Bellingham roasted potatoes

Okay, potatoes. When Dan and I were on our trip in Washington last month, my sister took us to Bellingham to visit her dear friends, their two cute kids and their adorable dog, Chester, aka ‘Butter.’ This was a fun adventure that included a ferry ride to Lummi Island, an extended happy hour on the beach, an encounter with a beavare, and, because we reveled too long on the beach, missing dinner on the island and ending up at a taco place/ bar in Bellingham where my sister, in a moment of brilliance, discovered that you could order a bowl of nacho cheese to accompany your burrito.

Whose cheese? Nacho cheese!

The next morning, our lovely hostess made an asparagus and egg frittata for breakfast and enlisted my help in making the roasted potatoes. I had been roasting cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts all winter, but it had never occurred to me to roast potatoes. So while my sister nobley fumbled with the coffee maker, I had to ask for guidance in making the potatoes (I’d like to think that what sometimes comes off as our ditziness is really just a profound desire to ask questions and to make sure that we do things right!) Now, I can’t stop making these potatoes… It’s the easiest thing and they turn out oh so delectable.

Clean and dried organic potatoes

I’ll give you the same directions that were given to me. Pre-heat the oven to 375 or 400 degrees. Rinse off and dry organic potatoes (I’ve been using yellow ones from Willy Street Co-op and picking out the smallest ones I can find.) Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and whatever savory spices or herbs that you have on hand. I have used oregano and Penzey’s country french vinagrette. My neighbor has been keeping me in the fresh basil the last few weeks, thanks to his indoor herb garden, and I have been using this too, but adding it after the potatoes come out of the oven. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and place them in the oven and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the skins just become golden brown crisp; you may want to give them a good shake a couple of times during the cooking process. Place the potatoes in a bowl and toss with freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve these potatoes as a breakfast side dish, a light meal with a salad and bread, or any way you want, really… I don’t think you could go wrong. Enjoy.

Hello old friend

Well hellooooo there. It feels like it’s been ages. How have you been? Since we last spoke the lilacs have bloomed, I have written a few concert reviews, celebrated my birthday (in a tent outside of Viroqua), found a new place to live (a house! with a yard! and chickens next door!), attended my first music festival of the summer season, obtained my first sunburn, and made a few new dishes that I want to tell you about. There’s more that we need to catch up on, but I’m going to start with the recipes for now.

Birthday morning view from the tent, Sidie Hollow campground, Viroqua, WI

The first two recipes that I want to tell you about come from a cookbook that I have had for longer than I would like to admit, because I am just now finally starting to use it. The book is Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson and it’s a very good thing that the pages are now starting to look splattered with oil and stained with fingerprints. I have had my eye on this one recipe for lime-bathed peanut salad (mainly because of the name) for awhile, but finally busted it out two weeks ago an a Tuesday evening when I was in the mood to celebrate (it has to do with a long and convulated housing situation, I’ll spare you the details, but it resulted in the aforementioned house where we will move into in June). This salad is the epitome of flavorful. As soon as I prepared this dish, Dan and I proceeded to eat 3/4 of it out of the bowl with one spoon, before dinner was even served.

Mmmmm... lime-bathed peanuts

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This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Lime-Bathed Peanut Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups usalted raw peanuts

4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 large jalapeno chile, seeded and diced

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice along the way. If the peanuts have skins, rub them clean in a dish towel to remove the skins, but don’t obsess over this. I acually like the visual texture you get from having some peanuts with skins and some without.

Combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, wisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Add to the tomato mixture and gently stir to combine. Just before serving, fold in the peanuts. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt if need be. Serves 4 t0 6.*

*Yeah, right. More like two, if you are anything like us.

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To accompany the peanut salad I made a main dish called otsu that has soba noodles, tofu, cucumbers and a citrusy-gingery sauce. This recipe also comes from Heidi’s book and is equally delicious.

Soba noodles

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This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking

Otsu

Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup shoyu sauce (wheat-free soy sauce)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.

While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4-6.

A serving of otsu with sauteed spinach from the farmer’s market

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I have to run, but I promise it won’t be so long until we talk again. I owe you a (simple and tasty) recipe for potatoes.

May Day

I love May. The magnolia trees are blossoming, summer is on its way and my birthday is in a couple of weeks.

When I woke up Sunday morning I looked outside, saw the sunshine and decided that I wanted to make dinner for some friends whom I hadn’t seen awhile. They said yes. I love improptu, Sunday night dinner parties. A couple of weeks ago when I was in Seattle (it feels like a lifetime ago already) I got to meet one of my writing idols, Ms Molly Wizenberg. I will save the details for a future post, but it was a magical moment that left me buzzing for awhile. In honor of this encounter, I decided to make a meal from her book, A Homeade Life.

There is this French yogurt cake that I had been wanting to make (and when I re-read the description on Sunday afternoon Molly wrote that it is the sort of cake that French grandmothers make on Sunday afternoons. Well, perfect…) and I flipped through the index for a main entree. A spring salad caught my eye. Radishes, check. Cilantro, check. Feta cheese, check. Molly mentioned that she likes to serve this as a light dinner along with a hunk of bread or roasted potatoes. Done.

May Day Dinner Party

First course: White wine, beer, green olives, crackers

Main course: Sliced spring salad with avocado and feta (pages 246-247), Bellingham roasted potatoes (look for this recipe tomorrow), wholewheat sourdough bread, beer

Dessert: French-style yogurt cake with lemon (pages 204-205)

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French-style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

From A Homeade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

For the syrup:

1/4 cup powered sugar, sifted

1/4 lemon juice

For the icing:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan (after buttering, I sometimes line the bottom with a round of wax or parchment paper, and then I butter that too).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan. Combine the syrup ingedients in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the warm cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup. Cool completely.

Combine the icing ingredients. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely. Spoon the icing over the cooled cake.

Serve immediately- the icing will be soft and a bit juicy- or wait until the icing has firmed up, about 1 hour. Whichever way you like.

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Happy May.

It’s always sunny in Seattle

Hello Wisconsin.

Yesterday as I got out of my car in the cool, drizzly rain my neighbor welcomed me to Seattle. Ironically, I told him, I just got back from Seattle and it was warm and sunny every day. Not to brag. Our conversation ended in solidarity signs and promises to keep fighting the good fight. Before I left for Seattle I kept catching myself holding my breath. While driving, doing the dishes, sitting at my computer. I noticed that I was doing it again yesterday and it occurred to me that this did not happen to me once while I was visiting my sister in the Pacific Northwest. I believe that it has gotten hard to breath here in Wisconsin the last few months. My state, my values and my current chosen profession are under attack. For one magical week I got to forget about all of this and simply indulge. I got to see old friends and make new ones. I am a very lucky woman. As I write this my sister is riding a ferry to the location where she will be working for the day. I can’t help but feel a tad bit jealous. This summer when I am sitting at the Union terrace drinking a beer or eating dinner out on our screen porch listening to the crickets I know that she will feel a tad bit jealous of me. Should we explore and expand our life experiences by moving to a new place or should we stay home and cultivate our roots? This is what I’m thinking about this morning. After last week, don’t be surprised if the new title of this blog becomes “Seattle fun next exit.” I’m just kidding… sort of. While I loved being in Seattle last week, I’m home now and I’ve got a line on a used canoe for this summer. I will keep fighting the good fight and wait for the sun to come out. I will feel happy to be home.

In the meantime, I bring you my picks for the Best of Seattle, April 18-23, 2011:

Favorite Coffee Shop: Makeda Coffee, Phinney Ridge

I thought that it would be appropriate to start with coffee, considering that this is Seattle. My sister’s favorite (and now mine) hangout is Makeda Coffee. I loved the relaxed environment and friendly owner. They have delicious coffee, lattes and treats, including squash bread and gluten-free, organic doughnuts (I love Seattle). There are excellent tables for playing cribbage and I love that they will give you a dollar off wine or beer on Friday evenings if you play a board game. They also have live entertainment, and Dan could have played over the weekend, but we had to hit the road… Next time.

Oh delicious 2% latte
Makeda Coffee

Favorite Cupcake Stand: Those two girls sitting in their driveway, Phinney Ridge

When Dan and I had finished our cribbage game at Makeda Coffee we decided to leave my sister alone for a few minutes so that she could get some work done. It was a beautiful day so we took a walk around the ‘hood. We were playing the game that I invented while babysitting, Cats versus Dogs (you count the cats, you count the dogs), when we spotted the bake sale. Dan said, “Whatever those girls are selling, I’m buying one.” It turns out the girls were selling homeade and home-awesomely-decorated cupcakes and donating half of the proceeds to Japan. Dan bought one and donated a little extra. We chatted with them for a little while and they gave us some information on the neighborhood cats. We said our goodbyes, but as you will read later, this was not the last time we had the chance to see these sweet two girls who give you faith in humanity.

Bake sale
Cupcakes!

Favorite Cocktail Bar: Oliver’s Twist, Phinney Ridge

Not only does this bar have the widest selection of bitters that we have ever seen (lavender bitters?!), they also make the most sinful and rich garlic truffle popcorn that tastes like heaven during happy hour. And although I do not drink a lot of cocktails (I like beer), I think that if I lived near Oliver’s Twist, I might. My sister recommended the Bullseye- tequila, mint, lemon, ginger beer, and a couple of other things that I had to look up in the menu’s glossary. It was refreshing and oh so good. Dan tried the Presbyterian- bourbon, soda and ginger ale. Yum. We went back the next night like old regulars.

Bullseye
The Presbyterian
Upon our obvious intrigue, the bartender pulled out all of her bitters for us to see

Stay tuned for more of my favorites, including my favorite Major League Ballpark in Seattle, favorite bar to avoid getting into a brawl over ping pong and my most serendipitous moment of the trip.

I don’t think we’re in Wisconsin anymore, Toto

Hello from the Emerald City!

Too much to write right now, but this has been a magical trip to the Northwest. From everything from the beautiful (and tasty) lattes at my sister’s favorite coffee shop, Makeda Coffee, to getting to babble incoherently to my inspiration outside of Delancey last night (not to mention the mouth-watering pizza pies), I love everything Seattle this week. I’d love to tell you more, but for now I’m off for coffee and more Washington adventures.

Vintage

Don’t you just love that word? Vintage? Vintage.

This morning I am drinking an almond milk, kale, blueberry, strawberry and banana smoothie, thinking about words that I love and listening to two new songs that I discovered in the last week (due to my attempt at a new freelance career) and cannot stop playing on repeat. I’m daydreaming of asparagus at the Farmer’s Market that starts this Saturday and long train rides to Seattle….

Happy Thursday.