I know, I know. It’s been about two months since my last post – many apologies! For about half of July, we’ve been on the road, seeing family & out camping – for the remaining half of the month, we’d been vastly occupied packing up our apartment and experienced the throes of moving!

My husband & I had a short layover in Seattle before meeting up with my family. Luckily it overlapped with Il Corvo‘s weekday lunch service (the times that we have stopped in Seattle, would coincide on the weekend)! We were in for a treat.

What is Il Corvo, might you ask? This establishment serves the most life-changing handmade fresh pasta in all of Seattle/possibly the West Coast. My husband & I would frequent the pasta shop in its early days of inception (co-existing inside a gelateria behind Pike Place Market) so much that Mike (the chef/owner) would come to be recognise us wherever we may be in the city (i.e. browsing the specialty food items in Pike Place’s DeLaurenti’s, etc.). Since we’ve moved to SoCal; we hadn’t been able to see their new permanent location until this most recent trip. 

il corvo work benchMafalda

Pictured above are the beautiful pasta-making tools on display, the marble work bench that doubles as communal dining/seating during service, the wonderfully sunlit space (thanks to the gorgeous Pacific Northwest summertime) & my dish: mafalda with white beans, boquerones, parsley, lemon & garlic. Heavenly. All I have to say is, if you truly appreciate amazing pasta – this place is worth going to.. Hands down one of the top 5 incredible food places in Seattle (in my opinion). If you’re into pizza, I’ll have you know – Mike has opened another establishment – Pizza Gabbiano – Roman-style pizza by the kilogram. I, for one, am looking forward to checking it out – & am curious if any of you guys have ventured to Corvo or Gabbiano (which, can I take a moment to appreciate the names of these places?? Corvo means crow in Italian & gabbiano means seagull – love it!). 

If this post were a complete food documentation of our trip; it would be absurdly long. However, here are some highlights:

WA cherriesBB Peach Pie
My mother went to her local orchard & picked 30+ pounds of Bing cherries for me to bring to my in-laws (I know, what a sweetie my mom is, albeit a wee bit overboard in generosity!) – in which a cherry pitting party ensued. The four of us hunkered down and filled 7 gallon ziplock bags of pitted cherries! As the upcoming days coincided with the Fourth of July & a family birthday (in which the birthday patron had a strong penchant for cherries), I could not resist making a pie.. or three (maybe I do take after my mother afterall)! Pictured above is a gluten-free blueberry peach pie that is looking quite patriotic & tastes like sweet sweet freedom (;

North Beach PTseaglass haul

 

Many a day was spent visiting, playing games (namely Carcassone & Nertz) and also taking some Northwest beach walks – pictured above is en route to Glass Beach in Port Townsend, WA. Glass Beach gets its name because it’s where remnants of Victorian glass shards (back when they used to dump glass-trash into the port) tumbled up & down the beach over the past century turning into sea glass. Little known fact: I adore beachcombing for sea glass.. I could do it for hours. Pictured above is my sea glass haul which is my biggest load yet! I must concede that I did have some help from my husband & his parents with the sea glass collecting. I even found some thick lavender-slate-coloured glass that we suspect that’s come from a shipwreck – fascinating to speculate upon. I think what attracts me to sea glass collecting, is that these little pieces of human-manipulated silica-turned-trash, have tumbled away daily for decades – in a sense, eroding away back into the beach and sea. Not any two pieces are the same : the composition of glass, the hues and tints, the way that the piece has originally broken, has yielded a unique piece of glass. A lot occurs on any given beach aside from the obvious tides coming in & going out: beach frequenters of all ages, dogs, maybe even a landslide, beached sea mammals, etc etc. How long does a single piece of sea glass lay undetected next to other pebbles and rocks before being picked up? Where and how did it migrate along the way? Kind of a metaphor for life.

Salt Creekwild mushrooms

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of photos of our camping adventures – my phone/camera was often on the verge of being completely out of battery and also, wouldn’t you say that constantly being on your phone while out in nature detracts from the experience? I certainly think so. Pictured above is the morning tide out, exposing these small islands enveloped in a glorious sea fog in Salt Creek Recreation Area in Clallam County, WA out on the Olympic Peninsula. This was a really neat campground – our campsite was close to the beach (you could hear waves crashing into the shore at night), there were some fun trails (even encounters with deer trampling through trails and empty campsites!), interesting bluffs & a sweet stretch of tidal pools – but prominently on Tongue Point. You could even see British Columbia from the shore (which is why this was a strategically-placed WWII fort site called Camp Hayden). Also pictured, are some interesting wild mushrooms that I came across on a hike which only makes me nostalgic for foraging for golden chanterelles (they show up during autumn)! I love walking through forests, there’s so much to see when you take the time to pay attention. Lastly, I’ll leave you a picture of some adorable baby crabs that we’ve found while exploring tidal pools. Summer adventures at their finest.
 3crabs

 

I subscribe to the TastingTable which in a nutshell is an edgy free daily email-based publication that gives the inside scoop of the food & beverage culture – often divulging adapted recipes & techniques garnered by renowned chefs (from mostly around the country but also ex-pats such as the austere David Lebovitz). I highly recommend subscribing if you like reading about all things epicurean (& adding new food homages to your next travel destination). Not too long ago, the TastingTable sent out an article about cucumber ice cream from Allumette (a restaurant & bar located in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles) – I’ve never been, & likely never will since it’s going to close its doors in a couple of days. Such is the life of restaurants – lively yet short-lived & fleeting at times.
But I digress.cucumber basil ice cream
Cucumber. Ice Cream. Often times when cucumber is utilised in food – one thinks of salads, cucumber tea sandwiches, maybe even gazpacho – or even a further tangent, in cocktails: cucumber gin & tonic. Or some other sort of refreshing beverage combination (cucumber mint spritzer, etc). But in dessert? Perhaps cucumber sorbet – no further than that. This is why the article intrigued me, because why not? Cucumbers definitely have a distinct flavour. Creamy cucumber icecream? Sounds good to me! Reading the recipe; it also seemed insanely simple: juice some Persian cucumbers, whisk the strained juice with heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk & salt. Cover & leave in the fridge for a couple of hours & you are ready to churn the ice cream base. The original recipe yields 2 quarts; which for a household of two adults – that is A LOT of ice cream. . Also, being who I am; I couldn’t resist modifying the recipe. I wanted to give the cucumber ice cream an extra dimension of flavour: herbaceous summery basil. What I did instead, was set aside the heavy cream & muddled it with fresh basil leaves. While the cucumber juice (which by the way; has the most incredible vibrant emerald hue that I’ve fallen in love with) melded with the evaporated & condensed milk – I allowed the basil to infuse the cream overnight covered in a separate container. I then ran the basil-infused cream through a sieve & whisked it with the rest of the ice cream base: ready to be churned in your ice cream maker. Easy enough, right? I must also say; it has a wonderful dense-enough texture for being egg-less. It’s quite substantial (must be cos of the three different types of dairy). This is not a wimpy ice cream – it is definitely decadent & worthy of any summer barbecue!

persian cucumber juice
Cucumber Basil Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart | Requires an ice cream maker – have your ice cream maker bowl chilled in your freezer before you embark upon this recipe to make life easier!
{ based on Miles Thompson’s Cucumber Ice Cream recipe via the TastingTable }

½ C organic Persian cucumber juice (from approximately 4 cucumbers, depending on size)
1½ C evaporated milk
1¾ C sweetened condensed milk
1¼ t sea salt
1 C organic heavy cream
½ C fresh organic basil leaves (torn) < one can easily substitute this with fresh mint as well or just omit the herbs altogether >

1. Prepare half a cup of Persian cucumber juice by using your juicer or blender to purée the cucumbers whole – double strain to ensure that the cucumber pulp is removed.
If you truly love cucumber & can’t bear to have the pulp (which is full of fibre & nutrients) go to waste – you can throw it into a fruit smoothie. The vegetal taste is rather subtle & it just adds to the body of the smoothie.
2. Whisk the cucumber juice with the evaporated milk, condensed milk & sea salt. If you would rather straight cucumber icecream; whisk in the heavy cream as well.
3. However if you want to do the basil (or mint) infusion: muddle the leaves into the heavy cream & set aside in the fridge to steep, covered overnight. I decided that muddling it would be the best way to go about it; because if you didn’t know – basil leaves tend to oxidise (aka turn brown) unless it is emulsified with fat/oil. The milk fat in the heavy cream is not enough to prevent the heavy oxidation (which would be the case if the basil leaves were food-processed with the heavy cream). However; if you desire a strong basil flavour & don’t mind a brown-tint to your ice cream.. By all means, blend away!
You could get away with having the cucumber juice, dairy & salt to meld in the fridge for a couple of hours if you are short on time. However keep in mind; the longer the ice cream base melds, the better the flavours will come through.
4. When you deem the ice cream base ready – pour your ice cream base into your chilled ice cream maker bowl & proceed to churn! This will take about 20-30 minutes. Check for a thick soft-serve consistency & transfer it into a preferably chilled container, cover it airtight & put it in the freezer for at least an hour before serving. I like to save some of the smaller basil leaves to garnish my ice cream scoops. & if you are adventurous; I highly recommend a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar right on top. It gives it just a bit of extra acidity to cut the creaminess of the ice cream. Just unbelievably good. I intend on making this for many-a-summer to come.

& if cucumber ice cream isn’t your thing – I have to share one of my favourite sodas of all time. DRYSoda (a Seattle company) has a cucumber soda that is deliciously refreshing. It’s got just a hint of sweetness (only 11g of cane sugar as opposed to the usual 36g of high fructose cane-syrup from other carbonated soda companies). It only has four ingredients & is kosher, gluten-free, sodium-free, caffeine-free. DrySoda has a beautiful array of flavours (11 in all!) & aside from cucumber – I really enjoy their ginger, rhubarb, lavender, pear & lemongrass (well… when they did have lemongrass.. it’s been discontinued.. as you can guess, I’ve been a fan of DRYsoda for years now). The product line is lovely & sophisticated – they pair well with food & are versatile as mixers (speaking from experience – a splash of gin + cucumber DRYsoda is a winning combo). They’ve launched nationwide, so you are sure to find them in any Kroger, Safeway, QFC, Ralph’s, WholeFoods, Sprouts, Pharmaca, etc.

Thanks for reading my tangents on cucumber…
Happy summer, everyone!

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Happy Summer Solstice everyone!

In wake of recent changes – but most importantly to celebrate my husband’s victorious accomplishment: graduating summa cum laude with his MFA in 2 years (this degree typically takes a 3 years to finish) – I made a 9″ gluten-free blueberry pie. Various family members flew down to see the graduate degree hooding commencement ceremony (thank goodness it was indoors & also, only for people who have earned their Master’s or Ph. D’s!). After the ceremony; we had a simple but delicious barbecue at our apartment – with the crowning treat being this pie! Quite a few of us couldn’t do gluten so I thought that I’d utilise my pie-making skills & make a gluten-free pie. For those who don’t have a lot of pie-making experience; I will say that making it with gluten-free ‘flour’ is a test of patience.. but definitely feasible! & worth it.

Fruit pies (particularly the berry-kind), truly herald a celebratory sentiment & that summertime has truly arrived! An unfortunate aspect of baked fruit pies is that if the filling is underbaked – it is thusly watery. & a watery pie is a disappointing pie to have indeed. To prevent the pie filling from being watery; I cook down the pie filling in advance so that it thickens quite nicely once it is baked. I usually make the filling the night before assembling the pie (if you are in a pinch for time, you can easily get away with making the filling a few hours before, especially if you chill the filling quickly. It also goes without saying, you can also make the filling days in advance if you wish).

BLUEBERRY PIE FILLIN’
<enough to fill one 9″ pie; I know it seems like a lot of filling but believe me, it will cook down & fill your 9″ pie shell quite easily>
1 # 4 oz of blueberries (frozen, if fresh is unavailable)
2 T of gluten-free all-purpose flour (you can substitute cornstarch, if that is what you have on hand)
3 oz of granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 T of lemon juice
1/2 t of sea salt

Toss the above ingredients & combine into a saucepan. Put it on medium heat until it simmers. Lower the heat to a continual simmer; allowing the berries to cook through. Be sure to stir occasionally throughout. If the bottom of the saucepan sticks, lower the heat & continue stirring. When the mixture thickens, remove from heat & transfer to a heatproof bowl & allow to cool. Be sure to refrigerate the filling before using it (warm filling onto pie dough would be disastrous).

The pie dough. I used Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour & modified this recipe.
The result was satisfactory! It had a nice flaky crunch to it (probably due to the use of the pastry blender & the cold pats of butter I put in it). My husband didn’t realise that the pie was gluten-free & in fact, he thought that the pie was fantastic. So have that, you anti-gluten-free-baking naysayers!

GLUTEN-FREE PIE DOUGH
<enough for one 9″ latticed or double-crusted pie / or two 9″ single-crusted pies>
1 1/2 C gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 C unsalted butter (very cold, cut into cubes or little slabs)
4 T almond milk (or any sort of ‘milk,’ almond milk just happens to be what I had on hand at the time)

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar & salt). Using a fork or a pastry blender, quickly cut the cold butter into the dry; until it has the consistency of coarse wet sand. Pea-sized clumps of butter is permissible; sometimes I use my fingers to break them up further & incorporate them into the mixture. At this point, forgo the fork or pastry blender and incrementally incorporate the almond milk until just combined. Be careful not to over do it; we just want a cohesive mass (but not to the point where it’s just one big hulking pliable piece). Divide the dough in half; flatten onto waxed paper (or even plastic wrap) into disks. Either use plastic wrap to cover them or stick them into zip-lock gallon bags. Lay the covered or sealed disks of pie dough onto a flat surface in the fridge to chill for about an hour before using.

ASSEMBLING
Be sure to have an ample amount of workspace for assembling your pie! Also, I hope you have some excess gluten-free flour to use because without it; assembling this pie will be an incredible test of your patience.
You will need a rolling pin, your pie tin or dish, a bench scraper, your pie filling & the pie dough disks. It is imperative that once you take the dough out of the refrigerator – that you work quickly with it. Flour your work surface; carefully and evenly roll out one of the disks into a quarter-inch thick circle. Be sure to alternate sides of the disk, so that you can roll out the dough out evenly. However the caveat is that if you flip the pie dough circle-to-be too often, it may crack (since there is no gluten to bind the dough together). Lay your sufficiently rolled pie dough circle onto your pie tin or dish; pressing it into the sides and bottom of the tin/dish. If you are having trouble with cracks; just gently press the surrounding dough, smoothing it (thus repairing) into the crack. This is only the bottom of the pie & no one is going to stop to examine the pie’s bottom! The pie dough bottom is now ready for the filling! Evenly fill the pie shell. If you are wanting to do a lattice topping on your pie – roll out the remaining pie dough disk into a quarter-inch thick square or rectangular shape. Using your bench scraper, cut even strips of pie dough & carefully lay them on top of the filled pie shell. Interlace them if you’d like. For the excess pie dough ends of the strips, pinch them onto the bottom pie shell; forming an edge; going around the top rim of the pie tin or dish. With any excess pie dough pieces; I would pinch them off and mold them onto the uneven parts of the pie crust edge… Can I just add that describing this is much more difficult than simply demonstrating it? If you’ve never formed a pie shell before; it takes a lot of practice (to the point where it gets intuitive!) I highly recommend Youtubing a pie shell forming demonstration… But if you prefer a ‘rustic’ pie; free-form all you want! Anyhow; once you are satisfied with the assembly of your pie; refrigerate your pie until it is time for it to go into the oven. I prefer to bake pie hours before it is served (fresh is best!). Also, your kitchen/home will just smell HEAVENLY.

BAKING
Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Once the oven is almost to temperature; use a pastry brush to brush cream (half & half, milk, whatever you may have) onto the top of the pie, getting into the lattices. Then sprinkle it with coarse sugar (I use turbinado; not only for aesthetic reasons but it adds a fantastic crunch). Then place the pie onto a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, I rotate the pie and bake it for another 10 minutes or accordingly. When checking for done-ness, I look at the blueberry filling – if it is slowly oozing out of the lattice like a thick molasses; that is my cue that it is ready to leave the oven! The pie crust itself should also be a lovely golden (but barely brown) hue, cracking ever-so-slightly. Allow to cool for a couple of hours & it is ready to serve! Depending on how generous your servings are, it can feed up to 8. I only refrigerate pie when it is down to a couple slices. The pie does keep for at least 3 days at room temperature . . Though I have doubts that it would even last that long!

Image

My odd sense of humour compelled me to take this photo after an excited customer accidentally overturned her just-purchased mini red velvet cupcake. She was remorseful but I simply laughed & quickly gave her a new cupcake. For me, this picture encapsulated everything that was going on at the time - a very pivotal moment during a time of chaos. A casualty in the realm of larger forces in opposition . . a reminder that the culmination of time/energy/effort, even with the best intentions, can go awry . . That there are always aspects of the situation out of one's control. Therefore you could either choose to be upset & angry or you could just laugh at the absurdity. & carry on. (I am hopeful that I am sounding existential & optimistic rather than not.) Happy June, everyone! Can you believe that this year is almost halfway over? What a whirlwind!

If you didn't know - I love pears. They are one of my most favourite fruits. They are often associated with a late summer through late winter harvest (though primarily autumnal). That being said & despite it being well into spring (though it currently feels like full-blown summer right now in Southern California, with temperatures of 95ºF today) - I spied these organic Abate Fetel pears (imported from Argentina... of course) at one of my local natural foods markets a couple weeks ago. As a voracious pear eater who had never had this variety - I could not pass up this opportunity to try them & to do a little research because I am often curious about varietal types. As it turns out, the Abate Fetel is also referred to as Abbé Fetel - named in honor of the French abbot who cultivated this variety in 1866! Apparently Abbé Fetel are lovely paired with pecorino romano cheese - but as you can guess, I had them by themselves. They were delightful. I'm looking forward to pairing the two together next time. Ciao!

I feel silly for posting this picture of a bag of Canadian ketchup chips (this particular brand of chips) but I figured, it is a lingering remnant in relation to my last post. I chanced upon these at World Market & excitedly grabbed a bag. I didn't mention this in my last post but we did a bit of sampling of Canadian ketchup chips (not to the level of being connoisseurs of course). It is always so lovely to prolong the nostalgia of a holiday (a honeymoon no less!) when the day-to-day grind of life persists. Eating these tangy, savoury yet sweet crunchy chips has given me a few moments where I would distinctly remember driving down the Trans-Canadian highway, passing by shorn & frosted mountains, evergreens dusted with snow & snow flurries swirling in the wake of our tire tracks.

Oh Canada!

Definitely did not intend for this to be a bit o’ a travel blog but I just had to share a few snaps from my honeymoon to the Canadian Rockies. Thanks to my in-laws, we were able to stay in a condo timeshare – a comfortable place to ourselves with a kitchenette, gorgeous mountainside view, heated garage (for our rental car, which is nice because the daytime & nighttime temperatures drop below freezing), access to barbecues (yes, we’ve barbecue’d in the snow) & of course an outdoor heated pool & hot tub (swimming in the snow? Been there, done that!).

We went on some intense hikes in the snow/ice, summitting & trekking over to see frozen waterfalls, streambeds, rivers – even learned to ski (we are both seasoned snowboarders), saw wildlife (herds of elk, white-tailed deer & even a coyote). Got a bit of the historic sights & places too like the Fairmont Château at Lake Louise in Banff, the Cave & Basin National Historic Site, we hiked up Sulphur Mountain & took the the Banff Gondola back down, hiked around Johnston’s Canyon which was a MUST see, as most of the waterfalls were frozen yet beginning to thaw and of course we spent some time in the towns of Banff, Canmore & Calgary.

stroopwafel

Pretty much every morning commenced with freshly brewed coffee (thanks to the condo kitchenette & us buying organic & Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee from Sobey’s) & a stroopwafel atop. My husband spotted stroopwafels for sale at a the Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe in Canmore, which is a quaint historic mining town situated southeast of Banff. Stroopwafels are true treats – they originate from the Netherlands and are basically a caramel-like filling sandwiched by wafer-y flat waffles; set atop a steaming mug of coffee or tea. The steam warms the filling & is thusly gooey when broken into. Pretty amazing pairing. If you haven’t had any before & if you are in the U.S., I’ve seen stroopwafels for sale at various retailers in the U.S. (i.e. World Market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc).

IMAG2819For breakfast most mornings, thanks to my husband who is an awesome cook & I – we had over-easy eggs with either English muffins or some pancakes (made with almond milk & Bob’s Red Mill GF pancake mix, which I highly recommend – the pancakes were hearty & fluffy, I even forgot that they were gluten-free).  My husband & I picked up a lean cut of Canadian maple-cured ham to have as a savoury slices with our breakfast. At a natural foods store called Nutters, we picked up some organic maple syrup (in which we topped oatmeal & our pancakes with!). We had maybe a fourth of a cup of syrup remaining by the time it was the end of our trip & you best believe that I tucked it into our check-in luggage to take home.. The stuff is gold to me!

I just realised that I didn’t take any snaps of the currency (Google if you wish) ! There are conflicting proclamations on whether Canadian bills smell like maple syrup or not. I would have to say that the scent is faint. Not on all bills either… My husband says that he only smelled ink.. The jury is still out on that one..

IMAG2864So please keep in mind that I am trying to make this post as food-centric as possible, because if anything, most of my photos have attempted to capture the glory that is the Canadian Rockies: snow-laden evergreen boughs, frosty mountaintops, completely frozen lakes, streams & waterfalls & the the wildlife.

Pictured next to this serving of elk-topped poutine is a lovely draught pint of Sleeman’s honey brown lager from Ontario.

So pictures of food are actually on the rarer side, though I am pleased to say that we encountered quite possibly the best poutine in Banff/maybe even all of Alberta at the Elk & Oarsman Pub (nice interior as well). Thick-cut pomme-frites topped with an incredible gravy (reminiscent of au jus), cheese curds (that are totally melted) & braised elk meat. Phenomenal. We were sort of addicted, even came back the next day to get more!

IMAG2816

Here’s a fun photo of a placard inside a Canadian teashop called Davids Tea..

We trekked out to Lake Louise to check out the area. The lake was expansive & still frozen over in most places, though we missed out on ice skating there (the rink was falrly slushy, it was the beginning of spring there afterall! Instead, we decided to indulge in a lunch at the Fairmont Château. The view from the dining room was stunning & since it was the tail-end of winter, icicles were melting off the rooftops & fell off the rooftops (incredibly entertaining yet horrifying to observe!) We shared a Reuben sandwich that was comprised of corned bison meat in a Reuben sandwich along with a quaint terrine of cabbage & kale soup.

Fairmont Lake Louise Dining View

On our last full day in Calgary – I ordered a Bloody Caesar at a pub. For those who don’t know, Bloody Caesars are essentially vodka, Clamato juice (tomato + clam juice), hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce & garnished with a salted rim &/or pickled garnish – in my case at Libertine Public House – it was an olive, banana pepper & a wedge of lemon. I didn’t realise it at the time, but apparently Bloody Caesars are considered quintessential Canadian cocktails, originating in Calgary! My husband & I agree that they are tastier & are more savory than Bloody Mary’s. When I returned to work & told my co-workers about it (most of us at my bakeshop are Bloody Mary aficionadas); some were put off by the idea of clam juice in a cocktail – but in all honesty, it just gives a lovely umami nuance to the drink & does not detract whatsoever! It’s all mental.
IMAG2939

As an endnote – this trip was incredible – if you ever consider going to the Canadian Rockies – I strongly encourage you to go!
We definitely want to go back. So many amazing memories & gorgeous sights to see.
Cheers!

Frozen waterfalls in Johnston's Canyon / Banff National Park

Frozen waterfalls in Johnston’s Canyon / Banff National Park

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