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Crazy Weather, Fantastic Food, Old Town Art Walk and Ozette Potatoes

It’s snowing! Crazy and true, I gotta love the weather here. It’s odd since it is about 40 degrees, and has been all day… and it has been spitting snow all day as well. It was gloriously sunny for awhile, just like it was last week, though today it only lasted a couple of hours at best. It isn’t sticking, and I don’t even think it is scary to those who get scared about snow. (I never have been one of those, though since owning a restaurant and losing massive amounts of business to it I no longer love snow during business hours like I once did.) I have been trying to catch up and clear out my piles of email and desk papers that accumulated more than usual last week since Sharon was on vacation. Funny how doing her job made doing mine so much more difficult! Then I looked up and saw the snow again and had this overwhelming urge to talk to you. Last week I just did not have time to write anything and today my piles are finally dwindling to a manageable stack (for a moment) so I am taking this time to say hello. Are you hungry? I have some things to tell you about!

I got to attend my favorite Chef’s Collaborative event last week, the ‘Farmer, Fisher, Chef Connection’, where we all gather to learn more about supporting each other by sourcing locally and using sustainable practices. It is an all day event and since it is farmers, chefs and other food producers there is certainly food involved. I had the honor of making a dish for the massive lunch (400 people!) and they asked me to make a vegan salad using grains from Finnriver Farm & Cidery. Ironically I had just met them a couple of weeks ago at the culinary/agri-turism conference put on by the state up in Port Townsend! I also used apple cider vinegar from another local cidery, greens and root veggies from 2 Olympic Peninsula farms, and locally produced tofu from Small Planet Tofu on Vashon. I pickled red onions with the vinegar and laid them atop the grain and veggie salad, and dressed the whole thing very simply in premium olive oil, salt and pepper, just like I do at the cafe.(Sidenote: the snow is REALLY coming down! Big, ploppy, puffy snow! Super wet so it melts right away… it is so pretty!) So anyway I was so excited to make this dish and I spend the better part of Sunday working on it, with Mark’s help of course. It was delicious and I was proud to present it to this very esteemed group of food professionals. I mean we are talking about chefs like Maria Hines, Jason Franey & Seth Caswell! Farm folks from such fame as Full Circle Farms and Nash’s Organics (whose veggies I used!) so this was not small time by any means. I was so honored to cook for some of the finest food professionals in the world, never mind our region! Ok, now I am nervous again just thinking about it… and I was nervous! My dish was great and I believe I did the fine foods I was offered justice; and I can’t help but hope they all thought that as well.

One thing I got out of it is that delicious baked tofu from Small Planet. Many of you may know that I do not generally find the need to use a meat ‘replacer’ because the foods we make are good and if they don’t use meat there is nothing wrong with that. In this dish I used it because I could not use cheese and I really wanted a creamy element to the dish, so I opted for Phil’s tofu. It was so delicious! I am definitely going to build some recipes around this tofu so you can taste it. Tofu skeptics and haters be warned: your tongue will not know you are eating tofu, only that you are eating delicious food!

This Chef’s Collaborative event is my inspiration for creating theHarvest Meal even that we all adored last September and will again this September 19th. If you haven’t joined the Kitsap Community & Agricultural Alliance yet (it’s a measley 20 bucks for the year!) you should do it now to begin taking advantage of events like the harvest meal. Go HERE to see about joining if you are interested in local food. The next meeting is tomorrow night (Tuesday March 9)at 6:30 at the Silverdale Grange on Clear Creek Rd NW. Come on out to hear about the Puget Sound Food Network!

Last Friday was our Spanish wine tasting and it was a blast! I made several ‘tapas’ style dishes for the wines and everyone seemed to enjoy the food and wine immensely. Tristan educated us all in the wines and regions of Spain, and I made a couple of new friends who love Italy as much as I do! Angie & Bill have been lucky enough to live in Italy (twice-he is in the Navy) and they talk about the food, wine, people and culture at least as passionately as I do. They are a gorgeous couple and I can tell we will be fast friends since we all have such fabulous taste!

On Saturday Mark and I met his parents at Cosmo’s in Port Orchard to support the Kitsap Community Food Co-op, as if Cosmo’s great food weren’t reason enough. They are the only place (that I know of) in Kitsap to get wonderful, fresh Gelato! That is as excellent a reason as any to stop by! They will give you tastes of the various flavors and you will fall in love with the creaminess and intensity of flavor. Unless you are crazy for really crappy ice cream, in which case you may not love this stuff as I do.

This Friday is the Art Walk in Old Town from 6-8, and we have new photography by Timothy Johnsrude upstairs for it. I always love our artists and have a difficult time when they take their work down, as Shirley Sakatani did last week, and I mourned the loss of her beautiful colors. And then we get new stuff and I fall in love with that and it starts all over again. Hopefully the weather will be nice enough for you to walk around and check things out down here because it is a really fun event. We always take donations for the food bank and homeless dinners (food, toiletries, clothing, camping equipment, etc…) and in exchange we offer cookies. I also offer complimentary coffee for everyone and wine tastes for adults. Most of us down here offer something for fun and the art is beautiful so I hope we will see you Friday night.

Meanwhile I put the beef brisket in the brine last Thursday and I will be tending to it until Saturday when I prepare it for the braising it will get to become Corned Beef. I am so excited about this! We will serve it all week with braised cabbage and roasted Ozette potatoes. The Ozette is lumpy potato which was introduced to Makah Nation people in 1791. Since then, the Ozette potato has been passed down by generations of Makah gardeners, who prize it for its distinctive flavor, and we got 20 lbs to roast up and serve to you, my friends. We will also slice up the brisket and offer it to you on sandwiches next week. I may even make some corned beef hash to serve up towards the end of the week if we are all really very lucky! It all starts on the 15th and runs until it is gone. I got 40 lbs of beef so it should have a pretty good run! Mark will be busy with Irish soda bread and St Patty’s Day cookies next week, and whatever else we think you might like. Last year we did a fabulous Shepard’s pie, and decided not to this year since we just did lamb shanks last month. I think the next comfort meal will be Pasta e Fagioli, as taught to me by Giacomo while at Parco Fiorito in Umbria, Italy last October. You can meet him if you go with us on our trip later this year!

Of course, I am open to suggestion on the comfort meal so send me your ideas. We have lots of fun stuff coming up next month and I am looking forward to sharing a new farmer’s market season with all of you! Our recipes will stem from what’s in season then.

For this recipe I will tell you a different way to pan roast potatoes. It is so simple and so delicious, I think it will be your new favorite way to do this. It goes with any main, or you can do what my dad does and pile all kinds of stuff onto your potatoes to make that the main event. From beans and salsa to salad and dressing, dad loves a good potato for dinner. For this style you want the small potatoes, they could be white, gold or red, but not russets. Ozette’s would be great here!

Place one potato at a time on your cutting board; take your frying pan and gently smack the potatoes until the skin just splits and the insides are exposed.

Take a clean, dry, heavy bottom pan and put it on a low heat burner.

Place your potatoes in the pan, in one layer-don’t stack them-so they are firmly on the bottom and not tilted or crowded.

Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Let them cook and just give the pan a good shake every 5 minutes or so, so they don’t stick. Cook them 10+ plus minutes, making sure that the heat is not too high and they are not burning on the bottom. Flip then over and do it again, letting them cook 5+ minutes, undisturbed, and check them for doneness. (A fork will move in/out of them easily.) If they need a few more minutes just cover them back up and let them go.

Remove the lid and let them cook for a couple of minutes, until any condensation is evaporated. (If you are going to add garlic to the potatoes now would be a good time to add it to the pan, along with a touch of olive oil, simply moving the spuds out of the center of the pan so the garlic can cook a bita.

Turn off the pan and toss the potatoes in premium olive oil, salt and pepper, and I love to add fresh herbs and garlic, though even if I don’t these are delicious.

Do you want to taste our region’s heritage potatoes? Want to try Ozette potatoes and can’t get them? Talk to me and I will help you get some.