The Perfect Oatmeal Cookie

In all reality the “perfect” oatmeal cookie doesn’t exist, however, sometimes you find a recipe that hits the spot in more ways than one. A friend was hosting a small gathering for a fellow food blogger from San Francisco. I wanted something salty, but sweet. Plus I had recently acquired pistachio cherry salt from the amazing Janna of Secret Stash Salts. These cookies are delectable; buttery, crisp, sweet and salty. The basic recipe is identical to the one developed by the fine folks at Cooks Illustrated.

My adaptation is the use of a flavored salt, I recommend using a coarse salt such as sea salt, fleur de sel or Maldon. In a pinch kosher salt would work too. These cookies keep well, but I promise they won’t last long. A tall, creamy glass of milk and one of these thin crisp cookies is perfection.

Salty, Thin and Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Yields approximately two dozen large cookies

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (I prefer King Arthur)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (softened)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (don’t use quick oats)

1/2 teaspoon of pistachio cherry salt or other coarse salt

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper. Whisk together: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.

2. In standing mixer using paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars at medium-low speed until just combined. Increase speed to medium, continue to beat until light and fluffy, approximately one minute. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg and vanilla, beat on medium-low until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. On the low speed, slowly add flour mixture, mix until just incorporated and smooth, for about 10 seconds.  Gradually add oats, mix until well incorporated, 20 seconds. Using rubber spatula mix dough to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

3. Roll about 2 tablespoons (this will yield a large cookie) of dough using palm of your hand. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently flatten each dough ball to 3/4-inch thickness. Lightly sprinkle sea salt evenly over flattened dough balls before baking.

4. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown, 13 to 16 minutes. Rotate baking sheet halfway through (7 minutes) baking. After cooling for a few minutes, transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely on sheet. Enjoy!

Tako Truk Is Back

I don’t normally post about events, however, this upcoming event excites me. Two places I love coming together for a cause. Drumroll please…. Tako Truk and Two Beers Brewery. One day only. March 6, 1-6pm (ish) at Two Beers. I promise I’ll be there. Two fantastic forces raising money to buy Shelterboxes to send to Haiti. Shelterboxes (Rotary International project) for $1000 a piece provide basic necessities including clean water and shelter for up to 10 people. Their goal is to buy as many as they can from the proceeds of the event.

Suggested donation aka the golden ticket, $20, buys you 4 tickets to use as you like (beer, tacos or bad beer toss). This summer like many others I became infatuated with Cormac’s (did I mention he used to work at Sitka & Spruce) delicious tacos, especially the pork belly and octopus. For detailed information on their greatness, check out what my good friend Frank has to say at Going for Seconds. Two Beers Brewery  (may I mention how excited I am that my new office will be a mere two blocks away from them) produces fantastic beers such as their 20:20 blonde, Immersion Amber and Echo IPA.

RSVP to wewannaparty@takotruk.com so they can plan accordingly aka have enough food to feed us. Follow @takotruk and @twobeersbrewing on Twitter for the most up to date information. I know Two Beers knows how to throw a party, so of course there will be live music, good people and hopefully some sun! See you all there. Two Beers Brewery is located i n SoDo just off of E. Marginal Way: 4700 Ohio Avenue South Unit A, Seattle WA 98134.

Reviews: Authentic vs Opinion

As humans we have opinions, whether we want to admit to them or not, we do. With the growth of the internet, our ability to share our thoughts and critiques is exponential. In the food world, everyone wants to share their opinion, critique or proclaim their knowledge. Sites such as Yelp, Urban Spoon and CitySearch enable us to do so. No background checks or filtering, anyone instantly has access to state their authority on subjects such as the best taco, burger, pizza or pho. Restaurants are scrutinized, sometimes accurately, more often not. Professional restaurant reviewers often spend more time than people realize, researching, writing and tasting on multiple trips to make an accurate assessment of the establishment. Opinions are formed, transcribed and produced to a general audience. Much like in psychology they are held accountable to standards. We may disagree with their assessment, however the process should be respected.

User generated review sites on the other hand operate in a completely different fashion. These sites are mostly driven through advertising with local companies. Yelp for example currently being sued for their business practices; largely considered unethical by some. Companies paying more to be featured, biased reviews and negative reviews shuffled under the table. Full disclosure, I am part of a user-generated review group for CitySearch, I am not paid for my thoughts/opinions, although we are rewarded for actively posting and generating lists/reviews.

I sporadically use Yelp/Urban Spoon for information, ideas and recommendations. I highly suggest a few caveats when using user-generated sites. Most on Yelp self-proclaim themselves to be experts. I will not take advice from someone who names Taco Time as “the real deal” or compares Palace Kitchen to Claim Jumper. The “best” is subjective. What one person considers the best burger, the other may disagree, it’s personal taste. My favorite Seattle burger, Palace Kitchen. Instead tell me/describe what you liked about the pizza, the taco or burger; why was it so “good.” Why is a place so delicious? Favorite dishes? That’s what makes a useful review. Second, keep the review succinct, readers don’t want to know your life story or why you are such an expert on ramen, OK you lived in Japan, doesn’t mean you understand quality food. A powerful review explores the multiple attributes of an establishment.

Personally I know several Yelpers, who are not professional reviewers by trade who write witty reviews in search of quality food. These individuals have discerning palates, refined taste buds and are well-traveled. Unfortunately they seem to be too few and far between, finding quality reviews is cumbersome. Alas, I find myself turning to other sources such as Twitter.

Do businesses deserve to be scrutinized? In my opinion, yes, they do. It’s the nature of the business. With respect of course, candor should be expected. Did we experience poor service on a visit? Were the eggs over-cooked? Food under-salted? If that’s an individual’s experience then it’s likely others shared similar experiences. Do we return to places because they are our friends or the owner is nice, of course, does that mean everything is perfect, no. I work near a well-known bakery in the Seattle area, that I frequent often. On more than one occasion a macaroon was rock hard or a sandwich bland. If that was my experience as a first time patron I may not return. Luckily there are many other items I love about the place, so I return, knowing what to order.

We patronize the places we love for many different reasons. When researching places to eat, I look to multiple sources: professional reviewers for published trade, user-generated review sites, friends and Twitter. I formulate my own opinion based upon the culmination of their experiences and my own. Our world is changing, information is available to us faster and in a multitude of forms. Think before you type, tweet or write. And remember if you don’t want it shared, don’t say it.

Reality Check

A few months ago, I made Laurie Colwin’s Nantucket Cranberry Pie, as I chopped my cranberries several thoughts came to mind. My cranberries purchased from the farmers market, a few weeks before, were not “perfect.” Unlike mass produced ones, these were not perfectly round, brightly colored berries. Rather different sizes, shapes and colors. Inherently different, one no better than the other. Food fuels my soul. I find passion in cooking, eating and sharing food with others. I adore learning about new foods, trying a new recipe and exploring new flavor combinations. Yet, another part of me despises food. Food is the enemy. My weight and body issues continue to be a struggle. I remember being 10, recording my weight in my mom’s gradebook.  My battle is not one I face alone, I realize many of you fight the same battle. Those cranberries I patiently chopped reminded me not to focus on the defects rather celebrate the differences. So what if one is slightly less red than the others? In the end will I notice the differences in the pie? No, the pie well actually it’s more like a cake turned out delicious, a nicely dense dessert filled with fruit, nuts and the slightest hint of almond.

Of course should I eat everything in sight? No. I know my waist line is growing. My clothes remind me of that often. I’m not your typical dieting person though, I am aware of the foods that are healthy and I thoroughly enjoy a juicy summer peach, roasted eggplant or fresh mixed greens. Several years ago I lost a significant amount of weight. This year my weight began to slowly crept up again. I find myself using more butter, heavy cream and all of the ingredients that make food taste good. But there has to be balance. Finding that balance is tough. I jokingly call it the Twitter Twenty or Thirty. How do we enjoy the delicious foods we love without compromising dedication to our health? Balance. I believe this is crucial. Sometimes we need a bit of a reality check. Portion control. Making choices. Educating ourselves about the food we eat. And sometimes as hard as it is, saying no.

Food is not entirely personal. It’s about community. So we have to be honest with the community we share it with. So here is my honesty. I adore food. I promise that will never change. What is changing is my approach.  How do you approach food and maintain balance in your eating?

Delancey

Approaching Delancey on a cold winter night you’ll see steamy windows and candles sparkling on tables where people are engaged in conversation, sipping classes of wine. Delancey is the definition of a neighborhood restaurant. Brandon Petit warmly greets his regulars by name while tossing pizza dough by the oven. Delancey reminds me much of co-owner Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette: simplicity with an artistic flair.

The menu changes with the seasons, from a Billy’s tomato salad during the summer months to a beautiful beet, grapefruit and house-made ricotta salata salad in the midst of winter. The flavors pop, sometimes in unexpected combinations. My favorite, a staple on the menu, is the creamy, rich burrata served with Murray River pink salt, olive oil and perfectly toasted crostini.

Brandon modeled his pizza after some of the best in the nation and it shows. Delancey produces some of the finest pizza in Seattle, from my favorite house-made pork sausage to the spicy Padron peppers in the summertime. With its lightly charred crust and the perfect proportion of a delicate sauce, the pizzas are easily shared among friends. I especially love Delancey’s crust; it’s salty, chewy and crisp. Don’t eat all of your pizza though, because you’ll want to save room for dessert.

From Molly’s signature grey salt chocolate chip cookie and a tall cold glass of Fresh Breeze milk to seasonal desserts, you will never be disappointed. Last night I enjoyed a delightfully creamy lemon dessert served in an old fashion Ball jar with two shortbread cookies I tucked in a napkin to save for later.

One of the lovely things about Delancey is how affordable the food is for the quality. To me, this is what embodies a neighborhood place. I’m in love with their Washington River Aerie Sangiovese, a steal for $27 a bottle. Have a glass of wine while you wait or try the amazing house ginger brew. Some people complain about the wait, but it’s all in your approach. Go across the street to Tarasco and have a drink. Or peruse the unique and fancy umbrellas at the oh so charming Bella Umbrella. Just like at home, good food takes time. I prefer the small intimate setting, shelves lined with cookbooks, a menagerie of glasses and most of all the delicious food produced from love. And if you have the chance, attend one of their family style dinners. It’s the ideal place to enjoy the company of new and old friends. Delancey is located at 1415 NW 70th Street, Seattle WA. Follow them on Twitter: @delanceyseattle.

Ode to Bacon

As I have alluded to before, Twitter is like crack, really. It’s addicting. The best part though, meeting people who share their joys in life. The lovely Shauna & Danny express their love for all things pork on pork,knife & spoon. My good friend Lorna Yee of The Cookbook Chronicles has no shame in her adoration of the pig. Thus said, hearing daily about pork products Kairu and I were inspired to plan our own tribute to the deliciousness known as bacon. Bacon is abundant now days, you can buy chocolate bacon from Vosges in Chicago or even bacon scented air fresheners. Our list of bacon recipes slowly evolved and grew so much we decided a party was in order.

Skagit Ranch Bacon

Skagit River Ranch Bacon

And the bacon we chose,was the most delicious bacon to ever cross my lips. The people at Skagit River Ranch know their pork. I urge you to spend just a bit extra for the most exquisite flavored bacon to melt in your mouth. I could seriously write an ode to the bacon. Just how good? Kairu called me the morning of the potluck to tell me to buy two more pounds, she had eaten the first package the night before, piece by piece, the bacon quickly diminished.

Bacon Chanterrelle Soup

Bacon Chanterelle Soup

The first course- a bacon Chanterelle mushroom soup topped with caramelized onions cooked in bacon. We adapted the original recipe since our friend Becky aka Chef Reinvented is highly allergic to onions and garlic. This soup is absolutely divine, cooked with Mangalitsa stock and cream.

Corn & Bacon Salad

Corn & Bacon Salad

Matthew Amster-Burton cooked a beautiful roasted corn salad with poblano peppers and you guessed it, bacon. Unfortunately I had to share, otherwise I may have engulfed the entire container. Our friend Jenise prepared the healthy portion of the evening, a salad, with baconaise dressing.

The most important course, dessert. A bacon maple bar from Frost, bacon chocolate rice krispie treats and a divine bacon cupcake prepared by Becky. Kairu and I adapted the original recipe by utilizing cocoa krispies on the bottom and the regular variety on top. The recipe still needs some tweaking. I found the chocolate to overpower the bacon flavor.

Bacon Rice Krispie Treats

Bacon Rice Krispie Treats

Bacon Maple Bar

Bacon Maple Bar

Becky asked that we not photograph the cupcakes since they didn’t meet her aesthetic standards. I can tell you this, they were delicious. She really is an incredible cook. Bacon shined in the cupcake topped with a cream cheese frosting and of course a small piece of crispy bacon. By the end of the evening I was quite certain a heart attack was impending. I vowed to only eat vegetables and tofu for the next few days. I lied. The next day, I made mac and cheese for a dear friend’s birthday, topped with but of course bacon.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Handwritten Recipe Underneath Freshly Baked Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies usually found at almost every bake sale represent the classic all American dessert, however finding the perfect cookie is not so easy. The right balance of chewy to crisp, proportion of chocolate chips and texture are integral to the very best cookie. Everyone has a recipe they swear by, for some it is their grandmother’s old fashion or the Jacque Torre’s salted version. Technique plays an extremely important role in results, recently a NY Times article discussed the role of refrigeration of the dough, temperature of the butter and how the various methods yield the perfect cookie. A few people I know are smitten with the new Cooks Illustrated version which calls for browning butter. My cookie is from Cooks Illustrated their original recipe. I’ve been making this for several years now, learning the nuances of producing what I deem the perfect cookie.

Adding the Flour

It’s been awhile since I’ve made them, well about a year. Fall leads to more baking, the smell of the cookie infiltrates my apartment, I love how the oven warms the small space. Tonight we were supposed to see a movie, instead I taught my friend Michael how to make the cookies he loves so much. Over the years, he’s eaten many many batches, but this was the first time he helped. Earlier this week we made apple pie, I really enjoy teaching him how to bake, the little nuances such as ratio of flour to add at a time, how long to cook the cookies and keeping your measurements consistent. Sharing something you love is such a joy, funny, it’s different than just cooking or baking for him, bringing him into the process was really fun.

Cookie Dough

The handwritten recipe pictured above is tried and true for me. A few of my secret tricks, take the cookies out before they are done, just barely, let them sit for a few minutes on the silpat before transferring to the cooling rack. Eggs at room temperature always. And the melted butter, just barely melted, shouldn’t be warm. Sometimes I chill the dough, but usually they go straight from the bowl to the oven. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on a Sunday night, perfect.

Perfection

Community Through Food

Last weekend was an absolute treasure, filled with wonderful events revolving around food. Inspired by the Blogher food conference in San Francisco, which several local Seattle food bloggers were attending, we created #Bloghere. Why? What better way to foster community through sharing experiences. Actually #Bloghere started as a joke on Twitter, @Bonnevivante noted she was not attending #BlogHer  but would be attending #BlogHere as in blogging from here,  then Jeanne of Four Chickens jokingly suggested absurd sessions, quickly  a few real ones developed. The absolutely lovely Viv of Seattle Bon Vivante graciously organized several events. The weekend kicked off with the pie contest at the Queen Anne Farmer’s Market. Our first official session took place on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning at the University District Farmer’s Market, like the QA one, it is a non-profit, community led market. We gathered to stroll the market, take pictures and talk to the chef in resident Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey. My mission, bacon from Skagit River Ranch. I’m smitten with farmers markets this summer, sad to see a few end for the season. The amazing bounty of the earth so much more than what we find in conventional markets, however it’s not just the food, rather, the community and relationships they build. Watching farmers interact directly with their customers, sharing recipes and most of all appreciation for the food we eat. This particular morning I started to play with my new camera, taking in the beauty of the market.

Chanterelle's from Foragred & Found

Chanterelle's from Foraged & Found

Billy's Tomatoes

Billy's Tomatoes

Following my morning at the farmers market I continued onto the next #Bloghere session, canning with the Shibaguyz who were absolutely hilarious, kept us entertained while educating us on the art of canning. Plums, the fruit of the day, quickly transformed into beautifully rich chutney, spicy sauce and jelly. My second canning experience of the summer made me wish I had jumped on the band wagon a bit earlier.

Plum Chutney

Plum Chutney

Jason & Shannon Canning

Jason & Shannon Canning

I’m saving my delicious chutney & spicy plum sauce for this winter, when I’ll enjoy it over a slowly roasted pork loin or served with a creamy brie perfect for having friends over. What I love about canning, the connection, how quickly food is transformed to be shared. Jars stowed away for gifts. Canning is a lost art, much like knitting that gained a revival in the early 2000’s. I’m happy to see people take an interest in finding another way to connect with our food. This past summer, Canvolution swept across America. I’m fortunate to know the ladies who founded Canning Across America, they inspired people to host canning parties and share their personal canning stories/journeys. Mine has yet to begin, it’s just the beginning. This particular Saturday afternoon, over several bottles of wine, food and steaming pots of plums we shared a common experience, some of us learning a new skill/craft, most of us new friends, quickly building a community that is incredible. Food connecting our lives becoming more and more entwined each day. The common bond for most of us, Twitter. Twitter is like match.com for foodies, slowly finding each other, planning dates (dinner parties), movie nights and book clubs. #Bloghere all started on Twitter. The social media device some argue alienate us from our communities brought this group together. #Bloghere was not the first or last event for us, rather just part of the inception of so many big things to come. Later that evening I hosted a bacon themed party (another post to follow), all because of Twitter. In a few weeks, Mac N Chesse & Fried Chicken night and in November Jewish & Chinese Foods.

#Bloghere ended with pie because all good things in life should end with pie. We are lucky to have an expert in our community. Kate McDermott kindly baked us a grape pie using local concord grapes from a garden in Queen Anne. Each #Bloghere participant left with but of course a cookbook. Oh and a remote session with Matthew Amster-Burton and the adorable Iris, sharing their thoughts on the state of food blogging and of course eating.

Kate's Grape Pie

Kate's Grape Pie

Bloghere Swag

Bloghere Swag

The Counter

This evening I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek of the most recent addition to the Ballard dinning scene. The Counter, a Los Angeles based chain made it’s much anticipated soft opening in Seattle today to select friends and families serving as their trial audience. Tucked inside the Ballard Blocks with a small outdoor seating area next to the newly opened LA Fitness and Trader Joes, The Counter’s industrial look and feel compliments the newly designed retail space. The scene? One fellow diner referred to it as Johnny Rockets on crack, lots of chrome, diner style tables and of course young good looking servers. The concept is custom built gourmet burgers, you choose exactly what you want on your burger down to the size of the patty and type of bun. Similar to the well known ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery, The Counter is all about customization down to ordering your burger on a bed of mixed greens.

We started our meal with milkshakes, calories certainly did not count tonight. Quickly after our platters of fried goodness arrived- fried dill pickle chips, crispy fried onion strings and sweet potato fries, all accompanied with sauces. My favorite for sure was the crispy fried onion strings with country buttermilk ranch. Careful not to indulge too much before the main event, I refrained from demolishing the whole plate of the lightly breaded fried onions fried to a golden crisp.

Crispy Fried Onion Strings, Sweet Potato Fries and Fried Dill Pickle Chips

Crispy Fried Onion Strings, Sweet Potato Fries and Fried Dill Pickle Chips

Custom Build your Burger

Custom Build your Burger

Pick either a 1/3lb, 2/3lb or a whole pound patty, our server explained this is cooked weight so you are literally eating a full 1/3 of a pound. Their meat is natural Angus beef from Meyer Natural, certified humane, 100% vegetarian diet, no hormones or antibiotics. Then add your toppings, cheese and various sauces. My creation: 1/3lb hamburger patty with gruyere, a fried egg, bacon, tomato, lettuce, roasted garlic aioli and caramelized onion marmalade on a traditional white hamburger bun.

Burger Topped with Fried Egg

Burger Topped with Fried Egg

Burgers are cooked medium rare

Burgers are Cooked Medium Rare

My fellow dining companions also experimented with their burger creations including adding roasted red peppers (not a hit with our group), more crispy onion strings and a whole wheat bun. The burgers are definitely what shine at The Counter. Not your average fast food burger joint. The portions are generous, all of us unable to finish our creations. I took mine home to eat for lunch tomorrow.

Rachel's Creation

Rachel's Creation

Michael Chose a Whole Bun as a Healthier Alternative

Michael Chose a Whole Wheat Bun as a Healthier Alternative

  Overall The Counter is the perfect place for the person who likes lots of options, wants a decent burger alternative to fast food in a casual setting. I’m sure once it is open it will be filled to the brim with families, groups of friends and people on the quest to designing their perfect rendition of a burger.

What We Eat When We Eat Alone

I happened to stumble upon this today on my Google Reader (thanks Mary for sharing!) via Serious Eats. http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/08/cook-the-book-what-we-eat-when-we-eat-alone.html

Deborah Madison is famous for Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, one of the first restaurants to have a farm to table menu inspired by Chez Panisse (if you ever have the opportunity, go, well worth the experience) in Berkley. Now she’s taken on what was supposed to be a humorous commentary on eating, but in actuality from the reviews provides a much needed anthropological study regarding our eating habits. In one of many recent Twitter conversations, responses to Nancy Lesson’s post featuring items in her pantry, particularly the  non-Organic/local/sustainable food, people confessed their love for all things processed. Tweets professing love for: fake cheese, Otter Pops and other various items containing hydrogenated oils  and high fructose corn syrup. Foods we eat alone when no one is looking. “Foodies” eating dinners of chips, gummy candy,  and microwave burritos from Costco. Yeah, we admit it, we all have certain items we eat when we are alone. My comfort food, Taco Bell Nachos BelGrande. A good friend of mine eats tortillas with butter and cinnamon while standing in the kitchen. In the “Good Fight” on Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw admitted her SSB, “secret single behaviors,” we all have them, things we do alone when no one is looking.

So what are our SSB when we eat alone? For me, some meals are a mish mosh of what looks appealing at the market, possibly wheat thins with some sort of dip and gummy candy, an assortment of prepared salads from the salad bar or leftovers. Meals usually are very simple, broiled fish or chicken severed with a vegetable or salad of some sort. My challenge is to find recipes proportioned realistically for one, not four, one. Secondly, buying said ingredients in a single serving so that I can keep within budget for groceries and that no food goes to waste while keeping up with my rather busy lifestyle. I adore cooking and baking, there is nothing better than sharing a wonderful home cooked meal with friends, but for nightly meals I am bored.

Last night I had some Spanish cheese & crackers, tomatoes with olive oil & salt, blueberries and white wine. Today for lunch was leftover over chicken from the JFC: Joule Fried Chicken on a day old baguette from Macrina Bakery with tomato and spinach (left over from the previous week, luckily still fresh). I’m still learning to cook for one or rather eating alone. I won’t reveal all of my SSB, over the years, I’ve acquired many.

I’m looking forward to reading Madison’s book, hopefully to gleam some ideas for my own rather dull cooking regime and to also jump start a new blog, soon to be announced.