Dungeness Crab and Pine Nut Lasagne

February 28, 2011

Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley wine country

Dungeness Crab and Pine Nut Lasagne

Variety: Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris

Serves 8

This recipe comes from Nick’s Italian Café, which sits behind a modest storefront on the main drag in downtown McMinnville in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s so versatile you can pair it with Pinot Gris or Noir—or order a bottle of both and see which suits you better!

8 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

10 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1/2 pound white mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour

4 cups hot whole milk

3/4 pound fresh or dried lasagne noodles

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

9 to 12 ounces Dungeness crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage and patted dry on paper towels to remove excess liquid

1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

3/4 cup pine nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the garlic cloves in the center of a medium piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with the oil, fold the foil into a packet, and roast for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Mash the garlic into a paste and set aside.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 1/2 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk and simmer gently, stirring often and reducing the heat if needed, until the sauce is as thick as heavy cream, 30 to 35 minutes.

4. About 15 minutes before the béchamel is finished cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh lasagne noodles and cook until barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. If using dried noodles, cook as the package directs. Drain and separate the noodles and set aside.

5. To finish the sauce, stir in the garlic paste, lemon zest, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the surface of the béchamel sauce with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.

6. To assemble the lasagne, grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with the 1 teaspoon butter. Line the bottom of the dish with one third of the lasagne noodles. Scatter the crab over the noodles, spread one-third of the béchamel on top, then sprinkle with half the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses. Cover with another one-third of the noodles, scatter the reserved mushrooms on top, add dollops of ricotta (use all the ricotta), and spread another one-third the béchamel on top. Cover with the remaining noodles, spread the remaining béchamel on top, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheeses, and scatter the pine nuts on top.

7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown on top. Allow to rest for 10 minutes (so the lasagne can set up), then slice and serve.

Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

Drink {Dine} Dash with the Dames

February 24, 2011

Scenes from our 2010 our small fundraising event, La Dolce Vita, held at the Women’s University Club

Last November, I became president of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Seattle Chapter, an invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage, and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy, and philanthropy.

Every other year, Les Dames, Seattle undertakes a major fundraising auction, with a smaller fundraising event in alternating years.

This year’s auction, entitled, Drink { Dine } Dash: An Evening of Great Taste, takes place on Thursday evening, March 31, at the Women’s University Club in downtown Seattle.

Drink {Dine} Dash promises to be an evening full of great food (a four-course meal created by our chef and restaurateur members), accompanied by fine wines (many donated or produced by our own members), and capped off by the famous Dessert Dash (a race for your favorite Dames-made dessert).

Tickets cost $125 per person. Please buy early, as the popular event is always a sell out!

The Galloping Gourmet’s Kitchen Garden

February 21, 2011

Graham Kerr and fellow panelists at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2011

My latest article for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine features a story about Graham Kerr, a.k.a. The Galloping Gourmet, who lives in a small community outside of Seattle.

Graham Kerr, a.k.a., The Galloping Gourmet, being interviewed at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2011

He planted a kitchen garden and, by so doing, hopes to change the world (again) thanks to his latest book: “Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden” (Perigee, $27).

(Second photograph courtesy of Amy Muzyka-McGuire)

Pike Pub’s Dish-of-the-Day Duo

February 17, 2011

Remember the holidays? They seem like such a long time ago. We’ve even seen Valentine’s Day come and go. Times flies when you’re having fun, etc.

But one meal we enjoyed in December still sticks in my mind. We enjoyed it right after we returned from our Carmel and San Francisco getaway/food-and-wine fest/decadent dalliance.

Since we overindulged so much during those glorious nine days, the moment we returned to Seattle I knew it was time to get back to my usual, more sensible diet.

As often happens when we return from and an eat-and-drink fest, I craved The Pike Pub’s Spinach Salad with an Oven-Roasted Wild Salmon Fillet. It’s a healthy combination of the freshest baby spinach leaves, a perfectly cooked piece of wild salmon (medium-rare in the middle), slivered almonds, a sprinkling of real Parmigiano-Reggiano, and hard-boiled eggs.

It’s usually tossed with low-cal Honey-Mustard Dressing. Good girl that I was and am, I always ask for my dressing on the side so I can drizzle, dip, and dab to my heart’s content.

It’s served with a freshly baked Spent-Grain Roll, which, by meal’s end, helped me scrape up every last piece of spinach and salmon from my plate.

My better half ordered his favorite, the Pub’s perfectly battered and air-fried Halibut and Chips. As good as I was trying to be diet-wise that day, I really love it when he orders this dish cuz I can steal a good, browned corner of one of the fish fillets and a few fries, and thereby get my crunch and potato fix for the week.

During our meal, we enjoyed catching up with the Pike Pub’s effusive founders and owners–Rose Ann and Charles Finkel–one of the most fun couples we know.

We realized that, as much as we love California, it felt great to be home. . .

Which more than qualifies The Pike Pub’s Spinach Salmon Salad and Halibut and Chips as our Dishes of the Day.

For Lovers Everywhere. . .

February 14, 2011

My latest Seattle Times article for Pacific Northwest magazine features a love story about local cocktail king A.J. Rathbun.

He and wife Natalie, and their two 80-pound dogs, Sookie and Rory, set out for Italy last fall, and will be back stateside in April.

Meanwhile, they’re enjoying la dolce vita in a rented villa in Italy.

Here’s their story and a recipe for a Spanish-Cava-based cocktail called “The Very Vernalagnia.”

Cin cin to lovers everywhere!

Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook Morphs into Ebook

February 10, 2011

Happy to report that my “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook” was selected to be included in Random House’s Electronic Book, or ebook, publishing program.

Ebooks are designed for easy reading on popular electronic reading devices, such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Apple iPad.

Needless to say, as much as I adore (and was weaned) on more traditional sorts of books (trade paperback and hardcover), I’m excited to be included in this new publishing opportunity. Cheers!

In an Oyster State of Mind

February 7, 2011

January is a prime month for enjoying raw oysters on the half shell. And I love nothing better than partaking of them myself and shooting a photo or two both before and after (better to see the beautiful shells)!

Here is the gorgeous plate served up at TASTE Restaurant in the Seattle Art Museum (currently closed until February 15 as part of the furlough imposed on all SAM properties to help save money).

And more bounteous beauties from Shuckers restaurant in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Varieties (left to right) are: Hunter Point (kind of bland–almost meat-like!), Kumamoto (a bit watery, but always a favorite), and Penn Cove (very briny).

Nothing this good ever lasts long enough. . .

Here’s the lovely oyster service at Cafe Campagne in the Pike Place Market.

And just for fun, a duo of oysters at Blueacre Seafood. . .a bit of lagniappe from the resident expert oyster shucker at the seafood bar that evening.

Heating Things Up with Chocolate in Vancouver

February 3, 2011

My good buddy Rhonda May, founder and publisher of the long-running CityFood magazine and Web site in Vancouver, BC, sent me word that she’s helped organize the first-ever Hot Chocolate Festival in that wonderful town.

Touted as 7 chocolatiers, 30 days, 50+ crazy flavors, it started on January 15 and runs until February 13.

So if you are headin’ north, please stop in for a cuppa chocolate! Here’s a complete listing of participating venues and crazy flavors.

Organic French Lavender-infused Grand Marnier, Orange Blossom & Cinnamon, or White Chocolate with Mango and Coconut Hot Chocolate, anybody?

Public-relations pros take note: Can’t we start a Hot Chocolate Festival in Seattle in 2012?!?!

DeLille Cellars’ Big Accolade

February 1, 2011

Our friends at Woodinville-based winery DeLille Cellars got some welcome news back in December when WineMatch named its top U.S. wineries and wines of 2010.

And DeLille was named Top Winery of the Year!

According to an e-news release, here’s how the wineries and wines were judged:

“At WineMatch, there are only winners. We had a tough time putting together a list of some of the best the United States has to offer. I am proud of these wineries, the quality people behind them, and their contributions to both wine and core values, which all of these folks exhibited.

“We chose a format that we think makes sense as the wineries and the wines truly go hand in hand. So we present the wineries with their offerings that make them truly stand apart.

“The ones with the numbers are our special selections, true standouts in their class and were all profiled this calendar year. The number in parentheses indicates how many of their wines shine, in our humble estimation!

“DeLille Cellars (6) of Woodinville, WA. Top Winery of the Year. A truly amazing winery, with a portfolio of Bordeaux blends we have found to be unequalled. A perfect storm of the people, the soil, the vineyards, with grower Jim Holmes of Red Mountain AVA. The winemaker, Chris Upchurch, is well-focused on the end product. Read the entire story here.