Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hot enough?

I WISH I could take the high road and not lament about extreme weather conditions when they occur. In fact, I'd like to keep the negatives regarding weather on the down low. You know what mom said: "If you can't find something nice to say....." Right now the only nice thing I can think of saying is "good grilling weather". Am I right? There's no way "cooking" is finding its way into the sweltering day's schedule!
The last few days have been spent with one friend or another at a pool, on a deck, laying low and moving slow. Opening bottle after bottle of refreshing bubbly Prosecco and eating cold slices of sweet Hermiston watermelon.
Eventually, the brutal sun fades away and the notion that something more substantial than a piece of fruit and a glass of bubbly should round out my diet for the day.
Not far from where I'm staying is a local produce stand combined with a lovely meat market called Shawn and Ted's. When I head home to the city, Shawn and Ted's is the place I miss shopping the most. The people are friendly and helpful but really, it's the best meat I've found in a long time. The butchers like to chat with you about what you're going to do with the meat you're buying. They will butterfly a leg of lamb for you, trim and cut your kabob meat while you wait, offer suggestions. It all feels very personal, almost to the point where there's that moment of silence and you're sure you should extend a dinner invitation to the butcher.

Some chicken, some lamb, some marinade and some skewers became our larder during the heat wave. Vegetables, fresh from the field were also cut and marinated. Fresh, sweet sugar dot corn had made its way from the eastern side of the state with one of our dinner guests. We peeled the husks back and removed the delicate silk. Then we spread a fresh Poblano compound butter on the corn and pulled the husks back up to provide protection from the flames while the corn roasted happily inside.
These ingredients spread out over three evenings.
When the mercury rises but our energy doesn't having food ready to rock and roll is music to live by. There is a lot to be said about siestas and good books and water misters and friend's pools and not having to think about what is for dinner.

I've been roaming. I've done some form of house sitting or pet sitting since May. I cannot believe so much time has passed since I started living out of a suitcase. It has been the most interesting summer in that way. But now I'm ready to go home to my familiar roommates and my urban nest and unpack for a while.
I have allowed myself to be stretched this summer in regards to having "my" things around me. My comfort zone has had to reside within me not in my surroundings. Though my schedule that has looked suspiciously like a middle school girl on summer break it has been a memory-making, journal-worthy experience.

I've enjoyed the fun, the hospitality and the company of a variety of great friends. Now I'm ready. Ready for change.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

5-spice is so nice

An impromptu Sunday dinner. I was in a foul mood and lacked imagination or inspiration and honestly, money. But that shouldn't stop friends from gathering around the table should it? I decided on the ever-economical chicken but what to do with it. This time I heard a voice in my head (this is not unusual) whispering 5-spice is nice. 5-spice is nice. So, I concocted a rub with 5-spice, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder and a little smokey paprika. I butterflied the whole chicken and rubbed it all over with the spices.

I grilled low and slow for about 45 minutes and held the chicken in a warm oven while I grilled eggplant, sweet onion, zucchini, mushrooms, red and orange sweet peppers. I cut those into bite-size pieces and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

What's a dinner off the grill without the addition of sweet corn when it's in season? I grilled corn with jalapeno, red onion & sweet red pepper. I cut the corn off of the cob and tossed the grilled ingredients together with the juice of a lime and some fresh, just-picked basil.

My friends brought lovely wines and delightful conversation and we marveled at the view. There were even a couple of hot air balloons to polish off a perfect evening.
Sunday dinner is always the right thing to do.

I call this the sea of evergreens.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Planking Salmon

A great day? When the sun is shining (but not too much) and friends find the time to get together for dinner midweek. A group of friends were recently able to pull together a last-minute Wednesday evening dinner together. Though the food was great the stellar setting was outdoors on the patio with the comforting trickle of a nearby fountain and a view that reached across a sea of evergreens to Mount Baker and beyond.

We grilled a fillet of wild salmon on a cedar plank then topped it with a relish of seeded and chopped heirloom tomatoes, orange, yellow and red, avocado, cucumber & red onion in a dill-Dijon vinaigrette.

The crisp, creamy freshness of the relish complemented the smokey warm salmon perfectly.

We grilled some baby yukon gold potatoes and some bread as well. Our hosts had recently returned from a trip where they'd gleaned some fresh Dungeness crabs. We enjoyed the fruits of their labor along with a tender herb salad.
We even celebrated the decadence of a mid-week gathering with a fresh fruit tart for dessert. (compliments of a local bakery) We get by with a little help from our friends.

Finally, I must add this picture of my sweet Bernie (the dog) who continues to grow! I've pleaded with him to stop but alas, nature wins every time. He's still the cutest and the best. Don't you just want to grab him and hug him?

Friday, July 10, 2009


I considered titling today's post "The Season's First". Because the season's first corn was the inspiration for the bizarre tailgating session I recently conducted. And really, doesn't the season's first (anything!) sweet corn, perfect tomato, juicy strawberry, just get you excited? There is no substitute for that fresh from the vine, bush, tree or dirt piece of produce that transports you to another place.

I love to cook. I can visit only so many restaurants on a road trip and I have to find a place to cook SOMETHING! It's just who I am. I usually carry my chef's knife with me in my trunk at all times. Along with my Turkish coffee grinder that serves as my pepper grinder and some kosher salt. (Often you'll find fresh garlic in there too). What can I say?

I didn't have any of those things with me on a recent road trip because I knew I would not have a kitchen to work in. I was foolish and won't make the same mistake twice. From now on it's a hard and fast rule. Getting in the car? Take your chef's knife.

So, I was wandering through this amazing mercantile loaded with fresh, FRESH produce and house-made sausages, salsas, enchiladas, and sauces and I crossed paths with the season's first sweet corn. Local of course. There was a microwave in my waterfront hotel room but that just seemed criminal. I had other criminal designs on that sweet corn.

They included an open flame in the parking lot of a hotel that probably wouldn't approve. Let me just say right now that I have a life motto that says "rules are guidelines". I believe when the sign says "no food or drink allowed inside" what they are REALLY saying is "don't spill your drink or get food on anything". It's all about common sense isn't it?

Now, I don't know that what I was doing was illegal. Really, I don't. I imagine I was breaking a rule somewhere. My common sense told me to be careful and cautious and try not to start a chain of car fires in the hotel parking lot just so I could have a little grilled sweet corn. So, please don't try this at your next resort vacation destination.

That said, we went to the store and picked up a 15 dollar grill, some foil, olive oil and kosher salt. That's it kids! The rest we commandeered from the restaurant in the hotel. silverware, plates, napkins. Any flat surface can provide the space to create your mis en place. In this case I used the desk in the room.

From the market we had fresh new red potatoes, Walla Walla sweet onions and Anaheim peppers, fresh garlic and the corn. We had the house-made jalapeno-cheese sausages and some pilfered silverware. Oh, and of course the lovely stemware for our wine.

This was truly some of the best fun I've had in ages! It was clandestine, it was filled with hilarity and it was just awesome food!
We soaked in the full moon and view of the nearby suspension bridge (best seats in...er..outside the house!)

At one point we involuntarily offered up a sausage to the parking lot gods. This struck us with laughter that nearly incapacitated us.
First there were two:

And suddenly, only one:

Does this make you laugh just a little? Because it put me over the top!

Everything was wonderful! If I'd cooked it in my own backyard it probably wouldn't have been as spectacular. But then, maybe it would. That corn came through with an outstanding sweetness that forced us to proclaim over and over "what a wonderful meal"!

I love the phone cord in this one. Composition is everything!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I recently paid a visit to the Tri Cities for the holiday weekend. My host invited me to try what he jokingly calls "dog tacos". We drove to an out-of-way taco truck parked in a dirt parking lot next to a car wash stall in Pasco. I'm ashamed to admit that this was my FIRST taco truck experience.
I've been longing to try and then I get all widgetty about hygiene and running water, soap and the general eeew factor. Leave me alone! I'm a germ-o-phobe! Or I should say I WAS a germ-o-phobe. I'm really getting over it.
I decided to go long on this taco truck adventure and try the lengua (tongue) tacos. I'd had a few people recommend them and I'd watched Rick Bayless drive it home on Top Chef Masters with his tongue tacos. So, I was in. I think my host was horrified.
Even though I went long, I was not ALL in. I ordered one carne and one lengua. Though both were truly the most outstanding tacos I've EVER had the pleasure of eating. I was never really certain which was which. I had to assume that the one with a little more fat evident in the meat must be the beef.

As we sat at the dust-covered table in this industrial area our conversation fell by the wayside for a few moments. I stared at my 3.00 lunch in total amazement and wondered if perhaps I'd stumbled upon my new "death row meal". It's in the running, that's for sure. We disposed of our paper plates (which had been cleaned of every morsel) said Gracias to the lovely woman and what appeared to be her son. I wish I'd said MUCHO GUSTO! I just gave the universal smile and off we went.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Last Supper

I know I've mentioned my recent month-long stay in paradise. I'm still thanking paradise for the memories. I had one final Sunday dinner there before packing my suitcase again and heading out. There were just three of us there but it was perfect in every way.
Conversation was intimate and thoughtful and there was no competition for the floor.

We made a trip to Pike Place Market for some fresh, sweet and succulent scallops. I seared them and served them with a citrus beurre blanc. We opened a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and took a deep sigh of satisfaction.

We had fresh eastern Washington asparagus that had been grilled the evening before. We added that to some risotto and tossed together a salad.

Then we opened a bottle of red. A Pinot Noir I believe. Oh, the memory is fading.
As usual, there was a little too much food which meant warmed risotto for breakfast the next morning.

Things could always be worse.