Tuesday, May 29, 2012

...these are a few of my favorite things...

Many of you, at one time or another, have asked me for advice on the best place to buy spices, find good produce, dine out, or track down the best meats.  I thought I'd do a blog post highlighting a few things that make me just giddy thinking about them...  I'll do this every once in a while until all of my secrets are out : )

Big John's PFIhttp://www.bigjohnspfiseattle.com/ ~ 206.682.2022
This is, hands down, my best source for bulk spices, flours, legumes, and good Mediterranean products.  It's one of those places that I walk in to with a specific list and end up with a shopping cart full...  They have very good olive oil, cheeses, bulk olives and feta (bring a container from some brine), and lots of bulk chocolate (Callebaut, Guittard, and some new single-origin brands).  PFI is kind of hard to find the first time, but once you discover it, you will consider it a hidden gem as well!  Besides, they have perfect food phrases painted on all of the store pillars...

Tacoma Farmer's Marketshttp://www.tacomafarmersmarket.com/
Local produce and products abound at the 6th Ave and Broadway markets.  For me, the 6th Ave market is the most convenient market in the area since it's in the evening on a Tuesday! 

Hitchcock Restauranthttp://hitchcockrestaurant.com/ ~ 206.201.3789
This Bainbridge Island treasure is my current restaurant crush.  We've been up a couple of times and had the chef's tasting (you say how much you want to spend, they bring you the best dishes of the night); the quality surpasses any meals that I've had in Washington outside of Seattle.  Chef Brendan is definitely rocking the house and challenging us all to bring up the culinary scene in the south / west sound.
Minterbrook Oyster Company ~ http://www.minterbrookoyster.com/ ~ 253.857.5251
This ultra successful oyster farm is my best source for shellfish- clams, mussels, oysters.  I love being able to stop in and order a few dozen, then head over to the warehouse and have the staff sort them right there for me.  This is one of the most successful operations in the country (if not the world), and they are also espouse a strong philosophy of water quality preservation and sustainability.   

For goodness sake, just take one look at this guy's food and photography, and if you can't tell why this is my favorite blog, I'm not sure I can help you...  He is a private chef in New York City and I am completely jealous of his food (and camera)!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, the next few sentences may seem redundant as I am sure I've said these words before...perhaps in this exact order...  The book "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi is awesome!  It's a vegetarian cookbook for the sake of vegetables, not to shun meat or support diet fads or whatever.  The author is not vegetarian himself, but he gives the veggies highlighted in his book the kind of care that most chefs reserve for meats and well, meats...  The recipe below is a recent favorite of mine; I love fennel in general (that almost rhymes!), and we have some great local goat cheese producers in the area, so this is a perfect way to bring the two together.

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese
(adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s "Plenty")
yield: 4 servings

4 fennel bulbs
2 T unsalted butter, divided (preferably Organic Valley Pasture Butter, kind of because it's organic, but mostly because it's the butter version of heaven)
3 T olive oil, divided
2 T granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
sea salt to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T fresh dill, minced
1/2 cup fresh, local, goat cheese, broken into chunks or spooned into a pretty shape
zest of 1 lemon

Remove the branch and root ends from each fennel bulb, keeping a few lacy fronds to garnish with. Cut the bulb into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Melt 1 T butter with 1 1/2 T oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the sliced fennel in a single layer (don’t crowd the pan or the vegetables won't caramelize - this will take a couple of batches). Cook without moving until just brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve on a plate. Repeat with the remaining butter, oil, and fennel slices. Add the sugar, fennel seeds, and a pinch each of salt to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add the fennel back to the pan and cook undisturbed for another 1-2 minutes to caramelize. Return to the plate to cool. Gently mix the cooled fennel, garlic, and dill together. Spoon onto a decorative plate and top with the goat cheese, lemon zest, fennel fronds, and an extra pour of your favorite organic, extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil.