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Pistachio and Dried-Cherry Biscotti

01-Jan-2014

 

Pistachio and Dried-Cherry Biscotti

 

Hard to believe that Christmas and New Year’s Day have already come and gone! It seems like just a minute ago I was up to my elbows in sugar, flour and butter, baking cookies as holiday gifts for the family. I made dozens of cookies and managed to save a few of them for me.  I’ve enjoyed them while taking morning or afternoon breaks and savoring the relative quiet during the last few days. These biscotti are especially good with a demitasse of espresso (the Italians are really onto something with this combination!) or mug of tea.

I use the original recipe ripped from a Bon Appétit magazine a couple of years ago.  The recipe is also on their site and I noticed they modified it at some point.  Based on the comments, it appears many people thought the dough was too dry.  I’ve never had issues with the original version, other than the occasional crumbling cookie corner which sometimes occurs when slicing the baked logs.   However, I often use extra-large eggs so maybe that little bit of extra liquid makes a difference.  And I use a Professional Kitchenaid mixer which has a great motor and it does work pretty hard to bring the dough together. So maybe the updated recipe will work better for most people.

The recipe in this post is the original and the one I use, but the link above will take you to the new version, if you’d prefer to try it.

A couple of notes: I use dried sour cherries, sometimes called pie cherries.  The first year I used dried Bing Cherries and didn’t care for them in this recipe.  Also, if you look at the online recipe it says the cookies can be made three days in advance.  That seems pretty limited.  I’ve sometimes taken up to a month to finish them but keep them in an airtight container.

 

Espresso & Biscotti

 
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Tennessee Sugar Cookies

03-Dec-2013

 

Tennessee Sugar Cookies

 

We are now well into the “holiday season”.  Yay!  I know Thanksgiving has barely come and gone, yet Christmas is barely three weeks away.  And my main celebration comes even sooner since I celebrate with my family the weekend prior.  Yikes!  I started my baking ramp up last week.  This week I’m trying to get into production mode.

This recipe is one I always make early in my holiday baking.  It comes together easily and makes a pretty big batch of cookies which makes it an easy win and gets me motivated to do more.  I have no idea why these are “Tennessee” Sugar Cookies but that’s what they’re called.  A million or so years ago one of my cousins brought these to a summertime family gathering.  I fell in love with them immediately and when she gave me the recipe card – because in the olden days that’s how we shared recipes! – that was the name on the card.  The original version was rolled in granulated sugar.  For my Christmas version I roll them in a mixture of granulated sugar and various colored topping sugars, aka sprinkles.  At one point I tried using all sprinkles but found that was a little bit of overkill.

 

Tennessee Sugar Cookies

 
 
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Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie

30-Nov-2013

 

Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie

 

I’ve never made pecan pie before. Which is odd because I really like a good pecan pie and cringe when I have a bad one. So it seems I should have tried my hand at making one (or more) to learn what makes a good pie. Since one of my assignments was the “other” pie for Thanksgiving, other than pumpkin, that is, I decided to give it a try. Lucky for me I used the recipe from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook so my very first pie was great!

The filling in the Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie is rich but not too sweet like some pecan pies are. The molasses and bourbon in the recipe add depth and balance the sugar. Toasting the pecans results in a nuttier flavor. The filling was really easy to pull together.

I even decided to try the suggested pastry recipe instead of my normal go-to recipe. The pastry was pretty time intensive, because there is a lot of chilling at various steps along the way. But it’s really good and would have been even better if I didn’t make an error while blind baking the shell – I somehow turned off the heat when I placed the shell in the oven. Crazy! When I realized what I’d done I had to get the oven back up to temperature and then continue baking. Of course all the time spent keeping the pastry cold before placing it in the oven went down the drain. But even with my error it was still rather flaky, if a bit crispy, too. You can also see that I didn’t get the crust properly anchored to the pan – that’s why the crust is not covering the rim of the pie plate. Not all the filling will fit in the pie crust if it shrinks, but I don’t really stress out over that. I just bake the leftover filling in a little ramekin and save it as a treat for myself – there are positive aspects to making mistakes sometimes!

The only thing I might do differently next time is try to squeeze in a few more nuts – but maybe not. I need to think about that a little more.

If you have a baker or would-be baker in the family, this cookbook would make a nice holiday gift. In the meantime you can find the pie recipe here.

Cranberry-Tangerine Vinaigrette

26-Nov-2013

 

Cranberry-Tangerine Vinaigrette

 

I love this salad dressing recipe and am rarely without it once fresh cranberries appear in the grocery store.  Not only is it delicious, but the color is vibrant and cheery – a perfect way to brighten gray autumn or winter days.  Over the years it’s become a family favorite.  Whenever I’m responsible for the green salad for Thanksgiving dinner this is the salad dressing that’s requested.  I think this year I’ll use spinach as the base for the salad; add finely sliced red onions; sliced mushrooms; pieces of Satsuma; and sweet-spicy walnuts.

The original recipe is from a really great cookbook (you’ll love all the recipes), Dishing with Kathy Casey: Food, Fun, and Cocktails from Seattle’s Culinary Diva. If you are looking for a holiday gift for someone who loves to cook this is a good option!

 
Cranberry-Tangerine Vinaigrette
    • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar or distilled vinegar
    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed Satsuma juice*
    • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Place cranberries, sugar and vinegar in small saucepan and heat over medium heat until cranberries pop, 5 – 10 minutes.
Let cranberries cool slightly and then transfer to a blender.  Puree (being careful to make sure the top doesn’t pop off if they are still warm) the mixture until fairly smooth – there will still be pieces of bright red skin.  Add the mustard and Satsuma juice and lightly mix.
Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.  Slowly, slowly add the oil while continuously whisking until all oil has been incorporated and the mixture is emulsified.
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.   
* Use any sort of orange-flavored citrus you have on hand. The original recipe called for orange juice but I love the tang of tangerine or satsuma!

Panettone

23-Nov-2013

 
Panettone
 

I’m just about to jump into full-on holiday baking for this year. With Thanksgiving late in November this year, the time until Christmas is going to fly! Especially since my family always gathers the weekend before Christmas, leaving me just over three weeks to get everything done. So I’m starting a little earlier than usual.

Each year I bake many of the tried and true favorites that my family enjoys but I also try to include one or two new things. This year, I’ve decided to attempt panettone, a slightly sweet, Italian Christmas bread dotted with fruit. After searching through my cookbooks I chose a recipe from the Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. In the cookbook she makes the recipe into two larger panettone but for my experiment I chose to make smaller breads as in this version.

Traditional panettone is baked in star-shaped pans.  I have a sunflower baking pan similar to this Nordic Ware Bouquet Pan, that I decided to use, since it has angles similar to the star pans.

 
Small panettone in sunflower pan
 

Following Martha’s instruction for the small loaves this first attempt resulted in slightly dry loaves, and that included reducing the baking time fairly substantially. I’m guessing that since my heavy metal pan would be hotter than the paper molds used in the recipe the baked the bread more quickly. The resulting bread was good enough though and sometime this next week I’ll experiment again – this time with larger loaves.  I’m excited to see my next results!

 
Dotted with raisins and currants
 

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette and a Crispy Egg

30-Oct-2013

 

Asparagus & Crispy Egg

 

This recipe has been a long time coming…. It was more than three years ago when I first made Grilled Asparagus Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette and a Crispy Egg and I’m finally getting around to writing about it.

Araxi is one of my favorite restaurants in Whistler Village. I always stop in at least for a bite of something at the bar, if not for a full dinner.  When some friends visited Whistler several years ago I recommended Araxi as a place they had to visit. They had a wonderful meal and also became fans. When the Araxi cookbook was released in 2009 they decided to host a dinner where we’d all make something from the cookbook.  Six of us got together in May 2010 and this is the dish I made.

I loved this recipe from the beginning but must have held off posting it because there are several steps, so the instructions are long. Luckily for me, procrastination has paid off. A year or so after the dinner with my friends, James Walt, the Araxi chef who wrote the cookbook, appeared on a local program and they posted this recipe online. Can you say cut and paste?

This recipe is listed as a dinner starter in the cookbook, but would also make a nice brunch or lunch main course.

When I made this dish I was very concerned about handling and deep-frying the poached eggs but found that they are actually pretty tough when they’ve cooled. I didn’t have any trouble breading or frying them. I would, however, recommend poaching a couple extra, “just in case” for your peace of mind, but there’s a very good chance you won’t need your extras.

 

Asparagus & Crispy Egg

 
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Copperworks Distilling Company

24-Oct-2013

 

Copperworks Distilling Company

 

I’ve tried to get my head around the burgeoning distillery scene in the Seattle area, or maybe I should expand that to read in the state of Washington. Every time I make a teeny dent in it there’s another surge of new options – either places that I’m just hearing about or those that have recently begun producing. A few years ago my friends decided we should do a hard liquor tasting tour – like a wine tasting tour – but at the time tasting rooms were few and far between so our plans didn’t make it off the ground. Now, however, you could actually choose a distillery “region” and taste several distiller’s spirits in rather close proximity. I really need to get on it.

 

Copperworks Gin Improved Apricot Cocktail Improved Apricot Cocktail

 

In the meantime, I was invited to a tasting at Copperworks Distilling Company. You’ll find Copperworks along the Seattle waterfront, near the aquarium, in one of the buildings next to the viaduct. The tasting room opened in early October on the day they bottled their first gin. They are currently offering vodka and gin. In a few years, once it has aged, they’ll also bottle and offer whiskey but for now it’s sitting in barrels mellowing and acquiring character.

 

Appetizers by Elliott's

 

On the night of our tasting they offered the gin in a cocktail and also in a standard gin and tonic. While the cocktail was good, I loved the gin and tonic.  Great flavor and crisp like you want a gin.  Their gin is London-Dry style, generally considered the best style for classic martinis, gin and tonics, and other cocktails where drier is better.

Copperworks makes two style of vodka: All-Malt Vodka, which is a limited edition barley vodka; and their Copperworks Vodka which is lighter and meant for mixing. We sampled the Copperworks Vodka and I loved the viscous mouth-feel.

 
Copperworks Vodka & Elliott's Appetizers
 

My favorite part of the event though, was meeting the people of Copperworks. Warm, friendly and knowledgeable. It’s the sort of company you want to support just because you like the people so much – although it doesn’t hurt that they are on their way to creating a great line of products, too!

Copperworks Distilling Company is currently open for tours and tastings Wednesday and Thursday from 2:00pm – 6:00pm; Friday and Saturday from noon – 7:00pm; and Sunday from noon – 5:00pm. More information regarding tours is on their website.

Copperworks Distilling Company
1250 Alaskan Way
Seattle
206.504.7604

If some of the appetizers in the photos look familiar there’s good reason. All the food was provided by Elliott’s Oyster House!

Oyster New Year at Elliott’s

22-Oct-2013

 

Oodles of Oysters

 

As I write this the Oyster New Year (ONY) event is already sold out. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that Elliott’s Oyster New Year is a fundraiser for the Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) and a sellout means a large donation to the fund.

And you can still help out by visiting Elliott’s between now and the end of November – they’ll make a donation to PSRF for each dozen oysters purchased. The other thing you can do is get on the mailing list or remember to check back in early October 2014 so you can attend this great event next year.

 

Oyster New Year at Elliott's Oyster House

 

At ONY there will be at least 30 varieties of oysters, 22 from local farms; 75 wineries; numerous microbrews; a seafood buffet; and, an oyster luge. Okay, maybe the luge isn’t a huge draw but after you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine it might seem more appealing! At last year’s party they shucked over 30,000 oysters. Yes, I said thirty thousand.

Last Thursday Elliott’s hosted a preview party where I sampled many of the buffet items. Those of you with tickets are in for a big treat. Razor clam fritters; smoked salmon bites; Alaskan King Crab; coconut shrimp; and, of course, the oysters. I hear the dessert bar will be pretty spectacular, too.

 

Elliott's Oyster New Year

 

If you are missing the event this year, do yourself a favor and stop by Elliott’s one of these evenings. Now that tourist season has slowed down it’s a perfect time to visit the waterfront and enjoy dining on Puget Sound. The main restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and has a great Happy Hour. (At lunch they validate parking in a lot across the street.) Or if you’re looking for something more casual check out Café 56.

 

Elliott's Cafe 56

 

Elliott’s is a great choice for many occasions.

Elliott’s Oyster House and Café 56
1201 Alaskan Way
Pier 56 – at the end of Seneca St
Seattle‎
206.623.4340

Elliott's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis

21-Oct-2013

Teatro Zinzanni

 photo courtesy of Teatro Zinzanni/Korum Bischoff

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to media night for the newest Teatro Zinzanni show, Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis. It’s been a few years since I’ve enjoyed one of their productions so I jumped at the chance to see what’s new.

If you haven’t heard much about Teatro Zinzanni they stage dinner shows, where the story, the actors, the meal and the audience integrate into one big extravaganza. The stories are loosely strung together comedy skits which allow the actors to showcase their talents. Depending on the show and the people involved, vocalists, jugglers, magicians, dancers, acrobats, aerial acts, musicians and more create the story - all the performers will amaze you with their skills. The closer you sit to the center of the big tent, the better your view and the more likely you will be drawn into an act.

photo courtesy of Teatro Zinzanni/Alan Alabastro

photo courtesy of Teatro Zinzanni/Alan Alabastro

The actors perform double-duty helping serve meals so the show pauses while they deliver each course. During this time you may also notice stagehands running around setting up for the next series of acts.

I think this was my fourth show and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. There were two things I noticed this time around, though. I don’t think they did as good a job of integrating the food service into the show. Does this affect anything? Not really. It’s just I’ve always been amazed how well they were able to combine the two, so noticed the change.  The other thing, which was more disappointing, is the food was mostly under seasoned and a little blah. My very first Teatro Zinzanni show pleasantly surprised me with the quality of the meal for what amounts to a banquet dinner. Maybe it will improve as the run proceeds but this time it felt like banquet food.

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The Breadfarm

07-Oct-2013

 

Pumpkin Cupcake

 

Edison, Washington is a tiny town located in the Skagit Valley. It’s not on any major roadway and is easy to miss if you are not focused on looking for it. I guess with GPS it would be easier to find but years ago my first few attempts at getting to this place were thwarted by missed turns. Once you figure it out, it’s actually easy to find, so just have patience. Now, I make sure I swing through “town” anytime I’m within 20 miles.

The most recent census lists the population as 133. But of those 133 citizens a large number love food and share it with the rest of us. There are several places I like to stop when I’m in town, but the one that really draws me is Breadfarm. I make sure I arrive in town sometime after they open and well before they close.

 

Breadfarm

 

It’s always hard to decide exactly what to purchase. Sometimes I stock up and put a few things in the freezer when I get home but mostly I try to stick with what I can consume in just a few days. My favorite bread, one that I purchase every time, is the Sour Cherry Lemon Bread. But everything else is up for debate and I often take advantage of seasonal offerings. This time it was a pumpkin cupcake with a light ginger cream frosting and pepitas. It barely lasted long enough for me to take a couple of photos. One year I got lucky when friends brought me a Pan d’Oro, available only a short time during the winter holidays.

The seeded baguettes have a fragrant and interesting mix of seeds; the various shortbread and biscotti cookies are a perfect sweet treat; I’ve tried various pastries and always leave with a smile on my face.

I just noticed that they now sell some of their cookies through Etsy!

At the shop they only accept cash and checks - no credit or debit cards – so plan accordingly.

Breadfarm
5766 Cains Court
Edison, WA 98232
(About 15 miles north and a little west of Mt. Vernon)

BreadFarm on Urbanspoon

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