Monthly Archives: March 2012

The best kind of tourist: Seattle Staycation (part 2)

Well, the glorious spring break I told you about last time has come to an end, and the impending wave of homework can be seen once again, cresting on the horizon, threatening to drown me. (just kidding…sort of)

The last week of my Seattle Staycation was so much fun though, I am grateful I get to re-live it by telling you about it here.

space needle view

The day after I left off my last post, I headed downtown to be a tourist and that theme continued throughout the week. Now, I love going to new places and seeing new cities, but when I’m a tourist I always find myself overwhelmed with how much there is to do and how little time I have to do it all. This is often compounded by the fact that I tend to get lost – a lot – thus leaving me with even less time to experience everything the place has to offer. And at the end of a long day of walking and tourist-ing around, no matter how nice the hotel is that I’m staying in, I always just wish I could sleep in my own bed.

Well, this time I got to be the best kind of tourist: one that wasn’t pressured to see every single thing in one day (since the sights and I will both still be here next time.) One that didn’t get lost (well, I did still get lost a couple times…but I was able to get back on track faster!) And one that, at the end of a long, fun day was able to go back to my own home and sleep in my own bed.

top pot doughnut

So, getting back to my adventures…that up there is a Top Pot doughnut. Yum. Unsurprisingly, much of my activity during this week of hometown touristing was focused on food. In addition to doughnuts, I ate some lovely homemade pasta at a tucked away place called Il Corvo while I was downtown. But! I also did other things. Fun, intellectually stimulating, culture-y things.

Olympic sculpture park

I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is right on the waterfront in downtown Seattle (read: beautiful). Even better, the day that I went happened to be gorgeously sunny – one of a few sunny days that we had here that week. I like to think the gods knew I was on spring break.

Elliot Bay

I also went on an entertaining and education tour called Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, during which I learned lots of fascinating things about the history of Seattle and what it was like to live here in olden times.

One of these factoids that stuck with me was about how in the late 19th and early 20th century, most of the roads in downtown Seattle were built about 20 feet above the sidewalks because the city ran out of money to raise the sidewalks above sea level after they had already raised the roads. This meant that people literally had to climb huge ladders in order to cross the street, and that most businesses had both a lower door (level with the sidewalk) and an upper door (level with the road). When the city finally did build up the sidewalks, they made them hollow so that people could still use the lower level sidewalks and entryways. In order to let light into this underground area, they built skylights that are still there today, though the old glass has turned purple.

underground skylight from below underground skylight from above

Having sated my appetite for history with that tour, I then headed up to the observation deck of the tallest building in Seattle, called Columbia Center, to get the ol’ adrenaline going (man did it, this sucker is TALL) and saw some breathtaking views.

view from columbia center

On another equally lovely, sunny day David and I rode a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride alone, and stunning views it afforded us, was almost enough to warrant the trip. While there we ate an amazing lunch at Cafe Nola and spent a couple of hours wandering around The Bloedel Reserve, a beautiful nature reserve and garden open to the public.

bloedel reserve reflecting pool

Those were the highlights, and though there is more I am going to have to end my gushing here. Suffice it to say that my Spring Break Seattle Staycation was a total success. By the end of it I felt relaxed and refreshed and, best of all, I had increased my knowledge of, and love for, my new city by leaps and bounds.

view of downtown from the ferry

On the last day of my respite we visited the Ballard Farmers Market where I bought a bunch of the first broccoli rabe of the season. As much as I have embraced and enjoyed the winter offerings of the farmers market, I was giddy at the sight of some spring veggies.

broccoli rabe

I used the broccoli rabe right away in a simple pasta dish in which it is blanched and then lightly sautéed along with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes. It is a perfect quick dinner to welcome spring.

Since I pretty much followed the recipe for this dish from Simply Recipes to the letter, I will just point you there: Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Happy spring!

finished pasta dish

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Pacific Northwest

When pumpkin bread is a health food: Seattle Staycation (part 1)

Hello world. I am coming to you today from Spring Break. It’s not the stereotypical Spring Break of course, no beach, no drunk college kids, and definitely no bikinis, but it’s my time to have a little less on my mind, more time to cook, and even a couple of days off.

backyard flowers

It is glorious.

We actually did think about going somewhere tropical over my break. All the conventional Seattle wisdom told us that this was the thing to do – to get a break from the gray and the clouds and the rain. For various reasons, however, we decided not to go anywhere. Instead, I am in the middle of what I’ve been calling my Seattle Staycation.

It may not feel like spring here (in fact, it still feels decidedly winter-like, snow and all!), but I am determined to enjoy my time off and make the most of it in my city. I’ve been dragging David around for much of it, and we’ve had a great time so far.

Last Thursday, I finally got to visit Book Larder – a cookbook store that opened a few months ago. Yes you read that right, it’s a book store that stocks only cookbooks! Or, in other words, heaven. As if I needed more reason to go, the store also hosts cookbook authors on a regular basis to do cookbook signings and cooking demonstrations, and on that night was hosting an event for Joy the Baker (aka Joy Wilson)!

Joy the Baker speaking at Book Larder

There’s Joy, talking to us about her new cookbook and answering all sorts of crazy questions about coconut flour and her life goals. I have read and loved the Joy the Baker blog for years, and am totally in love with her new cookbook. Each of the recipes I’ve made from it so far has been delicious, and all the recipes are approachable and completely drool-inducing.

Joy herself is also a delight, as I got to experience on Thursday. Here she is signing my book while we talk about how much we love our cats.

Joy signing my book

That was a highlight, but the fun times kept on coming. We spent one afternoon doing some fun exploring of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. This included a massage for me (finally using a birthday present from two months ago!) at the lovely Massage Sanctuary. I highly recommend it, if you are ever so inclined and feeling indulgent. We also walked around Volunteer Park and visited the Conservatory where we got to a) be warm in the 80+ degree greenhouse (it was in the 30s outside) and b) see and read about an astounding number of beautiful and history-laden flowers. I know so much more about orchids now!

orchids at the conservatory

We also had lunch at the Volunteer Park Cafe, which has delicious vegetarian salads (I had a kale-squash-farro-lentil combo that I am obsessed with trying to recreate at home) and really good chocolate chip cookies.

One evening we headed downtown and went to see the new and much ballyhooed Paul Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. It is a wonderful exhibit and the audio tour they give you to guide you through is informative and enjoyable. Yay culture! Afterwards, we quickly got back to eating (which, if this blog post is any indication, is what we do 80% of the time) and had dinner at the Seatown Seabar and Rotisserie, right downtown by Pike Place Market.

seatown seabar, downtown seattle

We had king crab legs (oh la la!) and a little (cute!) chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert that was out of this world. I wish I could share a picture of it with you, but we devoured it before I thought of snapping a shot!

Other highlights include a concert at Columbia City Theater – a great show in a cozy space with awesome sound – yoga classes at a new (to me) studio called OmTown Yoga, a really cool bookstore called Third Place Books, as well as lots more eating…including:

  • Molly Moon’s for what I still think is the best ice cream I’ve ever had – such a treat!
  • Paseo for Cuban sandwiches and beans and rice. We had seafood sandwiches – shrimp and scallops – (since we don’t eat other meat) and they were excellent.
  • El Asadero, otherwise fondly known to us as the “burrito bus” because it is, yes, on an old school bus. It is also our favorite Mexican place in the city (so far).
  • Macrina Bakery for a delicious brunch and cupcakes that we somehow managed to save for dessert.

Macrina cupcakes

Whew! Just reading that makes me feel like I need to go for a run. It was all scrumptious though, and I don’t regret a bite. This is why, however, when I made the Vegan Pumpkin Bread from Joy the Baker’s new cookbook, it felt downright virtuous and healthy. More importantly though, it is delicious and is a perfect homage to a fabulous week.

vegan pumpkin bread

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Makes one 8×4-inch loaf

I halved this recipe, the one in the book makes two loaves, so that’s why the measurements are all a little funny. Even though I was only baking one loaf though, it still took almost an hour to cook so keep that in mind before starting the recipe!

  • 1 3/4 cup + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (if you don’t have fresh, you can substitute ground nutmeg)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp water
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 6 whole pecan halves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 8×4-inch loaf pan (I only had a 9×5-incher and it worked just fine).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup, and water.

Add the oil mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Use a spatula to fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well and work in any dry bits of flour/sugar. Then fold in the chopped pecans.

Put the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the 6 whole pecans on top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Once out of the oven, let rest for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm – plain or with a pat of butter.

yummy

I still have another few days of Spring Break left, so stay tuned for part 2 of my Seattle Staycation report! Also, if you want the updates on what I’m doing and where I’m gorging myself in real-time, follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook where I post much more frequent updates.

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Filed under Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Pacific Northwest

Redemption in the form of fish stew

Oh man, it’s been so long since I’ve posted here! I would explain, but you’ve already heard my excuses. So instead I will just get straight to the point.

I intend to redeem myself for my long absence by sharing with you, this stew:

brazilian fish stew

This is Brazilian Fish Stew (or Moqueca if you’re fancy). It is by far one my favorite dishes of all time and – if you like fish…and stew – I can almost guarantee that it will be one of yours too. It is ahh-mazing.

I do a lot of cooking around here (although not as much writing about it as I wish I could, obviously!) and the first time I made this stew my boyfriend immediately proclaimed it The Best Thing I’ve Ever Made. He is not a tough critic, mind you, but it is the only time (before or since) that he’s thrown out that superlative.

marinating fish

I got the recipe from Simply Recipes, but I don’t at all remember how I happened upon it. All I know is that one chilly March Sunday in Northern Virginia I made a batch and we slurped up the whole pot, oohing and ahhing all the while. I remember David being genuinely upset when he got full because it meant that he couldn’t eat it anymore.

In truth, it is not that different from other types of seafood stew: a rich, flavorful broth swimming with big, juicy chunks of fish (or other seafood). And I have to say, I haven’t yet met a seafood stew I don’t like. But this one holds a special place in my heart.

chopping veggies

The broth is bright, creamy, and just spicy enough. The veggie to fish ratio is about 50/50 (perfect, in my opinion). The fish is first marinated in lime juice and garlic, then stewed in the broth-y goodness until cooked just right.

scallions

I’ve never been to Brazil, so I can’t say that this stew makes me feel like I’m there because I don’t know what that feels like. And, ironically, the one ingredient that makes this stew characteristically Brazilian – palm oil – is generally left out because it is very hard to come by in the U.S. Someday I will find palm oil and I will make this stew with it! Someday! (On a side note, if you know where to get it, please do let me know).

What I can say is that this stew makes me feel warm and happy inside, no matter how cold, dark, snowy or incessantly rainy it might be outside. What more could you ask for?!

stewing veggies

I’m just finishing up my second quarter of grad school (one…project…left…) and it has been quite a doozy. So, after spending the better part of the past two months feeling like my brain is a punching bag for an angry gorilla, this stew was just the lift I needed to make it through the home stretch.

I hope it can do as much for you.

finished stew

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca)

Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes 6 servings (enough for leftovers, or a dinner party if you can bear to share it!)

Over the past couple years I’ve been slightly changing this dish to suit our tastes, so you should feel free to do the same. Or, you could go back to the original recipe linked to above. Either way, you will be happy! Also note that my adapted recipe below is a bigger batch than the original because we always want more of this stew and need to be able to eat it for multiple days in a row.

Fish Marinade:
  • 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish (I’ve always used cod), bones removed (if applicable, I tend to use thawed frozen fish so this isn’t an issue), cut into large portions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
Stew:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow and 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I often use a mix of fresh and canned)
  • 1/4 cup scallion greens (i.e. only the tops!), chopped
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish (I usually just use the whole bunch)
  • 2 14-ounce cans lite coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp palm oil (completely optional, but use it if you can find it and tell me what it’s like!)

Place fish pieces in a bowl, add the minced garlic and lime juice. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Turn pieces over with a pair of tongs so that all get well coated, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Keep chilled while preparing the rest of the stew.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened.

Add the bell peppers, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste.  Cook for a 3-4 minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and scallion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Then stir in the chopped cilantro.

At this point, remove about half of the vegetables and reserve them in a bowl (you’ll put them right back in). Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces (in one layer if possible) on top of the vegetables. Dump the lime juice and garlic from the fish marinade into the pot as well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add the rest of the vegetables back in, covering the fish.

Pour coconut milk and lemon juice (and palm oil, if using) over the fish and vegetables, don’t stir. Cover and bring soup to a simmer, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. You can stir once or twice during this time, but the less stirring, the better (in order to keep the fish pieces intact).

Taste and adjust seasonings. You will likely need to add more salt, and can also add more pepper, chili flakes, lemon juice, etc. if desired.

Once you have it seasoned to your taste, let the pot sit on low (just enough to keep it warm) for 5-10 minutes. You can eat it right away, but it is even better when the flavors have more time to mingle and develop.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with crusty bread if you have it, but it is also a fine meal on its own.

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Filed under Food, Main Course