Turkey Lurkey, Henny Penny and the rest of the fearful feathered friends, beware! Thanksgiving is upon us. Here are a few of our favorite dishes that we like to share with friends and family during this season of gratitude (that are, of course, gluten free).
Everyone has been talking about the summer heat. So now, me too. We recently moved to the Seattle area from Phoenix. I’ve been so happy NOT to report living in 115 degree weather days, living in air conditioning, living… inside for the summer. Well, August hit Washington. And I can still go outside (thank God!), and I have no right to complain. But baby, it’s hot. Especially when one is used to sleeping in air conditioning when it’s hot!
So now, I’m getting tricky with a few things. My old Phoenix instincts are kicking in: drink lot’s of water; don’t let the sunshine inside the house; SPF on my face like crazy, and most importantly, DON’T turn on that oven (It’s all about salads and grilling for us right now!). When the most hot part of the day rolls around, we head for the lake, the pool, or… a kitchen store with air conditioning! Hello Sur La Table! I’m like a honey bear around honey in that place.
Part of our Sur La Table purchase a few days ago included some super sweet silicone ice cube trays. These trays make some awesome square cubes that Brent is ga-ga for! So we’ve been getting creative with my old ice cube trays which almost made their way to recycle bin heaven. I’m glad they’re still around.
Coffee Ice Cubes
We still make hot coffee in the morning despite the heat. This is because we’re trying to fine-tune our coffee bean roasting skills (see other blog) and we want to taste the differences in our roasts. So we’ve got a lot of beans to burn through (thank God!). There is usually a bit left over in the pot. People can ever seem to bring themselves to drink that last bit can they? So this week, we’ve been making coffee ice cubes.
And we have this amazing thermos-like coffee pot that keeps the coffee hot throughout the day. The coffee still steams when I open the thermos pot in the evenings! Recently, in the afternoon, I pour warm coffee over this coffee-ice, and I really do get a great cup of iced coffee! (Yes I know coffee purists, the coffee should be tossed after an hour or two, but I want iced coffee & I don’t want to brew again in the evenings!!) Add syrup, cream, or just drink it straight-up as I often like to do!
Yogurt Ice Cubes (aka frozen yogurt!)
I also have been freezing yogurt in my old ice cube trays. Here’s today’s gonna-expire-by-this-weekend-yogurt, so I tossed it into the tray for freezing! Freeze for several hours, with or without popsicle sticks, and enjoy. Sprinkles are a must.
We were in Southern California last week. Even hotter. Such ugly beaches (yeah, I’m totally kidding). We escaped to the pool, beach and air conditioning as well down there. And we ate a lot of salads and grilled foods too. Ain’t summer grand? We had a delicious Cucumber Salad at a restaurant in the California Adventure theme park of all places. This “side salad” outdid the main course kabobs in my opinion! So of course we had to come home and make it. I couldn’t have gotten such thin slices of cucumber without my trusty Swissmar mandoline slicer!
The day after, we still had left overs of this yummy cucumber salad. So I made some gluten free pasta, cooled it down and tossed with the cool cucumber salad and some parmesan for a great gluten-free pasta salad!
How are you beating the heat in your kitchen?
I have had an obsession with a particular taco shop since moving to Renton. I was told that I would never find decent Mexican food here. And, after a multitude of visits to the Seattle area over the years, I’d have to agree. So it was a magical moment when we found our sweet, street tacos-from-the-heavens. Inexpensive, and only a 7 minute walk! I took friends and family there. My conviction to make most (if not all) meals at home was challenged. The tacos danced in our mouths, satisfying our hunger. And the sopes– delicately fried cups of masa, filled with the magic of humble refried beans, meat, guacamole, and crema — they became my favorite menu item. There was always hand-made salsas at their salsa bar that we could pick from, along with pickled veggies. Those salsas greeting my mouth with a high-five of punchy, meaningful spices rounded out the perfect latin meal.
This was our spot. Our family restaurant. The place we would go to find comfort and loud deportes or telenovelas. And last Sunday, after a 2-week “fast” from it, I discover my taco-sopes-salsa shop is closed. I peered in the window, happy to arrive, then fell silent as I noticed the interior in disarray. I shouted in Spanish to the gentlemen inside, “Are you closed?! No!!!” They nodded. Grief. And good grief!!!
I will be making sopes and hand-made salsas of all colors for the next 6 months. Can this be done daily? Will I ever achieve the deliciousness of my lost taqueria? I wonder.
Last Friday we had friends over. So I decided to do a bacon blast of bacon. We had bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (is there such a thing as bad tenderloin?), and maple-bacon ice cream. Oh baby, I have never done the cold candied bacon thing, and I totally get it now. Here are the recipes I used…. Enjoy!
Sopes! Mexican boats of flavor.
Eating vegetables isn’t about ramming a head of lettuce down your throat. It’s about drawing out vegetables’ natural flavors through right preparation and marrying them with stellar ingredients, seasonings, herbs, etc. For our final vegetable-blast post, we’re sharing a stir-fry and soup combo. We believe these two dishes create a vegetables-done-right-for-a-dinner-entree scenario. Give them a try!
The Ginger Shrimp and Vegetables Stir Fry has a light sauce (in color and flavor) infused with fresh ginger and sesame oil – an aromatic delight! Play around with various vegetables as well (red bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini), keeping in mind that vegetables cook at different rates. Changing the vegetables each time you make a veggie stir fry yields a different and delicious meal every time you make it!
This egg drop soup is jam-packed with earthy Shiitake mushrooms, just the way we like it!
Part Greek, part Asian, part pizza, part whatever, this veggie-blast is a delight on a weekday night! The culinary challenge this week was to give our family an interesting and pallet-pleasing series of vegetable-rich (not necessarily “vegetarian”) meals. On Tuesday, we had this little mediterranian-ish feast. We started off with some gluten free naan, then covered it with grilled vegetables and cheese and threw a fresh-cut salad with homemade vinaigrette in the middle. It’s family-style, and family-approved!
Here’s how we prepped…
This Gluten Free Naan recipe by Arti Sequeira is the way to go for the foundation of this veggie feast. It’s about 20 minutes of prep time and a few hours to let the dough rise a bit. (But it’s warm breadiness will win you over to the gluten free side.)
2: Make the eggplant cry.
Brent normally can’t stand the mushy texture of roasted or grilled eggplant. He’s put up with it over the years because, gosh-darn-it, sometimes I just need some grilled eggplant in my life! Well after all those years, I learned that I could have been doing things better with the eggplant. If you cut/slice the eggplant lengthwise, keeping them about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick, then baptism them in some sea salt, they’ll loose moisture and become drier. It looks like they’re crying. After about 20 minutes, wipe off those eggplant tears (and the salt), brush with olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and grill on high heat, 3 – 4 minutes per side. min. per side. Chop and set aside. (Boom you’ve got less mushy, and extremely delicious grilled veggie.)
3. Chop chop.
Chop up your salad vegetables, with whatever vegetables you constitute as Greek, or “Mediterranean,” or simply delicious. I chopped up buttter lettuce, red onion, kalamatta olives, cucumber, and tomatoes, keeping it simple. I also had feta cheese, crumbled and ready to throw on top when serving.
Here’s an earthy & simple vinaigrette to use for this meal:
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon minced red onion
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Whisk together vinegar, onion and dijon.
Slowly drizzle in:
1/4 cup olive oil
Whisk until emulsified. Add fine sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
5. Create a veggie-feast:
We’re expanding our horizons here at the CollabKitchen. Recently we’ve started to roast coffee! We’re very excited about this new adventure.
Last week, Rachel and I went to a Stumptown cupping on 12th Street in Seattle. They offer free public cuppings daily at 3 pm at this location, which is home to their Seattle roasting operations. The idea of a cupping, or coffee tasting, is to experience the multitude of flavors and aromas of various coffee beans from around the world. For Stumptown, it’s an excellent way to reach out to their community with a bit of coffee education and culture. For us, it was an attempt on our long journey to developing our palate and getting to know coffee a little bit better so that perhaps one day we can roast excellent coffee ourselves!
The cupping worked like this:
We went downstairs into their basement which is where their gigantic roaster, their coffee bean sorting and storage room, and their education room are located. We were actually invited to stand around a counter or bar, which is right in the middle of all of these sections of the basement. There were six of us tasting, and one extremely knowledgeable Stumptown ‘tour guide’ (I’ll call him) to help us along with our cupping. First he introduced us to the 6 beans we would be experiencing:
- El Salvador Aida’s Grand Reserve (my favorite of the day)
- Guatemala Finca El Injerto – La Cima (a decent cup)
- Guatemala Finca El Injerto – El Tanque (did not like at all)
- Ethopia Yukro (yummy)
- Kenya Gaturiri (very fruity)
- Kenya Gatomboya (like tomato soup)
We made three “passes” through the coffees, experiencing each three times. [That's a lot of sniffing and slurping and at times, I felt light-headed!] The first pass was to sniff each whole, unground bean three times in a row, then move on to the next batch of beans. So for example, we would smell (with mouths open to experience the fulness of the aroma) Aida’s Grand Reserve in three separate bowls in a row, then move on to the next, Guatemala Finca, and smell that three times in a row, and so on. So 18 bowls total. Experiencing the coffee three times in a row, we were told, would help us to really “get” the smell and tastes of the coffees. It also really helped noticing the differences, stark or subtle, between the beans. Repetition was key for the cupping.
The second pass was to smell each coffee after it had been ground, three times per bean, like we did in the first pass. This ground coffee phase really introduced us to the opening of the aromas of the beans. Again, we needed to remember to leave our mouths open to gain the full aroma.
The third pass was to smell each of the coffees after the cups had been filled with hot water, and after we had broken the “crust” of the grounds that had risen to the top of the cup. We were only allowed to pick 2 of our favorites for this part as there wasn’t enough cups to do one bean per person. We were taught to use only the back of the spoon to break the coffee grounds floating at the top of the hot water, and then quickly slide the back of the spoon in a circle (being careful not to stir) while smelling the gas that was being emitted by the coffee. We needed to smell immediately after breaking the crust, as the gasses would quickly slip away if we weren’t careful to catch them with our noses! (Nose-catching… Sounds funny, doesn’t it?) This gave us the most intense introduction of the coffee short of tasting them.
The fourth and final pass was the actual tasting of the coffee, or rather the very loud slurping part. After the grounds had sat in the coffee for about 3 – 5 minutes, our Stumptown ‘tour guide’ carefully removed all the grounds and oils that were floating at the top, with a spoon. He then modeled for us how to take a small spoonful of the coffee liquid, then slurp quickly (and loudly!) so that the coffee would slide all the way across the tongue until the coffee hit the back of the throat, then let it slide back across the tongue, then spit out into our own personal (and portable!) spitting cups. All of that slurping is done very quickly and loudly. The reason for this intense slurping is so that our tongue can experience a full “10 points” of flavor rather than just “2 points” if we only just let it hit the front of the tongue. And he’s right! Letting the coffee travel all the way back and fourth really does give you a chance to experience the complexities of flavors in one single slurp of coffee.
A few other things we learned at our cupping
- It’s Stumptown’s philosophy to roast lighter, avoiding darker roasts, in order to maintain the “integrity of the coffee bean.” Since coffee is a fruit, it contains natural sugars (coffee’s best kept secret is that it’s naturally sweet!). The darker the roast, the more these natural sugars begin to burn, leaving a nasty, burnt flavor. (Kinda of like eating burnt toast. You don’t taste the toasted bread at that point, just burn flavor. Ew.)
- There are two types of sweet: savory-sweet, like caramel, cinnamon and molasses, and fruity sweet, like orange, raspberry, pear, etc.
- We taste acidity on the tips of our tongue, and there’s nothing wrong with acidity in coffee. A coffee that’s not so acidic is considered “flatter.”
- I asked how come some coffee has more body than other coffees if they are roasted and brewed the same way. My tour guide was quick to correct me in saying that they use the word “texture” rather than body, and the reason for the differences in texture (or how heavy coffee feels in the mouth – like water vs. cream) is due to solubles. Different coffees have different solubles that get passed through during the brewing process. It’s a measure of viscosity. In everyday terms (and for fluids only), viscosity is “thickness” or “internal friction.” So it can be said (or measured) that water has a lower viscosity than honey.
- Finally, I really did enjoy the El Salvador Aida’s Grand Reserve ($22/12 oz!). I guess Aida sells her beans to Stumptown blended, not single origin, which is rare. Another rarity is that Aida, a third generation farmer, is growing organic Kenyan varietals in her El Salvador farm.
I am looking forward to many more cuppings both at Stumptown and other roasting plants. Stay tuned for more coffee adventures!
This past week I took a dive into some Asian-inspired cuisine. I made Pho and roasted duck for two separate occasions, and I was quite happy with the results. Christmastime and Asian food really do go hand in hand in my opinion.
A while back my husband Brent and I watched an episode of Luke Nugyn’s Vietnam on the Cooking Channel. Luke seems like a kind and well-versed chef who originally is from Vietnam. His episodes usually take place with him cooking (or interviewing) on the road-side or behind the shop of a countryside or urban restaurant, with horns honking and chickens running about as he prepares delicious, authentic food. I get a kick out of his episodes and enjoy the beauty of the people, landscape and culture of Vietnam. When living in Phoenix (of all places!), we fell in love with Pho (pronounced fuh). It’s a delicious slow-cooked Vietnamese soup that we seem to incorporate into our lives at least once a week now that we’re living in (cold) Washington!
Well, who knew that making Pho is traditionally prepared all night? Better be good soup to loose sleep over! We learned from Chef Luke, and the Vietnamese family that he was cooking with, that the best Pho takes at least 12 hours to prepare the broth. And boy is it all about the broth — a symphony of delicious spices and aromatics and fish sauce enveloped in a homemade beef broth. One huge benefit of Pho is that it is both gluten and soy free (two things Brent has to avoid). Rice noodles are used and there really isn’t a need for soy since there is so much flavor going on. Anyway, back to last week.
I wanted to make Pho (since my husband, my friend Rachel and I are Pho junkies right now) however, I didn’t have 12 hours nor did I have the time to babysit a pot for 5 – 6 hours. I knew I needed a slow cooker recipe and I happened to find a great Pho recipe online at the SteamyKitchen. I about fell over when I discovered that I had all of the spices (yes, even the star anise) and all I had to buy were some rice noodles and bones!
This is a recipe for a 6.5 quart (or larger) slow cooker “crock pot.” To thinly sliced meat for the bowls, try freezing the chunk of meat for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing. Or if the meat is already thoroughly frozen, take out of the freezer and let sit at room temperature for about an hour before slicing. They key is to have the slices of meat super-thin. So, here’s the recipe that’s been slightly adapted (by yours truly).
Now onto the duck. We were invited to a Christmas party this past weekend. And the brilliant thing about it, was there was a theme: the movie “A Christmas Story”!! (Thanks Luz and Cole for a great evening!) Yes we drank Ovaltine and sang carols and we ate Chinese food, of course. Remember the scene where the Parker family eats at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day? The servers sing Christmas carols to the poor Parker family, whose Christmas turkey was destroyed by the Bumpuses’ (the Parkers’ hillbilly neighbors) dogs. After singing, the family is introduced to Christmas dinner – a whole duck with head and eyes intact! (Quite a scary introduction to roasted duck for Americans.)
So take 2 minutes, and click on this link to see the famous “Restaurant Scene” from ‘A Christmas Story!’ Then come back and I’ll tell ya how I made the duck.
I really wanted to use our smoker to smoke the duck. But that would have required way too many stops at too many stores. I just didn’t have the time. So we ended up roasting the duck. But yeah… that duck. Couldn’t find duck at all the “regular” grocery stores. Had to hit up the local Asian mega-market… H MART! (Can I tell ya how much we love Asian markets?!?! So awesome!) We bought a duck. We just had to. And yes… the head, smile, eyes were on him. And, his webbed feet were also there. I jumped just a bit when handling him. I had to remind myself that I’ve dissected cats, and pigs, and frogs, so I could truss a duck who was smiling at me.
I must strongly recommend you read The Hungry Mouse’s “The Best Way to Roast a Duck” post. It’s practically perfect! My duck was a bit smaller than 6 lbs, so I actually cut the cooking time down by a full hour. I recommend you take a temperature check after two hours of roasting, maybe once every 45 minutes to an hour, just to be sure you’re not over cooking. (What’s up with recipes always calling for overcooked meat? Sometimes they’re just crazy, but then sometimes, your meat is smaller. So do check!)
I hope you are inspired to start on your own Pho or roasted duck (or any Asian cuisine!) this Christmastime too!
From gorgeously rich double chocolate drops to lemony sweet lemon bars, these irresistible treats are sure to be the grand finale to any holiday affair!
Need a double-dose of chocolate? Try these chocolatey cookies covered with a deep chocolate frosting. This is another family favorite treat from both my mom and grandma!
It’s officially fall, but around here in ‘hot country’ (aka Phoenix Metro) it’s still over 100 degrees. While others are bundling up and making apple pie, I’m wearing shorts and a tank top, drinking iced coffee. So why not make the most of it? We decided to stretch our excuses for having more ice cream over the past week and make two kinds! Banana (the easy way) and mint (a little more involved).
Breakfast ice cream (aka banana ice cream)
Recently, I saw two separate shows on the Food Network, rocking an easy, doable “ice cream” using frozen bananas. Now, my three-year old daughter loves to ask for ice cream first thing in the morning. And I divert her with either cereal and milk, or yogurt (frozen or not) to nab that diary craving. But last week, I happened to have sliced bananas in the freezer from the night before. I was armed and ready.
Remembering the easy methods I saw on TV, I tossed the banana slices into the food processor and began the (loud) process of slicing through the frozen banana. With a couple of splashes of heavy cream, and a few more pulses and… Voilà- we had banana ice cream. And it tasted soooo gooood. I really couldn’t believe it. My daughter was pretty impressed too. So, now we’ve added “breakfast ice cream” to our repertoire of morning delights, and I’ve found another way to use up old bananas.
Birthday ice cream (aka not fried, but mint ice cream)
So today is my birthday and recently I was having a craving for fried ice cream. At first, I asked my sister-in-law about possibly making it (because she’s an awesome cook!), however with the amount of steps involved in making it (freezing & refreezing over & again) well… I don’t think any of us have time for that! And I didn’t want to put her through that. My awesome husband stepped up and said he’d do it. But honestly, I’d rather spend my afternoon relaxing with him and my daughter… not spending hours on end making fried ice cream. So, I think in this case, we will leave the fried ice cream making to a restaurant. There are several around town that do it. Let’s make them work it!
Well, that left me to my own devices. My ultimate, favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip (I think). Mint was on sale this week, so I picked up a few bunches and got cracking last night on making a mint ice cream base (has to refrigerate for several hours or over night you know!). Here’s where I’ve left off with the ice cream, with lots of mint steeping in the cream:
It’s almost like a cliffhanger… Will I be able to complete the mint ice cream base? Did the ice cream bucket freeze well or will I have to wait another night for it to freeze? Tune in next time… OK, it’s not an Incredible Hulk-like episode (from the 80′s of course), but I am super excited to finish this mint ice cream and feast on it tonight, with a sugar cone, with my family. Yum.
Here’s a pic of me this morning, thinking about my day (and the ice cream)-
Dried fruit (beyond the raisin)
Dried fruits are delicious, nutritious and are perfect for accidentally leaving in your car in warm weather, and then eating later with no let-down. And yes, I love golden raisins, black raisins, red raisins. But I’m so glad to have gotten to know some more dried fruits beyond the raisin recently.
So who knew dates have a big seed (or pit) in the middle? I didn’t, until last week when I discovered this while creating our stuffed pork chop recipe. I think I had dates as a child, and certainly have had them mixed up in things at restaurants as an adult, but it had been years since I’ve tried them on their own. I bought various dried fruits for Brent and I to taste test for our recipe. Huge, colorful raisins, Turkish apricots, prunes (sorry Brent), figs, and dates. We took little bites of each and finally settled on figs and dates. And boy did they make for an incredible stuffing for the chops!!
Anyway, I was geeking out because the entire stuffing for the chops could be made in the food processor – no chopping was necessary. (Brilliant, right?!) I was so caught up in my discovery, that I was stunned and confused when I heard a loud, cracking noise in the processor as I started pulsing. Low and behold, a few big pits were rolling around in there. Talk about hands-on learning. Not a big deal, but it was funny to me that I hadn’t a clue about such a common (to some) and exotic (to others) dried fruit.
Anyway, we were left with a bunch of delicious dried fruit for us to snack on. I bagged them all up along with leftover almonds, for a delicious trail mix. (The trail being through Lebanon or Morocco or some place beautiful and exotic like that.) Our daughter loves the Turkish Apricots (we play tea party with them), and me? Well, I’m presently snacking on a unpitted date. Yes, it doubles as my Mac’s companion.
What dried fruits do you enjoy? Mango? Pears? Sweetened or unsweetened? Let us know!
Happy fall to you!