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