Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taiwanese Salt their Coffee

TAIPEI (Reuters) - "Taiwanese java fans accustomed to pouring sugar into their coffee now have the option of flavoring their brew with another white powder: sea salt.

Taipei's buzzing 85C Bakery Cafe is offering a T$40 ($1.15) drink which melts sea salt into the coffee foam to give a more complex mouthful for customers constantly seeking out the new in the island's competitive coffeehouse market.

The cafe chain expects salt to hold, said company's publicity director Kathy Chung. The cafe's 326 stores islandwide have sold about 15,000 cups of salted drinks since the concept was introduced in December, Chung said."

Can't say I'm surprised. I sprinkled caramel salt on a latte a month ago. I will, however, admit that I prefer sugar-in-the-raw for its sweet taste and coarse crunch.

But that's my morning foam.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sugar Phallacy

This is not a flirty cookie post. Yet, sometimes cookies are the only thing to keep my toes warm at night. Other times the sugar-high makes me laugh out-loud before turning out the light.

Sugar cookies also remind me of cooking with my Mom when I was a kid. There were the messy piles of flour on the floor, my buns squished on the counter-top aside the electric mixer, and of course... licking the sugary goo off the spoon before a cookie was born.

We used to decorate cookies for each holiday, sprinkling crunchy specks of sugar atop tree-shaped Christmas cookies, and heart-shaped ones for Valentine's day. But what I'll always appreciate, and remember most, was my Mom's sense of humor. The time she made a gigantic phallic-shaped cookie with balls (and all) for my Dad particularly sticks out in my mind.

Not because it was inappropriate, but because it was her.

Part of her humor was always the element of surprise that one never expected. Thinking about it makes me laugh out-loud.

Ironically, I saw a glimpse of my Mom in a sous chef I work with. Last weekend, I ordered a flatbread pizza to kick-start my shift. When I picked it up from the window, it was instead an exaggerated, bigger-than-life-size phallic organ of a flatbread.

And this is one of the many reasons that I am drawn to the restaurant industry. Those who work in restaurants have a sense of humor, energy, and zest for the little silly things in life that keep me peddling back for more.

Call me immature. I beg to differ.

Sugar Cookies Recipe, courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine
Use any cookie-cutter shapes you like; I bought my hearts from Crate n' Barrel. The frosting recipe yields enough frosting to make four colors, plus about a cup of extra white base for adjusting the shades, if necessary.

Makes about 36 cookies
Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Frosting Ingredients:
9 cups (or more) powdered sugar (about 2 1/4 pounds)
4 1/2 tablespoons Just Whites (pasteurized powdered egg whites)*
12 tablespoons (or more) water
Assorted food colorings, preferably Wilton concentrated gel pastes in Golden Yellow, Violet, Moss Green, Red (No Taste) and Sky Blue**
4 (or more) small disposable pastry bags**
Plain round metal tips (1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter; optional)**

Cookie Preparation:
Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg over; stir to blend well. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently 1 minute. Shape dough into 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 4 equal pieces; wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter large baking sheet. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness, lifting and turning dough often and dusting surface very lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Using floured 3- to 4-inch cutters, cut out cookies. Pull away excess dough from around cookies. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart (cookies will not spread). If using cookies as hanging ornaments, push 1 end of drinking straw through dough near top of each cookie; lift straw, then remove small dough round from straw. Gently reroll dough scraps; cut out more cookies. Transfer to same sheet. Bake cookies until light brown, about 11 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet. Transfer cookies to rack; cool.

Frosting Prep:
Whisk 9 cups sugar and powdered egg whites in large bowl to blend. Whisk in 12 tablespoons water. If necessary, whisk in more water by teaspoonfuls or more sugar by tablespoonfuls until frosting is medium-thick and very smooth. Place 1/2 cup frosting into each of 4 small bowls; mix colors using instructions in box on previous page. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover bowls and remaining frosting with plastic wrap to keep frosting from drying out. Store at room temperature.)
Thin frosting in each bowl as needed by mixing in 1/4 teaspoon water at a time.
Using pastry brush or small metal offset spatula, spread frosting on cookies; set cookies aside and let frosting dry, about 30 minutes.
Cut off small tip from end of 1 disposable pastry bag (cut off slightly more if planning to insert metal tip). Fold down top 2 inches of bag, forming collar. Holding bag under collar and using small rubber spatula, fill bag with 1 color of frosting. Repeat with remaining pastry bags, filling each with 1 color of frosting.
Finish each cookie with two sprinkles of Vanilla sea salt.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Penne Pasta to-go

Lunch or dinner, at home or to-go. Hot or cold, your choice.

Take it or leave it.

Penne pasta with tomatoes on the vine, spinach, and Nicoise Olive salt.


1. Boil water and toss penne in pot for 12-16 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, slice tomatoes into sized- segments to your liking. Next, chop and mince spinach leaves.
3. Drain pasta in coriander, and place in bowl. Add tomatoes and spinach leaves.
4. Finish with Nicoise Olive salt.

Food Photo play-day-away

Food Photo "play-day-away" calls for a time out from salt, and is a means to show what else is on my plate when I'm not finishing food with flavored Fleur de Sel.

Today's briny post was sourced from Oyster Bill of Taylor Shellfish Farms at the Ballard Farmers Market. Lucky me, finger-size Olympia oysters are in season (October-May). Though I love love love the meatier, gigantic vulva-looking Virginicas and Pacifics for their minerality and salty creaminess, they have a special time and place. And that's placed atop a fire whilst camping on the beach.

These sailboats were meant to sail into the sea of city mouths, and were shucked with a squeeze of fresh lemon pulp and a splash of Tabasco (if you're a whiny-wimp like me).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It's snowing again. In Ballard. A day like today reminds me of the mountains, and of being on a board pointed downhill. It's not the speed that makes my heart race, but the energy and escape that the snowy mountains promise to provide. It's also a day away from work, waiting tables, and salt.

Stevens (Pass), where oh where is the snow that fell so generously upon you last season?

Until then, night skiing, is where we shall be.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bowl of Beets

Is it presumptuous to say it's been a momentous start to the New Year enveloped by an unprecedented amount of optimism? We think not.
Michael Pollan's analogy of the 'President we elected to the Chef we voted' into the White House is brilliant. The food that we eat is related to everything from our consumption of fossil fuels to the viabilities of our local economy. Yes, we too, can make a difference by what we buy and put into our mouths.
Our resolutions are simple. They also aren't any that we can't keep. We're committed to be more aware. To shop locally. To buy responsibly. To maintain sustainability. To support our community's farmers. This recipe says just that----- as all of our ingredients were sourced from the Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle.
What are your resolutions?

We recycled our left-over beets from the Farmers Market post below into a velvety beet soup with a dollop of sour cream finished with Lavender Rosemary salt.


1. Put left-over puree on stove stop and simmer for 3-5 minutes. For the initial puree, we added 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 tsp of butter to the blender.

2. Add 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream, stirring until it incorporates.

3. Pour in bowl, adding a dollop of sour cream finished with a sprinkle of Lavender Rosemary salt.

Full Circle Farm Beets

Beets are beautiful, earthy, and reminiscent of the dirt that nurtured them.
They are also rich in nutrients such as betaine, an important component for cardiovascular health.

We bought our organic Golden and Red beets from Full Circle (Carnation, Washington), a farm that specializes in organic produce and soil health.
Though many are familiar with the beet salads that grace the menus of our favorite restaurants, some may be unfamiliar with how they are prepared. They can be boiled, oven-roasted, or served cold on a salad. We oven-roasted ours, using the red-hued beets to make an earthy puree, while the golden-ones were diced into qube-like segements and placed on top of the puree for added texture.

The deep-hues will stain your fingers purple and sickle-orange if you let them. Yet isn't that part of the fun and art of cooking?
Beet (puree) Recipe:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the beets.

2. Coat them with oil and Almond Cardamom salt.

3. Wrap them in tin-foil and cook them for 45-60 minutes or until you can easily pierce each one with a knife.

4. Take the skins off. The deep-hues will stain your fingers and/or cloth so that you may want to use an old towel.

5. Puree the beats with a cup of chicken stock and 1/4 tsp of butter. Puree until high and smooth.

6. Put beet puree in sauce pot on stove. Simmer and mount a 1/2 tsp of butter to round out the flavor.

7. Plate puree and finish with Almond Cardamom salt.

Olsen Farms' Potatoes

Thousands of potato varieties exist that it's difficult to imagine trying them all. These colorful hodgepodge of taters came again, from Olsen Farms.
Their potatoes are dryland-produced and known for their superior flavor and lively colors. Though they have over 20 varieties to choose from, we smiled upon Viking Purples, Purple Majesties, All Blues, Mountain Roses, and Red Ladies. With names like those, how could you not feel to be in good company in the kitchen? We certainly did.
The preparation of these potatoes played a role in our grass-fed Rib-eye steak and beet puree dish (featured below).

Potato Players:
- Viking Purple Potatoes, Purple Majesties, All Blues, Mountain Roses, Red Ladies

Blanched Potato Recipe:
1. Blanch potatoes in salted water. To blanch, plunge the taters into a pot of boiling water and let cook for 10-15 minutes.
2. Remove potatoes from boiling water. Then plunge potatoes into an ice water bath or run under cold water to halt the cooking process.*
3. Peel potatoes by turning each tater evenly so that they have 7 equal sides.
4. For this potato recipe (which we paired with grass-fed Beef Rib-eye and organic Beets), we finished our potatoes with Lavender Rosemary salt.

* Blanching helps to loosen the skin, making it easier to peel potatoes. Blanching can also help enhance the flavor of some vegetables such as broccoli (by releasing bitter acids stored naturally in the food). Blanching is also reportedly used to enhance the color of some particularly green vegetables by releasing trapped gases of the food that obscure the greenness of their chlorophyll.