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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Drink the Kool-Aid & Vote for Me!

So I just entered a picture of the animal I like to call Coyote Pretty in this Share the Experience photo contest -- take a look and vote for me! After all we've been through on this road trip, doesn't the Subaru deserve a little maintenance cash? I took her to the dealership four times this week. C'mon. Do it for the vehicular children.

Coyote Pretty

As for the Kool-Aid thing, ok, it's not really Kool-Aid, but it's much better! Today I made an orange-lime-cucumber-lemon infused water because I read it flushes fat and with a full pork shoulder in the crock this weekend lord knows I could use it. But after a sip or two I thought, you know what would make this a million times better? Soda-ifying it. Or, as a Washington resident now, should I be saying pop-ify? So I revved up the Sodastream, topped off the fruit water and boom, now it's like a cross between lemon water and orange soda. I'm pretty pleased with myself.

For a quick recap of other kitchen creations, because I'm sure you're dying to know...

We got some beets at the farmers market. I cooked them for almost an hour, sauteed the greens separately with a chopped onion, tossed it altogether with a little balsamic and a little goat cheese. It was very minimally dressed and the flavors were amazing. I'd never had beet greens before, but now I'll never throw them out again.

As for that aforementioned pork, ugh, I hate how disgustingly good it came out. A full 10 hours in the crock pot with a little garlic, onion and chicken broth and out comes tender, juicy perfeection. Luckily Rob froze the remainder before we went too bananas with it. But not before soft tacos with mango-avocado-black bean salsa and a sandwich with cheddar-jack and avocado on fresh Pugliese.  

Now that Rob's in school about 32 hours a day I have to come up with cheap ways to feed and entertain myself. So as a two-fer I thought it'd be a good idea to make ravioli, PORK ravioli, and went through the whole egg-flour dough process before I realized I have no idea where the ravoili press is or if it's even been unpacked or what. So I made orichette with my massive thumbprints and they obviously came out way too doughy; I tried to make pesto but ran short on homegrown basil and substituted mostly with store bought mint and did I just make boiled flour balls with chimichurri? I guess they can't all be winners. And I should probably cool it with the overzealous kitchen whims.

But this salad-y apple of my eye was first rate, for sure. I felt inspired to go completely off recipe with my idea to house-toast walnuts and concoct a vinaigrette of honey mustard, horse radish, lime juice and olive oil. My first taste was pretty terrible but I managed to salvage it with agave and salt. The sweetness went well with the farmers market strawberries and contrasted nicely with the herbed goat cheese. Avocado, well, that just goes in everything these days. Hasn't made anything worse so far. 

Anyway, go vote for Coyote Pretty! :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Daikon-Ponzu Duck Breast Recipe

Adjustment is a funny thing. One day you wake up, feel at home, go about your business, do some work, busy yourself and fall asleep feeling routine-ified. Then other days you want to throw a tantrum because where's the sushi and how come no one knows how to walk in public and why do they pre-slice deli meat in Boise and why is it not even Boar's Head. And by "you" I guess I mean me. 

Today I saw a tow zone sign that said "Don't park your car improperly or without authorization because a reluctant little tow truck will remove it!" And there was an image of a crying tow truck. Well I can relate to your feelings, cartoon Tow Truck, because back in NYC they'll drag your car away and they won't be sorry! 

Sometimes I'm confused by the things I am nostalgic for.

Well, anyway, like I've said in basically every post I've written so far, we have to make our own fun, build our own comfort. And while cooking with whatever is different and fresh over here is fun, we wanted a hearty staple that reminded us of dinner parties in Brooklyn and Sunday night meals we'd make when we were feeling fancy.

Enter the daikon-ponzu duck dish we've been making for at least six years now. The original recipe is from En Japanese Brasserie, a spot in the West Village that makes awesome homemade tofu and terrific garlic-shiso fried rice. And of course this amazing fusion dish, which is really easy to make at home.

Sauteed Duck Breast with Daikon and Ponzu 

2 boneless duck breasts
1 daikon radish, shredded
4 tsp. ponzu sauce
1 scallion 

Preheat an oven-proof skillet over a high flame, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Score crosswise hash marks in the skin side of the duck breasts. Salt and pepper both sides. When the skillet is very hot, lightly rub the breasts skin side down on the surface to release some duck fat. Sautee skin side down until browned and the hash marks pop out. Flip and sauté the meat side until it browns. Flip back onto the side side and stick it in the over for 7 minutes. Flip and bake for 7 more minutes. 

Remove the meat and let it rest on a cutting board. Keep the fat in the skillet and place over high heat. Add the daikon and sautee with the ponzu. Slice the duck and top with daikon. Then slice the scallions lengthwise and arrange artfully on top. 

Even when you're in the boonies, you deserve a little flair with dinner, right? A nice plating? And by you I mean me again.

The dish goes really well with a nice bottle of merlot from the aforementioned Camas Prarie Winery. Maybe cab would be even better next time. I'll let you know.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The National Lentil Festival

Well, it's not the Gay Pride Parade, but the Lentil Fest of Pullman generates a good deal of buzz. And by buzz I mean there are signs up all over the place weeks, maybe months, in advance.

So of course we went to check it out on Friday. I was most excited to see the world's biggest bowl of lentil chili. That guy has to climb up a ladder just to stir it around! It would look a whole lot more quaint if they scooped the chili from the top instead of using a messy spout at the bottom, but the good news is I saw the chili tap AFTER I grabbed a free sample, so there's that.

Next we hit the food stand. It wasn't Smorgasburg and could have used a leeetle bit of creativity (A Coke truck??) but we had a nice pork sandwich from Spokane's Smokin' Romes BBQ. We sat and ate under a tent while we watched a little band play in the gazebo. Then when I saw a lady use the dirty picnic table as a changing table I decided it was on to our next stop: the 21+ beer tent.

We had a few brews from a handful of different breweries. We met a bunch of local people. One gave me a temporary lentil tattoo -- that is, a round lentil woman dressed in high heels and a bow. Someone else gave me a bag of dried lentils. I guess we missed the freebie tents, but new friends made up for it.

We skipped the parade the next day -- something new to look forward to next year, perhaps.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Food Depression and Food Redemption

"I'm trying to figure out what stage of grief you're at right now," he says to me.

We're at our first attempt at Saturday brunch: the Old European restaurant in Pullman, Washington, which is just as kitchy and carpet-y as it sounds. There are signs about Jesus on the walls. In front of us are wobbly eggs that still have the shape of the bowl it was cracked in when they placed it in the microwave. We'd ordered them poached. His breakfast sausage was cold, and came back two minutes later, plate hot from another go in the microwave, bite mark still intact. The syrup is watery and I'm juggling the pourer around, trying to figure out how something that's supposed to be thick and heavy is sloshing around like dish water.

What stage of grief am I in? Well, it's certainly not acceptance.

Back in Brooklyn, we went to brunch every Saturday we could. Usually Brooklyn Label or Egg or somewhere hipstery where we'd wait forever on the hot sidewalks and groan about hunger. But then we'd sit and get our food and coffee and the mood for the weekend would be set. We'd have huevos rancheros and eggs benedict or sausage gravy and challah french toast. Then we'd set off for a day of museums or parks or art openings or whatever our friends were up to that day. We did this for eight years straight, and we loved it. And now here we are in a college town where slobby people rave about a place that doesn't seem to have a stovetop.

Again, it set the tone for the day. But this time, it was a mopey tone. 

Luckily, we're learning the ways of finding our own cheer. And we're learning our best bet for joy is seven miles away in Moscow, Idaho.

First, some coffee by the pound at the Moscow Food Co-Op. It reminds me of the Garden that was at the end of our street in Brooklyn, the only place for organic food and acceptable coffee.

Then a stop at the Camas Prairie Winery, where we picked up a bottle of red, a bottle of white and a bottle of beer. A consolation prize for when dinner fails. Or, a celebration.

But these were old tricks. Now onto our first dinner spot in Moscow: Maialina.

I had hopes for this place the first time I heard about it. It reminded me of Maialino, one of my favorite spots for Italian food in the city. Now of course I wasn't expecting fresh suckling pig over handmade pasta here. I'm not gonna read THAT much into the name. I just wanted affirmation that I could find artisanal pizza that reminds me of home. Just pizza. That's it.

I'm so glad it delivered and exceeded expectations. I wasn't ready to down all three bottles in sorrow tonight.

We started with some perfectly cooked mussels with white wine, garlic and guanciale. Guanciale! Rejoice.

And the pizza was fantastic, too. Puffed up at the crust, with a thin interior topped with mozz, fennel sausage and chili oil. It was supposed to come with rapini, which is supposed to be broccoli raab, but got kale. Rob asked the waiter, "Is this kale?" Waiter says, "Yes, good taste!" Ok, well, we can't all be perfect. 

I'm feeling huge relief knowing that pizza as good as Fornino and maybe even as good as Robertas is only a short drive over the state line. As good as Motorino? I'm not that far into the denial stage yet. And hey, instead of waiting for the bus or subway to come and take us home, we get pretty views of the Palouse as we breeze on by in our car. We have wine tonight and fresh coffee for tomorrow. We're good to go.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Farmers Markets & Huckleberry Cobbler

It's funny when you move across country from a big city to a rural college town. You think every aspect of your life will be completely different. And it is. But life stays the same, too. The same values -- music, love, food -- follow you. Instead of wild concerts, its the familiar albums you play in the new car. We still have each other, but now there's a spastic hound dog to love, too. And instead of five courses at four-star restaurants, we're cooking. Pretty much every meal. 

In a way, this kind of rural accessibility is like living the Brooklyn dream. I don't need to plant gardens on my roof -- I have a garden in the yard! We have enough space in the kitchen to try pickling experiments on the weekends. And the farmer's market in Moscow Idaho brings us the best organic deals in town every Saturday.

Yeah okay, so I know in NYC we had the Union Square farmer's market and the food share at McCarrren Park. But it's a whole other plantation on this side of the country. It's impossible to find fresh fish, but you can buy some nice plants and flowers here. And you know what else they have out west? Huckleberries! That's right, it's not just a character in a classic novel anymore, kids.

I bought a pint and had no idea what to do with them. I did a reduction sauce on some pork chops and they were okay. But I wanted to bake something sweet. I wanted a cobbler. I've never made a cobbler before so I did what any 30 year old woman would do.

I texted my mom.

She came to the rescue with an old cobbler recipe that she said must have been printed before the second World War it was in such bad shape. It was in rumpled shape when Grandma followed the recipe even then.

Lucky for me, the Internet's a big place. I found it online. One problem though -- the cobbler was apple.

So I took out the apples and cinnamon, added some other berries to tone down the huckle, tossed in a bit of personal knowledge about maceration and ta-da! Huckleberry cobbler.

Huckleberry Cobbler


1/2 pint of fresh huckleberries
1 pint of fresh blueberries
1 pint of fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup flour
1 Tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. shortening
1/2 cup milk

  • Instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and chop strawberries and huckleberries to match the size of the blueberries. Add lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar and a dash of salt and let sit until softened and juicy. Pour into a baking dish, dot with butter. Cover with foil; bake 15 min. Meanwhile, sift flour, 1 tsp. sugar, baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cut in shortening, then stir in milk. Drop by spoonfuls on hot berries. Bake uncovered 25-35 min. Serve hot, with plain vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Brews Across America

What's that you say? You enjoy beer? And you like to travel?? Well, friends, I have a nice list for you of all the great breweries we love from Brooklyn to Pullman (ahh! The title! She said it!). Here's my list, from east to west:

Brooklyn, NY - Six Point Brewery
Cleveland, OH - Great Lakes Brewing Company
Chicago, IL - Goose Island
Madison, WI - Ale Asylum
New Glarus, WI - New Glarus Brewing
Sioux Falls, SD - Monks House of Ale Repute (not a brewery, but they have a good selection, including this beer Ghostface Killah from Twisted Pine Brewing in Boulder CO that you should totally not drink ever unless you enjoy spicy painful heartburn, but otherwise they have good beers at Monks)
Jackson, WY - Snake River Brewery
Red Lodge, MT - Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company
Missoula, MT - Big Sky Brewery
Pullman, WA - Paradise Creek Brewery 

We realized that favorite brews happen to be a pretty local thing. Our Brooklyn friends are sad for us that there's no Six Point here. Our Pullman friends have no idea what Six Point even is. Maybe this post will widen the perspective of IPA and stout lovers across America. Maybe. Probably.

Forest Fires, Coeur d'Alene, and a New Home

Re-packing up the car became a familiar ritual after every stop. A ritual that I typically left to Rob. It was usually in a dirty parking garage or an ugly Motel 6 parking lot, but packing up after our stay at Buck's T-4 never looked so peaceful.

We took a nice countryside drive back to I-90. We hadn't been on the main drag since South Dakota!

But as soon as we got back onto it, we saw smoke in the distance. As we got closer we saw it was a pretty big forest fire. 

I guess forest fires in Montana aren't uncommon, but it was a pretty crazy sight to us. 

Anyway, they seemed like they had it under control, so onto Idaho!

Where ironically, we immediately saw this sign.

We spent the night camping at Coeur d'Alene, a mile or so away from this gorgeous lake. I can't wait to go back here for a legit day trip with beach time and swimming. John K, get ready! :)

The camp site was one of the weirder ones we've stopped at, and the personnel was a new level of slow. Let's just say I got some free firewood out of the deal and called it a win.

The next morning we were only an hour and a half away from home!

"Home" wasn't totally what we were expecting. With the hour-long landlady conference calls about maintenance and cleanliness and rules of the like we've never head of in Brooklyn, I guess we were expecting a little more.

But, we're making the most of it. 

We've grown a garden in that grassy area on the left. We made friends with the downstairs neighbors -- they're awesome. There's a brewery a half mile down the street. Every night or so we walk to a nice park up the hill and visit the llamas and sheep. And there's a big schoolyard next door where Caly loves to run around. She pumps with her head instead of her arms.

The transition has been a little rough at times, but I'd say overall, we're doing ok.

We also have a washer/dryer, so I have enough clean clothes that match now. Don't worry about me.

More on what we're doing, drinking and baking to come! And maybe even a new Martha Stewart style recipe or another crafty idea or two. Forced ruralism will do that do a Brooklyn gal.