October 28, 2008


The Seattle Food and Wine Experience was huge fun! I attended the show as a food correspondent for Foodbuzz. If you haven't checked out Foodbuzz yet, you should! I tasted something like 30 wines and champagnes (there were a thousand available, but I had to pace myself!), discovered some new products, ate delectable small plates from several Seattle restaurants, picked up some recipes, but, mostly, enjoyed talking with people who are passionate about food, wine, cooking and eating.

Nearly all the mini entrees were excellent and I'm still going back and forth between two of them for my favorite taste of the show. I think Rover's chef Thierry Rautureau's Elk Bourguignon on Farro alongside Braised Rabbit with White Beans and Tomato just barely edged out my second choice. Barely. And that's only because I'm such a wild game freak. The elk was allowed to be itself in a sauce with hints of cinnamon and other 'warm' spices. Nothing overwhelmed - the flavors were perfectly balanced. And the "pop" of the farro grains was a nice counterpoint to the tender meat. The rabbit was shredded and tender, subtly flavored. Perhaps a little too subtly, but it is easy to bury the flavor of rabbit. I went back for seconds at the end of the day.

Next highest honors I give to Barking Frog chef Bobby Moore's Grand Marnier Prawns, which are the best prawn anything to ever pass my lips. The coating was sumptuous, creamy, with a perfectly light citrus flavor. The prawns were a major hit with everyone I talked to and chef Moore was kind enough to have the printed recipe there to share with his salivating crowd. Besides being a symphony in my mouth, they looked absolutely gorgeous. Food porn at its finest! These sensuous mouthfuls were enough to make me moan. And I did.


Exec. Chef Bobby Moore

20 peeled and deveined large prawns

1 1/2 c. cornstarch

1 c. Grand Marnier

4 c. orange juice

3 T. dried orange zest, pulsed in coffee grinder

2 c. mayonnaise

For the sauce, add the Grand Marnier to a sauce pan and burn off the alcohol, cool immediately. Reduce in a separate pan the orange juice to a syrup and cool immediately. Combine the Grand Marnier, orange syrup and pulsed orange zest powder with the mayonnaise and refrigerate.

To cook the prawns, heat frying oil to 350 degrees F. Dust the prawns in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess starch. Fry the prawns until crispy (about 2 minutes) and drain on paper towels. In a large bowl, toss the hot prawns in the Grand Marnier mayonnaise to coat. Serve on skewers. (My own note: I think these would be wonderful served as a starter on mixed torn greens)

There is much more to relay about the day and I'll be doing that over the next week. Reliving the tastes has made me HUNGRY, so I'm off to the kitchen to satisfy myself. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

October 15, 2008


This is my version of the ultimate Greek comfort food. I woke up craving this today. Pastitsio is a baked pasta layered with a spiced meat sauce and topped with a cheesy bechamel sauce. Dieters, avert your eyes! The signature flavors are nutmeg and cinnamon. Greeks (and others) often use what Americans consider "sweet" spices in meat dishes. This is loaded with eggs and butter and is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold evening.

6 T. butter
1 c. finely chopped yellow onions 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 1/2 lbs. leanest ground beef 
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes 
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce 
3/4 t. salt 
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper 
1 t. ground cinnamon 
1 t. dried oregano, crushed

1 lb. box ziti pasta (or penne) 
1/4 c. butter, melted 
6 eggs, beaten 
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese  

4 T. butter 
4 T. flour 
1 3/4 c. milk, heated 
2 eggs, beaten 
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg (it really has to be fresh!) 
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, heat 3 T. of the butter, add the onions and garlic and saute until just beginning to brown. Add remaining butter and crumble in the ground beef. Add all the remaining meat sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It should be thick. Remove from heat and set aside. Cook ziti until barely al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well and place in a large bowl. Add melted butter, beaten eggs and cheese. Place pasta mixture into a buttered large lasagne pan or casserole pan. Pour meat sauce over pasta and gently mix. ** see note. Make the white sauce by melting the 4 T. butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir until it's bubbling nicely. Gradually add the hot milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook until smooth and thickened. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add to them about a half cup of the hot sauce, whisking quickly to combine. Pour back into the rest of the sauce and stir until well combined. Stir in the nutmeg and cheese. Pour the sauce over the pasta and push the sauce into it in several places. Bake at 350 F. for 30 - 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.  

**You may also layer half of the pasta, then pour on the meat sauce, topped with the rest of the pasta, even going so far as to line up the noodles nicely so it looks pretty when cut. I do that for dinner parties, but only then!

October 11, 2008


At the Olympia Farmers' Market yesterday, as I was admiring the gorgeous fall produce, I suddenly squealed. In a basket in front of me were 10 huge fresh porcini mushrooms. The proprietor came over, smiling, and I said, "Shut UP! You have fresh porcinis!" He told me that they'd been gathered at 3700 feet in the Cascade Mountains the afternoon before. I've never seen fresh porcinis for sale except in Europe. I bought 3 fat ones. I left behind an enormous one that the man held up and said, "I think a gnome is wandering around in the forest wondering what happened to his house!" The price was...EEK...$28 a pound. Do any of my European friends know what they are going for there, per kg.? I'm curious to compare. I also bought a few chanterelles. I haven't found any yet this year, but I'm going out tomorrow to hunt for some.

I brought my treasure home, sliced them up and sauteed them in gänseschmalz (goose fat), with sea salt and pepper. Oh, the scent as they cooked! I gave myself a mushroom facial, just hanging over the pan and inhaling, until my glasses fogged up - HA! I'd like to say that they ended up in a risotto al funghi, but they went straight from the pan into my mouth. Nirvana.....~OMMM~.

Boletus edulis, known also as King bolete, porcini, cepe, cep or Steinpilz, is a choice edible mushroom found from June to October. Found underneath conifers, birch and aspen at alpine elevations. The cap can reach 25 cm/10 in. in diameter and can weigh up to 1 kg./2 lbs. My God, I would have a gastronomic orgasm if I saw one that size. My friend in Munich collects them in the autumn and, in good years, dries enough to send me a big bag of them for Christmas. Have I mentioned I love her? Dried porcinis smell wonderful...like smoked earth. Some of the names for them can be really cute, in translation. For instance - eekhoorntjesbrood (Dutch) which means 'squirrels' bread', porcini (Italian) which means 'piglets', and 'penny bun' (English). 

So, off I will go tomorrow, with my mushroom knife, cloth bag, my mushroom-hunting cat and hope. If I'm lucky, there will be another pan of 'shrooms to eat! 

Porcini, my big, huggable cat

October 4, 2008


It's raining sideways here and I expect one or two of my chickens to blow by the window at eye level any minute. In thinking that, it got me thinking of ... food. On a blustery day like this, what with the odd chicken possibly being knocked unconscious, a nice pot of mean rooster stew with dumplings seemed just the thing. Heh heh!

I've had a rooster or five over the years that ended up in a pot somehow. After about the 20th time one of them ambushes you from behind a shrub, spurs flying, it tends to make you less enamored of the gorgeous buggers. But WAIT! Lest you think this animal-loving woman has a dark side, (well, I do, but let's not visit it, shall we?) I hasten to say that any rooster I've "dispatched" has been anesthetized first. Yes, anesthetized. See, once they're dead, I have no problem bleeding, plucking, singeing, gutting and cooking them. It's that killing part I can't do. So, I have my unorthodox way. (No, the anesthetic doesn't stay in the meat) Any self-respecting true farmer is laughing his or her butt off right about now, and I'm not advocating this, it's just what I do.

And oh, the TASTE of a chicken that's been truly free range, eating bugs, berries and grass, zipping around racing the other chickens...it's nothing like the flaccid, white, bland chicken of the supermarket - poor things. So, here is my recipe. And, if you don't have a convenient rooster you're ticked off at for raping your hens and attacking you, you certainly can use store-bought chicken or turkey and have excellent results, too!


a 4-5 lb. chicken, cut up

5 T. olive oil

12 pearl onions, peeled OR

1 lg. onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, cut into chunks

3 ribs celery with leaves, sliced

6-inch sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped

2 tsp. salt

1/2 t. freshly ground pepper


2 c. flour

3 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

2 T. minced Italian parsley

1/8 t. ground nutmeg

4 T. shortening

3/4 - 1 c. very cold milk

In a large, wide stock pot, heat 3 T. olive oil. Braise chicken pieces until golden brown on all sides. Transfer chicken to a plate, discard oil but save all browned bits in bottom of pot. Add remaining 2 T. olive oil and return pan to medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery and saute 3-5 minutes until vegetables are softening, but not browning. Stir in herbs, salt and pepper and saute briefly. Add chicken pieces back to pot and add cold water just to cover chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Then make dumplings: Combine the dry ingredients and the parsley in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 3/4 c. of the milk and stir briefly with a fork. Don't over mix! Add only enough of the remaining milk to make dough hold together. Once the chicken has simmered for 25 minutes, drop egg-sized spoonfuls of dough on top of the bubbling broth. Cover and steam for 20 minutes, without peeking! The cover must stay on to make the dumplings fluffy. Turn off heat, let stand a few minutes and serve in deep bowls.

Serves 6


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