Sunday, August 21, 2011

Brunch at Cafe Flora

I like going to Cafe Flora for brunch on either Saturday or Sunday. Cafe Flora is a vegetarian restaurant that uses local and organic ingredients and takes vegetarian cooking seriously. It is always tasty and good quality food. Yesterday we went out for early brunch and ordered beignets - traditional New Orleans deep fried pastries. They were tasty. For my breakfast I chose Northwest Market scramble - scrambled eggs with sweet Walla Walla onions, crimini mushrooms, greens, cheese and served with fried potatoes.

I also like to come here for dinner. My favorites are sweet potato (yam) fries and Portobello Wellington (shown below). Check this place out sometimes.

Cool Dragon Fruit

Dragon Fruit is one of those cool looking fruit you see being sold in the stores sometimes. I decided to buy one and try it out. The fruit is native to warm climates such as Central America, Hawaii, Vietnam, China and others. The colors of it are amazing and it tastes similar to kiwi.

I bought Dragon Fruit at Madison Co-op this time but I saw them sold in Uwajimaya, PCC and few others. You eat it the same way you eat kiwi, just slice it in half and smaller pieces and eat only flesh.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rigatoni with Hot Italian Sausage

Tonight's dinner is Rigatoni with Hot Italian Sausage. I made this dish tonight and have plenty of leftovers for lunches this week. Here is the recipe.


4 Fresh Hot Italian Sausages
1 large or 3-4 small onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
2 sprigs of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 package of rigatoni pasta
Olive Oil for cooking
Salt and Pepper


1. In a pan saute garlic and onions in olive oil on medium heat until onions become translucent and are lightly brown. About 5-7 minutes.

2. Remove sausages from the casings and add them into the pan with onions. With a wooden spoon cut sausages into small pieces and cook until meat is cooked through and is lightly brown. About 10 minutes.

3. In a meantime cut tomatoes in a can into smaller pieces. I usually pour all tomatoes into a separate big bowl and cut each tomato with a knife. Another way is just to do it in a can with a knife.

4. Once sausage and onion mixture has been cooked I transfer it into a clean pot. Then I add chopped tomatoes with all tomato juice, chili flakes and basil. I continue cooking the sauce on medium heat until it starts to boil. Once boiling I reduce heat to medium low, cover pot with the lid and let the sauce cook for another 12 minutes stirring 3-4 times. I taste the sauce for salt and pepper and add desired amount.

5. While sausage is cooking I cook pasta following directions on a package. Once pasta and sauce are cooked it is time to combine the two and eat. Add pasta to a large bowl and then add sausage sauce and mix. Serve pasta with some fresh shredded Parmesan. Tasty and easy - just the way we like it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fennel Baked in Milk and Parmesan

The second Roman dish I made from Saveur magazine is Fennel Baked in Milk and Parmesan. Again, the recipe was very easy to follow and dish came out surprisingly tasty! I did omit fennel seeds from the original recipe but I don't think we lost too much. Again, the original recipe is here. Here is how I made it.


2 medium bulbs of fennel, cut into 1/2 inch wedges or pieces (it is a bit hard to cut fennel in nice wedges)
3 cups of 2% milk
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 475F. In a medium pot I combined fennel, milk and 2 tablespoons of butter together and let them cook on medium low heat for about 45 minutes. I did stir the mixture about every 10 minutes.

2. Using a slotted spoon I transferred all fennel into the ovenproof baking dish, poured 1 cup of milk mixture into it, added salt, pepper, another tablespoon of butter and sprinkled shredded Parmesan cheese on top. I put fennel into the oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes until the dish was bubbly and golden brown. We served fennel and onions with pork chops. :) Pork chops were also cooked using the recipe from Saveur magazine.

Cipolline Onions with Balsamic Vinegar and Raisins

Last week looking over the old issue of Saveur magazine I decided to make few Roman dishes from it this weekend. The first recipe is Sweet and Sour Onions. I love chipolline onions and balsamic vinegar!!! The recipe was very easy to follow and onions came out as expected - sweet and sour :) The only challenge was getting cipolline onions in Seattle. After stopping at several stores (Whole Foods, PCC, Trader Joe's) without any luck, I decided to try Metropolitan Market and I hit the jackpot - I got my onions! Following the recipe from Saveur, here is how I made Sweet and Sour Onions.


1 lb of cipolline onions, peeled
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil for cooking
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
Salt to taste


1. I put raisins in a bowl, poured hot water over them and let them soften up for about 30-40 minutes.

2. I poured olive oil into a pan (about 2 tablespoons), added onions and let them cook until golden brown on both sides on medium heat. This took about 10 minutes. While onions were cooking, I drained the raisins. Once onions have been cooked, the recipe recommends to pour off the oil.

3. The final step is to add raisins, balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt to the pan with onions and cook on medium heat for another 3 minutes until sauce thickens up.

4. Onions are ready to serve. I served them chilled though recipe tells to serve them warm. I also did not use all the raisins that were in a pan. Somehow I had too many of them for my taste. Next time I think I will try cutting amount of raisins by half.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Green, Yellow and Purple Beans with Red Onion and Garlic

In addition to heirloom tomatoes I also got some fresh beans at the farmers market today. We got a variety of beans: green, yellow and purple. Here is the recipe I use to cook fresh green beans. It is very easy.


1/2 pound of green beans (or yellow, purple), ends cut
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper


1. Preheat pan on medium heat and add olive oil. Add garlic and let it cook until lightly brown (about 1-2 minutes) stirring often.

2. Add onions and beans to the pan and cook them for 5 minutes until you see them getting lightly brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring often to prevent burning. As a side note, while cooking purple beans lost their color.

3. At this point turn the heat to low/simmer, cover pan with a lid and let beans cook for 3 minutes. That's it. This way beans keep their crispiness. Time to eat. Tonight, I served them as a side to salmon.

Red Bowls for lunch

Yesterday during lunch I went to Red Bowls for my usual favorite "the Radical" bowl, which comes with rice, mix veggies and sashimi tuna and salmon. This is a busy lunch spot located on the 3rd Avenue in Downtown Seattle. It is a mixture of Korean and Japanese cuisine made fast. I had other bowls there as well such as Alaskan, Beef Bibimbap, and Udon soup but my favorite so far is Radical. I go there at least once a month myself and recommend it to others. The cost of lunch is about $10. The food is good and tasty and the service is fast.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jamon Serrano with Cantaloupe

Warm Seattle evening and it is time for some light and delicious appetizer. Tonight on my way home I stopped by the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill and picked some Serrano ham from the Rain Shadow Meats. When I got home I sliced ripe organic cantaloupe and wrapped its pieces with ham. Perfect for summer nights!

A long weekend in Banff National Park

This last weekend I finally visited a place that I dreamed about for few years now - Banff National Park. The picture of the Peyto Lake above says it all – Spectacular, Breathtaking and Magnificent!

We only had 4 days and 3 nights in Banff but as it turned out it was enough to see the main attractions, hike and relax. We left Seattle on Friday morning and flew to Calgary. The flight was only 1.5 hours, very quick. 

After renting a car we drove another 1.5 hours to Banff where we stayed during our trip.  Banff town is located in the park so we had to pay a park visiting fee for all 3 nights. We reserved the whole trip on Expedia and got some good deal on the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, which included breakfast and a happy hour, both of which proved to be wise choices. It saved us time to have breakfast right in the hotel and not to worry about finding a spot in town.

Once we settled in our hotel, we decided not to waste any time and headed straight to the Banff Gondola. We took a 25-minute walk to the Banff Gondola instead of driving there. The trail started right behind the Banff Springs hotel. The Gondola fare per person was a bit pricey ($30) but how much do you pay for the ski lift ticket in winter? $80 +? 

The ride to the top of the Sulphur Mountain took about 8 minutes and here we were at the top of the mountain overlooking the Canadian Rockies, Banff town, Bow Valley and River. At the top they have a nice wooden walkway to the Sulphur Mountain Observatory. It was around 7 p.m. when we were there, a bit windy but still warm and sunny. Here are few pictures from the top of the mountain. We also peeked through the window of the little hut where observatory’s staff lives. And saw some wildlife!

We rode Gondola back and walked back to the hotel. The round-trip from the hotel to the Sulphur Mountain took us about 2 hours. 

Saturday we woke up early at 6:20 a.m. Banff time or 5:20 a.m. Seattle time. Early! We had breakfast in a hotel and were on a road to the Lake Louise vicinity at 7:45 a.m. The drive to the Lake Louise from Banff was about 45 minutes. We parked in a public parking lot, which was already getting full at 8:30 a.m. I have read in the guidebooks that this place gets packed around 11 a.m. and made sure we were there early enough to enjoy the lake. A short walk from the parking lot and you get to Lake Louise. Beautiful!

We took a walk along the lakeshore, round-trip 4 km. It was a nice walk, with few people (still) and it was wonderful to see glimpses of Victoria Glacier. The most interesting part of being in the Banff National Park for me was ability to see how the glacier melts straight into the lake and that you are standing right at the shore of that lake. 

We decided to see the lake from above and headed to the Fairview Lookout (slightly steep short 2 km round-trip hike). Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits right at the lake. What a fabulous idea to build a hotel in this place!

We left Lake Louise at 11:30 a.m. and it was time for lunch. When I came to Banff I knew that I was here for the scenery and not culinary experience and so we decided for lunch at a local cafeteria in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks which serves skiers and snowboarders during the winter months at the base of the Lake Louise skiing area. We got cheeseburgers and fries and sat outside, looked at the mountains and people riding ski lifts to the top of the mountain and ate.  Burger tasted like your regular cafeteria burger. The price was also decent $20 for two. You have an option of buying a buffet lunch and a ticket to the top of the mountain, but we skipped on that. 

The plan for the rest of the day was to drive back to Banff on the Bow Valley Parkway 1A and on a way hike to the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon. On a drive we stopped to look at the Castle Mountain, the interesting fact about which (apart from it looking like a castle) is that the lower layers of the mountain are younger than the top layers because younger mountains pushed older ones up during the last major shift.  

We arrived to the Johnston Canyon around 1:30 p.m. and it was full of people. Also, the day was super nice, sunny and hardly any clouds. We hiked to the Upper Falls. The first part of the hike is on a wooden catwalk which hangs right above the creek. I love the sound of the running water and a moist breeze from the creek when a wind blows. Families with children usually stop at the Lower Falls. We made our way to the Upper Falls. 

The round-trip to the falls took us about 1.5 hours. After that we drove back to the hotel tired and satisfied. When we got there it was time for the happy hour in a hotel and we enjoyed appetizers they had and some drinks, walked around the historic hotel and called it a night. 

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and headed out to the Icefields Parkway to see the Peyto Lake. From the Peyto Lake Parking lot, it is a 10-minute walk to the lookout point. They only allow tour buses close to the lookout point, regular cars park further away. The walk is a bit steep, so if you have people who have trouble walking uphill, keep that in mind. The Peyto Lake is as beautiful as they say it is! We sat and enjoyed it for a while. It almost seemed to be unreal. The aqua blue color of the lake is natural. As I understand it is due to the rock flour. The color changes during the seasons. Here are few more pictures of it. 

Next stop is the Bow Lake. The weather turned a bit on us once we got there. It started to drizzle and was windy. We still decided to hike to the Bow Glacier Falls, however trail became impassible at the end of the lake due to high waters and we had to turn back. Still the hike was nice apart from being eaten by mosquitoes.  

Lunch time and this time we went to the Lake Louise Railway Station Restaurant. We sat outside and shared Caesar Salad and Alberta Bison Burger. Again, food is nothing special but the views and environment were outstanding. Bill was about $25 without tip. But food quality was much better than cafeteria. 

The next and the last stop on this trip was Moraine Lake. We got there around 3:30 p.m. As with all major sites the place was full of tourists. We saw the lake and then took Larch Valley Hike. The hike was uphill with switchbacks but it was rewarding us with the views of a lake and glacier. Moraine Lake sits at the bottom of ten peaks. Quite incredible! Compared to the other lakes, this one appeared to be more blue. 

Driving back to Banff and enjoying the views of the mountains all around us. 

Monday we got up and left for the airport and flew back to Seattle. Amazing trip! Banff National Park is definitely a place to visit! I wish to thank Eric Espenhorst and Jennifer Bright for the guidebooks they lent me. I found “Alberta: Including Banff, Jasper, and the Canadian Rockies” the most useful.