Food Friday: Let’s Do Lunch!

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It is time to Go Back to School! Hooray!

This is a list to keep on the fridge door – so you don’t lose heart at night when making lunches to send off to school, or to take to the office, or just to get a jump on the week. Start with Column A, move through the alphabet, and embellish at will.

I work from home, consequently I have no excuse to have sad little meals of peanut butter on Saltines. I should have a well-stocked fridge, packed to the gills with tasty amuse bouche and nutritious luncheon ingredients. And here, at the beginning of the school year, so should you.

Get out the tiny little Tupperwear containers, find all the maddeningly elusive lids, and start chopping. Make yourself little Bento boxes of luncheon-y delights for every day. Shake up your routine, and experiment. Try chopped cornichons. Swipe on some chutney. Dust a sandwich with a handful of sprouts. Give up the Pepperidge Farm white bread and try Naan bread. And don’t forget leftovers! The Tall One made some interesting combinations with leftovers from Thanksgiving, theorizing that everything tastes delicious on a crescent roll, especially when daubed judiciously with cranberry sauce…

Here is your list of school supplies:

Column A
Let’s start with bread:
Ciabatta bread
Rye bread
Whole grain breads
Hard rolls
Portuguese rolls
French baguette
Italian bread
Brioche
Flour tortillas
Croissants
Bagels
Challah bread
Crostini
Cornbread
Naan bread
Focaccia bread
Pita bread

If storing overnight, top bread with lettuce first, then the spreads, to keep sandwich from getting soggy.

Column B
Next, the spread:
Mayo
Sriracha sauce
Ketchup
Dijon mustard
Honey mustard
Italian dressing
Russian dressing
Cranberry sauce
Pesto sauce
Hummus
Tapenade
Sour cream
Mango chutney
Butter
Hot sauce
Salsa

Column C
Cheeses:
Swiss cheese
American cheese
Mozzarella
Blue cheese
Cream cheese
Havarti cheese
Ricotta cheese
Cheddar cheese
Provolone cheese
Brie cheese
Cottage cheese
Goat cheese

Column D
The main ingredient:
Meatloaf
Turkey
Chicken
Corned beef
Bacon
Crumbled hard boiled eggs
Scrambled eggs
Corned beef
Salami
Italian sausage
Ham
Roast beef
Egg salad
Tuna salad
Ham salad
Crab salad
Chicken salad
Turkey salad
Lobster salad
Tofu

Column E
The decorative (and tasty) elements:
Tomatoes
Lettuce
Basil
Onion
Avocado
Cucumber
Cilantro
Shredded carrots
Jalapenos
Cole slaw
Sliced apples
Sliced red peppers
Arugula
Sprouts
Radicchio
Watercress
Sliced pears
Apricots
Pickles
Spinach
Artichoke hearts
Grapes
Strawberries
Figs

Column F
Finger foods:
Cherries
Carrots
Strawberries
Green Beans
Broccoli
Celery
Edemame
Granola
Rice cakes
Apples
Bananas
Oranges
Melon balls
Raisins
Broccoli

Nobody will ever complain about lunch again if you can remember to jazz it up a little. My son, who lived for at least an entire year on (requested) white bread, bologna and yellow mustard sandwiches, is now a strapping 6 feet 4 inches tall. Imagine how far into the clouds he would stretch if we had thought to make him fig, goat cheese and carmelized onion sandwiches…

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/how-to-create-an-artful-sandwich.html?ref=dining&_r=0

http://www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/

http://www.marthastewart.com/853321/brown-bag-sandwich-recipes/@center/856055/lunch-recipes

http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/breadstuffs/sandwich-types.asp

“I always tell my kids to cut a sandwich in half right when you get it, and the first thought you should have is somebody else. You only ever need half a burger.”
― Louis C.K.

Food Friday: Mason Jar Salads

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We all have a friend like this. Mine is quite adorable and enjoyable, witty and smart. She reads good books, enjoys a good beer, she tells great jokes. She has wonderful fashion sense, has smart children and drives a hybrid car. But she does have a smug flaw: for years, she has been very cheerfully efficient about doing household chores. She does not groan or hide herself away in the bedroom with her book (the way I do). She smilingly cleans bathrooms and remembers to vacuum at least twice a week. Her husband is equally loathsome. Imagine the audible nature of their eye rolls when a tumbleweed of dust and dog fur comes flying from behind our sofa. Ghastly!

She also makes meal plans. Imagine that. If you call her on a Sunday afternoon she will be roasting a chicken for dinner that night, and she will proceed to get two more meals out of it during the week. And she’ll pick the little bits of meat off the bones to feed to her ancient, fussy cat. Later she will probably start rolling out meatballs for a huge homemade spaghetti sauce. She might even make her own fresh pasta, but I haven’t asked, for fear that it might be true. And she finds time to exercise.

When her kids were little she made healthy, colorful lunches with tempting comestibles for them to eat with gusto for their school lunches. Mine probably traded the bologna-on-Pepperidge-Farm-white-bread-with-yellow-mustard sandwiches for Twinkies. (Note: The Tall One ASKED for bologna sandwiches – for years!)

My children have grown up and moved on without too many psychic scars, so at least I don’t have that school lunch panic clawing at my being on Sunday afternoons any more, but there is still the week of dinners that really should be planned. Perhaps I will reform one day, but I suppose I am still wandering around waiting for Good Witch Glinda to fly in and grant me a few wishes, and if dinner planning is going to use up one of them, then I am indeed a sorry sad sack.

Imagine my delight when I started reading about a new food trend: Mason jar salads. It was probably hatched up in Park Slope, Brooklyn where some hipster was confronted by a collection of vintage Mason jars and wondered how to monetize them. That’s OK. I am using my own decidedly un-hip jars from grocery store spaghetti sauce, recycled. (That’s our little secret – doctor the sauce up with a couple of cloves of garlic, lots of good olive oil and a handful of basil and you have a last minute meal that is quite palatable. My speciality.)

What I like best about the Mason jar salad approach is that with just a little effort, and not too much because I cannot change my stripes overnight, I can wash some Romaine lettuce, tear some more greens, rips leaves from the basil plant, cube some Mozzarella, wash some tomatoes and whip up an improvised pesto. And it is easy to stick with one theme or to go wild with different veggies and ingredients. In about half an hour I have salads for a week. And then I have no excuses not to have a fresh salad every night or for my own lunch. Yesterday I dragged my starving self out of the studio for some lunch and was reduced to eating peanut butter on Ritz crackers. Not very inspired for someone who writes a food blog…

There are a few things to keep in mind to be sure the salads last for five days. Layer wisely. Put your salad dressing in first, to coat the bottom of the jar. Tear your lettuce and greens because cutting them, besides being aesthetically unpleasing, will cause brown edges. Ick. Don’t cut tomatoes – use small cherry tomatoes or those tiny, jewel-like Marzanos whole. Then things won’t get soggy. If you are bringing your salads to the office, please watch out how much garlic and onion you use. You do not want to alienate anyone. Shake, don’t stir. Enjoy. Repeat.

So take heart, fellow procrastinators. This is not a step that will have you competing in the marketplace with Martha, but it will give you a sense of well-deserved smugness. Look at the facts: you are recycling and re-using Mason-like jars and you will be eating salad five days a week. Additionally, you can grill some chicken or steak or fish or serve with some garlic bread. You have planned ahead. And when Glinda comes a calling you can use your wishes for something important, like new ruby slippers.

Caprese Pasta Salad
2 tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 ½ ounce fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 ounces cooked penne pasta
½ cup fresh Romaine lettuce
½ cup fresh basil, torn with verve

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomat – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil to mix in with one’s vinegar.”
–Oscar Wilde

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/06/mason-jar-salads_n_5452313.html

https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-best-new-way-to-bring-your-lunch

http://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2014/02/12/instagramable-lunch-ever-14-healthy-mason-jar-salad-recipes/

Food Friday: Blessedly Cool Gazpacho

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Get out of the kitchen! Walk out onto the front porch with a book and relax. Oh, some unexpected company has come walking by, and you have just invited them to sit with you in the warm shade, to enjoy the breeze, and watch the other neighbors doing their mundane chores. What are you going to serve? Do not panic! You are going to whip up a batch of gazpacho, my dear. Because at this time of the year you have got all the fixings in you fridge and right there on your kitchen windowsill. You do NOT need to go to the grocery store, I promise you. This is not a tricky damn woo Martha recipe, where you need walnut oil freshly pressed by Trappist monks. Even I have all this stuff, and usually I am only good for stale Triscuits, hard bits of Cheddar cheese and cheap white wine. (This summer there is a bottle of vodka stashed in the freezer. Shhh.)

Stick your head in the fridge. What do you see? I see Vidalia onions, half of a cucumber, limes, green peppers, radishes, V-8 juice and Tobasco sauce. There is an assortment of ripening tomatoes, a basil plant, and a poor, sad, wilting parsley plant on the kitchen windowsill. On the back porch the last few tiny heads of lettuce are struggling valiantly in the heat. And bread! The bread collection in the freezer yields a goodish loaf of last week’s ciabatta bread. Perfecto! In the cupboard I find olive oil and a big old can of Marzano tomatoes – in case we need to stretch the recipe once news of this impromptu party goes viral through our active social media accounts. This beauteous gazpacho should be quite Instagramable!

Gazpacho can be very versatile. It can be a soup, a dip or a cocktail. I am opting for the cocktail, because it is Friday, after all. And after last week’s experience in the hot Vulcan-like kitchen, I plan to kick back and find some coolth. (And if no one walks by, Luke, the wonder dog and I will curl up with Gabriel Allon and discover the mastermind of The Heist, my latest Kindle read from Daniel Silva.)

Grab a bag of Doritos (ours might be a little stale, sorry) and pour some in a bowl and drop it on the table next to the porch swing. Excuse yourself for a few minutes. Luke is good for entertaining people because he always wants to chase the ball. Hours (and hours) of endless amusement for him…

Thaw and soak the bread, peel, chop, slice and dice your vegetables, and then whip them up in the blender, or with your food processor. Chunky – great for dip. Slurpy – good for soup. Smooth – get out the straws and the vodka.

Gazpacho Soup: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/gazpacho-recipe.html

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/jun/24/how-to-make-perfect-gazpacho

Gazpacho Dip: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/gazpacho-dip-10000001733020/Gazpacho

Gazpacho Bloody Marys: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Gazpacho-Bloody-Marys-236770

Gazpacho without a Recipe:
https://food52.com/blog/10925-how-to-make-gazpacho-without-a-recipe

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
-Lewis Grizzard

Food Friday: Hot Summer? Hot Biscuits!

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It’s been a hot, stinky summer, and I should be thinking about all the cool and abundant foods that can be eaten without cooking – tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, any berries, radishes, celery, cucumbers… Instead I am beginning to think about baking some biscuits, and really ratcheting up the heat index the kitchen for the morning. There is nothing is better than a warm home baked biscuit, schmeared with sweet butter. Unless it is a scone, lathered with cream and jam. Or whipped cream and some of those berries. Mmmm.

And why I was suddenly compelled to bake biscuits you might wonder? I did an illo recently for my podcast friends at The Dinner Party Download – which is such a great podcast and you really should listen to it: http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/ Rico Galliano and Brendan Francis Newnam engage in much banter, hilarity, booze, music, storytelling and generate a lot of pleasurable listening for me when I am walking the dog, or folding napkins. They weren’t able to use my design after all, but being good sports and gentlemen, they thanked me with the gift of a fabulous cookbook, which spurred me on to ridiculous temperatures. Rico and Brendan sent me the Tupelo Honey: New Southern Flavors From the Blue Ridge Mountains cookbook, which is packed to the rafters with photos and ideas and recipes for Southern cooking for the twenty-first century. The Tupelo Honey Café has cafes in Asheville, Greenville, Chattanooga, Charlotte and Johnson City. My bucket list just got longer.

The Dinner Party Download starts each episode with an icebreaker joke, and then some small talk, which leads to cocktail chatter. Appropriately the Tupelo Honey Café cookbook starts with “Moonshine, ‘Thunder Road’ and Mountain Elixirs”. Not that I will be hitting the moonshine before breakfast, but it’s good to know that these cookbook editors have their priorities straight, with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks.

I moseyed past “Ode to Muddy Pond” and “Tupelo Honey-Molasses Eggnog”, made note of “Summertime Tomato Salad” which looked easy peasy and blessedly cool: cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, a red onion and some vinaigrette. I thumbed past the “Cheese, Cheese, Cheese Mac and Cheese, Please” and the “Smoked Hog Jowl – Creamed with Lima Beans with Tarragon” to reach the “Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits”.

Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits
• 2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ⅓ cup chilled shortening, cut into pieces
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 1 cup buttermilk
• Melted butter
Preheat oven to 425˚ and position oven rack slightly below center of oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast-iron skillet. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt. Snap pieces of shortening with your fingers until they’re no larger than peas. Make a well in the mixture and pour in cream and ⅔ cup of buttermilk. Using your hands, sweep in the flour and turn dough until dry ingredients are moistened and dough resembles cottage cheese, adding just enough of remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk to reach this consistency. Sprinkle rolling surface with flour. Turn dough out onto the surface and sprinkle top with flour. With floured hands, fold dough in half and pat it into a ⅓- to ½-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold dough in half a second time. If dough is still clumpy, repeat folding process for a third time. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you don’t twist the cutter. Place biscuits in pan, sides slightly touching. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating pan 180 degrees after 6 minutes. Remove from oven and brush biscuits again with melted butter. Yields 10 biscuits.
https://tupelohoneycafe.com/recipes

No more Bisquick for us!

If you would like to continue enjoying Southern recipes, here’s one from Southern Living for scones – which are just gussied up biscuits. But they are more acceptable for afternoons, particularly if you trowel on the clotted (or whipped) cream.: http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/easy-scone-recipes

One blog I like to follow, indeed it is my fantasy life, is The Little Observationist. http://www.littleobservationist.com/ Steph is an ex-pat American living in London, who blogs (and photographs very nicely) about food and drink and London sights, smells and tastes. Recently she baked scones for the first time, which I found rather shocking as she has lived there for quite a while. But I suppose if I could have tea and cakes with regularity from the Paul Patisserie or The Drawing Rooms at the Ampersand Hotel, I wouldn’t be baking at home either: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/tiny-strawberry-cream-scones/

Two more sites with lots of good ideas – Garden & Gun Magazine and Food52:

http://gardenandgun.com/article/comfort-southern-food

https://food52.com/blog/10906-how-to-handle-dough-in-a-hot-kitchen

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.”
-Carl Sandburg

Food Friday: Summer Tomatoes are Upon Us!

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Cake is the perfect food. Really. You can eat cake for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You might get a wee bit roly-poly, but nonetheless, a nice slice of pound cake can be eaten at any time of the day or night. You can toast it for breakfast, eat with your fingers while reading the newspaper at lunch, and serve it with an amusing wine and perhaps a salad for supper. It is the Spackle of the kitchen – it covers up for your shopping and food preparation flaws.

Tomatoes are the perfect fruit. Once again, you can have them for any meal. The British fry up breakfast, long touted as the best thing about British cuisine, always includes eggs, cold toast, fried bread, sausages, bacon, grilled mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. At lunch the tomato is the vital ingredient for BLTs, which as we all know, are the pinnacle of all lunch experiences. And for dinner, the tomato is the most versatile item on your windowsill.

So far, this week for dinner, we have had gem-like tomatoes grilled in a pan with a little oil and garlic, and then tossed them into a mixed green salad, with bacon, some extra basil, homemade croutons and chunks of fresh mozzarella. Tuesday night we boiled up a pot of fresh (though, admittedly, store-bought) pasta and sautéed some tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus tips, garlic and shrimp, and threw everything into a couple of bowls. We also had garlic bread, in case there wasn’t enough garlic in the sauté… We also had some delightfully cheap Chardonnay.

Wednesday night we had big beefsteak tomatoes, sliced with more fresh mozzarella, garnished with lots of basil from the container garden, oil and balsamic vinegar. And more garlic bread. Oh, and some wine.

Thursday night we grilled a couple of small steaks, sliced the heirloom Ugly tomato generously and drizzled them with brown butter, and also had some mixed greens. And wine.

https://food52.com/recipes/18779-brown-butter-tomatoes

Friday night is Pizza Night, and we will be making some Big Love Pizza; cooking small pizzas on the grill, adding handfuls of squeezed and drained Marzano tomatoes, grated mozzarella, sliced of pepperoni and at the very last minute a handful of fresh basil. Dare I add some wine?

Perhaps we are in a tomato/basil/mozzarella rut? What a delirious place to be! Perfect for the summer, when the humidity makes us limp, and the afternoon thunderstorms induce longing for coma-like naps.

Grilled Tomato Salad – for two

12 or so small tomatoes that you picked from the back yard, or bought at the Farmers’ Market
4 slices of bacon
2 slices thick, day old bread, cubed
1 ball of fresh Mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 garlic clove, peeled, please
1 salad bowl filled with mixed salad greens and some basil leaves
snatched from the garden

Fry bacon. Drain on paper towels. Crumble.

Cut the bread into cubes, and fry in the hot bacon fat until golden brown. (Pescatarians – use oil, you poor suffering souls) I sprinkle the croutons with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and a little dried oregano while draining on paper towels.

Add a little oil to the still hot pan, and carefully deposit the tomatoes and the garlic, roll everything around with a couple of wooden spoons, until the tomatoes start to blacken and blister and the garlic becomes overwhelmingly and seductively fragrant.

Fill your salad plates with the greens, top with tomatoes, mozzarella and crumbled bacon. Bliss!

How about a slice of pound cake for dessert?

Here is a link to my blog and the original recipe for Big Love Pizzas: http://jeandsanders.blogspot.com/2011/06/june-4-2010-its-food-friday-big-love.html

“A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England.”
― Rudyard Kipling

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
― Miles Kington

Food Friday: Fresh Picked Daily

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Our Pacific Northwest family vacation broke us out of our hamster wheel routine here at home, and plunged us into all sorts of new experiences, food and eating being tantamount among them. We trolled new grocery stores, strolled farmers’ markets and stalked the miles of corridors and underground passages in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in our quest for the Next Meal.

There was something new to be seen around every corner. Imagine – carrots that come in colors other than orange! We saw artful displays of asparagus that ranged in size from pencil thin to baobab-tree-trunk-thick. Pink radishes gleamed. Red raspberries twinkled. Blueberries were silvered and glistening. One rather imagined romantic interludes, sitting by the water, watching the sunset, tossing back Prosecco and nibbling on the day’s gathered goodies. It was our vacation, after all.

We spent a week on San Juan Island, in a house in Friday Harbor. There were all of the usual family squabbles but there was also lots of easy laughter. We were using a strange kitchen, searching the cabinets for salt and pepper and colanders, while preparing lovely fresh produce and washing buckets o’berries. We had the leisure to pause and carefully compose Instagrams of our meals. We also huddled silently together a couple of times to watch a delicate deer tippy toe her way up the verdant lawn, pausing to nibble along her leisurely way. We are such tourists. Never mind that the owners of the house would probably have been out on the porch raising the dead and pounding on pots with wooden spoons to spook the deer (and undoubtedly, her Lyme disease ticks) off the property. We were content to absorb the quiet and enjoy the novelty of wildlife .

One day we went on a hike that had us circling around through some fields down to the water, through fresh smelling, waving grasses. We kept sniffing an aroma that somehow reminded us of Thanksgiving while we trotted. We puzzled about this as we walked along and tried to identify songbirds, observing crop circles (seemingly) and we photographed a fox, unselfconsciously posing on a little mound. It wasn’t until we attended the San Juan Island Green Market the next day, with all of its thoughtfully labeled goods and wares, that we learned we had been striding through sage, which would explain our Thanksgiving fixation.

One plant booth at the market had clearly tagged plants, which informed this ignorant traveller some of what what we had been viewing: sage, wild ginger, Siberian iris, Alaskan yellow cedar, Asiatic lily and blue fountain iris.

Also carefully labeled, which I didn’t grasp at first, at a bakery booth, was a big fat “GF Brownie”. Luckily, the Pouting Pescatarian rescued me, and steered me to the other end of the baked goods table, and supervised my purchase of a good, old-fashioned, riddled with sugar, eggs, chocolate and gluten: a real, honest-to-goodness brownie. That could have been a good morning walk spoiled! Instead, it was a pleasant, warm and gooey event.

In addition to the brownie, we also bought a fresh, warm baguette from the Café Demeter Bakery, some heirloom tomatoes, fat radishes, plump strawberries, and heads of rich, dark green buttery lettuce, plus a few sausage rolls to keep the Tall One’s calorie count up, at least until lunch. The village was feeding our family, and very nicely, too.

We didn’t have the same sort of shopping experience once we got back to Seattle and its busy market. We were not hunting and gathering for dinner in the big city. We were touring the sights and sounds and smells without needing to do daily food shopping. We snacked quite liberally, though, which could explain why our clothes are a wee bit snug now. We visited museums and galleries and the aquarium, but kept returning to the market in Pike Place, which had the tantalizing allure of foreign movies, with bright colors and exotic people. It was truly an amazing spectacle.

Now we are home, and I say, “Get thee to a farm stand, a U-PICK-IT, the local farmers’ market and take a big bite out of summer!”

You can never go wrong with a nice sun-warm tomato, eaten like Harriet M. Welsch, sliced up into a good juicy sandwich with a little mayonnaise, but here are a few summer tomato recipes from our friends at Food52 and Bon Appétit. You’ll even get ideas for using up that leftover corn!

https://food52.com/blog/7782-9-summer-tomato-recipes

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-flatiron-steak-with-toasted-spice-vinaigrette

“The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?’ Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.
‘Tomato,’ said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.”

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Food Friday: Endless Possibilities!

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An embarrassment of riches barely describes what an extravagantly glorious place the Pike Place Market is! We crawled all over this 9-acre historic district for several days on our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I feel like we could have spent another few of days of exploration there. It is huge, sprawling, varied, multi-cultural, multi-leveled, colorful, loud and bustling with myriad folks of every variety. People watching here was a unique pleasure. Sometimes we forgot to keep up our end of the conversation as we gawped with abandon. We stared a lot. More importantly, we ate a lot, and often.

On our first morning in Seattle, jet-lagged and creaky, we stumbled over to the Market and posed for the obligatory tourist selfies in front of the large red neon sign “PUBLIC MARKET CENTER” that towers over the brick street. As it was quite early we did not annoy too many of Seattle’s patient drivers when we were striking poses in the middle of the Pike Street and First Avenue intersection. Later in the day it might have been a different story, although we never saw a single traffic casualty for all the frenetic driving.

For the record – I could never drive in Seattle – at least not in a car with a standard transmission. The roads are San Francisco hilly, and I shudder to imagine stopping at a red light, at night, the road slick with wet, fallen leaves. The mind boggles and the spirit shrinks. Cars must yield to pedestrians in Seattle, and jaywalking is frowned upon. Seattle is not like New York City where gonzo pedestrians dive into the rivers of traffic with center-of-the-universe impunity. In Seattle, as long as you are within the safety zone of the cross walk, you are well and truly blessed. And then you can explain to me how Seattle drivers can back into diagonal parking spaces, on inclines!

After indulging our tourist egos we had that enormous breakfast I nattered on about a few weeks ago at the Athenian, with its broad swathe view of Elliott Bay. It is only one of dozens, DOZENS I say, of restaurants at Pike Place Market. There are sit down fancy places, sit down casual spots, and you can sit down on Tom Hank’s stool at the Athenian. There are market stalls with take away food. There are strolling musicians of varying degrees of professionalism and skill. There are cafés and stands and storefront bakeries. There is a Starbucks whenever you hear the siren song. I am amazed that we were even able to roll onto our plane for the return flight.

There are Korean, French, Persian, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Kastoori, Irish, Mediterranean, Turkish, German and Chinese as well as standard American foods represented here. In no particular order, we visited many of the eateries:

I had an excellent buttery salty shortbread cookie at Le Panier. Le cookie était délicieux! http://www.lepanier.com/

We watched cheese being made at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. It explained once and for all the notion of “curds and whey”. Amazing! www.beecherscheese.com

We toured the Pike Brewery, had burgers and Dungeness crabs and revisited the Naughty Nelly. http://www.pikebrewing.com/
At the Shy Giant we had some locally made Snoqualmie gourmet ice cream. Not everyone can boast about that!

One of our best meals in Seattle was at the Virginia Inn: www.virginiainnseattle.com
I had an excellent bar burger. Good beer. Great wait staff. And a fab neon sign. Neon is something they do very well in Seattle. They are all very proud of the glassworks done by the artist Dale Chihuly and his workshop, but you’ve got to appreciate the abundance of great neon designs, which are cheerful beacons in the dark – when the sun finally goes down on these long summer evenings.

We queued up for Pike Place Chowder: http://www.pikeplacechowder.com/ A busker played his violin while we ate, with the sweetest saddest baroque piece I have ever heard, while we were watching the crowds swell and the line lengthen.
One memorable breakfast, later in our trip, was at Caffe Lieto, where we experienced the Biscuit Bitch. I stuck to my usual timid sausage biscuit, the Pescatarian had something healthy with veggies and eggs, but the Tall One out-ate us, as usual with his order for a Smokin’ Hot Bitch – biscuit and gravy smothered in cheese and topped with a grilled Louisiana Hot Link & jalapenos. You have to go there. The competition for an outdoor table with dueling mommies with double strollers was highly amusing. I guess the locals eat there, too! http://biscuitbitch.com/

We only had one grumpy indifferent meal in the Pike Place Market, when we were all surly, and feeling end-of-the-vacation-y with each other. It was not a reflection on the restaurant. But a few hot French fries and a Diet Coke later, I was my sweet middle-aged self again. You are never more than a step away from palliative food therapy here.

There is much to explore at Pike Place Market, and the prepared foods are just the beginning. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible displays of flowers, fruits, vegetables, Dungeness crabs and the amazing flying fish! Next week…

http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/

Here is a biscuit recipe from Food52 in case you want to make a nice big fat Seattle breakfast this weekend: https://food52.com/blog/7641-rosie-s-buttermilk-biscuits

“May I recommend three Maryland beaten biscuits, with water, for your breakfast? They are hard as a haul-seiner’s conscience and dry as a dredger’s tongue, and they sit for hours in your morning stomach like ballast on a tender ship’s keel. They cost little, are easily and crumblessly carried in your pockets, and if forgotten and gone stale, are neither harder nor less palatable than when fresh. What’s more, eaten first thing in the morning and followed by a cigar, they put a crabberman’s thirst on you, such that all the water in a deep neap tide can’t quench — and none, I think, denies the charms of water on the bowels of morning? ”
― John Barth, The Floating Opera

Food Friday: Naughty Nellies in Roche Harbor

FF_RocheHarborNaughtyNellies

What can you do after you have taken a boat deep into gelid Canadian waters to watch a school of orca whales tear a seal apart? Why, drive to Roche Harbor, drop by the Madrona Bar and Grill, and sit on a sunny deck by the water, and drink a Naughty Nelly. Of course you do!

We spent an unforgettable morning on a 30-foot boat out of Snug Harbor in Mitchell Bay with Spencer, our knowledgeable captain and naturalist. He trolled the water, with his ear clamped to a phone, listening to other captains nattering about orca whale sightings, at the same time identifying landmarks, birds, and lighthouses, while blithely dodging the surprisingly heavy ferry traffic. We barreled through the water, past waterside houses and summer cottages with another couple who had recently moved to Seattle. They were quite nice people, who were genuinely interested in chatting with the Tall One and the Pesky Pescatarian.

After about an hour of zipping along Spencer slowed the boat down and we were all agog as we caught a glimpse of our first troup of dorsal fins, and then the graceful arching black and white bodies, diving and whirling and powering through the calm water. We tracked their movements for about half an hour as they swam here and there and hunted. And then the mob clustered, and hit. Television nature programs do not prepare you for the sight of red blood frothing and spreading in the water. I never even saw the seal, which the Nature Channel probably would have anthropomorphized thoroughly. Instead of watching through a HD filter, we viewed the actual messy circle of life out there, and were amazed. Even the avowed Pescatarian was gobsmacked.

Amazement is tiring, and hunger-making. We made our way back to Snug Harbor and bade our companions a fond farewell. We sought sustenance, and our pack circled through the landscape, and tooled over to Roche Harbor. Roche Harbor is an attractive, yet slightly old time-y, Disney-fied resort, perched on another vertiginous, rocky hill. You could smell fresh paint and we had to admire the faux Craftsmen architecture of the newly-constructed vacation homes that lined a street sloping down to the water. There were American and Canadian flags fluttering from every possible perch, and baskets of draping watercolor flowers festooning the lampposts.

We walked past a beautifully maintained garden at the gingerbread-clad Hotel de Haro, which had precisely trimmed topiaries and sweeping bowers of fragrant wisteria. And swathes of grass that must have been precisely hand scissored at night by garden gnomes with tiny little pinking shears. There were beds of nodding peonies, interspersed with artful clumps of bleeding hearts; all very romantic and sweet. In some ways the Pacific Northwest reminded me of England: cool temperatures, lovely public displays of flowers, spurts of gentle rain and lots of good beer.

We had a table overlooking the marina at Roche Harbor, outside in the sun, where we basked like that unsuspecting seal. Luckily, we were met with excellent nibbles and not predatory orcas. The ever-hungry Tall One swarmed this: the Field & Stream Club Sandwich – a “Flame-grilled fresh Columbia River Steelhead, crispy bacon, tomato, green leaf lettuce and caper and artichoke aioli on grilled Focaccia.” The Pescatarian nibbled like a bunny on a green house salad.

On vacations I collect French fries, and frites, and homemade potato chips, and hash browns. I ordered Steak Fries for us to share as an appetizer – Best Beloved and I were still on East Coast time, and couldn’t eat much, yet. I was allowed 2 or 3 of the crispy, delicious garlic-y fries that I wrested away from our own young orcas. (Russet Steak Fries with Roasted Garlic Olive Oil [Gluten free!] Skin on Russet steak fries tossed with Parmesan, parsley, and steak salt and roasted garlic olive oil. Yumsters. We make a variation on this with potato chips at Christmas time.)

Mostly I was happy with the brew and the view. Years ago Best Beloved flew into Roche Harbor by seaplane, and it has been the stuff of family legend ever since. We were all happy to have a shared memory of it now.

And really – next week – Pike Place Market and Pike Brewing Company…

Garlic Parmesan Potato Chips

I tried it out on the neighbors last year at our little New Year’s Eve fete, and it was hoovered up in record time.

1 12-ounce bag of potato chips.
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes.
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic

In a small sauce pan, or frying pan, warm the 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the 4 cloves of garlic-pressed garlic. Cook at a low heat for 3 minutes, until fragrant. There nothing like garlic to make the house smell divine. Let the oil cool for about 5 or 10 minutes.
Put the chips in a large, shallow bowl. Drizzle with the garlic-infused oil. Toss the chips, gently. There is nothing worse than tiny little mingey bits of chips when one is trying to impress… Add the parsley and half the Parmesan cheese.
Warm the oven to 350°F degrees.

Put the chips on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Warm in the oven for about 7 or 8 minutes. Put the chips back in the original shallow bowl, scatter in the rest of the cheese, and toss. Serve warm. Yumsters.

Serve with Naughty Nelly ale, cheap white wine, or our favorite tipple, Prosecco, which makes it all taste so marvelous.

Pike Naughty Nellie Ale
http://www.pikebrewing.com/beers_PikeNaughtyNellie.shtml

Roche Harbor
http://www.rocheharbor.com/

Madrona Bar & Grill
www.rocheharbor.com/dining/madrona

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea – or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place.”
― Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Food Friday: On Vacation

FF_Lobsteronvacation

Vacations are wonderful things. We were lucky enough to get out of town, out of our routines, out of our crowded little heads and into a part of the world three of us had never before visited: the Pacific Northwest. We look back on it now, and are amazed that a mere three weeks ago we were enjoying wearing sweaters, sitting on a back porch of the house we rented, companionably chatting and laughing while thrilling to the unaccustomed view of a faraway snowcapped mountain, listening to song birds warbling with gusto and brio. Bliss.

We sat on the porch for breakfast coffee, for evening Prosecco, and for after dinner glasses of wine. We read books out there, took photographs and contemplated learning how to play Bocci, under the tangle of fragrant wisteria, above the long green sward that tumbled down to the steps to the beach below. We watched deer tiptoe across the damp lawn, nibbling on the shrubbery. We spent many minutes watching yellow striped caterpillars measure the porch railing.

One daily routine I was happy to abandon for the duration of our vacation was my usual panic about dinner. I am not the organized sort who sits down on Sundays with a grocery list and happily plans the week’s dinner menus. Sometimes we cook a chicken on Sunday and I stretch the leftovers out over another couple of meals. (Thursday night we did have cheesesteak sandwiches made from Tuesday night’s steak, so I’m not completely hopeless…) On vacation the endless possibilities are charming novelties with unfamiliar stores and packaging, instead of the constant repetition of the tiring variables that make up daily food prep.

Usually, along about 3:00 in the afternoon, I pause at my work at the drawing table and consult my watch. Then I research something quick and easy on Food52.com, race the dog up and down the block, and hightail it to the grocery store to pick up the suggested ingredients, along with the wine imperative, and a dozen tiny cans of expensive cat food hoping to tempt the taste buds of the ancient howling cat, who is always hungry and never satisfied with our cat food selection.

When we were on vacation, there were four of us who planned the meals, and cooked the meals. And even four of us who set the table and washed the pans and stacked dishes in the dishwasher. Finally, my fantasies come true!

There were also four of us who wandered the farmers’ markets, making purchases and testing samples and buying brownies and cookies and sausage rolls and artistic treasures. The San Juan Farmers’ Market in Friday Harbor (http://sjifarmersmarket.com/), Washington was a well-attended community affair. If you ever visit the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Friday Harbor, be sure to stop by the Quirk Farm Art booth and liberate a felted wool lamb. I did. www.quirkfarmart.com. (It has a terrible website, but their work is exquisite)

We enjoyed sociable strolls around the grocery stores and markets; drifting, observing and making droll conversation – something we don’t normally have time or inclination to do at home. Visiting the supermarket at home is always a swift race to the finish – not only do we have to get back home before the black, shedding dog climbs on the white sofa, we have to avoid the woman in Aisle 3 who was room mother with me when one of the children was in third grade. She continues her zealous, competitive mommy conversations even in these post-collegiate days… It can be dangerous if you pause for just a moment and appear vulnerable in the produce department!

Hellmann’s Mayonnaise is Best Foods west of the Mississippi, something I had forgotten until we were searching for condiments. Sticks of butter are longer and skinnier than we are used to. The Dungeness crabs were the crabs du jour for several lunches. There are many wonderful beers and wines produced in Washington State. And we ate lots and lots of crisp Washington State apples.

You would think that with one Pesky Pescatarian, one Paleo eater, one Who-can’t-stand-seafood, and one Agreeable Omnivore we would have had more arguments, but we were surprisingly conflict-free. Our little UN of tastes and appetites discovered that Paul Newman’s Hint o’Mint Cookies are quite yumsters, especially for breakfast. Who realized they are organic? And we learned that there is something for everyone when we all pitch in to cook a breakfast that includes eggs, bacon, chocolate pancakes, blueberry pancakes, plain pancakes and fresh local blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.

Dinner was when we had to do a little more dancing around. One night I had very tasty cheese and crackers with my Prosecco while everyone else was scarfing down cold, fresh, briny oysters. When they ate fresh sockeye salmon, I had a tasty little burger. We enjoyed lots of Washington State produce, and greens, and beer!

We did not have the Maine lobsters, although it was discussed. We posed for some silly selfies with the live lobsters, and then, politely, bought a dozen local oysters, which we managed to shuck, without any maiming or bloodshed. I am told they were quite deelish. So were my cheese and crackers.

Next week – the Pike Place Market. Holy smokes!

“There are two kinds of travel: first class and with children.”
― Robert Benchley, Pluck and Luck

“Really. Is there anything nice to be said about other people’s vacations?”
― Amor Towles, Rules of Civility

Food Friday: Breakfast in Seattle

FF_BreakfastinSeattle_slide

We have just come home from a delightful family vacation in the lush green and ever so cool Pacific Northwest. Originally we had thought that it would be the year to bask in the sun in Italy, but the planning got crazy and complicated and the “free” airline tickets were anything but bargains. We pondered the many options available to us, and finally arrived at Seattle, a place the children and I had never visited but that my husband had been to a few times, briefly, for business. We decided that our celebratory, milestone holiday would be spent west of the Mississippi – the first time for the four of us.

The Tall One was finished with college, and the Pouting Pescatarian has just one more course to go before she is released upon the universe, and the summer yawned before us. Didn’t Memorial Day sneak up on us this year? In my head it is May 31, not May 26. But I was not consulted.

Two years ago Best Beloved and I visited London over Memorial Day. The Queen needed us to come help her celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, and what a swell party that was. We enjoyed food and drink and walking and cool, sunshiny weather. Almost exactly what we found in Seattle. There was a little less pomp this year, but still some great beers. And on this trip I packed sneakers so I did not get awful blisters as I ran around town. Although no one warned me about the hills in Seattle! This was a detail never addressed on Grey’s Anatomy.

As part of our otherwise thorough research about Seattle we watched Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, and were delighted when we stumbled into the Athenian restaurant (http://athenianinn.com/) in Pike Place Market, and had an enormous breakfast there on our first morning west of the Mississippi. A scene in the movie was filmed in the Athenian, and there are two red plastic plaques fastened to the lunch counter that mark where Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner sat. We opted for an upstairs water view, however. We could see across squat buildings to the waterfront ferris wheel, The Seattle Great Wheel, Elliott Bay, the Seattle Aquarium and Bainbridge Island. This was where we watched the Tall One tuck into the first of many breakfast extravaganzas. Not that any one of us was a breakfast slouch – we had flown across the country overnight with just a bag of mustard pretzels served to us by the airline. Sustenance was called for! Watch this serious escalation in meal size:

I ordered a toasted bagel with cream cheese, bacon and a Diet Coke.

The Pouting Pescatarian chose the relatively modest Veggie Scramble with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach and Swiss cheese with a glass of orange juice and a coffee.

Best Beloved asked for Homemade Corned Beef Hash with two poached eggs, hash browns and toast, with a cup of coffee.

Drumroll, please: The Tall One had the Three Meat Omelet (bacon, sausage and ham) with cheese, a half stack of hotcakes and a generous side of hash browns. Coffee with cream and sugar. Amazing.

Restored and revived we wandered down the stairs, photographed the site where Tom Hanks stood briefly in 1993, and took a quick peek at the Pike Place Market. (We would return in a few days to explore the famous halls of frenzied and aromatic activity.) Then we conquered the most vertiginous hill I have walked up since I visited San Francisco in 1989, which was when I was recovering from surgery. Seattle was almost as painful twenty-five years later. Up the Pike Street hill we trotted, ogling sights and sounds, albeit with me trailing way behind the pack, to get our rental car. We tooled downhill to the hotel to gather up our luggage, and then we were off to catch a car ferry in Anacortes, to our Friday Harbor destination on San Juan Island. We stopped at a market in Anacortes for sandwiches to tide us over on our journey and to stock up on some bare essentials for the rental house. Amazingly we squeezed oodles of grocery bags, and wine bottles, and a cooler into the car amid the welter of bags and backpacks, and drove off to join the line for the ferry.

We munched our sandwiches as we sat in the queue for more than two hours, waiting for the ferry, which we barely made. The car that was 10 cars behind us didn’t make the 2:40 with us. They had to wait until the 4:30 ferry. Luckily, for once, we were a little early. It was Memorial Day Weekend Thursday, and we were all anxious to dive into summer. We stood shivering in the cool breezes on deck and watched as ferries, sailboats, sea gulls, and tree-covered islands streamed past, until we arrived in Friday Harbor; a colorful working harbor, with pleasure boats, tour boats and fishing vessels and schools of tourists and townsfolk.

After we were disgorged we followed circuitous directions through the small town to our house, which was an ingenious combination of two smaller houses, with a wisteria-covered pergola, flaming fuchsia rhododendron bushes and drifts of pink peonies. An eagle flew overhead, and we could see the snow-covered Mt. Baker across the still water. Breakfast in Seattle had been forgotten. It was time to start cooking dinner.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUP7U5vTMM0

http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/luxury-scrambled-eggs