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Entries in sous vide (2)

Friday
Jul252008

Speechless in Seattle


Well, we're back from our Seattle trip and it was a food lover's dream. We had such a great time and of course, I selected several restaurants before we left for us to try. I mainly used the awesome Urban Spoon website to find the restaurants. Check them out, if you don't know about them. More on the restaurant scene later.


Tilth on Urbanspoon

First, I want to show you some pictures from my favorite place in Seattle - the famous Pike Place Market on the waterfront. If only I had a kitchen in Seattle! What a place. You have to see it to believe it. After wandering through the vendors, practically speechless, we went and sat and had a bowl of salmon bisque and an ice cold beer and looked out over the ocean.

And here is one of my favorites, the Papparadelle's Pasta display at the Market, which has every kind of beautiful pasta you can imagine - notice the Dark Chocolate Linguini at the top on the right! I mentioned this pasta resource in my previous post when I made Orzo with Roasted Carrots with their Asian orzo blend. Check out their web page if you are not familiar with their pasta.

We had some excellent meals in Seattle, but the place I wanted to try the most was Tilth, which I posted about before we left. This restaurant was declared by Frank Bruni of the New York Times to be one of the top ten new restaurants in the nation. Well, my expectations were high. And the chef/owner, Maria Hines, was cooking some of her food by the method of sous vide, which is finally coming on the scene here in this country. This method of cooking involves vacuum sealing the food and placing the bag in a special immersion circulator, which cooks the food at a low temperature for a very, very long time. Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter are both using this method and are fans. The thinking behind this is that when you can smell food cooking and the steam is coming out from the food, you are losing flavor. So I was very excited to try food prepared this way. However, I was disappointed in both dishes I had that were cooked this way. First, I had the baby turnips.

Julia Child would not have liked this at all. She was famous for saying that the American way of cooking vegetables just until they are crisp was ridiculous and never brought out the real flavor of the vegetable. She said that the way Americans cooked green beans left a raw, grassy flavor that did nothing for the green bean. She was right. When I tasted the baby turnips, I expected the rich, creamy flavor of a well cooked turnip. These were way underdone and pretty tasteless. I, too, think this is a big mistake. And I'm not talking about cooking your vegetables to deathly mushiness. Just cooking them until any "raw" taste is gone. I guess it's a matter of taste, but the French don't cook vegetables this way and neither do the Italians. In fact, Guilano Bugialli says that the biggest problem in American restaurants is that they undercook the vegetables. Amen.

I know this is viewed as Nouveau American Cooking, but it's just plain wrong. I've been to too many restaurants lately in my travels the past ten days that served oh so trendy undercooked vegetables, the last one being a very moderate place off the highway as we were picking up our sons from camp. The veggies were the same as Tilth's.

Then I had the Sablefish.

This lovely fish was cooked sous vide and although the texture was really nice, it was also really bland. I just wasn't impressed. I also tasted my husband's duck ragu and frankly people - I can cook a tastier, richer ragu than that. But gee, the service and wine list at Tilth were really, really good.


Monday
Jul142008

Torta di Nada


I'm leaving tomorrow for a wonderful week in the Pacific Northwest, one of our favorite places. We've been going out there every summer for three years now and we really love it. Going to Seattle's Pike Place Market is a cook's dream. It's so frustrating, though, when you're just visiting and don't have access to a kitchen. The local fresh fish and the incredible produce are really something to see. Of course, I've already made reservations at a number of restaurants I want us to try. One of these that I'm so looking forward to is the highly acclaimed "Tilth" in Seattle. The restaurant is in a little house and is run by chef Maria Hines, who is totally committed to using organic, regional food.   I always know a place has to be good if they have a "forager" on staff! She is already doing some of her cooking using the "sous vide" method, which I'm anxious to sample.   Charlie Trotter, who is always on the cutting edge in the cooking world, has been cooking with this method for a while now. He estimates that 50% of the ingredients used in his dishes are cooked sous vide. Thomas Keller is coming out in the fall with a book about it called "Under Pressure". He's been using this method for years, also. I will post about it when I come back.

I wanted to post this recipe before I left, though, because Susan over at Food Blogga is hosting the July's Sugar High Friday blogging event, run by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess. The theme is "Berries".

This is based on a classic Tuscan grape cake, which traditionally is made during the grape harvest (duh) when grapes are plentiful. This cake is Jamie Oliver's version in his cookbook "Jamie's Italy", which is really just a fantastic cookbook. He really went all over Italy from the north down to Sicily to research this cookbook. The recipes are great and the photography is wonderful. He substitutes blueberries in this cake for the grapes and I have, too. My local farmer's market will have grapes later in the summer and I can't wait. But until then blueberries will do. I love this cake because it is not overly sweet - it's light and moist and just right.


And if you don't know, Jamie Oliver has a new show on the Food Network called "Jamie at Home". It's much better than the older Naked Chef series, I think. This one takes place basically right in his vegetable garden, where he picks things and then retreats into a garden shed to cook things up on a hot plate. It shows what you can do with great, fresh produce right out of the garden. He'll have a show just on onions, for instance, and show you several different ways to cook them. It's a fresh, simple way to cook.

Torta di Nada

 

Ingredients:

  • butter and wax paper, for preparing the cake pan
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • a good pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 lb. 6 0z. fresh blueberries

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line the base with waxed paper and set aside. Beat the eggs and sugar in a mixer for about 3 minutes, until thick and pale yellow, then add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix well, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon and orange zests and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.

Stir about a quarter of your blueberries or grapes into the batter, spoon it into your cake pan and smooth out the top. Place the cake pan in the center of your oven and bake for 15 minutes then remove it from the oven and scatter the remaining blueberries over the top. Gently push them down into the cake then return it to the oven for another 30-40 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm. Put the pan on a rack to cool. After 10 minutes run a knife along the sides of the pan and turn out your cake.