Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mostly what I ate this week.

Well, it's not been a crazy week event-wise, but we've been keeping busy. Nathan decided to invest in a new (used) bike that will be speedier than the heavy road bike he has been riding to work. He has very large hills on his way home from the university.
I think he was installing his water bottle holder here?

Anyways...once this week I made a SUPER easy dinner. 
At QFC you can get chicken breasts individually sealed in plastic, ready for the freezer. They come in packs of about six and often the packs are two for one! Skinless-boneless breast can be expensive, but not when they are two for one in bulk! The packaging is great--one is plenty for me and nathan to split, and better yet, they are sealed, so I take the back of the mug or glass and tenderize it while it's still sealed, and no worries about chicken germs getting everywhere. Stays contained and then cooks up real quick--in about the same time as a pot of rice with some vegis in the steamer on top!

a before and after--frozen then thawed and pounded

This is my rice cooker with the vegis on top. So there's a super simple dinner idea that also allows you to get out aggression by whaling on the chicken breast a little bit.

I also made a not so simple dinner this week. Last wednesday I headed out to the Columbia City Farmers Market (columbia city is a district of seattle I'd never been to before) but there's an express bus straight there basically from my house. Columbia City is south, where I don't venture too often, but it was super cute! It had a little main street type area with shops and theaters. There was an amazing looking used book store with a ladder to get to the high shelves, but sadly there was a sign announcing it was closing due to not enough sales to cover basic operating costs. : (

I bought these beautiful dahlias there for $5. Lots of beautiful arrangements, but decided to stick with straight dahlias since I know they keep pretty well.

Also got these beautiful heirloom roma tomatoes and zucchini for a recipe I had been wanting to try.

I got some lettuce and other heirlooms as well. 

The recipe is "Zucchini Rice Gratin" which I got off of Smitten Kitchen blog, and it looked super delicious to me, and a way to use what the season has to offer. Basically everything looks super delicious on the blog, and her photos are amazing:

Zucchini Rice Gratin
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008
My prior quibbles about this dish were that it always stuck to the pan (I try to alleviate this by having you oil your baking dish), was way too salty (and we are hardly salt-phobes, thus I’ve reduced the total amount from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 3/4 teaspoon; feel free to add more if you find it needs it), and that it used too many dishes. You can reduce your dishload by lining your zucchini baking sheet with aluminum foil (tomatoes are reactive with aluminum so I’d leave their tray bare) and hoping that you’ll consider using one skillet for the rice and onions. Despite the fact that I couldn’t reduce the moderate dishload further, we’ve never once felt that this dish wasn’t worth the extra suds.
1/3 cup uncooked white rice, long-grain is suggested but use whatever you prefer
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Table salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
Preheat oven to 450°F. Cook the rice according to your favorite method. The package directions work in some cases, but check my notes above about adjustments I find I have to make. If you cook the rice in a large, wide-ish covered skillet, it might cook even faster but you’ll have the chance to use it again (and save on dirty dishes) when you need to cook the onions in a bit.
While rice cooks, coat two large (or, if you have the same pitifully small oven as I do, three smaller) baking sheets each with a tablespoon of a of olive oil (a bit less for smaller pans). Spread zucchini and tomato slices on the baking sheets in as close to a single layer as you can. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast tomatoes for 10 minutes and zucchini for 20. Flip zucchini halfway through; it’s not worth the messy effort for the tomatoes. Leave oven on.
Heat large, heavy skillet (such as the one you used to cook your rice) over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, heat oil, then add onions, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking onion until limp and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Combine onion mixture, rice, eggs, thyme, half of your grated cheese and a half-tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Add a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Use the remaining half-tablespoon of olive oil to coat a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Spread half of rice mixture in bottom of dish. Arrange half of roasted zucchini on top. Spread remaining rice mixture over it and please don’t worry about being neat about this; dinner will be “rustic” tonight! Arrange remaining zucchini on top, then tomato slices. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and bake until set and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Each oven varies, but I find mine does the very best browning when the dish is on a rack near the top of the oven.

Here was how mine came out:
It was tasty, but not worth all the prep work with the toms and zucchs. Wondering what if I just sauteed the zucchinis with the onions (in the same pan I baked it in) and just popped the tomatoes on without all that pre-baking business. Then it would be a super simple weeknight kinda meal. With a lot fewer dishes. It could also maybe use something a little more zesty? Anyways, you should all be proud that I actually managed to follow a recipe start to finish without straying, and next time I can use this basic recipe (mixing rice, cheese, egg, veggies and baking it) as a platform for culinary improvisation.

Also this week was my friend Jenny's birthday. I made this little girl for her:

And she had a picnic at gasworks park in Fremont. Nathan and I packed our bicycles up with cheese, bread, fruit, sangria, tapanade, etc. and had a lovely bike ride around lake union. Lots of sailboats out enjoying the weather. It was the perfect temperature all evening. How often can you say that?

The gasworks, downtown seattle across the lake, and the moon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A perfect day...and last week.

It's been a crazy summer. I spent most of July participating in a dance festival that culminated in a performance, and while I kinda enjoyed the intensity of dancing 7 hours a day and then working at plum on top of that, it did leave me kind of short on time to do things like blog.  My dear friend Helen also participated in the festival with me and lived with us, and her last week in Seattle she was joined by her boyfriend and our mutual friend, Kyle. Helen's birthday is July 29th, and she wanted to go to Mt Rainier National Park (Nathan and I had never been) and Helen has lovely family in the area that took us out! So these are pictures from the beautiful hike we had up to Mt Fremont. 

Helen Poses like Captain Morgan. Kyle models the stylin' frame pack I bought for five dollars at our neighbor's garage sale while waiting to be picked up for the day. Sweeeet!

This is totally candid.

Nathan on the path through the shale.

The top! What a view!

AND SURPRISE! Kyle proposes to Helen. Helen says Yes.

This is a reenactment.

a blurry picture I took of the ring. Kyle designed it! Helen's favorite color: PINK!

 On the way down.

Fields of wild flowers!


So that was a grand and most perfect day. Followed by mad packing because Nathan and I had to leave the next morning to the midwest. I was on vacation, saw a lot of people who read this blog (so don't need to fill them in), and got to relax a lot while watching Olympics, which is exactly what I needed. 

Jump to current times...

Nothing too exciting going on here. However, in an effort to write on a more regular basis, here are a few things I did do recently:
Last tuesday was our 2nd wedding anniversary (we got some super sweet cards from the grandparents!) and we also went to dinner using the Poppy gift certificate the Bankas gave us for our birthdays.
Poppy is very convenient to our house and had some delicious, delicious food. You basically order one of a few options, and it comes with a variety of 7 or 10 things. They call them "thalis." There was some indian influence (note the naan bread) but otherwise it didn't feel particularly ethnic unless GORMET is an ethnicity.
Ok, we shared all of our items. Nathan got duck with fresh currents and peaches, strawberry-tomato-sage soup, curried kohlrabi, pickled blueberry and apricots, and a beet salad with gingerbread croutons.

I had some kind of beef, zucchini gratin, fennel blossom soup, the same beet salad, some other kind of salad with cucumbers, and pickled fennel.

Dessert thalis.

 Ok, and then one day for lunch I made myself this with the basil from my window boxes, which somehow survived not being watered for nine days while we were in Michigan/Wisconsin.

Then on Sunday we went to a friend's boyfriend's birthday "Rib Off" in which there were I think 7 ribs competing and we had to vote for a winner! It was extremely difficult. They were all delicious, and the weather was perfect. We played "corn hole" which is a kind of bean bag tossing game, and I was terrible at it.

We hadn't been to Madrona Park before. It was lovely.
 Two of my favorite dancer friends by lake Washington.

Too bad it was a touch chilly for swimming. It's hard to see in the picture (which is funny, because it was very easy to see in real life) but Mt. Rainier is just about center in this picture over the water. I need to learn how to make mountains show up in photographs!