Trying out Butternut Squash Lasagna

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ December 11, 2008 : 6:16 pm
Butternut squash lasagna

Butternut squash lasagna

Before I start my post, I want to credit Patricia at Cook Local for finding this interesting butternut squash lasagna recipe, which originates from Coconut and Lime.

The recipe calls for lasagna made with butternut squash, rainbow chard and (surprise), no tomato sauce OR meat. My first reaction is probably like yours: Whaaat? Vegetarian lasagna, that’s common enough, but no tomato sauce? This was going to be interesting, as I’m a huuuge fan of lasagna and as such, am very particular about how it tastes. In fact, Steve often cracked jokes about my food fetish because I would volunteer for lasagna duty every time we reviewed an Italian restaurant.

I won’t repeat the recipe, as I’ve linked to both blogs, who do the art of cooking more justice than I to begin with. That said, it’s a fairly straight forward lasagna recipe that consists of baking and mashing the squash, making a chard and ricotta mix, heating a milk-based sauce and then combining into layers.

I tripped up on the layering stage of making my lasagna, as my pasta somehow managed to break down into dozens of smaller parts while boiling(!). I’m sure my head added to the steam coming from the pot because I specifically tried to avoid the specific brand of pasta that I used, as I had bad experiences with it before. MY supermarket, PCC, only carried one brand for lasagna however, so that’s what I ended up being stuck with. Bah!

So, that turned into a challenging mix-and-match puzzle for a few minutes while I wrestled with the mashed butternut squash. Even though Patricia warned against it, I tried using a spoon at first, but gave up soon after the first layer and just used my hands instead. Sometimes I just have to fail in order to believe. :)

The end result was a lasagna that was rich, creamy and smooth – and much better than what I would have guessed! I thought the rainbow chard might overpower the dish beforehand, but it was subdued fairly well. I feel there was room in the recipe to add more herbs however; and perhaps even tomato sauce. But at that point, you would diverge from the uniqueness of the dish and be making a traditional lasagna (well, mostly).

Well, all this talk of food makes me hungry, so I’d better run off to the kitchen now. :) Thanks again to Patricia from Cook Local and also Coconut and Lime for this cool recipe.

Pad Thai with Prawns – in Pictures

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 26, 2008 : 4:46 pm
Traditional pad thai with spring rolls

Traditional pad thai with spring rolls

I know, it’s close to Thanksgiving and I’m somehow putting up pictures of pad thai that I made last week of all things. Truth is, I have never actually cooked an entire turkey, partly due to the fact that I’ve never had the need to: it’s always been cooked by someone else at whatever party or event I’ve gone to. The major reason though, is that turkey is huge and I tend to pick and fork my way through rationed amounts of food – which is why I know pad thai and not giant birds. :)

So, here’s pictures and my pseudo ingredients for pad thai. While I’ve been making pad thai for quite some time, I’m constantly adjusting the recipe and have drawn much inspiration was drawn from various websites, especially Chez Pim. Ironically, I have two Thai cookbooks that have pad thai recipies, but both raised my eyebrows for a lack of tamarind (I call it the Thai secret spice) and a complete lack of proper stir fry instructions.

Not everyone is a big fan of fried tofu, but I (supposedly) hear it’s commonly used by the street vendors in Thailand. You can get the tofu at any Asian grocer, like Uwajimaya or even some places like Central Market. Whole Foods and PCC have tofu, but not the light and fried kind. Note: In my experience, tofu goes bad very fast (even with my Sub Zero), so plan on using it soon afterward.

Rice sticks soaking in water

Rice sticks soaking in water

First, soak thai noodles / rick sticks in water for about 45min or until limp but not soft. This alone might be one of the most important aspects of pad thai, as taking out the rice sticks too early leaves you with cardboard like noodles, while soaking too long makes for an incredibly difficult stir fry that clumps together like play dough. I use about a quarter of a packet, which serves 2 and is just the right amount for a wok to handle. If you are cooking for more, soak half the packet.

In the picture, I have the “pink” packet as I like to say, because the common distributor around Seattle seems to come in pink or blue. Blue is the slightly wider rice stick and pink is the smaller one. I normally use the “blue” noodles, but it’s more of a preference than anything. You can also buy the shopper friendly “Pad Thai Noodles” package that they sell at all the major grocers. It just costs about double what you would pay otherwise for the convenience.

Pad thai ingredients

Pad thai ingredients

Next are the ingredients, which include: fried tofu, green onions, sliced white onions, thai chilies, lime wedges, freshly shredded carrot, mined/diced garlic and bean sprouts (not pictured). I don’t measure ingredients, but I can say that about 1/3 cup of each is what you’re aiming for, short of the chilies, garlic and limes.

The trinity of thai sauces: fish oil, tamarind paste and sugar

The trinity of thai sauces: fish oil, tamarind paste and sugar

I call this the holy trinity of pad thai, as these are the most important elements of pad thai! You’ll often see substitutions, like white rice vinegar instead of tamarind or peanut oil instead of fish oil, but you’ll never quite accomplish true thai flavor if you go that route. Even worse, some recipies like Chez Pim points out, call for ketchup or as I’ve seen, peanut butter. Never, ever, do that! I admit in my earlier cooking years to trying one such heinous recipe when I was ravenously hungry, but quickly ruined any appetite after a taste of bastardized thai. Don’t even get that quick and easy “Pad Thai Mix” that rests in a nice little squeeze bottle container; it will just never compare.

The sauce is simply half cup each of cane sugar, fish oil and tamarind paste. If you use white, refined sugar, take it down to about 1/4 cup. Having experimented with the sugar amount, you can increase the ratio of sugar, which is what many Thai restaurants in Seattle do, but I think it makes pad thai far too sweet. That’s one reason why I use cane sugar instead.

You can find both fish oil and tamarind at Uwajimaya (I swear they are not an advertiser for us). The tamarind is often not labeled in English, so ask your friendly clerk if you can’t find it. Be sure to get the paste and not the root for purposes of this dish.

Mix well, then heat in small sauce pan on low heat. Keep it ready, because you’ll be using it soon.

Tofu and onion stir fry

Tofu and onion stir fry

I start with a few tablespoons of sesame or peanut oil on a high heat wok. I’ve done olive oil before, but you need to keep the wok on med-high so you don’t burn the oil, though that depends on your burner and what type of olive oil you’re using.

Tofu tends to take awhile to warm up, so I like to toss that in first along with the onions. As with any stir fry, work the wok fast so the food doesn’t stick and burn. If you have chicken, you can toss that in after about a minute or so after the tofu. I used prawns, which are far more heat sensitive, so I added that farther into the dish after the tofu and onions were cooked. With such a hot wok, I don’t like to add garlic at first because it quickly caramelizes and turns into bits of burnt coal if you’re not furiously stir frying. Right before adding the noodles is often when I add garlic, as that’s when I also turn down the heat to med or med-high.

Adding sesame oil to shrimp and rick sticks

Adding sesame oil to shrimp and rick sticks

After about 2-3 minutes, I add my prawns, garlic and a bit more oil if necessary. Splash a few spoonfuls of sauce onto the mix and stir fry until shrimp is almost (but not quite) pink. At that point, turn down heat and add rice sticks.

Adding rice sticks and green onions

Adding rice sticks and green onions

When adding the rick sticks, I turn down the heat a little because I have an enormous problem with my noodles sticking together at highest heat on my burner. You may or may not encounter this problem, but if you find that you do, try turning down your heat. You can also add more oil or a splash of water to help aid things along as well.

At this time, I also add the green onion and about half the sauce and stir pretty vigorously, getting it mixed in. The trick of the game is that the longer the noodles stay in, the softer and mushier they get, so you want them in and out fairly fast while getting them cooked. Keep the heat high as possible and stir for about two minutes, then add the rest of the sauce.

Adding egg to wok

Adding egg to wok

This part is optional, but you can lift the noodles and crack an egg to one side of the wok and let the egg cook. When it’s fairly opaque, you can put the noodles back over it and then gently stir it around at first, then faster when the egg is cooked through.

Plated pad thai dish

Plated pad thai dish

Plate and garnish with shredded carrots, bean sprouts, red cabbage (not pictured), lime and if you really want to be authentic, a banana. I added some lumpia rolls that I um, er, undercooked, which I found out a few hours later (oops), but otherwise, a successfully made pad thai dish! :)

Oh yeah, since I won’t be posting tomorrow, Happy Turkey Day!

Real Wasabi Paste – Not Horseradish and Green Food Coloring

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ November 7, 2008 : 7:30 pm

Following up on our recent sushi article, here’s a picture of some real wasabi paste, rather than the green dyed horseradish stuff that you get in sushi restaurants. These wasabi tubes were purchased from Pacific Farms, a company based in Florence Oregon that until recently, grew their own wasabi. The website is somewhat vague about where their obtain their wasabi now, but they were one of the few (if only) commercial growers of wasabi in the US.

From the picture, you can see the texture is more chunky with fibrous root material. The green is more of a pastel shade and less tennis ball green that you get in restaurants. The taste is immediately discernible, as there is a subtle, yet sweet flavor. The “kick’ that wasabi is known for is more powerful as well, though in a dull and prolonged manner versus the sharp, eye-watering kick of horse radish.

In reality though, real wasabi paste is more of a novelty if you aren’t making your own sushi, as you’ll be hard pressed to take your own tube of wasabi into a sushi restaurant without looking quite odd. In addition, real wasabi only keeps fresh for so long before spoiling, so you either need to use it quite quickly in the refrigerator or keep it in the freezer for storage.

Nonetheless, it was a fun lesson in learning what real wasabi tastes like. You might be able to get real wasabi in high end restaurants outside of Seattle, but we don’t know any Seattle restaurants that actually offer this, due to the price and extremely low demand.

Veil is Closing

Categories: food,restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ October 31, 2008 : 12:43 pm

Wow. Veil is no more, at least according to this blog post at Eating Seattle, which was posted two weeks ago. It would seem that Veil and owner Shannon Galusha might be one of the first casualties in this slowing economy. From my talks with other restaurants in the area, the downturn has been close to 40% and even up to 70% drop in revenues, in an industry where single digit profit margins are the norm.

To me, Veil was always an enigma of sorts. It was as if an alien spaceship landed in the middle of Safeco field, bringing with it an odd assortment of delightful creatures. Some came to worship, others threw judgement. All had validity. Then like a sparkle of sun on a wet October morning, the aliens just as suddenly vanished — and presumably, went to a place more receptive. Say… lower Manhattan?

That’s really what Veil was; a New York dining experience in upper Seattle. Were we ready? Maybe not. Was it foolhardy? Perhaps. Risky? Yes. Dangerous, even? A resounding salted peanut butter ice cream yes.

Mince words I won’t, when I say that I thought the ambiance was two parts Ikea, one part illicit drugs and a healthy shake of pretense. But I’ll still miss Veil. Not because I frequented the restaurant, but because it was pushing Seattle. Between Veil at $30 per entree and three-course homogenized food slosh for $9.99, I’ll take Veil, thank you very much.

Not everyone agrees, even here at Coffee.net. Steve was thoroughly put off, due to his war-ration sized trout skin. But even Steve showed respect where due, with his food score of 9 – a rarity in Steve’s rating world.

The question now is who’s next on the block? Many new restaurants have opened in the last two years with the boom, so it’s scary to think who might be next.

I’ll leave you with this final picture of Veil, as a toast.

On tour at the Red Hook brewery

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ August 12, 2008 : 1:20 pm

Bryan taking his first few sips of Blonde Ale

You a fan of ESB? How about IPA Long Hammer? If beer is your forte, you should definitely head on out to Woodinville to check out the Red Hook Brewery. Like two beer-crazed enthusiasts, Bryan and I headed down here to go on a tour of the plant and “sample? a few beers for the mere cost of one measly dollar.

When I heard that Red Hook was in Woodinville, I thought it was a bit odd as most of the places in that area specialize in wine. But, if you’re a bit worn out from too much wine, (Fellas, do I hear a yes?) this place is a great change of pace.

As we made our way to the parking lot, you’ll be put in awe by the size of the place, as it looks more like a large home rather than a plant that brews beer. The large skybridge caught my eye as I figured they use that to ship the beer over from the plant to the shipping area.

As I passed by some people on my way to the door, I could smell that distinct smell of beer. Once we got through the door, we formed up in a large line with several other people, as Red Hook runs a tour every hour until 5pm. Crunched up against people, we finally heard six wonderful words that got our tour under way.

“Who’s ready to drink some beer!?

Of course, the crowd responded with a fervent “Hell yeah!? and up the staircases we went. I thought the tour would be something more on par with a scene from the campy 80’s movie,Midnight Madness sans the absurd frat guys, Scott Baio and a really young Michael J. Fox. I hoped to get an awesome look at how they brew their special beers such as ESB and Blackhook, but unfortunately we ended up funneled into a room that had an 80’s style ceiling where we would spend most of our time in.

As we all dropped a dollar into the bucket by the bar, we were all issued a small glass cup that also was a take home souvenir. It held about 2-3oz and would be our designated taster cup. Each of the five beers, Blonde Ale, ESB, Late Harvest, IPA Long Hammer, and Blackhook, were all available to try. The tour guide slowly takes us from one beer to the next with a little bit of history and lot of jokes added in, to educate us more about each specific beer.

The Blonde Ale is a light beer, a mix between an ale and a lager. The ESB (Extra Special Bitters) is their signature beer, first served in 1987. Unique in look and taste, the ESB is mix of bitter hops and caramel malting. The IPA (India Pale Ale) Long Hammer is a very hoppy beer that is an acquired taste. The Late Harvest is their newest beer to hit the market and we were some of the first people to test it out on the tour. The Blackhook is a dark porter that has a chocolaty aroma, coffee like taste, and very smooth finish.

A shot of the brewing tanks where the first steps in making beer take place

The plant has several large tanks that brew hundres of gallons of beer every 4 hours and are then transferred to the fermentation tanks. Each tank is extremely huge and they said that if you were to drink 3 bottles of beer a day, it would take you roughly 33 years to finish just one of those tanks.

The endless line of fermentation tanks

As a tip of advice, be sure to visit the brewery on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, as those are the days the bottling center are open and running. Since we came on a Saturday, that part of the plant was not active and the doors were locked so we couldn’t even take a peak inside. The closest thing we had was a diagram layout of the room and a quick explanation of the whole process.

While it may not have been the most visual tour per se, it was quite informative. The guide does a fantastic job educating people about the history and story behind each and every beer. I would go a little more into it, but that would just spoil the tour for you. I was a little disappointed that we ended up staying mostly in the same room, but I still got about 10-12oz of beer for a dollar. Add on the fact I was drinking on an empty stomach I started to feel a little buzz by the end of the tour.

After the tour, we grabbed some seats at the restaurant on the first floor and ordered up some of the biggest nachos we’ve ever seen and a few more beers for good measure.

Seattle to be in “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ August 11, 2008 : 11:54 am

Guy Fieri - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Fans of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” may be happy to know that Seattle is going to be in one of the upcoming shows early next year. The show, which predictably features diners, drive-ins and dives, with host Guy Fieri, travels around the country looking for good grubbing in both the classic and most unlikeliness of places.

I mention this because we were contacted a few days ago by someone on the crew of Page Productions who was essentially asking us for some recommendations for restaurants in the Seattle area to be on the show. We thought it was pretty cool for a show on the Food Network to ask us, so we happily obliged with a list of places below. So if you see any of these on the show next year, you’ll know who got them there! :)

  • Dick’s Drive-In (We don’t need to tell you why)
  • XXX (Triple X Rootbeer in Issaquah)
  • Red Mill Burgers
  • Beth’s Cafe (12 egg omelette anyone?)
  • Gorditos (For those baby sized burritos)
  • Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken (Because everyone besides us seems to like them)
  • Market House Corned Beef (Making their own corned beef since 1948 and on our must-review list)
  • Dixie’s BBQ (“The Man” sauce is all you need to know)
  • Paseo (We just went here and the review is up soon, but those Cuban pork burgers do live up to their rep)
  • Fu Man Dumpling House (Handmade dumplings from scratch)
  • Jade Garden (Arguably the most popular dim sum in Seattle)
  • Top Gun

We even asked the crew member to send us some promotional materials that we can give away to you, our foodie readers, but we’ll see if they play ball with us. After sending a two-page, food passionate email, the production company returned the favor with a one-lined, “Thanks for the suggestions” email, ha! That’s like asking a waiter to list every recommendation across three menus and then saying, “Hmm… I’ll go with a hot dog!”

I guess I’ll refrain from the ripping unless we get some goods :)

Black Cod Kasuzuke Recipe

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ June 12, 2008 : 8:32 am

Black cod, also known as sablefish or butterfish, has a naturally oily meat that flakes apart with buttery smoothness and flavor. I prefer black cod over over Chilean sea bass, especially due to the overfishing that sea bass has seen over the recent decade (grocery stores like Wholefoods offers sustainably harvested sea bass). Black cod is mainly fished out of Alaska and Canada, both of which have generally good sustainability practices for their fisheries.

One of my favorite dishes in the world is black cod kasuzuke. Traditional recipes marinate fillets of black cod for up to seven days in sake, mirin (Japanese cooking wine), brown sugar and miso. Like yourself though, the idea of marinating a meat for seven days, while appetizing, is a little too long for my taste (literally). In my experiments, I’ve found that you can achieve a restaurant quality flavor in three days and if you’re really impatient, perhaps even two days. To those of you who think you can get away with marinating for a few hours in the fridge – don’t even think about it (you’ve been warned).

Black cod recipe ingredients

Ingredient List for: Black Cod Kasuzuke

- 4, 3 oz black cod fillets
- 1 cup sake (I use sweet sake, you can use dry)
- 1 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3T miso paste (I prefer white shiro)
- DO NOT ADD SOY SAUCE

Boiling mirin and sake

On high heat, combine sake and mirin in a pot and bring to boil. Don’t leave the pot because it will boil quite fast. Once boiling, immediately turn heat down to simmer and let stand for 2-5 minutes. Depending on how strong of alcohol flavor you like to your fish, you can let it simmer for longer to take out more alcohol flavor or take it off earlier for a stronger taste. I like to take it off around 3 minutes.

Brown sugar with sake and mirin

Reduce to low heat. Add brown sugar, stirring until well mixed. If you don’t have brown sugar, then you can use white sugar, but only use 1/4 cup instead, otherwise you’ll be eating candied fish.

Adding miso to kasuzuke sauce

Add miso paste and mix in well. You may find chopsticks helpful to help poke apart the clumps of miso. I use white shiro, but that’s also because I have access to dozens of varieties since I’m within close driving distance of Uwajimaya. You can use most types of miso, so if you have some generic yellow miso sitting in the fridge, feel free to use it, but the general rule of thumb is: the darker the miso, the heavier the taste and vice versa. Because black cod is so buttery, I find a light miso works best, but your own taste may prefer a salty version. In any case, DO NOT ADD SOY SAUCE. Miso is made with fermented soy beans and is naturally salty, so there is no reason to use soy sauce as I’ve seen in some recipes.

Marinating the cod

Let the sauce cool, place fish in a wide, shallow pan or container and then pour in sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and then toss and forget in the refrigerator for three days.

Cooking Instructions

Place fillets on tray and bake in oven for 325 degrees for 15 minutes. While grilling might be possible, I don’t recommend it unless you foil your fish – otherwise it will come apart very easily.

Garnish with some chopped green onions and serve. Enjoy!

I almost forgot – if you’re too lazy to make your own black cod kasuzuke, Seattle is lucky to have a score of restaurants that make an excellent version. Here’s some restaurants to name a few:

Sushi Class at Uwajimaya

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 28, 2008 : 10:28 pm

Sushi class at Uwajimaya

Sushi class California rolls

Inspecting my hatchet job of the innocent sushi rolls above, I may just be a little more humbled the next time I see some perfectly cut sushi at a Japanese restaurant. Luckily, our sushi teacher Naomi from NuCulinary, was far more lenient of my aesthetically challenged California rolls, given that it was an introductory sushi class.

NuCulinary is a Seattle based Asian cooking school that offers classes for Thai cooking, Indian, dim sum as well as sushi classes of various skill levels. While I’ve eaten plenty of sushi in my life, I thought it would be neat to gain more knowledge of the skill and art that is sushi. Today was part one (basic sushi rolling) out of a three part series that culminates in learning the art of nigiri directly from chef Hajime Sato of Mashiko in West Seattle. Each class is $65 and lasts for 3 hours, which is a fairly reasonable deal as far as cooking classes go.

Not having rolled sushi before, everything being shown to me was going to be brand spanking new. I learned the proper way of making sushi rice (always important), selecting the right nori (seaweed sheets), ingredients to use and of course, how to roll sushi. As you’ve already seen though, even with years of Playdoh experience behind my fingertips, it’s not quite as simple as simply tossing ingredients on a bamboo mat and rolling it into circles. But, the good news is that looks aside, sushi is easy enough that anyone who can follow a recipe can easily pick up sushi rolling as well. As for nigiri, well, that’s a totally different story unless you happen to be accustomed to gutting and filleting 30 pound fish (and even then, that’s still a stretch!).

Some interesting tidbits I learned about proper sushi etiquette that I’ve heard before, but never “officially” until now, is the right way to eat your sushi. Apparently, the common American tradition of drowning those poor sushi rolls in vats of soy sauce is a serious faux pas to a genuine sushi chef. To the chef, this signals that the sushi apparently isn’t good enough on it’s own that it needs to be marinated in salt in order to be consumed. So just like you wouldn’t put A1 on your filet mignon at The Metropolitain, hold the soy to a minimum when possible. To impress your sushi chef, use those fresh and ample slices of ginger to soak up the liquid, then dab your rolls with the sauce to show that you know the fine line of moderation.

Another way to become part of the sushi elite is to hold off on the wasabi as well. This might not make sense, given that you are always offered a large green dollop with your sushi, but sushi purists only use as much wasabi as the chef has already put into the dish. Normally, there is just enough wasabi to help glue the fish to the rice, which avoids any overkill of wasabi flavoring. So in a nutshell – trust your chef and you’ll gain his/her respect.

If you haven’t rolled sushi before, it’s definitely good fun, so give it a shot either through a class like this one or pick up one of the many books on the subject. At the very least, it will give you a much better appreciation of your sushi chef when you’re sitting at the bar eating omakase (prix fix) style!

Linguine with Clams

Categories: food — Tags: , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 20, 2008 : 8:53 pm

Linguine with clams

I have a secret to share. For years, I’ve have an affair with a blond Italian whom I meet with monthly over candlelit dinners. I’d describe our relationship as rather shallow; I imply my willingness to pay and the well-dressed escort delivers my Italian beauty to the table. We’re about to lock lips, when the attendant cheerfully asks, ‘Would you like some fresh grated cheese with that?’.

Yes, I’m talking about linguine. In this particular case, my simple and everyday linguine with clams recipe. Here’s what you need to get started:

Ingredients

  • 1 8oz packet linguine
  • 1 cup fresh cooked clam meat (about 3 pounds Manila clams)
  • 1/2 half and half / heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3T freshly chopped parsley
  • 3T butter
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon
  • 1T parsley flakes
  • 1t oregano
  • 1t thyme
  • 1t red pepper flakes
  • 1/4t sea salt
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste

Boiling clams

Preparation of the clams:
When you buy your clams, make sure to buy the clams the same day you’ll be cooking or put them in a pot of salt water if you won’t use them immediately. Your clams will die if you leave them out of the water long enough, which is bad for both taste and health reasons. Before you start cooking your clams, push down on each clam to see if it clamps back down on itself. If the shell immediately bounces back, toss the clam – it’s dead.

Cooking the clams:
First, put the clams into a pot of salted water (use lots of salt) and cook at high heat until the water starts boiling. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook until shells pop up. Do not overcook, or meat will turn rubbery and tough. Strain (you may save clam juice for chowders or broth) and then remove clam meat and set aside.

Cooking the pasta:
Bring large pot of water to boil. Be sure to add plenty of kosher or sea salt to pot. If you are not cooking clams and pasta at the same time, you can reuse strained clam juice to boil pasta. Cook until firm / al dente (should have tiny bit of white texture left in middle of pasta). Al dente is how most Italians cook and there are also health benefits of not overcooking your pasta (deals with how your body processes carbohydrates). Remove from water and drizzle with olive oil to prevent from sticking, if your sauce is not going to be ready soon.

Herbs and spices
Preparing the sauce
Combine butter, olive oil, white wine, garlic, heavy cream and squeeze half lemon (watch the seeds) into a sauce pot and cover over medium heat. Cook for 3 minutes. Add parsley flakes, pepper flakes, thyme, oregano and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mixing clams and linguine
Combining the ingredients
In a large pan, over medium heat, combine pasta, sauce and clams. Add fresh parsley and mix together. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove, plate and garnish with fresh parsley.

That’s it! Total cooking and prep time is around 30 minutes. This is a good dish for beginners, as it’s quick, tasty and almost impossible to screw up. It’s also completely open to variations, as recipes often include more cream, no cream, bacon, additional seafood or other spice combinations.

PCC Baking Class

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 16, 2008 : 2:27 pm

Baked pastries
(From left to right: Rustic berry tart, Poppy seed poundcake muffin, orange cranberry scone and snicker doodles)

“Ouch,” I mutter, as I look at my thumb after nicking it on the carrot grater. It looks a little pink, but there’s no drippage. That’s good, because I’m sure the rest of the PCC Sweets and Treats baking class isn’t going to appreciate me modifying our carrot cake recipe to include a few drops of blood. Then again, my recipe sheet is splattered silly with a murderous orange color from the carrots I’ve been grating, so perhaps no one would notice anyways.

I look closer just in case. Awesome, no blood, no foul.

I wasn’t able to snap a picture of the oh-so-delicious frosted carrot cupcakes, as my hands were covered in all sorts of flour, sugar, carrot bits and other random baking ingredients that dissuaded me from shoving my hands into my pockets. With all the bakeries left over, most everyone grabbed a to-go box of goodies to bring home, so that’s what you see in the picture above.

Baking has always been a weak point in my culinary arsenal (I can make cookies?), so I decided to attend a class at PCC Natural Markets down in Issaquah. The class was a solid 2.5 hours from 6:30 – 9pm and completely hands-on, so I figured it would be a great way to ramp up my baking skills. We were given a recipe list of about 10 various items and put into teams to create each one, so it also turned out to be a nice meet and greet of sorts with strangers with the same love for food.

One of the first things I learned with baking is that it is definitely a science, as opposed to an art. That’s not to say there’s no creativity, but there is certainly procedures, measurements and scientific principles that apply to baking quite firmly before the experimentation comes in. Unlike conventional cooking, when a baking recipe calls for two cups of an ingredient, it’s quite important to use two cups – otherwise bad things can start to happen. Especially if we’re talking about flour.

Leavening is the holy grail of baking, as the rise of the dough and mixture is the difference between a tough rock or a soft, fluffy piece of heaven in your mouth. Common leavening agents include yeast, yogurt, butter, baking powder, baking soda and the act of creaming. Using any one of these methods is almost always required in baking pastries or cakes, which likely explains some of the failed mishaps I may have had in the kitchen before. Case in point, I generally reduce the usage of butter in my dishes for a more healthy approach, but I realize now that butter actually helps the dough rise in addition to giving it that savory taste, so I have to put in a leavening substitute for the butter as well.

Another important thing I learned is that my big silver bowl and a whisk isn’t going to cut it if I want to do any serious baking. A professional mixer turned a stick of butter and cream cheese packet into an instant frosting after about a minute of beating; something that would be impossible by hand, short of 10 cans of Red Bull to the tune of Chariots of Fire. That means have to go run to Sears, Bed Bath and Beyond and some other stores later this weekend to pick one up, so hopefully it’s not too expensive.

If you ever shop at PCC and wonder about the classes, I can tell you they are definitely worth it. Our instructor, Krista, was great and the setup they have is very professional. There were two assistants that circle around helping with the class and helping with prep work. Three big LCD screens display the two cooktops and the center preparation table so you can see all the action while sitting in your seat. The best part is that the price of the class is a mere $30 (for our baking class at least), while you get the enjoy food, learn and also have fun at the same time. It’s a great deal, so I’ll certainly be going back for more classes in the future.

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