Monday, September 29, 2008

Heirloom Dreams

Some say 'toe-MAY-toe.'

Others say "toe-MAH-toe."

I say Heirloom.

Pronunciation is often a topic of conversation and can become a hot debate between people who grew up saying the same word differently. There are many examples of words with differing pronunciations depending on the tongue. Though---- in my mind---- these hot topics began in the tomato world and garden of a dream I had.

I don't often dream of tomatoes, but when I do, they are a family of 6, each with their own personality, size, color, smell, and taste---- all a seated at the dinner table. In my dream, I was the Green Zebra Heirlette, seeing "red" and intent upon going cannibalistic upon the Mortgage Lifter Heirlee.

In case you're curious--- and didn't stop reading after the first sentence--- the Mortgage Lifter is named for the heirloom grower who sold his tomatoes for a dollar (when a goddamn dollar was worth something) in order to pay off his mortgage. Though the Mortgage Lifter is sweet and juicy, the Green Zebra is tart and unique. I woke up when I found out that the Green Zebra was not a true Heirloom, but instead is mistakingly called one for its decorative characteristics. And the fact that it is bred from 4 heirloom varieties.

Turns out the Green Zebra was also originally cultivated by a man in Washington.

Or is that Worshington?

Heirloom tomato and marinated Buffalo Mozzarella salad
with Nicoise Olive sea salt
The Players:

2 Ibs assorted heirloom tomatoes
4 oz Buffalo mozzarella
4 oz olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp chives
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
10 large basil leaves
Nicoise Olive sea salt

The Recipe:

-First, cut the mozzarella in half and then cut up each half into 1/4' slices and set aside.
-Mix olive oil, pepper, and balsamic vinegar into a large mixing bowl.
-Slice the garlic clove paper thin and add to bowl.
-Pull the rosemary leaves of the stem and add to bowl, then mince the chives, and add to the bowl. Mix well.
-Place the mozzarella into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for 2 to 3 hours. -Wash the tomatoes and then slice them into slices bout 1/4' thick. Arrange them on a platter.
-Pull the mozzarella out of the marinade and arrange on the platter with the tomatoes.
-Using a spoon, drizzle the leftover marinade onto the cheese and tomatoes.
-Roughly chop the basil and sprinkle it over the tomatoes and cheese
- Garnish dish with Nicoise Olive salt.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sticky buns Recipe

Cinnamon rolls with Caramel sea salt.

Cinnamon dough recipe:
- 1 cup water
- .25 oz of dry yeast
- 3 tbl sugar
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tbl butter

Caramel sauce recipe:
- 2 cups water
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cup heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 1 cup of luke warm water in a mixing bowl and add yeast, letting it bloom for 3 min. Stir until fully incorporated. Add both sugar and the flour and mix into a dough.

Use olive oil to grease another mixing bowl. Place dough inside and rub remaining oil on top of the dough and let stand covered until the dough doubles in size. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead and roll it out until it is a square that is about 1/4 inch thick.

Melt the butter and brush the dough with some butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon onto the dough. Roll up the dough into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 1 inch long portions and turn each on its side, placing onto a buttered 9" by 11" baking dish. Brush the tops of the buns with butter and sprinkle the remaining brown sugar and butter on top. Place into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

While the buns are in the oven, prepare the caramel sauce. Place the sugar and water into a sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Once the mixture starts to boil, brush any crystals off the side of the pan with a basting brush and water. Reduce the mixture until it is a deep cafe brown color, but not burnt. Turn off heat and add the heavy cream and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Take buns out of the oven and let cool for 10 min or until they start to pop out of the pan. Turn the rolls over and spoon caramel sauce over the top.

Garnish with Secret Stash Caramel sea salt. Bon appetito!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Salty Night Cap, or 3.

Chocolate-chip cupcake, cream cheese-frosting, and Vanilla sea salt.

My best friend on Friday night. Sorry Roz. Your ass was a close second.

I am fanatical about cup-cakes. Not a freak for them per se, but militant and hostile if denied my muffin top. If you already read the post below (of my Sunday wrap), we've come full-circle by way of a rewind to Friday night. That night, I celebrated a good friend's birthday (and for the first time this week, have had more reason to gobble wine than I do on any other given night).

His wonderful girlfriend made her birthday boy moist chocolate-chip cupcakes in place of a candle-strewn cake. OMG. Yet the best part (for me) was that she used our Vanilla finishing salt on top of the homemade cream-cheese frosting. It gets better: she handed me 3 for the road, none of which made it past the Ballard bridge before home. Yes. I was driving. While pummeling 3. Zero regrets.

La Tomatina Recipe

If I had a regret, this would be one: not experiencing "La Tomatina," a yearly Spanish festival that resembles a war-strewn zone of splattered tomatoes and thousands of people hucking a gluttonous amount of red globes back-and-forth at each other. Instead, I dedicate this dish to what in another life may very well have been me torpedoing a beefsteak tomato at a random compadre in Bunol, Espana. *Sigh*

Though this recipe could also be titled: "Sunday Salad Simplicity." If it were most characteristic of my current lifestyle, it'd be: "A Healthy Alternative to Friday and Saturday." I am one (of those) who cuts loose on the weekend, falling free out of the work monotony and hum-drum schedule that most weekdays by definition, just are. Even without a 9-5 job, I still manage to stress myself out.

Let's talk food. This recipe is great for 2 reasons. First, it is whip-stick easy to prepare. And secondly, it is ten-fold healthier than most of us were on Friday night.

It calls for:

1/2 pound chicken, skinless light meat, pre-cooked and cut into strips
1 large beefsteak tomato
1 head of broccoli
10 baby carrots
1 hand-full of spinach leaves
2 pinches of Nicoise Olive sea salt

Steam the broccoli and carrots together in a rice pressure cooker for 10-15 minutes or until they are half-way cooked through, yet still retaining a bit of a crunch. Set both aside and let cool. Chop the beefsteak tomato into as many halves as you desire. Cut the chicken into strips if it isn't already part of a left-over dish.* Wash and dry spinach leaves before plating them. Slice baby carrots in half and de-segment the broccoli into small trees. Plate all items together and sprinkle Nicoise Olive sea salt as a garnish. Olive salt is a fantastic substitute for heavy, preservative-laden salad dressings.

*For an even quicker fix to any chicken recipe, use a pre-cooked roasted chicken from the grocery store. They're the ones that doze away all day under the heat lamp till single men buy them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The photo shoot.

Hand-by-hand barcode application.

Shooting indoors.

We're officially up and running! After months of dedication and the help of friends (Harley, thank you), our salt launch has become a reality. We couldn't be more excited to share it with you.

Check us out at....

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homemade Crust

From Driver to Dough Boy.

Nicoise olive peppercorn salami for me, please.

Truffle-lick-licious. "I saw that."

The only secret I can divulge is .... buttermilk.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Joseph Conrad at Qube

At work.

Shop talk.

Madras curry fried chicken with lavender honey, frisee, lavender Fleur de sel, and truffle mash potatoes.

Valrhona chocolate trio...

1. Mexican hot chocolate with melted cinnamon and lychee marsh mellows.

2. Chocolate Gianduja cake with star anise caramel, creme fraiche, and Fleur de sel.

3. House-made chocolate and ginger peanut butter cup.

Our friends, Amanda and Matthew.

The Story behind the Salt

Sushi, (our Thanksgiving).
Janna's roll.
Expert Advice.

Le' prep station (mise en place).
Kung Pai!

Moving can be overwhelming in its own sense, yet even more so to a city that welcomes you without friends. Add that to a city that's characteristically grey 9 months of the year. Seattle is beautiful. Progressive. Green. Socially conscientious. Artistic. Musically-inclined. Entertainingly adventurous. And up-and-coming in the culinary world.

Yet without friends, family, or a dog to walk along the new trail with you, Seattle can be a challenge--- even to the proudest who view themselves as independent. I myself have made very few friends. I've been here for 2 years.

When Joe moved to Seattle from San Francisco and started working as an Executive-Chef, Qube restaurant became his city. His days eventually turned into 90-hour workweeks, leaving him little--- if any --- time outside of the kitchen. He saw Seattle from the inside looking out, a view that more often than not, was clouded by blotchy specks of rainy drizzle. As time went on, he poured his mind, body, and soul into the restaurant. To say he was its backbone is an understatement. He was much more.

Joe quickly grew on me, as people do over time. We worked side-by-side for a year. Many of our adventures took place in the culinary world of Qube restaurant, though just as many took place outside of.

Inside, he taught my taste buds to explore new elements and textures. Day to day, he amazed me with his innate talent and capacity to create beautifully cohesive dishes from scratch. I remember walking into work one day, seeing his giddy smile while he shoved a spoonful of goo in my face. Without an intro and context, I bit into the metal, as receptive as a baby is to a mother's spoon. I got it. I understood Joe. And what he did best.

Outside, he joined a soccer team I created as an outlet for our staff. We all worked hard inside, and often dealt with customers who treated us poorly. Soccer became a sweaty remedy after a negative night's work.

Yet the best part--- for me --- was to see a line cook, a bartender, a server, a sommelier, and a Chef work together outside just as hard as they did inside. We didn't win as many games on the field as we did in the restaurant, though we always consistently matched the challenge. Some even quit smoking to play better.

When soccer season came to an end, our snow season began.

During winter, we became a family who cooked Thanksgiving together and arguably debated over what we loved: food. For turkey day, Joe had hamachi and mackerel flown in from Japan. As untraditional as it was, it was us. Night after night, we cooked pizza at home and stuffed our bellies till the dough sent us to bed.

But most of our days were spent in the restaurant. And what we wanted more than anything was to turn people on to the food and wine we loved.

Looking back, I remember excitedly tearing the bubble wrap off the first chair. Finding a home for its legs made me think of all of the people who would sit in that chair over the next two years. It was a vision, backed by a passion, to be a part of the food and restaurant I believed in. Though many people would sit in that chair, they came and went. What remained constant was a group that had become our family.

The reasons why and circumstances that were out of our control didn't matter after the sad reality sunk in. When the restaurant went out of business, what mattered most was that Joe and I had formed a friendship. That friendship has inspired us to open another door together. Today, that door is Secret Stash Sea Salts, an endeavor that ultimately reflects our passion for good food.