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Monday, July 28, 2014

Brooklyn's Five Leaves Burger in Pullman

I'll be honest: I've been kind of homesick for the city lately. Maybe it's because I don't have the wedding to keep me occupied anymore and now here I am actually feeling present in the present moment and who wants to do that when you live in the boonies! I miss my friends and the subway and the artsy people and the random finds and the crazy connections. Woody Allen said it best about the country: there's no place to walk after dinner.

In my fit of NYC-homesickness this past weekend I dug out the old New Brooklyn Cookbook with recipes from some of my favorite haunts. In my old life as a Brooklyn restaurant blogger I made my favorite burger once and felt quite proud of myself. This time I felt inspired to do it again, but do it BETTER, with all my post-registry kitchen items. And so, ladies and gents, the post-wedding, Pullmanized Five Leaves Burger!


The Five Leaves burger is known for its unique combination of sweet pineapple, pickled beet, creamy egg and spicy mayo. It's such a fabulous combination for a burger that you don't even realize there isn't cheese on it. 

We tried to make everything home made in this burger. I should have grabbed some of my coworkers' home grown eggs, but instead I bought a dozen. I should have tried to make my own rolls in the bread machine but that didn't happen either.

I did buy a whole pineapple -- not canned this time -- and marinaded the slices 48 hours in the boiled vinegar-honey solution.

The beets I bought whole and raw, baked for an hour, then marinaded in the pineapple solution with some lemon juice. It was the lazy person's pickling.

The meat was a chuck steak that we ground with the Kitchen Aid attachment, hand formed into patties, and grilled on our brand spankin' new grill out back.

I couldn't find harissa, so I made the sauce with mayo, Sriracha and juice from a whole lime.

The final product had that wobbly, amateur finish -- the pineapple slices still had coriander seeds stuck to it, the ciabatta roll was a little big for our little burger patties -- but man, if it didn't feel good to sink my teeth into a Five Leaves burger on a hot summer day.

Pretty good imitation, huh?

Want to try your hand at it? Find the full recipe here

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What to do with Bum Watermelons

What's with watermelons this year? Every time I excitedly slice into a new green melon ball I am immediately disappointed with the dull color, the low sweetness and mealy texture.


It's a sad way to end my happy song of "My Own Personal Watermelon" sung to the tune of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus but in Johnny Cash's version. Only Jesus instead of Watermelon.

Some fruit to hear your prayers,
some fruit that's not pears.

Anyway, if you are bogged down by the same sad fruity affliction, I have some ideas.

First, watermelon salsa! Full credit goes to Cooking Light for this great sweet-spicy-fresh recipe, that tastes awesome on steak tacos and revives dull melons ASAP. I changed the amounts a little because "2 cups of watermelon" is a stupid method of measurement.

Watermelon Salsa in Normal-Person Measurements
-Half a small (of your own... "personal"...) watermelon (see, much better)
-2 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped
-enough lime juice to coat the top
-same amount of olive oil
-1 chopped serrano chile 

If you think adding a spicy pepper to a watermelon is a good way to ruin it, I can understand that. If you're married to the idea of keeping it sweet, why not pulverize it with a little honey? I think watermelon smoothies are a little risky -- especially since we're already dealing with bum watermelons -- but I messed around with the measurements and ingredients and found one that's acceptable.

Watermelon Smoothie
-The other half of your own personal watermelon
-Tablespoon of honey
-The ice from about half an ice tray 
-Splash of lime juice
-Handful of hulled strawberries

Drink it fast, because it separates quick.

At least the cherries are good this summer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alone Time + How I'm Learning to Cook

When my new husband (!) left for Seattle for a few days this morning, I was kinda bummed. I was thinking The honeymoon is really over! and How is this fair for newlyweds to spend 3 whole days apart? But then I remembered I'm an INTROVERT and I haven't had alone time in WEEKS and how else am I going to regenerate my energy?

So after work I skipped merrily along to the farmer's market and came home with lots of fun goodies for my first solo night in a long time.

Now back in NYC I would head to the Union Square Market and pretty much shrug at everything because how am I supposed to cook that? And shouldn't I just let the experts do it and it's too hot to cook anyway but gee it sure looks pretty in that box and maybe I should just take a picture and then get a beer somewhere before I head back on the L train.

There are no such distractions here in Pullman, and no such luxuries as "someone else will cook it better" because they WON'T. I think it's this feeling of "it's me or no one" that has pushed me to actually start chopping things up and putting them in hot oil and then wow! Dinner!

My home cooking endeavors started off as finding a recipe, going out, buying all the ingredients, measuring everything, and carrying out all the tasks listed in the grease-splattered cookbook. But like any other craft, you start to get the hang of it. You read through a recipe and take the parts you like. You remember cooking techniques that work and apply it with different ingredients and flavors. And you stop measuring! Because unless you're baking then there's really no point. 1/4 teaspoon of salt should really be more, anyway, so why not just eyeball it? And then you save money because you're skilled at tailoring dinner towards what you have and not what's $10/lb at the grocery store. (See? I've learned to be frugal, too!)

Tonight I think I advanced a little more with a beet salad I made up with veggies from the market, a fried rice I tweaked from Cooking Light and a chicken I cooked on a memory and an instinct. I tried to match the dinner to the hot weather, to give me some cool relief with little nods to a fiery sun. I wanted something light and bright with little hints of earthy spiciness.

I call it Yogurt-Dill Chicken with Lemongrass Rice and Honey Beet Salad.

Whoooo-what! That sounds crazy. Like a real adult person's dinner and not what I used to do when Rob went away which was... um.. an excuse for a giant takeout pepperoni and ricotta calzone from a place on Manhattan Ave with lots of pictures of Italian people on the walls.

Oh, memories.

Well I'm not skilled at writing recipes yet (because again, I don't measure) but maybe you're an eyeball-er too and just want the highlights.

The chicken breast was marinated in plain yogurt, lots of fresh dill from the farmer's market, garam masala, lemon juice, garlic powder, curry powder, red pepper and cumin. Shook off the marinade. Sauteed about 4 minutes per side, then into the convection oven at 350 for about 15 minutes because its way too hot to turn on the actual oven. It didn't come out yogurt-y at all, just had lots of great aromatic Indian spices, and the creamy freshness from the yogurt adhered all those great flavors to the meat.

The white rice I cooked as usual, without salt or butter. Then I sauteed some onions in oil with lemongrass powder, added the rice in, turned the heat off and added lemon juice and lots of parsley.

The salad took a bit more creativity. I don't know if you're supposed to blanch beets or not, but I did. And as I was boiling them, the grassy smell made me think of peas, so I blanched some of the sugar snaps, too. Then I remembered I got cucumbers from the farmers market too, so I salted those and chopped them up. Fresh, green, crunch. Mixed everything together and chilled it. I made a vinagrette with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and lemon juice. It tasted awful. I adjusted the amounts. It tasted better. I added more honey and a little orange peel. Perfect. Glazed it over the beet salad.

Then I set the table with new Crate & Barrell placemat and napkin from the registry and put the farmer's market snapdragons in water. And maybe I had a Topcutter IPA too. I'M ALLOWED!

Being a newlywedded introvert with a budding talent for fresh and local cooking is kind of awesome.

I still think about that calzone sometimes, though.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One Year Since Brooklyn

It was kind of funny timing that we flew back into Spokane from our honeymoon on June 30 -- a year to the day since we finished out our lease and hit the road towards Pullman. 

So much of it felt similar to last year. We came in late at night, kind of disoriented, back into the quiet town after a few weeks of craziness and disorder. When we got home, it had that smell of no-one-living-in-old-house. I felt sad things were changing, or rather, that things were over.

But the better part about coming home to Pullman was that feeling that we weren't completely alone this time.

Our well-fed and well-loved dog came to greet us after being taken care of by friends. People we didn't know existed a year ago and who we didn't think twice about handing our house keys to. And a list of dog instructions. 

Over the past few days, there has been welcome-home drinks and looking at wedding photos and reading guests books and dinner out and just general so-happy-for-yous that so genuinely match those of our long-time family and friends that its impossible not to feel proud of finding our way into a good crowd out here.

And while last summer it was kind of a lonely waiting game for September, with new job and new classes, now we're in a groove with what we have to do and try to juggle it with fun things -- trips to Portland, lunches out, drinks on porches, walks through parks.

It's kind of like being a townie, but in someone else's town. One minute you consider yourself a somewhat professional New Yorker and now you're cruising along the road to Idaho throwing snappers out the window. Because it's the Fourth of July and all.

Did I mention that it's my favorite holiday? Simple celebration of summer, patriotism and BBQ. No pressure, no presents. And no matter what we end up doing, it will be more fun than the hotel bar in Chicago we were stuck in last year.

Anyway, tonight I am feeling blessed, patriotic, town-ish and married. Finally, officially married. Things are feeling merged and settled and finalized and good.

It's been quite a year.