A bar in Seattle was recently reinvented (and by “recently” I probably mean, like, three years ago – I can’t keep track of these things). Once simply known as The Triangle, due to the shape of the building on its odd lot between diagonal streets, it now rejoices in the name 9 Million in Unmarked Bills. For ages I have tried to remember this name and have totally failed, falling back on “that place that used to be The Triangle”. But I know where the bar is, which is the important thing. They have a totally excellent “Prescriptions” sign over the bar, big round booths, fun happy hour food, and a really interesting cocktail list (except for the John Dillinger, which is just stupid – a shot of Bulleit and a cigarette).
The last time we stopped in I got something with tequila and cucumber – I don’t remember what it was called but it was very nice – and Jon, after much debating, chose a drink called a Brooklyn. It arrived in an ice-choked glass topped with a cherry, which didn’t seem promising, but he enjoyed the drink very much. When we got home he immediately looked it up and found it in Mr. Boston’s – apparently it’s a classic drink that we had simply never heard of or tried. We started making it at home, and it has at least temporarily pushed back the Brevity as the household whiskey drink. It’s like a Manhattan, but better.
The drink is really supposed to be made with a bitter liqueur called Amer Picon, which is more or less totally unavailable in this country. Since there’s only a dash of it in the cocktail we thought we’d just substitute an amaro such as Amaro Nonino. Turns out we’re not the first people to try this. Also, a lot of other recipes I’ve seen use dry vermouth, but Mr. Boston calls for sweet and that’s how we’ve been making it. I’m sure you could experiment.
This recipe makes a modest 2 ounce drink. You can scale up the recipe, or just make yourself another one when you’ve finished.
- 1 ½ oz rye or bourbon (good both ways but rye is traditional)
- ½ oz sweet vermouth
- 1 bar spoon of amaro nonino
- dash of maraschino liqueur
Combine all ingredients in a glass or shaker with ice. Stir and strain into either a cocktail glass or a rocks glass. Garnish with a cherry or an orange twist.
This recipe is a real blast from the past for us. A standby from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (the original recipe is called Szechwan Tofu Triangles in Triple Pepper Sauce), Jon used to cook this for me when we were going out in college. We stopped making it for a long time, then suddenly felt the urge to try it again. It may not be very authentic, but it’s really pretty tasty. The “triple pepper” refers to the inclusion of bell pepper, hot red pepper, and black pepper, although in our latest version we added a fourth – Sichuan pepper. It adds that peculiar mouth-numbing quality that some of us go for in our stir-fries.
Any sort of sweet pepper will do here, but if you have a mix of colors it makes it particularly pretty.
Let me tell you about this salad that chef Casey Schanen of Nell Thorn made at the cooking school the other night. Not that everything else he made wasn’t amazing, but the salad was the real eye-opener for me. Here’s what was in it: fresh arugula, roasted squash, arugula pesto, and warm ricotta cheese. Yeah.
I’ve been hearing a lot about making ricotta at home, but for whatever reason I’ve never tried it. It really is astoundingly easy, and as much as I love cold ricotta, it turns out I love fresh, warm ricotta even more. In this salad it fills the same role as fried goat cheese – the warm creaminess adds to the dressing and enriches the greens – but without the crunch (and oil). And ricotta has a fantastic springy texture in the mouth that I find addictive.
So Casey heated milk, stirred in salt and fresh lemon juice, and scooped out the curds into cheesecloth. I tossed the arugula with good olive oil and salt, and we portioned it onto plates with a sprinkle of roasted orange squash. A scoop of ricotta went on top of that, then a drizzle of garlicky arugula pesto with pumpkin seeds. That was it. I would eat salad more often if it was like this.
We ran up to Bellingham again recently to do some errands on a dark and rainy day, and decided to have lunch at Flats Tapas Bar in Fairhaven. One of the things I’ve really liked about Flats is that their menu has remained very dependable over the years, and I had spent the morning planning out my order. Imagine my dismay when we discovered that they had just rewritten their menu a few weeks before, and nearly all my favorites were gone! Argh. Still, we sucked it up and tried two of the new dishes, and were pretty pleased.
The first (“Gambas”) was a saffron risotto topped with incredibly garlicky prawns in a spicy paprika-sherry sauce. It was amazing, and the prawns were fresh and tender.
The other dish (the “Mareo”) consisted of two grilled chicken skewers on a bed of black quinoa with pine nuts, raisins and serrano ham. The chicken, which was apparently marinated in cava, was tender but aggressively bland – I thought they might do better with a brine. The quinoa was also restrained in its seasoning. The ham was crispy and made a great contrast, but couldn’t quite carry the whole plate. We might have liked this dish better if it had been served before the prawns, but the quietness of its flavors really suffered in comparison.
The real problem with a small-plates place like this changing their menu is that we no longer know how much food to expect with each plate, so it will take some trial and error before we know how to build a really satisfying meal here again (these two dishes weren’t quite enough food for the two of us). The new chef here is doing some nice work, I hope that eventually I will have the same feel for her cooking as I had for the previous chef’s.
I often make soup on Mondays, a holdover from when I worked late shift and we needed a quick re-heat sort of dinner. I like the tradition, though – if I make the soup in the morning it gives me a chance to putter around the house doing laundry and paying bills and the like, occasionally wandering through the kitchen to give things a stir. And most soups, especially bean soups, are better if they’re made ahead and given a chance to sit and meld in the fridge.
This soup, a variation of my favorite pasta fazool, was intended to celebrate the very last of the season’s fresh cannellini beans from Dunbar Gardens. I love fresh shelling beans with a passion, and never get to eat quite as many as I’d like before the season is past, so I was glad to get one final bag. And while we were at the farmstand I also picked up a bunch of curly endive – I thought it was escarole but I was wrong – to toss into the soup.
Since the weather has gotten cold I’ve pretty much given up on my remaining outdoor vegetables. The tomato vines have wilted, I pulled out the runner beans, and the last few zucchini are melting into the ground. The tomatillo plants continued to fruit despite everything, although I was feeling a bit burned out on actually eating them. I decided to pick all the remaining fruits a few weeks ago and keep them in a bowl on the counter, just for decor. I adore the texture of these tomatillos, and the mix of jewel tones as some turn purple and others remain brilliant green.
Yesterday I finally threw them into the compost, but took one last picture in the soft afternoon light. I had just finished weaving a teal wool scarf for the upcoming Rexville art show, so I used that as a color backdrop for the tomatillos. I like the resulting contrast.
Today’s Caturday brought to you by Stella, who climbed out of the recycling bin (her favorite new hangout) long enough to be photographed on the kitchen couch. She’s so used to having a camera in her face that she doesn’t even blink any more.
Last week I was asked by the editor of Grow Northwest magazine to shoot a cover photo for their November-December issue. The catch? I’d need to bake an apple pie. Oh, darn.
Although I like other apple desserts and baked goods, I’ve never actually been that fond of apple pie. This is probably because I’ve never put much effort into baking them – if I’m going to go to the trouble to make a pie I’d rather it be rhubarb or pear-custard or blackberry. But I had a big bag of apples left here by my parents, and I wanted the photo to look like an apple pie – tall and rounded and golden – so I put some back into it.
Our soccer team got thoroughly stomped in Bellingham last weekend, so we went to two of our favorite places to cheer ourselves up.
I would probably never have thought of making this if it weren’t for the “Tom’s Big Breakfast” at Lola in Seattle. A happy plateful of eggs, potatoes, peppers and octopus, I found it surprisingly delicious. So when we left Gretchen’s the other night with a container of leftover boiled potatoes and steamed baby octopus, I knew that we were going to have octopus hash for breakfast.
Since the leftovers were all cooked, all I needed to do was roughly chop the potatoes and toss them into a nonstick pan with a little butter and oil, letting them get good and crusty, then stir in the chopped octopus near the end to heat through. With fried eggs on top and a dab of mayonnaise mixed with habañero sauce, the result was extremely good. And very filling.
We gave the octopus heads to the cats. They all thought we were trying to poison them except Mickey, who scarfed everything we gave him. He has excellent taste.