Ramen: here and there…

RIP Dashi Noodle Bar. Bellingham’s beloved Northwest-y ramen shop and my former place of employment closed. This is old news considering I overturned the red stools onto the recycled wood countertops for the last time Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been reminiscing recently…dreaming of 5-spice tofu steamed buns with coconut curry sauce.

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Bellingham wasn’t ready for it. Some customers came in and wanted to know if our tofu was organic and where we sourced our beef. The answer was yes and a small farm in Oregon. Josh, the owner of Dashi, had close relationships with many local farmers, who would bring boxes of vegetables in weekly. Dashi was the definition of farm-to-table.

Other customers would come in and say, “$12 for a bowl of soup?!” So how do you please both?

Sometimes I think about the woman who came in every wednesday and ordered tofu soup with rice noodles and mushroom broth. Or the couple who looked as if they were straight out of a comic book. She would order a pork steamed bun with hoisin. He would look at the menu and whisper to her, “I can’t remember which sauce I like.” I would remind him he likes the coconut curry sauce on a beef bun. She would whack her arm across his Batman t-shirt and say, “Even she knows what you order.”

While I was in New York City last month, I made it my mission to find great ramen. A friend of a friend recommended Hide-Chan. I had pork tonkatsu ramen with roasted garlic. When I swirled my chopsticks around the broth, the squid ink dribbled near the side soon turned my bowl of broth black. It was rich, salty and bold. I thought to myself, If people in Bellingham tried this, most would complain it was too salty. I slurped up every noodle, letting the fat coat my tongue.

Slurping my noodles at Hide-Chan.
Slurping my noodles at Hide-Chan.

Now in Seattle, I’m applying for jobs and looking for the next place to eat ramen. Any suggestions?

Bouillabaisse

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Last night I was reminded of the bouillabaisse I made in July right before leaving for New York. My uncle invited us to his new house in Magnolia. I suggested we make dinner. He proposed bouillabaisse. Uh oh. I had never had it before, let alone made it.

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I drudged up Julia Child’s classic recipe and went to the fish market in Ballard. For my feisty love for squid, we exchanged rings and tentacles for the suggested scallops.

Flustered by the amount of steps and heap of ingredients, I ignored the peckish stares of my family and pressed on. The chaos was suppressed with bites of Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam. My dad ate all the crackers.

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What seemed like hours later, we sat down at the kitchen bar to bowls of steaming broth and seafood. I would love to share a recipe, but sometime between peeling shrimp and adding the shells to the broth, I had ignored most of what Julia suggested.

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Coming soon…warming bouillabaisse with a recipe.

Caroline’s Meatloaf

Let's be clear, meatloaf is anything but sexy
Let’s be clear, meatloaf is anything but sexy

On March 26 of every year, I eat meatloaf. For my dad’s birthday, my mom would make him meatloaf with scalloped potatoes and crispy chocolate chip cookies to finish. To his dismay, I couldn’t stand the loaf of minced meat. It was dry ground beef—flavorless, with a crumbly texture and served with ketchup. It remains the childhood dish I can’t escape.

After being assigned a profile piece on a Midwestern dish, I spent a day researching the history of meatloaf. Meatloaf became the quintessential budget meal because home cooks could stretch inexpensive cuts of meat with fillers like breadcrumbs or oatmeal. My Michigander grandmother had a husband and four little “knuckleheads,” as my dad likes to say, to feed every night.

I took a break from browsing the Internet for meatloaf findings and ventured to Molly O’Neill’s living room. I thumbed through a few books sitting out, one of them being Molly Wizenberg’s new book, Delancey. I randomly opened to a page in the center, looked down and saw big and bold: “MEATLOAF.” Following was a recipe for her favorite version of the classic dish. I shut the book.

I found myself in the kitchen with Caroline, a fellow scholar and chef, who has both bouncy hair and personality.

After getting meat from Tim, the local farmer, we began chopping, pulverizing, sautéing and smushing, while Marvin Gaye crooned through the stereo.

“Babe-yy, I’m hot just like an oven. I need some lovin.’”

I grooved while Caroline tenderly wrap the loaves in bacon, to the ultimate cooking song, before I brushed them with maple syrup and popped them into the oven with skepticism.

To my surprise, the meat was anything but mealy. It was pleasantly salty from the fish sauce, rounded with spicy sriracha, fresh herbs and sweet syrup. The bacon encased the loaf adding a smoky chew, which caramelized under the broiler. Best of all, it had so much flavor it didn’t need ketchup. As much as I don’t want to admit liking meatloaf, I’ll be eating it with my dad next year, but this time, I will make Caroline’s.

Makes 2 large loaves//Caroline Ford

  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (white bread pulsed in a food processor)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery, about 2 stalks
  • ½ cup grated carrot
  • 2 cups grated onion, about two onions
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2/3 cup, heaping, salty cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 14 pieces thin cut bacon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • Salt + Pepper

Heat a large pan over medium heat with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the thyme. Stir in parsley and cook for about another minute. The vegetables will be translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

Whisk together eggs, worchestershire, sriracha, fish sauce, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Put both meats in a large bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the meat. Stir in the cooked vegetables, cheese and breadcrumbs. Pour the milk over the top and stir until just incorporated. Be careful to handle gently, over mixing the meatloaf will make it tough.

Heat the oven to 400ºF with the convection feature turned on.

Place a cooling rack in a rimmed sheet tray. Cover the sheet tray in foil, wrapping the foil around the edges. Poke holes in the foil with a knife. Repeat for the second loaf. Pat half of the meat into a loaf about 10 inches long and 3 inches tall. Repeat with the rest of the meat on the second prepared tray.

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Place 7 pieces of bacon across each loaf, tucking the ends under. Brush the bacon with maple syrup.

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Bake for 1 hour, or until the temperature of the meatloaf reaches about 155ºF. If the bacon still looks fatty and pink, turn the oven on broil until it crisps. Watch it closely; this happens quickly.

Remove from oven. Let sit for 10 minutes on counter before slicing.

 

 

Honey White Bread

 

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Few people are crazy enough to bake bread when it’s 90 degrees outside. Julie said, “Baking bread is calming.” She lovingly stirred the yeast into warm water while our other roommate fanned herself and panted as she walked through the oven-hot kitchen.

Today we reverted back to Julie’s favorite reliable bread book, “The Bread Bible” by Beth Hensperger. Julie’s adaption of the recipe yielded two perfect loaves of fluffy white bread, which we proceeded to eat hot out of the oven and smothered with honey butter.

2 loaves/Adapted from The Bread Bible

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • About 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour

Pour 1/4 cup warm water into a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir gently a few times to moisten. (Author’s great tip: If there is a lot of yeast to the stirring device, leave it in the mixture.) Let rest at room temperature (75-80 degrees) for about 10 minutes, until it has doubled or tripled in volume.

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In a large bowl, whisk the remaining water, warmed milk, butter, honey, salt and 1 cup of flour. Beat for about 3 minutes until creamy. Slowly add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour at a time, until a dough forms that just clears the side of the bowl (meaning it doesn’t stick terribly). You might need more or less flour, the important part is to feel the dough. It should be “slightly stiff and sticky.”

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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the top edges halfway toward you then push with the heels of your hands to push away. Give the dough a quarter turn. Dust with flour as needed. Knead the dough for about 4-7 minutes, until the dough is “smooth and springy.”

Place the dough in a lightly greased deep bowl and roll it over so that the top gets greased as well. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough ball itself. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This is the perfect excuse to take a nap. Test the dough by pressing a fingertip into the top of the dough to see if the indentation remains. It will fill back in quickly if it needs to rise more.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans. Without working the dough further, divide it into two equal pieces with a knife. Form each into a long rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, overlapping the two opposite ends in the middle. Beginning at the short edge, roll the dough up and pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. Place the loaves in the pans, tucking the edges under to give them a “snug fit.” Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again at room temperature until the dough is fully doubled and about two inches over the rim of the pans, about 45 minutes.

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Twenty minutes or so before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and, using a serrated knife, make a long slash lengthwise down the center of the loaf, no more than 1/4 inch deep. Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. We took them out at 30. The loaves should be golden on the top and bottom and be slightly pulling away from the pans. Both Julie and the author tap the top of the loaves. If they sound hollow, they are done. Run a knife along the edges and remove the loaves from their pans immediately onto a cooling rack. Let the loaves sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Fresh Ricotta with Figs, Honey and Pistachios

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My eyes instantly zoom in on the word fig. Then honey. Then I imagine slathering toasted bread with fresh, creamy ricotta that is laden with sweet honey, chewy figs and salty pistachios.

I thought about this during my fresh-ricotta-making-phase. I saw a similar recipe from Bon Appetit, which used pine nuts. You could try this too; I just prefer pistachios.

Simply, put about a cup of fresh ricotta in a bowl.
Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of honey.
Plop 4-5 quartered fresh or dried figs on top.
Sprinkle with a small handful of shelled pistachios.
(Optional) Add a sparkle (I already used the word sprinkle) of fleur de sel.

Serve with toasted french bread.

Fig Tart with Goat Cheese and Thyme

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One of my best friends studied abroad in France this year and always tells a story about trying her first fig in Morocco. I made this tart and said, “Claire, you’ll love it. It’s topped with figs.” She looked at me, then at the tart. “Those are figs?”

Apparently whatever she ate in Morocco was absolutely not a fig. This doesn’t stop her from telling the story about trying her first fig in Morocco…

I made this tart by Williams Sonoma because it has figs, goat cheese, buttery crust and thyme. Then you drizzle each slice with honey and balsamic. Delicious. I actually think it tasted better leftover than it did right after I made it. Even with the figs it’s fairly savory. The added honey drizzle makes it exceptional. And then of course dip the crust in more honey. 

For the crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into
 1-inch pieces
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. ice water


 For the filling

  • 10 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1⁄8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 large black Mission figs, quartered lengthwise
  • Aged balsamic vinegar for serving
  • Honey for serving 

To make the crust use an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater. Combine the flour and salt and beat on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the butter and continue beating until pea-size crumbs form, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the water 1/2 Tbs. at a time and continue beating, adding more water as needed, until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press together to form a 5-inch disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness to fit a 9-inch square tart pan. (I only had a circular one, and it also worked.) Press the dough into the pan and trim the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang around the rim. Fold in the excess dough and press it into the sides so they are thicker than the bottom. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the shell is set, about 20 minutes. Remove the weights and paper and continue baking until the shell is golden, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

To make the filling, in a large bowl, whisk together the goat cheese, eggs, thyme, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Spread the cheese mixture in the tart shell. Arrange the figs on top, covering as much of the cheese as possible.

Bake until the tart is golden around the edges and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and honey.