September 26, 2010

tajarin al burro e salvia

In 2006, Perbacco opened in the Financial District of San Francisco, giving a legitimate option for Piemonte cuisine just a few blocks away from my office. It was at Perbacco that I first heard of, and tasted, what was to become one of my all-time favorite pastas: tajarin.

Tajarin comes from the Langhe region of Italy, an area known for its Barbaresco and Barolo as well as its white truffles. The pasta itself is simple but decadent: flour, egg yolks and a pinch of salt. Nothing more.

September 19, 2010

weekend eating

It's been a very good food weekend for us, starting with a particularly terrific meal on Friday night at Spinasse. On a stormy night, few dining rooms in Seattle are as warm and comforting.

Salt-roasted local spot prawns. Sweet and succulent, one of our favorite things to eat.

First of the season porcini mushroom, two ways: broiled and caramelized and shaved raw with parmesan. Unreal depth of flavor.

Crispy pig trotter on sauteed beet greens. Crazy rich and decadent, a fantastic contrast of textures.

And of course, the always phenomenal tajarin al ragu, to which LaV has professed her undying love and devotion.

As much as we loved Spinasse when it first opened, Jason Stratton has really elevated the restaurant to the next level and made it his own. He's maintained a fantastic team and has a great sense of the flow of the restaurant, taking regular stints serving in the dining room to stay connected to that side of the operation. Super gifted, super humble, and an all-around terrific fellow who deserves all the accolades he has received. This is one of the restaurants that makes Seattle feel like "home" to us.

Inspired, the next evening we walked into the garden to harvest the ingredients for a dinner with some good friends.

Saturday's menu:

avocado and green tomato gazpacho
blistered corn, black cherry tomato, pickled red onion

salad of garden tomatoes, five varieties
mozzarella, japanese cucumber, apple-mint

roasted beet salad
bacon, baby arugula, chevre, roasted walnuts

skillet-roasted baby carrots
caramelized onion, medjool dates, harissa-spiked yogurt, honey
(a dish inspired by the good folks at Sitka+Spruce)

san marzano tomatoes, garlic, pepperoncini

chocolate zucchini cake
d'ambrosio hazelnut gelato
(gotta do something with all the zucchini we're getting...)

Then came today... a day which somehow turned out to be a bit busy and tiring (for a variety of reasons), but with pockets of relaxation and rest. Looking for a way to close out the weekend, I put together a simple sunday supper:

*caprese salad
*marinated raw zucchini with walnuts and crisped prosciutto (following a tip from Chef Stratton... this may be my new favorite way to eat zucchini)
*risotto of beet greens
*caramelized figs with chevre and honey

Just enjoying a meal with LaV in the peace of our home, sitting on our deck for the last few minutes of sunlight... I wish those minutes would last an eternity. They're a great reminder of how much we have to be thankful for.

We're keeping our fingers crossed for some mild weather this week... our garden still has a TON of tomatoes on the verge of ripening. With any luck, the rain will be sporadic and we'll just need to fend off a few hungry slugs...

September 13, 2010

chocolate zucchini bread

Somehow, in the blink of an eye, we are already in mid-September, the last vestiges of summer starting to give way to autumn. The sun is setting at 7:30 pm instead of 9:30 pm, temperatures are mellowing out, and all the kids (and teachers!) are back in school.

But our "summer" garden is still chugging along.

It wasn't a spectacularly warm summer like last year here in Seattle, so most of our tomatoes are only now beginning to hit their peak. The carrots and beets have been very good, the lettuces and arugula were more productive than we ever could have hoped/wanted, and we actually have peppers this year! We're getting some nice delicata squash, the sugar snap peas were fantastic, and the kale and chard keep on going. A big surprise hit this year was our parsley... really delicious parsley, believe it or not.

And then there's the zucchini.

Every year, we plant one summer squash or zucchini. We do this knowing full well that it will be more productive than we can handle and take up more space than we want. But we plant it anyway. Last year, the summer squash grew to extend more than 20 feet, wrapping itself around the garden plot. Thinking we were clever, we opted this year for a "smaller" variety of zucchini. Whatever. Crazy growth has still resulted. When we didn't pay close attention last month, one of the zucchini grew larger than 5 lbs! We've grilled a bunch and given a bunch away, but the plant keeps producing! We can't keep up!

When life gives you an overabundance of zucchini, make zucchini bread.

To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of zucchini bread. Sure, it's moist, but most recipies tend to lack depth of flavor. Then I ran across this blog post about a Zucchini Chocolate Loaf and I was sold. I'm not going to reprint the recipe here because I just followed Asha's recipe with two exceptions. I omitted the basil from the batter (but I think it's a great idea to add it upon plating), and put in 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts.

The loaf is light, with a delicate crumb, yet super moist and flavorful. Try it for yourself. You won't be disappointed.