Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Glad To Be Home & Tucking In To This Risotto!

Never let it be said that I'm not a homebody at heart. Oh sure, exploring new places is a passion of mine, but it's key for me to always know that at the end of the trip, I'm going home! Coming back from vacation was especially lovely this time, because I no longer have to go back to a mind-numbing desk job day after day. This time around, I was just as happy returning from a fun vacation as I was going, because I had so much to look forward to (instead of dread). There isn't even the teensiest bit of sadness when I look back at all the amazing sights I've seen on this trip - just awe and gratitude. So let me wrap up my Seattle vacation series today, with what was our final stop of the week. In terms of food, I think I've saved the best for last.

The Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls is pretty swanky. It felt like one of those places where only the rich and beautiful are allowed to go. But thanks to the miracle of sweet internet bargains, it was DH and I that pulled up to their valet parking this time. Tee hee. I would've liked to look more presentable, but hey, I was still recovering from that snow trekking feat from the day before! By this time, DH and I were of the same mind - something along the lines of "Oh, who gives a f---?!". But there was something about Salish that was immediately soothing and calming. Our room, for one, was heavenly! The view of the falls from our balcony was spectacular. The entire place was perched right on top of the breathtaking Snoqualmie Falls. Take a look, take a look ...
It was all achingly beautiful - we hiked from the top of the falls, all the way to the bottom. So worth it!

I really hadn't looked into the dining scene at the Lodge, so when it came time for dinner, I just crossed my fingers and went up to their Attic Lounge, hoping for something that wouldn't disappoint too much. Imagine this now. Our adorable waitress sat us down next to these huge windows, where we could watch the sunset over the falls, and see the mist rising - talk about creating a romantic atmosphere! Then there was the food itself; hearty, complex and wonderfully scrumptious.
DH had the Oregon Elk Bolognese, with tagliatelle pasta, butternut squash, wilted chard, parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds - a bowl of YUM!

I had the Venison Chili, served with fresh cornbread and honey butter - warms you up in all the right places!

Dessert was the crowning jewel - a delicate creme brulee with warm milk chocolate ganache at the bottom. Why did we share?!

Breakfast the next morning was in their main dining room. Once again, we were perched right next to the windows overlooking the falls - and that morning we were treated to a bright rainbow shining through! Ahhhh bliss. And I'm usually an IHOP kind of girl, but this fine breakfast blew me away. Their coffee was served with (apart from the usual milk n sugar) an offering of vanilla bean whipped cream (I'll just eat that with a spoon, thank you!) and a mixture of dark and white chocolate shavings ... crazy good! Then DH had his omelette with crab, peppers and cheese, along with yummy hash browns and a buttermilk biscuit. I gorged on my vanilla and spice infused waffles, with cinnamon whipped cream and the Lodge's own blackberry preserves. I'm salivating just typing all that!

While some may wonder how anything I make myself can top all this gorgeous food that I was spoiled with on my trip, just picture this. Me, curled up on my favorite corner of my comfy couch, watching So You Think You Can Dance (with the remote all to myself!), Ozzy napping next to me, and a warm bowl of luscious, creamy, cheesy Lemon Risotto on my lap. Seattle was a great trip an' all, but I got it made at home, baby!
Lemon Risotto (original recipe by Nigella Lawson, found here)
Serves 1 hungry chica

Click here for printable recipe

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot OR 1/2 a small onion
1-2 medium carrots
3/4 cup arborio rice
Approx. 1 quart of vegetable stock
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
Needles from 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 tbsp heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat up the vegetable stock, with the rosemary leaves, and keep it simmering lightly, while you puree the shallot and carrots together.

2. Heat up the butter and oil in a saucepan. To this add the shallot and carrot puree, and saute for a few minutes, being careful not to scorch it.

3. Then add the arborio rice and stir it all up for 1 min, till it's slightly toasted and each grain is coated in the butter and shallot-carrot mixture.

4. Slowly start adding the hot vegetable stock, one ladle at a time, stirring in between to make sure the liquid gets absorbed into the rice. The whole process should take around 20 mins.

5. When you're almost done, mix in the lemon zest and stir to incorporate. Separately, in a small bowl, beat the egg yolk, cream, parmesan, lemon juice, and black pepper.

6. When the risotto is ready - when the rice is no longer chalky but still has a creamy bite - take it off the heat and stir in the eggy, lemony mixture plus salt to taste. Serve immediately (like you could resist!) with more parmesan and black pepper if desired.
Verdict: I've been making this risotto for DH and myself for years. It was my very first risotto recipe, all courtesy of the divalicious Nigella Lawson. One bite of this salty, creamy, lemony goodness, and I knew there was no turning back! It's definitely one of my top 5 comfort foods, and it happens to be one of the few vegetarian options that DH doesn't want to add chicken to! I can't praise this risotto enough. Some of you purists probably shun the use of cream in any "real" risotto, but I'm telling you, give it a try. Why scoff at something that only makes a dish nummier?! And one last thing, in case you don't have fresh rosemary on hand, a sprinkling of dried rosemary works just fine too.

I'm sending in this personal favorite delicacy of mine to the Monthly Mingle - Ravishing Rice event, hosted by Edible Garden this time, and originated by the lovely Meeta.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Mountain And Me ... and finally a new recipe!

I love my new digital camera. I really do. I knew I desperately needed an upgrade to get the folks over at Tastespotting and Foodgawker to even notice me. So far, my new Canon Powershot SX110 IS is giving me wonderful results when it comes to food pics (when compared to my old Canon), and it was a great bargain. But the real test was when we took it with us on our recent vacation to the Pacific Northwest. It's no SLR, but it did me proud anyway! Take a looksie for yourselves ...
Coldwater Lake - a gleaming, turquoise gem in the midst of snow-capped mountains.

Mt. St Helens - a fiery volcano at one point in time ... is it still?

The wonders of Mt. Rainier National Park - towering fir trees, glaciers and the odd mountain fox or two!

Mt. Rainier was the experience of a lifetime. That mountain tore me up, pushed me down, then pulled me back up and gave me another chance, for which I'm extremely grateful! Here's how it went down. DH and I drove all the way up to Paradise, inside Mt. Rainier National Park, which happens to be one of the highest points you can get to via car at this time of year. The scenery along the way was spectacular - DH and I just took it all in and gloried in the beauty of God's handiwork.

We were in such a positive frame of mind, that even the 10 feet of snow we saw everywhere as we reached Paradise, didn't put us off. It was all beautiful and breathtaking. I should have realized that the best thing to do was just walk around, take pictures, then head back down. But there is a visitors' center at Paradise, and the ranger there told us about an "easy" trail that we could attempt, provided we rent snowshoes. DH and I had never used snowshoes before, nor have we ever gone hiking in the snow. If that ranger
had just taken a better look at us, she would have seen that we were not prepared for any serious snow trekking! We had no gloves, no waterproof boots and certainly no hiking poles. DH had on a couple of layers of t-shirts and a rain jacket for crying out loud! But after our kayaking adventure, our bloated egos led us to believe that "suuuuuuuure, we can totally do this!". Rule no. 1 when you're in the mountains - RESPECT the mountain. Something we didn't do. So what started off as two excited city folk gingerly making their way up up UP this trail that was completely covered in several feet of snow, somehow turned into a scary lost-in-the-mountains type documentary. Ok, not really, because we knew where we were, but it got pretty dicey. First of all, it was a lot more effort going uphill in those snowshoes than I'd realized. Next, we couldn't find the trail markers (probably because they were buried!). Then the clouds descended all around us, the wind picked up, it started to rain, and we could hardly see anything. So while DH could probably have made it all the way to the end of the trail, I was a huffing-puffing-sniffling-bleary-eyed mess! The worst bit was trying to come back down. It took us a while to get the hang of it. I must have fallen down at least a dozen times, and maybe even unsuccessfully attempted to slide down the mountain on me behind (erm, I was desperate). Luckily DH had the presence of mind, and more experience than I did, and got us both back to home base safe and sound. *sigh* Another adventure that we survived. Barely.

Made it all the way up here ... and dreading the trek back down!

Damn those heavy snowshoes!

Well, lesson learned. I should really stop overestimating my level of fitness. My brain is more adventurous than my body is ready for, apparently! I'm hoping my body will catch up some day eventually.

I'll stick to cooking, thank you. And enjoying the smattering of warm, sunny days (too few) that we seem to be getting once in a while, here in NY. Food gets me pretty excited. Good food at BBQs gets me even more excited! We had a great one just yesterday, with a bunch of friends and neighbors. I took along a corn salad and my beetroot halwa. Really pleased with the reception of both dishes - the halwa was devoured with many moans of delight, and the salad was a hit too! It's a new recipe that I got from the very pretty Leela and her gorgeous blog of even prettier food, called "She Simmers". The addition of the smoked cheese was something I'd never tried before, and it's turned out to be a great idea! Give it a shot for instant success at your next BBQ or potluck.

Fresh Corn Confetti Salad with Smoked Aged Cheddar (find Leela's recipe here)
Serves 8

Click here for the printable recipe

2 cans of fresh-cut corn, drained well OR 3 cobs of fresh corn
Half a medium red onion, cut into small dice roughly the size of the corn kernels
1-2 serrano peppers, very finely diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice roughly the size of the onion
4-6 ounces of smoked aged cheese (I used gouda), cut into small dice roughly the size of the bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1-2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Spanish or Hungarian paprika
Juice of two limes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt & freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Prepare all the ingredients (except red onion) and keep them chilled in a mixing bowl. Just before serving, add the chopped red onion, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and paprika; toss. Adjust the tartness and saltiness to suit your taste.

Verdict: Goes really well with burgers and hot dogs, folks! I'm not a huge fan of raw onion in my salads, so I cut down on the amount there, and maybe next time I'll eliminate it altogether. But, everyone else seemed to really enjoy it and it was mostly all gone by the end of the BBQ. I think the smoked gouda is essential though, as well as lots of lime juice. Strange combination, I know, but it works! I love surprises like that. You know I don't get overly excited about healthy salads, but this one's a keeper! I think it'll be a great entry to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging round-up (WHB # 187!), hosted by Katie over at Eat This.