Curious Appetite

Seattle

Marx food Random Recipe challenge: the winner is…

The winner is…Lady Curious Appetite!

About 2 weeks ago I blogged about making a wonderful and tasty stuffed squash per inspiration for a Food Blogger Challenge I was selected to participate in! The winning recipe can be found here:

https://thecuriousappetite.com/2011/10/14/marxfood-random-recipe-challenge-wildly-stuffed-squash/

I was so ecstatic to see that my recipe was so well received. And, the competition was fierce. In fact, I would have had a hard time choosing between carmelized pork empanadas, my wild stuffed squash AND coconut wild rice pudding too! I invite you all to read the announcement with the links to the fellow random recipe participants as well, I was quite impressed (and inspired!) by all of their blogs!

http://marxfood.com/random-recipe-challenge-winner-not-randomly-chosen/

I also realized that my traffic has gone up a smidgen since the challenge and I’d like to thank every single eye ball and fingertip for taking the time to visit my blog of random food musings, I appreciate the precious time that is taken out of your important days for following up on the curious! Thank you again!

And also, check out Marx Foods! I’m dying to try their GABA Rice, which is fermented and sprouted brown rice. It’s called GABA because during the sprouting enzymatic process, GABA is a residual by-product. GABA, is not only an acronym that I can’t be bothered with GoOgGlE’ING, it is a neurotransmitter/amino acid important for starving anxiety, poor sleep patterns and stress waves away! In Japan, it is common to find rice cookers with a GABA option cook setting! GABA GABA DOO! ūüėõ

Stay tuned for more recipes by Lady Curious!

Skillet Diner- "Street" food: brick and mortar style

Sunday mornings should be spent in bed, and if you are forced out of one there should be something worth for such an awful separation. So for me, the motivation is brunch or the farmer’s market (which usually included munchables).

I have heard buzzings about Skillet Diner, they started out as a food truck and now they have a brick and mortar in Capitol Hill, as well as marketable retail goods like skillet bacon spread. This whole thing kind of irks me about “street” food in Seattle. Chefs start out something kitchy by stuffing it in a food truck, charging way more than the whole concept of “street” food is supposed to stand for and once they get to a certain¬†threshold¬†of popularity, they open a brick and mortar, still serving overpriced “street” food IN A FRICKEN RESTARANT! ¬†And boutiquey “shop” marketed plastic jars of¬†over-glorified¬†Bacon GREASE? Give me a break. Vomit is officially everywhere. Suffice to say, I haven’t quite jumped aboard the food truck “wagon”.

But I just had to come to Skillet this Sunday brunch. I knew it would be good, from the looks its menu’ of pork belly and cornmeal waffles to a straight up “standard”. And honestly the last couple times I have tried to scope out the undiscovered hole in the walls at breakfast, I was a little hrmph’d for having separated myself from loungeness and p.js on precious weekend mornings for some crap on a plate I could have made 12 times better. And Skillet was a good bet after all. The wait is a little annoying, but not really because these marketeers got you waitees covered with a coffee station, where you can also purchase a jar of this bacon spread (how is this not called grease?!!). And chairs outside to make the time go by better with your warm bodied joe. The bar/diner seating is spin-able,bright and comfy. The prices are pretty descent as long as you stick with the 9 buck plates, which are usually the most belly filling and rib stickily like the homemade (cream-stricken meaty perfected) sausage gravy (oh mylanta…) and biscuits (buttery sweet salty carb HEAVEN!). The nice touch here is that they serve it with fried crispy sage on top. They have a seasonal rotating scramble that I was super tempted to try which was a duck confit grit something something fancy and rainbow chard. But my friend ordered the deconstructed hash which was basically french spiced root vegetables and meaty¬†marbling¬†steak chunks with an egg on top oozing a bright orange yolk. I’m not gonna sing skillet’s high praises and i’m not gonna rip it apart (other than about the general pretentiousness of “street” food in Seattle). I read the Seattle Weekly review and a few others, and they seemed to be a little underwhelmed, i believe due to preconditioned hype. My response to them is that Skillet Diner doesn’t require a microscopic analysis: its good breakfast. Its good because, its consistent, reasonable and interesting. And not 18 bucks a plate like Steelhead Diner. Plus, they have bacon salt bloody mary’s¬†in mason jars (2 bucks cheaper during breakfast and brunch!)

Curious approves:)

MarxFood Random Recipe Challenge: Wildly Stuffed Squash!

I rarely blog about making food, but rather critique others who make it. Nevertheless, thanks to being a food blogger, MarxFood.com sent me some random samples as apart of a recipe contest! The much anticipated box had come with an assortment of dried gourmet goodies: black trumpet mushrooms, Japones Chilies, Habanero Chilies, Wild Rice and Coconut Sap Sugar. Hmmmmm, I thought, what to do with such differing powers of flavor! I stewed long and hard going through explosive japones chili thai soupy thoughts to Mexican habanero rasberry coconut sap jam dreams. Part of the challenge is that I would need to use at least 2 of the 5 ingredients in order to come up with some random dish. Finally after days of tossing the ingredients back and forth in my head, I realized the conception:

Wild and Foraged Stuffed Winter Squash. Baked with coconut sap and finished with black truffle oil. For this recipe, I utilized 3 of the 5 ingredients sent! What makes it wild is the wild rice, foraged dried black trumpet mushrooms and fresh chantrelles. And of course, truffle oil is pretty wild itself!

I love fall cooking, the possibilities are endless! I love the rib sticking goodness of bright carby squashes. I realized that we are also totally in mushroom season so I wanted to capitalize on the earthy pattern of the wild rice and black trumpets by incorporating further mushroom compliments: chantrelles and black truffle oil. Not to mention,  the milky salty touch of ricotta salata that imparts the creamy texture of its fresh grassy ricotta sister while insinuating the briney similarities of a feta.

I took a trip down to the weekend farmer’s market to obtain the bulk of the seasonal foods at hand:

(the following images may be of extreme graphic nature and I totally blame Monica Barrett for being the official food pornagrapher and gastrocohort)

Serves 4, easily:

1 each of Carnival, delicata and acorn squash

2 cups of fresh spinach

1/2 lb of Fresh chantrelles

8 ounces of ricotta salata (cheese)

1 lb smoked keta salmon fillet

2 small leeks or 1 large

1 dry cup of wild rice

4 oz Black Trumpet Mushrooms (dried)

clove of garlic, crushed and chopped

olive oil for saute’

coconut sap sugar, for exposed squash edges in final baking phase

black truffle oil to finish

(salt and pepper to taste)

…all bought fresh, local and organic at the Farmer’s Market!

The bags you see are the little samples MarxFood sent that tied it all together! I also PAIRED the whole dinner with an unoaked WA state Ryan Patrick Chardonnay from Piccola Wine.

Now that you have the grocery list, here goes the process:

Overview: The idea is to stuff the squash with a lightly sauteed melange of foraged wild mushrooms (such as the black trumpet and fresh chantrelles), leeks and spinach with garlic and olive oil. Then mix this “melange” with perfectly tender and chewy wild rice.¬†Crumble in ricotta salata then fill in the various squashes after they have been prebaked at 350 faced down in olive oil), sprinkle with coconut sap at the edges to brown,¬†caramelize¬†and bake to perfection.

1st step, ¬†reconstitute the dried mushooms in hot water for about 30 minutes. Be glad the black trumpets are dried because that means you can use the earthy umami broth to cook the wild rice in. Sit down and relax for 30 minutes. Have a glass of Zin and snack on pumpkin bread while they become “constituted.”

30 minutes later: now we drain the hydrated trumpets, ahhhh. Now you’re left with mushroom broth. And you’re going to cook the wild rice in it, trust me.¬†I was happy to be “green” and recycle this precious water. Once the black trumpets were reconstituted, the stuffing game was on.

It’s all a time juggle. Wild rice on the back burner, squashes pre-bake in the oven just waiting to be stuffed, saute’ pan is simmering with leeks, garlic, foraged mushrooms and finished with wilted spinach.35 minutes or so later, your whole puzzle is ready to be put together. Fold in the mushroom-leek saute with¬†the earthy aromatic Wild Rice, and then hand crumble ricotta salata over the stuffing like snow.

Use a deep spoon to scoop to stuff and mold. After stuffing, the edges of the squash were carefully sprinkled and hand pressed with coconut sap so that they could sort of be caramelized at the edges. Bake uncovered at 350 for an additional 20 minutes.

A good tip that I failed to mention before is that you need to slice the squash lengthwise, and kinda gut the squash. As pointed out to me by my faithful gastrocohort, aka the fabulous food pornagrapher of this endeavor, the seeds are totally salvagable and should be toasted with salt while the squash prebake, that way you have an interim nibble while they bake during the 20 minute finale.

Careful, don’t fall into the temptation to gobble all these up. Save some, because they make a nice presentation for the final product.¬†My cohort had to slap my hand a couple times. This is probably the real reason I enlisted the culinary support of food pornagrapher Monica…to make sure that I didn’t drink all the wine and eat all the fixins!

Once they have cooled down, line the middle of your plate with the toasted seeds. Portion off a slab of smoked salmon, maybe lay a couple thin slices of ricotta salata atop smokey slab. Then drizzle your much aromatic black truffle oil in zig zaggy layers. It should look a lil’ something like this:

Tasting notes: Pairing the unoaked Chardonnay was a brilliant idea. It complimented the sweet onset of the squash and supported the lingering earthy umami finish brought to you by the mushrooms and spots of truffle. The mushrooms served as a true bridge to bring you a silky full mouth-feel explosion of sweet, savory and umami.

Pairing with the smoked salmon was almost too good to be true, it imparted a sweet salmon candy pop and accented lemony notes from the Chardonnay and an unassuming fruit “punch” with the ricotta salata.

Conclusion: This was quite the treat. Its worth every minute of prep and attention to detail. Be warned: you may fall into a food coma and not wanna get up.

Hope you try this at home!

Wayward Cafe'- Vegan Sanctuary(?)

There was a point in my life in which I was vegan. At that time, I also was pretty¬†disciplined¬†in karate and took dance. I was one healthy little lady. And not a deprived one, neither. Vegan food has a bad rap. Its not all tofu, bread and margarine. Its also creative milks made from luscious almonds, fermented bbq “bakon” tempeh, cashew tahini, sprouted grain & bean burgers, olive oil mock-anaisse, raw chocolate avocado mousse pie, coconut milk ice cream…as you can see, it can get quite decadent. In the U-District, I realized there are very few breakfast joints and can embody the image of the rolling hay deserted western town on a weekend morning. There is Portage Bay, but forget it unless you have a reservation or get there at an unfair time, unfair to your REM cycle that is.

After strolling up and down the ave, looking for warm eggy goodies, I landed instead at a tofu scramble hole in the wall called Wayward. They are pretty popular even among non-vegans. They have hearty portions of veggie stuffed burritos, massive piles of spiced home fries and even old school sweets like cheez blintzes. As well as home made biscuits with vegan “sausage” mushroom gravy with generous sides of garlicky kale greens. In the kitchen, all you can see are cast-iron pans that are an obvious flavor-savour plus. I have a question mark in the headline because what I ordered was totally gross but it was my own damn fault. It was a vegan Monte-Cristo. Which traditionally is turkey and some fancy white cheese slathered smoked and melted in between 2 buttery sugary maple hunks of french toast. I thought that by eating this, it would be a tongue in cheek gesture towards food novelty. But there is nothing savour-worthy of plastic dry tofurky sandwiched in between 2 rubbery earth-balance pan seared hunks of what seemed like angel food cake bread, without the pillow sweet, just the pillow white bland texture. And a dried-out side of hashbrowns that was only salvaged by dollops of hot sauce and ketchup. But every place has its crappy menu item, and even the cashier warned me of the tofurky. I should have taken heed. But my neighbor’s plate, the biscuits & “gravy” with garlicky greens, ¬†was quite nice, and nice enough to have shared and taken pity on my fearless mistake. The biscuits are warm and buttery-like and perfectly salty. Nice and ‘shroom earthy hint o’ umami gravy, with pleasant chunks of broccoli and peppers. Greens held up nicely and werent overdone and still bright green.

If you want something hearty, semi-greasy spoon, chock full of greens, vegan and cheap Wayward Cafe is a good bet. Just run like hell if you see any tofurk-slice anything!

Brunch at St. Cloud’s in Madrona – not heavenly

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. There are very few days in the week that go by in which I don’t break my fast in a very calculated manner. I am not a cereal girl. Neither an oatmeal. Unless its steel-cut with apples simmered in cinnamon & butter. And I’m hoping that if you are reading a food blog, you share my fondness for the most important meal of the day. I probably love a brunch outing as much as I enjoy making coconut flour chocolate chip¬†Belgian¬†waffles touched with PB and bananas at home. But before I do, I carefully comb through a variety of Weekly, Stranger and Yelp reviews before making the faithful descent from PJ’s to skirt&leggings. I found St. Clouds because there was a rather hilarious review that I just had to see for myself, even despite several tens of glowing recommendations. Here’s a little teaser by the one (and opinionated) Aaron S.:

“…I moved past the pork tenderloin {which was previously compared to eating bland sawdust that belonged in a kitty litter box…} to the penne pasta soaking in a sauce covered in spinach, bacon, capers & tomato, topped with spinach aioli…sounds delicious, right? ¬†Oh my god…all i can say is vomit in my mouth. ¬†The sauce was some balsamic vinegar, broth a$$ that did not deserve another bite.”¬†

I wanted to see this for myself. I heart, Madrona. If it is home to Bottlehouse, how could she allow anything less than amazing?

I have to say Aaron S., you are on to something. Don’t let the other 125 medium-positive reviews make you second guess yourself. Even Galileo faced opposition from the Catholic Church when he challenged the Ptolemaic notion of an Earth-centered universe.

When I walked in, the decor was cozy and casual. Like. When sat down, I was surprised by good coffee. Which, should be a given. But! An empty cream pitcher? When they brought back the cream, turned out it was off and formed curds as it swirled through the coffee mug. Talk about a buzz-kill.

Then there were the specials. One was a seasonal-veggie-omeletewithsquashmarinatedinbalsamicvinagersundriedtomatoesmushrooms ricottasalataandatomatobalsamiccoulisontopofomelette and Biscuits and Gravy. At the end of the special announcment, I was like what the hell was in that seasonal omelette and my breakfast pal was like “what kind of gravy? is that all? whats so special about those biscuits and gravy?” Do you get my drift?

When I decided on the “special”, the waitress initially said they came with hash browns, and coffee cake or lime cake. I asked for a salad sub for taters, which is common right? She then responded that she’d have to charge me for a dinner size salad. Whoa whoa, lady. Hold your horses. This is brunch. Usually places charge $2 max sub charge, whats your beef? I just don’t want the hash browns, ever heard of the obesity¬†epidemic? Greasy eggs, fried potatoes AND cake? I celebrate decadence but c’mon. She counter haggled “well…how about fruit?” substitute. Okay, sure i’ll take what I can get to avoid food coma. So it was brought out, fruit and all.

Literally, fruit and all. Do you see anything potentially gross here? Well I don’t particularly enjoy ¬†pineapple¬†and orange wedges oiled by a¬†¬†savory tomato balsamic coulis, do you? Gross. The coulis was all I could taste, super strong¬†vinegar¬†notes and little¬†reminiscent¬†of tomato, other that the super tart overly sweet “sun-dried¬†tomatoes” tuckered into the omelette. The slivers of dried tomato tasted like someone took dried tomatoes out of a plastic bag,¬†reconstituted¬†it with boiling water for 5 minutes then threw it in the egg veggie blanket. Ideally, you want to eat sundried tomatoes “sott’olio” style; meaning the¬†sun-dried¬†tomatoes “cured” under olive oil & salt, maybe capers and a smidge of¬†vinegar¬†to offset the sweetness that drying a tomato can dangerously ruin a dish for. I lived on a farm in Puglia for a short while, where I weeded, olive picked, repaired holes in olive catching nets the size of a football field with a net sewing needle by hand. And my reward at the end of the work day was the most amazing pomodore sott’olio con friselle. Which were basically sundried tomatoes, grown and dried on-site, submersed under peppery fresh olive oil (also produced onsite) infused with dried herbs and capers, which were enjoyed by the jar on top of friselle, which are ring shaped dried ¬†bread resembling english muffin halves that must be slightly wetted 1st with spring water to soften up the ice crunch texture. So I did not feel like the tomato themed seasonal omelette truly did tomato justice. It was too sweet, too chewy and too slimy with the balsamic squash (whatever that means) and crimini mushrooms. Another chewy downfall was the overcooked, dried-out bland overly pine-sole-rosemary cover-up chicken sausage.

I think this charred image speaks for itself. And lent a poor 1st impression to my fellow diner who was curious about apple smoked chicken sausage. I felt compelled to convey that this should never be considered a frame of reference for anything “chicken sausage”.

The only saving umami grace was the ricotta salata that tried to hamper the chewy dried tomato and coulis sweetness.

That and the coffee cake saving face, which should have also been served on a separate plate in order to avoid the tomato coulis oil slick contamination.

This coffee cake was moist, buttery, melt in your mouth flowery caramelized nut crumbly goodness. It was full of spice and worth every carby calorie.

I think this St. Cloud’s should stick to whats good and consistent: like their¬†signature¬†coffee cake. And instead of trying to negotiate a dinner priced salad, at BRUNCH, for a simple common sub, they should be trying to negotiate better food. Get your head out of the clouds, Madrona. Earth called and they said St. Clouds should strictly be a buns and cake place round’ breakfast time.

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