Hanging out at the Dairy

Hanging out at the Dairy
Darci(far left) & the Wrights at the Creamery

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What the Pho'!

Literally, that's what the restaurant in Bellevue, WA is called, What the Pho'. Ironically it was our mood last Saturday morning too after our flight to Palm Springs, CA got cancelled and we couldn't fly out until Monday am.! The Ulins were NOT a happy family that morning! However, quick thinking Brad thought of a happy door prize of going to our favorite Pho shop in Bellevue for a steaming bowl of goodness and some fresh spring rolls. We all chose the flank steak and eye of round steak as our meat, added our bean sprouts and various favorite condiments to the broth. I love the fresh lime squeeze, the fresh basil and cilantro and a dash of Asian hot sauce (the one with the rooster on the label).  It was a nice bit of warmth in the POURING rain. We'll get to the sun soon enough we thought.  Making lemonade after getting served some lemons:) It's our Vietnamese comfort food, kinda like Grandma's chicken soup. My son Alan said "it was like heaven in a bowl". We agreed. Our attentive, friendly waiter said "gama" was "thank you" in Vietnamese. "Gama" to Brad for bringing us out of our funk!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Are fresh salmon patties considered leftovers?

Now I love leftovers as much as the next guy, but do salmon patties really qualify? Not sure, but I'm hungry and no time to ponder. They are a definite bonus of leftover amazingly grilled salmon (caught by yet another super nice friend Kyle)!  I use almost all the classic salsa ingredients but instead of onion, use minced shallots when available. ...think combo between making salsa and meatloaf.
Then I use a freshly beaten egg, a few tablespoons of a good mayo, a few more tablespoons of Dijon mustard, some minced garlic, freshly ground pepper and several dashes of hot sauce, Now for the "salsa" side of the ingredients; freshly diced tomato, chopped cilantro, the juice from half a lime. The freshly flaked salmon is carefully scanned for any residual bones and then the ingredients are gently combined in a bowl as to not mash up the salmon too much. We want some flake, some texture to the salmon patties. I form them into patties in my hand and place each one onto a plate of Panko bread crumbs.  My patties are a little smaller than a fist and about an inch or more thick. Remember, the salmon is already cooked so we are focusing on warming throughout and forming a toasty, crispy crust with the Panko bread crumbs embedded on both sides of each patty.

Before I fry those off, I get my side dish ready. Today, I'm thinking bistro, more elegant but comfort/bar food. Fingerling oven fries fit that bill! They are sliced into wedges, tossed in a bowl with fresh chopped garlic, freshly ground sea salt and pepper and olive oil. The coated spud wedges are separated on the cookie sheet or my favorite, a large Silpat (silicone baking mat from Demarle) and a perforated Demarle baking sheet (allows for even heat flow on the baking surface).

 Into the middle rack of a preheated oven on 375 degrees on convection bake if possible, bake if not, for about 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness of the potato wedges. They emerge from the oven still bubbling and they get a quick grind or two of fresh sea salt to boost the flavor.

 I check on the salmon patties in the fry pan of 4 tablespoons of Canola oil. They take about 5 minutes each side, medium high heat, to brown on each side. Make sure to not cover the pan as steam will not allow the crust to get as crispy as an open pan.

You can use fresh tartar sauce, ketchup, cocktail sauce, a lemon wedge or nothing at all to grace these crispy exteriors, moist, steaming interiors of fresh salmon patty. This amazing "leftover" makes me look like a rock star and they really are a matter of simply great ingredients, respectfully combined!  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Morning tea at the Cutting Garden

Things are starting to bloom again at the Cutting Garden in Sequim! I love this time of year when color starts to emerge from the earth, buds start forming, and gardeners hit their gardens with renewed vigor. Garden tending is a year round endeavour at the Cutting Garden with various events, weddings, u-cut garden, floral arrangements and Catherine's fabulous painter's studio upstairs.

Catherine (she and her husband Tom own the venue) and I have know each other for about 10 years now as she did the flowers for my wedding at Sunland Country Club in Sequim and have been keeping in touch ever since. Today we had tea and goodies in the Farmhouse from the Bell Street Bakery, walked around her soon to be vibrant, verdant garden. Kindred, her floral designer, was busy in several areas of the garden. Her hard work shows as the deadwood was cut back and the new sprouts, shoots and leaves are rising from their rich organic soil. It felt like I got their before the Easter bunny hid all his eggs and the kids arrived to hunt for them. Can't wait to see them in their full glory in the garden and in Kindred's stunning arrangements!

Catherine gave me a tour of her greenhouse as well. Their trays and rows of starts are soaking up the heat and water the last few days of warm Spring weather. Such varieties too; sweet peas (my Grandma Effie's favorites), dahlias, renunculas, stock, a South American tropical I can't remember, salvias and so much more! Her u-pick garden on premise is REALLY easy and fun way to choose your own bouquet. While you're there, check out her Farmhouse where some of her pastels and watercolors (she's a very talented artist) grace the walls of the Farmhouse's interior.

It was such a joy to get out of the house, into her greenhouse and gardens to see what was in store for all to enjoy this Spring, Summer and Fall. What a fun morning to catch up with an old friend, walk in her garden and eat some yummies from Bell Street Bakery. Not a shabby way to start off Spring!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day!

What a cheerful holiday, St. Patrick's Day! Spring is almost here and it's time for us to emerge from our wintry hibernation and celebrate with our friends the McDougalls (how Irish is that last name). True story! She's an amazing foodie (same lady who does the wine tastings at Bella Italia) and has a reputation as throwing a fabulous corned beef, cabbage and potato spread!
We were  invited to our friends' house for an Irish feast and I brought cute cocktail napkins, 2 bottles of Harbinger wines (a local, fun and artisan's winery in Port Angeles, WA) and some homemade Whiskey Nutmeg Shortbread. I got the recipe from Alice Medrich's cookbook. She is an amazing baker, cookbook author and instructor. I was lucky enough to be a chef's assistant for a few of her classes at Sur La Table kitchen store in Kirkland, WA.  As usual, I took her recipe and elevated it using Nash's Soft Winter Wheat Pastry Flour (from their store in Dungeness, WA), Farm Fresh Butter and Pure Cane Sugar from Sunny Farms, and 1 teaspoonfresh ground nutmeg and 3 tablespoon's MacNaughton's Whiskey. Her recipe's are all well tested so following them will give you the best results. I doubled the recipe and added 2 tablespoons extra of butter and the whiskey to off-set the use of the whole wheat pastry flour. I also used one 9 inch spring form pan and two ramekins as I prefer a thicker shortbread. 

Basic Shortbread recipe;  makes 16 large or 32 small pieces. 

Cut 12 T unsalted butter into chunks and melt in large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in 6T sugar, 1t vanilla extract, 1/4t. salt. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Pat and spread evenly in a a 9 inch round (or 8 inch square, or 9 1/2 in fluted tart pan, greased or lined w/foil). I used a 9 inch spring form (see pic above for unbaked version). Wrap well with clear plastic wrap and chill for minimum of 2 hrs or overnight. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake on rack in lower third of the oven for 60-75 minutes, until the edges are toasty brown. Alice then sprinkles hers with sugar and cuts into pieces while still hot with a thin sharp knife.   Her variations suggest using Walnuts, pecans, peanuts, brown sugar and cardamon. None of them disappoints! Cheers.

By the way, Mrs. McDougall's feast was so completely fantastic that we immediately invited ourselves for next St. Patrick's Day! We dined, laughed and raised a glass together with family and friends. I think that our Irish ancestors were smiling down on us that night! Thanks to Kim for the memorable feast and a new tradition for St. Patrick's Day!

Soups on!

Soups on! The recent weather has been rather "wet" shall we say here in Sequim! I've been lucky enough to get a bad cold twice in the last 3 months and so it is DEFINITELY time for some soups to kick me over into the realm of feeling healthy-er again! I lost my voice, so I might as well cook!  Lucky are the Ulin men...they don't have to listen to me AND they get some nice meals!   Double bonus!

 I like to make my own stock when time allows. After watching lots of Food Channel, helping chefs with their classes at Sur La Table kitchen store in Kirkland and consulting various cooking magazines(see "I'm inspired by..." section in my blog), I now season and roast my meats prior to making a stock.I try to get these from Sunny Farms Natural or Organic Meats, ask the knowledgeable butchers there or at your local meat purveyor. Add sea or kosher salt, pepper, bay leaves, herbs, chopped garlic and onion and the like. This process adds a richer and deeper taste to the stock...if you are going to the process of making your own stock, go big or go home!  It's literally taking a large baking pan, adding the meats, add seasoning and pop into a 400 degree pre-heated oven and baking for about 15 minutes.
The second tip/trick I pickup up along the culinary trail is saving the ends, peals and bits of veggies and freezing them in a gallon Ziploc in my freezer. The "regulars" in the bag are carrot ends/peals, onion ends/skins, celery stalk ends and middles. Any veggies will do as will an occasional squeezed lemon or lime. This soon to be loveliness gets created in a large 5 gallon, heavy bottomed stock pot. In go my frozen veggie bit, a few more bay leaves, at least 4 large garlic cloves, a dozen or so whole peppercorns, a tablespoon of ground or whole cumin, a slice of fresh ginger if you have it, and a little over a teaspoon of salt.   The roasted meats are added and water is added to cover if possible but leaving about 2+ inches at the top for the rolling boil.  Place your pot on medium on medium high (uncovered) and about 1-2 hours later, we strain. I do occasionally add more water along the way if I the stock gets below half-way.

I have started making 3 soups today; Split pea with Smoked Ham Hock, Vegetable Beef and French Onion.  I'm starting with a roasted chick and pork carcass stock and then will add the roasted beef to the stock to finish the French Onion component.
To the left are the chopped leeks, celery, cabbage, Anaheim chilies, and carrots for the Vegetable beef soup. I sauteed these for 10 or so minutes. This is a crock pot soup, into my crock pot goes 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes and a 16 oz can of mild Enchilada sauce. The stock is strained and the stew meat sauteed briefly in a skillet on high heat with salt, pepper, and a dash of olive oil. Everyone into the pot! 2-3 hours later...you can dollop with some sour cream and some fresh chives from the garden. My guys also like some sort of "hot sauce" to give it a kick! One down, two to go...
Now for the Split Pea with Smoked Ham Hock! Butchers often sell Smoked Ham Hocks in the frozen or fresh displays. The "Smoked" adds another layer of flavor I find particularly pleasing. I am using my 5 qt. pressure cooker for this soup but that's because I've forgotten to soak the dried split peas ahead of time  and I'm craving this soup for tonight if not sooner. Into the hot stock pot I put a few slices of fresh ginger, 3 or so garlic toes (apparently hiding under the ham in this pic), a dash of olive oil and the star--the Smoked Ham Hock! Sear on all sides of the ham and turn the garlic and ginger too. This takes about 8 minutes.

While the ham is searing, I chopped more celery, carrots, smoked bacon, fresh fennel and leeks. Those were sauteed with some olive oil as well on high heat for about 5 minutes and added to the ham hock in the pressure cooker. To this base, 3 cups of dried spilt peas, approx 4 cups of stock and 2 cups water were added to cover ingredients but leaving a 4 inch buffer for steam. The deal with the pressure cookers is they need room for the steam to work their magic, significantly reduce cooking time and are energy efficient. Once the lid is securely in place, the steam is captured and the pressure builds. **IMPORTANT NOTE** The burner heat then needs to be reduced to medium low as to not burn the contents! A lesson sadly learned the hard way if not headed.  This soup takes about 20 minutes to finish if the beans have a little "tooth" or density to them or 30 if a creamier consistency is desired. The ham hock is removed from the stock pot and the ham bits added back to the soup. I like to top my soup with a spoon of sour cream, a crack or two of fresh ground pepper and some lemon zest for a burst of freshness.

Now for the finale, the French Onion Soup!  The beef bones have been roasted with garlic, salt, pepper, fennel and onion (reference top right photo leading this post) are added to the strained chicken/pork stock and another quart of water added to the uncovered stock pot. This is on medium high heat for approximately an hour with 5 garlic cloves, a teaspoon of ground cumin, a chunk of fennel (also used in the split pea soup) and a tablespoon of dried rosemary or 2 stalks of fresh if available, then strained. 
While the beef stock is cooking away, I cut in half, then finely sliced 5 yellow onions and caramelized them on medium-low heat in a skillet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. The point of caramelizing is to soften the onion's bite and replace it with it's natural sugars brought out by this cooking process. We want to cook slow enough not to brown but to become translucent, then caramelize. The caramelized onions are placed in a bowl, the skillet they were caramelizing in is now deglazed with some beef stock. The deglazing process gets all the lovely bits, or "fond", off the bottom of the skillet  and adds flavorful bits into the deglazing liquid.  Dump this back into to stockpot, add the onions and simmer for 20 minutes or so to marry the flavors, overnight is even better. The traditional topping is a toasted slice of bread with some grated Gruyere cheese and hit with the broiler for a oozy, gooey mess of melted cheese. At Chez Ulin, we often just shave some Parmesan cheese on top or my hubby puts his favorite"Tiger" hot sauce in it for a spike of vinegary, sweet medium heat.  

Soup is good for the soul, can be as easy or simple as you want to make it. Skip the homemade stock if you want and open a box of the stocks now readily available at Costco or other grocers. I like to make it when I have time as it fills my house with the smell of comfort food. This time of year, especially when you're under the weather, soup hits the spot! Here's to the 1st day of Spring and a votre' sante'...to your health!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saturday Date Night @ Bella Italia

A rare and fantastic Date Night was had at Bella Italia Saturday night! We were downtown Port Angeles for the wedding/reception of a dear friend's Nancy Johnson's daughter Jessica and decided to forgo dancing and head off for a quiet spot at Bella's.  It did not dissapoint! We started with the Calamari (we inhaled them before I even thought of snapping a pic-oops). Here is my Panzenella, Italian bread salad, with grilled chicken, goat cheese, radicchio, roasted peppers, baby spinach, (I think) Kalamata olives and croutons all tossed together in a light Balsamic Vinagarette. YUM!!!

I would also tell you about the lovely glass of Italian red I had but this blogger is a cheap date and had already had 2 glasses at the afore mentioned wedding reception and I forget now:) LOL! Nevertheless, the wine list at Bellas is always something to look forward to and the staff is eager to suggest/educate their patrons. BTW, if you like wines, my friend Kim does some great wine tastings at Bellas on Tuesday nights starting @ 4:30pm. Call ahead as spots are limited! 

Ciao from Sequim!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lucky Ulin Family-fresh Salmon for dinner!

Wow! We love having friends and family who fish because you can get the freshest fish around! Our friend Colin Hiday brought us a Blackmouth Salmon he caught the day before in the ocean and said they are immature King Salmon. Either way, it was FANTASTIC! The star of the dinner was the salmon, so I chose a Greek salad and Potatoes Au Grautin as sides. Here's the main menu items pictured on the left.

I prefer a simple preparation of grilling fish with minimal ingrediants; fresh chopped garlic, a little fresh ground sea salt and pepper, a squeeze of fresh lemon, some pats of unsalted butter and a few chives from the garden. The skin side goes directly on my pre heated propane grill, on med-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, when the thickest part of the fish starts to pull apart and appear to flake.

I had some nice, ripe organic tomatoes, Feta cheese, Kalamata Olives from Sunny Farms. I roughly sliced/chopped the tomatoes and olives, crumbled the Feta, chopped some of the fresh chives from the garden and drizzled it all with a nice Balsamic Vinegar and some fresh cracked pepper. Easy squeezy!

Years ago I worked at Sur La Table kitchen shop in Kirkland, WA and purchased several of my "favorite tools" which make my cooking/baking much easier and the Mandolin slicer is one of them! Slicing is faster, consistent and thinner as long as you respect the blade:) I blazed through small-medium 4 Yukon Golds in now time and layered them in my Emile Henry baking dish (another Sur La Table purchase. This cookware line allows you minimal cleanup, even with baked items and can go freezer to oven or microwave.)
Back to the spuds...2 layers of potato, butter pats, salt and pepper and a heavy dose of freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano! Plunged into my preheated 450' oven and then put the Salmon on the grill!
 It was a good night at Chez Ulin! Bravo Colin...keep them coming!

Monday, March 7, 2011

How much do I love CB's Organic Peanut butter from Kingston, WA?!

Baking was always a little tedious for me in my younger years with following a recipe, measuring and weighing ingredients...where was the personal expression? I liked cooking for that outlet of creativity, smelling, stirring and tasting as you went along. But now, haking has  become a chemistry experiment! Taking a recipe and following it to the letter as a dry run, followed by evaluation process...was it what I had hoped, what could be better...This is where the fun and joy originate for me in the baking process. How can I improve upon something good, even great.
This Valentines Day, I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart Living Magazine's February issue for Peanut butter and Jelly cookies. The cookies were rolled into balls, flattened and then a thumb print at 11:00 and 1:00 made a heart shape, later to be filled with jam. The recipe was good and most of the kids LOVED them in my son's class. So the challenge was on...how could I improve the recipe? (Funny you should ask)
I started my "elevation process" by using CB's Organic freshly ground roasted peanut butter from the dispenser at Sunny Farns, CB's is a local roaster in Kingston, WA(soon to become a field trip video-watch for it). The product was pure roasted peanut butter with a touch of salt, an appealing granular texture with still some cream but without any oils to mix.

The next "boost" was to use Nash's Soft White Winter Wheat Pastry Flour milled here in Sequim by Bell Street Bakery. (I used it previously in my Grandma's cinnamon roll recipe). The flour is weightier than the all white version but with a added bonus of a nutty, possibly sweet taste. I find that the flour amplifies the nutty factor and texture without weighing it down like a conventional whole wheat flour might.

As a fun twist on the Jelly center idea, my husband, ever the Reeses Peanut butter cup fan,  suggested using chocolate instead of jelly. It was also well received but now AMAZING. How could I improve it? (Love a curious reader!) Dark chocolate rather than the original semi sweet will potentially add a deeper chocolate flavor.I WILL be keeping you up to date on the trials and hopefully "elevations" of recipies.

The morale today is to use GREAT, hopefully local ingrediants whenever possible! BRAVO Nash's, Bell Street and CB's Nuts!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Huevos Rancheros are for dinner too!

Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner depending on time, mood or leftovers. I had some beans from last night's dinner and was duely inspired to use them as Huevos Rancheros, or "Ranch Eggs".  I started off with toasting these great corn tortillas, available at Sunny Farms and Safeway locally on my heavy bottom skillet for a few minutes on each side, using medium high heat.

Same skillet,  I then sauteed half of an organic sweet onion, medium chop with about a pound of the FANTASTIC Chorizo Sausage made expertly by the afore mentioned talented staff at Sunny Farms' Meat Dept. To the pan I added several cracks of fresh ground pepper and 1 Tablespoon each; dried cumin & dried cilantro, and 1lb grass fed organic ground beef from my family's farm (to lighten the richness of the Chorizo).

Nash's Store has some fresh organic eggs from Dry Creek, outside of Port Angeles which I poached lightly. I assembled the toasted tortiallas (2 each plate), smeared with warmed leftover beans, about 1/2 c. Chorizo mixture, 2 poached eggs and some Sriracha Chili Sauce (zippy but only slightly spicy-available in Asian Grocers...we got our's @ Ely's store next to Ely's Cafe in Sequim).

Hubby and I enjoyed one of his famous Bartender's Cadillac Margaritas with this meal (Sauza, lime juice, splash orange liquier, cranberry juice)
 Muy bien Amigos!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dinner before basketball game

So have to rush dinner tonight and make it light as hubby and oldest son are playing hoops tonight and basketball is a family affair at Chez Ulin! So I grab some of this cabbage, a leek and some carrots I bought from Nash's Store on Sunday and gave the cabbage a fine chop, the carrots a shred on my box shredder & into the large salad bowl. Then I chopped off the root of the leek and most of in future), halved the white part of the leek , chopped finely and gave a big rinse in colander. They joined the cabbage and were tossed liberally with Sunny Farms' Ranch Dressing (a HUGE favorite of the Ulin men!) and we have our quick, healthy, anti oxidant coleslaw:) 

The beans with smoked ham hocks were just as easy! I started them 1st actually...then did the coleslaw. 

Soaked some dried white navy beans from Sunny Farms' Othello Farm during lunch hour in water so that they were softened when I got home from work. Into my Rikhon Kuhn 5 qt. pressure cooker( in the top 5 items in my MUST HAVE TOOLS list!) and grabed the frozed ham hocks (also Sunny Farms) out of my freezer, covered beans/ham w/ water and added 2 dried bay leaves,  2 T dried cumin, 4 cloves/toes fresh garlic, several cracks of fresh ground peper and 15 minutes later on medium-low heat, we had a quick bean dish! Took out the ham bones, mashed the ham and garlic toes and we were eating a low fat, healthy and quick dinner! Off to hoops we go:)