Saturday, September 18, 2010

Country Pate

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This was the first course served at the French Country Barn dinner…This Jacques Pepin recipe seems to me, a neophyte from and island in the Pacific Northwest, to be VERY authentic.  It uses veal, pork, country ham and chicken livers.  Layer them in, so a design shows when sliced.  The green bits are pistachios.


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Now, don’t expect too much from this dish that you marinated overnight then lovingly squished between your nimble fingers to mix.  Tell your guests in advance that you’re about to serve the FRENCH COUNTRY PATE…DO NOT try to surprise them with your brilliant cooking and presentation for they will be under whelmed when you present them with:  SPAM!

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Or meatloaf if your crowd is more upscale than mine.


Another word…don’t run to the grocery store while this gently cooks in a water bath and expect your husband to know what to do when the timer dings.  He may just look in the oven, see the complicated water bath set up and wonder why there’s a moat around the meatloaf.  He’ll turn off the oven and walk away…(without removing your masterpiece!).  DO NOT let this happen to you for your pate will be shriveled and sad with every ounce of fat rendered in a disgusting pool around it.  The point of the water bath is to warm the meat  slowly so that the fatty bits melt in your mouth, not in the pan.  Try not to cry if this happen and resolve in the grand tradition of Julia Child to serve it anyway with no apologies. 


barn bday parth 051 Your pate should NOT look like this.  But if it does, scrape the fat and save it so sear beef for bourguignon and serve the pate’ anyway.  Your champagne drinking croquet playing guests love you anyway.

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Usually I add a link to the recipe but this one came from a book at the library (they have a huge cookbook selection!) and I forgot to make a copy.  This one from Molly at Orangette looks very good.


This would be a great appetizer for a holiday party.  I know! Too soon to be planning for the cold, dark days of winter but hearty, savory stick to your ribs food makes it almost bearable.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

French Country Barn Dinner

Joining rustic and elegant has always fascinated me and for years I’ve wanted to have a fancy dinner in a barn.  Finagling the decor to fit the bill demanded vision and panache so I called my good friend  Daniela Faget of Bella Signature Designs.  Daniela loved the idea and within minutes we’d fashioned a sit down dinner for 20. 


Our idea was to offer the event as an auction item for the preschool our children attend.  Our next call was to our dear foodie friend Lisa C.  She happily joined our little crew and before you can say fois gras we’d designed the menu and chosen the French Country theme.




Assorted Cheeses and seasonal fruits

served with Champagne Cocktails


House Made Pate with Home Pickled Green Beans

paired with Coppola Claret

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Bainbridge Island Organic Greens


Bouillabaisse with Garlic Roux and Crostini

served with Coppola “Sophia” Rose


Fruit Tarts with Bainbridge Grown Strawberries


As things go, I fell so much in love with the event that I wanted it for myself.  When it came time for the bidding to begin, my dear husband and best pal Lisa B. joined forces and bought the fancy barn dinner as a gift.

Happy Birthday to me!!

Bountiful Farm is beautiful and the barn fantastic.  Daniela created an intimate feel by hanging filmy white linens from beams then laid three tables end to end.  For seating, we alternated linen covered parsons chairs with hay bales.  We topped each hay bale with cushions then draped them with burlap. 


Daniela used lavender and poppies.  6 year old Jane was in charge of the napkins and she tied bows with garden twine and tucked a sprig of lavender in each.  Lisa’s welcome table overflowed with fresh berries assorted French cheeses and fancy crackers.  The roux she made to accompany the bouillabaisse was out of this world; rich with saffron and garlic.

Guests played croquet, admired the peacocks and made friends with the horses.  Chickens clucked, horses neighed, glasses clinked, guests laughed.


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We cooked all the food outdoors over a fire ring and gas barbecue.  Everyone helped out, Alan and Brad poured wine, Elaine kept an expert eye on the bouillabaisse and made sure the seafood was cooked to perfection, Kevin grilled the crostini. Hollind, Heather and Lisa served.





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At the end of the evening I looked around.  No words can express the joy of having my parents and sibs mingling with all my dear friends and know they were all there for me.

Candles flickered, music played, people laughed.




Saturday, September 4, 2010

Victoria Tasting Notes

Victoria was the highlight of this summer’s sail.  Nothing can compete with the whales, of course but you really need to come here to eat.

There’s Willies Bakery and Cafe on Johnson Street where you can sit in a brick walled courtyard covered with geraniums and roses, warmed by a massive fireplace.  Their hot chocolate is the best and you can’t go wrong with their menu…I always have the traditional eggs Benedict one of five benedicts on their menu.   Ross had the Latin Benedict with chorizo and chipotle hollandaise.

Tea at Murchies is served on a silver (faux) platter and costs $1.90. you get your own pot and your choice of dozens of teas.  The pastries taste as good as they look which is saying a lot.  Jane recommends the New York cheesecake, I can vouch for the macarons, Lizzie’s all about the brownies thick as fudge and covered with a 1/4 inch layer of caramel and topped with chocolate swirls (I KNOW!).  Ross is old school (it’s his English upbringing I suspect) and swears by the currant scones with cream and jam.  Frankly…you can’t go wrong so if your budget doesn’t run to tea at the Empress you’ll be very happy at Murchies on Government street.

If your budget does run to high tea at the Empress ($55 per adult $18 for princess tea) be sure to make reservations and don’t wait until the cruise ships arrive because the tearoom is booked on cruise ship days.  Dress up, put a bow in your princess’s hair and enjoy a world with queens and tea time.  Tea begins with strawberries and cream, study the portrait of Queen Mary and enjoy the pink, green and gold wedding cake decor of the room until your tea tower arrives laden with cheesecake, chocolates, shortcake, lemon tart, mini sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber, curry, carrot-ginger.  Divine.

Victoria has an authentic Chinatown and we come here every visit for dim sum at Don Mee.  Crispy duck with plum sauce, shrimp dumplings, gyoza fried tableside and savory rich soups like won ton and hot and sour.  Stoll Fan Tan Alley on your way back to the waterfront and pick up a dozen or so paper parasols to give as gifts or use as party favors.  Our family of four ate until we couldn't eat anymore for $45…a bargain.

Would love to hear your favorite places in this grand city…




Victoria Tasting Notes

Victoria was the highlight of this summer’s sail.  Nothing can compete with the whales, of course but you really need to come here to eat.

There’s Willies Bakery and Cafe on Johnson Street where you can sit in a brick walled courtyard covered with geraniums and roses, warmed by a massive fireplace.  Their hot chocolate is the best and you can’t go wrong with their menu…I always have the traditional eggs Benedict one of five benedicts on their menu.   Ross had the Latin Benedict with chorizo and chipotle hollandaise.

Tea at Murchies is served on a silver (faux) platter and costs $1.90. you get your own pot and your choice of dozens of teas.  The pastries taste as good as they look which is saying a lot.  Jane recommends the New York cheesecake, I can vouch for the macarons, Lizzie’s all about the brownies thick as fudge and covered with a 1/4 inch layer of caramel and topped with chocolate swirls (I KNOW!).  Ross is old school (it’s his English upbringing I suspect) and swears by the currant scones with cream and jam.  Frankly…you can’t go wrong so if your budget doesn’t run to tea at the Empress you’ll be very happy at Murchees on Government street.

If your budget does run to high tea at the Empress ($55 per adult $18 for princess tea) be sure to make reservations and don’t wait until the cruise ships arrive because the tearoom is booked on cruise ship days.  Dress up, put a bow in your princess’s hair and enjoy a world with queens and tea time.  Tea begins with strawberries and cream, study the portrait of Queen Mary and enjoy the pink, green and gold wedding cake decor of the room until your tea tower arrives laden with cheesecake, chocolates, shortcake, lemon tart, mini sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber, curry, carrot-ginger.  Divine.

Victoria has an authentic Chinatown and we come here every visit for dim sum at Don Mee.  Crispy duck with plum sauce, shrimp dumplings, gyoza fried tableside and savory rich soups like won ton and hot and sour.  Stoll Fan Tan Alley on your way back to the waterfront and pick up a dozen or so paper parasols to give as gifts or use as party favors.  Our family of four ate until we couldn't eat anymore for $45…a bargain.

Would love to hear your favorite places in this grand city…




Thursday, September 2, 2010

What I did this summer

As children across the island pen “what I did this summer” at their newly acquired desks on this second day of school I work on our family journal. Here are some of the highlights:whales 186

Most recently there were whales…entering Victoria harbor we found ourselves on an intercept path with a pod of Orca whales.  I called the kids on deck and we watched from the bow from what was a comfortable “look though the binoculars and see the whales kind of distance”.  Within a minute I realized the whales were a lot bigger than they should be and we were a lot closer than we needed to be.  At the same time I heard the engine grind into hard reverse and strain as Ross tried furiously to get out us of their path. 

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A whole pod of killer whales in motion is a lot faster than a twenty ton sailboat trying to fight momentum and turn on a dime.    Rather than risk injury to the whales from our spinning prop, Ross killed the engine and we sat dead in the water as a family of the world’s most graceful creatures approached us, coming so close we could reach across the bow and touch them.  They surrounded us, never varying from their path simply carrying on as if we didn’t exist.

whales 189 Can you see the whale beneath the water?

They dove, glittering in the morning sun and my children looked over the bowlines to see them beneath us.  Whale song as clear as the day filled the air and rainbows shimmered as they blew.  Within a minute they’d passed and we sat, stunned by nature and luck and beauty.

I still can’t believe it.

After a summer of silence I feel I owe you all something pretty grand but sadly boat cuisine is more about speed and ease than anything else…On top of that our fridge gave up the ghost so we’ve been old school on this voyage relying on huge blocks of ice combined with big bags of ice cubes (a broken fridge will not interfere with cocktail hour) and this is our last night on board so we’re down to the bare bones; half a block of feta, some smoked salmon, corn tortillas, other stuff I can’t identify and some tomatoes. 

You know where I’m going with this:

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Did I mention I smoked the salmon myself?  Our benevolent neighbor Matthew gifted us some fresh king salmon on the eve of a family bout with stomach flu.  Yes, I know that’s too much information but the point is this…the fresh salmon sat in the fridge for three days before anyone in the family could look at food again and rather than let it sit longer, I brined it overnight and smoked it using my dad’s tried and true recipe.

Smoked Salmon and Feta Quesadillas

Makes four

8 corn tortillas

1 cup smoked salmon, crumbled

1 cup feta, crumbled

Place an 8 inch sauté pan over medium heat and spray with non-stick.  Lay one tortilla in the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup feta.  When the  1/4 cup feta starts to melt sprinkle with  1/4 cup salmon and top with a second tortilla. 

Press the tortillas together so they stick and then flip as you would a pancake.  When the salmon is warm and the feta is melted removed from heat, and repeat for the remaining three quesadillas then cut them into quarters, garnish with chopped tomatoes and serve.  Enjoy.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Truffle Brownies

Checking the mail is a daily ritual that involves a cup of tea and a five minute walk to to the top of the lane.  The alders and maples have grown together in places, creating lace doilies shadows on the road.   The baby birds have fledged, their nest empty but for one tiny downy feather, the salmon berries are ripe,and  St. John's wort has finally bloomed in messy yellow abandon.  These are the things I note as I stroll along wondering what Sophia our mail lady has delivered.

When I get home I make a fresh cup of tea and settle in with my favorite cooking magazine.  Bon appétit has arrived and with it, this luscious truffle brownie recipe. 

Brownies with a liquid layer of melted chocolate and hot cream…you had me at hello.

   truffle brownies 117


I highly recommend a sprinkle of sea salt for glamour and extra flavor.



Truffle Brownies

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped, divided
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • special equipment

    9x9x2-inch metal baking pan

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Spray foil with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Combine 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and cool chocolate mixture until lukewarm, 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, then chopped toasted walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 26 to 28 minutes. Transfer pan to cooling rack and let brownies cool completely.

  • Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add remaining 6 ounces chocolate to hot cream and let stand 5 minutes to soften, then whisk until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate ganache over brownie sheet in pan and spread to cover completely. Let stand at cool room temperature until topping is set, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.

  • Using foil as aid, lift brownie sheet from pan. Fold down foil edges. Using large sharp knife, cut brownie sheet into 25 squares, wiping knife with hot moist cloth after each cut. Arrange brownies on platter and serve.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grilled Tomatoes with Gorgonzola

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So easy, so elegant and so tasty that the kids even eat them.     This recipe comes from the Central Market weekly fresh sheet and I’ve made them nearly every night since I discovered the recipe.
Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side down on hot grill for three minutes.  Remove from grill, sprinkle with blue cheese and return to grill cut side up for another minute.  Serve immediately.
They make a beautiful accompaniment to any meal.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta Cheese

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Aunt Sharron came for a visit a few months back.  She spent some time keeping Molly beagle company while we frolicked with Mickey and Ariel and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  She kindly delivered us to and from the airport, no small favor when you live on an island and rely on ferries to get you to and fro. 

She welcomed us home with rich and savory vegetable soup and the next day we pored over stacks of cookbooks and chose this recipe to begin our cook-fest.  Just now I realize that it has fennel in it…after my last post you know that I’ve recently become a huge fan of fennel but it turns out that fennel has been sneaking around my kitchen for a while.

You can grill or broil this.  I  broiled all the veggies together with absolutely no regard for the special handling suggested below with different cooking times for everything.  I skipped the step about cutting into smaller pieces and tossed the whole thing, hot and charred, fresh from the broiler into a bowl and onto the table.

I love that some of the veggies were crisp tender and some more melting.  I like that the feta softened and smeared all those lovely veggies with it’s tart and pungent cheesiness. The vinegar made a bright counterpoint to the spicy basil. 

With each bite I re-invented this dish, first as a sandwich piled high on a baguette and quickly grilled , then as a relish, chopped fine and served beside meatloaf or added to pasta for a healthy flavor punch. 

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta Cheese

1 small or ½ medium fennel bulb with fronds attached

1 medium orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut lengthwise into 4 or 5 pieces

1 medium red onion cut into ¼ inches thick slices

1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices

1 medium yellow squash cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

3 Table spoons red wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup crumbled feta cheese (2½ oz.)

3 tablespoons loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil

Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb. Remove about ¼ cup of the fronds from the stalks, chop the fronds, and reserve. Cut the fennel in quarter lengthwise and trim away most of the core leaving just enough intact to keep the layers together.  Slice the quarters lengthwise ¼ inch thick.

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire (alternately, use an indoor grill pan over medium-high heat). Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a tray or work surface. Brush both sides of the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Grill the vegetables in batches, flipping once, on both sides are nicely charred and the vegetables are just tender about 12 minutes total for the fennel, 10 minutes total for the pepper and 6 minutes total for the onion and squash. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut them into ½ inch dice and transfer to a large bowl.  Add feta.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, ¼teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss the vegetables with the dressing .

Gently stir in the tomatoes and fennel fronds. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

Serves 4…from Fine Cooking April/May issue

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fennel and Arugula Salad with White Balsamic and Orange Vinaigrette

house pics 031  Holy cow!  Wine society met weeks ago and I’m just now telling you that it was FABULOUS!  The theme was fresh and grilled and we focused on local Farmer’s market ingredients.  This salad is a fine example of local: The arugula and greens came from our garden and though we were a few weeks early for island grown strawberries we managed to get some gorgeous raspberries instead. 

The subtle contrast of sweet and bitter is a sure salad winner but the real gem is this salad is the fennel.  It’s always fun to discover a new ingredient and in the two weeks since we had this salad at wine society I’ve embraced fennel; chopped, braised, added to scrambled eggs and of course in this salad.

I love the unexpected crunch and the spicy, clean taste.  The original recipe called for orange segments and the dressing is anchored by orange juice concentrate and the sweet meets spicy  orange/fennel combination is where the wow is.

Our wine expert, Jerred Wolfe from Palm Bay Imports paired this with Sella Mosca, Torbado.  You’re not alone if you have no idea what this wine is because it’s made from a very unusual grape that is only grown in a small vineyard in Sardinia…I’d never heard of it prior to wine society but I can tell you it’s a luscious wine with bright crisp notes that worked beautifully with this assertive salad.

This is a great summer salad and you can substitute any combination of greens and fruit, as we did, and have an unusual and impressive starter; add more shrimp and it could be a light summer dinner.

Baby Arugula, Strawberry & Fennel Salad with Grilled Shrimp and White Balsamic Vinaigrette

From:  Cathy Casey’s Northwest Table
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 tablespoon undiluted orange juice concentrate
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons minced orange zest
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and crushed
2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds large raw shrimp (32 to 40)
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed
Oranges or Strawberries
6 cups baby arugula or Bainbridge salad blend
2 heads baby frisee (or Bainbridge salad blend), torn, rinsed, and spun dry
White Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below)

To marinate the shrimp, whisk all the ingredients, except the shrimp, in a large bowl. Peel, devein, and remove tails, then add the shrimp to marinade and toss to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour to overnight.
To prepare the salad, finely shave the fennel bulbs with a sharp knife or a mandoline and crisp in ice water for 10 minutes. Spin dry before using. Cut the peel off the oranges, trim away all the white pith, then cut the fruit into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Flick out any seeds. (If prepared ahead, refrigerate the fennel and orange slices separately, for up to 2 hours.)

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to high. Grill the shrimp until just pink and done, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, toss the arugula, frisee, fennel, and strawberries with enough of the vinaigrette to coat nicely - taste for flavor, adding more dressing if needed. (Carla’s note: wait until just before serving to add dressing)
Server the salad on a large platter or divide among individual plates, arrange the shrimp on top, and drizzle with a little extra dressing if desired.


White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 2 cups
1/2 cup while balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon minced shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup undiluted orange juice concentrate
Pinch of red pepper flakes, or 1 tablespoon harissa paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, shallots, mustard, and juice concentrate. Whisk in the pepper flakes, salt, pepper to taste, and fennel seed. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Stir in the fennel fronds. If made ahead, refrigerate until shortly before needed, then re-whisk before using. The vinaigrette keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tortilla Chicken Soup

I’m on a soup kick. 

Lunch seems to slip past each day, lost in the blur of laundry, errands and kid transport.   Around 3pm I start nibbling at my chocolate stash too hungry to think.    I KNOW this is bad so I’ve made it easier to eat lunch.  Having a pot of fresh, savory soup in the fridge does the trick.

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Last month I made a batch of chicken stock.  The recipe called for two whole chickens and pounds of vegetables.  It was worth every penny and every minute spent chopping and stirring. 

Homemade stock is so superb it makes even the best store bought chicken stock taste like salted water.  The recipe also yielded pounds of shredded chicken which I froze in one pound bags.  This recipe used the last of it so it’s time to make so more.  Organic Free Range chickens are on sale right now at Central Market buy one get one free.

Mexican Chicken Soup

From :  Ina Garten

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas


For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fresh Pea Soup

fresh pea soup 031 

I love Sundays.  Its the day my whole family sleeps in, relaxes together and the day I put together our weekly menus.  There are days, like today, when I stare at the empty paper and nothing happens.  I try in vain to summon creative meals beyond tacos and happy bowls and eventually resort to the cookbook shelf.  The cheerful faces of Ina Garten, Kathy Casey and others never fails to inspire me and the thought of all the seasonal goodies in my garden right now brought me to this fresh and light Sunday dinner.

fresh pea soup 081Fresh Pea Soup

From:  Barefoot Contessa at Home

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
  • Garlic croutons, for serving


Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.

*Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with garlic croutons.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Food Friday…Cream of Sorrel Soup

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Something wonderful happens when friends gather to cook.    Together we become more than the sum of our parts. We dream (Food Friday goes to France) we plan (Cable TV show?!) we share.   We eat and talk and mostly we have fun and when I leave a food Friday I’m invincible.  My friends have convinced me.

Food is love and that is never more apparent than on Food Friday.

We’ve changed our focus a bit.  Food Friday has become a culinary classroom.  We’re using Mastering the Art of French Cooking as our text and have recently mastered poached eggs (fresh is best) and  pastry shells (keep it cold).  This week we tackled soufflés and soup and each week we challenge ourselves to try something new…Like sorrel.

Sorrel.  I’ve heard of it…had a vague notion that it’s green and…that’s about it.  I briefly pondered how an entire greens family could have escaped my notice for so long.  Rebecca from Persephone Farms convinced me I had to try it so I dutifully bought some and came home to flip through cookbooks.  I nibbled the end of a leaf and wow...the flavors are bright and tart but what really surprised me is that I know this flavor.  It’s unique and powerful and earned a place in my taste memory when I was a kid.  We called it “sourgrass” and it grows wild all over the place. 

I did a little research and it turns out, the sourgrass of my childhood is sheep sorrel and can be used in soups, salads and tarts, just like the culinary sorrel you can buy at the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market right now!

Larry from the Suquamish farmer’s market  (Wednesday from 3-6)sold me a plant and the idea of sorrel soup.  He used to run the cafe at Bainbridge Gardens and makes the best gazpacho I’ve ever tasted to I took his advice.  Many of his recipes originate with Julia so I went to our text.

Ms. Child’s says “This is a lovely soup, and a perfect one for an important dinner.”  I love that, the whole idea of entertaining “important” people at home. 

This soup is indeed elegant and charming.  It’s rich with bright flavor, smoothed out with some fresh cream.   Elaine our expert on all things French just closed her eyes and sighed,  “I’ve been waiting for this.”

We all had seconds.

Potage Crème d’Oseille

From: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1/3 cup minced green or yellow onions

3 tablespoons butter

3-4 packed cups of fresh Sorrel leaves and tender stems washed, dried in a towel and cut into chiffonade (thin slices or shreds).

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons of flour

5 1/2 cup boiling chicken stock

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup whipping cream

1-2 tablespoons softened butter


Cook the onions slowly in butter in a covered saucepan for 5-10 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned.

Stir in sorrel and salt, cover, cook slowly for about five minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.

Off heat, beat the boiling stock.  Simmer for five minutes.

Blend the yolks and cream in a mixing bowl.  Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by dribbles.  Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thick stream.  Return soup to a saucepan an stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the eggs yolk. but do not bring the soup to the simmer.  Off heat stir  in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.

Pour the soup in a tureen or soup cups and decorate with optional sorrel leaves.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Farm Fresh

The corner of my parent’s vegetable garden has, for as long as I can remember, been home to a venerable old rhubarb plant.  When I was small, I’d sneak some, choosing the smaller stalks so my mom wouldn’t notice.  She never called me on it but I got a few helpful discussions about removing the poisonous leaves to the compost bin, so I’m pretty sure she was onto me. 

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Today I found Elizabeth in the greenhouse harvesting arugula.  We’d planted it together a month or so ago and it’s hers, but still she froze in that sort of “am I allowed to do this?” way that children do when they explore and adventure on their own.  Her plants are strong and healthy and I told her so and offered to get her a bowl to contain her harvest.  A few minutes later we sat side by side on the deck eating arugula fresh from my 4 year-old’s garden.

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It was heaven.

So, I realize that not only did my mom know what I was up to in the rhubarb patch, it made her happy.  And that makes me happy.  So I guess I could say that rhubarb makes me happy.  Whenever I see it, I’m reminded of those sunny spring mornings when I’d raid the garden and to this day I’m especially fond of rhubarb jam and rhubarb pie. 

On Saturday the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s market opened with music, a dog and pony (miniature horse to be specific) show, and loads of island grown produce, bread, jam, and plants.  I bought two beautiful lilac trees; gray with lichen, farm fresh eggs,  plants for my vegetable garden and two pounds of rhubarb.

I roasted the rhubarb with wine and sugar and a vanilla bean using this recipe from Molly at Orangette.   Hollind made this at our last food Friday and it’s so delicious I had to have a batch for myself.  Molly’s recipe makes enough filling for four mini-pies.

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Elizabeth and I have a date to plant lettuce and sorrel now, she’s waiting for me in the garden.

See you tomorrow at the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grilled Oysters

It seems that you either love oysters or hate them.  I’m in the first camp while my esteemed husband is firmly in the latter. As marital discord goes, this is fairly minor but it seems that most of my oyster consumption occurs when Ross is absent.  As infidelity goes, this too is fairly minor but I do try to be discreet.

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So, when spring break arrived and Ross had a big meeting to prepare for, the kids and I retired to our rustic (emphasis here) cottage on the coast leaving Ross behind on the island.  The road to the coast passes acres of oyster beds and Copalis Beach is known as the razor clam capital of the world.  We arrived and unpacked, visions of sandcastles, beach fires and shellfish dancing in our heads.

But it was not to be, winter storms rolled in.  One day turned into two and before I knew it three days had passed with no break from the damp weather.  There comes a time when you begin to look for signs (you know…from above) and start making deals with yourself about how many more times you can listen to the Dora theme song before you break.  In my case the sign arrived in the form of an A-board advertising four dozen oysters for 20 dollars.

Turns out the kids favor their dad and aren’t oyster fans either.  Calls of Yuck! and I’m not eating those! accompanied my bargaining but I’d been tuning them out for days so it was easy to ignore them.

One woman…four dozen oysters…

Where to begin?

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I’m no fan of shucking so when we got back to the cottage and Dora and Backpack took over with the kids, I lit the grill.  Oysters poached in their shell are plump and moist and depending on how you like them, just a bit jiggly.  They’re also fast.  Ten minutes and you’re enjoying piping hot, juicy oysters.  They need no embellishment but I suppose you could dribble them with Tobasco or dredge them in melted butter.

When you’ve got four dozen oysters and some time on your hands you get some pretty good practice in pairing.  One of my absolute favorites is grilled oysters and radishes.  Get a nice fresh baguette from Pane d’Amore, some salted organic butter and lovely, dewy, radishes.  Slice the baguette and spread with butter (this is not the time to be worrying about calories…really slather it on) top with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt.


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As for wine…oysters are notoriously difficult to pair but we have some of the best shellfish wines in the world right here on Bainbridge Island.  I didn’t have the foresight to buy wine in advance of my oyster fest but I have it on good authority that I would have been quite happy with a bottle of Perennial Vintner’s Melon de Bourgogne

Kim Hendrickson, organizer of the upcoming New Releases Celebration and Wine Tasting in Downtown Winslow on April 24th, says, “I like this homegrown version of muscadet so much I'm organizing a shellfish tent around it.” You can read about the wine by clicking here Bainbridge Wine Weekend.

Grilled Oysters

Light grill and allow it to heat.  When the internal temp is 350 or above place the rinsed oysters, cup side down and close the lid.  Wait six minutes and take a peek.  If any have opened remove them, and those that are smaller.  Close grill for two more minutes and then remove any remaining oysters.  You may have to do some prying but you want to get them off the heat while they are still juicy.


Monday, April 5, 2010


When you live on an island things are just different.  For instance, it wasn’t until I moved to Bainbridge that I could have conceived of an Easter on-the-water balloon chase in tiny sailboats.  One day, not long after we’d bought our charming but decrepit farmhouse and while still very much in the throes of “oh wow, we live on an island” we watched this distinctive island scene unfold. This was BK (before kids) and Easter Sunday meant a long brunch on the deck enjoying our newly acquired view.

Happy sounds drifted across the bay.  An event was in progress at the Port Madison Yacht Club.  Before long a fleet of sailing dinghies launched and a hundred balloons  skittered across the water.  The dinghies raced along, life-jacketed kids scooping wayward balloons.  Parents cheered from the club dock and I suspect a bit of smack talk between the adult skippers (but here I embroider as I wasn’t close enough to hear.)

Yesterday a dozen years after that first wonderful glimpse into the uniqueness of island life, we are the parents shouting encouragement while our life-jacketed kids hang precariously over the side of a swiftly moving vessel scooping up jelly bean filled balloons.  We had front row seats for the action from the rescue boat. Our mission was to scoop up wet kids (none) and runaway balloons (a few and it’s much harder than it looks), but mostly we sat back and enjoyed the ride, feeling like we’d been granted admission inside a particularly beautiful snow globe (no snow, just the magic of being inside something so rare and wonderful). 

After the excitement, the chocolate bunnies, the egg-toss (this two-year reigning champ was unseated by an eight year old) we dinghied back across the bay for an Easter dinner of grilled oysters and steamer clams, fresh baguettes and a crunchy salad.  More on the oysters soon.

Sadly I have no pictures to share with you.  My camera and I have been having some technical difficulties.  Would love to hear about your unique island experiences if you’d like share.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Checking In

Sorry I’ve been such a no show in the blog department.  I could give you all the reasons or just cut to the chase and tell you that my camera and I re-united, the grill is heating for fresh Willapa oysters, pizza dough is rising beside the wood stove and I’m determined to finally perfect tortas de aceite those olive oil crisp breads I fell in love with last summer in Spain.

Spring break has begun and I wish you all well this week.

Please stay tuned.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chocolate Leaves

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My friend Carlyn should really be a cake designer.  She kindly pretends that I inspire her but the reverse is true.  She has a calm, purposeful way about her.  She  measures everything in advance and has lots of spatulas.  I doubt she’s ever wandered around her kitchen trying to find the blade to her food processor nor is it likely she’d be found flinging drawers open in a frantic search for the candy thermometer. 

Her Wilton roses look like roses, and while I’ve not witnessed such I’ll bet she can fit Happy birthday on a cupcake without having the ‘y’ slope off the side. 

And she’s so much fun and so kind that she’s the person I called when I wanted to make chocolate leaves but lacked the confidence to do it myself.

I’ve been intrigued by chocolate leaves for a long time but was convinced that making something so delicate and beautiful was beyond my limited artistic abilities.  Happily, I was wrong.

Here’s what you need:

Chocolate Leaves

  • Chocolate
  • Kid’s paint brush
  • Camellia leaves, washed and dried.


Melt a few ounces of your favorite chocolate.  Make sure it’s one you like because you get to eat the broken leaves and wasting a golden chocolate opportunity like that would be a real shame.  We used Callebaut semisweet.  A single, thick coating creates the best looking and sturdiest leaves so don’t be shy; really glop in on.

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Run your finger along the leaf’s edge to remove excess chocolate.  Freeze for ten minutes or until firm.  Carefully peel away the chocolate.  Broken leaves get tossed back into the melting pot or eaten.


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Use them however you want.  I offered some as a treat with tea. They’d be pretty atop a cupcake.  Clever Bainbridge moms may use them in nature lessons, an advancement on leaf rubbings.  Let me know if you’ve got a great chocolate leaf application because I’d like to make them again. (and again…)


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sage infused Margarita

My husband designs software for the fashion industry.  Thanks to him I can tell you that green and orange are the it colors for spring.   Don’t run out and replace everything in your wardrobe though because once summer arrives it’s all remade and the new it colors appear. 
nettle soup 086Plenty of people will tell you that we’re being manipulated by Madison Avenue and they’re probably right but you’ve got to admit that there’s something deep inside all of us that wants to recognize the changing of the seasons.  Biology I suppose.  We’re wired to respond to the earth’s cycles: had our ancestors ignored mother nature we wouldn't be here and you can’t really fight millennia of seasonal celebration.
Which is why I want to honor my biology and celebrate these longer days, by declaring the opening of cocktail season.  To kick it all off I give you the Sage Infused Margarita, made in the typical “we do things differently here in the Northwest” fashion.
Start with a couple freshly picked sage leaves and muddle them a bit in a cocktail shaker.  Top with crushed ice and add all the other stuff and shake for all your worth.  Drain into a handy vessel, garnish with a couple more sage leaves and enjoy, preferably with a couple of pals.
Nothing says good times like a cocktail shaker.

Sunset Sage Margarita

From:  Cathy Casey’s Northwest Table
Makes 1 drink
1 fresh sage leaf
1 1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce Cointreau, Tripe Sec, or Grand Marnier
1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Veni and I shook up a couple of these substituting pomegranate for the cranberry.  We loved the girly pink color and crunchy shards of ice the tart, then sweet then tart again flavor followed by the musty, rough hit of tequila. 
I love this cocktail so much I made it for Ross a few days ago with cranberry juice as called for in the recipe (and in stock in our fridge) but missed the tartness we’d enjoyed with the pomegranate substitution.  

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons made their way into Saturday night’s beer dinner  via the steamed mussels and I was immediately smitten. 

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I’ve thought about preserving lemons before,  but  all the recipe that seemed to call for them were exotic; apricots and lamb type combinations that neither I nor my family would like.

After chatting with the chefs Saturday night a whole new preserved lemon world has opened.  Beer-chef John suggests adding them to anything savory that I’d put lemon zest into: vinaigrette, soups, marinades, any type of fish and of course mussels, clams and shrimp.  Chef Ed nodded his agreement.  Preserved lemons are easy to make, keep for 6 months and are horrendously expensive to buy ready made.  Meyer lemons, my favorite type, currently in season are the preferred lemon for preserving.  It seemed that all indicators pointed me in the direction lemon preservation.

Cost Plus World Markets has a great array of jars in all shapes and sizes.  I wanted something moderately attractive since it will be sitting on my counter for a month then living in my fridge indefinitely.  Granted, I have a few months before I know if I did everything right and can use them in a recipe but if you want to roll the dice with me here’s what you do:

Preserved Meyer Lemons

6-8 lemons, depending on the size of your jar.

1/2 cup kosher salt

  1. Slice five of the lemons crosswise as if you were cutting them into quarters but don’t cut all the way through the base.
  2. Open the lemon and pour salt onto the exposed lemon flesh.  
  3. Press the quarters back together to look like a whole lemon then press into jar. 
  4. Repeat, adding more salt between layers, until the jar is filled.
  5. Squeeze the juice from 2-3 remaining lemons and pour into jar.  You don’t need to completely cover the lemons. 
  6. Sit jar on the counter for a month. The lemons will continue to release juice.  Invert the jar every few days. 
  7. Place in the refrigerator.  The lemons are now preserved.  To use, remove amount needed and rise well to eliminate excess salt.  Slice, mince or leave in chunks (some people discard the pulp).  They will keep for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beer Pairings Dinner

Some people know how to throw a party.  Saturday night was one of those fine example where friendship, family love and food unite.  My dear friend celebrated her birthday like I imagine Julia Child would have wanted to celebrate one of hers with good food, fine drink surrounded by friends.

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Having a brother who’s a former chef and current beer rep helps.  Add a friend, also a chef, with a killer house at the end of a surreal, moss lined winding lane.  Add in panoramic views of the Olympic mountains, a beach strewn with oyster shells, and an old timber house with patina of gentility, grace and old, old money.  Add it all up and you get the party of all birthday parties. 

The house has been in the same family since the early 1900’s.  Lovingly cared for with bunks tucked into cozy corners, shelves lined with board games, a stone fireplace, a piano from a bygone era, piles of photo albums, family history.  The house breathes conviviality and the moment we arrived it embraced us as we embraced each other.

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My friend likes to celebrate her birthday.  Last year’s party was a two day Twilight road trip.  This gal knows how to have fun and I’m so thankful she’s my friend (not because of the great parties).  Her very cool brother created the menu, each dish contained beer and included a beer pairing, even the fabulous red velvet cake.


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Birthday Beer Dinner

February 27, 2010


Spicy Cheese and Beer Soup made with Stone Ruination IPA and served with

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA


Stone Pale Ale Steamed Mussels, Roasted Peppers, Bay Leaves, and Preserved Lemon served with

Stone Pale Ale


Poached Pears with Mixed Greens, Pecans, Blue Cheese with Stone Levitation Ale Balsamic Vinaigrette served with

Stone Levitation Ale


Chili Roasted Shrimp Marinated in Stone 13th Anniversary Ale with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Watercress, Mango, Avocado, Citrus and Jalapeno Salsa and served with

Victory Prima Pilsner


Fabulous Red Velvet Cake made with Ayinger Brau Weisse and served with

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock