Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eat here: The Tasting Room

The Tasting Room, on Seattle’s Post Alley, is a spot to sip the state’s finest wines and nibble plates of local Beecher’s cheese while improving your high score at Boggle. It’s practically the definition of a hidden gem. I had almost forgotten about my visit there last December, until I saw the list of Oprah’s Ultimate Favourite Things from her annual show this week, and Beecher’s Mac and Cheese made the grade (good cheese makes good mac and cheese, natch.)

In other breaking news, I’m off to Grenada for a week, where I’ll be cooking and hiking and snorkeling and visiting rum distilleries and waterfalls, a chocolate factory and a nutmeg processing station, I’ll be river tubing and … it would appear, not doing a lot of relaxing.

No biggy: That’s what places like the Tasting Room are for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A bit of a pickle

I really wanted to blow your socks off today. I wanted to write the best blog post ever -- teach you something that you never knew was possible, that you never imagined could happen in our lifetime.

But then I sat here for a solid two minutes and couldn't think of a damn thing.

The tank was empty. The well was dry. (But the cliches were 'a flowing.)

I blamed it on the low pressure system, the fact that I woke up with the sniffles, that I didn't have my sweet tea this morning, that I was over-worked, that my jeans were too tight, that TV sucks now that True Blood and Mad Men are gone for the year (though I am buoyed by the return of Dexter). Yet I only had myself to blame. (As always.)

So I went to the kitchen to grab a snack. I was feeling peckish for a pickle. And that's when I noticed the empty jar.

In other words, the last straw.

And yet, friends, what happened next is the kind of thing that kitchen lore is made of.
I took that jar, void of pickles yet full of brine, and held it firmly in my hand as I raised it skyward to curse the gods.

And that's when inspiration struck.

No, I didn't pour myself a pickle back (which, by the by is mentioned as one of my Food News items in the latest issue of House & Home magazine.) Instead, I decided that I was going to make some more pickles. Right there, right then.

I don’t think that this is considered “food safe”, but this empty jar of amazing pickles had been gifted to me by the great chefs at Charcut Roast House in Calgary, and as previously mentioned, I was really, really sad that they were gone. But looking at the jar, still teaming with that delicious brine, I decided to slice up half a cucumber and make a batch of refrigerator pickles.

They won’t last long (especially since I’m going to finish them off today), but I thought it was a tasty way of extending some special pickle brine while also being terrific fodder for today's blog post.

I guess you could call me a “the pickle jar is half full” kind of gal.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Here’s a vegetarian fall soup that’s both sweet and savoury, just like me.

What’s that? Scratching your head at the thought of putting matzo balls into anything other than chicken soup? Get over yourself! My best friend has been a vegetarian since she was five-years old, and I got this idea from attending the odd Friday night dinner with her family. After all, matzo balls are vegetarian (unless you stir some schmaltz into them).

All they really are, are big fat dumplings made from matzo meal and egg.

In other words, a perfect lunch for days like these.

Butternut Squash & Golden Delicious Apple Soup with Sage Matzo Balls

(serves 4-6)

For Soup:

1 tbsp butter

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 rib celery, thinly sliced

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced

1-2 tbsp dry vermouth

1 tbsp real maple syrup

salt and chili flakes to taste

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 Bay leaves

For Matzo Balls:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup matzo meal

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

pinch of granulated garlic

½ tsp dried sage

2 tbsp vegetable soup, or water

For soup:

Sautee shallots in butter over medium heat until soft. Add celery, squash and apples and sautee for five minutes more. Add vermouth and syrup, chili flakes and salt, give a stir then add vegetable stock and Bay leaves. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. Discard the Bay leaves then puree soup, taste for seasoning and serve hot. It’s a smooth, thinner soup, that goes great with some matzo balls or noodles.

For matzo balls:

In a small bowl, mix together eggs, oil, matzo meal, baking powder, seasonings and soup or water. Stir to combine, then put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, put a large pot half-filled with water (about 1.5 quarts) on to boil. Make sure the pot has a cover. After it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and using wet hands, form the matzo ball dough into 1-inch balls, then drop them in the simmering water. Cover pot and cook for about 30 minutes. Serve one or two balls in each bowl of squash soup.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A devilish fruit

What’s your end game pomegranate? I buy you because you’re cheap and in season and because you look like a little piece of art in the palm of my hand. But then I get you home, put you in the fridge and curse you.

Why won’t you let me in, pomegranate?

No offence, but that gorgeous face of yours belies a pretty tough exterior. Let’s just say you’re more than a little work.

You cut with a knife – and then what? You play your cards a little too close to your chest, my friend. I dig through a catacomb of pulp and membrane only to find your juicy essence further encapsulated in wee ripe droplets.

Tough childhood, pomegranate?

But you know something? I learned how to get through to you on a trip to Israel a couple of years ago when a local showed me this no-mess method of deseeding you. And you know something else? You’re totally worth it.

So cheer up, pomegranate. The holidays aren’t far off, and you get super popular around then; sprucing up salads, cakes and celebratory cocktails, sprinkled over fruit and eaten dead plain as a sweet and healthy treat. Did you know that some people even use you in their centerpieces, Christmas wreaths and garlands? (It’s all true.)

I guess what I’m saying pomegranate, is that as standoffish as you may seem at first, you’re really worth getting to know.