oysters at sunset

Otter Cove oysters

We don’t usually go to chain restaurants (although I’m well acquainted with the appeal of an Egg McMuffin), but a friend gave us a coupon to Anthony’s that needed to be used during March. I’d only been to an Anthony’s restaurant once, in Richland, and wasn’t thrilled by the experience, but we figured they’d at least have oysters and booze, and if we didn’t like it we could have dinner elsewhere. Much to our surprise, we had a great time.

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shrimp curry

shrimp curry

Back during the summer we had been steadily working our way through the stunning book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, but we’ve slacked off a bit of late. Everything from that book has tasted fabulous, but much of it, like a lot of Indian food in general, is very unphotogenic and so not very conducive to blogging.

This week we ended up needing to cook one more dinner at home than we had planned, so I went looking for a recipe that could be made from just what was in the freezer and pantry. This shrimp curry was just the ticket, since we had the last of a bag of frozen shrimp needing to be used, there was a bag of dried grated coconut in the cupboard, fresh cilantro left over from a Thai stirfry, and everything else is a standard pantry item for us. We scaled the recipe down to match the amount of shrimp we had. Continue reading

an after-yoga supper


This past month we’ve been trying something new – Bikram yoga. Two or three times a week we voluntarily put ourselves in a very hot room and twist ourselves into postures that leave us unbelievably sore, with a tendency to sleep ten hours a night (not that we generally get to). The drawback (for those of us obsessed with food) is that you can’t come home after nine hours of work and 90 minutes of hot yoga and expect to have time or digestive power for an exciting, complex or heavy dinner. Or alcohol. As a result, we’ve been expanding our repertoire of fried rices and other things that can be processed in the morning, then dumped in a hot wok and promptly inhaled alongside a pot of green tea. A few pounds have been lost, let me tell you. Continue reading

Peter's squid salad

squid salad

We had a class at Gretchens with chef Peter Belknap the other night, the theme of the evening being “French Riviera.” Of course, there was cream sauce involved, and plenty of cheese and breadcrumbs as well. But one dish that I thought was particularly fun was a salad of white beans, pasta and squid with a mustardy dressing. I love squid, but I never cook it at home (my few attempts, many years ago, were rather rubbery). This was a nice presentation, and the flavors and textures worked well together. I may have to give cooking squid another try.


I got to prep the squid – apparently having small fingers is an asset in this business. This was frozen, cleaned squid without the tentacles, very easy to work with.

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the first green beans of summer

prawns and green beans

Of course these weren’t the first green beans we’ve eaten all summer, but they were the first picking from Blue Heron Farm, and they were lovely. I wanted to let them shine as much as possible, so all I did was blanch them, then saute them with olive oil, lots of garlic, prawns and a little white wine. I served them on soft polenta, and the flavors were really bright and fresh.

polenta pot

Polenta isn’t usually the first starch I think of, but I’m always happy when I make it. This batch turned out particularly well. I let it cook long enough to get really smooth, then I beat in a nugget of butter and nothing else – no cheese or cream. I poured it out into soup bowls and let it set, then put the shrimp and green beans on top. Mmmmm. Continue reading

shrimp gratin

prawn gratin

It’s a strange thing that sometimes, when you first glance through a new cookbook, one particular recipe catches your eye. You make it, and like it, then never make any other recipe out of that book – you just keep making that first recipe over and over again. Or maybe that’s just me.

This recipe is out of a library book, Jacques Pépin’s Fast Food My Way, which I checked out when I was feeling particularly crunched for time and wanted some quick dinner ideas. I was thrilled when I discovered this gratin, which is quick to assemble, even quicker to bake, and doesn’t taste quite like anything else I make. And it’s very easy to make just enough for two people – no messy leftovers. The shrimp both bake and steam in the moisture from the wine and vegetables and are beautifully crisp and tender, with the nice crunchy breadcrumb topping over all.

rainbow chard

Because of the basic perfection of the original recipe, I’ve not played around with it at all, except to get rather casual about quantities – except that this time I decided to gather a few leaves of fresh rainbow chard from my tiny backyard plot, shred them and scatter them into the gratin. Continue reading

local oysters

ropes and buoys

One of the perks of living in the Skagit Valley is being near the water. We don’t live close enough to Puget Sound to, say, go kayaking every morning (rats!), but a half-hour’s drive gets us to a ferry terminal, a bayside walking trail, or a shellfish farm.

Taylor Shellfish Farm
Taylor Shellfish Farm

I visited Taylor Shellfish for the first time many years ago, as part of a Watershed Masters program I was in. We toured the facility, listened to a lecture on oyster reproduction in a big cold drafty room, then ate quantities of hot fresh oyster soup. I wasn’t actually a big fan of oyster soup, but I appreciated the gesture at the time. We’ve since been back to the farm a number of times to buy fresh clams, mussels, and (most recently) oysters.

The retail shop is right on Samish Bay, near the mouth of Oyster Creek. They sell shellfish and crabs, as well as oyster knives and a few sauces and seasonings, so if you want you can buy a bag of oysters and head straight out to one of their picnic tables on the water and eat them immediately. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.

oysters Continue reading