Archive for July, 2011

July 30, 2011

Southern Storm Cloud

It’s about time this blog had a cocktail on it!

This recipe is a play on one of my favorite mixed drinks – the Dark and Stormy – which combines the exceedingly complimentary flavors of ginger beer and dark rum. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of trying ginger beer before, it’s easy to imagine – ginger ale with far, far more ginger!  Both ingredients are spiced and sugary, creating a zesty tempest of a cocktail.

The Southern Storm Cloud substitutes bourbon for the dark rum, giving it a stiffer, more woodsy flavor and providing a delicious contrast to the sweetness and spice of the ginger beer rather than doubling down on it. There are notes of sweetness, but nothing that will leave you with a headache the next morning.  It packs a punch but isn’t too heavy or complex.

All in all, this is a crisp, unique cocktail that’s perfect for starting a happy hour right on your own front porch!

Southern Storm Cloud

  • 1 part bourbon
  • 2 parts ginger beer (I recommend an extra ginger brew)
  • 1 dash of lime juice
July 28, 2011

Chinese Tea Eggs

Let’s face it, you don’t need any reason to make Chinese Tea Eggs other than the fact they look cool.

It’s like your regular, run-of-the-mill hard boiled egg suddenly broke out in dark spider veins crisscrossing its surface. This unique pattern is achieved by creating small cracks in the shell that allow the steeping liquid to seep in, coloring small sections underneath the shell. Once the whole shell is removed, voilà, the visual pattern is revealed. The best part though?

They taste as unique and succulent as they look.

The same small cracks in the shell that allow the coloring effect also allow the steeping liquid’s multitude of flavors to permeate the eggs. The saltiness of the soy sauce is balanced with sugar and lemon, while the cinnamon, tea and anise work together to create a second level of taste sensation that lingers in your mouth, making you long for more.

Traditional Chinese Tea Eggs call for regular black tea, but in this recipe I use black currant tea for a bit of a new take. Feel free to substitute your own favorite flavor of black tea and make this dish your own!

Chinese Tea Eggs

  • 4-6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup loose leaf black currant tea (2 bags of black tea may be used as a substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise extract
  • Sriracha sauce, to taste (optional)

 

  1. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil.  Carefully place the eggs in the pot so as not to break them.  Allow to cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggs from the pot.  Using a fork, tap the shell carefully to create small fissures.  Do not strike to hard or the whole shell will break.
  3. Add all the other ingredients to the boiling water.  Carefully add the eggs back into the pot, reduce heat to low, and cover.  Cook the eggs for another 30 minutes on low and then remove from heat.
  4. The longer you allow the eggs to sit, the more flavor and color they will develop.  Let them rest for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight.  When ready, remove the shell and serve.
July 26, 2011

Gazpacho

If you couldn’t tell, I’m on a bit of a Spanish kick.

First, with the rustic, tangy Romesco Sauce and now with this Spanish culinary classic, Gazpacho.  Although Spanish food doesn’t have quite the reputation of French or Italian, it’s a highly underrated cuisine worthy of far more attention than it receives.

Gazpacho is a vegetable soup that is a served chilled for lunch or as a starter or side during dinner.  It only has a few ingredients (it definitely qualifies as a cheat dish, one which is easy to make can still be impressive), but the flavors work marvelously together.  The vegetable medley creates a strong foundation that is paired with some light spice from the raw onion and finished with smoky paprika and cumin notes.

Chilled, as it is meant to be served, makes it the perfect dish for a warm summer day (sure to return to Seattle soon, right? Right?).  In addition, this lighter version omits the bread, making this a raw-vegan dish – for those of you who care about that sort of thing.

There are hundreds of ways to spice up a Gazpacho recipe – and believe me, I’ll be back here with some of my own takes down the road – but for a quick, refreshing dish on a hot day, you can’t beat the original.

Gazpacho

  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers, cored and seeded
  • 1 cucumber, seeded
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (either white wine or apple cider)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper

 

  1. Chop the tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber and onion into half inch cubes.  Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse on the lowest setting until lightly blended.
  2. Chill for at least one hour before serving.  (The longer you allow it to chill, however, the more the flavors will develop, so leave some leftovers!)
July 22, 2011

Steak with Spicy Gorgonzola

Summer, even in notoriously grey Seattle, is a time to grill.

Whether it’s fruit or chicken, grilling is an easy, no-hassle ways to cook. No pans or pots to clean, and the rich flavors that develop from roasting and searing bring out some of the best that food has to offer.

I’m a year-round griller, if you couldn’t guess, but summer always gets me particularly fired up. Now that the weather has decided to string a couple nice days together in a row, I decided to trot out one of my favorite summer dishes: Steak with Spicy Gorgonzola.

This dish starts with an American classic, steak. Everyone has their own budget and their own favorite cut of meat, so the choice is up to you (I’m partial to flank or t-bone, however). A simple salt and pepper seasoning helps accentuate the flavor of the beef and brings out the moisture to allow for a more robust crust to develop while cooking.

Gorgonzola, jalapeño and cilantro form a perfect trio in the sauce.  The tangy Gorgonzola base forms the perfect combination to the hearty, ruddy steak. The spiciness of the jalapeño offers a definite kick – this dish isn’t for the faint of heart – finished with cool notes of cilantro to cap the heat.  This fiery meal is perfect for a late summer dinner in the shade.

Steak with Spicy Gorgonzola

  • 1 steak of choice
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 2 springs of cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

 

  1. Salt and pepper each side of the steak and allow to sit for fifteen minutes to draw the moisture out. Start the grill and set to medium high (or wait until temperature is approximately 400°).  While waiting, start on the sauce.
  2. Heat butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat.  Saute the onion, garlic and jalapeño until translucent, approximately seven to eight minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add the half and half and Gorgonzola cheese.  Let simmer until the cheese has melted into the sauce.  Add the flour and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened to a viscous consistency.  Add the cilantro and sit into the sauce.  Leave on low heat until serving.
  4. Grill the steak to desired state (I recommend medium-rare, approximately 6 minutes on one side and 4 minutes on the other).  Remove the steak from heat and let sit for five minutes.  Top with the Gorgonzola sauce and serve immediately.
July 21, 2011

Patatas al Romesco

The other day I discovered Romesco sauce.  I’m never going back.

Romesco is a rustic sauce that hails from the Northeast Spanish region of Catalonia.  Originally created to serve with seafood, this versatile sauce has evolved to be served with nearly any dish from vegetables to red meats.

But the best part of this sauce is that there is no golden standard for the recipe.  It varies widely between regions and even from household to household, meaning an there are endless variations to taste and try.  My version forgoes one of the more common ingredients, roasted red peppers, to allow the more delicate flavors of tomato, paprika and almond to shine through in the dish.  The end result is a medium bodied, tangy, surprisingly refreshing sauce

This dish pairs the Romesco with a classic Spanish side that truly lets the sauce shine: fried potatoes.  The crispy, earthy potatoes provide the perfect contrast without distracting from this delightful sauce.  If you like this Romesco – and trust me, you will – don’t stop with potatoes; there’s no limit to the number of uses for this Spanish gem!

Patatas al Romesco

(Note: This recipe calls for blanched almonds.  If you don’t know how to blanch an almond, a how-to can be found here)

  • 1/4 cup almonds, blanched
  • 1 slice stale or toasted bread, torn into small pieces
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/3 cup onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (smoked preferably)
  • 1 small jalapeño (optional)
  • 1 medium russet potato
  • salt and pepper

 

  1. Before starting the Romesco sauce, preheat the oven to 350° and let the potatoes bake for 25 minutes or until mostly cooked through.
  2. Lightly coat a frying pan with olive oil and heat to medium.  Toast the almonds and stale bread until lightly browned, approximately five minutes.  Add the onions, garlic and jalapeño (if you’re so inclined) and continue to saute until cooked through and translucent.  Empty the contents of the pan into a food processor.
  3. Roast or broil the tomatoes whole until skin begins to crack, approximately eight to ten minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the food processor.
  4. Add the paprika, vinegar and olive oil to the food processor and blend on medium until a sauce-like consistency is reached.  If the mixture is too thick, add additional olive oil until desired consistency is achieved.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and empty the sauce into a serving container.
  5. Dice the potato into half-inch cubes and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Lightly coat a frying pan with olive oil and fry the potatoes until golden brown, approximately eight to ten minutes.
  6. Serve the potatoes onto a place, drizzle lightly with Romesco sauce and serve.
July 19, 2011

Plum and Balsamic Grilled Cheese

Do you remember loving grilled cheese as a kid?  Sitting at the lunch table holding a sandwich with American cheese between two buttery slices of Wonderbread.

Have you grown up since then?  Have your taste matured somewhat?  Do you still love grilled cheese?  Of course you do!

Welcome to the grownups grilled cheese section. And no, that doesn’t just mean using cheddar instead of American. There are hundreds of unique combinations to explore.

This dish is a play on the classic combination of blue cheese and pear, weaving salty and sweet flavors together.  Instead of a more subtly sweet pear, I opted for a softer, more sugary plum.  It still works hand in hand with the blue cheese, but also provides the perfect counterbalance to the third component: raspberry balsamic reduction.  All three are roughly combined so that each bite offers a different combination of sweet, salty and tangy.

The plum, cheese and balsamic reduction all rest between two lightly buttered, well toasted slices of fresh sourdough that offer the perfect crunch to round out the dish.  This is a great way to take a childhood classic and make it into something you could serve at a friends dinner party!

Plum and Balsamic Grilled Cheese

  • Loaf of sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons of blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoon of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 plum, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

 

  1. In a sauce pan, combine both balsamic vinegars, water and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, then remove from heat.  Allow the mixture to cool until it achieves a syrupy consistency.
  2. Combine the two cheeses and mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Cut two slices off the load of sourdough, approximately 1/2 inch thick each. Cover with a layer of the cheese mixture, then a layer of plums and another layer of cheese.  Drizzle the balsamic reduction on top and place the other slice of bread on top.
  4. Butter the outsides of the sandwich. Heat a small pat of butter in a pan to medium heat. Place the sandwich in the pan with a plate and weight on top to compress it. Cook until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown on each side, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Remove from heat.  Allow to cool briefly and serve.
July 14, 2011

Curry French Toast with Tamarind Syrup

French toast is one of the most fantastic foods one could ever dream up.  It has a golden, sweet crust and a soft chewy inside.  The different spices play off one another in the background as you sink your teeth in.  It’s not sugary enough to be an honest dessert but just enough so that you feel guilty eating it for breakfast. A little bit.

Of course you can only eat the same thing so many times before you yearn for new flavors.  Some people add whipped cream or top it with berries.  I prefer to dream a little bit bigger.

This curry french toast is a delightful new take on this breakfast classic.  For those of you who get nervous about oriental spices, don’t be afraid, the curry flavor in no way overpowers the dish. It simply adds a whole new dimension to the spice dynamic of the toast, along with a little kick.  The tamarind syrup has all the sweetness of classic maple syrup with a tangyness that perfectly compliments the toast.

Combined, these flavors create a unique new take on this culinary classic!

Curry French Toast with Tamarind Syrup

  • 2 slices of stale bread (brioche or sourdough recommended)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder (mild or hot)
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1 dash allspice
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate

 

  1. Combine the eggs, heavy cream, sugar, curry power, cinnamon and allspice in a shallow bowl and mix thoroughly. Soak the stale bread in the egg mixture until thoroughly coated, approximately two minutes each.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled frying pan to medium-low heat.  Lightly sprinkle a bit of extra sugar on each side of the bread and lay each in the pan.  Cook on each side until lightly browned, approximately three minutes a side.
  3. While the toast is cooking, heat the syrup in the microwave.  Mix in the tamarind concentrate.
  4. Serve the toast onto a plate and lightly drizzle with the tamarind syrup.
July 12, 2011

The Pint is Mightier: Black Raven Brewing Co.

(Beer Connoisseur Eric Peters contributed to this post)
 

The second installment of our Pacific Northwest brewery review series, The Pint is Mightier.  Hailing from Redmond, WA, our next brewery is…

Black Raven Brewing Co.

The Black Raven is hidden away in the outskirts of Redmond in an unassuming business park.  It has a dark but subtly inviting ambiance. Dimly but cozily lit, the wooden bar counters, chairs, and tables all fit together perfectly. We strolled in and immediately fell under the spell of the place.

Eric and I both got started with a pint of Morrighan Nitro Stout.  It poured very dark with a creamy tan head. Typical of a stout, it had a strong roasted flavor that was paired with a more subtle chocolate note.  We both agreed that it was quite light for a stout, similar in body profile to Guinness. However the Morrighan had substantially more flavor than a standard American Guinness with flavors of caramel and the aforementioned chocolate.  The biggest knock against this brew was that fact that it was very top heavy; the flavor hit the tip of your tongue will almost no depth in the aftertaste.

My next brew was the Trickster IPA. After one sip all I could think was – Fellow hop-heads rejoice and be merry!  This is not a beer for the fair-weather IPA drinker.  As soon as it hits your mouth you’re overwhelmed with floral, citrus and bitter notes.  The body is a rusty amber color but light nonetheless, leaving nothing to interfere with the hop profile.  At 6.9% ABV this beer packs a wallop as well.  If you’re an IPA true believer, I can’t recommend this beer highly enough.  It’s worth a journey from wherever you’re from to get it right from the brewery.

Eric followed with the Totem Northwest Pale Ale, which he described as the little brother of the Trickster.  It was a nice reddish amber color with a good amount of carbonation.   The beer’s hoppy aroma hinted at its robust nature. It was stronger and more bitter than other pale ales, which Eric didn’t think was necessarily a bad thing at all. Overall the flavor was very well balanced with a subtle citrus flavor that grew more prominent in the aftertaste.

We rounded out our evening with a pair of lighter beers (we still had to get back home!).  I opted for one of Black Raven’s rotating specials, the Citrus Hefeweizen.  The Hefe was a cloudy pale yellow and smelled strongly of grain.  It’s name told no lies about it’s taste; the beer was wheaty and sweet, with lots of citrus and hints of spice.  As I drank I couldn’t help but think that I’d tasted this somewhere before.  It wasn’t until I’d almost finished my pint that I sussed out the parallel to the flavor: corned beef.  The spice taste of the Citrus Hefeweizen tasted almost exactly the same as the spice blend in corned beef.  As odd as that sounds, this beer was still pretty good.  I am not generally a fan of Hefe’s, but this one had enough going on to make it a solid brew.

The Suntheif Kristallweizen was Eric’s last pint of the night. When it comes to wheat beers Eric has a similar disposition to me, but he had to admit this one was good. It had an aroma similar to other light wheat beers, with a faint scent of hops as well. It was very light bodied and a pleasant hint of cloves in the flavor. He recommends any fan of hefeweizens to try this beer,  he will remember this one as one of the best in the style that he’s had.

A great location and kind-hearted, helpful staff round out the whole experience.  They have pretzels and peanuts free of charge (they serve them to you individually too, so you don’t need to worry about germy strangers rooting around your peanuts) and the beers are true gems.  They were out when we went this time, but Eric and I have both had the Tamerlane Porter on other occasions and found it to be one of the best porters we’ve tried.  All in all, the Black Raven Brewing Co. is an eastside spot worth your time and money, especially if you need a break from the Eastside’s most ubiquitous brewery, Redhook.  We both highly recommend giving it a try.

July 11, 2011

Grilled Buffalo Chicken Burger

Foodie intelligentsia leader Michael Pollan, in his book Food Rules, argues that if you really want to eat food that isn’t particularly good for you, you should make it yourself.  It’ll taste better and, chances are, unless you regularly cook in an industrial kitchen fully stocked with chemical ingredients, it’ll be healthier for you too.  This dish is one of my interpretations of this rule.

Blue cheese bacon burgers and buffalo wings are two iconic greasy foods; something you would enjoy during the Superbowl or after a long day of physical work fully expecting to spend the rest of the day in a lethargic food coma.  I love both of these dishes, but I wanted to combine them in a way that wouldn’t leave me waking up in the night in a cold sweat of partially hydrogenated oil.  I got all the ingredients together in the kitchen to see how I might be able to dream up something that captured all the succulent flavors in a health(ier) fashion.

The result was this grilled buffalo chicken burger.  It does have a light breading, but by grilling it instead of using the tradition frying method it avoids a substantial portion of the fat content.  Fresh blue cheese instead of a dressing blended with large dollops of mayonnaise avoids another pitfall.  The final product is a burger that has all the spiciness of the buffalo sauce, crispy-saltiness of the bacon and sharpness of the blue cheese without nearly as much grease.  Definitely a dish worth making yourself!

Grilled Buffalo Chicken Burger

  • 1 medium chicken breast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Buffalo sauce, to coat
  • 2 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 2 strips of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 hamburger bun
  1. Heat the grill to ~375 degrees.  Coat the chicken breast in the beaten egg, then dredge it in the panko bread crumbs until covered.  Place the chicken on the grill.  After the panko coating has sealed, approximately 5 minutes, take the chicken off the grilled and coat with buffalo sauce.  Return to the grill and continue to cook until completed (time will vary by grill, cut into the thickest section of the chicken to check if you’re unsure if it’s done)
  2. While the chicken is cooking, place the strips of bacon in a skillet on medium heat.  To achieve the desired crispiness, turn the bacon frequently and drain off the excess fat if too much accumulates.
  3. Toast the hamburger bun on the grill until a light golden color develops around the sides.  Arrange the lettuce, a few tomato slices, chicken and bacon on the bun.  Sprinkle the blue cheese on top and place the other half of the bun on top. Wait a few minutes for the cheese to melt and then enjoy!
July 9, 2011

The Pint is Mightier: Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co.

(Beer Connoisseur Eric Peters contributed to this post)
 

Welcome to the other half of this blog: The Pint is Mightier!

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said “Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.”  My good friend Eric and I agree.  In the beginning of the summer we decided to embark on beer pilgrimage across the Pacific Northwest, visiting all the breweries we’ve been loving from afar all these years. Using only our wits (and useful website Brew-Ha!) we’re tracking down the tastiest brews in Washington and Oregon.  We’ll be talking about our findings here.  First up?

Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co.

Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co. is a quaint brewery in a cute town nestled in the cascade foot hills a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous Snoqualmie Falls.  They have the standard selection of brews along with several rotating specials.

The first beer that Eric tried was the Steam Train Porter.  This beer was dark and quite flavorful.  The aroma was not incredibly strong and it did not feel a particularly heavy.  The porter shone through with its complex flavors.  It had the standard ‘roastiness’ one would find with any porter but the additional and subtle caramel flavors really rounded out this beer.  It wasn’t the best porter he ever tasted, but it was still fantastic and anyone who is a fan of darker beers ought to try it.

His second beer was one of the rotating special they had on tap – the Powerhouse Double IPA.  The beer had a cloudy look in the glass, something Eric personally always enjoys.  He love myself some opacity. It had a great aroma, you could really smell the bitterness of the hops. The tease given to the nose did not let down the mouth. It was a fantastic tasting IPA, very hoppy but still well balanced and drinkable. This beer is an excellent choice for anyone who likes IPAs, you wont be disappointed.

I couldn’t resist the most interesting sounding beer they had available for my first drink – the Coconut Porter.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a sucker for adventurous brews, and this one did not disappoint.  The Steam Train Porter base was just as Eric described: light, medium roastiness with light and sweet caramel notes.  Perfectly balanced with the base was a bold, but not overpowering, coconut flavor.  I’ve had a few coconut porters before this and I was always disappointed.  Usually they were decent beers, but the coconut flavor never really emerged.  This brew managed to meld the roasty porter flavor with the coconut flavor perfectly.  Whether you’re a fan of beer, coconut or outlandish drinks, I highly recommend this beer.

My second beer was the Copperhead Pale Ale.  I honestly don’t have too much to say on this one; it was a pretty standard Pale Ale.  It was a bit less hoppy and bitter than other Pale Ales I’ve had, which I wasn’t a particular fan of but might suit others better.  All in all it wasn’t bad, but nothing special either.

Overall, Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co. is a bit of a drive from Seattle, but the beers are definitely worth the while.  If you’re ever crossing I-90 and have a minute, we recommend you take the opportunity to check out this gem.

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