Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vancouver Getaway- Granville Island, Capilano Suspension Bridge & Foodie Fun

Above- Fresh sunflowers at Granville Island Market

Vancouver is close enough for a quick weekend away. However, the journey isn’t always easy if it’s a Friday, in the Summer, along with the rest of hordes crossing into the Great White North.  A trip that should be under 3 hours, took over 4 recently because of an hour long border crossing.Maybe a 4 hour drive seems extreme for a couple of dinners and a day and half of fun?  Well, not if you plan it right and embrace just the right combination of sightseeing and relaxation.
We like to stay near Stanley Park, as there is so much to do there, and it’s such a visually beautiful part of the city, with views of the bay, the bridge, and Grouse Mountain looming in the distance.  The Westin Bayshore is a great hotel with easy access to walking & biking trails in Stanley Park, or waterfront walks towards Gas Town sights and great restaurants, but more about that in a bit.
Our first night was an easy dinner at the Coal Harbor Marina at Cardero’s (a Sequoia restaurant chain).  The food was great, the service amazing and it was fun to see the boats coming and going as we ate outdoors on the deck. A little rain in time for dessert, but undercover of the patio awning, all was good. I'd recommend the salmon, and the calamari too.

Morning brought rain and mist, bringing visibility of the city to about nil.   
Ah well.... it is the NW, or wait a sec, this is Canada, eh?
Is it the Southwest???  
No matter, a little coffee and a light breakfast and then onto Granville Island Market.  If you like farmers markets, specialty shops. artist studios, restaurants and galleries, with some live theater options too, THIS is the place.   We drove to the Island, nestled under the Granville bridge, but you might be able to take a taxi, a bus, a water taxi, or even kayak there.  Very fun.  My advice, go hungry.  Skip breakfast and start tasting testing your way around the food stalls and fruit and produce stands.   
Above- Fresh berries, with more variety than I've seen in a long time.  Golden gooseberries in the middle, 'case you're wondering.

You could buy everything you need here for a fantastic picnic too. I wish I had taken pictures of the fresh bread, and the cured meat stores too. You might arrange your trip to hit Granville Island on your way out of town as you return to the US and buy some goodies for dinner when you arrive home too. If you like Pike Place Market in Seattle, you will love Granville Island too.   

Wonderful specialty items abound...

As well as some pretty common stuff that is pretty special too...

We did a little shopping, a little nibbling and finally ended with lunch at Bridges on the dock outside when the weather cleared. A great place to watch everything water related as you relax..  

LEFT:  A picture of my salmon with caper & tomato salsa and pesto with a kale barley pilaf.  Yum

We were with friends who hadn’t been to Vancouver in a very long time, so we were thinking and acting like tourists to get the biggest amount of fun in our day.  We set off to drive through Stanley Park, over the Lion’s Gate bridge to North Vancouver to visit the Capilano Suspension bridge and take the tram up to Grouse Mountain on the tram, up over 4,000 feet.  The Capilano bridge has been there over 125 years and spans a wide and deep gorge.  Kind of a crazy long swaying bridge (a la Indiana Jones) with about 100 of your best friends.  Ugh.  I have no issue with heights, but I do have a motion thing and an aversion to obnoxious people who like to dally with a death wish.  However, no issue with the crossing and I did make it to the other side.  I’d been over that bridge about 30 years ago, so I was surprised by the changes of the other side of the bridge.  Since we’d paid a very pretty  amount to cross a bridge (try $36.99 each, with 10% AAA discount), I made sure to get the full money’s worth of our adventure.  Lots of trails along the gorge on wooden walk ways,plus more mini suspension bridges from tree house to platform in the tree tops high above the trails.  Very fun, and exciting too, we even logged walking about 1.5 miles in the trails.  A kitschy gift shop, another “sky” walk along the cliff of the gorge and we were through.
Just up the road, about another 2 miles is the base of Grouse Mountain where you can catch the tram to the top.  As the mountain was still completely socked into the clouds and mist, we elected to save this for another day.  My advice, if the weather is good, try to do both in one day.  The views are spectacular from the top and there are more trails for your to adventure on too.  Bring a coat, it’s a lot cooler when you ascend over 4,000 feet, even from a sunny hot day below.

Back to the hotel for a rest (okay it was a NAP) and then to decide on dinner plans.   
We “yelped” a couple of places and decided on two, Salt Tasting Room (in Blood Alley in Gas Town) for some appetizers of meats, cheeses and wine pairings and Tuc Craft Restaurant, just a couple of blocks away for a 9pm dinner reservation... as it was the only thing we could get.

First of all, the wine room in the "Salt Cellar".  Lots of great wines from all over the world, where they will pair them with the cheeses and/or meats and the condiments you have chosen.  3 2oz wines for $15, isn't the biggest bargain, but the FUN factor is there.

Choose three cheeses, and pair it with three condiments.  
What fun!
Easier than it sounds, however the wait staff is awesome and patient and makes great recommendations. See below for what we got...

From left to right:
Hot Osmary and piperons peppers

Ciocco arancia (orange & chocolate salami) was WOW with the Basque olives

Hickory salami and Picalilli relish (pickled veggies with mustard)
From left to right:
St Andre triple cream brie with honey (our favorite)

Midnight Moon with Mostarda (perserved fruit in a mustard flavored syrup- really nice)

Avonlea Cheddar with hazelnuts

Here's our wine flights too, you can pick red, whites, or a mixture:

I wish I had better pictures of Tuc Craft Restaurant however, it was late, and we were enjoying ourselves TOO MUCH. 
The two things I recommend?  

Deep Fried Soft-boiled eggs with bacon... $3 for an egg, worth twice the price.  Next time I'm going back for brunch and have TWO of these.

Not a great photo, but Pork cooked Two Ways was wonderful and I think about $20 for the entree.  Perfectly cooked, tender pork chop with pork belly deep fried into cubes, served with Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes and zucchini perfectly cooked. Awesome.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grilled Salmon Kebabs with Lemon

Pretty, tasty, bright and healthy too.
I'm not ashamed to admit it, I do like the convienence of frozen salmon from Costco. 
I know, I know... it's farmed, however it is really good, and always easy to have on hand to make a quick weeknight dinner.
I usually take out the fillets in the morning before and put them in the fridge to thaw slowly.  However, they don't always thaw all the way, so this technique is a great way to use it.
Partially frozen salmon is way easier to cut into cubes than fresh salmon, but it would still work if you only have fresh salmon.  Poor thing.
If you're not convinced about the taste of the Costco salmon, here's an article from the Washington Post about a blind taste testing that might.

Serves 2

2 frozen salmon fillets, partially thawed
1 1/2 lemon, 1/2 juiced, 1 sliced thinly in about 20 thin slices
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
Salt & pepper

Cut the partially frozen salmon fillets into uniform cubes, I got about 10-12 cubes from each fillet by cutting them in half length wise then into cubes.Add the salmon cubes to a ziploc bag or bowl and add the lemon juice, the olive oil, minced parsley and add salt and pepper.  Marinate salmon cubes for about 30 minutes.

Slice the other lemon into thin slices, I got about 20 slices from one large lemon. 

Using skewers (best if soaked in water for a couple minutes to reduce burning on the grill) thread one salmon chunk, one folded over lemon slice, alternating until your skewer is full.  I got four skewers from my two salmon fillets.

Over a medium hot grill, cook the skewers about 5-6 minutes, turning the skewer over about half way.  It's easy to see the salmon is cooked as you will see a little white sweat appear.  
Serve at once, or they taste great chilled and eaten cold too.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Smoked Salmon Spread with Capers, Lemon & Green Onion

I've had that pack of smoked salmon in the fridge since Christmas.
I'm not sure what I've been waiting for... I love smoked salmon.
What was I waiting for?  Christmas again...? 
Anyway, the pull date on the back said I had a month before it expired.
I had to find some reason to serve it!

So, I decided the occasion I was waiting for was a day at the beach with friends!
Yeah, Okay, so maybe that's a weird thing to bring to the beach, seems like it goes with a cocktail party better.  But frankly, you'd be amazed at how happy people are to eat this at the beach!  Keep cold until you're ready to serve, but it probably won't last too long anyway.

This would be nice on a bagel for breakfast, brunch or lunch too.
It's actually good on your finger too... just saying.

One note, don't add salt to this mixture, between the capers and the smoked salmon it is salty enough.  Yummy, salty, tangy... did I say yummy?

Makes about 2 cups

8 oz smoked salmon, cut into pieces and divided into two portions
8 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp capers, divided
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped green onions, divided
Parsley, if desired
Fresh pepper

Using a food processor, or by hand mixer, mix the cream cheese, half the smoked salmon, half the green onions, half the capers, all the lemon zest and lemon juice until well combined. If using a food processor, it may get quite smooth. Remove to a different bowl and add the rest of the chopped up salmon chunks, the capers and the green onions, so that you have some nice colors and textures for serving.

Serve with slices of french bread, crackers, mini bagels or even potato chips.   

Here's what I've been making:
One year ago: Mai Tai's for a Crowd (a VERY popular post, LOL)
Two years ago: Cherries Jubilee Martini
Three years ago: Peppered Chicken Kebabs wrapped in Bacon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Peach Almond Semifreddo

Old, creamy, sweet and delicious.
Not usually things that are paired with low calorie, but this one is!

Made this other morning and enjoyed it on a hot humid evening on the deck, just perfect.
I'd like to give credit for the recipe, but I put this one in "draft" mode so long ago, when it came time to make it, I now have no idea.  Lots of semifreddo's on the internet if you look for them.

Easy, just yogurt (or whipped cream) mixed with beat egg whites and an egg yolk.
So, if you are weirded out by uncooked eggs, this recipe is probably not for you.

As you can see, the recipe title says "almonds" but clearly, I have used pecans in my photo. Why??
I was fresh out of almonds... that's why.
Use what you "got"... got berries and walnuts, do a semifreddo with that instead. 
Mix it up, make it yours.

Makes one 4x8 loaf pan, serves about 6

1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 egg, separated
1/3 cup honey, or agave syrup
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites (use the white from above, plus 2 more)
2 medium peaches, pitted and diced
1/3 cup chopped almonds, pecans or hazelnuts, toasted

Line a 8x4x5 loaf pan with plastic wrap, over hanging all four sides*
Mix yogurt, egg yolk, honey and extracts
In another bowl, beat egg whites into stiff peaks.
With rubber spatula, fold egg whites into the yogurt mixture.  
Gently stir in peaches and nuts. 
Add to loaf pan, and carefully cover the top with the plastic wrap.
Freeze for 2-3 hours, or longer.
Slice (carefully with a serrated knife) and serve.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Business Class Airline Food

I'm very lucky to be able to fly business class on occasion for work.
I know that.
I appreciate it.
Very much.
Once you fly business class, it's very hard to fly Coach on your own dime.
But you power through it.

It may be obvious, but in business class, you get a ton more room, a much better seat and mostly yummy food.
It's pretty expensive, however, you've got to remember that you have 3-4 times more space, therefore, your ticket is going to cost 3-4 more than economy tickets.  
I'm sure that makes it easier to swallow. (gulp). Yeah, right, easier.

I just took a big trip in May.
And, In case you didn't know, May is spargel time in Germany.
Isn't that fun to say?
Weiss Spargel was everywhere.  
White Asparagus.
Special Spargel-Karte (asparagus menu) at every restaurant I went to (on the ground, btw).  I must admit I ate it everywhere I went, I mean, why not? It tastes good, more subtle and delicious and less stinky than the green kind we get here in the US.  
You know what I mean....
However,  I didn't expect to get it on my German carrier flight too.

As you can see, this is a pretty big serving of veggies, potatoes and a veal chop.  
A totally delicious dinner.  For the record, it was ME that shook pepper all over that whole plate before I remembered to take a picture.

Photo below, an appetizer for the meal above.  
A very tender poached salmon with a green asparagus and radish salad and mustard sauce.  I have to say, that might have been the best poached salmon I have ever had.  Maybe it was the altitude (38,000 feet will do that to you).
A nice salad with a dried tomato slice on top.  That roll was the bomb too, with lots of seeds and cheese and wonderfully toasty fresh out of the oven. Dressing in a cute little jar.
In case you are wondering, you get real silverware and nice linens in business class too.  
And cute little ole' salt and pepper shakers too. And wine.

I took it easy on dessert because I just ate a whole lot of food, ya know?
Just a little fruit salad and some chocolates.
A little something on German fruit salads.... they are were notoriously uninspired (airline or anywhere) usually, containing a bunch of apples and pears (two things I don't belong in a fruit salad, for the record!) and melon, if you are lucky.  
This was the first German fruit salad I had with a strawberry, so I was darn sure going to enjoy it.

Even on a short business class flight, you'll find yourself with a pretty darn good meal.  
This was on an early morning flight of 1 hr 20 min duration from Rome to Frankfurt. 
It included yogurt with fruit puree and raspberry, Italian proscuitto with celery (not sure what's up with that combination), fresh fruit, a bunch of very good cheese and pretty much the best roll I ever ate- - on an airplane. Must be some sort of fancy bun warming contraption on that plane in business class.

This is probably the worst meal I’ve had on a business class flight (below)
Curry Wurst.
I’m thinking this must be a soup, or a stew… or who knows WHAT?   
It was "lunch time" on the flight, which is a nice way of saying the airline is forcing you to adopt the time zone of where you will be landing and it is lunch time in Seattle. It's really the middle of the night and you want them to go away. You can tell by my photo it is dark in the cabin, yep, lunch in the dark.

Yikes, slices of whitish sausage sliced and thrown in a soupy curry sauce.   
Saving grace?
A fresh pretzel roll that I was able to dunk in the sauce and eat.  
I ate one piece of sausage.  I thought about offering the rest of my dish to my German neighbor who obviously relished his dish. I thought that was a touch too familiar and wife-like, so I kept my mouth shut. 
As for that salad?  It was OK... a little wilted, but not bad and considering how few salads were offered to me in Germany, I ate every bite of that one.

Onto one of the Asian Airlines, I've flown a few time before. The service is delightful and the flight attendants the most attractive and pleasant of any I have encountered.

This is the appetizer, fresh, awesome, loveliness.  
Melon, proscuitto and arugula or watercress.  
It was fantastic.  Who even dreamed you could get that perfection in the air?

I have this dish every time I fly on Korean Air. 
It's like some sort of national dish available, that happens to be on every flight.  
It's just rice and mixed veggies with some meat.  
You get lots of cute side dishes of condiments, mainly pickled veggies and kim chee.  
You can mix it up and make it what you want.
The Korean flight attendents always look a little concerned when I order it, like I don't know what I'm doing.  I think they are impressed when they come back to my clean plate club. 
Oh yum.
And in case you are wondering that small tube on the lower right hand side of the photo it is NOT toothpaste.
It's gochujang, a hot pepper paste.  
Can I tell you happy it makes me to have a tube of hot pepper paste on my flight?
I may have even kept the tube from meal #1 and used it on meal #2 in order to bring tube #2 in its entirety home with me. Because really, wouldn't you feel special and could take on anything if you had a tube of gochujang in your purse?  
Yes.... I may have become my mother at last.  
In all truthfulness, I can never remember my Mom pulling gochujang outta her handbag, but she always did have some sort of seasoning in there to fix up a meal so I wouldn't put it past her.

I only have one itty bitty complaint...

This is my itty bitty wine glass.
This is my good size hand.
This the size of the pour.
They do come back to see if you want more, but I would recommend being very polite about your request for a refill, and bow... a little bow of the head wouldn't hurt if you want that pour to hit the half way mark.

Travel Posts
Elephant Handler for the Day, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tomato, Ginger Bisque, Mama's Fish House -Maui
Meat Anyone?  A trip to Hamburg 
Jamaica's Blue Hole & Jerk Chicken
Japan- Best Boxed Lunch EVER
Japan Adventure- Part 1
Japan Adventure- The Food- Part 2
Iceland- The Weekend Adventure
In n' Out Burger "Animal Style" 
Rome Cooking School
Singapore Flying Crab 
Singapore Fruit 
Thai Cooking School & Market Adventure
Turkish Spice Market Delight

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mango Jam with Lime & Saffron

Sunshine in a jar.
I bought the big six pack of mangos at Costco the other day.  I used two trying another recipe that failed... but couldn't get going on my leftover four big mangos.
Finally, I figured... why not Mango jam?
There are plenty of good recipes out there, that are quite easy.  
I saw some fun ones with ginger and mango, and lime and mango, and one with ginger and saffron.  Kind of fun, so I came up with my own with lime and saffron.  I know not everyone has saffron around, and frankly I'm not sure I could really taste the saffron in the finished jam, but it was yummy and a beautiful color too.

The picture above was taken on a my sister's boat in the San Juans, she graciously searched through her stuff to find a woven placemat, a cute paper napkin and a paper plate for the "photo shoot".  She also made the really marvelous scones too.

Makes 5 8oz jars

4 cups fresh mango, chopped
3 cups sugar
2 limes, zested and juiced
3-6 threads of saffron (optional)
1 pkg liquid pectin

Cut each mango in thirds, slicing as close to the center pit as possible, leaving two bigger outside pieces with the skin still on.  If you get too close to the pit, go ahead and pick that part off.

 Using a paring knife, score a criss cross pattern through the fruit, but not through the skin.

Push the back side of the cut fruit in, so all the squares of fruit stick out.  Cut them from the skin, but if your fruit is really ripe, you can probably use your hands.

Four big mangos, gave me 4 cups of chopped fruit.  If the chunks are too big, you can use a pair of kitchen scissors to chop the pieces smaller while in the measuring cup. 

Get a big stock pot of water simmering on medium low on a back burner.  Add your canning jars to your water to sterilize for 5 minutes, remove and drain.  They will dry on their own quite quickly while you are making the jam.  Have your individual tops and jar bands in a smaller pan of hot water and keep there until you are ready to jar them up. 

To make the jam,
Bring the chopped mangos, the sugar, lime zest and saffron to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the liquid pection and set your timer for 1 minutes. 
Add the jam to the jars, leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch at the top.  Add the top and secure with the band.  Add all the jars back to the water, turn up the water so it begins to boil again and let them process for 10 minutes.  Remove and let sit for 24 hours.  

Don't freak out if it looks a little thin at first, it usually takes a full 24 hours for it to set. 

IF for some reason your jam doesn't set up, go ahead and unseal the jars, and empty the mixture into another pot, bring to a boil and add another pouch of liquid pectin.  Re-can and process.

I really like to make jam, here's some others:
Chipotle Nectarine Jam
Drunken Fig Jam
Honey and Lemon Jelly 
Pepper, Peach & Rosemary Jam
Strawberry Jam (No Pectin)
Strawberry Habanero Jam
Tomato Jalapeno Jelly

Monday, July 7, 2014

Famous Crab Cakes

We caught a bunch of fresh crab.  I can't tell you where, because that's what secretive fisherman always tell you when you ask where they got their haul. I'd have to kill you, and all that.
We caught and ate, and ate, and ate fresh cracked crab on the dock, with some seasonal 4th of July rain and plenty of good friends, family and wine. Still we came home with five half crabs, so with a little sweet talking finaggling, I was able to talk my hubby into going outside and shelling the rest.
While he was hard at work, I spent the next couple minutes searching for recipes. Actually, I only searched for ONE.  I knew just the one too.  Seattle's Dahlia Lounge restaurant's crab cakes... and I found this.  While the recipe I found had lots of typo's, I felt it had the authentic elements.  I'm glad I tried it.  
My biggest complaint with crab cakes elsewhere (and believe me, I DO crab about them..usually say "why did I order these? When will I learn?") is that they are nothing more than mushy, crab "loaf" with no textures or meaty, crabby goodness. Ick.  These are yummy, flavorful yumminess with a focus on hunks of crab.

A couple of bits of advice...
  • Plan ahead, I do recommend doing this the day before you make them.  We ate them two nights in a row, once chilled, and once cooked immediately.  The chilled ones stay together better. 
  • Mix it GENTLY... you want to leave as many whole chunks of leg meat as possible.

Makes 7-10 crab cakes

5-6 cups fresh bread crumbs (I used 8 sourdough slices)
3/4 cup chopped Parsley, divided into two

Sauce to mix into the crab cake mixture:
1 Egg yolk
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme (fresh is good too)
1/2 teaspoon Celery seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Black pepper
5 tablespoon Olive oil

1 lb. fresh Dungeness crab meat
1/4 cup chopped Onion
1/2 cup chopped Red bell pepper
6 tablespoons Butter

Tear up bread and pulse in a food processor to make bread crumbs (5-6 cups, and you may have leftovers). Remove to a flat shallow container and mix with 1/2 cup chopped parsley.
I used my food processor to chop the parsley.
In food processor, combine egg yolk, lemon juice, worcestershire, tabasco, mustard, paprika, thyme, celery seed, and black pepper. Pulse to combine.
With motor running, slowly add olive oil until mixture emulsifies and forms a mayonnaise. Remove and refrigerate.

Place crab meat in a cheese cloth and squeeze out excess liquid. Place onion and peppers in a sieve and squeeze out excess liquid.
In a large bowl, combine remaining half the chopped parsley, chopped onion and peppers. Add chilled mayonnaise mixture and crab meat. Mix gently. Add one cup of bread crumbs and mix lightly.
I used an ice cream scoop to make, and shape, perfect patties.

Gently form 7-10 patties and roll in remaining bread crumbs. Place patties in shallow pan, cover with plastic, and refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Using a cast iron skillet, or a large nonstick ovenproof pan over medium heat and melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Place crab cakes gently in pan and fry for 3-4 minutes. Without flipping, place the pan in the oven. Cook for 9-10 minutes, turn over and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Remove and serve immediately.