13
Jan 2016
Taste of Place: Meroir

Most of us have wrapped our brains, and our palates, around the idea of terroir by now. According to Merriam-Webster, its usage dates back to the mid-19th century, referencing the various influences from soil, climate, altitude, aspect, wind exposure, etc. that contribute to the unique character of wine grapes grown in a particular area. My 1941 copy of the Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary doesn’t include terroir sandwiched between territory and terror. Wine jargon seems to have owned the term until much more recent years. By now it’s such a common a concept that it’s applied to everything from cheese to (if you can believe Wikipedia) cannabis. A far more recent variation on this concept is that of meroir*, the seagoing version of terroir. And as terroir was uniquely linked with wine grapes initially, so is it that meroir ...

09
Dec 2015
The Gift of Experience

As a culture we've gotten incredibly good at accumulating things. Buying things that we need. Things that we don't need. Replacing things with new things because we get bored. Buying shiny-pretty-ooooh-gotta-have-it things just because. And then trying to figure out where to put it all. So then, what are we to do when those holidays hit? Just shift gears and do the same for others. I'm not dismissing gift-giving altogether, of course not. I'm not that much a Grinch! Finding items that will make your friends and family happy, authentically adding some richness to their lives, is the spirit of the season to be sure. But the "what the heck, do you think they'd like this nice [fill in the blank: candlestick, baseball hat, Chia kitten]?" kind of shopping, or ...

19
Nov 2015
The Joy of Thanksgiving

This time next week many of us will be scrambling around the kitchen, tending to a bird, popping a batch of rolls in the oven, trimming Brussels sprouts to steam, setting just-baked pies aside to cool. For some I know this can be a stressful occasion, whether it's because of pressure to not mess up the beloved meal, or in anticipation of the potentially-awkward dynamics around the dinner table later. (After hearing my friends Nancy and Dick discuss Thanksgiving annoyances on KPLU yesterday, I realized how well-behaved and enjoyable my Thanksgiving guests are--counting myself lucky!) For me Thanksgiving is pure bliss. Particularly if I'm home, having family and friends over, taking full advantage of the opportunity to cook my brains out. The menu's replete with cozy and satisfying food to match the mood of the season. It's ...

27
Oct 2015
Egg in Wine Sauce: Oeufs en Meurette

Eggs in your wine? I realize that concept may sound less than appealing at first. But leave it to the French to have put eggs in wine and made something glorious of it. Perhaps it doesn't hurt that there is also bacon, mushrooms, pearl onions. A bit of butter helping make a luscious sauce. If you've ever had oeufs en meurette--dug your fork into that pillow of poached egg, the yolk blending with the richly flavored sauce--you know how delicious that unexpected combination can be. This wine-y dish is, perhaps not surprisingly, a tradition from the Burgundy repertoire of French cuisine, this sauce combination echoing the flavors associated with à la bourguignonne preparations. Maybe it's that semester I spent at University of Dijon in the heart of Burgundy that made this dish instantly appealing to me. They make a LOT of lovely wine throughout Burgundy. And ...

06
Oct 2015

Jazz and Soufflé

Jazz and Soufflé

I know it's not an original consideration, that music and cooking share some common threads. Improvisation, playing around, just making stuff up. Being free with the art form. There's a lot of that in both camps. And both also rely on building blocks, foundational skills that you need to master (or at least accomplish with some degree of proficiency) to move incrementally into more advanced expressions of the art. Sitting down at the piano with not the least bit of practice, or understanding of scales and harmonics, and trying to jam like Oscar Peterson will be a discordant mess. Same would be true of hitting the kitchen without understanding of basic techniques, cooking methods and how different ingredients coalesce when cooked together. Unappetizing chaos more likely the result than something delicious. Which, on the flip side, makes walking into a kitchen WITH ...

29
Sep 2015
Marinated Wild Mushrooms with Fennel and Pearl Onions

In honor of the season and the slew of wild mushrooms beginning to hit markets now, how about a little recipe from my Wild Mushrooms ebook in my Northwest Cookbooks series? I’ve long loved marinated mushrooms, even those pretty basic types that come in little jars from the grocery store. Though like so many favorite snacks like that, it gets only better when you make it yourself at home. Not only are the flavors that much fresher, brighter, less shelf-stable—but you can very easily customize the concoction to reflect your preferences. Tons of garlic, skip the rosemary, more spice, whatever form that might take. The marinated mushrooms and vegetables make a great snack for cocktail hour or can be served as an appetizer in individual dishes, with crusty bread alongside. This dish is ...

08
Sep 2015
Coming Soon: Oysters!

It's a funny sensation, that moment in an author's life (at least this author's life) when you realize the book manuscript you've been working on for months is now finished and leaving your grasp for good: off to the printer in whatever form that last round of edits produced. The tweaking of the title, the final review of a few pages. The last minute edits and confirmation of name spellings. Then--'poof'--it's off into the ether. Even though I've been through this process many times before (this counts as number 9 of my solo books, with a dozen-plus more collaborations), it's a moment that always sets into flight a whole host of butterflies in my stomach. The butterflies have settled a bit now, the new book Oysters: Recipes that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea...

06
Aug 2015
Peachy Peach Peach

So many peaches! I was gifted a flat of the luxuriant organic peaches from Frog Hollow Farm a couple of weeks ago. The farm's east of San Francisco, but their peaches are--thankfully--made available at Metropolitan Markets  in the Seattle area each summer. When that box landed in my kitchen, the first and most automatic impulse was to make pie. Summer fruit pies are one of the most delicious hallmarks of the season, this one timed perfectly to share with friends on a weekend get-away. Next came the batch of ice cream, made with luscious Twin Brooks Creamery half & half, which I infused with a generous handful of lemon verbena from the garden. Oh so very good (even better with a tiny splash of dark rum drizzled over!). And my morning ritual of fruit-yogurt-granola ...

18
Jul 2015
Taste of Summer: Walla Walla Sweets

I missed the big kick-off for this season, the huge juicy sweet onions have been available for a few weeks by now. But there's still time to get your fill of one of Washington's hallmark  agricultural products: the delectable Walla Walla sweet onion. They've even been officially name-checked by the USDA since 1995, to assure that the name is attached only to true Walla Wallas from distinct geographic scope. It's reminiscent of the European practices that verify authentic regional foods—such as France’s appellation d’origine contrôlée designation for everything from wine to sausage. French soldier Peter Pieri is credited with bringing the seeds of an Italian sweet onion from Corsica to Walla Walla, Washington in the late 1800s, where the community of Italian farmers helped spur the production of this distinctive onion. The growing conditions proved ideal, the “sweetness” coming from a reduced level of sulfur in the ...

14
Jul 2015
Smart Catch: A New Seafood Steward

Hmmmm, such a dilemma it was. Toward the end of dinner last night, someone at my table asked which of the four outstanding seafood dishes we'd just eaten was our favorite. How to choose? Particularly with chefs the likes of Thierry Rautureau (Luc & Loulay) and Branden Karow (Culinary Director with Ethan Stowell Restaurants, who I first met when he cooked with Thierry at Rover's) taking care of things. Chum salmon mousse tartine with goat cheese, grilled sockeye salmon with corn pudding, cherries & fried rosemary, baked Pacific cod with gremolata, peas & farro. But in the end, I think the first course remained my favorite: the king crab on a salad of bitter greens (arugula, endive, radicchio) with slivers of orange and grapefruit. It was an evening of eating well, but with a distinct purpose: introducing us to Smart ...