Friday, July 31, 2009

No. More. Studying.

It's final... I'm an RD! Okay, that's Registered Dietitian for you all of you not into medspeak. This means that there will be no more of this:

And lots more of this:


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Berries in August!

Due to my obsession these days with little juicy pickable things... I'm presenting Berries Berries Berries at South Seattle Community College. If you'd like to join us this next Thursday, sign up Here.

Berries Berries Berries...
Take those scrumptious berries this summer season brings and turn them into tempting meals! Using fresh, local ingredients, learn to spice up traditional recipes and create new dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Class is taught by a West Seattle dietitian skilled in developing tasty meals with hidden healthy ingredients.

Please read: $15 Materials Fee paid directly to Instructor.
Thursday, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM; 1 session on August 6, 2009
Cost: $49.00 Materials Cost: $15.00
Instructor: Weiss
Location: SSCC, Culinary Arts Building (CAB), CAB Main Kitchen

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summertime Bing Cherry Pie

Photos By Mark West

I have no idea how I'm typing this post at this moment. My brain and body should be lying in a slump on the shiny living room floor, leaking random food facts into small uninteresting puddles at my head and feet. That's what 5+ hours of studying for the RD (Registered Dietitian) exam will do to a girl. But somehow, I feel alive and fresh after going through hundreds of study flash cards with my nutrition partner-in-crime Nathanya. Over some prime Seattle java at Ballard's Caffe Fiore, we quizzed each other for hours, taking in the summer sunshine on the cafe's back porch.

The last few days have been both exhausting and energizing at the same time. It's that feeling that only comes in summer when you're out using your body in ways that would seem strange or uncomfortable in the winter months. The feeling of letting everything in, taking deep breaths of air and stretching out with bare legs on the grass, instead of contracting in tight postures, arms crossed, against the cold and the damp. Even studying takes on a different feeling, when you know that you can lay outside on a blanket, or end the study day with a bike ride from Ballard to West Seattle. On the way home at rush hour this evening, a bit caffeinated but elated with the day's progress, I caught the West Seattle bridge right when it was turning for a large tanker to pass into Elliott Bay. Nine times out of ten I'll get lucky and go over without delay, but today I was in a light enough mood to not bother with feeling annoyed. When I approached the gate, I could scarcely believe the crowd of cyclists that was waiting to cross, commuting back home from working downtown. In cold, wet, and heat, year-round I cross this bridge. In the wintertime or in the rainy fall I'll meet maybe 5 others when waiting for the bridge to turn, but today I counted 60. I guess I'm not the only one feeling the summer in her belly on a 70 and sunny Monday.

Mark and I have been walking more in the neighborhood, taking advantage of the long evenings and dry pavement. Last week we found ourselves meandering on the side streets, keeping an eye out for a few of the cherry trees that we've been seeing with ripening fruit. There was a street in particular that I had been stalking as of late, watching two trees with Rainiers and Bings ripen their fruit, and now letting them fall to the ground. Clearly, trees whose owners didn't have the time or inclination to see the delicious possibilities... but I'm a bit of a free-fruit opportunist, of course, and I wasn't about to let this chance pass me by. I knocked on the door of the home, and an older man with a big white beard (Fruit Santa?) answered. He gave us permission to pick as much as we'd like. Seven pounds heavier, (not including a few more pounds of Rainiers in our bellies) we returned home.

We had just enough Bings for a pie, and the Rainiers I made into a jar of conserve. The results were pure summertime. I used a crust recipe that David Lebovitz uses, an all-butter affair that I wholeheartedly believe in... because who wants anything but the Real Thing when it comes to dessert? Shortening is for...well... cheaters and liars. So there.

I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry in addition to the white flour to give the crust some texture and additional flavor. I made the filling very haphazardly, using instinct and a tad bit of experience to tell me what to throw in the bubbling mass of garnet-colored fruit cooking on the stove. The sweet smell expanded to fill the entire kitchen, and then the whole house. It was a deep, rich sweetness that nothing but dark cherries could achieve. I cooked down most of the fruit, but left some of the firmest and sweetest cherries fresh so I could combine them with the sweetened and thick filling. This was a trick I read and committed to memory a few years ago. What a pity to throw into a pot all of this perfect peak-season fruit and cook it to smithereens! It seems so unjust. Instead, you cook 2/3 and leave the remaining fresh. I would have left them all fresh, but there was clearly too much liquid in the fruit that would have made an imperfect pastry.

Here's Lebovitz's crust recipe, with my own pinch-of-this recipe for cherry filling following. If you're not in the Northwest or up in the U.P. (yoyoyo shout out to Michigan) and don't have a bumper crop of cherries in your backyard, I can't imagine this recipe not working just as well for strawberries.

Pie Dough
Makes enough for a 9 or 10-inch double crust pie

This is taken from Lebovitz's book Room for Dessert. The explanation is a bit lengthy, but truly necessary. I've found that if you want a truly flaky crust, it's all in the details. Keep it cold, kids! No joke! When he says cold butter and ice water, he means it. I would even go so far as to refrigerate the flour until cold as well. This cuts down on the time you have to chill the discs of dough. For my pie, I baked the bottom crust for about 10 minutes to make sure it would bake through, as I knew I wouldn't have to bake the pie for as long as I would a pie without a pre-cooked filling. It worked out well, even if the top crust edges got a little droopy as I was forming them, the butter in the dough melting from the heat of the hot pie tin. I have yet to master the perfect pie edge!

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, cut into cubes about 1 inch square and refrigerated
6 to 8 tablespoons of ice water

1. Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Use an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, a food processor, or a hand-held wire pastry blender.

2. Add the chilled butter to the dry ingredients and continue mixing just long enough for the cubes of butter to become incorporated into the flour and broken up into roughly 1/4-inch-size pieces. Add 6 tablespoons of the ice water all at once and continue mixing until the dough just begins to hold itself together. If necessary , use the remaining 2 tablespoons water.

3. Form the dough into two balls. Wrap each one in plastic, and flatten them into disks about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

4. To roll out, fill, and bake a double-crust pie, first have your filling ready. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

5. On a lightly floured, surface, roll out one of the disks of dough into a circle 14 inches in diameter. Fold it in half and drape it into a 9 or 10-inch pie dish. Unfold the dough, centering it, and gently press it snugly into the dish with your fingers. Cut away dough that is overhanging the edge of the pie plate with a sharp paring knife. Add the prepared filling, smoothing it evenly in the shell.

6. Roll out the other disk of dough into another 14-inch circle. Dip a pastry brush or your fingers in water and moisten the exposed edges of the dough in the pie tin. Center the other piece of dough over the filled pie tin. Working all the way around the pie, lift the lower crust and tuck the edges of the upper crust between the edge of the lower crust and the rim of the pie tin. Work your way around the pie again, crimping the edges decoratively by repeatedly pressing downward with one thumb, while from the side, the forefinger and thumb of the other hand pinch the dough around the thumb pressing down.

7. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is browned and the filling juices are thick and bubbling. Cool before serving.

Bing Cherry Pie Filling
Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie

Approximately 6 cups fresh Bing cherries, pitted (tip: they taste better if they're free)
About 2/3 cup Sucanat (evaporated cane juice or white sugar)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
3-4 tablespoons pectin (such as Sure-Jell, may substitute arrowroot starch or cornstarch)
Reserved: 1 1/2 cups fresh bing cherries, pitted

Put the 6 cups cherries in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the Sucanat and bring to a boil. If you'd like to sweeten to taste, start with 1/2 cup sugar, and taste the product right before the end. You can always add more sugar according to your own preference, and the ripeness of the fruit will determine this as well. After the cherries and their liquid begins to boil, turn the heat down to a strong steady simmer, leaving the pan uncovered. At this point you're cooking off the excess liquid and concentrating the fruit. Once it thickens and condenses (maybe 30 minutes or so?) add the lemon juice and pectin, and stir until well-combined.

Place the fresh pitted cherries in the bottom pie crust (par-baked or not) and pour the filling over until it reaches about 1/2 inch below the top. Put the top crust over and pinch the edges (as stated above), make 4 large slits in the crust and bake until browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sand, Suds, and Sundaes

Without cheating and looking at the last post, by the photo above can you guess where we went last week? Was it Big Sur? Hawaii? Maybe Ireland? Nope, something humble-sounding, no big tourism pushes, nobody in big flowery shirts, with odd brogues or zinc-white noses or thong buns anywhere. Well, I guess we did see some surfers in Florence, but they were completely covered, even out of the water. No, not Florence, Italy but Florence, Oregon. The most spectacular place to be where spectacularity is still a little undercover.

We made our way down Highway 101, chomping sweet, dark sugar-bombs that turned our tongues mahogony red.

After making it over the wide Columbia River, we stopped in Astoria, Oregon and bogarted a table at an ice cream shop to eat our brown bag turkey sandwiches and homemade lemonade (incredibly sour, because I believe lemonade should be more sour and less sweet). Sitting at the shop, we looked out over the Columbia and felt the cool wind sweeping off of the water. We were practically sitting under the great big bridge that brought our little car from the Washington side to Astoria, Oregon. The ice cream parlor sign said 'Tillamook ice cream served here". We'd see those Tillamook signs all down the coast, well past the town of Tillamook with its big fancy dairy palace churning out cheeses and ice cream that show up on our store shelves back in Seattle.

Before we hit our first town to stop and camp for the night, we made a few little stops to look out at the beaches and the haystacks that rise from the water like rocky, cruel guardians of the coastline.

After a night camping in Pacific City, we decided to take our morning run on the giant sand dunes and beaches in the tiny downtown. Amidst the surfers and sandboarders (yes, I swear there is such a sport, think snowboarding, but with sand.) we dodged the towels and sunbrellas to take a long run. It was an experience, and if I would have had my camera with me on the run, to take snapshots of the sunbathing seals, the views of clifftop mansions peeking through the hazy sea mist, and mile after mile of the widest beaches I've ever seen, I'd have photos for you now... but alas, the photos came after.

Beer. The Pelican Pub and Brewery lives up to its hype. I usually avoid the big huge Bar & Grills that look like I'm about to enter a really bad chain restaurant with burgers as big as small dinner plates. I was proven wrong, however, after I relished their Pelican Microbrew beer sampler (I believe every food and beverage should be made into flights in restaurants, it would save my wandering fork from invading table territory). I had the Ono fish sandwich and a perfectly made green salad. I especially enjoyed the post-meal (and post a few ales) banter. Mark: What kind of fish did you have in your sandwich? Cod? Chrissy: Ono. Mark: Salmon? Chrissy: Ono Mark: Halibut? Chrissy (laughing hysterically) ONO! Mark: Well fine, you better just tell me because I have no idea.

Next on the agenda: More coastline, and camping in Florence. The views on Highway 101 were no less stellar down south.
Seals sunbathing

Haceta Head Lighthouse

Me taking advantage of the model-like wind conditions at the lookout

The little town of Florence made me want to stay another night, to experience all of the way-too-cute but chic restaurants lining the river. After setting up camp, Mark wanted to have dessert in town, so we made our way to the business on the riverfront that had the most traffic, with people spilling out onto the porch of what looked like a large old house. BJ's ice cream served him up quite the hot fudge marshmallow cappuccino ice cream sundae. I looked in puzzled amusement as he scooped up the gooey, sickly-sweet mess. But he seemed happy.

For our next stop we headed inland, spending a night in Salem as a time out from camping. The next day we were to drive out to wine country. Salem is quiet and seemingly a bit backwards, but it was mostly a cheap place to rest our bodies after camping. However, the town of McMinnville in the Willamette Valley was everything I thought it might be. A little bit Napa, but a whole lot more Oregon. The Hotel Oregon owned by McMenamin's pub is a fine place to stay, and you're within walking distance of just about everything in the historic district. We poked around in the few shops that were open on July 4th. In one of the more trendy clothing stores where Mark was trying on shirts, the chatty shop owner recommended we check out one of the tasting rooms in town that her daughter managed. "Just tell her I sent you!" and gave us a flier. A little bored and not feeling like driving out to the vineyards after one too many days of driving, we walked 10 blocks in the heat of a 93 degree afternoon to taste wine at Walnut City Wine Works. It was worth the walk. When we arrived, as soon as we breezed through the door, a pretty young lady behind the bar yelled "You two! my mom told me you were coming! I knew you by your cowboy hat!" gesturing toward Mark's head. Gotta love small towns. She quickly filled our glasses with some of the most amazing Pinot Noir. It was wonderful, and I barely walked out of there without a few bottles in hand.

That night we watched the fireworks while standing on the rooftop bar of the Hotel Oregon. No better way to end the night... except, well, with maybe more ice cream.

Summer is finally here.