Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oxbow's Newest Farmer

On Sunday, the boyfriend and I met our friend Julia (and her dog Calvin) at the Ballard Farmers' Market. We were running late, and I was feeling a tad bit on the wrong side of cranky.
As we wound our way through the crowded street, I was looking for my favorite berry stall. But sadly, Jessie was no where to be found. The farmers had begun to pack up, in anticipation of their 3pm close, and I was starting to worry that I wouldn't have time to get my weekly market fix. After a quick, but medicinal cup of coffee from Cugini, and one of those delicious rolls from Tall Grass (you know, the ones with the raisins) I was on my way to see my very favorite farmers (in fact, I often take ownership and call them "my farmers"): Luke and Sarah from Oxbow Farms.
I've been buying their gorgeous veggies and fruit for the last four years or so. And one Sunday, last summer, I even stood in as a cashier, when Luke ran to grab a bite to eat. This last Sunday their tables were almost empty (they're not just my favorites, clearly!) but I was delighted to see that Sarah had brought Oxbow's newest farmer, their 7 month old daughter Pearl! I hadn't had a chance to meet Pearl, and it had been almost a year since I had seen Sarah; she doesn't always make it to the Sunday market. This beautiful little girl was just the pick-me-up that I needed! After grabbing some beefy red beets, my mood was restored and I set about gleaning what I could from the remaining farm stands.
Speaking of gleaning, another of my favorite stands is Jeremy Faber's Foraged and Found Edibles. Jeremy provides wild and foraged produce for area restaurants (Sitka & Spruce notably) and for several Seattle farmers' markets. I picked up a quarter of a pound of beautiful morels that I plan on sauteing with a little sweet onion for individual pizzas later this week. And just wait until he brings in his next haul of wild huckleberries. oh, the pies I'll make!
I can't tell you how much I enjoy this weekly opportunity to connect with the people who nourish me. The trip to the market provides almost as much fuel as the stuff I bring home!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fresh Baked Bread

Those of you who know me know that I bake bread nearly every week. I find that mixing and proofing and baking are contemplative tasks for me. It's time that I spend busy, but quiet. Intent. I have missed this chore in the last few weeks: my schedule hasn't allowed for much baking lately. I almost don't know how to describe the delight that I feel when I shape the dough after the first proofing. The silkiness of the bread feels so much like a plump baby's bottom. The tang of the raw dough as I pinch off a bit for a taste. It's addictive! and how to describe the smell of fresh baked bread? It wafts through my house and assaults my senses. It demands that I cut a slice of the still warm loaf, even though I really should wait until it's absolutely cool to the touch.
Today I baked the Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread from the Macrina Cookbook. One of my all-time favorite loaves for slicing and sandwiches. This recipe is extremely forgiving and the baked bread lasts about a week--that is, if you don't eat the entire loaf, hot from the oven!
Here is the recipe I used. It's basically the same as the Macrina recipe, but I substituted some whole wheat pastry flour for some of the white flour.

Macrina's Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread (adapted)
Makes 1 9x5" loaf

1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. boiling water
1/4 c. warm filtered water
2 tsp. dried yeast
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 c. coarse whole-wheat flour
2 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
Spray bottle of water

  • Set aside 1/4 c. rolled oats for decorative sprinkle. Place remaining 1 1/4 c. oats in medium bowl and cover with 1 c. boiling water. Stir with wooden spoon to moisten all oats. Let bowl sit uncovered for about 10 minute, stirring occasionally while oats absorb water.
  • Place 1/4 c. warm water in bowl of stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Mix with a whisk to dissolve yeast. Let rest about 5 minutes to proof yeast. (It should foam slightly and smell yeasty.)
  • Add soaked oats, buttermilk, canola oil, brown sugar, and all flours. Whisk in kosher salt. With hook attachment, mix on low speed to combine, then increase speed to medium and mix for about 10 minutes. Dough will be wet and cling to hook, but have a satiny finish.
  • Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm room (I set the bowl on top of my oven and preheat the oven to help it along.) for about an hour. Dough should almost double in size.
  • Place proofed dough on lightly floured surface. Gently flatten with your hands to release air bubbles. Shape dough into 12x6" rectangle and position so long side is facing you. Fold the two short ends onto the top, so they meet in the middle. Starting with the closest end, roll dough away from you into a log. Let loaf rest on its seam for a few minutes.
  • Transfer loaf into an oiled 9x5x4" bread pan, seam side down. Gently push dough down so it extends into all corners of pan. Cover with plastic wrap and proof a second time in warm room for about 35-45 minutes. Loaf should rise slightly above bread pan.
  • While loaf is proofing, preheat your oven to 385 degrees F.
  • Remove plastic wrap and spritz loaf with spray bottle. Scatter the remaining 1/4 c. of rolled oats along top. Place on the center rack of pre-heated oven and bake about 1 hour. The top and sides of the loaf should be a deep golden brown. Let cool in the pan about 20 minutes and then remove onto a cooling rack.
  • Theoretically, you should wait until it is completely cool to cut (it can damage the integrity of the loaf to cut it while it's still warm) but I haven't managed this yet!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Savoring Seattle is Live!

Savoring Seattle's debut is here! The segment aired as part of the June 14 edition of CityStream on the Seattle Channel. If you'd like to see the show, you can stream it at http://www.seattlechannel.org/CityStream/. Just click "Watch." The Savoring Seattle segment is about 7 minutes into the show, and about 3 minutes long. It's very exicting!!

New York, New York: Part Two

After eating my weight in risotto balls and other small bites the night before, I was ready for a real meal. So Saturday night found me at The Modern, which is the cafe that is part of MoMA. Having heard great things about this place, I was excited to be invited to a private dinner there. Hidden away in the Bar Room, about 40 booksellers and publishing types gathered to celebrate the new novels from Tom Perotta (known for Little Children and Election) and Gail Tsukiyama (Dreaming Water).
I hate to say it, but I was a little disappointed by the food. It may be that as part of a private party, our food was prepared more "banquet style;" I found my salad over-dressed, and my beef tenderloin, while beautifully cooked, was over-salted. The best part of the meal was the lovely buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and rhubarb compote, served in a shallow bowl with a paper-thin slice of candied rhubarb set jauntily across the rim.

Luckily, the company outshone the food. It was an absolute delight to talk with Perotta and Tsukiyama about their new books: The Abstinence Teacher and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms respectively. And they surprised us by accepting our invitation to a dance party that was happening down at The Fillmore. This is an annual opportunity for booksellers and publishing people to blow off steam and shake their groove thang. It's actually pretty great. The evening ended around 1:30, as we found our way back to Brooklyn, and to bed.
Even though I have been to New York several times, I'd never been to Brooklyn. I know, how can that be? Well, I made up for it on Sunday by exploring as much as possible. Lauren and I had breakfast at a great diner/bar on the edge of Cobble Hill called Gravy.
Very hip, but the service was super friendly, and we managed to get a table right away. I had this crazy plate of goodness that they called The Cowboy Breakfast: skillet cornbread topped with BBQ beans, sweet corn (actual, real corn from the cob!), sweet chorizo and eggs, over medium. All of this was topped with fresh pico de gallo. This was so yummy I'm still thinking about it, although I only managed to eat about a quarter of the serving. In true New York fashion, the coffee was terrible. :)
Later on, as I explored Park Slope I had better coffee at The Red Horse Cafe when I met a couple of friends of mine there. These Seattle-Brooklyn transplants showed me around their new neighborhood--I loved the feel of the tree-lined streets and the business district had a ton of cute shops. We stopped into several, including the Community Book Store (a sweet little book store with a leafy, cobbled patio out back) and Sweet Melissa (couldn't resist buying my assistant Melissa a little treat here).
That night we ate at Bar Tabac, which is a short walk from the Brooklyn Marriott. The food was straightforward French bistro fare. The table shared a chilled rose, and several small plates including a selection of charcuterie and several different brochette. All in all, pretty tasty. While some ended the meal with dessert, I opted for an Amaretto on ice, which was the perfect, light finish.
My New York eating spree closed with a couple of stand-out places. I met some friends for drinks at Pacifico. The pitchers of margaritas were delicious and deadly! The next morning it took breakfast at Sarabeth's on Central Park South to fully recover. Now, this place is pretty well known in New York, and I might not normally write about it, but the food was really good. I ordered a smoked salmon scramble and I was surprised at how perfectly the eggs were cooked. I was also pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices. And the coffee--it was pretty darn good too. (Now if only they would spread their secret to the other coffee shops in town!) It was a great way to end my trip. I hopped back on the train to Brooklyn, grabbed my luggage and co-workers and we made our way to Newark, and home to Seattle.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

New York, New York: It's a Wonderful Town! Part One

I just returned from a business trip where, lucky girl that I am, I got to eat at some of New York's tastiest restaurants with some of the best and brightest authors around. The week included a number of private dinners and fancy-pants receptions (including a rare opportunity to chat with the usually reclusive Philip Roth).
Lauren (the children's book buyer at UBS) and I arrived late last Wednesday night and met up with a friend at a sweet East Village restaurant called Supper. We started with the delicious Salmon Marinato, an arugula salad dressed with thin slices of cured salmon,
lemon and shaved Parmesan. I tried a special tagliatelle with prosciutto and marinara (this intrigued me, since I've normally only had prosciutto with cream sauces). At our friend Kris's recommendation, we ordered the hazelnut panna cotta. It was crazy good, drowned in chocolate sauce and topped with fresh berries. Kris clearly knows her stuff. (Here'a a picture of me trying the tiramisu, with the panna cotta in the foreground). I couldn't believe how affordable this place was--I think our bill came to about $40 each, for three courses, a glass of wine, tax and tip. What a deal!
Lauren and I were staying in Brooklyn, so lunch on Thursday clearly had to be at Junior's. This place has been serving diners since 1950, and is world famous for it's cheesecake (after walking around, I got a bit turned around and asked a guy on the street to direct me. He knew just where it was.) Sadly, I didn't get to try the cheesecake, but chowed down a huge BLT with the complimentary sides: homemade beets and pickles. I have to say that these were some of the best I've ever had. The beets were tender and simultaneously sweet and tangy. The pickles were crunchy, salty and perfectly brined. In fact, these were so good that I asked if I could buy a pickle or two to take home. The lovely waiter got me a whole container of pickles to take with me--they made a fantastic late night snack!
One of the highlights of the week was a reception on Friday night at Cafe Gray in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle with the aforementioned Philip Roth. His publisher Houghton Mifflin was celebrating the publication of his upcoming book Exit Ghost and could not have thrown a classier party! Even though I was a little tongue-tied trying to make conversation with Mister Roth, I still managed to enjoy the amazing appetizers that were provided. There were tiny braised short rib tartlets with creamy grits, beautiful little salad hand rolls, a gorgeous, aromatic ground lamb pizza that was served on a hot stone that sizzled atop whole spices and tuna tartar and tiny chicken wings that were breaded with pink lentils and fried. But by informal poll, the mushroom risotto cakes were the partygoer's favorite.
And you heard it here first: risotto cakes are the thing to serve at cocktail parties. I tasted three different versions at three different parties over the weekend! I'm not sure they would translate well for home use, but even the least delicious risotto cakes were pretty darn good. Our party that night continued with an informal dinner at Landmarc , where I tried their nicoise salad (I am slightly obsessed with this currently) and finished with an annual secret party for booksellers at Cowgirl.

the perfect balance