paella party!

Well, this was the big birthday weekend, and I do believe we did it up right. In honor of my birthday, my aunt’s birthday, my father’s 60th birthday and my parents’ upcoming 40th anniversary, we hired our friend Knut Christiansen of Paellaworks catering to come out and cook up a paella for us and about thirty friends and neighbors. Despite the annoyingly autumnal weather (wind AND rain, sheesh), everything went beautifully.

getting the fire going

My parents put together this contraption for the paella pan – Knut said it was the best fire setup he’d ever used. The great thing about the metal rails was the way the pan could be slid onto the fire and off again. There was plenty of good fruitwood to burn, too.

Anjou bread

The paella was built up gradually over the course of the afternoon. We all stood around and watched and got in the way while eating olive bread from the Anjou Bakery (thanks, Heather & Kevin!) and a wonderful goat cheese/pear/butter mixture that Knut had brought.


The first thing to go in was the chorizo, to render all that good pork fat into the pan. Continue reading

lemongrass rice and grilled beef


There was fresh lemongrass at the farmer’s market again! This time I used it to flavor a batch of rice cooked with coconut milk and daun salam (recipe from Cradle of Flavor, very easy). I just tied the lemongrass into knots, combined it with washed basmati rice, a handful of dried daun salam (Indian bay) leaves, coconut milk, salt and water, brought it all to a boil and steamed it for 15 minutes, then let it sit while we did other things. Just before we ate I fished out all the aromatics and fluffed up the rice – it was dry, sweet and a little chewy. J thought it smelled a bit like Froot Loops, which I can’t say is a real recommendation, but there you go. It was tasty.

knotted lemongrass
making rice

To go with the rice, J made some grilled beef skewers Continue reading

pomegranate marlin and dill pilaf


So we came back home from our Vancouver trip loaded down with new cookbooks, and of course I had to immediately find something new to cook. The first recipe that jumped out at me was a pomegranate molasses-marinated swordfish from the Casa Moro cookbook. Hey, I thought, we still have pomegranate molasses! And, as fate would have it, we were able to buy big fat steaks of Hawaiian marlin at the store – plus the weather was good enough for outdoor grilling!

To go along with the fish, the book recommended a pilaf, so I tried out the Moro recipe for rice with dill and pine nuts.  It involved rinsing and then soaking basmati rice so that it took very little cooking – not a technique that I’d tried before, but it worked like a charm.

new recipe
marlin steaks

About two hours ahead of time, I combined pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, cilantro, garlic and salt in a pie pan and rubbed it all over the fish steaks, which then went back into the fridge. Then I measured out the rice, rinsed it several times and set it to soak in warm water and salt. J got the grill started, then sliced eggplant and rubbed it with olive oil and salt. Continue reading

cooking class: tapas & paella

paella 1

Another cooking class at Gretchens, this time focusing on one dish: paella! Knut Christiansen of Paellaworks catering brought his big pan and lots of good stuff to put in it, and Randy Finley of Mount Baker Vineyards brought wine to go along with it all. Paella is something Knut does especially well, even when he’s making it up as he goes along, so it was great fun to watch it all come together. And even more fun to eat it at the end.

Knut's tapas

Paella takes a while to cook, of course, so to keep people occupied and happy Knut put together some tapas to pass out. One was a leaf of Swiss chard wrapped around a tasty filling of cheese and sausage, paired with a salad of shredded asparagus, olives, chard stems and a tangy tangerine and cinnamon dressing. Everyone ate those immediately, so after that he toasted some crostini in the paella pan, I rubbed it with raw garlic and he swiped a bit of tomato sauce across it. Simple but good. We ate the tapas with two white wines, a blend called Rosetta Blanc and a Viognier (Mount Baker makes a really nice vio).

starting the paella Continue reading