced fresh Shiitake mushrooms
1 small hot red chile, sliced (I used a milder small green chile)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne strips
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cane sugar
20 Thai or sweet basil leaves
1/2 cup roasted cashews

Heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat in wok or large saute pan. Stir-fry beef and garlic for 4 minutes and remove from pan. Add remaining oil to pan and cook onion, mushroom, chile and red bell pepper for 2 minutes.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Stir in beef mixture and add soy sauce, sugar, basil leaves and cashews. Heat through and serve over steamed jasmine rice.

I would like to share one interesting note regarding grass-fed beef that was included with this recipe. Grass-fed beef takes less time to cook than grain-fed beef because it is leaner and lower in fat. It is also high in healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids. Stovetop cooking is perfect for grass-fed beef because you have more control over the temperature than on a grill.

This recipe was delicious all the way around. The grass-fed beef had amazing flavor and the cashews added the perfect amount of crunch. I also appreciate that Shiitakes are a meatier mushroom that hold flavor well and provide a robust texture. I don't use Shiitakes often so this was a nice reminder that they add complexity to a dish.

The only change I made is to use a mild to medium green chile instead of a hot red chile. I needed to keep the heat level of the dish on the low side so Olivia could enjoy dinner with Brad and me. There is one additional change I would make; I would double the number of Thai basil leaves. I love the flavor of Thai basil and as I ate my portion, I was craving more. Other than these small revisions, the recipe was near perfection. It definitely earned the Lovejoy stamp of approval.

Recipe Source:
Lynne Vea, PCC Natural Markets Chef via pccnaturalmarkets.com

Friday, February 22, 2013

Birthday Celebration at Boat Street Cafe

I was granted the great pleasure of planning a birthday party for my best friend, Natalie. This was her fortieth birthday so I wanted to make sure it was extra super duper special. Let me just start out by sharing that Natalie is a true blue friend. The kind of friend that loves without boundaries and always has my best interests at heart. She is my kindred spirit and even shares my love of all things French; especially Parisian. Keeping this in mind, it was a no brainer to plan her birthday at a downtown Seattle French restaurant called Boat Street Cafe.

Although unassuming from the exterior, the ambience at Boat Street Cafe exemplifies a charming French countryside cafe. From weathered table tops to mismatched chairs to simple place settings, the restaurant is near perfection. The walls display just the right amount of art and the dim lighting creates warmth. I provided the simple bouquet of hydrangeas and the delectable macaroons from our favorite West Seattle Bakery, Bakery Nouveau. Everything else in the photos was provided by Boat Street Cafe.  

Boat Street Cafe is widely known for serving incredible brunch, but they also provide a lovely dinner menu. The snapshots and descriptions below are examples of their dinner menu offerings but people in our group also tried Carlton Farms Pork Rib Chop, Roasted Cauliflower Salad, Boat Street Pickle Plate, Steamed Mussels, Warm Bread and Butter, and Rosemary Veal Chop. Dare I mention that someone even tried the Braised and Seared Lamb Tongue?

Alaskan True Cod: spinach, roasted blood orange, Tremiti olives (Tremiti olives are Italian olives that are picked young and fresh, then immersed in sea salt and water for several months)

Skillet Roasted Painted Hills Ribeye Steak: caper aioli, parsley-shallot salad, lemon

Pan Roasted Mad Hatcher Chicken: avgolemono,baby leeks, golden turnips (avgolemono is a sauce or soup made with lemon juice and egg, mixed with broth and heated until thickened)

At Natalie's request, a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and orange buttercream frosting; special ordered fromWest Seattle's Stuffed Cakes. Her wish was our command.

Finally, the birthday girl with her husband, Dave. Happy Birthday, dear friend!  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chickpea, Cheese and Onion Burgers

My father deserves full credit for discovering this recipe. He was reading an article about Paul McCartney's new cookbook based on meat free Mondays, and this recipe was featured in the article. Brad, Olivia and I were traveling through Oregon while on a ski trip to Mt. Bachelor. When we arrived in Eugene to spend a few days with family, my dad had this recipe on the counter, alongside all of the required ingredients. He couldn't have made it any easier for me to prepare the following dish. Thank you, Daddy-O!

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (14-ounce) can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded Gruyere
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
all-purpose flour, for dusting

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and cook over medium heat until tender and not colored. Add garlic, cumin and cayenne, and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Put lentils and chickpeas in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add onion mixture, tahini and parsley and pulse again until nearly smooth. Spoon into large bowl and add egg, breadcrumbs and cheeses.

Mix with hands and add salt and pepper. Shape into patties and lightly dust with flour. Heat remaining oil in large skillet. Place burgers in pan and cook until golden on both sides. Serves 4.

Okay, this burger was seriously tasty. It ends up that lentils and chickpeas are great partners. The combination provided a hearty, substantial product that served as a great background for the flavors of the cheeses and spices. Feta cheese served a textural purpose but the Gruyere was the star for me. Vegetarian burgers can sometimes be dry but the Gruyere added a wonderful creaminess that helped the burger maintain moisture.

The flavor profile was really pleasing. Although Feta and Cumin go well together, I would have never thought to combine Gruyere and Cumin or Gruyere and Tahini. The combination of these ingredients, however, worked perfectly. The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the cayenne. My dad did not have cayenne in his pantry so we decided to go without. I don't feel as though the recipe suffered as a result, but I will try it with cayenne next time for comparison.

The most special contribution to this recipe was the high quality breadcrumbs. My father purchased a loaf of Spelt Bread from Cottage Grove Farmhouse Bakery and my step-mom converted it to breadcrumbs. This particular bakery is located south of Eugene in a small town called Cottage Grove. They use no chemicals, no additives and their motto is "just real honest bread." The only ingredients in this loaf were organic wholegrain spelt flour, water, honey, yeast and salt. Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that has a lower amount of gluten than regular wheat flour. It is rich in protein, B vitamins, magnesium and fiber. Although not gluten free, spelt seems to work for many people that have wheat allergies. I have been eating variations of spelt for years and I have always enjoyed it in any form.

I would like to give a shout out to my brother, Nick, who received a special treat in his burger; a small piece of wooden spoon. My dad and step-mom have a 1970s Oster Blender that I used instead of a food-processor. It ended up working just fine but somehow during the process, a chunk disappeared off the wooden spoon I was using. Oops. :) Anyway, my brother handled it like a champ and moved forward with enjoying his meal.

"Meat Free Monday Cookbook" by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney via relish.com

Monday, January 14, 2013

Classic Chicken Stock

I believe this may be the most basic recipe ever featured on my blog. I know it sounds like a no brainer, but I have never made chicken stock from scratch. I have prepared vegetable stock on the fly, without a recipe, but that is the closest I have come to preparing classic stock. As many of you know, I have not eaten chicken in over 13 years so touching and preparing raw chicken is a stretch for me. Even though this recipe allows for chicken bones, wings and thighs; I chose to use a whole free range organic chicken from PCC Market. This was much easier to handle than separated sections of chicken.

I have not yet decided what I am going to make with my stock. I may end up freezing it in recipe portions or preparing homemade soup for dinner tomorrow night. Either way, this should be delicious and it is so much less expensive than purchasing pre-prepared organic chicken stock.

4 lbs chicken with bones (or chicken bones, wings and thighs)
4 qts (16 cups) cold water
1 onion, stuck with 4 cloves
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black peppercorns

Place chicken and water in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove any remnants that rise to top of water. Add onion, carrot, celery, parsley, bay leaf, thyme and pepper. Simmer 2 to 3 hours.

Strain, cool and refrigerate. Lift off fat with spoon.

Use within 2 to 3 days or freeze. You may also freeze immediately after cooking. Makes about 2 quarts but recipe may be doubled. Hint: make in large quantity and freeze in portions that match amounts required in favorite recipes.

I tasted the stock and it is quite flavorful. I also appreciate that the degree of saltiness is mine to determine. Although I followed the above recipe, I couldn't resist making a few additions; 2 smashed cloves of garlic and one extra rib of celery with leaves. I would also consider adding chopped fennel to my next batch.

As a side note, all vegetables used in this recipe were organic and the parsley was harvested fresh from my garden. Enjoy!

"Creative Soups and Salads" by Lou Seibert Pappas
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