Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Natural Beauty

I rarely repeat a special, primarily because the most enjoyable aspect of my profession is the strive to create something new, something better than the last; it is that aspiration to outdo myself that drives me to a higher level of cooking and makes me a better chef.

I was again inspired by yet another dinner on Vashon Island at Kurtwood Farms, where every ingredient that comprises the nine courses is grown on his 13-acre farm with the exception of salt, pepper, sugar, flour, wine and coffee (which they buy green from a coffee shop on the island and roast in a pan just before grinding and serving - OUTSTANDING!!!!). The most memorable things tend to be the simplest, like a mixed greens salad with their own cider vinegar, a poached egg on a crouton or the pickled cauliflower, because the focus is on the exceptional ingredients that they produce organically and sustainably, and are picked ripe and served fresh.

I guess that my chances for future visits could be limited after articles about both owner Kurt Timmermeister and chef Tyler Palagi (also of Spring Hill in West Seattle) appeared in the current issue of Seattle Met magazine (sorry, no link; you're going to have to pick up a copy of your own), but due to their exclusivity (not only do you have to be invited by someone who has been there before just to get onto the mailing list, but in order to make your reservation you have to write a short essay about whatever culinary topic he chose for that month) it takes a little more than just picking up a phone. Lucky for me I write me sum pretty good stuffins....
Which leads me to my next special: a simple preparation of heirloom tomatoes that focuses on the quality of the ingredient; a dish that I now feature anually, but with a few variations....

As before, my supply of heirloom varietals is inconsistent, but what I've used so far are Black Krim, Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine and German Green. To accompany them I stayed true to typical preparations like garlic croutons - made from thin slices of baguettes doused with butter flavored with thyme and garlic - and good extra virgin olive oil, but with slight variations like flaky Maldon sea salt (the snowflake of salt that dissolves quickly on your tongue), pink, black, white and green peppercorns ground to order, and a side of balsamic vinegar that I infused with fresh chopped basil by steeping them together all day.


Simplicity at its finest!!!

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Due to the tepid summer that we've had here in Seattle it seems that all of our local produce is on a month-long delay; my tomato plants are taller than me and without fruit. Finally, after tasting the watermelon for last week's drink special, it has the sweetness that I had expected in back early July, so in order to get what I want out of this summer I need to make haste!!

I had this idea for a watermelon flavored sangria last summer but too many other inspirations superseded it, and I assumed that I would be able to offer it earlier than this in order to try out other variations of sangria later, but you all know the old saying about assumptions....

Just like last week I pureed and strained fresh, seedless watermelon, leaving me with its pure flavor that I used to sweeten a blended red wine in place of the plain white sugar that is used to balance sangria. To create the true myraid of flavors that is sangria I first marinated chopped pineapple, green apple, peaches, and orange slices in the same cherry brandy that I infused for the Cherries Jubilee cocktail, giving each bite of fruit a little more punch than wine that they are served with. 

Enjoy these little tastes of summer while it lasts!!!

With Love,


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