I know what I'll be enjoying for dinner this week. And probably the next few weeks!
Many of us grew up with the food we desired available regardless of the season. Strawberries in December? You bet.
But over the years, it's been a pleasure to discover how wonderful fruit, vegetables, seafood, and other favorites taste at the peak of their season. And right now, moist, decadent halibut is a star attraction.
In honor of the fresh-off-the-boat catch, some cooking inspiration from our newly revamped Recipe Database. I definitely can vouch for this delicious halibut recipe created by my co-worker, Roxanne. Easy to prepare, a great use for those tender young asparagus shoots coming into our stores, and oh-so satisfying.
Can you believe it's officially spring in a few weeks? These trees sure can.
Blossoms, buds and fresh, green unfurling leaves mean summer -- and our wonderful PCC Cooks Kids Cooking Camp -- is not that far away.
Our Cooks team has opened registration early this year to help busy parents start planning. Go Around the World in Five Days by cooking the cuisine of a variety of nations: Spanish tapas; Vietnamese soup and sandwiches; Italian fresh pasta; Indian dal and roti; and Middle Eastern falafel with pita. Mmm mmm good!
Sometimes, a picture really does say a thousand words.
Little Nathan, savoring mac and cheese
after a recent trip to the PCC Redmond deli.
For years, my mom cringed whenever I sliced up an apple. Until I took Seppo Farrey's knife skills class last week, I had no idea why.
Now, I realize it's the crazy sawing method I'd somehow developed away from her watchful eye. While I'd protest that I was just fine at cutting fruit, inside I knew I needed help (and outside, my nicked fingertips agreed). That's how I found myself staring down a bowl of fresh produce at the PCC Greenlake classroom, chef's knife in hand, armed and dangerous.
This produce soon will become our prey.
Knife Skills is just one of the hundreds of PCC Cooks classes taught by skilled professionals each year. As Seppo launched into his talk, I wondered if I would leave able to chop as quickly as a chef, rat-a-tat-tatting across a cutting board. While I'm not quite that fast, I now can chop with speed, confidence and precision. I also can't stop. Each day I relish any chance to chop, slice, smash and dice. Who knew becoming my own sous chef could be so satisfying? Now I need to get my husband into a class!
Seppo demonstrates how to cut apart a whole chicken. Now I get it!
Lots of reading material to take home. One point that stuck: Don't try to catch a falling knife. It rarely ends well.
Now we're cookin'! Glad to finally know how to properly produce matchsticks and julienne.
Seppo and his team wisely put our handiwork to good use. We enjoyed a steamy Lemon Cilantro Chicken Soup that night.
Who knew there were so many ways to slice a potato?
I left class knowing how to properly grip a knife, how to protect my other hand, how to cut a variety of shapes, how best to handle different types of produce, how to care for my cutting boards and knives and so on, knowledge that will serve me (and my dinnertable) well for a lifetime.
Many people tell me they dread cooking, not because of the time at the oven or stove, but because of the prepwork. By all means, get yourself to a knife class if you feel your skills could use improvement (we'll have several in our next round of PCC Cooks classes; registration opens March 29!). Now I go out of my way to find recipes with abundant produce, simply because it means more fun at the cutting board with my favorite knife, making meals that both taste and look delicious.
It's nice to hear in this day and age when a company does right by their employees. Check out this story of Bob Moore, the namesake and founder of Bob's Red Mill in Milwaukie, Ore., and the extraordinarily generous gift he gave his employees on his 81st birthday.
I buy Bob's Red Mill flours and cornmeal at PCC because I like them (they're also very popular with our gluten-free customers!). Now, I also buy them knowing that I'm supporting a company that puts its people -- the heart of any successful business or organization -- first.
We're voracious readers here at PCC. Many a bookshelf in our office is as full as this one, with tomes about cooking, eating, alternative medicine, gardening, hiking, agriculture and much more.
I'm always fascinated to know which books we carry are most popular with our shoppers. Without further ado, our top-sellers through last week of the 200-plus titles we carry in our stores.
Top 10 sellers overall
1. "Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair.
2. "B is for Beer" by Tom Robbins.
3. "The Backyard Homstead" by Carleen Madigan.
4. "Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
5."Flying Apron's Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book" by Jennifer Katzinger, Kathryn Barnard and Shauna James Ahern.
6. "Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook" by Becky Selengut, Jen Sayers Bajger, James Darcy and Jennifer Ogle.
7. "Maritime Northwest Garden Guide" by Carl Elliott and Rob Peterson.
8. "Larry Gets Lost in Seattle" by John Skewes.
9. "Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health" by Cherie Calbom.
10. "Guide to Gardening in the Pacific Northwest" by Carol W. Hall and Norman E. Hall.
The top cookbook: "Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair.
The top health book: "Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life" by Cherie Calbom and John Calbom
The top herb and garden book: "The Backyard Homestead" by Carleen Madigan.
The top children's book: "Larry Gets Lost in Seattle" by John Skewes.
(Selection varies by store. Call your local PCC to check on supply).
Which have you read? What do you recommend and why? What's your favorite book from PCC? As for me, my sister-in-law was very happy to receive "Vegan Soul Kitchen" by Bryant Terry for Christmas. I'm thinking of getting the yoga fans in my life "Sleeping Bag Yoga" by Erin Widman. I'm also intrigued by "The Dutch Oven Cookbook" by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis-Hearne. I'm amazed by how much that one pot can cook, even delicious sticky rice! I learned that at Shojin Japanese Cooking class with PCC Cooks last week. Can't wait to try it.
Not one, not two, but three fabulous local chefs will represent Seattle in the next round of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters": Thierry Rautureau of Rover's restaurant, Maria Hines of Tilth and Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy. And, apparently, Bravo's taste is as good as ours at PCC; this trio of chefs has taught for our PCC Cooks cooking school over the years as well.
While I'd be thrilled if any local chef won on a national stage, I have to say I hope it's James Beard Award winner Maria Hines, in part because her chosen charity for the $100,000 prize is the PCC Farmland Trust. She serves on the board of the independent, community supported, nonprofit land trust, which preserves organic farmland throughout the Northwest for future generations.
So far, the Trust has saved four farms totalling 549 acres; Orting Valley Farms in Pierce County is the latest. That $100,000 would be a huge step toward preserving even more farmland from development. That said, kudos to chefs Traunfeld and Rautureau, for pledging their potential wins to two other great organizations (as reported by Nancy Leson): the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Food Lifeline, respectively.
Catch all the action 11 p.m. Wednesday, April 7 on Bravo.
I attended another great PCC Cooks class last night, Shojin Japanese Cuisine at PCC Greenlake. Think fragrant rice peppered with hunks of tasty burdock root (Gobo Takikomi Gohan), Deep-fried tofu cake and daikon stew (Hiryozu To Daikon No Nimono) and fresh, crisp daikon and carrot salad with sweet vinegar (Namasu). We learned to cook vegan dishes with four different sea vegetables and three different mushrooms, learned a better way to slice gobo, and, best of all, got to devour a soothing, rich, creamy vegetable one-pot dish simmered in soy milk broth (TonyuNabe). Umami? Ooh la la!
Our instructor, Kanako Koizumi, taught us to coax delicious flavor from all these pure ingredients. Turns out, this is the prime time of year to cook with fresh daikon (a Japanese radish), which is at its best. She brandished a beautiful organic specimen from our produce department and pointed to its root tip. That's the spicy part, best for grating into salads or as a garnish. She pointed to its top. That's the sweetest section, but also the toughest, best for soups, stews and other long-cooking recipes. Good to know!
Kanako-san beamed as she introduced another treasure from our produce department that she says is tough to find fresh in these parts: maitake (sometimes labeled maetake) mushrooms, each one a symphony of savory ruffles. Maitake translates as "so good, they make you want to dance" she told us. My taste buds definitely did.
Do you have a favorite PCC Cooks instructor or class you'd like to recommend to others? So far, I've learned great Thai recipes from Pranee Halvorsen and crafted a trio of rich autumn soups with Olaiya Land. I can't wait until my knife skills class next week with Seppo Farrey.
Nobody! At least, not if it's up to New Orleans Saints fans at PCC Redmond, who proudly wore their colors and sported fleur de lis in honor of Sunday's win over the Colts.
If you watched the big game -- whether for the football or for the commercials -- what did you cook? We enjoyed Smoky Beef and Bacon Chili at our place (featuring organic Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, PCC organic beef, and Garrett County Farms bacon) soaked up with tasty cornbread I baked up with Bob's Red Mill cornmeal, farm-fresh eggs and whole-wheat pastry flour from our bulk department. Yum yum!
Hello all! It's been crazy busy in PCC land as we wrap up work on a huge project. We're excited to unveil it this month, and I'm also excited to resume blogging on a more regular basis. There are so many stories to tell within this community, from within our stores to way out in the farm fields. There are recipes to try and cooking tips to be swapped. But for now, an update on some of our upcoming events.
Free chocolate tastings: Come taste a range of our extraordinary chocolate between 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5 at Edmonds PCC or Saturday, Feb. 6 at Greenlake PCC. Whether you prefer milk or dark, fruity or nutty, bitter or sweet, you'll discover new flavors.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Sweater drive: You've seen the barrels at your local PCC. If you haven't already donated new or gently used and clean sweaters, coats and cold-weather gear to help those in need, come help fill the barrel by Sunday, Feb. 7.
Donations will be disributed to Wellspring Family Services, serving Seattle and King County.
Care to Shop Food Drive: Volunteers from the Chicken Soup Brigade will be at all nine PCC store locations 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 to collect donations of nonperishable, shelf-stable foods. Please consider a donation while out doing your shopping!
Mission: Sustainable: Join us for the free premiere of "Mission: Sustainable," a green makeover TV show based in Seattle, 7 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11 at Seattle Center Fisher Pavillion, 305 Harrison St. Watch the pilot, mix and mingle with cast (which includes PCC Cooks instructor Becky Selengut!) and crew, enjoy live music and visit booths of local, sustainable companies at the green carpet event of the season. Visit mission-sustainable.com for details and to RSVP.