A few of my favorite things

This past weekend my sister was in town and on Sunday I dragged her with me on my first trip to the West Seattle Farmer's Market. While the current offerings of local, organic, in season produce are sparse, just being there reminded me of the bounty that is set to come in very soon. It was very exciting to me to pick up my greens, garlic, pickled asparagus and dried pluots at the market. My aim is to eat as close to the source as possible, so that means having my own garden (at my uncle's house), shopping at farmers markets and finally shopping at the co-op. I found a particular "treat" at this weekends market from a vendor called "Fungus and Foliage", she had fiddlehead ferns which excited me greatly since I haven't had those since last year in culinary school. After my sister and I were done at the market, I headed out for a 14 mile run, which felt pretty good and then we went to my uncle's to work in the garden. My lettuce, spinach and carrots are coming on nicely now and it is so exciting!! Before we left, he harvested some rhubarb for me to take home and I looked forward to making a crisp for my sister, possibly as a breakfast treat before she sadly flew away Monday morning.

My not favorite thing about Seattle Restaurants

Over the weekend, with my sister in town we dined out for dinner Fri-Sun. I am a foodie truly, and when I have the opportunity to, I like to explore what is making a splash on the food scene, even if the menu doesn't show a glimmer of hope that I will be able to eat something not special order. The thing I love about nice/gourmet restaurants is that you have a highly skilled, well trained (we sure hope) chef in the back, supported by great sous-chefs. I have a great deal of faith in their skills. Thus, I never feel bad in a restaurant asking for what I want if I don't see something on the menu I can eat. A sign of a good restaurant to me is when they don't even bat an eye when I ask if the chef can prepare me a plate of veggies using olive oil. Half of the time, there are ample veggies to choose from from other dishes and it gives them an opportunity to do something different. Other restaurants, such as Hi-Life, offer several vegetable sides that if I order two, I get plenty of food. Out of the three restaurants we went to over the weekend, 2 failed miserably. Cactus on Alki was the only success and the waitress was even able to offer an option that I would have never been able to decipher on my own- Spa Chicken sans Chicken, double Portabello. It was amazing. The chimchurri and mushrooms were great together. The other two, were fantastically disappointing. Betty, which was just named one of the best new restaurants, brought me 4 sprigs of Broccolini and 2 roasted tomatoes. What are you kidding me? That combined with the mixed green salad, aka lettuce and light dressing, was simply not enough. I think in this case 1) the waitress did a poor job of communicating with the kitchen and 2) they just didn't take time or effort on it. The second restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, I went to more hopeful since they are run by the same parent company as Hi Life. So I expected them to have vegetable sides. My sister and I joked that it would have to be better than 4 sprigs of Broccolini. The waitress was awesome in working with me and totally got it. Apparently however, all of the rice and potatoes are already prepared with cream and butter, and the other veggies (?) were not available to make a nice dish, so what did I get? Broccolini, 6 sprigs and about 4 stalks of asparagus, oh and a tiny pile of Chard. After all that discussion? I mean, that would be fine if maybe I ate like 1300 calories a day or something. But just to be alive at 6 feet tall, I need nearly 2000 calories. If I move, add more. If I run, like I just had -14 miles-, there is another 1400. The waitress came back and checked in and asked how it was, and I tentatively said, it was fine but what I was still hungry. She totally was like, "yeah what was with that?" She went back to the kitchen and had them make me more. Luckily, it is an open kitchen, so you can see what they are doing. And I felt bad to make them do that, but really. The question is: how hard is it to make a vegetable dish? 1) the restaurant makes hand over fist on the dishes 2) they take no more time to prepare than any other dish 3) there are so many vegetarians, vegans and special needs eaters around, you would think by now most restaurants would offer AT least one or two vegetable side dishes. It just disappointed me (and made me light headed from lack of fuel). I just don't think people who don't want to eat dairy/meat/wheat should be doomed to not be able to get more than a salad at most nice restaurants.
My favorite non-running blog

On Saturday, at work we had a surprise visit by City Librarian Deborah Jacobs who is leaving the system to take a position at the Gates Foundation. Needlesstosay, meeting her is a really big deal. She has done amazing things for the SPL and it is what it is because of her. When I got home that evening, all a twitter about the visit, I was checking my blog comments and another inspiration to me, had left a comment on my blog! Karina from Karina's Kitchen blog, which is my favorite gluten free blog, had commented on my blog. Yes, she only stopped by to say that she was glad I enjoyed her recipe BUT STILL, it made me feel nice. So, I decided that I would make a couple more renditions of recipes from her blog and see how I liked them. On Monday morning, I made a tasty rhubarb crisp based on her vegan peach crisp and then on Tuesday night, I made Colcannon. Both were absolutely delicious and I highly recommend. Its been the kind of busy week and so having the opportunity to try out others recipes helps me find the time to do everything I need to and still make amazing meals.

My favorite simple trick

Lately I have been a big fan of making different glazes using strong vinegars or soy sauce. The fiddlehead ferns that I got at the farmers market lent themselves well to this, as they have a very , how shall I put this nicely, "earthy" flavor to them. I parboiled them for a few minutes and set aside. Meanwhile, I minced two cloves of elephant garlic (yes it was a ton of garlic) and sauteed that. Once the garlic as getting all crispy and golden, I threw in the ferns for a quick saute and then added about 1/4 balsamic vinegar. I turned that puppy on high and reduced the balsamic down to a nice glaze. It was unbelievable. The sweetness of the balsamic nicely complimented the earthiness of the ferns, the garlic rounded out the dish, filling in the flavor profile.My favorite drink
There are few people that know me and don't know that I not only love Kombucha but that I brew my own. I have a minor obsession with the stuff. I brew it on a regular basis, but haven't had the opportunity since moving because I have been too darn busy (*gasp*, I swore- I hate that word). I realized as I was brewing that I had yet to share the love AND ease of making this wonder tonic and figured since I was well into it, I should share how I make my favorite thing!

This is how I make my massive batch of Kombucha
5 gallons distilled water (very important, tap water or filtered tap water is not acceptable)
5 cups of organic cane sugar
12 bags of organic green tea
12 bags of organic black tea
kombucha cultures & starter tea

gallon jars
cloth covers for jars (clean towel or old cut up t-shirts work)
rubber bands to secure cloth
warm dark safe place outside of the kitchen for culturing

It is really quite simple. Brew tea. That is bring all that water to a boil and turn off the heat. Stir in the sugar until dissolved and place the tea bags in:
Since I have no pot big enough to fit that much water, I do it in 3 separate pots. I do 1.25 gallons in the two smaller ones and 2.5 in the large one. This is when you should know the ratio of water to sugar to tea. For every gallon of water, one cup of sugar and 5 tablespoons (or bags) of tea is required. Since I do a mixture of green and black tea, I usually do this in equal parts. You can use any green or black tea in any combination, but don't use any other type of tea. Herbal especially....

Once you have the tea brewing, let it hang out on the burners (off!!) for about 30 minutes. The longer it sits, the stronger it gets. After the tea is done brewing, remove the tea bags and let the tea cool completely. This usually means overnight for this size batch.Once your tea has cooled, you can get your starter jars out and get ready to divide the tea. I have about 12 gallon jars which could all be utilized, however I brewed enough for about 8, so some were consolidated into a "mother jar". Kombucha cultures are like any fermented food culture, you get one from someone who has been making it as the Kombucha cultures produce a "baby" during the fermenting process. Thus, all of my 3 dozen cultures are all products of one culture that I received from Sean two Christmases ago. I am always happy to share my cultures with others so they can start their own culturing process. The starter jar basically has about 1/5 of the previous fermentation cycle liquid and a culture (or two in my case since I have so many). I put the cooled tea into the jars, filling up to just below where the top of the jar starts to narrow, as the culture will split you want to provide room for this to happen. Never touch a kombucha baby or mother with metal. This will kill them. In my head, I imagine that I could hear them screaming in pain if I did this. After all the jars are done and all the brewed tea appropriated, cover with cloth and secure with a rubber band. Now, put the jars in a warm, dry, dark place to ferment for 2 weeks.
After two weeks, the brew should be well strong enough and it will be time to bottle. I use large amber glass bottles to bottle mine. You pour the brew through a funnel into the bottles and leave the cultures in the jar with enough liquid to start the next batch. Now, here is the secret. I then put the amber bottles on the shelf for 7 days to continue to ferment, this is when you will proceed the nice bubbly-ness that we all know and love about Kombucha. After 7 days, I put mine in the fridge until I am ready to drink. Sometimes I mix mine by the glass with Organic 100% juice (this means its just juice, not even water), such as Concord Grape or Cranberry. Delicious!

This 'buch is for you!