Friday, April 13, 2012

Beef: Go big or go home

I know! I know! I can hear it now.  What about Forks over Knives?!  What about eating less meat?   What about... ?   Let me just say this: SHUT UP!   Is that not a gorgeous, sexy hunk of beef?  Did I eat beef that night? Listen, you are not the boss of me. I savored every bite. I savored every moment of a beautiful evening in the lap of luxury cooking like a very wealthy caveman. 

My friends have an outdoor fireplace (situated right next to their outdoor wood-fired pizza oven) it all just  makes me want to camp. Those who know me know my motto is "I love NOT camping". So, that gives you an inkling of how wonderful that outdoor fireplace is. Or maybe it's the great company that is always around that fireplace. I always feel rich in the company of friends there.

When I think of packing it all in and getting out of rainy Dodge and heading somewhere the sun isn't afraid to show its face everyday, I think of the gatherings of friends. Oh, it's not so easy to let go of this embarrassment of riches called friends. It's not just my friends, and the food, and the landscape of this great Pacific Northwest. It's the idea of being landlocked. I don't want to be landlocked. 

I ponder the thought of making new friends somewhere sunny and warm. (not for long mind you). I have some pretty amazing friends right here. But even then, I cannot imagine replacing the beautiful waters and dramatic, constantly evolving skies of Puget Sound. Plus, I'd have to make a new friend with a boat and suddenly, I wake up from the dream and realize it's just all too much to think about today Scarlet. Besides, as I type this, the sun is out and suddenly I fall prey to that condition known as Seattle Amnesia. 
"What rain?", I say. 

And it's time to plan the next gathering. Just like that! I'm off on another subject. Since I'm sort of alluding to food for a crowd today let me tell you about that half a cow in the picture at the top of this post. 9.4 pounds of Prime Rib. It's turning and turning with the help of a kitschy piece of machinery shipped here from Italy. It's a manual (spring loaded) Rotisserie and on this particular night it was the Italian Stallion of cooking equipment. The apparatus in the fire that allows the wood to be stacked high for optimum heat was designed and constructed by my friend who owns the whole shebang. He's no slouch.  When we couldn't get near the meat to check its temperature we decided to check that beast of a fire with a laser thermometer. 
Holy fires of Hell Batman! 900 degrees!  
That roast was done in about an hour and a half. 
 I've shown pictures of the wood-fired pizza oven here before. But who can grow tired of this?

This, this is the Hemi engine of heat-producing structures. This innocent looking little cove leaves 900 degrees in its dust.  I tried baking bread in it one time (after the pizzas were done and the fire began to die down). I was not successful. It's all a part of that rules-are-guidelines philosophy. I just jumped right in and promptly fell on my ass. I would attempt it again. Different day, different dough and a new, 
shiny pair of shoes. 

Same home, different spot for cooking with fire. This place is amazing I tell you. This was dinner for a crowd of artists. What provocative conversations erupted around this pot of seafood. There were mussels, clams, shrimp, butter, wine and herbs.  

The finished product, along with oysters, fresh off the grill and a variety of grilled vegetables, met up with some hot sourdough rolls and I don't know how to say this delicately... It was pigs to trough after that. . This is the stuff that dreams are made of.  Friends around the table, the campfire, the elegant outdoor fireplace, breaking bread and sharing stories or songs... Oh, and there SHOULD be wine. 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

For Starters....

I’m wondering if I’ve ever started one of my posts here with the line “Now why don’t she write?”…
It is a line from Dances with Wolves. The wagon carrying Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) to his post has stopped on the prairie where the skeleton of an earlier traveler is discovered. The unsavory wagon driver leans over the bones and chortles “Someone back east is sayin’, “Now why don’t she write?”..
That line stuck with me.

Why DON’T I write? Certainly, it’s not for the same reason as the unfortunate westward traveler. Though, I don’t have any clever reason either.

So, let’s just get on with this..

While I am working at a fever pitch (not at all) to perfect the techniques and recipes for gluten free wonders in preparation for teaching others. While I’m in the midst of that religious experience (and if you’ve worked with gluten free products you will appreciate the SARCASM with which I refer to the GF dough and concoctions) .I am also having a love affair with my sourdough starter. Not gluten free.

I tried making a starter a few months ago and it failed. What?! Yes! I used the pineapple juice method someone referred from someone who got it from someone and it was linked to a link to another link on the internet. I’m sure it was something I did or did not do. After a week or so, I unceremoniously poured the failed “glue” down the garbage disposal, shook the flour off my feet and moved on. I gave up.

Until, about a week or two passed and I arose shaking my fist at the flour in my pantry and tried another recipe. This one, from my own library: Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook. I found a link here on the internet where someone else went to all the work to tell you how to make the starter with organic grapes. I followed this recipe and method and I am the proud, proud parent of a bubbly baby that lives uncovered in my refrigerator part time and now and then comes out for a feeding and a little warming up.

Since I’ve had a successful starter I’ve been up to all sorts of shenanigans. I discovered the lazy baker’s method of no-knead Dutch-oven sourdough. I’m bringing sexy back. Too much?

Well, let me tell you right now that I have not suddenly become the recipe toting responsible, chefie that I should be. If you’re like me at all, you’ll LOVE that about this sourdough bread recipe. If you’re not like me then you can spit in my general direction. In the words of Popeye “I yam what I yam”…

This no-knead dough is made somewhere between your last cup of coffee and after you do your lunch dishes. Or whenever the hell you feel like making it. But you won’t be baking it until after your first cup of tea the next morning. If you HAVE to go to work, toss this dough into the refrigerator and bake it when you get home from work the next day. Easy enough?

Amounts here are sort of general and that’s just how I roll. There are thousands of exacting recipes out there in recipe hell.

Sourdough Bread

1 cup of your most awesome starter
2 cups of room temperature (filtered) water
¼ tsp yeast
2 tsp. salt
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups All-Purpose Flour (maybe a little more)

Start with 1 cup of room temperature water. Sprinkle ¼ tsp of yeast over and give it a little stir. To this, stir in 1 cup of room temperature starter. Your starter likes to be stirred. I don’t know how I know this but I do. You are making your starter happy when you stir it. Now stir in the next cup of water, stir, stir, stir until you have a happy mixture.. this should not even be as thick as a batter.. it’s very liquid.
Add 1 cup of whole wheat flour. More if you like. I have found I like the texture of the bread when I use just about a cup of whole wheat. Stir, stir, stir. Add the salt now and then start adding the all-purpose flour a cup at a time. This dough is nothing you could ever begin to knead and/or shape into a loaf. It’s a thick and sticky glob of goo. Sexy goo! But goo.

When everything is combined (this process might take 10 minutes from beginning to end) cover the bowl with plastic wrap and just walk away. For a long time. Maybe 6 hours. That bubbly mass will grow and grow. I like to stir it down one more time and re-cover and then I usually go to bed or watch a movie or something that takes quite a few more hours. If I were going to be leaving in the morning and didn’t have time to bake the bread I would stir it down and re-cover it and put it in the refrigerator until I got home. Then I’d bring it back to room temperature before baking.

Heat oven to 450 degrees and put your Dutch oven (with the lid on) into the preheating oven. Leave it there for about 20 minutes and then take it out and sprinkle a little cornmeal in the Dutch oven to prevent the bread from sticking. Pour in the dough as though you could care less what the outcome will be. Do not fuss over this. Put the lid on, put it in the oven and set your timer for 30 minutes. Go put on something sexy like mascara and a bib for the melting butter that drips when you’re eating a hot slice of sourdough.

After 30 minutes remove the lid to the Dutch oven and return it to the oven for an addition 15 minutes to finish browning.

After 15 minutes turn the bread out onto a cooling rack and resist the urge to rip it open and start eating.

The bread will be moist and dense and yes, sexy.

I recently found a cheese at Trader Joe's that is a blend of Gruyere and White Cheddar, please, please, please rescue me from this cheese! It just begged to be paired with this bread for a grown-up grilled cheese and some roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Go ahead Spring, act as though you're winter. I've got my game on here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When you have too much Saffron

This is what I’m talking about! This is the thing that Sunday Dinners are made of.
Not that Sunday Dinners have been infrequent. In fact they have been more and more frequent. I just haven’t been living in the present and viewing our gatherings with an eye to share them with you.

The last few weeks I have felt like I’ve emerged from a deep sleep or a heavy fog. I’m getting back on track and holy laugh-until-it-hurts Batman; I’ve got some funny friends!

I threw a big post-holiday bash and was amazed at what a great blend of friends I have. Most all of them are foodies in one way or another, even if being a foodie just means appreciating great food. So many of them are just carrying around a pent up chef waiting for the right occasion to wow their friends and a post-holiday bash was just the thing to scratch that itch.

I went to a pirate party with my best friend, who was festooned as a wench.

She took to the stage (yes, there was a stage) and belted out a Buffet song like she was born to wear a corset and sing while doing so. I was kissed on the lips by a very OLD pirate. And I picked up a few pirate tips and lyrics that will find their way onto Spill the Wine, the love of my life, when we sail again soon.

There were nine of us this night as we converged on Chris and Nancy’s house for a meal that we once again deemed, “The BEST dinner ever”… We say that every time. But it doesn’t matter!! At that moment it is the BEST dinner ever. It does get loud and raucous and there is a lot of wine consumed. Wait, and this is a problem?

Chris roasted chickens on his big green egg. Perfect! Beautiful! I dare you to not want to take a bite! Moist and tender and perfectly cooked. He has quite the geek system with computer and probes and fans and … well, if I didn’t know him as well as I do I’d consider him the nutty professor of grilling. Whatever he makes is always the star of the show and these girls were no exception. Dressed to the nines in nothing but bronze they made you want to stand up and sing.

I had to refer back to my own post in 2009 when I made Saffron Pappardelle. I wanted to make it again for this dinner. I learned that not only do I not like to use recipes but when I do I don’t record important information like yields and amounts. Anyway, it all worked out and it was fun making the pasta. Nancy had just purchased some mushroom base for me at Big John’s PFI (Pacific Food Importers) in Seattle. I used that along with a hefty amount of crimini mushrooms, sherry, shallots, garlic and a little kiss of cream to make a sauce for the pasta. Unfortunately, my intention had been to reduce the sauce
down but the saltiness of the base forbid me to do so. I made a slurry and kept my fingers crossed that the saltiness would balance out when combined with the pasta. I personally couldn’t get past the saltiness but no one complained. A lesson learned. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making pasta by hand you might want to use a stock for the sauce that you’ve also made from scratch. If you want great results you MUST use great products. Sigh.

We tossed some cauliflower in olive oil that had been infused with saffron and dusted it with kosher salt and pepper. That roasted about 20 minutes at 425 degrees and what emerged were golden nuggets of sweetness. So yummy.

Finally, Peter made a wonderful salad of spinach, candied bacon, red onions and hard cooked eggs. It was simply delightful tossed with a slightly warm vinaigrette that he had also made. We moaned, we laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I have made this chocolate pave recipe numerous times. Mostly for holiday events. And because there is one more holiday coming up I thought I'd share a little chocolate love. Bonus!: It doesn't require baking!

This is a Thomas Keller recipe that was given to me by a pastry chef where I used to work. It's beautiful, simple, decadent and elegant (and gluten free!). And did I mention it doesn't require baking? I have never taken the time to take a picture of this but it doesn't hang around long for the camera either. The recipe says it serves 14 but I say it serves twice as many. With a quenelle of fresh cream a tiny slice will more than do.

One last note: The recipe calls for a 12x4x3" terrine mold. If you don't have one I'm sure something else would suffice. I have a beautiful red cast iron enamel mold that was a gift. I enjoy every chance to use it.

Chocolate Pave

12 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (64% Guayaquil suggested)

8 ½ Ounces Unsalted Butter (Plugra suggested)

8 Large Egg Yolks

4 Egg Whites

1 1/3 Cups Powdered Sugar

1/3 Cup Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder

4 ½ Ounces Heavy Cream

2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

  • · Spray a 12x4x3” Terrine mold and line with plastic wrap. Take the time to press all the air bubbles and creases out of the plastic.
  • · Sift powdered sugar with the cocoa and set aside
  • · Whisk cream to soft peaks and set aside in refrigerator
  • · Whisk egg whites to soft peaks adding granulated sugar gradually, set aside.
  • · Melt chocolate and butter in a bain marie, remove from heat and cool slightly until warm to the touch
  • · Stir whisked egg yolks into the chocolate mixture until well combined
  • · Stir in cocoa powder and powdered sugar until well combined
  • · Fold in whipped egg whites until well combined
  • · Fold in whipped cream until well combined
  • · Pour into prepared terrine mold, cover with plastic and refrigerate.

The terrine can be frozen at this point. If not freezing then refrigerate for 8 hours. Unmold the terrine and dust with cocoa powder. Score with marks for cutting. You can decorate with ganache rosettes if you like.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Speaking of Chanterelles

I haven’t met a mushroom I didn’t like. I have met some mistreated mushrooms, who, out of no fault of their own, ended up slimy as a result of poor preparation. But those are the few, and hopefully forgotten.

After my disastrous fail with mac n’ cheese I’ve walked lightly and thought carefully about what I want to cook and how I want it to turn out.

I ran across some recently foraged Chanterelle mushrooms at my local market yesterday. What to do… what to do.

I am finding I need to plan a little ahead when it comes to cooking without meat. I need to busy my knife skills and soak beans or grains the night before. So when the fancy strikes I’m in the ready. I soaked some barley overnight. I’ve never done that before but had read somewhere that it was a good thing to do.

I decided to let those Chanterelles star in the show with the barley. It sounded like a perfect match. I’m happy to report it was! Barley-Mushroom “Risotto”. Comfort food wearing no disguise.

I used Crimini, white and Chanterelle mushrooms and cut them large and chunky. I added them to some finely diced onion I had sautéed in olive oil. I threw in a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some fresh thyme. I let the magic get all worked up in that pan over a moderately high heat. When the color and texture became caramelized I removed the mixture and set it aside. Then I added more finely diced onion to the pan with a little olive oil. I cooked the onions to translucent and added a cup of drained barley. I “toasted” the barley over the same moderately high heat for a few minutes. Then I lowered the heat to about medium and added a cup of white wine, stirring until it was almost all absorbed by the barley. Then I began feeding the grain a ladle at a time of warm mushroom stock. I added some fresh thyme leaves and red pepper flakes to this mixture and decided to start a pot of veggie soup between stirring and adding stock.

When I got to the end of the cooking process (about an hour later) I added the mushroom mixture back in along with a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley. I topped mine with a tiny bit of vegan parmesan. I needed that zing. If you prefer to use cheese be sure to use a good Reggiano.

I do love fall. But I long for summer and in Seattle summer hardly remains long enough to build a friendship. Wrapping my mind around fall is made easier in the presence of good comfort food.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

In the absence of cheese....

There’s no gentle way to put this. I gave up meat. Animal products actually. That’s right. I can’t candy-coat this one. All these years I’ve said how much I love vegans and that they taste like chicken … now… here I am.

I’m still holding out on eggs though. I mean it’s un-American isn’t it? To deny a farm fresh egg every now and then? You are not the boss of me. If I want an egg I’ll have an egg.

I want to write a word about Tofu Mac n’ “Cheese”.. that’s why I came here today. And I’ll get to it in just a minute. I just want you to chew on that thought while I’m telling you how I got here on this Sunday afternoon with a steaming bowl of Tofu Mac n’ “Cheese” wafting up in my face… not providing the LEAST resemblance (smell, taste nor aesthetics ) of anything cheesy.

I’m a big documentary watcher. Almost to the point of being obsessive. I knock out a half dozen or more documentaries every week. I’m trying to find a little balance there but it’s how my brain is wired. It takes a lot for me to escape into a drama or a comedy. I find myself saying, “This isn’t real”! and that’s that. Biographies over novels, documentaries over dramas. You get the picture.

So, about a month ago I watched a documentary called Forks over Knives. The knife in this title is played by a scalpel. The upshot of the program is that we are an obese, unhealthy nation and we are filling our graveyards at an alarming rate through diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Having lost both of my parents last year to cancer I pay attention to messages that get down and dirty about where this rotten disease thrives and conversely where it is conquered.

I recommend the video. I bought it for myself. I don’t collect DVD’s so that says something. After viewing the program and hearing evidence that studies show in the absence of (or at less than 5%) animal products (not just meat but dairy) that these diseases ceased to exist. I’m in! Well, we still have the issue with eggs but other than that. I’m in!

That’s the long story short. Let’s get back to our tofu mac n’ ‘cheese”. I address this because outside of baking, I typically do not follow a recipe. But I’ve never driven on the tofu highway before and I thought a road map might be a good idea.

So, I bought the Happy Herbivore cookbook. I cannot speak to the other recipes in the book because I haven’t tried them. But the Baked Shells and Cheese with the enticing picture of a fork full of creamy looking seashell pasta with crispy breadcrumb topping; let’s just say I’m going to dog-ear that page all the way over.

Deep inside I think I knew it was impossible to make tofu sing in mac n’ cheese like Martha Stewart makes Gruyere the star in her 3 cheese mac n’ cheese. But I really, really wanted this recipe to prove me wrong. Ugh.

Back to the drawing board.

I know I shouldn’t. But I’m posting a picture of this stuff before it heads for its next destination: my garbage disposal. It’s not the texture so much, I could tweak the recipe to fix that. It was the taste! Yikes! Enough said. I’m moving on. I’m over it. I have a problem sleeping at night and I do NOT want to have tofu nightmares. Get thee behind me tofu!

I commenced healing right away with roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and sautéed mushrooms with fresh green beans. Don’t get me wrong. I am not giving up on tofu. I’m just giving up on THIS recipe. If there’s one thing I do know how to do it’s to make food taste good. The challenge is on!

Life without cheese must go on.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It has been a month of an embarrassment of blessings, a wealth of love, letting go and growing up and becoming comfortable in my own skin and not being afraid of the voices I hear. I’ll explain the voices in a minute.

I feel like my Winnie the Pooh little black rain cloud is gone. Just like that. Gone.

I made the trek to eastern Washington where I met my brother and together we buried our parent’s ashes. It was a beautiful place and a healing experience. It was finally closure for both of us. I knew it was time to let go. I’d nearly cried myself to death in the last 9 months. I just didn’t know that the letting go process would lead to such immediate inner peace. Who knew? There is not a manual for such things.

Now I’m on to the next chapter. And I can’t lie. I’m liking the direction this story is taking.

I’m sitting here in the tropical breeze of Hawaii listening to the ocean waves pound against the rocks. Everywhere I look I seem to find something or other that I’ve never seen before in my life! I’ve never been here before and let me just step right up and introduce myself: Hi, my name is LuAnne, and I can be a real elitist snob sometimes. I don’t know where it comes from. I guess it’s that strong-opinion thing. Whatever it is, I never really wanted to travel to Hawaii. It wasn’t a passion or a goal even. Not that I would turn down a trip if it fell into my lap (which it did!). But I’m just not a tourist-y sort of gal. And in my limited knowledge (heavy on the limited part) of Hawaii, I thought it was ALL a big tourist snare. I would like to happily admit how wrong I was.

My friend and ex-sister-in-law, Joey, sent me an email a few days ago that said something like: “Please, please, please go to Hawaii with me. I’ll buy your ticket.” SHUT UP! I am NOT kidding you. The part that’s hard to admit here: I said “no”. I KNOW! Get thee to a nunnery! I hit send on my reply email to her and heard a voice.. (I have been listening to ‘that’ voice a lot more closely lately. I have to quiet my own loud voice to really hear it.) I know I don’t need to tell you what that ‘voice’ said to me. I sent a second email right on the heels of the first. The rest is minutia. Here I am in Kapoho on The Big Island of Hawaii so happy and so comfortable with the fact that I hear voices!!

Now, I am in a beautiful vacation house surrounded by an ocean view, coconut trees, geckos and Coqui frogs that sing the night away. I guess the frogs are unwelcomed guests that snuck in on a produce shipment from Florida and the results were population ballistic explosion. They propagate quickly in paradise. But they sing a lovely nighttime tune.

Joey and I woke up early the first morning and hit the local farmer’s market in Pahoa, about 8 miles away. We had no boundaries when it came to trying something new. We ate dragon eyeballs and regretfully indulged in a little Kava drink. Unlike the bubbly cava of Spain (which I love!) this looked like it was skimmed right off a dairy farm mud puddle. When they say you taste with your eyes first I’m here to tell you it’s just true. Nothing, and I mean nothing could convince me that this was anything other than mud puddle water. The vendor assured us it was the magical elixir that would add years to your life, length to your penis and stop diabetes, depression and poverty right in their tracks! But still, think mud puddle. I took one sip of Joey’s 75 cent investment and told the vendor I’d rather have diabetes thank you very much. Or as they say on the island mahalo nui loa!

Joey kept feigning misplacement of her Dixie cup of mud water at the nearby produce tables. Each time she would walk away and someone would chase her down and return her ‘magic elixir’ to her. She was too polite to gag and pour it on the ground.

We asked where we could buy fresh fish and were told to go to the boat launch at Pohoiki. Which we determined to do right away. We quickly found out in our excitement that flying by the seat of our pants will catch our pants on fire… AND we’ll get distracted, a little lost and several hours later the fishermen will have taken their catch to Hilo. So we had chicken for dinner with all of our fresh market veggies and fruit. It is all Ono grinds (tasty food).

Anytime you are buying your food at the source you are likely to find happiness in your tummy. When you buy your food at the source and the source is a tropical climate. You are in what they call paradise. What is not to love about pineapple right? But when the pineapple is picked ripe or when it’s a local delight called white pineapple. Well… you just want to rub it on your body, stir it in your coffee and roll around on the floor making moaning noises with it. I think if you’ve been here you know what I’m talking about. The best. No, really. THE BEST pineapple I have ever tasted.

I am only 3 days in so I have a few days left. I will write more about this beautiful oasis later.