January 28, 2006


Originally uploaded by sissalice.
Idgie is working on her powers of invisibility. She's alomost there. So close.

January 20, 2006


Despite the lousy weather and cold temps, the garden is still growing. I have two broccoli plants that have edible heads (will chow on that this weekend), well-established cabbage plants, plenty of arugula and four lettuces still growing. I've never seen bigger bok choi. I wonder if it's still edible. There are some renegade onions here and there plus the bunching onions I planted in the Fall. Beets are alive, carrots are alive (but I haven't dared to pull one recently) and the leeks have continued to grow in addition to the garlic. I wonder if anything will make it without drowning. For now, we wait.

January 16, 2006


Let me clarify. Another recipe from the Cafe Flora book we made over the weekend was Warm Spinach Salad with Smoked Mushrooms and Roasted Shallot Dijon Vinaigrette. J smoked the mushrooms on our grill using techniques from Steve Raichlen. The mushrooms replace the bacon in this salad and, thanks to the mesquite wood chips we used (that's all we had), it was very convincing. Not that we were trying to convince ourselves out of bacon (even though it will kill you). We love mushrooms and this recipe sounded (and was) absolutely amazing. But as for the bacon thing, even the next morning the kitchen smelled like bacon - really.

The dressing includes shallot, lots of garlic, olive oil, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, black peppercorns, red wine vinegar, and salt. The garlic and shallot are roasted first to mellow and sweeten them.

You saute the mushrooms in olive oil for a few minutes and then add one leek, sliced. Once the leek is tender, add the dressing, bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Then toss cherry tomatoes in the pan to coat them with all that good flavor. Pour everything over a big bed of spinach and finally sprinkle with raw, green pumpkin seeds which you have already toasted. Heaven. Pure heaven.

OK, so smoked mushrooms don't look much different than non-smoked mushrooms. But we smoked 'em!

January 15, 2006


Actually, this time it was easier. We already had most of what was needed thanks to our adventure making sambar powder last June. We love it and use it on lots of stuff and have shared it with my mom who really digs t. It was worth the effort. And so was the effort we expended Friday's Indian dish. We are really enjoying the Cafe Flora cookbook. The recipes we've made so far have been great. We are taking notes in the book (Yes, J gave me permission to write in the book) to note if we liked it, made substitutions, the outcome, etc.

Friday we dove into Roasted Vegetable Vindaloo. A vindaloo is actually a dish the Portuguese brought to Goa, the smallest Indian state. The Portuguese version included pork and wine vinegar and garlic, hence, the name "Vinho de Alho." But the Goanese added lots of spices and plenty of chili. Every Indian restaurant has a version, like any other dish you come to love. Cafe Flora has their veggie version. Technically, our version is not veggie since we used homemade chicken stock - sorry veg friends who won't get to taste this manna from heaven. If you've ever done any Indian cooking, you know that it entails several steps, each including several ingredients. The instructions could look daunting but a little bit of planning helps a great deal. This dish has lots of ingredients but is pretty simple to put together.

This dish includes a Spicy Goan Curry. To prepare, soak your chick peas for at least three hours and preferably up to eight before you cook them. Then you need oil, panch phoron spice mix (which I discuss later), lots and of thinly sliced onion, miso, veggie stock, vindaloo paste (again, I'll discuss later), diced tomatoes and salt. Eventually all these things come together and get mixed with the roasted veggies.

Roasting the veggies was easy and included potatoes, carrots (it was nice to pull these from the freezer from the stash we blanched and froze last Fall), cauliflower, eggplant. While the roasting takes place, make your vindaloo paste. Lots of pastes in Indian cooking. This paste uses corriander seeds, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, garlic, parika, tumeric, red pepper flakes, cardamom, cloves, salt and oil.

Then you have the ponch phoron spice mix. Having all the spices already in stock made this much easier. The only thing I had to buy was nigella and this I found at
Travelers, a store on Capitol Hill full of Indian teas, spices, jewelry, clothes, food, etc. Nigella is a small, black seed from an herbaceous annual of the buttercup family. It is used widely in India and the Middle East as a spice and condiment. It was the last ingredient we needed to make the panch phoron, a Bengali five-spice mix consisting of: Fenugreek, Nigella seed, Mustard seed, Fennel seed, and Cumin seed. Yes, ponch phoron is Bengali and vindaloo is Goan but hey, this is not my recipe. The mix works like a dream. When all is said and done, you will have amazing smells in your house and intense and delicious flavors in your mouth. Serve this over basmati rice and love it!

January 11, 2006


But the rain only last about an hour. It's been dry but very windy with several cloud breaks since then.

OK, I'm done giving the weather.


Well, that lasted about two hours. It was raining by noon.


it's like the color I've chosen for this entry. Weird. I've seen it before, about 23 days ago. And this sky is dotted here and there with what appear to be cotton balls. It's been like this for over an hour. Should I be worried?

January 10, 2006


This weekend we got away without getting too far away. J booked a weekend at the The Watertown in the University District. At under six miles from our house, we were never far from home. One of our extra long walks once took us from home to the U District. It was nice to be in familiar surroundings yet explore new places.

Friday evenings the hotel offers complimentary wine tastings for guests. Last Friday they offered two tasty choices - Carabella's Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Tomassi Valpolicello Classico Superiore. Both were really tasty and affordable (assuming the hotel doubled the price of a bottle...a quick web search verified this assumption). The next morning we hit the breakfast bar. It was really good. However, they served only Starbucks drip coffee. It's awful, plain and simple. We tried it Friday evening after wine tasting and thought we had simply reached the bottom of the pot. However, Saturday morning we knew it was just bad coffee. Strong in an unpleasant way and burnt in flavor. This is pretty typical of Starbucks coffee. If you must go to Starbucks, and please try not to go, stick with the fluffy drinks - the drip sucks. So the first thing we did both mornings after breakfast was walk somewhere else for coffee.

It was dry Saturday morning so we hit the pavement. Bulldog News had the answer to our coffee woes on Saturday morning. Plus, we took advantage of our Chinook Book coupon for some free fair trade coffee beans. Bulldog has a pretty good selection of beans. Their own coffee that they serve was OK. Could have been the barista. My rice latte was so hot I couldn't drink it for several minutes. There is no point to heating the drink to that extreme. Give me a break, I want to drink it the same day I buy it and I would like to actually taste the ingredients. But they have a fabulous publication selection.

We hit the University District's Farmer's Market which is still up and running through February. Only a handful of vendors but the swiss chard we saw was beautiful (keep reading for the swiss chard recipe from the Cafe Flora Cookbook we used on Sunday night). The Ave. is seedy, let's just make that clear right away. It's ironic that such a prestigious university sits so close, in addition to the affluence of the surrounding neighborhood, but man oh man, The Ave. has some desperate souls shuffling it's sidewalk. I suppose one could compare it to Broadway but the folks on Broadway appear more down on their luck. Sure, Broadway has lots of drugs and homeless youth - so does The Ave. But The Ave. seems to have the section of that population that was too down on their luck even for Broadway. Crazed people. People ready to snap any second mingling with college kids from upper middle class parents and the general urban hipsters and the elderly and the rest of us.
This dude needs a dentist. Ironically, the building he and his friends grace houses a dental office.

We liked this funky, old, and kind of sinking building.

colorful and old
Originally uploaded by sissalice.

we know who runs this neighborhood

We made our way down The Ave. pretty early in the day so I think we were spared some of the wackos (but we ran into several later that day). Our destination was the Ravenna neighborhood Third Place Books but in the meantime we were happy just to be walking not in the rain. And it was a pretty good walk. From the hotel at 42nd and 11th to the bookstore at 65th and 20th. But it was a great morning to be out and we saw parts of that neighborhood for the first time. On our way we passed Weaving Works where my knitting class begins on the 16th. Hey, Blue Dog Coffee House looked pretty funky so we walked back down there on Sunday. And I finally found Vegan Pizza Pi, the vegan pizza place. I get their newsletter and monthly coupons but never knew where on The Ave. it was located. I'm glad it's down on the north end. Will make it much easier to actually find a parking spot to patronize the place.

Ravenna has wonderful craftsmen homes. Seems to be craftsmen everywhere you look. Doesn't bother us, we really dig that style of house.

Some craftsman overtones on a beautiful lot.

not part of the falafel mafia
Originally uploaded by sissalice.

Not as much light in Ravenna as the gardener in me would like but it's a great area and I could see this neighborhood on my list of possible places to live. When we reached Third Place Books it was story time! Not sure what the story was but all the kids were digging it. There were pancakes invovled, this much I know. All the kids received a cardboard pancake face when it was over. We hung out here for a while because it started to rain hard and the wind was blowing like mad. Another Chinook Book coupon won us a free baked good with the purchase of one. I tried the vegan raspberry oat muffin and it was damn tasty. Was that a hint of lavender in the recipe? Honey Bear Bakery is on the premises and they make really tasty stuff.

The rain never let up so we hopped a bus back as far as the Safeway on The Ave. Damn that Safeway for not carrying anchovies! What the hell is up with that? I bought the paste as a substitute but it isn't the same as a real anchovy on some cheese on some crusty bread (part of our lunch back at the hotel). But Safeway did have an altercation about to break out in the parking lot and a crazy crack head inside and a cashier who had a bruise the size of calzone on her face. The bruise was on its way out and she had plenty of make-up on it but still. Poor lady. Don't know what happened but I bet it hurt.

Later that evening we went to Cafe Flora for dinner. It was our first time to this Seattle landmark of vegetarianism. All the dishes are vegetarian and many can me made vegan upon request. Cafe Flora boasts the use of local and fresh and organic ingredients. We arrived at 7:45 and the place was packed. We had called ahead to get our name on the wait list so we only hung out about 6 minutes before we were seated. The lentil dijon soup with kale would have been enough and would have made the visit complete. I can't begin to describe how delicious it was. Unfortunately, the recipe is not included in the cook book but a similar one is so we will have to experiment.

I wanted to chow, wanted to bite into my food, wanted to eat fries without eating crappy, unhealthy fries. So I opted for the Curryburger: "A blend of Indian spices, lentils & quinoa on a multi grain bun with sweet tomato chutney, lemon yogurt sauce and choice of wild greens or roasted potatoes." Actually, the choices for side dishes included yam fries and that was the selling point. I loved 'em! Not greasy and full of flavor without being buried in salt. Already sweet so no need for ketchup. Julie chose a more grown-up dinner, the Portobella Wellington: "Grilled portobella mushrooms, leeks and mushroom-pecan pâté in puff pastry with Madeira wine sauce, seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes." No room for dessert after all of this and tons of coffee.

Sunday we went back to Third Place Books, used yet another Chinook Book coupon and picked up the Cafe Flora Cookbook. From this J whipped up the swisschard recipe with the lemon vniagarette...very easy and extremely tasty. The greens hold their flavor and texture and the dressing is just right. The dressing will keep in the refridgerator for a week. We used it on roasted cauliflower last night and it was amazing. I forgot to bring the damn recipe with me where I am as I post. I'll post it soon, promise.

January 09, 2006


I'm really digging the whole knitting thing. I must say that already I'm whizzing through scarves at a rapid pace. On New Year's Eve I gave the finishing "bind off" to the scarf for Julie, thanks to help from Andrea. With so little natural light these days, indoor shots look terrible. You can't appreciate all the color in this scarf. But I made it with Lion Brand Suede in the Vineyard color.

The next day I began a scarf for Nana. She said that she likes purple and orchid. I hope this yarn has the right color combos. Again, the colors are hard to see. Even the pictures on Lion Brand's website suck. I used this Homespun Yarn in Renaissance.

Last night I finished this scarf and began one for my mom. I'm about 1/4 of the way through that one. She chose her own yarn and color, Jo-Ann Fabrics Angel Glitz yarn in purple. It's actually not as bad to work with as it might look. It's pretty easy. I've got size US 11 needles and cast on 21 stitches and am knitting a sand stitch: Row 1 : Knit 1, Purl 1 the whole row. Row 2: Knit the whole row. Row 3: Knit 1, Purl 1 the whole row. Row 4: Knit the whole row. Repeat until you're done. I don't have a shot of this one yet.

My class begins the 16th!

January 02, 2006


On New Year's Day Concetta and I went to Stephanie's to make chamellas and panatone bread pudding. It was the Germani-Bodanza-D'Amato alliance. Time to eat and make food.

First we threw together a panatone bread pudding. Couldn't be easier. Buy a panatone, cube it up. Add eggs, half & half, vanilla, sugar, rum, and nutmeg. Bake in a glass dish set in a shallow water bath. Boom done - panatone bread pudding.

Moving on...Stephanie's family refers to the ringed breads we made as chamellas. I did find this recipe for chamellas which is extremely similar to the one we used (and, technically, I haven't divulged any Germani secrets). Also on this page is a sweet version (simply add sugar). Like most recipes, there are dozens of variations out there for chamellas. My family calls them ciambelles. Ciambelle refers to the shape and not the ingredients. Mostly the shape is round. Some are rings, some are almost rings but the ends don't quite meet, some are scalloped (like the ones we made), some are shaped like birds! Make them sweet with sugar, orange peel, lemon zest, etc. Make them savory with garlic, herbs, cheese. I've got lots of ideas for future ciambelles/chamellas. I've got visions of crushed red pepper dancing in my head or fresh rosemary and sage. Here is a recipe for ciambelles made with sugar AND white wine. Experiment.

Stephanie had the chamella work stations set up when we arrived. Perhaps she can hold chamella making classes? We each had our own supplies and ingredients. This is a simple process of making dough, letting it rise, forming the shapes, dropping into simmering water for a few seconds and then baking.

While waiting for the dough to rise we had lunch. Stephanie made grilled chicken, pear salad, and roasted cauliflower with red pepper strips. All delicious. It was the perfect chamella making party.

January 01, 2006


Thursday Andrea, Concetta, Erin and I head up to Than Brothers for a hot bowl of pho. Andrea and Concetta hit R.E.I. after lunch while Erin and I had to return to work. But after work Concetta, Julie and I dined at Annapurna for delicious Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian food. Afterwards, Concetta and I went to see the one, the only, Dina Martina perform her Christmas show at Re-Bar.

Dina Martina is hard to describe. You have to see her to believe her. But we laughed until our faces hurt. And, once again, I was picked on by Ms. Martina but I received a gift for my troubles. Yes, I am (was) the owner of magnificent candy ear wax. Mmmmm good. But I was jealous of the woman who received the toilet seat embellished with a picture of Dionne Warwick. I might have to decorate my own toilet with a has been. While at Re-Bar I learned that Sylvia O'Stayformore (Ben Blair) will be performing Lady Sings The Brews in all through January.

On Friday Concetta was spoiled rotten at Gene Juarez with a facial and a hand and foot massage thanks to a gift from me and Julie. Her face was like a baby's bottom when she was done. We took her smooth butt face to wine tasting at Tarragona.