farro & mushrooms

oyster mushrooms

I’ve eaten farro three times this week, and I’m still excited about it – not bad. I’d only eaten it a couple times before, and thought it was really swell, but only recently bought some at the Spanish Table in Seattle. Last weekend at the farmer’s market we got a bunch more fresh oyster mushrooms, which I thought would go splendidly with the farro – I was right.

farro

I followed the basic cooking instructions for farro in The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper – very simple, just rinsing a cup of farro and throwing it in a saucepan with three cups of water and a little salt, then simmering it for 40 minutes or so. Continue reading

an old recipe new again

meatballs with bowties and eggplant sauce

A million years ago (give or take a bit) I spent a few months in Italy as part of a geology course I was taking. We stayed in a tiny village in the Marche region, with occasional field trips elsewhere. We did most of our own cooking, under the supervision of our professors (one Italian and one American), and our diet was pretty repetitive: fresh rolls from the bakery down the road for breakfast, spread with chestnut jam; also cornflakes stirred into blueberry yogurt. Sandwiches for lunch, made from very hard rolls and very ripe pecorino (we referred to it as the Stinky Feet Cheese). Dinner was always, always pasta, but fortunately there was some variation in the toppings, many of which were really delicious. Some of my classmates put together a small recipe book, and I continued to make many of my pasta sauces from this collection for many years afterwards.

One of these sauces that was in my regular rotation was made up of sauteed eggplant mixed with sun dried tomatoes, chopped nuts and mascarpone cheese. It had a great nutty, savory taste and was a nice change from the endless red sauce/pesto rotation. As J and I started to phase out high glycemic foods from our diet I stopped making pasta for dinner as a regular thing, and the eggplant sauce disappeared from the repertoire.

Last week, though, as we were staring vacantly at grocery store produce with very little inspiration, we saw some eggplants that looked halfway decent, and J said, “What about that eggplant walnut sauce you used to make? What if we did it with meatballs?” And so we did. Continue reading

snowshoeing and pasta

Ruth Creek

I only had a one-day weekend this week, so we decided to take advantage of it and went snowshoeing. Our usual spot is the access road to Hannegan Pass, below Mount Baker. We like it because it has parking, isn’t usually too populated and, as long as you don’t go up too far, has virtually no avalanche danger. We snowshoed up to Artist Point once and I’m amazed there were no avalanches – we were very lucky that time, and I prefer not to risk it if I don’t have to.

The snowshoe itself was nice enough, although the snow had turned to rain and we quickly overheated in our snow gear. We went just far enough to work up good appetites, then headed back down the valley to Glacier. Lunch at Milano’s, after all, is the real reason we like to go hiking or snowshoeing at Mount Baker.

milano's

If you’ve been skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or hiking, what could be better than an enormous plate of pasta and a bottle of wine? Milano’s takes care of all your carbohydrate needs, from their delicious crumbly cornmeal bread to their homemade linguine and panini to their intimidatingly rich dessert selection. We try to go anytime we’re up the Mount Baker Highway – but we need to earn it with a little physical exertion. Continue reading

Pork braised in milk

milk-braised pork and braised fennel

Our plan for Sunday – which actually worked out, astonishingly enough – was to go get our Christmas tree at a local farm, set it up, and braise something for dinner so it could be cooking away and scenting the house while we decorated our tree. Often, of course, these plans don’t work out, because getting the tree into the house takes approximately five times longer than you think it will, and by the time it’s upright, the floor is vacuumed and the furniture has all been rearranged twice, you don’t have time for an involved dinner. But we actually allowed enough time for once, so we had our braise and our tree, too.

I was very pleased with the braised short ribs I made out of Molly Stevens’ book All About Braising, and wanted to try another recipe or two from her. We have an Italian friend who used to make pork cooked with milk and sage, but I had never tried it myself (I think I still wasn’t convinced it really worked) so when I saw a recipe for Pork Loin Braised in Milk, I thought I’d try it just as written and see what happened. Continue reading

Pizza

pepperoni olive pizza

I adore pizza. My parents made it at home when I was a kid, and it was classic homemade pizza – thick, soft, bready crust, lots of toppings, needed to be eaten with a fork. We sometimes went out to Godfather’s, which was a pretty standard American chain pizza. Then when I was in college I invented my own pizza using available materials: a whole wheat crust, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and falafel. It was amazingly good (but I was starved for meat and fat that year – not the most discerning palate). I went to Italy and ate some very good and some very bad pizza (spinach with an egg on top, yum. Potatoes and salt – what was I thinking?) Then after I was married, we discovered takeout chicken alfredo pizza and stuck to that for a while. Continue reading

Meatballs with arrabbiata sauce

chopping garlic
One of our tried-and-true, easy to make, yummy weeknight dinners. Both the meatballs and the sauce are inspired by recipes out of Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and are basically just vehicles for garlic. And an excuse to drink red wine.

J almost always makes the meatballs in this house – here’s how he did these. He started with two pounds of ground beef, almost the last of our local half-a-cow that we bought last year. The beef was mixed with 1/2 cup each of bread crumbs and milk, two eggs, salt and pepper, and a head (yes, a head!) of chopped garlic. The original Bittman recipe called for onion, but the first time J made it we were out. He substituted garlic (which we grow ourselves), and we liked it so much it stuck. The meatballs get baked for about 20 minutes in a 375° oven. We generally use parchment paper, it helps tremendously for cleanup. Continue reading

Cooking class: Northern Italian food & wine

dirty dishes

A kitchen store near our house regularly offers cooking classes and wine tastings. We used to occasionally go to these as guests, as we could afford it, but then we discovered the possibility of volunteering in the store as class assistants. Now every couple of weeks or so during the class season we head down to the store after work and start chopping. The level of work required depends heavily on which chef or wine rep is leading the class, and how many people are signed up – classes range from 6 to 26 people. It’s work, but we get to taste the food and the wine, meet local chefs, and cook some things we don’t normally try at home. In return we chop, plate, wash dishes, serve, stuff peppers, debeard mussels, measure flour, and sweep up at the end of the night. It’s a little like getting restaurant experience without getting paid or yelled at. Continue reading