Monday, January 31, 2011

West Seattle Farmers Market - Winter




West Seattle Farmers Market is a small, intimate dinner party with beautiful food and friendly company. We stopped by and picked up beets, potatoes, carrots, bread, apples, pears and smoked salmon. The vendors offer up helpful advice on their wares and friendly service. It was suggested to throw a few pears in the fridge since they would most likely all come ripe at once. And for determining when they are ripe, he said instead of watching for a color change like with some varieties we should press gently on the top. When it is soft, they are ready for consumption. We will probably ignore the storage advice since pears are consumed at an amazing rate in our house. 

The Amish Bay Meat vendor tried to make our kids laugh and everyone offered us up samples which provided entertainment for the tots and let us try the offerings. It makes a nice Sunday morning activity that results in a bounty of local food. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Shanghai Garden


We picked up Dry Sauteed Strings Beans with Chicken, Szechuan Eggplant in Hot Garlic Sauce, Chicken Fried Rice and Mongolian Beef as take-out. The sauteed string beans were excellent. They were still crunchy but fully cooked with the right amount of minced chicken and sauce. The beans tasted good if you ate one individually and even better with some of the ground up chicken mixed into the bite. We've had them before and they have always been good. The Chicken Fried Rice had egg, green onion, chicken, corn and peas. The green onions and egg were delicious and the mildness of the dish allowed you to really taste each of the items that were mixed in. The chicken was soft, stringy and tender. The Mongolian Beef was not bad but it was served with the beef mix dumped over the noodles. This made them soggy and it would be so easy to serve the noodles on one side of the platter and the beef on the other, particularly for take-out where it takes a bit longer for items to get consumed. It was laden with long strips of green onions which were great, red peppers and the beef. The beef was sliced very thin, possibly too thin. It had a good flavor but the thin beef and soggy noodles didn't help the dish. It might be better eaten in the restaurant. The szechuan eggplant was just bad. It was about 1/3 water chestnuts, 1/3 eggplant and 1/3 heavy, gooey sauce. Sticking a fork in and picking out an individual piece of eggplant after letting some sauce drip off it were the only edible bites in the dish. The water chestnuts dominated the dish when they should have been a small component.  Then there is the sauce. It was very cloying. It overwhelmed everything else in the dish except for the water chestnuts.

On other visits we've had the Mu Shu Pork and Meat Dumplings, both excellent. Bite into soft vegetable and juicy pork mixture dripping with tangy plum sauce in a soft pancake and your taste buds will hum. The dumplings, that we have ordered fried and steamed, were both great. The steamed dumplings have their own appeal, they are so soothing and filling. The fried dumplings make more of a statement and are classic, delicious fried meat dumplings served just the way they should be.

Shanghai Garden on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bacon and Black Bean Soup

I spent the day making cinnamon swirl bread, using a recipe from The New Best Recipe. Cinnamon swirl bread is kind of magical. My son, who is not normally a big carb advocate wanted an endless supply of this bread.

Dinner was a new recipe that I made up as I went along. I had a big pile of black beans I wanted to use up so that is where I started and this is where I ended up:

Bacon and Black Bean Soup

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
5 pieces of bacon, diced
4 cups cooked black beans
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 stocks of celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 cups stock
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp pepper
Tabasco
salt

Sour Cream

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet shaking the skillet frequently. You can tell the cumin is done by smell. Bend your head down over the skillet and when the smell of toasted cumin fills your nose (but before the cumin seeds turn dark), they are done. Grind in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle.

In a large heavy pot over medium heat, saute the bacon until most of the fat renders and it starts to turn golden. Add the carrots and celery and stir to mix. Saute until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the shallot and garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.

Add the beans, stock, pepper, 3 dashes of Tabasco and cumin. Bring to a boil, stir and lower the heat to a simmer. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

If the soup needs thinning, add more water or stock and bring back to a simmer. Put about 1/3 of the total contents in a blender and puree. Add it back to the pot and stir to blend. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream on top.



Friday, January 7, 2011

Tomatoes, Corn and Pasta





















My mom was always really good at whipping up dinner with (as far as I could tell) nothing to cook in the kitchen. It is not something I excel at but I have found this getting easier as the meals go by. This is a meal I make when my kitchen is relatively devoid of groceries. A between shopping trips meal.

This recipe doesn't have to be corn, tomatoes and a half a red pepper. Corn, tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, black olives, green beans, peas, bacon, red onions. What do you have in the fridge, freezer or pantry? Use approximately a cup to a cup and a half of each item (maybe 1/2 cup for something as strong as bacon) to about a pound of pasta. This kind of dish works better with shaped pasta like Orecciette, Cavatelli or Farfalle than long pasta like vermicelli or spaghetti. If you have a few symbiotic vegetables, some non-stringy dry cheese (like parmesan) and pasta you are good to make dinner. If you are using a vegetable like asparagus or green beans, cut it into 3/4 inch pieces and blanch. If you want to keep them bright green, drop it in a bath of ice water after blanching and then drain. Thyme doesn't go with everything so you might consider replacing the herb with something that goes with the adornments you are adding to your pasta. If you have nothing to saute and want to cook your garlic you can drain your pasta and then add it to a pan that you have cooked the olive oil and garlic in for a minute or two. Mix well and proceed.

Tomatoes, Corn and Pasta

2 T Olive Oil
1 cup fresh corn scraped from the cob or frozen
3 cloves of garlic, minced
half of a red pepper cut into 1/3 inch cubes
pint of cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 lb of shaped pasta
3/4 - 1 cup grated parrmesan
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-low. Add the corn. For fresh corn cook for just 1 - 2 minutes, with frozen corn, 4 - 5 minutes. Add the thyme and the garlic and cook for 1 - 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat. Cook the pasta but before draining scoop a 1/2 a cup of the pasta water and set aside. In a large serving bowl mix together the pasta, corn, peppers and tomatoes. Add the cheese and mix everything together. If it seems too dry, add a little of the pasta water.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Art's Place


Art's Place is a serious throwback to the past. Vinyl seats, flowered wallpaper on the wall, fringed lamps hanging from the ceiling. Most of the other customers were over the age of 60. We were there at 12:30 on Sunday and there was a lot of discussion on what had happened at church that morning. There was also this odd conversation occurring behind us where the people kept using the phrases 'shut up' and 'stupid'. It was such a funny dichotomy with the rest of the setting.

The menu is covered with predictable kid-friendly food. On the table were napkin dispensers, the menus, cream, salt and pepper along with refilled bottles of ketchup that have been refilled so many times they no longer have the labels and the caps were slightly rusty. The service was pretty attentive. Our coffee cups filled repeatedly, so often that even Mr. Pink would be satisfied. We ordered a club, a Mexican burger, a vegie sandwich and a turkey and cheese sandwich, all on white bread. The sandwiches were served on something similar to wonder bread. The bread was lightly toasted. The vegie sandwich was decorated with two slices of cheese which seemed like kraft singles. The vegies on it, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and onions were all super fresh and crisp. My two year old daughter loved her vegie sandwich and fries. The club was piled with turkey and bacon but was pretty bland. My husband described the Mexican burger as 'just okay'. This is very predictable, straight-forward food. The side salads were the vegies found on my daughters sandwich in larger quantity placed in a bowl. The salad dressing served with the side salads was Kraft packets. I think this might be a good place to eat breakfast and I wish we could try it. I would return here for lunch if I had something specific on the menu that I wanted or if I wanted to get my daughter that vegie sandwich again or if I was taking someone out who wanted quiet food.

My head spun just a little bit at how easy it would be to turn this place into a line out the door diner. But then where would everyone go after church?

Art's Place on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Templeton

















For New Years Eve we were at a great diner in downtown Vancouver called Templeton. The place feels like a classic diner with black and white booths and a row of stools at the soda bar. They have beer and wine, burgers, fish and chips and fries. They also have a lot of items that you wouldn't normally see on a diner menu like veggie lasagna and a quesadilla with artichoke hearts in it. The waitress was attentive and friendly to our children.

We had fantastic burgers, blue cheese on mine and Gruyere on my husbands. The bun was big and chewy (in a good way), the cheese strong and tasty, the adornments on the burger fresh and crisp. The meat was delicious and moist. I am not a big bread person. I like bread but I don't usually swoon over it like my husband does but this was an outstanding bun. It was soft and big with a smooth, thin chewy exterior. One of the best hamburger buns I have ever eaten. They didn't ask how we wanted the burger cooked but it essentially stood up to a fancy gourmet burger outside of being asked the question, 'how do you like it done?' A side salad next to the burgers that was mixed greens, carrots, red peppers, cucumbers and dressed with a tangy salad dressing. The lettuce used in the salad was a different kind of lettuce than what was found on the burger. I hate it when your whole meal starts feeling homogeneous like when you eat at a salad bar in a pizza joint and the topping are the same thing as what you ordered on your pizza. Two glasses of delicious Russell cream ale served cold in a large pint glass was perfect with the burger and salad.  Ours kids shared a fish and chips plate which was more than enough food for two kids.

We followed up with dessert, splitting a milkshake for our kids and sharing an ice cream sundae between the two of us. The dessert was a little bit of a letdown after the great dinner. The milkshake was too thin, the quality of the ice cream wasn't as great as it should have been. The dessert looked delightful but didn't follow through on taste.

Overall I love this little diner. They kept a lot of the things about diners that people love, added some new things to make it better and threw the rest out.

The Templeton on Urbanspoon