My new favorite beach

Not being one for tropical anything, the beach at White Rock suits me just fine.

We managed to hit it at almost slack tide, so there were lots and lots of herons about, none of whom seemed particularly afraid of us or the many dogs that were all over the place.

blue heron in flight

Blue Heron

two herons coming in to land

two herons coming in for a landing

O spent a great deal of time crouched down taking pictures of things Very Close up

O taking pictures

O taking pictures

On top of the excellent trip to the beach, there was some actual finished knitting. No, really. Duck from Knitty, done up in some Socks That Rock in an orange colorway the label for which I lost ages ago. Not Sun Drops, though, that much i know for sure.

duck booties

duck booties

We tried to get the cat to sit still and have his picture taken with them on. This is about as still as Looshkin gets when being held, though:

Looshkin has no appreciation for knitting

Looshkin has no appreciation for knitting

Gir, though, was much more cooperative, though he had to be held, since the booties are slippery and his feet wouldn’t stay under him.

Gir, as duck

Gir rockin' the duck socks

And on top of all that, there was some much needed time away spent with excellent friends, and tons of tasty food. TONS. Seriously. Cake, two different kinds of bread, soup made from the leeks in the garden, spinach pie, and the leek flower buds grilled with some olive oil and salt, plus lots of really good coffee and tasty cinnamon buns. I was skeptical of that one, but ZOMG. So good. Seriously.

Waffles. It’s what’s for dinner.

Lemon ricotta waffles with orange flower water whipped cream and lingon berry preserves. Inspired by some incredibly tasty lemon ricotta pancakes from the little cafe in the Third Place Books in Ravenna.

Lemon Ricotta Waffles
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • zest of two lemons
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • ⅓ cup ricotta
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
Instructions
  1. Heat up your waffle iron.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter and set it aside for a moment.
  4. In a large measuring cup or another bowl, beat together the lemon zest, egg yolks, milk, ricotta, lemon extract, and butter.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients gently into the dry ingredients until just blended.
  6. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the batter.
  7. My waffle iron seems to be happiest with about ⅓ cup of batter, and I found that with these I needed to turn the heat down a bit or they got really hard and crunchy. YMMV.
Notes
*I always keep a giant Ball jar full of sugar with 3-4 vanilla beans in it. I’m thoroughly addicted to vanilla sugar, so when the jar is about half empty, I refill it, and then roll the jar around for a few minutes to mix the new sugar in with the old. Plain sugar works juuuuuust fine in this recipe too, but if you use plain sugar, you might want to add ½ tsp or so of vanilla with the wet ingredients.

Variations on the Theme
Almond – you could skip the lemon zest and the lemon extract, and use a tsp of almond extract instead. Or go all out and add a tablespoon or two of almond paste, too.

Plain – skip the lemon extract and zest, use 1 tsp of vanilla instead.

Orange – substitute orange zest and extract for the lemon.

Matcha and/or wasabi – I’m really only sort of kidding on this one. A bit of both (or either), powdered, in with the dry ingredients could be really interesting. Definitely not to be served with whipped cream and/or syrup, but the right savory topping?

Cocoa – substitute up to ⅓ cup of the flour with cocoa powder or sweet ground chocolate. If you use unsweetened cocoa, add more sugar (1/3 cup? ¼?), the sweet ground chocolate wouldn’t need any additional sugar.

 

mmmmm, waffles

mmmmm, waffles

semi-clean plate

they were tasty

 

Further adventures in weird pickles

Happy mother’s day, y’all!

A trip to the U-district farmers market yesterday netted me some local artisan cheese (duh), some AMAZING carrots*, two Autumn Gold raspberry plants (I’ve only been looking for those for a month now), some farro, some farro/rye/flax hot cereal mix, some crazy Japanese cabbagey thing the name of which escapes me, but which was like baby bok-choy crossed with spinach, and which was damn tasty last night, and some fiddlehead ferns.

Some friends and I had gone to Sutra on Friday night, and one of the courses featured pickled fiddleheads. SO. GOOD. (everything, really, but especially the pickled fiddleheads) When I saw them at the foraged stuff booth at the farmers market, I had to get some and try pickling them. Had to.

They had them both cleaned and uncleaned. I should have popped for the cleaned ones – cleaning them is a pain in the arse. Seriously. That extra few bucks per pound for cleaning? Worth it. Trust me.

First rinse of the fiddleheads

fiddleheads, rinse round 1

Second rinse of the fiddleheads, with water drop

fiddleheads, rinse round 2

After much tedious cleaning, and three rinses, this is what I was left with:

fiddleheads_clean

fiddleheads, mostly cleanish

Trimmed, and packed in the jars:

fiddleheads_packed

fiddleheads, packed and ready

And, of course, I don’t have a picture of the finished product. Not, mind you, out of sheer laziness, but because I couldn’t get a decent picture of them. The lighting in here failed me. They’ve got to sit for a week or two, and if they’re tasty, I’ll post the recipe. Probably. I am lazy, dontchaknow.

In other weekend pictures, there was a spectacular sundog visible from the deck this afternoon (and yes, speaking of lazy, I was too lazy to get up and get a shot of the whole thing. You only get half.):

sun-dog

sundog, as seen from my deck chair

*Remember what fresh carrots tasted like when you were a kid? That deep, complex, sweet, earthy flavor that hasn’t been found in store-bought carrots in decades? Yeah, these carrots had that and then some. I should have gotten more of them.

Twas a dark and stormy night. With cake!

Ok, so maybe not particularly stormy.
The weathermen in Seattle LIE. All the time. I swear they have a big Wheel of Weather, and they spin it every morning, giggle, make some shit up, embellish the story a bit, and tell us that’s how it’s going to be. How they keep their jobs is anyone’s guess.
Today’s forecast was clouds, rain, thunderstorms, and a high of 56ish. What we actually got was blindingly bright skies, puffy clouds, really strong wind, and a high of about 48. So close, guys! Thanks for playing!

What does a dark, stormy (or not) night need? Cake. (also savory waffles, but that is a recipe for another day – google it if you can’t wait) It also appears to need at least three trips to the grocery store. Cake is a home improvement project, right?

Tonight I got crazy and made not just the red velvet cupcakes I’d promised to some coworkers and the coworkers of a friend who works four floors down from me, but a second cake. For breakfast. Mmmm. Cake.

mmmm, cake!

I love red velvet cake. I don’t know why. I have a quart bottle of red food coloring in my cupboard. It’s about half empty at this point, and I bought it… um… recentlyish. (I also love Cash & Carry. Gallon jugs of food coloring! 50lb bags of cake flour!* Giant bags of lemons!)

I love how the batter looks, especially through the lens of a digital camera, like a bucket of blood.

blood or cake batter?

Recipe is from, well, the sticky piece of paper on my counter. Cobbled together from a variety of internet sources, mostly Pinch My Salt.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
 
Cobbled together from a variety of internet sources, mostly Pinch My Salt. Makes 24 regular size cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes
Ingredients
  • For the cupcakes:
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp red food coloring
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • For the Frosting:
  • 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (one stick), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted if you’re feeling ambitious
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Cakes:
  2. – Preheat oven to 350 F. Line either 2 12-cup muffin pans, 2 24-cup mini muffin pans, or 1 12-cup muffin pan and 1 24-cup mini muffin pan with cupcake liners. (again, Cash & Carry – 500 of them for less than $3)
  3. – Mix the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Feel free to sift it if you’re so inclined. I rarely am. Set the flour mixture aside.
  4. – In a ramekin or other small bowl, mix cocoa powder, vanilla, and food coloring into a paste. It will be thick, but make sure it’s smooth. Set aside.
  5. – In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar together until light and very fluffy, 3-5 minutes or so. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions, and scraping down the sides each time. Beat in the red cocoa vanilla paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.
  6. – Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk – ⅓ of the flour, then ½ of the buttermilk, then ⅓ of the flour, then the last of the buttermilk, then the last of the flour. Scrape down the bowl between additions, and mix each addition in completely before adding the next.
  7. – Do some science to it! In a small ramekin, mix vinegar and baking soda together. When it’s done being fizzy, add it to the batter and stir well with the spatula to combine.
  8. – Fill the prepared cupcake cups ⅔ – ¾ full – I use a medium-sized cookie dough/ice cream scoop and a very small one to fill the cups evenly with minimal mess (which is key when you’re working with BRIGHT RED batter). Bake 20 minutes or so for the big ones and 17-18 minutes for the little ones. Check them early and often, as they’ll go from perfect to totally overdone awfully quickly.
  9. – Cool on a wire rack, and make sure they’re completely cool before you attempt to frost them. Frost with swirls of cream cheese icing. (I put them in the box and then frost them. I use an Ateco 825 tip for the big ones, and either of two Wilton tips for the small ones and either a disposable pastry bag or a gallon size zip lock bag, which is muuuuuuch easier than picking each one up and spreading frosting on with a knife or a spatula. Also? Looks all fancified.)
  10. Frosting:
  11. Cream the butter and the cream cheese together until smooth.
  12. Add the salt.
  13. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it’s all mixed in, then add the vanilla.
  14. Beat until light and fluffy, adding more powdered sugar if necessary. (I ended up using almost 3 cups this time around, and I’m not entirely sure why it needed that much)
  15. Use immediately, or refrigerate until needed. If you do refrigerate it, though, you’ll need to allow it to come up to room temperature and rebeat it a bit before using it.
Notes
You can substitute 2 cups of all-purpose flour for the 2¼ cups of cake flour, and ¾ cup of yogurt plus ¼ cup milk for the buttermilk (or so I’ve heard – I haven’t actually tried that one – the flour I go back and forth on, depending on what I have on hand, so I know that works).

*Yes, 50lb bags of cake flour. When you consider the cost of the wee bitty box (2lb?) of cake flour at the grocery store, which I think was around $5 the last time I bought one, the $15 for the 50lb bag seems staggeringly cheap. Especially if you go through quite a lot of it. A big rubbermaid tub with a good seal, and it will keep for AGES.

Watching my garden grow

(not unlike watching paint dry, really, but still…)

First there was grass.  There are no pictures of that.  Grass is boring.

Then there was no grass:

lawn removed

no more lawn

Followed by A Crapton Of Dirt (oh! hey!  if you’re in Seattle and you need some dirt delivered?  Talk to Don.   He was absolutely wonderful, and his prices and policies are completely reasonable.)

giant pile of dirt in the driveway

giant dirt pile, with menfolk

Some aggressive rototilling followed, once half of the dirt was in place:

flowers mangled by rototiller

flowers, as mangled by rototiller

(*sniff*! bye bye, flowers!)

Then there was the sad interlude when my 18 year old Kitchenaid mixer finally gave up the ghost.  It might be fixable, and I’ll be taking it apart next weekend to see, but still?  SADNESS.

Kitchenaid mixer, finally dead after 18 years

sad kitchenaid

And then! Garden! A story in thumbnail form:

double delight rose long shot of garden raspberry bed street view of garden new jasmine plant on arbor icelandic poppy lavender plants neighbor's golden retriever

coming together, bit by bit

cedar trellis for passion flowers and jasmine

new cedar trellis

(Gratuitous happy dog belongs to the neighbors)  The two flats of lavender came from a really REALLY nice neighbor.

Now there are (finally!) sprouty bits!  (sweet peas, beets, beets, radishes, beans, beans, peas, nasturtiums)

sweet pea sprouts beet sprouts beet sprouts radish sprouts
bean sprouts bean sprouts pea sprouts nasturtium sprouts

garden sprouts, finally!

The rest of the things that got planted (different peas, artichokes, broccoli, leeks, garlic chives, mystery oniony-thing, celery, kohl rabi, and rainbow chard) are all doing really well except for the peas, which seem to be Not Happy.  While they’re technically growing, the leaves have turned an odd shade of yellow, with reddish edges.  Doesn’t look good.  Nope, not at all.

Still have the raspberries and blueberries to procure and plant, and the cilantro, sage, and peonies to get into the ground.  Other than that?  It’s all about the waiting.  Which I’m not good at.  Not even a little bit good at.  Nope.  Not good.