Posts Tagged ‘Myra Kohn’
I grew up in a household that weaned off salt over time. My parents cooked with it sparingly in a salt reduced diet that was advocated by dieticians and nutritionists. As adults we had the same shaker of supermarket brand iodised salt in our pantry for many years, its only purpose was to salt the water to boil pasta in.
A couple of evenings ago Myra gathered a group of food lovers for a salt themed potluck with Mark Bitterman. Owner of The Meadow and author of Salted, Mark was visiting from Portland and hosted a dinner at Spring Hill on Sunday.
I bought some leftover heirloom tomatoes at the TomatoFare for the bargain price of two dollars a pound. I made an insalata Caprese as my contribution to the potluck. Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil were layered, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with Murray River salt flakes.
There were a variety of salts at the potluck and each had a story. Some were favourites, others were gifts, and mine reminds me of home.
Carol brought this beautiful Himalayan pink salt crystal for display.
The Secret Stash vanilla salt was speckled and moist.
I love the cute Sugarpill container!
Chuck made his own applewood smoked Maldon salt with lemon thyme.
There were several salads and one other insalata Caprese. Darryl‘s was geometrically styled compared to my rustic approach!
Ashleigh‘s salad of heirloom tomatoes, chèvre and mint was a kaleidoscope of colours.
The soup of the evening was by Kristin, pumpkin soup with salted pumpkin seeds.
Hors d’oeuvres included a cocoa nibs studded chèvre log with applewood salt by Karen.
Bite size hickory smoked salt pretzels, a recipe in Salted made by Carol.
Charred and fanned out on a bamboo tray, Shirley grilled maitake mushrooms and shishito peppers.
She brought three types of Japanese salts to taste with the vegetables – wasabi salt, dashi salt and shichimi tōgarashi blended with salt.
Chuck assembled fresh farm cheese and sungold tomato jam crostinis with his own applewood smoked Maldon salt and lemon thyme.
These sticky nuts were salted orange blossom honey almonds by Lisa.
Kim baked a tin of salted cranberry and pistachio biscotti.
Carol’s second recipe from Salted was Himalayan pink salt brittle.
Nazila dipped vanilla marshmallows in chocolate with salt on top.
Carol made her signature alderwood smoked salt caramels.
We piled our plates with the delectable selection and ate as we listened to Mark, a James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner. An eloquent speaker, we were all mesmerised by his salt narrative. Salt is a ‘universal food, a defining ingredient of the world’s culinary traditions’. He described himself as a vagabond writer and a ‘ravenous and perennial eater’.
When he opened The Meadow, he felt all he was doing was putting contents of his basement into jars! Salt connects people and he stocks over one hundred varieties of salts in his store. They also sell flowers, chocolates and bitters.
He realised there was no original research on salt and its behaviour on food. Salt is a powerful flavour enhancer, a nutritional necessity and the only mineral we eat. It is not just a chemical, it is a substance made by hand.
The Meadow has recently opened a store in New York for retail customers, and they supply food manufacturers and restaurateurs.
Salt makers have an intimate relationship with nature, a deep understanding of complex conditions. Saltiness is modulated by the shape and size of the crystals. Salts have different moisture levels. Fleur de sel has about ten percent residual moisture and is resilient in food, it glistens as it dissolves to spark our palate. Eighty pounds of salt yields one pound of fleur de sel for a ‘luxurious, sensual experience’!
Japan has the most sophisticated and obsessive salt culture. To make takesumi bamboo salt, sea water is extracted from three thousand feet under the ocean, sprayed onto bamboo to dry and stirred continuously with a wooden paddle while simmering until evaporated.
Hundreds of millions of years old, Himalayan salt blocks can function as tableware or cookware. It’ll slightly cure sashimi or Carpaccio, and can be heated up for sautéing.
The ‘manifesto’ is the byline of his book and this is clear when he declared that kosher salt is a stainless steel cleaner! Kosher salt is a desiccating agent that extracts moisture. It is a refined chemical manufactured for industries and it is Mark’s ‘mission in life to eradicate kosher salt’.
Salted has three sections: the life of salt, a history; salt guide, varieties and profiles; and salting, techniques and recipes.
We concluded the evening with a peek inside his case of sample salts. Mark had a bottle of nigari, or magnesium chloride. At the Spring Hill dinner the attendees had experimented with droplets into bourbon, adding a complex bitterness.
So for Kate, salt is not just salt!
Sincere thanks to Myra for her hospitality, Mark for his insights, and the Seattle food community for a delicious and informative potluck!
The same week of the Sharone Hakman and SousVide Supreme demonstration and tasting, Myra tweeted a Rue La La deal. I only had fried chicken in mind when I paid twenty five dollars for fifty dollars value in food and beverages at Tavern Law.
Twelfth Avenue on Capitol Hill was buzzing on a Friday evening. By the owners of Spur Gastropub, Tavern Law celebrates the history of the speakeasy during the prohibition era. A vintage typewriter greets us at the entrance and it’s a charming space within.
A mural of an elegant lady in a floral blue dress grace the wall and a roulette wheel hangs at the bar.
A built-in bookshelf and gilded mirror complete the décor.
In an effort to cool down and be presentable after the humid ascent, I sat inside and gulped glasses of water while waiting for Ms S.
I stared at the scratched vault door and wall mounted rotary dial telephone, pondering their purpose. After much squinting, I read ‘Needle and Thread’ on the framed sign. After observing several people lingering nervously by the phone, I realised Needle and Thread is Tavern Law’s homage to the speakeasy!
Ignoring the creased paper the food menu is printed on, I perused the extensive drinks booklet, appreciating the explanation of cocktail terms like sling and sour.
We moved to a table on the sidewalk to enjoy the beautiful late summer weather. The English gin fizz with Earl Grey infused gin, lemon and honey was a refreshing apéritif.
We ordered a plate of fried chicken each. It was a sight to behold – two golden crusted portions perched atop a bed of mashed potatoes. Cooked sous vide and then deep fried, the light and crispy skin protected the tender and juicy meat. The coating had a slight sweetness that balanced the savoury protein and creamy starch.
The service was a little haphazard, so much so that our bill was delivered without being asked about a second drink or dessert.
Sous vide is synonymous with molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine. I know the basic concept is to poach food in vacuum sealed bags at a controlled temperature for consistent cooking, to retain nutrients and enhance flavours.
But sous vide has always conjured an image in my mind of scientists in stained lab coats and oversized goggles, distilling and decanting between technicolour beakers, with evil intentions.
Commercial sous vide machines are expensive and the SousVide Supreme was developed for the home kitchen. A local company, CEO Bob Lamson was optimistic that the seed has been planted for ‘Seattle to become the sous vide capital’ and to be at a leader of small appliances innovation, citing Nathan Myhrvold, Tavern Law and Crush as examples of Seattleites championing sous vide.
After much trial and error throughout the design and build process, the unit was rigorously tested by Heston Blumenthal before he launched it. The Fat Duck has more than seventy sous vide machines in its kitchen!
Bob extolled the quality of taste and texture of sous vide food, and stated that vegetables cooked sous vide is forty percent more nutritious than boiling and twenty percent more nutritious than steaming.
The water oven is easy to use and temperature can be set in Celsius (I still can’t convert °F!) or Fahrenheit. Ingredients and seasoning are vacuum sealed in pouches that can be prepared quickly, making it convenient and is also energy efficient.
There were many questions about what could be cooked in the SousVide Supreme. Meat, vegetables, fruits, stocks and cocktail infusions were all mentioned but the most decadent recipe was replacing the water with butter and cooking a whole lobster in it!
Bob shared with us an anecdote of a customer returning the product with a note declaring it the ‘worst deep fryer ever’. It’s not a Crock-Pot and it’s not a deep fryer! There is a perception that sous vide is complicated or hifalutin, and Bob was emphatic that it is scientifically proven to be a safe method of cooking.
Chef Sharone Hakman of MasterChef fame entertained us as he cooked a seven course tasting menu. He was engaging, amiable and knowledgeable. Sharone and the team from Duo Public Relations had been preparing the meals for several hours. We shared the dishes family style and there was an abundance of food!
Our first course was a refreshing wild hibiscus spritzer infused with raspberries and rose water.
The second course was wild king salmon with fennel, radish and turmeric butter. Succulent and flaky, the salmon was fresh and simple. Cooked sous vide and then braised, the wedges of fennel held its shape.
There were audible gasps when Sharone presented the 61 degree eggs, glossy and wobbling on a plate. A little jet lagged, I forgot to ask how the shells were peeled! The eggs were scooped on asparagus, drizzled with truffle oil and served with brioche croutons. Silky, crispy, crunchy, the textural combination was bursting with sunshine.
Chicken breasts were cooked sous vide and Sharone seasoned and seared them for presentation. Sliced and rested on pea purée and parmesan crisps, the chicken was tender and juicy. The highlight was the pea purée - vibrant in colour and taste, the sweetness contrasted with the salty cheese wafer.
Sharone displayed a tray of sous vide short rib with pride. The sliders are his favourite and the short ribs are marinated in his own brand of sauce, Hak’s BBQ.
Rich and sticky, the thick protein was tempered by the coleslaw. Perched on a stool far from the kitchen bench, I struggled eating this without making a mess! The chipotle bourbon sauce was scrumptious and I’m craving carnitas tacos with the gifted bottle of Hak’s BBQ sauce!
The final savoury dish was coffee and pepper crusted filet with fig infused Pinot Noir reduction.
Sous vide is ‘forgiving on the backend of cooking’ and the filet was evenly medium rare.
There was silent appreciation from the crowd as Sharone cut into each filet, the thick medallions of filet were a beautiful blush inside.
Rarer than I prefer my beef, I sampled a small portion and it pairs well with the fig and wine reduction.
As a child my mother would poach pears for me when I was ill. Warm and soft, they’re a healthy comfort food. Atop mascarpone, this adult version is poached in Zinfandel and dusted with cinnamon.
It was a fun, informative and delicious evening, learning and eating sous vide.
Sincere thanks to Myra Kohn for hosting, Bob Lamson for his insights, Sharone Hakman for his culinary expertise, and Duo Public Relations for organising.
A former family law attorney and meat eater, she left a full-time career ‘fighting over salt and pepper shakers’ to be a stay-at-home mother. With two young daughters, she created the Peas and Thank You blog to connect to adults.
As a lawyer her diet consisted of caffeinated drinks and energy bars to sustain a hectic schedule. As a mother she was conscious of how to feed her family, and recognised she needed to change and be a role model for a healthy lifestyle.
For a while she was cooking three separate meals for dinner – vegan for herself, one with meat for her husband, and children friendly ones for her daughters. An understanding and empathetic husband suggested transitioning the whole family to a vegan diet.
Her blog is a scrapbook of recipes, family stories and photos, a narrative of an ordinary family who are vegans. She found her voice through her blog and infused it with her personality. The cookbook is a collection of recipes that are on ‘rotation’ in her home, plant-based versions of classic family meals.
Sarah was articulate and persuasive, encouraging us to try meatless meals to improve our health and lower our grocery bills.
There is a pantry section in the cookbook and Sarah brought some of the ingredients with her. My first taste of tempeh was Ann Gentry‘s BLT tartines. A fermented soy product high in protein and fibre, Sarah likes to grate it and use it as a minced meat substitute.
We sampled the tempeh from her chipotle lime tempeh tacos recipe. It was spicy and had a meaty texture.
Chipotle lime tempeh tacos were garnished with non-dairy cheese. Sarah recommended the Daiya brand of dairy free cheese which is available in different flavours and melts.
We spread Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and sunflower seed butter on crackers. Sunflower seed butter is a delicious alternative to peanut butter, especially for children to take to school to avoid nut allergies.
Supermarkets stock many organic vegetarian and vegan products. Sarah was keen to demonstrate that vegan cooking is accessible and doesn’t require shopping at specialty stores.
Sarah baked a carrot cake and made a ‘cream cheese’ icing. She steamed and puréed the carrots, and all the ingredients are organic and vegan in the recipe. The cake was dense and moist but the frosting was too sweet for my palate.
Harlequin generously gifted each attendee with a copy of Peas and Thank You. The adorable pea theme is throughout the book and each recipe is accompanied by a family story, memory or anecdote. Sarah took most of the photos in her book. While the photos of the food are rustically beautiful, I love the ones of her family captured in moments of joy and cheekiness.
Sincere thanks to Myra Kohn for hosting and Sarah Matheny for sharing.
Posted Wednesday 03 August 2011on:
I’ve lived in cities all my life. While I spent my childhood in high rise apartment buildings, Mr S was roaming freely on a farm. I cannot garden except to water and I’ve drowned cactus and succulent plants!
The previous owners of our home in Sydney had a flourishing garden bed of garish tropical plants which Mr S dug up and dispose of over several weekends. The roots were deep and stubborn, and we hurriedly replaced them with Japanese maple trees and lilly pilly shrubs.
We returned from my first foray to a nursery with ceramic pots and herb seedlings. We had an abundance of basil but our chilli, cherry tomato and strawberry plants yielded only handful in total. The single chilli was mild, the two strawberries were fragrant and very sweet, and the three cherry tomatoes were juicy and flavoursome. I consider this a failure but at least the plants didn’t wither and die.
I had intended on waking early and baking scones but my plan was foiled by a long dinner and a late movie the night before. Instead, I bought some coconut macaroons and berry biscuits from Dahlia Bakery. With a chewy crust and a moist centre, the coconut macaroon was perfect with a cup of tea.
Although expensive, I have indulged in several bowls of Rainier cherries this summer. The golden orbs have a delicate and refreshing sweetness that contrasts with the richness of the crimson variety.
Shirley arrived with several boxes from Fuji Bakery. The plain white boxes protected an array of freshly baked goods. There was a selection of flaky croissants, including pain au chocolat, almond croissant and croissant café mocha.
On the left is brioche Suisse. Buttery and golden, the brioche dough is studded with chocolate and orange peel, and filled with Grand Marnier chocolate custard.
My favourites were the fruit pastries. Glossy and blowtorched, the fruits were thinly sliced, fanned out symmetrically and baked until soft and translucent.
In her soft and soothing voice, Margo traced the conception of the One-Block Diet to the cookbook. The Sunset magazine office is on five acres of land and the One-Block Diet evolved from exploring how to report on local eating. The challenge was to grow every ingredient on the menu to embody the narrative.
Margo pointed out that the flaw was to plan the menu first and consider the growing second. The intention of the One-Block Diet was to replicate a suburban backyard, to demonstrate to readers that they too can grow food as part of their lifestyle.
The commitment to growing and sourcing every ingredient from their one block garden necessitated research into seasonality and production methods. Pantry staples such as cooking fat, sweetener and seasoning had to be made. The initial idea was to grow corn for oil but the team soon realised the corn to oil ratio was beyond their five hundred square feet, and peanuts grow in a colder climate than California. Olive groves were planted on the Sunset grounds in the ’50s and the team cultivated the single tree that was within the border of the block.
Bees were kept for a sweetener and to pollinate the garden. Chilli and herbs were grown for seasoning. For salt, the team ‘imported’ sea water from ten miles away, and they were gifted a vinegar ‘mother’ to brew their own. The one-block diet philosophy was if it cannot be grown, they will transform locally sourced ingredients by hand. Margo listed salt, vinegar and cheese as easy to make.
Wheat, barley and hops were planted for beer and the team hand-picked six hundred pounds of Syrah at a local winery and crushed the grapes by feet. Wine making was intense physical work for two, three weeks and then the wine was aged for one year.
The staff was divided into teams (Team Chicken, Team Bee, Team Vinegar et cetera) and the menu was the road map. Unfortunately the olive trees were infested with fruit maggots and Team Olive had to ‘import’ olives for grinding and pressing.
It was a delight to hear Margo describe how ingredients were grown and produced. ‘Ground olives look like chopped liver’, ‘pressed olive oil is a bright vibrant green colour’, ‘if vinegar smells like furniture polish, throw it out’ and ’home made vinegar is strong and slightly fizzy, has to be diluted’.
Margo was animated when talking about the Sunset chickens, bees and cow. The entire team took turns to encourage the chickens to lay eggs with chants of ‘lay, lay!’. The free range farm fresh eggs were ‘velvety and voluptuous’, and every egg was different in shape and taste. Margo commented that it takes effort to standardise food for consumers.
The team visited a beekeeper who promised to ‘shift their paradigm’. ‘Humming, vibrating, electrifying’, bees are highly intelligent insects that are loyal, organised and industrious. The team also have a share in a neighbourhood cow, Holly the Jersey, who lives on a farm.
Margo spoke with eloquence and generously shared her passion. She explained how working closely together as a team to produce food has evoked an emotional response, a deep understanding for the ancient and natural rhythm of growing, nurturing, harvesting and eating.
Margo’s eyes sparkled as she declared it ‘profoundly satisfying to know how much of food is alive … it is our place in nature to create a habitat for other living organisms’. There is collective sadness when a chicken dies or a plant shrivels.
Margo has developed an appreciation for artisanal food and is more willing to pay for it now. As an example, the vinaigrette was made with four ingredients and it took one and half years’ of work to make.
Margo and the Sunset team are an inspiration. They were beginners and have documented their projects for readers to cook, grow, or both. Margo wrote with a quiet enthusiasm, a genuine love for her vocation. She happily detailed successes and disasters were narrated with humour. ‘Nature always leads, and a smart cook learns how to dance’ – this is the essence of Margo and the One-Block Feast.
I purchased the book and was gifted a small jar of honey from the Sunset bees. Hand-harvested, each batch has a distinctive smell and taste depending on where the bees have flown for blossoms!
Sincere thanks to Myra for hosting and to Margo for making the time for us at such short notice.
Posted Thursday 23 June 2011on:
I love live events. Plays, musicals, comedy shows, festivals – there is something intensely intimate and vulnerable about a live performance. Seattle has finally awaken from its winter slumber, emerged from hibernation to embrace a full calendar of cultural activities.
Usually a wallflower in a room with strangers, I was apprehensive about attending What We Talk About When We Talk About Food (WWTAWWTAF) alone. Thankfully the lovely Kimberly spotted me and we were also warmly welcomed by Myra, the hostess with the mostest of the Andrew Scrivani food photography workshop.
We nibbled on hors d’œuvres as groups mingled. Clockwise from top: salumi and olives cone, fava and garlic skordalia with shallot pita, radish and chive butter toast and smoked trout devilled eggs.
The devilled eggs were very retro and the skordalia was creamy and heady with garlic. The simplicity of the radish toast was a palate cleanser.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Food (I affectionately pronounce the acronym as ‘what-ta-what-taf’) showcased the local talents of, from left to right:
* Amy Pennington of GoGoGreenGarden blog and author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening;
* Anna Roth, food and travel writer and author of West Coast Road Eats;
* Becky Selengut of Chef Reinvented blog and author of Good Fish;
* and Keren Brown of Frantic Foodie blog, founder of Foodportunity and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle.
Moderated by Amy Pennington, it was a relaxed atmosphere and a convivial panel discussion. There was much laughter at the friendly banter and the rapport between the women were endearing.
Each author also read snippets from their books. My favourite was Becky Selengut’s headnote for her tom yum goong recipe. She had me giggling that the heat rating is WGS – white girl safe.
Below are some anecdotes from each of the authors that I jotted down.
Keren Brown – Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle
* Recommended Mustafa’s harissa as her go-to flavour enhancer
* Felt strongly that tourist landmarks should be included in her guide book
Amy Pennington – Apartment Gardening
* Most people plant in pots that are too shallow for what they’re growing
* Rabbits and bees can make a small space productive (the rabbit section was omitted from her book in editing)
Anna Roth – West Coast Road Eats
* Emphasised the importance of the eateries’ context in and connection to their communities
* The thrill of eating in the moment transforms an excursion into an adventure
Becky Selengut – Good Fish
* Fish species ebb and flow; currently (pun intended) anchovies are ebbing and sardines are flowing
* Suggested mussels, clams, farm trout, squid and of course, sardines as cheap and sustainable seafood for now
I lingered for a while and moseyed across to the Palace Kitchen for supper with Myra, Kimberly and Kate McDermott, pie baker extraordinaire. The aromas of the grilled asparagus and braised pork cheeks were enticing but I opted for a dessert of chocolate Ovaltine panna cotta with cinnamon milk. Genuine conversation, delicious food - a lovely conclusion to a fun evening!
And finally, I’m proud to be the first to purchase a copy of Food Lovers’ Guide to Seattle. Where are my Post-it flags?
I take point-and-shoot literally. I was inconsolable when a valet accidentally drove over our camera last year at Auberge du Soleil (my fault, I dropped it in my haste to get out of the car). One week’s worth of photos in San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma were irrecoverable as the impact had cracked the memory card. We considered purchasing a digital SLR as a replacement but decided against it as we were one week into a three week holiday. I continued to point-and-shoot.
I have always taken photos of food – birthday dinners, Christmas meals, wedding cakes. The sharing of food is very much core to many of my happiest memories. As a novice, I realised that I needed to learn how to wield my camera as a fundamental tool to blogging and photography.
Yesterday I attended a food photography workshop by Andrew Scrivani, food photographer for the New York Times and Gilt Taste. Hosted by Myra Kohn, it was a warm introduction to the Seattle food community.
There was an abundance of food from Dahlia Bakery, Fuji Bakery, mini cupcakes, homemade marshmallows by Flora and Flying, a pavlova baked by Mirror Mirror and an array of fruits and cheeses supplied by Bon Vivant.
Pavlova is an Australian (or New Zealand if you’re Kiwi!) dessert with a baked meringue base topped with Chantilly cream and fresh fruit. Fragrant and sweet, the strawberries were the highlight. It was a lovely taste of home and reminded me of Christmas.
Toasted marshmallows are a rarity in my life, mostly because I’m not an outdoor person! Unfortunately the photo above does not accentuate the beauty of these cloud-like cubes of confection. They were strawberry and vanilla flavoured and liberally dusted with icing sugar.
Andrew showed us his essential photography equipment – main camera, backup camera, gaffer tape, reflectors and black and white cardboard in varying sizes, a light meter and clamps. He made the point that we can improvise and use what’s in our surroundings by pulling out the white backing cardboard in a Uniqlo t-shirt pack.
After a mesmerising presentation of Andrew’s photos where he talked candidly and passionately about his experience as a professional photographer and openly shared his techniques, we were keen to put theory into practice. How to manipulate light, how to create shadows, how to use props to style, how to adjust aperture for depth of field, how to calibrate exposure for the colour white - it was all new to me!
I hate spinach, I find it a vile and slimy vegetable. I don’t know what Andrew thinks of spinach as a vegetable but he said green food is notoriously difficult to photograph as the colour absorbs light. Please call the police, the asparagus stole my light.
Kimberly brought several bags of brightly coloured sweets and the aqua drops were fun to photograph. Andrew uses a macro lens and I was surprised that the food in his photographs are in tiny portions, and he and his team scour flea markets and antique stores for small props.
I spotted the cheese platter hidden behind a faux bamboo pot plant. I also loved taking photos of the bowl of strawberries as each one is shaped uniquely and the focus can be on different ones depending on how the light is reflected.
Amidst the technicality, photography is an art form. They are narratives that evoke emotions and activate your senses – the smell of herbs and spices being ground in a mortar and pestle, the sound of a sizzling barbecue, the sight of flambé on a crêpe Suzette. To me photos are moments in time, bookmarks of memories.
The workshop was insightful and I now have some basic skills to improve my photography. Sincere thanks to Myra for your hospitality, and to Andrew for your inspiration.