Friday, April 29, 2011

A Few Good Dishes

Marissa here again, this time to talk about some proud kitchen moments. Easter weekend was marked by heavy use of the oven and stove and, in Toby's opinion, the best meal he's ever cooked for/with me.

It all started Saturday morning when I poached seven eggs. Yes, seven, because the first four were ugly. Toby ate them without complaint, but I continued to experiment with different methods because I could only be happy with two beautiful poached eggs sitting on top of my fresh-from-the-oven biscuits. I'm sorry to say that the effort made me very cranky, but I did get what I wanted. Later, we made a gallon of vegetable stock with a recipe from the French Laundry cookbook and stored it in mason jars with the pressure canner. We thought that we might be able to eat the vegetables after draining the stock, but it turns out that cooking them for that long deprives them of all flavor. Even if there were nutrients left (which I doubt, I think it all went to the stock) they would be unpleasant to eat. So we tossed 'em. While that was on the stove, I made granola. 

Contents: oats, walnuts, pecans, dried cranberries, dried cherries,
maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg
I go through granola pretty fast because I eat it every morning with yogurt, so I figured it would be more cost effective to make some myself. This turned out to be true, and now I have enough to last me several weeks. It's very easy to make, so I'll probably never buy a granola mix again. I'll just switch up the ingredients every time to keep my tastebuds interested. After that was out of the oven we made bread. We intended to make baguettes, but that's not what happened. The baking sheets we have are only half the size of a standard cookie sheet, limiting the length of our bread. We also underestimated how much they would rise in the oven (hint: a lot, easily doubled in size if not more). Luckily this did not affect the flavor and at the end of the day we still had two delicious italian loaves.

Easter Sunday's meal was a carnivore's dream. Roast lamb, asparagus topped with pancetta, mashed sweet potatoes with Canadian bacon (or kassler as the Germans call it). We enjoyed it with some rioja, drunk begrudgingly by Toby, who was mildly upset with me for breaking our streak of purchasing only wine from Washington state. The lamb was later converted into gyros for a mediterranean salad.

Today we made quiche with some savory pie dough which had been frozen as leftovers from our chicken pot pie project. Note: the dough is savory because I made it with half butter, half lard, and apple cider vinegar. It's FANTASTIC for foods that need a dough but are not desserts. My recipe calls for only a little bit of vinegar added to the water needed to bring the flour and fat together, but even that amount leaves quite a bit of delicious vinegar flavor. Anyway, we encountered a crisis when the dough completely collapsed into the dish during the first five minutes of pre-baking (letting the dough cook a little before adding the filling prevents the dough from getting too soggy). The walls, despite hanging over the edge, had slumped to the bottom and it was a great buttery mess. The emergency sent us into superhero mode and we quickly discussed several options. I tried to pull the walls back up, but it just wasn't happening. I was against rolling it out again because it was too hot and wet, so I thought we should trim the excess and leave the dough just on the bottom. Toby, however, made the winning suggestion that we take it out, put the quiche filling in the pan, and then put the dough on top. I still wanted to trim the dough because I thought it was too heavy and would sink into the eggs but Toby convinced me to leave it as it was (it did sink a little, but not significantly). The result: Inside Out Quiche! 

Mmmm, quiche! The filling = asparagus, kassler, cheese

Toby marks his food territory by dousing it with hot sauce

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marissa Speaks

Today I am taking the liberty of writing a post because Toby has been, is currently, and will be busy working. Such is the life of a Boeing engineer. Additionally, I have been doing a lot of things he has not posted, like dance and bake and sew and make friends.

Two weeks ago, I got a sewing machine from my grandmother. Yesterday, I made things with it! I chose creations that were small and did not require a pattern so I could just wing it at the machine. Here are the fruits of my labors.

A little pouch for my glasses

A drawstring bag to carry my dance shoes and shoe brush when I go out
Both projects had rocky moments, but I am absurdly proud of both of them. The success has inspired me to make SO MANY MORE THINGS.

Seattle is a fantastic place for dancers. It's got everything: ballroom, salsa, swing, and my new favorite, blues. Having taken something of a hiatus from dancing while I was in MA, I decided to start with swing. It generally attracts a casual and goofy crowd and doesn't require great posture, so I figured it would be the friendliest choice. Boy, did I nail that one. On my first night out, I was treated to a welcome dance (which is the same as a birthday dance, where you stand in the middle of a circle and various people cut in to dance with you during a song) and I was invited to another swing venue two nights later. There, at the Eastside Stomp, they gave me a surprise birthday dance, since I had let slip that my birthday was just the day before. It was all kinds of awesome. Seattle's brand of swing is really rough and jumpy, so besides being a new face I keep earning distinction for having a different style. One guy actually pinned me as a ballroom dancer from L.A. just because I was "light as a feather and smooth."

Through various sources, I learned that Seattle is the epicenter of blues dancing. There are only a handful of cities with a blues scene, and Seattle's is the most vibrant. Of course, I had to try it. Uncharacteristically, I almost sent myself into an anxiety attack before going for the first time last week. I was nervous about the fact that it was at a bar, scared to go alone, afraid that I would be terrible. My darling Toby, God bless him, reassured me that all would be fine and pushed me out the door. Maybe it was because I expected disaster and anything would have been better than that, or maybe it was always destined to be amazing, but every dance was a thrill. Some dances even felt like epiphanies. It was like my entire life had been leading to the discovery of blues dancing. I think this is a feeling that the dance naturally inspires, though, because it has no basic step. There are no rules. Blues is an entirely improvised partner dance. No movement is wrong. It's incredibly liberating.

Next weekend will be marked by social visits. My friend Jason is coming up from LA for a west coast swing event, which is very exciting, and I will be meeting up with a fellow LHS graduate who used to take walks by my house and lives across the lake in Kirkland. Fun times and reminiscing are guaranteed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lutefisk, Blood Sausage

Not much to say about either, but here goes:

Lutefisk. Given that I had heard stories about how it was one of the worst foods on earth, I figured I was in for a harrowing journey into culinary hell. You take salt cod (which is cod that has been dehydrated and heavily salted, to the point where it resembles wood more than fish), pickle it in lye (the stuff you use to burn out clogs in pipes), then rinse the lye off and cook it. Sounds awful and dangerous, right? Nah, turns out it's pretty boring. I've had plenty of salt cod before (baccalá to Nan, bacalhau to Marissa's nan), and loved it. It turns out lutefisk is just salt cod with no texture whatsoever. Just baccalá-jelly. Not gross, just boring.

Blood sausage (swedish style). Been curious for years as to what it could taste like. I read a blog post where it was described as:
Instead of tasting like hemoglobin, it tastes like some sort of strange gingerbread... breakfasty... sausage... bread... But not metallic or anything that would make you think blood.

Exactly right.

It's something I'd want to eat on christmas morning, surprisingly sweet, rich texture. Totally awesome with jam.

My guy at the sausage shop (whose name I have to find out, lets just call him János) says he only makes them around the holidays. This is apparently why. I'll have to buy some.

Speaking of János, he's got entire legs worth of proscuitto hanging up. I think I might buy one and hang it in the closet. I'll keep you all posted.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cod Roe, Gravlax, Piroshki

I have been trying to get some cod roe spread for at least two weeks. There is a store in Ballard (of course) where they sell many scandinavian specialties. Among these specialties are lutefisk, blood sausage, and cod roe spread. The last is a paste made from the ovaries of the noble cod. Sounds delicious, right? Well, to me it did. I went one morning I had off from work thanks to power outage, got there before they opened. Went there on way home from work, got there after they closed. Yesterday morning, however, I got there when they were open (I have my schedule flexed to take some classes next week on our CAD package).

I've been intending to do a Swedish taste test, and try these out with Marissa. She even agreed to taste all three! I relented on the lutefisk, though, since she's not a big fan of cod (what a bad portagee, right?) not comfortable with lye. Well, we at least got to the cod roe today. As you can see in the following spread of delicious meats and crackers. The swedes apparently favor thin crisps made from rye, which compliments the fishy-salty goodness of the roe "Kaviar" perfectly.

I may have been on a nordic kick today in general, as I also decided to make some gravlax. This of course is raw salmon that has been cured in sugar, salt, and dill under pressure. In this case, I got a pound of King salmon and put it into a pyrex dish with salt, sugar, and toasted caraway and fennel seeds. I then piled it to the moon with dill, put an glass milk container full of water on top of it, and put it in the fridge. In a day or so I'll flip it and redistribute the seasonings. In 2 days, it can be rinsed, and then sliced paper thin on rye crisps.
Finally, we made more piroshki. We had some leftover salmon from the "does this look like an owl to you" meal, so I poached it in veal broth. We got some black trumpet mushrooms, which I simmered in butter and red wine, and I also boiled up some potatoes. I had made a huge batch of piroshki dough with dill, and Marissa rolled it out and made them up. Yield: three 1 gallon bags full of delicious piroshki.
I'm sorry I haven't been updating as much, the long commute and work day have been wiping me out.

Marissa's been dancing a lot, which is nice. We've been eating well and been very happy.