Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gourmet Club - November 2009

Well that didn't go so well.

Tarah and I are part of a Gourmet Club that meets every few months. It's really just 4 couples of self proclaimed foodies that come up with a theme and have a ball eating great food and getting drunk. The meals usually consist of 5 courses with the host making the appetizer and the main dish. Comfort Food was the theme this time, leaving it basically wide open for interpretation. Tarah and I have been having so much fun with the busiati pasta that we wanted to do that for the club; plus it's standard that a dish is practiced and perfected before the club dinner which we've already done with this dish. "We'll just make a couple of small changes so it's more traditional" we said, "we're good at pasta, what could go wrong" we said. So instead of my normal pasta recipe we used a traditional Sicilian recipe with only semolina flour and water. And instead of the cheater method for making the shape we followed the video that I mentioned in my last posting.

The dough felt great and actually the new method of shaping the pasta worked well and was really fun. We learned in the past that the pasta needs to dry out in order to hold its shape during cooking; so we dried the pasta overnight.

After a delicious appetizer of polenta stars toped with a tangy chutney, and an exquisite example of what may be the embodied definition of comfort food, french onion soup, came our dish. We planned ahead and had the water heating before we sat down to the soup. After the soup we salted the water and through in the pasta. 2 minutes "no, I think it's basically dry pasta, it'll probably take just a bit longer" 5 minutes "no sorry it's still hard" 10 minutes then 15 minutes "what the fuck." Finally after 20 minutes in boiling water we removed and served the pasta. Everyone was polite as they discretely curled their tongs back to removed hard bits of pasta from their molars. The reality is I don't know if it would have ever fully cooked. The braised meaty main dish was another out of this world example of comfort food and what better way to end the theme but with warm molten chocolate toped with whipped cream. Overall the meal was great and we ended the night by having a cocktail at Boka (the bar on the first floor of their building).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Busiati; Pasta Recipe

One of our food highlights was eating busiati with trapanese. Busiati (or busiate I can't tell what's correct) is a special pasta shape found only on the west coast of Sicily; originating in the town of Trapani. Trapanese (its name gives it away as also being from Trapani) is an uncooked, hand pounded sauce of tomatoes, roasted almonds, basil, mint, garlic, and olive oil (link to sauce recipe) that is commonly served with the busiati. We fell in love with the shape for its look and its ability to hold a significant amount of sauce and knew we had to try making it when we got home.

We read that busiati is still being made totally by hand in the region but after having made it at home I really can't see how this is possible. Even after gaining some reasonable proficiency, it takes Tarah and me working together like 30 minutes to form this recipe into busiati, and that's only enough for like 2 to 4 people.

There seem to be a number of different ways of making busiate which you can see many examples of and videos of on the web (I especially like these two video 1 and video 2). But instead of rolling "worms" of pasta dough we simply rolled the dough into fettuccine noodles and wrapped those around a skewer. Also, this is my normal pasta dough recipe but actually buciati is traditionally made with a simple flour water dough. Next time I make them I'll try the traditional methods but for now I just wanted to make an approximation. And I have to say they have been really good.

Pasta Recipe -
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- Olive oil
- healthy pinch of Salt

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the eggs and ~2 Tbs of olive oil. Mix until it looks like homogeneous bread crumbs. while the mixer is running start adding water. This should only take a couple or few tablespoons. When the dough seems like it's starting to come together let it mix for a while longer and see if it will form a ball. If not add a little more water. Kneed the ball for just a little while then let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into quarters. Roll it out to a #5 on the Atlas pasta roller and cut into fettuccine noodles. Cut these noodles in half so you now have two piles of fettuccine noodles that each represent 1/8th the total recipe and are ~6 inches long. We found a wood skewers to work well for wrapping around. It is important for the pasta to dry for several hours or overnight to ensure that they hold their shapes during cooking. We cooked one batch just after rolling and they almost completely unrolled themselves. The finished dish below is from our Italy trip.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Italy - 2009

Tarah and I had a wonderful month in southern Italy. We combined a one week conference in Castellammare de Stabia (just south of Napoles) with three more weeks making our way down the Amalfi Coast and across Sicily. There were many highlights of the trip but the main highlight (aside from the obvious; being the food) I would say was the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast. I'm a little overwhelmed to just jump in with a run down of the entire trip so I think I'll dole out stories in random order as I feel like writing about them. Here's a link though to our web site where you can see many of the photos.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Drunken Goat's Celebration of Ale 5

The Drunken Goat's Celebration of Ale is a homebrew festival we host once a year. The idea is that people either bring a homebrew to share or food to add to the potluck with Tarah and me making the main dish. In past years the main dish has ranged from making a large pan of paella, to building a cinderblock oven and roasting an entire pig. This year with the completion of El Horno de Union we had pizza. My buddy Andrew (co-founder of the Columbia City Bakery - one of my very favorite bakeries in the city) has a commercial sized dough mixer that he keeps next to his bed in his apartment - there's no room for this thing in his kitchen. I was going to go to his place and use it but I didn't plan far enough ahead and ended up not getting it arranged in time. So in the end I kneaded by hand enough dough for 54 pizzas!

The beer turnout in the past has ranged from 5-9 beers but this year blew the record away with a whapping 14 beers, 1 hard apple cider, 2 pops, and a peach ice tea.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Paella with Xavi

Our very good friend Xavi from Spain visited us this weekend and we had an incredible time showing him around Seattle. We went out to see Eldridge Gravy - which was a kick ass energy packed show - on Friday night. On Saturday we went to Theo Chocolate in Fremont and down to the Pike Place Market for groceries and to have lunch at Uli's Sausage. I'll digress for just a minute to give a little plug for Uli's. If you haven't checked out Uli's for a while you may not know that they turned what used to be the sausage factory into a nice little eating area where you can get grilled sausages and have beer from the Alpine Brewing Co. Uli's is so fricking great; actually the whole market is just amazing. On a different path of digression; I get annoyed when Seattleites dismiss the Market and proclaim it to be for tourists. I love the market. It is touristy, but that's because it's great. It's one of the last of its kind in the US and a true treasure. I try to walk down to the Market at least a couple times a month. OK enough of my digressions. We got what we needed and headed home to cook up one of the gastronomic highlights of the weekend, seafood and chicken paella. It was done with a lot of Spanish intuition so I tried to take notes as Xavi cooked but this is kind of a rough recipe.

Paella Recipe


  • Olive oil
  • 2 dried ancho chilies - with the stem and seeds removed
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 chicken - pieced
  • ~20 shrimp, shells left on
  • ~20 calamari, cut into rings
  • ~20 mussels
  • 1 tsp of Chiquilin Food Colourant (optional)
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes - lightly puree in blender
  • 1 bag of frozen peas
  • ~3.5 cups paella rice
  • ~10 cups of 50/50 chicken stock and water
This recipe if for a 22 paella pan. This is the size that conveniently fits on a Weber BBQ. Starting inside on the stove add ~ 1 cup of olive oil to a large frying pan and fry the dried anchos over medium heat until almost burnt. They have done their job and imparted the oil with the necessary flavor so just discard them at this point (keep some that aren't blackened if you want a stronger chili flavor). Next, with the skins still on, fry the garlic cloves until very cooked and starting to blacken. Reserve these. Then fry the bell pepper until it's well cooked and reserve. Now on med-high, fry the chicken with the intention of browning it. It's not necessary to fully cook the chicken since it can finish cooking in the paella pan. The pan is nice and hot now and you can cook the shrimp - with their shells still on - very fast and finally the calamari rings will cook in literally just a flash. Add your canned tomatoes and fry untill reduced and thick. OK now your done inside.

You will have to work out the timing but meanwhile you will have started a nice hot charcoal fire. I used one full chimney of mesquite charcoal plus a couple extra pieces to fill out the grill. Set your paella pan over the fire and add ~ 1/2 cup olive oil and all of your rice. Stir it making a nice even layer over the pan and cook stiring frequently untill the rice begins to smell nice and sweet, a little popcorney. Make a nice uniform layer with the rice; at this point you will not stirr the rice again. Place on top of the rice your chicken pieces and all of the other fried yummies except for the tomatoes. Carefully, but quickly taking care not to burn your rice, add half the stock water mixture. In the remaining stock mixture stir in the tomatoe sauce and add to the paella. Finally add the muscles to the paella pushing then down into the liquid. Now all you have to do is make sure you have an even fire and rotate the pan if necessary and wait. DO NOT STIR. If you are running out of water and the rice is still not done you may need to add a small amount. You want to run out of water just as the rice is finishing and then leave it on the heat for a little while longer to brown the bottom. This crackly bottom is extra yummy.

I hope this is clear enough. If you have questions feel free to ask me.

Uli's Famous Sausage on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


We had fired up the oven twice with untreated, soft wood, 2x4 scraps. This wood was exceedingly easy to light, burned hot and fast and subsequently heated the oven up quickly. However, there was excessive amounts of smoke any time you put new wood in and once the oven got fairly hot (~600 F) the smoke turned to this nasty black creosote smoke. I talked with Mike from Rolling Fire at the University Market - I should mention that he is really making some of the best pizza in Seattle - and he suggested that the soft wood was just burning so fast in the hot oven that it couldn't burn efficiently and recommended using fruit wood instead. So I called up my buddy in Yakima that woks part time in his father-in-law's cherry orchard. He asked if I needed like a truck load to which I responded with a solid "oh crap no, just enough to fill up the back of my little VW Golf." Yeah it turns out getting a hold of fruit wood in Yakima is no problem. We filled the back of our Golf and didn't make a dent in the slash pile we were pulling from.

This last week we fired it up using the new wood and the difference was amazing. The cherry is hard to start so I used the 2x4 scraps to get it started. There was very little smoke, the wood formed hot coals, and we never reached a nasty black smoke period. We did have to watch it a little more closely and in fact at one point had to use the 2x4 scraps to restart it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The hottest and Nudest day ever

Today was proclaimed to be the hottest day ever in Seattle - with 103 at the airport - and the nudest day ever at Howell Park; these facts were presented by the National Weather Service and a jolly fat naked man respectively. Tarah and I deemed the naked man to be the official park greeter given his excitement to talk about the park, its history, and its police presence to anyone who seemed curious. According to him the police have taken up a very relaxed stance with regards to the beach. "At times they will drive by on the street level and ask people leaving if anyone down there has any complaints; then promptly leave when the answer is no" says our jolly greater. Tarah and I are no experts of the weather or of the nude levels of Howell Park but it sure felt hot today and there were definitely a lot of us nude folks on the beach tonight. I fricking love Seattle!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It is sooo nice and HOT

This is such an awesome summer in Seattle. Tarah and I have swam in Lake Washington 4 out of the last 5 days. We live on Union so we just head strait over Madrona to the lake and then a little north to Howell beach. It's my favorite one; very secluded and clothing optional.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kobe Beef Sliders

This is the first time that I've grilled up little sliders. For some reason little sliders are just more fun to eat than regular sized burgers. It's like the sandwich that your mom cut into bite sized triangles when you were a kid. After our sliders we headed over to Gasworks Park for the fireworks. This year there was only the show at Gasworks Park so we worried it would be even more crowded than normal but actually I think there were fewer people this year. The show was great and we had a nice 4th of July.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pizza Party

We had a successful oven firing and an incredibly good time on the 3rd. The 20 of us made short work of 23 pizzas. After the pizzas I baked 6 baguettes and finally a puffy pancake (Dutch baby) with raspberries.

You can see plans and other details of the oven at the following.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chinese Onion Pancakes and Strawberry Tart

Dinner tonight was simply excellent. I made Chinese onion pancakes but with a selection of different herbs rather than onions - chives, oregano, sage and rosemary. The recipe came from Jerry Traunfeld's book The Herbal Kitchen. Tarah made a strawberry tart that was described by Steven as possibly the best dessert that Tarah has made. It included a nutty crust, cream and Mascarpone with shaving of chocolate as the center, and fresh strawberries from the farmers' market on top. I love summer and eating outside with our friends.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

El Horno de Union es VIVO!!, Seattle Cob Oven

We had a party for all the people that helped build our oven and successfully fired it to full pizza temperatures this last weekend. The oven has been drying for about a month now and we have had some small fires but this was the first time we really fired the shit out of it. We don't have a thermometer but it was definitely super hot; the pizzas cooked in no time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

la Boucherie

Tarah and I have been enjoying chatting with and buying food from Sea Breeze Farm at the farmers markets. Their farm is on Vashon Island and they sell milk and cheese and wonderful meats. A few weeks ago at the market we found out they also run a restaurant on the island; of course we have to go to that!!

This last Friday I called up the restaurant for reservations and said we would bike out and asked if we could just camp on the farm. Our friend Matt invited us to stay at his intentional community, Vashon Cohousing, instead. This place was totally great. It's 18 family houses plus a large communal house with a huge kitchen, dining, living, kids play area, and a number of rooms all to share with the community and for guests, like us. The community also has a large garden, some goats, communal landscaping, and they are planning to build a cob style oven this summer.

La Boucherie is small and comfortable. You walk in and are greeted by a mouth watering meat display case. It's almost like you're in a butcher shop/restaurant; but not in a bad way, it's definitely a nice feeling restaurant. The menu has a prefix, a mini prefix plus you can order al la carte from the prefix. Normally I would be ecstatic to have zero choices and just let the art of the chef, and in this case the far, shine through, but in this case Jerusalem artichoke soup was one of the courses and although both of us love the flavor, those little fuckers (AKA Fartachokes) wreak havoc on our digestive tracks.

The wine list had an old version of the menu on the flip side which included kidneys in a cream sauce. I ask Matt if we can get some; he thinks for a second and then replies that he will have to check. In a few minutes he comes back with two glisteningly fresh kidneys and tells us they just came out of the animal. OH what a treat!! Just a few seconds later he returns to show us the still fresh kidneys now cut in half. The next time he returns they are browned, but still pink, and drizzled with a cream sauce. The taste is dark and complex almost woodsy like a mushroom but with a sense of the barnyard and mildly reminiscent of other organs like liver. Delicious to say the least.

For the main dish of the night you could choose between either roasted lamb or roasted pork with sides of broccoli and potatoes. The sides may sound like cheap diner fare but the broccoli was long and thin and very tender (almost more like rapini) and the potatoes were mashed to a perfect creamyness with a complexity of taste that I can only imagine came from some meat broth or freshly rendered lard; both delicious and nothing like the frozen broccoli and tasteless mashed potatoes that you had in your head.

"I feel like being dazzled by just a little something more; anything you like; maybe another organ." I said to Matt. By that time we had drank the better part of bottle of delicious red house made wine (Cock's Red) which brought out the silly in Tarah who kindly pointed out that I had just asked Matt to dazzle me with his organ.

Matt thought about it for a second then said "yes I have something in mind" and headed to the kitchen. He returned shortly to tell us he had discussed it with a friend in NY and that it was going to be good.

And oh how it was! It was fresh seared pork belly with a very light herby cream sauce. He informed us they had made a trial run first that they consumed in the kitchen and loved.

We finished with a couple of bites of a warm flowerless chocolate torte.

MMMMM I love food!!!

La Boucherie on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

El Horno de Union day 3, Seattle Cob Oven

Structurally the oven is all done now. We need to let it cure for a couple more days and then we'll take out the door (praying that it doesn't collapse), and remove the sand form from inside. After that we will still only light small fires, curing it slowly for a couple more weeks. On Monday I used the grill area on the side; it worked but the fire didn't stay very hot so I may need to add a grate that the coals sit on for better air flow. The lines all over it are to enable the final decorative layer to stick. We'll do that layer out of terracotta colored clay and press beach glass into it. The chimney is made of an old Seattle clay sewer pipe that I got from my neighbor; it's not for the oven, it was intended to encourage good airflow across the grilling area but at this point it seems to be more for looks than anything. More pics at http://groups.google.com/group/seattle-hornos/web/union-framilys-horno-construction.