dinner 9-17-15


A rather nice dinner for one: a chicken thigh dusted with Moroccan seven spice and baked, shredded and piled onto Israeli couscous cooked with broth and vegetables (garlic, zucchini and Swiss chard), on a bed of fresh mizuna from the garden. I really enjoyed the bite of the mizuna with the sweet/spicy chicken. I poured myself a glass of New Zealand Sauv Blanc.

Road trip, day one


Got back a few days ago from our annual west coast road trip.


We stopped for lunch at Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland. Funny place – much of the beer tended towards too sweet for me, but I liked the pale, and the fish sandwich on whole grain bread was very wholesome.



I kind of wanted to get the pork toast, just to say I had.





We stopped for the night in Ashland. It was a hot evening and all the restaurants had sidewalk tables out, but we ended up eating in the bar at Liquid Assets. Service was a little slow, but I had a good sazerac and we shared a very nice bottle of Willamette pinot.




Truffle popcorn was a bit overkill on the cheese front.



Jon got a mushroom carbonara which was excellent. I got the burger, which was like a drive-thru burger with extra fat. Really tasty, but highly indigestible. Oh well.


It was a lovely evening.


Outback experiment

wpid-img_0007.jpgLast summer I was working with a LOT of different contractors to get my folks’ new place fixed up, with varying degrees of success. The one that was most irritating was of course also the most expensive, and when I told them how annoyed I was on their customer survey they sent a rather nice apology note and two gift cards to Outback Steakhouse. We don’t generally go to chains like Outback, but hey! Free food! So last night after meeting with a tax advisor we rewarded ourselves with an outing into darkest Burlington, where the steakhouse is tucked into a hidden cul de sac between Target and the freeway.

I had done a little research on Chowhound on what our best bet might be (and what absolutely NOT to order), so after fighting off offers of a Blooming Onion, we settled on one Porterhouse steak to split, with blue cheese wedge salad for me and Caesar salad for Jon.


The steak was ostensibly 20 ounces but that includes bone, so it really wasn’t that big. It was cut quite thin but was done more or less to our specifications (although the waitress was careful to make sure we knew what “medium rare” meant so we wouldn’t freak out at the pink center.) It was tender and salty and quite edible.wpid-img_0006.jpg

The Caesar didn’t seem to be anything special – lots of garlic, little or no anchovy, dull croutons. No big surprises. wpid-img_0005.jpgThe wedge was quite fun, as I have a personal fondness for this sort of thing. The bacon was incredibly sweet, though, like candy. Between the dressing, tomatoes, raw onions and iceberg lettuce, it balanced out pretty well, but it was still a bit too sweet for my taste.

It all turned out to be plenty of food, plus two glasses of cheap wine, so we still have another gift card. We haven’t decided whether we’ll go back, and if so, what else would be safe to order. Any suggestions?


chat noir

wpid-img_0003.jpgWe’ve been taking swing dance lessons in Bellingham every week, which is occasionally a fun excuse to go out for an early dinner in town. This week we decided to try the Black Cat (AKA Le Chat Noir) in Fairhaven, which recently came under new ownership and has undergone some renovation.

The Cat has always been a fun space, perched at the top of several flights of stairs with a view down Harris Street and the bay beyond, but it had a history of long waits, expensive watered-down drinks, and rather bad food. We had heard a good report of the new Cat from the staff over at The Real McCoy, and I’m happy to say we’re pleased with the reboot so far.

wpid-img_0001.jpgWe tried the burger special, which had avocado and bacon jam, and the fish tacos, which were done in classic Baja style with a nice amount of cabbage and salsa. The portion size was perhaps a little small for anyone larger than me, but the fish was nicely fried. I liked it a lot. I also had a very good glass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Jon tried one of the house cocktails, an unusual sounding blend of Mezcal, cherry heering and a few other things. We will definitely be back, I think Le Chat is heading in the right direction.


salmon curry for one



I was on my own for dinner tonight, a situation that often leads to macaroni and cheese and/or tuna. Trying to be a bit more original, I tried something from 660 Curries that didn’t sound too difficult – a defrosted piece of salmon, braised in a sauce of coconut milk, curry leaves and balchao masala (a fiery, vinegary flavor paste that we made up some time ago and now keep in the freezer in tablespoon-size portions). I added some peas for greenery and dumped it over jasmine rice. Not thrilling, but not bad, and with a glass of wine and Netflix it did the job.

braised chicken with a lot of garlic


I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really, really good, even if you use a lot less than the traditional 40 cloves of garlic, but when I make it it seems to come out very rich and salty, causing me to wake up at 2am with a certain digestive regret. Maybe if I went easier on the salt and did a better job of defatting the sauce. Or maybe just eat less of it. I dunno, did I mention it’s really, really good?

Braised Chicken with Forty Cloves a Lot  of Garlic
adapted from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Fine Cooking

4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (whole thighs are nice)
kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chicken broth
baguette for serving

Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and set the heat to low.

Braise 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until done.  Move the chicken to a plate. Defat the sauce as much as possible, bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the garlic into the gravy. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette.

Afghani experiment

On Monday Jon made kofte kebabs, so to go with them I decided to try my hand at an Afghan-style basmati rice pilaf with carrots and raisins. The pilaf gets par-boiled, then drained and steamed in its residual water. A little dry, but very tasty, will try again!

To go with I adapted a recipe from Turquoise: a chopped lettuce salad with dill, scallion, and parsley mixed in. Liked this a lot.

a new Hungarian soup


This was definitely one of those Must Make Again recipes. I’ve been making Hungarian Mushroom Soup (from the Moosewood cookbook) for years, but for some reason this week I decided to try a recipe for “goulash soup” from Barbara Kafka’s soup cookbook, which turned out to be vaguely similar – it has paprika and onions as the flavor base – but is very much its own thing.  I didn’t follow the recipe slavishly, but I more or less kept to the ingredient list, and it was incredible. It didn’t hurt that the stew beef I used was from our latest quarter-cow from Skagit Angus, tender and really beefy-flavored.

The original recipe called for coating the beef in flour before frying it, which I didn’t feel like doing. I thought about making a roux separately to thicken the soup, but it turned out not to be necessary  – the texture of the broth was thick and silky.

Hungarian Goulash Soup

adapted from Soup: A Way of Life by Barbara Kafka

  • 1 pound stew beef
  • kosher salt, maybe a tsp?
  • a couple spoonfuls of canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika and 2 tsp regular paprika
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
  • about 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seed
  • around a cup of dried egg noodles
  • sour cream

I salted the beef, then seared it in a soup pot in two batches with canola oil at high heat, then set it aside.

In the same pan, I added the butter, turned the heat to medium and sauteed the onion. Once it softened I added the paprika, then put the meat back in, mixed it all up, and added the stock. I brought it to a simmer, covered the pot, turned the heat to low and let it cook for an hour.

At this point I added the potato, garlic and bell pepper, recovered the pan and cooked for another fifteen minutes or so. Then I uncovered, added the caraway seeds and tomato plus some water to rinse out the can, brought the soup back to a simmer, and added the pasta. Once the noodles were done, I checked for seasoning, added a little salt, and served with sour cream.