Archive for July, 2009

BlogHer '09 Foodie Dinner

July 31, 2009

I can’t believe a week has already past since the food blogger meetup at BlogHer ’09.  It was so inspiring I have been blogging, twittering and reading blogs nonstop since then.  It was so exciting to meet all the rock star food bloggers and as you can see from the expression on Rodger’s face, the food wasn’t bad either.  : )  That’s taramosalata (or taramasalata) that he’s enjoying at the Greek Islands restaurant.  This kid has good taste, let me tell you.  My favorite dish of the night was the baklava for dessert.  By far the best baklava I’ve ever had. 

I had one goal for my first BlogHer and that was to get connected with the food blogging community.  It is so much more interesting to me to read other blogs when I’ve met the people behind the page.  Then you can imagine the words in their own voices and envision them cooking up these treats in their kitchens.  This dinner accomplished this goal single handedly.  The seminars and networking events were just icing on the cake.

How does one find out about these events?  I’m not exactly sure, but I just happen to be lucky enough to be sitting next to Elise from Simply Recipes while getting a hand massage in the expo hall and she told me about it and introduced me to Lydia of Perfect Pantry, who was organizing the event with Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.  Lydia and Kalyn put together lovely bags with spices for us too. 

I put pretty much everyone I met in my blogroll, which was mostly empty before, so check that out to visit some super blogs.  I was most excited to meet Hetal and Anuja of Show me the Curry – two other ladies that, like Malissa and I, have an online cooking show.  Only they do numerous episodes every week.  I’m in total awe.  I was very lucky to sit next to Krista of Londonelicious who really knows her stuff and walked us through all the dishes.  Did you know dolmades aren’t normally vegetarian?  To think the number of times I ate them when I was.  Oops. 

I put the photos up on my SmugMug account, so you can go there to view and download them if you like.  I promise they’re not all of Rodger.  Please let me know if you have any problems with it.  This is the first time I’ve used SmugMug to share pics.  Click here for the gallery Click here for the Flash slideshow.


Cool Salad for Hot Days: Black Bean and Mango Salad

July 30, 2009

Mango Salad

We are having record heat here in Seattle and I can’t bring myself to turn on the oven or even a burner, so here is a refreshing salad I created yesterday and have been living off of for two days now.  The base is my home-made mango salsa, then I added hearty beans for protein and tomatoes for juiciness.  It is great by itself or wrapped in whole wheat tortillas to make a balanced meal – perfect for vegans and the dairy free crowd too.  For a neat trick to peeling mangoes, check out this video from Steamy Kitchen’s Jaden Hair.

Black Bean and Mango Salad

You will need:

  • Flesh of 2 large mangoes, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint of yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Put it together:

  • Combine all ingredients
  • Chill for 30 minutes
  • Enjoy as a cool salad or warm or cold in tortillas

Building Blocks Show in Food Blog Search

July 30, 2009

Have you heard of Food Blog Search?  It’s a search engine just for scratch cooking recipes and food inspiration.   And now Building Blocks Show is included in the over two thousand searchable blogs!

The site uses Google Custom Search Engine technology and every blog is approved by the superstar team of Elise Bauer, Kalyn Denny, and Alanna Kellogg to make sure all included blogs are truly foodie.  I recently had the honor of meeting Elise and Kalyn at BlogHer and it was great to be around women with such passion for food and blogging (more on BlogHer later).

Le Soufflé Magnifique

July 29, 2009

Choc Souffle

Grand Souffle

Rushing back from the Castle at Versailles, 30 minutes late and dressed in tourist shorts with cameras in hand, the Le Soufflé maître d’ welcomed us with a smile pointed to our casual wear and said “Magnifique!” as he led us to the corner table in the air conditioned back room.  What’s more, they had ice water (a real treat in Paris).  And when I saw a 3-course, all-souffle dinner on the menu?  Well, I knew this was the France I’d come to see.

For my appetizer I ordered a simple cheese soufflé, which tasted a bit like brie with the earthiness of a good rind.  I’m not sure if it was actually brie (especially since I lost my notebook where I wrote down the name of it), but very similar anyhow.  My first impression of a true Parisian soufflé was that it had a light, uniform texture and was not too eggy.

For my main course I ordered Le Soufflé’s specialty, the King Henri IV soufflé.  This is a plain savory soufflé which comes with a small bowl of chicken and mushrooms in cream sauce.  When they set the soufflé down at your table, they take the spoon and make a well in the middle and pour in the sauce and chicken.  It had the perfect balance of light, spongy soufflé  and creamy, hearty sauce.  This one was definitely my favorite.

Finally, it was dessert time.  I ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé, but it was not at all what I expected.  I imagined that it would come out, they’d pour a little alcohol in it, light it on fire and then I’d eat it.  Instead, I knew I was in trouble when they came and dropped the entire bottle of Grand Marnier off at the table and walked away to get the soufflé.  They came back with the sweet, angel-food like soufflé, poked a well in the middle and started pouring.  After pouring a couple shots in, they put the bottle back on the table and walked away.  No fire meant there were still two shots of alcohol in my dessert.  Well, I have to admit this was a bit much for me and especially for my nursing son, so I ended up stealing a lot of my husband’s chocolate soufflé, which came with a boat of smooth chocolate sauce.  And really, that was not a bad way to end a perfect Parisian meal.

NPR reports on Mache

July 28, 2009

I was just doing a web search for my new favorite lettuce leafy green, mache, and saw that NPR did an article about it on August 5, 2003.  Go here to listen to the short podcast.

Oh-So-Tender Baby Back Ribs with Mâche and Avocado Salad

July 28, 2009


These ribs are one of the first recipes I wrote myself and are still one of my favorite summer-time foods.  They slow-steam for hours in the oven and then get a quick finish on the grill.  Mâche and avocado with vinaigrette is the perfect crisp complement to the smoky ribs. 

Oh-So-Tender Baby Backs Ribs

You will need:

  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs
  • Your favorite spice rub
  • 3/4 can dark beer (like Guinness)
  • 1 jar of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • Water
  • Foil
  • Broiler pan
  • 2 oz. liquid smoke (optional) *

* I used to use liquid smoke, but I am not as keen these days to use artificial flavors.  It does make the house smell wonderful though!

Put it together:

  • In bottom of broiler pan add beer, liquid smoke (optional) and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan well, but not so much it spills out. 
  • Add top grate to pan and place ribs on top.
  • Rub both sides of ribs generously with rub.
  • Cover entire pan tightly with foil so that no steam will escape during cooking.
  • Bake at 225 to 250 degrees F. for 6 hours (250 degrees if you like the meat falling off the bone like I do).
  • Remove foil being super careful not to burn yourself with the steam or spill the water.
  • Baste ribs with barbecue sauce.     
  • To finish, cook on a hot grill for 5 to 10 minutes each side or, if you don’t have a grill, simply bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes on the middle rack of the oven in a clean pan.   

Mâche and Avocado Salad

You will need:

  • Mâche (about an ounce per person)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado per person
  • 1/4 cup flavored vinaigrette (raspberry, pear, etc.)
  • 1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • any fresh herbs you have on hand, finely minced

Put it together:

  • Quarter avocados and thinly slice lengthwise.  Fan two quarters of avocado on each guest’s plate. 
  • Wash and dry mâche.  Top each portion of avocado with a handful of mâche.
  • Put vinegar, herbs, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a jar with tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.  When that oil is incorporated, add in a couple more tablespoons and shake, continuing until all oil is incorporated. 
  • Add a little salt and pepper to vinaigrette to taste.
  • Drizzle a small amount of vinegarette on each serving of salad. 

Jordan's Potato Salad

July 27, 2009

potato salad

One of the reasons I love visiting Australia is the skillfully prepared classic and fusion foods.  I don’t think they’re ever overly complex, just fresh ingredients cooked well.  This potato salad is a perfect example. 

One evening we were BBQ-ing with our friends and Jordan made this potato salad with crispy and sweetly spicy red onions and bite-sized red potatoes.  I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise, so I was very surprised I liked it so much.  When I asked him what was in it, he said potatoes, red onions and mayo, but that the trick was to buy “whole egg” mayo.  I’d never heard of that.  Apparently, it’s made by S&W, but not easy to find in the states.  I brought a jar back with me, but now that it’s gone, I make my own.  I’ll share the mayo recipes with you all once I have them fool-proofed.  In the meantime, buy or make your favorite mayo (blender mayonnaise recipes usually use whole eggs) and try out this delicious recipe from down under.

Jordan’s Potato Salad

You will need:

  •  2 lbs red potatoes
  • 3/4 cup whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1/2 a red onion, quartered and sliced thinly
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • paprika (optional)

Put it together:

  • Salt water and place potatoes in cold water
  • Turn the heat on to high and bring water and potatoes to a boil
  • Turn heat down and simmer until fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes
  • Drain potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces and add rest of the ingredients while still warm
  • Toss and season with salt, fresh ground pepper and, if desired, paprika

European Musings

July 21, 2009

I just returned on Thursday from twelve days of sightseeing, wedding celebration and delicious eating in Europe.  I’m just starting to be recovered enough to have a few minutes to blog and now I’m leaving tomorrow morning for BlogHer in Chicago!    I have so many pictures to share from France, Germany and Switzerland, but they will have to wait until after I return.  I kept a detailed food log, so I won’t forget anything.  This experience will definitely influence my cooking.  Here are a few thoughts on my European cuisine experience:

Paris was our first stop and what a busy way to begin our trip!  Here I had the best vegetables and morels I’ve ever had (La Terrassee, Westin Hotel) and tasted many things I’d never tried before: canelé (a SW French pastry), tarte tatin (upside-down apple tart), mâche (a tender lettuce).  I even had a dinner of 3-courses of souffles!

Next we took the train to Southern Germany for a relaxing time celebrating the wedding of our friends.  I was happily surprised to find the food in Germany even better than in France (Don’t tell the French I said that!).  The best dish I had the entire trip was at the reception.  It was a vegetarian lasagna with just a perfect mix of roasted bell peppers, carrot planks, zucchini and creamy cheeses.  There were over 20 wedding cakes – each one more beautiful and delicious than the next and most baked by the mother of the groom!  I have tons of pictures of these to share.

The last leg of our journey was a quick stop in Zurich, Switzerland before heading back to Paris to fly home.  Here I had my first taste of European pork Cordon Bleu.  There are cafés on every corner to sip tea and people watch.  I only wish I’d had more time to sample Swiss chocolates!        

For those of you that know me, you’ll know that all this cheese and cream does not do good things for my sinuses and I’m still getting migraines every single day even though I haven’t had a lick of dairy since I returned, but was it worth it?  I have to admit, yes, I’d do it again.  To me, experiencing the culture of a place is so closely tied with the food.  How can you go to France and not have crêpes outside the corner café?  How can you go to Switzerland and not have chocolate?  It’s just the price I have to pay.  And I do it with a smile on my face.  : )

Building Blocks Show is Small and Special!

July 2, 2009

I had the opportunity to go to the Small and Special business conference on Tuesday in the Georgetown Ballroom of Seattle.  Hillel, one of my husband’s old co-workers who now runs Jackson Fish Market (software co.), put the event on, along with his business partners.  It was a great opportunity to get to hear from some successful small business owners and see what other passion projects people are working on in the Seattle area.  Thanks to everyone there for being cool that 8 month old Rodger came along.  Still breastfeeding.  : ) 

The two speakers I was most interested to hear from were Jon Rimmerman and Rachel Venning.  Jon runs Garagiste, a wine retailer and I’m pretty sure my husband has financed at least one of his wine-finding expeditions through his purchases.  : )  Garagiste is unique in that they don’t have a storefront and you don’t buy off their website.  Jon sends out an e-mail every time he finds a great wine and if people are interested in purchasing it, they can reply to his e-mail.  It’s really all too easy.  I really enjoyed learning his philosophy to business through his talk.  He tries to de-emphasize the selling aspect and just bring the customers in to his “family” through his stories. 

Rachel Venning is one of the owners of Babeland, an adult toy shop, which according to their website, is “a pleasant place to shop.”  I have to admit I have been in there more than once and it really is pleasant, which is why I was so interested to hear Rachel speak.  It isn’t creepy, dirty or intimidating like so many other adult stores.  What I took away from Rachel’s talk is that you can create a place where passion really drives the business and then enthusiasm and drive will come from not just the owners, but the employees and customers as well. 

Of course, whenever you go to this type of event, you come away with so much more than you anticipated.  I also heard some great presentations from Steven Bristol of Less Everything, Eric LeVine of Cellar Tracker and many others.  All of the attendees also received a copy of the book Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, so I’m looking forward to reading that as well.  Props to the whole S and S team for t-shirts in my size, surprisingly great food and a very smooth first run!

Massive Monkees is a breakdancing group that performed there.  I only wish the stage had been higher so we could have seen all the awesome moves!  Check out a video of their stuff:

New Episode Up: Making Red Sauce (Sunday Gravy)

July 1, 2009 

Our latest episode, Making Red Sauce, is up. Italian cook Vinny Pasceri shows us how to slow cook his versatile Sunday Gravy to use with pasta dishes like ziti, lasagna and manicotti.  The meatiness of Sunday gravy separates it from other red sauces, like marinara.

Vinny grew up in a Long Island Italian-American family with a passion for cooking.  His red sauce is influenced by all of the savory gravies his parents and grandparents simmered up during their family dinners every Sunday.  Watching this video, I’m sure the history and passion will inspire you to build your own tradition of great food and family. 

Here is a ziti recipe that I used the Sunday Gravy in.  Although not normally a fan of the graininess of whole grain pastas, the texture is good in ziti, since it gets cooked twice. 

Whole Wheat Baked Ziti

You will need:

Put it together:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cook pasta until al dente and drain
  • Mix eggs, mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino in a large bowl  
  • Add pasta and sauce to cheese mixture
  • Put in pan(s)
  • Optional – Add 1/2 lb sliced mozzarella on top
  • Optional – Brown and mix in 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • Cover with foil and bake 50 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • Optional – Take foil off and brown 10 minutes