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7.29.2010

Three / six

This is my favorite photograph from our wedding. Look at those crazy kids!


Taking a romantic stroll in the alley behind someone’s apartment building! Blissing out beside the dumpsters! Oblivious to the wonky dinosaur graffiti! It was July 29, 2007, three years ago today, and we were on our way to get married. We had no idea what we might do with ourselves, or who we might become, but we had decided to do it, and become it, together. We still have no idea, and I like that. I wonder what the future will bring. I hope it involves Brandon making his Serious Face, because I’m quite fond of it.



Today is also the sixth birthday of this blog. Six. That blows my mind. Thank you for being here, whether you’ve been reading for one day, or one month, or from the beginning. I write this site because of you, and there’s no better reason. Here’s to you, and here’s to six!

(Wedding photo by Michèle M. Waite)

7.23.2010

That's the spirit

I hope you know that I take my job seriously. A number of you asked for a Pimm’s Cup recipe, so I’ve been drinking a lot of it. Just for you.



That’s Brandon’s hand there, and actually, he’s holding a gin and tonic, but it doesn’t matter. The gesture is what counts. Long live Pimm’s Cup! Cheers!

I first tasted Pimm’s in its native city of London, where it came to the table in a pitcher, mixed with fizzy lemonade to a handsome shade of amber. There were slices of cucumber, lemon, and strawberry floating among the ice cubes, and a sprig of mint, and it was very hot outside, very hot, and after I drank a glass of it, I had one of the finest summer afternoons in memory. I cannot prove that the two events were causally related, but in my personal catalog of experiences, they’re on the same page. I keep thinking that somehow, if I drink enough Pimm’s, I’ll wind up back in London, or in an episode of Jeeves and Wooster, but I usually just wind up falling asleep early, fully clothed, forgetting to brush my teeth, in Seattle.

I get the sense that a lot of you have had Pimm’s, but for those of you who haven’t, it’s a gin-based drink containing quinine - the substance that gives tonic water its bitter flavor - and various herbs, and probably a bunch of other ingredients, though the formula is a secret. It was made to serve as a digestif, but few drink it straight. On its own, it’s quite intense, with a flavor that combines citrus and spice with a little burnt caramel. On its own, it tastes like Christmas, only bitter. It tastes like the Christmas when I was fifteen, when I had the flu and my mother gave me a plaid flannel dress and a belt made from recycled car tires and bottle caps, and I cried when she asked me to try it on. Needless to say, Pimm’s is best mixed, if you ask me, and that’s how it’s most commonly served. Once mixed, it mellows considerably. It’s bright, refreshing, embarrassingly easy to drink. The British mix it most often with what they call lemonade, though it’s not the same thing as American lemonade; it’s a clear, sparkling lemon soda, and it’s sweet, but not too sweet. In the States, a decent substitute is 7-Up, or Sprite. It’s also acceptable to mix it with ginger ale or ginger beer.



Except that I don’t really care for that ginger ale up there, Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, in my Pimm’s Cup. I meant to buy Reed’s Original Ginger Brew. Until I took that picture, I didn’t realize that I had bought the wrong kind.



Much better.

At any rate, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to making a Pimm’s-based cocktail, and you can find many of them here, or on the official Pimm’s website, which I’m crazy for. To get into the site, on the page where you input your birth date, the “submit” button doesn’t just say “submit,” but instead “Tally ho, IN we go!” That’s the spirit! Then, once you’re in, the home page treats you to a video of a pitcher being filled - mysteriously, benevolently, from an unseen hand above - with ice, Pimm’s, lemonade, and fruit, all of it splashing around and catching the sunlight in a relentlessly juicy way, so mesmerizing that I’ve hit “reload” on the Pimm’s website six times since I started writing this sentence.

This to say that I’ve been reading up on Pimm’s, and doing my homework, and in the name of research, I’ve made Pimm’s cocktails six different ways in the past few weeks. I’ve tried Pimm’s with 7-Up, Reed’s Original Ginger Brew, Reed’s Premium Ginger Brew, Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, San Pellegrino Limonata, and, finally, a mixture of American lemonade and sparkling water. Whatever you mix it with, it’s standard to use 1 part Pimm’s to 3 parts mixer, and that’s what I’ve done. Plus slices of lemon and cucumber, and a slice of strawberry, and mint.



All told, and with apologies to any lemonade or 7-Up die-hards out there, I like my Pimm’s best with ginger beer. Specifically, Reed’s Original Ginger Brew. It’s a little more complex, a little less sweet, and with a squeeze of lemon, it’s what I’m going to be drinking for the rest of the summer, starting tonight. Happy Friday.


My Pimm’s Cup

The recipe below is for one serving, but to make a pitcher, just scale up accordingly, keeping the 1:3 ratio of Pimm’s to ginger beer. If you don’t have or can’t find Reed’s Original Ginger Brew, pretty much any ginger ale or ginger beer with a decent amount of zing will work. But Reed’s Original has the flavor I like best for this use.

1 ½ ounces Pimm’s No. 1
4 ½ ounces Reed’s Original Ginger Brew
Ice
1 thin slice cucumber
1 thin slice lemon, plus more for squeezing
1 slice strawberry
A couple of mint leaves

Combine the Pimm’s and ginger beer in a Collins glass, or something similar. Add ice until the liquid comes almost to the rim of the glass. Add the cucumber, lemon, and strawberry, plus a small squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. Use a straw to bash the fruit around a little bit. Add the mint, and serve immediately.

Yield: 1 serving

7.12.2010

For a popsicle

Summer is not messing around. Not only did it arrive right on time, on July 5, but the thermometer hit 94°F only three short days later. I know 94°F sounds like nothing to those of you melting along the Eastern Seaboard, or in Berlin, but when you consider the fact that my city spent the 4th of July in wool sweaters and knit tights and rain gear, it’s hot. I celebrated by making iced coffee. And iced tea! I sat on the couch, not moving, and broke a sweat! It’s been spectacular.



Where I grew up, in Oklahoma, summer shut us inside. Unless you were submerged up to the neck in a swimming pool, it was too hot and humid to be outside. But this city, my adopted city, opens wide up in the summer. Every window is propped up or swung out, everywhere, and everyone is in the street. I am writing this with the front door open, and from the neighbors’ house, which also has its front door open, the Supremes are singing “Come See About Me.” Two nights ago, on a walk around the neighborhood with the dog, I passed an old man playing the guitar on a front porch, a kid in gym shorts playing the guitar on another front porch, a young man playing the cello on a third front porch, and a house whose curtains were clearly so ecstatic about the weather that they sneaked out through an upstairs window to billow and twist in the breeze. It’s time for a popsicle.




This is a raspberry yogurt popsicle. It is also known as What Kept Me Alive in the Hot Delancey Kitchen Last Summer, or The Menu Item That We Didn’t Sell Much of, Because I Ate Them All. I first made these popsicles a few weeks before we opened, and when we were planning our opening menu, I knew they had to be on it. Have you ever seen what happens to adults when you put popsicles on the table in front of them? Namely, popsicles in shot glasses? They grin uncontrollably. It’s beautiful.

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about popsicles, and I’m not surprised. They’re easy to make, and less fiddly than homemade ice cream. You can make them from lemonade, fruit juice, almost anything. When I was a kid, my mother had a set of plastic popsicle molds, molds a little like this, and she used to make guava popsicles for me, using Ocean Spray pink guava juice. I had no idea what a guava was, but I had a sense that it was very fancy, and this was convenient, because it kept me from complaining about the fact that I wasn’t eating Otter Pops. But that was years ago, and her molds are gone, probably to the graveyard of boxes in the attic. For a long time, I didn’t think about popsicles. I forgot. But then, last summer, at a friend’s party, a box of popsicles came out, and not long after, I was making a batch of raspberry frozen yogurt from David Lebovitz’s book The Perfect Scoop when I suddenly thought, This wants to be a popsicle. Clear as a bell.

It’s not as easy as pouring guava juice into a mold, but it’s close. It’s like making a smoothie, only the goal is to lick it, not drink it. You take some raspberries - frozen or fresh, either way - and some plain yogurt, and you put them in a blender with sugar and a splash of lemon juice. When it’s smooth, you press it through a strainer to catch the seeds, and then you divide it among your molds. If you have proper popsicle molds, you are a lucky person. If not, try other vessels. I use tall, narrow shot glasses, the ones often sold as vodka shooters. I’ll bet small Dixie cups would work well, too. Whatever you use, it’s hard to go wrong. You’ve got raspberries and yogurt on your team, and summer has only started.



Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

These pops are perfectly tangy and perfectly sweet, and the best part is, the yogurt flavor really shines. Be sure to use whole-milk yogurt, not low-fat or nonfat. It tastes better, and it makes for a better tasting popsicle. I buy my popsicle sticks at Fred Meyer, but you can also find them at craft stores.

Lastly, I should tell you that these popsicles will not be as smooth, texture-wise, as churned frozen yogurt. They will be a little icy - you know, like a popsicle.

2 cups (480 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt
2 cups (240 grams) fresh or frozen raspberries
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in the jar of a blender, and process until smooth. Set a strainer over a bowl (or other vessel) with a pour spout. Press the mixture through the strainer to remove seeds. Divide mixture among popsicle molds of your choosing. Freeze for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture begins to set; then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze until very hard.

To serve, briefly run the sides of the mold under tepid water to loosen the popsicle, and gently twist or wiggle the popsicle stick as you lift.

Note: I’ve also made this recipe with blackberries, and that’s very good, too. Keep in mind, though, that you may need to adjust the amount of sugar or lemon juice.

Yield: depends in your molds. I get 10 to 11 vodka shooter-size pops.

7.04.2010

Summer list

They say that in Seattle, summer doesn’t start until July 5, and they are not joking. Look at this! Look at it! And then compare it to the past month! I like the 4th of July, but HURRY UP, JULY 5TH.

(I should note that, in my exuberance, I accidentally mistyped the above as “HOORAY UP, JULY 5TH,” which I can only assume is the compound of “hooray” and “giddyup” and is also, coincidentally, an accurate expression of how I feel.)




In celebration of the fact that summer is coming tomorrow, I pulled out some photographs from the past couple of summers. I’m setting the mood.




There was an evening last July when we ate chips and salsa and floated around in a giant tuna can of a swimming pool with one of my oldest friends and her then-fiance-now-husband. I didn’t even drop my camera in the pool. It was a good night. I want another one like it.




The shot below was taken on the beach last New Year’s Eve, but I think it counts. We were visiting Brandon’s grandparents in Florida, and winter in Florida is like summer in Seattle.




This one was taken last month, on a cloudy day, but the colors are right. I do what I have to do.




Today I’m making a summer list. My friend Maria recently made a list of all the things she wants to have, do, and feel this summer, and I can’t stop looking at it. It actually feels like summer, reading that list. My friend Anna also made a list, too, and I particularly like that she included “tomatoes!” The exclamation point is key. My own summer list has two parts: the eating-and-drinking part, and the doing part.

EAT AND DRINK:
Homemade popsicles
Deviled eggs
Tomato-and-mayo sandwiches
Lemonade
Pimm’s Cup
Romano beans
Pasta with fresh pesto
Cold-brewed iced coffee in the morning
Sliced avocado with salt and lime

TO DO:
Get too hot
Wear dresses
Sit on the stoop
Hike somewhere
Sleep with no covers
Read outside

I’m working on my Pimm’s Cup formula, but when I have it nailed down, it’s yours. The deviled eggs, and the popsicles, too.




Happy 4th of July. Or 5th. Whatever you’re into.

7.02.2010

I'm starting today

I’ve been wanting to put up a new post for ten days, but I haven’t, because I don’t have a recipe to share. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying, watching the clock do its tick tock tick tock thing, and feeling pretty terrible about it. If you have a blog, you will know what I mean: this stuff is fun, but it comes with a lot of pressure. For a long time - six years on July 29th - this blog has been about stories and recipes, and it always will be. Always. But somewhere along the line, I now realize, writing about stories and recipes began to feel like a rule, like all I was allowed to do. I came to believe that if I didn’t have a recipe, I had no story, and that meant I had nothing to post about. That was fine, and it felt neat and tidy and well defined, and it worked for me for a while. But it was a very arbitrary, inflexible way to think about what I do, and what I care about, and what I want to share with you. I don’t want to think that way anymore.

I’m interested in keeping it real here, and to that end, I should say that since we opened the restaurant, I don’t cook at home as much as I used to. Brandon and I used to cook almost every night, and now that he’s at the restaurant five nights a week, and now that the restaurant is a big part of our everyday, it’s different. When I cook, I make very simple food, dishes that sometimes hardly count as cooking, and many nights of the week, I go to Delancey, so that I can eat with him. I’ve been beating myself up about that, wondering why I got so lazy and when I’m going to go back to being the old, better me. But I’m starting to get it now. The past year has been crazy. Like, completely and totally nutso. Everything is different. Opening a restaurant took every bit of guts and sweat we had, and even some that we didn’t have, and though I am able to say now that I love it, it has changed our lives in every way. Nothing looks the same as it did a year ago, or two years ago, or six years ago, when I started writing here. I don’t know why, then, I expected my relationship to cooking - or to this blog, or to anything else - to stay the same. I love what we do now, and I wouldn’t take back a minute of it. I love what we’re learning, and what we’re creating, and what we’re becoming. Food is at the center of it, the same as always. We’re just looking at it from a different angle, and I’m only beginning to understand how to think and write and tell you about that.

Most of all, I just want to be here more often. That’s what I’m trying to say. I want to be in this space - you, me, looking at pictures, shooting the breeze, swapping ideas, the way we do - whether I have a recipe up my sleeve or not. And I’m starting today. Shazam! Done.

For instance, I might want to tell you about the Viking Drive-In, in Sprague, Washington, where the sign says they sell BURGERS & SANDS and fingersteaks, whatever those are, and the milkshakes are top-notch.



There is a gumball machine near the front door, and in it are fake tattoos. You might get a blue wildcat, for instance, as my friend Sam did, or a shooting star, as I did, and it might stay on your arm for five whole days, weathering even the most vigorous scrubbing, causing some people to think, horror of horrors, that you actually shelled out hard-earned money for a sparkly gold shooting star tattoo. Also: the fake mustaches in the next machine over will make your nose itch. Be warned. The milkshakes are worth it, though. If you find yourself on I-90, maybe on the way to Spokane for a friend’s wedding on a Saturday in late June, listening to a killer Bruce Springsteen track, remember: Viking Drive-In.




Or, hey, we could talk about my favorite bartender! Andrew Bohrer is a genius. And the Mistral Kitchen happy hour is a deal. Tell Andrew what you like, and let him go crazy. It’ll be even better than a milkshake.



Or I might just want to show you a picture. Maybe one of the woman who, a little over five years ago, told the man who is now my husband that he should read this very blog, and who is thus responsible for the fact that we ever met, and who now lives in Seattle, and whom I am happy to call a friend. Shazam! Just like that.



See you in a couple of days.