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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Seattle, Washington Pike Place Market

Greetings from Seattle Washington!
Downtown Seattle

So much to do, so little time they say, but we managed to get our bobtail into downtown Seattle, WA,(double parked in two spaces with no parking ticket, golf clap everyone!) and check out famous Pike Place Market. Three expansive floors of every foodie’s fondest dream, the colors, textures, smells, and people were an absolute sensory overload. The stunning array of fresh organic produce in every available color known to man was absolutely breathtaking. The orange and purple hues of beets & carrots, the bright, crisp burgundy of raspberries, the deep reds, oranges, and greens of woven, wreathed chili peppers, the buttery yellow of bell peppers, all made a riotous crescendo of music for my eyes.  The hustle and bustle of this market was a swirling, almost choreographed, dance for the senses. My first stop was at a little produce stand right outside the front doors of the market, under the farmers market sign. The young lady that helped us, Ms. Erin, was a delightful almost pixie like girl with a warm smile. She gave us some valuable information to make the most of our tight schedule and imparted "THE" must see spots along our journey. Right across the street from her was Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and down the way, la petite bakery, along with Sur La Table that she said was a must.
I thanked her profusely, as we swapped e-mail and contact information. She seemed like a really cool girl and asked if she could show us the sights next time we're through. That is a definite possibility! We quickly moved along to the main floor of the market to catch the show.

The Lovely Ms Erin
Solly Amos & I
Our next stop along this cacophony of shouting merchants, hurried patrons, and vibrant colors brought us to the historic Pure Fish Food Market. Opened in 1911 by Jack Amon; Mr. Amon came to America from Turkey and began selling seafood from a stand here in Seattle at Pike Place Public Market. Both the city and the market were relatively new, but all the local folks immediately recognized the value of local fish and shellfish. Jack sold only the finest. I had the pleasure to meet Solly Amon, Jack's son. He has run his father's business for more than 50 years, which gives him the record of the longest tenure of any of the Pike Place Public Market's vendors. We were astonshed at the sheer size of most of the fresh shellfish, as their classicfication of jumbo far exceeds anything we've ever seen. Dungeness crab the size of a dinnerplate, and jumbo grilling shrimp that Guy Fieri would,ve called a sea pony. The shrimp we looked at could've been saddled and ridden! The scallops were the size of baseballs and the only way I could think of to cook them through, would be a hot sear and finished in the oven. Huge!!! The Ahi tuna is what caught my eye, as it was so succulent, in it's rich color, that instead of a deep red it was almost a royal purple. *Sigh*

Sea Pony
All in all we could've spent a couple of hours trying to make our choices, but in the end, soaked up the experience and promised ourselves we'd be back. On a side note, Pure Food Fish Market can ship anywhere in the country! Check them out at http://www.freshseafood.com, and we're off to the next must see!

Further down the commonway, we reach Market Spice. The immediate scent that hits our nostrils, is that of a rich orange and cinnamon tea, freshly brewed and being sampled by thirsty customers. It is the blend that Market Spice has become known for. They are currently revving up for their 100 year celebration at Pike Place Public Market. The vast array of herbs and spices lining the shelves was a wonder to behold. The layered richness of scent gave way tohelpful and courteous staff, willing to tote down enormous gallon jars of product as many times as necessary to find the perfect flavor you're looking for. My excess budget on this trip way slim, but I had to take something of this fantastic shop with me. Chris pointed out a lovely jar of pink Himalayan sea salt, with a grater pakaged inside for the perfect application. Next, I discover some Spanish saffron, gorgeous and tightly packed in a small plastic jar, for freshness. In my quest for something to send home, I come across some star anise for my Grandmother. She likes to add it to some of her special Asian dishes. Last, but not least, two whole nutmeg just for me. Why, you ask? Simply to make me happy. You can also visit their website, http://www.MarketSpice.com.

Jeff Fitzpatrick & I
We're wanting at this point to stay. For a week, an afternoon, a month. We've barley scratched the surface of this amazing wonderland. Chris says I lit up just like a kid on Christmas morning. He's right. I am simply delighted to be in such a unique, sensory rich, and culturally diverse atmosphere.However,our time is running out and I've been told that leaving here without witnessing the showmanship of the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market, would be culinary blasphemy. We wander over to the horseshoe shaped counter, known for the launching of fish from the mongers to the customers. We are greeted immediately by raucous laughter and the sing-song, showy, atmosphere of fish sales.Jeff Fitzpatrick, the young man that helped us, was a great sport about photos and a wealth of information. We just couldn't get over how nice and customer oriented these guys and gals were. Lots of information at hand, they go through the process of whatever fish or shellfish you could possibly want, along with various shipping methods to be had. So if you're flying back to New York, your fresh fish can meet you there for dinner! We thought we were going to miss out on the fish flinging fun, as our meter was coming close to running out(who knows how expensive that would be?). We were not disappointed though, as we were turning to leave Jeff motioned us forward in the crowd. We spied a lovely lady making her way behind the counter and Chris geared up for the video.(I'll be posting this later on YouTube, I think it's too big to put here. In the comments I'll update the keywords and try to link it.)The young man assisting her had a great sense of humor and showed her how to catch her fish, walzed around the iced stacks of fish on the other side, goosed a young girl out of the way, and prepared his throw. All of the fishmongers started to chant, and with a 1-2-3 count, the fish soared over the counter and into her waiting hands. The crowd cheered enthusiastically as many cameras clicked away, and Chris was well pleased that he caught it all on video.(These guys give a whole new meaning to catch of the day!) You can visit their website as well, http://www.pikeplacefish.com .




Purchases in hand, we start the three block climb up 1st street to the rig, stopping halfway up to take in the view of Edward's Bay one last time before we depart. It was a experience I wouldn't have traded for all the paid miles in the world, and I got to share it with my best friend and all of you. I will most definitely be back, and bring y'all along for the ride. Please feel free to browse all of the available vendors the market has to offer. Their webiste is http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/ . Until next time, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.
gypsy gourmet


PS I wasn't kidding about the colorful characters!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

North Carolina to Washington State

Back at it again folks! I was thinking of featuring some more at home recipes and decided it could wait for the next blog. Tomorrow marks the beginning of a great day for your gypsy gourmet, as my article on CNN's food blog(http://eatocracy.cnn.com/blog/) is running in the lead! I'm so excited I can hardly wait! The seared Ahi tuna that I prepared on site for the shoot is what I'm featuring today, to make sure all my loyal foodies out there have it on hand.(Yes, you too Mom, two times, twice.) So, I hope you all enjoy this easy, flavorful concoction I've come up with. It's really not as fussy as it looks. It tastes great, is a healtier option than what is offered out on the road, and can be made in the cab of a truck.

Seared Ahi Tuna
1 sashimi grade Ahi tuna steak
1 pkg organic mixed greens or baby lettuces (whenever possible please, support you local co-op!)
organic grape tomatoes (as many as you like, I normally use 6, 3 per serving)
4-5 sliced baby portabella mushrooms (omit if desired)
3-4 T tri color bell peppers diced small
2-3 T toasted sesame vinaigrette (recipe follows)
optional creamy wasabi mustard sauce for dipping and plate painting
2 T olive oil + 1 T for seasoning (see instructions)
1/2 t toasted sesame oil
1 t soy sauce
2 T black sesame seeds
1 1/2 t fresh minced garlic
1 t prepared minced lemongrass (it comes in a tube for convenience)
1 t prepared minced ginger (also comes in a tube for convenienence)
fresh ground peppercorns to taste
ground sea salt to taste

*NOTE FOR BEGINNERS*You should prepare a few things ahead of time, such as; the 2 T olive oil and the 1 T toasted sesame oil can be combined in a small dish. The garlic, ginger, and lemongrass can be prepared and combined with the soy sauce in a small dish, for convenience. Mise en place, or everything in it's place, prepare and have at hand all vegetables beforehand, for ease of assembly.

Instructions:
Season the Ahi as follows; drizzle and rub the 1 T olive oil on steak, distribute evenly on both sides and sprinkle the sesame seeds on each side. Grind enough salt and pepper on just to enhance, not overpower, about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. Pre-heat a non-stick skillet(electric on the truck, conventional if not)to medium-high, you want the pan stinkin' hot for the sear. Next add the 2 T olive oil and the 1T sesame oil, quickly adding the garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and soy sauce . *Note* I say quickly, because I mean it. You must add these quickly and move them around in the pan to keep them from burning. After that is done place the Ahi steak in the pan, allow to cook for about 2-1/2 minutes and turn to the other side, cooking for an additional 2-1/2. Remove tuna from pan, and the pan from the heat(or shout off) and set aside. This is where you'll place your mixed greens in a bowl, add all prepped vegetables, and the toasted sesame vinaigrette. Toss evenly and plate in the center of your plate. Using a VERY sharp knife, slice tuna on the bias, or at a 45 degree angle(diagonally), for pretty presentation, place on top of the greens, and serve. Serves two.

Toasted Sesame Vinaigrette
3 T rice vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
2 T olive oil
1 t each grated ginger and garlic
1 T white or black sesame seeds
1 t honey
cracked black peppercorns to taste
pinch of sea salt

Instructions:
Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisk briskly and slowly add the oils at a drizzle to help the dressing emulse, or stay together. Toss with mixed greens and serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers and use within 3-5 days.

Easy Creamy Wasabi Mustard Sauce
2 T prepared wasabi mustard (can be found in your local grocery store by the deli)
3-4 T quality mayonnaise (like Hellmans or Duke's)

Instructions:
Mix two ingredients well, put in squeeze bottle and make fun swirls, hearts, circles, commas, or whatever suits your fancy on your plate.(just have fun with it!) If you're anything like my brother, you'll put your initals, take a picture, and post on Facebook for everybody else to drool over. (Props to the Gangsta Gourmet)

I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as Chris and I do, it's relatively simple and really punches up the flavor quotient. Never be afraid to try something new, in most cases if at first you don't succeed, you'll read more carefully and get it the second time. Nobody wants to throw away tuna twice! Always remember to take your time, a deep breath, and have fun with it. It's really all about the love anyway, isn't it? Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, and drive America's highways safely.

gypsy gourmet

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Much Needed Home Time, Georgia

Welcome blog friends!
I'm hailing y'all from the house, just to let you know the gypsy gourmet doesn't always cook on the road.. I noticed that there were so many pictures on my IPhone that weren't necessarily from the road that I have to give a little love to the home kitchen. I am well pleased to be home after 5 weeks of grueling work out on the road. Many changes have taken place, i.e. I'm no longer based out of Richmond, VA for dispatch, we're now based directly out of Atlanta. I have also just finished up a photo shoot and interview with CNN chronicling my journey as the gypsy gourmet, and my career in the trucking industry. It will also introduce you to the love of my life and the light of my world, Chris.

The weather is starting to get a little colder, and I am all about some comfort food. Here's a few pictures of some homemade pork carnitas that I made into tamales that turned out absolutely amazing. The recipes and instructions will follow. I just was missing the warm Arizona weather, it was super chilly when I got to the house, and I was ready for a challenge. I miss having all of the really great conveniences of my kitchen at home, when I'm on the road. Like running water, a dishwasher, and a lovely assistant, who just simply makes my world brighter with her happy chatter, goofy faces, winning smile, and energy.(Are all 16 year olds like this? I'm thinking I'm just lucky.) So without further embarrassment to her(ily brat), here's what we came up with.

Pork Carnitas
2 1/2 - 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cubed into 1 1/2" pieces
1/2 each yellow, red, and orange peppers, rough chop
1 lg sweet onion, rough chop
1 jalapeno sliced 1/4 in thick with seeds
3-4 lg whole garlic cloves
1 pkg Sazon Goya
1T. Cumin
1 1/2 t. Paprika (Spanish or Hungarian)
1 1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 T Tony Chachere seasoning
1-2 T. Mexican Oregano
1-2 t. dark red chili powder
8 oz prepared chicken stock (Swansons is okay, or Better Than Bouillon)
Instructions
I prepped the vegetables as indicated above, tossed the meat and vegetables in the spices, put it all in a 13x9 glass baking dish, added the prepared chicken stock, and covered it in aluminum foil. I figured low and slow was best, so I popped it in a 300 degree oven for about an hour and a half. Remember, that all ovens are different. Mine is electric and pretty close to right on temperature, but ovens will vary. The end result you're looking for is tender, pull-apart pork that can be shredded. All the vegetables will just fall apart along with your meat and broth. The easiest way I've found to accomplish this is by leting the mixture cool some and using the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid mixer. You can do it with a large fork or your fingers too, but I'm at home and want to be done, thus my method.
If you're in a hurry, this meat mixture, some toasted corn or flour tortillas, and a little pico de gallo make a fast no muss dinner. I, however, was looking for the challenge of making something I'd only seen made once on television, Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Albuquerque, NM. Crazy that I've never attempted this before, after spending five years in Arizona, but true. I enlisted Annalysa, Chris's 16 yr old to help, as she had assembled them before with friends, and the following is what you'll need for the final product.
Tamales
Masa mixture:
16-24 dried corn husks
2 c Maseca corn meal for tamales
2c lukewarm chicken stock
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1T Paprika
1 tomate con pollo bouillon cube dissolved in the chicken stock
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2/3 c. lard (lard is best, but if you prefer use vegetable shortening)
Instructions
The first order of business is soaking the dried corn husks in warm water. We found that a half sink full of hot tap water worked well, as long as we weighted the cornhusks down with a dinner plate. You can let these soak for up to a few hours, but we didn't. We let them soak for a little over an hour plus as long as it took to shred the meat, and prepare the masa. They were plenty pliable, and we didn't have any issues with them cracking. Next to prepare the masa. In a regular bowl, combine the masa, baking powder, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper, mixing well. Dissolve bouillon cube in warm chicken stock, and add to masa mix, working it in with your fingers to make a soft, moist dough. In your mixer, beat lard until light and fluffy, add masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture. Now you're ready to assemble.

The cornhusks are going to be triangular in shape, you want the pointed end toward you. With a large tablespoon from your flatware, take a generous scoop of the masa mix, plop it in the middle of the husk and use the back of your spoon to smear it evenly outward toward the flat end of the husk. Take a teaspoon from the same drawer, get a generous scoop of the meat mixture and plop it in the center of the husk. Fold the pointed end up to the middle, and roll from right to left or vice versa. until you come up with the tamale shape. (Who knew this was going to be such a pain to describe? I need a crayon sketch!) Repeat until all the tamales are assembled.

Now, I believe that the easiest way to cook these would be to have a full size 6" deep hotel pan with a 4" preforated insert. The idea is to steam them, so a big huge steamer basket in a stock pot, or whatever fancy gadget you have available to you will work. I had none of these fancy schmancy tools at hand, so found my deepest rectangular aluminum baking dish(13x9 about 4" deep) and rigged a cooling rack with handles into it with two 2" ramekin bowls on the bottom. I then stacked an even layer of tamales across for weight, and added water to the halfway point up the bottom of the baking dish. At this point, I added as many tamales as was reasonable(to the top) and covered this invention with aluminum foil. I had to rig two of these devices, because this recipe makes quite a few tamales. I put them in a 400 degree oven for about an hour and a half to two hours. The easiest way to detect if they're done is to pull one apart and check. The dough will be firm and solid to the touch. I served them with a corn salsa, guacamole, and doctored prepared refried beans with cheese.

I have to say this latest experiment was a huge success. It was a labor of love, but I got to spend quality time with my girl, saw looks of ecstasy on the faces of those I love the most eating them, and warmed up my belly and my soul. These are the reasons I do what I do. It's all about the love, folks. Until next time, eat well, laugh often, drive safe, and love like it's your last.

gypsy gourmet