Wednesday, January 27, 2010

6 Minute Eggs

My mother in law is one of those rare and gracious people we all want to be when we grow up.  While we lolled about in Seattle on our anniversary weekend, she babysat going so far as to share a twin bed with a roaming four year old who couldn’t sleep. 

While spreading grace and courtesy (our children behave best for Grandma) and preparing signature meals from her British upbringing, she discovered a lack in our kitchen repertoire.

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She immediately set forth to put it right.  She shopped Bainbridge to no avail.  She checked a few stores in her own neighborhood.  Proving very elusive these items were finally found last week on a family trip to Mexico.

Eager for a bit of shopping I persuaded the fam. to join me in a stroll into San Jose del Cabo, a charming little town still decorated for Christmas and the New Year.  Strings of lights criss-crossed narrow streets and giant gossamer angels stood at the corners of the town square.  San José is filled with artistry; beautiful hand wrought silver, hand blown glassware, textiles, leather. 

I love vacation shopping because I can imagine I’m someone else, someone elegant and coiffed; a woman on the cutting edge of fashion.  While I flirted with the idea of red python cowboy boots, shiny and wickedly pointy,  MIL disappeared into an artisanal tableware shopped and emerged triumphant with a set of six hand-painted egg cups.


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You know how sometimes you get something and use it so much that you don't know how you lived without it?  Egg cups aren't as handy as  a cable modem, but I’ve used them four times in three days so what do you know? 

The funny thing is, I’ve always been intimidated by egg cups.  Just look at them and you can see they’re an accident waiting to happen; The laws of physics state that rolling items will roll away when you put pressure on them (or maybe that's the law of probability, it will probably roll away when you try to eat it).

Anyway, it seems impossible that the egg will politely stay put while being plundered with a spoon.  A sensible egg would make a break for freedom (and end up splatting on the kitchen floor).  All well and good when you have a  Hoover-beagle standing guard at the breakfast table, but when confronted with an egg cup containing a soft boiled egg as a newlywed, I broke out in a sweat and claimed I wasn’t really a breakfast eater.

(Clearly this was early in our marriage as R did not laugh his head off at such a blatant lie.)

But, look at me now.  I love my new egg cups.  They’re so pretty and useful.  So far I’ve used them as a salt cellar,  spice holder, and teensy vase, and of course to hold soft boiled eggs…without a single splat.


6 Minute Eggs

If you’re really organized you’ll take your eggs out of the fridge about a half an hour before you intend to cook them.  This allows them to warm up a bit so they’re less likely to crack when you set them in boiling water.

Fill a pan with water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down so the water is at a simmer.  Place an egg in a tablespoon, gently set into the hot water.  Cook for six minutes then remove from heat, drain  and cover with cold water.  This stops the eggs from cooking without cooling them too much.

While your eggs are cooking put a couple pieces of bread in the toaster.

Butter your toast, slice into fingers and arrange on a plate.  Place your egg cup in the middle and serve by cutting the top off the egg with a table knife.  (This decapitated portion is called the “little potty” much to my children’s delight.  Ah the British.).  Dip toast in egg, enjoy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

West Sound Wildlife Shelter

Meet Athena, a barred owl and Mike Pratt the director of wildlife services at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter (WSWS).  We met them on a rainy Sunday at the Bloedel Reserve where Mike told us about the wildlife shelter and answered lots of questions about owls.

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Did you know that owls mate for life?  That baby owls spend about a week learning how to fly and during that time are unprotected and vulnerable on the ground?  Athena, on what is thought to be her inaugural flight flew into the path of a car.  Her wing is badly damaged and she’ll never fly again.  She now serves as one of the shelter’s ambassadors.

West Sound Wildlife Shelter cared for nearly 800 wild animals last year.  The focus is on rehabilitation and their goal is that every single animal be returned to their natural habitat. 

The shelter’s website is wonderful with lots of baby animal pics and info.   I spent a happy interlude there last night reading patient stories with Little E.  WSWS is currently caring for three young bald eagles and a mature female that was shot.

By the way; you no longer need a reservation to visit the Bloedel Reserve and the paths and vistas hold a special magic on rainy days so don’t wait for summer.

The ponds are especially mesmerizing.  (Tried to insert a rainy day video here but it didn’t work. You’ll just have to imagine the tinkly sound rain makes on the ponds.) 

The camellias are blooming, can spring be far behind?


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Food Friday

We haven’t totally abandoned our original mission to cook Friday night’s dinner together but we’ve found it’s much more fun to drink wine over a three hour lunch and order a pizza for dinner.
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We had quite a lot to discuss so we called it a planning meeting and set to work.  First, we’ve agreed that no one watches Julie and Julia until we can pick a date for a big screen viewing at Veni’s house.  We shall make bouillabaisse and I get to be Julia with the meat cleaver a la her 1971 The French Chef bouillabaisse episode.
Next we had to re-commit to our surfing/cooking weekend with EVOO Cooking school and women’s surf camp in Cannon Beach.  Some husbands have suggested that we’re too wimpy to willingly submerge ourselves in water so cold but they’re wrong.  Just to prove it, we’ve agreed to celebrate Chinese New Year which coincides with Valentine’s day and a full moon by jumping into Port Madison.  Take THAT ye of little faith.
We set the menu for our next wine society meeting with Eagle Harbor Wine Company.  We refuse to be intimidated by winemaker Hugh Remash who is a sommelier in two countries and his wife a professional chef, both of whom will be joining us on Feb 6th (um, okay we’re a bit intimidated).  Elaine is making beef bourguignon; she speaks fluent French thus I am confident she’ll do us proud. 
Jeff from Harbor Square Wine Shop made a great recommendation when he paired a 2008 Poet’s Leap Riesling (Walla Walla, WA) with spicy butternut squash soup with cilantro.  Veni whipped up a heart of palm salad with hibiscus flowers and balsamic syrup and Hollind wowed us with peppermint bark.
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May your New Year be filled with three hour lunches.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lemon Curd

Tart and refreshing, this lemon curd is the filling for Pasta and Company’s famous lemon tarts but it’s so delicious and easy I use it to fill cakes and scones as well.

Meyer lemons are right now in season.  I’m a huge fan of these sweet lemons and bought a mesh bag of them last week.  We ate them with powdered sugar on French toast (with homemade brioche) and they add extra depth to this lovely curd.  

In the grocery store, you’ll smell them before you see them,their lemon blossom scent is unmistakable.


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I loved the Tom Douglas Cherry Almond Scones so much I made them for E’s class as a morning snack and then came home for English tea Bainbridge Style.  That’s homemade Devonshire cream on top; lemon curd inside.  Absolutely delicious.


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Lemon Curd

By: Pasta and Company By Request

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

In a food processor bowl equipped with a steel blade, place whole eggs, yolks and lemon juice. Process until eggs are well beaten. Then, with machine running gradually add sugar, arrowroot and lemon zest. When well mixed, add cream cheese a chunk at a time and puree until specks of cream cheese are no longer visible.

Pour lemon mixture into a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until curd is steaming and coats the spoon, but is still think enough to pour. Remove from heat and stir, curd will thicken as it cools.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Golden Anniversary Cake

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My parent’s 50th anniversary celebration: Dad’s favorite German Chocolate cupcakes on the bottom, Mom’s favorite white cake with lemon curd filling on the top and my favorite Devil’s food with white butter cream frosting in the middle.  The cake tower is satin wrapped plywood circles held aloft by candlesticks (glued in place).  The cake flowers were piped then frozen for easy handling then glued in place with frosting.  The cake topper was from my Grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary and my Grandma has passed it on to me…34 years to go.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tom Douglas Cherry Almond Scones

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I spent the weekend steps from the epicenter of the Tom Douglas Empire; Ettas, Lolas, Palace Kitchen and Serious Pie called to us each time we passed.  We promised ourselves Sunday brunch at Lolas (I’ve heard wonderful things about their homemade donuts and Eggs Benedict) but when Sunday rolled around we were content to have Le Panier take out and a cup of tea.   Yesterday I was thumbing through cookbooks at the library and came across a Tom Douglas tome.   I came straight home and made these Cherry Almond Scones.


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These mixed up quickly with a couple pulses in the food processor.  I used frozen butter and handled the dough briefly and the result was a tender, flaky and rich scone that went beautifully with homemade strawberry jam.

The footnote:  The dried cherries exposed to direct heat burned.  The next time I make these I'll press any exposed cherry bits into the dough where they will be more protected.


Recipe from Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen

For the Scones:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup toasted blanched sliced almonds, cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For Brushing the Scones:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 425. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, powder, soda, salt, zest. Cut in butter until it resembles crumbly cornmeal.  (I used the food processor). Mix in cherries and almonds. In a separate bowl combine buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract.

Gradually pour in buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Do not overmix. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a 9-inch round about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into wedges. Place the scones on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush them with cream and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 and finish baking until golden and cooked through. This takes another 12-15 minutes. Serve warm.


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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Weekend Getaway: Downtown Seattle

Before Bainbridge Island, before kids (BK) we called a Pike Place condo home.   We spent our anniversary weekend visiting our old haunts and strolling memory lane:

The Virginia Inn is my new Seattle meet up place (sorry Zig Zag!).  Freshly expanded and sporting their own kitchen they make the best pate I have ever tasted (you will not be satisfied with just one order)…the duck sausage is also worth the trip.  Lovely staff and old Seattle ambiance.  A must visit next time you’re in town.  Happy hour 4-6pm.

A few steps down the street from the Virginia Inn is Le Pichet.  I’ve just about perfected my eggs Le Pichet.  While you’re waiting for me to fine tune the recipe, stop in yourself for a glass of champagne and  oeufs plats, jambon et fromage (Two eggs broiled with ham and gruyère).  Still one of my favorite lunches.

Happy hour at Cutters now lasts all day!! Fresh sushi prepared by our friend Tom Toyama at Cutter’s Sea Bar.  Sweet and juicy pan fried oysters, crisp on the outside and succulently briny inside.  Hot crab and artichoke dip, delicious as usual…all mojitos 6 bucks!

The Zig Zag Cafe, nestled on the Hillclimb steps is known for its innovative cocktails.  This was my fav meet up place for many years and BFF Lisa and I logged a lot of happy hours and French 75’s here.  Hard to find but worth the effort. 

The next time you visit The Brooklyn pause a second in the breezeway between the inner and outer doors…if you feel an overwhelming desire to kiss the one you’re with, it’s because that’s where my TDH (Tall dark and Handsome) proposed and that space is forever infused with romance.  After that order a dozen kumamotos and a basil gimlet.

If you love beautiful clothes, get to Nordstrom's today.  Lured by racks and racks of sale items, I ventured into Designers (second floor; top of escalator).  Every girl needs a Missoni…Get yours on a 75% mark down with an additional 15% on Wednesday (tomorrow!)… Go!  Also, they’ve done something magical to skinny jeans and if you want to look taller and thinner than you actually are (who doesn’t) try some on. 

So many great restaurants, so many wonderful shops…there’s no way to see them all.  If you have a fav shop or restaurant downtown I’d love to know about it. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year Predictions

We celebrated our anniversary with a Seattle weekend escape in swanky digs overlooking the Pike Place Market. More about that tomorrow.  Sunday morning while sipping freshly squeezed orange juice contemplating the end of our lovely, romantic food-filled weekend I asked myself…what’s next?  Here’s what I answered:

My New Year’s predictions:

  1. The rise of the Gimlet.  The Brooklyn makes a basil infused gimlet with chipotle that will rock your world.  The moment BFF Lisa and I tasted it we high fived and announced our new favorite drink.  (This supplants the Zig Zag Cafe’s French 75 discovered by us in 2003.)  I have the recipe and will make it for anyone who wants to come to my house and drink it with me.
  2. Return of the roast:  Put  a roast in the oven and let it do all the work while you paint your toenails.  It exudes fantastic cooking smells while you primp for company and you both emerge for dinner looking like a million bucks. Roast chicken on croutons with lemon is my now fav. :  I’ve served it twice to company and both asked for the recipe.  On a practical level, roasts tend to be less expensive than single cuts and go further as leftovers (think French dip, chicken pot pie, warm pork sandwiches).
  3. More stuff with these ingredients:  Grainy French mustard, cocoa nibs, fennel.  These ingredients interest me and thus I suspect will interest others.  I base this on all those other times I thought I was the onto something really cool only to  learn that everyone else is way ahead of me.
  4. Quilting.  Yep.  The Quilting Borg have sucked me in.  I figure if I’ve succumbed there must be some cosmic force making us need a rotary cutter and learn about stripping.  (That and my inability to throw anything away; what better way to recycle my daughters’ crib bedding, their first flannel nighties and the frilly little dresses they’ve outgrown? ) I vow to finish it before they’ve moved out.

Mercifully, that’s all. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year’s Day Brunch

Last month I designed a New Years Brunch menu for a photo shoot collaboration with Bella Signature Design, one of Seattle’s top wedding designers, Paloma’s Nest, crafter of modern heirlooms and Momental Designs, creator of exquisite handmade invitations and stationery:
Included are recipes that represented my 2009; our month in Spain; weekends at the beach cottage near the cranberry bogs, crabbing from our dock, smoking salmon for the first time.  The theme is locally grown/caught with a cranberry spin:

New Year’s Day Brunch
Welcome Drink: 
Cranberry Bellini
Blini with home-smoked salmon and lemon crème fraiche
Winter Citrus salad
Fresh Dungeness Crab Benedict on brioche with basil infused olive oil
steamed asparagus
Spanish Tortilla; thinly sliced locally grown potatoes tossed with organic eggs and Spanish seasonings
Cranberry  Orange muffins
Profiteroles with cranberry compote and chocolate sauce.
Cava (Spanish Champagne)
Recipes for blini, tortilla, cranberry orange muffins are in previous posts.
Most of these foods can be made in advance and assembled just before guests arrive.
To make a cranberry Bellini simply add pureed sweetened cranberries (cranberry compote) or a teaspoon of cranberry sauce to a glass of champagne. 
The winter citrus is grapefruit nearly frozen and served with sea salt and home grown mint:  Slice a pink grapefruit in half; using a sharp knife cut each segment from the rind but leave whole; then place in the freezer for 45 minutes.  Remove from freezer and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and garnish with mint leaves.  Serve immediately or place on ice bed in buffet.
Recipes abound for eggs Benedict.  Make your favorite hollandaise and make or buy brioche (I prefer them to English muffins) and substitute crab for ham.  Drizzle olive oil infused with basil around the plate.  Serve hot or place crab topped brioche in heated dish on buffet with hollandaise and olive oil in pitchers nearby. Remember to toast the brioche first and heat the hollandaise pitcher with warm water before pouring in the hollandaise, this will keep it warm longer.
Profiteroles…Cream puffs (pate choux) filled with vanilla ice cream then drizzled with chocolate sauce.  Scoop ice cream in advance; form them into nice round balls and return to freezer.  When it’s time for dessert let your guests assemble their own and pass warmed chocolate sauce (can be as simple as Hershey’s or as exotic as ganache).
There…an elegant winter buffet suitable for an anniversary party, holiday brunch or just for you.
Special thanks for Daniela of Bella Signature Design for including Bainbridge Style in her New Year’s Day Photo Shoot.  Click on her link for more New Year’s Brunch photos and samples of Paloma’s Nest and Momental Design’s work (gorgeous stuff, all).  Photo credit to the fabulously talented UK photographer Philip Meadows.