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CocoaLavender

After much agonizing  and many mildly disappointing desserts, we just bought ourselves an ice cream machine. More than excited, we were forced to wait the 24 hours it takes for the cylinder on our home machine to fully freeze, but this morning it was finally cold and we were ready to start plans for icy goodness. During a quick thumb through the included recipes, a dark chocolate sorbet caught my eye, both for sounding delicious and because we had all the ingredients at hand. We had to start the process early in the day, as it needs to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

The first step in a sorbet is making a simple syrup with 3 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and a cup and 2/3 of sugar (we used coconut sugar). After all the sugar is dissolved, we added the 1 and 2/3 cups of cocoa powder, or at least we would have if we had not discovered that we only had a half cup of cocoa left. Since we needed more flavor in the recipe, we decided to spice up the sorbet with a few shakes of powdered chili pepper and, remembering some chocolate lavender brownies we made last week, we added about a tablespoon and a half of crushed lavender. We let the concoction sit in the fridge all day, then strained the mix into the ice cream maker. Twenty minutes later we had a thick and tasty sorbet. Now to wait another 2 hours for it to firm up in the fridge.

For those who just want a recipe:

Chocolate Lavender Sorbet

3 cups water

1 2/3 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder

about 1 1/2 tablespoons lavender

crushed chili pepper to taste

Boil water, salt, and sugar until dissolved. Slowly stir in cocoa powder until all of it is mixed in, crush lavender and add, shake on crushed chili pepper. Cover and set in fridge to cool, at least 2 hours. Strain the mix and add to ice cream maker. After the sorbet has thickened, move to a freezer safe container and put in the freezer until it is as firm as you like.

While at Mekong market we were wandering the fish aisle, looking for some interesting seafood to cook when we saw a bag labeled “Apple Snail Meat.” On the back was a recipe for Snail Linguine noodles to say we bought it on the spot. What follows is the recipe for Garlic Apple Snail Linguine as written on the package. Yes you can get it by looking on the bag, but its good and maybe reading it here will give you other good food ideas.

Ingredients

1 pack cooked apple snail meat rinsed and patted dry

1 pack linguine

2 tbsp each, butter and olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 pinch crushed red pepper

Cooking

1. Chop snail meat, set aside

2. Melt butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in pan and add shallots and garlic until shallots are translucent, but not browned and garlic is fragrant. Deglaze with wine and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Add snail meat and parsley. Cook on medium low heat for a few minutes until sauce is thickened.

3. Cook pasta.

4. Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir in 1 tbsp olive oil and place in serving dishes.

5. Spoon garlic snail sauce over pasta and enjoy.

We did thoroughly enjoy this, the snail meat is a bit chewy, so chop it into small bits. Stays good as leftovers.

Chicken Heart Soup

Chicken Heart Soup

In my continuing efforts to cook and eat interesting things I have not tried before, I picked up a pound of chicken hearts from the local Asian market.

The heart is a unique muscle. It is the only cardiac muscle in the body, so if you have not tried heart before you have never had anything quite like it. I will give a basic recipe for hearts with onions and for a chicken heart soup.

To prepare Chicken Hearts and Onions you will need:

some olive oil

1 to 1 1/2 lbs chicken hearts

1/2 onion cut in small strips

about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup red wine

a dash of Worcestershire sauce

a dash of fish sauce

ground black pepper

aleppo pepper

sage

First, heat a medium sized pan, add oil, and sweat the onion. When the onions have become soft, add the chicken hearts and cook them on the outside, then pour in the red wine, Worcestershire sauce, and fish sauce. At this point the liquid should half cover the hearts, put on black and aleppo peppers to taste, cover and let simmer for five to ten minutes until hearts appear cooked and the liquid now almost covers them. uncover until the liquid has reduced down to a sauce and serve. This dish can be a side or main course and goes well with eggs, bread or vegetable sides.

Chicken Heart Soup is something I make when one of us is sick. The hearts work well here because of their texture, and the fact that they are already soup size. Like most soups, this one can use almost any combination of vegetable you prefer. I will list the ones I commonly use. For this recipe I also make some simple noodles.

You will need:

olive oil

1 diced onion

1 or 2 peppers ( I use jalapeños but this varies depending on the heat level you want )

About 10 cups of water

2 chicken bullion packets ( you can use chicken broth, but I find bullion easier to keep around )

a dash of fish sauce

black pepper and aleppo pepper to taste

4 or 5 potatoes cut in small squares

3 or 4 carrots cut to a similar size

1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken hearts

For the pasta

one to two eggs

one to two cups all-purpose flour

First, add a small amount of oil to a large pot on medium high heat, heat the oil, then add the chopped onion and pepper. Sweat the onion and then add water, bullion, fish sauce and spices, cover and keep on medium low heat to help them combine. At this point, I like to chop the vegetables, when that is done, add them and the hearts to the soup, leave uncovered and bring it to a simmer. This will simmer for a long time, until the potatoes and carrots are soft, so in the mean time make the pasta. This is not as hard as it sounds. First, get your electric mixer, or do it by hand if you want to be boring, add one or two eggs depending on the amount you want. I use two because I like a lot of noodles in my soup. Add a little of the flour, and mix slowly, keep adding small amounts of flour until the dough is holding together in a ball but is not too sticky, if you add too much flour and the dough starts to fall apart, just sprinkle it with water until it is back together. flour a flat surface and roll the dough as thin as you like (remember it will double in size when you cook it) then take a long knife or a pizza cutter and cut it into long strips, then lay them flat, loosely cover, and leave aside. When the potatoes are soft, add the noodles and let them boil for about five minutes, or until they float. Always taste a noodle before deciding if they are done. When the noodles are finished serve and enjoy, or don’t, up to you really.

Seattle in fog

Renata and I recently got back from a trip to Seattle. On our vacations we tend to eat as many good things as possible, and I was excited because I love seafood and I was probably going to get to eat it every day in Seattle. The fist day we where there Renata’s brother took us to the restaurant in our hotel, Urbane, for breakfast. On the menu was an omelet with salmon in it. It was at this point that I thought, “if I can get seafood for breakfast”, which is probably they most difficult meal in America to have seafood in, “then I can have seafood for ever meal for the next four days.”

Day 1

As I said, the first thing I had on the trip was breakfast at Urbane. There I had what was called a Seattle omelet, which was salmon, capers, cream cheese, and green onion all wrapped in eggs, basically lox and bagel but with egg and no bagel, served with a side of rosemary potatoes.

It was a late breakfast, so instead of lunch we had a snack at City Fish Co. in Pikes Place market. This consisted of a shrimp cocktail, dungeness crab cocktail, and three oyster shooters.

For dinner we all wandered around the city until I, for one, was completely lost and turned around. We washed up at a sushi restaurant called Pinto Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar. There we had several sushi rolls, the standout favorite of which was the house special Pinto roll, described on their menu as spicy tuna, avocado, and cucumber wrapped with yellowtail, cilantro, lime and jalapeño. The lime and cilantro make this one of the most perfect ways to have yellowtail and the jalapeño compliments the tuna so well that I will call this the best sushi roll I have eaten.

Day 2

No breakfast today, we didn’t have much time after we got out the door so just coffee at Wheelhouse Coffee. Renata apparently had a good dirty chai, I don’t care for chai, so I cannot comment on that, I however had an Americano which tasted like it was brewed with two-day old used grounds. So much for Seattle being a huge coffee city.

For lunch we met Renata’s brother and went to Shilla, a Korean/Japanese restaurant. We had a Korean BBQ sampler with spicy beef, beef, and beef tongue, some freshwater snails, and the meal came with a Korean fish cake like thing which I didn’t catch the name of, but nevertheless fulfilled my seafood requirement for the meal.

Diner was a veritable and literal feast, as we went to Walrus and the Carpenter. As the name suggests there we had oysters, we each tried one of all nine varieties on the menu, and then got six more each of our favorites, and also had several samplings from their non-oyster menu, and a quite good bread pudding for dessert.

Day 3

No breakfast again, but this time we went to brunch. Salty’s at Alki Beach had an incredible brunch buffet, an entire line of seafood options, including more oysters, an equal amount of standard breakfast options, an omelet and crepe station, a meat cutting station, and what the hostess told us was 13 feet of dessert, including chocolate and caramel fountains. I had a little of everything, mostly the seafood, and then a huge plate of dessert, and I dipped a twinkie in the chocolate fountain, because I just wanted to dip something in the chocolate fountain.

Dinner was at Mistral Kitchen, we had a huge amount of incredible food, the ones I most remember were a mixed seafood ceviche, clams cooked in some amazing  sauce, more oysters, duck, and several other things I can’t recall right now but were also amazing. this meal also included a smoked cocktail, wich has inspired both myself and Renata to have an entire post each on the subject.

Day 4

Probably the least interesting food day, as we had to fly back to Phoenix that afternoon, only one meal in Seattle, brunch at the space needle. I had a quite good clam chowder, eggs Benedict on a crab cake, and tiramisu, they didn’t have anything with seafood for dessert. the food was decent but we got a great view of the city from the wold’s oldest revolving restaurant and then got to almost freeze on the observation deck, it was really cold and windy up there.

Later we went to the airport, where we finished out the trip with beef stew at Bigfoot food and spirits right before the flight. A disappointing end, but they had no seafood on the menu.

During our recent trip to Seattle we had dinner at Mistral Kitchen, which was amazing but is covered in another post, so I won’t say too much more. While there, the table next to ours was delivered a cocktail served in a decanter filled with smoke. Renata immediately wanted one, while I immediately started thinking of how they got the smoke in there. Turns out they use one of these, but having no idea they existed at the time, I started thinking something along the lines of a mad doctor’s chemistry set, complete with glass tubes and bubbling beakers.

This fascination could have ended there, but as luck would have it, the next day I spotted a book about cooking in cast iron, something else I am always interested in, and this book had a way to smoke fish in a cast iron skillet (which is also great and I will cover in more detail later on). Armed with this knowledge, I began to conceive of a way to get the smoke from a cast iron pan into a drink so that Renata and I could make these smoked drinks at home.

Overly simplified, first we soaked hickory wood chips in water for about an hour and a half, then put them in a tinfoil lined cast iron pan. From there I used more tinfoil to guide the smoke toward a funnel, attached to a short length of drip line hose, and aimed that at a jar (because we don’t actually own a decanter) tied it all to the microwave to hold it up, and covered as much of the contraption as I could in ice, to cool the smoke and keep it from floating away. Then I turned on the stove and waited for the wood to begin burning. The result was quite successful, and we got a pretty passable smoked cocktail and a kitchen filled with smoke. There are still some bugs to work out, how to keep the plastic hose from absorbing odd smoke flavors and spitting them into your drink top among them, but overall that is how to make a DIY cocktail smoker.

The Smoke Machine

 

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