17 November 2011

A whole year

Last year on November 15 we moved Byron's dad from Canada to the U.S.  He's been living with us for an entire year now.  Seriously hard to believe.  In honor of this milestone, I made a special dish for dinner on Wednesday night -- our weekly family dinner with Herman.

Herman is mostly vegetarian, and he is a big fan of homemade gluten steaks, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  When Byron's mom was alive, she made legendary gluten (also called seitan, commercially). I had never tried to make it, but given the occasion I decided to give it a try so I dug out her recipe.  It's a cinch to make.  The texture turned out nice and tender, just like I remember hers being.  But the broth, which gives the gluten its flavor, wasn't quite right.  We decided it needed Vegemite -- something not in her recipe but something that we are pretty certain she added.

After making the gluten and simmering it a while in the broth, I breaded and fried the gluten steaks.  Our dinner also included mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, a greens-radicchio-fennel salad, and pumpkin pie.  It was a hit.

Herman pronounced the meal "more than edible!," which I believe means he really liked it.  He tells me, however, that Elvie, a woman from his church back in B.C., makes the best gluten in the world.  Maybe I'll email her and see if she will share her secrets.

Gluten can be seasoned many different ways by changing the contents of the simmering broth, and it can be used in everything from stir fries and casseroles, to eating it alone or, as I have been known to do (and greatly enjoy) breading and frying it and making it into a sandwich on homemade bread.

Esther's Homemade Gluten

Mix together:
3 cups 100% gluten flour (Bob's Red Mill makes this)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour

add 3 cups cold water
Mix well and knead into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit at least an hour, or overnight, in the fridge.

When you are ready for the next step, remove from the fridge and cut pieces of dough off the ball -- about half the size of a golf ball -- and stretch them thin (don't worry that the edges will be thicker than the middle).  Drop the stretched pieces into simmering broth (recipe follows).  Simmer the pieces at least 30 minutes, but an hour or more is good since the longer it simmers the more flavor the broth will impart to the gluten.  The gluten pieces will puff up as they cook.  After simmering, cool and remove the gluten pieces from the broth.  Store the finished gluten in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it if you won't be using it right away.

6 cups water
1 cup tomato juice
1 Tbs. McKay's chicken seasoning
1/2 cup soy sauce (I use more)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1Tbs. Vegemite (secret ingredient?)

The broth should be too salty to eat alone in order to flavor the gluten adequately.

Makes a lot.

16 November 2011

Nothing gold can stay

We didn't realize it at the time, but it seems that yesterday might have been the last time we'll see the sun around here for a while.  Today it's rainy, windy, cold, and generally icky.  It's the day all the pretty leaves get stripped from the trees, making way for the gray to set in.  Robert Frost was right.

But before I start bitching about Seattle in the winter and am forced to embrace The Season of Darkness and Holiday Lights (as I like to call it in our neighborhood), I wanted to post some photographic evidence (which I shot with my new iphone) that we did have a fall and that yesterday, in particular, was lovely.  

Wyatt: 10 months 5 days
Mother and BOB self portrait

11 November 2011

This is a very good life that I have

The past month or so has been different.  Finally.  It's given us opportunity to sit still, share meals with friends and family that we have not seen enough of in the past many months, and just be.  I desperately hope this kind of slowing down can continue.  Our lives have been so full and, unfortunately, also full throttle for the past 18 months.  Finding a pace that feels more like normal and less like the "we can get through this, we know we can" mode that we had gotten use to would be wonderful.

This week I have reason to be busy again with preparations for a family visit this weekend and a minor flood caused by a water hose coming loose from the back of the refrigerator.  But I've done my best to stick to my slow living plan.

I lead a very good life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Long to do lists aside, I am determined to take time to savor the people I'm with and the day itself, whenever possible (and did I mention savor the food, too?).  On Monday, Wyatt and I treated ourselves to tacos boniato at Agua Verde after an appointment nearby.  Afterward, we spent an hour walking along the marina and the waterfront, admiring the brilliant leaves and watching squirrels and ducks and gulls.  Wyatt was cold as an ice cube by the end of it but he seemed to love every minute.  Yesterday I had the most pleasurable afternoon drinking coffee and eating an outstanding canele in the company of a lovely friend and her 11-month-old daughter.  Our conversation ranged from food to law to dreams to travel to babies.  And speaking of the babies, they took naps on our laps.  Quite perfect, I'd say.  Today Wyatt and I lunched with Byron near his office, something I'm pleased to say that we have done almost every week for the last month or so.  We finished the afternoon with a stop at our local coffee shop, just the two of us.  Coffee for me.  Cheerios and a milk break for Wy.

And in case you're wondering.  Here's what slowing down to enjoy this very good life looks like.

10 November 2011

Poulet à la Fermière

We have entered the season of one-pot meals.  I made a batch of chili over the weekend.  Tomorrow night it'll be a pot of soup.  And last Friday it was Poulet à la Fermière (chicken by the farmer's wife) accompanied by a good loaf of bread and some stinky cheese.

I make a vegetarian version with soy chicken, which is actually quite tasty, but it can be made either way.  Our recipe is adapted from one that appeared in Gourmet magazine, back in the days when that lovely publication still existed.

I'm sharing the recipe here because every time I make it I vow to make it more often and then I misplace the recipe.  Now it'll be among those on my blog and I'll have no excuse.  And, well, we all need a little inspiration and a new recipe now and then, right?

Happy fall and happy cooking.

Poulet à la Fermière
adapted from Gourmet March 2001

2 lb chicken thighs and drumsticks. (I often use soy chicken torn into pieces i.e. Worthington Chiketts or one of the Quorn products.)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
6 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf (not California)
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch slices
2 cups pearl onions
½ cup white wine
⅓ cup chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1 lb small potatoes (peel or not)
⅔ cup crème fraîche
1 cup baby peas
1 cup grated Gruyère

Best pan: Le Creuset covered casserole or large covered saute pan

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat butter and brown chicken in batches, 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour off all but 1 tbsp fat.

Make a bouquet garni of the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and add to pan with carrots and onions. Add wine and deglaze over high heat until volume is reduced by half.

This is what browned soy chicken looks like.
Fingerling potatoes work great in this recipe.
Add broth and chicken, skin sides up, and simmer covered about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, some salt and pepper, and simmer covered until chicken is cooked and potatoes are tender, about 15-25 min. (If I use soy chicken I add the chicken and potatoes together.)

Preheat broiler and remove bouquet garni. Stir in peas and crème fraîche and correct seasoning. Sprinkle Gruyère on top and broil until browned and bubbling (takes longer than you think).

Serves 4

My sous chef -- good luck finding someone as cute as him to help you out.

01 November 2011

The color of dark chocolate

The house has been painted and it is the color of chocolate.  This is lovely on so many levels. 

Notice, please, that I did not say, "we painted the house."  Because, strictly speaking, that is not true.  We did not do it ourselves and, honestly, that's one of the nicest things about it!  We actually hired out a task that, technically, we could have done.  This could get addictive.

I knew I wanted a nice rich, dark shade of brown.  Not a red brown but a grayish brown that wouldn't clash with our slightly gray-blue roof.  Something that would match the dark splotches in the tan brick on the east side of the house. We tried a few shades that we picked up at a home improvement store that all looked promising.  The shade we chose is called dark cavern. 

The painters spent most of their time prepping (which is good because the house was in tough shape) but they also managed to put about three coats of paint over the tinted primer (it's a long story how we ended up with that many coats), and it looks great.  Plus, the house will never need to be painted again in my lifetime.  (I'm only half kidding.)

We now have our work cut out for us to finish landscaping the front yard before it turns into a mud pit this winter.  Hopefully, by this time next week I'll be posting pictures of Phase I of the front yard for you to admire.

My vision is that within a couple years the plants will grow in nicely in front of the light-colored brick and compliment the rich hue of the house.  I have lots of dark-leaved and fall-color plants -- a couple Diablo nine barks, Japanese maples, oak-leaf hydrangeas, a chartreuse smoke tree, and well -- you'll see it when it's done.

One thing at a time.