Not Martha

My Favorite Fancy Toast: Ajvar and cheese

I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about artisinal toast in San Francisco and lately news has been talking about the toast trend hitting Seattle, but I remember fancy toast being here years ago. There was a cafe called Nervous Nellie’s (now closed) that offered coffee and interesting toast. There was cheese, and jam, and jam and cheese, and a red pepper relish. I tried it because I’d never heard of it and I really liked it. A whole lot. It was savory and tangy and a nice change from the usual sweet breakfast offerings.

Nervous Nellies is closed now but I tracked down the ingredients to make the same style of toast. A bit of snooping around archived web pages and my old notes leave me believing that the ingredients I remember are Lappi cheese (a very mild cheese, havariti will work just as well), and Ajvar, a red pepper spread. To assemble: add butter and a sprinkling of good salt to the toast, then slices of cheese and spread the Ajvar on top. The toppings are cold and creamy and a little spicy and tangy. I don’t think everybody will like Ajvar but I highly recommend giving it a try should you come across it.

Some notes:

Nervous Nellie’s listed their red pepper relish as “Lutenica” on the menu but after doing a tasting of a few relishes I’m convinced that they were using something closer to Ajvar. At the imports store I found both hot and mild Ajvar as well as Pepptizer and Lutenica. They all looked similar with the exception of a few different ingredients. Clearly there had to be a taste test.

Mild Ajvar: This is what I remember, it’s got a very mild heat. Mostly tangy and a little sweet, very fresh tasting.

Hot Ajvar: There is a extra zing of spiciness but no acid (no tomatoes). It’s a still a relatively gentle heat.

Lutenica: This one is more blended and looks more like a sauce than a relish. This is definitely not what I remember from the Nervous Nellie’s toast. It’s got more garlic and the taste of cooked tomatoes, and it doesn’t taste fresh.

Peppetizer: Too much onion and something tastes off, like stewed vegetables. Not what I’d want on toast.

If you’re in Seattle I tracked down Ajvar at Big John’s Pacific Foods Imports in SODO and the Lappi cheese at Scandinavian Specialties in Ballard. This winter Trader Joe’s had a red pepper relish that I suspect is the Zergut brand with a TJs label and last time I was in the store they still had a number of jars available. (I had the opportunity to ask a TJs employee and he said it was almost certainly one of those seasonal items that they won’t be stocking again after the run is sold out.)

· comments [13] · 04-9-2014 · categories:food ·

links: food

Vegan: Crispy Smoked Mushroom “Bacon” | Serious Eats.

Dominique Ansel to Debut Milk & Cookie Shots at SXSW – Eater. Milk served in a chocolate chip cookie shot glass, lovely. From the guy who brought the cronut to the world.

How To Make Amazing Cold Brew Coffee – Business Insider. Via a post about how to have coffee in a coffee-less office over at Ask Metafilter.

Hungry Cravings: Adventures in Extruded Pasta.

Have You Ever Tried an Opal Apple? | Serious Eats.

Carbonated Celery Gimlet – Recipe – ChefSteps. (Video.) From The GastroGnome’s Best of 2013.

A Beginner’s Guide to Italian Wine | Serious Eats.

Just 1 Bottle: 15 Cocktails to Make With Gin and a Trip to the Grocery Store | Serious Eats.

Best beer bars in Seattle – Thrillist Seattle. Naomi nailed this list.

Rise and shine: Kouign aman achieves pastry perfection | OregonLive.com. Two recipes and tips on making the best possible.

Gin and Tonic with Cucumber Bursting Boba | Gratuitous Foodity. A recreation of The Aviary’s gin and tonic with encapsulated cucumber juice and a good explanation on how to make popping boba of any flavor. Via this question on Ask Metafilter about making alcoholic boba drinks.

· comments [6] · 04-2-2014 · categories:food · links ·

Freezer Pantry: baked brown rice

I love brown rice but I’m too impatient to make it for dinner so I borrowed an idea from Trader Joe’s and cook it in advance and keep it in the freezer so it’s just a microwave away from being ready to eat. It’s also great to have around for a fast breakfast of an over easy egg on rice, which I default to a lot when I’m feeling lazy.

I’m terrible at cooking rice in a pot (burned rice, melted pots, other tragic results) so instead I bake it using instructions from Alton Brown and Good Eats and no pots have been ruined since.

To make: Put 1.5 cups brown rice and a teaspoon of salt in an 8×8 baking dish. Pour 2.5 cups boiling water over the top, stir and cover tightly with tin foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour. Allow to cool, divide into portions and freeze.

I do two or three batches at the same time and I’ve used larger baking dishes and even pie plates with good results, no need to have multiple 8×8 baking dishes hanging around. If you’re a rice texture snob this cooking method probably won’t make you happy, but hey, convenience.

· comments [9] · 03-24-2014 · categories:food ·

Freezer Pantry: fresh pasta

I recently received a KitchenAid pasta roller attachment as a gift. I asked for just the single pasta roller, none of the other cutter attachments, because my kitchen is tiny and I’m happy enough to cut my own noodles into wide strips. And if it comes down to something as thin as linguine I’m far more likely to used a boxed pasta anyhow.

It is so much fun to make pasta but with all the flour being scattered about it’s worth making a whole lot of noodles at the same time. A little research tells me that freezing fresh pasta will preserve the flavor better than drying it and the best way to freeze it is in bundles or nests.

Technique: Toss your just-made pasta with extra flour so it won’t stick together. Let it dry for a few minutes then fold and twist into bundles. Freeze those on a parchment lined baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container. When you are ready to cook simply drop one bundle into boiling water, the noodles should separate from each other easily. Also, voilà, fresh homemade pasta appears before you like magic!

Before I did nests I decided that individual pasta strands rolled up, frozen and stacked together would be charming. And they were, but obviously they stuck together like mad in the boiling water. Oops.

· comments [9] · 03-4-2014 · categories:food ·

Freezer Pantry: caramelized onions

Scott and I have schedules that mean during the workweek we only cook dinner together about two times a week. This makes it impractical to keep a lot of fresh food in our fridge (cleaning it out got depressing, so many unidentifiable items) so we tend to pick something up to cook earlier in the same day. To make it even easier I’ve been figuring out what half-prepared foods to keep in the freezer. For whatever reason if I made something complete (say lasagna) and freeze it we never seem to actually eat it, we prefer to make something we are craving so having components that will cut down on dirty dishes and chopping time have been making a big difference. It nearly makes me feel like I’m qualified to be an adult.

I’ve mentioned a few things I keep in the freezer before — kale, bacon layered so it’s easy to just grab a few slices, bolognese sauce — and the latest staple I’ve added is caramelized onions. I use the recipe from Tea and Cookies which mostly calls for “time, patience, and faith” which isn’t an exaggeration. The first time I caramelized onions I had to restrain myself from them off the stove too early. They need to be nice and dark:

Image by Tara Austen Weaver, Tea and Cookies.

Basic technique: two sliced onions in a 10-inch pan, 1/4 cup olive oil, medium high heat, stirring every five minutes and patience. It will take about 30 minutes. For a more detailed description go read the entry at Tea and Cookies and follow her tip about slicing bits a little thicker than others. I let these cool, put them in ziplock bags pressed flat and freeze them. Then I break off a tablespoon or so as I need it.

So far we’ve mostly been using them in egg dishes. For the omlette pictured above I used mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese left over from a salad with some of the caramelized onions to create a way more delicious breakfast than I usually have. Tara describes caramelized onions as the bacon of the vegetarian world, they are smoky and salty and add a hit of flavor whatever you add it to. And people, yum. Also, having them on hand will make you feel like a genius.

· comments [11] · 02-27-2014 · categories:food ·

links: food

is this STILL the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, ever? At Shelterrific.

Orangette: A good person to know. A good steel cut oatmeal recipe, and she reports that it reheats well.

Check It Out: Ernest Hemingway’s Personal Burger Recipe | Man Made DIY.

How to: Make Edible Spoons – The Perfect Holiday Treat! | Man Made DIY.

Gin Gin Cocktail, at The Ginger People website. I’m a wee bit obsessed with their Ginger Juice and all the things it can do (ginger/lemon/bourbon toddy has been a regular this winter).

11 Healthy Kale Recipes – Health.com. I would eat every one of these, who wants to do the dishes for me? Via Swiss Miss.

Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To, and the follow up “Black Rust” and Cast Iron Seasoning. This is fantastic, the how and why and what for seasoning cast iron. Via Kottke.

Valentine’s Day Treat: Cupid’s Creme Brulee // Hostess with the Mostess®. She makes caramelized hearts inside a silicone mold, what a great use for it.

Perfect Soft Boiled Egg | Eat the Love. My only regret from getting to visit America’s Test Kitchen is not forcing them to answer their best technique for soft boiled eggs. Mine is still the Egg-Perfect Timer.

Tom’s Supermarket Picks: quality oils at good prices | Truth in Olive Oil. Great information when you want a good olive oil but are only headed to your local grocery store. The notes on inequality among lines at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are interesting. Via Kottke.

5 More Great Cocktail Blogs You Should Read | Serious Eats.

Sprizee :: A simple girl replete with complications: Roasted Vegetable Lemon Tahini Salad. This looks delicious and it’s so simple.

· comments [3] · 02-18-2014 · categories:food · links ·

thing I like: Scanpan

Years ago I received a Scanpan 8-inch frying pan as part of some conference* schwag**. Sometime after that our regular small nonstick frying pan finally went to the cookware grave and we pulled out the Scanpan. We were pretty darn impressed with it’s nonstickablility and how easy it made it to cook an over-easy egg just right every time so we continued to use it. For four years. I’m just now taking note of how awesome it is. The pan is easy to use, it’s easy to clean, nothing ever sticks, it holds up to my clumsy handling and stacking beneath dirty dishes and, despite four years of near daily egg cooking, you have to look really close to see any scratches. Thumbs up.

I have to say though, when I went to find our pan over at Amazon I was a little aghast at the price ($120, on sale for $90). And then I thought a little bit about the psychology of how we value things, or fail to value them if they’ve been handed to us. And then I thought about all the nonstick pans we’ve owned that came before it, inexpensive numbers that scratched easily and flaked horrifyingly after only a few years. Each of those was $10 to $20 and, had we been more responsible, we’d have replaced after a year of use. (And then I thought about the Great Toxic Teflon Freakout of 2008ish and did a bunch of reading which made me conclude that I am not qualified to defend nonstick but I am confident that I’m not poisoning myself.) Added up the Scanpan has nearly already been worth the price tag and I anticipate it going strong for another four years. So if you know you’re going to use it well and you have the cash, Scanpan is worth it.

* It was a hefty bag of free items that has since become the stuff of legend. I am pretty sure it was the first International Food Bloggers Conference, but not absolutely certain. I do know that I paid to attend said conference so this wasn’t a case of a blogger getting free stuff just because.

** Let’s discuss swag vs. schwag. I have a personal preference to use the word schwag because one of my theater professors in college was known to have occasional emotional outbursts over off-topic irrational things while teaching class and one of those that I had the privilege of being present for was a rant over the use of the word swag. He said: swag is used to describe the way that one drapes a curtain, schwag is the free stuff you get at a conference. The end. And so, because I believe he can still see into my very thoughts, I use the word schwag.

· comments [23] · 01-15-2014 · categories:food · shopping ·

links: food

Cheesy Mashed White Beans With Kale, Parmesan, and a Fried Egg | Serious Eats.

High-Proof Talent – Winter Survival Guide – The Stranger. This tour of Seattle distilleries has me thinking of gathering some friends and seeing if we can pitch in for some dedicated transporation.

Bubble and Sweet: Pinata Smash Cake DIY tutorial. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner.

The Food Lab: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | Serious Eats. J. Kenji López-Alt on all the little things that make up the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Ask a Cicerone: What’s the Best Way to Learn About Beer? | Serious Eats: Drinks.

Are Din Tai Fung’s Soup Dumplings Worth the Wait? | Serious Eats. They opened their second location here in Seattle and predictably the wait time is immense.

· comments [4] · 01-7-2014 · categories:food · links ·

links: food

chalkboard birthday cake | a subtle revelry. I wish I’d thought of this.

One-Pot Wonders: Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Kale | Serious Eats. The kale negates all the ways this could possibly be bad for you. For real.

What’s the secret to a very fluffy omelette? – eggs | Ask MetaFilter. Really great tips in the answers here.

Diamonds for Dessert: Homemade Celebration Oreos. These are pretty darn cute.

Fresh Ginger Syrup | David Lebovitz. “Although the customers loved it, the reason I later found out why I was going through so much ginger syrup every week was that the staff liked it even more.”

Seattle News and Events | Five Apples to Try This Fall. Five varieties to try and a few suggestions for u-pick places. My friends take an annual trip to Jones Creek.

Help me find the kind of recipe that sticks in your memory for decades. | Ask MetaFilter. Lots of these look good, despite many of them counting as trashy. No mention of a glug of soy sauce over a block of cream cheese as the perfect holiday craker spread yet.

glitter pissing: doctor whoodles for you to scarf down. Dr. Who scarf colored noodles! Genius.

Must-Order Soup Dumplings and Wine Chicken at Long’s Noodle House in Vancouver | Serious Eats. For our next trip up to Canada.

· comments [3] · 12-3-2013 · categories:food · links ·

links: food

Wine Glass Ring Pops Make The World A Better Place, at The Frisky.

The best macaroni and cheese: traditional vs. Modernist at Science Fare. Fun experiment, have a macaroni party and let your diners choose which is better. I gotta try this.

Campari Shandy, by those geniuses behind Essex and Delancey. This is part of a new cocktail column and I bet each and every one will be outstanding. Evidence: The Queen Mary is my very favorite cocktail at Essex and only available when there are ripe tomatoes from their garden. Out of season now but well worth keeping around for late next summer.

Julia Child Was Wrong: Don’t Wash Your Raw Chicken, Folks : The Salt : NPR. “But science, says Quinlan, is really giving the lazy a free pass — nay, an imperative — to cut out this step.” Lazy for the win!!

Food Worth Growing: Mexican Sour Gherkin | You Grow Girl. She calls them “Barbie Doll Watermelons” because they are so very wee.

Best Food Bloggers of All Time | FirstWeFeast.com. I have geeked out over most of these, some of them right to their face (which was awkward, I admit).

Bonavita’s Porcelain Immersion Coffee Dripper: The Best of All Worlds? | Serious Eats: Drinks. I think I need one of these.

Sprinkle Bakes: Raspberry-Champagne Layer Cake with Victorian Cake Pulls. A sweet lesson on cake pulls and how to keep them tidy.

· comments [2] · 11-26-2013 · categories:food · links ·

Eat a Liege style waffle in Belgium: Check.

Last weekend I checked off an item on my life list and the first of four things I’m hoping to do while on my trip to the UK. I ate a Liege style waffle while standing firmly on Belgium soil. While standing in Bruges to be exact.

We found the first one within less than an hour of arriving in the city. It was delicious. Warm and yeasty and sweet and the perfect way to shake off the the slight panic brought on by finding all the train station listings in Belgium to be in Dutch and therefore completely incomprehensible to us and being without a SIM card for Belgium. Oh the horror.

The next day we set out to find more and, delightfully, it wasn’t difficult. I’m including the time stamps below so you can see how easy it is to stumble from one waffle place to the next. In all of these we bought the hot waffles from the window of a shop and ate them while wandering around.

4:08 p.m.

6:34 p.m.

6:45 p.m.

7:12 p.m.

7:16 p.m.

And after that we really needed to stop and go find some salad for dinner.

The next morning we had a waffle from this adorable van. We ate it while standing in a park and looking at a Medieval cathedral. Bruges I love you.

· comments [14] · 10-21-2013 · categories:food · travel ·

links: food

Princess castle from frozen raspberries and yogurt – Kiddie Foodies. This is utterly charming, and made simply using an ice mold. Via Edible Crafts.

Beautiful 3D Printed Objects Made of Sugar by the Sugar Lab | Colossal.

Roasted Zucchini-Chickpea Dip with Za’atar | Serious Eats.

Cronut Recipe | The Daily Meal. You know you want to try it, you don’t have to tell anybody. I like this version that is like the Morning Bun made love to the Cronut. Like a Cronutbun.

Ultra-Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna | Serious Eats. I have a sudden urge to make lasagna, apparently.

G0ive me your recipes for hole-in-the-wall Chinese food that I can make at home. | Ask MetaFilter.

The Kitchy Kitchen: Puff Pastry Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar and Maple Glaze. Inspired by the cronut, but made with readymade puff pastry. Lazy-ish baking, very smart.

swissmiss | Bnto Canning Jar. An insert for canning jars that puts a little container for salad dressing/peanut butter/yogurt at the top of the jar. Neat.

Grilling: Cremini Mushrooms Stuffed with Basil- and Parmesan-Mayo | Serious Eats.

Cocktail Science: All About Foams | Serious Eats.

· comments [0] · 08-12-2013 · categories:food · links ·

links: food

Mini Sugar Skulls That Double as Sugar Cubes, at Laughing Squid. Cute and so very creepy.

The Food Lab: 7 Old Wives’ Tales About Cooking Steak That Need To Go Away | Serious Eats. The searing tip (cook over low heat, sear last) is alone worth reading this.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler » How To Make Your Own Ginger Beer. Via @voraciousgirl.

How to: Make Your Own DIY Smoked Cocktails | Man Made DIY.

Nora Ephron’s favorite cookie comes from Seattle | Seattle Times. Recipe from Tom Douglas.

Satan’s Circus Recipe: Bon Appétit. Via Orangette.

Naan | eCurry – The Recipe Blog. See also How to sort of make naan at home at Serious Eats. I’m hoping to make naan as good as what we get at Poppy here in Seattle.

· comments [2] · 07-22-2013 · categories:food · links ·

Star shaped foods for the Fourth

We aren’t doing anything special for this July 4th, unless you count sitting on our deck reveling in the sunshine. Ahhhh. But I do want to point towards my post from earlier this year talking about star shaped foods. I made these for the Oscars but hey, stars are versatile. I’m definitely going to make the star shaped corn chips again, they were easy to make and strong enough to stand up to guacamole but not so strong that they Captain Crunch the inside of your mouth. You know?

Other star foods I’m eyeing include the star shaped mini pies at Say Yes to Hoboken and, of course, the star shaped watermelon slices for fruit salad.

· comments [3] · 07-3-2013 · categories:food · holidays ·

thing I like: Hot Cakes vegan caramel sauce

I accidentally bought this jar of caramel sauce. I mean, I did set out to buy caramel sauce but I accidentally bought the vegan version. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you but just in case I’ll point out that I am not a vegan.)

It turns out that it was a wonderful mistake because this is made with coconut milk and when poured over vanilla or chocolate ice cream the combination of flavors closely approximates the anticipation/love/scarcity I feel when eating a Girl Scout Samoa cookie. I will need to file this away for the “Girl-Scout-Cookie-!” mental alert that my brain gives me about three months too early each year.

· comments [6] · 06-25-2013 · categories:food ·