Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hot Child in the City

It's. So. Hot.

Today's heat wave is supposed to be an all time high for Seattle. Everyone else in the country thinks we're just whiners that can't handle a 102 degree day, but they don't understand that Seattle is not equipped with AC!

Last weekend I ran in the Ragnar Relay (185 mile team relay from Blaine to Langley)! It was awesome and the best time ever, and I kicked ass (my contribution was 11.5 miles, not the full 185). I also got 2 hours of sleep and ate nothing but power bars for 40 hours. Since returning, I've been too tired and lazy, and it's been too hot to do anything. Too hot to cook dinner. Too hot to walk to the grocery store. Sorry readers, but this week my diet has not been one to write home about.

For dinner last night I had a nice cold Pacifico (Thanks Anthony), and saltines with brie and orange marmalade. It took all the strength I had to prepare even that. Let me tell ya though, there is something very satisfying about a cold beer and crackers with cheese for dinner.

The beer kept me from melting all over the floor, the cracker-cheese-marmalade combo was the perfect mix of salty, creamy, sweet, and zesty. Ahh. Nothin' like sprawling out in your sweltering apartment in a bikini next to your panting miserable cat,with an ice cold beer and a slightly upscale lunchable.

Tonight (after a long sweaty ride home from work in the Metro sauna bus) it's going to be Tecate and Popsicles for dinner. Welcome back to Washington, Evan. Land of Mexican beer and snack-food dinners.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Digging a Hole to China

Evan’s in China! Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but as you can see, I’m a little behind (considering I posted the Bastille Day Feast a full week after Bastille Day). Anyway, he’s there on a ‘business trip’ (I’m putting that in quotes, since so far all I’ve heard about is him teaching the Chinese people how to play beer pong, and the amazing food he’s been eating). Evan works for Tonkin Replicas, a replica truck company (not Tonka Trucks...completely different), and he’s visiting the factory and the employees in China! Crazy! I wish I was there with him. Of course, I miss him like crazy… but I can’t wait to hear about his adventures (especially those involving food). I told him he’ll have to recreate his meals for me. He laughed. So did I. Below are a couple of pictures he sent me! The Hong Kong harbor:

A steamed fish dish called Yu:

Anyway, back to the states...the other night, while I was sitting at home missing him, unable to call, I channeled my inner Asia and made the best-damned-tofu-ever. I don’t think what I made could really qualify as Chinese (the dish's inspiration is actually a Japanese recipe), but it was Asian-fusion… at least that’s what we’ll call it.

I love tofu, but whenever I prepare it at home, it just isn’t the same. I’m a little bit afraid of deep frying (the process and the resulting calories are both pretty scary), and as far as I could tell, that’s the only way to prepare kick-ass tofu. I always want to throw it into stir-fries and the like, but whenever I sauté or fry it, I’m disappointed. Until now! Thanks to Gourmet!

A few issues ago there was a recipe for Miso Glazed Tofu…BROILED! Ah! Why didn’t I think of that!? I didn’t have any miso on hand, so instead I made a glaze of hoison, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and green curry paste (see, that’s where the Asian Fusion part comes in). The recipe said to make sure the glaze was ‘the consistency of ketchup,’ so I made sure my on-the-fly glaze was just that. I followed the steps in the recipe for draining and firming up the tofu, and then double broiled it- once unglazed, once glazed, and the results were amazing! The tofu squares were chewy and gooey on the outside, soft on the inside. Exactly what I was looking for. I served them atop a quick prep dish of peanut green beans: sautéed onions and garlic, frozen green beans, sesame oil, a drop of sriracha, and a spoonful of peanut butter, topped with toasted sesame seeds.
I’m sure it’s nothing like what Evan’s eating over there in China (yu), but it did make me feel a little bit better… and I finally know how to cook tofu! When Evan gets back, we'll do tofu and yu for two. Until then…

Miso Glazed Broiled Tofu
(From Gourmet magazine)

This recipe calls for a miso glaze, but I just made up my own hoison glaze. I think whatever you do will work just fine, as long as it tastes good and has the consistency of ketchup! It also recommends skewering the tasty morsels and serving as appetizers.

1 (14-to 16-ounces) block firm tofu, drained
1/3 cup red (dark) miso
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sake, dry Sherry, or dry white wine
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Equipment: 12 two-pronged wooden picks or 24 (2 1/2-to 31/2-inch) straight wooden picks

Pat tofu dry with paper towels, then wrap in fresh paper towels and put in a microwave-safe dish (see cooks' note, below). Microwave at high power 30 seconds. Pour off any liquid and wrap tofu in fresh paper towels. Microwave 1 or 2 more times for 30 seconds each time, pouring off any liquid, until tofu feels firmer.

Preheat broiler.

Stir together miso, sugar, and sake in a small saucepan. (If miso mixture is very thick, stir in 1 tablespoon water.) Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until bubbling, glossy, and the consistency of ketchup, 1 to 3 minutes.

Cut tofu in half horizontally and arrange, cut sides up, on a cutting board. Cut each half into 6 squares (pieces might not be perfectly square).

Arrange tofu on a foil-lined broiler pan, cut sides up, and broil about 2 inches from heat until a crust just forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from oven and spread crusted side of each square with about 3/4 teaspoon miso mixture. Broil until tops are just bubbling and starting to color, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Skewer each square with 1 two-pronged pick or 2 parallel straight picks. Sprinkle with seeds.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why American Women DO Get Fat

For Bastille Day (French national holiday), I talked Amanda into whipping up a lovely French feast! I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’m actually a rookie when it comes to French fare… but luckily this dinner was meant to be. First of all, the only reason I knew of the upcoming Bastille Day was because a new restaurant, Bastille, opened up in Ballard. I did a little digging around on the ol’ internet to figure out what the heck Bastille was all about, and it just so happened that my web search revealed that Bastille Day was upon us. To top it off, Amanda had just received the latest issue of Bon Appétit, with a huge article about Julia Child, featuring a bunch of tasty looking French recipes (see article link for recipes). And it’s a good thing, because otherwise we wouldn’t know the first thing about French cooking (don’t worry, I’m not going to go all ‘Julie/Julia’ on you and try to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking… although I AM stoked for the movie!)

I took care of the Hor d’Oeurves, and Amanda got to work on our Bastille feast:

Green Salad with Sauce Vinaigrette
Poulet Saute aux Herbs de Provence (chicken sautéed with Herbs de Provence)
Ratatouille (not Emil the rat's recipe though)
Reine de Saba (chocolate almond cake with chocolate butter icing)

To start, we had 3 kinds of brie- a basic every day brie, goat cheese brie, and triple cream VERY STINKY brie. Amanda’s fridge will never smell the same again. It was, however, delicious! We paired the cheese with a few bottles of French wine, two kinds of baguette, dark French chocolate, and my new favorite French snack: radishes with butter and fleur de sel. I think eating these radishes is my destiny, I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately! I just finished reading “A Homemade Life” by fellow food blogger Molly Wizenburg of Orangette. In it, she shares a ‘recipe’ for raw radishes with salt and butter. I thought it sounded interesting, but not 'fancy' by any means (I mean, it’s just radishes…with butter and sea salt…right!?) Then my latest issue of Gourmet also mentioned the combo as a popular French snack. Let me tell ya, those French people know a thing or two about food. Some of their cuisine is so simple, yet so fantastic. Case in point: Radishes sprinkled with sea salt, dipped in butter. Done.

On to the feast. The salad was…funny. Don’t get me wrong, the Sauce Vinaigrette was delish, but the recipe called for the homemade dressing to be poured over a salad of… lettuce. That’s it. Lettuce. It was good, simple, light. I suppose I’m just used to our salads, which often represent every food group and can have more calories than a Big Mac.

No offense Sauce Vinaigrette, but the chicken and ratatouille were the show stoppers of the dinner. Poulet Saute aux Herbs de Provence consisted of expertly sautéed chicken, covered in Herbs de Provence (dried herbs, usually a mix of savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and the kicker: lavender flowers), and doused with white wine.

Pretty much anything that’s cooked in butter, covered with a generous handful of flavorful herbs, and topped off with wine is going to be good. The ratatouille didn’t look like the stuff that the rat Emil served in the movie (don't pretend you didn't see it...), but I’m sure it tasted better. It was an oily, hearty, saucy stew of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini. Sopped up with a thick chunk of French bread, it was exactly how I picture an autumn evening in France. I ate it too fast to take a photo. So here's one more of the chicken... with the simple salad.

With fantasies of France swirling in my head, and flavors of France swirling in my belly, I was full and content. That is, until Amanda brought out the Reine de Saba. Chocolate almond cake with chocolate butter icing. Remember what I said about French food be so simple and easy? Well, you can just forget about that if you want Reine de Saba, according to Amanda’s description of the process (though she tends to exaggerate a bit…I sometimes call it lying… she calls it exaggerating…which is yet another lie…). Anyway, she said that Julia’s recipe was about 30 steps of mixing, then mixing again, then sifting, then sifting again, then sifting 38 more times, and mixing a few more times… and that’s just for the first half of the ingredients. I think it was worth it. Thanks Julia! This cake was amazing.

It was chocolaty with subtle notes of almond flavor. The cake was moist and fudgy, with a slight crunch from the ground almonds. The frosting was out of control delicious. I ended up eating about 3 pieces, and was definitely still full but no longer content…(this was one of those unbutton your jeans or put on sweatpants kind of meals). The crazy part is… I would eat 3 more pieces right now, if I had the opportunity. It was that good.

Other than my self-induced over indulgence, the meal was très magnifique! I can’t wait until the next time I can coax Amanda into slaving over a hot stove and mixing cake batter 386 times for her lil’ sis!

Au revoir!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Thief in the Night

Last week (actually, it was the night of roasted vegetable pizza and Big Love) I noticed a strange ‘fruit’ growing on a tree by the sidewalk. It resembled a lime- bright green and the size of a medium small lime… just hanging there from a leafy tree. And there wasn’t just one, mind you, this tree was full of these little lime-like goodies. However, I was skeptical. The skin was much too smooth to be the kind of lime I’m used to, and don’t limes grow in hotter, tropical climates?

I stealthily plucked one the mystery fruits, looking both ways to make sure no one was watching (hey, this tree was half way on someone’s property…it could very well be a privately owned mystery fruit tree!) With mystery fruit in hand, I ran inside and grabbed a cutting board and knife. Slicing clean through the middle, I soon discovered that this was no lime. The inside had a white cavity (actually, cavity is appropriate, because it was almost shaped like a molar). There was a filmy slime-goo layer inside the folds of the cavity, and the edges of the cut oozed light green liquid. It smelled piney.

I left the two halves of mystery fruit on the counter, and ran to my computer to do some research, yelling to Evan to ‘not touch it, it may be poisonous.’ I did several Google web and picture searches, typing in things like ‘green lime sized fruit.’ Finally, I saw a result for photo of the mystery fruit, it was titled ‘walnuts.’ Walnuts!? This was no fruit at all… it was a WALNUT! I searched for green walnuts to confirm my findings. Sure enough, it was an unripe green walnut. WHO KNEW THAT WALNUTS LOOK LIKE THAT!? Apparently, a lot of people (including Mel).

Walnuts grow with a protective peel-like layer around their shell, which is the lime-like skin. When they’re young and un-ripe, the shell is soft, and the nut isn’t yet formed (this is the molar like cavity). Also unbeknownst to me… the fact that while the juice is initially a transparent greenie-clear color… it soon turns black and stains everything it touches. Whoops. There goes that cutting board. During my research, I learned that not only do walnuts start out green and soft-shelled, they are also commonly used (in this stage) to make a syrupy black Italian walnut liqueur called Nocino. Once I had confirmed-100% without a doubt- that these were indeed unripe green walnuts, I waiting until it got dark, and headed back out to the tree.

According to tradition, Italians pick the walnuts on San Giovanni, June 24th. Since I’m not Italian, I picked them on July 7th, and I think they’ll be just fine. Working quickly, like a thief in the night, I snatched 25 walnuts off the tree and ran back inside. The next day (after stashing them out of site because Evan didn’t like the smell) I read up on the basic formula for Nocino making. Basically, fill a big jar with quartered un-ripe green walnuts, cover with grain alcohol, and throw in extras that could include orange rinds, lemon rinds, spices, and sugar. Shake daily for up to 6 months. Strain and transfer to jars. I took it. I ran with it. I made Nocino.

After carefully (but not carefully enough) quartering the walnuts (my thumb is black from the juice), I covered them with the highest proof, lowest priced vodka I could buy, added 2 cups of sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, half of a vanilla bean, 1 star anise, 4 whole cloves, and the peel of one orange and one lemon.

I’ll keep you updated along the way, but like many great things, Nocino gets better with age, and we won’t be drinking this baby for about a year! In the meantime, I shake it once a day (to mix it up so nothing settles on the bottom) and hope for the best. Here's to Nocino!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Big Pizza Love

About a year ago, my BFF from high school, LB, moved to Seattle from Indiana (where she was a champion javelin thrower at Purdue University, attending the Olympic Trials for Beijing). One thing we always had in common, even while we were miles apart during college was our (stellar) taste in movies and TV. When LB moved to Seattle, I finally had a new viewing-party buddy! We got together with Evan and Anthony for Season 3 of Dexter. I introduced her to one of Evan and my favorites, Big Love, and she quickly blew through seasons 1 and 2. She introduced me to Nip Tuck, which Evan and I then watched religiously, from seasons 1-4, over about a 2 month span. When we were finally caught up on each other’s favorite shows, we decided to join forces once again, for season 3 of Big Love. Evan, LB, and I get together once a week to see what Bill Hendrickson and his three wives are up to (that's right, three's an HBO drama about an everyday polygamist!)

For the season finale this week (it actually ended a few months ago, but we're behind), we gathered in front of the big screen with plates full of roasted vegetable pizza!

Earlier in the week Evan's mom, Mary Ellen, gave me her garden's first zucchini, as well as a handful of the cutest homegrown fingerling potatoes ever. Given that these were the first fruits of her labor, I wanted to do something special with them, and Big Love night seemed like the right occasion. The night before the big finale, I roasted the potatoes and zucchini with cooking radishes, red onion, red bell pepper, garlic, basil, olive oil, and balsamic, and let them cool in the fridge over night. When it was time to assemble the pizza, I haphazardly spun my Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough into a lovely crust, brushed with olive oil, topped with the roasted veggies, and covered with crumbled feta and grated parm. After about 15 minutes, our pizza was ready, and our show was starting.

The veggies were caramelie, full of flavor, and delicious. Paired with the briny, tangy feta, and hearty whole wheat crust, the pizza was just what we needed to get us through Bill's drama with wife #1 Barb, wife #2 Nikki, and wife #3 Margine, 'the prophet' Roman's unlawful behavior on the compound, Albie's homemade bomb experiment, and the narrow escape of the infamous Green clan. Ahh, Big Love. So much delicious drama. Can't wait to see what our next show will be cooking up...

Roasted Veggies
These are great on a pizza, tossed with pasta, as a side or topping with meat, or just on their own! Feel free to add your favorite veggies and see how it turns out!

1 medium-large zucchini- cut in thick chunks
1 medium-large red onion- cut in wedges and separated
2 cooking radishes (these are way bigger than the little dinner salad radishes, but you could also try a handful of those, or other root veggies like turnips!)- cit in large chunks
8-10 fingerling potatoes (or 2-5 reds, 1-2 yukons, sweet potatoes, etc)- cut into thick slices or chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut in chunks
4-5 garlic cloves- peeled and cut in half
4-5 basil leaves, torn
salt & pepper to taste
1/4th cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425. Mix ingredients in large bowl until veggies are well coated, if you need to add more olive oil, do it. Pour mixture (including extra oil in bowl) into greased roasting pan or baking sheet (I used the latter). Roast until veggies are golden and caramelized- about 30 to 40 minutes, longer if needed. Enjoy!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Lady Liberty

Happy 4th of July... a few days late! To celebrate and honor our Lady Liberty, I hosted a ladies’ brunch over the holiday weekend! Some of my gal pals- V, Tasha, Amanda, and Brit…(and Biscuit, the lady of the house, though she dined on Fancy Feast) joined me at my apartment for a lovely little brunch, before we all went forth to enjoy the weekend festivities and fireworks.

A few weekends ago I attended the engagement brunch party of two good friends, Becky and Deric (everyone is getting hitched! Becky & Deric, Brit & Art...)The hostess, Sam, served up a delicious ham and asparagus frittata that gave me just the inspiration I needed for my brunch. I diced asparagus, green onions, and a thick slab of ham from the deli, and mixed it with grated swiss, salt and pepper, and eggs beaten with half &half. After baking, I topped the frittata with fresh basil from my ever-growing basil plant. While I made one 8 inch dish too much, my first frittata was delish, and we all had seconds. I even ate some later, cold from the fridge… which was my first EVER left over egg eatery (as you know, I've only recently become fond of eggs)…

To accompany the frittata, I made a wonderful summertime treat- Mel’s huckleberry muffins (which is actually Fannie’s muffin recipe, with the addition of huckleberries, and a few special tweaks). Unlike your average muffin, these are hearty and bread-like in texture, less crumbly than most. I used my new mini muffin pan, and served the tiny, warm, delicious, little muffin bites with homemade lemon curd...which is so good it's hard not eat it from the jar with a spoon (which I did when I got home from work last night...)

Frittata and muffins with lemon curd, served alongside a fruit salad, raspberry sun-tea, coffee, and juice is all one needs for a fabulous brunch, right? That is… unless the one in question has her own ice cream maker…! That’s right, for ladies’ brunch I made batch 3 with my new toy! This time, to fit in with a brunch (because who eats ice cream for breakfast….other than that one time at the Rusty Pelican when my old roommate Kristy ordered a waffle with ice-cream on top…) I made sorbet! Kiwi Sorbet! Sort of following a recipe in Gourmet’s July edition (at the store, I didn’t realize that the recipe measured the kiwis in pounds, and I bought 10 kiwis without weighing them) I blended peeled-and-sliced fresh kiwis (the fruit, not the bird!) with superfine sugar. Since I didn’t know if my 10 kiwis were close to 2 lbs, I just added the sugar to taste, and decided to make it a little tart. Into my ice cream freezer the fresh fruit & sugar went for a short 25 minutes!

I served the tart and fruity bright-green (and black speckled) sorbet in the kiwi shell halves. The gals loved them, and I have more for later!

With our bellies full, we headed out in separate directions to celebrate the holiday. Amanda, Brit, Evan, and I went to Brit's family beach house, where we followed the delicious brunch with fresh caught crab, tons of clam dip, way too many cookies, and an amazing fireworks show. Brunch and girl talk with some of my favorite gals, a sunny day at the beach, and watching fireworks with my sweetie... now that's a fourth to be reckoned with!

Mel's Huckleberry Muffins
(Adapted from Fannie Farmer)
2 cups white flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4th cup melted butter
1 cup huckleberries (I use frozen, and just thaw them overnight, draining juice & mixing with a tablespoon of flour before adding)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter muffin pans (makes 12 full sized or about 16 minis). mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, and butter, stirring only enough to dampen flour (batter should be a little lumpy). Spoon into muffin pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes. As family tradition goes, I like to serve them wrapped in a kitchen towel, and eat them hot with butter in the middle, or homemade lemon curd! They're great cold or reheated for up to two days.

Luscious Lemon Curd
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (I like to use a little more...)
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter- room temp

Beat butter and sugar for about 2 minutes, until smooth. Slowly add eggs and beat for another minute. Mix in lemon juice and zest. Note- at this point it will look a little lumpy and almost curdled, don't fear, that's normal. Pour into heavy bottomed sauce pan, and cook over medium low heat whisking continuously until the curd is thick enough to hold a ripple when the whisk is lifted from the curd and first bubbles appear on the surface (generally between 5-8 minutes).
Transfer to bowl or jar, and place plastic wrap on top of curd (to prevent skin from forming). Last one week.

Enjoy on muffins, scones, or toast with butter, as a tart or cake filling... or straight from the jar on a spoon!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Get to Work!

My two months of freedom have been grand, but it’s time to get to work. I’m headed back to work, the nine-to-five grind, working for ‘the man’ in hi-tech marketing. Bear with me for the next few weeks, it might take me awhile to get back into the swing of things and find equal time for blogging and cooking (not mention spending 'quality time' with my little darling, Biscuit) while I get my work schedule back on track and in a routine (wait, you mean I can't bake a cake at 2 in the afternoon on a Wednesday anymore!?). While my postings may slow down for a couple of weeks, have no fear- as long as I’m still eating, I’ll still be writing.

Even as I go back to work, I have no doubt that Loves Food, Loves to Eat will continue to thrive, and not just for the mere fact that I love food and love to eat. Deliciousness aside, this blog got me goin' when I was down, and has kept me going since. Only a couple years out of college, and in my first career job, I found that I was getting bored. Not that I wasn’t happy, but everyone needs something for themselves. Something that helps them wind down at the end of the day or gives them something extra to look forward to. A hobby, if you will. Evan looks forward to ‘geeking out on dork stuff’ (his words), Amanda hits the gym, Brit makes jewelry and other miscellaneous arts and crafts… what did I do? I used to do a lot of artwork and creative writing, and of course I love to cook and eat, but I found myself in a routine of work, hang out with friends, work, hang out with boyfriend, work, work, work. Getting laid off gave me the spare time I needed to find something for myself. I started running (which is a good thing considering all the eating I've been doing!) and I’m doing a kind-of-a-big-deal relay race at the end of the month. And, as you know, I started this little diddy-Loves Food, Loves to Eat.

Writing a food blog does a funny thing to a girl. I used to live to eat, now I find that I eat to blog! I’m sure you could do some sort of math or reasoning to arrive at the conclusion that I therefore live to blog. Regardless, I can’t wait to cook new recipes, create new creations, eat delicious meals, and visit exciting restaurants so that I can blog about them. Not to say that I stopped being obsessed with eating for the simple pleasure of tasting great food... quite the opposite in fact! Now I get even more pleasure out of food and eating because I get to share it with all of you. It’s like having my cake and eating it too… literally. Back when I was searching for a hobby (searching for a hobby doesn’t work, by the way... how silly of me), I took a few yoga classes, thinking maybe that would be my ‘thing.’ It wasn’t. However, I did take something away from it… a few good moves, and some words of wisdom the yoga instructor said. She told us that if it was important to us, and if we wanted ‘yoga in our lives’ it would come to us. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and far fetched, but I think she was right. Yoga didn’t come to me, but since starting my blog, some amazing foodie experiences have just sort of popped up, as you’ve read in all of my previous posts.

It could just be that I’ve started to notice and reflect on my food-related experiences or that more things happen because I’m looking for them, but either way… Loves Food, Loves to Eat has become my ‘thing,’ and it’s not going away anytime soon. So that being said, posts may slow down a tad in the beginning, and I may get a little behind (I actually have about 3 posts backed up). But don't go anywhere, because I'm still here...and I'm still hungry!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Part 2: Spontaneous Brazilian

...After making tacos (and ice cream) for the moving crew, Amanda and I kicked around town for awhile, and headed back to her house to make salads and watch Sex and the City. Lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, zucchini, and broccoli in the bowl, Amanda went out to the balcony to put the chicken on the grill. Sterling, a neighbor from a few doors down, came around the corner just in time to hear Amanda turn on the propane, and invited us over to sample some empanadas. We figured we'd just head over and have a quick taste, and come back to check on the grill. Little did we know, we were in for a spur-of-the-moment Brazilian feast.

As we entered Sterling's home (after accidentally knocking on the wrong door), we were greeted with glasses of champagne, and warm welcomes from Sterling's girlfriend Laurie, roommate Leslie, and a big group of their friends (who all happened to work at Greenlake Bar & Grill). Sterling loves to cook, try new recipes, and entertain, and was thrilled to have a random group of friends and neighbors over for his newest culinary endeavor: Brazilian. Their new roommate Leslie had spent some time living in Brazil, and had recently treated them to dinner at a local Brazilian restaurant. Obsessed with the delicious new flavors, Sterling was on a mission to recreate and perfect Brazilian cuisine. The menu: empanadas, collard greens, grilled chorizo with chimichurri, and my favorite part... a Brazilian condiment called farofa. Seeing the feast at hand, smelling the delicious aromas, and being handed glass after glass of champagne and wine, we decided it was time to turn off our grill, and settle in for a night of laughs and great eats with new friends.

Sterling took charge in the kitchen, and it was obvious that he had a passion for food and a zest for cooking. He was almost giddy with the excitement of the meal, and sharing his talents in the kitchen with new people. Laurie was the ultimate sous chef. To make the empanadas, she stuffed little rounds of dough with a mixture of top sirloin, raisins, and other tasty odds and ends that Sterling had mixed up. Once filled, the edges were crimped and the empanadas were brushed with egg wash and put in the oven to bake up to golden perfection. They were crispy on the outside, and full of flavor on the inside. Absolutely delicious.

The chorizo sausages were sliced lengthwise, doused in Sterlings homemade chimichurri, and thrown on the grill. Chimichurri is a basically a Latin pesto, a mix of garlic, oil, parsley, peppers, and other delicious ingredients, used as a marinade for the meat and condiment for the empanadas. Sterling's was full of fresh flavor, and he explained that in Brazil they said that meat marinated in chimichurri tasted as if it was 'pulled through the garden' with all of it's fresh garden flavor. The sausage was spicy and tasted amazing with an extra splash of chimichurri.

Sterling explained that Brazilian cuisine uses similar ingredients as Southern American cuisine (because of a similar history with the slave trade), but they use different methods of preparation. Case in point: collard greens. Well versed in southern cooking, Sterling said that he was used to cooking down the whole leaves until they were wilted and less bitter, but in Brazil, the common preparation involved removing the thick stems, slicing the greens into thin ribbons, and giving them a quick saute with garlic. After tasting his Brazilian greens, I'll take his word for it! Slightly crisp and chewy at the same time, the greens were like nothing I had tried before.

And finally, the bell of the ball... farofa. Farofa is a buttery, bacony flour mixture, made with manoic flour, which is often sprinkled over food, or eaten on it's own. I think I'm in love. I had never seen, heard of, or tasted anything remotely similar to farofa. We spooned it onto our greens, sausage, and empanadas, and then ate it straight from the bowl with spoons. Smokey, buttery, and amazing, I can't believe I lived so long without farofa in my life!

After too many glasses of wine and champagne, three helpings of dinner, tons of laughs, a shared love of food, and several hours, we took our to-go bags of tasty Brazilian treats, hugged our new friends goodbye, and stumbled out the door. By this point it was well past 10 PM. We put our measly little salad and chicken in the fridge for another time, grateful for the amazing feast we spontaneously happened upon. With fantastic homemade farofa on my mind, I hope to be back to Sterling's kitchen soon, to see what else he's cookin' up!
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