RSS

Tag Archives: food

Willows Inn

A few bites into our meal at Willows Inn, Jer said, “Food shouldn’t be allowed to taste that good.” We weren’t even to the first course; the chef started everyone out with a few little ‘bites’ of delectable goodness: a small wooden box with two bites of luscious smoked salmon, tiny plates with fresh potato chips topped with black cod and naturally fermented sauerkraut (I asked the chef who brought it to us, it had been started in October) a piece of herb toast with browned butter and plum blossoms, and best of all, a pickled oyster. It was literally the best oyster I have ever had. And the evening had only begun.

According to the New York Times, the restaurant at Willows Inn is one of “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride”.  We didn’t know this when we found the coupon on an online deal site. I checked out the description and loved the sound of the focus on local, sustainable ingredients, and the description of the Farmhouse Suite, equipped with a full kitchen that included a Wood Stone oven. I knew Jer would love the opportunity to use that oven to make pizza or bread, and I thought it was a great deal for a romantic weekend to celebrate the second anniversary of the day we met. So we booked the trip, packed our sourdough starter, and set out for Lummi Island, only a couple hours away.

We settled in to our suite and wandered around Nettles Farm, where most of the produce for Willows Inn is grown. The chickens were happy to have visitors, and we could see that the greenhouse was in use, and so looked forward to our meal. After a delicious cocktail we were seated and served our complimentary prosecco and starters. The waitress asked if we preferred the juice pairing or the wine pairing, and we decided to go with one of each.  Best decision ever.

First course was simply tender young turnips in a pork jus. Oh, but the jus. It soaked into the breadcrumbs topping the turnips and exploded in your mouth, taking you by complete surprise with its delicate yet complex flavor. The Pinot Gris that accompanied mine was excellent, but the celery juice that Jer had was our first clue that this juice pairing idea was sheer brilliance. Somehow the flavor married perfectly, as did each successive juice-carrot with the scallops and cabbage, green apple with the winter squash and black truffle, lingonberry with the steelhead salmon, and elder flower with the apple sorbet (topped with buttermilk foam and slices of licorice root).

Each course built upon the last while being delicious in its own right. The man certainly knows his seafood-the scallops were perfect, and the steelhead was such a delicate piece of work, you almost forgot it was a salmon. At the end of that course, we thought that there was no way that any dessert could possibly follow up on the parade of dishes, but the intense yet perfectly balanced flavors of apple and licorice with the buttermilk and sprigs of dill was the perfect finish.

It is amazing that someone with such a command of flavor, technique, and presentation could be so young. The chef Blaine Wetzel, a native of Olympia, trained at Noma, named the best restaurant in the world for 2010, but he is completely approachable. We chatted with him afterwards about his technique with the bread served between courses, how much we like sourdough starters and hot ovens, and our mutual struggles using spelt. We even exchanged recipe ideas, with him giving me a technique for spelt rolls in a muffin tin, and me suggesting sourdough cookies, which he had never heard of before.

The next day, while eating a delicious sandwich at Taproot Café, the other excellent eatery at the inn, we overheard the proprietor explaining to another diner that while he “serves dinner, Blaine serves an experience.” Yes indeed-an amazing culinary experience that I will not soon forget.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Things Edible

 

Tags: ,

When Life Gives You Peppers, Stuff ‘Em

Our CSA program is quite handy. Every week we get a box of fresh organic fruits and veggies delivered to our door.  It helps us eat seasonally and locally, and actually simplifies my meal planning. This winter, with my bounty of beef and salmon in the freezer, squash in the garage, and various preserved veggies in the pantry, all I have to do is check the upcoming bin contents for the week, skim a few cookbooks, pull out the meat to thaw, and my week is good to go.

I try to work with whatever the box brings, but occasionally I make use of the ability to submit substitution requests. Green peppers are a vegetable that almost never make it into the house.  They are not a favorite of Jer’s stomach or my tastebuds. But through some technical difficulties on the website, we have had two weeks since the beginning of the year that brought us green peppers to consume, so I had to decide what to make with them.

My grandma used to love making stuffed green peppers. I remember her baking whole trays of them and then keeping them individually wrapped in the fridge for her late-night snacks. Grandma and I used to compete for who would get home the latest-her coming from a prayer meeting or healing conference, and me coming from a Bible study or church party I was running. My mom would wait up for both us, and then we would all sit around and chat, eating our preferred snacks.  Mine varied, involving toast or cereal, or a couple slices of cheese, or sometimes just an entire head of steamed broccoli with butter.  Sadly, even though grandma offered, I never ate her green peppers.

Grandma isn’t here to give me her recipe, but I remembered the basics-seasoned ground beef, cooked rice, sauteed onions, all baked in the pepper with some parmesan cheese on top.  I used some leftover quinoa and added homemade salsa to the beef. It was pretty good. Then on the second green pepper delivery, Jer looked at our box and came up with a tastier version, which ended up being grain-free and full of good fats. He still had to take some digestive enzymes, and I didn’t finish my green pepper, but the filling was delicious. Next time you get some peppers, you should try it out.

Jer’s Stuffed Peppers

This can be adapted for as many people as you need-the proportions below are for each pepper.

One sweet pepper-green, or my favorite, yellow

olive oil

1/4 lb ground beef

1-2 Tbls finely diced onion

1 Tbls salsa

half an avocado, diced

1/4 c cheese , small dice (we like Tillamook from Oregon, because the cows spend some time on pasture, so the nutrient content is higher, but it is still economical)

Slice pepper in half and clean out stem and ribs. Brush lightly with oil and roast in oven for 20 mins at 400 degrees.  While it cooks, saute ground beef and onions. When beef is cooked through and onions are soft, add salsa, and any additional seasonings you would like-salt, pepper, garlic, hot sauce, etc.  When peppers are ready, remove from oven and turn on broiler. Mix cheese and avocado into the beef, then stuff filling into the peppers. Broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve with addtional salsa and cortido.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Things Edible

 

Tags: , ,

Wafflemania

My standard process with recipes looks something like this: see fun recipe online or in magazine/book/back of package. Look up other similar recipes and compare ingredients/technique. Make recipe with minor modifications. Continue to modify recipe(s) 1-5 times until perfection is established.

Another process involves taking two recipes, making them both exactly as written, and comparing the features of both. This usually creates an overflow of finished product that we cannot devour before a)we get sick of whatever it is we’re eating, or b)it goes bad.  This leads us to the waffle situation: last time we tried using our wafflemaker we had waffles coming out our ears and after three days of eating waffles we put the thing away for a good long time.

Well, since I want to reduce carbs a bit next month, I figured this weekend would be a good time to get the waffle iron out and have a little last hurrah before I buckle down. I had collected a couple of awesome recipes over the past few weeks from my blog perusing, and thought we could try one out. But which to choose? And what would we do with all those waffles? This is where Jer came in with the stroke of genious: call the Pedersons.

The Pedersons are a couple of extreme genius and generosity who regularly host brunch at their home. We have been the partakers of many a plate of eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes thanks to their hopitality. Who better to come investigate the waffle recipes than the masters of the brunch invitation?

The call was made, the invite accepted, and this morning they arrived. I had started both batters the night before and was ready to whip up some deliciousness. And boy was it delicious. An hour later the batters were polished off, two couples and a baby in the womb (Pederson, not Anderson) were full of waffly goodness, and both recipes were declared tasty and worthy of future consumption. Success!

You can always count on those Pedersons.

A Tale of Two Waffles

The first waffle was a whole wheat sourdough version. Having a sourdough starter already active made this the simplest recipe ever: feed starter the night before so you will have 2 cups to work with in the morning. Add all the other ingredients except for the baking soda. Right before you are ready to start cooking, mix in the baking soda and watch the chemical reaction commence. The resulting waffle is hearty yet light, with a complex flavor that marries beautifully with either syrup or nutella (our waffle topping of choice).

The second came from Molly at Orangette: she hosted her own waffle-tasting a few weeks back and I chose the yeasted waffle recipe she made, originally written by Marion Cunningham. It involves beating together most of the ingredients and allowing the batter to proof overnight, before mixing eggs and baking soda in just before cooking. I briefly considered the second recipe from Molly, but it called for cornstarch and vegetable oil, two ingredients not common to my kitchen. This recipe was one of white flour and commercial yeast, unlike the whole wheat waffle with its unrefined sugar and naturally developed leavening. It had a crispy exterior with an as-promised custardy interior, and tasted amazing when topped with a little butter and some of my mother-in-law’s homemade blackberry jelly. A wildly different experience from the sourdough waffle, and yet just as excellent in its own right.

The verdict? Both were incredible. Each delivered the delicious result promised by the bloggers who posted them. They were so dissimilar that it was impossible to choose which we would prefer, although the first definitely would work better in a savory application, whereas if you are looking for something to put berries on, I would go for the second. But hey, if you want to decide for yourself, go fetch your wafflemaker and call up some friends and host a tasting. Your friends will not be upset, I am sure.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Things Edible, Things Legible

 

Tags: , ,

Tasty Muffins-With a New Healthy Prep Tip

I wrote a post on my personal blog today about how Jer and I are trying to eat more unprocessed real food. One of the things I have been trying after reading several blogs is soaking my flour overnight. Soaking breaks down the antinutrients present in grains, making them more digestable and allowing the vitamins and minerals to be absorbed. I find that it makes my baked goods more tender and I need less sugar and butter in the recipe. I actually adapted this from three different recipes I found online-I think it is a pretty good basic recipe that you can add anything to-nuts, fruit, even chocolate (but try to make it some good fair-trade dark chocolate!)

Soaked Flour Banana-Applesauce Muffins

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c each rolled oats, oat bran, and wheat bran (you could also substitute flaxseed meal)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each nutmeg and allspice
1/2 c melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c yogurt, buttermilk, or plain kefir

Mix together and let sit 12-24 hrs at room temp

2 eggs
1/2 c unrefined sugar, such as rapadura, sucanat, or muscovado
1 tsp vanilla
1 c ripe bananas, mashed

Beat together and mix into soaked flour. Mix well until all the soaked flour is broken down and batter is smooth (it helps if you break the flour mixture up a bit before adding the liquids).

1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Sprinkle over batter and mix well. If you want to add in chopped apples, nuts, or chocolate chips, fold in gently here. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake @ 375 20-25 mins until toothpick inserted in center muffin comes out clean.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 12, 2010 in Things Edible

 

Tags: ,

The Triumph of the Sourdough Starter

When I moved out of my parents’ house I was no stranger to yeast. My mom is an excellent baker and has taught me the ways of leavening quite well. When I lived with the girls at the Yellow Cottage I would usually bake bread a couple of times a month. I settled on my favorite multigrain honey bread, a recipe which required that I make at least two loaves, because the first one would usually be gone within 10 minutes of my roommates getting their hands on it.

When I married Jer, I figured I would continue making my sweet bread of yeasty goodness. But Jer has other ideas. Confident in my baking powers, he not-so-subtly suggested that perhaps I should switch to sourdough bread. Now, I have always loved sourdough bread, but I have never worked with it, and my perception was that it was a lot of hassle and I would never actually get it to work. However, in the fog of romantic love and conjugal bliss I agreed to start the experiment.

So I did some reading and researching and found that starting a starter wouldn’t actually be that hard. In theory. According to the recipes, you just mix together some flour and water and watch the magic happen.

Heh.

Let’s just say it took a lot longer than I thought. And a lot more recipes than I thought. I feed our starter (we call him Odo, since he sleeps in a bucket) every day, building up his taste and leavening power, and then when baking day comes I take the chance that all my work will not go to waste. I’ve made no-knead bread and super-kneaded bread. Recipes that took 24 hours and ones that took 4. Dutch ovens, baking stones, preheated ovens, cold ovens, wood-fire grills. I’ve made the worst baked goods of my life struggling with that starter. Flat, hard bread, only useful for breadcrumbs (which I rarely need) or bread pudding (which I am not really a huge fan of). Through fail after fail, Jer encouraged me and ate the rejects.

There have been a few successes in the story, but overall I have not been satisfied. I had dreams of the soft, tasty sourdough bread I used to eat growing up, bread which I am sure was full of dough conditioners and other such chemical additives but nevertheless made me happy. A slight sourdough tang, a chewy crust, a soft interior. Such bliss.

BUT. It was this weekend that we finally reached the pinnacle of the sourdough bread. I have been reading a lot about sprouted flour and soaked grains and how proper preparation makes grains healthier for you and more easily digestable. Hopping from blog to blog I stumbled upon the recipe that would be the gamechanger. I read the title-Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread-and I was filled with hope that perhaps here was the recipe that would marry my love for honey-sweetened multigrain bread with Jer’s visions of sourdough loaves.

It was easy. It worked better than it said it would. And it was, categorically, the best bread I have ever made in my life. And so my friends, I share it with you. Let me know if you want a little bit of my sourdough starter to get you, well, started.

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
from Kitchen Stewardship

This requires some planning ahead because of the overnight proof, but it actually is one of the easier sourdough recipes I have tried. Your starter should be fed a 1:1 ratio of filtered water and flour, and to keep it most active, you should feed it every 8-12 hours and keep it at room temperature for a couple of days prior to use (I usually feed Odo every 24 hours). I’ve heard some recipes say that a sourdough starter can’t handle a dough with eggs and butter, but my starter loved it, and the loaves rose like nobody’s business. I think having an active starter helps a lot.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat sourdough starter
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup mild honey
2 large eggs
6 cups (divided) whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons sea salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

The night before you want to bake, combine the starter, milk, and 3 cups of flour, creating a shaggy dough (much like a no-knead recipe). I used a mix of whole wheat flour and bread flour (the extra gluten makes a difference) but feel free to use whatever you like. Cover and keep in a warm place overnight. The best idea is to turn on your oven and preheat to 350 while you make your dough, then immediately turn it off and place the covered bowl in the oven. Leave the door open slightly so the light stays on.

In the morning, your dough will have puffed up and be covered in air bubbles. Stir gently with a wooden spoon and add in the honey and eggs one at a time. Mix until completely incorporated. Add the remaining flour, salt, and butter. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, use this and knead for 5-7 minutes. I didn’t find that I needed a whole lot of extra flour this way. If you don’t have a mixer, knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, then let rest 10 minutes, then knead again for another 10 minutes. Dough will be moist but not sticky, with good elasticity.

After kneading, put your dough in a greased bowl and cover. Go ahead and do the same thing with the oven: preheat, turn off, put in dough, leave door open slightly. Allow to rise until doubled; the recipe said 2-4 hours, but mine took about an hour and a half. That’s one benefit of having an active sourdough starter!

When dough has doubled, remove, divide in half, and shape into two loaves. 9×5 loaf pans are recommended, although I suppose you could try making boules and placing them on a cookie sheet. Repeat your oven proofing technique, allowing the loaves to rise to just above the edge of the pan, about an hour.

Take the pans out of the oven and preheat it for reals this time, to 375. Place a sheet pan in the bottom of your oven and get 2-3 cups of water ready. Slash the tops of your loaves. As soon as you place your loaves in the preheated oven, pour the water into the sheet pan and then quickly shut the door. This creates a steamy environment for your loaves, so they can develop a nice crust, as well as the series of romance novels that will fund your retirement.

Bake for 35 minutes. The loaves should get golden brown on top, and sound hollow when you tap them. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. It will be tempting to cut into them immediately, but you need to let them cool down a bit before you slice. If any of the bread makes it past the first tasting, allow it to completely cool before wrapping it up and storing it in a cool place. The recipe states it keeps for a week, but I doubt it will last that long. You can also freeze the extra loaf, wrapping it in foil before sealing it in a freezer bag.

There you have it folks: the grand triumph. This bread is awesome with just a little butter, or toasted with honey or jam, or as a sandwich. I made Jer a PB&J with this and I swear he ate it in less than a minute. He then apparently ate four more slices while I was at worship practice! I’ll be lucky if the two loaves last the week. But hey, anything for my man.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2010 in Things Edible

 

Tags: , ,

Bean and Bacon Soup: Eat Your Heart Out Campbell’s!

Soup really is the easiest of foods. And no, I am not talking about how easy it is to open a can of Campbell’s (which, by the way, is full of chemicals and formerly good food that has been stripped of its nutrients by overprocessing. Just saying).  I’m talking about starting from a cup of dried beans and random ingredients and making something tasty and nutritious. It’s a great way to clear out a fridge filled with bits and pieces: a handful of mushrooms, two celery stalks, a bunch of almost wilted kale and a couple slices of bacon and suddenly you have transformed the hopeless into the delicious. 
 
Beans are inexpensive and super easy-they just seem intimidating because they take time. But the time is not active work-you cook while you live the rest of your life. If you have a crockpot, beans are a no-brainer: put them in a big bowl of water the night before to soak, then in the morning drain and add to the slow cooker with whatever seasonings and vegetables you want. Put it on low for 8 hours and come home to a big pot of soup that will not only feed you for dinner but also freezes well and can be used for several lunches.
 
(My former roommate, who insists that she cannot cook, makes soup in her crockpot every week using a couple of cookbooks and her ingenuity. So really, soup is the easiest thing out there.)
 
Here is what I made a couple of days ago, mostly to use up the last of the bacon in the fridge. This soup didn’t make too many lunches because it was so good that Jer polished it off very quickly. If you don’t have a crockpot, this can of course be made on the stove-it just might be a later dinner, or something you will want to make on the weekend. You can use fresh or canned tomatoes-I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes I had gotten on sale, and they added a great depth of flavor. And just so you know, thick-cut peppered bacon is to die for in soups.
 
 
Bean and Bacon Soup
 
2 cups dry mixed beans
3-4 slices thick cut bacon
6 cups water, stock, or any combination of the two
1 can diced tomatoes or 3-4 diced roma tomatoes
1/2 onion diced
minced garlic, if desired
1 tsp each: salt, pepper, chili powder, thyme
 

Crockpot directions:
 
Saute bacon and onions about 7-10 minutes, until bacon begins to crisp and onions are translucent (if using garlic, add in after 5 minutes). Transfer to bowl or storage container and keep covered in fridge. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 4-5 cups cold water. Soak overnight. In the morning, drain beans and add to slow cooker along with the all other ingredients. Cook at low for 10 hours.
 

Stovetop directions:
 
In the morning, place beans in large bowl and cover with 4-5 cups cold water to soak. 8 hours or so later (basically whenever you get home from work) drain the beans. Saute bacon and onions in a large stock pot for 7-10 minutes, adding minced garlic after 5 mins if desired. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about an hour.

Simple, right? Soak, drain, saute, boil, simmer. Not too many ingredients, not too much actual work. Soup gets better over time, so it’s always better reheated the second day. And the possible combinations are endless. You can add other vegetables if you want. You can substitute cremini mushrooms for the bacon and make it vegan. You can use one or two types of beans, or a 15-bean supermix. And if you are really pressed for time, you can even use canned beans: just add 2-3 cans of beans with the tomatoes and stock after sauteing the bacon and onions and then simmer for however long you want.  That’s yet another benefit of making soup: you can feel free to experiment with whatever you have. So get creative!

Oh, and if you are looking for another great crockpot recipe, try Macheesmo’s Mushroom Barley Stew. It made so much, and it was so good, Jer ate it almost every day for a week!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2010 in Things Edible

 

Tags:

How I Learned To Eat Avocado

I have friends who look at me in horror when I tell them I don’t like avocado.

“What?” they exclaim. “How can you not like avocado? It’s amazing! Guacamole! Favorite thing ever!”

Sadly I cannot find it in my heart or tastebuds to enjoy a fresh ripe raw avocado. I have an aversion to certain textures which I can only describe as ‘gushy’: ripe bananas, raw tomatoes, and avocados are good examples of such. My husband adores all of these things, so I order my guacamole on the side so he gets extra, and the tomatoes on my burger also go to him, along with most of the bananas in our weekly produce box.

However, I am finding that I love to cook and bake with those gushy substances. Banana bread? I make a to-die-for loaf, and bananas make a great addition to muffin recipes (just substitute for the oil and/or part of the butter). Tomato sauce? Marinara is a favorite, and I can make anything from a veggie-stuffed balsamic-flavored extravaganza or a simple buttery sauce like you can find on smitten kitchen.  However, it was only recently that avocado made it onto my baking ingredient list.

I was reading Joy the Baker’s blog and came across her recipe for Vegan Chocolate Cake. Now, I’m not vegan and have no plans to move that way, I like my omnivorous status, thank you very much. However, I love a challenge, and with her assertion that these cupcakes were amazing, and the slightly overripe avocado sitting on my table begging to be used, I decided to give it a go. Surprisingly, the cupcakes had good texture and flavor, and you couldn’t taste the avocado at all. Since then I’ve substituted avocado for butter in several muffin and banana bread recipes for good results.

Still, I stayed away from the raw avocado as much as possible. Until Saturday morning. Jer saw the avocado in the fruit bowl and asked me for a recipe. I put avocado into the google reader search box and what came up but an avocado smoothie. Well, this sounded completely disgusting to me, but of course Jer had to try it. So out came the can of evaporated milk and the ice cubes and he went to town. He made me try a sip of the smoothie, and I have to say I was less than impressed. But then, in a stroke of smoothie-making genius, Jer pulled out the magic ingredient: Nutella. A couple spoonfuls later and we had smoothies that tasted nothing like avocado yet possessed the smoothest, creamiest texture and the fantastic chocolate hazelnut flavor we know and love. And so my friends, I share this with you, as a testament to the power of Nutella to get even me to eat avocado.

Avocado-Nutella Smoothie

 

1 ripe avocado

2 tsp sugar

½ can evaporated milk

8 ice cubes

2 Tbsp Nutella

 

All of these ingredients are to taste. The original recipe called for sweetened condensed milk mixed with a little regular milk, but the evaporated was all we had, and I think it turned out better this way.

 

Blend the avocado, sugar, and half the ice and milk until fairly smooth. Add remaining ice/milk and Nutella. Adjust with additional milk or Nutella to suit your tastes.

 

Serves 2, or one hungry person.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 13, 2010 in Things Edible

 

Tags: , ,