Thursday, July 29, 2010

Goats do Roam


The Great Goat Rodeo

It's become a popular thing in the Seattle area.  Is it happening in your town?? 

Instead of spraying, or cutting and hauling unwanted brush, one can now hire a Herdsman to bring over a flock of goats.  In a few days, the space is cleared to the ground, and the goats are happily fed.

I first became aware of this new business while driving down the freeway a year or so ago. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a spread of color, as I looked more closely, I realized it was a flock of goats, one of my favorite animals.  The large flock was peacefully grazing upon a tangle of vegetation that had overtaken a large portion of unused space.



Soon thereafter, word began to spread in our neighborhood of a flock of goats which had taken up temporary residence.  Like many others, we visited the scene and were delighted to watch the four-legged crew, clearing a steep piece of property of years of brush growth.

More recently, a close friend, a transfer from South Africa, hired a flock for a similar, steep, jungle-like situation. She and I both have a love of goats, but for different reasons.


   She loves to consume goats, I love to pet them!   But we both eating eating goat cheese, especially when served with figs, honey and thyme.

We also love the name of a South African wine featuring this beloved creature.


From time to time, we all get "emergency calls", these generally bring on various feelings of dread, fear, sadness or regret and a sense of urgency. 

Tonight, I received an emergency call, to which I was thrilled to respond.   Lassos in hand, my son and I headed out to coral some goats who had "gone to the other side".
While my friend was dealing with another flock in London, and her husband was focused on a stag party on the lake, the goats had tried to make a break.
They had overcome the floppy electric fence, which for some reason was no longer providing the deterring shock as planned.  The Herdsman was absent, perhaps at dinner.


The goats had had their fill of blackberry briers, and apparently found the neighbors roses to be quite enticing.

So, to the neighboring grounds we went, where we found the goats, munching away as they will, but very much on the wrong side of the fence.
A team of neighbors and friends had gathered.  We pulled and pushed, coaxed and prodded, slid and climbed...


until all of the goats were safely retained again.

The "goatlady" rents sheep for clearing grasses, and goats for the more serious stuff.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Viva Italia!

We love this simple, less sweet, dessert which we first tried in Italy.  What could be easier, or more pleasing, than soaking slices of ripe stone fruits in a crisp, chilled white wine? The Italians traditionally use peaches, we also love using nectarines, apricots, blueberries and raspberries.



Some like to sprinkle the peaches with sugar before submerging them in the pale nectar.  In place of added sugar I try to find very soft, very ripe fruits, loaded with natural sugars.

If the fruits are allowed to soaked in the wine for a few hours, they will become deliciously soft and soused.  If it is somewhat more of an afterthought, fruits quickly plunged and served are still delicious. 

We added a few black raspberries and a sprig of mint to this glass.   Sprigs of thyme would also be a treat.

This can be made in a pitcher and then placed in the individual glasses or right in the glasses.  Peel the fruit if you prefer.
Salute!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Salt Cellars

Precious Sprinkles
Prior to the invention of refrigeration, salt was the main ingredient used to preserve foods, making it a very precious commodity for many ancient cultures.

Blocks of salt were used as a currency within some cultures and for trading amongst many more. 

During the Middle Ages, a large, elaborate metal or glass vessel of salt was kept on the dining table as a status symbol.  One could tell their social standing with their host by how closely they were seated to where the salt was placed.

In the early 20th century it was discovered that adding absorbing agents, like magnesium carbonate, allowed salt to be transported and and sold in a ground state.  Salt shakers became the more popular way to sprinkle in the 1950's.

Today, we still enjoy using individual salt cellars on the table.   Rather than having to request the salt shaker be passed, guests can simply take a pinch or two and sprinkle it upon their meal.  One salt cellar can usually be easily shared with up to 4 guests.  In addition to being functional, we like the added color and texture dimensions salt cellars can bring to the table.

We love these delicate crystal and silver cellars, with their petite silver spoons.  When not in use we store them in their original silk lined storage box, the fabric is frayed and faded, but they keep the cellars and spoons safe and sound. 
We've kept the original gift tag inside the box "Season's Wishes To: Betty, From: A. Leah". What a lovely Aunt Leah must have been!

Splendid as these are, sometimes, especially in the summer months, we like to use a more casual vessel for salt distribution.


Small table trinkets like these are an easy thing to slip into a suitcase if you find something special while travelling.  Here are some of our favorites:

Wooden bowls with horn inlay from Africa.
Simple wooden bowls from a local kitchen shop.
Little lovely textured bowls from Turkey.
Very old diamond shaped porcelain vessels from a flea market in the South of France.
Sturdy stoneware bowls found at an island kitchen shop.
Seashells are always a summer favorite on the table.   If you collect some from the beach you can lighten and clean them by soaking them in a water and bleach mixture and allowing them to dry in the sun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blossoms

Wonderful in White

There are so many lovely blooms in the garden and flower stands, why not bring a few indoors to enjoy?  For inspiration we wanted to share some shots of these arrangements we gushed over when heading into a party in Denver recently.

This loosely arranged piece caught our eye for its spiky heights..


and the dramatic flush of agapanthus.


We loved this droopy, drapey number..
with an accent of almond branches (any fruited branches would look great).

A crowded flutter of peonies is always pleasing to the eye.



This collection of 4 individual square vases grouped together created a splendid meadow of petals.


They've used one of our favorite techniques for keeping flowers in their place by creating a grid, out of clear tape for the blossoms to rest upon, you can see the end of a strip in the photo below.

A melange of white accented with shades of green and yellow presented a purely beautiful sight.


The azalea plant in this stone pot will be a long lasting lovely next to the kitchen sink.

I think these are cut hydrangeas, but a hydrangea plant in an elegant urn would make a long lasting arrangement indoors or out.  Love those turquoise glassybabies!

Thank you for your lovely creations, Twisted Tulip, Denver!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Greek chicken salad


A Fig Fixation

When the deep purple figs come into season, we love to incorporate them into as many meals as possible!

This is one of our favorite salads to have in the refrigerator because it can be used to make so many different meals.  Warm or cold, it is delicious upon a bed of cous cous, rice, pasta or salad greens for dinner. A scoop of this salad inside a warm pita, with a leaf or two of lettuce makes a resplendent lunch.

The flavors of this salad are intense and complex, yet it will take very little of your time to prepare.  The easy preparation process produces a lot of flavor and sublime textures.  

The chicken breasts are poached in a concoction of ingredients which are also used in the finished salad, all of the flavors have a chance to harmonize and finish as a flavorful, tender delight.  We like to use chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on because they offer more flavor and a moister texture than a boneless, skinless piece when poached in this way.  This recipe creates an ample amount of "dressing" to flavor whatever you choose to put it upon.
Ingredients
serves 8

4 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on, salt and pepper to taste as early as possible (can be stored, seasoned this way for a day)
3 small lemons (or one large), cut into 1/8ths and trimmed
1/2 cup green olives
2 medium to large, ripe tomatoes, cut into large wedges
6 cloves garlic, coarsely sliced
1 cup white wine
2 sprigs oregano
up to about 1 cup good quality olive oil

12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 fresh figs
2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts, skin side down in a baking dish.  Place the oregano sprigs in the dish. Strew the lemons, olives, tomatoes and garlic on top of the chicken, pour the wine over the mix.
Allow to poach in the liquid for 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn breasts over and cook for 15 more minutes or until done.

Remove dish from oven.   Put chicken on a plate to cool.  Remove lemons, olives, tomatoes, and garlic with a slotted spoon -- keep the lemons separate.

Pour pan juices into a "fat separator" to separate.

These can all be left in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temp until the chicken is cool enough to handle.

Salad Preparation:
Separate chicken from bones and skin, shred chicken meat into a large bowl.   Discard bones and skin.

Squeeze any remaining juices from lemon sections over shredded chicken.

Cut the zest of the lemon away from at least half of the lemon slices (use more if you really love lemon).

We do this by lying the skin down and skimming a knife between the yellow rind and the white pith.  So, you may see just a little white pith, but mostly bright yellow rind. Thinly slice the lemon zest width-wise and add to the chicken.

Pour off any fat from the pan juices (it should be very little).  Add enough olive oil to make 2 cups of "dressing".

Pour cooked tomatoes, olives and garlic over chicken.

Crumble feta over the chicken.

Trim stem from figs and slice into wedges.

Sprinkle in the chopped herbs.
  
Toss all ingredients.

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.


Everyone loved this over cous cous with a green salad, dressed in olive oil with a light sprinkle of sea salt.



For dessert we served a oregano topped parfait with honey Greek yogurt with slices of quince in vanilla syrup that we made last fall (we'll post the recipe this fall when the quince are ripe).

Until then -- enjoy the figs.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ceviche

Cool Cuisine

As the days get hotter, the idea of cooking a meal could just ruin a good appetite!  The good news is that not everything needs heat to be "cooked".  Ceviche is a great choice for hot summer days, it is flavorful and light.   The seafood is cooked with the acidity of the citrus juices in the flavorful sauce.

For great sushi in Seattle, Nishino restaurant is the top choice.   Chef Tatsu and his wife Eri offer traditional Japanese cuisine with a creative flair in their airy restaurant, adorned with beautiful art and glassy babies.


On a recent visit I noticed a few plump Pacific Spot Prawns in the refrigerated display case.  Unfortunately, on this rare occasion I didn't bring along my camera, so these shots were taken with my phone -- apologies for the quality of the photos.  Upon reading the menu, there was no doubt that the Ceviche featuring these beauties would have to be a part of my meal.  

This is Morrison, one of the great sushi-masters with one of the prawns.   Morrison is from Tokyo and kindly directed us to the most delicious sushi restaurant when we visited the Tokyo fish market a few years ago.
Aside from the very fresh flavors at Nishino's their food is always creatively presented.  My ceviche arrived, spilling over the sides of a hollowed orange half.  What a beautiful, natural way to serve a salad.

I also loved the natural "croutons" which came with the salad -- the prawns heads which were fried to a light crispy crunch -- they were delicious -- really!



Pacific Spot Prawns are one of the treasures of the Salish Sea.   Each year, as we roam these waters, there is always a focus on the season of the prawns.  Though we usually enjoy the prawns freshly boiled, a taste of this ceviche put it at the top of my list for ways to prepare Pacific Prawns.

No Prawns?  No problem -- scallops or a sweet white fish would work splendidly too. 

Before opening Nishino in 1995 Tatsu was the chef at Matsuhisa – Nobu Matsuhisa's original Los Angeles restaurant.  He has generously shared his recipe with all of the splendid readers.

Nishino's Amaebi Ceviche
Ingredients
Serves 6

24 Spot Prawn        
3 Oranges, hollowed out, fruit chopped                
1 Avocado             
1/2 medium Red Onion         
1 Cucumber          
1 medium sized ripe Tomato              
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro (and a few sprigs for garnish)

Sauce                   
1/4 cup Lemon Juice      
1/4 cup  Lime Juice          
1/2 clove Garlic, grated
1/2 a Jalapeno pepper, chopped small
1/2 teaspoon salt                       
1 pinch black pepper 
1/2 cup corn starch

Peel shell from spot prawn. Part of tail devine and cut into three pieces.

Dip head in corn starch and fry until crispy.

Dice avocado, tomato, cucumber. Thinly slice the red onion. Mix all ingredients in bowl. Let it sit few minutes. Place ceviche on orange cup on plate. Garnish with cilantro and fried heads.

有難うございます, or Doumo arigatou gozaimasu, Tatsu and Eri!

For a printable version of this recipe, click on the foodista widget below:

Nishino's Amaebi Ceviche