A comedy of errors would be putting it nicely.Read More
A HALF CUP
Here’s the thing. If you’re lucky in life, you have an astounding moment once, maybe twice if you’ve really logged some good karma.Read More
It's time. No, scratch that, it's PAST time.
For what, you ask?
Time for another blog post.
Time for a change in approach, focus, purpose, commitment.
Time for the next phase - in my career, in my life, in my endless investigation of how I can best help the world around me and be in service of others.
It's time to move forward. And for me, for now, that means leaving Seattle.Read More
At some point you can no longer ignore the copious bags frozen fruit in your freezer. Every time you reach in to grab large ice cubes for the round of Old Fashioneds (or Palermos) you're making for the girlfriends, the bags of this summer's raspberries accost you like a pushy teenager in line at an all ages show, falling all over themselves. Fine, I'm on it - let's bake.
Here's what happened:
[soundtrack I baked to :: my own playlist]
There was also some leftover pie crust I'd saved from a previous project, hiding behind the gallon bags of raspberries. Dug it out and thawed it while the oven preheated to 400F. Thawed and rinsed the berries, tossed them with zante currants, diced butter, a dusting of flour, brown sugar (how much? SOME.) and a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Then I recalled there was this super rand-o bag of rhubarb fermenting in the fridge, in vodka and stuff. It'd been in there for a couple of months, in preparation to make Rhubodka. (you can take a guess how far that project went...) so I yanked it out of there, strained off the liquid (which is now labeled and brewing in the pantry for a quiet evening in January or something....) and folded in the rhubarb.
This whole mixture looked weird, runny and borderline dump-it-in-the-trash worthy. But I didn't because that's rude and also we don't waste food at Chez Sampson. It's few and far between that something is unsalvageable, so I rolled out the dough as thin as I could get it on greased parchment. Land a few dollops of the mixture in the middle (attempting to strain off as much liquid as possible). Folded the sides over. You'll be glad you had it on parchment so you can peel it off without tearing it too much.
Baked at 400F for about 25-35 minutes - just keep your eye on it. Make sure it's on a rimmed half sheet pan because it will betray you and run all over the pan. Keep the faith though, pull it when the crust is golden, and let it sit, unmoved, untouched, till it's room temperature. When you realize you have to make at least 3 more to get rid of what's in the freezer before you can start other projects, give it away.
What a great way to end a day that started off with a fantastic brisk walk through the gorgeous, sunny city with one of my best friends and a café au lait.
And to top it off, I took delivery of this insanely fresh baked bread.
Steam actually came out when we cut into it. I tried to remain composed and limited myself to a couple slices (as far as you know). Then shared the rest with a fantastic pair of friends who just had a (totally chill) baby, when I delivered dinner to them the next night. They agreed, the bread is legit gorge-your-face worthy. They texted the next morning to let me know it's also great toasted with peanut butter for breakfast. Duly noted.
Planning one to have friends join in on is wonderful, but there's definitely a level of satisfaction that comes along with pulling it together from all the odds and ends that fill the fridge throughout the course of a busy week's worth of cooking. Today has been the epitome of grey Seattle fall, and I'm content watching from indoors. But, a girl's gotta eat, so I dug out the treasures that were hiding. Here's what happened.
[soundtrack I cooked to :: Sylvan Esso]
Roasted sweet potatoes that I baked in the oven with thyme and smashed garlic were combined with sautéed onions, diced tomato and avocado. Applewood smoked bacon lardons accompanied scallions over sunnyside up quail eggs, all nestled on top of bacon fat wilted greens. (obviously I put chimichurri all over everything after I took this picture because the obsession is real and I'm not above it, so there's that...)
I brunched not once, but twice this weekend. Yesterday I kicked off a new set of projects with some fellow creative (who are not cooks). We celebrated with boats and brunch at The Fishermen's Terminal.
More on those new projects to come, but for now, here's a teaser.
Seattle has shifted into Fall, it's true. If you live here, have friends here, watch the national weather reports or generally have ever heard of Seattle, you're probably not surprised. But before I completely let go of the white knuckle grip I've had on Summer for the past 12 or so weeks, let's look at a quick and easy weeknight meal, shall we? King Salmon fillet baked in the oven with a simple brown sugar glaze, served with a sizable dollop of house made chimichurri sauce and a cabbage salad that just won't quit.
There's really no need to make this out to be something more complicated - this is clean food, minimal ingredients and cook time, with bright flavors that basically speak for themselves. In fact, the salmon prep only has 5 ingredients total and I could probably have my awesome nephews prep this under next to no supervision (not that my sister would go for that because boys, spatulas and tiny fistfuls of brown sugar do not a clean kitchen make. But I digress.).
First we deal with the salmon. Preheat your oven to 400F and prep a quarter sheet pan (or a rimmed baking sheet) with parchment (or tin foil that you've prepped with a nonstick spray). Prep your fillet or have your fishmonger take care of that for you. What does that mean? Good question. Basically you're cleaning the skin (which you leave on to bake and then either leave on the baking sheet and pull the fillet away with a spatula, or leave it on and serve whole), checking for bones and patting it dry. There is a variation of this dish where I sear the fish in the cast iron skillet on high heat for a couple minutes and then finish it in the oven. This makes the skin super crispy and you can just eat it all up if you're game!
I give the salmon a dusting of salt and pepper, then a thin coating of mayonnaise, finally crumbling brown sugar over the top. The mayo seals in the fats of the fish, and the brown sugar creates a glossy, faint sweetness that still has a nice depth to compliment the flavor of the fish quite nicely.
You're only cooking the salmon for 10minutes TOPS. It should be portioned out already per person and this fillet is about 7oz. I like to slightly undercook the fish to keep the delicacy of the meat and body of the fillet at the best possible texture. The chimichurri I had laying around as I always do, and you can find that recipe elsewhere on the blog by searching in the top search field. The cabbage salad was insanely easy and has no recipe. One head of baby cabbage that I essentially shred with my mandolin or a sharp chefs knife. The dressing has a dash of this and that, including fresh grated ginger, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, gluten free soy sauce, fish sauce, sunflower butter, olive oil salt and pepper. Whisk it all together, snip in some scallions, currants and pepitas. Then douse the cabbage, toss vigorously and put in the fridge as far in advance as you can to the meal - up to a day. The longer it sits, the better it gets, and lasts me about 3 meals. (3 single servings)
Something about the crunch of the cabbage against the tahini and slight umami of the fish sauce goes perfectly with the sweetness of the brown sugar glaze on the salmon. If you make this salad ahead and have it laying around, this entire meal can be in your face in under 30 minutes (because we still have to wait for ovens to preheat people, we're not made of magic, okay?)
*Disclaimer: This post is long, full of pictures, and much more focused on my life and birthday than it is the food. So if that's not your thing, I won't be the least bit offended if you skip this one. There's a good salmon recipe coming up in the next post.....I'll win you back, I just *know* it!
Any summer baby like myself will tell you that we wait allllll year for the warm months to arrive here in the Pacific Northwest. And when they do, we bask proper. I was ahead of the game this year, prepping numerous playlists for all SORTS of shenanigans. The winning of them all, head and shoulders above, was my "100% Summer" Playlist, which I'm only giving up now because summer is over, and let's face it, us Leos tend to be a little "Me, Me, Me" about stuff like that. It's just a thing.
I hope you're not getting your hopes up that I'll have some killer birthday cake recipe or cake related picture in here. I didn't bake or eat birthday cake this year. I didn't blow out any birthday candles. I must be doing it right, because this has been, hands down, the most amazing birthday (month) I've ever had in my entire life. 31 was an incredible year, and I have a distinct feeling 32 will blow it out of the water by New Years.
If you've been with the blog for a year or more, you know I'm NOTORIOUS for stretching the festivities across the entire month of August. This will never change. You know who benefits from this approach? Everyone I know. Because people love a semi-legit reason to celebrate with friends and family. Without further ado, here's what went down, where and with whom:
Right out the gate, I tried Aragona on August 1st. The bartender was incredibly knowledgeable, the staff was kind, the interior was beautiful, the food was on point and the cocktails were crisp and well balanced. Perfect date spot. Of course, if you're a Seattleite, you may have heard Jason is shuttering it and reopening soon as the Italian centric Vespolina.
I also hit up Bravehorse a couple times for beers and shuffleboard with old friends, which is a walkable, perfectly relaxing spot to end a week. The new Mezcaleria Oaxaca also proved a valuable downtown/Cap Hill asset in the sunset catching department.
For full-blown birthday celebrations, I touched down at Miller's Guild twice with different batches of out-of-towners because I can walk there in 5 minutes, thereby only making me 10 minutes late because, HI, HAVE WE MET?! And somehow, because I'm a mastery of calendars, I was able to con my various groups of girlfriends into taking over Damn The Weather no less than 3 times. If this place continues to get accolades on its current speed-of-sound trajcectory, I'm going to have to start some counter tactics..... Everyone knows about it and while I'm so incredibly happy for my friends that are involved in such a great project that makes the cocktails and food above and below happen, I'm starting to fear I'll never be able to get a seat! (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for starters!)
Additional mentions go to Westward which provided the quintessential Seattle backdrop for a lovely dinner date, as did Oddfellows (as always). Old Sage was the location of a wonderful food blogger event put on by The Frantic Foodie, and Cure was the antidote for midweek catch up amidst every bicycle-polo-playing hipster the Hill had to offer. Seriously, September cannot sustain this kind of gallivanting you guys. That was insane, and I'm leaving out wedding venues and actual bars, because this is already too long and I haven't even told the actual story yet.
I had tickets to see Arcade Fire on their Reflektor Tour at The Gorge at George and took my best friends, Adam and Troy for a long weekend of doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. IT WAS 100% AMAZING, SEE???
Our trip to my sister and brother-in-law's river house (on The Columbia River) was delayed due to road blasting for widening the freeway, so we stopped at this perfect truck stop diner where we all got the salad bar and another meal as if we were stocking up for the winter. We closed out that meal with some local made chocolate treats for the car ride and this amazing sunset.
Back on the road, we woke up fresh the next day at the River House ready to tackle three full days of being lazy-as-all-hell. Here's what that looks like:
You can see Troy photobombing in the pool. Nice one, bro. We also disobeyed all signs and went down to the dry-mudded out river bed which was really cool.
We had some HOT WHEELS to take us around the development of vacation homes. Now, anyone that knows me understands it must've been hellishly hot for me to swallow my DUCKS PRIDE and parade around in this
Loser Cougs Mobile, but it's a SWEET ride and I'm forever grateful for my amazing siblings for letting us use the house for the weekend!
And on Friday night we headed to The Gorge Amphitheater for my very first Gorge Concert!
So that was Friday and of course we made sure to turn George, Washington (yes, that's actually the name of the town - if you can call it a town) inside out:
And here's the crowning glory of their culinary experience:
So glad I was smart enough to plan the entire menu for the full long weekend, and pack EVERYTHING we needed for a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner every night.
Of course we had to play all the Scrabble (my all time favorite game, if you didn't know), watch the sunsets, listen to all the tunes, and have all the fun:
For dinner the second night, I had started the previous day. I marinated some chicken breast tenders in an ad hoc marinade that I adapted onsite based on my mom's incredible flank steak marinade. This one had (among other ingredients) brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sherry vinegar, scallions, sesame seeds, mustard, red wine and honey. Let it sit in the fridge for 24hrs, stirring every 8hrs for full coverage. Then grill up and slice while it's warm. Served with fresh tomatoes, baby arugula, herb mix, and a homemade lemon soy vinaigrette dressing.
After three days of laying about, doing next to nothing, and constantly sighing out loud because you realize how lucky you are to get time off, go away with friends and family, it was time to head back to the city. This entailed lots of bridges, traffic, and troublemaking in the car. The traffic was EPIC:
I almost forgot! We hit up Cave B for a wine tasting which was a beautiful property that abuts the amphitheater. They didn't have room for us to have lunch at the restaurant which was a bummer, but we enjoyed sampling a few of the wines and chatting with the staff (you know me, ever the bashful church mouse...I never talk to anyone!)
That evening, I took in the final sunset of the year out at the Magnolia Bluffs in great company. The sun setting over the Olympics cannot be beat, and it felt exactly right.
I awoke the next morning, 32, and ready to show the world what I'm made of! I met up with my Board of Directors that night after work for a board meeting at Damn The Weather. We settled some foundational components of The Firm, approved all titles, and generally took care of business. These women are the backbone of my daily life, I am immensely proud to have them backing me.
We scattered into the evening, as it was a Monday. The first of many board meetings to come was a raging success. I have no idea how I'm going to continue handling all the wonderful things that come throughout the next 12 months. What I do know, however, is that it's going to be delicious, and I have quite the cast of characters to share it with. I ended the first day of 32 on a pretty perfect note, by just being my self(ie).
Pace yourself, guys, there's a LOT to take in visually on this one. I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking because you're probably not going to be listening to me anyway, after you see what I did and where I went.
My friend Kat was having a belated birthday party at Carkeek Park, a local beach and all around amazing place to meet loved ones, play, BBQ, beach bum and watch the sun go down. We did indeed do all those things and even got a group picture where we all pretended to be Velociraptors, because duh, and sang the Happy Birthday Song to the Kat.
We were each tasked with bringing something festive to drink and an ingredient to add to the table of options for S'mores. I do love a challenge, so I thought I'd up the ante with chocolate dipped bacon. Headed over to Whole Foods, the butcher and I had a "YUM, BACON, YES" style conversation (I may have gone a little overboard with my joke about the love affair bacon and I are still having, we just can't seem to end it, blah blah blah). I came home with this:
I also picked up that bottle of Rusty Boar Rose to share with the group, which was purchased with the nod to my chosen S'mores addition, clearly. Everyone loved the tongue in cheek reference and at $10, it was a great buy. Would do it again in a heartbeat.
Portioned out the bacon into complimentary sizes for S'mores building. Why make it any harder than need be? Baked the pound of organic, smoked pepper back at 375 for about 25 minutes. I really wanted it to get crispy to hold up to the chocolate dipping. So I watched it and pulled when we had some DARK edges going on.
Let it air dry and cool completely, the fat must be dry or the chocolate won't stick when you dip it. Hot, melty chocolate and a coating of bacon fat do not a sticky pair make (is that a saying? Whatever! LOOK, BACON!)
Let's jump back for a second so I can tell you what I put in the chocolate. I wanted the flavor of the smoke and pepper to be evened out and remain warm but lend itself to something sweet and crunchy, so I paired yellow curry powder with garam masala. This was a measurement by trial scenario, as I'd never done it before and was completely going based on multiple dip taste tests with a knife. I melted the chocolate chips in a double boiler then added in each item by 1/4tsp and tasted after each addition to get a sense for the flavor and warmth. The right amount ended up being 1Cup chips, 1Tsp each of yellow curry powder and garam masala.
Dip, dust, set aside on half sheet pan to cool, or like me, shove in freezer because you're impatient. Take to party and see the amazement:
So many wonderful things, and my dear friend Liz discusses some great pairings over on her blog, Liz Takes the World. The lemon curd and Nutella was REALLY a good choice and I'm stealing that idea. I don't even like sweets but I started getting a little crazy with my options and ended up having 3 different S'mores. Whatever. Summer.
Then we watched the sun go down:
Such a beautiful sunset and time with fun people to celebrate a great woman. So I had s'more S'mores. WHAT!?
For a long while now, I've wanted to find or adapt the perfect beer can chicken recipe. Why? I have absolutely no idea. There's something about it that seemed so fun, hilarious, tacky and adventurous at the same time.
Not wanting to start from complete scratch on this endeavor, I happened to skim across Food52's daily at just the right time and found a trustworthy place to start. Their Beer Can Chicken recipe from Cara Nicoletti had lots of promise to point me in the right direction. The recipe doesn't have any faults in it, and I have nothing bad to say about it, truly. I just realized I don't want to spend that much time cooking chicken, wasting propane, or taking that many steps. I just actually do not care enough to make it again.
Maybe because I have a tried and true, special roasted chicken recipe that has never failed me and is just as flavorful. The beer can chicken was extremely moist, for the obvious reason of having a beer stuff in it. The skin was very flavorful and crispy, but no more so than my oven roasted one.
We served it with a light summer salad of herb field greens, and these luscious avocados and Easter egg radishes.
It was delicious, but I was underwhelmed. I had anticipated being blown away, and wasn't. That's the thing about having expectations you guys, they're RARELY fulfilled. But then, while you're waiting well into hour 2 on the rooftop, something incredibly magical happens and you know you may have missed it if you weren't waiting for the slowest chicken. So, I suppose it was worth it.
Besides, I got to spend time with my favorite newlyweds and use their man hands to help surgically remove said chicken from the grill. See?
Stone fruit. I could go on for days, waxing poetic about how incredible these fruits are to bake. But what's more interesting is the applications you might not ordinarily think to make. When you want to grill - which you certainly do in the summer - stone fruits are the perfect dessert match.
Roll up your sleeves, and let's talk shop. Click through to see the whole meal....
Summer grilling at its finest is, to me, very last minute and effortless. Meaning I don't have to do much more than stop at the store on my way home and pick up the 3-4 items at the height of season. Don't know what to get? Look for the produce manager stocking stuff while you're there, and talk to whomever is working behind the butcher counter (if you don't have a butcher or fish monger you work with directly). Biggest secret? Tell them what you're doing and ask for their input. These people are very knowledgeable about what they're selling (depending on what store you're in). They will give great ideas you might not have tried!
Rough cut those onions, season liberally with sea salt and coarsely ground pepper after you skewer them (soak your bamboo skewers in advance if you can, or use metal ones, if not, who cares!). Coat in olive or coconut oil, depending on your preference and what's laying around. This is supposed to be LESS work than regular cooking, so don't sweat it!
Same goes for your veggies, you'll be flipping them, so coat liberally. Get that grill fired up in advance so they go on hot.
Cook all the veggies first, and when they're done to your liking (about 20 minutes on medium high heat - depending on your grill and fuel type), I cover them in foil to keep them warm and collect the natural juices.
Get the salmon fillets prepped. I use a variety of things, but the SUPER easy weeknight treatment is a little mayo on all sides (fat locks in all the moisture) then a dusting of brown sugar and topped with shallots and a little sea salt. I know, all the opposite ingredients. It works, just try it. Then enjoy the view while your salmon cooks for 5 minutes and do NOT walk away from the grill.
When the salmon is done, pull it immediately. Remember it won't look the same as when you bake or broil it. Also, if you don't have a fish basket, you can grill it on a piece of foil, and you don't have to flip it. You can just close the grill lid, hence the 5 minute cook time.
Have someone set the table and pour the wine while you plate it all up. And if you found time in there somewhere, you can skewer some peaches and stick them on the grill when you sit down for dinner.....
By the time you're done with dinner, the peaches are ready to come off and rest, covered. They'll finish cooking/softening in a few minutes while you clear the table. Then I douse them in honey, finely grated lemon zest, fresh grated nutmeg and some cinnamon.
Realistically, you could've done this whole thing in under an hour, serve dessert on a cutting board and have about 4 dirty dishes when you're done. That's my kind of weeknight.
What have I been up to this week? Lots of cooking, like this little buddy above, and then lots of shenanigans. Because it's the summer, it's Seattle, and it'd be a shame to waste either of these lovely things...
Before I get into Trout for Two, I suppose I owe you a bit of a recap. I won't go too far in reverse, and quite frankly I have the short term memory of a goldfish so we wouldn't get too far. However, there've been some fun activities around town, so here's how the week has been going, inclusive of some food.
Saturday was the day I fully, 100% committed to summer. I busted out the absolute, most summery thing I own (these ridiculous "shorts") and met up with one of my best partners in crime, Liz, for the annual Capitol Hill Block Party (CHBP).
Liz (on the left there, all smiles and Wayfarer Twins with me), knows her music, her food, and her way around a joke. She's a good time, and I'm pretty lucky to have her friendship. Naturally we took CHBP by storm. The people watching is hands down, epic amazement. The streets are closed, the bars are open, the bands are on stage - everyone acts a fool and it's all good.
This is the main stage (there are at least a half dozen other stages/venues where bands are playing all day and night for three solid days). Since we are all of the smart, we created a flawless schedule of sets to round out our one and only day (we're getting too old to do multiple days - it's just exhausting). We saw some killer music this year from The Dip, Katie Kate, Beat Connection, Star Slinger, and Chromeo. Everything was amazing and I didn't even get sunburned. Not sure how. The food of it all was a few drinks at Neumos (thanks to our stellar barkeep, Drew), followed by a later-than-we-should've dinner at Lost Lake Café. Alright, dinner is being generous. We essentially annihilated a bucket of tater tots and a French Dip that made me long for my mom's home cooking. She made LEGIT French Dips when I was growing up. I had completely forgotten about them until we unhinged our jaws on this most recent iteration.
Sunday was LOTS of this - laying about on the rooftop terrace, listening to my 100% Summer Playlist as it is ever evolving, and reading books. I'm currently reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg so I can join the heated debate of all my brilliant female friends, reading The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon for work which has been very motivating, and then dabbling in some other stuff that can't seem to find its way off my bedside table. I also met up with a long time girlfriend of mine who is a fantastic and talented chef in this city. We talked about techniques, she helped me troubleshoot some basics, and I helped her do some fun networking. We had a great time catching up and talking about our passion for food and how glad we are the industry seems to be slowly shifting thanks to some of the incredibly hard work many female chefs are putting in around the world.
Monday was back to it and I had the great fortune to check out a Sounders FC game with my awesome friend Lori and her family (YAY! friends are awesome!). Before the game, we ate at Carmine's near the stadium. I'd never been, but Lori's raved about it for years, and with good reason. I had the Halibut special with a roasted grape tomato compote (they took a page out of my summer cooking manual I see). It was really well executed. The house made linguini was also dynamite, but I limited myself to 2 bites of that, because (1) I knew the gluten would make my joints achy the next day (and it did), and (2) because Lori and I had the beet and burrata salad, as well as the gnocchi and, damn, I need room for all that! We had a great bottle of wine with dinner and we all had two bites of a tiramisu. I don't even like dessert, and if I hadn't already heard how good it was I would've passed. But I'm glad I indulged. Best tiramisu I can remember having.
The Sounders LOST. BAD. It was brutal. The game was awful, but we had a hell of a time shouting!
Tuesday after work was more of this (boo hoo, so sad right?) except it was actually so warm I dared to throw on my bikini and read while taking in the last 90 minutes of vitamin D the day allowed. Yes, I was the only one in my swimsuit on the roof. Yes, there were MANY other people out there. But you know what? I'm a native Seattleite, and it was warm enough for me. Plus, I have actually have zero shame about being the only one brave enough to show my pale skin. It was glorious and I won Tuesday.
Wednesday was an embarrassment of "when was the last time you cleaned the windows?!" It was so nice out I could see all the hand prints and it's bad. But also, it's summer and I'm not spending my time inside, so it's really a non-issue for the foreseeable future. Plus, I really need man length arms to reach outside with a pole/squeegee situation without putting my life at risk. Is that really how we see me spending my time? I think not.
Since it was so nice, I hit the rooftop yet again. When the sun went down, I decided to spoil myself (after having gone to the dentist and receiving nothing short of a high five from her at my stellar set of chompers). I went to the store, milled about until I was inspired and ended up bringing home these two beautiful Trout.
Ideally, I would've really loved to have caught them myself. How much fun is fishing??? I've been doing it since I was a tiny little brat. See?
But, I have a job. In the city. And I have not spent time organizing a fishing trip. Instead, I'll let the fishermen help me out and take a couple fresh caught ones off their hard working hands. First person to offer up organizing a fishing trip gets dinner made by me nightly at camp. Gourmet fish dinner people. Get on it.
Anyway, I was on my way out when I passed through the wine section. We all know where this is going.
Rose is having it's moment right now, in a big way. My buddy, Mike, just returned from France and is teaching me the ropes he learned while there, which has been fun and tasty. Look at them all! So eager to go home with you and pair up with your protein for a fulfilling evening of great conversation and food memories!
Seriously. Guys, for real. Two whole rows of them. I landed on this bottle from France. It was perfect with the Trout.
I wanted to keep the integrity of the fish and compliment it with fresh, seasonal produce and flavors. Remember, food doesn't need to be fancy, to be amazing.
I left the fish whole, because why not? They taste better (much more like you roasted them on the open campfire in your cast iron skillet), it preserves all the natural oils and flavors, and they look beautiful. You basically have to do nothing, and they'll be amazing. Can you handle nothing? Thought so.
Inside I gave them salt and pepper, dill, garlic and a few panko crumbs. Outside was the same. Roasted at 400 for 20 minutes and yanked them out.
Served with a summer salad of corn, globe tomatoes, avocado, green chilies, scallions, olive oil and a dusting of smoked chili powder for a kick.
I made Trout for two, but where were you? No matter, leftovers are underrated and never go to waste at Chez Sampson.
It is officially summer in Seattle (according to zero scientific sources other than the completely inaccurate and undependable Sampson-ometer) and everything around here is amazing! The weather is warm, travel is in full swing, and I can walk to meet the girls for dinner pretty much anywhere in town.
Once a month or so, I meet up with two of my BOD (Board Of Directors - by which of course I mean all the incredibly intelligent, powerful, selfless, beautiful inside and out women I surround myself with, whose opinions I value highly). These two women are, in addition to all of the above, stunning and hilarious - your basic total package. (Sorry guys, they're taken).
Last time we got together, we had dinner at Miller's Guild, which was completely amazing, although the lighting lent itself more to being romanced by all the incredible food and surroundings rather than taking pictures of all the food.
This time around, we headed up to The Hill to Shibumi Izakaya. One of the BOD knows the chef/owner and we decided to give it a whirl with her. Here's what we had....
- Spicy pork gyoza
- Green beans with sesame dressing
- Burdock and carrot kinpira
- Pork croquettes (which I think was a special?)
- All three wagyu zabuton options: sliced, seared and chopped..... AHHHHHHHHHHH MAZING (holy cow I love wagyu)
- Pork belly kushiyaki
- Marinated black cod
- Tonkatsu ramen
- Dessert: I believe chef said it was a green tea (matcha) mousse ice cream and it had black and white sesame seeds with a vanilla shortbread cookie
Sooooooooo, yeah, basically we ate almost the entire menu, but that's what I love both about a small plates restaurant and the BOD - they're always down to share, stories and dishes!
Of course I really tried not to take pictures and just enjoy the dinner because we don't have them often enough, but after the seared wagyu, I just couldn't help myself....
Pork Belly Tonkotsu Ramen:
There were definitely some things I couldn't eat (but had a bite of anyway) with my limitations carried over from the Whole30 (still steering clear of legumes, dairy and wheat), but there were some really good bites here. I've heard polarized opinions, but my recommendation is to go check it out and form your own opinion! Try everything with pork belly (the worlds single greatest invention and meat product), and get the seared wagyu, you won't be sorry.
Saying that this post is overdue is an understatement even I don't feel comfortable with making. If you've been following along with the blog for the past few months you'll remember that I had entered a cooking competition again this year - the Girl Scouts of Western Washington's Cookie Recipe Contest - a competition for food bloggers.
This was the third year I entered, and I was hell bent on winning this year. After placing 3rd overall in my first year, and then not even making the Top 5 my second year, I had officially adopted the Underdog title of this competition. For those of you that know me in real life, the food world, or just through the blog, you know I love a challenge. You want me to achieve something? Just tell me I can't do it. Sure fire recipe for success (sorry, food puns abound....have we met?).
To refresh your memory, here's the post of my submission for the contest: http://ahalfcup.com/2014/02/12/samoa-coconut-cream-filled-croissant-donut/
Go ahead and read it (it's over the top, I'm aware), I'll wait......
Okay good. Now that you remember what I submitted, and saw the spoiler alert, I won! WOOT.
I know it's cheesy to the max, but I truly find that my successes are, in fact, sitting atop a tightly grouped cluster of many previous failures. All those lessons, compounded and steeped in calculated risk and humility. While losing is sad and disappointing, I have the following things to say about why I LIKE losing:
- I know I will lose exponentially more times than winning, so anticipating failure helps me focus on what lesson I'll learn for later that will one day contribute to my success
- If I don't lose, the wins don't feel as good or deserved
- Aim higher people - the struggle brings way more creativity
- When you fail, you learn about what you don't like (Shaping what you do like) and what your thresholds are, ultimately pushing your competitive edge further
- You store away the memory of what went wrong and can tap into that, should that obstacle arise later on, making you more agile
All of this is to say, I had been plotting my upset for sometime. My incredible work team had helped me think through the factors that create an iron clad winner (and, no, I'm not sharing that equation. SERIOUSLY?! You'd be SHOCKED how many people have asked me....). I embarked on the creation of the Samoas Coconut Cream Filled Croissant Doughnut.
But the most interesting part of this years competition was what happened after I won. I went on a little Seattle media tour, sharing my creation with various media outlets, and helping to promote the Girl Scouts cookie sales. What a wonderful way to be able to help boost sales for such a great organization!
Many people have asked me to share the video and radio segments, and so, without further ado, allow me to dump all the media on you. For real, you guys, get comfy, grab a snack and enjoy. Here comes ALLLLLLL the pictures and videos as I take you through the week:
The day before the winner was announced, all the Top 5 finalists were invited to appear on the live 4pm broadcast of KOMO 4 News with Mary Nam. So we met up (for the first time), and shared our treats with the news team and each other. The other women finalists were so nice, their treats were insanely good and we really enjoyed meeting each other.
And here is the live segment video: (sorry, my blog is being a PAIN and won't let me paste/embed the video. Right click the link below and "Open in a new tab")
After that segment was over, the radio show down the hall had us come on for an impromptu interview as well:
And here's the clip from our radio segment: (well, darn, I need to convert it to a video and upload to YouTube, so that'll happen later and I'll update the post. Sorry!)
The few days after winning were a whirlwind! I was surprised and elated to finally win - especially after having tasted the other creations, meeting the finalists and seeing some of their blogs. It felt great to compete against fellow bloggers I knew were giving me a run for my money!
My next stop was a cooking segment on New Day Northwest, the local morning show on King 5 here in Seattle, with Margaret Larson:
And here's the segment if you saw it online or at home on TV: (sorry, my blog is being a PAIN and won't let me paste/embed the video. Right click the link below and "Open in a new tab")
The following day, I headed over to KCPQ Q13, our Seattle Fox station, for a live segment where I had two super cute girl scouts with me on a live segment. Kaci, Bill, Adam and the rest of the crew were wonderful and made short work of my samples!
And here's the segment: (sorry, my blog is being a PAIN and won't let me paste/embed the video. Right click the link below and "Open in a new tab")
Then, I finally made it over to visit with some food friends of mine on the radio show Seattle Kitchen:
And here's that segment: http://kiroradio.com/listen/9968785/
You should sign up for their podcast (http://www.kiroradio.com/SeattleKitchen) , it's hilarious and educational - a winning combination!
And in case you're wondering, yes, this was part of my winnings. I was also given enough Girl Scout Cookies to last a lifetime, some cash money, and bragging rights. Also, I can literally enter again next year.....we'll see if I've got any steam left in me for a repeat.
One last note before I sign off tonight:
I so appreciate all the support and encouragement from family, friends and colleagues I continue to receive. Going through this process, while seemingly no big deal, is pretty hard. Putting yourself out there with the potential of being beat again - it's not easy. And throughout it all, I've had a great crew of people. There's one person in particular who has been my number one cheerleader and dedicated so much energy and time to helping me, listening to me, brainstorming and then celebrating (which included a ton of work to get all these segments done). My oldest and dearest friend, Adam, has been by my side through it all. He is family to me, and I know he always has my back. At the drop of a hat, he cleared his schedule to be with me at every single TV segment, picking me up early, driving me around, prepping food behind the scenes, letting me be a total controlling freak about the direction each item faced, etc. And he did it all with a smile - and then took every single picture you see above. He is just INCREDIBLE. Adam, thank you from the bottom of my heart - you are simply the best and I literally could not have done any of that successfully without you!
I thought I was going to start back where I'd left off - two months ago. But as I stared down the black hole of jogging my memory from a cold crank start, I reeeeeeeeally had a hard time feeling like I had the energy to do that. Why didn't I have the energy? Well, for starters, dang there's a LOT of pictures you guys. I'm worse than all our parents combined used to be in the '80s on Christmas Day, okay? Digital media has turned me into the thousand snapshot gal. If I don't take a ton, and then they are all blurry, I'm upset with myself! Also, I had just made this insane chicken dish above, and so I am physically tired. It was a long weekend and I just couldn't. Instead, I thought I'd get the ball rolling and start where I am right now! Here we go....
What I made: Cast iron roasted organic whole fryer chicken stuffed with sweet yellow onions and garlic. Oven roasted with onions, kumquats, basil, garlic, olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, candied grapefruit zest and grapefruit sugar. Served with steamed broccolini, a pan sauce with capers and finished with kumquats in simple syrup.
Let's put it this way - no one was there to witness the insanity of amazing smells coming out of my kitchen, but I'm guessing my neighbors enjoyed the wonderful scent wafting down the hallway this evening.
One thing I love about using a cast iron skillet, besides it's innate ability to up your basic street cred by a couple notches, is all the flavor it imparts on every dish from all the years of seasoning. It just moves things along, deepens what you give it, and acts as a silent partner in the kitchen. It's high fiving you all the way to your stomach. For this dish, there is really nothing more than basic prep of a few ingredients:
- Rinse and pat dry your bird (make sure you got all the guts out of the cavity first, and save them for your pan sauce or another dish later in in the week like I did).
- Slice your onions, peel your garlic, halve your kumquats, and chiffonade your basil
- Drizzle your skillet in olive oil then place the bird in there, coat it in olive oil, salt and pepper
- Shove half an onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic in the cavity
- Tie the legs together with twine (or if you don't have any you can make a rope from tin foil and use that to hold them together - maybe I'll do a little video tutorial on some small kitchen hacks like that...)
- Nest all your veggies and fruits around the bird, sprinkle with basil
- Bake on middle to low rack at 375F for 45 min, then reduce to 350F for an additional 30 min
When you pull the bird out in the skillet, remember that the skillet will stay hot for essentially the rest of your life and leave a hand towel on the handle to prevent awful burns and stories about the ER being slow to help you on a Sunday night while you lean away from that person with the heinous cough sitting next to you with a gash in their forehead, okay? Great, moving on then....
Remove the bird from the skillet, set aside on a rimmed sheet or dish to rest, cover and crimp with tin foil to keep all the juices in. Then I did some extra things you can totally ignore. But if you'd like to try your hand, you'll want to take the remaining kumquats and get them balanced out in a straightforward simple syrup on the stove top while you also reduce all the liquid in the skillet.
Wait, am I going too fast? Sorry, let me break that down:
- 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar go into a sauce pan with sliced kumquats on medium high heat, covered till boiling, reduce to simmer and remove lid, stirring for 5-8 minutes and then set aside to cool
- pull out all the onions and kumquats from the cast iron skillet and set them aside in another dish, cover to keep warm
- steam your broccolini however you like it best, I have an old school metal steamer basket that works like your dad's 1979 Chevy - its still a workhorse and you have no idea how it's lasted this long but if it ain't broke.....
- reduce the liquid in the skillet on medium high heat, adding some capers and a bit of the liquid from the jar. Make a rue for thickening the sauce and whisk till the whole sauce thickens
- Add in a bit of coriander and ground ginger to add some interest beyond chicken broth flavor, remove from heat and pour off into a jar or large measuring cup you can pour from later
Plate it all up so the veggies from the skillet are the base and soak up all the other sauces, with that broccolini playing a supporting role like an edible paint brush that will absorb all the juice from the chicken and grab hold of the capers in that pan sauce as well. Finish with a drizzle of the simple syrup and kumquats, extra pan sauce and a dusting of sea salt and pepper to balance the sweetness.
Eat your face off and let that box of mac and cheese sigh with relief as it lives to see another dusty day on your pantry shelf.
We all know this happens to me sometimes, right? Blogging is just one of those things (for me) that sometimes takes a back seat as the course of life ebbs and flows. And things have been really very exciting around these parts. So I've been dark with good reason. But it's time to fill in the blanks, as it were. I have loaded a ton of pictures, edited some and not others. I made a list of posts I want to get up soon, which will be interesting (let's see how far I get, shall we?), as I continue to work on other food related projects behind the scenes.
I apologize in advance that you are going to read things like a St. Patrick's Day post in June. But I have a feeling you don't much care, so long as I promise to entertain you - and when was the last time I failed that mission?! Perzactly.
Brace yourself for some dusty ideas, pictures, dishes and conversations (with myself) from the archives of the past 2 months. I hope I don't disappoint you! (but then again you can just close the web browser, I won't know!)
I wanted to make good on my "I'll show you what I did for making a crazy quick and easy chimichurri sauce" comment a couple of weeks ago when I was finishing up the Whole30. I had every intention of making that happen, but then A BUNCH OF AMAZEFEST happened (which I'll post about soon, just collecting media to share with you), and I got delayed running around the city and generally sky punching with fists of glory and happiness.
At any rate - chimichurri. A sauce so rich in flavor, with such a deep profile, it'll stand up to any grilling technique you use on your meats. However, let's not play here....we live in Seattle. And even though I'm as much thuglife as the next native when it comes to grilling in the rain ("SERIOUSLY, HOLD THE UMBRELLA MORE TO THE LEFT!!!") I'm just not down with fairing the elements at this point in the calendar year. Thus, chimichurri has officially been repurposed for all things crock/slow-cooker.
I literally followed this recipe from How Sweet It Is to the letter. No need to mess with perfection - which is exactly how I'd describe this sauce.
chimichurri 1 cup fresh cilantro 2/3 cup fresh parsley 1/4 cup fresh oregano 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 2/3 cup olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Blend up quick and retrieve it.....
[Sorry, I can't go a single day without a bad 90's rap pun or reference of some kind]
This sauce has championed my kitchen for the past 4 weeks, making appearances on the cinnamon roasts (all 5), and more recently atop the insane pork should roast (both the bone in and the boneless versions) that blasts on high for 10hrs while I'm at the office.
How do I feel: RELIEVED! I made it to the end and didn't panic, freak out (at least not in public) and was able to eat (almost) enough food (almost) all of the time. Doing things and keeping commitments is HARD WORK, people! Not because it's actually difficult to not eat certain things, or cook specific ingredients or meals. It's hard because when you change something as elemental in your life as food, guess what? Everything and everyone around you continue to move about daily life as if nothing has changed at all. After all, for them, it hasn't! It's just business as usual. Maintaining your "new" way of operating can be difficult because you're used to using XYZ foods every day, you miss having said foods, or you don't have the time to figure out how to do a dish differently. Also, you might realize things taste different/bad/not satisfying, things you're not supposed to eat are in front of your face all the time and damn, they smell good too, and also because lazy (just being honest).
I am relieved that I was able to commit to a project and execute on it every day. I am relieved that I don't have to blog every single day anymore (no offense, but aren't you sick of me yet?! Lord knows I am!) or worry about letting a reader or two down, or more importantly letting myself down if I weren't able to complete the challenge.
Before we get into answering some much anticipated questions and sharing details with you, please take a second to read this part (seriously, you guys, don't skip forward, this part's important to me):
I want to reiterate my purpose of this experiment: [here's what I wrote on Day 1]
This experiment, while only 30 days, will teach me more about what I’m capable of cooking within ingredient constraints, time constraints and also give me a true idea of my own food preferences, minus all the junk that gets added to everyday ingredients I’m used to using on the fly.
If you know me IRL (In Real Life), you know the following:
- I love a good challenge
- I am INSANELY competitive (but now mostly in a good way, and primarily just with myself)
- I love projects that have a beginning, middle and end
- I love seeing results, being able to measure empirical data, and analyzing how to move forward based on concrete evidence
- I am hyper organized, sometimes to a fault
For the course of this experiment, I’m not going to put up any fake fronts about how I am or am not eating/feeling/looking – you’re going to get the real deal. I’m taking this back to the old school version of blogs, back when they were still “web-logs” (glorified online journals, if you will).
That was the point of this - take a process that many people use or experience for lots of other reasons (to discover food allergies or sensitivities, to help with immune disorders, to change their relationship with food, to feel better or make physical changes, etc.) and approach it strictly for a "what happens to my cooking when I only allow myself limited ingredients" experiment.
Here is a link to the Whole30 program if you are interested in educating yourself about it. I am not affiliated with it in any way whatsoever.
Getting back to how much I like data and understanding deltas now. I wish I would have kept a written log (besides daily posts) of all the vegetables and how many pounds of each I consumed. (yes, I could go back and calculate it all, but we all know that's not happening. Like, ever.)
On the off chance the last 30 days proves to be remotely helpful or encouraging for anyone thinking about embarking on the Whole30 for any reason, I'd like to maintain the transparency I started on Day 1. As you may recall, the Whole30 program recommends you keep track of where you start and end (not vital to my reasons for doing the Whole30, but I know everyone is curious, so why not!) with pictures and measurements.
Last reminder - I’m keepin’ it REAL, this is seriously first thing in the morning, no make up, puffy eyes, right out of bed. I am normal. There are no delusions of grandeur that I look like a model without 2hrs of hair and makeup, and certainly not before 8pm. I do not wear makeup to bed and I am the angriest morning Gremlin you've EVER MET. Seriously, it's rough. You'll see the face I'm making below....that's supposed to be me smiling. Notice how I am not *ACTUALLY* smiling? It's because I haven't had coffee yet.
**Also, please notice all the pictures on the left were definitely taken without my contacts being in, which explains why they're all blurry - I checked them after taking them, but since I didn't have contacts in, they totally looked like they were in focus! HA! well.......meh, whatever, we're not going for picture quality here (obviously).
I don't really notice a difference being in my own body, as in, I don't notice the weight change, size change or any difference in my clothes. But here is what happens when you restrict your ingredients, are in your early 30's and still attempt to workout, run, take dance class, etc. during this process: bust 36″ → 34", waist 28″ → 25", and hips 38″ → 37.5". And lastly, straight up height and weight: 5’9″ → 5'9" (imagine that, my height stayed the same!) and 148lbs → 140lbs.
What I find particularly compelling are the new habits, new culinary practices, new favorite things that have crept into my daily life. As a cook, these are the things that fascinate me and the reason I am so very glad I did this. What you see below is a Chimichurri sauce I recently made from this recipe over at How Sweet It Is. I'm having it tonight on top of one of my other favorite new things - cinnamon pot roast with mint! Post coming in the next few days on my process for this staple sauce.
You may recall I found this awesome recipe for cinnamon pot roast with mint earlier in the experiment and now I've made it three times. A roast can be so very many different cuts of meat. And if you just bother to ask the butcher for "an off cut to roast in the slow cooker" they're more than happy to get you a budget friendly, beautiful piece of meat. This particular combination of ingredients yields a wonderful depth of flavor. And I basically created a sauce starter which I've reused each time I've made the roast. So it is literally cooking itself down into a deeper, more concentrated flavor profile every time I use it! SMART, Sampson, SMART!
I love my new morning routine with all the soft boiled eggs and their luxuriously thick yolks, along with my coffee and almond milk. I am NOT making my own almond milk anymore. It tastes way better, but I've got better things to do with my time, and I just don't care enough to bother. Plus, welcome to saving a boat load of cash by purchasing a container of unsweetened plain almond milk (a half gallon) for $3.25 instead of getting 2 cups (which is? That's right, a quarter gallon....we can do math) for about the same price and an extra 10 - 15 minutes of labor (which always happens to take place at 7am on a Monday when I'm swearing at myself for not realizing I was out during the weekend).
All the fruit with my eggs and coffee - keeping this. I actually am looking forward to incorporating all the extra almond meal I now have in my freezer into my green smoothies as the weather gets warmer. They travel great (for the bus ride) and I will use almond milk instead of yogurt, but keep up with my 2 cups of spinach plus 1 piece of fruit and some cinnamon.
You know what else I totally love now/again? Dates! (I mean the edible kind.) (OH MY GOD YOU GUYS, I MEAN MEDJOOL DATES THAT GROW ON TREES! wow. just wow......you guys are really immature sometimes, you know that?!?!?!) Anyway, (eyeroll) I love having a couple as a snack while I cook dinner, or I can add them to my smoothie for some sweetness, even though I usually won't because I'm not a sweet tooth.
I bet you're wondering what I ate on DAY 31, aren't you? Well, maybe you're not. Maybe you're totes over my food diary. It has been really weird to not keep one, I'll tell you that much. I have done food diaries many times before, but this was different because I was sharing it with all of you, something I'd never done before.
I'll at least share what I had for dinner that night. I made dinner for my friend Bridget, and took it to her house. I made the cinnamon pot roast with mint, and a baby greens salad with kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes and my other new favorite - avocado tahini dressing.
And I even had a glass of wine! That was my first add-in and I picked a red I thought would go with the pot roast. It was fine, but too sweet. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was still a nice treat, almost as nice as all the awesome catching up and conversation. Bridget is awesome, funny, talented, smart and fun to spend time with - great friend!
That was part of Day 31. I bet you can guess what I had for breakfast that day, right?
As I move forward, with the reintroduction phase (which I'm now half way through) I find it is hard to really know exactly what I am getting (as I've been dining out a bit more) and sometimes I'll add-in two 'new' things in one day, which I'm not supposed to do, but you know what? I'll live. I am figuring out what ingredients are staying off my plate for the most part, and what ones will get to make guest appearances. Most of all, I'm stoked that I have a new set of foundational standbys like raw almonds for snacks, eggs for breakfast every morning, new one-pot dishes, new sauces and dressings, and with all the seasonal crops changing, I get to explore new produce on the weekly.
Lesson of the day: The experiment NEVER really stops, does it? Extrapolate that in any way you want, it's still true.
Even when something scares you, in fact, especially when something scares you, do it anyway.*
*I can't take credit for that nugget of wisdom, but I will reuse it every day. A very awesome person told me that before I started this experiment, and they were totally right.
Thank you for being a part of this experiment with me, and for your ongoing inquiries, encouragement and well wishes! If you have questions or comments, it would be awesome if you would leave them below, rather than over email or Facebook. This way, it'll all be together. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to finish this croissant. Just kidding.....?
How do I feel: Accomplished! It's here! My last day of the Whole 30 - funny, it doesn't feel like it's been a whole month in certain respects. On the other hand, someone has a glass of wine and bucket of sugar for me to eat immediately, right?! Just kidding...sort of.
Maybe I should have planned for some super interesting, Whole30 approved meals to finish this experiment. I didn't though. Truth be told, I was pretty happy that, by and large, I've been able to just cook and just eat normal things if need be. Today was really no different, except that I noticed I'm short on certain staple ingredients, so my days worth of meals is really an exercise in consuming leftovers and ensuring fresh ingredients don't spoil. In fact, I ate almost the exact same thing today as I did yesterday:
- coffee (one cup while getting ready and another for the bus commute to the office), 2 soft boiled eggs, a banana and a pint of water.
- Salad of baby spinach, diced tomato, half an avocado, chicken and lemon garlic dressing again. Plus tea and water
Dinner: Super random, prepare yourself (I didn't realize I was so short on produce once I got home, but just didn't feel like making a trip to the store)
- 3 eggs, sweet potato chips, an apple and raw almonds
I know you're all dying to hear and see what the differences are in my before and after stats (how do I know this? Because I've already had a handful of friends ask me on the side, remember, this post is delayed by about a week or so in comparison to real life). BUT, you'll have to wait till tomorrow, because I did all my check in stats on DAY 31, which is when "reintroduction" begins with a glass of wine. Plus, you'll want to see the delicious dinner I made and took to my awesome friend, Bridget, who recently had her ACL repaired and is not-so-mobile.
COME BACK TOMORROW!
Lesson of the day: In the ever-applicable words of Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're absolutely right!"