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    Chicken Noodle Soup

    Chicken Noodle Soup

    This is a classic recipe, one in which many colds and fevers have had the benefit.

    But I was wondering, where exactly did Chicken Soup come from? My initial guess thought somewhere in Eastern Europe. But Tara gently reminded me that China probably had a better claim to the recipe than anywhere else.

    At any rate, you’ll need some time to pull this off. This is a recipe best made on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

    • 1 Whole Fryer Chicken, cut into standard parts (thighs, breasts, etc, etc)
    • 4 Cups chicken stock
    • 4 Cups Water
    • 5 cloves garlic
    • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
    • 3 teaspoons salt
    • 3 teaspoons ground pepper
    • 1 white onion, sliced
    • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced
    • 1 Tablespoon Basil, minced
    • 1/2 lb egg fettucini
    • chives, for garnish

    In a larges stock pot, put in the vegetable oil, 3 cloves of garlic, and the chicken. Brown the chicken. Remove the chicken and shred the meat away from the bone.

    Back into the stock pot goes goes the water, the chicken stock, chicken onions, and carrots. Add the salt and pepper as well. Allow to simmer from 1 – 2 hours.

    Add the basil and the fettucini and cook until the noodles are soft, 20 minutes or so.

    Ladle into a bowl and serve.

    Serves 6-8
    Technorati Tags: recipes, chicken noodle soup, chicken


    Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

    I realize that this is more of an “Autumn” type of recipe, but there’s something about Sweet Potato Gnocchi that makes me go against the seasons.

    Tulio is one of my Favorite restaurants here in Seattle. It’s a Northern Italian influenced place. Every time I go there, I get their Sweet Potato Gnocchi, as everytime I have some, it makes my eyes roll to the back of my head and lightly slam my hand on the table. This is a good sign.

    This recipe is my attempt to recreate theirs. I think it came out fairly well, even though I’m more critical of my own cooking than I am of other’s.

    It does take some time as there are several stages needed to get the texture you need for the dish. Expect anywhere between 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

    • 2 lbs of sweet potatoes
    • 6 oz. ricotta cheese, drained
    • 6 oz. creme freche
    • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
    • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 3/4 cups Semolina Flour
    • 1 cup butter
    • 6 Tablespoons Sage, chopped

    Bake or cook the sweet potatoes until the insides are tender. The quickest way to do this is to microwave the potatoes, 7 minutes per side. Make sure that the skins are pierced before placing them in the oven.

    Once cooked, cut the potatoes in half and allow to cool. Scrape the potato flesh into a food processor and puree, and then transfer to a large glass bowl. Add the Ricotta cheese and Creme Freche and mix in well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, mashing together as if you’re making mashed potatoes. Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Once the flour is incorporated, you should have a soft gnocchi dough.

    Place the dough on a floured cutting board and shape into a circle. Cut into six equal pieces. Roll out each of the pieces into a 1 inch thick, 20 inch long “rope”. Cut the rope into 1 inch pieces. Place in a seperate bowl and set aside. Feel free to flour the pieces if needed.

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi for 5-6 minutes. Drain and place in yet another dish. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add chopped sage. Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.

    Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.

    Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with sage leaves. Top with Mascarpone.

    Serves 10 – 12 very happy people

    Technorati Tags: Food, Recipes, Gnocchi


    Ethics and Fine Dining – Chef Christine Keff talks Organic

    Flying Fish hhas been in Seattle for almost eleven years now, and seems to be more of an institution than a restaurant. Last year, chef and owner Christine Keff caused a bit of a local sensation in the restaurant scene when she announced that the place was going to an all organic menu.

    Seriously – Questions were asked. Meetings were held. Voices were raised.

    It was interesting to watch the big names in the Seattle restaurant scene react. It was even more interesting to listen to what these chefs had to say about various food philosophies in the context of running well respected fine dining restaurants.

    And then? Then there was silence as the chefs went back to simply running their restaurants. But being the ever curious person that I am, I always wondered in the back of my mind “What would happen to a restaurant after it decided to go organic?”. I sat down with Chef Keff to ask a little about her restaurant and what she has learned.

    As way of a general introduction to the folks who don’t know your or your restaurant, Can you give a little background on your career and your restaurant? Sure. I’ve been cooking for 30 years. I never went to cooking school, instead taking a formal apprenticeship at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. I worked in New York for ten years and then moved to Seattle.

    I then worked a bunch of places around town, some corporate restaurants, and then eleven years ago I opened Flying Fish. We were in the right place at the right time and have been pretty successful. We have a regular clientèle and loyalty, not just from Seattle-ites, but from people from other cities who frequent Seattle frequently. It’s been a fun ride.

    Has anyone been a role model in either the way you cook or the way you approach running your restaurant? The best role model I ever had was the first chef I worked for at the Four Seasons. He had a very naturalistic approach to food, even at a time when a more formal approach was stylish. He always wanted to do, and did do, food that made sense, that had a basis in tradition even if it wasn’t traditional itself.

    Do you find that this approach fits well in the Seattle area? It does. It fits particularly well in the genre that we’re in, using ingredients from other cultures to compliment the fish from our waters. We use a lot of Asian ingredients, but we don’t always do “traditional” Asian dishes. It’s not always like what you would have over there, as we use those ingredients but with different techniques.

    I’ve traveled rather extensively in that area of the world and I feel that our food may play around a little bit, but we’re still grounded in tradition.

    Why did you decide to go organic? I decided to go organic because I feel that what we are doing to the planet is arrogant and wrong.

    I understand that “organic” has a long and honorable history as a word and as a concept and has a whole philosophy behind it, but really what drew me to it was the number of things that get killed by the way we farm. If you kill the bugs, then the birds don’t have anything to eat – it just seems terrible hubris to treat the ground and everything that lives off the ground the way that we do. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just got to me, I couldn’t really tell you why.

    Do you remember when you started thinking that you had to do something? I do. It was a couple of years ago. It wasn’t entirely “spiritual” but it did starting thinking more about spiritual issues. I’m later in my life and I’ve been thinking a lot about something called creation spirituality that says things like “God is in everything”. If I really believe that, how can I condone doing the things that we do? By buying that stuff, I’m supporting it.

    Fortunately Flying Fish is a profitable restaurant and I have a little bit of room to play where I can make decisions like that whereas people who are working a little closer to the bone sometimes can’t.

    So I asked “what would happen if I didn’t support that anymore?”

    How long did it take from saying “I’m doing this” to telling the crew “This is what we’re going to do”?It took me a couple of months to get to the point where I knew we were going to do it. Then I broached it with the crew and I said “Let’s do this within six months”.

    Was there any resistance to this idea? Yup, there was.

    From inside or outside the restaurant? In house, not from outside.

    It’s harder. Organics, especially in produce, are geared to the grocery stores. Most organic growing and buying is geared for what sells in the grocery stores.

    It’s different for restaurants when you need something all year round. Like shallots for example, they don’t appear in the organic section in the grocery store, so it’s very hard to find a consistent supply of them.
    But we found them and have them. It was difficult up front, but in the end it means that any restaurant who wants organic shallots over the course of the year can buy them because we’re buying them. Our supplier has learned where to get them and has started stocking them. That’s how it happens.

    What were some of the problems that you anticipated in going to an all organic menu? We anticipated price increases and we did see a little bit of that. We anticipated higher food costs, and initially we encountered one, but we managed to get that back down to where it was.

    We had a small increase in price, maybe a dollar per plate. But we were still below many of the other fine dining restaurants. It didn’t price us beyond the reach of the customer at all.

    Percentage-wise, can you say how much going organic had affected your food costs? It took a two point jump when we first started it. Two percent – which is significant. It was already low by industry standards, so it didn’t hurt us that much. Then we worked on getting it back down, and now it’s back down. Within four months our new chef, Angie Roberts, got it down.

    To get the costs back down, we found it was simply a matter of manipulating the menu. Instead of saying “This case of broccoli costs half as much this other case”, we instead looked at paring higher cost items with lower ones. We can put higher cost broccoli with lower cost fish, and the costs even out over the course of the entire menu.

    You’ve been organic for almost a year now. Where their any problems over the course of this time that caught you entirely off guard? What I didn’t anticipate was the staff resistance. I actually lost a chef over this. I was really surprised by that.

    He was one of the people who thought that going organic means going “granola”, for lack of a better word. I had not anticipated that at all, because, for me, I wasn’t thinking about organic meaning “hippies” and “communes” and all that kind of stuff. For me it was something very specific. I was really floored by that. Eventually he just didn’t want to do it, and he left.

    When I sat down with Tom Douglas, he said that he makes his food choices based on locality, sustainability and the organic. How much thought did you put into both locality and sustainability? I’ve heard other chefs say “It’s all about local. Organic doesn’t matter.” I think that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum and you don’t want to be there either. They both matter.

    I’ve decided to draw the line in the sand with organic and not use fresh ingredients that aren’t organic, and I don’t specify if they’re local or not. It’s a first step and it takes the chemicals out of the equation.
    We try to buy local as much as we can. But local here means a very short produce season. What do we do the rest of the year? Do we just go back
    to buying industrial non-organic stuff? I won’t let people diminish the importance of organic just because they’re focused on local.

    Organic is a sustainable practice. There’s no separation between sustainable and organic.

    I think a lot of chefs have some sort of “heebee jeebee” about organic – “It’s always expensive”, “I can’t afford it”, “It’s granola and Birkenstock’s”, “It means we can’t have the great ingredients that we want”, when it doesn’t mean any of that at all. You can get fresh organic turmeric from Hawaii for example, and most people don’t even look for organic turmeric.

    I think a lot of chefs put organic way at the other end of the spectrum because they don’t know what’s possible. They think that if they have an “organic” restaurant, it will mean having a “granola” restaurant.

    What have been the more difficult items to get organic? Lemon grass was hard. Bean sprouts were hard, oddly enough. Evidentially it was the mung beans themselves that are sprayed with something to keep them from rotting.

    There have been times when items simply weren’t available. This was the case with turmeric where all the fresh turmeric was gone, and all that was left was stuff that was rotting. So we’ve learned to keep certain items frozen.

    What’s been the best part of the last year? Well, our lives are not a lot different than they were before. We just know that we’re doing this and it feels good. It feels good to make some products readily available to those who want to make those choices.

    How have been the customers’ reactions? All good. They’ve appreciated it. We’ve given them added value and we haven’t put them through the ringer. What’s not to like?

    Technorati Tags: Christine Keff, Restaurants, Organic Food, Fine Dining


    Pepto-bismol ice cream

    I don’t know which is more disturbing…the fact that someone has made pepto-bismol ice cream, or the fact that there are many of you out there who are thinking right now “Hmmm…I kinda want to try that”.

    Thanks Jack!


    The National Uniformity for Food Act – Now it’s the Senate’s turn

    Back in March of this year, our House of Representatives passed House Resolution 4167, aka the National Uniformity for Food Act. This act seeks to take away the state’s right in deciding, establishing or continuing any authority or notification requirement in regard to food production. Instead, this bill seeks to put the full authority of Food regulations under the auspices of the relevant Federal authorities, probably the FDA with some responsibilities going to the USDA.

    When the bill passed the House, and I said not to worry, as there has been no movement in the Senate, and that I would alert you when there was.

    Consider this the alert.

    Senate Bill 3128, the National Uniformity for Food Act, will be the the subject of a hearing tomorrow in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

    If you are against this proposal..well first, you would be in good company, along with the Consumers Union, Sierra Club, and a multitude of Governors and Attorneys General across the country, both Republican and Democrat.

    Second, you should contact members of the HELP committee and voice your objection to the bill. I’ve listed the various members below, along with their phone numbers and e-mails. Senators tend to be swayed more by phone calls than e-mail, so keep that in mind. Also, if you call, ask them their current position on S. 3128 and post the comment here. We’ll see if we can get an idea on where this is going.

    The basic talking points to discuss when calling your Senators are as follows (note: Feel free to use them, but know that there are other issues beyond those I list here):

    • It would undercut the role of state and local governments and reduce food safety laws to the federal government’s “uniform” lowest common denominator.
    • The task of overseeing the majority of the regulations will fall to the FDA, an agency that is already underfunded and understaffed.
    • The task of overseeing the majority of the regulations will fall to the FDA, an agency that has shown such disregard for consumer safety, that they’ve allowed Carbon Monoxide Treatment of Meat (LI: accidental PW:hedonist).
    • By advocating for a homogeneity of standards, it would harm or even destroy the various regional regulations in food industries such as Vermont Maple Syrup, Alaskan Salmon, Wisconsin Cheddar and other regionally based foods..
    • It makes it easier for larger food corporations to erode current food standards at the expense of the safety of the consumers.

    Please feel free to copy these to your own blog, or point them here.

    The Senators reviewing these standards are as follows:

    Republicans

    • Michael B. Enzi – Wyoming – (202) 224-3424 or (307) 772-2477
    • Judd Gregg – New Hampshire – (202) 224-3324 or (603) 622-7979
    • Bill Frist – Tennessee – 202-224-3344 or 615-352-9411
    • Lamar Alexander – Tennessee – (202) 224-4944 or (865) 545-4253
    • Richard Burr – North Carolina – (202) 224-3154 or (336) 631-5125
    • Johnny Isakson – Georgia – (202) 224-3643 or (770) 661-0999
    • Mike DeWine – Ohio – (202) 224-2315 or (614) 469-6774
    • John Ensign – Nevada – (202) 224-6244 or (775) 885-9111
    • Orrin Hatch – Utah – (202) 224-5251 or (801) 524-4380
    • Jeff Sessions – Alabama – (202) 224-4124 or (251) 414-3083
    • Pat Roberts – Kansas – 202-224-4774 or 785-295-2745

    Democrats

    • Edward M. Kennedy – Massachusetts – (202) 224-4543 or (617) 565-3170
    • Christopher Dodd – Connecticut – (202) 224-2823 or (860) 258-6940
    • Tom Harkin – Iowa – (202) 224-3254 or (515) 284-4574
    • Barbara Mikulski – Maryland – (202) 224-4654 or 410-263-1805
    • Jeff Bingaman – New Mexico – (202) 224-5521 or (505) 988-6647
    • Patty Murray – Washington – (202) 224-2621 or (206) 553-5545
    • Jack Reed – Rhode Island – (202) 224-4642 or (401) 528-5200
    • Hillary Rodham Clinton – New York – (202) 224-4451 or (518) 431-0120

    Independents

    • Jim Jeffords – Vermont – (202) 224-5141 or (802) 658-6001

    Technorati Tags: National Uniformity for Food Act, Food, Food Politics


    To the Bottle

    Can we have a moment of reflection to consider the glass bottle and all of its greatness?

    I had this thought the other day when offered a beer along with a burritto that had been made by Tara. She asked if I needed a glass, which I considered for a moment. It was then that I came to the conclusion that there are some foods that are improved by drinking beer out of a bottle, rather than pouring it into a mug or glass.

    This is more of an aesthetic, to be sure. I don’t believe it possible that a beer tastes any different out of a bottle as opposed to out of a glass. But my mind ran with the possibilities – What if the bottle keeps the beer colder? Does the much smaller opening of the bottle concentrate the flavor of the beverage upon the tongue? These are possible, but not so much of a variable that it’s noticable.

    But the fact that drinking from a bottle changes the dynamic of a meal is something that’s difficult to ignore. I approach meals differently if drinking from a bottle as a opposed to drinking from a mug. There are some foods that are perfect for bottle drinking – mostly street foods. Tacos, Brautwurst that has been grilled and served on a bun, even fish and chips loaded with malt vinegar all seem better to me with beer from a bottle. On the other hand, there are some foods that it seems gauche to drink beer from a bottle, with a glass being the only polite alternative.

    When it comes to taste, it’s not just beer that seemed improved by a bottle. Sodas take on a different aura when in a glass bottle. There are some people who swear by the old Coke bottles. If confronted by two bottles of Dr. Pepper, which one is more appealing – the one in a chilled plastic bottle, or the one a chilled glass bottle?

    So let’s sing the praises of the glass bottle. Sometimes it’s the best way to drink a beverage.

    Technorati Tags: drinks, glass bottles, bottles


    Wither Mad Cow and the USDA

    I’m a bit late to the Mad Cow story from last week, but several folks have asked for my opinion and I thought best to share here instead of via e-mail.

    First and foremost, the fact that the USDA wants to cut back on testing should surprise no one. Their job is not public safety, but rather “farm” advocacy. I use the quotes around “farm” as the reality of the farm is no longer the tractor, ducks, geese and silos, but rather the Confined Animal Feeding Operations from which we Americans get a fair amount of our beef.

    It’s these owner of these CAFO’s who will benefit the most from this decision, as less testing means less of a chance of finding a cow with BSE, and all of the subsequent bad press that follows. Find a mad cow in Alabama means no longer selling beef in Japan or South Korea. A multi-billion dollar loss of revenue is never a good thing, and someone, somewhere was going to push various lobbying buttons to see how to regain some of that marketplace back. It’s about money, not about health.

    But is the USDA justified in making this cost decision? I’ll repeat some of the points I’ve made in previous posts about Mad Cow.

    • Their sampling data was ridiculously low: The USDA loves to throw out numbers, but never a benchmark to which one should compare the number. They love to say that they’ve tested 759,000 cattle over the past 18 months. The number they don’t tell you is 154,000,000 – which is roughly the cow population (including those slaughtered) during the same time period.

      If you divide the amount tested into the population, you get a statistical sampling of .5% of the cattle population was tested. Is this a large enough sample? I don’t know. But I promise you that the USDA and the cattle industry would prefer if people didn’t know this fact.

    • Their testing methodology was suspect: They only tested cows that showed possible symptoms. Downer cows and cows that were agressive or agitated were tested. But BSE doesn’t make every cow show outward signs of the disease. Cattle can have the disease for months or years before showing any outward symptoms.

      Oh, and testing was voluntary and not done randomly. The Agriculture Department’s inspector general found serious flaws in the testing process

    • They’re ignoring Canada: Canada has found 7 cases of BSE. These Canadian cattle intermingle with herds from the States. Since the border opened up between the two countries, the USDA has not commented on the Canadian cases at all.
    • A new wrinkle in the feed: The USDA touts the new feed restrictions put into place around 1998 as if it’s a line in the sand. Before 1998, feed had cattle remnants within it. Afterwards, not so much.

      Because of this, the USDA and the cattle ranchers have implied that cattle born after the feed restriction were less at risk than those born prior.

      However, the most recent case of BSE from Canada was found in a cow less than five years old, who had been fed feed regulated under somewhat similar restrictions (if anything, the Canadian feed restrictions are more stringent than those here in the US). The USDA nor the cattle industry has commented on this finding either.

    I could list three or four more items here, but I think you get the point.

    Now it is possible that there is no or little issue with BSE in our meat supply. But there is no way we could have learned this from the USDA. There’s simply too many variables that they haven’t addressed.

    Technorati Tags: Food, Mad Cow, BSE