Further. Wash responsibly.

Fortunately I have few regrets in life. I am sorry I am not the owner of the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. That I was not the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie. And that I didn’t come up with the idea for Further lotion, hand soap and candles.

Marshall and Megan Dostal are the brilliant folks behind Further Products. Marshall was producing bio-fuel for his car in a homemade lab in his garage out of depleted waste grease from restaurants in the Los Angeles area. When Megan saw the by-product barrels of glycerin accumulating in the family garage she suggested he come-up with a use for glycerin. Frequently the glycerin is disposed of by dumping in landfills, burning or by composting. Marshall saw greater potential and a more responsible use for the valuable by-product. Thus Further Products was born. It appears that Marshall is the first person to produce a retail product made from reclaimed glycerin.

Further Products are gently fragranced with bergamot, olive and exotic grasses. The hand lotion is particularly wonderful. Silky in texture, the lotion is easily absorbed into the skin without being greasy. It is one of the best lotions I have ever encountered. The Further product line also includes a hand soap and a candle. Currently the candles are made from depleted waste grease from former Seattleite Mario Batali’s MOZZA restaurant.

In the Seattle area you can find them at all Town and Country Markets and Central Markets. He tells me that he hopes to produce products from reclaimed grease from this grocery store chain so we can participate first hand in closing the sustainable circle.


Deep Dish Dream

Spinach_pizzaI know this post isn’t very spring-like, but recently I went back to school and I’m excited about being a student again: especially about the fact that when you’re a student, pizza is a dietary staple.   However, at this stage of the game, I’m too jaded for most of the options available for delivery but have to confess that this is not a new development.  I got spoiled a long time ago by a little pizza joint called Baxter’s.  A pizza from there was a heavenly and heavy affair: a 13 x 9 deep dish with a crazy amount of cheese, an herb-laden sauce and generous toppings.  If I could time travel back for one of those pizzas I would.   

Years later I got a recipe for a deep dish pizza dough and in the intervening years I’ve made it countless times and have found it to be the ultimate crust recipe.  Now I have tinkered with it on the rare occasion, adding some whole wheat flour, or even a bit of corn meal for texture but I have discovered two rules which I learned (the hard way): the first, don’t bake this on a piece of foil wrapped cardboard and second, use only Fleischman’s double acting yeast.

So here is the recipe, it truly is an old friend tried and true:

Deep Dish Pizza Crust

preheat oven to 450 degrees

1 3/4 Cups of warm water

1 Package of Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast

1 Tablespoon of Sugar (to feed the yeast)

1 Teaspoon of Salt

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

additional flour for kneading

1.  In the waterdissolve the yeast and stir in the sugar, salt and Olive Oil.

2.  Stir in the flour, a cup at a time until well mixed.

3.  Turn out onto a well floured surface and with floured hands, knead the dough for 10 minutes or until nice and elastic — it will loose the stickiness as it builds up gluten.

4.  Form the dough into a ball, place into an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk ( 1 1/2 – 2 hours).

5.  Punch the dough down, and place into an oiled deep dish pizza pan OR in Baxter’s style, use a 13″ x 9″ baking pan; spread the dough out and let rise a second time, about thirty minutes.

6.  Top with your favorite sauce, toppings and a generous amount of  mozzarella cheese.

7.  Place into 450 degree oven, close the door and reduce the heat to 400 degrees.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

8.  Enjoy with a bottle of Blue Moon a wheat beer served up with a sliver of orange.

Two old friends

salad-nicoise2Some things seem like they have always been with me. My stuffed dog Muggs, my recipe for Salade Nicoise and my friend Rene are a few of these. I don’t remember a time that Rene wasn’t my friend. We have known each other since kindergarten. We were in the same high school French class that gave us a recipe for Salade Nicoise. It was one of the first recipes that I learned to make and it was, bien sur written in French. We don’t remember what the assignment was that included a recipe for Salade Nicoise, but Madame Cueno provided one. This ultimate salad was served to me by Rene the other day at Sunday dinner at her Seattle home on Lake Washington. It was the best Salade Nicoise I’ve ever had.

Salade Nicoise is a classic composed salad comprised of tuna or anchovies, hard boiled egg, small potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and Nicoise olives. When I was quite young, and didn’t know any better, or didn’t have any better, I used things like canned new potatoes and bottled vinaigrette. The best thing I can say about that is that at least I was trying. Now I would only make this salad in the spring or summer when the freshest vegetables are available. Only canned ingredient I would recommend is very high quality tuna canned in olive oil. You could always use grilled albacore tuna as well. Of course make the salad with canned albacore in water if you wish. Don’t pass on this salad if you don’t want to use expensive tuna. Or omit the tuna if you are vegetarian. Do what makes sense to you. Julia Child recommended that each ingredient be dressed separately. While I respect this I haven’t the patience for it, preferring to drizzle dressing over the completed salad. Over all I think the distribution of the dressing is better Julia’s way, so please be a better person than me and toss each separately. It doesn’t take that much longer. Do not dress the eggs. That would cause them to break apart. Potatoes should be warm when dressed to absorb the vinaigrette.

Salad
2 cans highest quality canned tuna, packed in olive oil
4 large hard-boiled eggs, quartered
10 small boiled new red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size.
2 medium heads Boston lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
3 small vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces green beans, cut in half
1/4 cup niçoise olives

Vinaigrette
1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 or 3 lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Wisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in small bowl. Set aside.

Using a large plate place lettuce on plate with a little more towards the edges. Arrange green beans, cooked potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs in mounds on lettuce bed with tuna in the center. Scatter red onion and Nicoise olives over top of salad. Serve immediately.
Serves 6

Summer: Salad!

Summer Salad 001Today’s temperature in the low 80’s put me in the mood for salad.  A crazy, composite of different tastes, textures and bursts of flavor.  What I wanted was something satisfying, but not overwhelmingly so.  Back in New Orleans, salads during hot weather were always a welcome treat in more ways than one — after all a salad requires no cooking and as a result your whole house remains cool — or at least as cool as it can when the temp is 88 degrees and the humidity is 85% plus.  Tonight’s salad was put together with a interesting melange of flavors which included tart green apple, sweet raisins and tangy sun dried tomatoes.  Made in a big bowl, this filling vegetarian entree salad was a perfect foil for Widmer Brothers Brewmasters’ Release W 09 Belgian Style Ale.

Here’s the salad, serves two as a salad course or one as an entree

40z  Mixed Spring Green

1 Granny Smith Apple, cut into generous chunks

1/3 Cup Chopped Walnuts

1/3 Cup Raisins

1/4 Cup Sun Dried Tomatoes, cut into strips & rehydrated in hot water for 7-9 minutes

2 – 3 oz of Blue Cheese

Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

dressed with Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil to taste

Sated does Puff!

Salmon PyeJ’Nee and I got together the other day with the intention of talking about personal branding and the crisis rocking the British Parliament.  But as these things go, it quickly evolved into cooking, drinking a great Rose wine and a lunch time adventure that involved puff pastry and salmon.  It was a day with an excellent and delicious outcome.

I had brought over a couple of salmon fillets as a hedge against eventual hunger, thinking that teriyaki would be a great lunch.  But as we began to discuss and remember salmon from dishes past, the memories and the flood of options they raised were dizzying: baked in cream, pan sauteed with fresh asparagus, poached in vegetable broth, wrapped in puff pastry . . . well teriyaki seemed tired. 

Our discussion turned to flavors and the plan began to take on new dimensions as we mulled over mirepoix and using the classic French herb Tarragon, but this seemed like too much effort.  Vidalia Onions from Georgia and 1015’s from Texas are now available.  Should they be caramelized?  No!  But sweet onions sauteed with olive oil and baby spinach? Yes! Along with that we could, on our mind’s palette,  taste fresh dill along with lemon zest and juice for a touch of acidic brightness.  All wrapped in puff pastry, served with a dollop of pleasantly spicy Adobo Sour Cream and fresh asparagus sauteed in olive oil with a touch of sea salt and a spritz of lemon juice.  Heaven.

Salmon 1

Lemon, Salmon & Spinach in Puff Pastry with Adobo Sour Cream, serves 6

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Medium Onion, quartered and thinly sliced

8 oz  Fresh Baby Spinach

1/3 Cup Fresh Dill, Chopped

Zest of one large Lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

12 oz Salmon Fillets, skinned, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

2 Sheets Frozen Puff Pastry — Thawed

1 Large Egg, Beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1. Roll out the thawed puff pastry on separate sheets of parchment paper — you want to be able to cut a 12″ circle from one sheet for the bottom and an 11″ circle for the top from the second.  Reserve trimmed pastry pieces.  Keep rounds and trims of puff pastry in the fridge until needed.

2.  In a large frying pan, saute onion in butter until translucent over medium heat.

3.  Add baby spinach a handful at a time, gently stirring until it is cooked down.

4.  Reduce heat to Medium Low, add the chopped fresh dill, lemon zest and lemon juice to the pan along with the Salmon fillet, stir occasionally and cook about 5 minutes.  Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside.

5.  Remove rounds of puff pastry from the fridge; place the 12″ round on a baking sheet — removing the parchment paper from the round.

6.  Place the Salmon-spinach mix on the pastry round — leave any additional accumulated liquid in the pan; a filling that is too damp will cause the bottom crust to be soggy.  Spread the mix to within 1 1/2″ of the edge of the round.

7.  Brush the edge of the bottom round with egg wash, and place the smaller 11″  puff pastry round over the mix and gently fold the edge down to come in contact with the bottom round.  Firmly crimp the two edges together, to form a nice tight seal.

8.  With a sharp knife, cut a vent or two in the top crust to allow steam to escape.  Use the puff pastry trim: cut decorative designs from these scraps, affixing them to the top using the egg wash.  You can brush the entire puff pastry with egg wash for shiny finish.  With the dish prepared, you can refrigerate it for an hour or until you’re ready to bake it.  Lightly cover it with plastic wrap until ready to proceed.

9.  Bake at 400 degrees, until pleasantly browned: begin checking at 20 minutes for doneness, but baking may take about 25 – 30 minutes depending on your oven.

9.  Let Rest for five minutes, cut into slices and serve with dollop of Adobo Sour Cream, recipe follows.

 

Adobo Sour Cream

To one cup of Sour Cream add 1 Tablespoon of Adobo sauce. 

You’ll find canned chipotle chiles packed  in Adobo in the Spanish section of your grocery store; reserve the chiles for another use, they can be successfully frozen for longer term storage.

Pleasure Postponed

Cave de Saumur Saumur ChampignyPlease don’t feel sorry for me, but I have so much wine in my condo I am tripping over the stuff. It’s everywhere. Stacked high in boxes in my living room, stashed behind my chaise lounge, and laying down on the shelves of my TV stand. It’s a virtual glut of wine. It’s even hidden at the foot of my bed. There may even be some under my bed. I am afraid to look.

As a Wine Steward I am given samples by wineries and wholesalers. It is my duty and obligation to open these aforementioned bottles for “sensory analysis”. These wines are contenders for being placed on display at my store. The exciting prospects get opened immediately, preferably with a friend. This is not always possible. The potentiality that the next wine poured will be mind-blowing and life changing keeps the job exciting.

The last great wine was a 2006 Cave de Saumur, Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeux from the Loire Valley. Made from Cabernet Franc it was quite typical of the region. There was a “green” note to this elegant red wine that makes me crazy giddy. Additionally it is light-bodied enough that it would pair with foods thought to only be compatible with whites. Wished I had a grilled center-cut of king salmon with roasted root vegetables to go along with. Roasted chicken would have been fine too. Unfortunately the only activity that day was hanging closet shelves, not enjoying a well thought-out meal to accompany this delight. The saving grace was there was at the very least someone who could appreciate the wine with me. That said I hereby resolve to open more wine more frequently. After all, never ever postpone pleasure.

Gingerbread

Gingerbread 013What is it about Gingerbread?  You know at the moment when it’s warm — not too warm — and topped with cool, freshly beaten whipped cream?  It’s the ultimate comfort food and there is something about this meeting of two tastes that makes you recall your childhood and I remember it  as clearly as though it were yesterday.

Gingerbread from scratch comes together easily and fills the house with comforting smells and when pulled out of the oven looks deceptively unassuming.  I have never been able to resist having a representative slice fresh from the pan, unadorned with anything, the warm fragrant steam rising between my fingertips; it is fine on its own.  MFK Fisher wrote in “How to Cook a Wolf” that she liked to eat Gingerbread topped with sherry and sweet butter.  Growing up, my Mother always served it topped with fresh vanilla whipped cream and to this day the traditions of childhood reign: it is still my preferred topping. 

I found a recipe for Old Fashioned Gingerbread (skip the molasses whipped cream) on Epicurious.com: and found it made a moist and delicious gingerbread as pictured above.   In the reviews section, one cook suggested adding chopped crystalized ginger to the batter.  I tried it, but it seems unnecessary.  J’Nee swears by the Grammercy Tavern Gingerbread recipe, also on Epicurious.com, which calls for the use of Guiness or Oatmeal Stout.  One recipe that I scrawled on a 3 x5 card years ago calls for adding 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper to the batter.  While I love black pepper, I’ve never made this recipe.

Now, it seems to me that what I remember from childhood had far more zing, and so I usually want to add more ginger than most recipes call for.  Another of my favorite recipes, from the Silver Palette Cookbook, is annotated with the following: “not spicy enough!” with adjustments to the  ginger and cinnamon called for.  While I thought I might be alone in this quirk, it turns out I’m not: many of the respondents to ginger bread recipe postings indicate they too double the spice called for.

It is my misfortune that in my immediate circle of loved ones I am quite alone in my love of Gingerbread.  Between my Goddaughters, the 5 year old will not try it, (happy though she is to help make it) and the 15 year old simply says “No thank you!” and is not even remotely interested in what goes into making it.  Now one could say defiantly: Good more for me!  But I feel, I believe, that gingerbread is meant to be shared. 

What about you?  What are your gingerbread memories and where does your favorite gingerbread recipe come from?