mostly local

the all-local dinner

While I am, in principle, a big fan of the locavore, 100-mile diet movement, I really don’t think I’m ever going to manage to eat one hundred percent local. I’m very fond of olive oil, for instance. And mangoes. But it does give me a thrill when I realize that everything on my plate was produced within a fifty mile radius of my house. This was a recent dinner of grilled lamb chops, Japanese eggplant and asparagus, all purchased at the downtown farmer’s market.

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our first spatchcocking, and a wonderful salad

spatchcocked chicken

Ever since I discovered the word “spatchcock” in a Nigella Lawson book, I’ve wanted to try it. And not just because it’s such a great word.

It’s a method of preparing a chicken for high heat cooking such as roasting or grilling, where you remove the backbone and flatten the bird so that it’s more or less an even thickness throughout. It has the effect of getting all the skin on one side, so you should be able to get lots of crispy chicken skin, plus the flesh side is all available for seasoning. This weekend we finally got around to trying it, and the result was sort of a Win-Fail-Win situation.

spatchcocked chicken Continue reading

California wine


Take a long dram with me
of California wine, of California wine.
And the wine, it tastes so sweet
as we lay our eyes to wander,
and the sky, it stretches deep.
Will we rest our heads to slumber
beneath the vines of California wine?
Beneath the sun of California One.

the Decemberists

Despite being a Washington State native and rather uninclined to live anywhere else, I really like visiting California. We lived briefly in Santa Barbara after we were married, and this was the first time we’ve been back to visit. So nice to see the live oaks and the dry grassy hills (at least the ones not recently burnt black) and smell the eucalyptus.

live oaks

To boil down our Memorial Day weekend to a few sentences: we drank wine and ate barbecue. Then we went to a wedding and had more wine, and oysters, and more barbecue. Then a lot more wine.  Whee! Many thanks to our friend Deron who drove us all the way out to Foxen Winery. I loved Foxen’s porch tasting room.

Foxen Winery Continue reading

lamb riblets

grilling lamb riblets

We consider ourselves very lucky to finally have a local grocery store that actually carries lamb. Usually, each new store that opens up includes lamb in their meat case, just to make themselves look interesting, but as soon as the novelty wears off they drop it, except for the occasional leg at Easter. Boo. We did once get some lamb from a farm near my parents’ place, but it was closer to mutton and very badly butchered, to the point that the cuts were unrecognizable and hard to deal with.

But to our delight, Haggen (our favorite grocery store, apart from the co-op) has actually continued to have lamb in their case – we can always get leg and ground lamb, can often get loin chops, and every once in a while there is a package of riblets – what’s left after the breast meat is cut away. They’re dirt cheap, so we snatch them up and stuff them in the freezer until we have enough for a meal.


What to do with them? Continue reading

lemon, garlic, butter and grill smoke


The weather has been amazing (apart from the fun little storm that whipped through on Saturday), and the asparagus has been gorgeous. How many reasons do you need to fire up the grill? This was a fabulous dinner that Jon cooked up last week: an entire bunch of grilled asparagus, grilled shrimp bathed in a lemon and garlic butter sauce, and good local bread. It’s very fast to prepare, apart from getting the coals going, and really, really good.

grilling shrimp Continue reading

köfte kebabs

cool skewers

One of the treasures that we brought back from Kansas City (and, no doubt, were responsible for our suitcase being searched) was this bunch of gorgeous skewers. They’re just what we’ve been wanting: long, flat and wide. Finally, we thought, we can make ground-meat kebabs without the meat falling off the skewer!


We were wrong, of course. Continue reading

grilled eggplant with Indian spices


We wait with great anticipation all year long, waiting for the summer to bring both grilling weather and fresh local eggplant. Once it’s here, we make this recipe repeatedly, regardless of the flavors of the other food we’re eating – it’s just so good.

spiced grilled eggplant

The recipe is from Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking, although I don’t believe we’ve ever made it quite like the original – it calls for using very small baby eggplants, stuffing them and frying them whole. We prefer slicing slightly larger eggplants (Japanese or Italian, doesn’t matter), coating them in the spices and oil, and grilling them until soft. So all we’ve really borrowed here is the spice blend, and it’s a good one. Continue reading

real grilled cheese

eating outside

We were able to have dinner outside again last weekend, only by dint of rubbing ourselves with mosquito repellent wipes and setting citronella candles all around the perimeter of the patio. Even so, I got three bites on my feet and one on my hand. Blech.

grilling halloumi

Still, it was nice to sit out in the yard and drink splendid rosé and eat halloumi, hot off the grill. If that’s not what summer’s all about, then I don’t know what is. Continue reading

lessons learned

starting the grill

Usually on the Fourth of July, we have company: neighbors who come and watch the show with us from our deck, so we can all keep an eye on our houses and make sure nothing burns down. This year it was just the two of us, which was fine…except that we decided to experiment with dinner instead of making something tried-and-true. Don’t get me wrong, we had some good food – but we did learn a few things, both positive and negative. Dinner was slow-barbecued beef back ribs, red coleslaw with orange and buttermilk, cornbread, and ice cream to follow. Sounds good, no?


1. I like red cabbage coleslaw, but I do not like coleslaw made with orange juice and buttermilk. Why did I think I would? At least I didn’t put in the hazelnuts the recipe called for.

2. I have an oral allergy to raw hazelnuts. I think. It’s hard to think logically when your mouth is itching (I had tried one to see if it went with the coleslaw – it didn’t). Continue reading

a new way to eat garlic

garlic scapes

I’ve been growing garlic for years – it’s one of the few vegetables that I consistently have in my garden, and I can usually grow enough that we only need to buy a few heads in the spring to tide us over. I used to grow softneck, but I discovered Rocambole hardneck garlic about 5 years ago and have grown it exclusively ever since – I think it has a better flavor, and it’s often much easier to peel.

One major difference between softneck and hardneck is that hardneck puts up flower stalks in the spring. If you leave them on, the flowers turn into little clusters of bulbils, taking energy from the main bulb, so it’s best to cut them off – I haven’t always been good about this, but I usually make it out there at some point, haphazardly whack off the flower scapes and compost them.

garlic scapes

But this year! This year I’ve been reading food blogs, and I’ve discovered something new. Turns out, if you pick the scape before it blooms and hardens, you can eat it! I have never seen this information in a cookbook, not even my Alice Waters book. Continue reading