tangy.

Yes, I promised a post about mashed yukons. So here it is.

Why yukons instead of russets? Russets are meant to be baked. They’re too mealy for creamy mashed potatoes. They’re really not that flavorful in my opinion. Their skins are divine. But then it would be called mashed potato skins. Not what we’re looking for.

Cut your yukons into one inch slices. Don’t peel. Add hot water and a good dose of kosher salt. Bring to a good simmer but don’t boil. Add 4 or 8 peeled cloves of garlic. Or not. Strain when they’re fork tender. 

Now. This it the important part. Do. Not. Overmix. Even tasty yukons will turn gummy if you over mix them. Don’t do it. 

Stand mixers are great for this purpose. Smash ‘em for ten seconds on medium. Add a bit of softened butter, cracked pepper, and a large glop of fat free sour cream. You won’t miss the fat. The tanginess will throw the spuds into another dimension. Trust me. 

Smash ‘em again for ten seconds. Seriously. Don’t overmix. If they’re a bit too chunky add five seconds. But that’s it. Don’t ask for any more. 

Try adding a large scoop of fresh horseradish with the sour cream. Tastes great with Tenderloin Roast. 

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season.

Yes, it’s very tender and delicate. But the lack of marbling forces one to add a bit more flavor that just kosher salt and cracked pepper. It’s not a bad thing, just a necessity to make the most of a tenderloin roast.

There’s nothing wrong with letting your roast sit out for an hour or so before throwing in the oven. It’s best to have it as close to the oven temperature as possible before roasting. With absolutely no marbling, the less time spent in a dry oven the more flavorful the tenderloin will be. Remember to season it when you first take it out the chiller so the flavors can meld.

Fresh garlic is always good on a roast, just don’t go overboard. I thought those words would never come outta my mouth, but there it was. Stay away from worcestershire or other very strong sauces, too. They’ll overpower the delicate flavor of the roast. Crushed rosemary is delicious. Fresh or dried. Doesn’t matter. A little old bay is quite tasty as well. Don’t forget the kosher salt and cracked pepper. 

Throw it in at four hundred for about fifteen minutes. Then lower it to three fifty until medium rare. Let. It. Rest. At least twenty minutes. Half inch slices are good. Serve with garlic mashed yukons and steamed broccoli. Fresh horseradish mixed with a little sour cream and lots of cracked pepper on the side. 

We’ll discuss mashed yukons at a later date. Just make do until then. 

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salt.

I didn’t know anything about Italian food when I helped design a menu for a new restaurant. Well, other than the food I made at home. It wasn’t as difficult as it may seem.

The key to a successful restaurant is to make the food like you would at home. So I did just that. The lasagna had plenty of cheese and spices. The chicken marsala was simple and had plenty of fresh mushrooms and scallions. The red sauce was fresh and allowed to meld overnight before serving. The pasta was cooked in salted water. Yes. You must salt your pasta water. Salt it well. Remember you’re salting the giant pot of water, not the pasta. The pasta will salt itself. 

Salt is not the enemy. Overuse of salt is the devil. Not only will your ticker hate you, your friends will drink all your wine to kill the burning sensation in their mouth. That’s not good. Use only what you absolutely need when cooking. Let your guests decide what needs a little oomph. And use kosher or sea salt. Stay away from the iodized table salt. You get plenty of iodine without it.

Always cook your pasta to al dente. No one likes mushy pasta. Not even babies. Right before the pasta is done, throw some EVOO in a hot pan, add some fresh garlic and a little ginger. Not the redhead. The spice. When you start to salivate, throw in a handful of chiffon basil. Throw the pasta in. Serve under freshly shredded parmesan reggiano and halved grape tomatoes. And a little fresh ground pepper. 

Don’t add any more salt. The pasta will be plum happy the way it is.

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cinnamon.

Following recipes isn’t fun for me. Baking insists upon following recipes. I’ve had issues with not measuring while baking. It usually ends up tasty. Usually. After all these years, baking and I have come to an agreement. Follow basic rules of wet and dry ingredients. Then go nuts for the rest of it. Compromise is good.

There is no room to compromise when it comes to the quality of the ingredients. Fresh=Good. Those plastic seals on canisters of cocoa powder and Saigon cinnamon? They’re there for a reason. Air is bad. Once opened, baking ingredients quickly go south and your goods will begin to taste flat. Speaking of warm weather, keep your spices away from heat. Heat=Bad. 

Cinnamon Chocolate Cake. Basic chocolate cake recipe. Brown sugar to enhance the spicy cinnamon. A bit more salt to add depth. Moist. Tender. Sweet and savory. Served chilled with cinnamon whipped cream. 

Compromise is good. And tastes great with a glass of cold milk.

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creative.

Sweet. Savory. Everything tastes better when wrapped in a crepe. There’s a new little restaurant nearby that serves these delicious vessels. I prefer my own. Never serve pre-made frozen disks to guests. Or even to yourself. They’re easy to make and well worth the effort. 

The key is letting the batter rest for at least an hour. Mix flour, salt, egg, melted butter and milk. Use a blender. Don’t worry, no one will know you cheated. Now, let it rest. Don’t cheat here. 

I’ve made crepes in a cast iron pan. It needs a lot more butter but can be done. An electric griddle will work in a pinch but they’ll be less tender. Your best bet is a heavy non-stick pan on a hot gas burner. If you don’t have a gas stove, you should get one. It should have an electric oven, though. Gas puts out a lot of moisture you don’t need while baking. Convection is wonderful, too. It should take about an hour to install the new stove. Just in time to heat the pan.

Throw a little butter in the hot pan. Clarified is best. Add a small amount of batter and swirl around until the bottom of the pan is covered. If you need a little more batter, add some. Cook until the gloss is gone. Flip. Use a spatula or wooden dowel. Or flip like fried eggs. Whatever your skill level, they’ll taste the same. Total cooking time? Hmmm. Maybe a minute or so. Stack ‘em up and place in a warm oven. 

Now, get creative. Butter, maple syrup, orange zest. Goat cheese, pesto, grilled chicken. Spinach, onions, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, bleu cheese. Blueberries, ricotta, orange zest. Brie, fig compote, toasted sliced almonds. Ham, havarti, arugula, stone ground mustard. 

Remember that presentation does wonders. Hit the thrift shop for some unique serving dishes. You’ve taken the time make this glorious meal, it should please your eyes, too. 

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pickled.

Cow tastes good. Fresh ground cow tastes really good mixed with fresh ground lamb, broiled to medium, on a toasted french roll. Homemade mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, feta crumbles. Pickled red onions. 

Gramma pickled all kinds of things. Eggs. Cucumbers. Elk heart. Onions. She never used a recipe, just threw things together and called it dinner. It was amazing. After twenty five years of practice, I’m slowly approaching her skill level. Hopefully.

Fresh ingredients are a must when preserving. If it’s past it’s prime, eat it now. Don’t waste your time preserving it, it’s not going to do well. Farmers Markets are the way to go if you can’t grow your own food. Red onions, garlic, chili peppers.

A simple syrup with pickling spices of your choice and quite a bit of apple cider vinegar. Use organic. It’s unbelievably tasty and good for you. Bring to a boil. Add copious amounts of thickly slivered onions. And some whole garlic cloves. And some canning salt. Bring back to a boil. Ladle into prepared jars. Cap and throw in the fridge. Don’t open ‘til Christmas. 

Serve with everything. Especially cow|lamb|feta burgers. 

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gentle.

Plopping them into a cookie recipe in one thing. When it comes to the stovetop, eggs deserve your full attention. They should never be cooked until brown. Never.

Bussing tables was my first real job. With paychecks and everything. I was fourteen and eager to learn. My first big catering event was a brunch buffet with an omelet bar. Spinach, cherry tomatoes, shrimp, artichokes. Heaping mounds of colors and textures. It was divine. The sous chef saw me hovering and promised an oversize omelet with whatever I desired. 

I rattled off an assortment of foods I had never imagined would go into an omelet as he shuffled the pans. He stopped. His hand was poised above the perfect pan with a ladle of eggs. He stared into my soul. And said ‘Eggs are fragile. Don’t get them too hot. Don’t cook them too long. And turn off the heat before they’re done.’ 

Or something like that.

It made an impression that has survived to this day. And he was right. If you have to saw through your eggs, they are past the point of being moist and tender and flavorful. You’ve taken the time to acquire the perfect pan. Visited the farmer’s market for the freshest organic eggs and veggies. Squeezed every drop of juice from glistening oranges. Toasted nutty whole grain bread. You’re ready for the perfect omelet. 

Please give those eggs your full attention. You’ll like what’s on your plate today.

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creamy.

Breakfast isn’t just for breakfast. With the extensive flavors showcased in foods like huevos rancheros with spicy salsa, lox and cream cheese with capers, and whole grain pancakes with peanut butter and jam, it’s selfish of us to serve these foods when we’re rushing out the door each morning. These dishes deserve to be savored. Do yourself a favor and serve breakfast for dinner. Like steel cut oats with dried huckleberries.

Steel cut oats are similar to rolled oats in only one way. They both started out as groats, whole grain oats with the outer hull removed. That’s where things take a drastic turn. Rolled oats are squished with tremendous wheels that inevitably create unwanted heat and change the structure of the groat. Steel cut oats are simply roughly chopped groats that resemble chopped almonds in appearance. As luck would have it, these oats carry a roasted nutty flavor that is so different from rolled oats… you’ll think it’s an entirely different grain. Yes, they’re that good. Slow cooking them in a crockpot is my favorite method. Stir only when necessary. They will emerge glossy, tender, creamy, chewy, nutty… oh my.

You should soak all grains, rice, and beans before cooking. It helps to minimize the complex sugars your body can’t metabolize. And it shortens cooking time. But you knew that already.

I prefer to not add liquid to the oats once they are cooked. I don’t want soup. I want porridge. And nothing goes better in porridge than huckleberries. Yeah, you probably don’t have access to huckleberries. You can add dried wild mountain blueberries if need be. They’re available at the Skagit Valley Co-op. Incredibly similar to huckleberries and are one substitution I am willing to suffer through. 

Serving breakfast for dinner is another substitution I’m happy to do. Especially when they’re steel cut oats with dried huckleberries.

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caramel.

I’ve never attempted to make flan. I’ve never attempted to make a souffle. I don’t care for souffle, so it’s a win-win. But flan… flan is a little piece of heaven. If heaven was creamy and had a tasty caramel sauce.

My friend’s wife makes flan for fun. She even infuses a little tequila sometimes. I had the pleasure of eating a serving today. Okay, it was more than one serving. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is she makes it from scratch and bakes only one at a time to ensure even cooking. Today she made five flan. Dedication.

Smooth custard. Hint of tequila on the nose. A subtle sweetness that is indescribable. Caramel. Not the thick, gooey corn syrupy glob out of a jar. A light, homemade, amber caramel that finishes the flan with a quiet gusto. Amazing.

Maria. Thank you for the love I had on my plate today. 

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pressure.

Baby pigs give their lives so others can make tasty ribs. It’s one of those dishes that tastes complicated but is insanely easy to make. You’ll still get brownie points, though. As long as you don’t give away the secret weapon. Pressure cooker. Not pressure canner. Pressure cooker. I should warn you. These are messy.

Cut into manageable pieces. Three to four ribs per chunk works well. Coat everything in a dry rub. Brown sugar, garlic, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper… and anything else you like. I rarely make the same rub twice. That’s how I roll.

After a couple hours of resting nicely in the fridge, throw them into the pressure cooker, add just enough water to keep it from blowing up, then throw in a few squirts of barbeque sauce. Yes, you should always follow the manufacturer’s directions. It had to be said.

Once the steam starts rolling out, let it cook for… uh… forty five minutes. Or more. Now this next part is very important. Do not open the lid. It doesn’t matter that it unlocks after the pressure is released. You’ll make those poor baby pig ribs dry out. That’s not good. You went through all that effort to make them tender and… Alright. It wasn’t that much effort. But don’t open the lid. Okay?

In an hour or so, turn on the broiler. Now you can open the lid. Pour on some more barbeque sauce and broil ‘til caramelized. Flip the ribs. Caramelize the other side. Now eat them. 

I told you they were messy.

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spinach.

My daughter loves my lasagna. She asks for it two or three times a month. I usually make it for her. It’s a win-win.

Meat or vegetarian? It’s open for suggestion. Light on the sauce, heavy on the garlic. Cheese, please. And spinach. Always.

I was raised in a meat and potato household and there definitely wasn’t anything green in the lasagna. Don’t remember how spinach first made it into the dish after I moved out, it just seems to have magically appeared. Guests do a double-take when they see it for the first time. But they all enjoy it. More importantly, my daughter enjoys it.

Ground round. Ricotta. Eggs. Garlic. Onions. Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Garlic. Mushrooms. Pasta. Mozzarella cheese. Garlic. Parmesan cheese. Make your own tomato sauce. With plenty of herbs. Garlic. Spinach.

Dinner at eight.

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tamarind.

A drive through coffee shop I used to visit was owned by a delightful woman that treated each customer like her best friend. She once mentioned a tangy Philippino soup her mother makes called Sinigang. Of course I asked for the recipe. And as all good family dishes are, there was no recipe. Just a list of ingredients and words like ‘some, a little bit, about this much in your hand’… Sour Soup.

This is basically a hearty vegetable soup with sour, not sweet, tamarind paste. I also put some sort of white meat in my soup. Or not. Simmer the meat with some garlic until tender. And a little bit of salt. Potatoes, onions, green beans, bok choy, zucchini, white beans, carrots, whatever you have is good. Throw them in the pot. Add about this much in your hand of tamarind paste. Serve over rice. Or not. Garnish with sliced radish. 

Yum.

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beets.

Beets used to scare me. I had only ever tried canned beets that were served at holidays and they tasted like dirt. Dirt is not a flavor I enjoy. I would have gone my entire adult life never eating another beet and died happy. 

But catering sometimes forces one to branch out and create dishes that otherwise wouldn’t be on the menu. Pickled beets was one of those dishes. And so I visited the delightful Co-Op down the street for a good variety and became a beet experimenter. This is what I learned.

Cutting the beets in half, covering with water, and baking for an hour is the absolute best way to prepare beets. Let cool in the water until room temperature and simply rub the skins away. Yes, you can leave beets to cool overnight on the counter. You won’t die. I prefer a half inch dice when making a salad.

Use a mason jar to shake the dressing of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, horseradish, dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Marinate at room temperature for at least an hour. Add sliced red onions, massaged kale, and a bit of chopped parsley. Top with a bit of feta or chevre. It’s a tasty, beautiful salad.

Even better with crusty bread and a glass of white wine. Or two.

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dubliner.

 

Years ago I was employed as the cheese ambassador at a large, upscale grocery store. Dozens and dozens of specialty cheeses. Not a review or description in sight. And so I vowed to try one new cheese each day.

I ate copious amounts of cheese. It was difficult, but I made it through. And so my affair with Dubliner began. We’re still happily in love.

Tangy. Crumbly. Smooth. Salty. Creamy. 

Thinly sliced. With cracked pepper water crackers. Nothing better.

I need a snack.

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posole.

Authentic Mexican food is hard to come by. Although I thoroughly enjoy most anything smothered in cheese, most restaurants cater to American palates and I prefer to eat the food that generations of hispanics grew up eating. Calle tacos|tequila is one of those amazing places.

Every piece of art, every color on the walls, every recipe on the menu… it all comes from their family. Most restaurants refer to the people that come to eat as customers. Calle calls them guests. They should call them family, that’s how they’re treated.

The menu is not extensive, but what’s there is amazing and varied. Spicy Chili Rellano. Creamy Spinach and Corn Pechuga. Drunken Almond|Tequila Prawns. And oh, the street style Tacos. Carne Asada with Pico de Gallo. Stawberry Shrimp with a bit of Lime. Napoles Cactus with Tomatoes, Onions, and Cilantro. The handmade tortillas are worth their weight in gold. 

Weekends bring Posole. Pork, hominy, and spices simmered in a red chili broth. Served with fresh tortilla chips. Finished with cilantro and lime. 

Amazing. 

Calle Tacos Tequila on Urbanspoon

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