Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sunny-Time Stuffed Tomatoes

Summer is here… sort of. The Solstice (along with Seattle’s naked-bike-ride Solstice parade) came and went, and so did that fleeting glimpse of sun we had. You may think it’s silly that I talk about the weather ALL time, but that’s what we do here in Seattle. We’re sort of obsessed. When the sun shines, everyone is talking about it. And when the sun doesn’t shine, everyone is talking about that, too. “How ‘bout this weather” isn’t just small talk to Seattleites, it’s a serious, and often heartfelt, topic. This NY Times article (with shout-outs to some of my favorite Seattle eateries!) hits the nail right on the head: “During my stay [the weather] was and wasn’t [good], the rain coming and then going and then coming back, with local residents issuing a running commentary about that. Although they’re touchy about Seattle’s soggy reputation, they do seem unusually jubilant — even evangelical — about drier days.”

It’s true. We really want to convince you that it’s not that rainy in Seattle, that it’s totally sunny and beautiful here. And it IS, a few months out of the year… I swear. But, since it hasn’t been sunny yet, our summery produce has been slow on the uptake. If you know anyone with a garden in Seattle, they’ll tell you about how the weather is affecting their plants. Especially tomatoes. This dreary weather doesn’t lend to ripe, juicy tomatoes. Some of you out there probably have great tomatoes right now. So, this is for you. Everyone else can come back to this post in a month, when places like Seattle WILL be hot and sunny and bursting with fresh, abundant produce.

When I was kid, summers were full of ripe tomatoes from our garden. One summer, my grandma was making the rounds (first to Idaho to visit my aunt, then to Washington to see us). She and my aunt had made tomatoes stuffed with all kinds of good stuff, like bacon, green onions, and cheddar. She liked it so much, that she wanted to share it with us, too. The original recipe was supposed to be baked, but it was so hot out that we just stuffed them and ate them fresh... and they were so good we made them again the next night. I think Grandma ate nothing but stuffed tomatoes that summer.

The last few years, I’ve searched high and low, but haven’t been able to find the recipe. So, last summer—when you could hardly move without bumping into a crate of super-ripe tomatoes—I decided to just wing it. I planned to tell you about it at the time, but then I found this fabulous site, They Draw & Cook, and I wanted to draw the tomatoes and recipe, and submit it for a book. And then I was planning to post the recipe with my drawing for all of you. But then I didn’t finish the drawing, and I had other things, like nectarines, to tell you about. The next thing I knew, tomatoes were no longer in season, and I had yet to share this recipe. This is how far I got on my drawing. I was clearly distracted.

Fresh Stuffed Tomatoes
Serves 2-4

Heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes (2 large to 4 medium/small)
1 cup trim cottage cheese
2 green onions- thinly sliced
1 tablespoon seasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon worchestershire
1 tablespoon mayo
3 slices bacon- cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh dill- chopped
Cut tops off of tomatoes, and scoop out the insides. Dice the insides and toss into a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in bowl w/diced tomatoes, stir until combined, salt and pepper to taste. Stuff tomatoes with filling. Enjoy fresh on a hot summer night!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazy Crostini

Bread. Chocolate. Truffle salt. Almond oil. You may call me crazy for recommending this combination, but that’s fine. I’ll take it. I might be a little crazy. I mean, I own five cake pedestals and hardly ever bake cakes, I talk to my cat on the phone when I go out of town, and—after very little training the last few months—I’m about to run a half marathon, right after spending a weekend in Vegas, where I boozed harder than Amy Winehouse at an Amy Winehouse concert. Now that shit’s crazy.

The ol’ truffle-chocolate crostini pales in comparison. And really, I didn’t even invent it myself. I tasted something similar at Ocho awhile back, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Luckily, I always have baguettes and chocolate on hand—one of my favorite snacks is dark chocolate smashed into a piece of warm French bread. And, Evan got me some amazing truffle salt and almond oil for my birthday. Aside from the fact that I was eating this totally rich and extravagant snack by myself, there was absolutely no reason for me to not make it.

There’s no reason for you to not make it, either. If you don’t have almond oil, you could easily use good olive oil, and add almonds. You could also do truffle oil and plain sea salt, if that floats your boat. Now...I know you may be hesitant to fork out the cash required for truffle products, but it’s worth it. Every kitchen should have truffle oil or truffle salt. It’s just a fact. Your macaroni and cheese and popcorn will thank you. So will your chocolate crostinis.

The method for these little treats varies. Since I was making them for myself, I simply warmed some baguette slices in the microwave (how elegant of me!) with chunks of dark chocolate, and drizzled with almond oil and a sprinkle of truffle salt. If you’re making them for guests, however—especially this time of year—you could brush the bread with your oil of choice, and cook on the grill—melting the chocolate with the heat of the fire.

Your friends might call you crazy… but probably in that mad-genius type of way.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Birthday Cake for Dinner

Now that I’m on the downhill slope to 30, I guess I should start acting like a grown up, which is ok…I like being a grown up. When I get home from work, before even taking off my heels, I can dive into a giant piece of leftover chocolate birthday cake with coconut cream cheese frosting. Since I’m a grown up, no one can tell me it’s going to spoil my dinner. Hell, this is my dinner…I like that.

I also like being a grown up because I’m going to Vegas this weekend, for a bachelorette party in honor of one of my favorite gals ever! That is strictly grown up behavior. I’m even going to have a cocktail before lunch… maybe even before breakfast. Total grown up move, right? When you’re a kid you can’t do that, when you’re in college you do that a lot, but it’s so childish. When you’re 26, you get to have a drink at 10 in the morning, and call it grown-uppy. Because I mean, you're still paying bills and fulfulling responsibilities, and what not.

What I don’t like about being a grown up, however, is that no one was there to stop me from eating several giant pieces of delicious, dense, buttery chocolate birthday cake three days before I have to fit into a bikini. I would advise against this type of grown up behavior, folks. But, who am I to tell you what to do? Us grown ups, we have to make to make decisions for ourselves. So, if you decide that eating the richest chocolate cake around is the best choice for you, you can make this cake, with this frosting, like Amanda did for my birthday. Your thighs will regret it, but your taste buds will not.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fast and Fresh: Bok Choy Chicken Salad

It’s almost my 26th birthday! This weekend I’ll be celebrating my downhill decent to 30, and next weekend I’ll be in Vegas for a bachelorette party. With my days quickly filling up and the weather finally warming up (knock on wood), its time to start making quick, light, fresh meals for dinner. Like this one—crunchy baby bok choy, sweet snap peas, cool cucumbers, green onions, and shredded chicken—all tossed in a slightly spicy sesame soy vinaigrette. Calling this sexy dish easy or fast isn't even an insult—she’ll take the compliment and strut her stuff right across your dinner plate.

I threw this together on a late weeknight, in about 10 minutes. I cheated a little, buying a rotisserie chicken… but hey, no one ever said cheaters never prosper. (Oh. They do say that?) Well, in this case, it’s worth it. I get to throw together a tasty dinner in record time, and Evan gets to release his inner caveman (insert visual of Evan ravaging a chicken carcass here). Win-win, right? Right.

Salad with Bok Choy, Snap Peas, and Chicken
Inspired by Bon Appetit

1 jalapeƱo, diced
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Toasted sesame seeds

1 rotisserie chicken—shredded
2 green onions, sliced
1.5 cup sugar snap peas cut in half or thirds
3 baby bok choy, thinly sliced crosswise
1 seedless English cucumber, chopped

For dressing, whisk together ingredients—add more oil or vinegar as needed. In a large bowl, combine chicken, 2/3 of the green onions, the snap peas, bok choy, and cucumber. Toss with dressing. Enjoy!
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