Sunday, December 19, 2010


I'm in Minnesota with Lindsay's family eating eggs.

Black beans and rice with an egg on top.

They have beautiful shells:

Here is their source:

Chickens in the path.

Chickens in the window

Zach holding up a chicken.

Future plans include custard. Any other egg dishes we should make?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Iron Horse Hop Hub Pale Ale

Iron Horse Brewery, Hop Hub Pale Ale
Ellensburg, WA
6.0% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

It's a nice beer with a tiny bit of sour, citrusy flavor.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Lentil Salad with Squash

I had a really good lentil salad at Thanksgiving (thanks Joel and Marie!) and I've started making my own recently. The concept is really good: lentils taste good but are too monotonous and earthy to eat in large amounts, so mix them up with something else and dress them heavily. The one I had at Thanksgiving was lentils with arugula and goat cheese. I used parsley--lots of it--to play the role of non-earthy thing, and I steamed a delicata squash and put it in too. This should be good as a salad for at least four people.

  • 2/3 cup lentils, preferably the little green French kind
  • 1 large delicata squash, seeds removed, and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • parsley
  • 1 tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. good mustard
  • salt, pepper

Cook the lentils in salted water (2 cups of water is probably about right) until they're soft, which usually takes 45 minutes for me. Steam the squash until it's ready, about 15 minutes. Mix up the mustard, vinegar, and oil in a jar or bowl, and combine everything with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the chopped parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Harmon Porter

Harmon Brewing Co., Puget Sound Porter
Tacoma, WA
5.4% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

A malty, slightly sweet beer; clean tasting and pleasant.


This post probably won't be useful for another eleven months, but I think it's worth getting the recipe down now. Besides, stuffing is good. For the last few years my stuffing has had cornbread and mushrooms as a base. Usually I put in pine nuts, but they're expensive right now, plus I dread the pine nut syndrome. Everything in this recipe is flexible. I think the most important thing is to start with the stuffing inside the bird and then take it out and bake it for a while to make the top crisp up, but I made a vegetarian one by cooking it outside the turkey and moistening it with some mushroomy water, and it was good too.

  • some stale cornbread
  • two large onions, or one onion and a leek, chopped
  • two or three stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 pound wild mushrooms, chopped (chanterelles and hedgehogs are good)
  • a handful of dried porcini
  • lots of chopped parsley
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • salt, pepper

Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover them. After they've rehydrated a bit, reserve the water and chop the mushrooms. If the fresh mushrooms are chanterelles or another mushroom that holds a lot of water, put them in a dry pan over medium heat with a little bit of salt for a few minutes, until they give off most of their liquid. Remove from heat and set aside the mushroom liquid in the pan.

Put the butter in a very large skillet over medium-low heat and cook the onion and celery for about 15 minutes, adding some salt and pepper. Add the fresh and the dried mushrooms and cook for a while longer. Add the mushroom liquid, and cook a few minutes more. Add cornbread by roughly crumbling it up over the pan until you're happy with the amount. Remove from the heat, and add the parsley. Let this cool and put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook your turkey (or any other bird you feel like stuffing).

Put the stuffing into the bird, not packing it in tightly or filling up the cavity completely. It's fine if only half the stuffing fits. Roast the turkey. When it's close to done, take the stuffing out of the turkey (a big metal spoon works well for this) and put it in a casserole dish with the rest of the stuffing, stirring to mix up the turkefied and unturkefied parts. Put this back in the oven until the top is starting to turn brown and get crispy, maybe 30-45 minutes. It's fine to do this after the turkey is finished.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beets with Honey Mustard

This is the only way I make beets lately. It's very good, and I just got stuck.

  • about 3 large beets
  • 2-4 tbs. mustard
  • 1 tsp rice or other mild vinegar
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

Peel the beets and chop them into small (1/2 to 1 inch) cubes. Put them in a large roasting pan with salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil. Cover the pan (aluminum foil works) and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover and roast for another 20-25 minutes until they look a little bit caramelized on the edges, stirring once or twice near the end of the cooking time.

While the beets are roasting, mix up the honey and mustard and vinegar in a bowl. When the beets are done cooking, take them out of the oven and turn it off. Add the honey-mustard mixture to the pan of beets, stir it up, and put it back in the oven for five minutes. Serve warm, though leftovers taste good at room temperature too.

Weighty Matters

This is my new kitchen scale, in action:

It was the floor model at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Now it has found a pleasant home in my kitchen, where I rarely measure anything by volume anymore. A cup and a half of flour? Put the mixing bowl on the scale, tare it, and pour in flour until the scale says 240 grams. A half cup of sugar? That's 100 grams. The precision is nice, but the convenience is what's really great.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Today is a snow day! Sure, we only got two inches of snow, but that was enough to cancel my students' calculus midterm. I had a fun walk through the snow to the liquor store to buy some cognac for my grandma's cranberry sauce. Lindsay took a picture that shows how nice autumn snow is:

In other news, Lindsay got a haircut, and I'm going to Berkeley for a conference at MSRI in two weeks. Here's a picture of the haircut:

Haircuts make you happier.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Behold this marvel of modern science!

These jars are filled with perishable food yet they do not rot. Or at least not yet. Canning is not scary and will not kill you, unless you can non-acidic food like (non-pickled) vegetables and they develop botulism. So refrain from doing that and don't be afraid.

On the bottom of the pyramid are pickled beets. In the next row are bread and butter pickles, which are sweet pickles with onions. At the top is a container of freezer jam, which I made from a twenty pound box of peaches. I cooked the fruit for a minute or two with a little bit of sugar, added some lemon juice, thickened it with freezer jam pectin, and then froze it. I also made six quarts of pear sauce with cinnamon. I have so far resisted the temptation to eat my winter rations, so I can't tell you how anything came out yet. But I'll report soon. Here's a closer look at the beets:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Julia Child's Leek and Potato Soup

How could I have missed it for so long! It's a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking that isn't outdated (Aspics and Molds, 544-6), uses no extravagant ingredients (Foie Gras Stuffing with Prunes for Goose, 284), and does not involve cooking lettuce (Lettuce, Braised, 489). Also, it's the very first recipe in the book. It makes enough for 6-8 people, or for two people with some for the next day's lunch and some for the freezer. It's better on the second day. Julia Child calls for a bit of cream or butter, but I had some good milk in the fridge and used that instead with fine results. Julia Child also calls for peeling the potatoes, but that's just silly. Here's the basic recipe:

  • 1 pound potatoes, chopped
  • 1 pound thinly sliced leeks
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk or cream

Simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes. Mash the vegetables with a potato masher (or fork, or food mill); don't puree it. Immediately before serving, add the milk (or just add a tablespoon or so to each bowl).

The recipe also calls for parsley or chives added at the very end, which I would have done if I had either. My mother likes to put cilantro in her leek and potato soup, which I also endorse. Julia Child mentions that you can add carrots, turnips, tomatoes, half-cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils with their cooking liquid at the beginning. You can also add cauliflower, cucumbers, broccoli, Lima beans, peas, string beans, okra, zucchini, shredded lettuce (oops!), spinach, sorrel, or cabbage after the soup is mashed, to be cooked for 10 minutes or so. I made my batch with some carrots and parsnips, even though parsnips aren't on this list. Deviation from a Julia Child recipe usually leads to ruination, but I got away with this one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale

Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale
Fresh Hop Ale
Chico, CA
6.7% Alcohol
Rating: 5/5

This beer reminded me of Pliny the Elder. It's powerful and direct, but there are a lot of flavors to it, and none of them are off in any way. I expected something more delicate, but I'm really happy with what I got.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Apartment Pictures

My apartment's intruders and houseguests face this when they open the door:

Here's another shot of my bike hanging against the wall:

We hung a basket from the ceiling:

Here is a picture of Lindsay studying for prelims a few weeks ago:

And her work was not for nothing: today she learned that she (more than!) passed her exams.

Vancouver, Day 5, 9/19/2010

We set out early on the SkyTrain to Coquitlam, a suburb outside of Vancouver where Tom and Megan live. We arrived and walked to the parking lot north of the train station where we were supposed to meet Tom. After fifteen minutes, we realized the train station had two exits, and that north of the other one was a different parking lot. We went over there. Tom was patiently waiting for us there.

After a quick ride back to Tom and Megan's apartment we began eating the delicious pancakes they had made, with lots of cinnamon and clove and maple syrup. After this breakfast, we walked around in the immense park near their apartment, which is filled with a variety of mushrooms, some of which Tom and Megan have deemed probably edible.

Back in Vancouver, we went over to the Granville Island public market to pick up some bread, smoked fish, and tomatoes for the ride home. The best looking fish store had smoked sablefish, which I was excited about, but they told me it was only lightly smoked and needed to be cooked further. So, we bought some salmon instead, which turned out to be a little bit boring but still good. Before we ate this dinner on the train, we walked around Chinatown, which isn't exciting (the good Chinatown is in a suburb called Richmond, apparently). I did have a bizarre pastry, though: a century egg covered in sesame paste, wrapped up in a bun. Century eggs are preserved eggs that turn into a weird gel. I liked the combination of sweet sesame paste and egg, but the egg yolk was too sulfurous for me.

Our train ride home was nice. We ate the grapes we had brought as quickly as we could on the line for customs. On the train we ate our dinner of bread and salmon and read our books.

One of the two cats in the house where we stayed; neither one was willing to stand still.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vancouver, Day 4, 9/18/2010

Our day began with delicious croissants at Coco et Olive, with crunchy outsides and perfectly flaky insides. Eventually we made it to the University of British Columbia campus to go to the Museum of Anthropology, but by this time we were hungry and needed lunch. We weren't in a very good area for this, but we eventually found the Boulevard Coffee Roasting Co., which had some decent-looking sandwiches in the display case. I got one with scrambled egg, sun-dried tomatoes, some sort of cheese, and some sort of red pepper spread. Lindsay got one with brie and pear and walnuts. They heated the sandwiches up a bit so the cheese got a bit melty.

At the UBC Museum of Anthropology we met Sasha, who just got his PhD and a job at UBC, and his girlfriend Sheila. We apologized for how late we were and a had a good time chatting. Then we toured the museum, which had a huge collection of native art and artifacts.

After this we went to Yaletown, the trendiest part of downtown Vancouver, sort of Soho-esque in feel. Most of the streets are laid out with one side of the sidewalk about five steps up from the street. This elevated strip is filled with outdoor restaurant seating. We wandered around looking for a sushi place called Honjin our hosts had recommended. After we methodically walked back and forth down trying to cover every block in turn (which is actually fun!), we found a large map with a list of restaurants and went straight there. We had tiny dishes of spinach with with a sesame sauce, squid with a sweet soy sauce, and pickles. The spinach was good though I found the sauce a bit too peanut buttery. I liked the squid a lot: it turned out to be raw, and after a bit of chewing it would give in and feel rich and tender. The pickles were great. We also had sockeye salmon sashimi, two pieces of mackerel sushi, and a roll with some pickles vegetable inside. We had a hard time ordering because we barely know anything about Japanese food and most of the sushi was listed only with Japanese names. So, we didn't get much food at all. Also, none of the beer looked exciting, and we wanted to go somewhere else and get some, maybe with french fries. And that's what we did, at the Yaletown Brewing Co., which according to an article I read in one of those free city papers was a craft-brewing pioneer in Vancouver. The brewpub had a corporate, touristy feel, but the fries and beer were excellent. I had an IPA, and Lindsay had the seasonal Belgian Wit, and I couldn't say which was better. (Lindsay says hers!) We had a beautiful walk back over the Cambie St. bridge to get back.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vancouver, Day 3, 9/17/2010

After a leisurely morning in which we caught up on a summer's worth of sleep, we borrowed our hosts' bikes and went to Kitsilano, another district south of downtown. We parked our bikes, checked out a beach, and got some Indian food at Rangoli, the cheaper version of a fancy restaurant called Vij's. We had black chickpea fritters with tomatoes and a rice pilaf and a slaw-like cabbage salad, and blackened eggplant with curried chickpeas. The fritters were amazing, with a texture like a meatball and a perfectly spiced sauce. No spices I cook with ever taste that good and clear. The eggplant's skin was really burnt to a crisp--I never would have had the nerve to cook it like that--and it was wonderfully smokey. The chickpeas were in a sweet tomato sauce, again spiced in a way that I can't approximate. It also came with an intensely cucumbery rajta and a thin flatbread that was slightly tough but slightly buttery.

We left and wanted to read--relaxing was a big priority for us on this trip--so we stopped in a café. At first I thought they only had espresso-based drinks, but it turned out their drip coffee was just listed as "java" on the menu. Every once in a while Canada does seem like a foreign country!

We biked over a bridge and then followed signs to the seawall, a path that goes all the way around Vancouver's downtown through Stanley Park. We rode on this pretty path and eventually turned to head back to a bridge to take us home, riding through a residential neighborhood made up of high-rise apartment buildings. What should have been overwhelming somehow wasn't. For whatever reason--architects and urban planners, please explain--instead of towering above me, the buildings just felt like they happened to go up for a while.

View from the Burrard St. bridge.

Despite Vancouver's excellent bike infrastructure, the ride to the Cambie St. bridge was a little bit scary. Biking unfamiliar routes in traffic is just never pleasant. One thing that made me feel better was a biker who merged in front of me and then biked all the way to the bridge with no hands, while I nervously gripped my bike's brakes. At one point he started waving his hands around like he was doing very relaxed calisthenics. It was weird.

Once we were back, we looked up some bus schedules and headed back to Granville Island to see a Fringe Festival play and meet our friends Tom and Megan who just moved around here. The buses were great: they had a dedicated lane, the seats are placed so that people can get on and off quickly, an LED display gives the next stop, and they seem to run often. We are beginning to annoy ourselves with all our talk about how great Vancouver is compared to Seattle.

We went walking around with Tom and Megan after the show looking for a place to get a snack. Nothing looked appropriate, and eventually we walked into a fancy supermarket called Capers that also sold prepared food and had a place to sit. After we went in we discovered it was a disguised Whole Foods! (Actual comment from the Yelp page of Capers: "Yup, I was a bit sad when the Canadian version of Whole Foods actually got taken over by Whole Foods...") Nevertheless we bought a loaf of bread, a piece of hard goat cheese, and some Concord grapes (which were seedless--I didn't know such a thing existed). We had a nice dinner of this, discussed the saga of Tom and Megan's pet snake that was refused entrance to Canada (it will be able to join them in a few weeks), and took the bus back to the house. Tom and Megan stayed on the bus and caught the SkyTrain back to where they live outside of Vancouver.

Vancouver, Day 2, 9/16/2010

We're staying in a house south of downtown. The owners are a couple who sometimes rent out their extra bedroom on They're wonderful people, and they picked us up from the train station when we arrived yesterday. Their house is full of art and books and two cats who we tried and failed to photograph. One of them hides, and the other never stops moving.

The house we stayed at.

In the morning we walked over a bridge to get downtown. Along the way we saw a lot of bike infrastructure.

Bikes going the wrong way, legally.

We walked around the center of downtown, which like most downtowns is full of skyscrapers and expensive shopping. Unlike downtown Seattle, it's also full of people.

By lunchtime we had made it to the outskirts of Gastown and Chinatown. We had lunch at a place called Medina, where we ate delicious open face sandwiches. Mine were two variations of smoked salmon with herbed cream cheese: the first was topped with lightly dressed arugula and sweet cherry tomatoes, and the second with slices of avocado and a fried egg, sunny side up. Lindsay's dish was four (four!) different little open faced sandwiches: Moroccan carrots with raisins, grilled haloumi cheese (some sort of soft cheese that can be cooked without melting completely), tabouleh, and beets.

In the afternoon we took a terrible route over a long and ugly bridge to Granville Island to go the farmers market and the public market, a Pike Place Market-esque collection of food vendors. I made a mental note to return for smoked fish. We sat around reading and watching seagulls make funny noises before taking an exhausting walk back to the house.

After some rest, we went to a nearby restaurant called the Cascade Room. From the extraordinarily dim lighting we could tell it was a hip spot. I had a Main St. Pilsner that was great; very clean and toasty. I also had duck breast with shiitake mushrooms and gai lan, which is the same as Chinese broccoli. I mostly had pieces of stem, which were like massive asparagus stalks with leaves. Duck breast as usual was great. Lindsay had wonderful mushroom and paneer strudel on a pile of curried lentils. For dessert we shared cinnamon and chile crème brûlée. Then we went back to the house and ate a tiny melon we had bought at the farmers market earlier that day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vancouver, Day 1, 9/15/2010

Lindsay and I hurried to King Street Station soon after her last prelim to catch the train to Vancouver. I called my father to wish him a happy birthday. We were in a celebratory mood, and once we got going we indulged ourselves with some $5.50 bottles of beer to go with our dinner of bread, baba ghanouj (leftover from our housewarming party), and Romano beans with tomato sauce, whose recipe follows:

  • 1 pound Romano beans, stem ends trimmed, cut in half so they're not so long
  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • lots of basil leaves, chopped
  • little splash of white wine
  • copious olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Heat the garlic in the olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-low heat while you prepare the beans. When you've finished cutting off their ends and chopping them up, toss them in the skillet with a bit of salt and pepper. Core the tomatoes and chop them roughly, putting them in a colander inside a mixing bowl and salting them lightly as you put them in, to help draw our their liquid. As you're preparing the tomatoes, periodically hold the colander over the pot of beans and push on the tomatoes to try to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Turn the heat up on the beans to keep this liquid simmering. Keep pressing out as much liquid as can, and let this liquid reduce until it's a thick syrup (this will take a long time, especially if you use a narrow pot). At this point the Romano beans will be quite tender, but go ahead and add the wine and the diced tomatoes, and cook for another five minutes. Let this cool (or put the pot in a bowl of ice water if you need to go catch a train), adjust the seasoning, and add tons of chopped basil. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Potato Roasting in Great Detail

After a pleasant visit from my parents with lots of exciting food, I made a very simple dinner of roast potatoes with pesto. The combination (born of a need to use up some basil) is good, but what I want to share is my current potato roasting technique. Everybody cooks this, so chime in if you've got a nice method. The basic summary of what I do: low heat until they're cooked through, high heat for ten minutes or so. It's not really worthy of being called a recipe, but if it makes my potatoes crunchier it's good for something.

  • potatoes in 1-inch chunks (or anything sized consistently)
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, rosemary

Put the potatoes in a large pan, or in multiple large pans, so that they're in a single layer and not completely packed up against each other. Mix them up with the oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Put in a 350 degree oven until the potatoes are soft. It's okay if they're not done to the point that you could eat them happily, but you should be able to eat them. This takes me 40-60 minutes, depending on the potatoes and the oven and mysterious forces (potatoes seem to cook faster in Lindsay's presence, for example). Ideally, try to scrape up all the potatoes from the pan every 15 minutes or so; a metal spatula works best. Turn the heat up to 450 and cook the potatoes until they're golden, which should take 10-15 minutes. Stir them once or twice and check on them when you do.

You can vary the seasoning and the fat. In the winter something like garam masala is nice instead of rosemary. Other pleasant fats include peanut oil, lard, and duck fat, and even a totally neutral oil like canola makes delicious potatoes. I would have thought that more oil meant crispier potatoes, but in my experience it hasn't been true. If the potatoes end up dried out, or if you're just in a hurry, try roasting at 375 and 475 instead of 350 and 450. You really can't go wrong whatever you do.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Iron Horse 509

Iron Horse Brewery, 509 Style
Session Ale
Ellensburg, WA
5.0% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

A beer with a really simple taste: the best description I could come up with was "citrusy", but that's an exaggeration. It has barely any aftertaste. All this makes it sound bad, but I really liked it. Being refreshing and having no flaws is enough.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Tomatillo Dressing

I have been cooking for myself for (almost exactly!) five years. Tomatillos only entered my kitchen about a month ago. The first thing I made was the green chile at my housewarming party. The second was a sauce that left my pasta looking totally bare, but which tasted fine, since tomatillos are amazingly concentrated. The most recent was a salad dressing to use up the three little leftover tomatillos. It's been a real Columbian explosion. For enough dressing for a salad for two to six people:

  • 3 (or fewer) little tomatillos
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt, pepper

Take the husks off the tomatillos and wash off their slimy skins (I have no idea if this is necessary). Put them in a 450 degree oven in a roasting pan and cook until they start getting charred on the top, about 10-15 minutes. When they're cool enough to handle, blend them up in some way. Or you could just mush them up; you'll get some chunks, but that's fine. Add a decent amount of olive oil and a dollop of honey (maybe a teaspoon, but any amount would be fine), and you will an excellent salad dressing. It's nice if the salad has cucumbers in it, like this one does:

A salad with cucumbers and tomatillo dressing.

If you were making a salad with, say, a vinaigrette, you probably wouldn't want to drench it in dressing. With this dressing feel free. Nothing bad will befall your lettuce.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Our housewarming party lived up to its name: 20 people, lots of baking, and the rare 90 degree Seattle day meant it was hot. Here's the menu:

  • Green chile (pork and tomatillos)
  • Red curry with tofu and string beans
  • Baba ghanouj
  • Tomato and bread salad
  • Kale with peanut butter
  • Various breads, plus some naan from dough which was to be bread but came out much too wet
  • Blueberry buckle
  • Homemade honey wine

A housewarming present.

Lindsay shapes a pretty loaf.

The honey wine was fizzy and sweet, and it had a faint mint flavor. My guess is that it was something like 3 or 4% alcohol. Next time I'll let it ferment in my closet until it's dry.

Honey wine with a slice of lime.

I finished up my calculus class and Lindsay finished up hers; our students did pretty well. Things are calm now, as illustrated by this still life:

After Lindsay's prelims in September, we will rush off on the train to Vancouver. Any restaurant (or other) recommendations?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Apartment in Order and Apricot Sorbet

It's hard to make an apartment look neat in pictures! (Or in person, for that matter.)

I thought our place was looking tidy, but what I notice first in this picture is the precarious pillow. What I notice second is the cables. Last I see all the things I like about our apartment, like the vast windows and the staircase behind our kitchen table.

Our bedroom comes off a little bit better:

My favorite part of the apartment is the kitchen, which Lindsay and I have kept busy improving. If you look out the door in the bedroom picture, you can see a spice rack that we put up. This picture is what you see if you walk out that door and turn right:

This is what we've been eating for dessert lately:

Lindsay made the cake. It's a perfectly executed Reine de Saba cake from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The stuff on the side is an apricot sorbet that I adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe for cherry ice. I traded apricots for cherries, roasted them, and put the whole thing in an ice cream maker. Here's the recipe.

  • 2 pounds apricots
  • juice from 1/4 lime
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tbs. honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Tear each apricot in half (along the seam, of course!) and lay them in a single layer in a roasting pan, torn side up. Put them in a 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until they start to brown in spots. Remove them, let them cool a bit, and turn them into mush by whatever method suits your fancy. I used an immersion blender, but even a potato masher should do a decent job. Add the remaining ingredients and taste. You might need to add more honey. Remember that it will be less sweet when you freeze it, and so it should really taste sweeter than you think is right. Let it cool off for a few hours in the fridge, or for thirty minutes in the freezer if you're really impatient like I was, and freeze in a quart-sized ice cream maker. It's soft but still great after this, and after an hour in the freezer it will really be terrific. It stays reasonably soft in the freezer, probably due to all the wine in it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Apartment in Disarray

I spent last month moving into a new apartment with Lindsay. Here's our bedroom the day of the move:

The living room was also a mess:

It's been fun watching it turn into a lovely place. I'll take some more flattering pictures tomorrow afternoon when the sunlight drifts through our living room windows (they face south). For now, here's a good look at me and our shower curtain.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Pike Dry Wit

Pike Brewing Co., Dry Wit
White ale brewed with spices
Seattle, WA
5.0% Alcohol
Rating: 5/5

A fizzy, tart beer. It's not very bitter or hoppy. If Seattle manages a hot day anytime soon, it would be lovely to sit outside and drink it.

Quinoa and Tofu

Quinoa and tofu sounds like a parody of bad vegetarian food. Let us rescue it from the scourge of blandness by loading it up with all the new summer vegetables and seasoning heavily. Lindsay and I did this together, and out of it we got a terrific dinner, a few lunch portions, and the pleasure of using up some of our CSA vegetables (I'm talking about you, aging chard).

I used some dry, marinated tofu from our friendly local tofu factory. I marinated it some more anyway, so it seems reasonable to start with a typical block of tofu, press out as much liquid as possible, and then marinate that. It would be nice to serve this dish cold, but I didn't plan ahead, so I put it in a bowl in a bigger bowl of ice water to cool it down to room temperature quickly.

Pretty red and yellow tomatoes, no?

  • 1 cup (dry) quinoa
  • 3 blocks of dry tofu from Northwest Tofu, or most or all of a normal packet of tofu, in rough cubes
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut roughly into cubes
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into cubes
  • 1 large spring onion (or normal onion), with green part (or with some scallions), chopped
  • 5 chard leaves, stems separated, coursely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbs. peanut oil
  • salt, pepper
  • marinade for tofu (see below)

For the marinade, you don't need to be at all precise, and I wasn't. Here's a very rough estimate, but substitute freely and use your own judgment:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs. mirin
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • lots of grated ginger
  • a bit of onion, minced finely
  • 1 clove green garlic (or normal garlic), minced finely
  • star anise, coriander, cardamom, or other spices of your choosing

Put the marinade over the tofu and let it sit out for an hour or so, giving it an occasional stir so that all of the tofu gets to spend some time immersed in liquid. Cook the quinoa with 2 cups water and some salt. Heat up the peanut oil over medium heat in a pan and cook the onion for a minute or two with a bit of salt so that it loses its edge but maintains its crunch. (I hope that as I age, I lose my edge but maintain my crunch.) Remove from heat into a large bowl. In the same pan, cook the chard stems, adding a bit of water, and after two minutes add the leaves and some salt, turn of the heat and give it a stir or two until the leaves wilt. Add to the bowl with the onions. Let these things cool or take action to make them do so. Then add the quinoa, the tofu with its marinade, the cucumber, the tomatoes, and the juice of a half lemon. Add some pepper, add more soy sauce or vinegar or whatever if necessary, and serve.

Epic Ales Simply Summer Ale

Epic Ales, Simply Summer Ale
Seattle, WA
4.9% Alcohol
Rating: 3/5

It's a plain beer with a sort of soapy aftertaste (it just tastes weird, not contaminated).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sugar Snap Peas with Morels and Mint

Yesterday Lindsay and I cooked dinner for her mother: halibut with Chimichurri sauce, a lettuce and tomato salad with croutons flavored with oregano from Lindsay's yard, and the snap pea dish that gives this post its title. We didn't take a picture of the snap peas, so here's another fish picture to keep everyone satisfied:

Why didn't we take a picture? It's because the peas were the very last thing on the table, after the camera was put away. This was because I completely forgot about them until the fish was almost done. But there was no disaster, since this dish only takes about 10 minutes. All I did was take something that my mother cooks and make the Northwestern addition of morels. For a side dish for four people:

  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, tops and strings snapped off
  • 1/4 pound morels, chopped very coarsely
  • 5 mint leaves, minced or chiffonaded
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. peanut oil
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • salt, pepper

Heat a very large skillet over very high heat with 1 tbs. of the peanut oil. When it's really hot, add the peas and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and leave them alone for about a minute, until they've blistered and browned. Flip them over and cook them for another 30 seconds, giving them an occasional shake. Add 1 tsp. soy sauce, stir, and remove the peas to a serving dish. Put the pan back on the heat and cook the morels the exact same way (another tbs. of oil, another tsp. of soy sauce). Add the mushrooms to the serving dish. Add the rice vinegar, the mint, and a shake of coarse, crunchy salt if you have some.

Dogfish Head Festina Pêche

Dogfish Head, Festina Pêche
Neo-Berliner Weisse brewed with peaches
Milton, DE
4.5% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

This has a good, dry, peachy flavor (and I usually hate fruit beers). It's got a sharp, acidic tang to it.

Alaskan Raspberry Wheat

Alaskan Brewing Co., Raspberry Wheat
Juneau, AK
6.5% Alcohol
Rating: 2/5

Yick. The raspberry flavor is powerful and not good.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Epic Ales Terrasaurus

Epic Ales, Terrasaurus
Ale brewed with shiitake mushrooms
Seattle, WA
4.5% Alcohol
Rating: 5/5

This is such a weird, delicious beer. The mushrooms give it a rich flavor, sort of like coffee. For its depth it's incredibly light and it never tires you out.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thursday Night Halibut

Time for another installment of Thursday night fish pictures by Lindsay!

Today's dinner was Alaskan halibut roasted atop potatoes sliced so thin that some of them became chips. The baked potato chips that you buy in a store don't taste as good, though, since they usually aren't drenched in olive oil.

For two people:
  • 2/3 pound fillet of halibut
  • 1 pound potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible (something like 1/8 inch or smaller)
  • 3 heads green garlic, or a few scallions, chopped
  • lots of olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Pat the halibut dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Put the potatoes in one layer (or as close as possible) in a roasting pan with some salt and a lot of oil. Roast at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on the potatoes. Flip them and cook for about another 10-15 minutes, getting them good and browned, and adding more oil if you want. You'll turn the heat down when you start cooking the fish, so don't worry too much about burning them. When they look basically ready to eat, plop the halibut down in the middle of the pan, toss the green garlic on top, and sprinkle some more olive oil over the fish. Turn the heat down to 400 and put the pan back in the oven until the halibut is just cooked through, which took me a bit over 10 minutes. I'm not sure whether fish needs to rest like meat does, but I suspect a few minutes patience will only improve things.

Iron Horse Ginger Hefeweizen

Iron Horse Brewery, High Five Hefe
Hefeweizen brewed with ginger
Ellensburg, WA
6% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

I went to the Iron Horse Brewery tasting a few couple weeks ago at Bottleworks. It was Saturday and the store was packed. A guy was there from Iron Horse to pour the samples, and he really liked talking about the beer. This meant that the only way to avoid a painfully long wait was to go immediately back to the end of the line after you get your beer. So, I spent my afternoon drinking beer while walking in a large circle.

The hefeweizen was their lightest beer. It has a real ginger flavor without being sweet, and it's a fun, simple beer.

Deschutes Red Chair Pale Ale

Deschutes Brewery Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale
Bend, OR
6.4% Alcohol
Rating: 3/5

Recently it has come to my attention that I rate every beer four. This is a natural thing: the beers I buy are all pretty good, but they're rarely perfect. It definitely makes for a stupid system, though. I thought about rating the beers on a scale of 3.0-4.0--this would satisfy my desire to give everything a decent rating and would match up with the grades for graduate math classes at the University of Washington--but here's what I've settled on: five for perfect, four for excitingly good, three for boringly good, two for PBR, and one if it gives me food poisoning.

This pale ale was good, but I probably wouldn't get it again. It's not at all bland, especially for a pale ale, but I found it a little bit too piney. In any event I think they finished brewing it in April, when I bought six that I still haven't finished.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Russian River Damnation

Russian River Damnation
Belgian Golden Ale
Santa Rosa, CA
7.0% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

It was good, but it was no Pliny the Elder! It smelled amazing, with all the complexity that you'd want in a golden ale, but the taste fell a little bit short. Still, a delicious beer. Maybe I was supposed to age it or something?

Use for Stale Bagels

This is a weird little dessert that I put together when I had some giant, stale poppy bagels. It's a bread pudding, spiffed up with some nuts and spices and the poppy seeds from the bagels. If your bagels aren't giant ones from New York, you might need to use two. Even though the quantities in here sound small, it should be plenty for four people.

  • 1 1/2 stale poppy bagels (or 1 bagel plus some bread, or something similar)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half
  • 2 tbs. butter and some for greasing the pan
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala or similar spice mixture
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus an extra spoonful
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbs. rum
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and then ground roughly (use a food processor)
  • 1/4 cup shelled salted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup halvah, chopped into walnut-sized bits (not really essential)

Heat your oven to 325 degrees and grease a small casserole dish or cake pan with butter. Tear the bagels up into pieces; these should be about the size of grapes, but it's nice to have some variation to get a range of textures. Put these in the casserole dish with the halvah and pistachios. Heat up the milk, rum, butter, cinnamon, garam masala, salt, and the 1/4 cup sugar just until the butter is melted. Pour this over the bagels into the casserole dish. Sprinkle the ground walnuts on top, and then sprinkle a spoonful of sugar on top of this. Bake until a knife put in at the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Delicious Fish Pictures

Photographer extraordinaire Lindsay took some excellent pictures of our dinner yesterday.

It was Pacific cod with Chimichurri sauce. I got the recipe for the sauce from Simply Recipes and it's very good; use a food processor when you make it. For the fish, I just sauteed a half pound fillet of cod in olive oil over medium-high heat for about three or four minutes per side. It stuck to the pan about as much as it could (it's a very finicky pan!), so I deglazed it with some white wine to salvage the delicious little bits. Here's another view:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hale's Ales Kölsch

Hale's Ales, Kölsch German Style Ale
Seattle, WA
4.5% Alcohol
Rating: 3/5

Yesterday Lindsay and I went to a tasting at Bottleworks, where we tasted five beers from Hale's Ales for one dollar! The first one was their Kölsch, which they said was like a Pilsner but more flavorful. This description was dead-on, but I found these extra flavors slightly funky, even though it was still a nice beer. On the other hand, Lindsay thought it was great, so it's definitely worth a look, especially if you're tired of IPAs and the like.

Snoqualmie Falls Belgian Grand Cru

Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company, Spring Fever Belgian Style Grand Cru Ale
Snoqualmie, WA
7.0% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

It's brewed with coriander. Their label says it has overtones of pineapple, and it's actually true! It reminds me of the Austrian wheat beers I used to drink when I was in Hungary. Very pleasant and refreshing.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Beet Primer, part 2: the nuts and beets of things

These recipes combine beets with nuts. I was planning to write some filler about how nuts and beets complement each other, but I don't really think they do. They're both earthy and almost dirty tasting. Sometimes there are more important things than balance!

Since the nuts will provide so much flavor, these are good recipes to use the easier but inferior method of beet cookery mentioned in my previous article, which I'll summarize:

If the beets are really dirty, rinse them a bit, but don't worry too much about it. Put them in a pan, tops cut off but otherwise whole and unpeeled, with a splash of water and a bit of salt. Cover and put in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour, depending on the size of the beets. Pierce them with knife to check if they're done. You can put them in the fridge for later or use them right away. When you're ready, peel the beets by holding them under running water and sloughing off the skin. Then chop to desired size.

Here are the recipes. I'm leaving them imprecise because measuring when you make these would be like weighing your lettuce when you make a salad.

Beets with Pecans
  • cooked beets in 1-inch cubes
  • pecans
  • olive oil
  • rice vinegar
  • salt, pepper

Toast the pecans in a dry cast iron pan over medium heat, giving them an occasional shake. When they've browned a bit, combine them with the beets, pour on some oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss. This is also good with a little bit of honey, especially if the beets aren't very sweet.

Beets with pistachios
  • beets
  • tahini sauce
  • pistachios

If you don't have any tahini sauce, make some. (I just mixed up some tahini paste with a clove of crushed garlic, some cumin, salt, tons of lemon juice, and some water to thin it.) Toast some (shelled!) pistachios, and combine with the beets and tahini dressing.

Arugula and Beet Salad with Pine Nuts
  • beets
  • arugula
  • pine nuts
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Toast the pine nuts. Shake up lemon juice and olive oil in a jar, pour it over the beets, pine nuts, and arugula, and toss along with Parmesan. This one is nice with warm beets, so that the arugula wilts a bit.

Lazy Boy IPA

Lazy Boy Brewing, India Pale Ale
Everett, WA
6.2% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

A clean, fresh-tasting IPA. An excellent beer for your everyday drinking.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chicken with Spices and Sweet Potatoes

I thought of this right before I fell asleep one night last week. I'd say it was of divine origin, but actually I got the idea from Bill Buford's book Heat, which talks about a pre-Columbian Italian recipe of meat cooked with sweet red wine, orange zest, and spices. Here I've taken this and adulterated it with some post-1492 tomatoes and sweet potatoes. The recipe is slow, but it's really simple. Brown the chicken, braise the chicken, and then when you're close to done, add some sweet potatoes and carrots.

  • 2 chicken legs, split into drumsticks and thighs
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • half a 28oz can of tomatoes (or a smaller can), crushed
  • zest of an orange
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, preferably the white kind, in 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 heaping tsp. honey
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat up 2 tbs. oil over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken on both sides. When you're done with this, remove the chicken, turn the heat down and cook the onions for about ten minutes with another tablespoon of olive oil, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken back to the pot along with the orange zest, spices, tomato, wine, and some salt. Bring the heat back up to get this simmering, and then put a lid slightly ajar on top of the pot and turn the heat to low. (If you're using a dutch oven, you might try cooking this in the oven at maybe 300 or 325 degrees.) Cook for an hour, adding more wine if it needs it (though it probably won't). Add the honey, carrots, and sweet potatoes, and cook until these are tender, another 20-30 minutes. If the dish is still liquidy, remove the lid and turn the heat up to dry it up a bit. Serve with bread.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spaghetti with Sardines, Almonds, and Orange

Lately sardines have been much in the news. The last American sardine cannery is closing. Mark Bittman is cooking with sardines, and he encourages you to try too. A kind person has published this ranking of sardines that I found here. Now it's time for my contribution to the sardine genre. My recommendation is to buy sardines packed in olive oil. I've never actually eaten the ones packed in water, but if I were a fish doomed to spend a year in a dark can surrounded by liquid, I would want it to be olive oil. The distinguishing thing about this recipe is the almonds and orange zest. I got the idea from a restaurant review that claimed this was some famous chef's signature move, but I can't remember whose or find the review. This recipe only takes 40 minutes or so, and it serves two or three people depending on what else you're having.

  • 1/2 pound pasta
  • 1 can sardines without bones, packed in olive oil (mine was 85 grams, not counting the can)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 dried mild chilies, crushed up (or some red pepper flakes)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • zest of an orange
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs. oil, plus the oil from the sardine can
  • salt, pepper

Put on a pot of salty water, and start cooking the spaghetti as soon as it comes to a boil. Heat a small pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat and put the almond slices in it to toast. Shake them up from time to time and keep a close eye on them. Take them out when they start turning brown, and add the orange zest to them.

Meanwhile, start cooking the onion in a large skillet over medium heat with the olive oil and some salt and pepper, stirring occasionally. Add the chilies. Cook the onion until it softens up and browns a bit, 10-15 minutes. Add the sardines and their oil, mush them up a bit, and cook them till they're heated through. Add the lemon juice and some more pepper. Mix all of this with the cooked spaghetti, add the almonds with the zest, and serve with Parmesan (or without).

Hale's Ales Kölsch

Hale's Ales, Irish Style Nut Brown Ale
Seattle, WA
5.3% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

This is my favorite beer from Hale's Ales yet. It has a nice malty flavor for an ale.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Beet Primer, part 1

In part 1 of this series of survey articles on beets, we will discuss various methods of basic beet preparation and their advantages. In part 2, we will demonstrate how these methods can be applied to create dishes featuring beets. In part 3, we will discuss the concentration of measure phenomenon, which in its ubiquity surely relates to beets.

The different methods of beet preparation can be broken into three classes: boiling, steaming, and roasting. Another technique worthy of consideration is to leave the beets raw (which can be thought of as the empty preparation). This will be discussed in part 2, but for now we limit ourselves to the three aforementioned classes.

Let us focus our attention on each of these in turn. The most traditional method of boiling beets is to bring a pot of water to a boil, typically by use of a stove, and then to place the beets in the water until they are cooked through. Thus cooked, the beets can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for a week or so. A variant of this technique is to cook the beets in a flavorful broth, along with other ingredients, thereby making a soup. We will neglect the former of these techniques in our article, and we will delay our discussion of the latter until part 2.

Steaming can be done in several ways. The next two methods are often classified as roasting, but as neither of them caramelize the beets, it is more accurate to call them steaming. The simplest and most reliable is to put the beets whole and unpeeled in a roasting pan with a small amount (perhaps 1/4 cup) salted water, cover the pan, and cook at 400 degrees. If the beets are quite dirty, it is advisable to give them a quick wash. As they will later be peeled, it is not necessary to be thorough, but leaving them completely unwashed may impart a dirty flavor. Depending on their size, they will need to be cooked from 45 to 75 minutes, with 60 being typical.

Another method of steaming often found in the literature is to wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and then to place these in a 400 degree oven. It is commonly asserted that this method minimizes work, as the beets can be stored still wrapped in their foil in the refrigerator. In practice, though, this method is more trouble than it is worth. Even though they will later be peeled, the beets must be scrubbed well or they taste dirty all the way through. Despite all the foil, they still need to be placed in a pan, since invariably they drip sticky beet juice (especially when you cut into them to see if they are done). If put in the refrigerator in the foil, they will drip and stain your lovely, clean refrigerator purple, and then you will leave it dirty for the next three months as you wait for a good time to clean it up, all the while infuriating your roommates. Clearly, this is a method best avoided.

Last, we discuss roasting. This differs from the other methods in that the beets must first be peeled and chopped. Then, they are placed in a roasting pan with some salt, pepper, and fat, typically olive oil. Herbs and spices may also be placed in the pan. The pan is then covered and placed in the oven for thirty minutes, after which the cover is removed and the beets are cooked for about twenty minutes longer. In this stage they must be stirred occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan and to ensure they brown evenly, and care must be taken that they do not burn.

Out of these methods, there are really only two worth considering: steaming in a covered pan and roasting. The first of these offers unparalleled ease, leaving you with enough time to prepare another dish or write a treatise on, say, the chopping of carrots. In particular, after the beets are cooked with this method, it is child's play to peel off their skin under cold running water. In terms of taste, this method falls short of roasting but still performs adequately. You would probably not want to eat the resulting beets plain (unless you are a real beet aficionado), but when combined with other ingredients and some sort of dressing, they suffice.

The roasting technique, on the other hand, is by far the most laborious. The beets must be peeled, chopped, and carefully washed. But it makes by far the most delicious beets. They brown, and their natural sugars turn into something complex and beguiling. Beets cooked in this way can always be used in place of steamed beets with better results, and they are also delicious eaten plain, perhaps with some rice. They are perhaps worse for storing in the fridge, as they are already chopped and hence don't keep as well. In addition, much of their toasty flavor is diminished when cold.

Thus ends part 1 of our article on beet cookery. To summarize, the steaming method is the least work and it gives good results. Much time can be saved by cooking a large batch of beets in this manner and storing them in the refrigerator for later use. The roasting method is the most work, but it offers powerful deliciousness. In part 2, we will give ideas for what to do with beets cooked in these ways, as well as offer up some recipes that avoid such methods of beet cookery entirely. Stay tuned for more excitement.