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Peter Levine, Executive Chef

Chef Peter Levine

Levine is a 1987 graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, under the training of Executive Chef Roberto Gerometta CMC as well as a 1985 graduate of the Diablo Valley College Hotel and Restaurant School in Pleasant Hill, California. Chef Levine has worked at many notable San Francisco restaurants including The Balboa Café, Harry's Bar and American Grill, and Blue Fox, eventually becoming the Executive Chef for Ciao Ristorante in 1992.

Chef Levine has also spent time working on the East Coast for both locations of Twenty-One Federal Restaurant in Washington, D.C. and Nantucket Island under Executive Chef Bob Kincaid. While in Washington, D.C. he apprenticed for the celebrated Michelin starred chef, Jean-Louis Palladin, in the Watergate Hotel.

In Seattle, Chef Levine has donned his knives at numerous restaurants including The Waterfront Seafood Grill, Troiani, Vivanda, Isabella, The BluWater Bistro, and Trattoria Carmine. He held the title of Chef Tournant at Columbia Hospitality properties Salish Lodge & Spa and The Bluff at Friday Harbor House. Chef Levine has taught a host of cooking classes, both private and professional, in addition to spending time as a Chef Instructor for the Art Institute of Seattle and Renton Technical College. He donates his time to numerous local and national charities and events in the Pacific Northwest.

He currently lives in West Seattle with his wife of 25 years Susan Oxholm and their two boys Axel and Henry.



Chef's Corner

Spiced Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

washing potatoes

There is something about this dish that is so satisfying. It is simple, hearty, appealing to everyone and can even be served with great presentation as well. Because this is a three-layer dish, there are a few steps that may seem somewhat time consuming. However, if timed properly this dish can be created in about 45 minutes. I would also recommend reading the recipe through a few times to note the ingredients and make sure you understand the process before you begin.

Ingredients:
2 lbs leg of lamb, cubed  
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup water
4 large russet potatoes
1 stick butter
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 cup sweet peas
Olive oil

North African Spice Blend: Mix all together
1 tsp ground toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp crushed black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground toasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Method:
Step one:
Season and sear the cubed leg of lamb meat with salt and pepper and the north African spice blend. Add diced onion and celery. Add water to the pot, cover and simmer slowly until tender. Remove from heat and reserve, covered on the side.

Step two: (start this at the same time as step one.)
Peel and cut the russet potatoes. Bring water to a boil and cook until done. Drain and let steam for one minute. Add butter, milk, kosher salt and black pepper. Mash well and reserve, covered on the side.

Step three: (this is done while things are simmering and cooking by themselves.)
Heat diced carrots, whole kernel corn and sweet peas gently in warm water in a small saucepan on the stove top and drain. Season with a pinch of salt and a touch of olive oil.

Step four:
Start building the pie in a 9x13 pyrex dish. Add the braised meat to the bottom and evenly tamp down. Add the vegetable layer, smooth out and tamp down. Next, add the mashed potatoes to the top. Spread carefully and evenly leaving lots of peaks and valleys. Put pie in the oven under the broiler until the top is crispy golden brown. 

This dish is amazing the next morning, reheated and served potato-side down in a skillet with a couple of poached eggs.

Enjoy!




Corned Beef and Cabbage

corned beef

I grew up eating this dish with my family, and as a result, I have high standards for Corned Beef and Cabbage. Another dish that is high on my list of favorites is the corned beef hash and eggs breakfast that always follows the next day. Whenever I make Corned Beef and Cabbage, I always plan for the leftovers to use in that Sunday morning breakfast.

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs of pre-corned beef
1 head of white cabbage
3 large white onions
6 large colorful carrots
5 stalks of celery
4 large russet potatoes peeled
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pickling spice in a submersible tea strainer
3/4 gallon fresh water
Chopped parsley and scallions, for garnish

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Place the beef fat side up in a shallow roasting pan filled with an inch of water. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees, and cook the beef for three hours.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, add the pickling spices and salt to remaining water and bring to a slow simmer, before removing from heat. Reserve enough water to cook the potatoes, then transfer water to another pot and add potatoes, cooking until tender (not overdone.)

Trim and cut the cabbage through the core into wedges. Repeat for the onion. Peel and artfully cut the carrots and celery into 2-inch pieces. Combine all in the pot with pickling spices and salt, and add garlic.

When the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots are all tender and perfectly cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove from the pot and allow to rest on a sheet pan. Combine potato water with the stock in the main pot.

Check that the corned beef is fork-tender, and remove to the sheet pan with the vegetables. Deglaze the roasting pan with some of the reserved stock. Return the deglazed roasting pan juices and stock combination to the stock pot. Bring to a boil and reduce by half or more to concentrate the flavors. 

To serve:
Slice the meat across the grain, and arrange the vegetables around the sliced meat. Top with a ladle of the boiling stock, and sprinkle on a garnish of chopped parsley and scallions. Add a few grinds of black pepper. Serve alongside some high-quality grain mustard or prepared horseradish.

Just after dinner, chop the remaining leftovers into 1/4 inch dices. Mix well with a handful of scallions and form into patties, then store covered in the refrigerator until the next morning. To prepare, heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a in a skillet and fry until browned on either side and fully heated through. Happy Sunday.




Colcannon a.k.a. Irish Mashed Potatoes

potatoes

This dish is rarely seen out and about, unless you are Irish, happen to be in a posh Irish bar, or dining at someone’s house in Ireland. I have yet to come across a great rendition of it stateside, but it is a versatile recipe that can be prepared simply, or spruced up and made fancy.

For every Irish cook and grandmother in the world, there is a recipe for Colcannon. My version of this recipe is yet another for you to experiment with and raise the bar in your kitchen. My recommendation would be to read the recipe a few times before diving in, so you can fully understand each of the components.

Ingredients:

4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1/2 stick of whole butter
2/3 cup milk
1 large white onion cut into 1 inch dice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups white cabbage, roughly chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 scallions, minced
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted

Method:

Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise in quarters. Cut two of the potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices across, and boil in their own separate pot until the slices are tender when tested with a knife but are not breaking apart. Drain and hold.

Cut the remaining two potatoes roughly, and boil in their own separate pot as well. When cooked through, drain and process into mashed potatoes with butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When shimmering, add the onions and garlic, cooking until just tender and they don’t take on any color. Add the cabbage and the kale, cooking slowly until wilted.

Add the sliced potatoes and heat through. Remove skillet from the heat and add the caraway seeds, parsley, scallions, salt and pepper to taste. Add another couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then remove mixture from skillet and gently fold into the hot mashed potatoes.

Colcannon is excellent served alongside just about anything, but pairs especially well with corned beef, baked ham or with slab bacon and eggs at breakfast.

Hope you enjoy it!




Icy & Spicy Calamari Salad

herbs abd knife on chopping board

I don’t see enough people eating calamari at home, mainly because the preparation is time consuming and messy. Calamari is available at some better seafood markets already cleaned and cut. Search this out and save yourself the time and mess.

Below is the recipe for a flavorful and colorful salad. Its super simple and will make the non- calamari eater perk up and have a taste. Give it a try!

Ingredients:
1 pound of cleaned calamari body and tentacles
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup each, chopped cilantro, green onions, basil & mint
2 serrano chilies, cleaned of white ribs and seeds, finely minced
1/2 cup red and yellow bell peppers, diced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Method

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Cover with plastic pressed onto the food and let marinate for at least 6 hours in the coldest part of the fridge. An hour before service, put it in the freezer and get it to the point where it is a little slushy.

I like to serve this in a martini glass with a cocktail fork and a glass of white wine or a lite beer.




Seafood Appetizers

fish plate

This recipe for Mixed Seafood Crudo is something that can be made quickly and easily. It’s a great dish to take to someone’s potluck, or for a light meal loaded with protein. The key to this dish is that the seafood is impeccably fresh.

Mixed Seafood Crudo
Ingredients:
4 oz ahi tuna sliced 1/8 in thin, kept ice cold
4 oz hamachi sliced 1/8 in thin, kept ice cold
4 oz salmon sliced 1/8 in thin, kept ice cold
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon toasted crushed coriander seeds
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon furikake seasoning
kosher salt and black pepper

Method
On a flat white platter arrange the slices of fish in an artful manner. Drizzle on the lemon juice and olive oil to coat the surfaces of the fish. Season with the remaining ingredients, insuring they are scattered evenly on the fish. At this point, the dish can be eaten, or it can be held in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. After that the lemon juice will start to “cook” the fish and the result, while still delicious, won’t look as appealing.

It is great served with a bowl of brown rice and extra furikake seasoning.




Seafood Appetizers

oysters rockefeller

This series will focus on seafood appetizers featuring ingredients easily found in the Pacific Northwest.

Cooking for and providing nourishment to anyone is perhaps the most noble job I can think of. From the simplest soup to the most elaborate meal, cooking is a gateway to friendship and is a labor of love. The more love you put into the dish, the more its recipient will feel it. No matter what you cook, for friends or family, your work transcends love.

Oysters Rockefeller is a great dish for a cold night when winter oysters are at their peak. This recipe dates to the late 1800's in New Orleans and is named after the richest man in the world because the ingredients are just that: rich. My adaptation is below.

Oysters Rockefeller (My Version)
Ingredients:
2 dozen shell fresh oysters, 2 inches wide
1 rib of celery, chopped 1/4 inch
1 cup parsley leaves
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut to 1 in slices
2 tablespoons capers
6 strips of bacon chopped and cooked. Reserve the bacon fat.
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup anise flavored liquor like Pernod
Kosher salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs, or similar

Method:
To create the sauce, heat bacon fat in a saucepan until fat begins to shimmer. Add scallions, parsley, and celery. Cook until tender and mixture just begins to sweat, about 10 minutes on low heat.

Place mixture in blender while warm. Add cooked bacon, capers, butter, anise flavored liquor, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse blender until mixture is just puréed. Pour into separate bowl and reserve until room temperature, or store in the fridge for up to two days.

Shuck the oysters, taking care to keep them upright. Be sure to capture any oyster liquor that escapes during shucking.

Top each shucked oyster with enough sauce to just cover the shell opening. Sprinkle with Panko until sauce is covered, and place in oven under broiler element until breadcrumbs are browned.

Serve immediately. This dish plays well with champagne, Chardonnay and beer.

(No, there isn't any spinach!)

Enjoy.




Simple Southern Basics

shrimp

My family usually makes shrimp and grits on occasion throughout the year. It's a great and simple late morning breakfast item. Shrimp and grits is a classic Southern dish hailing originally, as lore goes, from the low lying coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia. Designed as a breakfast dish, but it can of course be served anytime. Other classic accompaniments are fried catfish, fish croquettes, and a fried or poached egg.

Shrimp and Grits
Ingredients:

3 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup of stone ground grits
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 strips of bacon
1 lb. white Mexican shrimp, peeled, de-veined and thawed
3 lemon wedges
Kosher salt and black pepper
Cajun spice blend
Worcestershire sauce
Green onions, thinly sliced

Method:
Combine the water, milk, half the butter and some salt in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.

Whisk in the grits and continue to whisk until they are no longer falling to the bottom. Switch to a wooden spoon and simmer very slowly for about 30 minutes.

Cook the bacon strips until crispy and cut into small pieces. Save some bacon fat and heat in a skillet. Cook the shrimp, seasoning with salt, pepper, Cajun spice and a squeeze of lemon. Turn off the heat and add ¼ cup of chicken stock or water, then whisk in a couple tablespoons of butter and 2 shakes of the Worcestershire sauce. Add the bacon. Hold warm.

To finish the grits, add the cheese and stir in. Double check salt and pepper.

To serve the dish, artfully arrange the shrimp over the piping hot grits, spoon over the just boiled sauce and generously garnish with green onions.

This dish is perfect for breakfast with a fried or poached egg and some good bread.




Simple Southern Basics

fried chicken

This recipe is a must to have in your pocket. A real Southern classic. When you make this dish, your guests will start to cozy up to you hoping they'll be invited back again. Patience is important with this one. The results are incredibly crispy on the outside and super juicy on the inside. Play with the flavors of the seasoning.

Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken
Ingredients:
4 cups buttermilk
4 oz cup hot sauce
8 or 10 pieces of chicken on the bone
8 cups flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
Vegetable shortening or peanut oil, for frying

Method:
In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce. Add the chicken pieces and submerge in the buttermilk. Transfer to the refrigerator and marinate for at least 6 hours. Then, mix all the spices and flour together and set aside for tomorrow.

When you're ready to cook the chicken, line your pans with parchment and cooling racks. Get a brown paper bag and add the flour mixture. Heat the cast iron skillet to 325 degrees. Use a thermometer to check the temperature.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk, allowing any excess to drain off. Place in the brown paper bag and shake to completely coat the chicken with flour mixture. Remove the chicken from the bag, tap off excess flour, and let rest for 15 minutes on the rack.

When the oil is hot, add the legs and thighs first and cook for a few minutes before adding the rest. Fry the chicken, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.

When the chicken has finished cooking, transfer to prepared pans and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.




Simple Southern Basics

fresh dough and rolling pin

The classic dinner roll. Southern cuisine in America is comfort food. If you study up on the famous chefs of the South, you’ll no doubt come across Miss Edna Lewis. She was a renowned Southern chef. Her cookbooks captured the essence of the South and set the agenda for modern Southern cuisine. I have several of her books and when needed I find solace in cooking her dishes. A big part of the Southern meal is the dinner roll. If you don’t have a recipe close at hand or memorized, then this is the one. Dinner rolls are better served hot. If you make them early, you’ll need to reheat them. Sometimes a small amount of mashed potato added to the recipe will help the rise and make the bread more tender. These rolls have outstanding flavor and are light and fluffy. Don’t forget to brush with melted butter on the way to the table.

The Classic Dinner Roll
1 large russet potato (peeled and cut 1”)
2 oz unsalted butter, divided and melted
4 oz whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
3 scant cups all-purpose flour

Method:
Cook the potato in water until tender (save 1 cup of the water) then mash well and hold warm. Add to them the milk, salt and sugar and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Leave a little lumpy.
Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm potato water. Let stand until it froths a little. Stir yeast mixture into potato mixture, then stir in flour with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour to the board and your hands. Knead for 10 minutes.
Brush a large bowl with some of remaining melted butter. Turn dough in bowl to coat with some butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
Punch down dough and divide in two. Roll each half into a 12-inch-long log. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls. Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Arrange evenly spaced in 6 rows of 4 not quite touching. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled (they will fill pan), 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Brush top of rolls with melted butter and bake until golden-brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer rolls to a rack and cool slightly.
Rolls are best the day they're baked. You can freeze the balls of dough for later use




Holiday Beverage Series – Eggnog 101

eggnog and cinnamon sticks

You're either firmly in Camp Eggnog, or you're not. If you are a fan, then continue reading. (Even if you're not, you might be after reading this recipe!)

I will say that eggnog is usually all to taste. You'll just need to follow the basic technique for putting it together, then the combination of ingredients you use and like will make your own batch custom and delicious.

My recipe is basic and simple, and has all the flavor you love without being overly thick and rich. It's easy to make and will hold in the fridge up to a week. I recommend you make it ahead of time, as the flavors will meld and become velvety smooth.

This recipe will make about 6 servings.

Eggnog
Ingredients
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 cups half & half
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups Captain Morgan rum
Freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of salt

Method:

  • Place the 6 separated egg whites in a bowl, and reserve in the fridge until serving time.
  • Heat the half and half in a small saucepan gently until you see a wisp of steam off the surface.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the yolks with the sugar and honey and beat until thick and pale.
  • Add the hot half and half to the yolk mixture and whisk well to combine.
  • Add the coconut milk, the rum, and a pinch of salt. Refrigerate and cool completely.
  • When ready to serve, whip the reserved egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold whipped egg whites into fully cooled eggnog base, pour into serving glasses, and garnish each with a fresh grating of nutmeg.

Surf the yule tides!




Holiday Beverage Series – Mulled Wine

pot of spiced wine

Nothing speaks volumes to the holidays more than mulled wine. Mulled wine is also known as glühwein, vino caliente, glögg, vin brulé, bisschopswijn, vin chaud, candola, vinho quente…or hundreds of other names, depending on where you live. Just about everyone in the world loves some hot wine. It's the perfect traveling beverage for the game, sleigh ride, or the walk around the block.

This one is a favorite as it's spiked with a little brandy. It's a traditional recipe that is incredibly easy to make, plus it's cozy and delicious.

This recipe will make the equivalent to one bottle of wine.

Mulled Wine
Ingredients
1 (750 ml) bottle of red wine
1 orange, sliced into rounds
9 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup brandy
Optional garnishes: citrus slices (orange, lemon and/or lime), extra cinnamon sticks, extra star anise

Method

  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and heat barely to a simmer over medium-high heat. DO NOT BOIL
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let the wine simmer for at least 15 minutes or up to 3 hours.
  • Strain, and serve warm with your desired garnishes.

You could also place the oranges, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise in a cheesecloth. Then strain and pull out the bundle when ready to serve.




Short Days & Long Nights Super Side Dish Series - Roasted Golden Beet, Pickled Red Onion, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad

fresh vegetables

The Farmers Markets in Seattle are bursting with produce right now as fall harvests from Eastern Washington arrive by the truckload. This fun, simple, and tasty salad will liven up your usual greens, and bring color to your holiday buffet.

Here is your next show stopping side dish for your holiday menu.

Roasted Golden Beet, Pickled Red Onion, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad
Ingredients
6 baseball sized golden beets
2 red onions
1 teaspoon pickling spice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup fresh water
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 arbol chiles
Large bowl of arugula
4-6 ounces of goat cheese
A few splashes of sherry wine vinegar
A few drizzles of good olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and kosher sea salt to taste
Chopped chives, for garnish

Method

  • Early in the day, trim the beets and wrap individually with foil. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake beets for an hour to an hour and a half. The beets will be done when a knife slides in easily. Make sure to not overcook (no one likes a mushy beet!)
  • Unwrap beets and allow to cool before peeling. Beets may be used immediately, or stored in the fridge for up to three days.
  • While the beets are baking, peel and slice the onions through the axis, turn, and cut 1/4 inch slices.
  • Combine apple cider vinegar, water, spices, chiles and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a boil before turning off the heat. Let the mixture settle, then pour off the liquid, taking care to hold back the spices in the saucepan. Add the sliced onions, cover the saucepan, and leave to marinate a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Meanwhile, wash, trim and dry the arugula. Crumble the goat cheese into bite size chunks. Slice the peeled beets into manageable sized pieces and remove desired amount of onions from the pickling juice.
  • To serve, either combine beets, cheese, arugula, and onions in a salad bowl or layer onto a platter. Dress with splashes of sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped chives if desired.

As always, relax and enjoy your time cooking!




Short Days & Long Nights Super Side Dish Series - Corn and Green Chile Casserole

roaster corn

I am usually prone to only using produce which is in season. In August, I prepped for this dish and grilled thirty ears of fresh corn before cutting the kernels off the cob and storing them in the freezer. At the farmer's market I bought all sorts of peppers during the summer and roasted them over a hot fire, before bagging them up to freeze as well. Sometimes you can and should take advantage of great canned and frozen products. If you haven't bought in season, there is quality frozen and canned corn and chiles to be found in most local grocery stores. This casserole is classic comfort food, with a southwestern flavor profile that provides a nice departure from the norm.

Here is your next show stopping side dish for your holiday menu. Enjoy!

Corn and Green Chile Casserole
Ingredients:
3 eggs
2 cups cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup of white onions, diced 1/4 inch
2 ounces olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
5 cups corn
2 cups diced green chiles
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely sliced green onion whites
4 ounces melted butter
1 1/2 cups Ritz crumbled crackers
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Method

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray or butter a 9x13 casserole dish. Beat the eggs, add the cream and brown sugar, and mix until incorporated. Reserve.
  • Mix the 4 ounces of melted butter evenly with the crumbled Ritz crackers and reserve.
  • Meanwhile, sautée the onions in the olive oil until translucent and they begin to release their liquid. Add the cumin seeds and chili powder to the onions, turn up the heat to bloom the spices. Add the corn and the chiles, stir until warm, then reduce heat to low.
  • Mix in the grated cheese, green onions, and half of the cracker mixture to the warm corn mixture and add to the dish. Pour the egg, cream, and brown sugar mixture over the top, before sprinkling the remaining cracker mixture on top.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly puffed.

Let cool, then garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions. Most importantly, relax and enjoy your time cooking!




Short Days & Long Nights Super Side Dish Series - Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Mostarda Di Cremona

brussels sprouts

Some save the best for last, but I would rather start with it. For your next show stopping side dish, holiday menu addition, or potluck item, look no further than this brussel sprouts recipe.

I have cooked brussel sprouts so many ways with success, but this recipe somehow makes people go wild: it's the legendary mostarda di Cremona. Elusive and hard to find, mostarda is Northern Italian. Consisting of candied fruit in mustard syrup, this is the classic condiment for Northern Italy's famed bollito misto.

Here is your next show stopping side dish for your holiday menu. Enjoy!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta & Mostarda Di Cremona
Ingredients:
1 stalk of brussel sprouts or 2 pounds picked
1 small white onion
10 oz diced pancetta
1/2 cup mostarda, chopped 1/4 in.
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Quality olive oil

Method:

  • Heat the oven to 400° F
  • Cook the diced pancetta until crispy, then drain, remove from the pan, and reserve.
  • In the rendered pancetta fat, saut&eacture;e the diced white onion until it slightly changes color. Remove from the pan and reserve.
  • Chop the mostarda and allow to sit at room temperature.
  • Trim the brussel sprouts and cut them in halves. Add brussel sprouts to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, drizzle all over with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and poke 'em around a little with a wooden spoon or spatula. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they're a little tender and browning around the edges.
  • When the sprouts come out of the oven, sprinkle with onions, pancetta, and mostarda. Give 'em a little poke around again. Pick up the edges of the parchment and slide the mix into your serving dish. Add more salt and pepper if needed, then serve good and hot.



My Grandmother's Summer Soup Series – Spiced Crookneck Squash Soup

gourds

As fall approaches, a few crookneck squash start to emerge in the garden, perfect for an autumn soup. This spiced and chilled soup is a great reminder that fall is right around the corner and oh so satisfying.

Spiced Crookneck Squash Soup
Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic smashed and chopped
10 yellow crookneck squash,
2 white onions, peeled and cut to 3/4 in cubes
8 each large roma tomatoes, washed and
1 gallon fresh water or light chicken stock
3 tablespoons kosher salt or more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
Chopped mint, fresh parsley, green onions and chives to garnish
Sour cream or crème fraiche optional

Method:
In a thick bottomed soup pot, gently heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, squash and spices all at once. Keep the flame moderate and slowly cook until the onions are softened and tender. Add the water or stock. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook slowly until softened (about 20 more minutes). Make sure it's seasoned how you like with salt and pepper. Balance the flavors with the lemon or lime juice at the end.

To serve, ladle heaps of the soup into a bowl. Add the dollop of sour cream and plenty of the fresh herbs!




My Grandmother's Summer Soup Series – Cabbage Soup

cabbage

In September the gardens are starting to wind down. All of the soft vegetables should be harvested and plans for the winter crops have been decided. Cabbages of all kinds are ready for picking. This highly under-rated veggie is perfect for fresh sauerkraut and seasonal soups. This simple soup recipe is sure to be satisfying!

Cabbage Soup
Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves of garlic smashed and chopped
2 yellow onions
4 ribs of celery cut bite size
1 gallon of chopped white cabbage
2 cups sliced potato (peeled russets work well)
4 each large soup tomatoes
1 gallon fresh water or light chicken stock
3 tablespoons kosher salt or more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, green onions and chives
Sour cream (optional)

Method:
In a thick bottomed soup pot, gently heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion and celery all at once. Keep the flame moderate and slowly cook until the onions are melted and tender. Add a 1/2 cup of water if it's getting too hot. Cook for about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and tomatoes and cook slowly until softened (about 20 more minutes).

Add the stock or water and salt. Bring to a simmer then add the potatoes. Simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked and slightly broken. At this point, make sure it's seasoned as you like it.

To serve, ladle heaps pf the soup into a bowl with plenty of broth. Add the dollop of sour cream if you like and don't forget plenty of chives, green onion and parsley for extra garnish and flavor!




My Grandmother's Summer Soup Series – Chilled Potato Leek Soup

sliced leeks

In August, gardens are still pumping out lots of vegetables. If you're lucky enough to get your leeks planted early, then you'll find them quite mature and ready to be pureed into a vichyssoise. Any other variation of this simple soup is commonly referred to as chilled potato leek soup. My grandmother's recipe for combining potatoes and leeks makes for a meal that takes you back to another time. The variations on this soup are vast, but most people serve it in a pureed form. Personally, I enjoy the chunky style with lots of great bites of potato and leek!

Vichyssoise (Chilled Potato Leek Soup)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 cups chopped leeks (washed well)
2 ribs of celery cut bite size
1 cup chopped white onion
4 cups sliced coin size Yukon gold potato (peeled)
1 gallon light chicken stock or fresh water
3 tablespoons kosher salt or more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream or sour cream or crème fraîche (optional)

Method:
In a thick bottomed soup pot, gently heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, celery and leeks all at once. Keep the flame moderate and slowly cook until the leeks are melted and tender. Add a ½ cup of water if it's getting too hot. Cook for about 20 minutes.

Add the stock or water and salt. Bring to a simmer and then add the potatoes. Simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked and slightly broken. At this point, make sure it's seasoned as you like it. Transfer the soup to the fridge to chill. Sometimes I put it in the freezer after it's chilled if I want it to be extra cold.

To serve, add the cream to the batch if you'd like or just add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, this make for a rich and luxurious soup. Don't forget plenty of chives. To take it up a notch, add a couple ounces of fresh crab or lobster.



My Grandmother's Summer Soup Series – Chilled Zucchini Soup

zucchini

If you are lucky enough, there's nothing better than heading out to the country and visiting your grandmother. Mine lived quite a ways from town on a large property with amazing gardens. I remember constantly getting lost on the pathways that wound their way around the seemingly endless rows of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

This series will highlight the summer soups she made which we enjoyed most Sundays all summer long.

In June and July the soft squash goes crazy. The plants are prolific and with proper care can yield many pounds of fruit. Zucchini, both the green and yellow varieties flourish during this time. To take advantage of this bounty she made a very simple chilled soup with a combination of both varieties. To this day, decades later, I still love to make and eat this soup, simply called, Chilled Zucchini Soup with Crème Fraîche. It reminds me of her and that farm every time.

Chilled Zucchini Soup
Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large white onion
5 large green zucchini
5 large yellow zucchini
1 gallon light chicken stock or fresh water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk

Method:
Start with the crème fraîche. Use a whisk to combine the cream and buttermilk. Leave the mixture out on the counter for 24 hours and then refrigerate. Treat this as sour cream, giving it good stir before each use. The longer it sits out in a warm room the firmer it will be when cold.

For the soup, finely dice the onion and gently sweat in the olive oil until translucent. Meanwhile, wash, trim and grate the zucchinis on a box grater using the largest holes. (Think hash brown potatoes.) Set aside.

Add the chicken stock or fresh water to the pot along with the salt. Bring to a simmer and add in the zucchini. Bring back to a boil and turn off. Check the taste for salt and pepper, adjusting as desired. Cool the soup as quickly as possible and hold very cold until ready to serve.

Serve the soup well chilled in cold bowls, topping with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and a good pinch of chopped chives or green onion.



Building Foundations - The Mother Sauce Series – Espagnole Sauce

brown sauce

We now move on to the last of the five "Mother Sauces" that have long served as the foundation of European, particularly French, kitchens: Espagnole Sauce. This rich, luscious brown sauce is the basis of literally hundreds of other sauces. By adding a roux and some tomato and herbs to the classic brown stock, it becomes a rich brown sauce that, after extended simmering, becomes a classic demi-glace – and subsequently hundreds of derivative sauces.

Espagnole Sauce is prepared in a two-step process. Step one is preparation of a classic brown stock.

Classic Brown Stock

Ingredients:
15 lbs veal bones, 4 large carrots, ½ head celery, 4 large onions, 5 gallons water, 1 cup tomato paste (or an equal amount of tomato products), ½ gallon red wine

Method:
Roast the bones at 425 degrees until deep dark golden colors develop. Carefully remove them from the pan to the stock pot. Discard the fat. Add a small amount of water to the roasting pan and scrape the caramelized bits and include in the pot. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot with the vegetables cut into large pieces. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Continue to barely simmer for about 12-18 hours if possible. Skim residue that forms on the surface. Strain carefully into a bucket and cool as quickly as possible.

Notes:

  • Intensifying the color of the brown stock through caramelization and richness of the stock by adding umami flavors from ingredients such as mushroom stems will make a better stock and result in a great demi-glace.
  • The 5 gallons of water combined with the other ingredients produces about 4 gallons of the stock.

Now on to step two and the actual Espagnole Sauce.

Espagnole Sauce

Ingredients:
5 oz. clarified butter, 3 carrots, 3 ribs celery, 2 onions, ½ cup flour, 1 bay leaves, 1 sprig fresh thyme, ½ small can tomato paste, 1 cup white wine, the brown stock

Method:
In a clean sauce pot, cook the vegetables in the butter slowly until deep dark golden colors develop. Add the tomato paste and herbs, then the white wine and cook until fairly dry. Add the flour, combining to form the roux and cooking until flour taste disappears. Add 2 gallons of the brown stock. Stir together gently. Bring just to a boil and turn down to simmer for 5 hours, skimming off the butter and impurities. Strain through a fine strainer taking care not to crush the vegetables through the strainer. Transfer into a clean pot. From here, strain again and add another ¾ gallon of brown stock to the pot. Continue to carefully skim, strain and reduce until demi-glace appears. Taste for seasoning.

Notes:

  • The stock produced during the first steop reduces to approximately 4 to 5 cups of demi-glace.
  • Finished Espagnole Sauce can be portioned into ice cube trays (or similar) and refrigerated for in future sauces.


Building Foundations - The Mother Sauce Series Continued - Hollandaise Sauce

eggs

Let's move on to hollandaise sauce. The term hollandaise implies that it is from Holland which you discover is partly true when reading about the history and origins of food. There are derivatives of the sauce mentioned in cookbooks dating back to the 1500's. Holland did play a part in the development of this sauce as Dutch migrants arrived in France through the ages with the butters and cheeses of Holland.

Hollandaise is the sauce everyone fears making. It is quite simple if you follow the one guideline: control your heat. If the process is too hot, the eggs will curdle and your sauce will "break" or separate. Below is a standard recipe.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon minced shallot, 12 cracked peppercorns, 2 sprigs thyme, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ cup good vinegar, 3 egg yolks, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 sticks of butter melted and skimmed of the froth, optional cayenne to taste.

Method:
Combine the shallot, peppercorns, thyme, salt and vinegar in a saucepan. Simmer until all the liquid is nearly gone, almost dry. Add ¼ cup of fresh water, bring to a quick boil then strain this mixture into a bowl set over simmering water. Add the yolks and the lemon juice. Whisk this mixture, cooking, until it has doubled in volume and begins to get thick as the heat cooks the eggs. Whisk in the butter slowly until you have a mayonnaise like consistency. Add a few drops of warm water if the mixture become too thick or begins to separate. Control the heat. It's your enemy here. You're not making scrambled eggs.

Hold this in a warm spot until ready to use. It shouldn't sit out for more than a few hours.

Below are just some of the classic French sauces derived from this mother sauce. Each begins with hollandaise sauce, but your interpretations can take them in any direction you choose.

Béarnaise sauce: dry tarragon replaces thyme in the reduction and finished with fresh tarragon
Choron sauce: béarnaise without tarragon plus added tomato purée
Foyot sauce: béarnaise with reduced demi-glace added
Café de Paris sauce: béarnaise with curry powder added
Paloise sauce: béarnaise with mint substituted for tarragon
Sauce au Vin Blanc (for fish): hollandaise with reduced white wine and fish stock
Bavaroise sauce: hollandaise with added cream, horseradish, and thyme
Moutarde sauce: hollandaise with Dijon mustard
Maltaise sauce: hollandaise to which blanched orange zest and blood orange juice is added
Mousseline sauce: hollandaise into which whipped cream is folded



Building Foundations - The Mother Sauce Series Continued - Velouté Sauce

wooden spoons

Let’s continue our series with velouté sauce. The term velouté is derived from the French word velour, meaning velvet, as this sauce has just that texture. Made by using a light stock, typically chicken or fish, and usually thickened with roux, the name of the sauce matches the name of the stock used (e.g. chicken velouté). The daughter sauces created with this base are endless.

Like béchamel, velouté starts with a roux. The main difference between the two sauces is that velouté uses stock as a liquid while béchamel calls for milk.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Velouté

2 cups of rich chicken or fish stock
Note: strong concentrated flavors in the stock will make for a tastier end result
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and add the flour. Mix and cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes until the mixture develops a golden color. Whisk in the stock slowly until the mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer if necessary.

Listed below are some of the daughter sauces derived from velouté. Look up individual recipes for the exact portions you’ll need to create these sauces for a variety of dishes.

White wine sauce: add white wine, heavy cream, and lemon juice.
Sauce allemande: use veal or chicken with the addition of a few drops of lemon, cream, and egg yolk.
Sauce Normandy: fish and add mushroom and oyster liquids along with cream and egg yolks.
Sauce ravigote: add lemon juice and white wine vinegar, sautéed shallots, and mustard.
Sauce poulette: any variation with mushrooms, parsley and lemon juice.
Supreme sauce: use chicken and add mushroom liquor and cream.
Sauce Bercy: ​fish velouté with a reduced base of white wine, shallots, lemon juice and parsley.

These examples of French classics show how daughter sauces are derived using a mother sauce. Your interpretations can take them in any direction you choose!

 


Building Foundations – The Mother Sauce Series Continued

steaming pot

Let's continue our series with Béchamel. This milk based, roux-thickened sauce is the foundation to classic cream sauces, including cheese sauce or mornay in French. Cream sauces should never be too thick or lumpy, but rather smooth and perfectly coating. Béchamel works well with vegetable, egg, gratin, and pasta dishes.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Béchamel

4 cups milk
2 oz butter
2 oz flour
1/2 cup yellow onion, medium dice
5 spice cloves
pinch cayenne
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
black or white pepper

Heat the milk until just steaming. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for a few minutes, stirring on medium heat. Add in the milk one cup at a time, whisking until smooth with each addition. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat slightly, stirring several times for 30 minutes. When finished, strain the sauce through a fine strainer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use right away or cool.

Tip:
If cooling, melt a thin layer of butter or olive oil on the surface to prevent a skin from forming or press the plastic wrap right onto the surface.

 


Building Foundations - The Mother Sauce Series

heirloom tomatoes

Mother sauces are the foundation of French and European kitchens, they are the base for every sauce and have been in use for centuries in various forms. Without them, cooking would be tedious. Every chef uses them and each has their own interpretation of the recipe. The five sauces are tomato, béchamel, velouté, hollandaise and espagnole or brown sauce. Our series will begin with tomato sauce as it is the great basic foundation sauce with Italian origins. I have been using this recipe for years with raving reviews. The process is simple and the results are silky and not acidic.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Classic Italian-style Tomato Sauce

1 can tomatoes - #10 can 109oz (puréed and strained of seeds)
1 large onion (very finely minced)
10 garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil

Heat the oil and add onions, cooking until softened. Add garlic and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to sauce consistency. When done, pull to cool and add a stalk of basil.

Tip:
Check if your sauce is reduced enough by adding a tablespoon of the sauce onto a plate. If the sauce carries water to the edges, then continue simmering until very little water is released from the edges of the sauce.

 


Fall Flavors

fall colors

Nothing says comfort food like a simple one-pot meal. Fall is here, so take advantage of the tail-end of farmers market harvests and enjoy seasonal flavors. This simple vegetable curry will shine at the table with a pot of steamed rice as a main meal or a great addition to any pot luck.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Vegetable Curry

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small red chili or serrano pepper
3 tablespoons red curry paste
4 cups sweet potato, skin removed + cubed
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more to taste
1 heaping teaspoon ground turmeric
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen green peas
3-4 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1 lemon, juiced
Thai (or regular) basil
fresh cilantro
brown rice or quinoa or other grain and/or steamed broccoli florets 

Heat a large pot over medium heat, add oil, shallot, ginger, garlic, and pepper. Sauté until soft with no color. Add the curry paste and sweet potato, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes to get everything heated up.Add the coconut milk, maple syrup, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and pepper, mix well. Bring to simmer and cook until the potatoes are halfway cooked. If too thick, add a couple of ounces of water to help thin. Once the potatoes are softened, add kale, cashews, peas and lemon juice, cover. Simmer for a few minutes more over low heat until the potatoes are cooked and the kale is wilted. Double check the seasonings and adjust to your preference.

Serve over rice, quinoa or the grain of your liking, or steamed broccoli. Garnish with herbs and lemon juice.

 


A Summer Staple

beach sunset

My Super Couscous is the perfect dish for those last-minute picnics, pot lucks or camping trips. This dish is a great stand-by classic that can be enjoyed any time, especially in the summer. You can prepare the dish quickly, it's inexpensive, satisfying and super tasty. My couscous will be the star when you add it to the buffet or as a side to a lamb dish or vegetable stew. You can easily have the ingredients mixed together packed to go, along with the couscous and prepare the dish anywhere. Experiment and add other ingredients as well!

Cheers,
Chef Levine

My Super Couscous
Makes about 4 servings
1 cup couscous (uncooked)
¼ cup carrot (grated)
¼ cup almonds (toasted, salted, chopped)
¼ cup raisins (soaked)
¼ cup apricots (soaked)
¼ cup dried cranberries (soaked)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon madras style curry
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup roughly chopped basil
½ cup roughly chopped mint
½ cup fine sliced green onions

In a bowl combine the couscous with almost 1 cup of slightly salted boiling water. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and gently toss in the ingredients. Enjoy!

 


Summer Flavors

hydranga

Summer is here and a slow-roasted pork roast on the BBQ or in the oven, served with melted shallots and local peaches, is the perfect summer dish. I hope you enjoy this meal with friends and family.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Roast Pork with Shallots and Yakima Peaches
6 lbs pork roast
seasoning salt (recipe below)
5 shallots
1 small red onion
3 cloves of garlic
4  peaches (not too ripe) cut into large pieces
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Talaris Super Seasoning Salt
measure all by weight
12 oz Diamond Crystal kosher salt
2.5 oz granulated garlic
2.5 oz granulated onion
2.5 oz black pepper
¼ oz smoked paprika
pinch cayenne

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Allow the pork roast to sit out for an hour before cooking. Season well with the seasoning salt. Place in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until an internal thermometer reads 155 degrees on the inside and the color is a nice golden brown. Pull the roast and let rest. Save all of the juice and set aside. While the pork is in the oven, brown the shallots, onion and garlic gently in a sauce pot. Add the peaches and cook slowly until everything is softened, happy and bubbling. Turn off the heat and add the herbs and the juices from the pork. Swirl in the butter and check the seasoning, adjust if necessary.

Blend well. Share with friends!

 


Sweet, Sour, and Spicy

plums

Regardless of where you live in the world, you can use many different condiments to highlight your meal. Chutney is one of the more unique options. Originating in India, this method of food preservation was used by both Roman and British empires. "Chutney" refers to fresh and pickled preparations. This British-style chutney will be sweet, sour, and spicy. I always have a small batch of this in my fridge, it goes very well with roasted pork or chicken. It's also great on an English muffin with breakfast!

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Mixed Fruit Chutney
2 oranges
2 red apples
1 green apple
2 plums or 6 dried prunes
2 peaches or 2 cups frozen
1 raw mango or 2 cups frozen
2 tablespoons raisins
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
1 teaspoon red chili powder
½  teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom seeds

Combine the fresh fruit, dried fruit, sugar, vinegar, water, chilis, and salt in a heavy-bottom sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until thickened, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool in the fridge until set. Transfer to smaller jars or crocks and cover tightly.

 


Spring Flavors

garden flowers

April is a tough month for the garden in the Pacific Northwest. If you are a gardener or farmer's market shopper, you may see a lack of ingredients at the market during this specific time of year. Luckily this risotto features a few items that should be available in the markets today. I can serve four people a side dish size portion of this delicious risotto, there is plenty to go around!

"AAA" Risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup minced onion
1 cup of Arborio Rice
½ glass of the white wine you're drinking
4 cups of vegetable stock or lightly salted water or chicken stock
½ cup artichoke hearts
¾ cup asparagus
1 cup arugula leaves
3 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup good quality Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons each parsley, chives and green onion
2 tablespoons cold butter
½ teaspoon lemon zest

Prepare the artichokes in advance or use some bottoms from the can. Trim and cut the asparagus. Wash and roughly chop the arugula leaves. Freshly grate the Parmesan cheese. Prep your herbs and zest the lemon.

In your small thick bottomed sauce pot, sweat the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the rice and toast slightly, then saturate with white wine, stirring until absorbed.  Add boiling stock. Cook the rice as directed on packaging.  When the rice is just past al dente, add the remaining ingredients in the order as they appear in the above list. Lastly stir in the cold butter and the lemon zest to finish.
Serve immediately with extra cheese grated over the top.

 


Board Dressing 101

sterak and spices

It's time to dust off your BBQ and get ready for spring. Board dressings are an excellent way to showcase your grilled food and enhance the flavor levels of your grilled favorites instantly. If you practice your board dressings now, they will be perfected just in time for grilling season. The combinations are endless and the flavors you create will make for a memorable meal.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

kosher salt
6 sprigs of parsley
5 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary needles
1 sprig of oregano leaves
2 garlic cloves
Zest of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil

"Rough up" your steaks by making slight scores on them across the surface of the steak. Sprinkle steaks generously with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Let steaks rest for one hour with salt on surface. After one hour, rinse salt from steaks and pat dry.

Grill the steaks to your desired doneness.

When the steaks are ready to come off the grill, mince herbs and aromatics, sprinkling on salt and pepper. Next douse the entire herb pile with several tablespoons of olive oil, directly on your cutting board. Place freshly grilled steaks on top of board dressing, and spoon half of dressing on top of the steaks. Let steaks rest a few minutes in board dressing then slice, if desired, and serve. I like to add some chopped grilled red onions or maybe a hot green chili or some crushed pepper flakes. The combinations are endless.



Weekday Comfort Food

beef brisket

February is my birthday month and to me, that means comfort food. This recipe will make your slow cooker really shine, especially on a chilly week night. I usually make my brisket a day ahead, let it chill overnight, scrape away the hardened fat with a spoon, then reheat gently in a covered dish in the oven. Brisket has some of the richest natural flavor of any cut of meat. It needs very little other than a good sear and a small mountain of lightly caramelized onions for something to spoon on top. For liquid, I cook the brisket in beef broth (although chicken broth will do fine) and a touch of Worcestershire and soy sauce. Together they melt with the meat juices into a velvety rich sauce for you to spoon over thick slices of brisket. Comfort food is served!

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Slow Cooker Braised Beef Brisket with Caramelized Onions

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds yellow or red onions (about 2 large onions), sliced
3 1/2 pounds beef brisket 
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups beef or chicken broth 
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or Bloody Mary Seasoning
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Slightly caramelize the onions, hold on the side. Season the meat with plenty of salt and pepper and sear to a dark brown on all sides. Add to the slow cooker, fat side up. Cover the meat with the onions, garlic, broth and seasonings. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the brisket is very tender. If eating right away, let brisket rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes before serving. If serving later, let the meat cool then refrigerate overnight. Before reheating, scrape away and discard the layer of fat that has formed around the meat.

To reheat, set oven temperature at 300°F. Transfer the brisket and juice to a baking dish and cover tightly with a lid or two layers of foil. Warm in the oven for 1 to 1 ½   hours or until warmed through (time will depend greatly on the size and shape of the brisket). I love to serve this with either mashed potatoes or soft cheesy polenta and a heap of braised greens.



Warm Winter Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Are you looking to stay warm this winter? Nothing is more satisfying this time of year than creamy, intensely flavored soup. Some of my favorites are cauliflower and Vichyssoise, however none can compare to this soup made with Jerusalem artichokes. I hope you enjoy this delicious winter staple.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
2 lbs Jerusalem artichokes
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock, plus extra, if needed
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream, plus extra, if needed
8 oz pancetta or smoked bacon
8 cooked, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped

Peel the artichokes and cut them into ¼ inch chunks. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and add onion. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover and sweat for 10 minutes, then add the artichokes, some seasoning and a splash more water. Cover and sweat for 15 more minutes. Check every so often to make sure the vegetables are not burning - you may need to add another splash of water. Add the stock, nutmeg and cream, and more seasoning if necessary. Cook for another 10 minutes. Leave to cool. Once cooled, purée in batches in a blender for smooth consistency. If it's not smooth enough after blending, push mixture through a sieve - it's laborious but does produce a better texture. Taste for seasoning, and judge whether you need to add any more cream or stock (or water). Just before serving, fry the pancetta in its own fat until golden all over. Quickly sauté the chestnuts until glossy in the bacon fat. Spoon some pancetta and chestnuts over each serving.

Can also be served with sautéed wild mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil instead of the chestnuts and pancetta. 



A Healthy Holiday Alternative

chard

Combat holiday sweets with a healthy meal option that your family is sure to love. Chard is a vegetable available all winter long and with its taste, color and vibrancy, it can highlight all of your holiday meals.

Happy Holidays,
Chef Levine

Rainbow Chard Soup / Makes 2 quarts
2 tablespoons butter
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and roughly cut
10 scallions, roots trimmed, white and light green parts chopped, reserve the green for garnish
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, stem removed, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
3 cups fresh water
2 bunches rainbow chard, stems removed and reserved, leaves chopped
2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 handful of baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Warm butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped fennel, scallion, garlic and jalapeño, and sauté until it all starts to soften. Add coconut milk, water, rainbow chard leaves and salt, and cook until the leaves are tender. Carefully blend the soup until smooth with a handful of spinach to help the vibrant green. Season to taste with a small amount of lemon juice or good quality vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Optional but highly recommended toppings for garnishing: Greek yogurt (or crème fraîche or sour cream), toasted chopped almonds, toasted coconut flakes, sliced scallion greens or pickled chard stems (see recipe below).

Pickled Chard Stems
Stems from 1 bunch of rainbow chard, ends trimmed
Flavorings: fennel frond, fennel seed, garlic, red chili flakes
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Cut each stem into a 1/4-inch dice, separating the white/yellow pieces and the red/pink pieces into different bowls. In the bowl with the white and yellow stems, add a few reserved fennel fronds and a small pinch of fennel seeds. In the bowl with the red and pink stems, add 1/2 a garlic clove and a small pinch of red chili flakes.

In a small saucepan, warm vinegar, water, salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, let bubble for one minute and then remove from heat. Divide the liquid between the two bowls, and let stems pickle for one hour before serving. Hold pickled chard stems covered in the refrigerator for up to one month.



A Simple and Delicious Thanksgiving Staple

roast turkey

One of the most important days of the year for food is almost here and whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or are a guest in someone's home, don't spoil the opportunity to impress your family and friends.

Homemade rolls are a staple Thanksgiving item and this classic recipe is simple and satisfying. It can easily be doubled or tripled and if you are concerned about your hectic schedule around the holidays, the dough balls can be made ahead of time and frozen. Let thaw and rise and bake according to the instructions below for perfect rolls every time.

Cheers,
Chef Levine

Parker House Rolls
1 1/4 cups whole milk 110° F
1 stick butter (4 ounces) melted
1 large egg
4 cups all-purpose flour + a little more
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine the milk, butter and egg in a bowl. Combine the remaining dry ingredients in the mixer or on the counter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead for about 8 minutes. If the dough is sticky, add flour, a little at a time, until it pulls away from the sides of the counter. Form a tight ball and cover, let rise until doubled. Next, divide into 2 sections and roll each section into a 12" log. Divide the logs into 12 sections and roll each into a tight ball. Set the 24 balls on a sheet pan leaving a ½ inch between each roll. Let rolls rise until doubled. Brush generously with more melted butter, sprinkle the tops with a little kosher salt and bake at 350° F until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm with butter.



A Cool Fall Salad

gourds

Fall means all things pumpkin, squash, gourds and hearty stews. One dish comes to mind in particular this time of year, a cold Tuscan Spaghetti Squash Salad. This dish is the perfect transition from summer and a welcomed dish for the fall season.

Cheers,
Chef Peter

Tuscan Spaghetti Squash Salad
2 spaghetti squash
1/2 cup pine nuts lightly toasted and salted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta or bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery and picked leaves
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut off the ends of the squash and then cut lengthwise. Place squash onto a Pyrex dish, cut side down. Add enough water to come up ½ an inch on the sides of the baking dish. Bake 30 minutes. Take out of the oven, drain water and let cool enough to handle.

Once cooled enough to handle, scrape out the meat with a spoon, working from the sides. The squash will still be slightly raw and crunchy. Separate all of the strands and cool in the fridge.

To serve, mix the squash gently with the above ingredients and serve cold.



Power Up with Power Bowls

carrots and lettuce

I'm loving these long summer days and mild temperatures. The gentle heat paired with chilly evenings is hard to beat, especially when there are still beautiful flowers to smell and bright stars to admire. The big harvest moon is quite lovely too! To make the most of these final summer days, I've got a couple delicious "power bowls" up my sleeve. Whether you're choosing veggies from your own garden bed or the local farmer's market, these recipes will get you on the fast track to healthy living. They are great dishes to share or keep the leftovers for lunch on the go. Follow the guidelines below, the amounts of ingredients to use is up to you.

Cheers,
Chef Peter

The Beautifier Power Bowl
Chop a head of broccoli into florets. Toss with grape seed oil or vegetable oil along with some finely diced shallot, fresh lime juice, Sambal chili paste, and a touch of fish sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine in bowl then add sautéed Swiss chard with a little garlic. Garnish with avocado halves, toasted peanuts, hazelnuts, and fresh lime juice.

The Vision of Health Power Bowl
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix diced sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on a sheet pan until slightly brown and soft. Steam and slightly cool some quinoa or another favorite grain. Mix with some wilted spinach then season with lemon juice, scallions, and chopped parsley. Layer the roasted vegetables and grain in your bowl. Top with fried eggs and a pinch of chili flakes.



Quick and Easy is the Name of the Game

couscous

Need to pull together a dish for your next picnic, potluck, office party, or camping trip? Here are two standby classics that are fast, inexpensive, satisfying, and most important, incredibly tasty! My Super Couscous will be the star of the show when you add it to a party buffet or as a side to lamb or vegetable stew. And for those unfamiliar, tabbouleh is a parsley salad with some grain in it, usually bulgur wheat. It has been around since your grandmother’s mother’s mother was born…and even before that! Find out for yourself why it’s such a classic.

Happy Cooking,
Chef Levine

Super Couscous
Yields: about 3 cups 1 cup couscous
1 tablespoon carrot, grated
1 tablespoon almond, toasted, salted, chopped
1 tablespoon raisins, soaked
1 tablespoon apricots, soaked
1 tablespoon dried cranberries, soaked
1/2 cup roughly chopped mint
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon madras style curry
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the couscous with almost 1 cup of slightly salted boiling water in a bowl. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and gently toss in the listed ingredients.

Classic Tabbouleh
3 bunches of flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch mint
1 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
scallions, to taste
olive oil, to taste
lemon juice, to taste

Chop parsley, mint, and tomatoes. Cook the bulgur wheat according to package directions and let cool. Toss all ingredients together and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.



Long, Lazy Summer Days

bbq ribs

June is my favorite month for two reasons. The first being summer solstice which provides almost 16 hours of daylight in Seattle and signifies the days are getting shorter, making ski season a reality once again. The other long lazy day is Father's Day. I get up extra early and spend most of my morning hours in the garage. Afterwards, I head to the BBQ to prepare the fire for some ribs. I spend the rest of the day within the wisps of smoke, drinking cold beer, and celebrating with family and friends.

Here's to summer,
Chef Levine

Summer Ribs
Dry Rub - The Talaris Super Seasoning Salt
1 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix ingredients well. Season the ribs on both sides and let sit for an hour until they reach room temperature.

Once the BBQ coals have died down, add the ribs to the grill and let them cook slowly for a few hours, turning frequently. Cook until they turn deep brown and become slightly charred. Transfer to a cutting board.

Cut ribs into sections and present on a platter. Brush ribs with BBQ sauce and serve immediately.

Helpful Hints:

  • Build a big fire and wait for coals to settle before adding the slabs of meat.
  • This seasoning blend works on all meats grilled over live coals, on a gas grill, or baked in an oven.


Double the Breakfast, Double the Fun

bagel

Spring is in the air! Temperatures are rising and the days are getting longer. Somehow though, the weekends still seem short. To combat this phenomenon, I get up extra early on Saturday and Sunday to squeeze in as much fun as I can. The main benefit of waking up before the birds is eating breakfast twice! It's my favorite meal of the day and I'm excited to share one of my tried-and-true morning recipes. Start a pot of coffee, cook a few 9 minute eggs and enjoy.

Cheers!
Chef Levine

Smoked Salmon Bagels
1 tablespoon capers
4 cups wild arugula
4 oz. smoked salmon
1/2 an avocado, sliced
2-3 tablespoons finely sliced red onion
black peppermill and kosher salt
olive oil
1 lemon wedge

Combine wild arugula and capers into a bowl. Peel and slice the hard boiled eggs. Gently separate onto the arugula. Drape small pieces of smoked salmon onto the salad. Mix in the avocado and red onion then add pepper and kosher salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Toast your favorite bagel or bialy. Spread with salad mixture or enjoy as a side. Hint: This would be a simple and delicious item to make for mom on Mother's Day!



April Showers Bring... Asparagus!

asparagus and eggs

April is all about preparing for the splendid Pacific Northwest summer. This year let April showers bring May flowers and a bounty of delicious vegetables! In anticipation for the sunny months ahead, I tend to my garden by transplanting early sprouts as they begin to appear. As you wait for flowers to bloom, enjoy the culinary delights that spring has in store. One of my favorite vegetables to grow is asparagus which is at its best in April. When you have a good handful of young asparagus, try this simple, yet delicious dish.

Happy Cooking,
Chef Levine

Fresh Asparagus with Brown Butter, Sunny Side Eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano

1/4 lb of garden fresh asparagus
2 whole eggs
1 stick of whole unsalted butter
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano (finely grated)
1 tablespoon finely cut chives
your favorite sea salt and a black pepper mill

Begin by simmering the butter in a small saucepot until it reaches a rich, golden color and takes on a nutty aroma. Hold warm on the side.

In a non-stick sauté pan gently heat a couple of teaspoons of whole butter and cook the eggs sunny-side up.

Blanch the asparagus in salted water for about 15 seconds if they are pencil thin. For thicker stalks, peel halfway up and then blanch up to 1 minute. Serve right away or shock in an ice bath to use later.

Warm your plate or serving dish and arrange the asparagus on the bottom. Gently lay the eggs on top and garnish with plenty of cheese. Heat the brown butter until hot and spoon the brown butter over the top to melt the cheese. Add the chives to the top and a few twists of the pepper mill and a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately.



Last of the Winter Season

bone broth

March is on the verge of spring, yet winter weather looms over us with crisp nights and cold dewy mornings. Make the most of the lingering winter with a soulful batch of soup to share with friends and family.

The last of the hearty winter greens are in season: kale, leeks, chards and collards. These pair well with other hearty ingredients that might just be hidden away in your pantry. Hit the farmer's market for some winter veggies and make the most of your dried legumes and grains. While you're out, stop in at your local butcher for soup bones to liven the flavors and make the broth extra rich. You can always ask him to cut the bones if they are too large. Once you've gathered all of the ingredients, head to the stove and start cooking!

A hearty farewell until spring,
Chef Levine

Hearty Bone Broth
Servings: makes about 3 quarts

4 - 5 pounds beef bones
1/2 bunch celery, coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 medium carrots, scrubbed, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup olive oil
10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch herb stems (parsley, thyme)
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

Preheat oven to 450°. Roast bones until they are well browned. Add the celery, onion, and carrots and roast for 15 minutes. Spread tomato paste over bones and vegetables until the paste is browned as well; let cool.

Transfer bones and vegetables to a large pot; pour in cold water to cover. Add herb stems, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, skimming fat and foam from surface. Gently simmer the stock for 4-5 hours adding a little more water as the level drops. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids and save the juice. Serve hot, add salt to taste.

Helpful Hints:

  • Stock can be made three days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Or, freeze up to three months.
  • Stir in hearty greens and a few spoonfuls of any cooked grain or legume for added flavor.
  • This is the classic brown stock. The foundation for many sauces and soups. It should be brown in color and very gelatinous, like Jello in the fridge. You can reduce this even further for a demi-glace style sauce.


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