Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Have You Ever Been Hungry?

I'm feeling pretty feverish about the increasing number of homeless people I'm seeing on the streets of Seattle. There's this guy near my neighborhood who is now going around barefoot and it breaks my heart. I know he's mentally ill and I consulted my cousin Suz, a police officer who worked in social services, about how I could help.

She suggested I try and hand him a pair of socks and I did that yesterday. He told me to go away. I left the socks and I'm now carrying a few spare pair in my bag. It's not much, but it's something.

I know many people who are on the streets struggle with addiction. They've made bad choices and now they're screwed. They're panhandling for booze or drugs, but I am seeing more people who look like they've been tossed out of the middle class and are now toting their lives on their backs. And I want to help. I just am not sure how to help.

I've been on the board of the U-District Food Bank for four years and in that short time, we've seen the number of working families who seek help rise significantly. The economy continues to suck and we're now seeing stories about class warfare. I'm currently in the "haves" camp, not the have-nots, but I've been poor before.

My parents were both alcoholics and my mother left me and my brother and sister when I was 8. My father was this pie-in-the-sky guy who tried to spin our sad circumstances: So what if we don't have a fridge kids! We'll just keep the milk outside. Hey! Who wants breakfast for dinner? (Not again?)

BK always took pride in never letting us go hungry, but there were plenty of lean times. I learned to cook when I was 8 as a matter of sheer survival.

Maybe I feel so strongly about the issue of hunger because I've been there. Just two years ago, my husband and I both lost our steady paychecks. We scrambled to pay our bills. We talked about moving in with my father-in-law. I went from spending $30,000 a year on eating out as a restaurant critic to pinching pennies. We ate a lot of rice and beans and at one point, I thought I might have to use the food bank. It was depressing.

Fortunately, we were able to turn things around. We both found work, though our nest egg is in the dumps and there are student loans to pay back. I don't want to dwell on that, though. I consider myself damn lucky. And I want to help those who are less fortunate. Isn't that the duty of every good citizen? But how?

Here's one way. You can buy a ticket to this year's U-District Food Bank auction this Saturday, Oct. 1. Tickets are $75 and the event's fun. There's great food and beer and wine and lots of cool items to bid on. If you cannot make it, please consider making a donation to the food bank. It's easy to do on the Website. I have set up a monthly donation. If that food bank doesn't ring your bell, do something, anything, else. It feels good. And because, damnit, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. (I told you I was feeling feverish!) OK? OK!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

So, here's what I've been up to

There's nothing more BORING than the blogger who neglects their blog and then pops back up out of nowhere to blather excuses about why they've neglected their blog. YAWN!!

No excuses, but here's what I've been up to lately:

Filling in for a bit as lead blogger for Seattle Weekly's Voracious, which means writing three posts a day. That's a lot! Here's one of my favorite posts from that stint: 10 Reasons Seattle Should Be Jealous of Portland.

Writing about cooking and eating for Al Dente, Amazon's food blog. I love this blog because it pays well and the subject matter is wide open. I've written about everything from how to prepare fiddlehead ferns to the history behind the tradition of dunking cookies. How cool is that?

Though it's been a few years since I lived in Memphis, I keep my fingers stirring the pot of Southern food by contributing to the StateofQ.com. I'll be heading to Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest soon, to eat and write and eat some more.

I'm working on Chapter 7 of The Big Dipper Chronicles, a story of the making of a cult Merlot by Northstar Winery, a tale that appears on the winery's Web site, but will eventually be made into a book. (And who knows? Maybe a movie!!) It chronicles David "Merf" Merfeld's making of a very special wine from the vine to the table.

Just finished a story for Seattle Mariners magazine about a chef who's joined a culinary dream team to create an awesome lineup of restaurant-like food at Safeco Field.

I write about wine for Seattle magazine and was part of a committee this year that honored restaurants with Washington wine-centric lists as part of Taste Washington. That was a blast.

I'm working on a book project with Seattle's celebrity chef, Tom Douglas, and was just asked to write a cookbook focusing on chefs who showcase local, sustainable foods. (Can you guess my answer?)

I also write blurbs about restaurants and helped out with a "best of" app. Oh, and write newsletters for MSN.com.

Whew. That's about it. Well, except for the on-going daily adventure of eating and cooking and eating some more. Just this week, I had a bread baking lesson!! And, yes, before/during/after all the eating and cooking and dining out, I Tweet and Facebook about it. I'm exhausted/exhilarated just thinking about it. If only there were more hours in the day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 9

So, haven't been cooking much. I've been dining out a whole lot lately. Went to Vancouver and Whistler recently, and, despite a major spill on the hill, I'm so glad I did.

Last week, I hit three happy hours. I guess I was feeling a little burned out in my own kitchen.

When I run out of gas, it's usually about meal planning. I am happy to respond to requests, and most nights, I know what I'm going to make. But then, there are those lazy days when I don't want to go to the store. I punt.

Yesterday, I had no clue what I was going to make for dinner. But I was at the Pike Place Market and a stroll through DeLaurenti and -- boom! -- dinner was a done deal: Butternut squash ravioli, on top of a bed of lightly dressed arugula, topped with shaved Parm, chopped hazelnuts, sauteed Delicata squash and fried sage. Dang! So good!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 7 and 8

Last night, Johnny kept going on and on about how well put together dinner was... an artichoke pasta finished with sherry and porcini butter. Yes, it was.

Sunday night, I made an Olsen Farms rack of lamb (WOW) seared and slathered in mustard and seasoned breadcrumbs and baked at 450 for 20 minutes. Too rare for J.

On the side: Brilliant puzzle. What is it? I asked Johnny. Apples? he guessed. Pears? Nope, not even close. Salsify. A stunning recipe from my friend Martha Foose from her upcoming book, A Southerly Course, which I love at least as much, if not a little more --- no, wait, I cannot pick a favorite --- than her James Beard-award-winning debut, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. I was there in New York City the night Ms. Martha won and my deep regret is that I did not go out with her to celebrate. Next time for sure!!

I truly believe salsify is going to blow up big. Try it! It's like a parsnip on steroids. YUM!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 6

This is the most ridiculously easy recipe based on a signature dish from my late mother-in-law. I almost feel like a cheat doing it because it comes out so dang delicious with so little effort.

I've promised to share the recipe with my daughter, who is starting to get into cooking... finally. I was the world's worst teacher. No warm and fuzzy moments in the kitchen. So, we'll try some long-distance lessons.

Dorothy's Beef Burgundy

2 pounds boneless chuck, cut into generous chunks
1 shallot, diced
1/3 cup flour
1/2 pound mushrooms, washed and quartered
1 tablespoon herbs de province
2 tablespoons salt/pepper (one each, then later taste and adjust... I also used truffle salt toward the end)
1 bottle red wine

Put the prepared beef and shallots into a Dutch oven. Sprinkle flour and seasonings on top. Pour in bottle of wine. Bake in 350 degree oven for three hours. Add mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasonings at this point. Bake an additional 30 minutes. Serve with buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 5

It's been so cold. I know, it's winter. Anyway, I decided to make a chicken/pumpkin curry with stock I made from leftover roast bird from Monday.

Only hitch: No chutney in the pantry! So, I made some quick pickle Granny Smiths and all was swell. Topped with slivered almonds and toasted coconut.

It made up for the disaster earlier in the day. I ruined a batch of brownies. Distracted, I added baking soda to the butter/sugar/egg mixture instead of sifting it into the flour and cocoa and the pan looked like a science experiment gone wrong.

Bummer. But I'm going to get back on that brownie bandwagon again soon. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 4

Made oyster po' boys last night. Which was accomplished in record time because Johnny and I went to see The Fighter and got home after 7. Sitting down by 7:30.

I totally love the Louisiana Fish Fry. It's perfectly seasoned and fries up super crisp. Use it for catfish, too.

Dressed these sandwiches in duck egg mayo, sliced tomatoes, shredded savoy cabbage on a hoagie roll. I wish the bread was better, softer. But pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 2 and 3

Made white bean minestrone Monday night with greens from the farmers market. Cooked the beans in Nana's bean pot. I like doing them that way because they stay intact. I added a little liquid smoke to the pot since I was going vegan with this batch of soup.

On Tuesday, I roasted a Stokesberry Farms chicken. It cost nearly $20, but it was really good: moist, flavorful, not fatty. I've got some stock simmering with the leftovers. I sure do love soup this time of year!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dinner Diary, Part 1

Geez Louise!

Haven't posted anything since August, and yet... my comment box continues to fill up with spam.

So, I've decided to post a pic of my dinner making efforts. This might sound like a lot of navel gazing. Oh, lookie what I can do. But, honestly, it's about keeping a record of my efforts.

Last night, it was fried catfish, roasted fingerlings and Asian slaw. Oh, and homemade tartar sauce made with duck egg mayo. So good.

Oh, and did I mention, I'm available for doing some personal cheffing. I have references. And photos, of course.