Somedays I daydream about living my life through food. And somedays my daydreams come true. This February was like an entire month of celebrating through amazing cuisine for me! If every February was like this, my winter-is-dragging-on blues would never exist!
First, I received two gorgeous, completely different, but inspiring cookbooks from awesome people who know my obsession with food. The Forest Feast, Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods, by Erin Gleason is colorful, gorgeous, and full of simple and delicious looking recipes. (I wrote about it in my last post, Making Memories with Cookbooks.)
Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, by Heidi Swanson is almost stark in contrast to The Forest Feast, yet full of breathtaking looking recipes and photographs from her home in Northern California, and her travels to Italy, Morocco, France, India and Japan. I wasted no time at all in making recipes from both books, and I can’t wait to try more.
For my birthday, Greg and the kids surprised me one night with a “restaurant” at home. Lily named it the Sunset Café. She made a precious sign for the front door, and a beautiful, colorful menu with an Asian theme, aside from the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake which which has nothing to do with Asian cuisine, but everything to do with melt-in-your-mouth chocolaty goodness.
Lily and Jasper dressed up and she pretended to be the waitress, while Jasper was the maitre’d/cocktail master. Head chef, Greg Ohlin made most of the food, with lots of help from Lily. Even Dizzy offered his assistance.
I felt pampered, the food was amazing and it was such silly fun. Jasper melted down about fifteen minutes into it because it wasn’t all about him and Legos, but we kind of ignored his fit and went on with the night. When Lily wasn’t taking my order or serving me, she was right by my side talking about food with me, eating with me and reading cookbooks with me. Hello preciousness! My girl! The entire night was all about delicious food and fabulous drinks with people I love. I know Greg was completely wiped out, but the night was so special and unforgettable to me. Lily wants to do it again with another menu theme and I am all in.
The next week Greg took a day off and we played in Pioneer Square. We ate breakfast at The London Plane, part restaurant, part deli, part flower shop, all amazing and gorgeous and delicious!
We also sampled chocolates from Intrigue Chocolate Co. with flavors such as Basil, Bourbon & Vanilla, and Everything Bagel. And before we headed home to collect the kids from school we enjoyed a late lunch of oysters at Taylor Shellfish. Too much goodness for one day? Absolutely not.
A week later, my sister and Izzy came to visit and we ate and drank our way through Everett and Seattle.
Fun cocktails, rich red wine, and so, so, so much good food, from tacos at our house one night with Greg’s homemade tortillas, and spaghetti and meatballs that Lily got to make with her aunties,
to a fancy dinner at Loulay in Seattle, where the Pacific Cod in a lemon butter sauce was so out of this world, we wanted to lick our plates. Wait, we did lick our plates.
On the last night of their visit, we had a simple New York strip steak, pan-fried to medium-rare in the cast iron skillet, grilled gluten-free baguettes rubbed with fresh garlic, and Megan’s and Izzy’s Bucheron salad, which was so tasty I kind of wanted to steal the entire salad bowl and not share with anyone. Megan made a simple white-wine vinaigrette with lots of minced garlic and a hint of honey, and tossed it with arugula and toasted almonds. Then she and Izzy broiled half-inch thick slices of stinky, soft Bucheron goat cheese for a minute. They plated the bubbling browned cheese, topped it with the salad, and then oh my goodness, heaven. Every bite had a surprise melty morsel of cheese waiting for me under the arugula and almonds. So perfect together.
For dessert I made this Almond Cake from the cookbook Near & Far, a gift from my brother. The cake is gluten-free, super easy and extremely dense, denser than pound cake. It was so dense I wasn’t sure I would like it, but it turned out to be perfect at the end of our meal with the almond and amaro flavors complimenting the lemon in the glaze. We still had some Cabernet left in our wine glasses and all I can say is, WOW! What a way to end a meal, to end a wonderful visit, to end a month of fun with food, cooking and eating with people I love. The heavy almond and amaro flavors transported me right to a cafe in Rome at the end of a wonderful meal, full and tired, but not too full to enjoy my cassatta or my biscotti with espresso, a limoncello on the way, and the last few sips of a great red wine in my glass.
I took almost no pictures of the food, because we were too busy enjoying it, which even the photographer in me can’t find fault with. And anyway, every single one of these moments during this fabulous food-flavored month of February was made awesome because of the people in my life.
- FOR THE CAKE
- 1 1/2 cups (14oz) almond paste
- 5 large eggs, whisked
- 1/4 cup organic cornstarch
- Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons amaro
- FOR THE AMARO GLAZE
- Scant 1 cup organic confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon amaro (or you can use lemon juice in place of amaro here.)
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8-inch pan generously and evenly sprinkle with flour, and tap out any excess. (Alternatively, you can use multiple smaller pans for a cluster of tiny cakes.)
- Break the almond paste into a food processor and give a few quick pulses; you're looking for medium-size, pebbly pieces. Add the eggs and process until very smooth. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and salt and pulse a few times, then add the butter and amaro. Blend once more before transferring to the prepared pan(s). Bake until deeply golden and set in the center; you're going to want to test this cake - a toothpick should come out clean before pulling it from the oven - for tiny cakes this is usually 40 to 45 minutes, longer for larger cakes. (My 8-inch cake took 50 minutes.) Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes, then transfer directly to the cooling rack. Let cool completely before glazing.
- To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and amaro (or lemon juice, if using). Keep whisking until the glaze is free of lumps. Flood the top of the cake(s), allowing the glaze to run over the sides
- Be sure to buy almond paste, not marzipan. There is a difference.
- I used lemon juice instead of amaro in the glaze and it was awesome.