Andrew’s Watermelon Fresco

Fruit, Salads

watermelon fresco 02

I have to confess that I don’t eat enough fruit. I blame chocolate, of course. When my sugar craving kicks in, it’s easiest to reach for the chocolate bar. I also blame cookies. But that’s another confession altogether.

So, when Andrew and Lamai came over for a crab boil, I made sure to have some dark chocolate tucked away in the freezer. You know, in case of an emergency. But the only time that freezer door ever opened was to shock the crab in ice.

As it turns out, this summer’s watermelon is dazzlingly sweet. Has it always been this sweet and I’ve been fooled by the chocolatiers, or did something change?

Anyway, Andrew threw this chilled watermelon salad together in a few minutes. It’s so darned easy to make that its convenience just might rival chocolate. Its juiciness and brilliance, on the other hand, don’t even compare.

Cascadian Crab Boil

Meat, Seafood

When it comes to food, I usually take it in strides. Most days I’m whimsical. I cook whatever I have laying around the kitchen mixed with some seasonal vegetables. Sometimes, I’m not so decisive and I can’t even figure out what to eat for dinner, and I spend yet another night with a big bowl of popcorn.

But crab is an exception. I look forward to the crab season every year. It’s one of those foods so marinated in nostalgia that no adulterant or flavor could conceal its triggers: the briny aroma of the Puget Sound on an early morning, the pink-orange sun rising over blackish Olympic Mountains, severing white-grey cloud-wisps; the jubilee and cramps and cold, wet fingers while reeling up the crab pots, in anxious hope of trapping a treasure; and, the jitters and eagerness in maneuvering around the claws to get the crab at just the perfect angle so as to clench it, jiggle it out, and drop it in the cooler.

Crabbing isn’t only my tradition, though. It’s a tradition of this whole region called Cascadia. We have festivals for them in towns small and large. We serve them from aerated tanks at supermarkets, on ice from the farmers markets, and on a plate or in a bowl at restaurants. But the most memorable way for me, and for many others, is scattered on newspaper with lots of butter and lemons.

Baked Chiocciole & Cheese with Crab, Chanterelles & Saffron

Pasta, Seafood

Baked Chiocciole 01

On a frosty day last week, I went to the Puget Sound and trapped two red rock crabs. They are smaller than the Dungeness crabs, more aggressive, thicker shelled and offer less meat. But, let me tell you… That meat…

Up here in the Pacific Northwest, crabbers are divided about which is the superior meat. Though I’ll refuse neither, I find myself quite happy when I pull up a red rock crab. Its meat is so much sweeter and more fragrant than the Dungeness. Yes, one must work harder and catch more of them, but when those shells are picked through and that moist meat is extracted, what is left is an unmatched, concentrated crab flavor base.

Paired with savory, seasonal chanterelle mushrooms, aged manchego sheep cheese, and fragrant saffron, this baked pasta dish is rich yet light, elegant yet simple, and altogether irresistible.

Caldo Gallego (Galician Stew)

Beans, Meat, Pork, Soups & Stews

Caldo Gallego 01

Caldo Gallego is a tradition. It was born in the rural, northwestern Spanish province of Galicia. Bringing together dried white beans, potatoes, fatty bits of cured pork, and hearty greens, it is a beautiful arrangement of the area’s harvest and the farmer’s prescient attitude of using as much as that harvest as possible.

Each autumn, I prepare Caldo Gallego and freeze it through the winter. While I have thawed and eaten it in the spring or summer, it is never as satisfying as eating it on a cold night next to a fire’s flame. It is heavy, warming and full of flavor.

Pork Sirloin with Brussels Sprouts, Chestnuts & Farro in Pomegranate Sauce

Meat, Pork

Pork Sirloin 02

This pork roast is quintessential Pacific Northwest, comprising three seasonal ingredients: farro, chestnuts, and Brussels sprouts.

Washington, it turns out, is a huge producer of the nation’s farro, an ancient relative of the wheat berry. Meanwhile, chestnuts continue to gain popularity, as they too are suited to our weather. And Brussels sprouts? Another delicious green product of our abundant, year-round Brassica farming.

Muhammara (Syrian Pomegranate Dip)

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

Muhammara 01

I love watching people try this for the first time. Its flavor is mystical, almost indescribable. So enchanted by it am I that I feel incomplete if I don’t have any stored in the fridge.

Variations of this mesmerizing dip abound. Some are coarse, some are pureed, some are burgundy, some are orange. But all of them share a few traits: pomegranate, walnuts and red peppers.

Speck & Eggplant Bruschetta

Bread, Meat, Pork, Sandwiches, Tapas

Speck & Eggplant Bruschetta 01

What a warm summer night will make me crave: crunchy, crusty artisanal toast; crispy, pillowy roasted eggplant; salty, smokey cured pork; and sweet, succulent caramelized onions. This isn’t your typical garlic- and tomato-topped bruschetta. Don’t go skipping to the wine cellar just yet. It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be oozing with all kinds of bold flavors and textures. Stacked and finished with some stinky cheese and an unsympathetic drizzle of balsamic syrup, this wild and earthy bruschetta is comforting and unabashed by whatever dirty secret you might squeal.

Salmonberry Gazpacho

Fruit, Salads, Soups & Stews, Vegetables

Salmonberry Gazpacho 01

Native people of the Pacific Northwest sometimes paired salmonberries with fish during feasts. That the fruit is even named “salmonberry” seems obvious when considering its homonym. Salmon berries, or salmon eggs, are not only similar in size, but in color and texture too.

This dish is my way of saying hello to the summer and good-bye to the spring. The last texture in this dish is the salmon egg, which reminds me of the birth of the berry this year. It lingers momentarily as the cool and tangy gazpacho provides one last taste of the Pacific Northwest’s first fruiting berry.